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Dogs and Demons: Tales From the Dark Side of Modern Japan Paperback – Feb 10 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Kerr (Lost Japan), a 35-year resident of Japan and the first foreigner to win that country's Shincho literary prize, contends that the Japanese miracle has become a Japanese mess. Once admired, and perhaps feared, for its spectacular economic successes, Japan, Kerr claims, has become a land of "ravaged mountains and rivers, endemic pollution, tenement cities, and skyrocketing debts." What happened? He says that ideology and bureaucracy are to blame. Japan is in effect managed by an autonomous and corrupt government bureaucracy, driven by an ethos of economic growth at any cost and a mania for control. Everywhere Japan's natural beauty is being destroyed by useless construction projects, as nature must be controlled and construction companies rewarded. The great ancient cities too representative of old, underdeveloped Japan are being replaced by monuments and hotels that are concrete monstrosities. Japan's banking system has failed, yet no one really knows the extent of the damage, as the bureaucracy keeps accurate information hidden. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy continues to pour money into older industries, while Japan falls dangerously behind in the development of new information technologies. There is popular discontent, but protest is hard to come by, because the bureaucratically controlled educational system emphasizes obedience above all else. Japan is stuck, concludes Kerr, and he sees no easy way out. While perhaps alarmist in his message, Kerr fascinates with detailed descriptions of Japan's dilemma and offers a surprising, if controversial, vision of a land in trouble.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In what may prove to be a highly controversial book, Kerr argues that Japan is in big trouble: a self-destructive country that is systematically destroying its landscape, its environment, its very culture by adherence to ideas and policies that are decades out of date. The author describes land-preservation schemes that end up destroying the land; a national health program that's near collapse; an education system that values conformity over originality; money-eating government programs that no one can seem to stop. In 1994, Japan produced 91.6 million tons of concrete (30 times as much as the U.S.), much of it used to build structures that serve no purpose. In 1998, Japan's government spent $136 billion on public works, more than what it cost to build the Panama Canal. It's hard to know if Kerr hits the mark here, but he makes a strong case. Expect him to start showing up on talk shows soon, and when he does, the requests for this inflammatory position paper will begin to build. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Alex Kerr has spent thirty five years in Japan, he speaks and writes the language as well as the average Japanese, and he calls Japan his home. In various ways I could argue that Alex Kerr is Japanese in most ways except on his passport. But there is no denying his perceptions garnered from being very Japanese in certain ways but very obviously not in others. In Dogs and Demons he uses his attachment to Japan and his linguistic skills to expose and highlight problems that he sees in Japan from various elements. For instance there is economy, thirteen years in recession and continuously amounting a huge national debt that in some estimates could be upwards of (US)$11trillion. (He goes on to explain why this figure is neither official nor exactly accountable, which is linked to other problems.) There is the environment, which from an aesthetic perspective is cluttered with concreted rivers, cedar monoculture forestry, clusters of exposed power lines in every urban and suburban center, uninspired architecture of concrete and molded plastic, and an overwhelming obsession with grandiose and uninspired monuments that pepper the landscape.Read more ›
"the author tries to detail how the hugely complex Japanese economy is a total mess, when in reality it is the second largest in the world... In fact what they have achieved in 50 years may be one of mankind's greatest economic miracles" - T Biamonte
Response: Actually, Kerr himself states that the rapid development of the Japanese economy was a miracle, but Biamonte's preceding statement relies on the "Biggu izu bettaa" fallacy through which many Japanese banks have merged, becoming the world's largest in terms of assets, while remaining essentially bankrupt due to even greater liabilities. An economy is large in GDP terms if it spends/consumes a lot, but if this consumption is founded (as in Japan) on massive borrowing which can't be repaid without massive inflation which the government won't allow, then it really is "a total mess".
"Example [of stupid arguments]: Japanese businesses really have no capital and inflate all earnings beyond actual facts. Hey, if this was true, wouldn't someone have noticed before him?" -chimara27
Response: Well, yes, but the fact that this hasn't come out in a major newspaper or academic journal doesn't mean that nobody noticed, simply that it hasn't been made official. Why not?Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
If you want to read an ethnocentric white-suprematist view of Japan, this is it. It's thinly disguised but nevertheless obvious that this author thinks he's better than the... Read morePublished on July 16 2004
Alex Kerr's argument seems to have won a lot of readers over, not necessarily with cogent points & a judicious use of factual evidence, but with heated statements that border... Read morePublished on June 15 2004
This book, of which Lost Japan serves as a prequel, is a very good guide to the current condition of the health of Japan. And it is of one very sick patient. Read morePublished on March 20 2004 by Jim Richards
I found Alex Kerr's book, 'Dogs and Demons' well-written, sardonic and wittily edged. To know whether it is correct or was written for 'some' cynical reason, one has to go and... Read morePublished on Dec 27 2003 by David Butterworth
"Dogs and Demons" reads like 1/2 of a love affair gone wrong, with the bitter partner writing a "tell all" book about his famous former mate. Read morePublished on Dec 11 2003 by Zack Davisson
Alex Kerr has the courage to speak the truth about "the emperor's new clothes" and the detachment to do it without anger. Read morePublished on Dec 10 2003
I think this is a book that should be read by every economist and every politician or businessman that thinks Japan is a wonderful example to the world, and has created a method... Read morePublished on Nov. 5 2003 by Gareth Griffiths
Alex Kerr is well known writer and fellow classmate of our school in Yokohama, Japan. We all attended Saint Joseph College
and we all share couple languages. Read more
Andy, your review reads like a history of Joe Anycountry , or more specifically , a description of your life . Take it from step one . Read morePublished on Aug. 18 2003 by jason Smythe
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