Haiku reflections on Japan, Snapshots of Japan

After the Storm

After the Storm – 

another hit from the

class Kore-eda?

There’s a film out at the moment called ‘After the Storm’ starring Hiroshi Abe and Kiki Kirin which is meant to be really good.   I’d go see it only it’s not available anywhere near me.  I might have to head to another city to see it so we’ll see.   It looks like one I’d add to my ‘Films worth a look’ list.   It’s another one by Kore-eda whose films are nearly always about family ties.

Haven’t studied any Japanese in a few weeks.  I think I just got to a level on Renshuu that I had to think ‘Oh well where do I go now?’   I went to another part of the site that specialised in kanji but found myself going over old ground, really basic old ground so was not very motivated to continue it.  I like to copy a lot of sentences from it which have new terms in them, or certain grammar structures I want to perfect, into word files according to theme and then I try to go back to the Word files once in a while to look over what I’ve learned – I’ve pages and pages by now per theme (politics, business, sport, food/drink, household, etc.) – to review them.   Well, good intentions and all ….  I don’t usually have the time.   Still, it’s good to give something a break now and then so you can return to it with a clear mind.

One or two files that are really handy at the moment are the politics and war files considering the antagonism coming from NK towards Japan and the new leader in South Korea.  Another is my weather and climate file since firstly Japan has such a wide range of weather conditions and catastrophes and secondly since the climate is more important than ever and not just because or since that clown in the White House pulled out of the all-important Paris agreement.  Boooo!! 馬鹿だよ!

Any thoughts on this?  I look forward to hearing them.

Slightly edited – 3/6 – to add haiku and other additions to main text.

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

Itami’s slices of life

‘I must get back to

some Japanese film watching’

I said, and I did


After a bit of a gap in Japanese film-watching, I decided to go browsing for films and ended up making this weekend a Juzo Itami weekend after watching Minbo (ミンボの女) on Friday and The Funeral (お組織) last night , while A Taxing Woman (マルサの女) is planned for this evening. Thank you video-streaming website in question (and, of course, the people who put these films up)!  After watching Minbo, I saw The Funeral pop up as a recommended film and then A Taxing Woman showed up later.  I do remember watching Minbo while at college but had kind of forgotten a lot of it, while before this weekend I had never watched the other two.  In December it will be 20 years since the death of Juzo Itami, in 1997, apparently forced to commit suicide by a branch of the Yakuza who he had pissed off through his portrayal of them in the film Minbo where the Yakuza characters are defeated by the wiles of a sassy lawyer, played by Nobuko Miyamoto, and the staff of the hotel the Yakuza make trouble for.

Miyamoto Nobuko (宮本 信子) and Yamazaki Tsutomu  (山崎 努) co-star in A Taxing Woman, The Funeral and of course Tampopo, another of Juzo Itami’s gems.  Yamazaki doesn’t appear in Minbo.  You might know him from Departures (2008), – not The Departed as I mistakenly called it in a rush to write, an entirely different film Hong Kong or US-wise hehe ; ) – already gushed about in this blog, where he runs an undertaker business and coaches the main character in how to prepare deceased folk for burial.  They’re both brilliant in all the films. I’m going to include A Taxing Woman even if I am yet to watch it as I’m confident I’ll enjoy watching them in that as well.   The four films, as I’m including Tampopo, have other actors in common as well, playing supporting characters.

I really enjoyed Minbo and the Funeral, though in different ways.   Minbo has a strong female character standing up to the bullies that are the Yakuza, and teaching others to stand up to them (although if you ask me the final scene shows them still a little apologetic to them, so clearly there’s only so far you can go).  It also shows how the police were somewhat afraid to deal with them as well.  Ordinary cops on the beat at least as the detective and his gang had a great attitude to defeating them.   There are bound to be police that were and still are either afraid of them or colluding with them.

The Funeral shows that funeral procedures are the same in many countries in the ways people deal with them, personally at least.  In this one, the couple who have taken charge of organising the funeral, played by the afore-mentioned actress and actor, have to watch a How To video on how to put on a funeral, use the correct speech to funeral-goers and so on.  There is a lot of awkwardness and indecision about the funeral arrangements and family disagreeing over said arrangements, and comments on the personality of the deceased, which I’m sure many people watching would empathise with.   Uninvited guests make it yet more awkward but there is humour in the film as well.  There’s also a very brief cameo by the elderly father from Tokyo Story,  who plays the priest who appears in a Rolls Royce (another thing in common with clergy around the world – where’s your vow of poverty?).

I recommend these films without hesitation. A Taxing Woman, The Funeral and Tampopo are from the 80s but Minbo is from the early 90s (Minbo, 1992) but don’t let that put you off.  There is somewhat of a dearth of films coming from Japan at the moment but even if we were flooded with films from today’s Japan I would still watch and recommend these old favourites.

Haiku reflections on Japan, Snapshots of Japan

Women’s Day and colourful language

Happy Women’s day 

to women, vulnerable

and tough ones, worldwide


Life is still a challenge for many women out there in various countries and in various ways – whether it be crazy laws barring them from very basic rights (education for example), having female genital mutilation forced on them as children (but not just as children), being forced as children to marry older (sometimes much older) men, discrimination based on their gender preference, domestic abuse, discrimination in the workplace (glass ceilings, even getting into work in the first place or back into work) or sexual harassment – セクハラ – in both the workplace and the street when they’re just going around minding their own business.

Regarding the last example above, I’ve had verbal comments of a certain nature thrown at me by total strangers (but not just strangers sadly).   This is tough but do you respond to strangers or not? Responding is only giving them the attention they want, not responding encourages them to go on and on and but in any case you’re not responsible for what they think of you (at first I struggled with that phrase ‘it’s none of your business what others think of you’ but it does make sense).

You’d love to ask them what their mother/sister/aunt/daughter would think of what they just said and what they would say if their own mother/sister/aunt/daughter had such a comment made to them.  They’d probably come up with some half-witted response because they’re half-wits.  No actually.  Total dimwits.  They’d then go on and say it to some other woman no doubt.   Or shocker they might not say it to anyone ever again but you wouldn’t know that at the time and you may feel that you gave them a little bit too much attention even while trying to make a valid point to them.  Keep walking or walk away if you’re able to.  Being verbally abused like this is the verbal version of what I imagine chikans are about.  They are trying to defile you in some way.  Thank god most countries have not had to introduce separate train carriages for women, as in Japan to give one example (I think either India or Mexico or both were planning to bring them in too) and I hope it never becomes necessary either.   It would be sad if it became second nature for city councils worldwide to build these carriages.   Dare I say it also drags good men (of which there are plenty) down with the bad?

However, if you’re in Japan (or anywhere else but this is a Japan blog obviously) and you are groped either in a train carriage or anywhere else, a couple of sentences in Japanese, which might help if you have the strength in you at that paralysing moment to speak at all are: ‘私から手をはなせ!’ is ‘Let go of me’ (lit: get your hands away from me or off me – it can be shortened to ‘はなせ!’) or another I’ve heard which I’m unsure of but would use if I had to is you could grab the person’s hand (I know, you wouldn’t even want to touch the person but bear with me), hold it up high and say 誰の手ですか?’whose hand is this?’  I don’t really know any effective swear words in Japanese sorry.

I was in an East European city a while ago (first time – great city!) and as I had no idea of the language and like to learn a bit of the lingo in advance I made a point of learning ‘let go of me!’ at least.  I had no hassle there in the end – verbal or physical and I have to say I didn’t expect to even though I perceive the men from the country in question to be quite macho – and I would have used a lot stronger language than that to be honest (and in English so there was no mistaking my dislike of any unwelcome attention!), but I didn’t have to use any in the end.   They wouldn’t deserve my effort to try to remember it on the spot in their own language anyway and well most people know what F*** **f means anyway!   Pardon the language but it is our choice what language we use and some people (women and men alike) don’t like to hear women using such strong language which is sexism as well*.  Saying you’re not interested or trying to think of other diplomatic rejections is polite but not enough unfortunately for some men. Bad language also creates adrenaline, I read recently, which is of course handy in threatening situations.

* That said there is one word that makes me baulk and it is the c word that ends in t.   I’ve had it used against me (by a family member) and thought about uttering it to others (and I’ve actually used it against inanimate objects).  But I hate it and try not to use it. I’ve revised this paragraph but it’s the same thing as before only shorter.

Anyway girls (and some boys) remember it’s not about you it’s very much their issue (that includes girls slagging off other girls by the way) just in case you don’t hear/read it enough.