The way that Newsweek changes its front covers (and lead articles) to cater for its local audience is old news. It seems that Newsweek has particularly been sensitive to their US readership when it comes to the war on terrorism. You can read about the most recent editorialism here on this page detailing how the US English edition was different to other international English editions in September, this year. Our biking gaijin friend at ridingsun was also kind enough to point out a less known discrepancy between the Japanese language edition and the English language edition from May of last year. We were lucky that we noticed about these, but how regularly are the magazines that we read biased due to a US centric editorial policy in a more subtle way.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of publishing an Asian edition, Time Magazine has published a special feature called “60 Years of Asian Heroes” in it’s latest edition (Nov 13, ’06). Being a big fan of the up and rising stars in Asia, I was quick to pick up a copy. It is a little embarrassing to admit, but I was pleasantly surprised by the number of names that I didn’t recognize on the list. Despite having lived in the “Far East” for over a decade, I was subtly reminded that Asia is a large place filled with lots of inspirational “heroes”. (Did you know that Freddy Mercury was actually an Indian called Farrokh Bulsara?)
But after reading a few pages, I was troubled by the lack of Japanese people mentioned in the special. In fact, the first “Japanese” person to make an appearance was General Douglas MacArthur! (I think you can see where I’m going with this.) Sure, I can see why MacArthur may be a hero in Asia for the people of United States, but I’ll give a candy to the first person who can show me a Japanese person who thinks so. (I doubt if he’d even spring to mind!!) Incidentally, it isn’t just the Japanese, the first “Hong Kong Hero” to show his face in the mag was an equally appropriate Sir Murray MacLehose.
The Time Asia list of Asian Heroes was divided into five categories and the Japanese representatives were:
- “National Builders” (only General Douglas MacArthur)
- “Artists & Thinkers” (Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki, Kenzo Tange, Seiji Ozawa)
- “Business Leaders” (Akio Morita, Masaru Ibuka, Hanae Mori, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, Shigeru Miyamoto)
- “Athletes & Exoplorers” (Sadaharu Oh)
- “Inspirations” (none)
All of these peoples are nothing more than hereos in the eyes of Americans. Sure, they are Japanese people who have “made it” on the international stage but that doesn’t guarantee their status as heroes to the Japanese populace. Why isn’t there a place for Rikidozan, the man who captured the hearts and hopes of the Japanese when they had no confidence in themselves, or their nation. Dare I say that maybe it was because he was portrayed as the man who stood up to and beat the Americans?
In the article, Kurosawa was portrayed as a director who was loved by Westerners but misunderstood by the Japanese (I personally disagree). Morita was described as a success because Sony was the first Japanese company to list on the New York Stock Exchange and pointed out specifically that he spent most of his time in the US from the 1950s onwards. Not surprisingly, none of the authors who wrote about Japan’s heroes were ethnically Japanese either. Is it that hard to find good Japanese journalistic expertise?
On the business front, I wonder if Dr. Kazuo Inamori or even Horiemon warrant a mention. Surely they have had just as much, if not more influence, on the hearts of the nihonjin? Are there really no Japanese “inspirations”? While I’m no expert on Japanese politics, I’d love to hear your opinion on whether there should there be room for Shigeru Yoshida or Noboru Takeshita?
The one entry in the list that gave me a pleasant surprise was Momofuku Ando. As the founding father of both chicken ramen and instant noodles, he really did shape Japanese society. I don’t know if he is a hero to the Japanese people in the Western sense of the word but we are talking about the nation who voted instant noodles as the best invention of the twentieth century!
Who do you think the Japanese would chose as their true post-war heroes?