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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Jul 17, 2002

    No Green Party at the Japanese Parliament means a lot

    Observers of Japanese politics will have noticed the absence of Green Party in Japanese politics. In fact, the Green Party does exist, but nobody seems to care about it, since it does not have a single seat. In comparison, the "Greens" hold up to 15% of the seats in countries like Germany.

    This says a lot about Japanese politicians and Japanese mindset. When I brought up the issue with some Japanese acquaintances, they wondered why there should be a Green Party at all. I explained that the "Greens" did not just care about protecting endangered species, fighting whale-hunting (so dear to Japan), or bothering people about not cutting a nice tree. That is not at all what the Green Party is for. What they want is protecting people's health by passing laws about recycling wastes, reducing industrial pollution, prohibiting the (ab)use of dioxine emitting incinerators, controlling better the quality of food (including stricter test for BSE, etc.), promoting organic food, using cleaner energy (no nuclear or coal power plants...), and so on.

    Japan is one of the few countries in the world to burn most of its rubbish. Just in Tokyo, there are dozens of incinerators in the middle of residential districts, as if they didn't know the dioxine and other toxic emissions caused cancer or other disease to local population. Actually there has been many cases of disease caused by incinerators in Japan, but the government continues to build new ones, against protests by local residents (like the infamous new incinerator in Kyoto).

    The lack of concern regarding health is abherrant in Japanese society. It would be difficult to survey the population about their opinion, asmost people would say they do care about health (and some about environment), but this is mostly a tatemae stance. (tatemae refers to the Japanese custom of saying what is "politically correct" in public, instead of what they really think).

    Signs showing that the opposite is true are everywhere. First of all, organic food is almost unheard of in Japan. That is in sharp contrast to Europe, where about all supermarkets have an "organic food" corner. Secondly, vegetarianism is not only inexistent among Japanese, but is seen as absurd
    by most of them. Again, the rising rate of vegetarians in western countries is a direct consequence of their concern about meat-related disease (dioxin chicken, crazy cows...). Lower consumption of red meat by lots of Westerners are due to the medical studies showing that red meat isn't very healthy, statement which would make a Japanese laugh in disbelief (or poor medical awareness).

    But health issues are not just food or waste-related in Japan. Doctors and hospital have acquired such a bad reputation for medical negligence or outright incompetence that the number of Japanese seking treatment abroad (US, Australia, Europe...) is on the increase. Several books and even TV drama (like "shiroi kyoutou") tackle the issue of poor medical performances in Japan. Scandals involving doctor incompetence resulting in the patients' death make the news on a weekly basis. One of the worst cases was when medical supply companies (including the Japanese Green Cross) contaminated thousands of patients with untreated blood infected by HIV in 1996. One third of all Japanese with AIDS have it due to such medical malpractice.

    That brings us to the issue of AIDS in Japan. Though the rate are low by international and even western standards, it would seem that the number of HIV-infected Japanese is much higher than the official data claim. Japanese just do not want to be tested, and few people admit using condoms. Their reaction towards AIDS tests reflect again the Japanese attitude toward health: as long as it is not clearly apparent and nobody else seem to care too much, why should we be concerned ? The same is true of the BSE or mad cow disease.

    Since BSE was found in Japan 3 years ago, I haven't met a single Japanese who refrained from eating beef (as I do), and most credulously believe that their governement or that of other countries are doing a good job in fighting it - when just a fraction of the bovine population is tested, tests are unreliable and bad results often dissimulated. Once again, they prefer to play the policy of the ostrich and not facing serious problems, rather than be responsible. That is as much true of politicians as of ordinary people.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Dec 23, 2004 at 22:36.

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