Sunday, January 31, 2010
I behave badly.
My manners are fine and I am even in Washington's Green Book, the social register. But I do not suffer the fools graciously and I ask too many questions. This is compounded by my apparently being the only source in Washington that can advise members of congress on Japan's history issues, on how American POWs were treated by Japan (and continue to be badly treated), and on the complexities of Japan's continuing inability to abide by international norms. No one else would dare risk their relationship with Japan to do so. Currently, Congress is transfixed by the issue of parental child abduction to Japan.
Working on any of these issues, as the Alliance Managers know, has no financial reward and will confine you to a Japan purgatory. Mofa and other Japanese organizations avoid you and tell their friends to do as well. One Japan expert who continually complimented my work, pulled his organization's support last week. It was only $500, but substantial to a small operation like mine. Although well-funded (this coming week alone he will probably bring in tens of thousands of dollars in speaking engagements in Japan and Washington), he clearly got the message from his Japanese friends to stop all forms of support. Indeed, he directed his secretary to do this while he was in Okinawa at the behest of a Japanese foundation.
There is no foundation, association, corporation or individual that is interested in funding research and education on Japan's history and social issues as they related to politics and security. There is plenty of need for this, but those who need the information and help do not have the means to pay for advice nor any thought that they should. Congress does not pay for advice, for people to come give testimony, or any of the books and documents given them for background.
This sense of entitlement allows support for Washington's think tanks to be a curious form of corruption. Most of the research is second-rate and intellectually dishonest. There is also serious plagiarism and logrolling. Most important they represent a particular point of view. None of this matters. These "experts" are in Washington and available. Being here is most important.
I do not have the personal means to travel to Japan and no offers to visit Japan are likely. So I travel to Japan vicariously. This Sunday's New York Times helped. The entire front page and two interior pages of the Travel section was devoted to eating ramen in Tokyo. One Noodle at a Time details the joys of modern ramen eating, places to go, and learning about ramen. I simply turn wistful.
The only ramen shop in Washington is in Bethesda (a suburb on the metro) and only recently opened. It is Ren's Ramen, and is located at Daruma, an over-priced Japanese grocery. So far the reviews have been good, albeit folks find it a bit overpriced. My interns loved the adventure up there and enjoyed the experience.
Photo of dish at Ren's Ramen from this blog, which has some nice photos of Japanese food in the Washington area.
Later: The Washington Post on 2/24 ran a small, favorable review.