Archive for April, 2011

April 30, 2011

Miki Ando is 2nd after the short program at the Figure Skating World Championships

Miki Ando is 2nd after the short program at the Figure Skating World Championships

Lee Jay Walker 

Modern Tokyo Times

Miki Ando

The 2011 Figure Skating World Championships is firmly underway and for Japanese figure skating then it is hoped that Miki Ando can push Kim Yu-Na from South Korea all the way.

Mao Asada who is the defending champion gave a disappointing performance and currently she lies in seventh place.  However, it is too early to right Mao Asada off but for her to take first place then clearly Miki Ando and Kim Yu-Na would have to collapse dramatically.

The Russian ice skater, Ksenia Makarova, gave an assured performance and the crowd in Moscow was clearly pleased.  Her flamenco routine was full of energy and her triple toe was executed eloquently.   

Ksenia Makarova commented that “I was able to put out a really strong program and I got a season’s best.  So I’m very happy with that.”

The watching crowd was clearly waiting to see Kim Yu-na and expectations are very high in South Korea.  Her initial wobble was overcome because apart from missing her opening tripple lutz by stepping out Kim Yu-Na then grew with poise and strength.

Kim Yu-Na overall performed highly and the judges have her in first place after the short program and for many people she is the favorite to win.  However, Miki Ando is intent on pushing Kim Yu-Na all the way and others like Alissa Czisny and others are waiting in the wings.

Alissa Czisny who lies fourth after the short program gave a very good performance and she is pleasing on the eye and her only concern was a less than perfect landing on a triple flip.  However, given her last two performances at the World Championships during the short program then this was a big improvement.

Alissa Czisny commented that “I was nervous going into the short program today.  My last two world championships short programs weren’t so great and I wanted to go out and skate my best.”

Japan’s best hope, it appears, is Miki Ando, after the disappointing short program by Mao Asada.  Like usual, the gracefulness of Miki Ando shone out and her panache and style is clearly visible. The artistry of Miki Ando when she is in perfect condition is a wonder to behold and it is very difficult for other ice skaters to compete with her in this area of ice skating.

Miki Ando gave a conservative approach to the opening short program and played it prudently.  Therefore, she opted out from doing a triple-triple combination and instead did an easier triple-double. 

Miki Ando was clearly focused on easing her way into the competition and she stated that “My triple-triple wasn’t good when I got here…and in the short program it’s really important not to miss any jump.”

Alena Leonova pleased the home crowd alongside her compatriot, Ksenia Makarova, by giving a good performance.  Her energetic polka was appreciated and she flowed well and clearly Alena Leonova will be pleased by her opening short program.

Unfortunately, Carolina Kostner from Italy made a mistake on her triple flip and she crashed to the ice but Carolina Kostner is a composed skater and still managed to finish sixth.

Mao Asada and the American, Rachael Flatt, both disappointed and they seem to be some way of the pace.  However, you can never write off a defending champion and Mao Asada will be hoping to climb up the leader board.  

Given her capabilities, then it is clearly within the reach of Mao Asada but top spot will be difficult after her opening performance because she seemed to lack confidence.

The performance today will be telling and it is hoped that Miki Ando will be at her brilliant best because Kim Yu-Na is a fantastic skater. 

If they slip up then other highly skilled skaters are waiting in the wings and Mao Asada who is a little enigmatic, will hopefully move up the leader board.

It is also hoped that Kanako Murakami will learn greatly from the current world championship because time is on her side.  Therefore, Kanako Murakami is part of the future of figure skating in Japan and you have many future high expectations to come from Kanako Murakami.

One thing is for sure; many people in Japan will be watching because Japanese female figure skaters are amongst the best in the world.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

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April 30, 2011

Japan needs stability and a new vision but are some things a mirage?

Japan needs stability and a new vision but  are some things a mirage?

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Strong yen despite 20 years of economic negativity

The 1990s and continuing until today have not been kind to Japan in the economic arena and the political situation appears to be going from bad to worse.  The Nikkei stock market continues to be in the doldrums and this applies to the last twenty years.  At the same time, the national debt continues to spiral and the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis is adding to the woes of Japan.

Politicians in Japan are not helping because it is all about factionalism and petty infighting, therefore, the political merry-go-round continues.  This applies to prime ministers resigning or being forced out of office and political shenanigans within each major party.

Even now, despite around 28,000 people dying because of the March 11 earthquake the political system remains “overtly childish” and based on “self-interests” to the extreme.  The tsunami which was unleashed by the earthquake killed the vast majority of people and the nuclear crisis in Fukushima is ongoing.

Despite this, and with more than 10,000 bodies still not being recovered, you have no mutual political system whereby the politicians come together during a time of national crisis. 

More alarming, Prime Minister Naoto Kan does not only face a political challenge from the opposition but even faces an internal power struggle based on the chaotic nature of Ichiro Ozawa.  The internal factionalism is destroying the political system and all political parties appear to just want to mock the respective opposition and to force the prime minister to resign.

Therefore, you have a nation which is “leaderless” and while the bureaucracy remains intact and major companies keep Japan afloat. It is strange to have such a political system in a nation which is mainly based on consensus but the “political rat race” shows no sign of ending and the national debt continues to gather in pace.

Other major areas of concern applies to the strange economic system which allows virtual zero interest rates and seems to be happy about the yen being based on carry trade.  Added to this, is the demographic time bomb and the huge costs which are needed in order to bring up a child in Japan.

In truth, you have so many areas and this applies to the pension system, stagnant wage structure, too much centralization, a collapsing health service and many other important areas.

Added to this are important social issues and this applies to the huge suicide problem, hikikomori, mental issues, lack of adequate care for an increasing elderly population and other important factors.

The nation of China is looming on the horizon and this applies to continuing economic growth and a strong sense of ambition.  Yet for Japan, it often appears that the political system is based on being “a mere shadow of America.”

This does not bode well because it is difficult to find what makes “Japan tick.” After all, you have no major political ideology, religion is weak, the bullish nature of business in the 1980s appears to be a distant memory, the armed forces play second fiddle to America, and you have no clear sense of the future direction of this nation because of the ongoing political meltdown.

However, Japan is an enigma and some economists claim that nothing is what it seems.  Therefore, a minority of economists and political scientists are claiming that Japan is undercutting its true economic power. 

By doing this, Japan can play the exporters dream and maintain positive trade balances in this field with major economic partners.  This in turn means that Japan’s reserves continue to be vibrant and Japan clearly owns a huge amount of America’ s debt and recently this also applies to European Union debt.

It must be remembered that the yen is very strong at the moment but how can the yen be gaining in strength against the dollar and other major currencies?  After all, twenty years of small growth and times of economic stagnation should have meant that the opposite would happen.

Also, if you look at Japan’s main exporting sectors then clearly high technology and state of the art products is evidence that Japan remains vibrant in many important fields.  This applies to consumer electronics, optical fibers, optical media, semiconductors, automobiles, facsimile, copy machines, and other important areas.

Therefore, the dollar rate and the increasing nature of foreign nations owning America’s debt may be telling a different story?  After all, since President Obama came to office the national debt continues to mushroom and now the figure is $14 trillion dollars and growing.

I have resided in Japan for a long time but in Tokyo it is difficult to believe that you have had twenty years of economic misery.  This applies to the employment rate being very low, low crime rate, feeling of vibrancy, continuing building projects, and an ever increasing population in and around Tokyo.

Also, you have major hubs of information technology in Kyoto and the Kansai region is still an economic powerhouse despite recent problems.  More important, it does appear that local government leaders in Osaka are starting to think about the bigger picture and this applies to embarking on a greater metropolitan area, focusing on the international community and restructuring weaknesses within the system.

It is apparent that Japan faces many serious problems, however, not all is lost and many Japanese companies still play a powerful role in the global economy.  More important, does anyone understand the enigma of Japan?

This applies to a huge national debt followed by major economic reserves; a powerful currency despite twenty years of little economic growth; and while Japan’s internal debt grows the same nation continues to hold vast sums of America’s debt and is now helping the European Union by buying Europe’s debt.

Yes, Japan is a real enigma!

http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)

April 29, 2011

Golden Week in Japan: holiday, fashion, and helping in tsunami hit areas

Golden Week in Japan: holiday, fashion, and helping in tsunami hit areas

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Shopping in Ginza

Golden Week is to begin in Japan but this year it will be different for many people.  The earthquake, tsunami, and radiation crisis continues because thousands of dead bodies have still not been found and radiation problems persist at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

It is worth pointing out that much of Japan remains unchanged and if you visit the trendy and vibrant Namba area in Osaka then it is hard to comprehend that you have a major crisis in northeastern Japan. 

The same could be said about other major cities and everything is ticking in Hiroshima, Kobe, Nagoya, and other major cities.  Tokyo is a little different because the aftershock was strong on March 11 and power shortages to scaremongering about the radiation crisis in Fukushima did hit many people.  This in turn led to many embassies running for cover and leaving Tokyo but now nearly all have returned and Tokyo is returning to normal.

Northeastern Japan was devastated by the earthquake which then unleashed the tsunami and the radiation crisis continues.  Therefore, things are very much different in northeastern Japan and the Kanto plains which felt the power of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake.

Therefore, regional variations will be very different and the city of Kobe will also be unique because the people of this city understand the tremendous loss of life from natural disasters. 

Usually Golden Week is about holidays, meeting the family, visiting friends, and enjoying luxury time by doing what people enjoy the most.  This year will be different for many people because tens of thousands will volunteer and help out in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and in other coastal areas which were hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

Many volunteers will be reluctant to visit Fukushima because of the ongoing radiation cloud and many areas are out of bound because of the exclusion zone.  However, Iwate and Miyagi will witness tens of thousands of people from northeast Japan, the Kanto plains, and from all over Japan; who will volunteer and spend their precious time by helping to rebuild areas which have been devastated.

Miyagi after the earthquake and tsunami

Of course, for other people it will be time for a long holiday in either stunning parts of Japan or visiting Europe or other distant places.  Also, for other individuals it will be a time to relax with family and friends or to venture alone by yourself and go shopping, hiking, putting your feet up at home or whatever the individual desires.

Individuals will reflect on recent events differently and for the government of Japan and the economy; then it is essential that shoppers and tourists spend their money otherwise the recovery is going to be too slow and more people will suffer in the long term.

Therefore, Golden Week will be a stark reminder to reflect on current events in Japan but for others it will be breathing space from the stress of life.

One thing for sure is that this Golden Week will be a mixed bag and this applies to regional differences and how people respond to current events.

For people who have lost family members, friends, and had their homes destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami; then clearly this Golden Week in 2011 will be about sadness, getting down to rebuilding, and trying to overcome the many difficult obstacles that so many individuals face.

However, for others it will be about drinking a beer and watching sport or buying exquisite clothes in trendy areas. 

People are complex and you have no true mechanism on how to respond to tragic events but in the back of the mind will remain the ongoing crisis in northeastern Japan.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

April 28, 2011

Japan and the Hague Convention: but will foreign parents really see their kids?

Japan and the Hague Convention: but will foreign parents really see their kids?

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

japan and child abduction

It appears that the Japanese government is mulling over signing the Hague Convention and giving rights to international parents.  However, it is abundantly clear that for parents who are caught up in “this ongoing nightmare” and for future foreign parents; then the signing may become “a dead letter?”

This article is not based on the Hague Convention because I believe that major barriers will still be put in place.  Also, what are the ramifications of the Hague Convention for the international parent who got married in Japan and whose children were brought up in Japan?

My focus is on the countermeasures which will be used by the Japanese legal system, marriage counselors, solicitors representing the Japanese parent, politicians who oppose the ratification, and other vested parties.

In several articles in the Japanese press, and also commented on in the BBC, it specified that Critics have raised concerns over joining the pact, saying it could endanger Japanese parents and kids who have fled abusive relationships.”

Roland Buerk who is a correspondent for the BBC highlighted the case of Alex Kahney who is a British national.  However, while the article was sympathetic towards Alex Kahney and other fathers and parents who are caught up within the failed Japanese legal system.

He failed to challenge or give credence to the statement by Akiko Oshima who is a marriage counselor.  Therefore, Roland Buerk from the BBC allowed Akiko Oshima to state “These women who come back, do not do it because they want to.”

“They feel this is the only way out. They want their child to be brought up in Japan, and not in the host country where the father is abusive and she has no control over her children’s education, and so forth. Not even, say, getting a job to support herself. This is the problem.”

Firstly, why does Akiko Oshima imply that the father is always abusive? Are we meant to believe that every single foreign father in every case is the problem and not the Japanese spouse?

This comment is tinged with sexism and racism because each case must be judged on merit and not based on the ethnicity of the individual or the sex of the parent. 

Even more alarming; why didn’t Roland Buerk challenge this comment or at least state facts about the implication of what Akiko Oshima was stating?

It appears that Akiko Oshima by her comment is implying that Japan cares about “child abuse” but why didn’t Roland Buerk challenge her on this issue?

After all, you have very few articles which highlight this serious situation and all the positives were negated.  Therefore, let us see if Akiko Oshima is factual about Japan caring about “child abuse” because she implies that women are leaving foreign nations because They want their child to be brought up in Japan, and not in the host country where the father is abusive.”

However, when did Japan take child abuse seriously?  In 2008 you had 42,664 cases of child abuse and in 2009 you had 44,210 cases of child abuse.  New laws passed were meant to give welfare workers more power to apply for warrants in child abuse cases.

However, in 2008 only two warrants were asked for and astonishingly in 2009 only one warrant was asked for.  This fact paints a different picture to the one being painted by Akiko Oshima and her statement should have been backed up by facts.

Therefore, basically, out of over 86,000 reports of child abuse only three child warrants were asked for.  Given this, then clearly the rights of the child in Japan is not being taken seriously and Akiko Oshima should focus on reforming the Japanese legal system and systematic thinking; rather than making “sweeping comments” and implying that Japan is a haven for child rights who are being protected by abusive foreign fathers.

In a case involving two young children who were starved to death by their “abusive mother” then let us analyze this sad and tragic case. After all, international parents need to know that countermeasures are being taken in order to deprive them from seeing their children and the sweeping comment by Akiko Oshima should set off alarm bells.

In this tragic case Japanese neighbors tried to help these two young children who were starved to death slowly by their mother.  Therefore, neighbors contacted the child welfare department in Osaka but sadly like the earlier figure states, nothing was done.

Yes, child welfare officers knocked on the door five times but at no point do they seek a warrant or to see the children.  They also did not contact the police and because of this systematic failure these two young children died slowly and in mass pain and suffering.

If people within Japan or organizations are concerned about child abuse and abusive parents then let me be frank; they have 86,000 cases in order to help the innocent child being abused in Japan between 2008 and 2009.

Also, these are only the reported cases because silence appears to rule the day or maybe people have given up because of the inept system?

The decomposed bodies of 3 year old Sakurako Hagi and her baby brother, Kaede, aged 1, were found after months of inactivity by the child welfare organizations.

The mother, Shimomura, aged 23, stated that she wanted “to flee from everything and have time to myself…I knew they wouldn’t be able to survive if not given food or water.  I abandoned them and killed them as a result.”

Shimomura killed her children but the child welfare institution was also behind the deaths of these two children because they failed to help and rescue them from the pits of hell. 

In another case in Osaka a mother killed her child because the child had thrown away her console game. 

Shizuku Tanaka, aged three, was suffocated and put in a garbage bag by her mother and boyfriend.  This child had her hands and feet taped up and died in agonizing pain because Yui Tanaka, her mother, and her boyfriend, wanted to play a game and apparently the child was noisy.

Her mother stated that “Even when we scolded her, she didn’t listen.”  Apparently Yui Tanaka had stated the previous year that “Even if this kid died, I wouldn’t cry.”

Randy Collins, father of Keisuke Christian Collins, stated in his article called The Façade of Honor and Respect that “Another façade by the Japanese is that when confronted with these staggering numbers, the same mantra is said over and over again: ‘We are protecting our women and children from abuse of the Americans’.”

Like Randy Collins comments, and the figure of only three warrants out of 86,000 reported child abuse cases implies in 2008 and 2009; then the concern of protecting the rights of the Japanese national from the abusive father is “a red herring.”

I have not focused on the Hague Convention because it is abundantly clear that countless obstacles will be put in the way.  Also, how about the rights of the international parent who was married in Japan and whose child or children were born in Japan?

Not only this; how about the rights of Japanese nationals who can’t see their children in Japan.  You have so many areas which the Hague Convention does not cover. 

Yes, it is clearly a huge step in the right direction but I fear that it will become “a dead letter” for many parents who are already caught up in this nightmare.

The same applies to future parents who will face the sad reality of the Japanese legal system.

I believe that it is essential for international parents and Japanese parents to focus on countermeasures and obstacles which will be put in their way.  Therefore, the facts must be given in order to debunk individuals who want to play “the Japanese female victim card.”

Every case must be judged on merit and when you have two parents who love their child or children then joint access is essential.  In some cases the best sole parent may be the Japanese mother, the Japanese father, the international mother or the international father.

In truth, each case will have special factors but let us not forget the child or children because it sometimes appears that they do not count in the legal system of Japan. 

Racism must be taken out of the legal system and the same applies to sexism and enforcement powers in Japan are needed.

International parents who have pressurized national governments and embassy staff have done well to get so far.  However, the path ahead remains difficult and countermeasures are being taken before the ratification of the Hague Convention.

Therefore, it is vital that stereotypes are debunked and this certainly applies to “the female victim card” and the issue of “abuse.”

I also must add that many females have also been victims of the Japanese legal system because enforcement powers are ineffective within the Japanese legal system.

In truth, so many areas need to be changed in order to give rights to left behind parents and left behind grandparents.

http://www.crcjapan.com/  (please visit for important information about the rights of children)

http://www.bachome.org  (please visit for important information about the rights of children)

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

April 28, 2011

Escape to the stunning Mount Takao-san in Tokyo

Escape to the stunning Mount Takao-san in Tokyo

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Mount Takao-san
 
On the eastern edge of the Kanto Mountains you have the stunning beauty of Mount Takao-san which is located in the west of Tokyo. Mount Takao-san is not just a mountain peak because it is rich in culture and you will find many religious places to visit and to contemplate or merely admire the majestic architecture.

 

It is difficult to imagine in bustling central Tokyo that you have a stunning mountain range within easy access. However, Mount Takao-san is only one hour away from the madding crowd of Shinjuku.

This mountain appeals to locals, internal tourists, foreign visitors, hikers, people of faith, and in truth, to all and sundry. It is a perfect place to visit and appreciate another side to Tokyo.

The first time I visited Mount Takao-san was eight years ago and I went during the high summer. Yet my first visit stayed deep within my memory because I was fascinated by the history of the place and amazed by the natural beauty on all sides.

On the approach to Mount Takao-san you have many traditional shops which sell high quality goods and of course you also have tourist shops which sell more low key items. Yet the architecture of the shops are pleasing on the eye and if you like traditional Japanese food then why not wait and visit after your arduous but pleasurable walk.

If you visit on a sunny day or dry day then the lift is a must because you can relax and see the natural beauty pass you by. The lift also takes a fair few minutes and the rays of sunshine or the flicker of wind is a nice feel and it prepares you well for the start of your journey.

Or if you are in a group or are not so healthy then you can travel by the cable car option and of course, for hikers, then starting from scratch will be more appropriate.

Mount Takao-san is also important in history and culture because Emperor Shomu ordered the building of the Yakou-in Temple in 744. Therefore, for more than 1,200 years you have had many pilgrims or people paying their respect and the connection of the past is important for many people.

During your visit you will see a statue of “Tengu” and Tengu is believed to be a deified man who mastered ancient mountain worship. Tengu is noticeable by having a long nose but the undercurrents of ancestor worship, Shintoism, and believing in the spirit world of the mountain, is striking and mythology and a wisdom now lost is symbolized by the image of Tengu.

From an outsiders point of view Tengu reminds me of a mixture of human form and nature whereby the individual was at one with the mountain that he loved and therefore was deified.

During your visit to Mount Takao-san you can pick from many different hiking courses and like stated earlier, for some people they can enjoy the beauty by reaching halfway up the mountain by cable car or lift.

Therefore, you can either take an arduous walk or a relatively easy journey if desired. The option belongs to you but either way you will be blessed by the natural beauty of Mount Takao-san.

Mount Takao-san is protected by the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park and at the foot of the mountain you have the Tama Forest Science Garden.

It is a must place to visit!

http://www.takaotozan.co.jp/takaotozan_eng1/  – Mount Takao-san

http://www.japan-guide.co  – Mount Takao-sanm/e/e3029.html

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/tokyo/takaosan.html  – Mount Takao-san

Takaosan-guchi Station via the  Keio Takao Line

http://moderntokyotimes.com  (please visit)

April 27, 2011

Tokyo elects first openly gay politician in the history of modern Japan

Tokyo elects first openly gay politician in the history of modern Japan

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Miyagawa Choshun (1682-1753) and erotic art in the Edo period

It is hoped that Taiga Ishikawa will soon become known for being a politician rather than the first openly gay individual to enter political office in Japan in the modern period.   After all, when this happens, then the people of Japan and throughout the world will know that sexual discrimination is being tackled openly and this applies to discrimination against homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

This issue is important because Japan is a democratic nation but like many nations open discrimination against people from different sexual backgrounds is the norm. 

Therefore, Taiga Ishikawa is breaking ground in a mainly conservative nation and just like other politicians in other nations who are openly gay; then it shows you that steps are being taken in the right direction in Japan.

The electorate should not care in an ideal world about the sexual orientation of the individual because the only important factor should be the political factor.  This applies to the individual being highly motivated and representing his or her constituency.

Harvey Milk in America also broke fresh ground when he became elected to public office because he also was the first individual to be elected who was openly gay.  Unlike Taiga Ishikawa, Harvey Milk was based in a political hotbed of gay activism because the gay rights movement in San Francisco was very political.

Taiga Ishikawa, on the other hand, was elected on a much more quiet ticket and thankfully the electorate chose him because they deemed him to be the most suitable candidate. 

Ironically, while LGBT issues may appear to be about a new awakening and moving towards sexual equality and being more pro-active.  In an historical context, then Japan before the Edo period and during the Edo period was very open about sexuality.  Therefore, several important figures in Japanese history had bisexual tendencies or preferred men and in art and culture you can find depictions of homosexual sex and so forth.

The Meiji period (1868) was much more conservative and sexual orientation became more important within the structures of society.  Therefore, it could be argued that Taiga Ishikawa is re-connecting Japan to its past tolerance of sexuality.

Taiga Ishikawa stated, after being elected, that “I hope my election victory will help our fellows nationwide to have hope for tomorrow, as many of them cannot accept themselves, feel lonely and isolated and even commit suicide.”

Taiga Ishikawa continued by stating that “Many LGBT’s, or sexual minorities, realize the fact when they are at elementary and junior high schools, many of which are operated by the municipality…….As a ward assembly member, I would like to reinforce support to LGBT children at schools.”

It is obvious that Taiga Ishikawa wants to raise serious issues related to LGBT rights and this is clearly understandable.  However, it is hoped in time that he will become known for being a politician who represents the electorate in the Toshima ward of Tokyo.

Taiga Ishikawa is 36 years old and he is the author of Boku No Kareshi Wa Doki Ni Iru (Where Is My Boyfriend?). His youthfulness is also welcomed because the younger generation needs to get involved in politics because the stranglehold of politics by association is hindering Japan.

He also expressed that he will do his best to make Toshima ward friendly towards the younger generation and foreign residents.  This is welcomed because you have a lot of political apathy in Japan, and in other nations, whereby the younger generation either feels alienated or they have lost trust in politics.

The foreign angle is also welcomed because Japan, like all nations, will have elements of discrimination and the ethnic map of Tokyo is changing in many areas despite Tokyo being overwhelmingly Japanese.

http://www.spaciousplanet.com/world/guide/10-most-famous-shunga-erotic-artworks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Milk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_Japan

http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)

 
April 26, 2011

Suicide in Japan is a nightmare and post earthquake depression is a worry

Suicide in Japan is a nightmare and post earthquake depression is a worry

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Japan and the suicide problem

 Suicide in Japan is a major problem and more than 30,000 individuals will take their life this year.  This figure is astonishingly high and it appears that little is being done in order to highlight this serious and complex issue.

All nations have negatives and positives and obviously some nations are blighted by endless wars and poverty.  However, Japan is relatively prosperous but like any nation you will have pockets of poverty and regional gaps are noticeable. 

The image of Japan is one of being high-tech, modern, prosperous, and a nation state which is based on democracy and religious freedom.  This is all true and the same applies to the low crime rate because in the whole of Tokyo and throughout Japan; it is abundantly clear that crime rates are very low.

However, despite all the above mentioned positives it is factual that suicide is a major problem.  It is unbelievable to think that the earthquake and tsunami killed 28,000 people but by the end of 2011 more than 30,000 individuals in Japan will kill themselves.

It was even reported that a man who was 102 years old killed himself in Fukushima after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear radiation crisis.  He did not kill himself because of the radiation threat but instead he committed suicide because he did not want to leave the exclusion zone imposed around the nuclear plant.

Therefore, it appears that while some people suffer from depression on a regular basis and then decide to commit suicide; it is also true that “a quick trigger” is also responsible for many cases.

If you ask most people in Tokyo if they have been stuck on a train because of suicide and if you know somebody who killed themselves; then the overwhelming majority will state that they know someone who took their life and they have been stuck on the train because of the suicide crisis.

I have witnessed two people kill themselves in front of me and this applies to one man jumping to his death in Tobu Nerima.  The other was a young lady who suddenly jumped in front of the train at Harajuku train station. 

Therefore, the government, local government, and local agencies involved in suicide, are very worried about the effects of the earthquake, tsunami, and ongoing radiation problem in Fukushima.

Many fear that depression will take hold in some communities and people who reside far away from northeastern Japan may also feel the effects of the current prevailing conditions.

For the majority of people in Japan they are just getting on with their daily reality and of course the majority of people enjoy their high quality of life.

However, the 30,000 plus suicides a year is also factual and this is a yearly problem and the government, local government, families, friends, charities, and others; must not ignore this reality because the consequences are severe and each suicide also leads to greater stress and sadness within the respective family or circle of friends.

The factor behind suicide is complex because you have so many variables.  However, certain common factors do prop up and this applies to work pressure, unemployment, bullying, relationship failure, feeling crushed by consensus, depression, low esteem, financial concerns, caring for a loved one who is very sick, and other important reasons.

The “salary-man” syndrome is clearly problematic because the numbers of men who kill themselves within the “trapped world” of work and stress is very high amongst the 30,000 plus people who commit suicide each year in Japan.

Many young teenagers and adults have also gone into their shell and hikikomori is a real social problem.  Hikikomori is based on a heavy school load; social pressure; the need to conform; over protection within the family; unable to communicate properly; unable to understand reality because of over reliance on gadgets and computers; and other factors.

Suicide and hikikomori is also a problem in South Korea and regional factors in northeast Asia based on culture, thinking, and how suicide is seen, must play an important role.

The role of Buddhism and reincarnation, and the indigenous faith, Shinto, needs to be studied because it appears that suicide is not deemed to be a sin which leads to the gates of hell. Traditional Christianity was anti-suicide and it was believed that the individual would suffer in the after-life but Buddhism is rather vague on this issue.

It must be remembered that in Vietnam, and other mainly Buddhist nations, that some Buddhist priests burned themselves to death by self immolation during times of heightened political tensions.

Also, many famous writers in Japan like Yukio Mishima were fascinated by suicide and this applies to the cultural aspect of suicide.  Therefore, Yukio Mishima, and others, believed that the Bushido way could lead to a noble death and the kamikaze during World War Two will have fused this alongside enormous pressure from the military.

This may seem distant from modern Japan but the “psyche” within a nation is hard to change and outward appearances can be deceptive. 

Individualism is also seen to be negative within the workplace and expressing thinking is not always deemed to be positive when it applies to management or challenging the group mentality.  Confrontation is deemed to be socially rude and vented up pressure is not easy to release.

Therefore, for many workers who take their own life it appears that this factor, alongside long working hours, bullying, and a feeling of helplessness; is premeditating the soul.

Given this, then the recent earthquake and tsunami could create more depression and feeling of helplessness. If this happens, then the fear is that suicide numbers will increase later this year.

I have not mentioned all the factors behind suicide because the factors are many and again it must be stated that the majority of people in Japan are very happy.

Also, the issue of Buddhism and reincarnation being linked to suicide is controversial and some believe that you have a link but others deny this.

However, the “cold fact” is that over 30,000 people will commit suicide this year and alongside the 28,000 people who perished because of the earthquake and tsunami; then a lot of families, friends, co-workers, and other, will be affected by the suicide crisis in Japan which is not abating.

http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)

 
April 25, 2011

A day in Tokyo and reflecting on the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis

A day in Tokyo and reflecting on the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Time to reflect – image from http://snoguchi.exblog.jp/

Today is a time for me to unwind and reflect about what happened but also to refresh myself.  Yes, unlike the people of Fukushima who reside near the Daiichi nuclear power plant or the untold families which have been torn apart; I am very lucky because I reside in Tokyo and I escaped the nightmare of March 11.

I have been writing daily since March 11 and great attention and emphasis was put on the many different aspects of the crisis which emerged on this fateful day.  The last week of April is now upon us but you still have more than 10,000 people missing after the tsunami unleashed such a deadly force upon many coastal areas in northeastern Japan.

However, despite being distant from the epicenter of the earthquake which struck on March 11, I felt the tremors of this earthquake in Tokyo and countless other aftershocks since this fatal day.

I have also sensed the mood in Tokyo and how the ebbs and flows of life can change within seconds.  Therefore, I have decided to reflect on past events and to evaluate many things and to express my images and views.

Of all the articles that I have written I must confess that I found it very hard to write about the loss of life of so many children at a single school in Ishinomaki. 

My article called Ishinomaki: school re-opens after the loss of 74 of the 108 children but questions remain was very difficult to write without expressing or feeling emotions.  I dread to think how their parents, other relatives, and the whole community must be feeling.

I commented in this article that “Many children were taken away by the powerful tsunami which was unleashed after the brutal 9.0-magnitude earthquake.  Therefore, so many broken families and communities and the knowledge of children dying is heart wrenching.”

“Obviously every life is precious and age should never enter the equation when thinking about the deaths of around 28,000 people.  However, something hits you “deep inside” to think about the loss of life of so many children.”

Therefore, while I know that around 28,000 people have perished because of the tsunami which was unleashed by 9.0 magnitude earthquake; the factuality of what happened to the children and teachers of Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki remains embedded within my heart.

I feel for all family members, relatives, friends, and entire communities, which have suffered throughout coastal areas of northeastern Japan.  Their pain and sorrow will be the same but in every devastating tragedy you will have potent images or stories which hit you deep inside.

Given this, the Okawa Elementary School remains firmly embedded and much of this is based on other schools surviving close to this school.  However, on this fateful day everything went wrong and their path to safety was prevented because of so many fallen trees and other debris.

This meant that fateful minutes were lost and sadly it appears that they turned around and walked in another direction but this direction was leading them into the pits of death. 

Within minutes all hope and joy which had awoken these children on the morning of March 11 was taken away from them because by the afternoon of this day the tsunami would sweep them away and show no mercy.

Today I am trying to relax and refresh myself but with every word written about the Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki; then my feeling of morose returns.

I have the luxury of living in Tokyo and today I have promised to refresh myself and to focus on positivity and to relax.

Therefore, I am going to read many pages of Runaway Horses which was written by Yukio Mishima and search http://snoguchi.exblog.jp/ and look at the many stunning images on this website. 

I like photography and the stunning beauty on (http://snoguchi.exblog.jp/) this website is in stark contrast to the images of March 11.

Like most people in Tokyo; now is about daily life, trying to relax and enjoying this beautiful city.  However, it appears that moments of joy are fleeting because the impact of March 11 remains strong.

Yet recovery is needed but the path will be very hard, if nigh impossible for people who have lost so much; however, for the lucky ones, like myself, it is vital to re-energize the economy and the power of Tokyo and Japan.

I say this “with a heavy heart” because the nightmare of Okawa Elementary School is not only visible it is within my psyche; time will heal many things but life is precious and time can never heal reality.

However, instead of the darkness and sorrow which is entrenched within the heart at the moment; it is hoped that one day the people of Ishinomaki and northeastern Japan will remember the beauty of the people and children who entered their heart.

Yes, they can never return but the dead are never dead when they stay alive within the heart; life is fragile and the tsunami took away so many but it is important that “death is not the final victory” for people who have lost so much.

However, it is easy to say from a distance and I know I have the luxury to say this.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

Please visit http://snoguchi.exblog.jp for stunning photos.
April 23, 2011

Ishinomaki: school re-opens after the loss of 74 of the 108 children but questions remain

Ishinomaki: school re-opens after the loss of 74 of the 108 children but questions remain

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Tsunami

Many children were taken away by the powerful tsunami which was unleashed after the brutal 9.0-magnitude earthquake.  Therefore, so many broken families and communities and the knowledge of children dying is heart wrenching.

Obviously every life is precious and age should never enter the equation when thinking about the deaths of around 28,000 people.  However, something hits you “deep inside” to think about the loss of life of so many children.

The Okawa Elementary School was specially hit by the brutal tsunami which swept so many people away.  This school which is located in Ishinomaki had 108 children but the power of nature killed 74 children from this one school (some of these children are missing but presumed dead) and every teacher bar one also perished.

Psychological effects of this tragedy, and all the other tragedies, will not be known in the short-term but clearly March 11 will always remain within their psyche.  Many readers can empathize with the trauma, pain and anguish of this school but for these children life will never be the same.

Yes, many will rise up against such adversity and children are much stronger than adults think.  Indeed, sometimes children can be stronger than adults because many terminally ill children have faced up to reality and done so with absolute bravery.

However, turning back to the school in Ishinomaki then clearly their innocence was taken away from them and the cold reality of life will become embedded within the psyche of each child.  After all, it is normal for children to be focused on learning, playing, sport, and expanding their character.

Sadly, for the majority of children who attended Okawa Elementary School then they never got the chance to bloom and to see new horizons.  More alarming, March 11 began just like any normal day but the speed of events meant that moments of laughter and joy were turned into unknown fear.

It appears that other schools in the same area escaped the deadly tsunami and parents demand to know what really happened.  However, with only one surviving teacher, and with this teacher being under great stress and suffering from trauma, then patience is needed.

Apparently, only 8 children survived under the guidance of teachers from Okawa Elementary School because the other 26 survivors were picked up by their parents.  This in itself raises questions because why is it that children who were picked up by their parents survived but children under the guidance of teachers mainly perished alongside the teachers who were also killed (apart from one lone surviving teacher)?

Information is still patchy but the general outline is that teachers tried to take the children to high ground but the steepness of the mountain appeared difficult to climb because many trees had fallen and the route seemed very hard and dangerous.

Therefore, many minutes were lost while debating what to do and sadly it appears that it was decided to head for an elevated bridge.  It is still unclear at the moment if they reach the elevated bridge or if the tsunami struck before they reached the bridge. 

Either way, the tsunami was engulfing everything in its way and it soon became apparent that time was running out and panic will have ensued.  The final minutes will have been a nightmare and desperation will have led to internal chaos and fear.

A meeting was held whereby 97 relatives attended but few answers were given and not surprisingly many parents were angry.  However, others were more understanding and obviously many parents who could have picked up their children will be in internal chaos. 

Katsura Sato, a parent who lost her daughter Mizuho, stated “After the quake, I heard there would be a tsunami, but she was at the elementary school, so I thought she would be safe…….I just want to know how she spent her last minutes.”

Mourning for some parents can’t fully begin because many children are still missing but presumed dead.  Until their bodies are found, then the grave lies empty and this is clearly causing added pain and anguish. 

In time, the true events of what happened will become known and in the cold light of day the facts will come together like a jigsaw.  However, the speed of the tsunami was great and damage by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake meant that many trees, buildings, and roads will have been damaged.

The teachers will have done everything in their power but the speed of events, major damage, and so many other factors; all conspired against Okawa Elementary School.

Therefore, the remaining survivors will face an uphill struggle and while their new school is being re-opened within a surviving school; it is clear that the events of March 11 will continue to be a nightmare and these children, alongside the sole surviving teacher, need all the support that they can get.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

April 22, 2011

Yukio Mishima: articulate, genius, nationalist and the perfect death

Yukio Mishima: articulate, genius, nationalist and the perfect death

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Yukio Mishima
Yukio Mishima

Yukio Mishima stated “If we value so highly the dignity of life, how can we not also value the dignity of death?  No death may be called futile.” This comment is poignant because for many people who have never read Mishima, or read his work deeply; then his death looms over his reality or unreality because either he freed himself or ultimately gave into mere illusions?

In truth, where do you start when you write about Mishima?  Also, does a critic have to claim that you know about the subject matter from the inner work of the individual you are writing about?  Or can the images and reflections represent a greater depth of knowledge based on snapshots and the images of the last moments of Mishima?

After all, millions of Buddhists and Christians have read sacred books but history tells us that Zen Buddhism supported nationalism to the hilt in Japan in the 1930s and 1940s. Therefore, the Buddhist temples of Kyoto in the last century welcomed the slaughter of Chinese innocents.  Similarly, the aborigines in Australia will ask where was the Christian love and peace?

Adolf Hitler had a respect for Islam because Mohammed gave the go ahead to enslave non-Muslims during Islamic jihad and then enforce power by enforcing Sharia Islamic law.  For Hitler, Christianity was weak, but unlike the followers of Buddhism and Christianity who may do misdeeds based on hypocrisy; at least Islam was frank because it justified holy wars throughout the Koran and Hadiths.

Therefore, maybe it is better to look at snapshots and then formulate ideas because Mishima certainly did this.  After all, nationalism like all ideologies is based on myths and ignoring history and reality. 

Given this, my snapshot of Mishima is based on his death because the snapshots of history ran deep in his blood but ultimately he was clutching at straws.  After all, his death did not shake up Japan or return the country to an isolated Edo period where the sense of Japan did not exist.

Yes, an isolated Japan but like ideologies this is part mythical because the Shimazu daimyo was trading with and invading Ryukyu (Okinawa).  At the same time the complete Japanization of the north was ongoing and soon the Ainu would melt into the Japanese bloodline and linguistic colonial reality. 

The final moments of Mishima is all about drama because his actions were futile but he died a death that he desired but did it have the beauty that he perceived it to be?

I presume for those fleeting minutes and seconds before the self-induced demise of Mishima that his mind and spirit were in ecstasy.  Yet soon an articulate nationalist would be no more and cause and effects came to zilch because Westernization continued albeit tinged within the Japanese psyche. 

In Mishima’s short memoir, “Sun and Steel,” it is clear that his obsession during the last ten years was writing and bodybuilding.  This book was published in 1968 and it reflected the psyche of Mishima who fused the pen with physical training and concepts of the “new Japan” betraying the “old and glorified Japan.”

The book Sun and Steel relates to Mishima throwing away his earlier novel, Confessions of a Mask.”  Now Mishima was building up to be a man of strength and the Nietzsche “ubermensch” was born within the ego and spirit of Mishima. 

Mishima focused on moving away from his literary genius and delving into a world of “body and action.”  However, if, like claimed, he desired to break free and distance himself from the “power of the word” by building himself up to be a “warrior” in his worldview then he failed. 

For the last poignant days of his life were based on the “power of words” and “ideas” which came from an inner passion where confusion, nationalism, attention seeking and a man of steel, were fused into a death that he glorified but ultimately achieved little.

Mishima also highlighted the duality which he constantly struggled with.  He stated that Many people will express disbelief that such a process could already be at work in a person’s earliest years. But that, beyond doubt, is what happened to me personally, thereby laying the ground for two contradictory tendencies within myself. One was the determination to press ahead loyally with the corrosive function of words, and to make that my life’s work. The other was the desire to encounter reality in some field where words should play no part at all.”

It is clear that Mishima’s duality must have caused enormous anxiety and I am not trying to underestimate the power that Mishima had because if you watch video footage of his “illusionary uprising” then you can see a passion and spirit which is difficult to find. 

Maybe Mishima was merely battling against himself?  Or maybe the ego had overtaken reality or possibly “the drug of life” was fused with “the drug of a glorified death?”  Whatever was really going on in his mind he certainly believed in himself too much and the nationalist connection he desired fell away because the latest Hollywood film was too irresistible for the masses of Japanese people.   

Mishima had a duality complex because he had little time for so-called intellectuals but he revered men of action and in his mindset this applied to famous samurais, strong military leaders and people who sacrificed themselves.  This pulled at his soul because his literacy prowess was seen to be weakness but how could he express and inspire others without “words of passion?”

Mishima’s obsessive physical training meant that he was creating a warrior from within but warriors who sacrificed themselves had something to sacrifice.  Mishima had nothing to sacrifice because his actions were not only futile but based on an illusionary world that he had created.

Most of Japan’s literary clique in the 1960s was on the left and the nature of his books focused on militaristic thought patterns and nationalism.  

Mishima focused on Bunburyodo and a death which appeared to his ego.  Therefore, “The Sea of Fertility” which was a four book set was started and the first part, “Spring Snow” was completed in 1966.

The following year he began training at a Japanese military base and his private army was formed.  Mishima was now entering the final years of his life and it was all focused on a noble ending he desired.

Mishima in 1969 in Runaway Horses states “How oddly situated a man is apt to find himself at the age of thirty-eight!  His youth belongs to the distant past. Yet the period of memory beginning with the end of youth and extending to the present has left him not a single vivid impression.  And therefore he persists in feeling that nothing more than a fragile barrier separates him from his youth.  He is forever hearing with the utmost clarity the sounds of this neighboring domain, but there is no way to penetrate the barrier.”

Mishima, who was born in 1925, was very young during World War Two but he could serve near the end of the war but he was excused.  This must have haunted the “man of steel” and his friend, Hasuda, a fellow writer stated “I believe one should die young in his age” and Hasuda was true to his word because he committed suicide.

Given the nature of Mishima’s demise then clearly the war was not based on a youthful hero and defender of his country.  Added to this, his friend committed suicide and maybe Mishima wanted redemption or maybe he was caught up in the psyche of the culture he understood.

It appears that homosexuality may also have eaten away at Mishima and Confessions of a Mask (1949) deals with inner emotions and passion.  However, if Mishima knew history well then many samurai believed that homosexuality was the purest sex and many a leader of Japan in the pre-Edo period and Edo period had male concubines.

Therefore, was Mishima ashamed of the Christian ethics which entered Japan after the Meiji Restoration (1868)?  If not, then many “men of steel” of old Japan had homosexual relationships and this is to be understood in the light of reality. 

After all, loyalty was to the daimyo ruler and fellow samurai and compassion was weakness because of the nature of life.  Not surprisingly, strong male bonding took hold within the samurai psyche and this cultural reality was the opposite to the image of homosexuality in modern day Japan which is perceived to be weak.

Wakashudo had various ways of initiating young boys in “old Japan” and within the mindset of the samurai system then women were seen to be feminizing men and weakening their spirit.  The Wakashudo system was often abused by the Buddhist clergy for sexual gratification in past history. However, the samurai system was based on creating “a learning process under their code of ethics” which would install loyalty, strong bond, and in times of hardship samurai warriors would remain united within the upbringing that they knew.

Mishima, with pumping iron and with well honed martial art skills, was now becoming the “man of steel” but this was tainted with feminine poses fused with the martyrdom of death. 

He posed gladly in front of the camera and images of St. Sebastian being killed by many arrows or a samurai invoking ritual suicide all played to his psyche and being.   Mishima’s world was both real and surreal and his power and strength fused together with a feminine nature buried within his soul.

Mishima stated that The most appropriate type of daily life for me was a day-by-day world destruction; peace was the most difficult and abnormal state to live in.”

Therefore, November 25, 1970, was the embodiment of what Mishima had become and suicidal visions and his illusionary world was to erupt into a violent ending.  However, true to Mishima it was a violent and chaotic ending within a planned structure because he laid plans for the aftermath.

He had built up this day for years but now the time for acting was over, well partly, because he was still acting in the world of “ego.” In his illusionary world the “self” would act collectively “with strength” and generate “a spirit” and “fuse” this with his dream of a glorified death.

Yet, he was not a soldier, after all he had lied in order to not fight for Japan; therefore, the nationalist rhetoric was just that and November 25 was more about “personal redemption” and ending the “duality within his soul.”

The man of words would die in “a paradise of extreme pain” because the final cut to behead him was not clean and several attempts were made.  After all, he was no soldier, he was no samurai, and neither were his loyal followers. The final act is evidence that “dreamers” were just that; therefore, the ending was not the beautiful image of serenity but instead a scene of “foolish hell and self made folly.”

Mishima’s illusionary world could not change anything and he, like everyone, can’t re-write history.  Yes, people after him can re-write history and maybe this was the history that Mishima followed?

Despite this, Mishima was a literary genius and he had a spirit and ego which is beyond most people.  His power rested within “the internal demons that he struggled with” and a culture which glorifies self sacrifice. However, Mishima had nothing to sacrifice because the final events of his life did not shake Japan and it was more like “egoism” based on “unreality.”

Yet, the work of Mishima is very special and in the twentieth century he belongs alongside the greatest of international writers.

The boy from Tokyo was enigmatic and had a raw passion and sadly the passion of Mishima is missing today and maybe this is where his “genius belongs.”

In Mishima, you can imagine the energy of the past and where the individual is visionary; therefore, the failings in his life, like the failings of all people; must be brushed aside because to ignore Mishima’s writing is to ignore a potent force within the literary energy of Japan.

Mishima, unlike the majority of writers, transcended the nation he belonged to because his writing hits a raw nerve within the “inner soul” and he will continue to be read by millions of people all over the world.

http://www.vill.yamanakako.yamanashi.jp/osusume.php  – Yukio Mishima Cyber Museum

http://dennismichaeliannuzz.tripod.com/index.HTML  – Tribute to Yukio Mishima

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/mishima.htm  – Yukio Mishima

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yukio_Mishima   – Yukio Mishima

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