Anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes in Japan will tell you: this place is a virtual Wonderland of Bureaucracy.
Unlike “The Man” so often talked about it the US, who one (okay, I) envisions as a WASPy, Aryan, crew-cut, muscley type who could kick your @ss if he felt so inclined, the face of Japanese bureaucracy is a scrawny, bespecled, middle aged man with a combover and his pants pulled up way too high. He isn’t necessarily on a power trip like his American counterpart. More than likely he’s afraid of breaking the rules and losing his job. Part of living in a “consensus building” society is that one never, ever, makes a decision without consulting with someone else, preferably higher-up in the social pecking orde and older than yourself.
I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating this is to the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, shoot-from-the-hip, listen-to-your-heart, just-be-yourself average “Westerner.” Common sense, as we know it, is unknown here. On the other hand, Common Sense, or the Japaneae version, makes no sense whatsoever to me, a.k.a. Average Western Chick.
Take for example the handout I received from my son’s school. It said in big, bold letters on the top: 不審者情報, which I’ll translate to mean “Warning: Sicko on the Loose.”
This paper then goes on to include absolutely NO useful information like time, place, or identifying features of said pervert, but only restates what the school has instructed children to do if, god forbid, they fall into the crosshairs of a Sicko.
This morning I talked to a friend who lives a five minute walk away, but in a different school district. Turns out the Sicko in question was following kids home from her son’s school and only targeting first graders, who are easily identifiable by the yellow coverings on their backpacks. I have no idea why they have to use those coverings; I assume it is to target them for abuse by upperclassman just like college freshmen used to have to wear beanies until Homecoming.
The kids at this other school, which again is a five minute walk away, were instructed to remove the yellow targets.
All of this is pertinent information, don’t you think, for the mother of a first grader who goes to school a five minute walk away?
In my early ideological Japan days, such a stunning ineptitude to share pertinent information may have shocked me, or even made me angry. Now all I do is sigh, and once again thank my lucky stars that I have such good friends. Then I pass the information along to every other first grader I know. Because that’s how things get done when the powers that be are not interested in serving the public.(See: Fukushima.)