Poetry and Happiness

World Poetry Day

today can I think up a

nice new haiku folks?


Or can you?  Well, it`s World Poetry Day today and as I work in a bookshop we`re going to have a poetry reading this evening and the window is displayed with poetry books – a blend of international and national poets.

I wonder if they are celebrating this in Japan, whether in bookshops or universities or schools?   It`s probably not a well-established day just yet around the world.  I know from one of the blogs I`m following that it was Museum Bloggers Day lately and yesterday, the 20th of March, was World Happiness Day.

I went to my local gallery the night before that to watch a film called Happy.  Anyone seen it?  People from around the world in different situations talk about what makes them happy every day.  It was very touching.    However, one story was not so happy and it was about people in Japan dying from overwork – karõshi (過労死).  The woman they interviewed told how her husband always seemed exhausted and depressed and then at work one day he collapsed and died while making a phonecall to a superior about a technical problem. It`s so sad that people are this pressured by their work that they end up dying because of it.   A separate interviewee, also in Japan, told the interviewer that his job was more important than his girlfriend when asked why he was celebrating his birthday with his colleagues instead of with her.  `They invited me and anyway work is more important` to paraphrase what he said.    To counteract this, they showed an old woman in Okinawa who was 106 years old and was really happy to be alive and could be seen in the video enjoying watching very young children have races in the road with other kids.   The other old ladies also seemed to enjoy their lives.

That was very sweet but because Okinawa considers itself to be separate from Japan in history, culture and language etc, I think they could rather have shown someone from the mainland, other than this lady whose husband died and the birthday guy, who did not give into this obsession with work and was happy with his or her lot while not living with much.    They could have gone to Hokkaido which is I think a fairly chilled back island despite the big commercial city that is Sapporo.  They could have gone to an organic farm anywhere in Japan.   Sure, farmers, organic especially*, work as hard as people anywhere else but I don`t imagine there are too many cases of karõshi about because they are not eaten up by consumerism (consumed by consumerism) and tend to make time for non-work activities (just as many people around Japan probably also do, the film just focused on this phenomenon to show a contrast I think to the others).

By the way, this film was only produced in 2011 so it is quite up-to-date with its reportage of karõshi.   I guess the recession in Japan in recent years has led to people wanting to work even harder to keep their jobs and life, in Tokyo for one, can be really expensive property wise, so a phenomenon that  started a few decades ago is still, unfortunately, continuing.

* They won`t have as much machinery to do the work and not as much pesticides to keep their produce in check, not to take away from traditional farming which is tough as well.








Marriage… or not

To marry or not

to marry, men and women

alike ask themselves


I finished watching a series a while ago about a guy who `can`t` get married (結婚できない男).  For most of the series it is because he won`t get married, has no interest etc (so really, he can`t in that he doesn`t believe in it and so it would be wrong to get married in that case).   In the end, he says he really can`t get married in that he is unable to until he can imagine and design his perfect house – he`s an architect – leaving the woman in question utterly dismayed and mocked (it was kind of mean to lead her on like that but her own part in the conversation was unusual too).     I just found this series so funny at times, because another reason was he was socially inept with no idea how to talk to people (not that that`s funny usually but for drama purposes….) and only made fun of people.    He was slightly OCD as well (not funny either for sufferers but let`s not be too pc, it added to his lack of appeal and added to the comedy factor  generally).  The lead woman was smart in how she responded to his abrupt comments.   Yet her behaviour during his profession of love (of sorts) at the end made me wonder if she was just settling for him (she even says `you`ll do` though that may have been her pride speaking).   In the end, you`re left wondering how things will pan out between them after she has to coax an invitation out of him to his apartment apparently forgiving him for being so mean (so in that way it was not predictable after all but then Japanese programs are predictably unpredictable I find).

Some Japanese dramas are utter rubbish (like tv dramas in a lot of countries are but people still watch them) but this one was quite enjoyable.    Both the single men and women in this show, in their 20s and 30s going onto 40 –  were facing the subject of marriage, dating or not dating.  It`s always somewhat insulting that single heterosexual women in their 30s have to be seen, in any media or in the press, as lonely or desperate for a husband and the rest. Some might want a husband, some might not.  Some might want a husband and kids, others might want just the husband (or partner if not keen on marriage itself) and some might prefer to stay single and enjoy life without a steady other half.    It`s not fair to portray women in their 30s as Desperate Danielas (just made that up).  The women in the show who were in their 20s were also portrayed as very keen for romance, marriage, kids ( sensibly in one case not keen enough for a man to go out with a sleazy Artist) but women in their 30s get it worse.  The main female lead was touching 40 and keen on the idea but not keen on throwing away her career as a doctor.  Anyway, even with the guy`s obsession with designing the perfect house (around the kitchen) and for all his faults he did not seem like the kind of guy who`d make a woman give up her career to stay at home (he was pretty handy in the kitchen himself at any rate and he was right I think in saying that a kitchen is the heart of the house as it is not just a place to cook) but then we never found out.  Also, the women were at times portrayed in the show as a bit silly for their age – expecting a knight to come along on a white horse and live some fairytale with them.   Hmmm.    By the way the guy who `could not` get married was also under pressure because his mother was looking for a grandchild to carry on the family name.    That`s a whole other post.

I was somewhat surprised to see miai (arranged marriage meetings between potential couples) still taking place in this era.   Does that happen much in Japan these days?  Actually, I remember it cropping up in a series I watched earlier, the Kekkon Shinai drama.  In that series, the woman who had no interest in getting married did settle in the end for the professor.   The girl who went on the miai did end up, sort of, with her man (not the miai man but the guy she liked).    The 30-something in Kekkon Shinai was kind of cajoled into it while the woman in Kekkon Dekinai Otoko was pressured into it and decided to do it to get her father off her back (age wise there was not that much difference but apparently touching 40 is more serious marriage-wise).   Either way, a woman has more choice nowadays as to whether she takes part in an omiai.     And sometimes, omiai between two adults do work out.  It`s not like Japan is in the dark ages  in these modern times with the disgraceful practice in certain countries where children are forced to marry much older men and have no choice in the matter (being threatened with death if they refuse or being actually murdered if they try to escape).  If they are interested in getting married and whatever else as I mentioned above, at least they are taking their future in their own hands by meeting people.  They can always tell their parents or friends trying to fix them up to bog off if they don`t want any part in it (that`s sometimes tricky though telling your friends and family to bog off because you look more defensive then).  I do love the expression `bog off`.

I still haven`t managed to catch up on the last few episodes of Saikou no Rikon, that clever comedy about the young divorced couple still living together.    Must do something about that.

Maybe I look obsessed with marriage myself given the topic of these dramas but I just had to mention Kekkon no Dekinai otoko and Saikou no Rikon as an example of enjoyable drama.   Kekkon Shinai was ok but the other two were better.

One more thing, I watched Kabei lately about a woman whose husband is arrested during World War II for unpatriotic thoughts against Japan and we learn at some point that the woman chose her husband herself because she fell in love with him (her father had not approved).    They really had a special relationship and as discussed in the post about Art, War and Mystery, the special respect shown towards teachers at the time appears here as well.   One of his former students comes to help out the family as a way of helping his teacher.    This guy is played really well by Tadanobu Asano.


Tohoku farming revival hopes

Farming a big thing

in Tohoku so will soon

be revived we hope


Just browsing an online newspaper today (from Japan) and I came across O.G.A. for Aid, a grassroots NPO helping farmers in the Tohoku region rebuild their farms and replant their crops.   They need funds to help their progress and for every donation you can choose a perk, for e.g. a t-shirt with a slogan `Support Forever` on it or a pair of sunglasses designed by a popular accessories designer in support of O.G.A, or other items.   Good work people and good luck!!     There`s definitely no `shou ga nai` about these folks!!

More information can be found on this and other causes at indiegogo.com

I remember reading an article a good while ago about one particular dairy farmer in the Tohoku region who refused to leave his cattle behind on the farm and evacuate, and so he stayed on the farm himself with them.  I wonder what has since become of this man and his cattle?   That is one of those really nice stories you hear from Japan every now and then – a bit like the woman being rescued at the train station the other day by her fellow commuters.