Start out now because of the difficult time
The First Revised Version
(9 March 2021)
(B. Civil Eng., MIR, PhD)
This is the translated version of my original book (『自’遊’への旅』) written in Japanese particularly for the young people who are forced to be stranded due to the hard situation brought by the corona pandemic.
By this publication of the English version, I, as the Japanese author, aim at international co-understanding of those very much local, i.e. in Japan, issues. For I believe that they should not be local issues contrary to the appearance.
In addition, and importantly, the publication of the translated version is that as if I began to have my avatar who began to talk with many people of all the world instead me.
I publish the first revised version today since an extensive English editing completed.
I express my great thanks to my close friend, Russell Lain, who contributed this English editing for me.
9 March 2021
Table of Contents
(Underlined titles are linked)
The iron law of securing the means of survival
The never-ending journey
Take an unexpected chance
Middle aged overseas study in Australia
What you can choose and what you can’t choose
Enjoy political benefits
View of after-corona
Relativisation of country as unit
Amphibianology: practical knowledge of life
“Eye-opening” Quantum Theory
Between “Science” and “Real Feeling”
Not a matter of “youth is ignorance”
“Over-working habit diseases”
Maintenance of the body infrastructure
The brain is infrastructure too
Fake “private insurance”
Future society built by healthy elderly
Health of the Earth
Origins of Japaneseness
The Japanese as “un-weaned” child
At the bottom of the dilemma to survive
Japan as number one in the world
Twilight of the West
The essence of Oriental Thought
Now, I am going to write a travel book.
This book however is not a so-called guidebook for travel, but something that will lead to a different journey .
However, the world is in the chaos of the corona pandemic now, there is no sign of subsiding, and it still is in the thick fog which makes the future unforeseeable.
It is unthinkable that the COVID-19 crisis will end in a transient infection phenomenon. Moreover, the actual situation is still uncertain and what kind of “new normal” it brings in the future is unknown.
At such a time, the travel fever like pre-COVID-19 will not come back again in a short or medium-term outlook, except for a specific reopening for a specific purpose.
Thousands of aircraft have already been parked on the ground or retired from service. It would be a very thin hope that the enormous transportation capacity which has disappeared in this way, or the demand for aviation, will come back in a few years.
It is true that when you look at the actual situation of the global travel industry, the corona impact is really devastating, and many businesses are forced to withdraw or change themselves. Of course, for the travellers too, overseas travels are impossible and have no choice other than to postpone or by replacing the destination with a domestic one. Any way the reality as we have to wait until the situation is over.
But there is a point to think about. The current extraordinary period in history must be a perfect opportunity to re-think about the travel and think rather about the journey. In the first place, journey is not something which disappears just because airplanes do not fly.
I am not going to talk about a complicating aspect by using a term, paradox, but purely paradoxically, this is the best opportunity to go back to the true journey which would be thought about deeply, chosen carefully, and prepared thoroughly by everybody.
In particular, I am thinking now about many young people who all of a sudden had their travel plan ruined and have been drawn into a great disappointment due to the pandemic.
But do not give up. Journey is never erased by something like this.
I am already over 70 years old and have been journeying in my own way. However, if I ask myself whether the journey was just a fad like the travel fever as before the corona, it is clearly “no”.
And I have not thought yet that my journey has completed. As it will be described later, I am also pursuing a further journey with a different perspective.
And in the first place, life is an eternal journey.
In the current situation, thanks to the corona pandemic, there is a circumstance that time has revived rather abundantly, and we have not encountered such a kind of problem which is only solved by a hasty decision.
The journey that I am going to discuss in the book is the journey that must be free from any kind of restraints.
Now, let us take a look at the contents of the book.
Just now I have said that the journey “must be free from any kind of restraints”. But every restraint penetrates into and never disappears from every aspect of our life stubbornly in various scenes as if it were invisible enemies.
The book discusses such restraints from a number of angles, and talks about the journey with the aim that will release oneself wisely from them.
The first restraint the book talks about is the biggest enemy, that is, the one when you struggle to survive. If you look at it as necessity for survival, it will contain almost everything. However, we consider it specially as a “necessity to earn money” in connection with the current economic system.
The second is the political restraint in relation to the economic and financial restraint mentioned above. Many meanings of the term “freedom” are also used in this connection. However, we should not stand on such an awkward word. Let us calmly go back to ourselves and think about what kind of “freedom” we need and focus on it.
The third is the academic restraint, and the core of the modern view of the world is based on this perception. However, when you hear the word of “academic”, it may not be your direct concern in everyday life. Nonetheless, it has a powerful authority in the education system. Furthermore, this is actually rooted deeply in the restraint of our mind because it was poured into us systematically especially through the education.
The fourth restraint is the limitations of one’s own body. No one can beat fatigue or illness, and one day we must depart to the other world. That is why health is so hoped for, but for us it has become more close restraint than anything else. We cannot steer well this upside-down relation in which our body should be the resource of our life but is often treated as consumable.
The fifth is the mental and psychological restraint which tends to become a source of trouble although which is a resource too. This restraint is also intertwined with the third one, i.e. education, and it is also related to the sixth one.
The sixth restraint is a thought or ideological one which should be a map for the journey which is described in the book. In a sense it is also related to religion or faith. Therefore, this constraint is unknowingly related to others and sometimes develops into self-made restraints.
In the seventh, these constraints are combined, and it is summarized from both views as an individual and as a group.
Thus, the book calls the wisdom which overcomes these hardly visible various restraints and their practical processes, journey.
In other words, the word journey in the book is life itself.
That is why, even if you are encountering the once-in-a-hundred-year disaster, it should neither be abandoned nor be replaced by any other method.
Rather, it should be coped with substantially and practiced with special actions which are specially suitable for such an extraordinary difficulty.
It can be said that whatever happened the planning of journey should never be abandoned because of the corona epidemic.
In this way, despite the situation of the COVID-19 crisis, when one can convert the negative of restraint into a positive, and one can combine or multiply them, it should become a magnificent journey which is exactly like a bird which flies in the sky.
Therefore, the book invites you to “Fly High”.
In spite of being over 70, I think of the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity and have challenged the new journey to publish the book.
The publication of the book was a totally individual job which literally did not get anyone’s help, including for the design of the cover. I realize that the present is a time when such an individual performance is being demanded and realistic.
1. The “Dilemma”(*)
(*) : the quandary of the conflict between the need to earn money and the need to care for my self ― which I call the “dilemma”.
The iron law of securing the means of survival
Now I recall in my early twenties, when I was just starting my own life, the biggest challenge, to put it in somewhat symbolically, was how to survive, and more precisely, how to overcome the discrepancy between the compromise between money and my real intention.
At that time in the early 1970s, Japan’s economy was doing well, and there were little difficulties in getting a job after education, unless being too choosy. Rather my difficulty began since I quit my first job after only six months.
I recall the day when I made up my mind to quit my first job. That morning, at Shinjuku Station with crowds in rush hour, I did not get on a train to work, I got on a train in the opposite direction and headed to the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture. Before I got on the train, I called my close friend from a pay phone on the platform and said, “I’m going to hide away for a few days. As it may cause a bit of a problem but don’t worry, thanks for your help.”
According to the social common sense at the time 50 years ago, it was a normal acceptance about a job to keep it for a lifetime once you got it. Therefore, it was a foolish act to quit or change the job on the way, and it damaged the career, and of course, it brought the disadvantage on income. In other words it was an act which should not be done as a member of the society.
However, I quit my job after six months, that is, dropped out of the ordinary road, and began to wander a “backroad”.
I thus did the social self-damaging act of dropping out from the stable track which I once got, and was driven into a quite miserable psychological state. Even if I had my own idea, of course, since it was inescapable to sell my labour for income, I encountered a big wall of dilemma to exist that would be sandwiched between the duality of the self-mind and the reality.
Such an action was influenced in some extent by the leftist thought which had caught a lot of young people at that. However, there is no Right or Left in this ” iron rule for survival”.
Consequently, my job which I had to have for survival was a labour-hire work which was illegal at that time. If I look at now, it was a job of seemingly the origin of freeter〔Japanese slang for a unstable employee〕even though it was technical work.
I thus began to experience the subject of restraint in order to secure the means of survival via a heretical way by derailing the customary path by myself. After that, as a matter of course, I took the way going in the backroad of society and could see scenes which could be watched only there probably.
However, even if I were on a regular route without dropping out, there would be no significant difference, just that I might experience a different type of difficulty in the same society, even though there were the difference of front and back.
Currently, due to the stagnation of Japan’s economy for many years plus the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the degree of dilemma caused by the iron rule is far more severe and it is just like a bottomless swamp.
Thus, the dilemma for survival is a fundamental problem regardless of the difference of one’s age, and it is a restraint due to the economic system which is unreachable by the effort of individuals, although it is a characteristic of society.
Therefore, there can be no liberation from it unless a utopian society is realized on earth.
Nonetheless, it is possible to move within such a sandwiched state even though it can be a relative effort.
As a result, we can clarify what we work for and devise ways to achieve it effectively and efficiently. This step is significant.
This is because the “movement” is, of course, a limited action within the society, but there is also a variety of niches and unexpectedly interesting little-known spots. While establishing a clear purpose, it is possible to find your time every day even a little by little, and to create a place of your own.
During the time you spend those days, you will see another perspective, and you will have unexpected luck or encounters.
The important thing is to build up your foothold for your survival, without derailing, and get ready for what you really want to do. Of course you are not confident and being exposed to anxiety. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to make you succeed.
Life is long. There are many happenings. The times change little by little. And the chance surely comes after the pinch.
The never-ending journey
I have been taking these dilemmas as “the doubleness of survival” since my twenties. And this subject is not something that has begun in modern times. Perhaps, since the history of human society began, in some way, it is a subject that nobody can escape. If you look at some of the most famous books around the world, many of them discuss details related to this.
Anyway, if it is impossible to leave, it is human nature to try to find even a little brightness in the dilemma by changing the criteria to choose from among the various kinds of Catch-22 problem.
Then I came across the work of the labour union by chance at the end of my twenties, and started it as full-time work which might be a job to be able to achieve both addressing economic exploitation and money earning. A few years later, I encountered an incident where a member of the union attempted suicide from overwork. Through trial and error, four years later, we won for him Japan’s first worker’s compensation for suicide from overwork.
However, even if the compensation was achieved, it was only the so-called follow-up for the tragedy from which he was already severely disabled. Namely, the acquisition of financial compensation did not mean the return of the previous body and normal life to him. Thinking of this as an opportunity, I decided to be a middle-aged overseas student because I wished to learn more about labour issues from a broader perspective, especially internationally.
In that way, the place of life has spread outside the country, but even now when decades have passed since then, such a dual life in which one part of myself makes money and the other is used for own wishes continues. Further, the system which forces the dual life has changed in various ways, and more skillfully has deepened the degree of restraint on people. As a result, sometimes one cannot find even one’s own position in the jungle.
In other words, as far as the conclusion I come to learned in my life, this restraint will not go away from the world unless you are an employer, as the survival system which you need employment and wages covers all the human society. Also, just because you become your employer might not mean that it is your goal. Or you might be able to become your master if you are gifted and can show what you want.
That is why there is a need to be at the top of the world or dream of becoming a celebrity. However I do not think that such behaviour is the solution to the problem of doubleness, but it must be that the majority of ordinary people on the other hand will be forced to be associated with the restraint until they die.
Of course, the way we interact with others has great variety, and there is also the diversity, subtleties, and depth of our lives among them. And the subject of the dilemma of doubleness enters the area of the consideration which advanced a little more when the issue comes to this area.
So, the place of the discussion ahead will be carried over to the next chapter, but there are new elements that should be taken into account here.
In other words, just as I decided to study abroad in the middle years, so to speak, this was a way to change the geographical conditions of the setting of the problem.
As the saying goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” When people were born and raised in a country and had experiences, there may be problems peculiar to that country. Here comes a new challenge of geographical movement.
In this way, we will enter to the stage of travel which is exactly the theme of this book.
Take an unexpected chance
Before moving on to the next chapter, however, there is a point of view that I would like to take up here.
In the last 20 years or so, Japan’s iron rule of securing means of survival has become more severe, that is, the standard of living has been declining. Also, there is a reality that even to move is becoming a risk in the area related to travel.
For example, a young friend of mine, who went out into society with hope after he finished his studies, was only able to get a career as a so-called freeterand finally became disillusioned with Japanese society and came to Australia with a dream. As a person on working holiday visa, he worked hard with every effort possible. However, in his case, it did not realize his dream, and he returned to Japan while knowing what kind of reality was waiting for him.
In other words, in Japan, needless to say, even if you went abroad, that same the iron law of securing the means of survival is still becoming heavier and stricter.
Because it is such a situation, it is not easy to even save the overseas travel expenses while earning money to feed oneself. Not only that, but even if we manage to make ends meet and go abroad, our opportunities overseas are extremely slim too.
In short, it is a situation in recent years that the hurdle is being lifted gradually higher and harder even if you are very keen to want to fly out to a journey.
Recently, for example, many Japanese nurses have come to Australia to study at vocational schools or to spend a working holiday and I can find at least a few such people around me. Some of them are aiming for an international qualification as a nurse, or they have found a new workplace to live by joining Australia’s emergency medical teams by taking advantage of this pandemic that they happened to come across. In one girl’s case, her part-time work experience at a nursing home in Australia and previous English skills just coincidently matched the necessity suddenly arose due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The above cases are usually described as good luck. However, it is not a precise enough explanation to accept totally. Because although it can be possible to accept it as luck, coincidence, or intuition, there is an area called the ability to develop a series of very peculiar chances beyond it.
Such a field which is not able to be explained in general by conventional common sense certainly exists in our life.
In these fields, which are occasionally classified as “New Science,” it is also seen as the ability to catch the contingencies of the world and which is called “serendipity.” Alternatively, it is also called “synchronicity” and is one of the new perceptions that natural phenomena respond to each other.
At any rate, it is a field that we cannot help but be conscious of when we try to deal with things seriously and delicately.
As for this, the mention comes to rest here, and it will restart later (Chapter 3).
In addition, the world is in a great mess by the corona pandemic now. As a result, people who had managed to go abroad before the outbreak have been forced to return home, or others have become nailed down because they can not move at all. This is a situation which has occurred beyond any forecast. How should we make sense that what is happening on the earth due to the COVID-19 crisis.
In this way, no matter what you encounter, the possibility of such a dramatic encounter is life and a journey.
It may be arguable but it is possible to do something to prepare for gripping a clue of the unseen journey by activating so-called intuition and clairvoyance free from any conventional framework.
From that point of view, it might be said it is life to prepare a contingency with making a sort of bet. Of course, there is no guarantee there. A man may cross a dangerous bridge very carefully or a man may never cross such a bridge. In any case, your choice is in your hands.
Thus, you can polish up your sensing ability by fully mobilizing yourself internally or externally and then building up your careful preparation step by step without sparing time. Through this way you can grab even a once in a hundred years chance eventually.
On the other hand, in December of last year (2019), Tetsu Nakamura, a doctor who had been working on humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, was shot and killed. He was only about a month younger than me.
I think that his way of life was the best way of life which embodied the heavy contingency which accepted such a peculiar event as a mission far from being rare. Even if it leads to such a death, it does never mean that the meaning of his way of life has faded in any way.
Life is an adventurous attempt that includes such a tragic outcome and ultimately which does not allow to come close to any prediction.
2. Differences in Politics and Thought
Middle aged overseas study in Australia
In October 1984 I left Japan for Australia.
This is because, when I had completed the particularly responsible work of the labour union, I had begun to think to again study the labour movement in an international perspective.
However, my age was already 38, and to be an international student at that age was somewhat embarrassing for me. Further my English skill was minimal.
Such overseas study at middle age was like to exposing myself to a big gap. As if a mature adult, who should have accumulated social experience in his own way, suddenly metamorphosed to an elementary school boy. That is, I experienced a change of not only the environment of living but the degeneration in ability to live as well.
At the time I can say that I was almost naked, because I could not use the familiar customs or the skill which makes involve people around me like when I was in Japan. Furthermore, it was the beginning of the days in which my realistic judgement (this made me surprised that I had such an ability) was strictly and accurately required and executed.
That is, even though I wanted to use them again, I had already thrown away the reputation and position which I had enjoyed in Japan. It was like a time when I was being tested whether I had been discouraged by the loss of such less significant matters.
Through the life abroad I challenged, what I gradually found was the difference of viewpoint brought by the geographical movement as a result of studying abroad. In other words, it was the acquisition of a binocular view field (which gives human beings the three-dimensional images) by looking at the world with two different eyes, Japan and Australia.
Also, an experience which was an eye-opener for me was that a scholarship from the Australian government to me was unexpectedly granted. This was a totally unthinkable matter in my common sense until then. Because of this it was the beginning of thinking about the possibility of a completely unexpected issue, as if the serendipity mentioned earlier had actually happened to me.
I named the dual life of Japan and Australia as “ryosei-seikatsu: amphibious life”. It was one that could not experience unless I was not challenged with living in two different worlds of Japan and Australia. I also called the study on this experience “ryoseigaku: amphibious study” (this will be re-described later).
In this way, the period of study abroad, originally thought to be up to three years, steadily increased, and in the end it became far longer until being permanent.
What you can choose and what you cannot choose
Thus, I became to live in Australia permanently.
To live in Australia itself was a big choice for me, but I did not intend to change my nationality.
I chose an Australian life due to the convenience of keeping an international life. But it did not become the reason to change nationality, because I thought that my nationality is a given thing which is not the matter of individual choice.
One may be able to understand this seemingly old-style idea on nationality if one thinks by replacing “nationality” with “earth” or “nature” instead of “state”. They are different in scale but similar in nature. In a word, it is the roots my life derives from. So if I changed it, this would mean that my life is replaced with a completely different one. That is why I included nationality to such natural given conditions.
Similarly, birth, blood ties, family, heredity, etc. are the matters already given. So, regardless of one’s will, it is a matter not of choice.
In this way, I had encountered the doubleness which consists of the selected foreign life and the survival condition out of choice, because of movement due to the choice of study abroad.
In the doubleness of this “selectable or un-selectable”, the side of selectable is, so to speak, a world of freedom in which one’s will and thoughts can exercise.
On the other hand, the side of un-selectable is, so to speak, a part of one’s infrastructure i.e. the fundamental condition of my existence. Without this, one can neither exercise the above mentioned freedom nor have physical body.
Additionally, in the doubleness of survival related to the dilemma to survive mentioned earlier, if one thinks it as the conflict between “idea and reality”, one is forced to give the latter the priority. And one’s body which is brought by survival is equivalent to an infrastructure as one’s physical reality.
When I was working for a labour union, I had thought that the economic system of capitalism was the root of the doubleness of survival. However, through the experience of overseas study my recognition of the doubleness changed from that derived from such an ideology to one based on the thought of infrastructure above mentioned.
Any way the problem in the present world is that almost everything of the infrastructure can only be obtained by making a deal with a restraint to survive, that is, buying it with money. In addition, clean air and water used to be unconditional or “free” but environmental deterioration has gradually transformed them into something that cannot be obtained without paying money.
This infrastructure of life means the ecological environment around us, which will be further discussed in Chapter 4, “Health as an Infrastructure.”
The greatest academic acquirement I got while studying in Australia was the existence of a political philosophy called “pluralism,” which was practiced traditionally as the two-party political system.
I came across this political term as a concept of explaining the real world of Australia. It was especially “reality” in the Australian political and economic environment, and the two basic elements that made up the society were two groups of people i.e. the working class and the capitalist class.
When I came across the word, I was very satisfied that it was the fruit of my coming to Australia. The reason was because I was always caught by frustration when I was involved with the labour union movement in Japan. In the society, not only the labour movement but also the people called working class were seen as a sort of shady matters and were not given the place of a legitimate social existence. (for example, my mother always hide that I worked for a labour union.)
In addition, in the common attitude in Japan, “workers” did not exist in Japanese society, at least it was a term in left wing thought, and only “office worker” or “employed person” existed commonly.
However, in Australia, two groups of people called capitalists or workers had taken root as two major components of the society in the daily life and even legally and academically.
This is the characteristic reason why the society of Australia was governed by the two-party system which represented each group. Hence change of government has happened between two political parties called “Liberal-National Alliance” and “Labor Party” every few years. Consequently even the direction of society has changed each change of government.
As explained later, Australia’s social security system is seen as on of the world’s best because it has been going for more than a century in which the voices of workers have been reflected in politics by the Labor Government. Of course, it is also important to have had realistic success since those reflected voices have resulted in economic growth. Thus the balance of the support and the check from both sides has been resulted in such a development through those government changes.
In addition, for those bureaucrats who are corrupt, the change of government is self-destructing. Thus, the political circumstances for a fairer and democratic system have been cultivated, although it can be relative.
Enjoy political benefits
Since I have become a permanent resident, I really have felt the legal and institutional benefits directly.
As a permanent resident of Australia with Japanese nationality, I can actually live in either country. In other words, it is like I have the virtual right to choose better living conditions. And broadening my perspective further, it also means that you can get the option to compare political benefits and risks as well.
If you left yourself within the country of your birth without moving, it is impossible to gain these benefits or risk variances pointed above.
In other words, by performing a cross-border movement geographically or legislatively, you can get a wider foundation for life which can expand reality.
To move is to experience the doubleness in two ways; not only the domestic doubleness by the change of government called pluralism in Australia but also the international doubleness through the change of the country of residence. That is, to move produces the expansion of width of choice in daily life; further, of the benefit for all the stages in one’s life and eventually the expansion of one’s world view.
By the way, in my acquaintance there is even a person who has achieved the acquisition of permanent residence in several countries far more aggressively than my doubleness and enjoyed the diversification, so to speak, of her life.
Hence, the journey of our life can be executed in an open-ended perspective which is not bound even by the border of a country. And its final benefit reflects the value view for one’s life, depending on the degree of achievement.
So to speak it is reasonable for the fake country that has been stolen away by cunning politicians and bureaucrats who think only of their own returns and self-protection to be forsaken and everyone should seriously start preparation to move among countries.
The era when the word “immigrant” meant that a country or politician exports the country’s poor people was in the past. But now is the time for ambitious and talented people to initiate to export themselves.
View of after-corona
Going back to the daily life of Japan, in the series of articles of the Nikkei newspaper that began in September 2020, there is a special feature titled “The World Without Pax” which reports the historical change of the world revealed in the wake of the corona pandemic. When you look at each headline and the point of the articles, it is as follows:
Serial Story; “The World without Pax”
(1) Goddess of Growth gone where; disappeared “Peace and Order” under the corona
The decline of the world hegemons who have led the world’s peace so far, and the various inter-state conflicts that have begun to be seen.
(2) Competition is not principle but cleverness is
The ideology which had been able to bind the world into one has already become a past one, and rather, the wisdom which worked out in each country begins to glow.
(3) Democracy under pressure to regenerate
Is it free or safe? Can you stand the burden of your choice?
(4) Public and private sectors sifted
What is the significance for your company to exist? Does it benefit the society?
(5) Ask yourself what is your value
From the age of the reliance on organizations to the age of the reliance on yourself. What do you rely on to live in this crisis?
(6) From population concentration to accumulation of knowledge
Do you want to live in a big city? Can you draw the image of the new city?
In this series of articles the “post-corona period” is predicted to differ greatly from the previous period. In other words, it is a change in each aspect of domestic and international politics, economic organizations, social systems, and intellectual culture. Especially the significance of individuals in an organization is seen to be larger than before. This is the view of a major business paper and such changes are seen as the beginning to be pursued.
In the same story, Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, Chairman of Mitsubishi Chemical HD, said:
Japan has spent 30 years trapped by the experience of success in the past. The pursuit of efficiency in the analog world, collectivism, and everyone looking in the same direction; if such issues continued, by the law of inertia, she should sink into an abyss. I have been thinking that it is necessary to have a natural enemy that brings tension to wake up, but COVID-19 is taking on that role.
If COVID-19 is a case of a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic, the expected “transition” and “change” also must be of that scale.
In response to the world that has begun to fluidize in this way, we ourselves should be no longer bound by the “evaporation” of the old travel demand. And the movement and travel with the view according to the new trend are necessary, and potentially, this is already being sought.
However, it is, of course, a business perspective that these Nikkei articles are based upon. As I mentioned earlier as the iron law of securing means of survival, these new business trends are just a new mode that the iron law has begun to have. Of course, it is possible to use it to secure your needs, but you must not confuse such a new trend with your own intentions and strategies.
Relativization of country as unit
As mentioned above, borders are becoming weaker and less powerful to bind the people together.
Especially in recent years, the trend of the nationalism with a strong sense of discrimination has become remarkable as if it is going against such a borderless trend. But that is not because there is a growing sense of belonging to a state, except for the Chinese case. Rather it is because, what we can rely on is no longer a country, and we begin to find our significance in smaller units.
In the first 20 years of the 21st century, such global trends have been seen, but the legal and institutional frameworks are still managed by country. In that sense, there is a discrepancy.
In other words, people’s movements are rapidly being borderless, but there is the system of each country that is far behind it and dragging the past.
There are more and more cases where those people who move around the world aim for differences in systems between nations. As an extreme example, we can look at the refugee problem which troubles many developed countries around the world. As already mentioned, there are many similar cases such as working holiday students and international students who aim to obtain permanent residency, or especially women who hopefully intend international marriages.
Let us take a closer look at disparities which cannot be ignored. They are mostly seen in living conditions based on differences in social security systems and wage levels.
At the beginning of my middle year study abroad in Australia, the extent of my worry was especially how to manage the coming couple of years. Therefore the result of more later years was totally out of my sight. In that sense, it was like a tightrope walk, and my fate completely depended upon the performance of each semester of university. So, frankly speaking, I was not concerned too much about the future outcomes 10 or 20 years later.
However, when a certain period is passed, for instance, we can experience the phenomenon that the reward for the same labour is very different before and after the movement between countries.
For instance, as of 2020, Australia’s statutory minimum wage is 19.84 Australian dollars or around 1,500 Japanese yen. In Japan, the national average minimum wage is 902 yen. This means that the difference between two minimum wages is as large as about 70 percent. Although there is a difference in price levels, even temporary visitors from Japan to Australia will be affected by this difference.
In addition, if one obtains permanent residency and becomes subject to social security, a higher level of unemployment benefits can be obtained, and after becoming older and entering pension age, the difference among the levels of public pension payment also occurs.
Whether one’s first purpose of travel is those various disparities, including economic conditions due to differences in these countries, differs depending on the person. In fact, for migrant workers their purpose is exactly the wage gap between countries. This is why they are moving internationally.
In any rate, once one starts to think seriously about journey, you start to make actions after carefully researching various differences, including the investigation of visa conditions of the destination. Therefore, it is inevitable that such gaps between countries must be noted.
Of course, there are reasons for those differences among political and institutional levels. And if you had permanent residency in two countries, as mentioned above, the iron law of securing means of living would also become dual and you would become able to have a life dispersing either benefits or risks.
In this way, the expected result of the journey in the book is that the relationship between you and your country would shift from those of an unique, cannot-choose and de facto coercion to those of a relative and can-choose one.
As I mentioned earlier, I am a man, like an old fashioned species, who wants to keep choosing my country. Although this style depends on what is meant by the word my, I rather feel the real pleasure in the experience of the next dimension pursuing both sides of the duality. In addition, in the business world, this my means obviously my profit maximization, and then it is vigorously pursued.
In the future, the existence of borders will fade more and more, or become a matter of choice on a case-by-case basis and will become just one of the various travel conditions.
Such a trend and the need will not change even if COVID-19 makes a gigantic obstacle.
3. Changing Science, Forwarding Quantum Theory
Amphibiology: practical knowledge of life
In the previous chapter, I explained the history of the birth and development of amphibiology (my coined word from “amphibious study”), which was inspired by my experience studying abroad in Australia. As far as its name is concerned, it seems a kind of an “academic system”. However, it may have had been influenced by the academic environment of the overseas study but the actual content is a systemization of the knowledge learned from the practical experience from my life.
The amphibiology was an attempt to build a practicality mostly. But it was a big harvest to be able to have acquired a broad bird’s-eye view of the existing academic knowledge system through the process. In other words, it was an experience like I have had a perspective on what knowledge systems humans have assembled in the past.
Through this experience, for instance, I learned that the knowledge I had learned at a Japanese university, especially civil engineering knowledge, was already very classical, although it was professionally beneficial.
In addition, I found that the series of knowledge gained by education was exactly following the requirements of the current age but it was not the one which considered my necessity for life. In this sense I was a “naked man” who does not wear anything even though I am a citizen of a modern state.
In this way, the amphibiology embraces the knowledge on essential needs for an individual to live depending upon that own purpose. Therefore, its aim and mission are greatly different from the study that the educational institution of the so-called university etc. addresses. It is the system of practical knowledge necessary for our ordinary life.
If you expect any subject of learning to be useful for you, or if you want to have a look at any existing study field, to refer to amphibiology will be a good way.
However, the book does not detail such a “practical study system” wholly here. The purpose of the book is rather to guide you to a journey of your life to overcome various restraints through such practical knowledge.
So if you would like to see the all contents of amphibiology, please visit my website “両生歩き“. You will be able to find the complete contents, but they are unfortunately written in Japanese.
“Eye-opening” Quantum Theory
In this way we can come to have a perspective on a view of various studies that man has built. And a breakthrough which has happened in the field of such academic and especially science knowledge is very important.
The reason for this “importance” is that not only the importance of the whole human race but also our view about ourself which has been opened by it has achieved the change as if “the heaven and earth are reversed” to put it dramateically.
The difference in whether we know the outcomes of the breakthrough depends on whether we can remove our own blind spot. Conversely, as long as the blind spot is in both eyes, our knowledge will remain bound to the 19th century level.
That huge step forward has been happening in quantum theory in theoretical physics.
We can say so. However, it is extremely hard to understand the contents in a normal sense. In particular since it has happened in a field of theoretical physics, one may have an attitude of totally out-of-the-question.
To trace such quantum theory based on its expertise is a tremendous task. If you attempt it, you may need to understand at least ten specialized books.
Hence what I am paying attention to is the meaning or application of the breakthrough for our lives. However, the most advanced part of such scientific progress is still in the realm of hypothesis. And it will take a time span of more decades in the future for such a hypothesis to be substantiated.
However, the study that I take up here is one which is practically useful for our daily life. Surely, it will take a long time to prove it with scientific rigour. But our lives are ongoing now and we cannot afford to wait long for the proof of the hypothesis.
Rather, such a scientific evidence is, as it were, on the ultra-precise numeric rigour that can be ignored in the practice of our lives, and the level of our lives does not require so much rigour.
The importance for us is the difference in the idea which is the ground of such a theory. That difference is what has a decisive relationship with the way of how we think about things in our lives.
Talking about the “eye-opener” here, when I translate it to the meaning of the impact on our daily life, it can be said below:
According to the conventional idea, science is in a position to discover the truths of the world which are sleeping without being known and that we are in a position to be taught and enlightened by those truths. However, according to the idea which is disclosed by the breakthrough, a truth is ultimately decided by an observation. In other words, it is based on an observation.
Such a new breakthrough, whether we know it or not, sounds to be irrelevant to our daily lives.
Nonetheless, it is equal to overturning our everyday sense, and we are as good as liberated from conventional restraints at the root of the idea of things.
A friend of mine expressed this in her blog NEU Noi-solution as follows:
Recently, repeated experiments in quantum mechanics have found that “observing” determines phenomena. And it has been proven that “observing” ⇒ “existing.” But “exist” ⇒ not “observing”. Hence the world was not “I can see it because it is there”, but “it is being because I see it”.
This transformation in the scientific community will encourage us a lot. Because such a person as myself who had been regulated by the outside can decide myself now. It must be a comfortable matter like being found not guilty.
If the educational experiences I have received are common to others too, it suggests that our heads have been bound by education which was based on these old scientific ideas especially when it comes to higher education.
But a major shift has begun from the top of the academic system that assembles the educational system.
However, when will the outcomes of such a transformation reach the whole of the school education system? As a matter of your own children, or as your own problem which you are having such education, you will never be able to wait until then. It is too late after you have been deformed by being forced to wear such an old-style garment, like a Chinese foot binding.
Moreover, the following story cannot be thought to be acceptable. That is, a pupil committed suicide eventually because, as if being taken hostage, they could not escape from the mandatory education of such a modulated school and was victimized by the bullying of other pupils and teacher.
Between “Science” and “Real Feeling”
Earlier I stated that our lives are in progress and that we cannot wait and wait until the hypothesis of science is established.
There is a set of views which dare to take bold ideas other than hypotheses that are excluded as “pseudoscience” among scientists. The “New Science” that we touched on in Chapter 1 is one of them.
Although these various theories are put in the grey zone of science, I consider them as having useful value under the limitation of “something on a developing process that has not yet become a strict scientific truth.” In other words, it can be taken up as hints and directions that are still undetermined but contain a kind of future.
Moreover, because it is applied to my life by my self-responsibility with my own knowledge, then there is no reason to be subject to others’ criticism.
By the way, as such a “grey zone topic”, let me pick up a series of views on the sensitivity of humans here.
First of all, one of the works about such a view is a couple of volumes with the theme of “Esoteric” which I published online as a translated version with the consent of the author Brad Olsen. Those Japanese titles are 現代の「東西融合〈涅槃〉思想」と「東西融合〈涅槃〉思想」の将来性 .
In addition, the original title, “Esoteric,” is a knowledge that has been excluded from modern scientific thought and which means a deep meaning or a difficult problem, and in my Japanese translation, it is broadly translated as “東西融合〈涅槃〉思想、East-West Fusion Nirvana Thought”. Therefore, it deals with a great thought system including the magic, the religion, and the view of the universe cultivated by the human race in the east and west since ancient times.
Moreover, there is my own view about my ability to communicate with surroundings although this is a hypothetical view about my sense.
It is a view that a human has internally a high performance device, a “smartphone” so to speak.
Of course, the ability is superior to any existing smartphone, but only very rare persons realize how high the ability is, therefore many people rely on the smartphone, a commodity of the real world.
In addition, to express such a subject is more suitable to the work of novel and science fiction than a thesis as a way of case-by-case. So I wrote a science fiction work, “MOTEJI越境レポート.
4. Health as Infrastructure
In recent years, health is the area I am most dedicated to.
Of course, it includes the nuance of “gratitude when I lose it” because I came to have a few health problems due to getting older.
However, if it is so, on the contrary, I want to take more care of things that “I didn’t lose yet”.
And further, I have a somewhat regretful feeling why I have not been doing so from the beginning.
In other words, as I mentioned earlier, it is the view that health is the infrastructure that supports us physically and mentally. It is same way that city water and sewage systems underpin the foundation of our city life as infrastructure.
And further, when you spread your eyes over the world, it is not just about health, it is the same about the environment and nature.
By maintaining and preserving its normal function all the time, the ability of the city and its people will improve properly.
Not a matter of “youth is ignorance”
Perhaps for not only for myself but for other people, in their youth they tend to believe those matters which could be difficult in reality as our own mission or virtue like effort and patience.
For example, I am still a mountain climbing enthusiast and I was so too when I was in my twenties. I was, if saying so with some exaggeration, a man who was tainted by the simplistic gutsy mentality which is characterised by being strong enough to overcome fears, not avoiding difficulties, and achieving goals. I was proud of performing them and looked down those people and mentalities that could not.
Certainly, my personality was in part cultivated by it. However, there must have been many things which were not able to be seen and abandoned, because they were such simple values.
For instance, in the old days, I walked around the mountains of Japan, and saw that there was a tiny shrine at the summit of each of them exposed to harsh weather. It remains in my memory as only a spectacle, but it was not more than that. So to speak, I was not conscious of much difference from a triangulation marker stone placed near them.
In recent years, however, even though I have kept walking around the mountains similarly, but breathing harder than I used to, I am experiencing something definitely different there.
This was a different experience from what I had in the past when I looked at a tiny shrine at almost every summit, or any religious symbol if it was in a foreign country. But now I can feel differently just walking on an uncharacteristic ridge or in a valley where there was not any feature.
Firstly, I thought it was because that it was a part of the Himalayas for example, and its elevation was over 4,000 meters and sometimes as high as 5,000 meters, because of its altitude, that is, much closer to space.
However, probably including it, there is certainly something there that can be expressed as “talking to me” by something such as the environment or so through something which is not a word.
In other words, I had thought that the sensibility was due to my preference because I am a mountain enthusiast. However, it seems that it was a completely different matter.
If I were a man who had ears able to hear those whispers even in my twenties, my present self might be a different person.
At any rate, it is certain that my mentality with strong consciousness of the sense of self-restraint and order like a kind of soldier was formed in such a way. Therefore I have thought that such a mentality might have caused problems.
“Over-working habit diseases”
I wrote earlier that I quit my first job after only six months. This conduct seems to show that the patience and the selflessness which I acquired in Japanese society did not help so much after all.
After that, I walked a sort of backroad, got a job for a labour union before long, and encountered one occupational accident of a union member. It was a case of suicide from overwork due to excessive work load and responsibility.
Even now, 40 years have passed since the occupational accident case, but still I have to meet frequent news reports on karoshi, suicide from overwork, in Japanese society.
In other words, the custom and common behaviour of must-work excessively, is so to speak the common practice which should be seen as if “eating in advance” one’s future health. Therefore even in the period when they are still in the principal workforce, they have already exhausted their own resources of health.
The eating in advance should be a debt if replacing it with a money issue. Later on, it will come back as a serious illness in the shape of suicide from overwork, like the debt accruing heavy interest.
Until a few decades ago, high blood pressure and heart disease etc. were called “adult diseases” and this behaviour of eating in advance was accepted without special caution.
Those diseases however became to be seen as “lifestyle-related diseases” by the advocation of the late Dr Shigeaki Hinohara. Then the idea of prevention of those diseases began by the recognition to alter such a lifestyle which was like borrowing health from one’s future.
However, even if the name of the disease changed to lifestyle-related diseases, the actual custom of people is stubborn and passive against change. Trying to change their lifestyle, they had to face many patterns of social pressure which gave them some complicated hesitation. Hence, I want to recommend further terminological steps, and change the name to “over-working habit diseases”.
Thus, it should be not seen that the youth issue is that of ignorance. Even more it must not be allowed to take advantage of their ignorance.
Maintenance of the body infrastructure
In Chapter 2, I discussed that our infrastructure, as an “infrastructure to support self-existence”, tends to be harmed rather than ignored, because of being busy to obey the iron law of securing means of living.
We tend to think about health in the shape of a double negative, as a kind of the “state of being not sick” by regarding it as a special state of disease. However, in the first place, health is something that must function normally in our daily life and lifelong as our own infrastructure, and losing it is a matter that destroys the normal developments of our daily and entire lives.
For example, it is appropriate to think about the state in which the road and the railway were cut off by a natural disaster. The damage to such infrastructure will definitely damage the life and economic activity of the region and the country.
With the proactive maintenance of physical infrastructure, a society can avoid unnecessary pause periods and sound functions without waste can be continued. Similarly, the proactive maintenance of our health is far more meaningful than the recovery after it is lost.
If the body as the infrastructure does not exercise, it not only “rusts” like the machine which is not used rusts, but also decreases the function of the whole level as a human being that was supported by the function of the infrastructure in the first place. In other words, for the person who has a rusted body, far from being in good daily physical condition, the comfort and the joy of daily life, productivity on the job, and even the significance of the person’s life itself can all disappear.
To illustrate this, comprehensive equipment management (or “production maintenance with everyone’s participation”) called TPM developed by Toyota Motor Corporation is the one that the automobile production system is operated with, and high productivity is achieved. To learn the secret, there was a TPM-themed course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.
In recent years, to go to gyms is getting popular because people increasingly begin to be aware of the effects to improve such physical infrastructure for a state of good condition on the quality of life and work.
Sports tend to be recognized as a kind of hobby. However, for those modern consumers who rarely use their bodies, sports are not a matter of preference like a hobby. That is, it should be considered as an essential element for life activities, same as the food and sleep.
The brain is infrastructure too
As discussed above, for us our bodies are our own infrastructure. Therefore as to the function of the brain which is the centre of my consciousness and action, whether it works fully depends on whether the infrastructure as the body works fully to support the brain fully as well.
Moreover, as to the brain itself, it is brain organ as the infrastructure to support the brain functions such as intelligence, feelings, and personality, and if the organ does not work fully, the person’s own mental function also has failure and disorder.
The brain as such infrastructure is the most difficult organ to understand of the human body organs. So it is a part with a lot of mystery. Therefore a number of beliefs and even faith intervene.
Everyone wants to make full use of their own irreplaceable brain tissue they have.
As to the method of how to use the brain, there is no method other than that you try various ways and feel them, and you find out how your brain works as a result. It is trial and error. That is a method of a sort of experiment and observation.
The first step in such trial and error, as repeatedly mentioned, is the importance of exercise, and the physical functions and infrastructure functions that are improved by it. In short, without healthy heart activity, there is not enough oxygen or nutrients sent to the brain. Such a brain with a lack of oxygen and nutrition would be dysfunctional. On the other hand, when a brain has been supplied with them sufficiently, it provides a far more comfortable feeling to us.
Second, the method I have judged to be effective in recent years is to maximize having resources or blessings from nature, especially from the sun.
In particular, it is to consciously perform activities such as sunbathing and exposure to sunlight outdoors. Normally, when cooling down after an exercise, I sit on the grass in the park and gaze towards the sunset. In Japan, there has been a traditional custom of worshipping the sun. By having sun-gazing, (do it within one hour after sunrise or before sunset to avoid too strong sunlight in daytime) the strong light, electromagnetic waves, or particle beams act directly on our brain tissue through our eyes and have the effect (less recognized) to increase its activity. I especially feel that it has the effect of relaxing the mind and sharpening and broadening intuition.
Fake “private insurance”
When someone asks me whether he should take out cancer insurance, for example, I express my opinion that such so-called “private insurance” is a “fake” insurance system.
Insurance is a security system for risk, and health insurance is a system in which advanced medical care is guaranteed at a free or low cost when you get sick. The system is a scheme that to maximise its effects, it is based on a large population, so all the population of a country can receive the benefits based on a relatively small insurance premium. The larger the number of contributors, the greater the security effect. Japan’s health insurance system, known as the everybody insurance system, is one of the best systems in the world and has kept the health standards of Japanese people high and maintained their life expectancy at one of the highest levels of the world.
If this scheme is turned into that health insurance system centred on private insurance like that of the United States, it becomes a system for the rich in fact because the insurance premium is quite high, the poor people cannot afford to join, and it leads to the situation where many people cannot consult the doctor even if they become sick. President Obama, when in power, aimed to establish a health insurance system for all citizens, but he was forced into failure. That was because those people who already had private insurance opposed the establishment of the Obama insurance system, saying that if it is established, the benefits to the sick poor would increase and the overall level of coverage would be lowered.
In addition, if an individual thought about the merits and demerits of joining private insurance, the necessity to do that is for when you have lost your health, but it never gives the person health itself. In other words, the insurance system provides those medical services such as medicine and surgery, but it does not provide health itself. Hence for those who have firm confidence in their health, such an insurance system is meaningless. But there is an illusion that the insurance system is a key method for health. That is, many providers of private health insurance state in their advertisements that they “provide peace of mind”, hence it tends to divert the eyes from the effort to maintain people’s own health.
In that sense, if you can afford to pay for the private insurance, it is more effective for the purpose of maintaining health and preventing disease to spend money to buy athletic shoes to do exercise or buying and eating safe and healthy food.
In a word, it is easy to have the illusion that it is possible to buy health with money because people get used to such a cycle of making money by their labour and buying various things. Needless to say, health is not something that can be gained through such insurance, but something that you have by working directly on the infrastructure and supporting your body.
Health is truly “only appreciated when it is gone.” Especially when you are getting old, your body conditions deteriorated in may ways and each one of the deteriorations detracts from a comfortable life little by little.
Therefore, I think that the person who entered retirement age in particular is better to think that it is “work” to exercise for health. If you can maintain a good quality of life, it is sensible to do such a job, as described below.
In addition, if we go back to the concept “health is infrastructure”; it supports the foundation of its normal function, whether it is an individual or a society. If its importance is not understood, it is damaged by over-use. When this happens, then it requires money incentive system by fee like a toll road and private insurance. Should such a change be welcome when replaced by such a meaningless system?
Future society built by healthy elderly
Now, let us think about the theme of such an infrastructure of health in the problem of the elderly. In other words, I would like to investigate the perception that it is natural that aging is accompanied by poor health.
As described in the previous chapters, as a result of being exhausted by the iron law of securing means of survival, we use up health resources already during active work service, actually even with “debt”. So when we reach retirement, there is a reality of many sad cases which we might be almost sick person.
However, let us assume that we could manage to overcome the various restraints associated with life and reach the rosy retirement period with good health. Such cases are no longer hypotheses or rare cases.
In other words, it is the arrival of the rosy life, called pension life, which was liberated institutionally from the iron rule of securing the means of living.
Of course, the reality is that the level of “liberation” varies depending on the pension system of different countries, and it is also a story with a large individual differences.
What we must focus upon is the magnitude of difference when one can reach the state of being liberated from such an iron rule. That is, which is you of a sick person or of a healthy person when you reach there?
Certainly, there are differences between countries in the level of the payment of the pension. The differences become important, especially whether it is possible to compensate for the income shortage by working part-time if one can reach retirement with health and fill the gap by using your own health resource. Also, it is possible to secure social contact, that tends to be cut off by retirement life, through volunteer activities and hobby activities, and raise retirement to a richer life state. In addition, the ability to do such activities will contribute to satisfying the significance and worth of retirement life and greatly enhance our daily fulfillment.
I think that the life of such a high quality old age should be one of the goals that every society aims for. If quality old age can be expected in their future, it is possible for the working generation to demonstrate their full potential with peace of mind, and that is why it is encouraging. Of course, it is needless to say that such an approach can also lead to increased productivity in society as a whole. And most of all, it can contribute directly to the reduction of medical expenses for the elderly.
Therefore I think it is very reasonable that the pensioners who have retired think that “maintaining health is work”.
If the retired person not only does not need nursing care, but also does not become a burden on the family or society, it is beneficial for everyone, and it will reduce the burden on the whole society. The practical and economic benefits that it generates should become a huge social resource.
In this way, the huge difference between leaving the old people’s problem as a burden on society or using it as a new resource should be practically studied as a policy issue – so far not enough progress has been made. Further, it seems that it is a critically important issue for society in the future, and the more we work on it as soon as possible, the greater the reward.
For now, I have been reaching this stage mentioned above with good health, and I am finding possible areas for research and development. In addition, while it is a matter of my own concern, in order to follow the development of amphibiology, I am establishing a plan to develop 理論人間生命学 (theoretical human life science) which studies the area of “life on the cross-border”, regarding the aging issue as a concept of the other “birth”.
Health of the Earth
At the end of this chapter, I would like to describe a story that greatly broadens the chapter’s perspective. It is the view that “health” has already reached the time when man should think on a global scale.
In addition to pursuing health on a whole human scale as mentioned earlier, it is because that the deepening severity of climate change itself begins to refute its denial with its own body, no matter what excuse human beings make any longer. This is because in every year and every season, high temperatures, large forest fires, violent typhoons and hurricanes, heavy rain and floods, and landslides continue to cause the earth to suffer. This is the same way that the lifestyle-related diseases and overworking habit diseases are harming human bodies.
We discussed earlier about nature and earth environment as the infrastructure for our body and life. The reason for the discussion is that we should have the concept of “the chain of health” which is the connection of our body to the body of the earth in other words as an ecology system.
Thinking about the health of ourselves and our families, we have wanted to build a house and live in a natural place with a good environment. And we are doing this.
For that purpose, roads and residential land were made by excavating mountains, and not only that, but also the mountains and islands were scraped, a huge amount of sediment was transported, artificial islands were made, and these have even been change to a city and an airport.
On the other hand, after I finish my exercise as part of my health, I look up at the sky while lying on the park lawn. At that time, it is makes me feel comfort that it is possible to say that I am held by nature or nature and I are unified. It is exactly the feeling of “the chain of health” if I use this term.
If I state this I might be said to be making a leaping argument. Nonetheless, now the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world, aviation demand has evaporated in a moment and airports incomes have fallen into the red due to their excessive capacity. In other words, the pandemic may not be a simple phenomenon of a large-scale infectious disease. I will omit it here because it is discussed in detail in my website (in Japanese), but it seems not necessarily inappropriate to see it from the viewpoint of “an act of nature”. Just what is the corona pandemic which makes the human race worry greatly.
This is as if pointed out by the deterioration of environment of the earth as the evidence that we are not considering it, although we are in a “give-and-take relationship” with it. We can build our own health only with considering the whole ecology body (in Japanese) that is connected to all the surrounding environment, including COVID-19.
5. Mental and Psychological Growth
Origins of Japaneseness
I think the Japanese are a unique ancestral group. Moreover, I think that they are rare people in the world, so rich in benevolent spirit. It is not so difficult for Japanese to believe that everyone is the same human being.
The reason Japan has nurtured such characteristics is deeply related to that it is an island country. It is also because until the occupation by the United States in 1945, Japan was a very lucky country that had never been occupied or conquered by foreign enemies.
For those countries in the world, especially those continental countries who border other countries, or which are isthmus or peninsula countries, they inevitably have been a passageway for other peoples to move. Frequent invasions and conquests have occurred. Consequently, the people who live there have learned how to protect themselves each time in the long history. In other words, they became sensitive to ethnic differences, did not trust others so easily, and learned clever negotiation techniques.
In an island country which is protected by the sea, instead of learning to avoid such dangerous experiences, the people were forced to be caught up in the so-called “island-country mentality” which lacked contact experience, even though they have strong curiosity about other places in the world.
When you look at the other countries of the world, Britain for example is also an island country, and it is in similar geographical conditions to Japan. But it is separated from other countries in Europe by the short distance of the English Channel, which a tough person can swim across, and which has a history of frequent aggression and exchange.
In the case of Japan in the past, the distance to the Asian continent was long, and crossing it used be the act that even the voyage by ship risked life, and the passengers and crew would place their lives in the hands of the gods.
However, the Korean Peninsula was a passageway of those people who came from the continent in ancient times because there was a stepping stone called Tsushima mid way. And it also became a passage used to invade the mainland by riding the momentum which was created by Toyotomi Hideyoshi who conquered the Japanese archipelago. Thus the Korean Peninsula became an avenue to realize the ambitions of the Japanese, and when the great power of Russia rose, it was used as a buffer zone against Russia.
The Japanese as “un-weaned” child
I actually realized the characteristics of the Japanese when I went out to a foreign country and actually interacted with people of different countries and experienced the real differences not as a so-called knowledge.
I thought then that my finding about the characteristics of the Japanese was like the process of a human growing to an adult.
In other words, in the process of becoming an adult, we must experience a decisive separation of ourselves from parents, whether we can “wean” ourselves or not.
This is my own theory, but it seems that the relationship between human beings and the natural conditions also is similar to this “parent-child” relationship on a collective level. That is, a whole local community had been closely connected with the land so to speak, especially during the feudal age when agriculture was the main living means.
In the case of Japan, there was another natural condition which tied an island country. Especially in the process of which the ruling system of the nation was formed on the islands, the king or the emperor who was the ruler from the ancient times and the later leader from the samurai class had created a peculiar national ruling system. That is, the national ruling system was made by supporting each other rather than by a different race who conquered them.
The national ruling system was forced to be waken up by the Black Ships (American steam ships) experience at the end of the Edo Era in the late 19th century. Consequently it brought urgently the artificial divine structure of the modern Emperor system, called “kokutai (national body)”, that was developed as a means of overcoming the invasion of foreign enemies in the early modern era.
Now let us contrast the national ruling system to the above mentioned “weaning”. Then we can find a turning point at which Japan experienced the weaning process or not as the decisive factor in creating her national identity structure. After the Meiji Era (which was established after the Edo Era), the idea of the Emperor being regarded as the great father for the family of the nation was established and had been maintained. And the mandate of worshipping and obeying the emperor had been forced on the people as if accepting the deliberate lack of “weaning.”
Meiji Ishin (the Japanese term for the civil war which brought the formation of the Meiji government), which is translated as Meiji Restoration in English, is definitely different from the civil revolution in Western Europe, especially of French.
Let us compare the Meiji Restoration with the French Revolution. Although the French Revolution destroyed kingdoms and guillotined, such a dramatic process did not occur in Japan, and the dismantling of the Edo Shogunate was accomplished by the so-called “Bloodless Return” of the formal power of the emperor and transfered the power to the Meiji government.
During the process, it was the Western powers who manipulated the civil war between the Edo Shogunate and the new Meiji government covertly. In particular, they secretly provided military funds and modern weapons to the anti-shogunate side, thus working to give the upper hand for the new Meiji government.
What is important here is that Japan’s political system after the Meiji Restoration has intentionally left the people with a lack of “weaning” i.e. in an immature state. As a result the people sadly were driven to war by their parents, and died in battle shouting “Long live the Emperor”, and experienced the devastating tragedy of unconditional surrender.
And then the post-war era began. The United States, which knew such national identity structure of the Japanese people, dared not to punish or kill Emperor Showa who was a war leader, and it occupied the country without destroying such a national identity structure by putting him at the top of Japan. In this way it established the core structure of the postwar system of Japan.
Through many novels by Ryotaro Siba, the so-called “Siba Historical View”, which has had a strong influence on the Japanese people, does not see the “lack of independence from the emperor” process in such a Meiji Restoration process. Rather on the contrary, I think that they were written to glorify the achievement of Japaneseness. He vaguely referred to the process as kitai or baby devil by which the Emperor led Japan to war, but ultimately, there was no mention of the trait of a lack of weaning.
Looking at it this way, it can be seen that the modern history of Japan has been formed within the double lack of independence from the emperor before and after the war.
Therefore, from what I see, I believe that the true journey carried out by the Japanese will be to experience the effect of true independence from the emperor as well as the parents.
Regarding the details of analysis of the mental structure of the Japanese people, please refer to my separate article, 私の日本分析 (My Analysis of Japan).
At the bottom of the dilemma to survive
Frankly, I think that the psychological structural tendency of a lack of weaning seen in the lack of independence from the emperor has changed the appearance and has been formed obstinately concealed in the deep bottom of the iron rule of securing the means of survival described in chapter 1 of this book.
Even though we Japanese, in a homogeneous culture, can share feelings or “the air” on something such as uncomfortable or favorite matters, it is difficult to see where it comes from.
In order to do so, it is absolutely necessary to get out of the bottom of the well and see the scenery from the outside. As my study abroad experience taught me, it bares the person. And from that nakedness, you can learn what kind of clothes you were wearing.
As you are feeling the “difficulty in life” which has already expanded like a “pandemic” into Japanese society for the last 20 years, the economic situation which is a pillar of physical infrastructure has been directly acting on our lives. But as to the psychological structure placed in the depth of all Japanese which tends to depend on someone, it is difficult to feel. Because it has been planted in their mind unknowingly and so it has nurtured a quiet nature of the Japanese which does not allow saying “no” explicitly in daily life. The causes of the quiet nature and the difficulty in life are seen being on the same soil and they have worked collectively.
Or for instance, in those areas such as nursing care, education, and even the poverty issue, there is the common problem where those social issues tend to be thought of as the matter that the family is responsible for. This is because such lack of independent mental structure is based on the thinking that it is a familiar kinship problem before the idea that it is a social need.
Of course, family ties are irreplaceable. But those two different types of problem, one which should be solved socially and the other which should be entrusted to family relationships, should not be mixed up and it is expected to be more effective if they are treated separately. For example, the “parasite” problem, in which an adult-age child staying with parents when grown up, is typical of such social issues which was left to the family. It is an example of a social approach having been overlooked.
In addition, the similar tendency can be pointed out in the workplace. The labour-management relations in Japan have modelled the typical family structure on the assumption of the family being made up of the bread winner and the full-time housewife. This structure is called the seniority system which assumes the lifetime employment.
Although there are differences depending on companies and industries, such a Japanese-style employment system has gradually changed over the past 20 years or so, and Western-style management has been taken in, with a focus on results and duties.
In particular, under the crisis of COVID-19, in order to introduce telework, it is absolutely necessary to clearly define the outline of individual work, and these changes are accelerating.
In today’s globalized business environment, more and more jobs are based on international movement, such as the job itself bringing in foreign experience or hiring people who have already experienced foreign countries.
In addition, in response to the shrinking domestic market in Japan, the heat of overseas expansion of many companies and industries is increasing, and the number of working positions based on overseas work accordingly is increasing.
Even if the chance to go out to a foreign country is offered to you, it could be said that there is not a critical difference because you still must clear the iron rule to survive. Any way it must be a sensitive issue whether you can catch two birds with one stone, or simply end up with getting a job by chance in an international labour market.
6. Paradigm Change of Thought
Japan as the number one in the world
When I was young, attractive foreign countries were those developed countries in Europe and the United States.
In other words, in the long history of the world, the West opened up the fore of world civilization, thus conquering the world, carrying out slaughter, piling up wealth from the world, winning wars, occupying the top of worldwide organizations, having led the world in both senses of good and bad. Because of that, they could claim to be the leaders of the world.
The dominance of the West, briefly speaking, had been existing present for almost all my generation. But as seen in various circumstances and discussions, their world is transferring to a period of gradual decline.
For example, in October 1984, when I arrived on Australia, the exchange rate between the Japanese yen and Australian dollar was around 1 dollar = 220 yen. In the 1985 Plaza Agreement between Japan and the United States, the United States had let Japan, who had become a strong economic power, allow the appreciation of the yen in an order to weaken the international competitiveness of Japanese products. The yen consequently jumped to well over one hundred yen to the Australian dollar in just a few months.
At that time, I had brought into Australia a small but not negligible amount of money which I had saved in Japan. But the amount of my Australian dollar exchange would have almost doubled if I had exchanged it a few months earlier. I was in the mood to blurt out, “if this is the case, tell me beforehand!”
After that Japan fully used a strong yen to literally buy up the world’s assets. In 1989, the Rockefeller Centre Building in New York was acquired by the Mitsubishi Estate Company and this brought a backlash from New Yorkers. In Australia, most of Sydney’s major buildings were owned by the Japanese.
Japan, then the world’s second largest economy, even boasted that it would overtake the United States and become the world’s largest economy soon. It was Japan’s economic peak but the bubble that swelled eventually burst.
If you look at China today, one can find a similarity to the aggressive Japan at that time.
At any rate, the decline of the West has begun to seem obvious gradually as such an economic trend showed.
Twilight of the West
Thus, from the second half of the last century, the limits of the West began to be widely pointed out, and it turns this century, the waning of so-called “advanced Western countries” has become remarkable in various fields. In addition, the chaotic situation in the United States today is seen almost distressingly for my generation who grew up watching popular American television shows, “Raw Hide” or “Lassie” a half-century ago.
Since the Meiji Era, Japan has succeeded the most in westernization herself among the Asian countries and has expanded its Western model to Asia.
The Empire of Japan had colonized Asian countries, then left behind its own imposed peculiar civilization and various difficulties, and it is still struggling to clean up today.
Now, there is a view that Western civilization has already entered the path of decline, and it may be the time when Oriental civilization replaces it. China is the epicenter of this view.
Such a self-righteous view of history in China is that, while it is the central pillar of the Chinese thought having the genealogy of world view from ancient times, the center of the world is China. But now it brings global tensions and be the leading source of instability or concern in the world.
The United States succeed to make a bubble economy in Japan, which boasted formerly that would surpass the United States shortly. It is now placing various demands on China and trying to block its momentum.
While Western civilization has been making efforts to maintain its dominance by taking advantage of its past wealth accumulation, the East has emerged as a new region of growth in the world.
Setting the Senkaku Islands at its northern end, the western Pacific Ocean is now the front line of the East-West confrontation.
It remains unforeseeable to anyone whether the East will surpass the West and the time when the East will become the centre of the world like the ancient period will be revived. However, the sign is becoming a reality year by year.
China is foreseeing the time to overtake the United States on an economic level. And the country is expanding the Chinafication among neighboring countries with the ambitious view that she is the future model of civilization in the world, holding the strategy of “One Belt, One Road” as a foreign policy.
Japan was occupied by the United States immediately after World War II and since then has been a de facto client country for 75 years up to now. Currently Japan has the expanding China as a neighbour, and also has accepted its cultural influence for long as indicated by the use of Chinese characters in its own language. Thus Japan faces an important turning point in what direction and position it will choose.
South Korea, another neighbour, is in a similar position to Japan, but while taking a kind of US-China bifurcated policy, it has caused distrust from both countries rather than synergy.
This historic change in the East-West balance of power and tensions in East Asia is certainly a very important situation, for Japan must not make decisions wrongly.
The Essence of Oriental Thought
In the course of these historical changes in the relationship between the civilizations of East and West, there is a natural shift in the ideas that have been built within such an East-West framework.
Let us look at the East and West relations in the aspect of “restraint” which is the theme of this book.
When the centre of gravity in the world is changing from the West to the East, to take a balanced view one could take up the viewpoint of the Westerner’s to avoiding favour to the Oriental side.
Here is the best reference from that point of view. This is cited from “Zen for the West”, an introductory chapter for Western readers in ZEN BUDDHIZM (2006), written by William Berrett, a former philosophy professor, at the New York University.
At the beginning of this introduction, the following is a clear message that literally spoke to Westerners.
Only a century separates us from Schopenhauer, the first Western philosopher who attempted a sympathetic interpretation of Buddhism, a brilliant and sensational misunderstanding on the basis of meagre translations. Since then great strides have been made in Oriental studies, but a curiously paradoxical provincialism still haunts the West: the civilization which has battered its way into every corner of the globe has been very tardy in examining its own prejudices by the wisdom of the non-Western peoples. Even today when the slogan “One World!” is an incessant theme of Sunday journalism and television, we tend to interpret it in a purely Western sense to mean merely that the whole planet is now bound together in the net of modern technology and communications. That the phrase may imply a necessity for coming to terms with our Eastern opposite and brother seems to pass publicly unnoticed. There are many signs, however, that this tide must turn. (p. viii)
As the title suggests, this book is about Zen, and explains the writings of Daisetz Suzuki, the great Zen master. And the reason for paying attention to Zen thought was that Western civilization was covered by “strange paradoxical narrowness”. Therefore the description not only outlines the transition of Western thought, but explains Buddhist thought as well, and is a very useful summary for Japanese today.
However, it is not the purpose of this book to introduce the whole picture here, and I will show the key arguments only. But it is a valuable work to read. The original book has not been translated into Japanese, but one can read my translation of the introductory chapter “Zen for the West” at the following URL.
In this introductory chapter, the professor emphasizes that the characteristics of Oriental thought, especially Zen thought, are “concrete and simple to avoid abstraction”.
To summarize in the Western way, the Eastern counterpart is an intuitive idea. But even with such a Western style explanation, it is not easy to approach this concept of “concrete and simple”.
He uses examples to show how to do it. That is, in regard to the matter-of-fact spirit of Zen.
Before you have studied Zen, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers; while you are studying it, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers no longer rivers; but once you have had Enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and rivers are rivers. (p. xix)
To say it plainly, if you remove those rigid views from your eyes, your vision will change. The problem is the idea which blurred your eyes and a way of looking at things.
The reason why I think the journey and the reality to survive are significant is that they form oneness, which is mixing analysis, logic, and abstraction all together in such a complicated experience but they never fall into either one of them and they are still complete and simple.
It is a thing that can be understood even if it is called just “mountains and rivers” as in the above citation. That is, it is a wholistic view which includes such great connotations over everything around us.
Therefore, on the contrary, the idea consisting of disjointed parts through Western analysis sometimes results in much being overlooked, which also constrains yourself.
The above “strange paradoxical narrowness” pointed out by Professor Barrett is one such disjointed part. That is why he says, “[t]he really somber paradox about all these changes is that they have happened in the deep and high parts of our culture (p. xv)”.
To put a change of history in short, the Japanese can cross their own barriers by Westernization, and Westerners can cross their own barriers by Orientalization.
7. To Integrated Oneness
The word “journey” in this book is, of course, a “journey” in which life is said to be a journey.
Therefore, it is a “struggle in order to live” that any person is doing as long as the person lives, whatsoever border is closed or air flights are restricted because of COVID-19.
And when we are struggling so, it does not mean that each element is considered separately like each item is described in this book chapter by chapter.
When I wrote this book, I dared to separate the whole into chapters using an analytical approach.
As I mentioned in the previous chapter on the decline of Western civilization, the analytical method is certainly an effective way for studying one part in detail, whether the field is science or Western medicine. Originally it was based on a methodology where the world can be understood if it is divided into smaller elements, to find what the world is.
For the expert in a field who solved some problems based on analysis, it has been beneficial for society and everyone as well. Now there are countless such experts in every society.
However, for ordinary people who are not experts, what is important is that they and their families live happily, so to say, and the type of job itself for life is not so important.
In today’s society, however, if you do not acquire specialized skills in some field to earn a decent income, you will not even get a job.
In other words, whether it is information technology or cooking skills, it does not matter. However, since the days of a school boy, I have been given an obsessive belief that I cannot survive without getting some job in the future. And it was the common thinking for most people that one had to be some expert, even if it was a reluctant matter.
Of course there is a person, like an artist or athlete, who, since he was a child, has discovered what he likes or what he is good at doing, and he gets attention from people and society. However, these are probably only a handful of such people looking at society as a whole.
Ordinary people who do not have such skills must struggle for life and worry about how to choose and make a decision. Then, when it comes to the time approaching to graduate school, everyone is caught up in the circumstance of competing to get a job, no one can survive without it. If fortunately it is the good economic situation of a seller’s market, one can do better. But if not, one has to suffer very hard experience. And if unluckily one makes a bad decision, one ends up getting such a job for nothing or worse, then one must get frustrated or change jobs over and over again.
All those situations were discussed in chapter 1, the Dilemma, of this book.
Thus, in order to live, we will be covered in such a lot of restraints, and in the end we will find that we are not ourselves.
What this book calls journey and the secret to make the journey is to take “the other way” to the road which is covered in such restraint. In other words, when we have no choice and have to pretended to be something which is not ourselves, the secret is to become sensitive to ourselves, realize we are disjointed by such a lot of restraints, and always try to discover ourselves whole.
Therefore, what I want as a hint is that each item of restraint described in this book should be checked and eliminated by oneself, and the whole picture of oneself should be found.
When the whole picture of yourself becomes clear, the elements which were disjointed come together, and you start to see not only yourself but also your surroundings and even what society and the world are.
To say this another way, the moment when you are clearly able to demonstrate your creativity, you can become a person with a clear perspective, who is unique, and you can put yourself into your work.
As mentioned earlier, this book was being written when the pandemic broke out, but such timing itself does basically not matter.
No matter what time it is, it remains important and inescapable in our lives.
In the past Japan has been in a position to chase and to overtake the developed world’s civilizations, and in most aspects it has reached this goal.
Very late last century, Japan finally completed that goal, but she was unable to establish clear new goals and directions, resulting in a period of stagnation of more than 20 years.
Such stagnation suggested that the Western model that Japan had become accustomed to for many years since the Meiji Era was no longer the correct model, and that Japan had to find its own way, and it has suffered from the difficulty of this realization.
On top of that, the COVID-19 crisis now has affected the world, and the common understanding and order of the past have significantly changed overnight, and we are experiencing a chaotic period before a new era.
If the efforts of the world bear fruit and the corona vaccines under development are successful, there is also an expectation that the world’s clouds will clear up at once. However, everything, including these assumptions, is like the plan on the desk still.
As I mentioned at the end of Introduction, ahead of publication of this book, I designed the cover by myself. This is why its appearance is amateurish. On this cover, one bird is about to fly out into the sky towards somewhere higher through the “window” which isn opened to the sky.
Today, we are being swept away by the tide of the times, and we have little time to look up at the sky. Currently it is hard to open a window and fly into the sky. Such a “journey” is really needed even though thousands of passenger aircraft are grounded to the ground. It is neither rhetoric nor dream. It is a “journey” which is surely possible depending on how you think about it.
On the other hand, the fictitious has become real to a large extent.
It seems that there are quite a few views which not only look at the current COVID-19 antagonistically, and also offer “thanks” to it.
As I discussed in my the other writings, it seems that there is at work the “acts of nature”, and human beings cannot control the matter of COVID-19. This can be seen in our anthropomorphic acceptance that coronavirus “has a very smart strategy.” The virus may not actually have such a “will”, but any possibilities can occur through the mutation of the virus. Therefore, there can be even appearance of mutations which have not been foreseen, even if it is a coincidence or is completely unexpected for us.
As a result of such mutations, we are witnessing the unthinkable weakness that has piled up in human society. The whole human race is panicking now.
But a difficulty can be an opportunity.
Those restraints being pointed out in this book are also swinging to the right and left in chaos similarly.
Because it is such a chaotic time, the start of the “journey” should be the key to great success.
Challenge with confidence.
Author’s Brief Personal History
Born 20 August 1946. Graduated from the Department of Civil Engineering, Shibaura Institute of Technology 1969. After working for a construction company and an official for the Construction Engineers’ Union, went to Australia to study 1984. Holds a master’s degree in labour-management relations from the University of Western Australia and a doctorate from the University of New South Wales. Lives permanently in Australia. Co-founded a business consultancy. Currently operating the following two websites and blogs.
©2021 Hajime Matsuzaki