Haiku reflections on Japan

Strange weather

Reading can seem a 

rare pleasure but for me

it still beats n/f.


I’ve made quite a bit of time lately for reading lately, thanks to a certain hurricane which meant the time was made for me as online tv/film watching was unavailable but also, pre-hurricane, thanks to certain brilliant books I have been borrowing from the library which prompted me to ditch the online viewing (nf mainly, occasionally yt.) myself. In addition to the brilliant library books, I also decided to go back to ones on my shelf which I bought a year or two ago (and read – no tsundoku here!) but for some reason did not put them in my literature list.

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (called The Briefcase in other parts of the world, which is also the title of the last chapter in the book) is a good one from Japan. It shows love in a different light.  Once you put aside the initial weirdness of how the mature woman and a former high school teacher of hers come to meet, the story is quite sweet.   It’s not the age gap that is wierd exactly as they are both now adults (Memoirs of a Geisha is way creepier in that regard), only that he first recognised her as the school girl she had once been and keeps commenting throughout their relationship on her studiousness, or lack of it, in school and saying things like ‘good girl’ and patting her on the head (you wouldn’t even pat a child on the head).  However, they’re clearly somehow meant to be as they find out, despite her occasionally feeling at odds with the association, and I guess more unusual couples exist.    This is a book I bought a few years ago and read at the time but the second reading is better and the humour comes out more on a second reading.  The translator who worked on the book is Allison Markin Powell (I like to name the translator).

Another book I had time to read for the second time, bought around the same time as Strange Weather was Revenge by Yoko Ogawa.  This is a book of eleven dark tales with the main characters in each being connected in the oddest ways.    The translator of that is Stephen Snyder.   This was a very quirky one which also explores loneliness.

By the way, I’m so glad to see the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Kazuo Ishiguro.  He’s such a good writer.  I’ve been meaning to buy one of his recent novels, having read some of his earlier ones.  Nice to see the prize go to an actual author again, and a very deserving one he is.   They might have learned their lesson now and continue giving it to authors. I’ve nothing against Bob Dylan, whose lyrics are lovely, but he didn’t even seem to want it and took his time showing up to receive it!!  What’s more, you don’t know who’ll be expecting one now, using Bob Dylan as a precedent.  I shudder to think.  So, just stick to writers please.

It seems the political climate in Tokyo is going to stay the same for a while with Shinzo Abe’s landslide victory in the elections.   Despite the additional options available this time around, including the current Tokyo governor whom I’ve mentioned before with her Party of Hope, and another new party, the CDP (Constitutional Democratic Party) led by a Yukio Edano, he still won due to his hard line stance, understandably I guess, on North Korea.  This CDP sounds interesting though and might prompt change in certain areas.


Haiku reflections on Japan, International or other matters

Kowtowing to the wrong people

Most twisted news I

have heard in a while in the

women’s affairs sphere

So the UN are compiling a secret vote as to whether to allow Saudi Arabia onto a body which discusses and deals with women’s rights.  You have got to be joking.  The only reason I heard of it was that over the last couple of days, our Minister for Foreign Affairs has refused to reveal whether he said yes or no to it.  The secret part of it is that Saudi Arabia won’t know who voted for or against them or who voted at all.   So yeah I guess they’d find out if it was all over the media but people have a right to know what their government is getting up to internationally.  So who cares if they find out.  Surely we don’t need their business that much?  They don’t deserve our beef!  It’s the UN who need their head testing even considering it though I suppose they might think they will be helping women in Saudi Arabia, or they can keep an eye on Saudi Arabia.  Rather naive I think as Saudi Arabia has so far got away with murder, literally, at home and abroad, and knows it can because people depend on it for oil.

Anyway, our Foreign Affairs minister says he’s not telling anyone, even people in the government cabinet (which I find hard to believe) and our Prime Minister is looking insincere, which he is in my opinion, for not being clear on whether he brought it (women’s issues) up with the Saudis on a previous trade mission trip in 2014.    I can’t imagine he did bring it up specifically, the kowtowing groveller that he is.  Too interested in getting business from that place.    Though he is meant to be stepping down soon (leave already!), I can’t see his replacement being any better.  I’m talking about this here because Japan’s PM seems very fond of Saudi Arabia also (and well he is PM of a country where women have had to fight to keep their own name after getting married for flip sake), and often seems to be kowtowing in the most obsequious manner (to use the onomatopoeia ぺこぺこ). These two PMs are not the only ones almost afraid of bringing Saudi Arabia to task on this very important issue and making them change their backward attitude to women and give them legal rights to carry out things that are normal in most civilised countries but they’re the ones who interest me most obviously.   An extreme example of too much money (made from their oil which sadly many countries want) and no sense.  Leaders of countries including mine are afraid they might lose business.  Pathetic.  They should make them improve before inviting them on any such bodies, if they absolutely have to do that.    Some proof of improvement, I think, would be the introduction of laws to allow women certain rights which the rest of the world would then see.  And abolishing certain existing laws of course.   Politicians in many countries have deplorable, sad attitudes to women, including their female counterparts in parliament, and women under the yoke of the Catholic Church here and elsewhere had it hard for a long time also – so it’s not just there that religion affects  laws and/or attitudes.  Saudi Arabia and other countries nearby still, however, choose to remain a world apart.  Of course, some men have had it hard there too like the blogger who was flogged for revealing information about the country through his blog.  But for women it is a whole lot worse.

No, I have not been there and I have no interest in going in the next lifetime.   I wouldn’t put my time or money into the tourism industry of a country, Saudi Arabia or neighbouring countries with similar attitudes, that treats women like that.  Hell, I don’t even like the idea of visiting the US on holiday, which I otherwise would like to do, while the orange clown is in charge, nor France should Le Pen win this weekend (and I don’t think Macron is a great choice either but she’s awful, not as bad as her old dinosaur father but just as harmful to France’s future as he would have been).

Haiku reflections on Japan, Snapshots of Japan

Women’s Day and colourful language

Happy Women’s day 

to women, vulnerable

and tough ones, worldwide


Life is still a challenge for many women out there in various countries and in various ways – whether it be crazy laws barring them from very basic rights (education for example), having female genital mutilation forced on them as children (but not just as children), being forced as children to marry older (sometimes much older) men, discrimination based on their gender preference, domestic abuse, discrimination in the workplace (glass ceilings, even getting into work in the first place or back into work) or sexual harassment – セクハラ – in both the workplace and the street when they’re just going around minding their own business.

Regarding the last example above, I’ve had verbal comments of a certain nature thrown at me by total strangers (but not just strangers sadly).   This is tough but do you respond to strangers or not? Responding is only giving them the attention they want, not responding encourages them to go on and on and but in any case you’re not responsible for what they think of you (at first I struggled with that phrase ‘it’s none of your business what others think of you’ but it does make sense).

You’d love to ask them what their mother/sister/aunt/daughter would think of what they just said and what they would say if their own mother/sister/aunt/daughter had such a comment made to them.  They’d probably come up with some half-witted response because they’re half-wits.  No actually.  Total dimwits.  They’d then go on and say it to some other woman no doubt.   Or shocker they might not say it to anyone ever again but you wouldn’t know that at the time and you may feel that you gave them a little bit too much attention even while trying to make a valid point to them.  Keep walking or walk away if you’re able to.  Being verbally abused like this is the verbal version of what I imagine chikans are about.  They are trying to defile you in some way.  Thank god most countries have not had to introduce separate train carriages for women, as in Japan to give one example (I think either India or Mexico or both were planning to bring them in too) and I hope it never becomes necessary either.   It would be sad if it became second nature for city councils worldwide to build these carriages.   Dare I say it also drags good men (of which there are plenty) down with the bad?

However, if you’re in Japan (or anywhere else but this is a Japan blog obviously) and you are groped either in a train carriage or anywhere else, a couple of sentences in Japanese, which might help if you have the strength in you at that paralysing moment to speak at all are: ‘私から手をはなせ!’ is ‘Let go of me’ (lit: get your hands away from me or off me – it can be shortened to ‘はなせ!’) or another I’ve heard which I’m unsure of but would use if I had to is you could grab the person’s hand (I know, you wouldn’t even want to touch the person but bear with me), hold it up high and say 誰の手ですか?’whose hand is this?’  I don’t really know any effective swear words in Japanese sorry.

I was in an East European city a while ago (first time – great city!) and as I had no idea of the language and like to learn a bit of the lingo in advance I made a point of learning ‘let go of me!’ at least.  I had no hassle there in the end – verbal or physical and I have to say I didn’t expect to even though I perceive the men from the country in question to be quite macho – and I would have used a lot stronger language than that to be honest (and in English so there was no mistaking my dislike of any unwelcome attention!), but I didn’t have to use any in the end.   They wouldn’t deserve my effort to try to remember it on the spot in their own language anyway and well most people know what F*** **f means anyway!   Pardon the language but it is our choice what language we use and some people (women and men alike) don’t like to hear women using such strong language which is sexism as well*.  Saying you’re not interested or trying to think of other diplomatic rejections is polite but not enough unfortunately for some men. Bad language also creates adrenaline, I read recently, which is of course handy in threatening situations.

* That said there is one word that makes me baulk and it is the c word that ends in t.   I’ve had it used against me (by a family member) and thought about uttering it to others (and I’ve actually used it against inanimate objects).  But I hate it and try not to use it. I’ve revised this paragraph but it’s the same thing as before only shorter.

Anyway girls (and some boys) remember it’s not about you it’s very much their issue (that includes girls slagging off other girls by the way) just in case you don’t hear/read it enough.