Last weeks had been rather discouraging for me, because it seemed to me that in general news have become so bleak in Japan. Instead of what could be done, from my perspective the common mood is how bad the situation in regard to Japan got and that it might get worse. Where did the optimism or hope go? So far I had assumed that I must be wrong, but I stumbled today upon a recent poll done by the Pew Center’s annual Global Attitude Project (700 telephone interviews between March 20 and April 12). According to the Asahi Shimbun the poll showed widespread pessimism: Some 78 percent of the people are unhappy with the direction of the country, and 93 percent perceive the economy to be in a bad state. This figures are shocking for me and I am at loss with words.
Last year after the disaster Japan was more optimistic. Most people hoped this awful tragedy could be turned into something positive: 59 percent believed the disasters would make Japan stronger. Now a year later only 39 percent still hold that view and almost half of the population 47 percent believe the disaster has made the country weaker.
Furthermore the general public has a very low opinion of the government and the media. Only 12 percent see the central Japanese government as having a positive influence on the country, while present Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is viewed positively by only 30 percent. As for the media, only 34 percent see a positive impact, while the majority with 63 percent have a dark outlook. For me interesting is that instead of seeing increased grassroot activities, the general public is expecting others to take the way. Based on the comment of Asahi Shimbun:
“In the wake of the disaster, distrust of the government and mainstream media has grown amid the perception that authorities were not being forthright with the public – and that the media outlets weren’t doing enough to investigate or hold authorities accountable.”
Interestingly I have heard this viewpoint quite often this year in discussion with Japanese. I find a lot of people yearning for change, but when I ask directly about what they have done on a personal level I get a confused look back. It seems commonly understood that it is better to wait for a “leader”, who will tell what is best to be done next. Starting on a personal level seems out of question.
I hope a taxi driver was recently joking when he asked me to lead Japan to change. I strongly believe if Japanese society wants lasting change it has to come from within and not from an “outsider”. Time has moved on and a Black Ship will not make any changes these days.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (伊藤シビル)