If you only have a hammer,
you tend to see every problem
as a nail.

Abraham Maslow


deru kugi wa utareru
deru kui wa utareru

The nail that sticks out is hammered down


. kugi 釘 nail, Nagel .
An anthropological study.


quote from new internationalist
issue 231 - May 1992

The nail that sticks out
Conformists belong, non-conformists and ethnic minorities get hammered in Japan.
John Charles and Peter Mallat unravel Japanese groupthink.

Who are the Japanese?
Anthropologically it is not at all clear: a conglomerate of Polynesian, Malay and mainland Asian elements, perhaps from Mongolia, who imposed themselves on the aboriginal Ainu and gradually drove them northwards. The precedence of the Ainu in the islands, like the thorny subject of Japanese army atrocities against the Chinese in the 1930s, is another point glossed over by the schoolbooks.

Culturally it is a different story. Japan has a notion of its own uniqueness that many Japanese are convinced an outsider could never fathom. The Japanese language ovefflows with words of status, words of self-abasement, words of guile and subterfuge - and many words that defy accurate translation. Words like Ciri and On translate as 'duty' or 'obligation', but the depth of their meaning is quite different. Within the tightly-ordered framework of Japanese groups - village, family, school, workplace - they weigh heavily indeed. Outside these groups they lose almost all meaning. Thus in Japan there is little goodwill for someone you don't know and little sense of a broader public interest. Peter Tasker, in his book Inside Japan, calls the Japanese the 'kindest, cruelest' people in the world. The face presented depends entirely on whether you are seen to be part of a group or outside it.

Hidden Identities
Many schoolchildren of Korean extraction can give you a harrowing description of hiding their backgrounds from their classmates at great psychological cost - only to be found out when presenting a different passport on a school trip. Their friends melted away before their eyes. In Osaka's Ikuno, ward where a quarter of the population is Korean, less than five per cent use their real names in business dealings. Kim Sung Il, a second-generation Korean, refused fingerprinting, was arrested and had his finger prints taken against his will. He recounts the story of a school teacher accused of some trifling infringement of the Registration Law who was taken from her classroom by a hundred police.

In fact, Japan has had a minority problem for centuries, ever since the Yamato peoples drove the Ainu to the inhospitable northern island of Hokkaido, where they largely remain. Like indigenous peoples everywhere, the Ainu have rediscovered their own identity, and are pressing for reform.

One problem has been the Koseki, or Community Registers. Japan is a society that pays elaborate courtesies to ancestors and their spirits. They are yet another group to which obligations are owed. The Japanese go out of their way to prevent any 'mixing of the blood' which they feel would pollute and dishonour their family tree. To preserve this purity of the lineage (Ie) extensive record-keeping is needed. Hence the social importance of Koseki, which details intimate family information.

Read the full article HERE


deru kui no gotoku tsukushi no tsumarekeri

like the nail
that sticks out we pick

Kubota Noriko 久保田教子
Tr. Gabi Greve

Tsukushi 土筆(つくし)horsetail plant
kigo for mid-spring
It is considered a delicacy.


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