Friday, July 31, 2009

Things ya don't wanna know

With dozens of half-completed posts waiting to be finished, it seems the only thing I can post about is that which I least want to think about.

The first is an article in the usually waste-of-time Letter to Nagatacho section of the decreasingly interesting Japan Times:

On July 2 in Shinjuku, a 74-year-old American tourist walked into a police box to ask directions....

...The American asked where Kinokuniya bookstore was, and the older police officer responded by asking the tourist if he had a pocket knife. The American, being the law-abiding citizen that he is, said "yes" and handed it to the senior officer. After a quick measurement of the blade, the officer arrested the 74-year-old for having a pocket knife 1 cm over the legal limit...

...It's astounding that a tourist in Japan has more to fear from the Japanese government or national police force than the citizenry.
Japan Times

Once again, details are lacking. Once again, a Japanese newspaper publishes something with no attempt to investigate the facts. Hey, Japan Times...what are your reporters paid to do?*

If it is accurate, (certainly the last sentence is true) why was the man arrested for possessing a pocket knife? My recollection of the law which took effect on 4 July, is that it outlawed only double-edged dagger-type knives with blades of 5 cm or more in a lazy-assed attempt to convince citizens that clueless politicians and bureaucrats were seriously addressing problems which led to the Akihabara mass murder. Is there another law which restricts the carry of pocket knives? Could one carry a 15cm kitchen knife legally? What if one buys the kitchen knife at Tokyu and is carrying it somewhere to murder someone? Is that OK as long as the koban-sitter is not aware of the murder plans? If he is, would he take action? Why arrest a 74 year-old man? Because he is a foreigner? No, recently, the criminal justice system has been cracking down on the elderly. And to the letter writer---why are you using the term gaijin? (Sorry, noobi question I suppose. Gaijin is a neutral term for non-Japanese of European/Caucasian origin which has now magically expanded to include non-Japanese Asians and others---in theory and fantasy, at least.)

I am now trying to avoid the discrimination area, as there is plenty and it is not hard to find and experience. The longer I live here and the better my Japanese becomes, the more I notice the little subtle things as well as the larger points. However, I have found that dwelling on it tends to make one overly-sensitive and can lead to imagined slights. There's not much that can be done about it anyway at the personal, everyday level. We cannot live our lives for the ignorant.

The other article in the JT, concerns the new immigration reform which the kind, polite, and caring folks in the government created to make life better for bakagaijin.

In your wallet or somewhere at home, do you have a blue or pink card showing that you are enrolled in one of Japan's national health and pension programs? If not, and if you are thinking of extending your stay here, you may want to think about a recent revision to visa requirements for foreign residents. The changes, which the Justice Ministry says were made in order to "smooth out the administrative process," may have major consequences for foreign residents and their future in Japan.

Not so sure I object to this, since it is a Japanese law to be enrolled in health insurance. Some folks have managed to get coverage by private insurance in their home country at reasonable cost and have been able to opt out with evidence of the same in some wards---or so I have heard. Now, they will no longer have that option as Uncle Taro has decided to put immigration in the hands of the national government and remove it from those closest to the needs of immigrants.

The good point---maybe---is that those sleazeball companies which ignored the laws before and had non-Japanese on their payroll while not providing the required insurance may have to quit being sleazeballs that take advantage of workers. We can remember the eikaiwa factories such as Ber....Ber...(sorry, I cannot utter the name or I will vomit) that used various scams to avoid making sure their employees were covered in case of serious illness or injury in order to save a few yen.

*What has made the Japan Times an interesting newspaper in the past was the fact that it is not a member of the so-called press clubs and thus was free to publish articles critical of the sacred cows of Japan's establishment. I remember an excellent full page investigative report in early 1993, I believe, which was extremely critical of the Japan police and its response to rape victims, and non-Japanese victims of crime. I no longer see this type of reporting. Bershitz gets away with a "no comment" in every critical report of its polices. Japan Times investigate no further. We get garbage apparently published under the guise of giving "both sides" of an issue supporting racism and discrimination based on the group one belongs to. I suppose budget cuts may have contributed to this, but it ain't worth my ¥160 anymore, even if it were not available free on the Internut.

3:32pm edited to correct an error. JT is not a member of the press clubs.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Japanese boy, Hiroki Ando, who had to go to the US for a heart transplant, was finally able to receive one on July 2, and seems to be doing well according to his diary in his mother's blog (in Japanese) and has left the hospital for outpatient "rehabilitation" in New York.

A law revising the age for organ transplants was passed recently, so the need for Japanese children to go overseas for such care may slowly decrease.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The first Japanese riders to complete the Tour de France Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu are about to do so. Live video until the end at around 1230 am Monday Japan Time. But of course anyone interested already knows of that link...

UN misunderstands Japan

A U.N. panel on gender equality criticized Japan on Thursday for failing to advance the rank of women in society or to fully address the wartime "comfort women" issue. Asahi Shimbun English

Two points:

1) Everyone knows that Japanese women are different so it can't be assumed that they want their rank in society advanced. Ask Fujiwara Masahiko about a woman's place. Or you might pick up a book similar in title to Fujiwara's by Mariko Bando: Dignity of a Woman. Or see excerpt below* from the classic Onna Daigaku to understand what has been lost in the modern era. Make a copy for the wife or girlfriend. She'll love it like mine did when I copied it and hung it on the wall just after we were married. (That woman has no sense of humor.)

2) Former US President Bush accepted ex-Prime Minister Abe's apology concerning the sex slave issue years ago. Abe, who had long fought any attempts to address the issue and who caused a big controversy when he claimed publicly as prime minister that there was no proof that the Japanese military at the time directly forced women to become sex slaves. He never took that back, but was still man enough to apologize to Boy George. Perhaps the UN is confused: How could Bush accept an apology for something which did not involve his sorry buttocks from a man who claimed that what he was apologizing for was not directed by the Japanese Imperial Army?

Onna Daigaku: Late 1600s/early 1700s:

*IV. The Wife’s Miscellaneous Duties

A woman has no particular lord. She must look to her husband as her lord, and must serve him with all worship and reverence, not despising or thinking lightly of him. The great lifelong duty of a woman is obedience. In her dealings with her husband, both the expression of her countenance and style of her address should be courteous, humble, and conciliatory, never peevish and intractable, never rude and arrogant . . . When the husband issues his instruction, the wife must never disobey them . . . Let her never even dream of jealousy. If her husband be dissolute, she must expostulate with him, but never either nurse nor vent her anger. If her jealousy be extreme, it will render her countenance frightful and her accent repulsive and can only result in completely alienating her husband from her, and making her intolerable to his eyes . . . In her capacity of wife, she must keep her husband’s household in proper order. If the wife be evil and profligate, the house is ruined. In everything she must avoid extravagance, and both with regard to food and raiment must act according to her station in life, and never give way to luxury and pride.

From Women in World History

Ahh, the good old days when women knew their place. We don't need no stinkin' UN making things worse than they have already become.

MangaMan still has it

He's not just a soon to be gone (not gone enough, though) gaffe-prone goof:

Prime Minister Taro Aso drew quick fire Saturday after he told a Yokohama gathering of young people the "elderly have no talents other than working."

Speaking at a meeting of the Junior Chamber International Japan, Aso pointed out the differences between youths and seniors, saying, "It would be too late if you (meeting participants) learned to play after the age of 80." Japan Times*

If the LDP is still around in 60 years, those now young folks could go into politics when they reach that age, or is 80 too young for a leadership position?

One should not take this stuff the wrong way though, as it was just Aho's way of encouraging the elderly to remain active. And we know that man is no fool---he could never have achieved his position by being an idiot of some sort.

*Good luck on loading the Japan Times if you have to wait for the new ad which pop-up blockers block. On Firefox it takes 2-3 minutes to load if for some stupid reason I decide to wait. Great idea Japan Times. Who "thought" that up?

Is the Mama-chari thing not uniquely Japanese either?

I don't really know why myself, but I sometimes make fun of mamachari-ists. It could be because I think that they are a danger to society and themselves and that many---a majority? most? 99.9999%?---are criminally negligent idiots on wheels (includes the koban-sitting crowd when they transfer their asses from koban seats to official police mama-chali seat) who don't seem to care the slightest if they kill or injure themselves, old ladies, old men, children, or kittens and puppies.

Is it just the number of mama-chari-bakas that I run into (literally sometimes) in Tokyo that make them seem so exceptionally dangerous? Or is it something brought on by riding one of those mild-steel, heavy clunkers with poor brakes and battleship handling? While reading an article about the Bike Snob in the NYT, I saw this quote:

“In a certain way the Dutch city bike* is the SUV of bicycles,” the Snob wrote. “It’s a little too big, it creates the illusion of safety, and nobody pays any attention when they’re operating one.”

Damn. Is there nothing uniquely unique about this country?

*The classic mama-chari as it is known in Europe and now, the US.

(Above) Made by the Dutch Bicycle Company the "conference bike", with luck, should make its way to Japan sooner or later. Excellent for forced group-think. Image from here.

Actually, I think Australia is more uniquely unique if this video is accurate:

(Youtube via Bike Snob.)

Is my Colleague from Down Under in that? J? Was that you when you had real hair?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Oops. We lied. Bugger off.

Hard up for cash, the Foreign Ministry has withdrawn its offer of financial assistance to 100 foreign nationals who applied for recognition as refugees, plunging many of them into misery.

The ministry said it introduced stricter criteria from this fiscal year because of a budget shortfall caused by a sharp rise in the number of applicants.

The assistance serves as a lifeline for applicants. Without it, many are facing dire financial difficulties. Some, unable to pay their rent, have been forced to vacate their apartments. Soon to vanish from Asahi Shimbun

Maybe the ministry can give them money for a plane ticket back home like they did the invited immigrants of Japanese descent. Yes, people must trust and believe the government when they say that they are trying to make life easier for immigrants. Just look at the track record of honestly and dependability that it has shown so far.

I can understand the lack of money. All you have to do is ride along the Tamagawa and watch how they spend tons of money moving mud throughout the year. Then come back to the same area in another year or two and do it again. Who has money for refugees when you gotta keep construction companies busy? If they keep the river looking nice, the refugees with have a place to live under a blue tarp provided that they can afford one.

Child abductions to Japan needed to escape spouse abusing gaijin.

Japan continues to be under pressure from unsympathetic foreign countries about its policy of allowing a parent to abduct his/her child from a custodial parent overseas then flee to Japan with zero risk of extradition or any effective legal recourse from the custodial parent. There are estimated to be at least 175 such cases involving children from the US, Canada, Britain, and France. One might reasonably guess that there are many more from smaller, less powerful countries.

The Asahi published an article (English) about this problem about a week ago, although curiously attempting to show how Japan's refusal to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction may have prevented a Japanese mother whose children was abducted to Britain by the British father from getting custody of her children back until after divorce mediation.

Oookkkkk. Since I assume the article was originally in Japanese (why bother to check since it'll disappear in a day or two at Asahi) they gotta write it to relate to folks here. Glad that she at least got the children back.

But then, to show that the "liberal" newspaper has balance, it reported the other side of the story---that signing this treaty could have very negative effects on kidnapped children and their international fugitive parent:

Another self-employed woman, 51, was cautious, however. She had long been a victim of domestic violence by her American husband.

The family moved from the United States to Chiba Prefecture in 1992, and she fled with two children to Tokyo in 1995.

She is now on an international wanted list on suspicion of abduction because the husband, saying the mother and children's legal abode is in the United States,* brought the matter before U.S. authorities.

The woman, who says "all I could do was flee," thinks the treaty would make such escape difficult. Asahi Shimbun

Yes, of course. There is nothing she could have done about (alleged) domestic abuse in the US. Or maybe as an immigrant she didn't know what could have been done.

Lawyer Kensuke Ohnuki, who handles about 200 divorces among international matches a year, says most child "abductions" by Japanese women are a result of spousal violence. (Same article)

Excellent reporting here. Just take the lawyer's word for it. I think we can understand who the real victims are---the Japanese spouses.

I wonder, had the man who kidnapped the children to Britain been abused by his Japanese wife?

*What an unreasonable move to claim that his children, who if born in the US were citizens, had a legal abode there! (Corrected 1026 am: This is confusing: Did the abuse occur in the US, Japan, or both? It is surprising to me that the US got involved since the abduction occurred while all were living in Japan.)

The Mind of a Japanese

One needs solid evidence to counter the claims of those who try to say that the Japanese are not different from the rest of the world. Fortunately, we can easily find such irrefutable knowledge on the Internut, in addition to Time magazine, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times.

The Mind of a Japanese
. So unique and special that it is obvious even to someone in Japanese language 101.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our Man don't unnerstan'

It was a rough train ride home this evening. Not that it was as bad as the one at the same time last week when a 40-something lady sat beside me with her music player at full volume so that she could politely share her tunes with the rest of the train. I was uncomfortable and embarrassed, as I knew that it could not have really been her who was being rude as she appeared to be Japanese, so it must have been me.

No, tonight I had a very bad B.O. problem. I had showered and used deodorant, but naturally it was not enough to overcome the normal foreigner stench. I never noticed the foulness until the stop after I got on when some young fellow in a nice black suit---of perhaps the same quality as the one that the famous eikaiwa factory, GABA, used to give away free to all new victims teachers---sat down next to me. It was the predictable odor that one could expect from a person who had not bathed properly that day---or perhaps week. It was the same odor one could expect from any human who had not used deodorant. It was the strong odor of rancid armpits. There was nothing to make it different or unique for an unwashed human body.

So I knew it had to be me. I knew it because a few years ago I was reading in the New York Times fashion section* about a fashion show in Tokyo in which the American author of the article had written that "the Japanese have almost no body odor," and if the New York Times says so, it's gotta be true. They have fact checkers, you know. It's not just a bunch of nonsense written by culture-shocked nincompoops. No, there is no way that it could have been the Japanese fellow sitting next to me. (Of course I suppose he could have been from some other country in the region or maybe a guy of Japanese descent from overseas which might mean that he could have been the source of the stench.)

While sitting there trying not to inhale too deeply, I began to distract myself by mentally reviewing what I had seen on my thrice weekly read of some choice Japan-related blogs.

It was then that I thought of the British fellow in Abiko who, despite having lived in Japan for an extended period, does not seem to see the otherworldly uniqueness of the people and country!! In fact, he says that the Japanese seem pretty much like folks back in England.

Imagine that. Why, it makes it seem like Japan and the Japanese are of the planet earth and the human race! This kind of thought cannot be allowed to spread! Suppose it gets out and becomes common knowledge---both among people overseas and among the Japanese themselves? How are the Unique-Japan explainers supposed to get book deals, write absurd newspaper/magazine articles, or make unusually bad Hollywood movies detailing the topsy-turvy world of this inscrutable island and people if we have folks like Our Man taking away all the mystery? What about the poor fellow who writes occasional articles at the Japan Times supporting bigotry and racial/ethic/group discrimination in Japan who also claims to be crayoning a book about it? Who would buy such a thing if everyone thought that discrimination was discrimination and not ok just because it's in mysterious Japan? It could even discourage someone from doing important research for a book on why dying in Japan means that you are less dead, or at least dead in a different way, than you would be elsewhere.**

As I came out of my attempt at self-distraction and rejoined my fellow commuters, I began to feel so bad and so embarrassed about my smelly self that about 10 minutes into the ride, I had to get up and stand by the doors about 15 feet away. It worked as I could no longer smell myself from such a distance.

*I never saved or linked to that article---something I regret.
: The original NYT masterpiece was an article about perfume by some perfume expert who dropped in to Tokyo named Chandler Burr. I once had so much time on my hands that I tried to read the full 600 plus page translation of The Tale of Genji. In it, they seemed to use a lot of incense on their clothing, so I asked my wife why and the silly woman said it was because people didn't bathe so often back then and they did it to hide B.O. Now I know that she was just funnin' me because they could not have had B.O.

**Not a real book idea yet---as far as I know.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Only in Japan"

According to the NYT. Maybe so. If you haven't any money, but want to eat yakiniku, free on-line yakinuku is available here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

NYT does keitai

At first glance, Japanese cellphones are a gadget lover’s dream: ready for Internet and e-mail, they double as credit cards, boarding passes and even body-fat calculators...

...“Japan is years ahead in any innovation. But it hasn’t been able to get business out of it”...

"...conflict between Japan’s advanced hardware and its primitive software..."NYT

I'd say that requiring over 15-18 keystrokes (many of them repetitive confirmations of previous steps) to open and send a single e-mail might have something to do with some of these phones being a purely domestic product. And just try to take and save a "photo" with my DoCoMo clunker. Got a week to enter all the keystrokes and confirmations? Good. Add another for shutter lag. It does have a lot of useless features, although I still have not completely read my nearly 300 page manual to find out what I am missing.

Then again, with decent software and interface, surely they could take on that heavy why-all-the-fuss iPhone. Unfortunately, my experience with Japanese PCs and their reliance on over-priced gimmicky hardware with obsolete specs, and the generally very, very poorly made Japanese software that I have used, does not give me much confidence in that area.

(I am at a loss on the "surprisingly bulky" comment in the article in reference to Japanese cell phones. US or European phones are nowadays smaller?)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Problem solved

Society can rest easier now that this 70-year old lady is securely behind bars:

Presiding Judge Satoshi Miyamoto said the woman had a previous record of shoplifting and other offenses, and the nature of her crime "reflected her experience."

...[Miyamoto] said the woman could not avoid prison. Asahi Shimbun* (English)

The welfare recipient had just been released from the pokey in January, but apparently had not learned the error of her ways. Obviously means other than prison could not have been attempted as they would likely fail. Those soft on crime may say that this 2-year sentence is excessive, but it was not their ¥98 eraser which was stolen.

1114 pm update: I have not been able to find out what the "other offenses" were except for other thefts. According to the original Japanese article*, she stole the eraser to use in writing a letter to her son. Note that this is not the usual suspended sentence that is often given to high-ranking corporate types whose decisions kill people, or e-stalking judges like Yasushi Watanabe, but I'm sure the only difference is that they are not repeat offenders.

*It seems that Asahi links go dead in about 3-5 days, so the links to that news organization above should vanish forever by the 22nd or 23rd of July. My mistake for using them.

(Nothing to do with the above, but the Apollo 11 moon mission is being replayed in "real time" here---assuming it really happened and was not some sort of fakery on a Texas sound stage. Wonder if the DPJ's Yukihisa Fujita and the other conspiracy theory nutjobs believe that too? This could be evidence as it is mostly computer simulation.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#%$&@ Only Japan has safe drinking water. $@#4%&

Swearing can make you feel better, lessen pain. I call Bull.

N-san: You can drink water from the tap in Japan. It's not like Europe and America.

Exasperated Blogging Imbecile: What? Everybody says that! Where did you hear that? Did you read it in the newspaper? Where?

N-san: I don't know. (The most accurate statement he made all evening.)

Exasperated Blogging Imbecile: Water is treated in the US, just as it is in Tokyo...

N-san: Yea, but I think that the basis level for bacteria is different for the US, Europe, and Japan...

Exasperated Blogging Imbecile: So water in Japan has less bacteria?

N-san: I don't know. I am not a water expert.

(Possible reply, left unsaid: No, you are not. You are, however, beginning to sound like an idiot.)

A few minutes later, a return to quasi-religious, nationalist racialism:

N-san: I'm not talking about whether one country's water is safer than another's. Japanese water is soft and Japanese stomachs cannot tolerate hard water from overseas.

Exasperated Blogging Imbecile: I grew up in a area with soft water. Japan is not the only country on earth with soft water. It varies by region and many other things. Besides, plenty of imported water is sold in Japan. It is mineral water. Japanese seem to drink it with no problem.

N-san: Yes, it's very soft.

Later, somehow forgetting that he had just lied and said that he did not mean that one country's water (Japan's) is safer than other country's water:

N-san: OK, I want to see you go to some developing country like India or China and drink the water.

That was one of the rare occasions that I got openly pissed at a Japanese friend or acquaintance. You know, the usual thing is to go along to get along. Only a fool would challenge another's religious beliefs, and I made that mistake.

Thank goodness I was able to come back to reality and have a decent discussion with my Colleague From Down Under (Actually I have several from there, but this guy is "special.")

After watching to This Week with George Stepon-what's-his-name on ABC (US):

CFDU: I see Obama is in trouble now, his poll numbers and such going down...

Exasperated Blogging Imbecile: Well, that's nothing unusual.

CFDU: Yea, he has to fight with Congress now and all the special interests that they are beholden to. Makes you wonder if communism or socialism isn't better.

Exasperated Blogging Imbecile: ......(No reply. I have known CFDU long enough to know that he hasn't any knowledge of any of these systems in any detail or even much in historical perspective, so there could not possibly be any debate on the merits of one system versus another. And I certainly didn't wanna get the man started on his 9/11 conspiracy theory again.)

$&#@*. $&¥@#. SOB. BS. Effing BS. Feel no different. Still in pain.

I am going to just sit in my little dark room and play computer games, rave about my Mac---I love my Mac--- and never go out again.

Why am I researching this? The average water hardness in Japan is 60. (Basically meaningless as it is the average for the whole country.) In the US, depending on region, it ranges from 0-60 (low) to 250 (high). Don't know about other countries, but I'd guess a variance between some degree of softness and of hardness is not rare.

N-san attended high school in Canada, apparently survived the drinking water there, so most of our conversation was in English. The conversation with my "Special" Colleague From Down Under was also in English, but a special light version we reserve for him.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Unreal Japan

Where even the photo "US plane Approaches Yokota" on the Japan Focus article, Overcoming American Base Pollution in Asia: Japan, Okinawa, Philippines, looks amazingly like a Microsoft Flight Simulator screen shot. Most people would not be so nit-picky as to notice that though, and if they did would have better things to do than write about it.

Should have thought of that earlier

"We have just received a sharp verdict from Tokyo voters," Nobuteru Ishihara, LDP's acting secretary-general and head of the party's Tokyo chapter, said Sunday night. "We'd appreciate some time to stop (and think)." Asahi Shimbun

His daddy may get some thinking time too.

And it's already old news, but soon-to-be-ex-PM Aso has finally decided to hold an election at the end of August and to dissolve the Lower House next week.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Taihen! Poor LDP loses Tokyo Assembly majority

You know how when you were a kid you'd get all excited during elections and stay up until late at night listening to the results? OK, maybe only the nuttier kids did, but in order to try to regain some interest in the political world, I have been suffering NHK TV coverage of the Tokyo election.

Things continue to look bad for the party of MangaMan. Just a moment ago, it was DPJ 39, LDP 5, Komeito (for all practical purposes the same as the LDP) 3.

NHK showed a quick comparison to the last Tokyo election when the LDP/Komeito won 70, and the DPJ won 40 total correction: 55 total. (Will have to confirm this doesn't look right. 1130pm The 55 includes other opposition parties in addition to the DPJ.)

I was a bit embarrassed to see that Ota-ku leaned a little more to the LDP/Komeito* than I wanted, but I live close enough to the ward line that I can happily claim Setagaya-ku which so far seems to have chosen a little better.

*Just heard that there is a large Komeito-related temple in Kamata which might explain Ota-ku.

Update 10:25: The gap is closing a bit: LDP/Komeito: 22. DPJ: 45

1040 pm: Oh, the rookie mistake of getting overly excited about early returns: LDP/Komeito 32, DPJ 46. Still looks like a solid win for the DPJ, but I don't want to jinx it.

1108 pm: 50 each, LDP/Komeito and the DPJ. I take back what I said earlier about Ota-ku and Setagaya-ku.

1109 pm: I despise blogger. Where did my 1058 go? Auto-not-saved.

1134 pm: LDP/Komeito 58, DPJ 52, others: 10. Still waiting for 7.

1145 pm: Counting has slowed to a snail's pace. LDP/Komeito 58; DPJ: 54; others: 11. Remaining: 4.

1200 am: LDP/Komeito: 59; DPJ: 54; others 11; remaining; 3.

The LDP has lost its majority. An urban defeat, but still a defeat. As Fish would say in Allie McBeal, "Bygones."

Even better: Ishihara, 76, is clearly anxious about the outcome as he will face a much more difficult time managing the Tokyo metropolitan government if the assembly coalition made up of the LDP and New Komeito loses its majority. Asahi Shimbun

DPJ 29 LDP 3

91 remaining at about 9:10 pm, according to NHK. Just a guess that the LDP is headed for a bit of bad news when all districts report for today's election in Tokyo. Good news for everyone else,perhaps, but even better news is that the politicians' sound trucks will finally stop.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

You mean the government lies?

I don't know what all the fuss is about since the rest of the planet has known for decades about the US-Japan agreement to allow nukes to pass through Japan without prior consultation

Foreign Ministry bureaucrats ordered the destruction of copies of a 1960 secret nuclear agreement between Japan and the United States just before the information disclosure law took effect in 2001...

The Japanese government has continually denied the existence of the secret pact, but U.S. documents and statements from former U.S. and Japanese diplomats strongly suggest otherwise...Asahi Shimbun

Reischauer was involved when he was Ambassador to Japan: In Talks with Ambassador Reischauer, Japanese Foreign Minister Agrees to Lie about Nuclear Weapons.

Reischauer embarrassed a lot of people when he publicly disclosed the agreement in 1981. Only the Japanese government continues to officially deny history in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Denial of history despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Shockingly out of character---if a government can have character.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Take a leak for group accountability

Although I have found it to be personally counter-productive to spend much time focusing on discrimination---I know its around, and seeing and experiencing it at times is more than enough without reading about it every day---I can't help but to learn about some of the new tricks that our friends in the government are doing in order to help foreigners behave themselves.

Debito Arudou* has written an article for the Japan Times concerning a "crackdown" in Roppongi in which non-Japanese (and perhaps some Japanese too) are being persuaded to pee for the boys in blue to prove that they aren't dopers. Of course, this seems to go against common sense---how can anyone be non-Japanese without doing drugs?

Naturally people have rights. After all, this is a democracy, not a benevolent police state run by some of the most incompetent goofs on earth. Debito was able to interview a very busy servant of the people (I am maybe going a little too far here by claiming that non-Japanese are people in the same way that Japanese are, or that a bureaucrat is serving anyone except himself or his department, but as usual, I digress.) and in a reluctant response to Debito's questions, our fearless sit-on-the-old-kiester-all-day-in-a-koban fellow clarified our rights should we be asked to whiz for him:
  • Urine tests are only done "when necessary."
  • Only folks who "look wasted on drugs" will be tested.
  • Urine samples are only taken "after persuasion, never under threat." (See your real rights here.)
Naturally, we can assume that the urine samples are properly taken and tested and a strict, verifiable chain of custody is followed. Of course, you will be able to challenge these tests, and the police will have to support the procedure in your case in a impartial hearing in a court of law. The fact that you are a foreigner who probably comes from a place where everyone uses drugs, will not be prejudice anything.

I don't really know, but since I used to be very much involved in finding drugs and drug users, some of this seems just a bit questionable. No, not that I doubt that the persuasion will be done without threat: After all, wouldn't a few kind words be enough to get anyone to urinate in a cup? Maybe they could say something like: I'll pee too, if you will. Or perhaps a contest: I bet I can pee more than you! Or perhaps---for men---they'll offer to hold it for you. None of these are threats and there are even more possible ways to politely persuade.

The problem is, what if you are persuaded by the kindness, sincerity, and unquestionable integrity of the investigating officers, and the test comes back positive? A false positive. Whatcha gonna do? Hire a good lawyer who will be able to successfully defend you in court?

Seems the US military went through this sort of thing years ago and got a number of false positives. After they fined, incarcerated, or discharged the "guilty" they found that there had been problems with the testing. Oops! Had to offer to let them back in the military and upgrade discharges to honorable. Things improved as time went by, but those tests have never become infallible. (I am sure the criminal justice system in Japan realizes that and is taking steps to prevent false arrests/prosecutions.)

And really, what does a person who is wasted on drugs look like? Could someone wasted on the drug known as alcohol look and act similarly? Ahh, but the odor of alcohol would be present, and the use of one rules out the other. How about certain medical conditions? Never mind, let's not worry about these things as the police are trained professionals and a mistake here would hurt them more than you.

Unfortunately, I rarely go to Roppongi---especially since the US Embassy warned us about the place. I'd think the best thing to do now is to avoid it entirely (including Roppongi Hills and the other over-priced shopping areas there.) I am sure that the merchants, bar-owners, and massage girls, would prefer not to get money from the type who frequent Roppongi.

Oh, and speaking of competent law enforcement and government, it seems a school boy stabbed another school boy to death on a train platform with a 17cm knife. This was the same day that the ban on double-edged knives with blades longer than 5cm went into effect. Who could have foreseen that?

*I know the fellow is controversial and that he is not perfect. I have even read that he thinks Japan is the US---although not from his writing. However, he is one of the few who are actually trying to do anything about discrimination in Japan. Others write books excusing it.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

I done did wrong?

Had to have. Perhaps my sin is why I have developed a severe case of blogger's block.

Friday afternoon, I was walking around the neighborhood with one of my cameras and saw the same flowers that I see every year at this time. The flowers (I have no idea what kind they are---non-native I suppose as I cannot find them in any of my paid-too-much-for books) are on a bush that hangs out in the road. They drop off about this time of year and the fallen flowers can make an interesting background for photos of those still in bloom.

While I was taking a few photos trying to find an angle that might make a halfway decent composition, I noticed an old lady walking down the road. I sensed her stopping behind me, but didn't pay much attention right away. I have generally found that old people have no problem of walking up and starting to chat in Japanese* when I am taking photos with a dSLR or larger format camera. This is shocking since everyone knows that the Japanese are shy.

A moment later she asked, "Are you taking photos of the flowers?"

"Yes," I answered.

"They are pretty," she said. "If you would like, you can cut some and take them with you."


"The house with those flowers is mine."

"Oh, really. They're very beautiful."

"Do you live around here?"

"Yes, about five minutes away."

"If it's ok with you, could you bring me one of the photos?"

"Of course."

Then she walked to her door and went inside.

I walked by there this morning and noticed that the bush had been severely trimmed. No flowers were left, and was cut back inside the fence and had lost well over a foot of height. Never, since I moved to the area 3 years ago has that bush ever been trimmed and the flowers had always been left until they dropped.

Somehow, I cannot get the idea out of my head that it was done because of me. No evidence, just a feeling that I doubt I would never have outside of Japan. I know that it likely had nothing to do with me, but there is always the sense of being held at arm's length (thus the overly polite bakagaijin treatment some folks are so fond of) and the awareness of a forced separation from the society that I am supposed to be living in. It isn't uncommon to have some vague feelings of guilt for no reason here, or to feel that I have to show that I ain't a criminal, or that yes, Fujiwara Masahiko-chan, I can hear insects too.

Never got a decent photo, but gonna print one for her anyway and drop it off. Wonder if she really thought I would? I can even ask her what kind of flower it is since I cannot find it in any of my paid-too-much-for books. And maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to find out what (meaning why) happened to the flowers.

*Most of the time, older folks---especially women don't attempt to resort to English every time I miss something. What a relief...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Murder rate to drop beginning at midnight!

Last year, after the mass murder in Akihabara, the government took swift action to prevent such things from happening again. It outlawed the possession of certain knives---shall we call them assault knives?---with double-edged blades of more than 5cm long.

On July 4, the grace period will run out for those who possess these evil instruments. Failure to turn them in carries a penalty of up to 3 years in prison and a ¥500,000 fine. The knives, that is. The government failed to do anything about the other weapon that the creature used to run down and murder people---a rental truck. These are still readily available for nearly anyone with a drivers license. The much longer than 5cm razor sharp kitchen knives nearly every home has which seem to be used much more often in murders? Not included. Will Michael Moore show up here and do one of his "documentaries?"

This well-conceived law seems to have caused a bit of confusion for those who use double-edged knives for shelling sea critters in Hokkaido, although that is a small price to pay for the increased safety and security it will bring.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Embarrassingly stupid

But Japan distrusts immigrants too, so that makes it OK.

Of all the initiatives undertaken in the name of homeland security after 9/11, the visa screening requirements for foreign scientists and engineers have probably done the most lasting damage to America's economy -- particularly in the cutting-edge technology fields that are vital to our economic leadership and national security.

The U.S. scientific enterprise depends enormously on talented foreigners. Foreign students and researchers, especially from India and China, comprise more than half of the scientific researchers in the U.S. CFR

However, the US is taking another look at this nonsense. Wonder if Japan will since many leaders think its future seems to be tied to immigration too.

I hate blogger

Why do I have to edit html to get the post to look like the preview? And why can't blogger spellchecker spell? And why can't I edit a post from the blog on Firefox like I used to be able to do instead of having to go through the dashboard to do it? And why do post labels disappear when I do? And why does it work on Safari? And why am I starting every sentence with "and"?

Can't wait to get my non-Japan made* MS OS Netbook so I can spend more time in the computer. (Plus I'll be able to do it on a Microsoft OS instead of a Mac. Maybe it will---unlike my Mac---connect to wireless and just work.)

Ahahaha. Just joking about Mac. I love my Mac. No truck bombs through my house by MacNuts please. Hahaha. Just joking about truck bombs CIA, FBI, Japan's finest. I have no connection to Kunio Hatoyama.

And why am I posting this? End of stupid, childish, time-wasting whine.

*Why pay a premium for a Japan-made PC with last year's specs and of no higher quality than one made elsewhere?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Walk before you can ride: The professional Mamachari-ist part 2 (continued from 2008)

Warning! The photo at left is an example only: As attractive as it is, this mamachari is not properly set up for riding. The seat is much too high, there is air in the rear tire, and the wheels appear to be roughly true.

It's been quite a long time since I wrote anything about one of my favorite hobbies---road biking---but recent events have made it necessary for me to do so again.

First and foremost, there is the great news that the law has changed to allow mothers to carry 2 children on their hi-quality (Made in Japan! Maybe...) mamachari bicycles which have outstanding brakes and safety equipment. There are probably some troublesome cynics around who would say something like: "What's the difference? They ignored the law and rode them before anyway." Pay no attention to such nitpickers.

Second, two Japanese riders may participate in the Tour de France this year: Fukiya Arashiro and Fumiyaki Beppu who previously rode for the Discovery team, although not in the Tour de France.* I have not seen confirmation yet, but if so, it will be quite an achievement. Anyone who learned to ride a bike in mamachari-land would have to unlearn every single thing that they learned in order to ride a road bike safely anywhere---especially in competition. The mere fact that anyone survived a bike ride in Tokyo is cause for celebration.

Third, road bikes are becoming more popular in Tokyo as some are switching to them for weekday commutes to work instead of taking the wonderful Tokyo subway system---can't figure out why. Plus, more and more books and magazines are being published about cycling. I was so happy to see a couple of books about cycling along the Tamagawa published recently---more cyclists on road bikes with mamachari skills!!! Encountering one of these folks provides me with excellent workouts as my heart rate jumps 300%--way above a training heart-rate zone of 5c into zone 100z. Cardiovascular fitness by terror---little physical effort required!

A little over a year ago, I posted about how to purchase and prepare your own mamachari. I had planned to do another post about how to ride one, but never got to it. I mean, how is a guy who cannot figure out how to walk down the sidewalk without being pushed, shoved, run into, stepped on, forced into the busy road, and such gonna be able to tell anyone how to ride a bike?

Well, I don't ride a mamachari---I'm not skilled enough---but I do ride 4000-5000 miles** per year and have seen enough mamachari riders and observed their expertise, skills, good-manners, safe-riding habits, and concern for others to be able to give some advice. But before you can ride, you gotta know how to walk.

Again, I have to emphasize that I am unable to walk properly in Tokyo. I can't even figure out how to cross a marked crosswalk without risking instant death. But I have observed how the assimilated do it. So if you can answer yes to the following questions, you will be ready to embark on the challenging path to becoming a professional mamachari rider.

  • Do you walk down the middle of crowded streets while playing with your cell phone and not bother with a single glance of where you are going?
  • Do you routinely run into other people and pretend that you didn't?
  • If you are a very short, grouchy old man, do you elbow people who irritate you by their mere existence?
  • If you are a young woman, are you able to sound like a galloping horse with a lame foot as you run at a snail's pace to the station in your absurd high heels?
  • Do you walk slower than a dead turtle when approaching an intersection with a green crossing light and then, just when it starts flashing just before turning red, take off like a bat-out-of-hell, running into anyone and everyone in your way so that you can rush into the intersection just as the light turns red?
  • Do you walk down the middle of the sidewalk in order to cause as much trouble as possible for other pedestrians trying to get by you in either direction?
  • Do you pick up your snail-pace into a mad, insane rush when you see an empty seat on the train while trampling little old ladies with canes to get to it?
  • Do you rush, elbow, kick, bite, shove, and fart to be the first out of a train and then, as soon as you're out, slow down and block the exit and platform for everyone else?
  • Do you wait until the last possible second before collision (or later) with another person before yielding a single millimeter of your sidewalk?
  • Do you lack any sense of anticipation or danger? Are you entirely unaware of your surroundings?
  • Do you rush just to get in front of others even though you are in no hurry and intend on slowing down to your basic 148 year-old peg-legged grand pappy pace just so you can be first?
  • Do you stop to answer your phone or check your e-mail at the narrowest part of the sidewalk thus causing as much inconvenience for everyone else as possible?
  • Do you avoid walking in a straight, predictable line like the plague, but instead do a random side-to-side wobble while running into other folks or forcing them into ditches or active streets whenever possible?
  • Are you an idiot, or can you at least do a good imitation of one?
  • Oops. Forgot a vital skill: If with others, do all of you spread out to take up every square millimeter of the road, sidewalk, or football field?
Answer yes to most or all? Perfect. You already have many of the basic skills needed. If not, don't worry. You can perfect the skills you lack while wobbling your new junkpile mamachari down the street or sidewalk. This is not a complete list, of course, but it should be enough to get anyone started.

I hope to have the mamachari riding tips ready in time for the first few days of the Tour which begins Saturday. Should one need to read up on proper bike selection and set up, see Assimilation in Tokyo: The Mama Chari.

*July 3 update: Both will start: Beppu for Skil-Shimano and Ashiro for BBOX Bouygues Telecom.

**Not hard to do. An annual average of 350-400 miles per month on rural roads and along the Tama River, five hours per week or so will do it. The hard part is training properly and avoiding accidents.