ABOUT-FACE: How I Stumbled onto Japan's Social Revolution by Clayton Naff

ABOUT-FACE: How I Stumbled onto Japan's Social Revolution

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A decidedly schizophrenic examination of changing attitudes towards work, family, and the status of women in modern Japan. Naff, an American journalist (formerly with NPR and UPI) married to a Japanese woman, offers two separate explorations of Japanese society under one cover. The first is a lighthearted, personal, at times whimsical memoir of his experiences as a copy editor for a Japanese newspaper and as a husband struggling with the many complications of living in a foreign culture. Here Naff reveals his most penetrating observation of modern Japanese society -- the younger generation has learned to have fun. A capacity crowd at Tokyo Disney on the eve of the traditional Japanese New Year serves as a strange symbol of a newly emerging trend in which duty is replaced by leisure. The second component of the book, interwoven with the first, is a crisp, almost forensic critique of the Japanese ""salaryman"" culture. Naff dismisses the notion that it is some simplistic cultural quality such as yarikata (the notion that there is one correct way of doing each task) that has produced a society in which men literally work themselves to death. His analysis focuses on the power imbalance between managers and unions that arose as a response to the Cold War, when the American occupation rubbed against a fierce nationalistic pride. The average Japanese man works such long hours because he is forced to -- not because he is some strange economic drone. In the younger generation, Naff sees hope for change: Young women are waiting longer to marry and are choosing their own partners; young employees are switching companies in droves; men are spending more time with their families; and women are beginning to sue successfully over sexual harassment in the workplace. Despite abrupt, sometimes jarring, transitions between formats, Naff delivers a credible, readable account of the ""social revolution"" sweeping Japan.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Kodansha