Malaysiakini Opinion

Can Look East be Look West too? Yes and no

Phar Kim Beng  |  Published on  |  Modified on

COMMENT | Unbeknown to many visitors, even analysts in Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, as some prefer to call it, is a hybrid.

Its high school system, with students in stiff uniforms, was borrowed from the Prussian school system, with a focus on a rigorous syllabus, followed by a university entrance examination that measures the abilities of the students on various subjects. Namely quantitative skills, history, English and science.

While Japanese students tend to perform badly on English, they do exceedingly well in other subjects. The Japanese bureaucracy, with a heavy focus on recruiting top students from University of Tokyo or Waseda Universty, for instance, was inspired by the French model in the 19th century.

The parliamentary system, which is modelled on Whitehall, is in turn based on what the Japanese reformers had learned from the British parliamentarians. Of course, the US-Japan security alliances is shaped by the dynamics of the security umbrella provided by the United States.

Indeed, the soft power of Japan, with its unmistakable focus on anime, while indigenous to a large extent, was inspired by Hollywood and the many animations that emerged from it. Indeed, some of Akira Kurosawa's best films were adapted from William Shakespeare.

In attempting to Look East, as the government of Prime Minister Dr Mohamad Mahathir is doing, Malaysia could potentially be Looking East, only to find itself interacting with some of the West's strongest elements that have been embedded in Japan.

But the belief that Japan is a carbon copy of the West would not be accurate, even though Japan is a part of the Group of Seven, which is primarily formed of Western countries. There are five reasons why Japan is a country imbued with its Eastern, or Japanese traditions....

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