Monday, 29 November 2004

In the news this week...

The word, of course, has been parricide. For those not up to speed, this is "the killing of a near relative esp. of a parent" according to my concise OED and has been in the news as there have been a couple of fairly gruesome examples. One chap in Mito was arrested on Wednesday after apparently killing his folks, whilst a 28 yr old chap was arrested on suspicion of mudering his parents and sister, though her 11month old baby daughter was spared as apparently she didn't pose much of a threat to him.

Both of these chaps seemed to think that they were having undue pressure put upon them by their fathers, and so decided to take matters into their own hands before, they thought, their fathers' did away with them. The 28 yr old chap decided his mother and sister had to go as well in case they, quite rightly you would guess, shopped him to the police. The undue pressure the two had been put under was along the lines of 'get a job' or 'get some qualifications', that sort of thing. But the thing is the second chap, the 28 yr old, didn't need to really, he was one of the growing phenomenon of Japanese kids who withdraw from life and shut themselves up in their rooms. There is a Japanese word for these people, but I'll be buggered if I can remember what it is.

Most Sundays the guru and I watch a program which is a bit like the DIY-stylee changing rooms things on brit TV excpet it s done by professionals and doen't include a presenter called Charlie. Essentially a couple/family who have been living in a shitty old house for 40 years decide to raid the piggy bank and splash out up to 50,000 quid for someone to redo their house. The usual practice here is for the architect to rip out all the old dark wood and replace it with light pine, make the windows a bit bigger, put some skylights in the roof and reshape the living areas so people can actually live in them and hey presto, you have a house that it is eminently livable in. But, and here's the point, one of the really striking things about the program is not that the family have put up with such crappy living condidtions for so long, but that the parents haven't kicked their 20-30 yr old offspring out of the house already.

Most of the programs have the kids, now adults, living at home with their parents. Not surprised this leads to murderous killing spress. In fact I'm surprised it doesn't happen more, but it seems to be the standard way to do things around here (and far be it for me to criticise a whole culture...oh, all right then). When I've talked to some of the women who work in the office, they think it perfectly normal and shudder when I suggest they make their kids move out, but then they complain that their kids eat all their food, are messy, come home late, are disrespectful and all of the other things that kids do to annoy them. None of these ladies in the office have added 'are murderous', but you never know. I can remember big p saying, in jest but I got the point, that I and golf-playing brother were to be kicked out of the house at 16, or until we finished full time education. The most common defence by the ladies in the office is that firstly apartments are too expensive (which is rubbish), and that secondly 'who will look after my [27 yr old, lazy] baby?' Well, perhaps baby could look after himself and at the same time (rapidly) learn the fundamentals of cooking and bill paying - I was going to suggest 'cleaning' there as well, but then I realise I should try and keep this grounded in reality.

But no, doesn't seem to happen here. Children, especially sons, are doted upon to such an extent in Japan that they never need to learn these skills. Boys are waited upon hand and foot by their monthers until they get married, then they are waited upon hand and foot by their wives. If they don't get married, it would seem, they carry on living at home, which obviously isn't healthy as it can lead to the cases above.

The papers

Chap came to the door this evening, a Japanese newspaper salesman. Newspapers are big business here in Japan. Whilst in Britain a paper round is done by spotty 13 yr old kids before school, here it is a proper job and the delivery guys also double up by delivering goods during the days. So papers are arranged not by local newsagents shops, but by agents of the papers, so rivalry becomes fierce as these really are peoples livelihoods at stake, hence you get salesmen coming around to your door at seven o'clock on a Monday evening trying to sell you newspapers.

Now the guru was out at the time, doing something that pregnant women do and I had only just got home. I read the english language daily yomiuri everyday, have it delivered from the yomiuri agents. This chap was also from the yomiuri, but the Japanese version and when I opened the door he looked a little crestfallen but launched into his spiel anyway. At first I thought he was going on about my paper so I nodded along to humour him. Them he started going on about getting three months for free, no three and a half grand fee to pay.

"But I only pay two and half for my paper?"

"No with this deal you won't have to pay anything for three months"

"For a paper that I already read?"

"No!" much smacking of forehead "for the yomiuri shimbun!"

"The Japanese langugage one?"

"Yes!" his forehead taking another beating

"Do I look like the sort of person who wants to read a Japanese newspaper? Especially when I already get your english one?"

"You can get it free for three months and I'll throw in a couple of beer vouchers"

"I can't read Japanese, why would I want a Japanese newspaper?"

"You speak it very well! Like a native! Three months for free!".

Etc etc etc. Naturally my Japanese was about as far from 'like a native' as is possible, but the bloke just did not stop. He looked really shocked as I repeated, getting a little exasperated, that I already read one version of his paper and didn't really want another one. Indeed as I closed the door the look on his face suggested that I had stolen his wife, crashed his car and set fire to his house in the space of one afternoon.

Could have done with the beer vouchers though.

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