Water Torture? No taaaa. I`ll take Buddhaaaa


causing trouble in Japan

Silence from above

I was watching a chat show the other day and one of the guests on the show was the current スパイダーman. He mentioned that Martin Scorsese will be directing a film based on the classic Japanese novel Silence by Shusako Endo. This actor will be the Portuguese priest who is the main protagonist.

I think I mentioned this novel before but anyway it is about Japanese Christians in 17th century Japan who are forced to renounce Christianity by the xenophobic Shõgun in situ at the time. Renounce or face torture, and sure death (Japanese people could not leave Japan without permission so escaping was perilous but the priests could, in fact it was expulsion or torture for them). The priest himself faces the dilemma of whether to renounce his faith and avoid torture. The title relates to the silence from the God these Christians have come to worship, silence in the face of their suffering.

I`m not that surprised that it is Martin Scorsese directing as he has a very wide range of interests. So bring it on.

For the role of the local Daimyo (Lord) in Nagasaki, I think that, of the predictable pickings, they should pick Koji Yakusho over say Ken Watanabe or Hiroyuki Sanada. The latter two I just can`t picture in cruel roles but I have not seen them in any cruel character roles so I can`t say. I`m not saying they could not stretch to it as they are both talented actors but I think Yakusho would be more suitable given his appearance (he`s ruggedly good-looking and a daimyo can`t be too pretty-boy looking – or can he? Don`t know any haha), his experience (which the other two have as well) of being in a Hollywood film (two in Yakusho`s case, more for the other two). If they`re going to be speaking English, he`s good at that from what I saw in Memoirs of a Geisha and though that is only one film – from 8 years ago! – his English seemed really natural in that.  Acting in a language that is not your own can`t be too easy and I think it shows extra dedication in an actor to even try it (how many `great` Hollywood actors would bother trying it? Kristen Scott Thomas is the only actress I can think of but she`s not really much of a Hollywood head herself – she has starred in quite a few French films). You might say `yeah yeah but they probably get a hundred takes to get it right and they get paid loads of money to sit around in trailers and practice*` but still there is probably pressure to get it right as quick as possible and getting it not just right but natural is another battle altogether, I imagine. And I think Yakusho looked really comfortable with English in that film (though a little uncomfortable at the same time with such awful dialogue, which can`t really be blamed on the actors).   The other two actors have obviously also been in English speaking films as I`ve mentioned but I`m voting for Koji Yakusho here.

I`m not exactly sure what age the Daimyo is supposed to be. I must check that out. Well they can make him whatever age they like really for the film but if it`s the 50s age group, Yakusho is the man. Are you listening Martin Scorsese? On the other hand, if they pick a younger Japanese man, they should go for Ryo Kase (he can look pretty sinister I think) or Tadanobu Asano. Shidou Nakamura as I said before is guilty of overacting at times so he might a bit over the top (there`s another guy who has acted in another language – having starred in Red Cliff).

Well, it has probably already been decided who will star as who (apart from the Priest role played by スパイダーman). I`ll definitely be going to watch that film when it eventually comes out. Interesting story, great director. Anyone else interested?


* Quiz:  `I will practice my English with you` – says Ken Watanabe in what film?

Postscript: looked up the film and Ken Watanabe is in it but as to which role that is not clear.

Add comment April 14, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Poetry and Happiness

World Poetry Day

today can I think up a

nice new haiku folks?


Or can you?  Well, it`s World Poetry Day today and as I work in a bookshop we`re going to have a poetry reading this evening and the window is displayed with poetry books – a blend of international and national poets.

I wonder if they are celebrating this in Japan, whether in bookshops or universities or schools?   It`s probably not a well-established day just yet around the world.  I know from one of the blogs I`m following that it was Museum Bloggers Day lately and yesterday, the 20th of March, was World Happiness Day.

I went to my local gallery the night before that to watch a film called Happy.  Anyone seen it?  People from around the world in different situations talk about what makes them happy every day.  It was very touching.    However, one story was not so happy and it was about people in Japan dying from overwork – karõshi (過労死).  The woman they interviewed told how her husband always seemed exhausted and depressed and then at work one day he collapsed and died while making a phonecall to a superior about a technical problem. It`s so sad that people are this pressured by their work that they end up dying because of it.   A separate interviewee, also in Japan, told the interviewer that his job was more important than his girlfriend when asked why he was celebrating his birthday with his colleagues instead of with her.  `They invited me and anyway work is more important` to paraphrase what he said.    To counteract this, they showed an old woman in Okinawa who was 106 years old and was really happy to be alive and could be seen in the video enjoying watching very young children have races in the road with other kids.   The other old ladies also seemed to enjoy their lives.

That was very sweet but because Okinawa considers itself to be separate from Japan in history, culture and language etc, I think they could rather have shown someone from the mainland, other than this lady whose husband died and the birthday guy, who did not give into this obsession with work and was happy with his or her lot while not living with much.    They could have gone to Hokkaido which is I think a fairly chilled back island despite the big commercial city that is Sapporo.  They could have gone to an organic farm anywhere in Japan.   Sure, farmers, organic especially*, work as hard as people anywhere else but I don`t imagine there are too many cases of karõshi about because they are not eaten up by consumerism (consumed by consumerism) and tend to make time for non-work activities (just as many people around Japan probably also do, the film just focused on this phenomenon to show a contrast I think to the others).

By the way, this film was only produced in 2011 so it is quite up-to-date with its reportage of karõshi.   I guess the recession in Japan in recent years has led to people wanting to work even harder to keep their jobs and life, in Tokyo for one, can be really expensive property wise, so a phenomenon that  started a few decades ago is still, unfortunately, continuing.

* They won`t have as much machinery to do the work and not as much pesticides to keep their produce in check, not to take away from traditional farming which is tough as well.







Add comment March 21, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Oh dear don`t go there Japan

Well hello there gas

yes we`ll take more even if

it rankles world-wide


The blue font here represents the cold reaction Japan may face in turning a blind eye to Russia`s dubious political procedures regarding Crimea.  And turning a blind eye for the sake of a gas deal.  I suppose it depends on how seriously Japan  takes the sanctions that the US and the EU have imposed on Russia, mostly travel restrictions which is not really a huge thing (so not that seriously) and how they see getting on with neighbours through good politics (ahem).    Talk about keeping in with the (huge, powerful) neighbours!!   True, Russia`s state energy company helped Japan out a lot post March-11 by supplying extra gas (for free I think) but even so I don`t think this gives Japan the right to turn a blind eye to dubious politics next door.   Especially when it might need help (from a huge powerful friend)  in the future with any resulting trouble with a certain other (huge, powerful) neighbour.



Add comment March 19, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Dolls, Trains, Samurai and Ozu

Dolls, Trains and Samurai, not

to mention Ozu 

all have someone in common


Who is the link?

I bought some more dvds a while back.  Three of them form part of a set of films by Takeshi Kitano – Dolls, Zatoichi and the Takeshis`.   I also got Cafe Lumiere (from 2003) which is a homage to Yasujiro Ozu, director of Tokyo Story and certain other gems which I have already mentioned elsewhere in my blog.  I`ve been meaning to buy Cafe Lumière for a while (cos I could`t find it free online haha) and so I did.

It is a homage in terms of the slow pace and the distance between the parents and their now grown up only child though this relationship is portrayed in a more contemporary storyline here.  The only child is a young mother-to-be and has no interest in marrying the father  -  can you imagine that story back in 1950s Japan? There are other similarities (which they also share with the world at large) such as the kind of ordinary everyday things that people say to each other.  When the daughter visits her parents for a few days, the first question the mother asks is `was the train crowded` which is what parents all over the world seem to ask!!  In Tokyo Story, the old couple discuss who has died or who has had bad luck and so on which is what people of that age worldwide discuss.  Of course, there is also a train link, in that the last scene of Tokyo Story is of a train leaving the village with Noriko on her way back to Tokyo after the old mother`s funeral, and of course Tadanobu Asano`s character Hajime(-san) does some kind of research on trains and train sounds in Cafe Lumière (I don`t want to call him a trainspotter but if needs must, he`s not your average trainspotter).  He has a quiet but significant role in this.  I thought the director was the same guy who directed the film version of Norwegian Wood (which I thought was so-so) a few years ago but no this guy is Taiwanese Huo Hsiao-Hsien where as the NW director is Vietnamese (Tran Anh Hung).

Speaking of trains, I never got around to going to see The Railway Man at the cinema.   Telling the story of a now middle-aged man who had been a POW in a Japanese camp during World War II (in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, the famous death railway bridge) who has trouble recovering mentally from the trauma of suffering in that camp.  When his supportive wife finds out the identity and whereabouts of his one-time torturer in this camp, he is encouraged to go meet him.  Hiroyuki Sanada plays the now middle-aged Japanese man, who is working in the museum associated with the bridge at Kanchanaburi, and I read he is one of the best things about the film.

Back to my DVD spree, Dolls is a fabulous story about undying love (well three stories of undying love including fan love for an idol) and Zatoichi is pretty good too, very witty.  The dance number at the end is an updated touch (you can tell some of the actors are having a ball while a couple of others are kind of hoping it will end soon).  The tap dancing group that perform here also perform in Takeshis`, a film which is just weird.  A bit of a an ego trip for the director me thinks with gratuitous violence as you`d expect.

I`ve bought a couple of films since then, one Chinese and one Irish.  The former enjoyable, the latter quite sad.

Add comment March 8, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

International Women`s Day

Happy Women`s Day Women

of the world, on this

8th of March 20-14

I`ve been way too quiet on the blog front.   I had one prepared back in January but for some reason did not post it.  Oh well, I`m back with a vengeance and will post that one soon.

Well today is International Women`s Day – in Japanese 国際女性デー/こくさいじょせいデー (I had to look this up as I was going to put in the particle の and adjectival な but it seems not to be necessary – glad I looked it up) – and so I thought I`d choose an appropriate topic, this being the controversial topic of `comfort women` who were women forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II (possibly in previous wars as well) .   It`s nice to know there are many historians in Japan who do back up the story of these women (according to a recent article in the JT they have found even more historical documents to prove that the military were very much behind it and that the women were`t `just ordinary prostitutes` as most right-wingers are claiming which is a whole other article).  These historians are appalled by the government`s plan to revise the apology made to the women back in the 1990s.      I hope these women do not have to suffer more indignity at the hands of the Japanese government.   They have suffered enough.

At present I work in a bookshop.  There are so many great books in this shop and for International Women`s day I have arranged the window display to include books by or about women around the world.  Unfortunately, none of them are about Japan because funnily enough the one book I could think of in the shop relating to women in Japan (A Woman called Oh), I have already bought.   The other Japan-related books are written by male authors (as good as these male authors are, I`ll have to see about changing that!!).  I`m afraid that if I bring my book back into the bookshop even for one day to put it on display, it might be sold by accident.   The same goes for the only other book I have which is written by a female Japanese writer.  However, the poster I have made up for International Women`s Day for the shop window has International Women`s day written in a few languages including Japanese so that`s my Japanese fix.

While I`m on the topic of women, I watched Twilight Samurai lately which I never tire of.  What a fantastic film (and the theme tune is beautiful – 決められたリズム).   Soon after his wife dies, and he embarrasses himself and his colleagues at work with his shoddy appearance, the main character Iguchi Seibei (nicknamed Tasogare Seibei, the title of the film in Japanese, by his colleagues because he always heads home straight after work to his family) is prompted by his angry uncle to get married again. He refuses, and talking with his young daughters afterwards he tells them how appalled he is that his uncle talks about women like they are heifers who are only good for breeding and that this is disrespectful to women.     In addition, he loves his daughters and is happy that they are studying Confucius at school (the Uncle is not:  `Why does a girl need to know about Confucius!`) and not just sewing and so on which, he agrees with his daughter, is more practical but not as useful to know in the long run as Confucius.

Unfortunately, men like his uncle (Tetsuro Tamba I think the actor`s name is, who starred with Hiroyuki Sanada in another film,The Shogun`s Samurai, back in 1978) were all too common in Japan at the time (around the time of the Meiji restoration) and exceptions like Seibei were probably extremely rare!!

Well, I hope women around the world are making progress in whatever difficulties they are trying to overcome.     It`s our day!!

Add comment March 8, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

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