Hokkaido harassed

Shocking earthquake hits

the least likely of places –

Hokkaido stay safe!


Japan has really had every weather problem thrown at it this year, even the heat which killed a lot of people in Tokyo.   It was just too much for some people, mostly the elderly.  The latest up to today was the tornado Jebi that has ripped through Kyoto, Nara and Osaka.  Now another earthquake has hit Japan, only in the unlikeliest of places.

An earthquake measuring 6.7 has just hit Sapporo, and a neighbouring town called Atsuma, up in Hokkaido.  This earthquake has caused landslides, another thing you wouldn’t really expect in Hokkaido. To see pictures of streets in Sapporo covered in mud is just unreal.   I never thought Hokkaido would be hit by an earthquake.  I know aftershocks from an earthquake on the main island affected it in 2008 and who knows maybe aftershocks hit it after the earthquake/tsunami in 2011, but an actual earthquake and a pretty strong one at that.    I was not in Hokkaido on my recent trip as I wanted to visit a totally different – yet similar in one way because of its expansive green countryside – part of the archipelago but it will always be special as it was the first place I really explored in Japan and I plan to go back and explore a bit more of this wonderful island.

I hope folks in Hokkaido affected by this and the folks down in Honshu affected by Jebi are keeping safe.   I don’t know of any deaths yet caused by the earthquake /landslides but at least 11 have died because of Jebi.    I imagine people in far western Japan are still recovering from the hurricane and landslides a couple of months ago.   Let’s not forget people in other, poorer, parts of the world who are also affected by weather disasters.  Mother Nature of course is blind to rich or poor countries in wrecking her devastation and recovery can be tough everywhere (and people who have lost family members or homes deserve compassion wherever they live in the world).

Climate change and its strange consequences cannot be denied, whether or not a country, like Japan, is earthquake prone by nature.  Some countries have had unusually hot summers while other places have had unusually late starting or short summers.    Anyone who denies climate change has to be an idiot in the extreme.



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.