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.




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.



Ainu People facing more trouble

The Ainu people 

have their work cut out getting

what they have rights to..


… returned to them, items which are being held in possession by a few universities around Japan but mainly Hokkaido University in Sapporo (Hokudai, as it is called for short).     These items are no ordinary items.  They are skulls, bones, and other bodily components belonging to their ancestors who had tests carried out on them by researchers from said university/universities.     It`s shocking stuff to read really – these researchers would go along to traditional Ainu villages and carry out tests on the villagers like measuring their skulls, their heights, taking blood samples etc.

Meanwhile, the current leader of the country that allows these universities to do this has come under the spotlight for his August 15th speech for the 68th anniversary of Japan`s surrender in World War II.     Leaving out any vow to avoid future wars which are usually included in this speech is just one major faux-pas.   He did not go to Yasukuni as promised but he did send a proxy who went in his name.  Hmmm.   Is he trying to cause outrage???