Japan as the country that allows its foreigners to “self regulate”, and you know what that means.

I want to wrap up some of the recent discussion here.

The common pattern of the topics that have been hitting the J-expat blogging community go, again and again, to this observation that there really are no rules in the Japan-side expat world. What is is whatever you can get someone to believe, much more so than outside of the bubble.

I have previously blogged about two people who are recently getting ripped apart on the net. They have their own take on it, and even if the actual goings on are one-or-two removed from that, they have their own compelling stories about how Japan basically allows these “free zones” of foreigners to do whatever they feel like (short of physical violence or high crime) against other foreigners. I am talking about garden-variety torts, defamatory language, cheating on contracts or deals, and the like.

The actual participants may be here or there (and in some cases, this is cross-border stuff going on, with only the connection to Japan); but, in the end, it comes down to this point, that in Japan, when it comes to foreigners, there really are no rules. Image over substance.

I kept thinking today about this fellow I had met there, several years back, who was the sole “Representative Director” of a company—even though he had left Japan, i.e. a fly-in. (A public company, kabushiki kaisha, must have at least one Representative Director resident in Japan.) So even though it was total bullsh*t that he could be off writing e-mails on another continent as “Representative Director”, he just did it. He said it, and it was. So I say! So it is!

You know, that the remarkable amount of American petty tax cheating that goes on in Japan is coming from this same idea. I have said so much about that before. The “So I say! So it is!” phony rule that was made up in the community was “you don’t have to file unless you made over $80,000”. The reality is that you only get that exemption if you file. Otherwise, you are subject to Uncle Sam’s less progressive rates on your lower earnings, and only get a credit for what you pay Japan. But I would point this out, and, well, “No no! . . .”

I never watched the TV show, but there was one stateside when I was in Japan, about people voting other people “off the island”. “Survivor”, right? It reminds me of that kind of thing.

“Hey, here is what is supposed to be. Hey, this is what I understood.”

“Oh Yeah? But this is what I say! What are you going to do about it?!”

In America, we have countless ways to mediate this above situation. Most countries. Not Japan, though. With Japan, it would be a question of who to “vote” off the island, by letting situations fester for so long that one side or the other hates it. Maybe one side or the other runs out of money.

[Update: You see, in some ways, I am very much of the Fingleton School. Things you observe about Japan don’t just “happen”, they are planned that way. So if a reporter can’t get his visa stamp processed after a time, or JET program people are going at it in their internecine disputes, I think it is a fair question to say, “what have the Japanese done to make the situation this way”? You remember, maybe, when I was moderating the dispute between the sizable gang of Left Behind Parents who are for more aggressively challenging Japan on their kidnapped children, and those who favor a ‘patiently wait and cooperate’ approach? (Search around December 26-January 4 if you don’t.) In the end, it was apparent to me–as it should have been to you–that it was really Japanese foot-dragging that was causing the whole problem within the group. And they know they’re doing it.

As I have said many times here, I like Japanese in general and made many friends there. But I’m not blind to the fact that the same kinds of things happen, again and again. And it’s not the clash of cultures or some recurring “misunderstandings”. It’s things set up a certain way.]