Sunday, 25 January 2004

A quiet week

Not a lot has been happening this week. As reported below, Tochiazuma didn't get the 13 wins he needed, in the end I think he only got 11, so no promotion for him. Asashoryu did the job, however, and won all 15 of his bouts and gained a zensho yusho or perfect record, something that doesn't happen very often and shows the paucity of the opposition around at the moment. Japanese culture hasn't collapsed, but it is getting creaky.

This week's political scandal is actually this week's two political scandals. The first is with a chap named Koga who won a seat in the lower house during the recent elections. On his personal website he wrote that he had attended some university in California, UCLA I think. But someone spotted this and checked up and found out that he didn't. Koga then changed his story and said, 'oh sorry, I meant to say California State uni'. Until Cal State turned around this week and said 'oh no you didn't' in best pantomime traditions. So he's over there now trying to forge attendance records or something. He's just a bit of a prat really, but well done to the Japanese journo's who are finally earning their bread.

The second political scandal has been rumbling for a while now, well about 50 years, but I saw a newspaper report today so thought I'd share it. Apparently in 1948 the govt, in an attempt to make it look like there were more doctors than there really were, made a rule that doctors could register as working at more than one hospital. This helped the govt figures and also helped the hospitals, especially university teaching ones, as there were severe financial penalties if a hospital didn't have, say, 70% of the doctors it needed, so the university hospitals could claim that all their graduating doctors were registered with them as well as going off to work at a private hospital as well. And of course, the doctors would be paid by both institutions even though they only work at one. Anyway this carried on for years and, though illegal, was the beneficiary of an official blind eye - especially as the govt still has problems finding enough doctors for out of the way places in Tohoku and Hokkaido. It all came out last year when a doctor in Hokkaido was found to have defrauded the govt by 1.32 billion yen (that's about 7 million quid) and suddenly everyone was up in arms. Of course the doctor in question said 'who me? but everyone does!' and then the whole story came out and a lot of people were a little unhappy by it all - especially the govt, but then again, they have said they have no plans to change the law, which seems odd but obviously there are other motives afoot. Anyway, well done again to the journo's, who seem to be having a good run at the moment.

By the by, this reportage of political scandals shouldn't be taken as criticism of the Japanese - I actually think it is quite healthy as people, journo's, ordinary people, are starting to ask questions that those in power haven't been asked before, which has got to be good. I suppose it is a symptom of the state of society and the economy that for the first time the average chap in the street isn't accepting that 'these things go on' and want to change things. Hopefully soon they will get round to Japanese landlords and the 'gift' money that everyone has to pay but no one knows why. (Japanese are big on 'gift' money: apartment contract up for renewal? Give the landlord an extra month's rent to say thank you for letting you live there; kid in hospital? Make sure you slip the already well paid doctor an extra 100,000 to 'make sure' your kid gets better; want your kid to get into Waseda kindergarten? (I love this one) Make sure you give a voluntary 'donation' of 3.5 million yen over and above the extortionate fees to get into the race for next year's enrolment etc etc etc In any other country it would be called bribery, but that only happens in uncivilised parts of Asia.) Anyway it's not meant to be Japan bashing, though I admit that it might come across that way.

Two good pieces of personal news this week was that firstly the Indian restaurant where sometimes I eat my lunch have signed up to the live internet cricket coverage of the VB series, so on Thursday night Ian, my Aussie colleague, went to the Indian and watched the game. And what a craker it was, all the staff watching, food and beers on hand, and best of all, even though Australia won, they apparentlj waved him away without paying a penny. Marvellous, so we are off there to watch the finals in a week or two. The other piece of good news was that I discovered that Maruetsu supermarket near the office stocks Cellier des Dauphins. A drinkable CDR at 900 yen a bottle, can't be bad. Shame I have to carry them all the way home, but life isn't perfect all the time.

Lastly I started writing assignment #2 today, did 2000 words of literature analysis on motivation and performance management. No. It isn't motivating me at all and I will probably have to rewrite all of it, but it was a start. But now I shall stop.

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