What is freedom?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006
J-List side blog: "I'm always interested in Japanese who recognize the limitations of Japan's more structured society and find ways around them. One person I knew had finally gotten into Aoyama University in Tokyo, a prestigious private school, after years of preparation and study. Once in the school, he found...nothing that interested him. It's common for Japanese university students to study very hard to pass a school's entrance exam, then play around for four years while they wait to graduate, and that's what he saw happening. So he dropped out -- how scandalous! -- and restarted his university career in Oregon, enjoying a much broader education in the U.S. and perfecting his English in the process. America is very much an open plain, with little in the way of established social grooves that people feel they must move through, as in Japan, and this suited my friend very well. One of the famous sayings in Japan is deru kui wa utareru, or 'the standing nail will be hammered down,' meaning that people who stick out will usually be brought into line with social norms in the end. If you were to make a list of Japanese who have done really outstanding things over the past century, I'm sure you'd see that most or all of them were very much 'standing nails.' I'm sure my friend will do great things in the future."


CF said...

Seneca, My son had a Monbusho scholarship to Tokyo University Law school. Most of his fellow students would have nothing to do with him because they felt he had taken the place of a Japanese student who'd dreamed his whole life of being there. (he was there on a non-credit basis and got a job at a trademark and copyright law firm where he learned most of what he knows of Japanese law. One guy--who eventually gave up on being a lawyer after 3 tries at the dreaded and stupid bar exam was differentl He reached out and to this day they are good friends. It's a rare Japanese student who can break out of the rigid mold.