Except for Moye*, the Japanese/Japanese-American folks I know aren’t usually people who do much complaining. While that’s a pretty big generalization, we all know the stereotypes– both real and perceived– of the “quiet” Japanese men and women who don’t like to talk about or dwell on hardships. Those who work to document the Japanese American internment often report that many of the Issei and older Nisei wanted to leave those memories in the past– forcing a younger generation to push for Redress. But I digress.
Regardless of whether “not complaining” is a “traditionally Japanese trait,” there are reports that today’s Japanese have becoming increasingly vocal complainers. According to an article in Japan Today, the nation “…it seems, is fast becoming an “ichamon” [いちゃもん] society, where people don’t merely raise complaints, but make false charges and pick fights at the slightest pretext.”
Last July, Shinichi Sekine, author of “The Claimer Next Door,” (Chuokoron Shinsha, 2007) published a “White Paper on Complaints.” Of over 5,000 respondents to Sekine’s questionnaire, nearly 40% noted that complaints at their workplace have been increasing of late.
The highest response was among teachers and educators, of whom 53.7% of whom said they had been directly in the line of fire.
“Until 2008, I’d been an administrator at a university for three years,” a source from academia tells the magazine. “During that time, I constantly had to field claims by students’ parents. Their methods were hardly different from yakuza. They would latch on to the smallest problem and demand that I acknowledge it, and apologize to them. Whenever I conceded a point they would ratchet up their claims.”
The day after cream stew was served at the cafeteria of a Tokyo primary school, a parent called to confront a teacher, saying, “My kid hates stew, so yesterday he only ate bread. I want a refund for that day’s lunch.”
The author of the white paper believes this trend actually reflects a change in the temperament of Japanese people. “They are not just complaining; their methods are becoming increasingly spiteful, such as demanding money or an apology in writing,” says Sekine. “I think a key factor may be the declining sense of contentment.”
Maybe so. But a commenter suggests that this might be because Japanese people are just “spoiled.”
What do you think? Is Japan on its way to being a nation of chronic complainers? Or do Americans still have a lock on that?**
*Just kidding. I’m only picking on Moye ‘cuz it’s fun! She is not a complainer– though she does, however, make keen observations about things that truly suck!
**Ok, another big generalization. But am I wrong about that?!