BBC Four's Japanese season is proving that there are right and wrong ways to scrutinise a thus supposedly inscrutable nation. Two weeks ago Marcel Theroux showed us the wrong way, bouncing off in wide-eyed search of the spiritual concept of Wabi Sabi and coming back with the news that it was all very Japanese and unknowable.
And last night Sean McAllister showed us the right way in Japan: A Story of Love and Hate. After, he said, two years trying and failing to prise open Japan's “sliding door”, he gave up on Tokyo and moved to a small town 300 miles north. There he came across an eccentric called Naoki Sato. There is, we were told, a local saying that “the nail that stands out most must be hammered down”. Naoki Sato, a part- time post office worker with a Beatles haircut, was that outstanding nail, and how he had been hammered! A former Maoist revolutionary, he had enthusiastically taken up capitalism in his thirties and owned two companies, a bar and a BMW. In 1992, however, the economy crashed and Naoki became one of Japan's “new” or, as he put it, “usual” poor. Now 56, he lived in a tiny windowless room, his only break from the housework the seven hours a day that he spent collecting insurance premiums for the post office.
A sad film, worth seeing. It quite cheered me up.