The truth about living in Japan

Beyond the picturesque mountainscapes and vibrant red Tori gates lies a world of concrete skyscrapers and fashion victims.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Chase Around The World

For lovers around the world:
Chase Around The World - A romantic comedy of errors

Monday, September 19, 2005

The truth about Hiroshima

I had terrible nightmares of Atomic weapons growing up as a child of the cold war and I avoided studying World War 2 in high school history as it troubled me. As a result, I never understood how or why Japan came to be an enemy in a war that was against the Nazis in Germany.

I learned, in visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, that before the Atomic bombing, Japan was at war with China and was spending 80% of its national economy on military spending. The people of Japan were forced into working to support the war. Children as young as 13 (boys and girls) worked in manufacturing, school children were given military training disguised as exercise, to have them ready for deployment. Clothing and Food items were rationed severely, with families given coupons and dressed in uniforms. The people of Japan were suffering under the control of their own government, who was even trying to enforce Mind Control to curb any anti-war intentions.

Hiroshima was a city populated by workers. Before the bomb destroyed the city, the government released an air raid warning and school children, those too young to work in the manufacturing plants, were evacuated. Those 13 or older stayed behind to continue working to support the war.

Before visiting the museum, I knew only the rhetoric that Japan was out of control during World War 2 in their bid for world domination. They wouldn’t listen to reason, nothing could be done and there was nothing left to do, someone had to take action and the US dropped the bomb on Hiroshima that ended the war.

While it can be argued that no one knew what the effects of the atomic bomb on a populated city would be, I’ve never felt satisfied with the arguments for killing so many people. As described in the peace museum, there had never before been such a mass slaughter of people in one moment, and I wonder if there has been anything like it since, other than in Nagasaki, the recipient of the other A-bomb dropped three days after.

The museum in Hiroshima contains letters, diary entries and documents from the US side, clearly showing that the bombs were dropped precisely because the effects were not known. In fact, the 2 bombs dropped on Japan were not even the same type of A-bomb. One was Uranium and the other Plutonium. Japan and the innocent people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were used as Guinea Pigs. The US claimed there were no choices, but from reading the correspondences between various US officials, it’s obvious there were other choices. Also evident is the written declaration that no warning was issued. Many US officials felt that a warning, and a demonstration of the effects of the A-bomb before one was deployed, would give the Japanese government the chance to make an informed decision, but regarding the use of the A-bomb, Japan never had that chance.

The people of Japan had no idea what they were facing. So when the radiation-filled black rain began to fall in the days following the destruction of Hiroshima, those still living in the devastation, living with coarse, dry throats, dying of thirst and severe burns, opened their mouths to the rain and lapped up paddles of black water, only to become violently ill and if the burns didn’t kill them slowly the ensuing cancer surely did.

White wall stained by black rain

Hiroshima was chosen as a candidate because it was populated by workers, and plenty of them. Plenty, that is, of children aged 13 and 14 working in the manufacturing plants. A list of potential targets had Hiroshima at number 1 position. Kyoto, a potentially more politically strategic target had been wiped from the list because the US wanted to occupy Japan immediately following the bombings, and they knew that bombing Kyoto would be too nationally sensitive and might stop the Japanese government from submitting to the US. Worse, they might have surrendered to the Russians, instead.

The bombs were dropped hastily, in fact the US government was concerned the Japanese might surrender before the US had a chance to test their weapons. Globally, there was a race for supremacy. I’m amazed, now I think about it, that all at the same time every one wanted the grand title of number 1. The Nazis wanted it, Japan wanted it, the Russians wanted it and the US wanted it too. It looks like the US won, but only because they gave Einstein sanctuary from the Germans. There are so many ways World War 2 could have played out, if only small details had been different, or timelines hadn’t intersected each other so exactly. Regardless, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the race in a shocking climax.

Victims of terrible burning in makeshift hospitals

We now know, because those two bombs were dropped and we have seen what happened, how destructive and horrifying Atomic warfare is. Despite it, following World War 2, Russia and the US raced to dominate the world through a steady build-up of Nuclear Weapons they could use to threaten each other and this led to that Cold War and the nightmare visions I had as a child of Reagan and the little red-button that I imagined would destroy us all. The Cold War ended in the 80s and yet, still, these countries and now Britain, India, Pakistan, France and China (and possibly others) have joined the fray.

Every time a nuclear weapon is tested, the Mayor of Hiroshima writes a letter in protest trying to remind the leaders of these countries of the atrocities of the weapons that they continue to build. Why can’t we just take it from those who know, it’s NEVER going to be justifiable to use that kind of weapon again, it certainly wasn’t justifiable the first 2 times. So much for weapons of Mass Destruction, those in glass houses etc. The US remains the only country to have used nuclear weapons in warfare, I hope the mistake is never repeated, but how can we ever be sure when the technology and the weapons continue to be developed?

The last of Sadako's paper cranes, and the ones that will never be folded

Monday, September 12, 2005

Where to vent frustrations

We went to the "karibean riso-to" in Expoland, Osaka yesterday. It's a big pool area, I wouldn't say a "water park" because there aren't any real water slides, except for some small slides in the "rainforest" area. The main pool consists mainly of the "Cari River" current pool, a donut of flowing water that circles a small inner pool and sunbaking area. This river is great for floating around on your back, and you could float all day if it weren't for those pesky floating tubes that fill every available square-inch of space.

Unfortunately, the Caribbean Resort is now closed. Even though the heat of the day still soars up in the high 30s, apparently the end of the summer holidays for children means that all beaches and pools in Japan must immediately close, and not even open on weekends.

There's a lot of things in Japan that make little or no sense to me, this closing of all water-related sports while summer is still bearing down is just one of them. My stress in Japan is unreasonably high, which ironically makes the closing of the water park even worse. It was at the park that I experienced the highest frustration of 2 years and found the best means for dealing with my anger and venting on ... anyone within easy reach.

The park has 10 minutes of downtime, every hour or so. 10 minutes where everyone has to leave the pools and stand around, while absolutely nothing happens. No one cleans the pools, no one fixes anything. Every one, including all the staff, just stand around and wait. Why? I don't know, seems the Japanese just have to do stuff like that, probably some ritual dating back to the Samurai.

So, every hour my frustrations would boil, but then the bell would ring and I had the chance to vent. The Rainforest area is a mechanised and interactive construction of small slides and spouting, spraying water, some of which can be controlled. Jeremy and I discovered the joy of the well placed hoses, which could be fine-tuned into a far-reaching jet. We occupied the rainforest like it was our fort, and no one was safe.

Of course, it was all in good fun and part of the purpose of the rainforest area is this ability to declare war on someone climbing up from a lower level. However, it could be said that we abused the chance to get some retribution. It was most satisfying and well worth the $2000 entry fee we had to cough up for the privellage.

Monday, July 11, 2005

It just gets worse

As if living here isn't punishment enough, especially as summer strikes with it's repulsive stench and the dripping humidity they call the rainy season.

There's some lie being circulated that Japan is a safe country with a low crime rate. I think there's just a low reported crime rate because the Japanese police are largely useless and there's just too many people, so crimes become impossible to investigate. But honestly, in all my years of life I've never been so exposed to theft as I have in Japan.

It's very normal for umbrellas to be stolen in Japan. It's so common that I have to wonder why people spend any money on umbrellas in the first place since it appears to me that there's a cultural umbrella trade that is most active on any rainy day. I, personally, have only had three umbrellas stolen. That's not many compared with the average loss.

Today I headed off to work only to discover my bicycle was stolen during the night, or even in the morning. Jeremy's bicycle too. Our bikes were parked on our property, behind the fence that borders our apartment building. This is the first bicycle I've had stolen, but I have had one vandalised by the psychotic old bitch who lived down the way from me in Kyoto.

Of course, Japanese people love to blame the crimes on "foreigners", with Koreans being their favoured target and all other non-Japanese nationalities close behind, but I have strong doubts that "gaijins" are responsible for my losses.

It's like the Japanese people forget about their own personal mafia, the Yakuza, who are seriously involved in criminal activity that has roots in almost all industries and even the government. Not that I think my bicycle has been stolen by Yakuza, it's not nearly a serious enough crime. In fact, in Japan it's just a daily occurence, when I report it to the police, they'll probably laugh at me.

This is NOT the crime-free country that it's depicted as being, not even close. I lived in Australia for 26 years and I've only ever had one thing stolen, my wallet. I've lived in Japan for less than 2 years. So there it is, the truth about living in Japan.

rain rain go away

The rainy season has hit Japan, seemingly a month late. I think Osaka hasn't been suffering too badly from what I hear, there were floods in Tokyo and so far I've hardly been caught in any severe downpours. Anyway, rain is rain and it's still annoying.

Jeremy and I were wondering what to do with ourselves today, we checked out 'the best of Kansai', a book I bought about a year ago, and it suggested the best thing to do on a rainy day is visit Panasonic Square, which shows how outdated the book is because we tried to go there once before and the security guard laughed and informed us it closed 6 years ago. So we weren't going to try that again.

Feeling stuck, we consulted our Kyoto 'Lonely Planet' which had lots of information on visiting temples and eating expensive cuisine, but nothing to do for entertainment on a rainy day.

There's always JJ Club, the multi-story arcade parlour with cheap rates and an abundance of games and other activities, if you don't mind getting very sweaty, but we were too tired for that.

Lucky for us a friend suggested we meet for a late lunch at one of the few Mexican restaurants, El Pancho in Shinsaibashi, so we jumped at the opportunity to do something on this overcast, but ultimately pretty dry day. I got my new glasses adjusted and Jeremy picked up his glasses. That's another story about a 25 minute optical dispenser (aLook in Shinsaibashi), honestly the fastest glasses I've ever bought. My eyesight is shit, and I usually need special lenses cut and polished, it usually takes about 2 weeks, but mine were ready in the promised 25 minutes. Jeremy's glasses took a few days for some reason, even though his eyesight is better than mine, maybe most Japanese people have crappy vision like me so the stronger lenses are more readily available.

Then we went shopping, looked at expensive sunglasses for Jeremy, baulked and didn't buy, and then saw 'Batman Begins'. So there you have it, we found something to do during rainy season. The same boring crap we would have done in our own countries.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Japan is eating our whales

The Japanese government wants to increase its whale consumption, hidden under the thin and pathetic guise of "research" (does counting whales need to involve killing and eating them?) to include endangered species of whales, and now seals, living in Australian territorities in Antarctica. What's next, Dolphins???

The Japanese believe it is their right to eat everything that moves. They won't stop until they're all fucking sumo-size.

How can anyone even contemplate eating endangered animals? How dare they use science as an excuse to rape Australian territories and our beautiful creatures.

In Sydney we celebrate the joyous return of wildlife to our harbour, we are thrilled to see whales dancing with ferries and dolphins entertaining guests in Darling Harbour, populated almost entirely by (you guessed it) Japanese tourists who come to Australia to take wedding photos in big frilly white pavlova-cake dresses infront our our beautiful waters because they're too lazy and dirty to clean up their own waterways.

The countdown is on to the day I leave. I'd leave right now if I didn't have my fiance and impending marriage to consider. I shouldn't be here when I so adamantly disagree with what they're doing.

Maybe I should start wearing my shoes in temples and doing everything I know to be culturally rude, after all I find their attitude towards Australia's protected whales to be outragiously offensive.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The gaining of fat

I haven't really been gaining huge amounts of weight, as such, but my girth has expanded somewhat or at least become quite floppy. I decided to journal my eating habits for this week and I've found that my diet can't really be blamed, as I'm eating the same as usual.

As Jeremy pointed out, the problem may be that we're forced, by our strange working hours, to eat dinner really late at night, around 10:30pm or sometimes later. Of course, this being Japan, dinner consists of rice or pasta (which is cheaper than rice). After eating these heavy doses of carbohydrates late at night, we might watch a little TV and then go to bed, so that we're completely dormant for the 12 hours or so following dinner. More dormant than is normal after dinner, which is probably doing hell with our metabolisms.

So what can we do? If I was in Australia I'd eat a big juicy steak for dinner with vegetables and little carbohyrdate, but a big, juicy steak in Japan costs a month's wages. I can buy a little bit of very thinly sliced steak, but this form of steak is designed to be eaten with, you guessed it, a big bowl of rice.

I don't eat chicken, which is cheaper. Jeremy doesn't eat fish, which is also cheaper. Both turkey and lamb are largely out of the question due to their inavailability in this country.

So what can we do?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Ask me about my hometown ...

I found this photo from my hometown newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, showing the beauty of our industrial working Harbour and the diversity of Marine life that lives there. After living in Japan I was surprised by this photo, it looks to me like a tropical holiday destination. I guess I took it for granted when I lived there, but I'll see it in a whole new light when I move back in October.

See for yourself: