Monday, August 10, 2015

Two-dimensional marriage (in Japan): It's not what you think

I justify the nights in front of the television because it's simply too damn hot to be outside (true), and I need to stay current on Japanese pop culture (also true).  No, I don't have much to say about Japanese television that falls into the complimentary category.  I make no apologies.  I am, however, relatively up to date on what passes for hip and funny in Japan.  As I said, it's hot in Tokyo.  I'm finding myself in front of television often and for long periods of time.  All for current events and odd comedy.

Which is where I saw it.  A Japanese man dresses in a high school girl's uniform on Sundays and walks the street of Harajuku.  Bald except for his long, flowing white hair complimented by a similar long and flowing white beard (tied with ribbons, no less) he's hard to miss.  Or so the reporter says.

He's quite a sight.  What makes him newsworthy is the legend (of the urban type) people who have their photo taken with this man dressed as a teenage girl receive good luck.  This middle-aged man in cosplay drag is a lucky charm?  Japanese youth swear by him.

Hence his appearance on Japanese television.  This is where it gets interesting because, let's face it, the story up to this point isn't sufficiently ridiculous.  He's asked a series of questions.

"Are you a cross-dresser?"
"Are you doing this to express something in yourself?"
"Would you consider yourself shy?"

Yes, yes, and yes.

Except for the last one.  He says he used to be shy but through this outfit can release his true self.  It is at this point he releases the zinger.  Asked about his wedding ring he shares the fact he married at 27 and divorced at 28.  This was his shy phase.  Is he married?  He smiles.  Yes.  He's in a two-dimensional marriage.

The comedians surrounding him on this particular show are confused.  No one comes out and asks, so he volunteers.  This ring is to signify his marriage to an anime character.  A famous cartoon girl whom I don't recognize but the comedians seem to know.  There's a mixture of gasps and laughter and confusion as to how one goes about marrying an anime character but this is the point I stop listening.  There are limits to my desire to follow trivia and this man crossed a line.

It must be an age thing.  I don't get this marriage-to-a-cartoon-character phenomenon.  How does this work?  Aside from the obvious, of course.  What are the rules and who defines them?  Your partner lives in your laptop and smart phone.  Seriously.  How does this work?

Should we be concerned?  Did people in the 1800s "marry" characters in literature?  Perhaps this isn't new and I'm clueless on romantic fiction?   

This is what I get (evidently) when I hole up indoors and refuse to venture out into the heat.  Now I don't know what to do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Thoughts on the Very Unlikely Candidate

This is what happens when I get sick.  I binge-watch all the shows I've ignored to date, I type strange and long-winded e-mails saying a whole lot of nothing to friends all over the world, and I click on random but possibly interesting articles I see posted online.  This blog post is about the random click that introduced me (virtually) to a most unlikely candidate running for office:  Mr. Ueno Ryutaro of Chiba.

He calls himself society's trash.  He calls himself a piece of shit.  He is open:  how he dropped out of school and society at 15, how he's a shut-in, how it's not anyone's fault but his, and that he's 25 years old.  He has no qualifications.  He's never had a job.  He's never been in love.  But, he wants to be a city council member. 


I read his manifesto.  He's an articulate young man.  He makes good points.  He says Japan needs to become a country where people from all walks of life are welcome.  He talks about the rights of those who are asexual and now I'm really impressed.  (LGBTQ rights are one thing.  To expand the list to asexual people is a bit of a coup, I think.  All this from a 25-year old!)

Part of the problem, why this strikes such a nerve right now is that part of the binge-watching of shows has included the third season of House of Cards.  Which, by the way, if a very depressing show to watch when you can't breathe through your nose.  And, Mrs. Clinton is running for president.  My friends will be for or against her disagreeing politically but agreeing vehemently they're right and all others are wrong.  I don't think I'm particularly fond of elections.  They seem to bring out the worst in people.

But, this Mr. Ueno, the 25-year old self-proclaimed shut-in, trash, piece of shit wants to be on city council.  What are we to think?  What makes him qualified (he's not, he says), and if he's not qualified why should anyone vote for him?  Is it possible that watching the world go by for 10 years, only from the point of view of television, library books, and the internet gives him unique insight into Japan the rest of us miss?  Maybe, having time on your hands is really the best way to form ideas--in his case a manifesto--clear in thought and well defined.  Do we need more idealists in office instead of the same old system that churns out political dynasties that preach the same message year in, year out?

Mr. Ueno says in his manifesto that Japan should be a country people with one-letter names and people with names in katakana can live together happily.  One letter names refer to people who are Chinese and Korean, and katakana names mean the rest of us foreigners.  Thank you, Mr. Ueno.  These are kind words.  And, I do agree.  I would like to live together with my friends (and others) in Japan without discrimination or indifference.

Can a shut-in be a politician?  I'm not addressing the question whether he will need to actually leave his home to go to city council meetings (will he attend virtually?  will this be allowed?).  My focus is on whether cut-throat politics like those of Frank Underwood are really the only way to get things done in this world, or whether perhaps an idealistic man who hasn't left his home in 10 years should be given a chance to speak on behalf of those he feels have less of a voice.  I don't get to vote in Japan so it's all moot in the end.  That said, I'm intrigued.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

On Being Busy and the Art of Saying "No" in Japan and a Few Thoughts on "Emoji"

March is always a crazy month.  The end of the academic year for schools is also the end of the fiscal year for government organizations and even some companies.  We tie up loose ends.  Students graduate.  New hires arrive in April needing to be trained.  Government and corporate departments shift personnel leaving many with new bosses, subordinates, and colleagues in April.  Before April there is March.  Wrap everything up and move on.

Which is why we're all busy.  Which is why it takes days to respond to a simple e-mail or a phone call.  Many of us in Japan go into complete triage mode.  The loud ones, demanding an answer get it.  Everyone else?  Pick a number, sit, and wait.

I abhor the "I've been busy" line as an excuse.  People say it's true and it might be, but I find it sloppy.  I see "busy" as an issue of priorities.  Let's face it:  You DON'T rank.  When e-mails and phone calls are blown off, it means your request is less important than that of another. 

Which is why I'm struggling this month.  I'm truly busy.  I get up early and stay up late.  I go to meetings and then come back to pound my laptop keys.  Not everyone's e-mail gets a reply that same day.  I'm sorry.  But, clearly not sorry enough to get up earlier or stay up later.  It's about priorities.  I triage.  I'll reply tomorrow.  I use the same line others use on me.  I hate March.

I contemplate this now because it's March and I find it almost comical and ridiculous how much I'm working, but more so because I've taken another assignment.  As of next month I will continue my work with Rikuzentakata City Hall for one more year.  I vowed not to.  I swore I needed to focus on me.  I changed my mind.  I can and will do this for one more year.  It's the right thing to do.

But, I reserve the right to say "NO".  I've not done this until now.  You needed something?  I obliged.  You wanted something done?  I did it.  Those days are gone.  Part of recovery from any crisis--medical, personal, environmental, natural--requires figuring it out on your own.  Long-term dependency is not the answer.

City hall will not be accustomed to this new me.  So then, the inquiring minds ask, how does one go about saying "no" in Japan?  Do people just say it?  Refuse?  Shake their heads? 


The commonly understood method of turning someone down in Japan is to suck air through your teeth, cock your head, and say something, "Yeah, that's difficult."  That's a cue.  That's an incredibly good indication you won't get what you want.  I'm fully prepared to adopt this into my rĂ©pertoire of phrases.  Bring it on.  Sorry people.  To quote the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want."  I'm hoping my "Hmmm, difficult" utterings will help people I work with to realize this is how "you get what you need."

Side note:  I woke up to a series of Facebook texts this morning from an ex-boyfriend from high school.

"Are you coming to our high school reunion?  If not, why?"

It takes a unique group of students from a high school to be the only class in the past 30-plus years to have NOT held a class reunion.  It takes an even more unique group of students to be this way when clearly, very clearly, our class was the coolest the school had and has ever seen.

We are busy.  That's the truth.  The rag-tag gang of boarding school friends who live in Tokyo--all men but me--cannot find the time to gather for a drink or a meal because one of us (usually more than one) is somewhere else.  As in South Korea, or Singapore, or San Francisco.  On this, I renege my point from earlier.  We're not blowing each other off.  We simply are too busy and we prefer to meet as a group.  That means we're willing to wait until all can gather.

With the pressure from the one pushing us all to attend our class reunion, e-mails, LINE messages, and phone calls flew around the world throughout our day.  None of the men in my gang are subtle.  We all revert to our 17-year old selves when we talk.  All rules I apply to other men in personal and professional settings fly out the window with these guys.  They're jerks and I absolutely love them.

Our LINE messages today were peppered with emoji, art posing as punctuation marks, words, and used primarily to make a point.  I am not someone who finishes my sentence with a smiley face.  With these guys, I search through the emoji options available on my iPhone to see how to put them down, build myself up, show how grossed out I am by their teenage antics.  We are silly adults, resorting to using emoji for unicorns, bottles of wine, and hot tubs.  (But, we're still the coolest class ever.)

Perhaps a rambling post without any real point.  Then again.  Then again.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Another First and the Meaning of Anniversaries

Awhile back I commented on a blog post by a foreign woman in Japan.  She was openly criticizing the availability of child pornography online here in Japan.  After I posted my thoughts I proceeded to get my teeth kick in (verbally) by two foreign men who had lived in Japan for over forty years.  The prevailing sentiment, according to these two men, seemed to be "you've not lived in Japan for forty years so our words overrule yours."  I should mention here I knew neither of these men.  When one of them criticized my parenting skills because I didn't agree with him I blocked him from the list of those who could comment.  Such is life.

I bring this up to say I've not lived in Japan for forty years (twenty-three or so) so perhaps this small number in comparison is why I've not ever heard of this anniversary.  Then again, perhaps it's a sign of the times--Japan's right wing flexing its muscles more and more--a revelation in the making.

The online discussion groups I follow and certainly my Facebook page has been peppered with the announcement of the fact today marks the anniversary of when Japan entered the war.  As in World War II.

The word used is anniversary.

I argue this:  We may not want to use the word "anniversary" to mark an occasion that is anything but happy.  Memorable, yes.  Happy, no.  The posts I'm reading about the starting-of-the-war anniversary have a hawkish slant:  Japanese war criminals were wrongly executed, the US tricked Japan into war, etc.  I am not here to preach politics.  I am here to challenge us in redefining how we use the word "anniversary" and to find a more suitable word to mark the beginning of what was surely hell for millions.

Several years back I was asked to write an article for a newspaper in Japan about the memorial of the tsunami from March 2011.  I deliberately used the word "memorial" and the newspaper editor came back with the word "anniversary".  I objected:  Anniversaries are happy occasions, and the disaster was anything but.  We argued over word choice.  He won.  Anniversaries are not, he says, always a positive event.  It marks time.

True.  But, here perception trumps a dictionary definition.  Happy Anniversary!  Another successful year accomplished in marriage or work.  Anniversaries are celebrated.  Memorials are reflective.  Why aren't we talking about the passage of time as an exercise in reflection, especially when it marks the beginning of a war or a devastating natural disaster?  If we use the word "anniversary" to denote the day a war began, are we or are we not offering the suggestion, the hint there's a celebratory tone to the day?

I offer this up as food for thought. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

A New Meaning to the Statue of Liberty

I have no idea who came up with this translation.  Someone should look into it and get back to me.

The Statue of Liberty located in the United States is known in Japan as The Goddess of Freedom.  I think this is brilliant.

One of my adopted mothers in Japan (of whom I have many) told me the other day she and a group of her friends--all women of retirement age--get together twice a month when their pension checks come in.  They sit over tea and cake and decide how to spend their checks.  They call themselves The Goddesses of Freedom, aka the Statue of Liberty.  I think this is brilliant, too.

Some days a story is so simple and elegant it requires no embellishment. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Small Faces, Russians, Redefining Fun, Kyushu Folk, and the Truth About Kimonos

The verse in the Bible, "one cannot serve two masters" does not apply in this context.  Here's why.  I juggle two bosses just fine.  I have a boss-boss who allows me legal status here in Japan by serving as my work sponsor, giving enough money to pay my rent and bills.  I also have my mayor-boss whom I report to in Rikuzentakata.  I'm a libra.  Balance is my middle name.  This arrangement works for all.

I'm not dumb.  When my boss-boss tells me to fly down to Kyushu to ride around on motorcycles for several days of business meetings (meetings on motorcycles, truly the best way to conduct business) I do not say "no".  That he rides with some of the best American bikers is a plus if I'm prepared to go fast and hang on for dear life.  I don't actually drive those beasts.  I ride on the back.

I've known my boss-boss for over three years.  I like him.  I trust him.  I appreciate him.  This week it all clicked.  Why it took me so long to put my realization into words is beyond me, but let's just focus on the fact the dots have connected.

My boss-boss works hard and plays hard.  As in, works really hard and plays really hard.  This is my new mantra.  It's taken me over three years of volunteering in Tohoku to realize I work hard.  I work-my-ass-off hard. But, and here it is, folks.  I don't play.  In fact, I almost don't play at all.  This must stop.

Why?  It all became obvious when I spent two whole days flying through the hills taking turns at unheard of speeds, motorcycles leaning at precarious angles to the road which defy the laws of nature but obviously not physics.  Jerry is an excellent rider.  I trusted him completely.  His wife, Lynn, in no uncertain terms told me to "hang on" and trusted me to ride with him.  Hugging her husband around the waist, my legs clamping down on his thighs, my chest against his back--motorcycle riding is an intimate act.  She trusted me, I trusted him.  I find a unique beauty in this arrangement.

We flew through mountains and winding narrow streets lined with golden green rice paddies.   We climbed and descended.  The air, speed, trees, and the intimacy of trust combined with a new kind of touch left me high.  I haven't felt this alive since I arrived in Japan to volunteer in March 2011.  The good news is I've seen the light.  The bad news is it's taken way too long.  I haven't been this happy in years and all it took was playing hard.  My body was tingling from two days of riding and yet I couldn't have been more calm.

I decided this is why the comments about my weight from my friends in Kyushu did not immediately catapult me into battle, my usual modes of passive-aggressive and sometimes outright aggressive and snappy comebacks strangely silent.  I was in a good mood.  It wasn't the just fresh, mountain air that relaxed me.  (Iwate has mountains, too.) I was exhilarated.  I was in a good zone.

I walked into the hot springs resort tucked away in the hills and am met by the local 82-year old maestro who always has something to say.  Violently opinionated, small bits of spittle fly out of his mouth whenever he lectures me on why Japan is doomed.  Today he's all smiles.

"I've arranged for you to wear a kimono," he says.
What?  I just got here.
"A kimono?"
And, there it is.  After all these years in Japan, I've never actually worn a kimono.
Is that right?  Is that possible?  Yes.
"Mrs. T is upstairs waiting for you.  Room 210."
I'm not being given a choice.  Let's be clear.

Mrs. T is 93-years old and has more spunk in her left thumb than I do in my entire body.  I want to be just like her at that age.  To call her small is like saying I have several pairs of shoes.  She's a full head shorter than me, and her body weight is easily half of mine.  I enter room 210 and say hello.  She shows me a kimono in a rich and deep purple.  "This is for you," she says.  I'm confused.  This is for me to wear or she's giving it to me?
"Thank you," I say hoping I'm suitably vague and appropriately appreciative.
"Take your clothes off," she instructs.
I look up at the 82-year old maestro.  I have to change.  You have to leave.  This isn't clear?
He looks back.
"You need to leave," I say, the words sharp but my tone playful.
"Oh, you mean I can't stay?"
I laugh.
"No, you can't stay."
"Fine, I'll go," he says.

Mrs. T tugs on white silk undergarments resembling a slip and the upper half of a bathrobe. 
"It doesn't fit," she says, "but it will have to do."  And then, "Hmmm.  You're fat," and there's another tug.  I laugh.
"Funny you're so fat here," she says, pointing at my chest.  "Your face is so small."

I feel like a sausage.  I'm wrapped, stuffed, and bound, tied in with multiple strands of silk.  I can't breathe.  How am I supposed to eat?  Sit down?  Walk?

And there it is.  I'm not.  Is it possible Japanese women have remained thin and ended up walking five steps behind their men for centuries because they couldn't eat bound in these wrappings, and because there's no way to take big steps in a kimono?  Have I just solved a cultural mystery?  I want to focus on this new possible anthropological discovery but I really can't breathe.  Mrs. T is circling around me, tying and pulling.  Soon she's done.
"There," she says.  "Go look at yourself in the mirror.  You look like an eggplant with a small face."
Wait.  What?  That's a compliment.  Right?

Small faces are a big deal here in Japan.  When a face is small other body parts that might not be small are forgiven.  Massages and facial contraptions are available in Japan to shrink faces.  I've not tried either (they sound painful) and evidently, my face is small so I don't need it.  Or so I'm told.  That I evidently have a small face is less the point.  It's when my face was compared to Mr. K's that the subject took a new turn.

Mr. K owns a local business in this small village in Kyushu.  He is my height and weighs twice as much.  His face is a moon, a perfectly sized large ball.  The paint color eggshell might describe its hue.  He is not a small man, neither in his face nor in his girth.  During my stay there Mr. K and I were told his face is twice the size of mine.  We both nod, Mr. K proud of his size, and me grateful the focus is now on his weight and not mine.

Mr. K is 1/32 Russian.  As is Mr. T, another big guy here.  They're both from the small village I stayed in during my let's-do-business-on-motorcycles trip.  Both Mr. K and Mr. T do not hide this fact, this Russian blood.

I find this fascinating.  In Tohoku the lightness of the eyes and vaguely foreign features of some of my friends is collectively not discussed.  Any hint of foreign blood is denied vehemently.  Why do these men in Kyushu embrace their Russian heritage when those in Tohoku won't?  I ask this out loud.

A discussion ensues.

"Here in Kyushu we're not particularly introspective.  We speak our minds," I'm told.  "In Tohoku I bet they don't tell you what they're thinking, do they?"

Do they?  Do my friends in Tohoku reveal their inner most thoughts?  I contemplate this and find myself stuck.  Certainly some do.  But, collectively? 

The one sharing this Kyushu folk mentality continues.
"If there was a disaster here like the one that hit Tohoku we'd be complaining about it.  We'd talk about how unfair it was, how hard life is.  We wouldn't hold it in."
I look up and am about to speak, but he's still talking.
"I'll bet Tohoku folk cleaned up their own homes, didn't they?  They didn't ask for help.  Neighbor didn't help neighbor.  Am I right?"

Holy shit.  He is.  I open my mouth.  He holds up his hand.  I stop.
"We'd get our neighbors together and help one house after another.  You clean my house, I'll clean yours.  We wouldn't suffer in silence."

Suffering in silence.  How often have I said those exact words to describe the Tohoku mentality?  This sentence could go on a poster.  Tohoku:  Proud to Suffer in Silence.

Two completely distinct cultures lie within the regions of Kyushu and Tohoku, and I find that fascinating.  I knew this, of course, that there are different cultures within Japan, but that was on an intellectual level.  "There are multiple distinct subcultures within Japan," I hear myself say sounding professorial and grand.  Here are specific and tangible differences I can point to:  what to do with the foreign blood running through family trees, and regional definitions on what's considered acceptable.  Then there's the whole small face issue, but that seems to be a thing throughout Japan.

What I really learned over the past five days is that I need to play a lot more and a lot harder than I have.  You may hear from me less as I redefine fun and make it stick.  Let the excitement continue.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Compliments, Sumo, My Latest Crush, and Xenophobia

It's been awhile.  Hi.

I have several stories to share with you.

I returned to Japan on Thursday after five weeks in the US.  During this time I missed twelve of fifteen days of sumo, the Japanese art of wrestling.  Calling me a sumo fan is like saying I have a mild fondness for chocolate.  My teenage heart-throbs were sumo wrestlers.  I've always liked big and tall men (my husband is one; a big and tall man, not a sumo wrestler).  Somewhere in my mind I knew or guessed this was around the time for the September bout of sumo to take place, but it took me awhile to look up the latest stats online while I was in the States.  When I did I only checked the status of my then crush, Kisenosato.  He was doing okay.  So so.  Nowhere on the sumo web site was there any indication of the drama taking place about the latest star.  Only upon returning to my apartment and fighting jet lag, forcing myself to stay awake and watch sumo did I realize there was a massive story unfolding.

And, massive is indeed the right word.  The man at the center of the story is a 21-year old Mongolian who was on a winning streak like no one's business.  Ichinojo is shy when interviewed, his voice much higher than what what one expects would come out of this 192cm, 200kg body.  His first time competing in the professional ranks, this giant was blowing through the list of his sempai (older and more experienced wrestlers).  The new unstoppable force was a sensation not seen in the industry for decades.  Commentators and announcers could not get enough of this man who had grown up on the plains of Mongolia.

Let's be clear, however.  Sumo is a good representation of Japan, a country and a world where compliments are not thrown around freely.  One of the frequent commentators, a stable master and the uncle of a friend who runs a restaurant in my neighborhood will not mince words as he critiques the wrestlers.  Let's not say anything nice.  No.  The wrestlers always need more training, miss cues, lose because of stupid mistakes.  This stable master is old school.  He will never compliment.  He's mean.

In my first job out of university I worked for two Japanese corporate vice presidents.  One day, after getting a rather brutal verbal beating from one, the other pulled me aside and said, "We will never compliment you.  Unless you screw up, we aren't going to give you feedback."  Considering his comments followed the highest form of criticism I had received to date I figured I needed to take this seriously.  Don't screw up.  Otherwise you're fine but we'll never tell you so.

I've become accustomed to the lack of compliments.  I get it.  It's fine.  It's not, but this is Japan. 

During my Sunday morning brunch today I discuss my latest crush, the man dubbed The Mongolian Monster (which I find a cruel and unkind description).  My two friends agree this is a hopeless middle age crush, Ichinojo being younger than my son and all.  Asked what my husband thinks of this crush I tell them he's used to it and that he rolls his eyes at the latest in a long line of sumo wrestlers I drone on and on about.  They agree he's pretty special, my husband.  I agree.  So.  There you have it.  I have a new heart-throb, not a teenage crush but a full-blown middle age crush over a 21-year old.  Let us all be clear I have just announced to the world I'm in love.  Again.  Life is good.

On Day 15 of the bout, today, the grand champion is to be crowned.  One of the yokozuna, the highest rank attainable went up against my boy crush Ichinojo yesterday, both coming in at 12 wins one loss.  If Ichinojo won it would have been the first time in 100 years the newest kid on the block had a chance of winning the tournament.  He would need to win again tonight, but surely.  Surely he would.  If the yokozuna won, he would compete against another yokozuna today during the finals.  Ichinojo lost last night against Hakuho.  The yokozuna confessed the win didn't come easily.  The monster was a tough fight.  A good opponent.

Allow me to interject here a key fact:  all three yokozunas are Mongolian.  In other words, they're all foreign.  There is no Japanese yokozuna at the moment.

Two Mongolian yokozunas, Kakuryu and Hakuho went head-to-head today.  If Hakuho won, this would be his 31st championship win, coming in second overall.  As in, over all of sumo history.  The only other yokozuna who has more championship wins came in at 32 wins.  His name was Taiho.  More on him in a minute.

If Kakuryu won, Hakuho and Ichinojo (the newbie giant) would go head-to-head.  If Ichinojo won, this day would go down in history, the first time in 100 years a guy fresh off the ranks of mediocrity beat a yokozuna for the coveted status of grand champion.  Only good things could happen today, regardless of who won.  It was a good day for sumo.

Except there's a catch.  Rough math shows about a third of the wrestlers competing these days are foreign.  There's open and hidden hostility regarding this fact.  Sumo is steeped in deep tradition.  It's a spiritual Japanese art and sport.  Foreigners could and should never "get it", our collective foreignness implying no one could or would ever fully understand or appreciate its intricacies.  What to do then with the foreigners who have risen through the ranks?  How could Japan ever accept a foreigner into the highest rank of yokozuna?  The simple answer would seem to be "just say no" but because very little is simple in Japan this does not suffice.

Enter Taiho.  Forty years ago he was a true warrior, a wrestler of incredible skill and technique, he personified all that was great about sumo.  Until it became known he was half Russian.  He certainly didn't look it.  His features didn't indicate any mixing of blood.  He was the first (as I understand) not-truly-Japanese wrestler to make it to yokozuna, and then proceeded to win 32 grand championships.  Hakuho, one of the current Mongolian yokozuna is now at 31 championship wins.  Where are the Japanese wrestlers?  What's wrong with them that they can't beat out these foreigners?  Ask my friend's uncle, the mean commentator.  "Not enough practice," and "Not enough spirit."  Shame.

The sometimes covert and other times overt anti-foreign sentiment against these wrestlers is not new.  Nor is the tendency to find fault with foreigners en masse.  Xenophobia in Japan is alive and well and it pops up in places that catch us off guard.

Prime Minister Abe just reshuffled his cabinet, appointing five women to the posts of minister.  This was big news several weeks back.  Women in power, minister being the ultimate, is good news and I want to believe change is in the air.  Gone are the days women are quiet and demure.  Yes?

Then came the news four of the five women ministers have political views not favorable towards foreigners.  How do we know this?  Get photographed with a known (Japanese) Nazi leader and have that photo show up in the press.  Associate yourself with a group that is openly anti-Korean (North and South). Or both. 

Xenophobia in Japan is old news.  When in doubt, blame the foreigners.  I don't say this lightly, but there are simply too many instances throughout history when foreigners have become convenient targets of blame.

I wish my new crush success and strength.  He will need thick skin literally and figuratively to survive the onslaught of beatings he will take.  I wonder how his mother feels, knowing her giant of a son entered a world of harsh training, media and fan scrutiny, all in a country where foreigners are not always treated well.  Perhaps she's a giant in her own right, sending her son out into a world of glory and pain.  Be well, Ichinojo.