Seasonal cheer?

Over-spending and

eating, songs played to death it

must be Christmas time


So,  Christmas is over now and I thought I’d file a post-xmas post to say so long to it until next year.

I don’t know how you feel about Xmas but I like certain customs in the lead up to it more than the day itself which comes and goes very quickly, even the dinner most people slave over (but which is usually pretty well cooked, at least in this household, so I usually enjoy it).  I actually like decorating the tree and other parts of the house and the Christmas dinner itself, the smell of oranges and honey glazed ham, (the turkey itself is not up to much smell-wise by itself and is quite a bland meat no matter how you cook it), and certain songs that come out every year (bar a few of the more cheesy ones), and buying presents for the kids in my family (the adults are harder to please, I find!). There is more I dislike than like about Christmas though, mostly the commercial lead-up – from the end of Halloween to Xmas Day and even until New Year’s Eve – and I sometimes wish I could escape to a country that does not celebrate this crazy season as intensely (there has to be one somewhere).

A few days before Christmas, I heard a song by Jonie Mitchell called ‘River’ in which she imagines skating away on a frozen river to escape all the Christmas fuss.  I thought ‘I know how you feel Jonie’, especially as I was trying to get all my Christmas shopping done.  On the other hand, there are a mix of traditional and modern songs I do like to hear every year that are really true to the original sense of Christmas.  Little Drummer Boy by Bing Crosby and David Bowie is one of my favourites and I’m glad it’s not played as much or I’d be tired of it by now as well.  It’s a lovely, traditional song duet-ted by two great performers of their respective eras (they could do without the contrived conversation leading up to the song however).  There are more I like, even the odd religious hymn as well (though I’m not a church goer), that give you a break from the popular ones being aired non-stop, when you almost wish there was a blackout.

My top three Christmas songs are:

  • Peace on earth/Little drummer boy – David Bowie and Bing Crosby
  • Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John Lennon
  • Stop the Cavalry – Jonah Lewie

Of all the Christmas songs I cannot stand, the ‘top’ one is the Band Aid song. There has been unusual focus this year ­­on how offensive this song is but it is.  And though it was a song meant to raise money for charity for Africa which it did, in spades, it does not mean it is any less offensive to people starving in Africa and other parts of the world.   I think the hypocrisy this year of one certain former singer that co-wrote and produced it is what has brought it back to everyone’s attention.  Freedom of the City medals /honours are handed out willy nilly anyway it seems, judging by the fact he has one (like stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and, in some cases, honorary degrees from universities) but once you have one you can’t just give it back under such conditions as ‘take it away from (a certain contentious person) and I’ll take it back’ – how sanctimonious – nor tell a city council how to go about their ‘Freedom of the City’ business.  The Freedom of the City honour, for any city, is still ‘owned’ by a city, not by the person on whom the ‘honour’ is bestowed. Correct me if I’m wrong. The city in council in question accepted the returned freedom of the city honour but refused to give it back to him as requested, whether or not they took it away from the contentious person in question (and yes she really shocked everyone with this humanitarian issue but that’s a whole other post).  Not so much a question of ‘use it or lose it’ but ‘try and give it back and you will lose it’!  So that backfired on him, the sanctimonious twit.   He’s also allegedly got medals associated with colonialism in Africa (when he’s otherwise still making a profit from a song about starving African children) which he has not mentioned giving back. I really cannot stand this person so it serves him right.

Anyway, back to Christmas music, I wonder how many of the above songs are popular in Japan given that it undoubtedly churns out its own hits as well (none of which I know I’m afraid).  I mentioned in a previous post an association in Japan that marks holidays, real or made-up (I think I mentioned a ‘lactobacillus day’) and how much money is spent on them. Christmas is the second biggest one after Halloween in Japan in terms of spending.   No doubt music hits are a big part of this with Japan’s array of boy bands and girl bands.  So, if I wanted to escape somewhere, it appears Japan would not be the best place to flee to, though there must be somewhere in Japan that doesn’t buy into the whole thing (maybe Okinawa,, even with its American military base, which generally does not see itself as Japanese.  Or the disputed Sakhalin Islands? The latter is more Russian I bet than Japanese).

Anyway,  hope you all survived Christmas, whether you managed to escape or not. I hope the season did not sadden to any greater degree anyone who finds Christmas a difficult time of year.

I hope you enjoyed my blog this year and continue to enjoy it in 2018.  I came across some pretty good blogs this year myself as a browser and look forward to finding more.






Koreans had and

sometimes still have a tough time

of it in Japan


I’ve recently finished reading a novel called Pachinko by Jin Min Lee (a Seoul-born Korean American).  It’s a family saga which runs from 1911 to 1989 in the life of a Korean immigrant family in Japan.  it was difficult to put down. I had previously learned a few things about Korean immigrants in Japan but this opened my eyes a little wider to their experience.

It was really sad to see how some Koreans would be so desperate to hide their Korean ancestry from people as to do what one character does.  However, as the author says in her notes at the end, Koreans don’t all want to be seen as victims of the Japanese – they’re a proud people – and, as one or two of her characters point out, Japan has good and bad Koreans and good and bad Japanese.  That said, they must have felt severely tested by the fact they were in a kind of limbo situation – they might have called it purgatory! – in that they could not leave Japan without a passport (which would require citizenship which they could not get) if they wanted to come back and if they wanted to go for good, they would have gone back to a Korea which was both very poor and, as time went on, unwelcoming (their nostalgia would probably have been beaten or starved out of them soon enough).  They really felt like they did not belong to either country.  They could also be deported at the whim of the local authorities. Of course, many Koreans were heavily involved in the Pachinko business which might or might not have lead to Yakuza dealings.   Some of the characters involved in pachinko in this book make every effort to stay away from Yakuza and keep their business clean, but the stigma remained. Any sign of criminal activity would obviously have resulted in deportation.

I’m still surprised that up to a point Koreans could not be employed as teachers, nurses or even policemen in Japan.  Hard to believe right?   It’s like they were not allowed to contribute to society through traditionally respected occupations while being maligned for being a burden or for being criminals even when they weren’t.   They had to be kept ‘in their place’.

I recommend the novel – which has a very pretty cover I might add with a typical Korean wedding dress pattern adorning it – for anyone wanting to learn a bit about the experience of Koreans in Japan.  Sadly, right wingers who parade their hatred through Korean sections of various Japanese cities still believe Koreans have no business being in Japan, whatever they work as.  Worse, hate speech is still not outlawed as far as I know.    A sad state of affairs for a country which likes to say how cooperative it is with peaceful ideologies.

Interestingly, the Emperor of Japan who recently abdicated is rumoured to have Korean ancestry.  How about that? If that’s true, it’s Korean food for thought : -)

About the novel itself, it was well researched and flowed pretty well though I thought there were a couple of gaps in the stories of certain characters that could have been filled in.




(Cyber-) Mania, Magazines and Memorials

Positive change can

only come, it seems, from

one group at a time


I wonder if Black Friday took off in Japan this last Friday …. or Cyber Monday? I haven’t noticed anything in the Japanese newspapers I’ve been browsing on-line this evening. Do you know in French, they call it Vendredi Fou? Mad Friday.  In some francophone parts of the world anyway.  No wonder!!  People do go a bit mad but I guess it is a good time to get early Christmas shopping in as long as you do it wisely, and even if it is just for yourself : P.  I took advantage of Cyber Monday myself- seeing as I missed Black Friday (and Black Weekend for some shops) as I was busy working – to buy myself a coat which I’m going to consider my Christmas present to myself.  I never buy clothes online as I prefer to check something out myself first but I guess I got caught up with the buzz.  I hope it looks good because the thought of returning clothes makes me feel very lazy!   I have bought footwear on-line and luckily that turned out well so I’m hoping this does too.  I’m a big fan of coats and would have bought this one at its normal price (25 euros more) so I think it will be worth it.

Speaking about news articles from Japan, I was just thinking back to my post on #metoo.  It seems to be gaining traction now in Japan with various recognisable people talking about their experiences, one of them a journalist writing in an article about being groped by a chikan on a train at the age of just eight!!  The stigma about being a victim in Japan, whatever about everywhere else, is said to be very strong so people prefer to be silent but hopefully they’ll get the courage to at least talk about it with people even if they cannot get justice against the men in question.  She only began to speak about it as an adult.

On a similar subject, I came across another women-related article about how a well-known convenience store chain in Japan is planning to take pornographic magazines off its shelves.    Why?  The Olympics apparently.   It has taken them this long and only because of the Olympics to take these magazines off the shelves, realising that it would make foreigners uncomfortable.  What about regular Japanese people, or indeed anyone living in Japan, who feel uncomfortable seeing men (I think it’s safe to assume it’s just men who do this!) in the shop just to perve at the young women, probably young girls (or boys) in these magazines, while they (the regular folks) are in getting their groceries or what not.    I understand that Japan wants to make as good impression as possible on visitors for the Olympics (or indeed the Rugby World Cup the year before) and of course Japan already makes a good impression on most visiting foreigners but just to make this decision now when they could have made it a long time ago which would have pleased an enormous amount of people. Hmmm. It says a lot that it’s even news.

Yet more unbelievable news about how women are thought of by some men in Japan, this time in a historical sense.  The Mayor of Osaka has cut a six-decade tie with San Francisco after the latter’s mayor designated a comfort women memorial as city property.   Not only has this Mayor announced his plan to cut ties because ‘trust was broken’ (get real!) but the Japanese government itself opposes the existence of that memorial and others.  I say bravo to the Mayor of San Francisco.  Cool city, cool mayor!!   Of course, many Japanese abhor this denial policy of Japan’s leader and support the memorials to these victims – let’s not forget that either.  Better for Abe and his cronies to change their views themselves than be forced to do it later just to look good for the Olympics or whatever.  The idea of cutting off ties with a prestigious city like San Francisco – a bonkers idea in general – just because its mayor clearly does not ‘bow’  to Japan’s policy is just fascist.

The news from Japan should be a real eye-opener this evening.   There’s another story about rent boys in Japan (vulnerable victims as well) but I’ll leave you to chew on the above for today, or check it out yourselves. Besides I could just read the headline as I had reached my ‘story limit’ for the day (annoying or what).

Postscript:  It seems that the convenience store is only ‘suspending’ (中止する )the ban on those magazines, implying that they may return.  Hopefully not though. They should realise that they should have been doing this along.   The English used by the person who translated the article (you can opt to translate it yourself but there is a translation already done) isn’t great by the way.  They used the word ‘nationwidely’.   Noone says that.  Widely by itself yes (widely known, widely regarded, etc.)  Nationwidely ….no!  Nationwide is fine. This is for the English language version of a big Japanese newspaper by the way but the quality of writing, or lack of editors to pick up on poor quality writing, in newspapers is pretty dire these days from regional newspapers to bigger national newspapers everywhere, so unfortunately it’s not alone in its misuse of words.   Are people so keen to get out the news that they forget their English?  Apparently so.  Then again, I was in a hurry to report this interesting news and missed the word suspend so I should have been more careful myself, even if I’m not a national newspaper.