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News & Analysis

The Heart of the Japanese

 Viewpoint by Katsuei Hirasawa*

TOKYO (IDN) – When public opinion surveys are carried out in Japan and China, about 90 percent of the Japanese answer that they dislike China and about 80 percent of the Chinese answer that they dislike Japan. These are indescribably sad numbers, but probably have their roots in historical recognition. However, when they visit Japan, Chinese people are very surprised by the extreme kindness of the Japanese. SPANISH | GERMAN | HINDI | JAPANESE

When an attaché at the Japanese Embassy in China gives a lecture in China, Chinese people often ask: "Why are the Japanese kind to the Chinese though you dislike China?" The answer is obvious. The Japanese have a strong distrust in the human rights situation in China and in the hegemony of the Chinese government.

However, the Japanese have a strong desire to cultivate friendship with the Chinese people as similar human beings. This heart of the Japanese could be called the national character of Japanese.

Lafcadio Hearn, Townsend Harris, Isabella Bird and many other Westerners came to Japan between the end of the Edo period and the Meiji period. The literature they left speaks highly of Japan. According to Hearn, “there is no country other than Japan where we can feel the milk of human kindness.” Harris wrote that “the Japanese attitude is wonderful” and Bird praised the country, writing that “there is no other country than Japan where a woman can travel around safely.” All were likewise surprised that the Japanese are extremely polite, honest and kind.

A film – 125 Years Memory – was screened recently, depicting the true story of 69 crew members of an Ottoman warship which ran aground off the coast of Wakayama Prefecture in 1890. Turkish citizens are still grateful to Japan for the fact that the sailors were rescued by Wakayama residents.

In 2014, immediately after Japan was defeated in a World Cup match, Japanese supporters took to cleaning the stadium seats. People around the world watching the scene on television were very surprised by the action of the Japanese which was something that could seldom be seen in their countries.

It is true that Japan took the wrong path during the Second World War and caused much harm to many people, but the Japanese – who came to be thought of as ruthless and brutal by many – are originally an agricultural people and our nature is good and kind with caring hearts.

Over the past few years, the number of foreign visitors to Japan has increased rapidly. It was less than 10 million until not so long ago but it reached about 20 million last year. This year, the number is uncertain because of the influence of the Kumamoto earthquake, but I am sure that the number of foreign visitors will increase in the future.

Foreign visitors are impressed by not only the nature, history and traditional culture of Japan, but also the "Japanese heart" and "consideration for others' feelings and hospitality.

We Japanese would like to welcome foreigners who visit Japan with our world-class "beautiful heart", both now and in the future. [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 May 2016]

This article is part of IDN’s media project jointly with Global Cooperation Council and DEVNET Japan.

* Katsuei Hirasawa is a Member of the House of Representatives elected seven consecutive times. Director, Standing Committee on Budget, House of Representatives. In 2014, he chaired House of Representatives Special Committee on North Korean Abductions and Other Issues. In 1994, he was Councillor to the Commissioner General's Secretariat of the National Police Agency.



International Press Syndicate
Fostering Globalcitizenship 
Soka Gakkai International (SGI)
ICAN | International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
財団法人 尾崎行雄記念財団


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