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Misunderstanding Japan : language, education, and cultural identity Bailey, Arthur Allan 1999

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MISUNDERSTANDING JAPAN: LANGUAGE, EDUCATION, AND CULTURAL IDENTITY by ARTHUR ALLAN BAILEY B.A., Simon Fraser University, 1975 M.A., Simon Fraser University, 1978 DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (The Centre for the Study of Curriculum and Instruction) We accept this thesis as conforming Jo the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA July 1999 © Arthur Allan Bailey, 1999 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2/88) Abstract The purpose of this work is to explore the roles of education and language in the creation of Japanese cultural identity. Education means first "schooling," but it also expands to include all cultural learning. In the attempt to unravel the inter-relationships of abstract concepts such as education, culture, identity, language and Japan, our understandings are necessarily influenced by our own education. Attempts by the educated elite of one culture to understand other cultures constitutes an intellectual conflict of interest that questions academic conventions, such as objectivity. In this work, I interweave expository and narrative chapters in an attempt to create a new "methodology" or "approach" to the study of culture, which I call cultural hermeneutics. The autobiographical chapters present an ongoing self-reflection upon my developing understanding of Japan. I have studied and taught in Japan for many years, and my increasing familiarity with things Japanese has gradually moved me beyond the boundaries of previous identities, and into spaces that once separated me from Japanese culture, involving me in the formation of new hybrid cultural identities. After an introductory chapter, the dissertation is split into three parts. The first part deals with the challenges of cultural hermeneutics as a methodology. The second part examines how the languages of Japan and foreign language education in Japan influence the formation of Japanese cultural identities. The third part explores how ideological debates, such as those about education, nationalism and internationalization, play a role in forming cultural identities. I conclude that identities are constantly contested by voices from both within and without the "imagined communities" of cultures. This contest is in progress even before we come to study "Culture." Because change is inherent to living cultures, and because lived experience is so abundant and complex, the knowledge we inherit about cultures is always incomplete, and full of prejudice and misunderstandings. We can never arrive at final understandings of cultures, not even our own. Nevertheless, it is important to continue conversations about cultures because they can lead us to form deepened understandings, and because these conversations ultimately contribute to greater self-understanding. iv Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iv A Note about the Romanization of Japanese Words vi Acknowledgements vii Chapter One Introduction 1 I. Language Teaching and Cultural Subversion 3 II. Change and Diversity in Japanese Education 19 III. On the Methodological Challenge of Cultural Hermeneutics 26 IV. An Outline of the Present Work 38 Part One: Finding a Way Chapter Two The "Methodology" of Cultural Hermeneutics 39 Chapter Three Approaching Japan through Cultural Hermeneutics 65 I. I am a Rock; I am an Island 65 II. Roots among Rocks 68 III. Ideals and Agony. 70 IV. Statues, Towers and other Rock Structures 73 V. Writ(h)ing under the Rock 75 VI. A Questioning Meditation 77 VII. Victims of Culture 79 VIII. A Cautionary Tale 81 IX. The "Not-Supposed-to-Be" 83 X. And Then to Doubt Doubt 84 XI. The Safety of Rocks 88 Chapter Four Where East is West: Situating the Writer in the Research 90 Part Two: Language and Japanese Identity Chapter Five Literacy and Orality, and Japanese Stereotypes 114 V Chapter Six Autobiographical Interlude: Learning to See Japan [1978-1984] 144 -Tankidaigaku [Women's Junior College], 1978-1981 147 Chapter Seven Culture Clash in the University English Language Classroom 154 Chapter Eight Autobiographical Interlude: Intimations of Diversity 186 -Dowa mondai: Discovering Invisible Minorities in Japan 191 Part Three: Japanese Education and Cultural Ideologies Chapter Nine Educational Myth and the Contest for National Identity 196 Chapter Ten Autobiographical Interlude: Down and Out in Kyoto [1982-1984] 225 --An Osaka Women's High School [1983] 228 -Teaching the High School Kikokushijo 231 -Back to Where I Came From 233 Chapter Eleven Race, Education, and "Japanese" Identity 236 Chapter Appendix 268 Chapter Twelve Autobiographical Interlude: In the Japanese Wilderness [1985-1990] 269 -Learning about Japan through Television 272 -Watakushi no habatsu [My Academic Clique] 273 -Teaching at a Private University in Aichi [1986-1990] 275 Chapter Thirteen Education and the Negotiation of Japanese "lntern[ation]alization" 281 Chapter Fourteen Autobiographical Interlude: Back in Kyoto [1995-1998] 312 - A t Public School in Kyoto 312 -"Reforms" in a Private University 318 -Preparing the Nyushi [Entrance Exams] 320 Chapter Fifteen Conclusion: New Horizons 324 Bibliography 336 vi A Note about the Romanization of Japanese Words The Japanese language is usually written using Chinese characters called kanji, and two syllabaries called kana. There are several systems for romanizing written Japanese (i.e. converting words to the alphabet). In the body of the text, I rely upon a standard method of romanization, but I have adapted it for readers who are not mainly interested in the study of Japanese by not indicating long vowels in Japanese words. Indicating long vowels could confuse unnecessarily attempts to pronounce unfamiliar words. I take as a precedent for this omission the fact that in Japanese place names written in English, such as Kyoto and Tokyo, it is customary to not indicate long vowels (i.e. we do not write Kyouto or Toukyou). In the case of Japanese names, I indicate a long vowel only if it is clearly the custom of the individual in question to do so (i.e. some people write their name as "Itoh" rather than "Ito"). However, in the Bibliography, I have distinguished between long and short vowels. All Japanese words used in the texts are italicized except where noted otherwise. The Japanese custom of placing family names first is sometimes confusing to non-Japanese, and this is complicated by the fact that the names of many Japanese-Canadians (i.e. Joy Kogawa), and even some well-known Japanese writers (i.e. Yukio Mishima) are commonly seen family name last. Therefore, in the case of most Japanese names, I put family names last. However, the names of well-known Japanese writers (i.e. Yasuoka Shotaro), I write as they are commonly recognized in Japan, family name (i.e. Yasuoka) first. Acknowledgments The writing of this work was made possible with the assistance and encouragement of many people. While it is not possible here to thank them all individually, I would like to mention a few who have made some special contributions. Of course, none of the people who have read and criticized this work share any responsibility for the text's remaining deficiencies, for which I am wholly to blame. First, I would like to thank my supervisor, Professor Stephen Carey, who designed the "Asia-Pacific Educational Studies in Language, Culture and Curriculum" specialization, and accepted me into it after I finished course work for a MA in Asian Studies. Without his untiring patience and never-failing support this dissertation would never have been completed. I also owe a profound debt to Professor Ted Aoki, who has taught not only me, but so many students and teachers to understand culture and curriculum in new ways. I also thank Professor Carl Leggo for his careful criticisms, and for generously encouraging me to believe that what I was writing was worthwhile. Among the many fine professors who have taught me at various universities over the years, I would like to especially thank Gordon Elliot, who first made me question my Canadian identity, Kinya Tsuruta and John Howes, who stimulated my appreciation of things Japanese, and John Willinsky and Bill Pinar, who helped me understand the significance of research methodologies. I would like to thank my colleagues in the College of Business Administration at Ritsumeikan University for allowing me the time to finish this project. I owe much to all my friends in Canada and Japan who have given me invaluable support and encouragement over the years. In particular, I want to thank Mr. Shozo Takada and Mr. Shunji Nakamura, who sheltered me in Japan and made me feel at home there, and Mr. Jim Andersen and Mr. Denis Roberts, who were with me at the beginning of my Japan adventure, and who have been patiently correcting my manuscripts ever since. Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Hisayo, and my sons, Walter Masashi and William Atsushi, for loyally following me back and forth across the Pacific so many times. By sharing their learning experiences with me, they have contributed immeasurably to my appreciation of Japan, and to the wonder and joy of my life. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 1 Chapter One Introduction From it seeming to me-or to everyone-to be so, it does not follow that it is so. What we can ask is whether it can make sense to doubt it. Ludwig Wittgenstein (cited in McGrane 1989, p. 126) Just over twenty years have passed since I found that small help-wanted advertisement seeking English language instructors for a group of Japanese students studying in Vancouver. I had little interest in Japan, and had never spoken to a Japanese, but I was twenty-seven-years old, with a new MA in English, and unemployed. I thought the job could hold me over financially until I found a position teaching literature, but when I got that job, it changed my life. Before long, I was obsessed by things Japanese. I was studying the language, and reading anything I could find about the culture. I have since learned to speak, read and write Japanese, married a Japanese and had two sons with her, lived more than twelve years in various Japanese cities, worked and studied at Japanese schools and colleges, and become a tenured professor at a Japanese university. That small advertisement marked the beginning of my journey of discovery of Japan, a journey that has taken me through profound changes in my understandings of culture and of self. Early in my odyssey, I discovered that my experience of the Japanese often contradicted what I "knew" about them. This "knowledge" had not only been acquired through my "formal" education, or schooling, but it had also been absorbed through the "popular" education of my culture, including advertisements, jokes, books, comics, television, and movies. I saw that I shared with the "informed" community of my Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 2 culture many misconceptions of the Japanese. i set about to try to identify and correct some of these misunderstandings, and this dissertation is one product of that quest. In this work, i attempt to unravel the relationships between the dominant concepts of Japanese identity and the systems of Japanese education, especially language education. My judgments about Japan are, of course, largely determined by my own background and education in Canada. My beliefs about education and what educational institutions are supposed to accomplish have their roots in my early educational experience. Nevertheless, despite and even because of the deep differences between Japanese culture and my own, i am expected, as a scholar, to observe and judge Japanese culture objectively. When I first began to write about Japan, I felt comfortable that this "detatched" approach was the normal way of researching another culture. As I became more closely involved in the actual practise of education in Japan, however, my allegiance to my preconceptions was repeatedly tested. Persistent reflection upon discrepancies in values and practises in my education, and extensive reading of curriculum theorists influenced by phenomenological thought (for example, Aoki, 1993, 1992, 1988, 1983; Pinar& Reynolds 1992a; Van Manen 1990; Grumet 1988; Pinar 1988) led me to question the conventions of my own research. i realized how tightly my analysis of Japan was bound up with an equally complex relationship between my own identity and the wider educational community of my culture. I was then faced with the daunting project of defining and unravelling the relationships between not two, but four abstract concepts: Japanese identity, Japanese education, my identity and my education. Such a project stretches the parameters of conventional academic research, and tests established interpretations of concepts. i am fully aware that there are hundreds of definitions of culture, that language may include slang, body language, and, in Japan, Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 3 even haragei [belly talk], that education involves more than formal schooling, and that acknowledging and defining all the possible identities of any one individual could easily provide the material for a whole book. At various places in this work, I discuss debates over definitions of terms, but since much understanding can be gained from exploring the ambiguities of their meanings, I prefer not to impose a too narrow framework upon words. Instead, I often pluralize terms as a reminder of their inherent multiplicity of meanings. Convinced of the necessity of accepting misunderstandings as starting points to the better understanding of cultures, I give attention to how these concepts are entwined with my own cultural identity. My writing is increasingly concerned with the methodological challenge of keeping two different worlds of culture and identity in mind at the same time. Thus, this dissertation has been driven by its own internal contradictions down a new methodological path. The result is a work I acknowledge to be unconventional and experimental. It does not conform to established patterns of objectivity, unity or rational organization. In fact, part of my purpose is to question these very conventions. This work follows a new "methodology," which I have named "cultural hermeneutics." I. Language Teaching and Cultural Subversion In this work, I focus on the role of higher education and language programmes in the formation of Japanese identities for three reasons. One reason is that scholars at Japanese universities have since Tokugawa times[1600-1868] played an important role in defining "Japaneseness" (see Cutts 1997; Tanaka 1993; Amano 1990; Horio 1988; Fukuzawa 1985; Mitchel 1983; Passin 1982; Hartootunian 1970; Dore 1968). The second reason is that I have spent more than twenty years either teaching at Japanese universities or teaching Japanese students in Canada, and so it is my most familiar experience of Japanese education. The third reason is that within the last decade or so Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 4 the number of non-Japanese professors, instructors and students at Japanese universities has increased dramatically (see Duff & Uchida 1997; Wadden 1993; Sekiguchi 1993; Yamashiro 1987). These "foreigners in residence" influence and challenge Japanese identity. At the same time, their experiences in Japan can lead them to question their own identities (see Olvia 1999; Hansen and Liu 1997; Davidson 1993). In other areas of Japanese society and education as well, direct foreign influence has dramatically increased since the late 1970s. The sources of this influence are many and varied. For example, more and more non-Japanese are living and working in Japan, and sending their children to local or private schools. Likewise, young Japanese who have gone abroad with their parents and who have studied in foreign schools are returning to Japan and re-entering the Japanese system (see Willis & Onoda 1989; Dhomoto 1987; Hani 1983). Moreover, the Japanese government and private schools are hiring thousands of foreign language instructors for schools and "prep schools" or juku (Court 1998). For over a hundred years after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japanese education borrowed selectively from foreign educational systems at arms length, either by sending representatives abroad to study or by bringing to Japan a few foreign experts at great expense (see Gluck 1985; Passin 1982; Pyle 1978; Najita 1976; Nagai 1971). In other words, two hundred and fifty years of strict isolation during the Tokugawa Period was followed by another one hundred years of semi-isolation. Then, in the late 1970s Japan found its economic feet, and with new communications technologies, successful industrial and business management systems, and the sudden accumulation of national wealth, the world poured into Japan. The Japanese, like people in other Western industrialized countries, found themselves part of a Global Village, and began to define identities to suit Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 5 new international roles and relationships (see Smith 1997b; Bremner 1997; Morris-Suzuki 1995, 1994; Bostwick 1995; Najita 1989; Chikushi 1986). Not all Japanese people embrace an ideal of participating equally in an international community (see McCormack 1996; Kamei 1989; Dhomoto 1987; Campbell 1987; Tsuruta 1988; Takagi 1988; Hani 1983). Nevertheless, we see evidence of the reaching out to such a community in the huge numbers of Japanese who travel abroad each year, and in the fact that so many Japanese spend years studying foreign languages, usually English. Almost all Japanese students study English for six years in high school, and many begin their formal study of English in elementary or even preschool (Kanou 1996; Watanabe 1996; Bostwick 1995; Goldberg 1989). Most of them will study it for another year or two in university. Some study it at juku and language schools, while others go abroad for weeks or years to study English or other languages (Kawanari 1993). Adults study English in company classes, private tutorials or "culture classes." It is estimated that one in ten Japanese is studying English (Duff & Uchida 1997, p. 457). Language education is a huge industry in Japan, and its overflow has benefited the economies of other countries as well, including my own country, Canada. Despite the apparent eagerness of many Japanese to involve themselves in an international community, and all the effort and energy they spend on the study of English and other foreign languages, their actual participation in the wider world is fraught with frictions. Japanese are condemned for their trade policies, for their past militarism or their present constitutional passivism, for their callous treatment of "comfort women," for "censoring" school textbooks, for their "sex tours" to Asia, for their whaling and fishing practices and other abuses of the natural environment. Of course, criticism and accusation are common among nations, but some Japanese are especially sensitive to Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 6 "Japan bashing." They interpret criticisms of their country's economic, political, social and environmental policies as attacks on Japanese culture, and believe that their nation has long been a victim in its international relations (see Goto 1996; Yoshino 1992; Ohtake 1989; Kamei 1989; Kimura 1988; Oda 1987; Suzuki 1987 a & b, 1983; Buruma 1984). This response is partly due to the fact that Japanese national identity has since the end of the Second World War become centered upon an idea of a homogeneous, group-centred [shudanshugi] culture that has been propagated by various educationalists, business leaders and intellectuals both in Japan and abroad (see Anderson 1993; Mouer & Sugimoto 1990; Yoshino 1992; Peak 1989; van Wolferen 1989; Reischauer 1988; Yoneyama 1986). Overt nationalism, because of its association with pre-war militarism, is generally in disrepute in Japan (see Yoshino 1992; Oda 1987; Koschmann 1985; lenaga 1978). The vacuum left by "national pride" has been filled with "cultural pride" (Nishikawa 1996; Yoshino 1992). From the earliest stages of their education, Japanese are taught to value the distinctiveness of their culture. Sponsoring an exaggerated consciousness of culture, Japanese education, in a sense, works against itself, at least in regards to language education. On the one hand, it mobilizes a national effort to teach English. On the other hand, it instills in children a powerful consciousness of cultural identity that resists foreign influence. Superficially, this cultural identity is symbolized by "traditional things," such as the tea ceremony or Buddhist temples. Underlying these visible symbols of culture are certain assumed "Asian values," such as self-sacrifice for family and deference to authority (Chie 1970; Fukuyama 1992). Some Japanese define their cultural identity in terms of its "difference" from Western culture, and based upon a belief that Japan is a "unique" culture that is victimized by Western nations (see Tanaka 1993; Yoshino 1992; Kamei Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 7 1989; Suzuki 1973; Nozaka 1977). Similar stereotypes in descriptions of Japanese culture are found in works by many foreign scholars, journalists and novelists (see Feiler 1991; Pico 1991; Reischauer 1988; Christopher 1983; Rudofsky 1982; Seward 1981). The result of this stress on "cultural difference" is that many Japanese have a paradoxical relationship with the English language. On the one hand, English offers them a path by which to move out to participate in the international world. On the other hand, English is a path by which foreign influences can undermine Japanese cultural distinctiveness (see McCormack 1996; Kamei 1989; Matsumoto 1987; Suzuki 1987b; Miller 1986, 1982). Cultural identities are complex. Norton (1997) uses the term identity "to refer to how people understand their relationships to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how people understand their possibilities for the future" (p. 410). Paraphrasing Tajfel's definition of social identity, Hansen and Liu describe cultural identity as "that part of an individual's self-concept which derives from his knowledge of his membership of a social group [in our case, cultural group] (or groups) together with the emotional significance attached to that membership" (1997, p. 567-568). Cultural identities involve more than traditional arts and customs, and sometimes they incorporate fundamental contradictions in values and beliefs. The language classroom is inherently involved with the formation of cultural identities. It can be both a place to display cultural identities and a place to challenge them (Pennycook 1998; Bostwick 1995; Campbell 1987). Language is so inherently a part of culture that it may be impossible to separate the two. Learning a new language transforms cultural identity, and this may provoke insecurity and fear. By and large, the Japanese eagerly study languages, but this does not mean that they feel no cultural anxiety. While part of a Japanese student's identity may encourage reaching out through Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 8 foreign languages to the world, something else in that same identity may make that student want to withdraw to a more predictable environment cut off from outside influences and threats. Japanese teachers may share and reinforce this contradiction. Non-Japanese, or so-called "native-speaker" instructors have cultural agendas and identity contradictions of their own, as researchers into language education are discovering (Liu 1998; Susser 1998). It can be argued that the foreign teachers of English serve the forces of a global cultural imperialism (Pennycook 1998, 1994), but certainly few of us want to see ourselves in this negative light. Many native-speaker instructors are initially drawn to Japan by an appreciation of Japanese culture. Yet, when they enter a Japanese English classroom, they can see themselves as "liberators" come to free Japanese students from the "too narrow" and "irrational" cultural strictures of Japan (see the case of "Danny" in Duff & Uchida 1997). Likewise, some Japanese students find learning English an "empowering experience" despite ambivalent feelings about "the role of English in perpetuating Western culture" (Norton 1997, p. 426). Nevertheless, when Japanese students and foreign language instructors meet in the Japanese language classroom, there is often a subtle (and sometime not-so-subtle) clash of cultural values (Nozaki 1993). In this work, I try to understand these conflicts and contradictions in relation to the struggle among educationalists and other thinking elites to control the formation of modern Japanese identities. Such an understanding may help us recognize similar contradictions within other cultural identities, including our own. A work like this, then, cannot be just about Japanese identity. It is also inevitably about the cultural identity of people who claim the English language as their own. In the language classroom there are always at least two cultures present: that of the learner, and that of those English-speaking cultures that are the source for idioms, usages, readings and other materials that make up the language program. These different cultures Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 9 may or may not abide harmoniously together in the classroom. When a classroom of Japanese students is taught by a foreign instructor, two cultural worlds come together over the teaching and learning of language. This experience can be exciting, but it is not without danger. Misunderstandings abound, and it is not unusual for instructors and students to leave the classroom feeling frustrated and even insulted. Moreover, in an institution which has both Japanese and native-speaker instructors of English, competition between cultural cliques is common (Kelly & Adachi 1993). Disputes about policy and methodology that are common to any university are in Japan sometimes interpreted as cultural conflicts (Bailey 1998, 1997b; Kimura 1988). Japan has invested a lot in the teaching of English on a massive scale. English is meant to be a door through which Japan can enter the international scene. Unfortunately, narrow concepts of cultural identity can serve to keep the door locked (Clark 1987; Miller 1986, 1982). This work starts from my belief that it is incumbent upon educators to understand their classrooms as places where cultural identities are negotiated. As Kramsch (1993) says, "language teachers are so much teachers of culture that culture has often become invisible to them" (p. 48). One of the goals of cultural hermeneutics is to make instructors more conscious of the role of the language classroom in the negotiantion of cultural identities, and of how this negotiation can seriously undermine the pre-established cultural identities of students and instructors. Cultural hermeneutics also treats a related problem: that many foreign instructors are too confident of their understanding of Japanese culture, and fail to reflect upon the reliability of the sources of their understanding. As Kincheloe and McLaren (1997) point out, in the high tech global village of today, "we increasingly make sense of the social world and judge other cultures through conventional and culture-bound television genres" (p. 143). Duff and Uchida (1997) also warn against "trivializing and stereotyping others in the process of socio-cultural identity construction" (p. 454). Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 10 Without reflection, instructors and researchers inadvertently reinforce cultural stereotypes and perpetuate conventional misunderstandings of culture. Educators must reflect upon the cultural perspectives of students, but they must also reflect upon the construction of their own identities. Even language instructors cannot presume to be culturally neutral. As Pennycook insists, "the English language teaching industry is not culturally, politically, socially, or economically neutral; rather in the international (EFL) sphere it plays a powerful role in the construction of roles, relations, and identities among teachers and students" (cited in Duff and Uchida 1997, p. 452). Educators have a responsibility to understand their involvement in the formation of identities. In addition, they should be prepared to help students understand the complex relationships between education (in the widest sense of the word) and the formation of identities, including their own. Moreover, this understanding must be imparted in ways that are not threatening or confusing to students. Cultural hermeneutics aims to provide patterns for questioning cultural identities through conversations that explore the interests and contradictions that compose the history of a "nation," and that are expressed in the lived experience of the myriad individuals who are "its people." Everything that happens in the classroom, from the materials that are chosen, to the teaching methods used, and to the responses students give, will be determined by the negotiation of cultural perspectives. As Duff and Uchida (1997) write, "Whether they are aware of it or not, language teachers are very much involved in the transmission of culture, and each selection of videos, newspaper clippings, seating plans, activities and so on has social, cultural, and educational significance" (p.476). Differences in perspective are not limited to those defined by national cultures. There are also the perspectives of minority and regional cultures. Perspectives will also reflect other differences such as gender, socio-economic class, and age. In fact, since every individual is unique, no two people Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 11 can ever see things from exactly the same perspective (Gadamer 1994). We can talk about these differing perspectives using various terminologies. Kuhn (1970) gave us the idea of "paradigms" that determine shifts in the ways cultures understand their world. Foucault (1984) calls our attention to the fact that knowledge represents "regimes of truth." Gadamer (1994) focuses on individual understandings and describes them as "horizons." These varying terminologies are not unrelated in turn to theories that attempt to describe differing perspectives of whole civilizations determined by literacy and orality (Thomas 1992; Ong 1982; Derrida 1980; Goody 1968; McLuhan 1964, 1962; Havelock 1963). Despite distinctive terminologies, one idea common to all these theories is that people do not necessarily see the same things in the same way, and thus arise many misunderstandings. We educators should be prepared for these misunderstandings and tolerate them if we are not going to let them defeat our pedagogical purposes. Although this may seem like a simple enough proposition, in practice it is not always easy. Early in 1998, in the General Office of my faculty at the Japanese university where I teach, I met a visiting professor from a university in the United States. He was completing his first semester of teaching in Japan. He was exasperated by his students and disdainful of the educational environment of the Japanese university: the reluctance of students to do homework; their lack of attention and participation in class; their inability after years of study to use English, and so on. I am used to hearing these complaints from Americans or Europeans who have come to Japan to teach, and who often have little familiarity with any culture other than Japanese culture and their own. In contrast, this "international scholar" spoke several languages fluently, including English, French, Korean and Japanese. He was, in addition, an authority on certain areas of Japanese business. Born and raised in Korea, he was connected to that wider "Asian" culture within which many Japanese prefer to locate themselves, especially when they feel misunderstood or Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 12 abused by "Westerners" (Goto 1996; Tanaka 1993; Ohtake 1989; Ajia 1988). I would have thought him to command the facts necessary to alleviate his "culture shock." However, "facts" alone could not help him come to terms with Japan. If anything, it was the "facts," as he understood them, that were getting in the way of his understanding. The problem with facts about cultures, especially national cultures that include millions of people inhabiting vast areas and covering a variety of climatic and geographical regions, is that they are notoriously "unfact-like." Compared to, say, mathematical facts, cultural facts are constantly changing as they are influenced by factors such as education, race, religion, economy, dialect, generations, socio-economic class and gender relations. "Facts" about the educational experience of a girl in college in Nara twenty years ago will not necessarily help us understand a boy in kindergarten in a coastal village in Kyushu today. As Duff and Uchida (1997) say, "complexity is inherent.. . to exploring the interrelationships among language, culture, and teaching-all the more so when people's cultural and social identities are being reflected upon" (pp. 471-472). Time and again, people are caught up in situations of cultural stress because they think they know some fact about the other culture. I first noted an example of this kind of blunder twenty years ago when a group of Japanese girls studying in Vancouver were invited to the home of their program coordinator. It was a rainy evening, and the girls, all wearing boots, came stomping into the house, tracking mud all over a new, white carpet. The students had learned that although Japanese took their shoes off in the house, foreigners never did. So they didn't. Admittedly, this is an example of the simplest kind. Yet recently I witnessed the horror of a Japanese hostess when she saw a foreigner blithely gliding over her new tatami floor in bathroom slippers. He had committed the double crime of wearing slippers on tatami, and wearing bathroom slippers out of the Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 13 bathroom. The foreigner thought he had completed his "footwear duty" when he took his shoes off in the genkan [entry]. The tatamiwere not ruined, but I'm sure it was a long time before the hostess could overlook the lasting "invisible" stains. Even such simple misunderstandings based upon inexact cultural knowledge can result in lasting resentment. It might be assumed that the kind of "faux pas" represented by the above examples can be overcome with a little study and experience. However, other misunderstandings actually develop over time, even as cultural "knowledge" accumulates. When, after years of living in Japan, I got my first full-time position in a Japanese university, I was determined to do things right as a member of a Japanese faculty. Coming back from a holiday, I brought small omiyage [souvenirs] for my colleagues. I knew from reading and observing that this was the way things were done to knit human relationships in the "Japanese company." Soon, however, the Department Head took me aside and explained that this was not the way things were done at universities, and that I should refrain from embarrassing my colleagues with any more presents. I had, in short, been betrayed by my "knowledge" of Japanese culture. The problem for the "international scholar" was not that he didn't know enough about Japan. He knew a lot, but some of his knowledge was incomplete, dated, misinterpreted or otherwise unreliable. Operating on unreliable knowledge is a common predicament for people living in foreign countries. Nevertheless, Western education trains us to act correctly based upon a rational understanding of the facts. Like other "national cultures" though, Japan is a complex, extensive and fast-changing society, and nobody, not even a Japanese, ever has all the cultural information, let alone has it all correct. Thus, misunderstanding is a normal condition of inter-cultural relations. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 14 Facts alone do not necessarily assuage the frustrations of cultural misunderstanding. For example, some native-speaker teachers complain that Japanese students seldom do class preparation or homework (Wadden & McGovern 1993; Robb 1993). However, unlike in North America where a full load of courses in any semester might be five or fewer courses, most Japanese students take fourteen or more courses a semester. The reality of fourteen ninety-minute classes a week, each with a different professor and textbook, makes a Japanese student's university experience very different from that of a North American student. In addition, many students are taught that merely by successfully entering a university they have earned the right to put leisure and part-time jobs before study. Club obligations are also generally felt to be as important, or even more important than study. His awareness of these different characteristics of Japan's educational culture only served to reinforce the international scholar's disdain for Japanese university. His experience showed him that Japanese university education was a sham, an evaluation consistent with the judgment of some other authorities on Japanese university education (for example, Cutts 1997; Reischauer 1988; Anderson 1993; Clark 1987; Nagai 1971). The paradox is that despite apparently poor educational standards, Japanese graduates succeed, and the economy is powerful. In other words, his short experience of teaching in a Japanese university contradicted his beliefs about the role of education in society; it challenged his educational identity. Putting a student or scholar into a foreign university is a little like putting a salt water fish into fresh water: the environments may look the same, but they are not, and anyone who insists that "water is water" does so at the risk of the fish. There is a big difference, as we will later see, between the meaning of kyoiku [education] in Japan, and of "education" in America, or for that matter any other country. Educational environments Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 15 are complex, and even within Japan there are significant regional differences, for example between Nagoya and Kyoto, or even among districts of the same city. Often even visible commonalties among educational cultures may mask deeper differences. We must be wary of the illusions of difference and similarity. After years of study and experience of Japan, we scholars and teachers may believe we have achieved an understanding of the culture and its education. Then some unexpected incident makes us doubt our "knowledge." We have an idea of what education is supposed to be, but Japanese education does not always match expectations. Yet within the Japanese community, educational success is fostered, and students learn and then go on to work in society. We examine statistics and read authorities and reports, but they leave our understanding incomplete. We can become almost angry that institutions so familiar from the outside can be so frustratingly different once we get inside. This experience may not be representative of all foreign educators in Japan, but I think many will find it familiar. Some Japanese professors, too, have confessed to me that they feel confused and disoriented when doing research or studying abroad. From the bleachers, the "education" games look the same, but once one starts to play, the rules, and even the objectives, are often contrary or unexpectedly different. Our learning establishes preconceptions and prejudices that distort our observations of things. We tend to see what we are taught to look for. For example, as we will discuss in detail later, the heavy emphasis in much literature about Japanese culture on the "groupishness" of Japanese in contrast to the "individualism" of Americans prepares visitors to Japan to recognize instances of groupishness and overlook instances of individuality among the Japanese. One of the purposes of this work is to argue that we must approach cultural knowledge warily, balancing facts and figures with careful observation of the lived world and an appropriate measure of doubt. We should doubt Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 16 what the "authorities" have told us, doubt the ready interpretations, and doubt even what we think we see. One guarantor of this healthy doubt is to embrace misunderstanding as a necessary condition of knowledge, and to recognize that cultural relationships such as those among education, language and identity are necessarily unstable and contradictory. When educators come to understand the educational system of another culture, we immediately get caught up in a paradox. We have, so to speak, an intellectual "conflict of interests": our experts, the best products of our educational system, are supposed to objectively examine and evaluate another educational culture. However, the fundamental educational interests of our Western educational "regime of truth" (for example, rationalism, scientific research, democratic goals, objectivity, even language) may not conform to those of other cultures. As a result, it is exceedingly difficult for a highly educated person to get from the outside an objective view of an educational system that in any way approximates the inside view of a native of that culture. This means misunderstandings and the frustrations that go with them are a normal condition for scholars, teachers and students involved in cross-cultural educational experiences. When I began teaching in Japan twenty years ago, few "Westerners" were studying or teaching in Japan, and few Japanese could yet afford to study or teach abroad. In more recent years, many thousands of Japanese students are studying abroad, and many thousand more foreign students are flocking to Japanese schools and universities (Dhomoto 1987; Yamashiro 1987; Hani 1983). Moreover, an increasing number of foreign professors are hired by Japanese universities, and thousands of young foreigners teach as language assistants in Japanese high schools (Court 1998). As many as 15,000 foreigners were teaching in Japan in 1991 (Duff & Uchida 1997, p. 457). This is a cultural exchange of the highly educated. We trust in education to provide us with inter-cultural understanding, and yet where the educational interests and values of different cultures Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 17 meet, disputes and misunderstandings occur. Just bringing people together in educational environments is not enough to promote inter-cultural understanding. In some instances, it actually aggravates cultural misunderstanding. There is a need for different ways of understanding cultures, including educational cultures and the curricula they entail (see contributions to Lincoln and Denizen 1994; Pinar and Reynolds 1992; Clifford and Marcus 1986). A young teacher going fresh to Japan may prepare by reading about Japanese education and culture. There are a lot of valuable books about modern Japanese education, and many of them will be cited regularly in this work (for example, Cutts 1997, Benjamin 1997; Rohlen 1996, 1983; Thomas 1993; Amano 1990; Shields 1989; White 1987; Cummings 1980). But most of the books, even the best books, either focus on one aspect, time or level of Japanese education, or else give a generalized and, therefore, unavoidably simplistic picture of the system. Thus, most of the literature on Japan suffers from the same kind of compartmentalization that characterizes an individual's experience of Japanese education. The very nature of our normal research methodology generally requires a researcher to limit the focus of investigation to a few subjects in one or two institutions or in one locality at a time. If we read enough such studies, we can expect to gather a broader picture. But it takes a lot of time to do research, and then write and publish a book. By the time a teacher can read enough to get "the broad picture," the cultural environment may have changed considerably. Research and statistics limited by narrow methodologies may even leave that teacher worse off in practical terms because it gives her the false confidence that she knows "Japanese education." Most language teachers are poorly prepared by their training to deal with cultural frictions and often have only superficial ideas about culture. Duff and Uchida (1997) urge Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 18 that "the cultural politics of English teaching, of popular and professional media, and of various teaching methods, assessments procedures, and government policies needs to be explored more critically in teacher education programs and by teachers in the field" (p. 477). They call for "a combination of biographical and contextual practice oriented reflection in ESL/EFL teacher education" (p. 477). Hansen and Liu (1997) also suggest that greater study of social structures be incorporated into a theory of SLA (p. 570). They conclude that "studying our own histories can help us better understand the history of others" (p. 574). Taking a cue from these suggestions and those of other critics such as Louis Smith (1994b), I freely include biographical anecdotes and a significant autobiographical component in the present work. This unconventional focus on the life world is intended to stimulate critical methodology of self-reflection in the study of education, language and identity. Important anthologies (such as, Clifford & Marcus 1996; Denizen and Lincoln 1994) question established methodologies in the study of culture. A similar methodological questioning is happening in the area of curriculum studies (for example, Aoki 1993, 1988; Feinberg 1993; Pinar and Reynolds 1992 a & b; Lather 1991; Van Manen 1990; Grumet 1988; Willis 1977). In the area of "Japanology," too, new perspectives are challenging established methodologies (see Morris-Suzuki 1998; Smith 1997b; Amino 1996, 1992; Ohnuki-Tierney 1993; Tanaka 1993; Mouerand Sugimoto 1990; Kondo 1990; Miyoshi and Hartootunian 1989; Barthes 1982). Much of this diverse discourse shares a focus on the problems of understanding identity. Hansen and Liu (1997) believe that "although many social identity researchers consider social identity to be dynamic, the very methods some have employed-questionnaires, observations, interviews, and so forth--do not allow for dynamism, as they are typically one time occurrences" (p. 572). My work, too, attempts to unite a diverse questioning of cultural and educational situations by continually returning to Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 19 problems in understanding identity. To the end of restoring a sense of dynamism and avoiding some of the pitfalls of concentrating upon one time occurrences, I have purposely "fractured" this work in order to broaden its spatial and temporal perspectives. I have used my own experience of Japan, retraced after the fact through letters, diaries and memories, as a key ethnograpic source. I include a variety of styles of writing, from formal academic to narrative, and even to the poetic. I have broken many rules of unity and objectivity. I have crossed the boundaries of "fields" such as history and literature. I have done these things self-consciously. I hope that this unconventional "methodology" will be a step towards creating models for a more thorough going cultural hermeneutics that will be useful in the training of language teachers, and will also have practical relevance for research, and in the every-day living community of the classroom. II. Change and diversity in Japanese education Rather than relying on the impression of sameness throughout Japan as promoted by holistic theories of Japanese culture that emphasize homogeneity and groupism, this work is especially sensitive to change in Japan and the differences change implies. Cultural changes cannot always be readily distinguished in absolute ways. However, in this work, I will emphasize four kinds of change by exploring: 1) differences across time, 2) differences among regions, 3) differences among local communities, and 4) differences among institutions. Let me briefly outline these kinds of differences in regard to Japan. First, as concerning differences across time, even in the twenty years I have been teaching and studying in Japan, considerable and sometimes rapid change has taken place in Japanese educational culture. For example, changes have occurred in the styles of school uniforms (McGill 1988), the contents of textbooks (Smith 1994a), the problem of Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 20 bullying (Desmond 1997; Hishimura & Ogi 1996), the methods of instruction (Kristof 1995; Sekiguchi 1993; Anderson 1993), the roles and extent of foreign exchange programs (Yamashiro 1987), and the numbers of foreign instructors (Duff & Uchida 1997). People coming into the Japanese educational system need to understand their experience within an historical context, both long and short term. They need a sense of the impulse for change and the debates that motivate it. Some change is sudden and conspicuous. If a high school phases out its uniform, people will notice the change immediately. Some long term shifts in values and beliefs "invisibly reflect" (to coin an oxymoron) changing identities. If citizens are losing confidence in the bureaucrats of the Ministry of Education, or if students are becoming impatient with outdated language instruction methods, a foreign observer new to Japan may not recognize these phenomena as changes A second kind of difference is among geographical regions (see Smith 1997b; Morris-Suzuki 1996; Suzuki & Oiwa 1996; Pearson 1996; Shibata 1995). Most foreign instructors and students come to one institution in one area for a limited period of time, and are often unaware of the geographical, economic, demographic and historical distinctiveness of Japan's regions. Especially when visitors are convinced that Japan is a homogeneous culture, they assume that any region will offer a "typical" experience of Japanese society and education. Nevertheless, Japanese schools remain marked by regional differences and characteristics. In conservative Nagoya, even some elementary schools have uniforms, a fact that people in Kagoshima find hard to believe (there, uniforms are introduced only from junior high school). In Tsukuba, north of Tokyo, our local elementary school students wore green jogging suits as a uniform (to the disgust of many parents who had moved in from urban Tokyo). Uniforms are only one visible symbol of regional characters. In some regions of Japan the rejection of such symbols is extreme. In the deep south, in Okinawa, some citizens, distrust any semblance of "militarism"; they Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 21 reject uniforms, refuse to sing the "national anthem," and some have gone to far as to tear down the "national flag" (Pearson 1 9 9 6 ; Kohei 1 9 9 6 ; Suzuki & Oiwa 1 9 9 6 ) . In fact, opposition to such symbols remains so fierce that neither the anthem nor the flag has yet gained official recognition from the Japanese Diet. Differences in regional characters are also reflected in less visible symbols, such as the number of incidents of bullying, the strictness of school rules, and the levels of attendance at jukus. A third area of change, and one related to the differences among regions, are the differences among local communities. Despite the often-perceived illusion of equality and sameness in Japan, the natures of certain communities are distinguished by socio-economic class or the presence of minority groups, such as Koreans or Hisabetsu Burakumin. Within the same city there will be schools with good or bad reputations. Even at the elementary level, where almost all schools are public and have access to similar budgets and resources, the differences between any two schools can be quite marked. When my wife and I put our children into an elementary school in Kyoto, a number of our Kyoto friends congratulated us on placing them in a "good" school. They said the school just north of ours was chotto gara ga warui [a bit rough]. In fact, it was merely by chance that we moved into the area with a "good" school. Japanese are less likely to leave school choice to chance. Some of them will move the whole family or have a "work-away father" [tanshinfunin] in order that their children might attend a "good" school. At the junior high school level, the differences among local communities become even more apparent. Certain junior high schools have bad reputations for bullying [ijime], violence, strict rules, and poor educational standards ("Japan's schools" 1 9 9 0 ; Kristof 1 9 9 5 ) . There are three junior high schools within a short walk from where I lived in Kyoto. One is a prestigious Christian private school: all boys, brown uniforms, lots of foreign Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 22 teachers, large playing ground and excellent sports programs. Entry is highly competitive, but almost all of the students proceed to the same institution's high school, and then to one of the two best universities in Japan, Todai [Tokyo National University] or Kyodai [Kyoto National University]. The second school is a public school on a hillside surrounded by trees and the houses of the wealthy. The grounds are large, but the buildings are old, cold and dirty. Students wear blue blazers and grey slacks. The standards are not particularly high, but with some attendance at juku, students can expect to get into good high schools. The third school is also a public school, but it faces a busy, noisy street. The grounds are cramped. The uniform is similar to the second school, but they are worn quite differently: girls wear baggy socks and shorten their skirts; boys wear oversized trousers, leave their shirts undone, and slip earrings on outside the gate. Although this school has a "bad reputation," it is still better thought of than other schools only a short train ride away, where students still wear stiff black Prussian uniforms, dye their hair neon colours, and wear make up and ear rings in school. In the worst schools, violence is a normal part of school life, teachers feel threatened, and their concerns about poor standards are overwhelmed by more immediate worries-like physical survival (see "Kodomo" 1998). The fourth area of change, the differences among institutions, becomes most noticeable beginning from the level of senior high school. Compulsory education lasts until the end of junior high school. As a result, unlike junior high schools, which must accept students from their districts, senior high schools are no longer tied to communities. At the senior high school level, even "public" schools select students based on competitive examinations. As a result, students may have to commute for considerable distances or move closer to a school to which they are accepted even though there are perfectly good Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 23 high schools in their own neighborhood. All senior high schools fit into a hierarchy (Thomas 1993; Shields 1989; Rholen 1983). Some schools, private and public, have distinctive programs and policies. For example, some are "internationalized" and have special entrance exams for kikokushijo [student returnees] or students with foreign language or other abilities. Other schools boast many foreign instructors or programs to travel and study abroad. There are also conservative schools that aim only to guide students through the difficult regime of study necessary for successful entry into an elite university. Despite, or perhaps because of their clear-cut rankings, high schools are not as likely to be as strife ridden as are some junior high schools. Students at the top and middle levels of senior high school know they have a chance to enter a good university, and so they settle down to the drudgery necessary to do so. Students at the bottom levels know they are removed from the competition to enter good universities, and so they can enjoy their clubs and friends while picking up job skills (Rholen 1983). The differences among institutions reflected in the hierarchy characteristic of senior high schools is even more significant at the university level (Cutts 1997; Thomas 1993; Reischauer 1988; Nagai 1971). The institutional variety among universities is quite remarkable. There are public and private universities, women's universities, men's universities, coed universities, junior colleges, sports universities, art universities, language universities, agricultural universities; city, suburban and inaka [countryside] universities; Christian, Buddhist, Tenrikyo, Ainu and American universities, and more. This list does not include the senmon gakko [the hundreds of computer, language and business schools that are not recognized as colleges or universities by the Ministry of Education]. The top universities are national, like Tokyo and Kyoto University. The top private universities are Keio and Waseda. However, most large cities will have at least one good national Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 24 university. Some will have famous private universities as well, such as Ritsumeikan and Doshisha in Kyoto. Some universities compete for students by offering innovative programs. Particularly popular are programs relating to foreign languages, technology, internationalization, and the environment. Other universities compete by building attractive campuses with lounges, coffee shops and fountains o r by hiring movie stars, artists and comedians as professors. Most students only ever attend one university, and professors seldom change universities in their careers. As a result, even the people most directly involved in Japanese university education, the students and professors, seldom appreciate the diversity of institutions o f higher learning in Japan. One weakness common to much o f the literature on Japanese culture, and especially on Japanese education, is the tendency to ignore these facts of change and diversity in Japan. Occasionally, a book like Thomas Rholen's(1983) Japan's High Schools will describe the variety o f institutions at a particular level of education. Other works, like Stevenson and Stigler's (1992) The Education Gap, while looking at a number of different schools, choose all the schools from one region o f Japan. Other books, such as Gail Benjamin's (1997a) Japanese Lessons and Anne and Andy Conduit's (1996) Educating Andy, deal with the experience o f only one institution, resulting in narrow and often misleading pictures of "Japanese education." Each of the above books makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of Japanese education, but few books, I think, capture much of the dynamic o f Japanese education. Most o f the debate, discrepancy, inconsistency and protest concerning Japanese education are lost in static pictures o f generalized values and representative institutions. In a paper about qualitative methods in the social sciences, Vidich and McLyman (1994) discuss Thorstein Veblen's writings on higher education in America, and point out that he drew largely on his own experience at three American universities. They claim that Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 25 works like Veblen's are "in effect, examples of qualitative research based on data acquired over the course of rich and varied life experiences. In these studies it is impossible to disentangle the method of study from either the theory employed or the person employing it" (p. 34). In this work, too, I draw on all my knowledge and experience of Japan and Japanese people to try to create a broad view of the complex relationships among culture, education and identity. I endeavor to give my view a combination of scholastic depth and practical usefulness in the living world of the classroom. I attempt to express something of the complexity of Japanese educational experiences, with all its changes, differences and contradictions. In my more than twenty years of teaching in Japan, I have taught at one national prep school [yobiko], one private high school, several language schools, two junior colleges, and five universities. Moreover, I have studied at a language school, and two Japanese universities. I have also taught hundreds of Japanese high school and college students in Canada. The Japanese educational institutions where I have taught include some of the best, and some of the worst. Moreover, they are, as I mentioned earlier, located in widely separate regions. Through my family's experience of Japanese education, I have gained more knowledge of other Japanese schools. My wife has gone through the school system in Kyushu and graduated from a college in Nara. My two children have experienced kindergarten \yochien] in Nagoya, and elementary and junior high school in Kyoto. These educational experiences in Japan have been balanced by our educational experience in Canada from Montessori preschool to university. The sum total of this experience puts me in a good position to describe change and diversity in Japanese educational experience. Needless to say, this description is closely connected to my personal perspective. The view I present of Japanese culture and Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 26 education arises from a combination of academic research and autobiographical self-reflection. This creates special methodological challenges. Paul Valery has said that "there is no theory that is not a fragment, carefully prepared, of some autobiography" (cited in Smith 1994b, p. 243). Valery's claim undermines confidence in any strictly objective stance. Gradually, qualitative methods are gaining acceptance in the academy, and recent works incorporating narrative (see Neilsen 1998) are having some impact in the North American academic community. Still, a lingering suspicion of narrative means that "a large area of knowledge is systematically suppressed as "non-scientific" by the limitations of prevailing research methodologies" (Clarke, cited in Smith 1994b, p. 85). On the surface, personal accounts and anecdotes can appear trivial and unscientific, but I agree with Smith who writes that autobiography, by blurring the borders of fiction and non-fiction, "is a sharp critique of positivistic social science. In short, from my perspective, autobiography in its changing forms is at the core of late twentieth-century paradigmatic shifts in the structures of thought" (1994b, p. 288). I, too, though willing to acknowledge my debt to positivistic research methodologies, in this work seek to go beyond the measure of positivism. III. On the Methodological Challenge of Cultural Hermeneutics By analysing interactions of influences among identity, language and education, I hope to show something of the diversity and complexity of Japanese culture. My approach may be rather broad and circuitous, but then what I am seeking is a view broad enough to encompass the appreciation of diversity that might demolish stereotypes of Japanese. An attempt to encompass such a broad view presents certain methodological difficulties. My work is neither strictly qualitative or quantitative. It does not conform to accepted Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 27 procedures of "ethnographic" fieldwork. Mine is, in short, an attempt to find another way to understand culture. It is a "re-search" in the sense that it searches again the established authorities and theories, and then tests their findings against my own experience. In this way, I eke out from among ossified concepts, prejudices and misunderstandings a new, freer understanding of education and identity-both Japanese and my own. I call this methodology "cultural hermeneutics." Cultural hermeneutics is based upon the philosophical tradition of hermeneutic phenomenology. The chief aim of cultural hermeneutics is to deconstruct knowledge and to recombine in a meaningful way the fractured segments of knowledge that remain from our compartmentalized scientific investigations in the human sciences; at the same time it constantly questions cultural stereotypes. Broadly speaking, hermeneutics occupies that place in the human sciences where "specializations" and "fields of knowledge" tend to impede rather than facilitate our understanding. I do not reject quantitative or ethnographic research. Instead, I try to incorporate them, along with other paths to understanding, into a wider and more diverse understanding of culture. I want to achieve a "reunification" or "re-membering" of experience and theory by giving primacy to the play of language, especially the written language. Cultural hermeneutics self-consciously incorporates the "imaginative" treatment of a wider variety of evidence, including novels, poems, personal anecdotes and narratives, in order to achieve a deeper understanding of culture and identity. Envisioning educational situations, empathizing with the situations of people of another culture, or even remembering our own perplexity within a foreign culture requires, as Degnehart and McKay (1988) say, an "ability to hold present to the mind abundant details (of circumstance, belief, motive, previous experience, and so on)" (p. 244). Such acts of imagination go beyond the requirements of normal academic research that emphasize Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 28 experiment, measurement and objectivity. Of course, if scholars really adhered to a strict program of scientific objectivity, "the result would be very inadequate descriptions of people's conduct or their culture" (p. 243). Therefore, while cultural hermeneutics takes full advantage of informed and disciplined evidence, it also engages the culture directly in a "conversation." Through this conversation, I intend to expose patterns and imperfections in our understanding of Japanese culture, and especially in our understanding of the relationship between education and identity. In the more specific "arena" of the language classroom, cultural hermeneutics involves reflecting upon and talking about cultural identities and their relationship with language. For the student, this means knowing that learning a second language alters identity. The student must see the risks and advantages of learning language. At the same time, because a student seriously intent upon learning a new language must shed a previously accepted identity, a new identity must be prepared. For the instructor, cultural hermeneutics means accepting the "unavoidable" role of accomplice in deconstructing students' pre-given cultural identities to replace them with less exclusive identities. This is never a disinterested activity. Moreover, to some extent it is reciprocal. That is to say, the instructor cannot come out of the encounter of language teaching without some alteration in identity. Whether admitted or not, the instructor enters the language classroom with some kind of "identity agenda" (see Liu 1998; Amin 1997; Norton 1997; Duff & Uchida 1997; Courchene 1997; Pennycook 1994). An instructor directs students' changing identities along certain ways, even if the intended directions are as simple as making students less "shy to speak" or more "environmentally aware." Therefore, it is especially important that the instructor reflect upon culture. The instructor must respect the evolving cultural identities of students and not just criticize randomly. This means, too, that the instructor must reflect upon his or her own cultural identity and how it was learned. By Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 29 practising cultural hermeneutics, students and instructors may achieve a deeper understanding of the formation of their cultural identities, and establish in the classroom an environment of tolerance and trust within which language can be more confidently learned. In Part One of this work, I expand upon this methodological "approach." Here, I will briefly summarize six "attitudes" in the approach of cultural hermeneutics: 1) "Back to the things themselves." We are indebted to Husserl for this slogan. Especially in regard to cultural hermeneutics, it can be taken as a warning. Our views of cultures are obscured by prejudice and stereotypes. The very education that helps us understand the world, also teaches us to see the world according to our own culture's interests. This bias is exposed by Edward Said (1979) in Orientalism. The tradition of Orientalism in Western science is particularly pertinent to our study of Japanese culture. Other scholars show us that such a perspective can work both ways (MacKenzie 1995), or that Japanese "orientalizes" other nations (Tanaka 1993). We must each go back to the beginning, and, adopting a questioning attitude, re-interpret Japan for ourselves. 2) "The hermeneutic circle." Where traditional social science often tries to isolate a custom or aspect of culture for objective investigation, hermeneutic phenomenology and other postmodern schools say that this is not possible. The part can only be understood in the context of the whole, and the whole is only understood in relation to its parts. The individual cannot be understood without reference to the culture, and the culture cannot be understood without an appreciation of the variety and complexity of its individuals. What is researched is determined by the researcher, and in turn transforms the researcher. We picture this interconnection of the parts with the whole, the "case study" with the "big picture" as a circle. Within this circle we must constantly move, connecting the part with the whole, the individual with the culture, the researcher with the researched. For cultural hermeneutics, this means that we must always be in motion, always shifting attention Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 30 between the specific and general. This is a "conversational" approach that values the unusual, the exceptional and the unexpected. 3. "The contingency of truth." This idea I borrow mainly from Richard Rorty (1989, 1979) although it is implicit in most postmodern thought. Heidegger (1975) and Kuhn (1970) teach that even the sure mathematical sciences are at their essence products of human belief. Derrida (1980) has used this understanding to deconstruct pretensions to truth based upon ethnocentric evaluations of script. Rorty takes a typically pragmatic step, and founds his social truths upon a chosen "rock" of solidarity: a solidarity that aims to reduce the amount of cruelty and suffering in the world. Gadamer (1994, 1976) leaves truth open, not seeing it as a solid rock, but as a shifting, floating form that is constantly being re-negotiated by human beings. The "contingency of truth" means that we must constantly question our received "truths" about language, culture and identity, and ask who "created" these truths, and to what end. 4. "All understanding is new understanding." Thus, Gadamer summarizes the changing nature of lived experience. Understanding is always running to catch up to life events. Every individual has a unique perspective on life, and no two people can see exactly the same thing from exactly the same perspective at exactly the same time. T. S. Eliot claimed that any new literature necessarily changed all the literature that came before it. Likewise, any new book or theory about a culture changes everything and everyone connected to that culture, even in the past. On the one hand, this is a humbling proposition. It means that even as we write about and analyze a culture, the culture has already changed, and our descriptions are already out of date. It also means that all our understanding is founded upon error, prejudice and misunderstanding. On the other hand, this is a liberating proposition in that no matter how accurate were the books or theories of Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 31 those who went before us, changing events, people and thought always make room for new and necessary interpretation. 5. "Understanding is always self-understanding." On the surface, Gadamer's statement is naive. Certainly, understanding is a route to power: knowledge is power. When we "know" another culture, when we can "name" and "define" it, we exercise power over it. But "power," too, offers lessons in self-understanding. Recognizing the dangers of power relationships should make us more cautious in our claims to "objectivity." When we study others, our study is "motivated." Our motives may be predatory or they may be altruistic, but they are never disinterested. Change is the inevitable result of research. The researched changes, and the researcher changes. The changes are not always unintended, accidental or coincidental. They are directly connected to the original motivations of the research, and those motivations are largely found in the past, and in the experience and education of the researcher. This means the researcher is obliged to "re-search" his or her own self in relationship to the research. Thus, the experience of the researcher is validated, and so is the use of narrative and anecdote in research. The researcher's cultural investigations become self-consciously autobiographical. 6. "The priority of language." Derrida (1980) goes so far as to place the origin of the written language before that of the spoken language. Van Manen (1990) stresses the importance of the performance of writing in research. Aoki (1993, 1992, 1988), Pinar (1992), and Grumet (1988) emphasize the value of narrative in curriculum research. Aoki and Deluze (1987) see exchanges of understanding, even of academic knowledge, as conversations. Ricouer (1991) reunites fiction and empirical knowledge. Gadamer traces the roots of this postmodern emphasis on language back to the tradition of hermeneutic phenomenology, which has given language priority in contemporary critical thought. Research returns to fiction. History, sociology, anthropology and other human sciences Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 32 are fictional endeavors: stories of humanity, told and revised and rewritten from generation to generation; stories not of absolute, but of approximate truth. For Anderson (1991) and Hobsbawm (1992) the "nation" is an "imaginary community." For Barzun (1965) and Suzuki (1989) "race" is "superstition." The basic concepts of our understandings are based on words, Shakespeare's "airy nothings." Academic truths and cultural identities are created, fictional. Seen in this light, research becomes ambiguous, but it benefits from a vast widening of scope. Novels, fiction, poetry, folk tales, song, and other ingredients of the carnival of life, become (along with authorities, surveys and statistics) legitimate materials for academic research and debate. The practise of academic writing may result in a scholarly article, a narrative or a poem. IV. An Outline of the Present Work The present work is fractured in construction, and diverse in form and focus. Rather than one narrowly defined thesis, it offers a combination of related theses. Its main purpose is to unravel the relationships among language, education and culture in Japan. While some chapters are quite conventional in terms of form and methodology, other chapters are experimental, and their inclusion here is justified by the circuitous approach of cultural hermeneutics. These diverse chapters are divided into three parts. Part One examines the methodological paradoxes of cultural hermeneutics: "a methodology that rejects methodology" in appreciation of the randomness of experience. Part Two deals with language in relation to the creation of Japanese cultural identities. Part Three deals with education and national ideologies, particularly those relating to race, nationalism and internationalization. This menagerie of parts and diverse chapters is interspersed with narrative chapters or "autobiographical interludes" that alternate with the "academic Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 33 chapters." This biographical content is my attempt to juxtapose the lessons of scholarship with those of the life-world in ways that provoke intellectual instability. The narrative chapters reconstitute the beginning points of my doubts about our "cultural knowledge" of Japan. Part One begins with Chapter Two. This is a rather conventional chapter on methodology. In Chapter Two, I try to situate cultural hermeneutics within the broader tradition of phenomenology, and also try to relate it to educational cultures. Part One continues with Chapter Three, which presents an unconventional "counter-methodology" or "non-methodology"; it develops an extended metaphor on rocks, mixing fact, fiction, poetry and anecdote as alternate models of understanding. I hope that readers can find in the chapter's loose, fragmented style, spaces through which to glimpse the living-world of Japanese education that will create for them new "impressions" of Japan. Between the Scylla and Charybdis of the two alternative conceptions of methodology presented in Chapters Two and Three, I will attempt to navigate the course of my dissertation. Part One ends with Chapter Four, sub-titled "Situating the Scholar in the Work." This is primarily an autobiographical narrative emphasizing my own evolving sense of cultural identity, especially as it relates to my education in Canada and to my "discovery" of Japan. No doubt Chapter Four will strike some readers as out of place in a work about Japanese identity; however, I think it is important for three reasons. First, it presents my understandings of culture and identity as I acquired them even before I met Japan. Because I want to open up our understanding of culture, and especially Japanese culture, I present my own early sense of the contingent and evolving nature of cultural identity. This can be contrasted with more absolute and static concepts of culture I discuss later. My second reason for including this autobiographical chapter is that it exposes the failure of my Canadian education to prepare me for an understanding of the variety and Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 34 complexity of Asian cultures. Although my focus in this work is Japanese education, the lack of understanding between Occident and Orient is, I believe, a symptom of more universal educational failings. My third reason for the inclusion of this chapter is the phenomenological priority given to reflection upon individual lived-experience. Chapter Four thus establishes a starting point for the series of autobiographical narrative chapters. Stories and anecdotes remind us that what we present as objective scientific inquiry is always related in its sources to life experience. Anecdotes serve the useful purpose of tying abstract theories to the concrete events. They suggest directions towards understanding. My own experience in Japan is one legitimate source of ethnographic material (Vidich & Lyman 1994; Smith 1994b). The intention of my narratives and anecdotes is not statistical or representative, but rather imaginary and creative. Where expository arguments and narrative accounts meet, cracks and crannies allow readers other views of Japan. By alternating longer expository chapters with shorter narrative chapters, I hope to balance the particular with the general, and the concrete with the theoretical. How well this experiment succeeds will depend partly upon the willingness of the reader to participate in the "writing" of this work. I leave it largely to the reader to make connections between my opinions as presented in the expository chapters and my experience as described in the narrative chapters. Should the reader lack patience for this approach, it is possible to skip over the narrative chapters and read only the expository chapters, perhaps to go back later to read the narrative chapters as a set. However, I hope the instability caused by the alternation of narrative and the expository chapters can take the discussion beyond a merely theoretical or stereotypical Japan. Part Two begins with the first of a series of five major expository essays that pursue a "close reading" of the evolution of Japanese identity through education. Two of these chapters, Chapters Five and Seven, are in Part Two, the remaining chapters are in Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 35 Part Three. In Chapters Five and Seven, I investigate the relationship between language and Japanese identity. This emphasis on language follows from the central role that cultural hermeneutics gives to language in understanding culture. In Chapter Five, I deal with the Japanese language, particularly the written language. I examine the history of written Japanese, and its effect upon Japanese cultural identity. To this end, I rely heavily on theories about "orality and literacy" in Western culture (Thomas 1992; Ong 1982; Derrida 1980; Goody 1968; Gough 1968; McLuhan 1964, 1962; Havelock 1963). In particular, I try to show how Japanese education is largely determined by the particular nature and difficulty of its written language. I also argue that the nature of the written language causes, or at least reinforces, certain negative stereotypes of the Japanese. In Chapter Seven, I deal with the English language and its relationship with Japanese identity. The English language classroom in Japan is a place where cultures meet and sometimes clash. Japanese universities, despite visible similarities with Western universities, have their distinct traditions. When teachers and students do not recognize these traditional differences, it can lead to stress and conflict in the classroom. English language education puts demands upon Japanese students for which they are not always well prepared by their culture. Moreover, foreign instructors come to the classroom with expectations and values that cannot always be easily met by Japanese students. In this chapter, I try to explain some of these differing values and expectations. In Part Three, I explore the relationships among ideology, education and the struggle to define Japanese identity. In Chapter Nine, I discuss how intellectuals and politicians manipulate cross-cultural comparisons in order to promote various educational agenda. Feinberg (1993) shows how Americans use their understanding of Japanese educational excellence to encourage a redefinition of American identity. Many American Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 36 scholars (for example, Benjamin 1997; White 1993, 1987; Stevenson & Stigler 1992; Hirsch 1987; Woronoff 1982) also argue for a reform of American cultural identity based on a sense of economic and educational competition with Japan. What many North Americans overlook is that such comparisons work both ways. Japanese scholars (see Sekiguchi 1993; Kimura 1988; Fukuzawa 1985; Nagai 1971) have urged or resisted educational reforms that could alter Japanese cultural identity. In this chapter, I compare and contrast educational debates in the Canadian press (especially Dwyer 1994) and the Japanese press (especially Hishimura & Ogi 1996). One observation that reverberates throughout this chapter is that the Japanese concepts contained by the word kyoiku [education], do not correspond exactly to the concepts of North Americans using the word "education." In such discrepancies in the meanings of words, cultural misunderstandings can arise. In Chapter Eleven, I examine the evolution of the construction of various Japanese racial identities. I follow the historical development of the concept of race in Japan, especially as it has been influenced by Western theories of race. I show how concepts of the "Japanese racial type" have changed over time, in accordance with historical and political factors. Japanese racial perceptions are often quite different from those of Western peoples, and these perceptions are fostered by education. Despite careful arguments to the contrary (Herrnstein & Murray 1994), race is, like nationality, at best an imagined community (Hobsbawm 1992; Anderson 1991), and at worst a dangerous superstition open to social and political manipulation (Gould 1994; Suzuki 1989; Barzun 1965). Nevertheless, in Japan today, the concept of a "Japanese race," and the struggle to define just what that is remains a conspicuous part of debates about Japanese identity. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 37. In Chapter Thirteen, I examine the contest in Japan to define the nature of a new "internationalized" Japanese identity. Some Japanese intellectuals burdened by a sense that Japan is always victim in international relationships believe that "internationalized" Japanese should promote Japanese language and culture abroad while trying to preserve the "purity" of traditional culture at home (Kamei 1989; Suzuki 1987 a & b, 1973). Other intellectuals (Yoshino 1992; Oda 1987) believe it is time for Japanese to move beyond their fear of victimization, and to accept and incorporate foreign people and values into their communities. They wish to involve themselves in the world on the basis of new "universal values" that are only in the process of being negotiated. In Chapter Fourteen, the concluding chapter, I explore evidence of recent changes in the evolving cultural identities of young Japanese and then go on to review the methodological paradoxes that motivate the dissertation. Offering fresh evidence gleaned from current events, I restate my overall thesis that cultural identity in Japan is contingent and evolving, and that language instructors and students are crucial players in this constant re-negotiation of identity through a process of education that ties us to the mistakes of the past. I reaffirm the belief that we learn about others in order to learn about ourselves, and accept that our learning is founded upon prejudice and misunderstanding. By studying the intertwining relationships of Japanese language, education and culture, I hope to broaden our understanding of self and culture. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. Part One: Finding a Way Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 39 Chapter Two The "Methodology" of Cultural Hermeneutics In natural science, I have understood, there is nothing petty to the mind that has a large vision of relations and to which every single object suggests a vast sum of conditions. It is surely the same with the observation of human life. George Eliot. The Mill on the Floss. (1994, p. 277) When it comes to trying to understand Japanese culture, I believe that what is important is not so much discovering new facts or truths about Japan, but rather discovering the preconceptions and misunderstandings upon which our already established "truths" have been created. In our high-tech, post-modern global culture, we are constantly bombarded through myriad media and institutions by out-dated and unreliable information. From birth we are subjected to an ongoing cultural education. As a result, we come to the study of any culture already "knowing" it. We have, all of us, absorbed a vast amount of knowledge about Japan and Japanese culture, even though we may not be aware of where this knowledge came from. As Ernest Becker (1973) has said, "the man of knowledge in our time is bowed under a burden he never imagined he would ever have: the overproduction of truth that cannot be consumed" (p. x). Yet, despite this vast quantity of "truth," we scholars continue to try to fill the cup of knowledge, adding more even as the cup runs over. In this work I try to unravel the network of facts and truths that our culture has established about Japanese culture and identity. I do this in order to make way for new understanding. This approach poses a methodological challenge. Modern educational institutions lend their weight in support of "scientific" methods of social research. For a Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 40 scholar whose purpose is to identify misunderstandings about culture only to replace them with doubt, conventional scientific methodology can be inadequate. Various postmodern methodologies are presently in the making under labels such as "qualitative studies," "ethnographical studies" and "constructionist methodologies," but as yet there is no one clearly established postmodern methodology to follow. Therefore, I must formulate my own methodology. I call this methodology "cultural hermeneutics." Cultural hermeneutics as an approach to the study of culture is grounded in the philosophical traditions of hermeneutic phenomenology. The scope of the term "hermeneutic phenomenology" expands beyond the edges of normal understanding, threatening at times to fall off into the void of the absurd. The term can seem uselessly all-encompassing. Yet, much of what we loosely call "postmodernism" has evolved from the traditions of hermeneutic phenomenology. As Pauline Marie Rosenau (1992) says, phenomenology encourages "a reconsideration of personal knowledge, a rejection of logocentric world views, and a suspicion of lessons that come to us from the past, from history (Husserl 1960); post-modernism takes up these themes" (p. 13). I situate my methodology within this hermeneutic phenomenological tradition of thought. Hermeneutic phenomenology is so extremely amorphous that it is not at all a "normal" scientific methodology. Nevertheless, hermeneutic phenomenologists insist on the "usefulness" of viewing the world in its uncontained heterogeneity (Brown 1992, p. 49). Hermeneutic phenomenology is not so much a school or a rigorous method, as it is a quality of thought: a questioning attitude. This attitude transgresses the boundaries separating academic disciplines and even those between truth and fiction (Smith 1994b; Ricouer 1991). Questioning what we think we already know, we open "empty" spaces for exploration. Hermeneutic phenomenology returns science to literature and reads the life-world as a text. This text calls forth a multiplicity of voices from various cultures, sub-Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 41 cultures and academic fields into a common conversation. The social sciences, or as Hans-Georg Gadamer (1976) and Richard Rorty (1979) call them, the "human sciences," broaden their horizons by blending their separate traditions in a proliferation of hermeneutic cultural "conversations." Cultural hermeneutics seeks, by questioning the most familiar facts of our lives, to arrive at an understanding of the sources of identity. When I, "a Canadian English teacher" and member of a faculty of a Japanese university, explore with my students issues in "Japanese education/Tcyo/'/ov," I wonder if I share with them the common conceptual ground necessary for understanding. I ask myself questions like, "What are the boundaries of Japanese education/Tcyo/Vo;?"; "Can we truly talk of national educational styles?"; "What does Japanese mean here?"; "Who has decided such meanings and how?"; "How does education/Tfyo/'/cu determine the "Japaneseness" by which it defines itself?" For me, these questions will always lead back to a problem of self-understanding, and an effort to locate my own identity within an alien context. Questioning begins with language, immediately extends to culture, and, thence, to identity. This is a movement through particular words, to abstract concepts, and then back to particular identities. The circular movement of cultural hermeneutics that begins with my questioning of education//o/o/7ct/ eventually leads me to new understandings of culture, education and myself. My questioning of Japanese education/Tcyo/'/cu is only a part of a much wider questioning of fundamental terminology in the human sciences. In the field of Japanology, for example, we can point to Amino Yoshihiko's (1992) questioning of the meaning of "Japan," of Morris-Suzuki (1994) and Shumpei Ueyama's(1990) questioning of "culture and civilisation," or Stephen Tanaka's (1993) questioning of "Orient." We are, it seems, Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 42 involved in a kind of deconstructive testing of the validity of basic cultural terminology. This questioning takes place within what G. B. Madison (1988) describes as that "always interrupted and always begun conversation that we call Culture" (p. 71). The questions are not meant to denigrate academic terminology, but rather to expose the cultural assumptions, and the presumptions about the meaning of "culture" that underlie accepted jargon. In addition, the questions aim to breach the artificial boundaries that divide "fields of knowledge" in the human sciences. Hermeneutic questioning intends to draw thinkers from various academic fields onto a common ground for conversations about what it means to "know" or to "understand." Hermeneutic questioning takes strength from its community context. This is not a questioning by detached and "objective" specialists, but a questioning among a community of literate individuals. This social event of questioning together is likened to a "conversation," and this conversation is primarily based on and conducted through texts. Therefore, the conversation is not restricted by time, space, language, or culture. "Conversation" is a central metaphor of cultural hermeneutics. Hermeneutic phenomenology concerns itself with the interpretation of our being within the life-world, and presumes that "what we most truly are in our most inner self is a conversation" (Madison 1988, p. 169). Within the "hermeneutic circle," the individual and the universal are seen to be in a relationship of mutual creation. This creative vacillation between the general and the specific mitigates against the compartmentalisation of knowledge and the departmentalisation of institutions of learning so characteristic of our modern societies. The hermeneutic phenomenological questioning of words and identity intends to assuage the violent reductionism of investigatory procedure in human science research. A broader range of texts and experiences are accepted as having scientific validity. The subjectivity of the investigator is admitted, and personal experience no longer defers to the Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 43 authority of objective investigation. Moreover, as all texts have significance for understanding, none are given priority simply by virtue of their supposed "rigorous scientific method." Human science research can interpret essays, biographies, novels, poems, histories, newspaper articles, editorials, even movies (Eco 1988, pp. 445-455). This promiscuous interpretation of a multiplicity of texts and of personal experiences read as texts is an inter-disciplinary conversation. This hermeneutic conversation cannot be departmentalised or divided according to types determined by the authority of "experts in the field." Rather, it is an egalitarian discourse that "liberates us from the authoritarian claims of those-who-are-in-the-know, who believe they have somehow transcended the merely human 'realm of opinion'" (Madison 1988, p. 52). Interpretation is acknowledged as initially self-centred, even narcissistic, but this is no embarrassment. All understanding is, as Gadamer (1994) says, essentially self-understanding (p. 260). When we know that understanding is not something we have, but rather what we are, then we need no longer blush in the presence of our own subjective experiences and opinions. Although it may not be "precise," this egalitarian conversation is less violent than an oppressive objectivity that seeks to reduce the living world to objects than can be isolated, measured, generalised, and predictably controlled. Gadamer (1976) says that "the real power of hermeneutical consciousness is our ability to see what is questionable" (p. 13). Thus, questioning terms like education/Ayo/'/o; can serve to initiate inter-disciplinary conversations about culture and identity. Questioning terminology elicits further and less transparent questioning. Assumptions implicit in the questions also come to the fore. For example, implicit in the question "What is Japanese education//cyo/7o/?" is the expectation of answers that offer up units of knowledge that can Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 44 be packaged, fixed in time, and handed down from a superior giver, "the authority who knows" [the professor], to an inferior receiver, "the incomplete being who is yet to know" [the student]. In other words, the very question suggests the static, hierarchical and authoritarian patterns of learning and teaching in our universities. In so far as a question is aimed at "an answer," it creates a closure, and inhibits the free inquiry that is usually assumed to be a privilege of academic life. If we reflect upon how we use a term like "Japanese" in the sense of a national style-i.e. nihonteki or "Japanese-style"- we will see that it tends to suggest an isolated and static condition in Japanese culture. Mouer and Sugimoto (1990) see the word nihonteki as part of a world view that tends to "classify reality as being either nihonteki (ethically, racially or culturally Japanese) or non-Japanese. It is an all or nothing perspective which leaves little room for accommodation or international mixtures" ( p. 378). The term nihonteki limits what it means to be Japanese. The term emphasises "difference" and thus becomes involved in what Stephen Hall (1992) calls that "play of identity and difference which constructs racism" (p. 257). The term nihonteki constitutes an interrupted approach to understanding culture. A culture is not something that can be first defined in order to be contained, then mastered in order to be explained, and finally stored as "fact" to be passed on complete at another time. Even as we observe aspects of a culture, they are changing before our eyes. Even as we describe them, they are not what they were. Any effort to contain a culture is an act of violence. Aspects of culture cannot have life if utterly confined. Moreover, the subject who learns such knowledge, trusts it, and believes it to be a living truth is deceived. Hermeneutic phenomenology teaches us three important aspects about our observation of things. First, we see only that part of the thing that faces us, and much else Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 45 is always hidden from us. Secondly, we can only focus our attention on bits at a time, and so there will always be a surplus of meaning remaining to be accommodated. Thirdly, all that we see is a reflection of what we are: understanding arises from our individual and particular perspectives of the things we investigate. The self is located both physically in a body and historically in certain cultural traditions. We cannot escape the situation of this "self" that sees. Each of us looks out from a unique location in the world, and projects a particular self upon the world. The fact that our understanding is a reflection of what we are does not mean that there can be no common understanding. It does, however, make us realise an important paradox about what it means to understand. Understanding is at the same time both cultural and individual. On the one hand, understanding is a community event in that all understanding takes place within, and is determined by a tradition. We are thrown into Being. What we come to understand was always already there before us. What we learn is, therefore, always an "old understanding." On the other hand, because learning is always tied to an individual human perspective, all understanding is "new understanding." Common understanding is possible in the spaces that open between old social traditions and new individual perspectives. If our understanding both begins and ends with our selves in a kind of "hermeneutic circle," then it is significant that what we are mostly is language. We speak and write our world with words like "individualism//fq//>7sht;g/," "shudanshugi/groupism," "/co/dcasht/gv/nationalism," "economy//(e/'za/," "sha/ca/'/society" or "education/Tcyo/'/oy," but such words are at best ideas or "signs of signs" by which we attempt to impose order upon the chaos of existence. At worst, they are the cast off remnants of certain worn-out habits of thought. The words that we use arise from our shared traditions; they pass through us Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 46 to determine and shape our apprehension of reality. The words we use to try to grasp the world in our understanding are already with us in the vastness of the world. We create meaning through language. That is to say, knowledge in the human sciences is a cultural fabrication. The meanings of words evolve within the traditions of cultures. Let us observe by way of example the evolution of a term that has come to determine perceptions of Japan at the end of the twentieth century: nihonteki keiei or "Japanese business management." Gordon Andrew (1998) and Kosaku Yoshino (1992) have shown that business terminology provides the favoured metaphors to describe modern Japanese culture. Through vast numbers of books, articles, lectures and interviews, academics compete to influence the meaning of the term nihonteki keiei. Between 1968 and 1995 the Japanese National Library records over 120 books with nihonteki keiei in the title (kokuritsukokkaitoshokan 1969-1995). Since the first recorded title (Miyamoto & Okumoto 1968), the number of publications with nihonteki keiei in the title has increased every year with 22 published in the three years between January 1992 and March 1995. More books with nihonteki keiei in the title are still coming out. This quantity is probably a healthy sign for it suggests that the meaning of nihonteki keiei in Japan is still fluid. It is constantly being re-examined or redefined. Thus, it is saved from being a "technical term." When a concept's meaning gets too narrow and predictable, it becomes a technical term. Gadamer (1994) stresses that "a certain range of variation is essential-a technical term is a word that has become ossified. Using a word as a technical term is an act of violence against language" (p. 415). Still, we cannot escape this struggle to control the meaning of important concepts like nihonteki keiei. As Merleau-Ponty (1962) says, "we are condemned to meaning" (p. xix). Only by accepting the inherent contingency of the meaning of concepts may we broaden the ground for "academic" Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 47 conversation. What sanctions this broadened conversation is our common involvement in culture. If we sincerely engage a culture to understand it, we must be willing to let it wash over and engulf us. This is equally true of a national culture, a class culture, an ethnic culture, a business culture or an educational culture. We must begin by acknowledging our immersion in a sea of culture. Any effort to stand apart in order to observe and explain the manifestations of that sea is an artificial distanciation that distorts our apprehension of the "essence" of culture. We talk, for example, of our "cultural roots." If we must use this root metaphor, we should think of roots not as single tubers, but, rather, as rhizomes, myriad and multifarious (Deluze & Parnet 1987). Cultural essence should not be conceived of as rock-hard, like Democritus's atoms, but rather as insubstantial or diffuse, like a flavour, or an aroma. We will be best served by metaphors of culture that suggest the amorphous, the ambiguous and the unseen. The essence in culture is the powerful, shifting presence of a distinctive emptiness. Just as we cannot be "objective" when we engage culture, we cannot reproduce the experience of culture. Any attempt to represent or reproduce the experience of another person or another culture is a futile gesture to an outmoded objectivity. We cannot take facts, figures and other data, and then say on the basis of this knowledge that we know what it is like to be in another person's shoes-or geta. As Merleau-Ponty (1962) says, ...the behaviour of another, and even his words, are not that other. The grief and the anger of another have never quite the same significance for him as they have for me. For him these situations are lived through, for me they are displayed, (p. 356) It would be an absurd pretension to suppose that we could fully represent the lived experience of another person even in our own culture, let alone in another. We can only Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 48 interpret words and behaviour. We cannot stand within another person as he is, but we can, through the creative power of imagination, stand beside him as ourselves, and look out at his world. In so doing, we do not truly perceive his horizon, but neither do we merely repeat our own. We create for ourselves, through our imaginative interpretations, a new horizon called "understanding." Scientific methods that attempt to objectively understand culture are prescribed in their success, and if they overreach themselves they are inevitably thwarted by the very multiplicity and inexhaustibility of individual and cultural identities. To paraphrase Merleau-Ponty, we don't have cultures, cultures have us. We are thrown into a Being that already precedes us. We are given to ourselves to understand. We can only reach that understanding by our relationship with the world and the things of the world. Our experience of the world involves, as Hegel says, the discovery that what we thought was true is not necessarily the case (cited in Schmidt 1994, p. 7). Because we are situated in the world, and prejudiced by our particular place in time and culture, our understanding is always new, but also always partial. The cultural hermeneutic approach to understanding culture starts by accepting our immersion in tradition and history. We begin by accepting that we are prejudiced observers. Prejudice is an inescapable condition of Being. We passively inherit prejudices as we learn to be part of our culture (Schmidt 1995, p. 5). Therefore, understanding is condemned to move out from misunderstanding. If we try to understand a culture, we already start with our prejudices and misunderstandings in tact. Unless we open ourselves to change, our attempts to objectify and control the other culture result not in understanding, but in delusions of knowledge. In Orientalism, Edward Said (1979) has exposed the concepts of Orient and Occident as such a delusion. The faith in the categories of East and West, and the belief Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 49 that the Orient can be a legitimate "object" of study prevent our understanding from moving beyond the narrow horizon of a fixed cultural perspective. The belief in East and West reinforces an allegiance to cultural preconceptions and prejudices. Yet such terms are so essential to our vocabulary that any discussion of Japan can hardly avoid using them. Therefore, any interpretation of Japanese things that suggests the human condition is split between East and West, Occident and Orient should be bracketed off for a more careful interrogation. We must resist the belief in distinct cultural traditions, lest we be seduced into "taking sides." Attempting to define a culture, we collude in an effort to dominate and control people. Some foreign teachers in Japan seem to believe that by transferring their allegiance to Japanese culture they have overcome something of their own inherent cultural contradictions and prejudices. Even the phenomenon of "going native," exemplified in the lives of people like T. E. Lawrence, Lafcadio Hearn, Grey Owl and Mori Arinori, does not necessarily guarantee a disinterested understanding. "Simply 'going native,'" say Mouer and Sugimoto (1990), "does not provide perspective, for it too can be a form of myopic parochialism" (p. xxvi). "Going native" can be an extreme manifestation of the attempt to reduce another culture to controllable stereotypes. By actually living out stereotypes, we reify them in life. The "going native" that poses as a homage to another culture may instead be a gesture of dominance and mockery. Cultural hermeneutics begins by acknowledging that we are already dissolved in culture. All we can really do is try to pour ourselves into a foreign culture, knowing that we still take with us something of our own culture. There can be no pretence at preserving the integrity of the "objective subject observing." Nor is there any hope of becoming the pure other in a gesture of self-obliteration or cultural denial. Instead, intermingling self and M i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g J a p a n : L a n g u a g e , E d u c a t i o n , a n d C u l t u r a l I d e n t i t y . 50 other, self's culture and others' culture, we give rise to new metaphors of culture. Homi Bhabha (1994) sees the modern world involved in the constant creation of a multiplicity of new hybrid cultures. Studying culture is not, then, a representative act, but a creative one. When we study another culture, we are "participating in the event of a tradition, an educational process of transmission in which past and present are constantly mediated" (Gadamer 1990, p. 290). The culture we study will not survive unchanged our study of it. Our understanding of a culture creates it anew. "Understanding" is what we do with culture. The attempt to understand another culture is inherently subversive. What we subvert most are our own cultural fabrications-the prejudices, cultural canons, and dead metaphors we habitually associate with culture. The understood culture and the understanding self and its culture are changed. Our understanding incorporates and transforms all previous understandings. Even when we study a culture we may never have heard of before, we do not start from a blank slate. The very fact that we can recognise something as "culture" shows that it was already present in our preconceptions and prejudices about cultures. Because we can name it, it has already been with us. Thus, coming to the study of Japanese education//cyo/7ay and its relation to identity, we cannot escape the tradition of academic debate that backgrounds it. Even if we have never read a book about Japanese education, we are already prepared to understand it through our own education. "Education," in this case, means not just "schooling," but all the cultural learning we are immersed in from infancy. It includes everything from the stories our grandparents told us as children, and the music we listened to as teenagers to the movies and T.V. we watch, and the books, magazines and newspapers we read today. What we learn in school is only a small part of our education. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 51 As fish live in water, we live in a sea of learning. By the time we are adults, we approach nothing with an unprejudiced view, not even things as "exotic" as nihonteki or kyoiku. We do not come to a culture fresh and open. We come to it already prepared to know it, already prepared to identify it, categorise it, judge it and dominate it. As "re-searchers," we know already what we are supposed to look for in a culture, where its significances may be hidden. We distinguish the pieces, and fit them into an unacknowledged preconceived pattern according to conventional methodologies. Somehow each piece serves to reconfirm our emerging picture of "Cultures." Yet, the groundwork for "mastering" another culture has already been laid in the myths and stories, the fears and suspicions of our childhood. The procedures for recognising cultures were learned even before we spoke the word "culture." This is apparent in even a term as seemingly benign as education//cyo/7ov. Modern students of Japanese culture cannot avoid considering the meanings and development of terms like kyoiku or nihonteki. For better or worse, the growth of the Japanese economy since the 1960s has led to Japanese culture being interpreted based on metaphors of business and industry, and the education system that sustains them. Ross Mouer and Yoshio Sugimoto (1990) explain that the field of "Japanology" divides into two main theories. The first is a "holistic theory" that emphasises "group consciousness" [shudanshugi]. The second is a "conflict theory," espoused mainly by Marxists. More recently, this conflict theory has been championed by postmodernists such as Morris-Suzuki (1998), Vlastos (1998), and Miyoshi and Harootunian (1989). This conflict theory stresses diversity and social struggle. The two theories, holistic and conflict, are in turn intersected by two main language traditions: one Japanese, the other English. The English language tradition Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 52 has, since the Second World War, been dominated by Americans who have supported the "holistic theory." This is the mainstream American tradition, and one that Smith (1997b) refers to as the "Chrysanthemum Club." Until recently, only a few North American or British writers, such as the Canadian E. H. Norman (1975) and the English Marxist Jon Halliday (1975), espoused the "conflict theory." More recently, an increasing number of Americans have also joined the ranks of the "conflict" scholars, including Koschmann (1989, 1985) and Smith (1997b). In the Japanese language tradition, the two theories are more evenly represented, but the "holistic theory" remains dominant. Mouer and Sugimoto (1990) and Yoshino (1990) stress the connection between the "holistic theory" and business. Mouer and Sugimoto write, those inclined towards the group model of Japanese society have argued that the firm is the key organisational unit in Japanese society. In particular, literature on labour-management relations tends to stress the commitment of the Japanese employee to his company and the existence of some kind of symbiotic relationship between the union and management. The company union, lifetime employment and the seniority wage system are seen as being the key concepts, (p. 287) But this group model is seen to perpetuate itself through an education system that institutionalises and depersonalises students in preparation for their future role as "salary men" (Sakaiya 1988; Thomas 1993). Most of the most influential post-war descriptions of Japanese culture (such as Nakane 1979; Doi 1973; Reischauer 1988 and Vogel 1979), contribute to this image of Japanese as dependent, unindividuated and groupish. In recent years, the English tradition is showing increasing suspicion of the group image of Japanese society. Francis Fukuyama (1992) tentatively places Japan in the "Western" liberal democratic tradition, precariously detached from the groupishness of "Asian Values" he finds epitomised in Singapore. Ueno Chizuko (1996) shows that the "tradition" of the importance of the role the Japanese ie [family] in Japanese culture is an Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 53 "invention of the Meiji government." Connecting Nakane Chie (who defines modern Japanese culture in terms of this tradition of ie) with pre-war nationalist scholars, Stephen Tanaka (1993) tries to expose the ideological roots of her holistic image of Japan. Mouer and Sugimoto (1990) try to show that the group image rests on little reliable "empirical" evidence and debunk the group model with a convincing "individualistic" counter-model of Japanese society. Nevertheless, their review of the traditions of Japanology leads them to a methodological dead-end. Having debunked the holistic theory, Mouer and Sugimoto (1990) remain unwilling to join forces with the conflict theorists. Faced with the problem of locating their own methodology, they avoid "taking sides" by seeking refuge in the "neutral" empirical research. They propose a scientific methodology for Japanese studies based on a "stratification framework." This framework is a mathematical construct composed of figures, rates, surveys, graphs and statistics. A representative sentence goes like this: "the correlation of the size differential is calculated using Pearson's r for each of the 6 subgroup pairings, as shown in Figure 13.2, cross-sectional data for 46 prefectures, 9 major industrial categories and 20 manufacturing sectors" (p. 351), and so on. Despite this "precision," their attempts to interpret this research often ends with a warning about "the need for more empirical research" (p. 356), a caution that "one should be careful not to rely too heavily on these preliminary results" (p. 369), or the disclaimer that "firm conclusions cannot be drawn" (p. 367). The methodological weaknesses of this "scientific" approach to cultural studies are not lost on Mouer and Sugimoto. The last part of their book is devoted to a sensitive analysis of the methodological problems in the social sciences. Several times (pp. 394, 397 & 401), they note the limitations of conventional methodologies. They admit that Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 54 "massive amounts of quantitative data or factual information on foreign societies . . . have not necessarily produced an understanding of the societies studied" (p. 401). They have serious "doubts about the efficacy of social science itself as a method which can enlighten us about social phenomena" (p. 416). Those of us in language education have heard the same kinds of doubts about research in language acquisition (Ellis 1994). Our vast quantities of research seem to lead us nowhere. Where do we turn then? While retaining faith in the value of "empirical research," Mouer and Sugimoto admit that "much more than scientific method is required if the study of society is to be a fruitful or liberating endeavour" (p. 413). In the end, they confess that they have no answers to the methodological dilemma (p. 414). Still, they offer important suggestions for the further consideration of methodology. One is that possibly "research is largely of personal rather than of social relevance" (p. 425). Another is that academic research should involve itself in "active dialogue with the people studied" (p. 429). Both of these points suggest the need for "phenomenological" inquiry. Twice in their book Mouer and Sugimoto refer to the importance of phenomenological observation (p. 73; p. 413). However, they never develop these suggestions. Perhaps this is because they are so intent to reject "arbitrariness" in the use of concepts (p. 413). From the postmodern perspective, it is just this arbitrariness in concepts such as kyoiku or nihonteki that offers opportunity for exploration and change. Jacques Derrida suggests we take advantage of "the infinite regress and arbitrariness of interpretation, not for the sake of epistemological or ethical relativism, but in the interests of setting the reader free, of setting the text free" (cited in Pinar 1992, p. 6). Phenomenology brackets arbitrariness, not to deny it, but to find freedom in the play of heterogeneous spaces. Hermeneutic phenomenology lends itself particularly well to the questioning of the Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 55 methodology that dominates research in our institutions of higher education. In contrast to the accuracy, precision, consistency, coherence, adequacy, and narrow focus demanded in normal social science methodology, cultural hermeneutics is aimless and meandering. It pays little respect to distinct fields or academic disciplines. Moreover, it accepts the possibility that our true research goals are personal. For Gadamer (1994), at least, not only is all understanding new understanding, but also all understanding is self-understanding (p. 260). The irony of the phenomenological adventure is that we come to understand ourselves only through trying to understand others. Heidegger (1977) diverts the phenomenological movement away from Husserl's original search for a "rigorous science." In turn, Gadamer (1976) asserts the moral scope of the tradition. He believes that its real roots have always been moralist, and have included "themes of pragmatism" in which we can hear echoes of Nietzsche and Dostoevski (p. 140). These pragmatic themes connect hermeneutics with the thought of William James, John Dewey and Richard Rorty. Rorty (1979), too, stands committed to a "moral faith" (p. 383). He admires a group of thinkers (including Goethe, Kierkegaard, Santayana, William James, Dewey, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger) who without quite forming a "tradition," are all "dubious about progress" or claims to rational truths by "such and such a discipline," and who recognise that "this century's 'superstition' was last century's triumph of reason" (p. 367). Following this advocacy of moral faith, hermeneutic phenomenology transgresses academic boundaries to create a broader community of thinkers. By referring always "to the things themselves," they resist explanatory theoretical constructions and the "reduction of all higher psychic acts, such as sympathy and love, to an original utilitarianism or hedonism" (Gadamer 1976, p. 145). Thus, this community defends moral faith in defiance of contemporary positivism and the methods associated with the natural sciences. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 56 Hermeneutic phenomenology is not co-opted by rationalism because it understands that "validation is nothing other than the harmonious unfolding and reciprocal confirmation of successive experiences (interpretations). This is to say that knowledge is not so different from faith" (Madison 1988, p. 15). The ultimate foundation of all knowledge is not fact, but faith. Faith is not a property we possess; it is an act that we perform, an event of the world of lived experience. As a result, one path newly opened for the social scientists exploration of lived experience is literature. Literature, therefore, has "abnormal scientific" validity that is different, but no less true than that of normal science. Doubting the relevancy of quantitative methodology to the human sciences, phenomenology finds its ally in hermeneutics, the interpretation of texts. Phenomenology accepts the scientific validity of the incidents of texts, even when they correspond to nothing in reality. As a result, the whole world of literature is opened up as data for scientific research. Within phenomenology separate fields of study merge into an unbounded human science that gives imagination and thought room to move. The "things" of literature become significant phenomena worthy of hermeneutic scientific attention. This validation of literary experience is reinforced by Husserl's and Heidegger's questioning of a scientific reality where, in the absolute sense, the real" is nothing at all" (Gadamer 1976, p. 150). Perhaps this is something of what Milan Kundera (1984) means by " the incredible lightness of being." The nothingness of fictional experience, the nothingness of real experience, and the nothingness of scientific reality float together and intermingle in a Zen-like mu-a significant emptiness. Acknowledging the contingency of truth allows us to erase the line between human science and fiction. My own introduction to nihonteki keiei, for example, came in a course in Japanese literature at Tsukuba University, where I was assigned to read Odaka Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 57 Kunio's (1984) Nihonteki keiei: sono shinwa to qenjitsu. At the time, I was surprised that a book on "business management" could find its way into a course on "literature." Yet, as I learned to criticise Odaka's book, I gained a new awareness that my university studies in Canada had been a kind of ideological indoctrination. The "field" of "Japanese Literature," like the field of "Japanese Business Management," was premised on the assumption of a monolithic Japanese culture. Things Japanese were everywhere defined by a commitment to "groupism." Studying Odaka's book was, in my own education, an important interdisciplinary event. Literature, cultural anthropology, business management/n/horjfe/d keiei and education/Tcyo/'/cu overlapped briefly to reveal the wider ideological environment, or what I later learned to call "regime of truth," of North American university education. The catalyst in this brew was, of course, the study of language. "Phenomenology first gave language the central place it holds in the current situation of philosophy," claims Gadamer (1976, p. 172). This in turn allows literature a more expansive role in the human sciences. "Fiction" is no longer an illusion of reality. On the contrary, it is "the privileged path for the redescription of reality" (Ricouer 1991, p. 56). Forging ahead upon this path of literature, our understanding need no longer follow reality by the trail of the crumbs of fact and figures left behind as history. Literature allows us to keep pace with and even anticipate the becoming of reality. Whereas figures and facts focus our attention on what is left behind, fiction allows us to interpret "the type of being-in-the-world unfolded in front of the text," and through it "new possibilities of being-in-the-world are opened up within everyday reality" (Ricouer 1991, p. 86). Fiction, therefore, can bring us closer to our everyday reality than can the objective facts of science. For example, the life-world of characters in a novel by Ikko Shimizu may tell us as much about the life reality of nihonteki keiei as can statistics and tables ("Japan" 1996, p. 13). Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 58 Ricouer claims that "there is no self-understanding which is not mediated by signs, symbols and texts" (cited in Madison 1988, p. 92). The text, especially the literary text, becomes a common field for the exploration of self-understanding, and thereby of all understanding. Literature, because of the power and truth of its perceptions, moves out in modern thought to encompass first "the historical text" (Madison 1988, p. 88), and eventually "the philosophical text" (p. xiv). A work like Roland Barthes' Empire of Signs (1982) inquires into Japanese culture, expands into an historical and philosophical meditation, transposes into a work of literature, and in the end tells us little about the "real" Japan, but much about our apprehension of Japan. Interpreting literary texts, we create and come to understand our own identities, whether individual, sexual, national, or cultural. As Madison writes, we recognise ourselves in the stories we tell about ourselves. It makes little difference whether those stories are true or false, fiction as well as verifiable history provides us with identity. (Madison 1988, p. 95) The stories we tell in university about education//cyo/7a/ or Japanese-style/n/77onfe/c/ may in the same way be understood as interpretations of cultural texts, and as such, as fictional events. This is not to deny their validity. Rorty (1989) says that literature "gives us the details about what sort of cruelty we are capable of, and thereby lets us redescribe ourselves" (p. xvi). (Rorty's insistence on recognising the latent cruelty in ourselves echoes Oda Makoto's insistence that Japanese obsessed with Japan's victimisation had better recognise themselves as potential victimisers-but more of Oda in later chapters). Rorty stresses the need for intellectuals to move thought away from method and theory and towards fiction and narration. He says that this "turn against theory and towards narrative . . . would be emblematic of our having given up the attempt to hold all sides of our life in a single vision, to describe them with a single vocabulary" (1989, p. xvi). The Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 59 single vision of Japanese as "groupish," common to cultural, historical and economic interpretations of Japan can be refracted by literature. A novel can teach us that for understanding cultures the exception can be as important as the rule. The moral complexities of lives reflected in literature make us sensitive to the moral dimension even in terms like education/Tcyo/'/o/ and Japanese-style/rwhonfe/d. Gadamer (1976) says, "to understand a text is to come to understand oneself in a kind of dialogue" (p. 57). Literature is a conversation mediated though texts. An author creates a text through an inner conversation with it by writing it and rewriting it from nothing. Then the reader, too, enters into a conversation with the text. In the act of interpretation, we find ourselves in the middle of a conversation that has already begun and in which we try to orient ourselves in order to be able to try to contribute to i t . . . . But the key hypothesis of hermeneutic philosophy is that interpretation is an open process that no single vision can conclude. (Ricouer 1991, p. 33) The metaphorical field of the text is the location for the play of interpretation in the act of conversation. The conversation of literature offers a "real" sense of being-in-the-world eminently suited to interpretation permeated with understanding. Anyone literate in a language can enter the life-world of literature. Textual conversation can penetrate barriers of space, time and culture. In fact, according to Ricouer (1991), "one of the aims of all hermeneutics is to struggle against cultural distance. . . thus genuinely making one's own what was initially alien" (p. 119). This is done not by appropriating the place of the alien through objective understanding, but by putting oneself into conversation with that other, either through life-world experience or through the interpretation of texts. We come to understanding through "a fusion of horizons," in which imagination places us near the other to look out from that near, yet separate place, causing a tension between what is one's own and what is alien, between Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 60 the near and the far; hence, the play of differences is indeed a convergence (Gadamer 1976, p. 93). In other words, we come to an understanding of Japanese identity only by incorporating into ourselves something of that identity-by becoming Japanese. In the event of being written, a text is freed from the original locus of conception in the point of view of its author and that author's culture. Over the decades, critics from various cultures have contributed to the ongoing conversation about education//cyo//o/--Passin, Amano, Reischauer, Cummings, Warnoff, White, Rohlen, Vogel, Dore, Najita, Feinberg, to name just a few. If nothing else, this conversation has been valuable because it has revealed a multiplicity of inter-"national," inter-"disciplinary," and inter-Ideological" perspectives available for understanding education//cyo/7o/. Education//cyo/7cu is "meaningful" in the sense of "full of meaning," and no matter how rigorous our methodology, the term will always possess a surplus of meaning that lies outside consideration. No matter how careful we are at any one time, our conversation can only treat a part of the meaning of a term like education/Zcyo/Ta/. At the same time that this conversation spans cultural divides, it also frees the human sciences from the domination of authoritarianism and manipulative rationalism that Ralston Saul (1992) sees as so entrenched in our society and its institutions, not the least of which is the university. The academic environment encourages professors to compete for dominance by wielding facts, condensed and hardened into blunt objects of aggression. In its most cynical and manipulativeness extremes, this violent tendency of rationalism mocks the broader humanistic and spiritual aspects of university life suggested by a concept like "liberal education." Fortunately, such cynical objectivity is rare, and I think most scholars can agree with Michael Polanji who says, "Any attempt to rigorously eliminate our human perspective from our picture of the world must lead to absurdity" Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 61 (cited in Madison 1988, p. 18). With our cultural hermeneutics, we aim to examine the cultural conversation we call education/7(yo/'/a/ in full appreciation of the depth and the complexity of the human condition. In place of a rationalistic monologue eulogising objectivity, cultural hermeneutics seeks to institute a liberating dialogue unburdened by demands for strict consistency and systematic order. Moreover, the phenomenological term, "life-world" takes much of its meaning from its contrast with a "world of science" that finds an ideal in mathematical precision. Mathematical science aims to master reality by reducing it to essential quantities and generalisations. In contrast, the phenomenological life-world respects the being of things. It encourages an appreciation of the multiplicity and particularity of life that inspires humility in scientific enquiry. Science is freed from a too strict adherence to the laws of mathematics and logic. Truth is found, too, in the subjective and poetic apprehension of life. When the poet Rainer Maria Rilke found he could not write, his mentor, the sculptor Rodin, sent him to study animals in the Paris zoo (Bly 1981). For weeks, he studied the panther, and learned from it, until he could write a poem that expressed the essence of the nature of the panther. Rilke sought his understanding in the living world of the thing itself. The careful observation of even the individuality of a thing can lead to an understanding of nature and the universe different but no less scientifically valid than that provided by mathematics. The mathematical and statistical approach to research in the social sciences is not in itself a complete methodology. Some things are always left out. For example, nihonteki keiei tells us little about poverty or marginality in Japan. Statistics tell us that as many as 90% of Japanese consider themselves "middle class" (Mouer & Sugimoto 1990, Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 62 p. 76), and my own initial experiences of Japan confirmed this picture. However, one day I lost my way on the train and found myself in a part of Osaka seldom visited by foreigners or prosperous Japanese. There I saw a poverty and human degradation not represented in our stereotypical images of Japan. Poverty in Japan inhabits a private, secretive world that is suspicious of academics and bureaucrats. Studying Japan's poor, Akiyama Kenjiro says, "the unfortunate of mankind close up tight when confronted by surveys from the outside" (cited in Mouer & Sugimoto 1990, p. 77). Franz Fanon (1965) long ago and more recently Paulo Freire (1970) have shown that the "wretched of the earth" scorn and distrust the privileged, including the well-intended teacher or researcher. The dispossessed have little to gain by co-operating with teachers or researchers who treat their condition as a manifestation of disease or filth in society, something to be gradually eliminated, in effect denying them whatever crumbs of cultural self-respect they have salvaged from their existence. Society turns its back on the wretched and they become invisible. Few of the many marginal life-worlds of Japan are included in the proud figures that establish the triumph of nihonteki keiei. Likewise, the debate about the relative merits of Japanese the education/Tcyo/'/cu also tend to overlook the identities of the marginal, the abnormal, and the minorities that inevitably interplay with a dominant Japanese identity. Cultural hermeneutics tends to undermine our confidence in "normal" science, and leads us by way of paradox to doubt. This doubt, however, "already presupposes the universal experiential basis of belief in the world" (Gadamer 1976, p. 155). In his theory of "normal" and "abnormal" discourses, Rorty (1979, 1982, 1992), too, explains that the "abnormal" is that which we cannot understand through normal scientific discourse. Abnormal discourse concerns mysteries like love, death, time, faith, meaning, identity and belief. Rorty is willing to respect the contributions to human thought and welfare made by Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 63 normal scientific discourse, but, as do Mouer and Sugimoto, he feels that alone, it leaves truth lacking. Rorty (1979), however, does not recommend another method of inquiry, but rather an "inchoate questioning out of which inquiries-new normal discourses-may (or may not) emerge" (p. 384). He distinguishes two types of philosophy: a "systematic" philosophy, and an "edifying" philosophy. Edifying philosophy fends off the demand for objectivity, and tries to prevent education from being reduced to instruction in the results of normal inquiry. More broadly it is the attempt to prevent abnormal inquiry from being viewed as suspicious solely because of its abnormality. (1979, p. 363) Another philosopher struggling to open cultural conversation to the possibilities of abnormal inquiry is Wittgenstein, who offers this insight: The aspect of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something because it is always before one's eyes.) The real foundations of his inquiry do not strike a man at all. (cited in Gadamer 1976, p. 176) Here Wittgenstein echoes William James's admonition that in the interest of truth we must learn to look at unfamiliar things as if they were familiar and familiar things as if they were unfamiliar (cited in Barzun 1964, p. 199). What these insights demand of the researcher is intense self-reflection. They also validate the kind of autobiographical methodology I include in this work. In order to "re-"perceive the very familiar, we must take the phenomenological step "back to the things themselves," and this includes examining our own interests and motivations. All around us, truth arises in events that occur in the spaces opened by the tension between concealment and disclosure. Before we attempt to disclose more information and facts, we must reflect upon the prejudices and interests that lay concealed in our motives. We are humbled in our quest for truth by the simple knowledge that we can never see more than the aspect of things turned toward us. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 64 Moreover, even among those things available for us to see, there is only so much that we are willing to see or able to recognise. Always something is hidden, both in the "object" of research and the "subject" of the researcher. What is concealed in the "object" along with what is concealed in the "subject" always guarantees a surplus of meaning. Inherent within whatever meaning we do disclose will always remain misunderstanding. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 65 Chapter Three Approaching Japan through Cultural Hermeneutics I. I am a Rock; I am an Island We are hammers and chisels in the hands of would-be sculptors, battering the spirit of the sleeping mountain. We are the chips and sand, the fragments of fragments that fly like arrows from the heart of the rock. We are the silences that speak from the stones. Joy Kogawa. Obasan. (1981, p. 132) Virginia Woolf says biography is about the truthful transmission of personality, and Louis Smith (1994b) explains Woolf s statement like this: "The truth is like 'granite,' and personality, at least in the selection of which truths to present, is like a 'rainbow.' In Woolf s view, truth and personality make one of the biographer's perennial dilemmas" (p. 292). Smith goes on to qualify her statement by noting that "present-day scholars often see truth as less than granite" (p. 292). Granite, a rock, a rock-like truth- these are metaphors through which cultural hermeneutics can approach new understandings of Japanese culture. This approach may suffice as a balance against hardening dependency upon methodologies. Any serious work on a culture is a kind of extended "biography," and so the dilemma of the need to choose between a "granite-like truth" and the "rainbow-like personality" extends into the human sciences. Some writers on curriculum (for example, Grumet 1988; Willis 1977) try to reveal the personality of an educational system through Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 66 narratives of individual experience. In the scholarship on Japanese culture, too, there are both writers who seek to provide a rock-like foundational model for our understanding (for example, Nakane's 1970; Doi 1973), and writers who try to reveal the "personality" of Japanese culture (such as Smith 1997b; Kerr 1996; Kondo 1990). Even scholars who prefer a more positivistic approach can mistrust granite-like truths and are capable of giving us something of personality of Japanese culture (as do Morris-Suzuki 1998; White 1993; Reischauer 1988). Nevertheless, when we hear people talk about Japan or read books on Japan, we still find those who offer truths about culture as if they were things that were "hard and fast." For example, Cutts (1997) says this about the Japanese: Foreigners are often told how group-centric the identities of Japanese people are. It is hard for them, however, to grasp how important this is to the individual's whole sense of himself, how it invests his "being Japanese" with an extra dimension of social awareness-and how much it automatically ingrains a nationalist purpose into his life. Here is where the university, and the whole educational system that fans out beneath it, play a pivotal and highly mendacious role. They introduce the individual to the group, carefully socialize him to it, and then convince him that subordination to group values is his own natural inclination. It is a way of controlling the values of each individual by brutally forcing his or her own cooperation in internalizing them. (p. 42) Needless to say, this is an extremely negative picture of the Japanese and Japanese higher education, and this picture is developed throughout Cutts' book. For someone like me who has spent a career working in several Japanese universities, it is hard to recognize the locations of my experience in Cutts' description. For me, the university is one area of Japanese society where "group-centric identities" often break down, and where individuals enjoy some freedom. Cutts brings many "facts" to bear to support his ethnocentric picture of Japanese higher education. Despite his many facts, Cutts' overlooks the complexity and multiplicity of Japan's educational "personality." He has tried to impose one monolithic personality on all of Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 67 Japan's people, education and culture. This single personality is group-centric. In the above passage, he uses the word "individual" three times, but in his work one seldom gets a sense of living individuals inhabiting Japanese universities. Rather, there are artificial beings "automatically ingrained with a nationalist purpose." For Cutts these beings are cheated by a pseudo-education and a fake democracy. Where did Cutts get his dark vision of Japan? What in his own life-what insults or disappointments-drives him to portray Japan is such a negative light? He gives us no clues: he keeps his self to himself. We can, however, detect behind Cutts' diatribe a implicit comparison with an ideal image of America where young people develop true personalities by virtue of getting a truly democratic education that encourages their inherent individuality. This image is a kind of self-stereotyping, and it has nothing to do with the "educational reality" criticized by American educational theorists as diverse as Grumet (1988), Apple (1988), Hirsch (1987), Bloom (1987) or Dewey (1944). Cutts ignores the personalities of the living world of education. My Japanese students, for whatever their faults and weaknesses, tend to be full of personality. I am constantly fascinated by the variety of their manners, opinions, fashions and tastes. Some students definitely enjoy group life; others are quite solitary. Each university I have worked at, too, has had a personality that distinguishes it from other colleges and universities. I admit there are times when I, also, suspect something "mendacious" in the environments of Japanese education, or in Japanese politics (just as I suspect mendacity in Canadian education and politics), but these suspicions must be balanced with a recognition the diversity of personality among Japanese educational institutions and people. Any Japanese reading Cutts is likely to feel insulted "as a Japanese," and, thus, be driven back on to just that "group consciousness" that Cutts claims to want to save them from. In the Japanese academy, there are nationalistic Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 68 scholars who would take advantage of the damage done by critics like Cutts in order to reinforce the solidity of the national group identity. Responsible scholarship should aim to balance all the little rocks of truth with the wide rainbow of personality. In my attempts to understand Japan, I remind myself to consider the diversity and abundance of Japanese personalities. II. Roots among Rocks These good souls, for that's what they are, are borne up by an ancient shelf of limestone, gleaming whitely just inches beneath the floorboards, yet each of them at this moment feels unanchored, rattling loose in the world between the clout of death and the squirming foolishness of birth. Carol Shields. The Stone Diaries. (1993, p. 48) For almost two decades now, I have been talking and writing about the Japanese. I do not know by what right I have done so. Yet, through my reading, I found that I was not alone in this. The Japanese pose problems of identity that provide endless fascination to intellectuals (perhaps especially to we Canadians with our own on-going identity crisis). On the one hand, the Japanese have, since Meiji, challenged the complacency of the Western sense of cultural superiority: they have undermined militarily and economically the confidence of a world-dominating European culture. On the other hand, the Japanese have been a mirror to the West, reflecting back to the observing Europeans familiar social and cultural institutions, but of different patterns of colours. These novel patterns offer Westerners new possibilities for identity. The Japanese offer a wondrous variety of living metaphors for exploring culture. Much of our fascination with Japan stems from our fascination with our own identities. As we come to know them, we come to better Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 69 understand ourselves, for as Hans-Georg Gadamer (1994) says, "All understanding is self-understanding" (p. 260). We use what we learn in our study of the Japanese to recreate an image of ourselves, and to rebuild the shaky foundations of our own identities. Sometimes, it is as if we are not really looking at the Japanese at all, but through them to a new forming image of ourselves. As we continue observing the Japanese, we may at some point come to the startling awareness that we, too, are being watched. For generations, the Japanese have been looking to the West for knowledge and understanding. From time to time, they have shifted their national gaze form Holland to England, to Germany, to America, but the fascination with the West never ceases. From behind a deceptively solid-looking facade, uncertain eyes peer out at the Western "other," trying to find materials for forging new Japanese identities relevant to a broader world order. I have, as I said, played a part in this game. Caught up in the fascination of the back and forth movement of the play, I have come to recognize it as a game of metaphors. In this game we, in the interest of theories and opinions, reduce others, and even ourselves, to metaphors. We participate in this reductionism willingly, perhaps inevitably. With the awareness that ours is a game of metaphors, there comes a temptation to cynicism, an impulse to turn our backs on the game completely as something false and unreal. But we are fated to work out all our understandings through metaphor for the very languages we use are shifting patterns of metaphor. In our quest to form solid pebbles of knowledge, we start with the "airy nothing" of the word. Nietzsche once suggested that all language, and therefore all truth and error, is metaphoric in origin (cited in Van Manen 1990, p. 49). Metaphor, too, is the stuff that nations are made of. We live and die in "imagined communities" substantiated by little more than belief in the underlying truth of Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 70 metaphors (Anderson 1991; Hobsbawm 1992). In the shift and flow of patterns of metaphor arise possibilities for growth in understanding. Homi Bhabha (1990) explains that "metaphor produces hybrid realities by yoking together unlikely traditions of thought." Patterns of metaphor need not necessarily fall into the closure of stereotype, though often it is their fate to become dead, rock-like things. To avoid such fossilization, cultural hermeneutics initiates a questioning conversation that takes as its topic our lived experience of culture. We look again at the unfolding growth. We prune away the dead truths so that the fresh and probing patterns of metaphor (upon which we base our cultural identities) can sprout forth from among the boulders to find new-forming life. III. Ideals and Agony Heaven's winged hound, polluting from thy lips His beak in poison not his own, tears up My heart; and shapeless sighs come wandering by, The ghostly people of the realm of dream, Mocking me: and the Earthquake-fiends are charged To wrench the rivets from my quivering wounds When the rocks spit and close again behind. Percy Bysshe Shelly. "Prometheus Unbound." (1979) Those of us who teach languages in Japanese universities inevitably teach about culture. For some of us, this is a cause for professional misgivings because we are not trained specialists in culture: we are neither anthropologists nor sociologists, yet we are often called upon to teach about our own cultures or Western impressions of Japanese culture. Were we to have the audacity to lecture on these topics in North American classrooms, we might expect to be challenged. What do we know of kinship groups or of Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 71 matriarchal and patriarchal societies? What ethnographic field work have we completed? What right have we, who have not mastered the accepted methodologies of the field, to presume to teach about culture? Perhaps we had better stick to talking about adverbs and adjectives. In Japanese universities, nobody questions the right of a language teacher to lecture or write about cultural topics despite an unconventional methodological background. Instead, teachers are encouraged by students and colleagues to say more, even at the expense of time that could otherwise be devoted to instruction about adverbial phrases or restrictive clauses. Methodological failings are tolerated, and opinions about culture are generally respected. This tolerance reflects fundamental differences between Japanese and North American universities. Understanding these differences may challenge preconceived notions of what universities are. In the West, the university has, since the time of Plato, been in service to rationalism. Rationalism is the foundation of the Western academic community; its values are objectivity, measurement, experiment, and proof. Some critics feel this stress on rationalism is excessive. Especially in North America, the university has become a veritable temple to rationalism (Saul 1995, 1992; Lasch 1995; Herrnstein & Murray 1994). In such an environment, language learning hugs the periphery of academic life. Indeed, many North American universities do not require students to study foreign languages. In Japan, foreign language study has always been central to academic life. The roots of the Japanese university lie not in reason, but in translation-the translation of foreign (first Chinese, later Western) morality, literature, and technology into Japanese cultural terms. In the light of this tradition, we can understand the importance of languages in contemporary Japanese universities. In most Japanese universities languages are required courses. Nevertheless, many of these courses seem loose and ill-Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 72 directed to the critical eye trained in the highly rationalized language programmes of North American universities. In response to assumed faults, some Japanese universities have embarked upon reforms that adopt North American methodologies (Sekiguchi 1993). Language teaching is being rationalized, systematized, and standardized. As curricula are tightened, teachers have less room to express individual interpretations of culture. In this move towards rationalization of the language classroom, something is, I fear, being overlooked. Even with more classroom hours, smaller class sizes and so on, students do not necessarily exhibit more or better language use. Even in shiny new institutions with all the technological frills and modern methodological fashions, classrooms can be oppressively silent. When I question those of my students who can actually use a foreign language, few credit their ability to university instruction. They learned the language largely elsewhere: from friends, travel, private classes, study-abroad, radio, TV, movies, videos, music, foreign friends, language schools, lovers, pen-pals and homestay families, books, comics, the Internet, and a variety of hobbies and interests. The Japanese university classroom, it seems, is almost irrelevant to successful foreign language learning. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 73 IV. Statues, Towers and other Rock Structures Above the town, on the hill brow, the stone angel used to stand....She was doubly blind, not only stone but unendowed with even the pretense of sight. Whoever carved her had left the eyeballs blank. Margaret Laurence. The Stone Angel. (1964, p. 1) Most professors and administrators in Japan agree about the need for language teaching reform. Unfortunately, debate reflects a cultural split among faculty, especially between "native-speaker" instructors and "Japanese" instructors. Common within Japanese universities are two thinly veiled prejudices about teaching faculty. One is that native-speaker instructors cannot teach the languages they speak. The other is that Japanese language instructors cannot speak the languages they teach. Until this cultural split among language teachers at the university is bridged, all other language reforms are likely to be rendered futile. This split among teachers is only one symptom of the clash of cultures in the university language classroom. Recognizing this clash could help native-speaker and Japanese foreign language teachers discover that, in at least one important respect, they share a common ground. Yet, this space that they share is the sometimes uncomfortable space between the differing methodologies and educational expectations of two cultures. In the university, language learning is often subsumed in the process of working out cultural frictions. What goes on in the language classroom inevitably challenges assumptions about culture. The classroom, too, is a "sub-culture," and it is often the first place where students' idealized images of foreign culture are tested against experience. In this confrontation of different traditions of learning, the language instructor is a cultural Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 74 interpreter. Even if we wanted to avoid teaching about culture, we could not. Language and culture are bound together in a kind of hermeneutic circle: language is part of culture, and culture is an expression of language. Richard Rorty (1979) goes so far as to suggest that all learning is really cultural learning, and that in place of our many disciplines "cultural anthropology (in the large sense which includes intellectual history) is all we need" (p. 381). Cultural hermeneutics is a questioning conversation that provokes doubt about preconceived ideas of culture. In the give and take of dialogue, we become aware of spaces in our stereotypes that remain undefined. These are spaces for freedom and growth. Likewise, in the "in-between space" that is the language classroom, cultural hermeneutics negotiates among the "ologies" of rationalism, and the intuitive insights of art, literature and the daily lived experience of a culture. Our universities, whether Eastern or Western, are much like the "stone angel" that watches over Margaret Laurence's little prairie town. The university is a closed world. It lives by what Michel Foucault calls a "regime of truth" that is sustained by wider cultural prejudices. Hans-Georg Gadamer (1994) teaches that all understanding begins from prejudice. The academic mind, often blind to the world of lived experience, can be surprisingly conventional and xenophobic. Academic truth is often as hard as rock, and as blind as a stone statue. In this academic environment, the language class is a space that opens up between cultures. The language instructor is caught, so to speak, "between a rock and a hard place." Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 75 V. Writ(h)ing under the Rock In the very first it was rock'n roll Set me free in body and soul But this weight is just bringing me down It's never satisfied every time I go to town You know I'm talking about this weight. Van Morrison. "This Weight." (1997) Milan Kundera (1986), in The Art of the Novel, describes a protagonist called Shatov in a work by Dostoyevsky. The first time Shatov appears in the work, he is "characterized quite cruelly": He was one of those Russian idealists who, suddenly struck by some immense idea, are left dazzled by it, often forever. They never manage to take control of the idea, they believe with a passion, and their whole existence from then on is nothing but an agony writhing under the rock that has nearly crushed them, (p. 79) Heavy rocks, really nothing more than metaphors, oppress and torment him. Among our most monolithic ideas are those that have to do with race, nation and culture. One does not have to be a Russian idealist to writhe under their weight. Once pinned to earth, it is a hard struggle to get free. Take, for example, those people caught under a stereotype of Japanese identity. Particularly, those whose vision of Japan's "internationalization," kokusaika, rests on the belief that Japan is a victim in the international sphere. They, too, find metaphors in rocks. Takeo Suzuki (1973), in his popular book Kotoba to Bunka [Language and Culture], explores the idiom "A rolling stone gathers no moss," and finds that the English and the Americans have contradictory interpretations. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 76 For the English, it means that constant movement prevents accumulation of moss (i.e. wealth); while for the Americans, it means that movement keeps us shiny and new. The interpretation of the same words is quite contrary, revealing fissures in an apparently monolithic English-speaking world. But then the rock falls. Suzuki digresses to explain a trait of American character: Many Americans have no liking for the time worn or antique looking. . . . Just after the war, when many Japanese homes were forcibly requisitioned by the American army, one often heard stories of their completely painting over the darkened (unvarnished) pillars. For me, who knew of examples of their scrubbing down moss covered stone lanterns with a wire brush until they were pure white, it is clear that for Americans moss was something dirty and disgusting, like rust on metal, and that their sense of values was different than that of people of the Old World. (p. 24. My translation) Suzuki, as we will see later, is haunted by his childhood experience of war and defeat. He is writhing under the weight of perceived injustices, perpetrated by Americans against Japanese. Because of his pain, even as he seeks to expand our knowledge of cultures, he precipitates a closure of understanding. Insisting upon the essentially negative quality in American culture, he reduces both Americans and Japanese to stereotypes. All Japanese are endowed with Old World sensibility (including, I suppose, even those who have cemented over Japan's rivers and coastline, or built the new Kyoto Station). All Americans are boorish and insensitive. Americans who champion Japanese culture, like Earnest Fenollosa (1936) and Edwin O. Reischaurer (1988), are ignored. All middle ground is lost. Shifting differences within cultures are denied. Only essential differences between cultures survive to harden into self-perpetuating stereotypes. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 77 VI. A Questioning Meditation The pathway to salvation is lined with slogans and stones. Joy Kogawa. Itsuka. (1992, p. 50) All this talk of race, nation, culture-it should frighten us. How can we talk glibly of things that have been the excuse for suffering and slaughter? There is something shocking in the audacity of intellectuals who presume to guide the understanding of others along such dangerous pathways, already soaked in blood. Certainly, Foucault is right to warn that "everything is dangerous." Danger is especially near where people are being molded to fit grand national dreams. Samuel P. Huntington (1996) says, "For peoples seeking identity and reinventing ethnicity, enemies are essential, and the potentially most dangerous enmities occur across the fault lines between the world's major civilizations" (p. 20). Looking out over the placid university campus, I sense, just below the surface, intellectual land mines ready to explode and ruin lives. Like the young Sikh bomb expert, Kip, in Michael Ondaatje's (1992) The English Patient, cultural hermeneutics sets out to uncover and diffuse these mines one by one. But we may not be so expert as he, and in our tampering we may cause a blast that cripples. The world is only now beginning to weigh the profit and loss of land mines. Metaphorical land mines, hard and dangerous concepts of identity, will be with us longer yet. At universities, civilizations meet and identities are formed. We are not even safe in the language classroom, for language is at the core of identity. In the contemporary world, "Language is realigned and reconstructed to accord with the identities and contours of civilizations" (Huntington 1996, p. 64). In Walter Benjamin's (1968) image of the angel of history, "his face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 78 sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet" (p. 257). The good intentions of teachers are no guarantee that our words will not add to this nightmare. Always I remind myself to be careful, to question, to doubt, even to doubt my own words, and then to try to move forward carefully in my understanding of Japanese culture. Reading Joy Kogawa's (1992) Itsuka, I am reminded of the fragility of tolerance and how suddenly the structures supporting social harmony can collapse. Individuals are crushed under the shifting continental plates of race, nation, culture and civilization. But the push and pull of people struggling against the weight of these totalitarian ideologies opens fractures for freedom. Through these crevices, individuals find room to sprout up, surface, and break free like dandelions: "those powerful plants with their green dragon wings leafing themselves wherever they can, in hostile lawns or through cracks in the sidewalks" (p. 98). Like dandelions, individuals find room to thrive even in the narrowest spaces. This "crevicing" process confirms Julia Kristeva's confidence in "the individual as the site of subversion and ethical possibility" (cited in Clark 1990, p. 154). It also reflects the pragmatic confidence of John Dewey that education matters, and that democratic education is a lever that can shift the weight of megalithic "totalities." Even in the language classroom we can make room for multiplicities. Ted Aoki (1988) questions rationalist methodologies of language teaching; he says that they are being severely criticized for their overly instrumental orientation, ignoring, as some are arguing, the meaning of second languages at the root level. Even the popular immersion program is being questioned for its monolinguistic/monocultural orientation. Some are advancing bilingual second language programs that are oriented toward a dialectic between the mother tongue and the second language. I foresee a paradigm shift of some consequence. (1988, p. 414) Ironically, just as some Canadian educators are rejecting these rationalistic methodologies, M i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g J a p a n : L a n g u a g e , E d u c a t i o n , a n d C u l t u r a l I d e n t i t y . 79 some Japanese universities are "reforming" their language programmes by adopting the same questionable North American pedagogies and their "instrumental orientation." VII. Victims of Culture . . .Sulla knew this man belonged to Marius. So he tried to secure Cinna's loyalty to the new constitution by making him swear a sacred oath to uphold it-an oath Cinna nullified as he swore it by holding a stone in his hand. Colleen McCullough. Fortune's Favorite. (1994, p. 23) We find our own identities in response to the identities projected by others. This may or may not be an antagonistic relationship. Essentialist identities need essential enemies. Homi Bhabha (1994) urges us to focus our attention away from the essentialist idea of culture: "Terms of cultural engagement, whether antagonistic or affiliative , are produced performatively. The representation of difference must not be hastily read as the reflection of pre-given ethnic or cultural traits set in the fixed tablet of tradition" (p. 2). Cultural identity is not "written in stone." Any cultural identity is a translation of the experiences that arise in conversation with other cultural identities. These conversations frequently take the form of literary discourse, including not only poetry and novels, but also the fictions of the newspaper and the evening news. Through an act of the imagination, we "translate" ourselves into the situations of others. Gadamer (1994) cautions that we can never stand in the place of others, but we may, by imagination, stand by them and look out upon their horizon. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 80 Cultural identity is a product of the imagination. We evolve within the context of a constant negotiation of cultural identity. This negotiation is largely out of our individual control, and proceeds despite our personal intentions towards others. Our own identities become inextricably linked to our understandings of other identities. New feelings and meanings constantly arise from our interpretations of the cultures of others. This hermeneutics informs new "hybrid" identities that we must then situate and justify within a tradition. We move across and through our communications with others into ever-new understandings of ourselves. An impasse is met when any two cultures lay exclusive claim to the same virtue, as when two cultures in conflict both see themselves as "victim." All movement towards mutual understanding becomes blocked because sustaining faith in the pre-given trait (victim) requires the denial of the claim of the other to that same trait. Bhabha (1994) talks of the incommensurable articulations when different cultural identities meet: This must not be confused with some form of autonomous individualistic pluralism (and the corresponding notion of cultural diversity); what is at issue is a historical moment in which these multiple identities do actually articulate in challenging ways, either positively or negatively, either in progressive or regressive ways, often conflictually, sometimes even incommensurably--r\ol some flowering of individual talents and capacities, (p. 208) Oda Makoto (1985) attempts to break the impasse of this incommensurability by making the imaginary leap into that shared space on the borders of cultures where he can stand as an individual and look back upon his own culture as both victim and victimizer. Julia Kristeva (1993) distinguishes between the individual as a self-centred ego (which both Bhabha and Oda reject), and the individual as one of a multiplicity of identities in solidarity with others (which is what Rorty advocates). In the process of ever-widening the borders of this solidarity, openings occur for peace. This widening circle is not an exercise in Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 81 cultural assimilation, or of the power to define others. Bhabha (1990) says, "It is only by losing sovereignty of the self that you can gain the freedom of a politics that is open to the non-assimilationist claims of cultural difference" (p. 213). The translation of the self is not within the control of the self; the self does not form itself, but offers itself up to be transformed. VIII. A Cautionary Tale Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking. Walt Whitman. "Leaves of Grass." (1967) When I walk into my classroom, I find that I have little to add to my students' ideas of cultural identity. Paul Reps (no date) begins his collection of Zen tales with this tale: Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!" Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?" (p. 20) Similarly, one of my tasks as a teacher is to empty my students' cups. They are full of opinion and speculation about what it means to be Japanese, American or whatever. They have randomly culled a mass of images, stereotypes and impressions from the host of sources that make up their actual education: TV, comics, movies, magazines, books, travel posters, propaganda, conversation, radio, rock music, the world of fashion and so on. The problem for cultural hermeneutics is not that people do not know enough about Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 82 culture, but rather that they "know" too much. Their cups are already over-full. We who teach culture in the language classroom are caught on the rocks of methodology. Our efforts begin from prejudice. Taught to be objective and scientific, we find that in the realm of culture, objectivity and rationalism are often mere facades for rationalizations. Coming to drink of another culture, we find that our cup is already full. We had not even noticed who filled it. Cultural hermeneutics need not fall silent before the necessity of prejudice. Gadamer (1994) notes: Thus there is undoubtedly no understanding that is free of all prejudices, however much the will or our knowledge must be directed towards escaping their thrall. . . . [T]he certainty achieved by using scientific methods does not suffice to guarantee truth. This especially applies to the human sciences, but it does not mean that they are less scientific; on the contrary, it justifies the claim to special humane significance that they have always made. The fact that in such knowledge the knowers own being comes into play certainly shows the limits of method, but not of science. Rather, what the tool of method does not achieve must--and really can-be achieved by a discipline of questioning and inquiring, a discipline that guarantees truth, (pp. 490-491) Opinions and speculations about the nature of Japanese culture are plentiful. A whole tradition, nihonjinron, is dedicated to this purpose (see Morris-Suzuki 1995; Yoshino 1992; Mouer & Sugimoto 1990; Edwards 1989; Miller 1982). Why should I involve myself in it? Why should I engage students in a cultural hermeneutics? My only justification is that mine is a questioning approach to the idea of culture based upon experience-defined by Hegel as "scepticism in action" (cited in Gadamer 1994, p. 353). I would empty tepid cups before adding a fresh brew. Were I to leave them empty, what service have I done? Always there will be someone ready to pour out opinions and speculations. Perhaps the tea they offer is less carefully steeped than mine. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. IX. The Not-Supposed-to-Be 83 "Stones are foundations. Breathe into them and they will roll way, reveal to you secrets hitherto unknown." Sally Ito. "Frogs in the Rain Barrel." (1995, p.59) We have at our house in Canada a rock from Japan that sits by the bathtub. When my children were young, they played with it in the bath, delighted by the fact that it floats. A rock as big as a fist that floats is easily explained with an understanding of air and lava. Still, every time I see it, I pause to remember my own wonder that first time I visited a beach in Kagoshima where I saw the shore assaulted by a flotilla of bobbing rocks. The sight was such as to make me think, to paraphrase a line from a song by Joni Mitchell, that perhaps "I really don't know rocks at all." So much of the rock-solidness of rocks rests in their weight and "unfloatability." For adults, a floating rock may be an oxymoron, or at least a useful metaphor. For children, it is just a wonderful "not-supposed-to-be." There is in our knowledge of rocks a closure that is shattered, if only temporarily, by the not-supposed-to-be of floating rocks. Spaces are opened up in our knowledge of rocks. For a moment, in wonder, we, too, float. Some people think of cultural essences as hard atoms-solid to the core. Some think of essences as foundational, like the essential l-ness of Descartes. Perhaps we can learn to think of essences in another way. We can choose other kinds of metaphors that value growth, fluidity, and empty spaces. We can learn to value the exceptional and the unpredictable. The evolving essence of a culture may not lie in the ninety-nine of a Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 84 hundred in a culture that sink, but in the one that floats. Our hermeneutics of culture must understand such contrariness as also essential to culture. Let us make for cultural hermeneutics a parable of floating rocks: the fool clings even to the not-supposed-to-be of a floating rock, and lives, but the wise man, knowing that the rock will not save him, refuses to reach out to it, and so he drowns. X. And Then to Doubt Doubt In the last stages he simply lost all power of identity. A mild-natured, obliging man, he slipped towards death with a stony, empty expression on his face, speechless and unhearing, not recognizing his own wife or his own daughter and having no idea, so far as you could tell, who he was himself. Graham Swift. Ever After. (1996, p. 113) Another Zen tale takes us to the opposite extreme from the certainty of the Nan-in. In this second tale, Dokuon teaches us to doubt skepticism. Let me paraphrase the tale: A young monk, desiring to show his attainment, told his master, "the monk, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomenon is emptiness." His master, Dokuon, puffed on his bamboo pipe for a while and then suddenly whacked the lad with it. The boy's face flushed with anger. "If nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did this anger come from." (Reps, no date, p. 69-70) Anderson (1991), Hobsbawm (1992), Tanaka (1993) and others have shown us that nations are imaginary, and yet wars between nations persist. Barzun (1964) and others have argued that race is little more than a superstition, and yet the world is swept by the agony of racial and ethnic persecution, segregation, "cleansing," and genocide. Regardless of our rationalistic skill in arguing that nations or races are imaginary, Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 85 Benjamin's angel of history continues to gaze upon atrocities piling up in the wake of the coming and going of phantasmal communities. An infatuation with the nothingness of such communities carries its own risks. Even a rock would be preferable to a cultural hermeneutics that threatens to evaporate all we believe in, and to disperse us into oblivion. My students are generally comfortable in their received identities, but still eager to talk about what they are and what I am. Hopefully, we all leave the classroom less comfortable and less certain about what our cultures are, but not in despair of culture. Cultures may be imaginary, but they serve our needs. Cultural hermeneutics should aim not to destroy, but to open cultures up, and to give them room to grow. One huge boulder weighing on the Japanese stereotype is "groupishness." Many people believe this trait distinguishes Japanese from people in the "individualistic" West. How did this trait come to dominate the Japanese identity? Cultural hermeneutics demands that we return to the "things themselves" and look at them from different angles. We can critique this trait from two different angles. First, we can see the newness of the trait. Secondly, we can see the otherness, the American-ness, of the trait's origin. Japanese groupishness is a relatively new idea. It was not an idea common in the Meiji era. Nitobe Inazo (1981) wanted to show Americans that Japanese were spirited individualists exhibiting great "originality of character" (p. 21). Early European visitors to Japan agreed. One visitor described the Japanese as a people with "original thinking minds; with a dash of Asiatic fierceness, they are generous joyous and sympathetic" (cited in Yokoyama 1987, p. 1). The stereotype of the groupish Japanese came later. During the Second Word War, Western propaganda dehumanized the Japanese. Ruth Benedict (1946) maintained that Japanese had no individual conscience, no "guilt," but rather functioned on group conscience, or "shame." But why would Benedict want to emphasise this distinction between guilt and shame? Perhaps she was disturbed by a Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 86 shift away from guilt to shame in her own society. In his discussion of the relationship between modernity and self-identity, Anthony Giddens (1991) points to "the increasing prominence of shame in relation to self-identity, as compared to guilt" (p. 153). Sensing the waning of guilt as a force in American society, scholars like Benedict may be especially sensitive to the dangers of "shame culture" that they see epitomized in Japanese groupishness. American academics, from Reischauer (1988) to Fukuyama (1992), have perpetuated this stereotype of Japanese groupishness. The Canadian diplomat and scholar Herbert E. Norman did not share the American view of Japanese (Bowen 1984). He had been raised among rugged people living in the mountains of Nagano. He knew Japanese to be independent and individualistic. In the Cold War era, Norman was driven to suicide by McCarthyite zealots, and his view of Japan was discredited (Ferns 1968). Since the end of the Second World War, it has by and large been American scholars who have told the story of Japan. This story is also much about America. The American myth is of a land of rugged individualists. Within this regime of truth, it is necessary that once-enemies exhibit opposite traits. If Americans are individualistic, Japanese, Germans, and Vietnamese must be groupish. This is what is looked for, and this is what is found. Believing is seeing. Since Americans tell the story, they get to choose the themes. The urgency of America's story of Japan is intensified by an anxiety within contemporary America. Americans look around their society and see groups of religious and political fanatics wreak havoc; they see Madison Avenue manipulate the Silent Majority; they see cities controlled by gangs or corrupt police, they sense the influence of the CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, pressure groups and lobby groups. The American myth of individualism inexorably gives way to machinations of groups: corporatism, conspiracies and conformity wax triumphant. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 87 Conformity reaches even into American universities. Ralston Saul (1995, 1992) complains of the increasingly "corporatist" nature of North American universities. Herrnstein and Murray (1994) argue that Harvard students are becoming socially and intellectually homogeneous. Academic debate is stifled under the weight of political correctness. The innate conventionality of universities is amplified by a new groupism in American society. In such an intellectual environment, we can almost feel the sigh of relief when Americans read about the Japanese, a people even more conformist and groupish than themselves. The Japanese trait of groupishness that surfaces in this story of culture serves to assuage American anxiety. The more they doubt themselves, the more important to them is Japanese groupishness. This is not to say that Japanese are not at all groupish. It is only to say that the story of Japan that we accept today is a story serving American concerns. Some Americans recognize incongruities in their myth. Walter Feinberg (1993) shows Americans realigning educational priorities according to definitions of Japan. Merry White (1993), another expert about Japanese education, suggests that "it may be the Japanese, not the American youth, who is the greater individualist" (pp. 208-209). The stereotypical trait of Japanese groupishness "is not written in stone." It is merely a prejudice. Moreover, it may tell us nothing about Japanese culture. If we are to achieve a more honest understanding of Japanese culture, we must re-examine the "life-world" of Japanese society. Japanese groupishness is open for re-negotiation. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 88 XI. The Safety of Rocks The rain came down, the floods rose, the winds blew and beat upon that house; but it did not fall, because its foundations were on rock. Matthew 7: 25 The eighteenth-century dilettante and biographer, James Boswell (1965), after visiting church with Dr. Johnson, opened a conversation about "Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that everything in the universe is merely ideal": I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I shall never forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with a mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, 'I refute it thus.' (p. 128) Dr. Johnson, a man of vast knowledge, balanced practical skepticism with desperate faith. He was a pragmatist before Rorty or Dewey. Standing on the cusp of the nothingness of being, he kicked a rock. The pragmatist philosopher, William James is prepared to accept intellectual constructs because without them all would be " a boomin' buzzin' confusion" (cited in Huntington 1996, p. 29 ). But methodologies are interim constructs on the way to a broader understanding. Until we can swim in the swirling confusion that is life, we hang on to a rock. Dewey (1944) clings to the rock of democratic values in education. Rorty's (1989) rock is his commitment to reducing the amount of cruelty in the world. In the chaos of existence, rocks protrude as foci of contingent truth. The only justification of such rocks is that they are "chosen." This is the realm of faith rising to the surface of doubt, the realm Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 89 of the floating rock. My chosen rock is the cultural hermeneutics of an idea called Japan, a thing I am barely convinced exists. What has all this "non-sense" about metaphor, hybridity and floating rocks to do with teaching language and culture? Perhaps even less than we might find in a haiku, like this one by Issa: "A wayside sermon / All nonsense to me, but see / How serene he is!" (cited in Buchanan 1973). Cultural hermeneutics offers a little brightness and life into the so often stodgy, stony world of the university language classroom. If nothing else, it locates the teacher struggling among the rocks of methodology. The university language teacher is caught between a job and ideals, between constructing and deconstructing concepts, between service to society and to the intellectual appetites of individual students, between building glass houses and throwing stones. For those of us teaching languages at Japanese universities who feel caught between a rock and a hard place, there can be comfort in the knowledge of floating rocks. Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 90 Chapter Four Where East is West: Situating the Writer in the Research "You never spoke. You never smiled. You were so 'majime.' What a serious baby-fed on milk and Momotaro." "Milk and Momotaro?" I asked. "Culture clash?" "Not at all," she said. "Momotaro is a Canadian story. We're Canadian, aren't we? Everything a Canadian does is Canadian." Joy Kogawa, Obasan. (1981, p. 68) The role of narratives, biographies and autobiographies in human science research remains controversial (Hansen and Liu 1997; Smith 1994b; Clandinin & Connelly 1994; Manning & Cullum-Swan 1994; Aoki 1992; Rosenau 1992; Pinar 1988b). By choosing to include autobiographical materials in this work, I am inevitably involving myself in what Clandinin & Connelly call "the politics of method" (1994, p. 415). I take this risk not out of any innate perversity, but because I have been convinced on a number of levels of the validity and value of biographical and narrative methods. As I said in Chapter Two, on a philosophical level I agree with Gadamer that all our understanding is really self-understanding. In that chapter, I also noted Madison's (1988) contention that whether the stories we tell about ourselves are true or not, they provide us with our identity (p. 95), and mine is a work about identity. On a more pragmatic level, I believe with Dewey (1944) that experience is so essential to education that we can hardly separate one from the other, and mine is also a work about education. There is also an ethical level. That is to say, I have for over forty years been involved in education in Canada and Japan either as a student or a teacher. I make my living through education. It would be less than honest of me to pretend that I am a disinterested observer. My whole life is entwined with my Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 91 experience of education and all of this is bound up with my writings. I cannot for the sake of methodological orthodoxy assume an objective pose about a field of practise that is so important a part of my identity and my life. Finally, there is the less exalted level of utility. In my own studies of culture and education, for example, I have so often been impressed by the immediacy and clarity of works on curriculum that contain biographical and autobiographical materials, such as Van Manen's (1990) Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy, Madeleine Grumet's (1988) Bitter Milk: Women and Teaching, Ted Aoki's (1983) "Experiencing Ethnicity as a Japanese Canadian Teacher," and Paul Willis' (1977) Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs. Despite all the uncertainties of the truths of narrative and biographical methods (but are not all our "truths" subject to uncertainties?), such works have enlightened my understanding of the educational experiences of others, and in turn they have helped me to perceive my own educational and cultural experiences in new ways. In the English-speaking tradition of works on Japanese culture and education, there is a conspicuous lack of autobiographical candour. I say this because the works of critics like Cutts (1997), Buruma (1996), and Clark (1987) are full of clear and emotionally charged biases and prejudices, but these writers seldom admit details of their personal involvement with the culture or the education they criticize. Both Benjamin (1997a) and the Conduits (1996) have written refreshing autobiographical ethnographies relating to Japanese elementary schools, and Alex Kerr (1996) has written a wonderfully personal critique of social and ecological conditions in contemporary Japan, but for the most part the literature avoids grappling with the issues of authorial identity, and this may be one of the reasons the literature so often fails to reveal an appreciation of the abundance and variety of Japanese "personalities." Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 92 In this work, I will commit "myself" to the effort to understand Japanese culture and education by embracing "personalities," those of various Japanese, and of some foreign critics, and of myself. Autobiography will not be the main body of this work, but it will be a large portion. Against this autobiographical portion, the reader may test some of the evidence or the hypotheses in the rest of the work. This double perspective may provide the reader clues to my reliability. On the other hand, the reader may find these chapters narcissistic and boring. In this case, he or she is invited to leave them unread. In the final analysis, the deciding reason for my inclusion of these autobiographical chapters is that I want to talk about my experience of Japan. I know I am not alone in this. Like the international scholar I introduced in Chapter One, many people who experience Japanese culture want to talk about that experience. Talking about it is one way of bringing it to understanding. I suspect that a large number of scholarly or journalistic books on Japan are little more than disguised autobiographies, and that their occasional diatribes are directly motivated by personal experiences in Japan (particularly Seward 1981 and Suzuki 1973). One of the benefits of the post-modern movement has been to validate personal experience. Louis Smith (1994b) affirms the relationship between individual personalities and the study of national cultures: The sequence of events as an individual passes through a culture during the course of a life is one view of that culture. And the resulting kind of person and his or her outlook on life are related additional ways of viewing a culture. These views play off against ecological, social structural, and historical perspectives. Culture can be written through lives. ( p. 296) In this chapter, and in the other short chapters called "autobiographical interludes" interspersed throughout this text, I attempt to describe my passage through Japanese culture, especially events in my experience of education. This will provide the reader with a secondary view point of Japanese education and culture, the view point of a Canadian teacher experiencing twenty years in various Japanese educational environments. This Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 93 secondary view point can be "played off" against the "primary" chapters in the text that attempt to present certain issues in Japanese education and identity. The primary chapters are more conventional, but, as we have seen, such conventionality is, at least to some critics, autobiography disguised. If Smith (1994b) is right, my view of Japanese culture is written in the events of my life. When I reflect upon those events and their relationship with my own developing identity, I discover that the reverse is also true, and that my life is constantly being re-written through my experience of Japan. In contrast to people in my own country, Canada, people in Japan seem confident about who they are. If I ask my Japanese students about Japanese culture, they promptly respond by explaining about kimono, ikebana, tea ceremony or Buddhism. If we Canadians are asked about our culture, a long pause often follows. Most of us lack ready replies. For us, cultural identity is paradoxical-it is insubstantial but powerful, and always changing. Metaphors to express this sense of our identity might differ according to region--perhaps wind on the prairie (Mitchell 1947), or snow in Quebec ("Mon pay c'est la neige'). On the West Coast, we could borrow the metaphor of a mist; "The mist is, is not, is a mist--a smoky curtain continuously rising" (Kogawa 1981, p. 34). Whatever metaphor we use, it will likely be something that transforms itself constantly. This mutable image of identity makes us distrust questions about culture that demand simple replies. Doubts about the solidity of cultural identity colour not only our view of our own culture, but also of other cultures. In contrast to American scholars, from Edwin O. Reischauer (1988) to Francis Fukuyama (1992), who tend to see Japanese as homogeneous and groupish (perhaps reflecting their own strong American identity), some notable Canadians look at Japanese from a more vulnerable standpoint. Reischauer's contemporary, the Canadian diplomat, E. Herbert Norman (1975; also see Bowen 1984; Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 94 Fern 1968), seeks out examples of Japanese individualism and independence. Likewise, the Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki (Suzuki & Oiwa 1996) sees Japanese as a complex mosaic of individuals and cultures that includes Koreans, Ainu, Uilta, and Okinawans. I find myself instinctively agreeing with Norman and Suzuki in refusing to objectify Japanese culture as "monolithic, homogeneous and conformist," and I think this refusal has to do with something in the development of our Canadian identities. Canadians, or at least we three, tend to see cultural identity not as facts written in stone, but as shifting, growing things that are as alive and diverse as plants in a garden. Plants have roots, and Americans and Japanese, too, talk about their cultural roots, but roots are of different kinds. For some, their roots are long and thick, and planted deep in the soil of history. Canadian roots are more like the roots of grass, a multitude of shallow filaments, all tangled up together. Perhaps, in Canada's harsh environment, this shallower net of roots helps us to quickly establish ourselves as we are transplanted throughout the country. Ted Aoki (1988), a Canadian pioneer of a new attitude in educational scholarship growing out of hermeneutic phenomenology, encourages the use of autobiography in the human sciences. The philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer (1994) teaches that although we can never stand in other people's shoes, we can stand beside them, and look out on their horizons. Following such precepts, I will, in this chapter, describe some events in the evolution of my sense of cultural identity. Even if we could identify such a creature as a typical Canadian, I could not present myself as one. I'm not. If I were typical, I probably wouldn't be living in Japan. Here in Japan, people find it easy to accept that I am Canadian because I am Caucasian and English-speaking. This stereotype is, of course, misleading, and stands in the face of Canadian efforts to create a multicultural society. For many Canadians, identity begins with differences. Identity is more likely to lay in the Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 95 spaces that open among our visible differences. Where I am Canadian, it is not in my race or language, but in the evolving nature of my cultural identity. Certainly some Canadians-such as United Empire Loyalists in Ontario, or pure laine Quebecois-may avow a more solid sense of national identity, but I believe most Canadians experience national identity not as something fixed and given, but rather as something constantly coming into being. We Canadians are a hyphenated people. This may especially be true for those of us in the younger West, a region that stretches from Manitoba to Vancouver Island. Canada is such a vast country that even our hyphenated identities are fractured by location: Eastern- and Western-, French- and English-, Maritime- and Arctic-Canadian, and so on. Like David Suzuki, other Western-Canadian writers, such as Wayson Choy (1985), Sky Lee (1994), and Sally Ito (1995), derive inspiration from this multiplicity of hyphenated identity. The parents of the narrator in Choy's "The Jade Peony" (1985) resent being "hyphenated" Canadians. For them the hyphen indicates an incomplete assimilation, and leaves them feeling like second-class citizens. But for the younger generation, hyphens can act as bridges among cultures. Identities fracture and multiply, and at the same time recombine in hyphenated form. These movements among cultures are accompanied by much anxiety and soul-searching, and some writers like Neil Bissoondath (1994) warn that if we fail to question cultures and our understandings of them, superficial multiculturalism can perpetuate racial stereotypes. Nevertheless, Canadians continue to move across hyphens to broaden their cultural identities. Some Canadians who lack a visible hyphen, express a need for one. In a short story called "The Leper's Squint" (1980) by the Vancouver Island writer Jack Hodgins, a character visits his ancestral home in Ireland partly out of "jealousy" of hyphenated Canadians. He says, "Everyone else he knew seemed to have inherited an 'old country,' Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 96 an accent, a religion, a set of customs, from his parents. His family fled the potato famine in 1849 and had five generations in which to fade out into Canadians" (p. 384). Perhaps, like that character, I have been one of the "faded-out" Canadians, a little jealous of those around me with more colourful identities. Perhaps, that is one reason I have worked over the years to make myself a kind of hyphenated Canadian by immersing myself in Japanese culture and language. "Who Do You Think You Are?" (1980) is the title of a short story by Alice Munro who lived many years in Victoria in south-western British Columbia. Her intentions in that story are at once more personal and more universal, but in portraying the changes in a small Canadian town over several decades, she invokes the central question of Canadian identity. We are a people constantly upbraiding ourselves, "Who do we think we are?" I was born in south-western British Columbia, and lived my earliest years near the Fraser River. Like the Japanese who had once shared that community, my family and their friends logged, farmed and fished salmon. My grandfather had a strawberry farm. As a child, picking berries on warm summer mornings, I had no inkling that those fields might have been cleared and planted by Japanese immigrants. Or, standing on the slippery deck of an uncle's fish boat amid the muddy waters of the Fraser River, it never occurred to me that Japanese had once fished there, too. In the mid-1950s, the only Japanese I saw were in the war movies on television; they were "the enemy." I remember as a child one day looking through a tin cookie box in which my mother kept her old photographs. I came across a photograph of "an oriental" girl sitting stiffly in a sailor suit, smiling shyly, long black braids snaking down her shoulders. I thought it odd that my mother had a picture of "a foreigner" among her most personal possessions, so I asked her about it. She said the picture was of a friend from her school days. Her friend was Japanese. My mother told me the girl's name, and something about Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 97 the internment, but I soon forgot it all. Her tale lacked the glamour I expected of war stories. But the photograph itself remains imprinted on my mind. That photograph is for me a part of my mother's story left unread, and then lost in time. Were my mother alive today, how I would like to ask her again about her friend. In my childhood, Canadians were part of the British Empire. We didn't have our red maple leaf flag then; that symbol came much later. The flag then was the "Red Ensign," a swath of crimson with a Union Jack in one corner and a simple crest in the middle. In school, we sat in rows of wooden desks, dipping red straight-pens into inkwells, writing and blotting and memorising, and occasionally looking up at the photograph of our young Queen on the wall above the blackboard. The huge map of the world in our classroom revealed to us the pink pattern of an empire upon which the sun never set. We marvelled to think that we were part of all that! We sang "God Save the Queen." Of course, Britain was already less important in a world threatened by another "red" Empire, the Soviet Union. But, we were too young to know such things. My childhood world seemed comfortingly homogeneous: everyone was white, English-speaking, and loyal to the crown. My introduction to the inequalities of race as a child had to do not with Japanese-Canadians, but rather with Native People. My family lived in close proximity with Native People. We shared the same work-fishing and logging. We faced similar threats-unemployment and alcoholism. But somehow we "white people" felt in a position to condescend. This seemed natural. When I was older, I learned to doubt these "facts of life." I remember an incident one day when out with my cousin. In those days, the only places to drink were beer parlours at hotels, like "the Royal" and "the Empress," or at the "Royal Canadian Legion." Even when we drank, we were reminded of our colonial status. That day, as we sat over Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 98 our beer, a fight broke out at the next table. One man threw a punch at another, knocked over the table and all the glasses, and then lay sprawled upon the floor. For a moment, the whole beer parlour went quiet. In that moment, my cousin leaned to me and said, "Look around. Do you know what everyone's thinking? They're thinking, 'drunk Indians!'" I got his point: a white man in a drunken brawl is just a "drunk!" When it is a Native Person, we add, "Indian." This was my earliest lesson about racism: people notice what reinforces their prejudices. When it comes to race, "believing is seeing." As Aunt Emily says of her community in Obasan, "None of us . . . escaped the naming. We were defined by the way we were seen" (p. 139). This holds true for Native People in Canada, and in different ways for me here in Japan. Race is a superficial label, but one, I learned, that clings tenaciously. In Canada, some people label me an Anglo-Canadian. The term means little to me. At the simplest level of national roots, I am not English. Only my father's father was English. He used to tell me stories of his childhood in Manchester. What a dark and foreign world that was to me! His stories were the closest link I had to England. But he also described the shock of immigrating to Canada after the first war. He had built a house out of blocks of sod cut from the raw prairie. He told me how the horse died in the barn one winter and froze solid. I can still picture him chipping away at it with an axe, little slivers of frozen "horse-cicle" flying into his face. On the prairie, my grandfather's working-class Englishness offered few of the privileges we might assume were enjoyed by the English in Canada. Many Albertans still see themselves as the "Texans of the North," and in that Americanised prairie, my grandfather was a "bloody limey," and unwelcome. Until his dying day, he was labelled "a Brit," not a Canadian. Yet, he had left England behind him. After living in England's Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 99 slums, and fighting in England's wars, he had no wish for his children and grandchildren to be "little Englishmen." Both of my parents had been born in Canada, but through my grandparents and great-grandparents my roots split off into American, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Norwegian rootlets. There are so many hyphens in my background that they lose their meaning. Mine seems a pretty "WASP-ish" pedigree, but that is largely a modern impression. In Canadian novels like Susanna Moodie's (1852) Roughing it the Bush or Margaret Atwood's (1996) Alias Grace, for example, we can read of early Irish immigrants, who included some of my ancestors, and of the contempt and prejudice they suffered from Canadians. It is a North American pattern: one generation immigrates from a certain part of the world, and endures hardship and prejudice; eventually their descendants become established, and in turn look down on more recent groups of immigrants. As the Irish became accepted in Canada, contempt transferred to immigrants with even less connection to British civilisation. In Margaret Laurence's (1966) A Jest of God, for example, a young woman is attracted to a man whose Ukrainian roots make him a hopelessly unsuitable marriage prospect for a good Presbyterian girl. After reading this novel, I wondered how my mother's Scottish-Canadian father dared to marry a Norwegian girl. Even in my childhood, Norwegians were the butt of cruel jokes. My family has grown tangled roots, and in their intertwinings I read victories of love over discretion in a world where ethnic contempt was once as bitter as the racial prejudices we confront today. Japanese can often trace their family roots in one town or profession back hundreds of years. Canadian roots generally begin when ancestors arrived in Canada. Margaret Laurence (1987) says, "My long-ago families came from Scotland and Ireland, but in a sense that no longer mattered so much. My true roots were here" (p. 84). It is a Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 100 rare Canadian who can trace roots back more than a few generations, especially in the West. I have a fairly clear picture of where my family comes from back as far as my grandparents. After that, all is lost in the mist. Sometimes, I feel guilty about that loss, and would like to retrieve a family history for my children. Morag, in The Diviners (1974), remembers her parents only as faded images in a few sepia photographs, and yet her mind is pulled back to them. She says, "Perhaps I only want their forgiveness for having forgotten them" (p. 19). Many Canadians, I think, share a similar sense of guilt towards their ancestors. We were too busy surviving to concern ourselves with the past. But once we establish a place, we put the icy wilderness behind us, and look back to where our parents or our grandparents came from, and wonder why we are not still there, and how we came to be in this place called Canada that others sacrificed so much to get us to. As I grew older, the British influence in Canadian life was weakening, leaving a vacuum that was largely filled by the United States. At the border with the United States, just south of Vancouver, is an international park and a large white monument called the Peace Arch. On the arch is engraved the phrase: "Children of a Common Mother." The common mother is Britain, and the children are Canada and the United States. If one doesn't think about it too deeply, this seems a rather nice sentiment, but it has problems for Canadians. First, the origins of the Canadian social contract intended to unite the children of two different mothers, England and France. Secondly, although Canada and the United States may be siblings, we are not twins. The United States, as a nation, is twice as old, ten times as populous, and staggeringly more powerful economically and militarily than is Canada. Ours is not an equal relationship. Pierre Trudeau once likened that relationship to a mouse sleeping with an elephant: the elephant hardly notices the mouse, but the mouse is sensitive to the elephant's every twitch and sneeze-for the Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 101 mouse this sensitivity is a matter of survival. Without it, he would soon be crushed. Canada's history-the confederation uniting English and French-speaking colonies, our long attachment to Britain, the building of the railway to the Pacific, and the creation of institutions like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-is largely a struggle to distinguish and defend itself from the United States. As I entered my teenage years, most popular culture in Canada-our movies, comics, television shows, and sports-was coming from the United States. All we had that was ours was hockey and Canadian football. Where in the past Canadians suffered from a "colonial mentality" in relation to England, we were now threatened by an inferiority complex in relation to the United States, and we were inclined to define ourselves by that relationship: we were not sure what we were, but we were sure what we were not-we were "not Americans." As a result, every chance to thumb our noses at that big bully made us feel significant. When the Americans put a trade embargo on Cuba, Canada continued on good relations with that communist country. When the United States went to war in Vietnam, Canada welcomed American draft dodgers. When America overthrew the Allende regime in Chile, Canada took in the left-wing refugees. I do not want to over simplify the complex political and cultural reasons that led the Canadian government to take a stance against the United States in these events. Nevertheless, I do not think it too much to claim that many ordinary Canadians took satisfaction from the belief that Canada was acting in the interest of a "justice" that rose above real politics, and, moreover, that we found pleasure in spiting our big brother to the south. Like the character in Atwood's (1972) Surfacing who casually condemns all Americans as "Bloody fascist pig Yanks" (p. 9), many Canadians develop a kind of "knee-jerk" anti-Americanism. Though nothing to be proud of, this anti-Americanism remains an active part of Canadian identity still (see "Where Anti-Americanism Comes From," 1999, p. D7), and it is, at least in part, the Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 102 product of a deep fear of being obliterated by the American elephant. When I was about thirteen, my family moved to a small town called Yarrow, a Mennonite community in the Fraser Valley. Yarrow was a German town, and there I had my first experience of being in a minority: I and my family were more or less outsiders in a German Mennonite world. My first impression of these mostly blonde, German-speaking people was that they were homogeneous. Living among them for years, however, I came to understand that the community was fractured: it mattered which Mennonite church in town one attended, or whether one spoke High or Low German. I found, too, that many of these "German" families had not come to Canada from Germany, but from places as widespread as Russia and Peru. Living in Yarrow among the German Mennonites, I first learned to distrust the idea of cultural homogeneity. When I moved to Yarrow, I had yet to meet "an Oriental." Only one Oriental lived in Yarrow then. We just called him "the Chinaman." He could be seen walking along the railway tracks with a gunnysack on his shoulder and a hoe in his hand. Occasionally, we came across his little crops of cabbages or peas, cultivated in clearings by the river or beside the tracks. Some boys assumed that finding these gardens gave them the right to tear them up, as if it were some cruel game of "search and destroy." I don't know anyone who, ever talked to "the Chinaman" or even if he spoke English. He was incredibly poor, and lived in a little hut not much bigger than an outhouse at the back of a Mennonite farm. Whether he had suffered some personal tragedy or was a cast off remnant of some national dream, his story was forever lost when he disappeared from among us. In high school, we were all bussed to a larger town near an army base, where I found myself in the majority again. There were not a lot of visible minorities in our school. Unlike today, there were very few Asians in that part of the Fraser Valley. The only "Asian" Misunderstanding Japan: Language, Education, and Cultural Identity. 103 in our class was a girl called Cindy McCarthy. Cindy's mother was Japanese, her father, a Canadian soldier. She had never been abroad, couldn't speak Japanese, and acted just like the rest of us, but she remained for us "the Japanese girl." Race clung to her, and wouldn't let go. By that time, the Mennonite community of Yarrow was declining. The younger generations were assimilating or moving to better jobs. The older folk retired or died, and their raspberry farms were sold. The people who bought the farms were often of a new immigrant group. They came from India and Pakistan. On our streets appeared turbaned men with bushy beards, women wrapped in colourful saris, and young boys with their hair in cloth buns-"like girls." They became the next favourite target for the contempt of those who thought themselves more Canadian. When I visit that part of the Fraser Valley now, two decades after I left, I realize that the cultural tension remains. Though some immigrants assimilate, others maintain distinct cultural communities. The local culture, too, is variously influenced by the "imported cultures." Such "cultural engagement," whether harmonious or not, involves the working out of new hybrid cultural identities (Bhabha 1994, p. 2). Three decades ago, Miriam Waddington (1969) made this observation about Ca