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Setsubun Protest

January 31st, 2010

Check out this image from the UK’s Daily Mail. It’s from a pretty big protest rally against the American military base situation in Okinawa, but with a distinctly Japanese twist. I’m not interested in the pre-printed cards that were distributed. I am interested in the hand drawn cardboard one on the right side of the frame. It reads as follows.

福は内〜!平和は内〜!基地は外〜!!
グアムに沖縄に日本に米軍基地は居坐るな!迷惑だ!帰ってくれ!!

***

Fuku wa uchi! Heiwa wa uchi! Kichi wa soto!
Guamu ni Okinawa ni Nihon ni beigun kichi wa isuwaru na! Meiwaku da! Kaette kure!!

***

Luck in! Peace in! Military bases out!
American military bases in Guam, Okinawa, and Japan, do not remain! It is troublesome! Go home!!

This is obviously modeled on the customary Setsubun holiday ritual of 豆撒き or mamemaki – throwing soy beans and chasing ogres out of one’s home by yelling 「鬼は外!福は内!」(Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!) or “Demons out! Luck in!”. People have been pretty heated up over the base situation for a long time now. I’m curious about whether it really implies a few things or not, though: that the American military is a bunch of friendly demon ogres (big step up from foreign barbarians if you ask me), that Okinawa is not part of Japan, and that Guam is upset about the military base there? Perhaps the delineation of Okinawa and Japan was kind of like “Okinawa and mainland Japan”? I dunno. But I found this interesting, and thought you might too!

Customary Drivel, Politics, Unsolicited Commentary, 日本語

2009 Imabari Stimulus Guide

April 15th, 2009

So, the government of Japan decided to follow the silly US economic policy of granting “stimulus” checks to the people. (I call this silly because I’d rather the US government just let us keep our money to start with, not pretend to be so magnanimous in doling out cash we used to be holding… I didn’t actually pay Japanese taxes last year, so this is free cash for me. Sorry Japanese taxpayers! I promise to spend it here.) If you’re currently a registered foreigner in Japan, you’re probably eligible for the payments – but you should check. The money is being meted out by the local governments, so if you don’t live in Imabari City, this may not be of use to you.

I checked this site and found that the notices and application forms were mailed out on Monday (the 13th of April). Comb through what you thought was junk mail and double check. ;-) You’ve got until Tuesday, October 13th to apply for your stimulus money. I’ll do a quick summary first, and the application procedure second. Read more…

Customary Drivel, Politics, Unsolicited Commentary, 日本語

Annoying Political Campaign Cars

February 13th, 2009

(Bigger version!)

There’s some type of regulation here that says politicians can’t advertise just willy-nilly however they want. That sounds great, but one result of this system is that something like 2 weeks before any election, a ton of political cars wind up driving around blaring their names and campaign slogans. It’s enough to make you want to guzzle antifreeze (which is not something I recommend, even if it is sweet – they make it a scary green for a reason, folks).

I translated the Japanese Wikipedia subsection on these cars below. (Forgive any errors, you Nihongophiles out there! It was a quick job.) It was appropriately located in the article for propaganda cars. Ha ha. Anyway, remember that the above 3 minute 20-odd second long video was culled from more than 10 minutes of senkyo kaa footage that I took over about a 4 hour span. Sheesh!

選挙運動車

公職選挙の選挙運動期間にのみ活動する。ワンボックス車やバスを改造したものが多く、屋根の上や後部に候補者が立ち、駅前などの繁華街に駐車して演説などの選挙運動を行う。公職選挙法の規制を受けるため、活動時間・内容には制限がある。また、走りながら流す内容は、キャッチフレーズ(政策)と候補者名・所属政党名の連呼に留まる。

多くの政党や労働組合、市民団体などでは、規制を受けない通常型の宣伝車も保有する事が多い。当然、流す内容も街頭演説の告知や機関紙の宣伝など多岐に渡る。

- Japanese Wikipedia Article on 「街宣車」 or “Propaganda Cars”

Cars Used in Political Elections

These cars are limited to use during elections for public office. Modified or converted “one-box” cars and buses are common. Candidates stand on the roof or on the rear of these remodeled vehicles and perform political campaign activities, such as making speeches while parked in front of a train station or other business area. In order to conform with the Public Office Elections Law these activities have restrictions on hours and content. The content that these cars may announce via loudspeaker while driving around is also limited to announcing the name of the candidate, the name of the political party with which they are affiliated, and their policies and catchphrases.

Many political parties, labor unions, and citizen’s groups also posses unregulated propaganda vehicles. Naturally, the announcements that their “street oratories,” announcements and bulletins publicize is wide-ranging.

As awful as these cars and the dins they create are, I actually wonder if I’d trade the current slow frog-in-boiling-water American-style 2 year train-wreck model for it. I mean, a 2 week barrage of sun-up to sun-down blaring bull horns, repetitive drive-bys, and legions of waving white-gloved hands is bad…

…but at least it ENDS. :-)

Customary Drivel, Media, Politics, Unsolicited Commentary, Video, 日本語

Ballot Sent

October 23rd, 2008
Comments Off

JohnMcCain.comThis is totally unrelated to Japan, but timely. I submitted my absentee ballot today. It’s weird to watch everyone count down to November 4th. It’s not just election day – it’s my birthday, too. And this year is pretty tense. Sigh. If you’re a person willing to be persuaded, go do your homework and make your own mind up. If you’d like to hear my own, personal rationale for my vote for the McCain-Palin ticket, feel free to email me. (deas at rocking in hakata dot com) Don’t bother if you just want to yell at me for being conservative. :-) If you’re lazy, and more prone to watching videos and reading quick, oversimplistic summaries, try this post. It’s no substitute for getting really engaged for yourself, but it might prove useful. That’s all you’ll hear from me on this topic on my blog. In any event, just hold tight – the longest presidential election in history is almost over, and it’s about time.

Customary Drivel, Politics, Unsolicited Commentary

War Stories

September 17th, 2008

During the speech writing correcting season, I have found that 60% to 70% of the entries I am put in charge of deal with the same topic. And there are two really popular topics that just swap in and out of the majority position. These topics are eco-friendly / anti-global warming stories and pro-peace / anti-war stories. Neither are particularly surprising to me, knowing Japan.

Also not particularly surprising is that Japan focuses on war stories that foster empathy and paint it as the victim. The most obvious case is in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hiroshima seems to be the focal point around here, though that may just be a geographical bias – more students have actually been to Hiroshima than to Nagasaki. The other stories that are routinely used in the classroom as well as in contests are those where the ground war hit Okinawa. Never mentioned are the military excursions in Southeast Asia, Pearl Harbor, etc. And I suppose I can understand that. But the lopsidedness is pretty sad sometimes.

I’ve read countless stories of children being killed, digging graves for family members, and people asking for water. It makes me choke up on occasion. (I got out of teaching a class earlier because I didn’t feel like I could correctly “enthusiastically” explain the vocabulary earlier without disrespecting the lives lost in the story and making light of a really grave situation. Also, the fact that I’m American can be awkward too.) The good thing is that students here all agree on a basic truth of life: war is awful. We definitely agree on that point.

Customary Drivel, Politics, Unsolicited Commentary

Japanese Political Correctness

September 9th, 2008

I was asked to be the speaker at an ICIEA (Imabari City International Exchange Association) event this month, and recently decided upon my topic. I’ll be speaking about political correctness in American English. The announcement is up on the official page here: English / 日本語. It should be kind of interesting. The official title of the talk is “Political Correctness in American English: Changing Times and Shifting Diction.” It will cover, or at least deal with the following themes: why words change, meaning what you say (and saying what you mean), politics and politeness, using euphemisms, distancing language, social acceptance, and describing others. Of course, the scope may broaden or shrink as I approach the actual talk, but it’s a good starting point.

Anyway, while I was fooling around on the internet looking for ideas, I came across an interesting term I’d not heard of before. 「言葉狩り」 or ことばがり (kotobagari). It means “word hunting” literally, but refers to diction choices made in Japanese based on politeness and social acceptance guidelines strikingly similar to the American concept of political correctness. I’ve gathered a few cool examples of the euphemism treadmill at work in Japanese from the Wikipedia post on this topic (English / 日本語) that I hope I can use alongside some American English equivalents.

For example, a school janitor in Japan used to be called a kozukai-san (小使いさん “chore person”). Some felt that the word had a derogatory meaning, so it was changed to yōmuin (用務員 “task person”). Now yōmuin is considered demeaning, so there is [sic] shift to use kōmuin (校務員 “school task member”) or kanrisagyōin (管理作業員 “maintenance member”) instead.

This is a situation roughly equivalent to the odd titles we are now giving to jobs in America. For instance, janitors are not janitors. Now they’re called custodians. (Or in joking hyperbole, sanitation technicians.) Secretaries are administrative assistants. You see how the pattern works.

Anyway, this is a bit of a “bleg” (blog-based beg) for some help. If you’re proficient in Japanese and you’re aware of some words that have taken a trip down the euphemism treadmill or other word choices that may be related to “word hunting,” please please please post them in the comments section!

Customary Drivel, Politics, Unsolicited Commentary, 日本語