Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Thought of Abe

Today a friend of mine told me that one of her foreign friends living in Japan might have the opportunity to meet and even assist with an interview with Shinzo Abe.  The mind boggles.  What would you ask Shinzo Abe?

As a non-Japanese person, Shinzo Abe looms large in the daily news, but isn't really a part of my consequential reality.  What would it mean to me to meet him?  He is a likely quite a historical figure for what he is doing in Japan, but I feel I only know half the story.  I suppose I could pretend to be more fully informed by asking about the subsidies given to farmers, the tariffs imposed on foreign rice, how the government will appeal to ani-nuclear energy activists in wake of Fukushima, or how they will find an affordable source of renewable energy in Japan.  I could lead him on a conjecture of the intentions of China or North Korea or maybe I could ask why those little islands are so important.  I could press him on the rewriting of Japanese history books, and the new trend towards nationalistic pride in Japan.  For all of these questions I would be left a deer in headlights, the sounds of politics and economics in Japanese blowing past my comprehension.  It would be best to stick with something manageable.  To learn as the Japanese have taught, to follow their gentle example, to ask questions that have been asked to me.  If such were the case, I would likely only be able to ask him if he liked Japan and what was his favorite food.

It's a funny thing to be an outsider.  Sometimes it feels like I'm living in a movie or an amusement park. Everything is so real, but is it really?  How connected am I to these concerns, in what ways do they effect me while I live here and in what ways will they effect me when I leave?  Rice prices will rise, rice prices will fall, one country will offend another, the environment will require stewardship.  These issues will always exist, they will always rest in someone's hands.   In some ways, the simple questions, the ones that are often asked of me, may be the most important.

Are you happy here?  Are you eating well?

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