Mount Fuji gets a
nod at last as a top spot in
What took them so long? So many people climb this perfectly cone-shaped mountain every year and it has had a great influence on Japanese art and other aspects of Japanese life. I was seriously considering climbing/hiking up it myself when I was first in Japan but I thought better of it. It was mostly laziness and hesitation (at what might be found at the top – a so so view due to fog, littering, crowds of people etc) that got me.
Here`s a pic of Fuji-san courtesy of japan-guide.com. Hope they don`t mind me using it.
Add comment May 4, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
… for a new place and
yet I found somewhere almost
perfect but said no…
to it in the end. How come? Not so much to do with Japan and wanting to go there (though I do and still monitoring the prices of flights) but not knowing how long I want to hang around my non-descript city in general. I don`t want to get caught in a lease I can`t honour for the amount of time required.
Browsing through an accommodation rental site the other day, I somehow came upon an ad for a video on youtube which presented an `origami apartment` in New York. This guy, a school teacher, who guess what had lived in Japan at one stage, had worked with a designer to work out how to make the most of the little space in his New York apartment (school teachers must get paid well in New York!!). It looked lovely with great use of colour to complement the natural light coming in. Still though, like I said the last time, I like having clear space between separate areas of my apartment. In this apartment, the bedroom area was between the kitchen and the lounge area (which also doubled as a guestroom). I have had my bed near the kitchen actually in the galley-like マンション I had in Japan but I just put up with it. I didn`t even dislike it but any more time living there and I would have gotten bored of it perhaps. To add to that, I couldn`t work out where, in this video, the bathroom was. It wasn`t mentioned either. Probably behind the other kitchen wall? Another small thing is the way the bed comes out of the wall space. That`s a great space saver but I always wonder how people fold these beds away so neatly with the bedsheets firmly in place. Their possessions must be as minimal as their apartment, which is admirable. Anyway, you should look up the video. I imagine there are loads of apartments like this in Japan because of the lack of space, well mine was just as small but nowhere near as cool, but it really caught my eye when browsing the rental website and so I went into it and was in awe of the apartment.
Well, moving onto accommodation of another sort. Interesting article today about a japanese guy in Tokyo who has started a business whereby mothers who choose to work freelance can hire office space with other women some of whom are also mothers. I think this is a great idea in theory and admirable of him as well. It stemmed from his wife having a problem with childcare and wanting to continue her freelance career. Women who want to continue working after having babies don`t have much options yet in Japan. Childcare is expensive everywhere but it`s not just the cost in Japan, it`s the lack of support for working mothers in the first place, from their husbands or from the government. 50/50 I would say. I don`t have children but if I did I would avail of something like this. Only thing is, and this is why I say `in theory`, the adjoining room is a kind of nursery for babies and young children. That`s part of the idea of course, that women can bring their kids with them so they don`t have to send them to creche or to a babysitter but I`m just wondering what the other women using the space think. It must be distracting surely even for the mothers themselves and difficult to concentrate while having one eye on their child in the other room which I assume they can see through a window. There`s no childminder in place yet. But once they get a nanny or two in, which is the plan, it will be easier. And all schemes have teething problems to start with anyway. The important thing is that it encourages women not to give up their careers just because they`ve had kids. Hooray!!
Add comment May 4, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
Yes Japan won`t leave
my mind alone but that`s not
so bad I suppose.
I`ve been looking for accommodation lately in my rather non-descript city, but I look at places and make excuses not to take them. Well, to be honest, some of the places within my budget are awful so in this case, they`re legitimate reasons and not excuses (I have high standards!!). I may have to go slightly outside my budget. It doesn`t have to be huge but it has to feel clean (if you know what I mean) with a clear separation between the kitchen and the bedroom as I don`t like the idea of food smells getting in to my clothes!!
The place I had in Japan was a galley-sized hotel room where the `kitchen` was only a feet from the bed but I liked the place and it was centrally located and so it was fine for the period of time I was there. However, were I to move to Japan again I would try and get a decent sized place with the afore-mentioned kitchen/bedroom separation!! Or at least have an apartment with big windows so the food smells could escape quicker.
As I said, I can`t really focus on finding a new abode here. And it`s not like I want to live anywhere but here. Though I speak other languages, I don`t have as much a desire to live in the countries they are spoken as much as I do Japan. And I would have a lot more choice of countries to go to. Maybe I should just go on a quick holiday to Japan and see when I get there how I feel and on the way home, stop in a couple of countries where the other languages I speak are spoken!!
That drama I mentioned in the last post set in the west coast of America explored, in a recent episode – yeah they put them up in the end so I just thought I`d keep on watching it, the acting isn`t completely awful and it was cool to see the old homeless sensei from Tampopo in it -, the idea of the old grandfather wanting to return to Japan to live out his final years. He settled for a holiday in the end. One of his sons, who considers himself American and not Japanese (more than the other son), also goes on this trip with him for his own reasons but he finds himself being slagged off for not knowing the written language very well and also for considering himself American and not Japanese. I have met people from Brazil who felt the same way and Japanese Brazilians get this kind of attitude a lot in Japan. They`re not considered to be Japanese enough. This probably happens all around the world – returned emigrants feeling out of place. On one hand, it`s a shame because all these folks wanted to do was build a good life for themselves elsewhere and nobody should begrudge them that right or make them feel any less (pick nationality). On the other hand, their romantic image of the `old country` is usually out of sync with what is really going on and you wonder why they do it. Imagine a Japanese emigrant of the early 20th century returning to Japan in the 1980s with the economic boom, money flying around everywhere along with the obvious consumerism. They wouldn`t have known what hit them, even if they had been forewarned by reading the news of the boom.
Anyway, obviously I`m not comparing my own feelings to that of an elderly Japanese person but if a country is in your mind all the time then it`s not for no reason.
Regarding neighour-news, it`s more tragic this week. I`m sorry to hear about the second earthquake in five years in the Sichuan province of western China. How horrible. Even more horrible to hear reports that China did not learn much from the last earthquake. I hope recovery efforts go well.
Add comment April 21, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
thoughts of a return to ole
Japan but hang on…
… my head is usually telling me to stay put where I am and I`m even planning to move out to a new abode so how does J fit in to this? It doesn`t really. You`re great Japan but if you don`t mind I`m attempting to focus on other things right now. What to do what to do.
It`s been a while since I wrote my last post but I have been kinda busy and I just couldn`t think of something to write about despite regularly reading the news from Japan. I`ve managed to get a few J-dramas in though all this while and films too (I think I may add Ryõ Kase, who was in one of these films, to my shibui list – there is definitely something about him. He is good looking and kinda cool and as an actor he`s very talented – being able to play a wide variety of roles – though being shibui does not really include your competence at your job). I`m still enjoying the drama about the divorced couple. Such good actors in that and the story has just taken a very interesting spin. There`s another one I started watching about a Japanese American family (with a blow-in from Tokyo) in the west coast of the USA but that`s not that good (the acting is dire at times). There are no more episodes being posted up for that anyway so just as well. It`s great when you find a J-drama you like but it`s still a good thing that most J-dramas only have about 10 -13 episodes. I was given a link to a film called Princess Toyotomi lately so I watched it yesterday. Quite good. I can never help myself, when I see places I have been to myself (such as Osaka, the city the film is set in), from going `I was there! I was there!` (Maybe it is time to go back to Japan and add more places to my `I was there!` list hahaha).
Terrible to hear about the bombing in Boston – on Patriots Day and all (though obviously that is part of the message from the culprits). Those low lifes whoever they are, are obviously smarter low lifes (and yes it should be lives but the plural used in this case is lifes*) than people give them credit for, though maybe the US is not paying as much attention to security as it used to be post-911. I hope they`re caught and punished but somehow I don`t think there will ever be an end to this antagonism and need for revenge against the US (and other powerful countries). I believe a lot of countries are going on security alert. I`m just glad I live in a fairly non-descript city, as much as I may complain about it, though there is one link which might piss off said terrorists (it certainly pisses off the locals who don`t want this link to exist). I guess Japan is already on security alert what with the `friendly` neighbours next door threatening nuclear action. I don`t think Japan would ever be considered targets for the wing of terrorism targeted at the US but who knows. It seems any country closely linked with the USA is no friend of theirs. Anyway, sorry to sound like a scare-monger. Enough about that.
* Excuse the linguistic nerdiness there. I can`t help it.
Add comment April 16, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
Ijime is a
nasty aspect of life which
can lead to worse things.
Well, I have finished that book by Ruth Ozeki `A tale for the time being` which I was raving about in the last post and it was brilliant. Really enjoyable book. I`m not entirely sure I liked the main character of A tale for the time being, also called Ruth, but the discussions between her and her husband are interesting and I did like the book overall. Nice inclusion of a few historical facts and the footnotes were interesting explaining certain cultural elements of Japan, for those who aren`t in the know (though it`s a bit of a pain usually to have to read a footnote cos your train of thought is usually taken off track.
DON`T read this next paragraph if you don`t want to see spoilers!!
Serious issues came up in the book like ijime (bullying) and suicide which has a different level to it. I have heard about bullying in Japanese schools mostly through reports about it in the Japanese online newspapers. A scene in the book reminded me of something I thought I had seen on tv but actually I`ve just realized that it`s a scene in a Japanese film Nobody Knows (about the children neglected by their mother) where this girl, an acquaintance of the children, who is being bullied, comes across a shrine made up for her in the bike shed of the school. Well, this actually happens in this book. The bullies first make a point of physically abusing the girl, ambushing her at one point with the intention of raping her, and then they go the opposite way and act as if she is not there at all. This then goes onto the final stage where they arrange a pretend funeral for her!! What is more shocking is the homeroom teacher takes part in the last two stages (and probably overlooks the first stage). The girl`s father has his own issues to deal with including trying to kill himself as he feels is a disappointment to his family.
It`s now safe to read on
Suicide and bullying are often related of course but not necessarily. Suicide is not always because of bullying and bullying does not always lead to the victim committing suicide. Suicide has been a big part of Japanese culture and history – especially among the warrior class centuries ago (or even people in the last century who carried on the samurai traditions). They had to do this when defeated, making it look `honourable`. Making the long-dead responsible though is an easy cop out. Everybody is responsible for themselves (except children of course). Bullying among peer groups at school and in other areas of life has been happening for a long time. It`s just that nowadays suicide seems to be the only answer people feel they have, their only escape from the bullies. And it`s becoming a worrying trend among teenagers. That is sad. I know how cruel teenagers can be. I was bullied at school, mercilessly, and I hated going to school because of it. It didn`t even enter my mind (to do anything drastic) but I did dread going to school and it sometimes springs to mind when I hear of all this bullying, online or not. I also find myself thinking that I`m glad the internet wasn`t in place when I was at school as it would have been even worse. Anyhow, I don`t know why they feel suicide is their only option. Maybe they need to be taught to value their lives more. It`s not only young kids who are resorting to such desperate measures though. A politician in his 60s committed suicide last year because of comments made to him over the web.
These cyber bullies are trolls. The adults (and I use that word very loosely) who hide behind cyber walls and pick on young teenagers are the worst but they are all morons at the end of the day. They should be ignored or blocked and I know this is easier said than done. F/B (and other sites) aren`t exactly helping. Freedom of expression my eye. These cyberbullies obviously have NOTHING better to do with their spare time than `express` themselves to the extent that they drive people to torment. True: how you react to this is up to you but it does not make it ok for them to make the life of another person a misery.
However, back to Japan, if 6 year old boys can jump from buildings because of bullying (that happened last year and yes, I`m sure it was as young as 6 this boy was) then Japan has serious issues with bullying also. How does a child as young as 6 know anything about suicide? I thought that funeral scene in the novel was really creepy though (I don`t think that`s spoiling it so don`t worry I haven`t just spoiled the warning about the spoiler!!).
Add comment April 7, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
For the time being,
buddhism, diaries, flotsam -
or is it jetsam?
I read a review on a couple of books at the weekend and thought of one of them in particular `Now there`s an interesting one`. I bought both today but decided to dive straight into that one: `A Tale for the Time Being`, by a writer by the name of Ruth Ozeki. I`ve not heard of her before, not that that matters. The other one can wait a bit (it cost me 18.00 euro so it had better be good when I get around to reading it – why must books cost so much!!*) I`m a couple of chapters into it already. Looks great!! I already recommend it. Must get back to it now.
* I generally don`t buy books on the internet where they can be much cheaper unless I really can`t find something in `real` bookshops and also I`m slightly lazy and impatient about it – if I like the look of a book I want it in my hands as soon as possible.
Add comment March 26, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
Bad taste I think on
the part of this newspaper`s
Going briefly back to the murder case with the American guy and the murdered Irish girl. With the court case over now, her family have been reported as saying they do not want to hear his name again. But what does one of the two biggest broadsheet newspapers back in アイルランド do this weekend? Publish a special story in their saturday review supplement on the (now convicted) `nice Baptist boy`!! How insensitive!! This just shows you the lows that some media outlets will go to in order to get a story. I don`t think much of this newspaper as it happens (you should see the crap they produce in their Sunday supplements) but it`s bought in our household unfortunately. I hope the family, who are now back home, don`t read this newspaper because they won`t have wanted to see his mug in the papers so soon especially back home, given their wish not to see him or hear of him again.
Add comment March 23, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
please the eye, fit in with
nature or urban…
… settings and maybe even make us smile to boot. That`s great architecture in my mind. Just been looking at some photos of the work of a Japanese architect called Toyo Ito who has just won a prestigious award in architecture – the Pritzker Prize. My favourite from the selection of photos is the Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre in Nagano – beautiful. Here`s a night view pic courtesy of Panaramio. Hope it`s ok to publish it here:
Two really interesting ones were the Tower of Winds in Yokohama and the Za-Koenji Public Theatre in Tokyo. The former looks like a really tall cylindrical chandelier. It responds to wind direction and speed. I wonder how that holds up in tests from the extreme weather Japan experiences. The latter, from a head-on view, looks like a large black umbrella which has been abandoned in that very park. Unusual looking. Speaking of black, which we wear at funerals (though white is associated with death in Japan, not black, black is worn at funerals in Japan also), another lovely one is the Municipal Funeral Hall in Kakamigahara in Gifu Prefecture, titled Meiso no Mori (Forest of Meditation). The roof of it looks really nice against the green slopes behind it, and it looks out on a lake. Nice setting for a funeral, if I may be morbid for a second.
The mediathèque in Sendai was mentioned in particular as a reason for awarding Mr Ito – the 6th Japanese architect to win this prize. I know they have to take into account the effect of earthquakes on new buildings in Japan and that they design and build everything now in recognition of this omnipresent threat but I just can`t help picturing all that glass shattering!!
I recommend you look him up if you`re in any way interested in architecture. I thought I`d mark my 100th post with this theme because I think I might like to stick to stuff like this – culture, art, music – for my future posts. Well, we`ll see.
Add comment March 18, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
So France it was that
ended up getting the spoon
Sacre bleu what next!!
It`s been a long while since they got La Cuillère de Bois. I think someone said they got it when the 6 nations was still the 5 nations (sans Italy). I guess this `reward` keeps all these egos on their toes -not necessarily French egos but egos from any of the teams, though especially Ireland who were the next most (un)likely team to end up with it. Not a bad thing in sport.
Anyway, excuse my slightly off-topic intro there – I just wanted to report on the result of something I was talking about when I referred to Japanese rugby a few posts back – and let`s move onto theatre of another sort (sorry to use that overused cliché about sport being a theatre but it is really – it`s full of clichés too!!). I was reading an article today in one of the online newspapers about an expat in Tokyo who designs costumes for English-speaking children`s theatre in Tokyo. Definitely a job I wouldn`t say no to (well if I was in any way able to design clothes and costumes which I`m not – I can sew buttons though and am kind of familiar with a sewing machine!!). What a great job. Actually, this person started out teaching English when she first went to Japan, as do many native English speakers, but this is way better in my mind. I didn`t teach English in Japan but I got a job in which I was able to speak a lot of Japanese every day (unlike ALTs I knew in Japan at that time) so that was cool. I would definitely prefer a more creative job though (that job I had was definitely not in a creative environment) if I ever happened to return to Japan.
Talking about another kind of drama, in the line of classical music, Japan is one of many countries celebrating the bicentenary of the births of Wagner and Verdi. I like to listen to classical music now and then and though I`m a bit annoyed at the choice of presenters hired to present some of the shows on my fave classical music station, I have a couple of favourite presenters and favourite shows. I don`t know of any well-known conductors from Japan though, from the present or since Japan opened up to the world - any one like to enlighten me? I actually visited Verdi`s place of birth in Italy when I went there once. Just to see something different from the usual sights.
Add comment March 17, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
Some people are quick
to judge kawaii-ness as a
sign of silliness ..
…but it`s not always so. Even I have found myself saying `oh god how can they possibly make that kawaii? It`s so inappropriate`. However, I`ve come to realise that kawaii-ness can be used as a way of expressing your opinion about serious things. It`s part of modern Japanese culture, like it or not, and in other countries nobody minds when modern culture is used to criticize something to do with the establishment. There happens to be a photo in one of the on-line newspapers today of a person protesting against Japan`s planned entry into the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) and this person is wearing a monkey mask. So people making comments automatically jumped on the person saying they were not being serious enough about it (and the person was not even correct with what was written on the sign they were holding). Well whatever you say about getting their facts right, this person is quite clever, using an element of Japanese modern culture (animal masks are everywhere anyway) to make his or her point about what he or she wants Abe to do (i.e. not enter the Partnership). Given the apathy that most Japanese people have about politics in Japan, it is good that people are out there protesting – regardless of their point of view and of whether they are dressed up or not. Besides, is there some kind of dress code for protesting against something? I think not. He or she is also making their point quite well if you ask me.
It is very easy for these people on the comment boards to make fun of someone who is actually out there making their voice heard – rain, hail or shine and I`m guessing it`s still pretty cold in Tokyo in March – and not sitting behind a computer making fun of people who choose to do just that. Many of them seem to be those gaijin in Japan who prefer the `old` side of Japan but like the modern side only when it suits them – for example, they probably like the `cute` side of things when they`re looking at strange manga which sexualise young girls but they`re not so fond of it when it means that some young (well, possibly young, possibly older) Japanese person is using it to make their political voice heard (or trying to anyway). Hypocrites really.
Speaking of using modern culture to criticize the establishment, the well-known Chinese artist Ai Wei, has found another, most unpredictable way, to make his feelings about the Chinese establishment known – through heavy metal no less!! I read this in the Guardian. Sounds interesting. Apparently, heavy metal is quite popular in countries where the government has more control than is normal (to put it mildly), even Iran (who knew?). It has to stay underground of course and the bands risk being arrested but yes, heavy metal is earning quite a following in such countries. I`ve never been a fan of heavy metal myself. The only song by a very well known heavy-metal band which I always manage to retain in my head is actually a very soft kind of song that goes on for a while – not very heavy metal-y.
Add comment March 15, 2013 KorubettosHaiku