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

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

Ninja family ties

Ninjas knew many

fighting methods and their

descendants stay proud.

 

I’ve found another place to add to my list of future Japanese destinations, 甲賀市・滋賀県 (Koka City, Shiga Prefecture), ancestral home of the ninja warrior.  I was just doing a translation (for my own interest) of a news article today on how Koka City government officials, in a bid to locate any descendants of these warriors, carried out a survey among its residents and 88 households claim to be descendants of ninjas, some providing proof in either old makimono scrolls, pedigree records (I imagine these must have been well hidden given the nature of ninja work) or various weapons used and attire worn by these ninjas. Though they’re popular and feature in many movies, they probably don’t have the same fame as Samurai warriors but their role was just as important.  Koka city is known for the Koga school of Ninjas.    So sometimes Koka is written in English as Koga.  The city officials are naturally chuffed to have confirmation of this ninja link to their city.  A picture accompanying the article showed some of the civil servants wearing ninja outfits to promote the research.

Another drama I watched from South Korea lately was about a team of elite cops who use hidden identities to track a bunch of criminals with closer links to them than they think.   Quite gripping.  It starred the same actor I was admiring from a previous drama but he doesn’t really do well in this, acting wise.   He’s beyond gorgeous (though with a different look this time) but his acting skills seem a bit dull throughout the series.    A bit Keanu Reeves you know?  As in a bit hit and miss acting wise but still great-looking (50 years of age he is this year – KR that is). What they call a ‘daikon’ in Japan.  Some of the fighting skills these cops have are amazing and reminded me of what you see in ninja movies though of course Korea is where tae- kwan-do comes from and that was probably one of the martial art methods used here so I hope Koreans reading this aren’t offended by the comparison.  It is hard to tell sometimes which martial art they are using in films if you don’t practice one yourself.  I watched a martial arts film called Heroes of the East a good few months ago which is a sort of a mickey take on the differences between Chinese and Japanese martial arts (not that much at all) and general customs.  It was a bit hammy but fun to watch and made little of the sometimes pompous attitude taken towards some martial arts.  It’s not always noble ye know. I can’t think of the pair of directors who directed it but they’re famous in kung fu film circles.  Anyhow, look it up and watch it.  It’s fun.

 

Post-script: The Shaw brothers were the two I was looking for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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