China is angry

Just west of Okinawa, just east of Taiwan lie the Senkaku Islands.
A grouping of small uninhabited islands that are at the centre of an international debate due to the rich deposits of oil and natural gas lie just beneath them.

The Chinese claim ancient heritage over the islands, the first record of the islands can be found in  Chinese literature dating from the 15th century. In 1895 they were annexed by the Japanese government.  There were fisheries and processing plants until the 1940s. From 1945 to 1972 the islands were under American authority. When they were handed back to Japan (with much consternation from Taiwan) the islands were then sold to a family in Saitama Ken (next to Tokyo). The family is paid “rent” by the Japanese government provided they do not develop the islands. Regardless of this agreement  a Japanese right wing party erected a Lighthouse in 1978 and a Shinto temple in 2000.

There are laws in place that prohibit boats docking on the islands and there are constant patrols to keep foreign boats out of the surrounding waters.

Leaked footage showed the Chinese trawler ramming into the patrol boat.

In 2010 a Chinese fishing boat collided with patrol boats near the islands. The captain and crew were held in custody in Japan pending possible charges, China strongly protested and the crew were released after a week. 

 

 

 

 

Speaking at a think tank forum in Washington the outspoken and generally odd Governor of Tokyo Ishiihara announced the Tokyo Metropolitan government’s plans to buy the islands from the family. 70,000 private donations were received totalling just over one billion yen (12.5 million dollars).

“Tokyo will protect the Senkaku Islands. No matter which country dislikes it, no one should have a problem…..It would be best if we could buy the islands with donations because we wouldn’t have to use taxpayers’ money”

There is talk about how the sale and purchase could be illegal and it has enraged the Chinese central government. Liu Weimin (Chinese foreign ministry spokesman) told reporters

“Some Japanese politicians have been making petty moves to try to make trouble, but their actions will not alter the fact that these islands belong to China,

The oil and gas fields are the biggest reason these islands are so coveted The fact remains that Japan has a very limited supply natural resources. Energy resources account for 14% of its total  imports and 60% of its oil is imported from the Persian Gulf.

Another reason both countries refuse to back down is the frosty relationship the countries share. Japan and China are like siblings that refuse to speak. A 2012 survey showed that almost 85% of Japanese people had a negative view of “selfish” China and 65% of Chinese had unfavourable views on “nationalistic” Japan.

Today’s 日本語

As a foreigner in Japan it’s pretty easy to get away with things others don’t.

Drinks can be received for little more than just a friendly harro and telling someone where you are from “Of course I’m friends with David Beckham and EVERYONE meets the Queen” can set you up for a whole night.

BUT with great power comes great responsibility and sometimes its best not to push your luck or in Japanese “ride your condition”  or 調子乗らないで; choushi noranaide.

So if you find yourself the centre of a gaggle of Japanese salarymen regaling them tales of how in the Midwest burgers are bigger than most Tokyo apartments, listen out for Choushi noranaide and get out before you are sold off Showgirls style.

 

 

 

The nail that sticks out……..

Just when you thought Japan couldn’t out-weird itself along came “synchronised walking”.

The Japanese is 拾段行動 (shuudankoudou or group activity) and its origins are hard to pin point. The internet offers very little on its history or its reason for being. It is nevertheless a bizarre display of talent. Groups of people dressed in suits marching around to the orders of an emcee, without musical accompaniment.

Crow Forest

If you haven’t seen a room full of Japanese middle aged office workers cut loose, you haven’t experience a night at Crow Forest.

20120623-113341.jpg

Built underneath the train tracks of Kanda station it is full (on week nights) of salary men and the women who love them.

20120623-113527.jpg

The manager is an ex model who get as wasted as the customers and is apparently oblivious to the idea of measures. It’s a super fun place to blow off the working week. The music can be a mixed bag but Fridays are usually old classics and drinks are 300yen before 7 thirty and 500 after!

Happy Sushi Day

20120619-234307.jpg

Today is international sushi day.

Sushi (as we know it today) came from the earlier custom of wrapping salted fish around fermented rice.
It was popular in the Edo period (1603-1868) where traveling food stalls would sell fist sized balls of rice topped with raw and cooked fish.

Modern day sushi was invented by Hanaya Yohei (1799-1858) his sushi was smaller and could be eaten with the hands or chopsticks.

The word sushi actually refers to the rice which is dressed with vinegar and mirin. The different shapes have their own names, the most popular being makisushi (the tubes of rice with filling rolled in roasted seaweed), nigiri (blocks of dressed rice topped with fish) and gunkan (the same shape as nigiri but with a sheet of seaweed to keep the filling in).

20120619-234201.jpg

Apparently the best way to eat sushi is to take the rice with your hands and dip the fish side into the soy sauce. It should then be placed in your mouth fish side down.

Happy Sushi day!

Scrub-a-dub

20120619-223627.jpg

Japan is currently being washed by a typhoon.

The word typhoon comes from the Japanese 台風 台 (tai) meaning pedestal or stand, and 風 (fu) wind.

The typhoon season is from May until October with most hitting the islands in the southern regions of Okinawa. The typhoons are most powerful in August and September.

Typhoons are cause by large areas of low pressure they move at a slow speed (20km/h) which means their paths can be predicted quite easily. The Japanese system numbers the typhoons instead of naming them like the American hurricanes. This is the fourth typhoon of the season earning it the title 台風4号 (taifuu yon gou).

As Japan is long and thin when a typhoon does travel all the way up to the north it usually affects the whole country. Fatalities occur usually due to landslides and falling debris. Over 4000 people were killed, 32,000 injured and over 1.5million displaced when the worst ever typhoon hit Japan in 1959.

Today’s 日本語

肉食系女 nikushokukeijyo, carnivorous women.
草食系男子 soushokukeidanshi, herbivore men.
These words describe the new breed of young Japanese people and their attitudes towards sex.

In a 2006 article, Maki Fukusawa first described the recent type of men, softer, who are more interested in their hobbies, their looks and their own life to worry about finding a partner and settling down, as soushokukeidanshi (grass-eating-men or herbivore men). Most men in their 20s are not looking to settle down but the strange thing is Japanese men are not just wanting to be single but not wanting to have sex at all. a Japanese dating agency, found in a survey that 61 percent of unmarried men in their 30s identified themselves as herbivores.

Japan’s birthrate has been in steady decline since 2005. More and more couples are choosing their careers over having children. Herbivore men are not helping. Japan’s one hope is their female nemesis;

Tired with girly boys women have decided to take matters into their own hands. They are the Nikushokukeijyo. In the last 20 years Japanese women have had more freedom in employment and society. They are the ones going out in search of them men and are aggressive in terms of what they want. Womens’ magazines are filled with articles on ‘hunting techniques’ getting a man to notice you and, how to declare your love without scaring him off.

Come on boys, Lie back and think of Nippon!

Sashihara scandal.

The newest rising star of AKB48 has been demoted to HKT48.
Rino Sashihara rose five places in the recent elections from #9 to #4, but her quick fame came at a cost.
As mentioned before, AKB members are strictly forbidden from having boyfriends. In the July 14th edition of Shukan Bunshun (a Japanese tabloid) Sashihara’s supposed ex-boyfriend spilled the beans on their brief relationship.

“She was really precocious, despite being a year younger than me… When I went in her room, she told me ‘Are you just going to stand there looking at me? Come over here,’ and then she put my hand on her thigh. Something snapped in me then and I pushed her down and we kissed for the first time.”

He backed up his story by calling a number he claimed to be Sashihara’s; she answered and hung up saying they had just been friends.

Sashihara made a tearful apology on AKB’s All Night Nippon radio show.

“I was really surprised when I read the article. There were so many things that weren’t true, but I really was friends with him. I threw up my food over and over again. I hyperventilated during our tour. I couldn’t even talk to my mom. Seeing my fans’ comments on my blog really broke my heart. I am so sorry.”

Her management company has announced her last performance will be held on June 20th.  Sashihara is lucky compared to Natsumi Hairajima and Rumi Yonezawa who were fired in February after pictures of them with men were leaked on the internet.

Today’s 日本語

チカン:- Chikan or train pervert (The term chikan really refers to any type of public molester)
By now I’m sure you all know about the trains in Tokyo (crowded, sweating metal tubes of grumpy commuters) Well this has provided the perfect habitat for the chikan.

A slight touch, a graze of the arm, a spreading palm; all warning signs of the groping in store. The problem got so bad that most rail lines offer ladies only carriages. The worst line has cameras installed in the carriages.
I’ve personally had 2 encounters. Once in a public bathroom I was at a urinal just minding my own, when a man wearing a surgical mask double hand grabbed my ass and disappeared, this was in broad daylight and the toilet was full of people! Not a word was said. My second was more innocent and slightly more creepy. On a busy train going to work I felt a hand against mine. (I hate hand to hand contact even with people I know so…..) I moved, it followed, move, follow, move, follow until I gave up and just let whoever it was hold my hand.
It’s never anyone attractive, it’s always some greasy, dandruffy, musty salaryman.
Figures for the period 1998 and 2000 show that most chikans were unmarried males in their 30s. The problem is they are all undersexed, Japan is the least sexually active nation with the average boning being 37 times a year (work/life balance, time for some research). Also people stay quiet, trains in Japan are super quiet and the concept of tatemae (outside face) mean that most victims just accept it and never get to express what happened. I have heard interesting stories of girls defending themselves; from using safety pins to prick the person to grabbing on and not letting go until the police get there.
The penalty if you are caught can be very severe. As it is such a famous problem the police make a big deal of making sure people get properly punished.

Ankuru Tomu

Japan has a weird mixture of foreigners. Unlike the west, where a foreign face is normal. Japan is still pretty homogeneous. In a country of 127million there are only 2.5million immigrants.

There are generally a few types of foreigner,

  • The perpetual gap-yearer who flits around “experiencing the world”
  • The otaku who resides exclusively at home or in the maid cafes of Akihabara,
  • The guy who was ignored back home who has found a fountain of eternal women who are willing to overlook his clammy sweaty hands and back hair because he is “foreign”
  • The integrator, a foreigner who tries their upmost to avoid foreign contract carving out a Christopher Columbus like experience in some remote corner and getting deep on obscure Japanese facts,
  • The forgot-to-leaves, came with nothing in mind and ended up trapped due to the easy life, high pay (for generally doing the work of a department store Santa) and cheap living.
  • The Uncle Tom, NO ONE UNDERSTANDS JAPAN LIKE I DO!

This last category is the one that is most depressing.  This person refuses to acknowledge anything wrong with the country. They hate other gaijin for reminding them of that they are. They are essencialy the apologists. Any critisim that is voiced is shot down with “if you dont like it leave”. In their eyes Japan can do no wrong. Everything about Japan is beautiful and better than anywhere else; “if you cant see it, you just don’t get Japan like I do”.

I’m mainly talking about white men. White men have never had the experience of being a minority or feeling powerless. Since time immemorial the white man has had complete power of every aspect of the world. He has never been discriminated against. This man then comes to Japan and is suddenly not top dog. This being new and terrifying he finds that to survive he has to ingratiate himself within the local population and separate himself from the “gaijin” pack. This is where the idea of the Uncle Tom Gaijin comes in.

Here is an example of the kind of gaijin on gaijin hate that is normal in Japan.

Stop acting like a foreigner. You know. Those kinds. The ones that don’t shut up in the train or the elevator. The ones that don’t remove their shoes before entering someone’s house. The obnoxious frat boys on vacation lurking around the Nishi-Azabu crossing. Simply put, you’re in another’s country, so mind your damn manners.

Do you ever cringe when you see foreigners clustered in a big group, looking around like they don’t know what’s going on? Me too. The only thing that sticks out more than a sore thumb is an entire hand of sore fingers, so whenever you can, take advantage of the fact that in this country—um, Japan, right?—you can actually hang out with Japanese people. You’ll be less noticeable while at the same time improving your Japanese language ability.

 

That quote is taken from the biggest English magazine in Japan, Metropolis.  It basically says is OK to be foreign but you MUST give up everything that makes you who you are and JUST FIT IN!

I have two examples of people who fit this group.

Example A:

He had met his Japanese wife in Australia where he had been a hotel manager. When his wife gave birth they decided to relocate to Japan just outside Tokyo. He was a teacher at the same large English school as me and was bitter. He had been there for around 5 years and thought himself high enough up the food chain to tell us other (younger, newer) teachers what to do and how to act in Japan. He at first refused to speak to us instead going through the school receptionist in his    much superior Japanese (with an Australian accent of course).  It was not until he heard me speaking Japanese on the phone that he started to treat me as an equal. I was invited to a BBQ at his HOUSE that he BOUGHT (his emphasis) where I was told it was fun because there would be no loud gaijin to ruin the fun. I was also chastised for living in Tokyo as I was excluding myself from experiencing the true Japan of the countryside.  This guy felt he was close to management and had the same authority as our supervisor. This all came shattering down when the company went bankrupt and he was sold off like the rest of us.

Example B:

Another man (of course), this one English. He had arrived on a tourist visa and within 6 months had met his Japanese girlfriend and gotten married.  He was very pro-Japan (which is a good thing) but to the point of ridiculousness. Japanese curry was “a lot better than the muck you get in England” (any English man that dismisses the perfect British curry clearly has no taste). Japanese bread (which bizarrely contains milk) was delicious, Japanese beer was fantastic (there he was right) Foreign girls look ridiculous in kimono, Futons are more comfortable than beds, and when I mentioned I hated the tatami (floor mats) in my apartment he looked as if I had shot at the emperor.

Those guys were not bad people they just wanted to fit in and they thought that by denying everything they were was how to do it. There are two big foreign stars in Japan, Thane Camus and Dave Spector.  they have both made their careers on playing the foreigner and being a novelty. The amount of hate and jealousy directed at them on the big Gaijin forums is ridiculous. People seem to be so angry that they have been made mainstream while they have been looked over. The idea of how much gaijin hate other gaijin is a hot topic that gets people very heated. We are a broad bunch of people that all came here for different reasons. The only thing that connects us is the shared experience of Living in Japan.

I’m not suggesting that we make friends with every foreigner we see but it would make our lives a lot better if we didn’t try to undermine and top down any every gaijin we met. Just because someone is having the same experience as you doesn’t make it any less unique or special.