Lost In Japan
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Well, I'm finally back home now. I got back around 5PM on Friday. It's good to be back, but I already kinda miss Japan. Besides getting sick I had a really good time. I was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday. On Thursday my mom and I did a little sight seeing. In the morning we took a bus tour. We got to see the Tokyo Tower, Akasaka Guest House, the Imperial Palace East Garden, and the Meiji Shrine. Lunch was included. We got to eat tempura. It was extremely good. After the tour we went back to our hotel in Ginza and rested for a bit. Then we trekked to Odaiba. It is a man made island near Tokyo Bay. They have a small beach there (Tokyo Beach). The water was infested with tons of jellyfish, so no one swims there. There is a small replica of the Statue of Liberty nearby. We toured the Fuji TV building. That was interesting. I'll post some pictures later on. Also close by is a huge ferris wheel. It goes extremely slow. Probably would take an hour to ride it. We went to an expensive mall called the Venus Fort. It was built to look like an 18th century European town. The ceiling is painted to look like the sky. We also went to a Toyota showcase and rode in a tiny electric car. The driving was all automated, so you just sit there and enjoy the ride. We ended the night by eating at McDonald's before heading back to the hotel in Ginza. Everything tasted the same as it does in the States. The only difference is that everything is in Japanese so you just have to point to what you want. They also have fish nuggets instead of chicken and they come with a wasabi dipping sauce. That's about it. It was a jam packed day, so we went back and went to sleep. Got up the next morning and took a bus to the airport. It was a long flight back, but I'm finally home. Now I have to get prepared to go back to work on Monday. I'm not really looking forward to that, but I gots ta get money. Overall it was a good trip, and I hope to go back someday. I guess this is the last post. Thanks for following us on our travels. I hope it gave you a little glimpse into Japanese life. Until next time... Sayonara.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
I'm out of the hospital! Thanks for all of your comments. I will be flying back on Friday. See ya soon.

Good news!
I received word yesterday that Josh should be moving from ICU to a regular bed for observation. He'll probably stay until next week, and then hopefully can come home. Looks like recovery's working. Thanks for keeping me updated, Smith, and thanks for being a good friend to us in Japan.

ps I'll put some photos of the Park Hyatt Tokyo up real soon.
Sunday, May 30, 2004
I'm very sorry to report that Josh never made it back to the States. Instead, he's lying in an ICU unit at St. Luke's Catholic Hospital near Ginza. His condition had only worsened after our trip to the clinic on Monday, and he was not well enough to get on the plane, so they took him to the emergency room.

He's in ICU under observation with IV's coming out of his arms, I've been told, and they are nourishing him and rehydrating him, as his condition was semi-critical at admittance. It looks like he's making good recovery, though, and for that we all give thanks. They say he might be able to come home in 2 weeks (maybe more, maybe less).

I know that if all the people reading this journal took the time to click on the link below that says "Comments" and typed a little something to let Josh know you're thinking of him, it'd make him real happy. Let's show him who his friends and family are by wishing him a speedy recovery and a warm welcome home.

Godspeed, old friend. Let's get you home soon!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Park Hyatt Hotel
This will look much nicer when I add pictures (gimme a day or so).

Listen: I have stayed at Ultra Luxury 7-Star hotels around the world, and I have never in all my days found anything even remotely close to the elegance, comfort, and service offered to me (& my sick companion) by the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo. From showers that would make Moen scrap their faucets and rewire their factories, to toilets that did all but compliment you, to the 40 or 50-something inch widescreen plasma TV, to the same sweeping views of Tokyo from Lost in Translation - this room had it all. Every cabinet opened up some kind of heaven: stocked fridge, fax machine, DVD player with complimentary DVD selection - just call the concierge! Lighting adjustable to every mood except a bad mood, and a gigantic bathtub facing yet another flat screen TV. Oh, and 4 - yup, FOUR - phones. Never had to get up. Room service was the best - we only got breakfast. Had to save a little dough for the presents (yes yes, you all got something. At least I hope...)

The hotel itself is beautiful, and I visited most of the restaurants and bars that night while Josh slumbered in his white downy dream of a bed (complete with hypoallergenic all-natural comforter!!!) Of course they named a couple of drinks after the movie, and I tried them both: a blue concoction called "LIT" (the movie title), and a rose-colored syrupy sweet one named "Sofia" after the director. I think they put something in the drinks here because I had only those plus two glasses of water and a diet coke with some pasta, and I still felt a bit sleepy though it was yet early. Therefore I headed back to bed and climbed into my own personal cloud for a much needed rest. We woke up and watched American TV (thank you FOX for all our favorite shows!) at 5 in the morning till about 10, and we checked out at noon.

I know it's not that exciting-sounding, but Josh was still pretty ill and I was exhausted from travelling and carrying a lot of weight and helping him around - plus I think I'm catching a cold - so I think we did OK for this trip. The pictures should add some pizazz to this journal, and I'll do that as soon as I can. Gotta sleep for now; there's a plane with my name on it leaving tomorrow.

O yasu minasai, and sayonara for now.

Sunday, May 23, 2004
My first few days in Japan
Welp, I got here in one piece, but found Josh in several pieces. He's pretty much been sick ever since, so Smith and I went out adventuring on our own Friday and Saturday. First, we went to Asakusa and started off with a bowl of tempura in a style they call "tandon," which is fried fish (or vegetables) over a bed of sticky rice; that doesn't even begin to describe how delicious the dish is.

After lunch, we took in a bit of the city. (Click on the photos on the right to see them all. I'll have more up in a few days - buzznet isn't working at the moment.) It's a little neat to see new buildings mixed with slightly older ones mixed with old world architecture. Shinto shrines, big and small, can often be found right next to each other, and in Asakusa's case, they can both be next to an Istanbul/Arabic motif theme park.

On Saturday, Smith took me to Shibuya, a very trendy, BUSY part of Tokyo. We went to the world's largest Tower Records (I heard)to meet a friend of his named Devon; I bought a Pillows CD for my cousin back home. After that we went to an elctronics/music store the size of a janitor's closet but brimming with DJ, recording & mixing, and software equipment, along with a variety of top-of-the line keyboards and Line 6 guitar amp modulators and effects pedals. Had to slap my hands a few times to keep from buying stuff since I still had a few days to go!

Matt, another friend of Smith's, popped into town and we three went to an Irish (?) pub for a pint and some chips. Matt's Australian, and he's as fun-loving an Aussie as they come (Aw, yeah! Good on ya, mate! I also called Gary down to Shibuya and he met us up for a while. We had dinner at a place called the Elephant Club, which had an Indian setting but no Indian food. (They took an image elephant god "Garnpatidi Dada" and splayed it in every nook and cranny of the place.) Some poor Japanese girl had a few too many I guess and fell down right in front of us; back home people would have giggled and someone would have just helped her up, but here she was "shamed" by her friends and carried off to the restroom. Quirkyness.

Sunday we just stayed at John's and ordered in a pizza - we wanted to know what the difference in taste would be. It tasted just like thin crust pizza, but there was enough grease on an 8 inch pie (that's a medium size here!) to turn an entire newspaper into paper mache. I got some painting done, and we called it an early night. Josh is still not well, so we had to get up today to take him to the international clinic in Rappongi. John's girlfriend, Ally, is nice enough to take us down there; she knows the area pretty well.

Tonight I'm hoping to get a room at the Tokyo Park Hyatt - the hotel from "Lost in Translation" - and get lost in the city for a bit. People here are generally polite and helpful if not pressed for time, and finding my way around should be fun. We shall see. For now, we're heading to the clinic; hopefully, the doctor can fix him up right as rain and he can enjoy what's left of his trip. Mine's almost over, so it's a shame we couldn't do more stuff together, but I just want him to get better now, poor guy.

I'll let you know more when I get a chance. Bye for now...
Friday, May 21, 2004
I'm sick, so this will be brief. My body is all out of whack from the schedule change, I guess. Thought I would at least do a small update so you'd know what's been going on. Wednesday Smith and I went into Akihabara. They call it Electric Town. It's just streets and streets full of electronic stores. Really weird vibe to the whole place. I couldn't imagine spending much time there. Kinda made me feel creepy. Their fascination with toys and tiny gadgets is just odd. I can't really explain it, but I was glad to leave the electronic wasteland. Next we went to Ueno to go visit the park and find some food. Ueno is like a big marketplace. Stores selling anything you could imagine. We had some Soba noodles at this place called the Spacecake Cafe. They were really good. After that we went to Ueno Park, but it was raining so we didn't stay. We decided to call a friend of a friend who lives here and see what he was up to. We ended up meeting him in Roppongi. Roppongi is where you go if you want to be with other gaijin (foreigners). It's kind of a safehaven for our kind. Just a bunch of bars and restaurants. We stayed in Roppongi for a while and then made our way back to the train station in order to get home before the trains stopped running.

Yesterday we picked up Al. I was pretty much sick all day, so I just sat on the train in agony. We finally got back to the house and Al got settled in. Smith and Al went to the 100 yen store to pick up a couple of things. I stayed here and slept. Today has been a day of rest for me, as well. I'm feeling a little bit better, but still kinda sick to my stomach. Al, Smith, and John are somewhere out in Tokyo. I guess Al will tell you all about it when he gets back. I'm going to take a nap. Just thought I'd give you a brief update since it's been a couple of days. Hopefully, I will be feeling better soon and will have some more exciting stories to tell. Until then, goodnight.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Yesterday was my first day into Tokyo. We went into Ginza. It is known as the upscale section of town where everyone buys their Gucci and Chanel. It's too rich for my blood, but fun to walk around and window shop. It is especially neat at night once everything lights up. The Sony Building is there. They have a showroom of all their latest and greatest technological breakthroughs. It was interesting to see stuff that may never even make it over to the States. We also went to Tokyo Station which has a sort of Grand Central Station feel to it. One thing to know when you're in Japan is that people generally go up stairs on the left side opposed to on the right like in the US. On an escalator you are supposed to stand on the left side in order to let people pass who are in a rush and want to walk up instead. We ate lunch in Ginza at a Subway. They are pretty much the same as they are back home. They give you a wetnap with your meal which is nice. The drinks in Japan are super small. I ordered a large Pepsi, and the cup was the size of one of our small drinks. It started raining as we were eating, so we walked around to find somewhere to buy an umbrella. I had mine, but Smith had left his at home. After getting an umbrella for around 500 yen, we started walking to a nearby park (Hibiya Park). Nothing too exciting about the park. It was nice to see some trees in the middle of the craziness of the city, though. There was a replica of the Liberty Bell. I will post a picture at some point. The Imperial Palace is right next to Hibiya Park, so we journeyed that way. We made it right around closing time, but got to see the palace from a distance. They won't let you inside anyway, so we didn't miss much. We didn't get to see the gardens around the palace, but we can always go back. It was starting to get dark, so we headed back to Ginza to see all of the neon lights. After a few pictures we went back to the train station and headed back home. Finally got to visit with John once we got back. He cooked up a welcome dinner which was quite nice. We were all tired after that and decided to call it a night.

Today we are going to try to go to Akhibara (Electric Town) and Ueno Park. That should be fun. Akhibara is where you want to be if you plan to buy anything remotely having to do with electronics. Ueno Park has tons of things to do. Lots of museums, temples, and gardens. They even have a zoo. So, it looks like it will be an action packed day ahead. I will let you know how it goes.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
One more day of work...
is all that stands between me and the sweet sweet air! And then... NIPPON!!!
So, I got the camera working finally. I uploaded some pictures that I've taken so far. You can find them at this website: http://lostinjapan.buzznet.com. You can also get to them by clicking on the thumbnail images on the right side of this page.

Yesterday we went to a shrine just down the street. It was small and you couldn't go inside, but it was a good warm up for when we visit the more famous shrines and temples in Tokyo. Yesterday was pretty much a lazy day. We ran some errands and got to walk around town a bit, but that's about it. It was also really hot and humid yesterday, so we didn't feel like being out and about for too long. Smith cooked up some pasta and we watched some episodes of I Dream Of Jeannie and Bewitched that he had recorded before he got over here. We attempted to hook up the antenna so we could watch some Japanese television, but it seems that the previous tenants cut the cable. However, Smith bought a stereo that allows you to listen to the audio broadcast from television stations, so we can always do that. I've only seen John twice. Each time was just briefly in the morning as he was on his way out the door to leave for work. Haven't really gotten a chance to visit with him. Hopefully, I will get to see him tonight. Well, I think I am off to the store to see if I can find some eggs and bacon to cook up. I'll keep you posted...
Monday, May 17, 2004
It's really windy here. It's good though because it is also extremely humid, so at least the wind dries you off a bit. Still trying to get the internet working on my laptop. I played with it some this morning and came to the conclusion that it's not the cable. I just need the IP info and settings to configure everything properly. XP usually recognizes everything as soon as you plug it in, but I guess in Japan it is different. I hope to have pictures up one of these days. I would use the computer at the house since it is already connected to the internet, but it won't recognize my camera for some reason. Al is hopefully going to bring over the camera software that I forgot, and that should solve any problems I am having.

Anyway, enough of the technical stuff. I haven't done anything interesting today, but it's only noon. Mainly I just want to rest. I took a shower which was at the top of my list. I woke up at 6:30AM which is odd because I was really tired, but I felt fairly good this morning. I am a little sleepy now, but I think that is from the fact that I only slept for about 5 hours last night. Smith and I are going to walk around Funabashi a bit, and we will probably go out for dinner once John gets home from work tonight. Sorry I have no exciting stories to tell, but I'm just trying to get settled in and rest a little. Last night we went to a grocery store down the street and got some tofu and a thing similar to a radish (except that they are huge) called a daikon. It has a very mild taste. They are actually quite bland, but good for snacking. I find the little differences fascinating. I'm sure I will be running into a whole bunch all too soon. For example, when you check out at the grocery store you pay for everything and then they give you plastic bags. You then gather up all your groceries and move to this small area where you bag everything yourself. I found this neat. I think everywhere should be like this. Also, you don't hand your money to the cashier. You can, but they have a tray next to the register that you lay your money in. Most vending machines take 10,000 yen bills which is something you won't find in America. Imagine sliding in a hundred dollar bill to buy a coke. You quickly acquire a bunch of coins. We took a cab from the Chiba train station to the house. Nothing super exciting. The drivers wear suits and gloves and the car was super clean. Also important to know that the doors open and close automatically. So there's a recap of some of the small differences I've come across so far.

Gotta go get some lunch. If I were to predict the future I'd say have to say noodles. I'll keep working on the camera issue and hopefully have pictures up soon. This is Josh... live from Japan... signing off.
Sunday, May 16, 2004
Um, apparently Japanese DSL CAT5 cables are not the same as in America, so I cannot connect my laptop directly to an internet connection. I will have to work some more to figure out exactly how to upload pictures and such from my camera.

However, I am now in Funabashi finally. I arrived around 1PM Japanese time. My friend Smith picked me up and took me to my final destination in Chiba. Once we got there we catched up on old times and headed to a 100 yen store (dollar store) to pick up a pillow case and some slippers. Yes, people really do take their shoes off everywhere over here. Well, atleast in their homes. The slippers are still small even though I tried to find the biggest ones I could.

I am very tired. It is around 10:44AM your time, which means I have been up around 17 hours now. So parden me if I ramble on too much. The house I am staying at is really cool. Nothing special, but more than I ever imagined. Very Japanese in its subtle ways. In my delerium I have already experienced many awesome things. Just the subway alone was an exciting thing. I will try to figure out a way to post pictures tomorrow. For now i am too worn out. Things have just begun, and there is so much more to report. I wish you could all be here with me. Save up your money. Until then. Goodnight.

- Josh
Friday, May 14, 2004
Places And Things I Want To See And Do During Our Visit

1. Roppongi
2. The Golden Poo in Asakusa
3. Asakusa Temple (Sensoji)
4. Ginza (neon lights at night, Sony Building, Kabuki-Za Theatreto)
5. Tokyo Tower
6. Imperial Palace and gardens
7. Ueno Park (Japanese gardens, Bonzai exhibit, Toshogu Shrine, various temples)
8. Konbini (Japanese convenience store)
9. Tea ceremony
10. Karaoke bar
11. Arcade
12. Odaiba (Rainbow Bridge, ferris wheel, beach, Statue of Liberty, Venus Fort, Fuji TV Building)
13. Shinjuku (Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Nishi, Park Hyatt Hotel [Lost in Translation], neon lights)
14. Harajuku (Yoyogi Park, Meji Shrine, teenagers dressed up on Sunday)
15. Shibuya (crowds, lights, Hachiko statue, Tower Records)
16. Pachinko

1. Mt. Fuji
2. Kyoto and Nara
3. Kamakura (Daibutsu, temples, nature)
4. Rice field
5. Small town life of Chiba

There's a whole lot more that I'd like to see, but I know what I have already listed is going to be difficult enough to cram in. I can't wait!
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Just one week of work stands between me and Japan. That and a great deal of ocean. Soon I will be on the other side of the world, baby! I'll post a list of things I intend to do and see soon.
Monday, May 10, 2004
We're climbing this!!!

Time is flying. Josh departs in less than one week!
I'll meet him up the following Wednesday. We will then decide when and how to ascend up Japan's most famous and highest mountain (technically "volcano," last erupting in 1707, filling the streets of Edo in volcanic ash) and hopefully not get altitude sickness.

This is going to be the best thing ever.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Taken from today's J-List newsletter:

When foreigners come to Japan for the first time, one of the first cultural differences they run into is the custom of taking shoes off before going into a house. Japanese homes (and some offices, such as J-List) have a lowered area at the front door called a "genkan," where you leave your shoes before going inside. After you've lived here a little while, it becomes second nature to open the door, kick off your shoes (or if you're the obsessive type, neatly line them up), and go inside. After a while, seeing foreigners on TV wearing dirty shoes on plush, clean carpeting starts to look really odd. To the Japanese sense of cleanliness, anything having to do with your feet is dirty under any circumstances -- actually, the genkan area where you leave your shoes is considered "outside" the house. Because you have to take your shoes off a dozen times a day in Japan, you tend to get very good at choosing shoes that can be put on easily -- high-top basketball shoes or boots are not recommended.

When you think of ramen, you may think of Japan, since the two go hand-in-hand a lot. Ramen is actually from China, although the Japanese have adopted it as one of their national foods. It's common for different regions of Japan to have a "meibutsu" (lit. "famous thing"), some food or other rare item that you can only find in that area, and many regions of Japan specialize in ramen noodles. The most famous shoyu (soy sauce based) ramen is Kitakata ramen, and can be found in Fukushima, about 100 km north of Tokyo. Sapporo, Hokkaido, is famous for Miso ramen, one of my favorite varieties. Kyushu, the southernmost Japanese island, is home of Tonkotsu ramen, a pork-based dish with white soup. And if you'd like to try Kani ramen, with a steamed crab sitting on top of your noodles, go to Niigata Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan side of the country.

Today is Children's Day, a day when families celebrate the health and happiness of their children, especially sons. To help you celebrate, we have some traditional items for you, including Koi Nobori kites which simulate carp swimming upstream, delicious caramel corn that's sold only during this time of year, and a very cool Mickey Mouse wearing a kimono. Today's also the last day of the Golden Week holidays, which means that right now, millions of Japanese are enduring hellacious traffic jams and crowded trains, trying to get back into the Tokyo area so they can start work tomorrow.
Friday, April 16, 2004

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
No room for 'outsiders'
Taken from the Japan Times.

Government plans to foster patriotism in schools could divide rather than unite Japan


In "The Japanese," Japanologist and former U.S. ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer wrote that "no people have committed themselves more enthusiastically to internationalism than the Japanese or have so specifically repudiated nationalism."
"One need only scratch the surface, however, to discover the superficialities of their internationalism and the strong sense of separateness the Japanese feel."

Indeed, he wrote, "most Japanese so strongly identify themselves with their country and their fellow Japanese that they have no need for the word 'patriotism' or for patriotic symbols."

Reischauer's analysis notwithstanding, there is a growing movement within the Japanese government to foster patriotism, ostensibly to "adjust to today's internationalized society" and play a more confident global role.

However, the manner in which it is seeking to reinforce the Japanese sense of distinctiveness will likely have negative implications for the international community and minorities within Japan.

Revisions to the Fundamental Law of Education, enacted in 1947 and the backbone of the nation's education system have lately been the focus of considerable debate. The Liberal Democratic Party, has sought to revise the law, arguing that the concepts of "love of one's country and hometown" and "public minds and morality" be included in a revised law in order to foster patriotism at schools.

Coalition partner New Komeito has opposed the amendments, arguing that such steps might lead to unhealthy Japanese nationalism.

However, while champions of the fostering of patriotism have been careful that such steps not be reminiscent of war-time nationalism, the model upon which a patriotism policy would be based is the Imperial Rescript on Education ("kyo-iku chokugo"), a formal statement of Imperial Japan's educational ideology, designed to imbue a strong moral sense.

According to philosopher Tetsuya Takahashi, a professor at the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and author of "Mind" and War," current moves to foster patriotism in schools is not wholly different from the imperial model.

"Education Minister Takeo Kawamura said back in 1999 when they started actively revising the law, that 'we'll discuss (the revision of the law issue), while keeping in mind the Imperial Rescript of the Heisei era.' The model of the new law is the war-time document."

Under the Imperial Rescript, which sought to produce loyal, obedient, productive and patriotic Japanese citizens, students were taught to think of themselves as the "emperor's children."

This war-time patriotism was formed by inculcating school children with the belief that the Japanese nation and people were unique, through readings and history classes.

And, says Takahashi, "a similar thing has already happened, even before the law is revised."

By 2003, the government had already invested more than 1 billion yen in producing 'Notebook of Mind' ("kokoro-no-note"), which was distributed to all public elementary and junior high schools throughout the country in spring 2002. This book, used for moral education at schools, tells students how "beautiful and worthy of love (their) home country is."

"There are four versions of this notebook, for first through sixth grade and junior high students. These books are designed to form students' way of thinking for a total of nine years," says Takahashi.

"This notebook is used not only in classes, but is supposed to be used any time a student wants to open it and write down their thoughts. This is exactly how the Imperial Rescript of Education functioned to foster patriotism; a means of infiltrating people's lives.

"The real motive of the government for pushing this policy is to build a 'Japanese national spirit' which can support, respect and admire what the Self Defense Forces (SDF) do overseas."

"But 'Notebook of Mind' is also a danger call also for minorities living in Japan," believes Takahashi. "The book speaks only about the majority's Japan, without acknowledging any minorities' existence or culture, such as Ainu or Okinawan. These minorities, to say nothing of foreign people living in Japan, are ignored in the book."

Even though the government repeatedly says "exclusive patriotism is not good," and used words such as "internationalization" and "globalization," in framing its patriotic education policy, the concept of these books is already essentially exclusive. "This way of fostering patriotism will bring about further discrimination against minorities living in Japan for sure," says Takahashi.

Indeed, the government's education policy may not be unrelated to the denial of permanent foreign residents a vote in local elections. Japan Conference, an NGO with strong connections to the LDP is thought to have influenced the government's forming of a patriotism policy.

Japan Conference's sister organization, the "Diet member's committee of Japan Conference," is composed of about 240 members from the Houses of Representatives and Councilors, and its chairman, Taro Aso, also heads the LDP's advisory panel on revision of the educational law.

Japan Conference's aims include respecting the Imperial Family, revising the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education, contributing to world affairs and developing friendly relations with other countries. They also oppose granting suffrage to permanent foreign residents. Japan Conference is also said to have encouraged the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry to make the Notebook of Mind. A representative of Japan Conference denied any relationship with the book.

There may, however, be another way for "outsiders" to join a united Japanese society, believes Akira Kurihara, a sociology professor at Meiji University. "Even though today's patriotic education policy ignores minorities in a clearly discriminatory way, the government will surely target them as subjects of this patriotic education in the future.

"From an economic view, Japan cannot avoid accepting immigrants, and these immigrants, probably low-paid workers, may be offered citizenship and the rights that accompany it. However, in return, they will be expected to join the SDF."

The Fifth World Youth Survey conducted by the Japanese government, asked: "Can you sacrifice self-interest for national interest." Eleven percent of Japanese youth surveyed said "yes," compared to 36.7 percent of Americans and 44.7 percent of Koreans.

It may prove difficult in the future, based on these kinds of results, to find enough Japanese young people patriotic enough to join the SDF, whose obligations overseas in the aftermath of the dispatch of troops to Iraq, may seem dangerous work that Japanese would expect only low-paid workers to do. Joining the SDF and risking their lives may well become an officially sanctioned shortcut for foreigners to get citizenship.

Kurihara is concerned that if the government's policy of fostering patriotism doesn't succeed, it may then be time for the "outsiders" to get their chance to co-exist in Japan.

However, the possibly damaging effects of the patriotism policy are not limited to minorities, as many Japanese school teachers are not especially willing to cooperate.

"I don't want to teach an answer prepared by the government, and I don't think it's right to tell students what they should think," says one teacher at a public elementary school in Tokyo.

However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education has taken measures designed to force teachers to sing the "Kimigayo" and show their respect toward the "Hinomaru," essentially depriving teachers of the right to freedom of though and conscience.

"Depriving teachers of this right means depriving students of it. However, if patriotic education was legitimized by a change in the education law, our constitutional rights will be denied," she said.

The board announced on March 30 that it would punish teachers in Tokyo who refused to stand up and sing the anthem at graduation ceremonies. While the specifics of the punishment have not been released, there will likely be "pay cuts, black marks on their records and firings," one source told The Japan Times.

Ceremonial patriotism has not been the only source of controversy.

In the summer of 2002, 69 elementary schools in Fukuoka City introduced items into sixth grade report cards to allow for evaluation of students' "love of the nation" and "awareness as Japanese." According to reports, some 172 schools nationwide have introduced these cards.

This is a worrying development, believes Lee Han Eun, vice chairman of Uri Safe, a Fukuoka-based group of Korean residents and Japanese.

"Many Korean children go to schools with Japanese names, and are in the same classrooms with their Japanese friends. But once they get the report cards, they will get nervous and feel 'my background will be found out, I will be bullied,' " says Lee. "We've long felt ignored in society," he says, "but this time we feel denied even our existence."

Saturday, April 10, 2004
Cherry Blossoms Galore
Here's a shot my friend sent me of the beautiful Cherry Blossoms. Too bad I'm going to miss the peak of their blooming.

Cherry Blossom
Here's some more info on them:

The cherry blossom (sakura) is Japan's unofficial national flower. It has been celebrated for many centuries and takes a very prominent position in Japanese culture.

There are many dozens of different cherry tree species in Japan, most of which bloom for just a couple of days in spring. The Japanese celebrate that time of the year with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties under the blooming trees.


Monday, April 05, 2004
Here's a picture of the city where we will be staying in Japan, and a bit of general info about it.

Funabashi City, Chiba

Funabashi (foonä´bäshē) , city (1990 pop. 533,270), Chiba prefecture, E central Honshu, Japan, on Tokyo Bay. An industrial and residential suburb of Tokyo, it is known for its iron, steel, and petrochemical plants, as well as for providing agricultural products for the Tokyo market.
Saturday, April 03, 2004
taken from Japan Today

Two graduates jump from 10th floor in suicide pact
Saturday, April 3, 2004 at 07:00 JST

Two high school graduates killed themselves Friday by jumping from a 10-story condominium in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, police said. The two had just graduated from the same public high school in March, and had exchanged emails via their cell phones saying they had lost their ambition, the police said. They had both gone missing at the end of March, and neither left a farewell note, the police said.

Friday, April 02, 2004
English In Japan And Word Origins

Japanese study English, but there's always a subtle conflict that no one acknowledges: do they study American English or British English? The Japanese have always had great respect for England, and have patterned much of their government after the U.K. Still, the Japanese tend to study American spelling ("color" not "colour") and pronunciation, as a general rule, because of the long influence of the postwar occupation and Hollywood movies. The problem is, it's not a fixed rule -- British English is sometimes used in schools, just enough to confuse the poor kids. When my wife was in Junior High school, she took part in a pronunciation contest. She practiced and practiced the text she was supposed to read, but unfortunately, the teacher who helped her with the material had learned British English, and the two accents confused her terribly.

Proper names are also notoriously difficult to read in Japanese. My wife's family's last name, Yanai, is read as "Yanagi" or "Yauchi" in almost every other part of Japan besides our city, and sometimes people in out city can't read our last name, despite the fact that the mayor has the same last name as us (we're distantly related, I think). Place names can be difficult for Japanese to read, unless they happened to grow up in that area. All the place names in Northern Japan, which was inhabited by the indigenous Ainu people for thousands of years, have odd names can't be written with standard characters -- and as a result, most Japanese often can't read the names.

Studying the names of Japanese companies can be interesting. For example, I'll bet you never knew that Kyocera is short for "Kyoto Ceramics." The number one car company in Japan is Toyota, which is located in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture (near Nagoya) -- but the company came first, and the city changed its name to Toyota City in 1959 "to reflect its bright prospects to develop and prosper as an automobile city." The number two Japanese car company is Honda, founded by Soichiro Honda to make motorcycles after the end of World War II. Mazda, which is more than half owned by Ford now, is really called Matsuda in Japan, but they came up with the name Mazda so they could sound less Japanese in foreign markets. Datsun's name has an interesting story -- DAT were the first letters of the names of three founders, and they considered the company they were founding to be their son, thus DATSON. However, "son" (with a long vowel, so that it rhymes with bone), means "loss" or "disadvantage" in Japanese, so they changed it to "sun," a much more cheerful word. Datsun was later bought out by one of its distributors, Nissan (which means "Made in Japan" -- if you said "America-san" it would be "made in America"). Subaru, based near J-List, is the Japanese name for the star cluster we called the Pleiades. Some popular beer companies are Asahi ("morning sun"), Kirin (named after a magical Chinese dragon), and Suntory (the president's name as Tori-san, so he reversed it to come up with the name of his company). Other interesting names are Daihatsu ("Osaka Engineering Tools"), Pocky manufacturer Glico (which gets its name from the word "glycogen"), and Bridgestone (named after its founder, Mr. Ishibashi, which means "stone bridge").

Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Tokyo Subway System

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