Saturday, 19 May 2007

Preserving the great traditions of S.E Asian nations

Laos the great whaling nation or Japan at it again? You decide...

Wednesday, 16 May 2007


Lots of odd stuff going off in Japan right now. None of it, I should point out now, concerns Silent Shinzo, but that is to be expected. In fact he's a bit like Silent Bob in those Jay and Silent Bob Do Mescaline type films, one of which I watched once (I think I might have been drunk at the time, that is only reason I can think of that I actually sat through it).

I digress. No, read in the paper this morning that a 17 year old boy, a high school student as you would expect, from a central bit of Japan walked into a police station yesterday morning with his mother's head in a platic bag, as you would probably not expect. Apparently this boy had killed his mother and hacked off her head the previous night because "he really wanted to kill someone" and I suppose his mother was the closest person to hand, as it were. I know Japan is full of weird, but how weird is that? What strike me are parallels with the chap who did all the killing at Virginia Tech in America a month or two ago. Both boys, both obviously very, that's about it on the parallels, but the main difference which I can see, but a lot of Americans can't, is that fact that American college chap got his hands on lots of guns and ammunition and managed to take a lot of his classmates with him, whilst Japanese boy, with only a knife, decided he didn't need his mother anymore and then turned himself in. At least he kept it in the family (I realise that is not a particularly nice thing to say, and certainly isn't too good for his mum, but it did keep the death toll down).

Other weird thing is the new hatch down in Kumamoto. This is a baby hatch, the first in Japan, where parents with new offspring who suddenly decide they don't want said offspring can leave the little one in a hatch in a hospital and the nursing staff will take the baby in and look after it etc. Why anyone would wait until giving birth before deciding they don't want to keep their baby is beyond me, but obviously people do (and before we get into a discussion about the prosand cons of abortion, the Japanese have a very different take on abortion than the typical western view and it is, because of this, a lot more common - I'm not saying that's good or bad, it just they have a different way of thinkning about it with much less of the stigma (but no less of the emotion, I feel sure)). Anyway the weirdness was that yesterday morning, I think, or amybe before, the nurses found a 3 year old boy had been abandoned in the hatch. Now relieving yourself of a newborn must be pretty hard, but a 3 year old! Apparently the little boy is 'helping police with their inquiries', to use the euphemism, but what sort of parents would do that? (answer, I suppose, is desperate ones).

Anyway that's all quite depressing. On a lighter note Steve and I ventured into town last week to watch the Classic All Blacks do a number on the Japan national team on the rugby paddock. At half time it was 6-10 to the Old New Zealanders (I think calling them the All Blacks adds to their aura, they're from New Zealand, so say that!) and so we thought that ew might have a game on our hands, but alas no as after 1/2 time the ONZ's scored 26 points with noreply to walk away with it. The Japan coach is ex-NZ star John Kirwan, he wanted his charges to play the ONZs to toughen them up a bit before the Pacific 6 Nations - that's all well and good but I shudder to thnk what score the Young New Zealanders would put on this Japan team...

And finally. Just a few words about the little fella, he now has more energy than that star that exploded recently and got all the NASA scientists in a tizzy. However he is putting this to good use by learning lots of new words, some of which we even teach him. His favourites right now are 'where are you?' which he says whilst hiding behind the curtains; daddy + noun, such as daddy belt, daddy work, daddy beer or daddy shoooes, just in case I had forgotten; whilst also beginning to realise that some words work better with daddy, like 'pick me up' (as I won't respond when he asks me in Japanese), but when mummy is cooking he'll point to the cooker and say 'abunai' rather than dangerous, both of which he knows. Clever that.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Lots of stuff

Well where to begin with it all? I think the last proper post was before I went back to the UK on the business trip. This was a successful little jaunt with myself and the principal from Taiwan going in there kicking butt. Well sort of. We certainly went and we certainly kicked about London for a week or so. But whether any butt was involved or not I suppose is a moot point. At the time the trip seemed successful, but now, a month or so later the fruits of our labours seem a little less burnished. This is more to do with the owner of the company and whether he wants to spend money or not, and, as his history in this department is not the strongest, I think our plans may come to naught, or at least, closer to naught that we want. The trip did, however, confirm what a little weasel the supposed boss of UK operations is, I am surprised his cutlery drawer has any knives left in it, judging by the number I saw protruding from various colleagues’ shoulder blades (ooh, bitchy). I now get the Guru to check my back every time I come home – so far so clear, but I will not be betting on any hedges.

Of course the other reason to be back was to see friends and family, which I managed to do equally successfully, though this was a weird feeling as I was back in December, only 4 short months previously, and it didn’t quite feel right seeing everyone again so soon. Usually I go for 12 to 18 months between visits so twice in four months and we almost didn’t have anything to talk about. Indeed the whole trip felt a bit weird, I had a vague and nagging sense that I wasn’t working enough even though my days did seem to begin at about 9 (into the office) and finish about 11pm (back to the hotel), but the evenings seemed to be spent in pubs, which although I was with work people talking about work things (and spending work money, in some cases), didn’t quite feel like work, even though it was. Then the whole slightly odd family/friend feeling and you have a strange sense of, well, weirdness.

Whilst I was away, of course, the poor English teacher was murdered, so for once Japan was all over the English media whilst I was in the UK. I didn’t know the girl but she lived in the town that we used to live in so a few people I know did know her apparently, and possibly one chap even knew the guy that did it (though said chap is a bit of a bullshitter, so that could all be hot air). But get this right, on Thursday last week one of our managers, an Australian woman, was groped on a train. Groping is, unfortunately, quite widespread on Japanese trains and there are posters everywhere saying things like ‘if it happens to you, shout for help’, so my colleague did and no one lifted a finger to help her. She dragged the guy onto the platform, kept shouting, but no help. Eventually a couple of young guys helped her get the miscreant downstairs to the station office because ‘she was causing trouble’, all the while telling the bloke it would be ok (what about her!?). The station officials asked her what she wanted to do, she said call the police so they did but then let the bloke go! She then had to drag him back into the station and lock him in a room. When the police finally arrived she was made to feel that she had done something wrong and caused an affray – right up to the point she showed her ID card and they realized she was married to a Japanese guy, at which point they became very helpful and apologetic. This all happened around 8-9pm but she wasn’t allowed to leave the police station until 3am as they questioned and questioned her, made her act out the scene several times and took lots of photos. She was even finger-printed because she didn’t have an official ‘hanko’ or family seal with her. Good to know that foreign women can feel a little bit safer now after the Lucie Blackman and Lindsay Hawker incidents.

Anyway enough of that. On getting back to Japan work suddenly decided to bowl a few off breaks at me, so I went from quite busy to exceptionally busy in the blink of an eye. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say we have staff problems (they want more) coupled with company problems (we’ve got less) which is the recipe for, well, more crap for me to have to deal with. This one isn’t going to end anytime soon, I fear, so we could be in for a long summer of discontent, which will be fun.

On a much happier note the youngster achieved the ripe old ago of two years on April 27th, which I my book is a good reason to have a party. So we had one. In reality he got an extended, long weekend party as his birthday was on the Friday, the last Friday before I finished work for the Golden Week hols. So on Friday he got to open a couple of presents before I went off to work. At this moment he opened a couple from my parentals (a noisy bus and a couple of DVDs) and from us (books). Then on Saturday he got his main present from us, which was a brand new bicycle. As you can see from the photos below he doesn’t have much to do at the moment except sit on it as he can’t get the hang of steering and has no idea what pedals are for. That meant that Saturday afternoon was spent pushing him around on aforementioned bike.

That evening I went off into Tokyo to see a friend’s band play, which was excellent except for the fact that someone forced me to drink an intemperate amount of beer, mostly without me realizing it, so that come Sunday I was much the worse for wear. This wouldn’t have been too bad had I been allowed to lie in bed and groan the day away, but with a hyperactive 2 year old, with a new bike, and a wife who wants you both out so she can clean the house, it was not too be. We made it to the park, where he could run around a lot and I didn’t have to do very much, but thank goodness the park had a toilet (and for any new parents out there a word of advice – hangovers and children’s’ swings are a match made in hell; avoid).

So then on Monday we had his birthday party. This entailed inviting the Guru’s side of the family over for tea and cakes. The little ‘un is getting pretty good at recognizing the different parts of the family. He knows, for example, that oojiisan and oobaasan (grandfather and grandmother respectively) are likely to visit and is jolly happy when they do, like Monday. Conversely he knows that ganma and ganpa (the closest he can get to grandma and grandpa) live in the computer and we see them every few weeks or so (we see them via webcam, hence them living in the computer). He even knows that cousin Charlie lives in the computer as well, with uncle Julian and Auntie Katharine, though not in the same place as ganma and ganpa as he doesn’t see them so often. Anyway is he in for a big shock in the summer when we all go back and he finds out these are real people!

So anyhoo they came over (the Japanese side, that is, the UK side webcammed on Friday evening, reinforcing the above notion of computer habitage) and the aforementioned tea and cakes were had, as was beer and other food stuffs. As you can probably tell I’m trying to find something interesting to write about here, but alas it was not to be. We did go for a walk down by the river and took photos, as you can see below, but that was about it. Tomorrow, however, we are off the Aquarium in Ikebukuro as I feel it would be beneficial to the youngster’s education (and I think aquariums (aquaria?) rock), so more photos then – might even write something about Japan...

(Oh yeah, Silent Shinzo had a big pow-wow with the Chinese PM (whose name escapes me right now...Jintao, or was that an old one?) and then with the USandA PM Georgie B, but I still can’t think of anything to write about the bloke. For f*ck’s sakes do something Shinzo!)