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March 14, 2006



I find it interesting that you chose Japan, a country that was essentially a colonizer and a colony to compare with the Bahamas. Japan is an almost homogenous society and it’s less than 5% Chinese, Korean and Ainu populations face extreme racism in the work place, trying to get married and in politics. Other groups, such as the burakumin (those lower castes in the feudal society) are still not well represented at the Diet and have called for the establishment of an East Asian or Pacific Human Rights Council to petition their complaints. Japanese society is also criticized for being overly patriarchal so much so that during the first Arab-Japanese forum in the 1970s, the Japanese admitted that they had a lot to learn about the role of women—from the Arabs (!) So, I don’t agree that Japanese cultural values have been any more successful than Bahamian cultural values in coping with modern day identity challenges.

In part of our challenges you cite Bahamians as having, ‘no underlying indigenous value system capable of absorbing the disruption that such change brings to a society.’ If Bahamian culture is lacking anything, I would say it is lacking a voice from beyond the Anglo-Saxon European Christian values system that was imposed. To say that the Yoruba and Igbo in Nigeria were backward? I would also disagree on that point. I would say these cultures are different but not backward. These cultures have polygamy, matriarchal structures and community values which clash which have been interwoven in Bahamian society. Also Nigeria is composed of Faulani and Hausa- the Faulani had a writing system and a legal code before many Europeans ever saw paper. Perhaps its time for us to start teaching our children about our rich cultural past which stretches from Macao to Sokoto to Chennai to Rhodes. And by the way, I would never describe my culture as being ‘backwards’.

andrew allen

In fact you seem to agree with my most central point: that we suffer from our failure to see the possbility of cultural or moral growth beyond the imposed horizons of European civilisation and especially christianity.

As for your view of japan as a coloniser, you are only right insofar as you limit your historical focus to a 50 year period from 1895 to 1945.

This policy was a deliberate emulation of Western powers. If we recall, the west was then encouraging Japan to copy their industrialisation, though they(curiously) became surprised by its subsequent emulation of the natural adjunct to western indusrialisation - colonial exploitation.

Aside from this interlude, Japan's long history can be divided into two prolonged periods of defensive but deliberate exposure to a more dynamic and powerful foreign civilisation (Chinese from 700 to 1500, and western since 1500 - around the time the west overtook china in economic growth and technology).

It has never been an exporter of values and culture, always an importer. The vast majority of its history was spent far from being a coloniser, but actually trying to prevent itself being colonised, while simultaneously borrowing ideas from the would-be coloniser.

Spending, as I do, two months a year in Japan, I am fairly certain that the notion of modern day burakumin is phenomenon restricted to western television, as is so much else portrayed about japan. Of course, I stand to be corrected, as do all of the Japanese I have ever asked about the matter.

You do not have to spend more than a week in Japan to note how much better their culture copes with change than does our own. Matter from homosexuality to tolerance of other religions are dealth with by Bahamians as they would have been by Europeans in the dark ages. Japan takes a scientific and tolerant view of the world and so avoids such energy-wasting frictions.

The runaway consumerism and widespread ghetto values that have replaced the simple, slavery-imbued virtues of earlier Bahamians is an example of just how badly we have coped with the trinkets, freedoms and opportunities of capitalism. Compare that to Japan and you could not continue to believe that their culture has not adapted better than ours to modernity.


I do agree with you on many of the points that you have made. And to tell you the truth there are many points about Japanese culture that I am impressed with. Treatment of elders, respect for cultural traditions, openness to new innovation and technology—and of course food (!) I could eat some Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki tonight for dinner! Nihon yokoso :)

Japan does suffer from another kind of runaway consumerism ‘burando’ style, which has led to legislative amendments to prevent ‘compensated dating’ among minor high school girls—does this sound familiar to you as a Bahamian?

As for the negative aspects of the culture, I have no doubt that the average Japanese person would be hazukashii about discussing such matters as racial discrimination of second-generation immigrants or burakumin or discrimination against women. This does not necessarily mean that these social problems do not exist. A good question to ask a Japanese person is, ‘do you think that Japan should appologise for the comfort women?’ This reveals whether or not they are conservative and nationalistic or liberal and willing to acknowledge the full impact of their colonising period- even though as you say it was a short period in history.

You can still distinguish between different castes in Japan. Try to go to a hanko shop and see which last names you see appearing on the stamps. Try to ask about who owns butchers. Ask about the poor areas around Kiryu and Kobe. Slowly, a hidden society will emerge-- hidden society of people who have a difficulty getting jobs, getting married; people whose parents and grandparents were denied access to education and are functionally illiterate. You don't have to take my word for it. There are some links provided below for information.

kono jiyou wa nihon no ‘asia human rights commission’ (AHRC) no daihyousha (higashizawa, yasushi) kara desu:
Burkau Liberation and Human Rights Institution (nihongo):
Taking over from the Buraku Liberation League (BLL), the the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) was established in 1988 and remains active today. IMADR has committed itself to the elimination of discrimination based on social class, racial discrimination, supported the rights of indigenous peoples and the resistance against human rights oppressions all over the world.

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