Yamato Tanooka-chan, the dear seven year-old boy who was “fake-abandoned” as punishment for God only knows what indiscretion, was undoubtedly being shamed when he was left on the roadside. Berating and belittling drives conformity and is inherent in the Japanese way. Anthropologist Ruth Benedict described the important difference between “shame” and “guilt” cultures in her 1946 book about the Japanese society called “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.” The difference between these approaches to achieving good (conformity) are significant and should not be taken lightly.
I knew nothing about Japan being a “shame” culture when I first travelled to Tokyo in 1980, but over time I came to know that feeling guilty by my own conscience was insufficient for my traditional man who had apparently been berated by his own parents and in turn was molding me using the same technique. Being shamed for household transgressions– forced to swallow what I could not understand cost me my mind for a time; but the price paid by my beautiful half-Japanese children was far greater.
During my absence many unspeakable things happened to my children at the hands of their father, but one image is forever burned In my brain. I often see my baby girl standing outside in the dark, freezing cold waiting to be let in. Like a dog forced to take a shit it didn’t need to take she was sent out to reflect. For the indiscretion of needing more practice and drills than the average child she was sent out to experience homelessness.
And I wonder, what on earth did Tanooka do?
Although many in Japan may express outrage at the Yamoto Tanooka case, how many of these adults have used “guilt parenting” to drive conformity in their own homes? Why hasn’t the government done more for the welfare of children when it comes to abuse, molestation and trafficking? The Japanese may be good at creating catchy cool products but they are “piss poor” at child welfare. Even though the Human Rights Council Special Report is primarily about young girls and sexual exploitation it describes Japan’s lack of modern social services.
I can imagine the words Tanooka’s parents might have spoken as they slammed the car door behind their little boy. With worldwide attention on the case what does Japan have to say about their prevalent shaming ways?