Haiku reflections on Japan

Strange weather

Reading can seem a 

rare pleasure but for me

it still beats n/f.

 

I’ve made quite a bit of time lately for reading lately, thanks to a certain hurricane which meant the time was made for me as online tv/film watching was unavailable but also, pre-hurricane, thanks to certain brilliant books I have been borrowing from the library which prompted me to ditch the online viewing (nf mainly, occasionally yt.) myself. In addition to the brilliant library books, I also decided to go back to ones on my shelf which I bought a year or two ago (and read – no tsundoku here!) but for some reason did not put them in my literature list.

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (called The Briefcase in other parts of the world, which is also the title of the last chapter in the book) is a good one from Japan. It shows love in a different light.  Once you put aside the initial weirdness of how the mature woman and a former high school teacher of hers come to meet, the story is quite sweet.   It’s not the age gap that is wierd exactly as they are both now adults (Memoirs of a Geisha is way creepier in that regard), only that he first recognised her as the school girl she had once been and keeps commenting throughout their relationship on her studiousness, or lack of it, in school and saying things like ‘good girl’ and patting her on the head (you wouldn’t even pat a child on the head).  However, they’re clearly somehow meant to be as they find out, despite her occasionally feeling at odds with the association, and I guess more unusual couples exist.    This is a book I bought a few years ago and read at the time but the second reading is better and the humour comes out more on a second reading.  The translator who worked on the book is Allison Markin Powell (I like to name the translator).

Another book I had time to read for the second time, bought around the same time as Strange Weather was Revenge by Yoko Ogawa.  This is a book of eleven dark tales with the main characters in each being connected in the oddest ways.    The translator of that is Stephen Snyder.   This was a very quirky one which also explores loneliness.

By the way, I’m so glad to see the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Kazuo Ishiguro.  He’s such a good writer.  I’ve been meaning to buy one of his recent novels, having read some of his earlier ones.  Nice to see the prize go to an actual author again, and a very deserving one he is.   They might have learned their lesson now and continue giving it to authors. I’ve nothing against Bob Dylan, whose lyrics are lovely, but he didn’t even seem to want it and took his time showing up to receive it!!  What’s more, you don’t know who’ll be expecting one now, using Bob Dylan as a precedent.  I shudder to think.  So, just stick to writers please.

It seems the political climate in Tokyo is going to stay the same for a while with Shinzo Abe’s landslide victory in the elections.   Despite the additional options available this time around, including the current Tokyo governor whom I’ve mentioned before with her Party of Hope, and another new party, the CDP (Constitutional Democratic Party) led by a Yukio Edano, he still won due to his hard line stance, understandably I guess, on North Korea.  This CDP sounds interesting though and might prompt change in certain areas.

 

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Haiku reflections on Japan, International or other matters, Snapshots of Japan

Weapons in Japan

 

With the dreadful mass shooting in Las Vegas a few evenings ago – by someone you can simply call a domestic, white, terrorist – I thought I’d take a look at what the situation is in Japan with gun ownership.

The first bit of good news is the existence of the weapons law of Japan which starts by saying outright:

“No one shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords”. 

Very few exceptions are allowed.

Handgun ownership is out rightly banned, while shotguns and air rifles are allowed for hunting and sport shooting and you can only apply to own a rifle on proof that you have owned a shotgun for 10 years.  I’m not entirely sure what the difference between a shotgun and a handgun is but a gun is a gun. Also, people who do own guns and need cartridges must return the spent cartridges to the /a gun shop (of which each prefecture in Japan can have no more than three) in order to be allowed to buy more.  A person’s gun or guns have to be kept under lock and key and the police have to be told where it/they are stored.

 

Not even ordinary cops in Japan use guns that regularly, even though they do carry them. They spend more time on their judo, in which they are all expected to gain a black belt, and practicing Kendo (with wooden swords) than learning how to use the gun they’ll have to carry around.  In general, cops leave their guns at the station before heading home in the evening and apparently there is a case of one cop, who used his gun to kill himself while on duty, being charged posthumously with a criminal offence.  Yep, they don’t mess around.

Apparently, the Yakuza are the only ones affected (boohoo) though they still manage to find ways of importing them illegally.  In general, gun crime in Japan is still one of the lowest in the world and they can also hold their head high for rejecting the idea of gun ownership in the first place.  Incidentally, most ordinary folks in Japan are very concerned about the idea being touted for the Self Defence Forces becoming less self-defence and more offence in its structure (even with the current threat from that one particular neighbour).

Anyway, the current gun law has been in force since 1958 but their stringent gun laws go back a long way when in 1685, people were encouraged to hand in their firearms for a reward (I wonder what the reward was?).  So, long before 1876, when an Edict called the 廃刀令Haitōrei (the Sword Abolishment Act), banned everyone, bar former Lords (Daimyōs), the military and law enforcement officials, from carrying weapons.  Usually it was only samurai and government officials who carried swords by then (maybe because everyone else handed them in back in 1685?), and samurai/government families who owned them, so it was mostly these who were affected by this and other laws – losing their swords, topknots, their identity as warriors.  Ordinary farmers and so on were not allowed own arms I’m sure.  Feel free to correct me on this. People who made swords on the other hand were obviously going to be inconvenienced!

It’s a pity that samurai swords are still exported from Japan, even if they’re cheap imitations, and used by all kinds of morons (a very American insult I like to use!) in various countries to show off with and/or use for violence towards others, as I’ve often read about in news reports over the years.   Japan should try and ban the export of samurai swords, unless they are used for display in museums and then perhaps sent back to Japan.

Where there are large scale attacks or killings in Japan, it’s done with knives (except for the sarin gas attack by the Aum cult in the 90s) and there are unstable people in Japan as there are in many other countries who should not get that far, whatever their choice of weapon. But gun control is one situation where Japan can hold its head high.

I feel so bad for the people killed or injured in Las Vegas, and have real admiration for the police force but also various civilians who risked their own safety to help others.

Let’s not forget the two victims of the attack in Marseille either.  Knife attack victims of another terrorist who was luckily prevented from attacking anyone else.

 

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Haiku reflections on Japan, International or other matters

Poetry Day

Happy national

poetry day to all my

fellow haiku scribes!

 

Well, for the day that’s in it – National Poetry Day – I thought I should come back and write a post.  I haven’t been around in a while despite all that’s been going on over in Japan’s part of the world:

North Korea is

posing a bigger threat but

Aso still an ass.

 

Yes, North Korea is one thing but having a minister like Aso on your team who says things like ‘H~~~ had the right idea in the 1930s’ (won’t type out his name for obvious reasons) is no help to politics in Japan or Japan’s reputation abroad.  You’re on the brink of being wiped out by a bullying nutcase neighbour and you hero worship another genocidal nutcase from the past?   What an ass (to put it mildly).   Shinzo Abe with his raised right arm tendencies doesn’t help either!!    I’m glad he’s getting a scare from the current governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, who has formed a new party which is already threatening his poll ratings, already low.  She says she won’t run against him in the next elections to be PM because she wants to focus on Tokyo 2020.    She was his defence minister at one point and is a conservative populist (don’t like that word too much) but apparently she wants to challenge the political old guard. Becoming the first female governor of Tokyo has given her a good start there!   The Party of Hope is the name of her party. Let’s hope it lasts a while and doesn’t turn bad.  She certainly is scaring him in the polls.  We can’t let long-time leaders like right-arm raising Abe get too comfortable can we.     Things are certainly looking very dark over there right now, even with the Party of Hope hoping to bring some light in.  I’m almost glad I’m not in Japan these days.

Speaking of darkness of another kind, and onto one of my favourite topics of conversation, film, A third murder, Hirokazu Koreeda’s most recent film (for the first time in a while, or ever, not really about family issues which is his speciality), which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival this year, explores the dark side of being a lawyer defending a client who admits to a crime even if the lawyer doubts his guilt.  Is he covering up for someone? Well, who cares!!  I’d like to see this at some point.

 

Kore-eda strikes

again to give us a slice

of life in Japan.

 

I have another film to see before that, which is also about a pretty dark area of society – American society.   It’s called Wind River, set on a reservation (the actual Wind River reservation where it was filmed) in Wyoming where an experienced park ranger helps an inexperienced FBI agent to investigate the death of a young Native American woman, found lying dead in the snow.   Missing or murdered Native American women (and First Nation women in Canada) is an ongoing problem, mostly neglected if not ignored by authorities (in Canada at least, I’m not as sure about the US) and reservations in America have other problems too.    Some very good actors in this and it’s directed by the man who screen-wrote Hell or High Water last year (also a very good film where Jeff Bridges, a very good actor most will agree, as the Texas Ranger chasing sibling bank robbers – robbing branches of the bank which has taken back their ill mother’s farm/house – has his scenes stolen (geddit?) by the actor playing his Native American (Comanche)-Mexican partner, who plays the grieving father of the murdered young woman in Wind River – a brilliant character actor).  I’ve read some very interesting books lately exploring the history of Native Americans and the American West.  I  admire to some extent the chiefs and rebels from various tribes who resisted and only gave in for the good, or so they were led to think, of their people.  They were robbed in every way and yes the murder of settlers by some Indians was definitely not right either but ‘there were good and bad Indians and good and bad whites but the whites only saw the bad in the Indian’, to paraphrase a quote from one leader.  Incidentally, one of the books covers the Texas Rangers who were originally created as a form of militia back in the 19th century in order to hunt down Indians.  There were some white figures in US history who come out looking relatively good but not enough of them. I’ve watched and am watching some dramas and documentaries on the subject as well (which also cover earlier periods, in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the early pilgrims arrived in the East of the States) but the books are brilliant.   I got both out of the library – and am waiting for another one, long live libraries – but am planning to buy one of them now so I can have it in my collection to refer to in the future.   Definitely not a book that will be left in 積読/tsundoku state (the Japanese term for books bought and then left piled up and unread) – not that many books I buy are.

Back to Japan, well I don’t think there is that much else happening there at the moment (though on the positive side, in terms of film, it’s nice to see good films continuously coming out, especially by Hirokazu Kore-eda).  They have their hands full I imagine with North Korea, and certain idiotic politicians.

So that’s it for today.  I hope no-one minded me going off-track there to talk about a non-Japanese issue.   Actually, apart from the fact the film mentioned is a worthy one (and starting a film blog is something I’m not ready to do yet), there are some parallels in the story of native Americans with Japanese history, as back in the 19th century if not earlier, the Japanese government also mistreated and wiped out most of the Ainu, the aboriginals of Japan.  They also humiliated other Japanese who weren’t seen as equal to them.   They could do what they wanted and got away with it.

 

The world is small with

governments showing

evil in common

 

More in another while.

 

 

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