A Question of Cannibalism
あと… こっちの日本語新聞「ＪＡ Ｎｅｗｓ」の記者にもなった！赤穂浪士の記事書いたし、こないだ来豪した日本のバンド「Ｂｏｒｉｓ」にインタビューさしてもらった。そのインタビューは ここ
で曲が聴けるし、歌手の彼女（アート学生）に制作してもらったミュージック・ビデオも見える！「Ｐｉｎｋ Ｒｏｂｏｔｓ］という曲。今度は日本で遠征ツアーかな？仲介してくれる人はおるかい？ところで、バンド名はＥｘｔｅｎｄｅｄ Ｓｕｍｍｅｒ Ｓｕｒｇｅｒｙ （ＥＳＳ）。「常夏の手術」で受け取れる？写真の手前で逆立ってる人は僕らの大ファン！（本当は、そのライブハウスの常連酔っ払いで、僕らがライブするときは興奮していつも逆立ったり、変な動きしてくれる！他の客も盛り上げてくれるからしね）
Hey guys! Kana, Dan and I have started out on a new project. It's a website called lovingperth, and we hope it will be a popular source of information about my hometown: Perth, Western Australia. It's proudly in both English and Japanese.
Our goal is to provide useful information to Japanese people in Perth; to Japanese people interested in Australia and English; to Japanese people thinking of coming to Australia; and to Perthies interested in Japan and what's happening in Perth that's Japanese.
We're still fine-tuning it, but we'd appreciate it if you'd take a look and let us know what you think! All criticism/comments welcome! The site is lovingperth.com/en
. Check it out.
Smartest Thing I've Read In A Long Time
I just read an article
on the Daily Yomiuri site that would have been very welcome about 3 years ago, and still should be to anyone teaching in Japan.
There is a lot of noise going down now about proposed changes to the Basic Education Law - mostly complaints about PM Abe's intention to include some rubric about patriotism, which makes lily-livered coffee-pot worriers fear a return to the shit that got Japan into the Pacific War. Come on! Japan is a very different place than it was 70 years ago, a responsible member of the global community, and I can't see them walking out of the UN again. On the other hand, they should have more power within it. But that's another story. The point here is that it's just a stupid, empty gesture to pander to nationalists and make people stop talking about other issues.
But the other, more interesting, point came out in the article - that the pessimistically-named Education Rebuilding Council has requested a redefinition of the "corporal punishment" that is legally prohibited - they want more leeway to punish students.
Obviously, we are not talking about corporal punishment in the Ben Dover sense. What they are more interested in is the inability of teachers to remove a student from class who is disrupting the lesson - currently illegal, in that all students have the right to learn (in class). A provision that ignores the fact that so do all the other students who are having that right infringed upon by the "bad" kid.
I don't want to get into school psychology and why these incidents might occur, but even in the best of classes, they certainly can and do. If teachers can't remove troublemakers (to the principal's office or the counselor's room, for example) then, they are, in the words of panel member Hiroyuki Yoshiie, being "told to go into battle with both arms and legs tied" - an "irresponsible" situation. Even without the dramatic metaphor, you get the point, and I think so would most teachers in Japan.
1/33 Adair Pde, Coolbinia, WA Australia 6050
monkey mia のイルカに餌をやる香奈
coral bay の綺麗な海
後はなにかな？バスケのリーグが始まった。練習不足やし、なんかちっちゃく感じるね。バンドも組んで、いくつかのライブし、もうすぐレコードを作る予定。バンド名はExtended Summer Surgery。
PS. いつでも、http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnygun というウエブサイトを開いたら、僕と香奈の撮った写真が見えるよ！定期的に見てください！全部英語なんやけど…
Ex Mongol. See you Oct.
I just saw Poiter, I mean Eric Bana, in Spielberg's Munich
. Sorry to be late, but I'm not a big movie person - the only thing which could draw me to the exorbitant cinema prices would be a Johnny Depp appearance. Sigh.
Anyway, say what you may, I was impressed. The film doesn't say anything new, in particular, but I do appreciate it for bringing up important issue in an approachable way - as Spielberg says in the featured interview, he wanted to make people aware of some of the factors involved in the seemingly never-ending Israel-Palestine struggle, and the easiest way to do that is characterisation and empathy. Admirably, for a Jewish-descended American (often derided as the worst of the worst when it comes to impartiality in this debate), he strives to present both "sides" of the story and the competing claims for land and security, albeit through minor characters.Munich
presents events that allegedly happened 30 years ago, but the issues raised, unfortunately, are still more than relevant today. Where does patriotism bleed into extremism? What is most important to you - your family, your country, or human life and dignity? How can you resolve two incompatible points of view? Is violence an effective response to violence? When will Bana return to comedy?
The height of comedy: 189 cm, sans coiffure.
It's a big-budget Hollywood flick, but Spielberg does them well. I cried at the end of Schindler's List. I didn't cry this time (it wasn't all that sad, really) but the background is probably more relevant to a contemporary audience. Check the film out. At worst, an entertaining, suspenseful couple of hours; at best, a reflection on trading an eye for an eye until everyone is blind.
Some cool videos from the Tokyo version of Summer Sonic 06 here
. Check out the Daft Punk
"Around the World/Harder Better" mix especially! Robots after all.
Speaking of which, anybody know what's happening at BDO this year? All I've seen are some horrible rumours about RHCP and Muse... do tell.
Sep 20 - A Beautiful Country?
On September 20, members of the governing Liberal Democratic Party of Japan will cast their vote to decide the next Party president, and, by default, the country's Prime Minister. Whoever wins, they will be replacing the radical, reformist, famous, and divisive Junichiro Koizumi as the international face of Japan.
RIP Steve Irwin
There is no question that Koizumi, during his tenure as PM, has made rapid inroads into changing Japan through his progressive and reformist policies - be it encouraging businessmen to leave their ties at home and go easy on the air-con in summer, or arguably ignoring the peace-protecting Constitution in sending Ground Self-Defence Forces into Iraq.
Koizumi's looks and personality had made him something of an idol, both within Japan and around the world. His policy was, from early in the piece, to stand up against the glacier-like Japanese status quo and force through several reforms, no matter how loathed the changes may be by the ruling elite, and, to an extent, the people of Japan. He had a strong view that Japan needed to change to keep up with the rest of the world in cultural, economic and military terms.
It's difficult to say for what he will be remembered best. As a very brief synopsis of some of his major achievements/goals:Japan Post
, while obviously also a postal carrier, handled at least some of the savings of the majority of Japanese people, and was (is), in effect, the wealthiest bank in the world. However, it was widely recognised that the bank's handling of loans and other savings-related matters was, and would continue to be, a stifling influence on Japan's economy. Koizumi's "pet project" was the reform of the postal giant, which he basically forced through Parliament, calling early elections to gain a mandate from the people and cutting off the so-called Postal Rebels within his party who opposed the reform. His stance at that stage was Bush-like: you're either with us, or against us. Needless to say, he won, and the reforms are in progress. People see this event in one of two ways - either that Koizumi was a stubborn dictator who misused his power to strike down any dissent; or that he was a strong reformist who refused to listen to the old guard and their vested interests. Without knowing his actual intentions, we can probably assume it was a bit of both.
Vote Gere 06!
He oversaw the dispatch of Japanese "Self-Defence" forces into Iraq. Article 9
of Japan's post-war constitution, drawn up under Allied occupation, bans Japan's use of force in international disputes. Arguably, only if Japan were directly attacked could it resort to deadly force. As a result, the Japanese armed forces have not killed a single enemy combatant since the Second World War. It was variously argued that the Constitution implicitly permits "Collective Self-Defence" - that is, the use of force to protect an ally; or that SDF troops could be sent overseas for purely humanitarian purposes - in Iraq, they were not involved in any combat, but at the same time they were effectively protected by other troops of the "Coalition of the Willing". Koizumi and other leading politicians on both sides of the House have called for a revision of Article 9 to clarify this issue and resolve any claims of unconstitutionality. Given the heated debate over the matter, it seems unavoidable that, at the very least, the Article will be expressed more clearly in the near future.
He pushed for Japan's admission into the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member alongside current members America, the UK, France, China and Russia - all on the winning side in WWII. Arguing that the current UNSC
reflects a world order that is no longer in force, and that Japan's amazing economic and political progress should afford it a permanent seat, Koizumi joined forces with Germany, India and Brazil in calling for UNSC reform. It seems fair enough that the world body should include, at the very least, countries from each continent, arbitrary as that may be (and ideally an Islamic member too - but that's another story). At any rate, Japan's appeals have so far been unanswered, except in the form of violent protests and resistance in especially South Korea and China - both victims of Japan's imperialist push and military atrocities leading up to and during WWII. They assert that a country that refuses to own up to it barbaric past has no place on the Council (see my post
on Mao Tse-Tung for more on that).
Which leads to a related, but distinct, issue - visits to Yasukuni Shrine
. This Tokyo site enshrines the souls of military personnel who were killed in battle fighting for their country - not such a problematic notion, it might seem, but for a few extra things. Among the war dead are included several figures who were judged by the Allied occupation to have been war criminals. Although rightist elements, including brochures available within the Shrine itself, continue to denounce these judgement as imposed by a vindictive outside power and innacurate, it is widely accepted that these people were, indeed, guilty. Some exhibits in the Shrine grounds are surprisingly uber-patriotic in this sense, which has added to the controversy.
Koizumi made it one of his campaign promises to visit Yasukuni on the day marking the War's end, which he finally did this year (his last chance) after visiting on other dates in the past. These visits have enraged belligerent voices in China and South Korea and have effectively led to the total breakdown in high-level communication between Japan and the two countries (the Korean PM has recently offered to meet Koizumi's successor, in a rare and admirable diplomatic move). Koizumi's line has basically been that his visits to the Shrine have nothing to do with any other country and has thus deflected (in his own eyes) their criticisms, while ignoring the fact that, in reality, his actions have helped to create the current deadlock. Although Koizumi has continued to show willingness to talk to the other parties, the situation is basically one in which no-one is willing to give an inch. It should be noted that Koizumi has, on several times, publicly expressed regret at Japan's past.
While all these specific matters have loomed large over Koizumi's tenure, for me, there has been one more general issue which has the potential to be most important, at least domestically. Koizumi, as I have said, was not afraid to attack the status quo, and part of that was that heavily entrenched habatsu
system, where, within the one party, exist several factions, each with their own benefactor (often a retired politician who desires to retain his influence) and own agenda. This whirlpool of mixed allegiances has been a major contributor to Japan's notorious political culture of corruption and kickbacks, but Koizumi has made a point of avoiding such traps and, to a large extent, appointing Ministers based on ablility and expertise rather than history and loyalty. I hope this continues to the next PM come late September.
A quiet day
Whew. That was quite hefty, more to clarify my own understanding than anything else, perhaps. Next episode, I'll run down (as in summarise, not as in with my car) the three candidates who are challenging to succeed Koizumi and who I predict, and prefer. Hopefully somebody, somewhere, will express some kind of interest in all this to make it seem worthwhile.
Silence the press!
I was thinking of posting something about the upcoming election of the new LDP party boss (and by default Prime Minister) to replace Koizumi, and how I think the Yasukuni Shrine issue is such an important one to clarify in that context. Then I read this article
on the Daily Yomiuri website. Possibly the most rhetoric-cluttered, ridiculous opinion I have seen in some time. Sure, a press blackout. That's what we'll do. Maybe if the US imposed a press blackout on news from Iraq too, Bush would be the most popular President ever!
The FIBA World Basketball Championships are on at the moment in Japan. I would have loved to see Australia play, but since: their group games were in Shizuoka, a long way away; I don't know half the players any more, and the ones I do (Mackinnon, Smith) should be on no country's national team; and in the end they only barely scraped through to the playoffs and were embarrassed by the admittedly strong US team (this for a team ranked 9th in the world)... I decided it was best to watch from home. Unfortunately Japan has made no efforts to televise the games, apart from a few matches where the national (and home) team was thrashed by various low-ranking countries, and so I have to rely on Minato's illegal SkyPerfect satellite hookup and Kayo's temperamental VCR to get anything. I did see enough to disown the Aussie national team, though. No, that's harsh. Maybe.
Anyway. It's down to 6 at the moment, with Spain and Argentina through to the semis thanks to Gasol and Ginobili et al, and Greece-France / USA-Germany on today, which I will tune in to. Germany has been impressive - or should I say, Nowitzki has been awesome. You could see him trying to get the team involved in the earlier rounds, but now it's in the clutch, he's drilling last-second threes and making 10,000 free throws at will. It will be interesting to see what happens in the game tonight. I don't think the US has anybody who can effectively match up on Dirk, and as soon as he gets double teamed he's going to find the open shooter or the cutter. To survive in international basketball, you have to have shooters, and Germany has them. Should be a good game, and a good reflection on the sport when you think that, 15 years ago, the thought that anyone would beat the USA again was laughable. Granted, that was the Bird/Jordan/Magic Dream Team era, but still, it's nice to see other countries developing strong international records. Here's hoping Australia can get back on track, and Japan decides to give the greatest sport on the planet a bit more grass-roots attention and backing.
A triumphant return to blogging! All those whose lives have been the poorer for want of concise long-windedness and enthralling ennui, rejoice! Johnny Gun's death has been greatly exaggerated, not least by the Gun himself. Armed with a new camera, an alcohol-addled brain and oodles of spare time, he returns to embrace the blog just as it threatens to become passe. Perfect.
So anyway. I'm reading the Mao biography by husband/wife team Jung Chang (of Wild Swans fame) and Jon Halliday, as recommended by most newspapers, literary mags, and the Dirk. My low attention span loves short books with shorter chapters to allow for maximum break time, so picking up this tome was a challenge. Well met.
Although filled with meticulous research and facts, Chang and Halliday have made it very easy to read by pacing it well and allowing certain overlaps in time periods to focus more on subject matter than a direct chronology - although it is chronologically arranged too.
The reason I usually find history books uninteresting is that I know the ending. Would you sit through a 3-hour movie already knowing the story and how it ends? If you liked Lord of the Rings, you've probably done it three times, but that's beside the point. Without having done any research or special reading, I already had a rough idea of the book: Mao born, leads peasant revolt, champions disastrous Long March and Cultural Revolution leading to the deaths of millions of his subjects, dies, in hindsight officially said to have been 70% right and 30% wrong (beautifully precise figures). The End.
Turns out a little different. I harboured no illusions that Mao was anything but an evil dictator, but I never imagined how evil he was - or more accurately, how selfish, greedy and hypocritical. Rising to power at roughly the same time Stalin and Hitler did, but in greatly different circumstances, he offers an interesting comparison to those two. Using Hitler as an example, he was obviously evil and insane, but it could be said that he had an 'ideal' that he was striving for - as warped as that ideal may have been. On the other hand, Mao comes across as a man with no clear vision or philosophy, just a horrible, self-centred person trying to keep himself in luxury and hitching a ride on anyone who can help him stay there - Stalin, the US, Chiang Kai-Shek, anybody.
At the moment I am only about halfway through the book, at the point where Mao has finally risen to the top of the Party and given Chiang the boot, leaving China as his own. It has been a little repetitive in the sense that every chapter describes a different way that Mao backstabbed his benefactors, terrorised his subjects or blackmailed his colleagues, but that is Chang and Halliday's obvious intent - to portray Mao as the cold, selfish killer that he apparently was. This repetition, though, rather than being tedious, just deepens my hate and disgust for such a hideous monster, and leaves me wondering what massive sin he will accomplish next. I found myself hating Mao for his machinations during the civil war, but then I remembered that after all, it was a war, and spying and double-crossing is par for the course. Chang and Halliday's rhetoric and barrage make it difficult to objectively look at Mao's life - but when you already know how evil he was, who really wants to look at him objectively any more anyway? Having said that, the authors' reliance on random, though relevant, peasants etc, gives room for accusations of exaggeration, opportunism and lack of credibility in places. This link
might be interesting.
Mao is reasonably well known in Japan, mostly thanks to his inclusion in Japanese retorts to Chinese historical criticism - eg. How can Koizumi visit Yasukuni and attempt to smooth over Japan's past atrocities? to which a common ad hominen response would be, Hey, China, who are you to talk? Until you own up to your own secrets and truths, don't push ours on us.
An interesting example I just read in the book was the claim that, in the late stages of the civil war when Mao's Communists were trying to take Changchun, a Nationalist city in Manchuria, in 1948, they, on orders of Mao and his terror advisors, laid siege to it until the city starved. Citizens would stumble emaciated to the Communist army, begging to be let out, but the army would refuse unless they had money, skills or arms to offer. And so they watched the people die in front of their eyes. The death toll ended up being more than in the infamous Japanese Rape of Nanking during WWII. It's a horrible, meaningless act to compare such atrocities, but it is not without import that while the average Japanese person can find out about both, should they wish to do so (accepting that some textbooks do brush over the Nanking slaughter), such information is not easily available to a Chinese. In the same way that it stinks for the US to criticise Iran over nuclear ambitions, the closed Chinese bureaucracy has little moral high ground to cling to as it abuses Japan over this topic.
At the very least most people know, to some extent, that Mao was certainly no hero. How absolutely empty and vile he was, though, is not so publicised - until NOW! I saw a Japanese translation of this biography in Junkudo the other day, so hopefully it will gain readership in Japan too - and one day in China, of course.
Anyway, in my usual habit of laziness and lack of editing, this is a short piece on my impressions of the book so far. Looking forward to talking to you about it in Mongolia next month, Dirk, and I urge other people to read it as, if nothing else, an account of how such a lazy, selfish man can rise to such power. As I said before, the overlap in time of Mao's rise with that of men like Hitler , Stalin and Mussolini is quite interesting in itself, and I would be keen to know if anyone knows of similarly well-researched studies of those blokes too. If Chang and Halliday can research in notoriously closed China to write such a detailed book, I'm sure there must be far more on the others. Do tell. JG
On a lighter note, I took some awesome shots at Summer Sonic
earlier this month, and some OK ones from Fuji Rock
too. Check them out.
BEST. PHOTO. EVER.
I'd like to announce a title competition for this photo, taken on my last emotional day at school. Send your entries.
TV in Japan
Ever since Takeshi's castle, Japanese TV has been something of a worldwide cult for its bizarre, seemingly irrational programming. Unfortunately, the truth is Japanese TV is actually full of baseball games, live action checkers, terrible chat shows, unfunny character, bland dramas and wacky commercials. Still, in between the dross there are those moments of treasure. If you jump over to the TV in Japan
website, you can watch these moments to you heart's content. For now, check out the drama
where the actors have to perform their roles without losing character while pots and pans fall on their heads. Gold.
Rape blossoms - victims of bad press
After Pusan, we headed north by bus to Gyeongju, the old capital of Korea. I guess it approximates to Nara in Japan - big open spaces and ancient tombs.
The intercity bus system in ROK was awesome. Lots of buses, cheap as dirt, comfortable seats. Could have used a bit more English guidance though, but that's just my inner colonial master speaking. Unless you get a special deal with trains, I recommend taking buses around the country. The only trouble is that there's no toilets on board, which can be an issue if your gut hasn't got used to Korean food yet. Add that to the fact that most public toilets don't have paper (you have to buy it or bring it) and you've got 2 squirmy tourists.
Although there is a bunch to do in Gyeongju, I reckon you can do it in one night if you're in a rush. We stayed at the cheap (30000W for 2ppl), central, comfy, friendly Sarangchae Guest House
, which was excellent.
Gyeongju was where it really became clear that Korea is only quite superficially like Japan. While Pusan was more Bangkok than Tokyo, Gyeongju was probably more Vientiane than Nara. Dusty, unpaved roads and shanty homes and stores with tattered posters. Sometimes I thought I could imagine what the North must look like.
Things were gearing up for Buddha's birthday the following Friday, so everything was colourfully decorated at the temples. This is Bulguksa in east Gyeongju.
For some reason in the centre of town there is a massive field of rape blossoms, blooming just in time for our trip, and kitted out for tourists! Check it out!
Food in Korea is ridiculously cheap, especially for a "first world" country. Eating a massive BBQ dinner with endless kimchee and various other side dishes for 8 dollars, or a traditional twenty-dish Korean meal for 6, is stupendous value. Eating awesome, massive meals cheaply can be done in NE Asia.
So why is beef so much more expensive in Japan than in Korea? Why does it cost 8 dollars for a single plate of BBQ meat in a restaurant here when that could fund an entire meal in Korea? Isn't Korea a highly developed capitalist economy too? I saw middle school kids eating $25 pizzas at Pizza Hut in Pusan while we searched for the cheapest ribs we could find. If they can afford to pay that much, why aren't they made to?
The obvious answer would be that all these places use Korean beef, eliminating import costs and tariffs. Japanese cows are so well bred (before being slaughtered) on cereals and allegedly beer that it is far cheaper to sell US or Australian beef than the local counterpart, ruling this option out over here - a big factor in the Yoshinoya-US mad cow wars.
Yet, we went by bus from Pusan to Seoul and back, passing through cities and rural areas, and I don't recall seeing a single farm. Where are the cows coming from? Imports from China? Admittedly, there would be lower costs in overland shipping than overseas to Japan, but I don't think that could account for the huge gap in prices. And anyway, surely import taxes etc are similar for both countries?
Wrong. Ironically (but quite obviously when you think about it), the fact that Korea has no cows to sell means it can import them more cheaply. With no farmers to protect with anti-free trade tariffs, importing beef is far easier. Japan, on the other hand, feels it must protect its own farmers and so makes it more expensive to import, as is the case for rice. Just another day in the life of international economics.
Questions still to be answered about Korea, and my guesses.
1. What are the little white tickets that people take free from the subway office windows?
- Old people and little kids ride free?
2. Why were there 15 riot police waiting outside the subway when we came out at Anguk?
- Trying to find work for the kids who get drafted?
3. Why is pink so popular for guys, and why are there so many couples who wear EXACTLY THE SAME CLOTHES as each other? I really found it disturbing and even offensive, like the little picture of Mickey Mouse near Dan's house that is so bad it hurts.
- No clues. Help?
10 Things I Hate About Commandments
This is a link I found over at BoingBoing, to a YouTube piss-take on Charlton Heston's 10 Commandments. It's redone as a teen movie. Thou shalt check it out
Hey! Just to tell the world the good news - Kanako managed to conceal her chequered history of war crimes, intergalactic drug smuggling and dog-beating and be accepted for a residency visa for Australia! Parties expected!
PS. If you work for DIMA, please ignore this post. Danke!
In the next of a seemingly never-ending and murkily funded series of trips, I present Korea. Kana and I went over on Golden Week, the stretch of holidays in Japan which annoyingly has two non-holidays in a row right in the middle of it. It is often "frowned upon" in Japan to take these days off and go on an extended vacation, because assumedly everyone else will be in the office working, and you might recall my issues with heading to Laos last year
. So this time I just cleared it with my teachers and the principal, got on the boat, and told the BoE about it when I got back and handed them their souvenirs. I COMPLETELY RECOMMEND this as a far better way to do things. Plus my new boss is Aya's dad, who has had us for dinner many times, and been to my place in Perth on top of that, so I think it went down OK, comparatively.
So anyway. Despite the difficulties in getting away on GW, the travel companies jack up their prices because they know everyone will be trying to take holidays at this time. Is this a typical practise in other countries, and I have only noticed it since coming over? I appreciate the whole concept of making supply meet demand, but in some cases doubling travel fares just seems a little too opportunistic and cold to me. I hate it. So, we took the slightly cheaper option of hydrofoiling it over to Korea rather than going by plane. A 3 hour ride from Hakata to central Pusan sounded OK. For those who need some geography help:
I've been lucky enough to have been to a reasonable assortment of countries over the years: for posterity and for my own recollection's sake:
Australia; Japan; New Zealand; Indonesia; Hong Kong; Singapore; Laos; USA; England; Scotland; Wales; Ireland; Russia; Czech Rep.; France; Austria; Germany; Holland...
and, apart from Chunneling to la France, it's always been by plane (or train across Europe), Australia being the massive island that it is. So a brief 3-hour boat trip across to Korea just didn't hit me as being a foreign excursion - immigration procedures were brief, we walked out into the middle of Pusan, and the city looked just like any big city in Japan. What I mean is that it took me some time to realise and adapt to the fact that I was no longer in a country where I could speak the language and understand the customs. The last time that happened was Russia, the scariest caucasian country going around. I guess that's a symptom of having adapted to life in Japan over 3 years as well.
Anyway, I think this time I'll spare you the details of Pusan - let it be known that it didn't take so long for me to spot the differences with Japan. I think my nose was probably the first to realise... On the surface, Pusan was just like Osaka or Kobe, but a quick detour even a block from the main drags soon reminds you that Korea is not the almighty urban development centre that Japan is proud of being. Kanako had predicted that.