Friday, June 30, 2006

Japanese Press

I wrote a few entries about the Japanese press, and press clubs and how they are basically puppets for what the government wants published. Here is an article by Howard French, the New York Times reporter who spent several years in Japan working with this system. Skepticism, has already started going to cynicism as far as the Japanese media goes. Not that I believe everything I hear in foreign media either, I just know that it is less kowtowing to the government than Japan's.

Oh, but don't worry, Japan has completely changed since WW2. Uh-huh.

Another Tour de France

The first one without Lance Armstrong since 1999. This makes some happy, because they wanna feel superior to the so-called Johnny-come-latelies who got interested in cycling because of Lance.

I have enjoyed it for years, even though I did not pay as much attention to the Tour and other European races before Armstrong. Probably won't pay as much attention after him either, although I am interested this year to see if Jan Ullrich can win again. I prefer riding in any case, and if I can find appropriate convenient amateur races here that don't cost a fortune and take 14 train change and 6 hours to get to, I will ride those.

Until last year, we could see reruns of the Tour on TV beginning about a month after it finished. They did not show that last year.

Japan has a lot of commuter cyclists on "mama-chari"----old clunky steely bikes. They ride without watching where they are going, disobey traffic and other laws and regulations, ride on sidewalks and will run you down if you don't get out of their way. I personally believe that they are the least skilled, most negligent, irresponsible and dangerous cyclists I have ever seen and that includes in several states in the US, as well as in Korea, and in Europe. People there make occasionally make stupid mistakes as we all do, but they don't do it 110% of the time.

Cops are basically idiots on bikes too, waddling around not watching where they are going, putting themselves and others are risk of serious injury or death.

Last month, there were numerous stories on TV news about the big increase in cycling injuries and fatalities. They had tons of video showing morons causing bicycle accidents. However, that is as far as it goes. Nobody will take any action---especially the cops, who as mentioned are as bad or worse than anyone else, as well as being reactive as opposed to being proactive. They will wait until there is a fatality and investigate it, but will do little to try to prevent them in the first place.

I am back to riding 20-70 miles per day, 3-5 times per week. Hardly a day goes by that several people on bikes do not come close to getting injured or killed along the Tamagawa (river). It is due to pure carelessness and stupidity. You would have to see it to believe it.

I am extremely careful there, trusting nobody. I assume that everyone I see, in cycling gear on nice bikes, or on mama-chali, is a dangerous, negligent fool. I am rarely wrong. A lot of serious cyclists, Japanese and non-Japanese, refuse to ride along that road because of the danger. I ride early mornings before the main group of simpletons get out and wander blindly, which does reduce danger. But I never relax, never get off the brakes around other cyclists or people wobbling around with their head up their ass.

And especially, cops---one nearly ran into me yesterday. Two were riding along the river, watching the river and behind themselves---everywhere but where they were going. Both were on the wrong side of the rode. One was a stud, riding with one hand on the bars which helped him wobble even more. I came around a curve, but knowing how idiots often are on the wrong side of the road here, I had slowed way down. Luckily, it was enough to avoid a head on with this fake law-enforcement officer.

No wonder a lot of people prefer highways. There are rules there which are obeyed and enforced, and fewer idiots wandering around without watching where they are going.

Just a few minutes after posting this, I learned that Jan Ullrich has been suspended because of doping allegations..

8:08pm It continues to get worse, Basso has been suspended. Maybe up to 20 will be. Makes cycling look bad again, but if they tested and disciplined athletes in other sports--- major league baseball, football, bodybuilding etc.---as seriously as they do cycling, there would be few left on those teams. It's a real shame. This year's Tour is pretty much over before it starts. Hardly worth the bother of following. This will help the popularity continue in the USA after Armstrong. It's dead there now, I figure.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Japanese Media/Sleazeballs

Journalism as a profession has been getting less and less respect in the US and other countries, and in my opinion (having spent some time dealing with them on a daily basis) deservingly so. However, the Japanese media/journalists put other journalists to shame when it comes to being ambulance-chasing sleazeball sensationalists.

On June 11, I wrote about a woman who was being tried and convicted by the Japanese press. The Japan Times has published an editorial about this case and the unfairness of it.

But you really have to see this kind of stuff to believe it.

Tokyo Ain't the Only Place with Train Perverts

About a year ago, many train lines in Tokyo set aside some cars for women during rush hour because of weirdos who get their jollies feeling up unknown females on crowded trains.

Turns out this is much more common in the US---NYC--and elsewhere than I had thought. Women there tend to keep silent about it when it happens too, something which surprised me a bit.

Monday, June 19, 2006


It is hard to be sympathetic to Japan, even though I believe it has a point on allowing some commercial whaling, when if it doesn't get its way, it pouts like a child and does things for spite.

Japan lost in its effort to allow whaling (as was discussed below) and now it will increase its "scientific" harvest. This is in spite of the fact that there is little ot no market for whale meat and lost of it is simply stored or even rumored to be used in pet food.
So the question is, if nobody is eating it, and there is no market for whale meat in Japan, why do they kill them? Science? Then why insist on commercial whaling? To support Norway? That I doubt.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


This just scratches the surface, but here is a funny article about Japanese good manners.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Think it over

You want to come to Japan to "teach" English? Really? Why? If you have a year or two to throw away, it might be OK. You can enjoy a different culture, learn a few things and perhaps somehow find that you like the pretend version of TESOL so much that you go back home and get teaching credentials in it and the hope to get one of the few openings teaching English as a second language in the states.

Or perhaps you are interested in learning Japanese, or want to gain some overseas experience for a future business career (teaching English?).

A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal had an article on the changing reasons that American students were studying Japanese. Whereas in the late 80s-early 90s when I went through college, it was mostly for business---anyone remember the horsemanure then about how Americans had to learn about Japanese culture and the Japanese language because Japan was the future? I was a sucker who fell for that b.s.----now it is mostly manga fans. Or, as was stated by someone interviewed in the article, "It's guys who want to go to Japan and find a girlfriend with purple hair."

Anyway, as is well-known, this is not a career for achievers. It is a deadend. Do you really want to look back on your life at 75 and tell your grandkids that you spent your whole life sitting around and chatting doing a job that as is commonly practiced in Japan, requires no education, specialized or not, and does not even require a college degree? (Just ask Berlitz.) In fact, I would argue that it does not even require a high school diploma. You gain few transferable skills, most Japanese do not even respect the job, assuming that anyone could do it and that it is just sitting around and talking. Many expect you to be the stereotypical foreign weirdo clown for them too. (All foreigners are basically weirdos to many.)

Well, when you are with people who don't study, make few efforts, and mainly just want you to do nothing but correct their grammar (100%), it doesn't take much. In fact, under these conditions and with these types of students, actually doing more is just frustrating and a waste of your time.

I came over here to work for a small Japanese company in Toyama City in 1991. That was only a 6 month job, and afterwards I went to the YMCA to "teach." I knew the job had a reputation of being a joke (teaching English in Japan), but I wanted to stay and learn about Japan and the Japanese. I absolutely hated every second of it. It was, I thought, the dumbest job I had ever done.

After about a year of that, I went back to the US. My wife stayed in Japan with her mother who had developed a sudden serious illness. She soon found a good job here, and wanted me to return. I refused, because I had sworn never to teach English in Japan again. Besides, I had a good job with a good salary in a nice company in the States.

This separation lasted five years. Finally, it was either come back or get divorced, so I decided to return. Before returning, I went back to college full-time for a year to get a TESOL endorsement for Washington state. I wanted to know what I was doing before teaching again. However, I did not want to be teaching very long.

The education helped some, but I don't really get a chance to use much of it. In fact, I have forgotten tons of it. I have almost completely forgotten assessing (not the quicky simplistic level checks or "assessments" done here to find out what book to use with a student). I can still enjoy reading some of the journals that come out, and some of the studies though. Don't really get to put much into practice, because it would take the cooperation and effort of my students to do that. Frankly, had I to do it over again, I would have gotten a CELTA. It is more than one needs in Japan. Even the Berlitz 5-day basic instructor training course is plenty---too bad it was not well-understood nor followed there.

As a rule, I expect little effort. Any is a shock and makes me think the student is really good, when in a classroom in the States or most other places it would just be the normal thing.

Did I mention the big bucks? Yep, at best you will make 4-4.5 million per year. Yen. Perhaps $35,000 for 12 months work. You will start at about $24,000 or less. That is not considering the absurd cost of living here. In actuality, you are making much less.

You will likely work weekends, maybe holidays, probably split shifts, have little or no opportunity for further education or training (Berlitz may give you that chance. Training often consists of studying the text you will use for 40 minutes, or else having someone explain to you how to use that text in a 40-minute "method.") Now, what kind of job in the US could a college graduate get for $24,000? One with a future.

I don't hate the job like I did in Toyama. In some rare cases, it has been somewhat rewarding. It can sometimes be enjoyable. But it is not something to aspire to, it is something that probably 90% would leave for another job were they given the opportunity. (The best thing I ever did while here was start doing most of it on my own, not working for a company. At least I can enjoy selling or marketing, and can select my students. I still hope to get completely out of it; to use this marketing experience to gain better knowledge and using it for something else.)

This has turned into a rambling rant. Probably the skill I have developed more than any other as a teacher in Japan. Come on over, you can do that too.

(You could get a masters in TESOL and work at a university. The pay is a little higher, the workload lighter, and the job security nil.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Japanese Diplomacy

You don't see a lot about Japan being a leader in any diplomatic arena. It usually sits backs and catches crumbs off the US or a few other countries' efforts.

However, when it comes to money-making, Japan can be quite aggressive. It has also been a leader in trying to get the ban on commercial whale hunting removed. Japan says eating whale is traditional in Japan, and others say it isn't. Don't know which is true, except that it is not common; it is expensive; and few actually eat it. Contrary to what the Washington Post says, it ain't generally sold in fast food restaurants here.

However, it looks as if Japan will succeed in reinstating whale hunting (they already kill several hundred per year anyway) via money diplomacy which Japan is famous for. I have no idea whether or not the reintroduction of controlled hunting is a good idea or not. From what I have read, it seems like it would be acceptable as long as countries could be trusted to abide by the limits. Unfortunately, Japan was reported to have been cheating and killing more than it reported under the loophole it had been using.

UPDATE 17 June: Japan did not succeed after all.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


wareware nihonjin!!!!

Japan lost to Australia in the World Cup on Monday. It is big news in Japan naturally, so I get to discuss this with a lot of people. A lot of the focus is on "bad advice" from the foreign (Italian, I believe, manager) to the pure Japanese players, and from one intellectual about how it was due to physical differences between the Australian team members and the uniquely unique pure Japanese. In fact, this difference is caused by the fact that them thar semi-beast foreigners are meat-eaters, and the pure Japanese ate rice and fish historically. (You know, fish like whale meat which the Japanese government claims is a traditional Japanese food.

Only a couple of people have said the loss may have been due to the fact that the Japanese team sucks and has no offense. They said that in private when there were no other Japanese to offend.

Once again, everything is explained away by the "we Japanese are special" and them thar furriners are interfering with our pure nature.

6 Jult 2006: Gotta take some of this back. A lot of people now recognize that the problem was the Japanese team and players. I have such a pet peeve about the nihonjinron myth, that I (and a lot of people) sometimes jump to hasty conclusions.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The talent that the Japanese media has to manipulate public opinion is amazing. I suppose that this goes on everywhere, but it is so bold and open here as to be shocking at times.

When Livedoor's Horie was arrested, there were constant leaks for the prosecutors which prejudiced the public opinion of him to that of guilty. He had no chance to defend himself, nor did his lawyers get much air time to do so. His reputation has been destroyed by the government with the support and assistance of the Japanese media (which most often has no choice but to support the government position because of restricted access to kisha, the press clubs.)

Last week, a woman was arrested and charged in the death of a young boy. Her daughter had died in April and the police attributed it to accidental drowning. She was not satisfied with that explanation and wanted further investigation, but they closed the case.

A month later, one of her daughter's friends, a young boy, was found strangled. She has been charged in his death---or at least with illegally abandoning a body. It is a sad story, it seems that she was depressed with her daughter's death and killed the boy because she couldn't stand to see other children living happily when her daughter was dead. That is her explanation.

There is no excuse for what she did, but the media has pulled out all stops to vilify her. Earlier, they had staked out her house expecting her to be charged in the crime. Naturally, there were tens of dozens of noisy, nosy reporters there and she became upset at their presence. She went outside and questioned them as to why they were there and asked them to leave or to move away.

This is something anyone, guilty or not would be likely to do, but now they repeated air the images of her while she was upset at the reporters. This tends to make her look like and evil nutcase. Perhaps she is, but I believe that is what courts are to decide based on evidence.

In Japan, the vast majority of people charged in a crime are convicted. It used to be a 99% conviction rate. Damn, those cops are good. Most convictions are based on confessions obtained under long severe interrogation sessions (Amnesty International has long condemned this practice, but frankly, most Japanese, especially the government does not give a damn about it.)

There is bail available, but it is rarely given prior to confession. People simply spend months in a "detention center" under interrogation without being offered bail and with restricted access to an attorney.

All of this is well-known, but it is still surprising to me to see the obvious kowtowing of the supposedly "free" press doing the government's dirty work without question. Just suppose that this woman (or Horie) is innocent and that her confession was forced and false. It makes no difference, her reputation and future has been destroyed. She was assumed guilty as soon as she was arrested. Period. That is the way it goes here, and very few people see anything wrong with it.

It turned out that this women did kill both children, her daughter and the neighborhood boy.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Tour de France is coming up

although I don't write much in this blog about cycling anymore, I just visited Jan Ullrich's page---it is funny as hell if you are a cycling fan and know who he is and are familiar with the sport. Otherwise, I suppose it's not. (I cannot vouch for the authenticity of that site.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

What small things I worry about...

Just notified that another uncle has suddenly died. That is two uncles and one aunt in less than three years. My mother has no surviving siblings now. I can only imagine how hard this has been on her.

As with the uncle who died last year---11 months ago---I had not seen him for years. I have rarely been home in the last 12 years, living and working in Washington state, then coming to Japan. It has now been nearly 24 years since I left home. I know I should get back more, and always plan to do so every fall for Thanksgiving or hunting season. But I never do because of work (my excuse) or because I hate the 24 hours it takes to get home. I especially dread the treatment that customs gives people returning from overseas trips at Seattle's SeaTac airport. They treated American citizens like criminal scum even before September 11.

That isn't a reason not to return, but an excuse. Most things we complain about are trivial.