Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Japanese Harmony

I've been thinking about this topic for quite some time now, and even though the events I'm going to describe happened already some while ago, I still like to tell about it.
Around the beginning of december (or maybe even at the end of november) the whole class had to write a letter in Japanese that we would send to the "Letter to the Editor" section of a Japanese newspaper. We were free to choose our topic, but I soon found out that there were certain limits to this freedom. The topic I choose was "Is Japanese society so harmonious as it seems?". We could just write a short letter, so I didn't deal with the topic in-depth, but the general contents was the following:
Japan is known or likes to be known as a harmonious and peaceful country. In reality, this is reflected by a low crime rate and absolutely no violence during for example sport games (when I went to a baseball match in Tokyo, there wasn't even a police force present, just some security guards, whereas in Holland soccer matches are almost always surveyed by armed police forces). However, in movies, cartoons and anime, violence can take very explicit and extreme formes. Next to that, the sex industry is flourishing in all of its facets, and organized crime, in Japan known as the yakuza, has a strong foothold in political and corporate affairs. Now that was something I really shouldn't write about, expecially not if it was to be published in a newspaper. Not that a letter with such contents would have any chance of being published, but the teacher tried everything to let me change what I wrote. She used argumets like "But Japanese people already know about it, this isn't something that's new to the reader", but of course to me that was the whole point in mentioning it. Instead, I should better write about recent incidents of schoolchildren being kidnapped, violated and murdered on the way home from school. However, if those are incidents, does it really say something about Japanese society as a whole?
Of course everybody dissaproves of these kidnapping-incidents, but surprisingly most Japanese take the sex industry, the violent entertainment industry and the powerful yakuza for granted without asking too many questions about it. Apparently, Japanese society is just as harmonious as you want to see it.
In the end, I only changed the word "yakuza" for "organized crime" and send my letter to the Asahi Shinbun. Of course it was not published, but maybe that's all the better for my own safety ; )

The view from Roppongi Hills at night, looking at the Tokyo Tower. I never get enough of Tokyo's skyline, especially at night. Even though you can't see many stars in Tokyo, the view of the city itself is not less magnificent than a dark starry night.

My parents, my sister, Eriko and me at Roppongi Hills, after we visited the Mori Museum of Modern Art (with among others an exhibition about Vivian Westwood)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

It's about time, shouldn't have left you

It's unbelievable how fast time passes when you're having fun. Since my last update I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to tell about all the things that I'm doing. Now, let me summerize quickly why I couldn't update my weblog for so long. First of all, at the beginning of december I worked on a French-English translation project together with an Irish girl (who studied in Brussels and is thus fluent in French) and a French guy. We devided 180 pages among us three, so that each of us had 60 pages to translate before Christmas. It was a job offered by a researcher of Waseda University who wanted to have this book translated that was written by a Laotian somewhere in the 1940's - 50's in which he commented on all the injustice and extravagance displayed by the French occupation. The project was very interesting and lucrative, but also very intense regarding the short-term deadline.
Directly after finishing that, I left for Osaka to meet my parents and my sister who visited Japan during the holidays. For about two weeks I guided them through Kyoto, Nara, Tokyo and Kamakura. It was lots of fun, and a good excuse to forget about any other work that I could have done. However, the result was that when the last weeks of the first semester started, I had to pick up the classes, the studying and the homework right away, which I must say wasn't very easy. On top of that, exams were coming at the end of January, accompanied by papers and ever-continuing Japanese tests. So that was another stressfull period that I was happy to leave behind me in February.
Another more joyful reason for me not updating my weblog is that I met a wonderful girl here with who I'm together now since 18 december. Her name is Eriko Ohno, she's studying pedagogy, mostly of English at Waseda University and she seduced me by showing me the magic of music and drama during the performance of 'Fame' by the circle (club) of Waseda that she's part of. So in between and during those busy periods I spend most of my spare time with her. She also accompanied me, my parents and my sister in Tokyo and the two of us went on a trip to Hong Kong and Thailand from 11 until 23 of February. A wonderful trip, of which I will write more later on.
Actually, even though I wasn't writing, I had so many experiences, discoveries and new ideas I wanted to write about, that I have quite some catching up to do. Now that I have a long period of holidays (until the beginning of April, yes, that's a very long time and no, I don't know why either), I hope to be able to finally write down some of the things I've been thinking about and tell you more about my experiences here and in Hong Kong and Thailand.