Michael Zielenziger speaks at the World Affairs Council of Northern California.
The world's second-wealthiest country, Japan once seemed poised to overtake America. But its failure to recover from the economic collapse of the early 1990s was unprecedented, and today it confronts an array of disturbing social trends. Japan has the highest suicide rate and lowest birthrate of all industrialized countries, and a rising incidence of untreated cases of depression. Equally as troubling are the more than one million young men who shut themselves in their rooms, withdrawing from society, and the growing numbers of "parasite singles," the name given to single women who refuse to leave home, marry, or bear children.
In "Shutting Out the Sun," Michael Zielenziger argues that Japan's rigid, tradition-steeped society, its aversion to change, and its distrust of individuality and the expression of self are stifling economic revival, political reform, and social evolution. Giving a human face to the country's malaise, Zielenziger explains how these constraints have driven intelligent, creative young men to become modern-day hermits. At the same time, young women, better educated than their mothers and earning high salaries, are rejecting the traditional path to marriage and motherhood, preferring to spend their money on luxury goods and travel- World Affairs Council of Northern California
The World Affairs Council was founded in 1947 out of the interest generated by the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945. With over 10,000 members, they are the largest international affairs organization on the west coast.
Christopher Sigur, Special Advisor, Asia Society Northern California
Michael Zielenziger is a visiting scholar at the Institute of East Asian Studies, U. C. Berkeley, and was the Tokyo-based bureau chief for Knight Ridder Newspapers for seven years, until May 2003.
He has written extensively about social, economic, and political trends in Japan, Korea, China, and Southeast Asia. After September 11, 2001, Zielenziger also spent long periods in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Israel, covering the aftermath of terrorist attacks.