Air Dolls and Loneliness

Loneliness in a
huge metropolis comes to
all, even air dolls

Air Doll (Kore-Eda, 2009) gives a look into relationships that are caused by loneliness or cause loneliness. Serious loneliness caused by big city life where people go about their own business and pay little if no attention to others. This is another of Kore-Eda`s films looking at society in Japan. Though some scenes are utterly cringe-worthy (people making love to blow-up dolls), it`s very touching and sad for the most part, looking at loneliness in different people, including an air doll who has come to life.

It can be quite lonely to move to a new place, whether a small town or a large city.   Making friends anywhere is difficult when you are facing the fact that most people are reluctant to open up their circle of friends or even just befriend you by themselves, but in a small-town setting it can make a new person feel even lonelier and more excluded I think. In any size of a city, you can distract yourself with more things to do by yourself or by way of meeting people who might be new too (and cities tend to attract a greater number of individual migrants than towns, or worse villages, do). While you may have workmates, you might not click with them enough to want to see them outside of work or they might have other commitments.  People feel increasingly shy about approaching people they want to be friends with as if they are looking for a new boyfriend/girlfriend.  In a small town, this problem is maximized.

I personally believe a bit of alone time is good for everyone but some people hate the idea of it. Being surrounded by people does not mean you cannot feel lonely however, and being alone as a solitary person (i.e. not married or in a relationship and living on your own) does not mean you feel lonely or are yearning for company all the time. A lot of people do very well on their own but humans are meant to interact and be social. It`s also good for our mental health, and apparently helps us live longer.

In Japanese literature, through the last century, and in this one so far, being isolated is brought up a lot.

Natsume Soseki`s Tower of London gives us an idea of what it was like for the author as a lonely foreign student in London at the beginning of the 20th century and in Foreign Studies by Shusaku Endo, the Japanese student in France, in particular, is also seen to be lonely and only in demand for company by those who exoticise him (this also happens in The Tower of London to Natsume) and even want to convert him to christianity. The one girl he falls for does not feel the same. Their loneliness is pretty much enforced as they are strangers (of a different race) in a strange land.  It must have been hard for them.

To take an example from more contemporary literature, where characters choose to be alone, though society might force their hand a little, Haruki Murakami`s characters are more often than not loners, though they feel comfortable as loners. In Norwegian Wood, Watanabe says to this new girl he meets, Midori, that he does not go out of his way to make friends. In 1Q84, his main character is also a loner who does not have much company apart from a married woman he sees. However, he is not that bothered by it.  The Wind-up Bird Chronicle character is very similar to the two others except that he`s married. Murakami`s new book due to come out here shortly (but already out in Japan and very popular so far) is about a man who is urged by his wife to try and find out why his gang of friends suddenly dumped him while they were all at college.

I`ve lived in places, both home and abroad, where I felt I did not fully fit in, despite making efforts to.   Japan was cool though.  No real issues there.  I`ve lived in towns and cities and the countryside in my own country – so at least I can say that I`ve experienced different places and perspectives – and cities of different sizes abroad (some with a population bigger than my entire country`s).   I`ve only every lived abroad in these particular countries for a maximum of nine months which is nothing when you`re trying to settling in somewhere, you have to give it more time but most of my living stints abroad were restricted to the duration of a school/university semester or university year.  There was one exception where i stayed on for another half a year but I felt it was not working out for me so I left.  I`ve also travelled a hell of a lot, mostly as a solo traveller (during one long stint of travel, I also worked for several months), and have seen yet more places that way.

I`m not that crazy about my own country (I appreciate a few things about it but am, overall, not impressed with it in the greater scheme of things) and so I am itching to go abroad once again.  I really want a change and would also like to live somewhere totally new for longer than a university year.   I plan to take the bull by the horns soon and take on this change quite soon.



Add comment September 17, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Lets hike on another two years (at least)!!

Two years a runnin`

Taking a hike through Japan

helped by haiku poems


Well,hopefully I`ll be doing this for another 2 years and beyond.  I got a notification just now that it`s my second anniversary here on this blog – how time flies when you`re having fun!!

I should have another post tomorrow.  I have just been thinking about one based on a film I watched the other night and in relation to that some works of literature I have read before but find relevant to the film.

Jya, ….




Add comment September 16, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Unforgiven, in Hokkaido

Wild Hokkaido

in all its beauty is the

setting for vengeance.


So I have finally managed to watch 許されざる者 (ゆるされざるもの), the Japanese remake of the Clint Eastwood film Unforgiven from the early 1990s.   Directed by Lee Sang-Il, and starring Ken Watanabe, Akira Emoto and Yuya Yagira.   I saw Unforgiven years ago but I wouldn`t know it well enough to be able to compare and I`m not really going to watch a film just to be prepared for its remake so …. I didn`t and I`ve no idea therefore how they compare.

Anyway, interesting movie set in my favourite part of Japan ….. Hokkaido : )   More specifically Washiro in eastern Hokkaido, which I did not get to the last time I was there.  It gives you a sense (not even half the story I bet), in film mode, of what the Ainu were treated like by Japanese settlers who had come to Hokkaido from Honshu and other parts of Japan. I  have never heard Ainu spoken in a Japanese film to date (a few lines of dialogue are spoken here and there throughout this film through the Ainu language), so that was another interesting aspect of the film.    A previous post of mine gives you some Ainu words, mostly relating to nature so do check it out.  The Ainu actually prefer the word Utari rather than Ainu which was always used with a derogatory nuance.

The women in this film, who are prostitutes in the town of Washiro, seek revenge on two brothers, one of whom cruelly attacked one of them for allegedly mocking his tini-ness, cutting up her face and other parts of her body.   They put out a reward for whoever will kill these brothers as nobody else, including the new government and the person in charge, will punish them in a serious manner.  Women got a raw enough deal.  Women who were prostitutes got an even worse deal.  The three above-mentioned actors play the main characters, one of them a man known as Junpei the Killer (played by KW), who travel together to Washiro to carry out the task and earn the reward, but before they arrive in town, another person does, a former samurai from the Choshu gang of the Choshu/Satsuma band of warriors from the Satsuma rebellion, with a biographer in tow.  He is keen to hang onto his samurai glory, but is humiliated by the town`s chief lawman (sheriff/judge?).   This person has no time for now ex-samurai (enforcing the no swords rule fiercely), but also has no time for the two brothers who are to be attacked, nor any one out to kill them (even though he does not care whether they live or die, as he says, because apart from the fact they are ex-samurai who he hates, at least he has the heart to despise such an act against women).  Ironically, the Ainu were pushed up to Hokkaido by the Shogun and his samurai and now in 1880, ex-samurai who lost in the war against the Emperor, are in Hokkaido and have been chased up there by the government now in place, who make sure when they find them that they are stripped of their samurai status just as they would be in other parts of Japan.

So, if you haven`t seen it and you want to see Hokkaido in all its wild beauty or you want to see KW looking pretty wild (and being pretty wild), as well as other very good actors doing their stuff in an 1880s setting (it is a jidaigeki film after all – a period piece) then you`ll probably appreciate this film.


Add comment September 6, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

The living competing with the dead

A living son with

a widow and stepson falls

flat in parents` eyes


I also downloaded Still Walking at the same time as Jiro Dreams of Sushi.    I almost wish Kore-Eda would lay low for a while as I am afraid I will get sick of him!!   But then if he did I`d probably be willing him to return.

This one I didn`t really think as much of.   Again, we see the idea of bloodlines being so important in Japan.  The old mother does not seem to think that being a stepfather is the same as being a father.   Both parents think that this son, the stepfather and the second son in the family, made a mistake in marrying a widow (with a young son).   The son is made to feel like he will never measure up in any way to the eldest son (who died many years before saving a young boy and according to the old parents it was a waste of a life – their own son losing his in place of this person, now 25 years old, who they see as a waste of space!!) especially in his choice of career but happily, he is content with his own family and his struggling career.  It`s got echoes of Tokyo Story though, about parents` expectations not being met and children moving on so I should like it more but not necessarily.

Kore-Eda clearly has his gang of regular actors.   Actors/Actresses from I Wish, Like Father like Son, Nobody Knows and Afterlife (Wonderful Life in Japanese) all appear in this film.

I`ve updated my film list again with the recent films I`ve watched.  It`s worth a look.




Add comment September 3, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

The すいじ of sushi

A man`s love for his

work in preparing sushi

should inspire many

Well into his eighties and he still never tires of making sushi.    Jiro dreams of Sushi (2011) is a lovely documentary where they spoke with most of the people involved in the business, directly or indirectly – a food critic, the tuna dealer at the hectic Tsukiji market, the rice dealer, his staff including his elder son who will take over one day (his younger son has his own sushi shop but also trained as an apprentice under his father) and of course the man himself, Jiro Ono, who has been making sushi since the age of 10.   It would be amazing to eat in his shop, despite the intimidating atmosphere that some of the people mentioned, stating that his son`s shop was more relaxed.   I would have liked to hear if he ever had any problems with customers or if he ever refused anyone.    People who have the money to eat there may not necessarily be the most well-mannered.  I was pleased to hear his views on tuna fishing stating, if I remember correctly, that there is a serious case of overfishing and there is less good fish available as a result. No whales were mentioned so I wonder how he felt about that.  Really good documentary overall and I don`t think I have ever seen anyone so happy with their line of work.

Hearing about Tsukuji market again made me want to look up more about it, as I never really thought of going there when I visited Tokyo (I was only there a couple of days and was with a friend who took me to other places).    I read that the bulk of the market was to be moved between 2013 and 2014 out of this area of Tokyo and into the Koto area (which already houses a related section of the market along with another one in Kanda).   Most of the retail stalls are going to stay in the Tsukiji area and I think the dealership area will move.  Has that happened yet anyone?    It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to get to the original Tsukuji market in its entirety while it`s still there (well as much of its entirety as people are allowed to explore) but 2014 is almost over and I don`t see myself getting there this year.

Understandably, the large number of  tourists visiting has caused a bit of a fuss in recent years and I can kind of understand that.  It may be an amazing treasure trove to foodie tourists but it is a regular place for all the people who work there (or who go to buy their fish for their restaurants) and have to get on with their work.   I hope this comment does not go against me some day!!    Tourists are now only allowed to go in certain numbers (120 people max per day, or  should I say morning as it is mostly closed by 11am) and on a first come first served basis.   And they`re still not allowed into the fish dealership area (if they ever were, I can`t remember).   Fair enough as it is just more fish really and the documentary gives you a good idea of what happens there anyway.  That said, how do you tell the difference between a tourist and a gaijin who happens to live in Tokyo and has only just got around to coming to visit it?

Speaking of fish markets, there`s a pretty impressive one in Hakodate as well (nowhere near the scale of Tsukuji which is the largest in the world).  I remember going there.  They`re big into squid (いか) in Hakodate which I have to admit I didn`t really take to.  Below is a picture of the entrance to the market.


Add comment September 2, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

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