Sunday, January 30, 2011

Do you think women's work lives have changed in Japan?

"Not changed at all." Mother's way; Daughters' choice

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Speaking of Mama Grizzlies, I was once again puzzled by the goings on in the US. After a person who might be called a loony-bird by less politically correct, cruder folk went on a shooting spree in Tucson, the early consensus among media types and some on the far left seemed to be that Sarah Palin was somehow to blame. Apparently, her map with crosshairs targeting certain seats for takeover by Republicans caused a guy who, among other things, was upset about the improper usage of English grammar* to go on a shooting spree.

This all began a debate on the recent (?) lack of civility in US politics which---if you are so foolish as to read comments on newspaper articles/editorials---seemed to mostly be partisans blaming each other for being at least partially responsible for the shootings. Obviously, it was a political shooting, I learned, as a politician was shot.

Sarah Palin doesn't seem to be the type one would want to answer the phone at 3AM to deal with a national crisis, and many have insinuated---or outright said---that she is an idiot. Whether she is or isn't, she is much smarter than many of her opponents and the attention-seeking, tattletale media: "Mommy, mommy, Sarah stuck out her tongue!" One of the few who seem to get Palin and her affect on supporters is Frank Rich of the NYT.

In an angry time when America’s experts and elites all seem to have failed, her amateurism and liabilities are badges of honor. She has turned fallibility into a formula for success. Frank Rich, NYT

He was talking about Republican opposition to her, but it applies across the board. (His article of today concerning the shooting and aftermath is good too).

During this controversy over violence-inciting military/firearms language being over-used, ABC news reported on a Weather Bomb which was about to "explode" over the eastern USA. Back in the day, we referred to these things as winter storms, which became weather events, which became "White Armageddon 1998," or the "OMG! We're All Gonna Die Fog Event of 1999." Stay tuned for continued coverage which consists of cute reporters standing outside in the snow and commenting on how cold it is with scenes of people who can't drive in snow crashing or getting stuck. Stock scenes will do fine.

Why do I feel better informed by The Onion

Snowy Conditions Proving Hazardous For Nation's Idiots

and Jon Stewart

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Veiled Criticism
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

and why do I wish we had Japanese versions?

End of editorial. Sorry, I mean rant. Editorials are the ones in newspapers.

*Anyone who has ever worked as a proofreader knows that if being obsessed with proper grammar is a sign of insanity, the world is doomed. Just for fun, see if you can let an error get through and then sit back and wait for the letters and e-mails. It's even more fun if you have an international readership from the US, England, Australian, New Zealand** and so on. (Must use "so on" and not "etc." etc is for use only in parentheses, but that's another fun topic which may depend on your style guide.)

**Speaking of poor English, Google spell check does not recognize "Zealand" of New Zealand as a properly spelled word.

EDITED: 5:52pm and again at 6:44 and 7:39.

Mama Grizzly takes no unchi

I knew things were looking up this year. First, The-Woman-Who-Watches-YouTube-All-Day-in-Her-Room-When-She-is-Not-Working-or-Playing-Tennis, came out long enough to inform me that her mother who is in the hospital with an aortic dissection is doing well and won't need surgery. A miracle, I'd say.

Then Friday evening I had dinner with the Oz Lady who informed me that her cancer scare turned out to be more of a scare than an immediate threat. The Oz Lady, a mid-30s Japanese teacher with a fear of foreigners as long as they are a faceless group, is doing well with her new---OMG!---Japanese-speaking foreign boyfriend. And the cancer scare helped her stop smoking. She did not say anything crazy during the meal like she often does. I hope she is thinking the same thing about me.

Then there's the woman whose daughter is being bullied in school. It turns out that the bullying was worse than I first heard and the young girl had to go to the hospital once after being hit by the bullying boy. This took place in front of a teacher who not only did not intervene, but did not even inform the mother what had happened. The little bully had done similar things to at least eight other students. Apparently, his parents were unable to do anything about it either. Or didn't care enough.

Although the problem has not yet been resolved, the girl's mother did find support from a local politician, a NGO, the local board of education, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Gov't.

What was it a couple of month's back that CBS News reported about schools in Japan?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Striking a conciliatory tone on an issue that has divided Japan and the United States, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Thursday that the Obama administration would follow Tokyo’s lead in working to relocate an American air base on Okinawa. NYT

So what the hell was all the fuss about last year?

Thank you, China and North Korea.

Oh, wait a second--- "follow Tokyo's lead" could conceivably be different than Okinawa's would be.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Joggers wobbling around chaotically

Apparently the conflict between joggers and pedestrians around the Imperial Palace is on again, according to NHK news. It has become so severe that the Chiyoda-ku government has decided to call a panel in March consisting of joggers and other residents to come up suggestions for rules for joggers. The government will then decide which of these suggested rules they will enact. Should take less than a thousand years.

The joggers reportedly spread out and take the entire sidewalk, run zigzag through zigzagging pedestrians who are spread out taking the entire sidewalk, or sometimes even get off the sidewalk and run on the road. In other words, joggers are jogging like pedestrians walk and mama-chari-ists and cops ride bicycles regardless of rules and laws.

Could it be that joggers are not jogging while reading e-mail and thus standing out amongst Tokyoites? And will joggers, unlike pedestrians and mama-chari-ists pay any attention to any rules that are eventually drawn up?

Will someone someday make some rules for the fine young ladies of the private girls school in Denenchofu so that we may walk down the sidewalk without being trampled by a horde of them?

Money is on "no" to both questions.

Edited Jan 11 as I cannot spell nor understand the difference between "horde" and "hoard."

Saturday, January 08, 2011

After a Christmas and New Year break, it's not pleasant to have to return to reality. Assuming there is such a thing as reality in this Japan as opposed to the one of myth.

Debito Arudou wrote Arudou's Alien Almanac in the Japan Times which, to me, indicates how the atmosphere for non-Japanese has improved since the early-mid 2000s. Ishihara (I understand from other sources that people should focus more on what the possibly misunderstood fellow says than just his more outrageous statements), the LDP under Koizumi and others, and the media seems to have reduced their campaign to villainize all non-Japanese. Not to worry though, the media hasn't changed and there are other politicians ready to up the fight when the opportunity arises.

The Japan Times published a piece in which 3 long-term residents of Japan: a former sumo star, a foreign talent (commentator/musicologist) whom I often see on TV, and a foreign born member of the Diet give advice on how to deal with being a forever outsider in Japan. Despite the title which included the likely-to-get-you-an-ass-whuppin' phrase, Get over it*, I found the advice reasonable. Not much to argue about. Besides, there are problems for immigrants in foreign countries too. Experiencing discrimination may actually be a good thing as it can make one reflect on how minorities are treated in ones own country, should one be so shallow as to never have done so before. Moreover, even Japanese have problems in Japan.**

Speaking of Japanese having problems in Japan, an acquaintance who is living Japan to take care of her mother while her American husband works in the US, is having problems with her daughter's school. It seems the young girl is being bullied by one boy to the extent that she no longer wants to go to school. At least one incident occurred right in front of the home room teacher who did nothing. The principal has done nothing. The school has done nothing to stop it, except to try to hide it from the school board. Right now her time is almost entirely consumed trying to solve this problem and it appears (the last I heard) she is fighting alone. I don't know if there are any organizations in Japan that can effectively help and the idea of hiring an attorney just ain't gonna fly. She did refer to this December 16 Japan Times opinion piece as an example:

After some thought, I may be able to suggest a solution to the problem of bullied schoolkids and the school authorities and education boards who refuse to do anything to investigate or prevent such incidents....Japan Times

I don't want to put words in her mouth, but it seems she has little hope that the elite class so beloved by Masahiko Fujiwara will ever be able to do much other than preserve their own image.

*I realize that the title, like many newspaper headlines can be read at least two ways.

**Sarcasm alert on those three sentences---related to the article.

3:12pm: Edited to correct spelling and add **.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Imagine a country where everyone is good at his or her job. Imagine a country where everyone has respect for elders and teachers. Imagine a country where every shop clerk treats each customer like an honored guest. Imagine a country where everyone wears expensive clothing, the food is slurpy, and there aren't any napkins because apparently nobody needs them. Imagine a country where everyone has good taste.

You've imagined Japan....The climate in Tokyo is similar to that of New York City.

Ahhh...another year ends in the Lake Wobegon* of the universe. On the day after Christmas, the 3rd day of winter of 2010-2011, as I walked around weird but wonderful Meguro trying to avoid being hit by mama-chari-ists with good taste dressed in expensive finery while I hoped that other pedestrians would allow me some sidewalk, I was able to enjoy the autumn leaves of the world’s most clearly distinct winter season which is similar to that of New York.

I must finally admit that I have been wrong for years and years. Japan is uniquely unique in some ways, one being the ability of non-Japanese (and the occasional Japanese trying to polish Japan up for the naive) to suspend all trace of common sense about Japan and the Japanese. To say anything less than complimentary about Japan is evidence that one misunderstands the country and is probably a racist. (Does Japan have a separate race from say, China? What is a race?) On the other hand preaching nothing but out of this world goodness about Japan is acceptable. Remember what CIA agent Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) said in Syriana: “It’s not racist if it’s positive.”

I have spent too much time looking at Japan-related sites and blogs (especially Tumblr) and found that this imaginary Japan is the Japan that many desperately hope exists, for if they were to actually come here and find that it does not exist, they would lose all faith in nirvana. Folks who spend time on those sites/blogs looking at the best architecture, art, manga, cute girls in Harajuku and Akihabara, believe they are seeing Japan. And many whose fantasy comes true and are able to visit see nothing to dispel them of the fantasy.

Just after 9/11, I put an ad for a private Japanese teacher in the magazine Metropolis Tokyo. Some Japanese fellow answered, not to get information about the job, but to try to instigate a fight saying things like: "I am glad that America was attacked. You people come to Japan and think it is Disneyland. I hope you get attacked again.” (paraphrased). He had sent the e-mail to dozens of people who had placed ads. He wrote in English, but his English had tell-tale signs of a less than fluent Japanese person's English. He was certainly correct about many foreigner's views (not only Americans by far) of Japan being Disneyland.

I guess the imaginary Japan is needed as the extreme "other," not an other in the sense of a bad, sneaky, devious, unscrupulous other (at least not until the next trade/whaling etc dispute), but as the "perfect" other.

*The Lake Wobegon Effect as pertains to Japan is not something that Japanese are guilty of, it is foreigners who tend to be.

Impossible in Japan

Edited 2:10 and 2:29pm

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Motivating かな。。。。。

Merry Christmas from PM Kan

Having pretty much given up on being able to do anything but embarrass himself, Kan has reached out to the Shintaro Ishihara's hard right party, tachiagare nippon ("Stand Up" or "Rise Up" Japan, intentionally mistranslated as The Sunrise Party in English*), in hopes of finding friends. Not that the DPJ doesn’t have a few of that flavor already, as some of its members signed the Washington Post ad of a few years ago supporting Shinzo Abe’s non-denial denial that the Japanese military was responsible for the forcing of women into sexual slavery in WW2. The logic of this move is not immediately apparent as even if Stand Up Japan joined with F**k Up Kan, the coalition would still not have enough of a majority to do anything. Considering Kan's track record of late, perhaps not being able to do anything is good.

*Meaning The Rising Sun Party?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kan maybe not so unrealistic

PM Kan has been reported to suggest that the SDF would go to Korea in case of war. This has been judged to be unrealistic by some in the ROK. It certainly might cause problems for an untested force that has never participated* in exercises with the US/Korea forces (not ground combat anyway), and with no known (at least not widely known) planning for such actions with South Korea or the US. Then one would have to wonder just what the SDF could do that the ROK could not do about 10 zillion times better in a war in Korea. And how would the SDF know where the abducted Japanese are in North Korea? Would it be involved in the war only to protect Japanese? "Oh, a nearby ROK unit is is isolated, outnumbered, and needs immediate assistance. Sorry, we are only here for self-defense and that means Japanese citizens. Gomen ne. Gambatte!"

Of course there just might be some small possibility of a slight objection to Japanese military forces in Korea by the Koreans and Chinese even though they could be reassured by explaining that the SDF is not really a military as Japan is prohibited from having a military by its constitution.

So I thought, but then Martin Fackler wrote this article for the New York Times: Japan to Shift its Military Toward Threats from China

... Japan’s new Democratic Party government has been pulling closer to Washington, spurred by a bruising diplomatic clash three months ago with China over the disputed islands and fears about North Korea’s nuclear program.

.... Washington has proposed forging stronger three-way military ties that would also include its other key regional ally, South Korea...

...During a visit to the region last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged Japan to join American military exercises with South Korea. In a meeting with Japan’s defense minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, Admiral Mullen said the two nations needed to support South Korea after North Korea’s deadly shelling last month of a South Korean island...

Fackler also vaguely notes that the ROK vice minister of defense visited Tokyo last week to discuss "increased bilateral cooperation" with his Japanese counterpart.

*Or if it did, it was kept very much under wraps, so much so that most US military never knew it. In other words, nearly impossible.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wikileaks leaks on Japan

....Singapore's Ambassador Tommy Koh called Japan "the big fat loser" and "stupidity, bad leadership and lack of vision" for Japan's position in Asian region. (Reporting on Wikileaks)

South Korea has dismissed as ``unrealistic’’ Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s comment on sending troops to the Korean Peninsula if a war breaks out.

Speaking to the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, Friday, Kan said that in the event of war on the peninsula, he’d send Self-Defense Forces to rescue abductees in the North and Japanese residents in the South
. Korea Times.

Since I have been unable to access Wikileaks, the only question I have is: Was the "stupidity, bad leadership and lack of vision" statement made during the LDP's time in power or the DPJ's and does it make any difference?

P.S. Will the SDF need the Dutch military to protect them during the rescue operations?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Unpredictable, irrational DPRK

A very short history of the DPRK and some possible rational why the unpredictable country that seems strangely predictable is behaving so irrationally is online at PBS. Some parts may be quibble worthy* (was Kim Il-sung really an anti-Japanese guerrilla or could that be part or all myth?), but it might give some insight:

North Koreans have long felt threatened by American nuclear weapons, and sought protection under the Soviet nuclear umbrella by signing a mutual defense treaty with the USSR in 1961. But North Korea does not have a lot of trust in Russia or China either... is surrounded by enemies or, at best, untrustworthy "friends"...

...This modern state of insecurity is built upon an older history of colonialism and traditional isolation to create an attitude of profound suspicion of the outside world...PBS

*Others may argue that Japanese colonialism of Korea was not really colonialism among other things.

PM Kan's TV

Although it is tough to pull away from the antics of the unpredictable DPRK which for some reason seems to be generally predictable, one can entertain oneself with some good TV. Failing that, one can find PM Kan's TV online. This will help folks try to figure out just what the government is doing since it isn't exactly obvious otherwise. It is available in English and in Japanese. (Unfortunately, it cannot be embedded.)

From the reactions of the people I talked to about the recent shelling of South Korea by the North, a little publicity/spin about Kan's achievements* is both long overdue and too late. Somehow, the shelling of the ROK just emphasized the apparent weakness and incompetence of the Kan government. Although none of these folks knew what any of the other parties could have done better, no one said they would do worse.

Now gotta go back online and read opinions of what to do about Korea from folks--- many or most of---whom you just know have less information about what is going than an observant and minimally informed E-1 who is stationed 100 miles south of the DMZ.

*Don't know if this "TV" would ever work in spite of it being spellbindingly exciting and tremendously informative.