SFU English 380: Mutilation and Foreign Relations in the Japanese Novel

A class blog for students of English 380 - "Literature in Translation" - at Simon Fraser University in Autumn 2005.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I remember saying in the hurly-burly of Thursday's seminar discussion that I would blog a couple of passing points. I cannot, alas, bring to mind what they were. Can any one of you recall?


At 5:18 PM, Blogger Deep said...

I believe that one of the topics that we were discussing during the semiar was the topic of suicide and the other topic had to do with male role models and the role of the mother in a family. Another thing that is kind of hazy was the view of masculinity and how the family structure affects masculinity of males children that are being raised predominantly by a mother. Hopefully that helps somewhat.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Louise28 said...

First of all, I want to apologize for saying anything about male role models as that was not directly part of the discussion about suicide, and what I said was not thought out clearly. Sorry to have offended so many people. Different cultures handle roles in different ways, and our own culture with a large percentage of single parent households, either mothers or fathers heading the household, have raised their young people successfully and with clear gender identification. Role models for both sexes are found in a wide variety of people in the young person’s life, not just the parents.
However, I was reacting to Japanese Mothers being blamed for the failure of their sons or daughters to gain admission to elite universities and, as a result, have committed suicide. Is the Mother the only support person for the student or are there other people involved, such as Fathers, Grandparents, teachers, clergy, coaches, siblings, or friends? Where do young people have support in Japanese society? Considering the enormous pressure from the educational and business systems then the logical response to failure is suicide. I understand that they believe that they have lost honour for themselves and their families with their failure. If their feelings of worthiness are dictated solely by the education system, then they are left with no belief in themselves and no hopes or dreams for the future. If their mothers at home are the sole supports for them then it appears logical but, in fact, it is grossly unfair to blame them.
Today, I spoke to a public school principal about our own educational system and she said that it is based on the bell curve, with twenty percent failure rate. If less than twenty per cent fail, then the teachers are too soft and if more than twenty per cent fail, then the teachers are not doing an adequate job. The criteria is not just meeting objective planned learning outcomes (PLO’s) but making sure that overall schools maintain the twenty per cent failure rate. Our system is far from ideal as it reinforces the notion that students must fail.
From my western cultural view, the family in Japan looks like it is under enormous pressure. With the head of the household, usually the male, away from home or asleep and exhausted like a “garbage bag” when home, where are the supports for the family? What kind of relationship can the couple maintain? With the children at school for excessively long hours, how can the parent at home support the child sufficiently to weather adversity? Is there a reluctance to address the situation because it is understood as a cultural expression of budo, way of the warrior in the new Japan? Is the expectation to put your life on the line to succeed and if one fails then to maintain honour by suicide or death? In Canada we have labour laws protecting people from excessive work hours as it is a known medical fact that overwork does cause death, as exhibited in karoshi in Japan. There are limits to the amount of time allowed for student’s homework. Western developmental psychologists think that children need time to play and to socialize and have time to “just be” without pressure. Labour laws and restrictions on educational demands are seen as basic human rights in western society but do not seem to be the Japanese way. Is Japan concerned about these issues or are they dismissed by blaming the mothers for their young people’s suicides and understanding karoshi as an honourable death?

At 12:03 PM, Blogger Deep said...

I dont think that you offended anyone with your comments...well at least not me.


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