Thursday, March 26, 2009

Yoshia Morishita:Distance matters but every little connection also matters for the future


Medeshi March 26, 2009
Section 3 of 3:
Distance matters but every little connection also matters for the future.
By Yoshia Morishita
Saporro, Japan
Reading newspapers of Japan and Europe is pretty interesting. Different headlines, different issues, and different perspectives, even about the same story. One thing for sure is that with only Japanese media, my awareness of international issues will definitely decline. In general Japanese people are less aware of international issues than other nationals.
(The picture attached shows an aquaduct in France. I attached it because I hope my articles will play a role of a bridge that connects Japan, Somalia/land and the Horn!
The other day Japan won the international baseball tournament! We are still excited, too excited )
This may be good in some ways though; in general, many ‘foreign’ cultures are new to them and so Japanese people are curious about different cultures and do not discriminate against them. Also, I have heard that people in developing countries, for instance, do not complain about Japan’s development assistance because Japan does not tell them what to do; you are less bossy when you show respect to and interest in others who have different perspectives. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun of Japan and BBC, Japan, together with Canada, is considered as having the most positive impact on the international society, although some Japanese critics say that no one needs to complain about Japan because the country has no strong opinions or does not play an influential role internationally. It is like one of your classmates who always goes out for lunch with you, smiles, nods and is ready to pay for a few of the classmates’ meals who are currently short of money.

In Section 2 of this article I wrote that although the dispatch of a few Japanese Navy ships to the areas off Somalia/land is a big issue, the vast majority of Japanese people do not take it as seriously as they probably should. We import a wide range of commercial goods carried by vessels that go through the sea areas in question. Our economy depends so much on trading. By dispatching the Navy ships, we may be able to get rid of the image that Japan contributes to the international society only financially. We know that financial contribution, however big it is, does not bring a good international reputation or respect (e.g. Kuwait never thanked Japan for our financial help during the Gulf War, and Japan never seems to get a permanent seat at the Security Council despite its financial contribution the amount of which is the second biggest, or actually the biggest as the US does not pay as much as they should in time).

The politicians of Japan’s government party argue that by the dispatch Japan would be properly recognised as a committed and cooperative nation; it is good for national interest. Maybe... Politicians represent citizens in democratic countries and are supposed to think and act in future-oriented ways, although they often pursue short-term interests. Some of the Japanese media do support the dispatch. They do mention protecting Japan-related vessels is very important given the economic structure of Japan, but also tend to say that the dispatch is necessary because a number of other countries have already dispatched their war ships. Japan does not have the courage to do anything new. The country prefers to see what others do before it takes action itself, meaning that it is, in a sense, very cooperative and clever.

Distance also matters. Africa in general and Somalia/land are unknown and a probably-never-to-visit continent. No direct flights. Very limited connections. A distant place that suffers and needs help. On top of it, the pirates, which we only see in films or amusement parks. Naturally, all these are beyond ordinary Japanese people’s imagination. Protecting Japan-related vessels is important, but the dispatch and all the related issues, probably to many people in Japan, sound like other people’s business. Many others are already operating near Somalia/land and so it should be safe and legitimate to go there to join them. Supposedly this is how ordinary Japanese people see the issue of the dispatch.

One of Japan’s neighbours is that mysterious North Korea. Compared with Somalia/land, it is just a stone’s throw away from us, and yet we know very little about the country; we only know it is such a troublemaker. However, we pay attention to North Korea as it is near to us and preparing for a missile launch in early April. It may affect us. When we still do not know much about our troublesome neighbour, how come we are aware of issues surrounding Somalia/land which is really far? The necessity to know such issues is minimal. There are plenty of other issues to be dealt with in our daily life… One thing for sure is that Japan has no intention of expanding its sphere of influence to Somalia/land. It is simply too late and too far in the first place. I think Japan only wants to protect unarmed commercial vessels (and civilians like that Japanese female medical doctor who was kidnapped to Somalia when she was treating the disadvantaged in the Horn) from heavily armed people, be it Somalis or others.

The above being said, very few people have hatred towards Somali/land. We are very far, very different and so on. I hope my articles will help the visitors to the web site Medeshi to know that there is an ordinary Japanese citizen like me who wants to contribute to building an invisible but solid bridge between the two countries. That way, little by little, the distance will be overcome.

Thank you for reading! ( End of Section 3).

About the writer : (Mr) Yoshia MORISHITA is a Japanese national who studied and worked in the UK, as well as Turkey and Eritrea. He has visited around 25 countries of the world and developed his international perspectives. He has a Master’s degree in International Development from UCL, University of London and worked as a research associate at a British NGO. Currently he is living in Japan running a small business in the area of various international programmes and businesses facilitation and co-ordination, while reading sociology at Hokkaido University.

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