Monday, 6 December 2004

Society (again)

One thing I noticed this week is sort of a follow up to something I wrote a week or two back. Then it was about the inherent crapness of the Japanese news media in that they didn't seem to be reporting about a manga artist and the pressure he was put under by right wing groups when they [the media] should have been. Similar thing cropped up this week.

A few years ago now there was the strange case of Lucie Blackman, who was out here working as a hostess. Generally speaking hostesses are not prostitutes, they merely pour drinks for stressed/immature Japanese salarymen, be nice to them, light their cigarettes and listen to them drone on about how nobody understands them. For this the hostesses get very well paid and so it is a lucrative line of business, especially for a foreign hostess who can earn a pot of cash in three months and then disappear on holiday for the rest of the year. Lucie Blackman was doing this around 1999 or 2000 when she fell in with an unpleasant chap by the name of Joji Obara who, it is alledged, drugged, raped and then murdered her, dumping her body in a cave near his house on the Miura peninsula, south of Tokyo.

Anyway the point here is that this week Lucie's father was in Tokyo to see the first steps in the trial of this unpleasant chap who is accused of doing this srt of thing to a great deal more women than Lucie, and where did I read about this first? That's right, the good old Telegraph online, whilst the Yomiuri to whom we doff our thinking caps of a morning, has carried not a word of this. Indeed precious little of it has been seen or heard in the media of this case (though to be fair, the Mainichi newspaper did carry the story, according to their website). So, Japanese man rapes and murders his way through foreign hostesses and nary a peep from the papers, just about par the course really, but you can be assured if it was a foreign man and some Japanese women the story might just be a little bigger...

The more I write about the Yomiuri the more I get to dislike it. I think it has a thing about foreigners, in that it doesn't like them, even though it publishes one of the biggest English language dailies in the country. What gave me the hint that perhaps the parent Japanese language Yomiuri Shimbun isn't too keen on the non-Japanese in the country was an editorial from last week [there are no editorials specifically in English, they are all translations from the Japanese paper]. The title of this editorial was 'Sufferage for Foreigners Insufferable Nonsense', which just about sums up the mood of the piece. There is a body of opinion in this country that non-Japanese with permanent residency status should be allowed to vote in local elections that choose things like school Principals and local bye-laws and stems, in part from the no taxation without representation type thing that kicked off the American War of Independence. Whether or not I agree with this is not the point (I don't, by the way), but the prose of the editorial was just such utter tosh that I found I ended up supporting the idea just to annoy the Japanese editors (not that I could actually annoy them, as it were, unless I was to go to their office and throw water bombs at them, but then I'd just be pandering to a stereotype if I did, but you get the point (I hope)).

Anyway, the reason that no non-Japanese should be allowed to vote in any kind of election is the havoc that these people could wreak if given the opportunity. What, argued the editorial, would happen if countries hostile to Japan sent over spies to infiltrate the system, gain the vote and then, potentially, oust a high school principal and get him replaced with someone more to their liking!? What indeed, those cloistered in the corridors of power must be quaking in their boots...

Load of old nonsense, but then again the Japanese are unique, you see, so can't have foreigners coming over and mucking about with their democracy, it might end up with officials becomming responsible for their actions! Heaven forbid.

Another thing I wrote about recently was a quick rant about the birth rate in Japan and how the govt worry about it but do nothing to encourage couples to have children, indeed going out of their way to make it difficult and expensive. Anyway there was me getting it wrong again as the govt has been doing a lot about this problem. Yup, they have had a committee meeting and, in a bout of no doubt frenzied activity, done a bit of research. This has led to the production of a report, a new annual white papaer no less, leading to an article in Yomuri this morning (I might knock it, but it does have some news in it). In another excellent headline, the paper, in no way trying to cause panic, trumpeted 'Japan heading for extinction' and then outlined the problem. Essentially lots of babies used to be born, but now they aren't and something needs to be done about it (honestly, I think they just read this blog and nick my ideas!).

In an enlightened mood, the white paper has called for a drastic overhaul of the welfare system which will mean shifting the emphasis from the older generation and pensioners to the younger generation and babies. This will prove tricky, considering that old farts have a lot more clout than unborn babies, but you never know. Interesting statistics (which never lie, as well you know) quoted include that pension and nursing care payments came to 70% of all social security expenditure in 2002, whilst day care and child allowances came to 3.8%. Also, average payments to persons aged 65 or over amount to almost 2.5million yen each per year, compared to 170,000yen to each child! No wonder everyone wants to be old in this country, it is financially worth it, much more than making a new generation to take over the burden.

Anyway you can read the whole article here, though don't go hoping that the govt has any answers to this issue, that is not what a white paper is all about. As the article says "But despite its portrayal of the crisis, the paper does not any specific measures to resolve the problem."

That'll be up to everyone else then...

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