Saturday, January 30, 2010

On Second Thought

One cannot take the Toyota "scandal" at face value, for the thinking intellektual must be aware of the very real possibility that it is all a sneaky plot between the US auto companies and their lackey, the US gubbermint, to damage Toyota and regain market share for the troubled Big Three. After all, the parts in question, although made to Toyota's specs, have been linked to a US supplier which should raise suspicions about the quality problems inherent in the DNA of foreign-made products, as well as possibly sinister motives on the part of the foreign supplier.

It is not outside the realm of conspiracy theory that although Toyota may have made a few mistakes---like the domestic talents busted for drugs who are always tricked into using them by foreigners---the company may be the real victim here.

I eagerly await "Blinky" Ishihara and cohort's input.

Murdering Cars. Oops. Gomen ne.

I was stunned this morning while watching ABC World News Tonight. First, there was a story in which ABC did not have David Muir or any other reporter mugging for the camera and obscuring the person being interviewed. Then, having barely recovered from that unprecedented event, I saw the head of Toyota---Toyoda Akio---come out of hiding and apologize (sorta) for the now worldwide Toyota recall.

In the report, ABC cruelly showed a clip from a few days ago in which the ABC crew visited Toyota's Japan HQ. After the Guard Man(s) failed at throwing them off of the property,* some fellow in a suit and a mask came out and sorta apologized sincerely for the recall trouble.

After a rude, sarcastic remark about that incident, ABC showed interviews with several experts on corporate screw-ups. Toyota was criticized for not having top executives go public immediately with an explanation on what happened and what was being done; for being disengaged; and for not understanding "the emotional nature of the US market."

"The emotional nature of the US market!?" Good lord, Fujiwara Masahiko's dignified brain must be rolling in its grave! Aren't folks in the US Mr. Spock-like logical, while in Japan folks are all warm, fuzzy, "wet," and basically operating in a society in which human relations are all based on emotion without logic? Doesn't Toyota have some sort of international culture class in which management can study how the Japanese are different? How could they misunderstand their largest market?

Or couldn't Toyoda-shacho have learned from what happened in unique Japan a few years ago to a foreign company that did not understand the (emotional?) Japanese market and failed to take appropriate action quickly?:

Japanese culture and its scapegoat-seeking media often make bad times far worse for companies compromised by events. But for foreign firms less familiar with the country's societal norms, such problems can easily spiral completely out of control...

...They had no clue that their products would soon be referred to as "murdering elevators" on the streets, online and in the Japanese media. And they could perhaps never have expected that — despite being the world's No. 2 elevator maker — their sales in Japan would come to a sudden halt...

...along with the public's desire to know why the tragedy occurred at all, another key question was whether Schindler's elevators might be inherently dangerous. Japan Times

Will we see raids by teams of 321,002 police officers on Toyota's headquarters carrying out boxes of documents (and girly magazines?) for show? Will we see Toyoda-shacho fly to the US and other countries in person like the head of Schindler did?

Or has Mr. Toyoda become Western?:

"I would say that our reaction was typically Western, especially an Anglo-Saxon type of reaction," said Schindler..."

Or could the unthinkable be true:

..."Japan's famed quality- control is a myth, but like any good myth, many people believe it. When the myth is shattered, scandal results."
[Mark D. West][Same JT article]

I could paste that entire article here and substitute Toyota for Schindler and the US for Japan and it would in many ways match Toyota's actions.

This is the sort of stuff that can cause one to become all befuddled. I can only assume that Toyota is operating on the well-known in Japan fact that folks/companies in the US don't apologize or accept any responsibility for anything because they will be sued. This is known because US auto insurance policies warn against such statements, and as we all know, the coldly logical "dry" Americans run their lives according to insurance policies.

Unfortunately, I cannot find the ABC report at their site. A video (in Japanese) and story (in English) of Toyoda's apology is here.

*The ABC crew was thrown out of a dealership in Tokyo in that earlier report---broadcast a day or two ago.

Edited at 1130

Enjoying the big city

Sooner or later you have to get away. Even when you can't get away, ya gotta go somewhere. Some go to Roppongi. Some enjoy Shibuya and Shinjuku. Some are lucky enough to be able to walk to the Tamagawa.

The river is a different creature at night and in the very early morning before the crowds and dogs and wobbling cyclists get there.

Although I live in the only country with four clearly distinct seasons, I have not noticed a winter at all this year. But I can go to the river on a brutally cold 45 degree...brrr...January night and imagine, while listening to the waterfowl non-verbally communicate, that I am not actually in the world's largest "city."

Friday, January 29, 2010

If you know one Japanese, you know them all

No, it was not a statement made by the Imperial Wizard of the KKK in an address to the semi-annual international conference of simple-minded bigots, but something said by a Japanese in a "international culture course" conducted by a very large and well-known Japanese corporation.

I wasn't there to hear it, but I naively stepped in this cow-pie because I was not quick enough in switching the subject when an acquaintance who had attended began to explain just how different the Japanese really are. Apparently, they are even more different than he, a Japanese, had realized.

He rattled off a few other things that he had "learned." Most were not new to me: Foreigners (If you know one foreign culture, you know them all?) communicate verbally while the Japanese are a non-verbal society. (Hell, anyone who has ever been to an izakaya knows that.) Japan is a consensus society and as such Japanese bosses "never make a top down decision."

Being one who never learns, I would throw things back like: "My wife is Japanese, does that mean I know all Japanese?"; "When my wife has friends over, there seems to be a lot of verbal communicating"; "The boss at my old company sure seemed to make top down decisions", and so on. He would laugh a bit after each and say something like "That's what I learned." Being a bit slow at Japanese verbal communication myself, I didn't think to ask, "If I had known the fellow who went on a murderous rampage in Akihabara a few years ago, would I have known all Japanese?"

It sorta seems to me that these sort of "international/intercultural" courses tend to be more about Japan than about any other country. I like the way they work too: If you find that a foreign country and Japan are similar in some area, then switch to another country which is "different" to show Japan's unique uniqueness. Say you are talking about pickles and find that Germans eat pickles too. You could either point out that German and Japanese pickles are different in some way, or just switch to North Niklebania where nobody eats pickles and compare that to Japan. Foreign countries/cultures/people are generally interchangeable anyway with slightly less interchangeability between Western and Asian countries. (Think gaijin vs Chinese, Koreans, Indians, etc.)

One who lives in this country should not be any more surprised to repeatedly hear this sort of thing from nearly every source (including goofy overseas sources) than he/she should be surprised at going to a tent revival and hearing religion preached. After all, they are both, for the most part, a religion. And religion is based on faith, and faith is belief without evidence, although in many cases "evidence" is contrived or manufactured to strengthen the faith.

Well, that's enough ranting. Gotta be ready for the lady next door, henceforth known as Ol' Buffalo Mouth, to come home and start her 3-4 hour monologue (usually beginning at about 1130 pm) without pausing for a single second. I assume that she is actually talking to another person, although all I can hear is her muzzle blast through the walls of my well-insulated, Manhattan-priced "mansion." Thank goodness that she is a non-verbal communicator.

Now to find something worthwhile to post, if that is even possible anymore.

Tweaked at 1504

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Japan's Policy Trap" starts to bite

a little (more):

Japan's finance minister said on Monday it is necessary to consider what amount of currency reserves is appropriate as there are differing views on how big they should be.

Naoto Kan told parliament the government cannot easily dip into the reserves to fund its spending as that would involve selling foreign assets and could lead to a rise in the yen. Reuters

Japan's Policy Trap refers to the book of that title by R. Taggart Murphy and Akio Mikuni from 2002:

...Japan's dollar-denominated trade surplus has outstripped official reserves and currency in circulation. These huge accumulated surpluses have long exercised a growing and perverse influence on monetary policy, forcing Japan's authorities to support a build-up of deflationary dollars. " Book description from

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ozawa to keep fighting and the LDP to keep being hypocritical

Japan's main opposition party pledged Sunday to pursue a funding scandal involving political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa...

Prosecutors are investigating whether Ozawa... ...took millions of dollars in bribes...

One could be forgiven for being confused, but no, the prosecutor's office is not the main opposition party referred to in the article.

Sadakazu Kanigaki of the LDP represents the opposition party:

"We will keep asking questions as to whether the leaders who run the government are qualified," Tanigaki said, vowing to win July's upper house elections. All quotes from AFP

Since Joesph Welch did not ask "Have you no sense of shame, sir?" of Senator McCarthy, I will feel free to ask Tanigaki and the LDP that question. However, I wonder if Tanigaki would like voters to ask his question of the LDP next summer?

In my usual un-random,* unscientific poll of friends and acquaintances of Japanese nationality, I have found nobody who is falling for this. Then again, the folks I poll are those who haven't enough sense to avoid me and as such, they may or may not be representative of the general public. They certainly aren't representative of those who ride the Wednesday/Thursday evening trains from Otemachi or the Saturday evening train from Kawasaki as most of those folks do a very good job of avoiding sitting beside me.

*Caution: non-standard English.

I am not implying that Ozawa is a victim of McCarthyism. (At least I don't think I am. Yet.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fads, The Setting Sun, Old Media

Back in the late 80s/very early 90s when Japan was believed to be an economic "threat," many in the US began to panic and read such trash as Japan as #1, Theory Z, and From Bonsai to Levis in misguided hopes of imitating Japan. It was common knowledge that people needed to study Japan and its language for the 21st century would belong to Japan and "the East."

Back then many folk who believed such media inspired myths majored in Japan Studies, East Asian Studies, and so on, thus suffering the cruel fate of being naturally selected out of the desirable-employees-with-useful-skills pool. Smarter, more mature people would often ask, "What are you going to do with that?"---a question that some of us are still trying to answer 20 years later.

Now we seem to be discovering a new area of must-have knowledge: China. This is the first country/area specific requirement for success since the dire need for people with Middle Eastern language skills just after 9/11. Wonder how folks with those degrees are doing?

One of the smart moves China is making is that it is actually assisting US public schools to teach Chinese:

The Chinese government is sending teachers from China to schools all over the world — and paying part of their salaries. At a time of tight budgets, many American schools are finding that offer too good to refuse. NYT

Clever use of soft power on the part of China and something that I cannot recall Japan doing during its 15 minutes of fame. Japan did fund a lot of Japan-related university chairs and promote other important things such as tea-ceremony demonstrations, but did nothing similar that I can recall for anyone outside universities. Oh, wait, I forgot---Toyotas! About all I can remember is taking the Japanese exam for the Monbusho scholarship* at the Japanese consulate in Seattle in 1990 or 91. After the written test, I had an oral interview with your stereotypical unbelievably arrogant bureaucrats, one of whom who asked if the test had been difficult. I foolishly and honestly answered yes, to which one of the expert test-takers replied "Do you know that all Japanese study English for 6 years?" WTF was I supposed to do with that?

Alas, the already minimal value of any Japan-related knowledge---let alone "expertise"---seems to have plummeted to the level of JAL stock. The country ain't even worth reporting on:

Major foreign media outlets are leaving Japan in droves, ... ...observers note that Japan is also losing its appeal as the most newsworthy country in Asia...

...While financial difficulties are a key reason for the foreign media's retreat, the government is also at fault for not extensively opening up news conferences to foreign reporters...Japan Times

Hmmm. Yukio, wasn't the DPJ supposed to do something about the press clubs? Well, don't worry. Take your time. Would next June be too soon for you to make a decision?

Anyway, this ain't exactly new. The US media has been reducing overseas staff for years. The article was inspired by the recent decision of TIME magazine to close its Tokyo branch, but I personally have never considered TIME as actually being part of the non-tabloid press. My wife bought me a subscription to it in 2002 or 2003 and it was so brown-nosing to the region (and Apple) that I attempted to cancel it.

And the NYT, and others sure, to follow are going to start charging for their online articles? I guess they'll have to in order to survive, but why on earth would anyone pay to read something about Japan that is even more disconnected and ridiculous than some of the stuff written by journalists who are actually here?

*I did not get the graduate scholarship as my Japanese was not good enough. Seems that a bizarre combination of grammar-translation and audiolingualism is not a good way to acquire a language, something that had been known for 30+ years to everyone except the Japanese language professor at my university. I was damned good at reading the texts and memorizing blocks of language for exams though. Never have used any of that in Japan.

Edited for corrections at 2200

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

(Not) Only in Japan

It appears that the keitai bloatware disease, the washing machines that you can not turn on or off without 328 touchpad entries, the microwaves that you have to know the secret code to cook a cup of instant ramen, the HD-DVD player like my effing junkpile Toshiba that actually orders me to "wait" before taking 10 minutes to start a DVD, the Victor wide-screen TV that takes longer than an old tube TV to start up because it is checking for messages (!), the Hitachi "dryer" that does not actually dry clothes, but just whirls them around in slightly warm air for 3 hours or more, are not only limited to Japan.

Ken Rockwell,* the notoriously controversial guy who usually blasphemes pixel peepers and "measurbators," wrote an article that seems so close to home. At Everything New Sucks.

I guess the ceiling mounted heaters that require classes to operate and heat only the upper part of the room (heat rises?!!) have not yet made it overseas. There is still some hope.

*You gotta understand that Ken has a sense of humor. Some folks chew the legs off their desks every time his name is mentioned.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Speaking of sweet

I have been about as surprised that the now official scandal involving Ozawa has resulted in arrests as I was to learn that caramel is sweet.

There had been talk that Ozawa might step in as PM before this summer's upper-house election if Hatoyama proves to be not up to the task, but I am sure that such a possibility has nothing to do with the prosecutor's decision to pursue this case. Some might assume that the purity-and-light party, the LDP, might be behind this in some way, but we know that cannot be true. All such cases are thoroughly and fairly investigated and then successfully prosecuted no matter who is involved. This is a country of laws, not men, that is governed by the elected representatives of the people, not faceless, unaccountable-to-the-public bureaucrats. The timing is a mere coincidence:

The 150-day regular Diet session convened Monday with the money scandals embroiling Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama expected to snarl efforts by the ruling bloc to pass budget and other bills...

"We need to implement policies that protect the livelihood of our people, especially considering our current economic situation," Hatoyama said. Japan Times

(Not so fast Y, the only policies which could achieve those goals are the ones of the LDP which were just about to show results when you came in and spoiled it all.)

I will admit, however, to a bit of residual belief that the LDP and their buddies in the bureaucracy will never be truly defeated for any more than a temporarily spell at best. Not that I think many are fooled by what is going on, but months and months of "scandals" and a continuing poor economy has to take a toll. The good news is that we can be confident that the fair and impartial media will cover the stories with at least as much skepticism toward the prosecutors as it will toward Ozawa and the DPJ.

1242: Same JT article: Irony defined: "The supplementary budget is important, but to restore political credibility we ask that intense deliberations be conducted on the issue of politics and money," LDP Diet Affairs Chief Jiro Kawasaki said.

A few thousand words

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but whoever said that has never seen a "photo" taken with my handy, post-modern uber cell phone from NTT Docomo.* It takes about a thousand words to explain to someone that, yes, the blurry smear there actually is a photo. Then you still have to explain what the glob is a photo of.

These two globs were taken Saturday at the Takashimaya in Futakotamagawa during the Special Days sale. They show an impossibility: People who do not like sweet foreign things standing in line to receive a box of Krispy Kreme donuts** which, the uninitiated might believe, are sweet foreign things. People standing in the long line (the line was doubled around) did not even receive the free donut that is usually handed out, so they were unable to eat it while commenting in utter surprise, "Oh, it's sweet!" before buying a dozen of the sweet donuts that they do not like.

Naturally, after writing a post about the "Foreigners love sweet food, but Japanese don't" scatology---Nihonjinron in Japanese---that's all I heard for the weekend. While going through a magazine article (which I had specially selected in part so that there could be no diversion into nihonjinron) with my Japanese tutor, she suddenly brought up her recent first experience with a Snickers bar which was so sweet it almost made her nauseous. "The caramel was so sweet!" she exclaimed. I, too, was flabbergasted that made-of-sugar caramel would be sweet!

Later that evening I had a little of the Yamanashi white wine she had given me. She, and several others, had recommended it as very good. Although the label promised that it was a dry wine (rated B with A being the driest and E being the sweetest) it tasted darn sweet to me. Had I not known that it was Japanese wine, I would have said that it was too sweet, reminiscent of sugar water.

As I often ask my wife, "If the Japanese do not like sweet things, then why do you like me?" Showing her true Japaneseness, she then denies that she does.

*Only 21 keystrokes per photo required to get it to my computer---not including those for taking them or entering data.
**Given to customers who had made purchases above a certain amount.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

How the US government expresses its gratitude to a US Marine killed in Iraq

A Marine's widow who has been fighting immigration law to remain in the U.S. to raise her 1-year-old child has returned to Japan. Washington Post

The widow, Hotaru Ferschke, married Sgt Michael Ferschke by telephone while he was serving in Iraq. He was later killed in combat there. The Department of Homeland Security---the department that was so successful in stopping the attempted Christmas bombing of a US plane---did not consider the proxy marriage consummated even though Mrs. Ferschke was pregnant with Sgt Ferschke's child at the time.

With all the other responsibilities the Department has, perhaps one could forgive them for not understanding how children are conceived, but to do this to the family of a Marine who died in combat so that the brains of the Department could sleep soundly (while at work?) in the States is not something that can be forgiven. The US Congress, which did not act on a private bill to grant permanent residency to the wife, deserves nothing but contempt either.

Assuming that this report is accurate, it shows that it is possible for creatures consisting entirely of an anus to find productive employment in any government on earth.

This is in line with Uncle Sam's historical ways of saying, "Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Now go away and leave us alone."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Return of the Nutjobs

A man dressed in camouflage and carrying what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail was arrested early Friday in front of the home of ruling Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, police said.

The man, who identified himself as Tokyo rightist group member Hiroyuki Tsukui, 40..
.Japan Times

There was a book published in 1942, now available free online,* titled: Government by Assassination, by Hugh Byas, about the pre-war Japanese government and the number of assassinations of Japanese politicians who had angered various extremists in the country. Some of those extremists could even be considered to have been right-wing nutjobs.

Of course things have changed today and there is little tolerance for any such actions. We can expect the government to launch a thorough investigation and if necessary, crack down on any groups involved. Or, like all the recent nutters, he could be found to simply be an individual acting purely on his own who was perhaps innocently carrying a Molotov cocktail for warmth.

9:30pm: After watching the evening news and the unfolding Ozawa scandal, I think Government by Scandal is more appropriate for modern Japan.

*Be warned that the download is the Adobe Reader PDF crap. I skimmed that book in college and recall that it was about what one would expect for a WW2 era book about an enemy. I would like to look through it again, but I'd rather have a root canal without Novocain than deal with trying to read something of that length in the slow, bulky, buggy Adobe garbage. Apple's preview doesn't work any better on that file either. The very motivated can read it online.

Too much SuperDry at Asahi Shinbun

Hoping to follow the success of canned coffee in Asia, Japanese beverage and food companies are accelerating sales of regular coffee designed to hit the sweet tooth of foreign consumers.

The manufacturers are making coffee catered to the tastes of people abroad who prefer sweeter flavors, unlike in Japan, where many coffee drinkers use little or no sugar. Asahi Shimbun.

Where is this place called Japan? I don't think it is anywhere near Tokyo. I suppose one could debate the meaning of "many" in the report. Wonder if "many" coffee drinkers in those weird foreign countries also use little or no sugar.

Gotta give up my out-of-the-ordinary-for-non-Japanese black coffee and start drinking more of the classic Georgia canned coffee which, to my amazement, is not sweet.

Everyone knows that folks in Japan don't like sweet stuff which is why there is so much of it here. I know a guy who ate some Snickers bars in Chicago. He hated it because it was so much sweeter than the Japanese Snickers. Oddly enough they are exactly the same according to a fellow who I spoke to a few years ago who sold Snickers in Japan. At the time they were trying a smaller, less sweet (tastes salty, he said) Japanese version of Snickers. Despite my foreign love of sugary sweets, I liked it. The natives, however, did not and it quickly failed.

Tweaked at 1012 because I can never get it right the first time.

Is Kan conning us?

RetroMan aka ConMan Kan, the new finance minister, has clarified and strengthened his recently discovered pro-market stance. Earlier this week, Kan had hinted at the possibility of Japan intervening in the currency market to weaken the yen until he discovered that such remarks were not in his new job description.

Today he reportedly said:

"Currencies should basically be set* by the markets, and this principle has been agreed internationally," ..."Unless a rapid move occurs, I will act on this principle." Reuters

Kan has thus distanced himself further from the Old Schoolers who up until about 2004 would intervene in the currency market when they didn't like the rate set by the market. Under ConMan's radical new policy, should the US dollar strengthen "too fast" against the Japanese yen (perhaps from the apx ¥92 now to ¥96 or more to $1?) thus making imports more expensive resulting in weaker consumer demand, the government will take aggressive action to strengthen the yen against the dollar.

This clever new strategy will assist the DPJ in achieving its stated goal of reducing Japan's reliance on exports and allow the consumer market to expand as soon as consumers gain confidence enough to consume. Not only will this help the DPJ and Japan, it will benefit Obama and the US, since Obama is on record as stating that the world cannot return to the pre-subprime system of the US serving as mere consumers (and borrowers) of the products of Japan and others in the region.

*..should be basically set... ?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gobblins of the past

Was watching BS Fuji Live Prime News when that fellow who quit due to bowel trouble appeared, Ol' Beautiful Country Abe himself.

I actually got the creeps. I feel unclean and unwashed. Abe began to opinionate* about North Korea and I could not switch the channel fast enough.

For the simple-minded and naive, it is difficult to understand why anyone in the US would have any sort of nostalgia for the Japan of that fellow's party.

Today, it was reported in a number of articles that Secretary of State Clinton has moved to cool down the crisis(!!!???) over Futenma---though one reported that she expressed no willingness to compromise.** Joseph Nye had earlier written an article for the NYT trying to talk some sense into everyone---and it was necessary?

How unbelievable it is that such a thing escalated into what seemed to be (at least in news reports) such a major issue. If the US-Japan relationship is still "the most important relationship in the world, bar none"*** (or even close to it) how can that single issue "threaten" it? Obviously, we peons don't understand anything that's going on and cannot determine what is important and what is not. Our esteemed leaders cannot seem to explain what's going on and why it is of such importance either,**** which does not reflect especially well on them.

Hatoyama may not have handled the issue perfectly, but I do admire him for hanging tough. Maybe the days of Abe and his ilk are over for a while.

*Note to the language sensitive: Intentional use of Nonstandard English.
**Read it this morning, but cannot recall where.
***It obviously ain't now, if it ever was.
****Repeating the same-ol', same ol' a zillion times is not an explanation either, especially when the explanation seems to assume that the same ol' same ol' relationship will continue unchanged forever.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Y slaps down Kan

PM Hatoyama virtually slapped the new Finance Minister Natto "RetroMan" Kan upside the head for hinting that he was going to imitate China and start rigging the yen vs the dollar in order to sell more products overseas:

Japan’s Finance Minister Naoto Kan said markets should set currencies, while underscoring the ability to intervene in extreme circumstances and taking account of the yen’s impact on the economy...Hatoyama* attributed Kan’s comments yesterday as reflective of “what the business community thinks.” [Sniff, sniff. Is that foul odour not reminiscent of the LDP?] BusinessWeek

RetroMan, despite his expertise in such matters, had been confused about PM Hatoyama's desire to decrease Japan's dangerous reliance on exports and to stimulate the consumer market. Apparently, Natto had thought that Hatoyama and the DPJ in general was just funnin' around and had actually meant to stimulate foreign consumer markets.

Being no fool, he has now seen the light and will rely on the markets to set rates unless confusion results, in which case he will jump in and save the day.

*925 clarification: Hatoyama said that the government had no need to comment on currencies.

Thou Shalt Not Beggar Thy Neighbor(s)

Japan's newly appointed finance minister Naoto Kan has called for a weaker yen in order to aid the recovery of the Japanese economy...

...Mr Kan said he would seek to work with Japan's central bank on the issue, prompting speculation that he might order official intervention. BBC

But why not? For we common folk in Japan, our economic health is more important than some abstract principle. For the dynamic new leaders of the Japan there is no need to worry: The US and others will moan a bit, but otherwise not much will happen. We can call this another step on the path to a more equal relationship or more of the same old crap thought up by fossil-brained geezers with old, old, old, old, old ideas in place of a plan. No we Kan't! No we Kan't!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Washington Post solves Futenma

Having campaigned against the corruption of 50 years of rule by the Liberal Democratic Party, Mr. Hatoyama also has been dogged by his own fundraising scandal. Polls show his approval rating has fallen from more than 70 percent to less than 50 percent in just three months. Like the Japanese public, the Obama administration has not concealed its exasperation. The president and other senior officials visiting the country have repeatedly called for an "expedited" resolution to the base dispute. Washington Post editorial

Having been on vacation, I somehow missed the unconcealed exasperation of the Japanese public. Is it because of the Futenma issue? I even wonder just how exasperated the Obama administration is since:

"People tend towards the hyperbolic because that makes for more interesting cocktail conversation and better stories. I wouldn't exaggerate things," one administration official close to the issue told The Cable.

I have to admit that I don't understand the point of the Post editorial---it reads like an editorial in the Japanese press except the schoolmarmish tone of "must" and "must not" is missing. I think it means that even though Obama and the Japanese public are exasperated to tears with the wildly unpredictable Hatoyama, the Futenma issue should not be allowed to damage the alliance to the point where the smaller coalition parties get their wish and kick all US troops out of Japan. This, of course, is a real danger right up there with the alien invasion threat. Then there is the threat posed by folks like Ozawa who go to China and work on improving ties instead of staying in Japan and visiting Yasukuni like the Old Schoolers. But the key point is in the last sentence--something which no other person on earth has thought of:

Japan's nascent two-party system is a democratic achievement, not a diplomatic nuisance; give it a little time to find its course. (Washington Post)

We need a kinder, gentler Obama. This is why I read the Post.

Tweaked slightly at 1058

Saturday, January 02, 2010

English-reading smorkers and dopers be warned!

Denenchofu's new Dada Theque Cafe is not for you!

The neighborhood has apparently gone all to hell since Yukio Hatoyama moved out a few months ago. Two or three years ago, you couldn't even buy a beer in the convenience stores and now it's come to this.

Not sure why this is only written in English---there is a notice for Japanese readers below about no unaccompanied young kids, but no anti-doper warnings in Japanese that I could see. It's an innocent omission, I am sure.

Wonder if they will stock issues of High Times?

Medical help for smorking addressed here.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Weirded out

Perhaps it's because my mind has not returned from days of hiking and onsen-ing in the mountains---and does not want to do so---or perhaps it's a hint of the year to come, but the first morning of the new decade was just a bit befuddling.

I was out "early" walking around the Okusawa and Ookayama areas of Tokyo. Early in Tokyo on a holiday means before 11AM, for very few folks leave home before 11 if they ain't at work. I use this to advantage as one can walk down a sidewalk---or street---without the achi-kochi, "You first, no you, no you, ok, let's both go and run into each other; "May I have some sidewalk too, please?"; "Thanks for stopping and apologizing after you hit me at 16 mph with your out-of-control mama-chari while you were texting, even if it is only because the police caught your idiot ass and threatened you with the pokey" fun and games of the normal day.

As it passed 1100, the streets began to get a bit too active. I decided to get something for lunch and go home.

I had hoped that the Tokyu supermarket would be open, but they weren't so I had to do the unhealthy and drop into the local McDs. The Ookayama McDs is a nice clean one, completely unlike the one in Denenchofu, so I figured I could eat something there and not worry about dying today from e-coli or the cooties. I'd worry about the heart attack later.

Having read a NYT article about hamburger and "pink slime" (although I believe McDs Japan uses Australian beef which might actually contain something recognizable as beef), I decided to get the healthy fish converted into a semi-toxic, deep-fried-in-10w40 Fish Fillet*.

As I waited for my order while watching the over-worked, under-staffed, grossly-underpaid folks rush to try to prepare what is puzzlingly called "fast-food," a couple of the silver generation** walked in.

And ordered a breakfast menu.

The harried young fellow trying to rush to take people's orders politely explained that breakfast ended at 1030AM, apparently surprising the couple who considered 1140 a good time for the morning meal.

"Oh, is that so?" said the lady. "What should we have then?" she asked her husband, who for some reason did not seem to want to talk an awful lot. "Coffee?" he replied with near total certainty.

"Coffee," the smiley lady said, ordering nothing for herself. The amazingly patient fellow at the register rang it up while asking "for here?" (tennai)***

"Huh?" asked smiley. "For here?" she laughingly corrected him (tennai). The guy-at-the-mercy-of-nutty-customers apologized and repeated "for here" exactly as he had said to begin with, so as not to argue.

"210 yen," he told the smiley-lady-cum-language-nazi. "Huh? Oh, two hundred and ten yen," she corrected him with a bit of a laugh. "I'm sorry, 210 yen" he again corrected himself for no reason other than to avoid calling a customer a goofball.

Then she looked over at me, smiling.

Uh-oh, I don't want to get involved in this. Why is she looking at me? What am I supposed to do in this situation? Should I smile back? If I did, would that make me her accomplice in insanity? Was I already insane anyway?

It was too early in the year to think about these sort of things, and besides, I am on vacation. I began to intently study the menu on the wall until she looked away.

A few minutes later, I got my "fast-food" "fish" sandwich, solidified-oil-with-potato-byproducts, and McDs premium fake coffee and went upstairs to enjoy it in a clean, nearly empty non-smoking room. Bizarre. But then again, I had noticed signs designating this McDs as a McDonald's Cafe, not a mere McDs.

(Come to think of it, they may have been from out of town and not been used to the Tokyo dialect. Never watched TV and such).

*A Fillet-o-Fish in English. The classic ultra artery-clogger of over a decade ago.

**Why folks of this generation are (were---it is considered a bit discriminatory today) called the silver generation also befuddles me. Silver hair is extraordinarily rare in Tokyo. Can't figure out why. Must be like the dry earwax unique to the natives of this land. I see 90-year olds with hair as solidly black as a 5-year old's.

***I know that this is not a literal translation.

Fiddled with at 1707 JST.