Don’t scorn Japan’s powerful old people

japan_100year-oldForeign journalists have a habit of using a lot of judgemental language in their articles about Japan.

“The country is quite simply dying,” is a very judgemental phrase. It was used in a prominent article which appeared on a US political website called The Week. Another piece said “it is hard to appreciate the scale of the crisis” caused by Japan’s ageing population.

The articles were written by opinionated journalists who also proposed solutions to Japan’s problems. These are, namely, to bring in lots of immigrants, to pay people to have babies and to stop sexist discrimination against women at work.

Japan’s ageing population is a topic of daily debate in the Japanese media. Thousands of different versions of the story have been written. Yet these two foreign journalists approach the topic with nothing new in the way of research.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry who writes for The Week is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington, an organisation which says it “applies the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”

As he examines the sensitive issue of the ageing population in Japan, Gobry informs his readers that the country is selling more adult diapers than infant diapers.

According to current projections, he says, by 2060 Japan’s population will have shrunk by a third and people over 65 years old will account for 40 percent of the population.

His suggestions on how to stem the declining birthrate are that Japan must incentivise women to have children and also that it must adopt a more open immigration policy.

One phrase that journalists often use in connection with this issue of population decline is “time bomb” – a term which suggests future disaster.

The time bomb idea is used prominently in a piece by journalist Zack Beauchamp writing in Vox.

Beauchamp says Japan’s demographic problem is “very, very bad”.

He notes that Japan has a very long life expectancy but adds that it also has a low birth rate. “And for that, we can place a lot of the blame on one of history’s greatest villains: sexism.”

The Vox article says that Japan forces women to choose between work and children and it cites research by Yale University’s Frances McCall Rosenbluth, an expert on gender and the Japanese economy.

Neither author has spoken to any Japanese people about the issues, let alone to older people. Gobry’s piece presents Japan’s dignified and powerful older generation as a dying breed of people wearing diapers like babies.

For credibility, writers must show they are engaged in a dialogue with Japanese people about the issues which shape their society. The best articles hold back judgement and show the world a Japan which Japanese people themselves recognise as real.

Register to subscribe

japan_100year-old外国人記者による日本に関する記事の多くは批判的なトーンの論調を展開する 。

米系政治サイト、The Weekの記事では「ひとことで言って(日本は)死にかけている」と言及。別の記事では、高齢化社会による「問題の深刻さは計り知れない」と報道している。


The Week のPascal-Emmanuel Gobry記者はワシントンの倫理・社会政策センターの会員であるが、彼らはユダヤ・キリスト教による倫理を社会政策に応用する方針を支持している。Gorby記者が日本の高齢化に関して調査を行ない、日本では赤ちゃん用オムツより大人用オムツが 売れていると報道した。彼の最近の企画によれば、2060年までに日本の人口は3分の1に減少し、その40%が65歳以上になるものと予測している。彼は高齢化の対策として、国による移民政策の緩和や出産の奨励を提案している。

多数の記者は人口減による問題を 「時限爆弾」と評しているが、 厄難な未来を指す。VOX、Zack Beauchamp記者の記事ではこの「時限爆弾」に数回触れ、国内の人口問題は「とても、とても悪い」と報じている。日本の平均寿命は高いがそれと同時に出生率が低い。後者の背景としては、エール大学の日本経済・性差別エキスパート、Frances McCall Rosenbluth氏のリサーチを引用し、「 男女差別が 最大要因」であり、日本人女性は仕事と子供のどちらかを選択せざる得ないためだとしている。

両記事の作成にあたり、日本人、特に高齢者に取材した形跡がない。Gorby記者は威厳に満ち・パワフルな高齢者をオムツを履いた絶滅しかけている人類、と 描いている。


Register to subscribe