Dogs and Demons

I finished reading Alex Kerr’s Dogs and Demons – the fall of modern Japan. It is an interesting book for people interested in the other, darker side of Japan.

Once I settled a little bit in Japan, I started noticing some strange things. There are many things that can be explained by cultural differences, but others cannot. For instance why is there a monoculture of trees in the moutains but nearly no wood industry? Why are all the electrical lines visible? Why are the air-conditionning systems not built-in within the walls of buildings? Why in such a rich country are the houses so baddly built?

This book answers those questions and explains many things that are wrong with Japanese society. The rought summary is that the Japanese state is struck in 60’s mode. The book paints an administration in auto-pilot, blindly applying policies and directives from forty years ago, with quite destructive effects.

Dogs and Demons is far from perfect. One problem is that the author is not japanese. In some sense this is not very surprising – I don’t see a japanese write such a book. Maybe because of this, the author uses a style I found heavy, with a lot of cultural references. Yes, Japan has a culture of trade and innovation, but I don’t feel this is really relevant to the current situation – the author seems to long to a Japan that was long lost, if it ever existed – while there is no doubt the author is emotionally attached to the country, this dulls the overall argument. All in all I felt the book was long, some facts are repeated mutliple times, which I find really tiring. I can’t help but think the book could be half as long with as much content.

Dispite this, I found this book very interesting, without being a eye-opener for me, or even the perfectly balanced book, it sheds some light on how the country works, and some aspects which are different from the usual touristic pamphlets, so it is well worth a read.

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