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January 27, 2004

Child abuse in Japan

A 15 year old boy was found, almost starved to death, and apparently tortured by his parents. He only weighed 24 kilograms when brought to hospital... This boy is still in coma.

So this one turned out to be a big news. I guess in Japan, a child abuse is still something out of this world, and when it happens, it actually does become a big news.

I think it's good that mass media pay a lot of attentions to these problems. It does bring out the problem to the society and make people think about it. But on the other hand, it is brought out to the people as something that a normal human would never do.

Pardon me... A normal person would not let their child starve to death.

What I'm trying to say is that this whole thing is percieved as something that would never happen around you. But I personally think that this is really not the case. If people living around this kid's house would have noticed a difference, maybe something could have been done to save this poor 15 year old boy.

I guess it's pretty much the same with any kinda crime in Japan, where people tend to think that crimes happens on the "dark side", and that they have nothing to do with it what so ever. When a young boy kills another young boy, we tend to think that the boy was a BORN evil.

But don't we all have risks of turning into evil when things go wrong?

The media is now attacking the parents (this, I don't disagree at all), and also the welfare authorities in charge of helping this children.

Wait. What about the community and the neighbors? Aren't we the ones who can make the difference?

I hope the newspapers and TV stations come up with features about "how to find abused children in your neighborhood." I think it would save more children than attacking particular evil parents.

January 14, 2004

Not much to say today

Why did I bother posting?
Don't know.

January 7, 2004

Combini Burglars

"Combini" is a short way of saying convenience store in Japanese. And because there are so many burglar attacks on combini, you can find the word "combini burglar" somewhere on the newspaper just about everyday.

It's a sad situation that there are so many attacks on convenience stores. Because I oftenly use combini, there may be a day where I come across to one those incidents. What would I do then? Fight the burglar? Maybe. Or I may just call the police on the cell phone and remember as much as I can about this person for later informations.

Looking through news articles, those burglars don't seem to make much money. They take somewhere from 40,000 yen to 200,000 yen at most. With the risk of being caught, it just doesn't seem to pay. Especially now that most of the stores are making sure that they don't keep so much money in the register machine (they put 'em in a rather safe cash box which would take some time to open).

So if the damage to the store is not so big, it might be a better choice to just let the burglar go and not risk your life, assuming that this attacker does not threat anyone's life. After all, they do have some kind of a weapon. Most of the time, it's a kitchen knife.

But if this was in the United States, criminals would probably have a gun instead of a knife. So I tend to think, we should really thank god that Japan does have a good gun control. It is said that the main cause of increasing attacks on convenience stores in Japan is recession. What if there were so many guns flying around like there are in the United States? Let's not think about it...

January 4, 2004

To work, or not to work

Back to work tommorow. Drag? Maybe. Having a long vacation is scary because it'll probably take days to get back to that workaholic-mode. Once you're in that mode, you just have to keep on working. Process of getting into that mode is the toughest part.

Today, I had a friend come over to our place. He goes to an university in Canada, and was back for the winter vacation. It's been a full year since I've seen him last time, so had a lot to talk about.

But then I think back to it, I haven't seen too many friends for a while. There were some occations where couple of my friends from college days got together, but I missed most of them because they had on a weekday. Myself, working over one or two o'clock in the morning most of the time, tend to miss those "get together" kinda events unless they have them on weekends.

Some of my other friends are like me as well. Some are busy working, some are busy raising children, and some just can't make it because they were transferred to cities far away from Tokyo, some live out of nation for their work or school, and so on. I think we've reached an age where we are pretty much on our own.

Things could be different if most of us had more free time, but what can you expect in Japan these days. It's either you work your butt off to death, or you don't work at all. It's really not the matter of winning or losing in a competition, but it's the matter of participating in a competition or not. It make me wonder about the definition of exuberant life.

January 3, 2004

The Last Samurai

My wife and I, after leaving my wife's parents' house, didn't have much to do in the day time so we went to one of the Kashiwa's movie theater and watched "The Last Samurai." I think it's been a month since it started in Japan, so we thought it shouldn't be too crowded. We were wrong, indeed.

We checked on the internet and the movie was to start at 12:50. We figured it would be good enough if we arrived about half an hour ahead, but arrived to the theater more than forty minutes earlier. But there already was a long line of people waiting for the next show, and one of the lady at the ticket counter said "if you were to come back ten minutes later, there would be no seats left and you'd have to stand at the back to watch it."

...Now. I knew this movie was popular. And I also knew that there were many people just like my wife and me that have not much better to do than to go out and watch movies in the 3rd boring day of the year. But we can barely get a seat to watch a movie forty minutes before it starts? And we're not talking about any of the Star Wars opening or anything. 1800 yen for each person is bad enough for a movie, and we get to stand in line for forty minutes. Something must to be done.

The theater was very very small and it explained most of why we had to wait in line. But then they should make a bigger theater so the consumers like us won't have to suffer for it.

All these said, I thought the movie was O.K. My wife, she kept on crying throughout the last half of the whole movie, and said she really liked it. I wasn't sure if an American at that age can take in Bushido into himself so easily. And I also thought it was too good that after taking all those bullets in the battle, two of the main characters just happens to be the ones alive at the end.

I personally like the part where one of the commander ordered his troops to cease fire after watching Katsumoto fall onto ground. This guy was not a very important character in the story, but the expressions on this face when he saw Katsumoto go down was pretty good. But then it was all ruined when all the soldiers of the government kneeled down to Katsumoto and Algren. That was not likely to happen in a battle.

It was also interesting to see how the emperor was portrayed in this movie. I'm not sure what the right wingers think when they watch this movie, but it was interesting to see that he perhaps was too young to make an important decision himself at that time. I'm gonna have to study some history to think over this one.

Visiting Parents in New Year

End of the year and/or new year in Japan is also time for "Kisei", or homecoming. A lot of pepole go back home to visit their parents, oftenly taking their kids along so kids can see their grandparents (or, grandparents gets to see their grandchildren). So my wife and I left Meguro, Tokyo and took off to Matsudo, Chiba to see my wife's parents.

While many people travel for hours to go home, we only took an hour and a half to get to my wife's parents' house. We visit Matsudo maybe three or four times a year, so I guess this isn't really like a "kisei", because I tend to get a impression that people would go home out on the country side or somewhere far away.

Every year at this time, news on the TV and newspapers always talk about this "kisei" rush. How all the trains are stuffed with people visiting parents, and how there is a 630 miles of traffic jam on the highway and such and such.

A kisei-rush is a seasonal kinda thing. It happens every year. But why? Simple answer to this is "it is because everyone leave their home town and head out to Tokyo or Osaka. Tokyo just have too much of everything and people can't help living around this megalopolis, and this hasn't changed in years.

So I thank god that my wife wasn't from somewhere like Fukushima or Shimane. I am free from burden of going to visit them every year. What about my parents? Well, they live on the other side of the earth, so instead of visiting them, we called them to say "Happy New Year!"

And thank again to Movable Type. I get to update it from my wife's parents' house.

January 1, 2004

A fortune slip

My wife and I are spending the new year in pretty much the Japanese traditional way. One of it is going to the local shinto shrine and praying for a good year. We also bought fortune slips like everybody else, and I happened to get a best one, the "Dai-kichi". I guess I'm going to have a good year. My wife got a "sue-kichi". "Sue" means "at the end", and "kichi" means luck, so she'll get some good luck too.

In the old days, all the stores used to be closed on the first day of the year. But that isn't really the case now. Just about all the supermarkets like Daiei, Aeon or Ito-Yokado are open, and even a local supermarket we oftenly use was open today. There was a short article on the newspaper about Aeon starting their new year's sale from midnight. I guess it's worth a challenge since a lot of people in Japan go to Shrine after midnight for their "hatsu-moude", or the first praying.

This helped us because my wife just ran out of cooking wine last night and she desperately needed a new one today. Thanks to Tokyu Store, although I don't think they need to keep the store open until midnight on the first day of the year...

Last three days of 2003, we spend most of our time for the "oh-sohji", or the big clean up. This is just another tradition in Japan where we clean up every single spots and corners of the house at the end of the year. It's a good omen for Japanese people to go into the new year all cleaned up. We had to move all the big furnitures like sofas and bookshelves so we can vacuum clean the back sides of them. I had a tough time getting all the mucks off in the bathroom (not the toilet, but the bath itself), but once I got it done, it did feel good simply because they are clean.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to those visiting here.
Hope the year 2004 is going to be a good one for you.