Sunday, May 30, 2010
I apologize. Anyone who can figure out how to find much of anything using Google Japan deserves a medal. I have better luck using English on Google Japan than I do using Japanese---kanji/hiragana, whatever. Even then, once you find something you are in for another adventure in addition to the language difficulties. (I have not yet reached the level of easy fluency---especially reading/writing/arguing---that many on the Internet do after a year or two in Japan as an ALT. I am slow.)
What a mess. I truly long for access to a US university library and those huge rows of musty, often out-of-date books. Kinda like the musty, out-of-date stuff I find on Google Japan. The Internut has changed the world immensely and forever, but I ain't so sure it has here yet.
"The Japanese Coast Guard doesn't like you diving near there because it is too close to shipping lanes. So, naturally, this is where everyone dives."
Now contrary to what we see in the movies, read in some media, contrary to the beliefs of some who think that the military is made up of a bunch of flunkies, high school dropouts, and nitwits who were too dumb to go to college and spend four years in a semi-drunken haze, I never found that to be the case. The Air Force, for example, does not entrust a moron with the life of the pilot(s) and the care of a fighter jet worth millions.
Folks go in for different reasons, but in the AF at least, most went in for the training---which was better than anything I ever did in university as far as practical skills and life skills go---and to get money to go to college. Others go in for a career that is much, much better; much much more challenging; much, much, more intellectually demanding---yes, by far---than most other jobs available for high school grads or even many college graduates. (Provided that you don't get killed in a war.) When I think of the word professional, I still think of the military.
I was a "law enforcement specialist", a narcotics detector dog handler. I was in a good position to know the types of crimes that occurred on the bases I was stationed. I was never stationed in Japan, but I did know guys and gals who were here in a similar capacity.
During my AF time I found most crimes* on bases either overseas to be relatively minor. DUIs, occasional fights, drug possession (usually marijuana* or stimulants), occasional weapon storage---some guy kept his 30-06 hunting rifle in his room in the States---and traffic violations. Access to bases was controlled, people who lived and worked there had background clearances of various levels, and they lived and worked under a disciplined system that could be a real pain-in-the-ass**, but one that worked very well for young people, especially young men. (Haven't tried it, but I wonder what would happen if you compared the crime rates of people of that age in college to those in the military?)
So what? Well, we keep hearing and reading about the dangers and the crimes committed in Japan by US military personnel. It's not only stuff I read in the Japanese press, but I have even seen non-Japanese whose writing I usually respect fall for some unsubstantiated "Deer Hunter/Rambo" theory that those just back from a war zone are somehow naturally unstable and prone to violence.
Anyway, something smells about this supposed danger posed by the US military on the Japanese---or should I say Okinawans? What is the source of most of the claims of this danger? Is it the NPA? The media? Folks with an axe to grind? How do these same people view non-Japanese in general? They wouldn't go around claiming that all foreigners and foreign countries were potentially (if not actually) dangerous and untrustworthy would they?
No, such a thing would be so un-Japanese.
*Includes active duty military, dependents, civilian contractors, and base employees. Even visitors.
**Often exaggerated in movies and on TV. In the States I worked a 9 hour shift. I did not do KP---that's Basic Training---did not march around all day (Basic Training again), did not run around shouting "Sir, yes sir"---Basic Training again. Except for training, exercises, deployments, recalls etc, I pretty much worked as I have in civilian life.
***I once had the biggest quarterly marijuana find in PACAF (Pacific Air Forces). A massive 22 grams if I recall correctly...
Saturday, May 29, 2010
The Japan Times has proof to the contrary:
A total of 277,674 nonregular workers at 5,252 businesses will have lost or are expected to lose their jobs...
...But a ministry official said things have improved... Japan Times: More nonregular workers out of jobs
And the export-driven recovery continues:
The unemployment rate rose to a seasonally adjusted 5.1 percent in April in a sign that companies are still wary about adding jobs despite talk that the deflation-ridden economy is trending toward recovery....
...only 48 jobs were available for every 100 people who were looking in April. Japan Times: Jobless Rate Climbs
*Mind-altering substance abuse does not include getting barfing-drunk several times per week with coworkers or customers. That's work.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
It wasn't so long ago---under Koizumi and "Beautiful Country" Abe---that foreigners were being hit so hard with accusations of being near DNA-bound to be criminals that you would have thought we were all members of the Yakuza, or at least adroit enough to cooperate with them. I could barely go shopping back then because every time I reached for my wallet to buy something, I'd slap my own hand away for fear that I was picking my pocket.
One of the things that amazes me about a country in which everyone obeys the rules, in which the crime rate is said to be so low that women can safely walk the streets alone at night, that you can go out and leave your apartment unlocked without fear of being burglarized, a country in which guns are illegal for citizens to own, is the fact that folks don't obey the rules, Japanese women are not so dumb as to think they can walk the streets safely at night***, that only soon-to-be-educated victims leave their apartments unlocked, and where firearms ownership is not illegal. (Oops, apologies for that sentence.)
OK, forgetting the just-off-the-boat myths, I am intrigued by the fact that the rule-obeying, law-abiding Japanese that I see aren't so rule-obeying or law-abiding. That and the fact that the koban-sitters---at least where I live and work---don't seem to be motivated to go out of their way to enforce any laws until after an incident. I guess we could call this reactive law enforcement.
I watch people disobey all kinds of traffic laws (especially cycling laws, and many of these violations I understand to be criminal offenses) right in front of "police officers" who routinely ignore it. I live near a koban and can go outside any evening and watch dozens of people ride by with no lights on their bikes---illegal---and I have yet to see any of them stopped for it. I have seen cyclists blow right through crosswalks against the light and ride within a few feet of a cop standing at parade rest and all he could do was eyeball me. I saw a cop jump up out of his box and run 3 feet outside to yell at two kids riding double on a bike causing them to slow for a few meters before taking off while still riding double as our hero went back to sitting in his box. There is a traffic light about 20 meters from my local koban that folks occasionally run with no fear from the cops. Folks park illegally right in front of their noses---no reaction. I could continue for hours, but of course these are minor infractions, not the viscous stuff of foreigners. Just because folks seem to have little respect for these types of rules, laws, and koban sitters, doesn't mean anything beyond that. I'm sure.
You'll have to forgive me for skepticism when I hear how foreigners disobey Japanese laws more than the Japanese do themselves. And you'll have to forgive me when I start doubting simplistic comparisons of crime rates between countries when the laws are so different, when the enforcement of these laws are so different, and when the rate of reporting of crime by victims is likely different, and especially when the rhetoric of the folks who gather the statistics does not match the statistics.
Back when I was in the USAF, my friends in law enforcement at Yokota AB often remarked on the very high burglary rate in Tokyo. They knew 'cause lots of military personnel were victims of these mostly professional burglars. That was back before the "surge" in foreign residents here and nobody thought to claim that the criminals were non-Japanese. I do not recall ever seeing such a thing in the Japanese press though. The burglaries that most recently became notorious were mostly blamed on Chinese and others of foreign origin. Have all the Japanese burglars retired?
*As opposed to the kinder, gentler, more innocent and naive crimes committed by the natives.
**Yakuza. I'd guess that the yakuza is a Japanese problem and maybe if something more effective were done about that problem, the vicious, adroit, foreign criminals would have to find another way to make their crimes inconspicuous. (Hire Japanese thugs?)
***I have been repeatedly surprised at how much attention Japanese women pay to the lighting of an area, how well-traveled it is, and all sorts of things that I, as a man, pay no mind. Last Saturday, I was walking with a friend through Denenchofu, an expensive, upper-middle class/wealthy area that is notorious for burglaries, and she immediately noticed (at 3PM) what areas would be risky to walk at night due to isolation/ lack of adequate lighting. What's she afraid of, I wonder? This is Japan.
Monday, May 24, 2010
...The ease of obtaining guns also automatically causes crimes to be of a much more violent nature in the U.S. then in Japan... Crime in Japan
Folks who are stabbed to death with freely available, razor-sharp, 8 inch-long kitchen knives must die less violently and be less dead than those shot to death. Probably die more honorably and in a more harmonious way too.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Well, James wrote in vain, if Paul Krugman is correct with the latest piece in the US-is-gonna-get-the-Japan-disease genre: Lost Decade Looming:
Despite a chorus of voices claiming otherwise, we aren’t Greece. We are, however, looking more and more like Japan...
...I strongly suspect that some officials at the Fed see the Japan parallels all too clearly and wish they could do more to support the economy... NYT
I suppose if you generalize enough, and are vague enough, you can make any country's economic problems look like those of Japan. Why not when you have to write a column regularly and wanna say the same thing over-and-over, but in a different way? The "Japan disease" stuff is getting a bit out-of-date now. You'd figure a Nobel Prize winner could do better.
I like Paul, but I also can't stand him. That's what happens when you work as a supposedly unbiased economist, and then consistently take polemic partisan views. Which do we believe is the real Paul?
Friday, May 21, 2010
No, not really---"to protect Japanese exports" is just a childish, flippant remark that I made. It was unfair and tends to make Natto Kan of the new DPJ-led government look like some old retread from the LDP years.
The reason that Mr. Fermented Beans made his remarks is that:
"In general, it is desirable for exchange rates to stay at an appropriate level in terms of international trade, and it is undesirable if the currency moves far off that level,"...
"I think we must closely watch developments in the currency market and ensure that the yen will not become excessive," EuroAsiaReview
He said that the government has no
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wouldn't want any confusion as that's the worst nightmare in Japan. If Prof. Hiroshi Nakanishi of Kyoto University is correct, it'll be a "long, punishing process" to convince Okinawans about the wholesome goodness of the deal. Might take until temperatures drop well below 0 degrees Celsius in hell. Does that mean it'll settle back to the pace it was proceeding under the LDP and we'll have to hear about it for another 14 years?
Gross domestic product accelerated by an annualised 4.9 percent in the January-March period, the fastest pace of growth since the second quarter of 2009. AFP
Just goes to show that I associate with weird people, many of whom have been fired, have had hours reduced, bonuses eliminated, pay cut, folks whose export-oriented companies are in deep trouble---and that does not include those who were in finance and are still looking for related work a year after being fired (women, of course). After four straight quarters of growth, it looks like someone would notice* this sizzling-hot good news other than economists. There were over 30,000 suicides in Japan last year, many related to the recession. Just think how many lives would have been saved had they been aware of these statistics.
Why am I beginning to think that the field of economics is a game of smoke and mirrors?
Edited 6:30 pm: The NYT magazine has an article (The Rise and the Fall of the GDP) about the weaknesses of using the GDP to measure the prosperity---among other things---of a country. It's a long, but interesting article, that unfortunately leads me to believe that we are still a long way adopting anything else. The alternatives suggested in the article are not likely to ever get accepted in the US without another Fort Sumter event.
Edited Again: 6:59: Now I am gettin' jus' plain stoopider, 'cause I can't figure any of this out. The New York Times optimistically reports:
Private spending has been supported by a flurry of stimulus measures introduced by the government, including tax breaks on fuel-efficient cars, subsidies for eco-friendly electronics and cash payments for families with young children. The stimulus has helped retail sales advance for three straight months through March.
Japan’s economy grew less than forecast in the first quarter as an export-led recovery failed to stoke consumer spending,...**
What does "supported by" mean? Since consumer spending wasn't "stoked," but at the same time was supported, I guess that it was flat or fell less than it normally would have. I think I got ¥12,000 in a tax rebate earlier, but I would not say that my spending was supported by that. I should have bought a car or something to help. I feel guilty now.
*One person whom I know who works directly in exports has seen an increase in over-time in the last month. However, she is very concerned since she is not a specialist and "anyone" can do her job. She will feel better too, after looking at these numbers.
**Household outlays rose 0.3 percent in the first quarter, slowing from the previous period’s 0.7 percent gain, today’s report showed. Business Week
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
(Best to check both article links as they have different perspectives.)
Friday, May 14, 2010
Up until now, we've had to take their word for it that such a danger exists. The Japan Times---which recently raised its single issue price to ¥180 for folks with no access to the Internet or perhaps no sense---has given us an example of hard-nosed investigative journalism at its best. Custody or Abduction: Returning to Japan with kids was the only safe option, two mothers say.
As we read through the article, we are given reasons by two ladies of why they chose to kidnap their children. Both had suffered domestic violence, both verbal and physical, and one had also received an alimony award that was so small that, "I realized that my son and I could starve to death if we stayed."
I suppose we'll just have to take the word of the two that this happened as they said. No mention of restraining orders, court actions, complaints filed, or much of anything else in the story. We have to admit that it is not unknown for foreign spouses to be ignorant of the legal system in foreign countries or that they are often not able to fully exploit it to protect themselves and their children. However, we won't learn if that is the case from reading the JT article for no relevant questions were asked. Actually, I don't think any questions were asked.
Hats off to you, Masami Ito for this report. We await your interviews of more than just two of many, many internationally-wanted felons and your follow-up with the hard-hitting questions that you left out this time just to keep us all in suspense. Otherwise, we may ask ourselves why anyone would pay ¥180 for the JT when we can read it for free online. Custody or abduction? WTF does that mean?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
"...Given Japan’s demographics, the current-account surplus may decrease and some even say it will go into deficit” in the long term, Masaaki Kaizuka, director of debt management at the ministry, said in Tokyo today. “We may see the need to increase reliance from abroad, whether we want to or not.” Bloomberg Businessweek
According to the article, Japan's debt may rise to 246% of GDP in 2012. Will Japan still have a AA- credit rating? Will foreign investors care? Will they rush in for the same 1.4% yield on a 10-year bond?
We should refrain from panic because according to Naoki Izuka of Mizuho, the government simply* needs a "feasible, credible and sustainable fiscal plan" and to resolve the problem within 5-years and "we'll be fine."
Nothing to it. A simple thing for any government, but especially the government here, whether led by the DPJ, the LDP, the Commies, or whatever. And we know how welcome foreign investors have been in the past.
*My word, not his.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
I was at least somewhat suspicious about the Taiji dolphin kill as it has been reported to be depicted in the movie, The Cove. I haven't seen it yet, but figured it would be as much sensationalist as anything else. Perhaps I should withhold judgment until I do.
C. W. Nichols, who has been in Japan for decades, and who is a citizen, is someone whose opinions on matters of wildlife, wildlife management, and so on, I trust. He is no strict preservationist, has no Disneyland view of nature, is a hunter, a fisherman, and has professional experience in the conservation field.
He has written another column for the Japan Times in which he discusses the Taiji dolphin kill and whaling among other things:
I saw the kill for myself back in 1979 when I lived in that small Wakayama Prefecture fishing village for a year. I protested to the fishermen, to the Town Hall, and to the Fisheries Agency. Some years ago I published a book in Japan, with a chapter devoted to that slaughter and its extreme cruelty. I met the prefectural governor and warned him that the media would spread the Taiji kill all over the globe — and that Japan would be despised for it.
Nichols' arguments matter not to the nationalists defending these practices. I don't think anything does. The argument seems to be (as Nichols mentions in different words) that it is the world against poor little ol' Japan yet agin'. I have heard that from people, most recently when there was pressure to protect Blue Fin tuna. I never heard one single word of concern about the tuna population and the sustainability of the same level of fishing them. It almost seemed as if people thought the problem occurred because the rest of the world started enjoying tuna sushi and was eating all the tuna which by rights of tradition belonged to Japan.
But that's just from the folks I know. Perhaps others have performed some basic research on the issue to see if the official Japanese government position is solid, or maybe a just a little questionable. I mean, if you tell folks that Japan is the only country on earth with four clearly distinct seasons, nobody would accept that because in addition to the obvious silliness of the claim, finding the truth is just a google away.
*As for tradition, I agree with C.W. I have no problem with folks killing and eating wildlife as a part of tradition, unless doing so threatens the species. Minke whales don't fall into that category, as I understand it. But then again, even so, as far as whaling is concerned, the Japanese government position seems to be more nationalist than merely traditionalist.
Friday, May 07, 2010
Imagine if a US politician, especially a Republican or someone from the Tea Party, had made fun of the language of non-native speakers or some other group. Imagine the holier-than-thou, snobbish editorial we'd have read in the NYT.
Here's a link that shows funny non-native speakers mangling the written language from a different perspective. (Thanks to Dave and another commenter)
4:45pm Edited to add: And here's a hint of how it feels to be on the receiving end.
Thursday, May 06, 2010
...I find Hatoyama's behavior craven and despicable, but I deplore even more the U.S. government's arrogance in forcing the Japanese to this deeply humiliating impasse...
That about says it all. (Edited to add: I don't personally don't feel that strongly about Hatoyama.)
A thank you towards the Potomac for the heads up.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Ahahaha. This is so funny. I knew we were overdue for an article in a major US newspaper about the hilarious and funny English non-native speakers in East Asia use. Oh, ha, ha! LOL! Yee Haw! (I liked photo number 10 the best as it shows that even the most basic rules of photography---hold the camera still when you take a shot and use an adequate shutter speed---no longer apply to photos published by the Times.)
I guess that it is a symbol of Japan's dwindling influence (how can little to no influence dwindle?) in the world that it was not a target this time of the talented multilingual geniuses at the NYT. Of course it's all innocent, because yesterday the Times published a piece on Shanghai try to untangle "Chinglish" or some such thing. I shan't bother to link.
There was a US movie called Black Rain when I was in college. It starred Michael Douglas as your stereotypical corrupt NYC cop and his partner who came to Japan (the perfect country of the future back then) and got all involved in a culture clash. The rough, corrupt, screw-all-the-laws-and-rules ways of Americans meet the polite, rule/duty bound, alien and inscrutable Japanese. The opening scene over Osaka (never been to Osaka, but I doubt that it appears so otherworldly from an aircraft) set the stage for the rest of the bizarre movie. In the happy ending however, the surviving American departed Japan a little more introspective and maybe even a bit less corrupt, while we were left to ponder just how corrupt the American had made his Japanese partner.
Some movie posters at a local Pullman, Washington video store had Black Rain written in both English and katakana.* How international! Unfortunately, they had written the katakana backwards so that it actually read kurabu nurei(?)---or perhaps nurei kurabu? Don't remember exactly as I did not take a picture. Bahaha. Ain't it funny how those English-speakers mangle Asian languages?
*They were not locally made---I am pretty sure they were supplied by the studio. I can find no examples online either.
I have continued to search for the poster on the Internet, but as of yet have not found it. Really, I am not that crazy yet. My wife remembers it too. However, we could both be crazy.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Well, although Blinky was elected and has been re-elected governor of Tokyo by the citizens of this fine prefecture, we can't assume that just because he is a racist that everyone else is.
However, as Debito Arudou writes in The Japan Times: Last Gasps of Japan's Dying Demagogues, some are:
[Citing research from M. G. Sheftall of Shizuoka University---good god, A furriner! Who can believe him?] Ishihara's "Showa Hitoketa generation" (1926-1935) was "completely immersed, from birth until late adolescence/early adulthood, in prewar Japanese ideology at its most militantly militaristic, chauvinistic and xenophobic. It is unsurprising many never quite recovered from the trauma they suffered when their ideology was suddenly and catastrophically delegitimized in August 1945."
Arudou points out that the argument of the folks who opposed the partial foreign suffrage proposed by the DPJ that bakagaijin should naturalize if they want to vote is purely fatuous (he does not use those words) as folks of Blinky's ilk will never accept naturalized citizens as Japanese when they won't even accept people who have been here for generations as Japanese.
We can only hope Debito is correct when he calls these types a dying breed. I ain't so sure, at best I think that they are a diminishing breed as there will always be others to pick up the flag.
I have nothing against that old extremist that the citizens of Tokyo decided to have represent them. The fact that he is a well-known racist, misogynist/misanthrope, and all-around kook was not important enough to give them pause. I wish him no bad luck, but if he were to be hit by a freight train, I would not spend the night crying. (What a mean thing to say!)
Google spell check does not recognize delegitimized as a word.
Sunday, May 02, 2010
If I walk down a street in Tokyo, a large portion of the population will only very, very reluctantly (or, on the case of certain very short middle-aged men completely refuse to) share the sidewalk with me.
However, if I carry a camera and stop to take a photo---or just look like I might take one---everyone will do anything, including climbing a wall, to avoid getting between me and the subject.** Some will duck down about an inch believing that doing so somehow keeps them out of the photo. Others will stand for eternity waiting for me to take the photo. It's almost as if I were on a firing range shooting an elephant rifle. Nobody would dare dally in front of me.
It might make life easier if I were to carry a camera---working or not---around my neck and pull it up as if to take a photo every time I saw a group walking side-by-side taking up the entire sidewalk.
This would have NO effect, however, on mama-chari-ists (who are licensed to kill anyway), nor the recent road bike converts (who have transferred their mama-chari skills to road bikes), nor cars---stop to take a photo in a crosswalk in Denenchofu and you are dead---taxis, buses, the large speeding dump trucks driven by lunatics, nor the young ladies who attend the Denenchofu private school for girls.
As I came out of my exercise in fantasy and was about to order another ¥880 pint, a fellow and his girl pulled up on shiny new road bikes dressed in the latest road bike fashion as promoted by Fun Ride magazine. After they came in and ordered, the future TDF yellow jersey prospect pulled out a cigarette and injected his lungs with the mama-chari-ist's EPO: nicotine. Next time, I am sitting outside.
*I keep forgetting the name and thus cannot find it on the Internut, including Google Japan. However, if you go to Tamagawa station and exit toward the river of the same name, you will find an nice little British-themed pub on the right just across from the bus stop. It has become my favorite local restaurant. 9:18PM: Found it here
**I often want people in the photos, although I rarely photograph someone's face clearly without asking, if I intend to put it on the web. Copyright/privacy laws are a bit strict in Japan about that sort of thing. Got your blog "monetized"? Well, hhssssssss---the sound of air being sucked through teeth.
Saturday, May 01, 2010
For what it's worth.We've been hearing these sorts of things about Japan, the US and everywhere else for a gadzillion years now. "It can't go on! We can't continue to borrow and borrow and borrow!" But we do.
But if the above occurs sometime in the distant future, what will happen to the US when its one of its two major financiers goes belly up? Will China be able take up all the slack? US taxpayers certainly won't.