I moderated a panel on democracy and Japan. My panel was Mr. Morimoto, a former Defense official, Mr. Hato, a management consultant and Mr. Takano, an independent journalist. I think it was the consensus of the group that Japan was not a democracy in the typical sense but really much more like a socialist country. Mr. Hato said he was always appalled when people blamed schools, the government and other organs of the state for their problems. Mr. Takano talked about a front page article in the left-wing newspaper of 1000 students marching in Tokyo protesting the fact that they can't get jobs. ;-)
Mr. Morimoto pointed out that the Japanese people were not individuals but identified more with something similar to the proletariat. The Japanese people have never had to fight for their "rights" and the democracy was put in place by the US occupation and they therefore do not really feel like they are active participants in it. In fact, Takano-san pointed out that the pre-war Meiji constitution is a good place to go to understand what the Japanese think about government. That constitution apparently stated that the Emperor would treat cause people to be "free" and treated fairly and that the bureaucracy was empowered by the Emperor to make sure this happened. (I have not read it myself so my paraphrasing may be a bit off...) What happened after the war was that the US occupation kept the bureaucracy, the former right hand of the Emperor, in place because it was so handy in execution. After the Americans left, the bureaucracy has stayed in place, now with power, but no leadership and a faux democracy that sort of dances around it.
The session after mine was a session on the future of Japan moderated by Oki Matsumoto. It was also interested. Ms. Ogasawara, was on the panel, was the heir of a 700 year old school of Japanese formality. This includes proper speech honorifics and other things. It lead me back to some thinking that I had in Kyoto. Much of Japanese culture would not exist if we flattened society and embraced more diversity. (Which I of course am greatly in favor of.) For instance, the whole school that Ms. Ogasawara represents is basically a way to properly express different levels in society. The Geisha in Kyoto and many of the people and things that I love about Japan come from a deep rooted caste system and intolerance to diversity.
I think that there are many things that become important choices for a country. The balances between privacy and security, openness/diversity vs. tradition/culture, short term economic productivity vs. some quality of life issues. These are things that the people should decide and a good democracy is the only for the people of a nation to make an educated choice on these issues.
I left the drinking party right after the Governor at around 2:30 am. Most of the people were still going strong. I wonder how they feel this morning. ;-)