*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Wednesday 30 April 2014

'Somebody's watching you!' in Tokyo

The other day, en route by train for an excursion with a dozen of my HS students of my 'international school', the newest 100% Japanese girl starts giggling of a sudden, turns to another 100%er and whispers,*
"Everybody stares at us!"

At just that moment we come to a stop in a station, as does an adjacent train, in which a gaggle of girls from another school also stare and giggle, causing the new girl to become more than nervous.  So I say to the only other pale-face,**
"Katerina, Emi's nervous for all the looks we're getting.  Welcome to our world, eh?"

*In Japanese.
**A pretty Slavic girl, or something else if I am hiding identities.  "White' in any case, and that is not her real name, nor is 'Emi' the other girl's.

Thursday 24 April 2014

'You're throwing away your money on rent!'

Said the Toronto women who wouldn't date me, because I was a 'renter'.  Hope the man they made castrato likes 'throwing away [his] money on' mortgage.  The first chart says all you need to know.

The next chart explains why I am over forty without a house: I entered financial stability with a teaching degree in 1999.  Just when the prices took off, nobody yet knowing that, and at the bottom of my payscale, something like 60% of where I am now.  Did I mention I had student loans?

This chart shows why I am not going to enter for a little while: note 2006.


Wednesday 23 April 2014

For profit schools

Are for profit, genius.

The other day's post was about the loucheness of a pair of teachers.  The plenty I've written about private 'international schools' can easily be searched in the top-left of this blog.  This post is a great deal of fun about the same imploding school, but less about people who can't keep their indiscretions discrete, and more about what happens when an 'international school' has Japanese in charge: which is to say, the norm.  If you have worked in Japan, you will get a good laugh out of direct quotations.

All of the text below are the teachers' written opinions, though I believe they were typed up by someone without native English.  I will not tell how I got them, but they are already in the public domain.  I have removed identifying features, and cut length, though anyone familiar with the school will catch all the references.  Enjoy.

I feel that the school`s development plan is not followed because the schools priorities is money. The decisions made by non-educationist are resulting in the sacrifice of children’s education and safety. Therefore, how can the development plan be followed when making and saving money is more important than educating children.

The school provides no professional development as the Japanese office staff do not value teaching as a profession.

In light of the current contract renewal debacle, I no longer believe that those people in a position to decide the future of the school wish to spend time developing the current cohort of staff, merely seeing us a transitory beings in the grand scheme of things, who can bring no long term benefits to the institution and thus do not deserve to be supported adequately enough to make steps forward above and beyond what can be achieved through self determination alone. 

Some of the office managers do not seem to be qualified to complete their missions. Those positions should require, I believe, good English capability, management experience, high-level moral, and care for children above all else. I don't understand why and how they were selected to take the responsibilities. They even sometimes do not seem to understand what conducts are prohibited in terms of sexual and power harassment. This office environment makes people feel uncomfortable
 I`m not sure that a lack of English apparent in some office members is good for an international school. I had to call the school once and the person who answered couldn't speak English. I ended up putting the phone down and calling back. What if i was a prospective parent who couldn't speak Japanese. That is 1.6 million yen down the drain.
There is too much conflict between the educators and the administrators. The ?????? is having an affair with another staff member... professionally and morally wrong!!

 Office staff apart form one or two completely useless. After 4.5 years nothing changes in the office apart from new office staff. Office staff are both rude and unhelpful to teachers and parents. Everything is a problem from the tiny things to the big things. ICT a joke, ICT people cant do anything. ???????? I dont trust. Office need to understand we are an International School because they have foreigners working for them. So they need training how to interact and deal with foreigners. As this is a problem. No teaching staff think to highly of the office staff. But please remember that their is still one or two that are helpful and try to help both teachers and parents. Their is a male in the office that is agressive, abusive over the last 5 years, has being caught watching porn on school computers, is agressive to parents and children and teachers, swears in [another language], has had a sexual case brought against him and nothing gets done about because he is Japanese. Oh sorry they changed the desks around but even then couldn't get it right and the [supervisor] had to step in and change things.??????  has lied about so many things to staff its hard to trust him.... How can the office lose million/millions of yen with the school [public activity] etc. Think all new staff still havent being told about their last months salary could be wrong here. Seems they are racist, have heard that some office have said in public they like the job but hate all foreigner that work here and have heard that both [supervisors] have said dont worry we are Japanese and we are ok in their office meetings. But hey the school will turn into a Japanese school with a Japanese [principal] or [VP] so at the the end of the day they have nothing to worry about

 I also question if we need almost as many administration staff members as the entire elementary teaching team; considering we are a school and not an office.

The staffing in the office has deteriorated to such a point were I do not feel welcome when going in. It has never been easy when going to request something from them. There has always been sense of resentment from certain male members of the office when asking for a simple request.. as I cannot speak Japanese I feel uncomfortable when the non English speakers talk around me and 'over' me. Do they see themselves as superior to the teachers or am I mistaken. Attitudes reflect as such. I thought we were the same team. Who is the grumpy old man in the back of the office and what does he do?. All I see of him is playing with his computer and sitting with Mr ??????. He never replies to my greetings. Obviously he has a superiority complex. Maybe he has changed the office dynamic for the worst. How exactly does Mr ??????? San find his people and what educational experience, other than being a schoolboy/girl themselves do they have? Its pretty obvious, as long as you are one of his friends, speaking English or being efficient or polite isn't a requirement. Resources are not monitored. Plain to see. When you have to scramble around for simple stationary, it tells me the person or people charged with monitoring it are not doing their job properly.

The office had 9 members of staff who are all vague about their job description. I have worked in larger schools then this and they have had a maximum of 2 members of staff in the office. 
There often seems friction in the office. With the man at the back of the office watching everything-, it seems worse
Teaching staff no longer trust the Administration at this school. There is a clear feeling of racist bias amongst some Japanese Management Administrative staff and lack of respect for foreign staff. I have heard ?????? -san saying that office staff should not trust foreigners! There have been some improvements but still it seems staff in the office are hired without proper due diligence and procedures. Some Office Staff are great. But they all seem scared of ??????? -san who just shouts at them.

I feel very dissapointed that a so called not for profit school is so reluctant to spend money on its students. especially considering the enormous fees parents pay. That we as a staff made a presentation for [student welfare] and only got a useless slice of cheese is extremely dissapointing and to be honest quite embarrassing, and difficult to defend when asked by parents.
Air conditioner in G1-G3 a joke in both summer and winter, but you have ??????? controlling the temperature just to save money. He has to remember that these parents pay our wages and they deceive in Summer a cool class to learn and in winter a warm class to learn and not to get sick. No physical outdoor equipment for children must be so boring during their breaks that they can only play with a couple used rubber balls. Nothing has changed for the enhancement of the outdoor appearance and the benefit for children's development. Inside the classrooms excellent, find it funny that we have run out of white art paper and nothing was done about it or the excuse was that the wrong colour got ordered. But we can get a huge projector screen in the hall just with a snap of a finger because their some big meeting with Teachers are coming to look at the school so very important and even then they screw it up. But peoples opinion is more important then the parents/children that pay our wages
 All the computers in the school are ludicrously outdated and cheap. Anyone with even a basic understanding of IT can see how our network speeds and computers would have been embarrassing 5 years ago. No real attempt is made to remedy the problem. My SMART board has been broken for months. There was an attempt to repair it for November 30th, but when that failed all efforts have simply halted.  While the [school public activity] is a fun day for children and their families, I would heavily suggest against using it as a fund raising opportunity, unless for a specific cause that is acted upon. As a fee paying school, there is no reason for non-specific fund raising, as we did this year. I cannot help but feel that this is simply additional revenue for the school, disguised as benefiting the children. While that is an extremely harsh and condemning statement to make about an educational institution, I am saddened to find very few other explanations.

I strongly hope members who like children and support to children and staff and appropriate experience and knowledge re education.e.l. When members is talking at office They use discriminatory word "Gaijin". It makes me sick when I heard... distrustfulness of [the school].... Their judgement for personnel manegment .

 If part of the vision was to `improve the living environment for foreigners residing in [prefecture name]` then why do I feel so marginalized? Why do i spend every day wondering if I will have a job next year? Why is the school doing everything they can to not help the foreign teachers? Some of the teachers at school have Japanese wives, Japanese children, houses in Japan, permanent residency, pay Japanese taxes, pay Japanese pensions etc. but still its apparent from conversations and meetings that the staff have that these people they are slowly being forced out of the school.  Incompetent office staff however can rest easy, as despite the constant complaints from co-workers and parents, nothing ever changes and they can carry on under performing until the retire. Its a joke!!  There is a huge sense of mistrust and deceit emanating from the administration building and it is making the school rotten... lining your own pockets with profits. 
 Removing the????????, who is extremely lazy, but good at talking about how much work he does and how much he will do when he is the [principal], while not being able to do his own job properly would be beneficial to the school. To remove office management from educational decisions and daily running of the school decisions. To have office staff who do not make blatantly racist or discriminating remarks regarding non Japanese parents!!!

(1) Get rid of the ????????. Board of Trustees need to be give ALL information not just spoon feeding them the information he want to give them. He has lied about contracts give people new contracts on the first day of their new contracts and told them too sign which is against the law. Staff member signed new contract then he changed it and gave him a new one again against the law. Has no real understanding of education and is destroying the school with his decision. Has said all foreigner teaching staff will be out by 2018. He got rid of the [principal] who is doing a good job for reason that’s we all assume are unfair and not correct. Still he is not telling the truth regarding Japanese teacher license for foreigners teachers. (2) Both [Japanese supervisors] are people who teachers don’t trust and seems that they and the Chairman are making all the decisions which seem unfair fair.  (4) Rules need to apply to all staff not just one set of rules for foreigners and another set for Japanese.  (7) A ????? that supports the ???? which is clearly not happening. And a ????  that is honest and fair not someone that will lie to save his on job and say things to teachers about other teachers in a negative manner. 
 I must question if any value is being put on the efforts of staff at all. Because this is not how you treat something you value. Staff will leave. They will find jobs where they are valued. They will tell others about how [the school] treats staff. The quality of teachers willing to work here will decline. 
 Contracts in the past have been altered and changed without the consent of both parties, even after being signed. 
 There seems at [the school] a feeling of distrust from Japanese Administration towards others - I do not know why this is. And too many secret meetings? I do not understand the paranoia that this school is becoming too International. This is not the case. We need a translator who is not afraid to translate - rather than only translate what she thinks the Japanese Administration want to hear. 
Why would a good teacher move to [the school] knowing that staff at the school are getting fired for no reason? This school will become a school for Nova teachers only and will have less than 100 children in 5 years time. I want to leave, it has become a joke and is rapidly becoming a very low grade school. ?????, ?????, ????, ????... who is next? Interesting that they are all foreign and yet the only incompetent workers in this school are ???????-san, ????????-san, ????-san & ???????-san! Stop giving contracts to former [business name] employees - they don't know what they are doing!!!!!!
The man in the office, xxxxx-san is a very negative influence for staff. He sits behind a computer all day looking at paperwork and never visits the school. 
 a lesson in how to say `good morning` that the office staff could attend, wouldn't be a bad thing.
The school needs to be more open and honest in its general treatment of its foreign staff. How they have treated several members of staff has been disgraceful. Office staff, in particular the three head males, need to fulfil their duties and be more capable of doing their said duties. if they are not then they should get additional training. Japanese and foreign staff should be treated as equals. When Japanese staff are not reprimanded for using bad language in public towards staff or parents, have been caught looking at pornographic materials on school computers, sexually harassing female staff or making hugely inappropriate remarks to other staff members it is a real shame.
However, having been told that all teachers employed at the school in 2013 will not have a job here after 2018, to the contrary it feels like many members of staff are unsettled and unhappy
The school is sliding into mediocrity despite the efforts of certain staff. Professionalism. From the top, the [principal] is dressed smart with a room I feel comfortable in compared with a scruffy ??????? working in a man cave. The unwelcoming feeling coming from the office. With the exception of Mrs XXXX, XXXXX and Mr XXXXX, who are helpful and friendly, I don't enjoy going in to ask for help with eg. my terrible computer smart board or an order. Why did they push all the helpful people closer to the door!? My students sometimes complain about how Mr ???? talks to them. They say he is rude and aggressive' I have seen this and his tone seems rather short. Not recently, but as having a basic knowledge of [that language], I was horrified by things he would call out in the office, I don't have much to do with him now because of this. Disgusting. I hope he doesn't practice his [that language] with the bus kids. Hey! Maybe there is the fear that permanently contracted teachers will slack off just like half of the office staff do
There are rumours about Mr. ????? contract. I do NOT agree he is not renewed. He has been a good [principal] for me. I do also not agree that Mr. ????is going to take over which is obvious to everyone. He has been a bad ???? ??? for me. If Mr. ???? becomes the new [principal] I will leave [the school]. He is the wrong choice. Someone who is openly having an affair should not be the new [principal]. And management should not condone this affair. It is wrong. It sets a very bad moral tone for the school and parents are very upset about this as well. It was interesting how Mr. ????? was ignored at our last Staff Social event. I think this is sad but I understand.
I feel that the Japanese office staff are racist, they treat foreigners worse than dogs. They shouldn't be allowed near children with this attitude! I've heard that ???????-san told the office staff not to trust us because we were foreign... why would any parent want to send their children to a school with these sort of people in it? There is a lot of corruption at [the school]. Every contract awarded to an outside company has some sort of link to [business name]. The school pays huge amounts for money to people for stupid things like... How many people does it take just to organise the buses? This job is just done by the school receptionist in England, can't believe how inefficient the office staff are!
I wasn't going to mention this but I am a little disappointed that ????? and Mrs ???? are having an affair openly. I wouldn't mind normally but he does have two children in the school so it makes it awkward teaching them from a moral viewpoint.
I do not understand why the ???????? is still being employed at [the school] when everyone knows he has been and still is having an affair with another teacher. A parent saw them as recently as mid December kissing in public near the schoolThe school (since ???????-san came) seems to be looking for reasons to get rid of foreign staff and make the school completely Japanese in culture and organisation.  There is an ethos of distrust from Japanese Management to foreign staff including the ???? who seems to be ignored most of the time and not included in meetings. Clearly they have decided ???? is the next [principal] and all know it but are not open about telling everyone. A MAD decision. He can't do his job as??????? ! He prefers to do the easy things that he can (like drive the car, visit trips, substitute teach) rather than his job description.  Most staff do not understand (including Japanese Staff) why Mr. ???? is 'allowed' to continue his affair by Japanese Management and why Mr. ????? has apparently been told to leave - I heard this from Mr.????? ! It makes no sense at all. One of them arrives late to school and meetings most days, whilst the other has done nothing wrong.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

'Don't $#!+ where you eat': Gaijin mating patterns

This story's too good not to share, but I can't share too much or it could be Googled, and get a few people into trouble, several of whom have penetrated themselves into trouble enough.  Let's use rhetorical questions.

If you were in a supervisory position, wouldn't you try not to fuck the staff?  If you did, wouldn't you be discrete enough not to be seen together both at Gaijin-bars, and in the area you both work and live?  If you were both married, wouldn't you have more reason?  Wouldn't you both leave the workplace once caught, rather than only one of you?  Shouldn't the more senior person be fired first, rather than the junior?  Wouldn't the chances of the company getting sued by the junior for 'harassment' be an issue abroad?  Well, 'this is Japan.'  When cheating on your wife, wouldn't you 'suit up' or at least pull-out, so that your decades younger, ovulating and fertile fling, didn't beget?  If your wife attacked you with a kitchen implement, how would you hide the scar?  Although she hit you elsewhere, wouldn't you wonder she was after doing a Lorena Bobbitt?

Never underestimate human stupidity.  Especially your own.  I don't, which is why I do not cheat.  Morals and ethics are great, but what keeps me honest is knowledge of my own weaknesses: never start down a slippery slope.

None of the names and locations have hit the Internet yet (I have checked), though the entire school community knows, so I should expect it soon will.  The same school has some other large organizational and legal problems that will hit the fan all on their own.

Who am I in this?  I may have/not worked there.  I may/not have (a) friend/s who did/does.  I may/not be hearing all of this first/second/third hand.  I may have/not heard this from foreign/Japanese educational/office staff.  I am one of hundreds of teachers in 'international schools' in Kanto.  I do have several sources, so am certain this is a true story.

Monday 21 April 2014

She mentioned 'the war'!

Roasted four pounds of beef, roots, made a Yorkshire pudding and a red wine gravy, and my J-MIL told my J-wife, in Japanese:
This is why they won the war.
It sure beats a naval rice-ration that was only that: beriberi.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Japan's 'just in time' culture of societal renovation: to fail

Societal renovation worked well enough in Meiji and the Occupation.  Especially well if you weren't the ruling class, so much as just one step down and got to take over.  Too bad about the cannon fodder...

Too bad 'the third time's [not] the charm'.  Never mind the log-jam that is modern Japanese improvisation to 'outside context problems' of any degree.  The debts of the Bubble have still not spun-out, because "the perverted golf-club" kept them out of play, but they cannot do that for ever.  There's domestic demographics:

The fact that it's an unenviable place for workers to come, even if they were wanted, much less wanted as immigrants: permanent and full members of Japanese society, like many other countries offer to most immigrants.

Japan will change it's attitude, politically and socially, to immigration, and I would guess they will do it within a generation, by the look of those demographic kites.  It's amazing how tolerant mouth-breathers can become once there's a fraction of the people paying into social welfare, a multiple of people drawing on it, and they want a share.  Except, who'd come then?  What's Japan going to have to offer immigrants in ten to twenty years, much less in the 2050 of the third chart?  It already has a great deal less to offer than quite a few other places, not just in the 'First World', but also in some 'Emerging Nations': often the immigrants' home.

I shouldn't take pleasure in this, because it is petty, and I have family and friends here.  For them I am concerned.  But Japan?  Japan's brought it on itself with sight of it from far off.  Japan won't ever accept my children as fully Japanese.  My white ass has had some privilege by it but also a great deal of aggravation.*  Fuck Japan!  I'll enjoy my Schadenfreude.

*I'll thank Japan for giving me some experience of crap visible minorities put up with in my own country.  Enough to have put fair peers of mine in their place in front of the less fair.  You taught me how bigotry feels.  Good job Japan.

Monday 14 April 2014

Why no wagons? Why the boats?

Yes, I know I've written plenty against cars, but I haven't had to live in Toronto with two kids using the city's crap transit: with one was bad enough.  We'll never get one car per adult!  With two kids in Tokyo there's no call for a vehicle, and driving here's no pleasure and expensive besides (tolls).  I am returning to North America, and that means sprawl, and poor transit or none.  However, if you don't need your car to commute, you're an idiot to own one.

Owning in Canada: an average of $10K/yr all costs in, including gas, maintenance, insurance and depreciation.

Not owning in Canada: an average of $5.5K/yr if you're profligate
- $100/month on transit
- $300/month on car rental, if frequent
- $50/month on taxis

I need a third seat row, though not a luxurious one.  I'm not getting a fucking truck, just because I bred.

I'm in early middle age, but married late enough not to justify mid-life crisis: I ought to get a sedan.  However, I have a mother and MIL I'll need to fit in sometimes, along with a wife, and two child seats, which waste a fuck-tonne of room (the seats).  I'm not getting a van or truck, because besides driving like a building, the premium on buying, running and insuring is going to be an extra 25% or more.  Nobody's making a station wagon, though.  That's what I really need.  It'd also let me carry cycling and camping gear when I get to, or sleep in the back on long drives when the family's in Japan and I am not.

I'm cheap, but too cheap to buy a PITA that will cost me more in repair and poor ride quality, so GM and Chrysler are out (besides, fuck their bail out!), so is Toyota after their lies about their accelerators, and European cars are not worth the premium.  They don't make three row sedan/wagon/van vehicles anyway. There are these, and all come out around $30K new in Canada with options you'd want (less in the US, despite the dollar, as usual) after taxes.


Kia Rondo

Mitsubishi Outlander

Am as partial to Honda as against GM, from owning one of each, but they make nothing in this class.  Nor does Hyundai or Nissan.  Am I missing anything?  Can't be much over $30K CAD, parks, drives and weighs more like a sedan than a truck, and has a third seat row (both second and third rows folding away, ideally flat).

Given the three pictures, I am partial to the Mazda5, but if the recent reliability and build quality of the Kia and Mistubishi are as good I could be swayed.  However, only the Mazda's got the sliding rear door, and my MIL and mother are near opposite sides of seventy years.  What a shame there are so few choices for what's kind of an ideal car for North America.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Obokata: "perverted golf-club" is hammer to her nail

'Japanese culture': afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable.
Japan... is so broken (because of) what I call the “perverted golf-club mentality” — the big corporate networks made up of the banks and insurance companies and the big corporations.
Two months ago, 'Shisaku' had a pair of interesting stories on a Japanese woman scientist whose team published findings in Nature on a simpler, cheaper, way to get stem cells.  It's interesting enough that she is only thirty, conventionally attractive, yet taken at all seriously in this vastly sexist archipelago.

Well that didn't last very long...
The investigative panel, headed by Riken’s Shunsuke Ishii, found fabricated and falsified data in one of the two STAP papers published in Nature, of which Obokata was the lead author. The committee has refused to confirm or refute the existence of STAP cells.
Seems awfully harsh considering all they found was:
The panel labeled as a “fabrication” an image used in one of the papers that “closely resembled” one in her doctoral thesis for Waseda University, though the Riken-sponsored experiments were conducted under different conditions.  The panel also found that her manipulation of an image from a lab test to add contrast was an act of “falsification.”
I am no genetic researcher, but seems to me that's 'slap on the wrist' stuff.  Well, 'that's what she said':
I sincerely apologize for suspicions raised over my research papers and the enormous trouble caused to Riken, co-authors of the papers and many others due to my carelessness, sloppiness and immaturity... I think my mistakes were incredibly (immature) in the eyes of many researchers...  But these mistakes do not affect the conclusions of my paper, and above all, the experiments have been solidly conducted and the data (proving STAP cells) exist.
It's entirely possible her findings are bunkum, but it doesn't make me less suspicious of the unseemly appetite to take her down.  If you're not in Japan, you won't have seen the dismissal of her findings on most networks' news programs, and editorializing by Japan's fuck-wit tarento.  It's almost as if it were orchestrated.  They've even pushed her to a nervous breakdown.

So why the pile on?  'Follow the money'  Cui bono?  Over a billion US dollars of government funding to Shinya Yamanaka and the Kyoto University Center for iPS Cell Research are the issue (whose work becomes obsolete) not the science.  That's enough to buy some media, no?  Especially if you're a connected male, middle aged or better, and have the ear of the PM who's the same, as are the rest of the "perverted golf club".*  "And so it goes..."

I'll wait to make my conclusions on her science once there is news on this from abroad, based on the repeatability of her findings (you know, science), not from a Japanese agency using Japanese 'data'.  The larger point is the lesson for women, though perhaps not quite the one "the perverted golf-club" meant as the take-away: if you're intellectually honest and innovative, leave Japan; if you're something more than a fuck-muppet, the same.  I wouldn't suggest the US or Canada, mind you.

*Read your Wolferen if you want to understand this country at all.  It should be decades out of date, except Japan doesn't do incremental change.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Tokyo Green Walks

Tokyo's no Manhattan or Montréal, each with a green heart, nor is it walkable by its central area being small, contiguous, and lain with a tree-shaded grid* of the ideal urban form: three-story walk-ups.  Nor are many buildings made of warm materials like stone or brick, rather than concrete, toilet tiles or aluminum.

Guess where.

I can love no city that is not better walked than driven or ridden.  It's why I will always love Montréal, abide Tokyo and Toronto, and despise the three Ontario towns I have endured.  Even so, there are some Tokyo walks you can take to stay sane.

I need walks under a tree canopy to stay sane.  Perhaps if I had not been raised in a temperate climate in the northern hemisphere I would not, but most of my readers have been raised in the same.  Without trees, grass and the colour green I despair.  Tokyo is despair.

Rather than add to the Chuocides, I try to make walks part of my commute home, which is hard as there are none suitable where I live in Shitamachi, few enough at all, and fewer that take you anywhere, rather than a loop in a park.  I'm discounting parks that, make you loop back to the same entrance or have inconvenient entrances, aren't on the way to anywhere else, or charge admission.  I do not count walks along the drains that were once rivers.  An issue is many parks close at sunset, and sunset is as stupidly early in Japan as sunrises are.  Winter is hopeless.

Walk the passage through the pond on the south end, through any of the paths in the middle of the park, out to Uguisudani or through Yanaka cemetery to Nippori.

Between Yoyogikoen and Yoyogi stations: through both Yoyikoen (park) and Meijijigu.  For Meijijingu make sure to get to the open glade at the north end, which is less overrun than most of the city.

Inokashira Park
Avoid weekends like the plague.

Imperial Palace East Garden and Kitanomaru-koen (park)
If you are downtown.

Mizumoto-koen (park)
Would be nice if it were on the way to anywhere.

Satomi-koen, Chiba
Not in Tokyo, but along the river near Satomi-koen and the girls'/women's schools at the end of the Edogawa there's a section of the river that is a relief from the wind-blown drains all the other rivers are.

I have been to the park by train and bike, but better to take one of the ferries over from the city, not that they go with any frequency.

*To be honest, Montréal does not have enough trees on its streets.

Thursday 3 April 2014

'April is the cruelest month': Japan's suicide season?

lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.

The Tokyo trains have had major 'accident resulting in injury or death' three of four mornings this week: suicides, attempted or successful.  Several Japanese I know have said, "Ahh... spring." when I mentioned I was delayed, confirming my suspicions that it's the response of some who failed assimilation to a: 'good' high school, university, or corporate job that happens from the beginning of this month. 
There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.
Especially if you live the unenviable life of the Japanese:
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
Jumping in front of a train, common enough at Shin-Ochanomizu station to have coined the term 'Chuocide', is the done thing.  I am not sure if it is the norm more because trains are such a common part of Japanese life, or as the one gesture that might get noticed in a 'failed' life, passive-aggressive as it is.

Tokyo, if not proper mental health, or another measure for success, there is always this:

In Canada the suicides peak in winter, often the 'holidays', and if you'd lived through our winters and holiday dinners, you'd know why.  I think the dullness and darkness better suits the urban Japanese psyche than spring:
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Assimilation Season

Hiring season.

The fresh from university 'droids have been out in matching suits this week, giddy at 'making it' after a few years of screwing around in university, and six years cramming for it before.

They should act cheerful.  Their sempai, kohai and those in the same uptake (douhai?) are the only people they'll spend much time with, like them or not, and more often the only people they'll get to fuck without paying up front, but rather more through marriage.  Happy to have 'made it', in a declining nation, in an outmoded business model nobody abroad's using, and is buckling within.  They haven't made shit: corporate, civil and demographic Japan are toast long before their pensions come due.

If not for security, what would they have crammed their adolescent brains with trivia for, that will never be put to use at work, or in their interior lives such as they have?  To 'fuck the dog' for long hours?  For two hours of crushed and standing commute each day?  To get to buy a Japanese rabbit hutch?  To breed a family they are alienated from?  A few days of holiday a year, with all the other 'droids?  If I'd been born Japanese I hope I'd have started a small business, legal or other, to avoid the salaryman trap.

I don't imagine any of those who 'made it' have a 'plan B'.