Haiku reflections on Japan

A plan to get to Japan…. and then some real news

I plan to come back to you

Japan, but not yet

A lack of money stops me.

Well, back again for another episode of my ode to Japan (finally!!).   The other day, I was so close to buying a plane ticket to go to Japan for next year and was at the shopping cart with my card details entered and everything.   I decided at the last second to cancel it as I have other financial obligations to meet at the moment and buying a flight to Japan, no matter how nice the price was (and it was great), would have made a mess of that obligation-meeting exercise.   Damn.  Of course, I was half testing myself to see how far I would go.  I`ll just have to dream on a bit longer.    I was thinking of going at the same time of the year as I went the first time.   This would be important as it would be me making my way to Japan on my own steam and not being influenced by academic pressures.  I`d actually prefer to go in Autumn though if it`s just a holiday.  Maybe it is a blessing in disguise anyway, as I would have more time to think about my JLPT participation (and save more money) ….

…. I`m thinking of taking one of the JLPT exams this coming December and am trying to decide between level 3 and level 2 in the new five level test that was introduced in 2010 (it was previously four levels).  I`m struggling with some of the sample questions even in level 3, partly because I`m too lazy to read the comprehension parts (or `readings` as we call them in Japanese-language learning lingo), so in that case how would I handle level 2?

Should I take the bull by the horns and go for level 2 anyway, thus avoiding any time-wasting and hastening a possible return to Japan?  Taking a holiday to Japan of course does not require JLPT certification.  It`s really just for myself but if I decided, while on this holiday, just on a whim to look for a non-teaching job….?  I think I can handle the grammar from what I have seen in the sample questions.  I am also doing better these days at listening tests which I dreaded at university.  Probably because I tune into so much more j-drama and films and so on. I have been studying Japanese mostly on a grammar level by myself for a while now.  Decisions decisions.  Pressure of any sort really screws up my enjoyment of Japanese.   I find I learn it easier since the end of my formal academic study of it.  It`s good to have a bit of supervision, with one-to-one lessons which I did at one stage, but anything with exams at the end….shudder.

I do think the Japanese language is fabulous and like the male protagonist in that film `My darling is a foreigner`, which I discovered last week, I am fascinated by certain words and expressions that I come across.   I laughed to myself when he says `god that`s a great word!! So strong and …` as I think that way too when I come across new words that sound great.  Certain words/expressions in English also make me smile or laugh. Spanish is pretty colourful too but I don`t remember ever specifically laughing at (or with?) any one word or expression.

News-wise, Japan and China (and Korea) are at loggerheads over various islands, one of which is Senkaku island (Russia too has disputes with Japan but the current trouble is with their fellow Asian countries).  Along with last month`s annual visit by certain Japanese politicians to a certain controversial cemetery, which always stirs up bad feelings, various Japanese restaurants and so on have been attacked on the Chinese mainland even though apparently most of the Japanese restaurants in China are owned by Chinese.  I guess it is what a Japanese restaurant represents to these protestors, but even so it`s a bit ridiculous.  It`s like British hooligans of old  (hopefully of old though they are still around no doubt, resenting the great work of the authorities over in the UK) stirring up anti-Irish hatred (anti-everyone hatred for that matter) who then go drinking in, and of course promptly destroying, Irish bars (which, ironically again, are, for better or worse, owned by British people almost everywhere).    Aside from that, the premiere in Japan of a friendship film was postponed recently because of this trouble.  That reminds me of the whole Memoirs of a Geisha fuss, where Chinese actresses got all the lead female roles.   That was obviously a money-making and exposure related Hollywood decision (Zhang Xiji(?) and Michelle Yeoh being better known) but the Chinese actress in the lead role got a lot of hassle for it, from Chinese people mostly, which was unfair.  While I think they could have scouted for an actress in Japan and just made her famous, maybe they just did not have the time and perhaps there was just no one able for the role and ultimately it`s only a film role people and the Chinese actress really got into it for what that was worth (not the best film I`ve seen related to Japanese culture but it`s very pretty).  Did anyone in China complain when a Japanese actor played Genghis Khan (very brilliantly, best man for the job), in Mongol (great film, very enjoyable)?   Actually they probably did but given that it was directed by a Russian, they probably would have been told to bog off and it was a mixed cast of Chinese, Mongolians and the Japanese actor of course which made it more international I suppose (and less obvious).  It`s interesting by the way that Genghis Khan has been claimed by China, Korea and even Japan (yes, even Japan) as one of their own (warriors).

Now I know Japan has done a lot of harm in the past to China and Korea (colonialism, comfort women, rape of Nanking … yes this blog is still an ode to Japan but I like to think an honest one that doesn`t ignore Japan`s less appealing history) but if the statement of remorse by the Emperor (at least in the last 10 years or so) was genuinely meant (and let`s ignore for a minute the uber-nationalist Japanese politicians who still deny the wrongdoings and let`s just focus on this one old man who represents Japan as it`s prime symbol and who can think and speak for himself, like Queen Lizzie in Ireland last year) and I don`t see how it could not have been, then Korea and China should move on.

Essentially,how the people from each country get on with each other is generally important, the ordinary Joes on the street and if Japanese folk get on well with Koreans and Chinese, then that is important in itself.   Outlawing hate-speech by right-wing radicals swarming on the Korean areas of Japanese cities (thankfully a small minority at present) would help this along nicely.  Hint hint Abe.

Where an apology is and will never be enough, is when the guilty party, which has a world-wide reach, consistently tried to hide their obvious guilt and deny their role in a situation, keeping evil people in their jobs and ruining the lives of so many vulnerable children (and female adults if you consider the laundries, but children especially).

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