Haiku reflections on Japan, International or other matters

Kowtowing to the wrong people

Most twisted news I

have heard in a while in the

women’s affairs sphere

So the UN are compiling a secret vote as to whether to allow Saudi Arabia onto a body which discusses and deals with women’s rights.  You have got to be joking.  The only reason I heard of it was that over the last couple of days, our Minister for Foreign Affairs has refused to reveal whether he said yes or no to it.  The secret part of it is that Saudi Arabia won’t know who voted for or against them or who voted at all.   So yeah I guess they’d find out if it was all over the media but people have a right to know what their government is getting up to internationally.  So who cares if they find out.  Surely we don’t need their business that much?  They don’t deserve our beef!  It’s the UN who need their head testing even considering it though I suppose they might think they will be helping women in Saudi Arabia, or they can keep an eye on Saudi Arabia.  Rather naive I think as Saudi Arabia has so far got away with murder, literally, at home and abroad, and knows it can because people depend on it for oil.

Anyway, our Foreign Affairs minister says he’s not telling anyone, even people in the government cabinet (which I find hard to believe) and our Prime Minister is looking insincere, which he is in my opinion, for not being clear on whether he brought it (women’s issues) up with the Saudis on a previous trade mission trip in 2014.    I can’t imagine he did bring it up specifically, the kowtowing groveller that he is.  Too interested in getting business from that place.    Though he is meant to be stepping down soon (leave already!), I can’t see his replacement being any better.  I’m talking about this here because Japan’s PM seems very fond of Saudi Arabia also (and well he is PM of a country where women have had to fight to keep their own name after getting married for flip sake), and often seems to be kowtowing in the most obsequious manner (to use the onomatopoeia ぺこぺこ). These two PMs are not the only ones almost afraid of bringing Saudi Arabia to task on this very important issue and making them change their backward attitude to women and give them legal rights to carry out things that are normal in most civilised countries but they’re the ones who interest me most obviously.   An extreme example of too much money (made from their oil which sadly many countries want) and no sense.  Leaders of countries including mine are afraid they might lose business.  Pathetic.  They should make them improve before inviting them on any such bodies, if they absolutely have to do that.    Some proof of improvement, I think, would be the introduction of laws to allow women certain rights which the rest of the world would then see.  And abolishing certain existing laws of course.   Politicians in many countries have deplorable, sad attitudes to women, including their female counterparts in parliament, and women under the yoke of the Catholic Church here and elsewhere had it hard for a long time also – so it’s not just there that religion affects  laws and/or attitudes.  Saudi Arabia and other countries nearby still, however, choose to remain a world apart.  Of course, some men have had it hard there too like the blogger who was flogged for revealing information about the country through his blog.  But for women it is a whole lot worse.

No, I have not been there and I have no interest in going in the next lifetime.   I wouldn’t put my time or money into the tourism industry of a country, Saudi Arabia or neighbouring countries with similar attitudes, that treats women like that.  Hell, I don’t even like the idea of visiting the US on holiday, which I otherwise would like to do, while the orange clown is in charge, nor France should Le Pen win this weekend (and I don’t think Macron is a great choice either but she’s awful, not as bad as her old dinosaur father but just as harmful to France’s future as he would have been).

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Haiku reflections on Japan

The Samurai way … or not

Dramas about food – yum

yet not so eager about 

diners in this one

I guess because I wasn’t overly impressed with it that I didn’t mention sooner a drama series called Samurai Gourmet which I watched lately.  I had a lot to say about the recent films I watched (I really hope you haven’t watched A taxing woman returns!).

A newly retired salary man, a nice guy too (unlike the obnoxious image of salary men you often get which is of course unfair to most of them), who finds himself with not a lot to do in his retirement but eat out everyday finds his behaviour somewhat influenced by the presence, which only he can see, of a samurai who is not shy about acting the way he wants.  This is mostly good – he learns to relax and not pay so much attention to what people might think of him – and sometimes ‘bad’ – he still backs down from a ‘good’ confrontation or gets intimidated too easily when he tries to ask someone to shut it as he’s annoying other customers.  If you summon up the courage to start to tell someone to shut it you should follow it through.

As an aside, I still think you should never slurp your pasta in Japan even if you’re taught that it’s ok with noodles.   Even if everyone else is doing it.   And I was not impressed with the way the pasta was cooked in the second or third episode I think it was.

An extra quirk is that in the scenes with the samurai, the actors present, bar the retiree, suddenly change from their modern attire to the style of dress from the particular era the samurai comes from and when he disappears they’re seen again in their modern attire.  The retired salary man is played by an actor I might have mentioned here before, Naoto Takenaka.  He’s a good actor for this kind of role.

It’s a real slow-moving casual kind of drama, sometimes charming, often funny, about an ordinary guy (re-)discovering himself in a Japan he hardly recognises (he’s been so busy working and has never had the time to relax and observe what’s going on around him) and in some ways it looks at family ties as well.  His wife seems to live her own life completely and his niece acts like he should be happy with her company even if she’s ignoring him and engaging more with her phone. Though I wouldn’t compare it quality wise to Cafe Lumiere, it did remind me of that film, only with humour.   I guess it’s a good one after all!  Midnight Diner, with its raggle taggle of different customers and a very taciturn diner owner, another nice guy, is similar but also without as much humour.

Speaking of Cafe Lumiere, Huo Hsiao-Hsien is 70 today (the 8th of April) – happy birthday!

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Haiku reflections on Japan, International or other matters

Itami update – Taxing indeed!

Sometimes the sequel

to a film just ain’t worth the

effort of watching

Well, I watched A Taxing Woman and as expected, it was very good (earning Miyamoto a Best Actress award at the Japanese Academy Awards in 1988) with great performances by both Miyamoto, the ‘taxing’ woman of the title and Yamazaki, the tricky person she’s after for taxes, yet comes to respect and like (a feeling that’s more than mutual).  Who would think a film about a tax inspector could be so riveting!!  Not me.  There are some pretty comical scenes exaggerating the power and excitement these tax inspectors get in catching tax evaders.

However, I’d be very reluctant to recommend the sequel A taxing woman returns which I decided to watch straight after because I had just discovered a sequel existed (and I was doing nothing else). This time she’s going after a religious cult mixed up with the Yakuza (like the Yakuza aren’t challenging enough!) and there are some very distasteful scenes in it.  I turned it off after a while as I couldn’t watch anymore.  Even the first scene is hard to get past.  You could say it was taxing to watch.  It’s almost an insult to the original to be that distasteful (even though it’s the same actress and same director – I’m a bit disappointed people!)

I was wondering what the マルサ of the Japanese title referred to.  It’s slang for the tax inspection agency.  She does mention it herself when her boss decides they need the assistance of the national inspection agency (they’re just regular auditors working for the local tax office) to which she then gets promoted to working with, but I couldn’t see the linguistic connection.  Wikipedia put me right.  I’m a linguist by profession so this need to know something like this is obsessive.  I’m not a human dictionary after all and nor would finance /tax be an area I’d be in a rush to translate so I wouldn’t know it through my work either.  Anyway, サ/査 comes from one of the words for inspection (調査・ちょうさ) and マル・まる which is circle represents the circle beside the 査 kanji, two kanji  〇査 (ok, symbols as the circle’s not a kanji but you get my drift) which the tax inspection agency use side by side in their official seal. I like how it translates in English to ‘(a) taxing woman’ as to the people she’s after she’s rather taxing as she won’t get off their case but likewise it’s ‘taxing’ work for her to deal with such people, however smoothly she does it.   Exciting knowledge to have I know(ok now I’m just being sarcastic) – but you’d never know when you might need it.  Just don’t get caught out on your taxes in Japan and you won’t have to. But if you want to translate finance/tax (yawn!), it’s good to know anyway.

Don’t forget to watch the original though – it really is very good.

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