AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Archive for October, 2012

All you have to do is look (88)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 26, 2012

The opening of a new curling rink in Sapporo last month. It is the first in the country to be open year-round.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Sports | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji  (209)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 26, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The question of how difficult life is for the people of North Korea seems not to be such a big issue for the zainichi Koreans (Japanese-born Korean nationals). The problem is that the zainichi who are close to ethnic activist groups and the zainichi community tend to avoid the North Korean issue. They’ve been making the excuse that “the issue will be used by the right wing” for several decades. I’m tired of hearing it.

– Go Ang-gi, on Japanese Twitter

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, North Korea, Quotations | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Dim

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 25, 2012

He was the opposite of Dr Watson, who saw but did not observe: he observed, but did not see. He was the archetype of the man, so common among intellectuals, who knows much but understands little….A man may smile and smile and be a villain. A man may read and read, and experience and experience, and understand nothing.
– Theodore Dalrymple on Isaac Deutscher

One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.
– George Orwell

EVERYONE now knows the futility of prying loose the truth and nothing but out of horsenbuggy journalism. Obtaining a glimpse of undistorted reality on a particular subject requires the reader to play Rashomon and compare several accounts from radically different perspectives. Few people have the time or the patience for that, which is the primary reason the remnants of the guild manage to stay in business.

One of the pixel-stained wretches’ preferred methods of self-justification is to cite on-call academics to buttress whatever case they want to make at the time. But that’s another ploy whose efficacy is evaporating, as the awareness is also growing that the professorariat as it presents itself and is presented in the news media is nearly as corrupted as the journos, if not equally so.

As the events known as Climategate involving the University of East Anglia and Michael Mann demonstrate, that is just as true for professionals in the hard sciences as well as social studies (the word “science” is incompatible with the latter). The EU cuts off funding to climatologists who publish research suggesting that global warming might not be a problem after all. It is now possible to publish scientific papers based on the claim that “the evidence-based movement in the health sciences is outrageously exclusionary and dangerously normative with regards to scientific knowledge, (and) constitutes a good example of microfascism.” The field of social studies has become infected by the ideas of deconstructionism and post-structuralism, which hold that reality is unknowable and we should “delight in the plurality of meaning”.

Less recognized is that this plurality of meaning often exists because some people can’t be bothered with basic research to begin with, or are only interested in discovering facts that fit their worldview.

Then there are the priests of the inner temple convinced that their guild status, endowed chairs, and publishing contracts bestow on them the privilege to sermonize on matters they know little or nothing about, based on a casual drive through the neighborhood. One of these bodhisattvas is Walter Russell Mead, who’s been spotted driving through the East Asian neighborhood every once in a while. He passed through again last week after unloading one-a-day observations on Russia, Pakistan Sunni radicals, the German economy, the Methodist Church, fracking in the Rust Belt, the third presidential debate, and the Wall Street scandal of Rajat Gupta. (Today he’s talking about higher education costs.) Quantity is never a substitute for quality, particularly when the quantity is a planet wide and a centimeter deep.

On his website last week, he dashed off another “Quick Take” on Northeast Asia. The only takeaway is that he knows dashed all about this part of the world. Copy-paste is not kosher, but this case warrants an exception, and it’s website policy to save links for those on the legit. Let’s start with the title:

Japanese Nationalists Rattle the Cages

Ah, the nationalist beasts of Japan are losing their patience at being held under lock and key, are they?

Last week it was China; this week it’s Japan where nationalists are raging against the country across the sea . And unlike in China, this time it isn’t just hotheaded micro-bloggers; it’s former prime minister and opposition leader Shinzo Abe, who is widely expected to become PM next year. Abe has decided to visit the controversial Yakusuni war shrine.

It isn’t just Chinese micro-bloggers: Communist Party-controlled newspapers and media outlets in China have for several years been openly threatening military action against any country that would oppose its claims in the region. The claims include Okinawa as well as the Senkakus, as well as open threats to “smash small Japan”. The micro-bloggers and the street rioters are so rabid because their government encourages it.

Mead needs to turn that telescope around and look through the small end.

Meanwhile, all that Mr. Abe, two Cabinet members, and some other MPs did was to attend the fall festival at a Shinto shrine in Tokyo that is the Japanese equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery. For Mead, this constitutes “raging against the country across the sea”.

Then again, Western academics have a taste for this false equivalence between the behavior in modern China and South Korea on the one hand and Japan on the other.

He continues by offering some Sunday supplement insights:

Nationalism is on the rise in Japan, as it is elsewhere in Asia.

Let’s do some deconstruction of our own.

* The nationalism of China and both Koreas is limited to two gears: idling and overdrive. The Chinese shifted into overdrive after the Democratic Party of Japan and the United States took control of the governments in their respective countries in the same year. The South Koreans grab the stick whenever their economy or the government’s approval ratings head south. The North Koreans never let it go.

* The nationalism of China and both Koreas has ethnocentrism as a core component of their conception of their modern states. One aspect of this component is a tendency to define themselves in terms of the “other”. For those three states, the other is the Japan of the first half of the 20th century. That country no longer exists.

The nationalist ethnocentrism of these countries, that in its modern manifestation demonizes a country which no longer exists, is both an embedded feature and bug. Absent a critical shock to their systems, it will not go away. Japan’s exemplary postwar behavior among all the nations of the G-whatever has not changed their attitudes. It is not possible for them to change those attitudes because it is part of the psychological foundation of their states.

* Ethnocentrism was a core component of Japanese nationalism in the first half of the 20th century, but the Americans crushed that out of them. It would be difficult to find any overt references by the Japanese government, mass media, or citizenry to national exceptionalism and cultural superiority on the scale at which the Chinese and Koreans habitually indulge. Exclude Ishihara Shintaro (whose prominence is widely misunderstood) and it might be impossible.

Extreme examples of these references are commonplace in China, the two Koreas, Russia — and the United States and Europe.

Mead, by the way, has argued that every age needs a “liberal empire”, and thinks the Imperial power for our age is the United States.

* What Mead supposes to be Japanese “nationalism” would be unremarkable in any other country of the world. It is indistinguishable from the more innocuous strain of patriotism common in the West two or three generations ago.

Rather than alarming, it is a sign that Japan is recovering its equilibrium from the anti-nationalist overcompensation of the postwar period.

For example: A forum on regional affairs was held earlier this month in Seoul with participants from South Korea, China, and Japan. Among the participants was Prof. Mun Jeong-in of Yonsei University. One of his statements was typical of the Korean-Chinese approach at venues of this sort:

“Both South Korea and China have the historical experience of Japanese rule and subjugation. Japan is the core of the problem.”

The Japanese participant was Tanaka Hitoshi, a former deputy minister for foreign affairs and now a senior fellow at the Japan Center for International Exchange. He replied:

“The war has been over for more than 67 years. How long is Japan supposed to keep a low profile?…In the past, Japan would have not said anything (to actions such as the recent South Korean behavior regarding Takeshima), but now we will. Japan has become a normal nation.”

There is no sign that Mead is aware of the ABCs of the attitudes in any of these countries. His view of East Asia is as much a prisoner of the past as that of the geopolitical rent-seekers in China and the Koreas.

Mr. Abe’s visit drew attention because it is the first that he has made to the shrine since winning an internal party election last month. During that election, he took the hardest line in a field of five conservative candidates, calling for expanding the limits of Japan’s pacifist Constitution to allow a full military, and supporting patriotic education that teaches a more sympathetic view of Japan’s actions during World War II.

Making this statement requires one to be ignorant of the fact that it is the official position of the Liberal Democratic Party — not just Mr. Abe — to amend the Constitution to allow “a full military”. They’ve already written and presented a draft Constitution.

It also requires one to believe there is something intrinsically “hardline” about establishing a military for self-defense, both individual and collective. That would go without saying for any other normal country. Does Mead actually believe the Japanese are incapable of maintaining a military without succumbing to blood lust? Is he aware that the threat comes from China and is independent of anything Japan might or might not do?

As for supporting “patriotic” education, does this mean that Mead would favor education of the sort that would include the Howard Zinn approach to history as an alternative view in all American textbooks? Note also that Mead cites no details for his charge that a new curriculum would be more sympathetic toward Japan’s actions during World War II, nor what that would mean.

Then again, one American president of an earlier generation didn’t think the Japanese were entirely to blame. Refer to the first Mead link for Herbert Hoover’s opinion.

If Shinzo Abe continues to visit the shrine as prime minister as he has promised to do, Japanese companies in China would be well advised to hire more security guards, as angry Chinese are likely to make their disapproval clear to Japanese interests wherever they happen to find them.

Mead thinks a former Japanese prime minister is being foolhardy because a visit to certain places in his own country will anger the neighborhood geopolitical malefactor. But Abe Shinzo was the second chief cabinet secretary in the Koizumi administration. He already knows what might happen in China and South Korea as a result of Yasukuni visits.

Abe doesn’t plan on just stopping by the shrine. According to the Times, he will also revise an official apology regarding sex slavery in World War II, a move sure to upset the South Koreans as well as the Chinese. Further, Abe has said he would consider deploying Coast Guard to the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

While it is true that Mr. Abe would repudiate the Kono Statement, among the other things Mead doesn’t know are the circumstances behind the statement itself. It should never have been issued to begin with.

That Mead would also make a reference to the “disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands” shows that he hasn’t taken the time to do much reading about the subject. (Nicholas Kristoff columns don’t count.) Deploying the Japanese Coast Guard to the Senkakus would be no different than the Americans sending their own Coast Guard to Key West, even if the Cubans had taken it into their heads to claim that island for the first time in 1971.

Is there some reason Japan should not defend its own territory that is visible only from Mead’s perch in La Tour Ivoire?

But the Japanese seem only dimly aware of the fact that they live in a very precarious neighborhood, surrounded by strong nuclear powers with long memories of past conflicts with Japan.

This is the most preposterous statement I’ve read by a supposedly serious author all year — and this is an American election year when preposterous statements are as common as dandruff on the shoulders of an academic’s corduroy sport coat.

Let’s not mince words: To hold forth on what anyone in Japan knows about circumstances in the region when one knows so little of them oneself is beyond patronizing.

With the Russians deploying to the Far East, the South Koreans incensed by the Dokdo island dispute, the Chinese burning Japanese cars and flags, and always-volatile North Korea, the Japanese could probably use a lighter touch in their politics and diplomacy.

That Mead would refer to the islands as “Dokdo” instead of Takeshima can only mean the following:

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that when the Americans forced Japan at the end of the war to relinquish the territory it had seized in the region, they thought Takeshima belonged to Japan — despite Korean objections, and despite originally siding with the Korean position.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the American government told the Koreans more than once that they thought Takeshima was Japanese (here and here) and recommended that the Koreans submit their case to the International Court of Justice.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the Japanese have twice made the request for ICJ mediation, and the Koreans still refuse.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the Japanese incorporated the islands on the principle of terra nullius. Or the Koreans have yet to make a plausible claim without a triple ricochet of logic, factual inaccuracies, photoshopping, or outright fabrications that they islands were ever theirs.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that a Korean monthly reported the two countries agreed to disagree about the islets in 1965, and that another Korean politician destroyed the Korean documents so they would never come to light.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the only reason the Koreans have the islets now is that they took them by force, killing some people when they did so.

* Even Google Maps recently switched from “Dokdo” to “Liancourt Rocks” for the name of the islets (drawing the predictable response from the Koreans).

From this, we can only conclude that Mead believes “might makes right”.

The Japanese could probably use a lighter touch in their politics and diplomacy.

How much lighter can they get without bending over?

Japanese government actions regarding Takeshima have been to ask South Korea to submit the case to the ICJ and to insert a passage in their textbooks that they think Takeshima is theirs. Japanese government actions regarding the Senkakus have been to purchase the land from the Japanese owners, who had been harassed for decades by the Chinese, and prevent the Tokyo Metro District from buying the land and building a much-needed ship basin and radio tower. That step was taken so as not to provoke the ever-ready-to-be-provoked Chinese.

Or does Mead think even the mildest expressions of the national interest are off-limits for Japan? Should Japan limit itself to playing Our Lady of Perpetual Atonement and writing checks when the Western powers are short of money for whatever fine military or economic mess they’ve gotten themselves into this time?

But Mead has a solution: the Global Liberal Imperium will dispatch its fleet to the region and pacify the cage rattlers:

These disputes may be a headache for the U.S., but they also demonstrate the continuing need for a strong U.S. military presence in the Pacific. The American naval presence in the region has been one of the major reasons these conflicts haven’t erupted since the end of the Korean War. Don’t expect large budget cuts for the Navy anytime soon.

Is that last sentence dependent on Romney winning the election, or Obama — for whom Mead supposedly voted, and who still can’t spit out a straight answer on the sequestration of Defense Department funds — getting reelected?

Can Japan depend on the United States to keep the peace in the region? Hah!

Japan and the US are dropping plans for a joint drill to simulate the retaking of a remote island from foreign forces amid a row between Tokyo and Beijing over a disputed archipelago, a report said.

The governments are set to cancel the drill as it could provoke further anger from China after a row escalated when Japan last month nationalised some of the disputed islands, also claimed by Beijing, Jiji Press reported late Friday.

The decision to cancel the drill, which would have involved an island that is not part of the disputed chain, was in line with the views of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s office, the news agency quoted government sources as saying.

Neither country had concerns of that sort when it conducted a similar drill last month in Guam. China didn’t behave any more obnoxiously then than it always does. Was this a Japanese idea — or an American idea?

Mind you, the Americans don’t seem concerned when the Chinese conduct military drills. Just a week before the Mead Quick Take:

The joint exercise involving the PLA Navy and civilian law enforcement ships conducted Friday in the East China Sea came as a surprise for Japanese media, which believe the move is due to the deteriorating situation between the two countries over Japan’s “nationalization” of the Diaoyu Islands.

There is no need to object to the speculation by Japanese media. The exercise has sent a clear message to the outside world, that China is ready to use naval force in maritime conflicts.

It was no surprise to anyone in Japan, much less the media. If you thought that was inflated belligerence, now read this:

(China) will only become more skillful in dealing with more provocations. What’s more, the Chinese people have increasingly begun to think that some countries have been underestimating the consequences of angering China, and China needs to teach them a lesson. This growing public sentiment may pressure the government to change its diplomatic policies.

Chinese people believe there is unlikely to be any major war in the Asia-Pacific region, because China has no intention of starting one, nor will the US, we believe. A conflict in this area would be a brief brawl, in which the weaker country is more likely to suffer.

China, the most powerful country in this region, has in the past been the strongest voice urging parties to “set aside disputes.” The Philippines, Vietnam and Japan, on the contrary, were more bellicose. This is not normal.

Japan has to realize the fact that it has always been a small country compared to China, and in the future it will still only be another Vietnam or Philippines. It is better for Japan to show some respect, or it is asking for trouble.

True, that was from the Global Times, whose editors consider the light touch in diplomacy to be the application of a blowtorch. Their rhetoric is so intemperate the editorial staff might soon undergo a shakeup. But it is affiliated with the People’s Daily, and as that article at the link notes, the Chinese-language version is even more extreme.

Need I mention that no one in Japan talks or writes anything remotely like that?

But other Chinese weren’t convinced that the Americans would intervene anyway:

“There is a danger of China and Japan having a military conflict,” said Yan Xuetong, one of China’s most influential foreign policy strategists, and a noted hawk. “I do not see either side making concessions. Both sides want to solve the situation peacefully, but neither side can provide the right approach.”

And:

“Generally speaking, according to the theory of international relations, unless one country makes concessions to the other, the escalation of a conflict between two countries will not stop until there is a military clash,” he said.

He said that China was tolerant with smaller powers. “But the case of Japan is different. There is history between us. Japan is a big power. It regards itself as a regional, and sometimes a world power. So China can very naturally regard Japan as an equal. And if we are equal, you cannot poke us,” he said.

The only country doing, or threatening to do, the poking is China. But if Japanese become more impertinent than the Chinese can bear?

Mr Yan predicted that if there was a military confrontation, the United States would not intervene physically.

Both presidential candidates say the American military will be out of Afghanistan by 2014, which means the country will revert to the status quo ante of 2001. The Americans couldn’t come up with a status of forces agreement for Iraq to help maintain peace in that part of the world. They can’t figure out what to do with the soon-to-be nuclear Iran, except cover their eyes and hope it goes away. The Obama administration has, however, figured out what to do with Israel – cut it adrift.

The United States can’t even protect the lives of its own ambassador and three other embassy personnel in Libya. Despite the request of the ambassador for greater security, and despite the possibility that the ambassador was involved in some dangerous business by facilitating a gun-running operation to Syria through Turkey, the U.S. government outsourced the security of the consulate to foreigners, watched the attack from drones in real time without responding, and lied about the whole thing for weeks afterward.

The language blaring out of China every day (thoughtfully translated by them into English and put on the Web — removing all excuses) is more bellicose than that which emanated from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Chinese openly express their intent to grind several axes with other nations, including the United States.

But an American university professor thinks an America filled to the gills with Chinese-held debt and tired of international policery has to send a depleted fleet to keep order in the western Pacific because “nationalism is on the rise” in the region and Japanese politicians are “rattling the cages”.

Even the most inconsequential of Japanese politicians know more of what is stake in the region than any drive-by Western academic, yet Walter Russell Mead snarks about their “dim awareness”.

And some people will read what he writes and assume he has something worth saying about this part of the world beyond the obvious, the superficial, and the incorrect.

*****
May somebody shine a light on them all.

Posted in China, History, International relations, Military affairs, North Korea, South Korea | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

All you have to do is look (87)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Pew Global Attitudes Project finds that 85% of Japanese have a favorable view of the United States, ranking them first in the world in the world in this category. In other words, the Japanese have a more favorable view of the U.S. than Americans do, which came in third at 79%.

Perhaps more surprising, the Americans’ view of themselves wasn’t much higher than the French, who ranked fourth at 75%.

Posted in International relations, Photographs and videos | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

ichigen koji (208)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 25, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

I went to a consumer electronics store today to buy earphones, and counted more than 50 different products. Does this represent an exceptional effort on the part of companies, or a wasteful use of resources? Perhaps Japanese consumer electronics companies should take a tip from Apple and focus on just a few mainstay products.

– Ishi Taka’aki

Posted in Business, finance and the economy, Quotations | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

All you have to do is look (86)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A recreation of the Yonabaru Otsunahiki in Okinawa, one of the country’s three biggest tug-of-war festivals, was held last month in Osaka’s Taisho-ku, where one-fourth of the residents have family ties to Okinawa. It was held to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the return of Okinawa to Japan and the 80th anniversary of the ward’s incorporation. About 8,000 people watched as another 1,400 pulled a rope that was 90 meters long, two meters thick, and weighed five tons.

Posted in Festivals, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (207)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 24, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

A similar story is the mistaken reporting done about school textbooks, when articles claimed that the Ministry of Education had forced the publishers to change the word “invasion” (into Asia) to “advance”. Even though this was not true, it was reported by all the newspapers. As a result, it gained currency internationally as a “fact”, and had a negative impact on the textbook screening system and textbook content itself. Had there been an environment of oversight as there is now with the Net, this misunderstanding might have been corrected more quickly.

– Abiru Rui

Posted in Education, International relations, Mass media, Quotations, World War II | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (85)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Public art somewhere in China.

Posted in China, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Photographs and videos | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (206)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 23, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

If not to the civilized and democratic country Japan, do you want to go to thug-filled Xian city and eat gutter oil?

– A commentor on Weibo (China’s Twitter), when some people complained that a cruise last weekend on the Costa Victoria with 1,500 Chinese tourists from Shanghai to Yatsushiro, Kumamoto, was a “traitor tour”. Sea cruises from China to Japan, particularly Kyushu, have become popular in recent years among Chinese.

Posted in China, International relations, Popular culture, Quotations | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

All you have to do is look (84)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 22, 2012

Temporary bus service that began at the end of the summer on 55 kilometers of the railroad line between Kessennuma and Yanaizu in Miyagi Prefecture, rendered unusable by last year’s earthquake and tsunami.

Photo by Sankei Shimbun.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Science and technology, Social trends | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (205)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 22, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The origin of my (Twitter) account name “totodaisuke” is not because I am a fan of washlets and support the Toto company, but because Toto was the name of a dog I once had. People always ask me this, so maybe someone can write that up for me in Wikipedia.

– Iwase Daisuke

Posted in Popular culture, Quotations | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Matsuri da! (134) The demon dance

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, October 21, 2012

Photo from tamarany no o-sanpo website

NOW I ask you — where can 1,500 men strip to the waist, slip into grass skirts, parade through town carrying lanterns, perform a howling dance in the middle of the night at a religious institution, and the national government will designate it as an important intangible cultural treasure?

Somewhere other than Japan, that is.

That’s just what they’ve been doing every year for centuries in Iwata, Shizuoka, during the Mitsuke Tenjin Hadaka Matsuri conducted by the Yanahime Shinto shrine, and they did it again at the end of last month.

The festival intrigues even Japanese scholars, and for more reasons than the ones explained in the first paragraph. There are records of a dance of some kind being performed this time of year since 933, when the local shrine received part of the divided spirit of Sugawara no Michizane. (This is an old Shinto practice.)

Sometime in the early 14th century, however, the dance took on the character of a celebration representing the joy of the townsfolk after a priest and a big ol’ dog named Shippei Taro slew a tribe of monkey/demons who had demanded and received the annual sacrifice of a virgin. The district also was once a regional capital in a governmental administrative system instituted almost 1,400 years ago. Some explanations say the festival has elements that incorporate that history, though they didn’t specify what they were. The entire event lasts eight days.

But the Big Show is featured on only one of those nights. It starts when the men run out into the street in four groups with lanterns and floats at 9:00 p.m. They congregate one group at a time at the shrine at 11:00 and dive into the dance. The energy intensifies with the arrival of each group. Then, at one in the morning, they sprint with a mikoshi, or portable shrine, back through the town where the lights have been turned off to a different shrine, the Omikunitama-jinja, and leave it overnight. A troupe of boys will return it to the Yanahime shrine the following night.

The hadaka in the festival name, by the way, means naked, though in this and other naked festivals, the men always wear a loincloth. No naked festivals with women, alas.

If you watch this Youtube excerpt of the Demon Dance, you’ll get an idea just how thrilled everyone must have been when the monkeys were slain 700 years ago. No, that isn’t a movie. It actually happened.

The story of Shippei Taro at the link reminded me of this story, though the ending is different.

Clicking on the photo at the top enlarges it.

Posted in Festivals | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (83)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, October 21, 2012

After the Nankai earthquake and tsunami in 1854, Hamaguchi Goryo, then the owner of what is now the Yamasa Corp. created torches out of rice sheaves to guide people to places of refuge in the highlands. Lafcadio Hearn wrote a story about it.

The people of Hiro-mura, Wakayama, hold a festival every year to honor his memory by recreating the torch burning. This year’s festival was yesterday.

The first minute of this video is introductory material, so move the cursor ahead to the 1:03 mark to see what happens at the event itself.

Posted in Festivals, History, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (204)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, October 21, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The Japanese government gives JPY 160,000 a month (slightly more than $US 2,000) as scholarships to students from China who attend Japanese universities. The money does not have to be returned. There are about 80,000 Chinese students in our universities. National government scholarships of this type are not given to Japanese students. Therefore, universities are actively soliciting students in China to come to Japan. Is this a desirable state of affairs?

– Tamogami Toshio

Posted in China, Education, Foreigners in Japan, Quotations | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Habitat

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, October 21, 2012

SOME efforts to save endangered species are controversial, some are praiseworthy, and others approach the absurd. One citizen-led effort underway in the hot springs town of Yufuin, Oita, however, is quite reasonable and isn’t causing problems for anyone.

The endangered species in question is a rare variety of the stenothyridae shellfish. This particular variety is the only shellfish in the world whose natural habitat is a hot springs, and it exists only in Yufuin. It also was found in several nearby areas, including the well-known spa resort city of Beppu, until the mid-1960s.

But the shellfish started disappearing when some of the hot springs water was diverted to resorts — the exact cause and effect has never been identified —- and it now lives only in a water course near Lake Kinrin. The water temperature there is roughly 36° C (96.8° F) year-round.

Some local people formed a research group in February to expand its habitat. They succeeded in tripling the local population in just three months. They’ve also kept some alive in tubs of heated water to show school children. That was enough to convince the prefecture and city governments to provide a modest amount of funding, and the group is now conducting water quality tests in different locations to find the most suitable spots that might work as a new home.

Give them credit for even knowing about the creature to begin with. It’s naturally a bright gold color, but it eats moss and usually winds up covered in the stuff. It’s also only 4 x 2.5 millimeters in size, which works out to 0.15 x 0.09 inches. You’ve really got to be looking for it to find it.

If you’re ever in the neighborhood and enjoy soaking in hot water, by the way, Yufuin’s an excellent choice. I’ve been there twice and would find it very easy to live there year-round if it came to that. It’s a small town near the mountains, and it’s quite attractive as the picture above shows. (The photo is from a Japanese website called Muru’s Log.) The main street is perfect for walking, has excellent views, and is filled with the sort of shops that women like. And the stenothyridae are so small you won’t even notice them sharing space with you in the spa.

There’s also a song called Yufuin. It’s about a woman trying to recover from an unhappy love affair.

Posted in Environmentalism, Travel | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »