Communist…Japan?; or, The Country with the Red Dot is the Reddest of them All

"We don't want our soldiers killing anyone," write the communist bastards.

“We won’t let our country fight overseas,” write the communist bastards.

共産主義の・・・日本?

Three years ago I experienced fake Communism in China. Today I experience real Communism in Japan. I’m not quite sure when I first heard the phrase “Communist China”, but I’m pretty sure it was after the fall of Russian Communism. Perhaps a friend or a teacher had uttered the phrase. Television could have well been the culprit. I’m sure there was a lot of telepathic communication between all of them though—Americans associate Communism today more with China (or Cuba) than Russia or any of the former Soviet Blocs. On the one hand, that’s fair. Russia is technically no longer Communist while China still maintains that mantle. “You gotta keep up with the times, bro! Stop living in the past!” and all that jazz. Kids today are born into a world without Communist Russia, and the Cold War is primarily a thing of the past, depending on your thoughts about Iran and North Korea. But the actual ideology of Communism was thought to have truly died out long ago. Real, true, Marxist communism, in which everyone works together, and nobody is better or worse than anyone else. Where the government is equal to the people, because it is made up of a proletariat working class that understood what it was like to be at the bottom. It is primarily because of that need for uprising that Communism would never be the stable end to government. Communism incorrectly assumes that once a country has had a proletariat revolution, it would forever remain a place of equality. But every generation tends to forget its past, no matter how much schooling it receives. Communism needs to be built on the back of a long-standing tradition of it, and it needs to be worldwide to work entirely. China’s Communism is a name. The party is still the Communist party because it has power. Its politics, on the other hand, are anything but Communist. It’s similar to the LDP in Japan. It would be ridiculous to call the Liberal Democratic Party liberal. But they’re in power, and the name holds great value. It is much easier to sell a product with a recognized brand name than a new IP. That’s all it comes down to. Russia stopped their Communism for a slew of reasons, but it had died, in the words of Elton John, “long before the legend ever did”. I don’t think Communism died in Russia because doctors and farmers would walk away with the same salary, although government telling individuals what to do for work would lead to poor work quality. Studies show that as long as people have enough money to live comfortably, money ceases to be a reason to work. Instead, the conflict came down to: How can we prove that Communism is the better choice and still maintain the values of it? To show off would require taking vast sums away from the people for essentially frivolous goals. To not flaunt Communism would be to risk it never taking off in other places. Indeed, Communism probably came about too early. Communism needed the world to agree on it at the same time. If not the whole world, than at least a self-contained world. “Stop Rising Taxes! – Japanese Communist Party”. And then another one: “Rid the world of Nuclear Weapons – Japanese Communist Party”. Posters plastered on houses. They’re all over my small town. The Communist party has had marginal power in Japan for a long time now. Seeing their influence was not too surprising. In fact, when it comes down to it, many aspects of Japanese society already support a Communist system. For one, Japan is not religious. A small point, but for the sake of argument, Communism is against religion and religious activity. Though Japanese people often partake in religious ceremonies such as Shinto festivals and meditation that could fall under the bounds the Buddhism, most Japanese correctly say they are not religious. Japanese Buddhism and Shintoism are not the kinds of organizations that inspire people to take part in organized action. Beyond, y’know, festivals and whatnot. In addition, Japan is without much space. Consumerism is definitely a part of Japanese life, but it only comes to a certain point. Few people live in amazing luxury, and most people live in very similar housing complexes. With a general lack of space, and earthquakes destroying the non-essentials, people don’t tend to keep too many things. There’s just not much space. Unless you live in Hokkaido. But even then, the mentality is similar. Capitalism and the need to purchase more things ends when there is no space for those things. Although it makes me wonder how many Japanese people are hoarders. Okay, so my main point is that Japanese people are actually very Communist in their daily lives, especially in their work lives. People often describe the Japanese as hard workers, but there is another side to the story. Yes, the Japanese work hard. But they don’t work efficiently. And when they’re done, they just keep working, even if it’s not contributing anything. To an American, who after one or two hours of overtime might exclaim, “Okay, I’ve reached my limit. I’m going home,” staying later is terribly inefficient and probably a drain on their own mental stability. But I’ve heard it. “Okay, I’ve reached my limit. Let’s keep working!” It’s pointless. But in some ways, it’s also very Communist. We’re all making very similar amounts of money. We’ve all got families back at home. But we stay late because everyone works at a different pace. If Ken is done at 3, he stays until 8, because that’s what everyone else is doing. Because maybe Masurao needs that extra 5 hours to finish his work. Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t advocate it. As an American who values efficiency, I think the Japanese way of doing things is asinine. But I respect it too, as crazy as that sounds. I just don’t want it to be my life. And I think if many Japanese people had the option, they’d take the American way out too. But that might be my culture speaking. The other part that strikes me as very Communist, aside from the overtime work, is the way that everyone participates in everyone else’s activities. Things are often done together. There are no school janitors for the elementary schools; the students clean everything themselves. Teachers collaborate and make sure everyone is on the same page. Companies like Toyota train everyone in all jobs, from assembly-line worker to advertiser. Most shows on TV are essentially discussions where everyone talks about a single thing. Communism is about the group. Japan is about the group. And no matter how hard you work, it doesn’t matter. You start at the bottom and only move higher up as you get older. It doesn’t matter if you’re skilled or lazy, to a certain point. Yoshida is old; he can leave early. You’re young; you stay until 10:30. That’s all there is to it. From Communism’s perspective, this is perfect. Nobody is born into a place higher than anyone else. You’re born into youth, and that’s bad. You live and you get old, that’s good. In a strange way, Japan is a lot like Communist countries in that it socially frowns upon people leaving their home country. When people come back, they don’t fit in like before. Being that Japan is 98.5% Japanese, with a school year that makes it difficult to study abroad, it can maintain this attitude. But as Japan becomes more exposed to the world, Japan’s Communist attitudes will die off. Communism can only work in a world that agrees on it, and (un)fortunately Japan is alone in this attitude. And as for the Japanese Communist Party, well, its goals seem like any other political party. Who doesn’t want lower taxes? Who doesn’t hate nuclear weapons? Who wants war? I gotta admit, living in Communist Japan is pretty nice.

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