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WHEN EAST MEETS WEST: The fading pitter-patter of little feet

Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.


East_meets_west The flip-side of Japan's ever aging population is that there are increasingly fewer kids. Record-low statistics from the 2006 put the birth rate at 1.26 children per woman, a count that somehow sound painful-but the real hurt is the one being put on Japanese society.

Pain, in a national sense, is always best expressed in money. In this case, as Japan fades from a Grumpy Old Men-present to a Children of man-like tomorrow, the question is who's going to pay for the transition? Forget the pitter-patter of little feet. Oh, for the jingle-jingle of the future tax payers!


And with them a fresh wave of young couples pregnant with the desire for mortgages. Plus an influx of new teens shameless in their lust for more and more consumer goods. Money seems to talk and it clearly says that Japan's troubles with a top-heavy population have only just begun-a forceful statement that this past January prompted former health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa to exhort more women to get pregnant can you believe this, and dubbing them "birth-giving machines" in the process.


Yanagisawa took quite a lot of flak for that beauty of a remark, riling exactly 50 percent of the voters, plus.

His choice of increased quantity, perhaps what Japan really needs is much better quality.


Personally, I have only one feeling for future generations and the financial burden they will have to bear for the graying of Japanese society, and it is not a pity. My lack of compassion is tied to the fact that I am now on the other side of the line. Every single day I contribute a bit more to the aging of the population. Yet, my feeling has nothing to do with wanting the young to guarantee me a soft landing. No, the emotion I have for them is merely this: envy. I'd trade my years for financial hurdles any day.


Especially these young. Because for them the expression," Youth will be served" is going to be magnified several times over. Here in Japan we can already see this in a variety of little ways. Take universities and colleges, for example. Schools are already scrambling for the shrinking number of students, with many institutions fearful for their survival.


Set aside the thought that might be just the happy medicine English teaching here needs.  Forget, too, that I myself went to school in a different country at a different time.  I would have much rather leaned back and absorbed the cultural content of "The Simpsons."  Only in my days back in Gloucester City NJ, it would have been "Green Acres."So the current youth is getting a bargain-with more on the way.


But we're not getting any younger either so we'd better take a good look around before our bifocals grow too thick. For out times they are fading. It's a young man's world and it always has been. In Japan there is just more of it now for the young to have.


Warm Regards from Kitakyushu City, Japan.


Hank F. Miller Jr.