Japan on the edge

This is the online of an academic paper I am writing

This is where i am thinking of going. Not referenced but I have plenty of reading to back it all up.

“from feudal serf to spender/this wonderful world of purchase power” 

Manic Street Preachers 

Introduction 

I am analysing the phenomenon of ‘smart cities’ with specific reference to Tokyo and the 2020/2021 Olumpics. Much has been made of the fact that Tokyo 2020 will be histories most sustainable games and this is being achieved largely through developments in architecture, smart urban planning, big data and AI. In fact Tokyo as a whole is touted as one of the most advanced cities in terms of smart technology. This gives benefits in terms of the allocation of resources, flows of people and information and security. It also has potential huge downsides and civil liberties implications. Residents face living in a total survelliance environment remiscent of the city at the centre of I Zamyatin’s novel ‘We’. Japan has recent history of fascism and a culture of conformism. There are examples of totalitarian systems in nearby North Korea and China with its social merit system.

The planners risk creating a Brave New World style scenario which horrifies western liberal values. But maybe in the context of East Asia people are willing to accept state intrusion into their lives. There is no eastern history of luddism. Maybe this represents the ultimate in social harmony. 

Theoretical Framework 

I place myself in the romantic school of early 20th century anthropologists such as Alfred Kroeber. I firmly reject Marxism and identity politics as intellectual dead ends and dead ends for humanity. 

I am moved by the ideals of the European enlightenment as represented by figures such as Locke. Though these have to be modified somewhat there should not be a complete capitulation to post modernism particularly as represented by the post modern gibberish of the French academy. (see Chomsky On Anarchism) 

I am interested in romantic thinkers like William Blake who warned of man’s self created ‘mind forgd manacles’ and was a stern critic of Newton and soul-less technological expansion. I am interested in writers such as Wendell Berry who advocate a back to the earth conservatism and rejection of novel technology for its own sake. I am something of a luddite and feel technology has gone too far.  

I am also influenced by Jung and Taoism. Though I would reject much of the west coast of America mysticism. Jung was influential in helping me think through certain things but I would say I am post-jungian and post-taoist. 

If anything I am interested in Discordianism the pan like sense that the universe can throw up anything at anytime and usually will. I am equally influenced by stoicism and buddhism. Buddhism from the writings of Pema Chodron and others in the Tibetan tradition. Stoicism in the sense that we have to take personal responsibility and life is often hard and requires courage. This is through my own experience of mental ill health.  

Tokyo

When I think of Tokyo I think of a gleaming metropolis in the East. Maybe like one of the fabled cities that Marco Polo would find along the silk road. One of the stereotypes of Tokyo is its high tech culture. For me the concept of the smart city takes the high tech metropolis and pushes further along a path of being fully wired, fully linked up, surveilled, and monitored.  Ziaduin Sardar writes about various futures. Tokyo 1964 represented one future. Tokyo 2021 represents a re-boot of that future. 

The civil liberties downsides of the smart city have been almost as well publicised as smart cities themselves. An experiment in smart cities in Toronto had to be abandoned after residents became concerned about privacy issues.  

The project of the smart city promises to create a ‘total’ environment where everything is regulated, monitored, measured and controlled. How do human beings live in such an environment? What is Japanese subjectivity (Dorrine Kondo – Crafting Selves). 

It is another well know cliché that East Asians are early adopters of digital technology with early roll out of cable tv, broadband and 5G mobile phone networks. An apathetic apolitical generation that has been brought up at the teat of Nintendo and other consumer technology combined with a highly conformist confucian consumer culture threaten to lead Tokyo and Japan into the abyss of a total surveillance state.  

8 Comments

  1. I agree with you about the risks of smart technology, especially, perhaps, in East Asia. Although we’re pretty apathetic here in Australia. Also, thanks for telling me about discordianism? I’ve never heard of it.

    Like

    1. Glad you like it. I was hoping my MA would help me write more essays and it has. Maybe my argument is a little hyperbolic or is the figment of a paranoiac brain? I could have included more references but prioritised speed of writing. I can kind of back fill with the facts. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing. It is very interesting and very informative.

    Unfortunately Japan is no longer an advanced country. Some Japanese are surprised when they visit cities like Shenzhen as it looks so futuristic.

    On my previous trip to Krakow, I was surprised to find that I could buy a ticket for a small church concert with my credit card. In Japan, normally shrines, temples or small shops often do not accept credit cards. Some small shops are now accepting electronic payments, but not enough.

    I don’t want to be monitored by Big Brother, but as you know Japanese are overworking so I think Japan should try to improve cutting edge technology for efficiency.

    For years, the government has been trying to get people to have “My Number Card”, a card with a personal number. In the future, this number will be linked to passport numbers, bank accounts, social insurance numbers, driving licences and other personal information. However, people are very reluctant to use this system and it is not widely used at all. This means that Japanese have enough freedom to refuse being monitored even if it remains inefficient for any official procedures.

    Even though we have good access to the internet, we are still using ugly fax machines and hankos (name stamps as substitutes for official signatures for contractual or administrative purposes). This is so inefficient.

    However, due to covid-19, this ridiculous hanko system is finally being abolished these days, as some people who can work online have to go out of their way to their office just to get their stamps.

    There are so many challenges. Many people are not aware of the reality of Japan because they are still seeing the illusion that Japan is still strong in technology and economy as it used to be. Many people don’t see what is happening outside of Japan.

    So Japan is actually quite an ancient country, but Ironically thanks to covid-19, is slowly changing.

    We’ll see what happens at the Olympics in 2021 if it happens. Will it be a good example of a smart city?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Yoshie,

    It’s interesting to hear the view of someone actually living inside Japan rather than my projection.

    Yes I guess the ethic of smart cities might not live up to the reality if people find ways around the system. I guess my fear is that Japan has had fascist periods in the past and could go back there again.

    I remember when I was growing up in the 90s anime looked so cool and all the images of high tech Japanese metropolises like in the film Akira. I guess maybe in the 1980s and 90s Japan was ahead but now the rest of the worlds has caught up. Japan is probably more like Greece an irrelevant country that is going to go slowly bankrupt.

    I think the western image of Asia is of deviant crackpots cloning people in underground labs and micro chipping babies. It probably feeds into WW2 era stereotypes of the Japanese as emperor loving fanatics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In Akira, the only thing that became reality was the Olympics in 2020 had been cancelled 🙂

      After the second war, the United States changed Japanese education system, and the education about Japanese ancient mythology about the connection between the Emperors and Gods has been gone.

      However we go to shrines on New Year’s Day as a custom, a tradition, without knowing the Gods well. Strangely enough, many Japanese seem not to care about it.

      After all I don’t think fascism will ever go back in Japan, and if it does, we have rights to speak out against it now.

      The only thing that scares me is that some people are looking the other way to the reality that Japan is in decline and might be invaded.

      We need to learn more to reserve our beautiful country and of course myself too.

      Liked by 1 person

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