Rewritten and updated review (Sept 4, 2013)
This work as approachable and well laid out for the most part. It is an examination of various elements of Japan's society that is causing it to implode. Japan is suffering for its unwillingness to evolve and accept or adapt foreign or new ideas. Once its society had reach its initial post World War II reconstruction efforts, it never re-established new societal goals and left a generation floundering for purpose. Unfortunately, the status quo and ruthless importance of conformity has stifled its citizens and its society.
The first phenomena discussed is those who suffer from hikikimori, people who have completely withdrawn from society and refuses to leave their room. Often times it severe social tramua brought about by class bullying on individuals who just cannot conform or just feel they do not know how to conform to what is expected of them. The stories of individuals suffering for hikikimori as well as the parental despair is very heartbreaking especially since this phenomenon is not brought about by biological imbalance but by social imbalance.
Another issue is the changing expectations of women who now value independence and refuse to subjugate themselves to the role of housewife and mother. Often called the Parasite Single, these women want a career and something for themselves. While some do want a family, the workplace is such that it will not permit them to have both. Also, their male counterparts do not feel the need contribute to duties of childrearing or house keeping and often times shy away from women who earn more or is more educated than they are. With workplace and male adherence to arcane gender roles, women have decided that marriage and children are not worth their loss of independence. Why give up a career, traveling and disposable income to become a slave to a man and a household.
Another eye-opening aspect is the nation's suicide rate which is one of the highest in the industrialized nations. The attitude towards suicide is an interesting one. Zielenziger notes the lack of Judeao-Christian influences could be a factor. Without the stigma associated with suicide, people are more apt to take this way out rather the fighting the immense tide of conformity and subjugation. Methods and group assisted suicides are very accessible.
The off shoot of this is the moral relativism born from a society with no Western influence. While it has its benefits, the disadvantages can be readily seen in its business world as corruption and the lack of will to enforce what is right or wrong and a general defeatist attitude by the general public. With this prevailing attitude, it will inhibit the Japan's ability to recover from its recession and economic woes as it becomes steeped in a game of saving face rather than facing the music and moving on.
The writer also made a comparative case study between Japan and South Korea. While two cultures are similar, South Korea is more agile and willing to take risks, look at different ideas and make radical changes swiftly. This has prevented South Korea from moving in the same trajectory as risk adverse Japan. The author also notes the influences of Christianity which also works against the moral relativism.
This is a compelling look at current modern Japanese Society and how it is suffering from the xenophobic and conformist views that can be traced even as far back as its feudal period. Though towards the end, there are some speculative assertions by the writer, for the most part, he presents a clear picture of Japan's people are suffering from their society's stagnation and its really heart breaking.