New York Times and Sen to Chihiro

Ulrich Plate plate at
Mon Jan 7 22:10:09 EST 2002

> Since when does Japan have a low literacy rate? 94% of Vietnam's
> population is literate. I find it hard to believe that Japan has a low
> literacy rate. -Hao

Hao is referring to this line in James Brooke's article: "Comic books
account for 60 percent of printed publications in Japan, a reflection of low
literacy rates due to the difficulty of learning Japanese characters." Two
days after the publication in the NYT, the Japan Times felt compelled to
look into that. They called the author

"Reached by phone and asked if the claim was a cheap shot, the article's
author, James Brooke, said, 'The cheap shot is to say The New York Times
doesn't know how to read the U.N. literacy tables.'
He said the popularity of comics is a reflection of the difficulty today's
Japanese have with kanji.
'What we are talking about here -- and a lot of older Japanese have told me
this -- reading and writing kanji skills are deteriorating,' he said. 'And
this is what I meant by low literacy. In other words, a lot of Japanese
people read comic books because they don't want to sit on the subway with a
long, full-text kanji book.'"

Next time, he shouldn't bother answering the phone... Wonder what stance he
took when he asked for an interview with "anyone" from Studio Ghibli for his
article. Anybody here expect a reporter in his right mind to publicly
complain about being refused a free ticket to the Mitaka no mori museum?
Half an inch further down from his raving against the studio's "publicist"
he delivers his punch line: "Revered in Japan, Mr. Miyazakai delights in
playing the antiglobalization curmudgeon." Reminds me of the former bureau
chief of the German news magazine Der Spiegel who was deported from China
for smuggling antiques and hated his new post in Japan so much he continued
to insult everybody in his vicinity and write complete bullocks for all of
his five years in office over here.

Bill Thompson was right, Brooke's article sounded generally upbeat about the
film... But then again, with friends like that, who needs enemies?

Ulrich Plate

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