Aaj Ka Japan
By Amir Bin Ali
Nastaleeq Matbooaat, Lahore; Pp 303; Rs 400
Pakistani born Amir bin Ali is living in Japan since long. That is why he says that his book titled Aaj Ka Japan is neither a travelogue nor a compilation of critical essays but it is an experience shared.
Amir does not spend his time in Tokyo or Osaka but in a town that is mostly clad with snow. Being a frequent traveller, he gets to observe the habits and culture of both rural and urban areas. Living in a small town has an edge that he gets to compare the traditional Japanese culture with the modern Japan, the latter having strong Western culture influence. That is why Professor Soya Mane, Urdu department, Osaka University says that it is an interesting exercise to read a Pakistani view of Japanese culture. He believes that Japanese who are famous for their ‘neem baaz akhain’ (dreamy eyes) are very much interested in listening to an outside view of their society despite that they are scattered on many Islands with the same facial features. Amir has maintained his Pakistani nationality despite living in Japan for many years. This reviewer agrees with Dr Khwaja Muhammad Zakariya, Professor Emeritus Urdu, Punjab University that despite the destruction in the World Wars, the pace with which Japan has risen to a highly developed industrial country with a strong economy base is because of unity in all its ranks unlike the situation in our country. The book under review comprises Amir’s articles published in newspapers from time to time. The author himself has stated in the Introduction that on the advice of the intellectual late Ahmad Nadim Qasmi he had started sharing his experiences of Japan with his countrymen through his columns in local newspapers; hence the author coming out of the book under review.
The first observation of the author about Japanese people is that they always have a smile on their faces. One recalls our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) saying that meeting people with a smile is also a form of charity. In the second article the author discovers that people that take less than five hours sleep, have more chances of losing their hair, equating this observation with the leafs falling from the trees during autumn. To Amir, Tokyo Sky Tree, the tallest minaret of the world located in Tokyo looks likes a poplar tree standing in the middle of wheat fields. It is a 634-metre tall tree and its strength was demonstrated when it stood erect braving the largest earthquake that hit Japan. Amir has also seen a snow monkey in a Japanese valley.
The most astonishing observation is Amir equating Japan with Allama Iqbal’s observations (Page 44). In 1906, Iqbal had predicted Japan as a rising star of Asia. Amir also informs that Urdu departments exist in Tokyo, Osaka and Daito Banka Universities and many students learn Urdu language and research is being carried out on ‘Iqbaliaat’. Amir has quoted couplets written on the degradation of Indian society with reference of Japan also like “intiha bhi is ki hei akhir khareedain kab talak/chatrian, roomaal, muffler, pairehen Japan Se/Apni Ghaflat Ki Yehi Haalat Agar Qaaim Rahi/Aaein Gei Ghusaal Kabul Se Kafan Japan Se’ (It is amazing that the buying power has declined to such an extent that we are forced to buy umbrellas, handkerchiefs and clothes from Japan. If we continue to lax for long, our dead bodies shall be washed by Kabulites and wrapped by Japanese – Page 45).
One has always believed that love is beyond logic but as per another interesting revelation made by the author that in Waseeda University, Osaka, love is taught as a subject, one keeps on wondering as to love being beyond logic! Here romance is analysed both scientifically and logically. It is amazing that with each day passing more female students are taking admission in this course (Page 39). Then the author discovers that Tokyo (like Lahore, Pakistan) is a city of interesting food. Then in Japan, Muslims observe the Holy month of Ramadan with gusto and prefer opening it in the mosques (page 58). Talking of cultural difference between West and East, Japanese parents still have a role in the selection of better halves of their offshoots. ‘Marriage Meetings’ are held for this purpose (Page 60). Having said that, the international financial crunch has also adversely affected Japanese culture and only last year more than 250,000 divorces took place. Japanese genetic scientists have successfully carried out experiments by changing the sex of female to male gender in 300 chicken eggs and are conducting these experiments on animals also. No wonder one day it may successfully apply to humans also (Page 64).
In the domain of education, Japanese system is very simple; six years in primary and three in the middle course.