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An alternative look at life in the Land of the Rising Sun, coming from its southernmost prefecture, the island of Okinawa.
Posted By Dave on July 8th, 2014

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/getting-healthy-in-leeds-with-v-physique-body-by-design/

Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying.  It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though!  But after a couple of months of being back in England […]

 

Archive for February, 2009

Japan chooses cheat as baseball ambassador

Posted By Dave on February 28th, 2009

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/japan-chooses-cheat-as-baseball-ambassador/

efore I go on with this article, I will say my baseball knowledge is minimal.  From what I can gather it is a sport not dissimilar to rounders, where people more often than not on some sort of stimulant or banned substance try to hit a ball out of the ground.  Have been to one professional baseball game in my life (LA Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks I believe) which was an experience, but a relatively dull affair.  And I’m hardly what you would call an avid baseball viewer don’t like watching it on Japanese TV due to the fact that the TV networks seem to show only the Yomiuri Giants games (as they pay the networks the most money).  All that being said, this story did catch my attention and is worth reporting.

Sadaharu OhAm sure most of you outside Japan doesn’t know this, but the 2nd World Baseball Classic (also known as the WBC)  starts in 5 days time with Japan taking on China.  This 16-team event will culminate in the final matches on March 21-23rd.  Now I don’t really want to go into the competition here because frankly I have absolutely no interest in it.  Japan however, does.  And yesterday it appointed a guy called Sadaharu Oh (see right) as its special ambassador for Japanese baseball.  When I read the name I swore it rang a bell but couldn’t recall when I’d heard of him.  A little research and the joys of Wikipedia helped me though.  He was the coach who stopped 3 foreign baseball players in Japan from surpassing his record of home runs in a season.  I’ll let Wikipedia explain this one…

On three occasions, foreign-born players have challenged Oh’s single-season home run record of 55 and faced Oh-managed teams late in the season. On every single occasion, Oh’s pitchers refused to throw strikes to them.

In 1985, American Randy Bass, playing for the Hanshin Tigers, came into the last game of the season against the Oh-managed Giants with 54 home runs. Bass was intentionally walked four times on four straight pitches each time. Bass reached over the plate on the fifth occasion and batted the ball into the outfield for a single. After the game, Oh denied ordering his pitchers to walk Bass, but Keith Comstock, an American pitcher for the Giants, later stated that an unnamed Giants coach had threatened a fine of $1,000 for every strike that any Giants pitcher threw to Bass. The magazine Takarajima investigated the incident and reported that the Giants front office had likely ordered the team not to allow Bass an opportunity to tie or break Oh’s record. For the most part the Japanese media remained silent on the incident as did league commissioner Takeso Shimoda.

In 2001, American Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes, playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, hit 55 home runs with several games left. The Buffaloes played the Oh-managed Fukuoka Hawks on a late weekend series in Fukuoka. Rhodes was intentionally walked during each at-bat. Hawks catcher Kenji Johjima could be seen grinning as he caught the intentional balls. Again, Oh denied any involvement and Hawks battery coach Yoshiharu Wakana stated that the pitchers acted on his orders, saying, “I just didn’t want a foreign player to break Oh’s record.” Rhodes completed the season with 55 home runs. Hawks pitcher Keizaburo Tanoue went on record saying that he wanted to throw strikes to Rhodes and felt bad about the situation.

In 2002, Venezuelan Alex Cabrera hit 55 home runs with five games left in the season and his team played Oh’s Hawks. Oh told his pitchers to throw strikes to Cabrera, but most of them ignored his order and threw balls well away from the plate. After the game, Oh stated, “If you’re going to break the record, you should do it by more than one. Do it by a lot.” In the wake of the most recent incident involving Cabrera, ESPN listed Oh’s single-season home run record as #2 on its list of “The Phoniest Records in Sports.”

Needless to say, none of this will be mentioned in Japan and the appointment of a great player and coach will be praised to high heavens, as Japan shows the world how strong its baseball traditions and teams are.  He has been appointed by the Foreign Minister to meet foreign digitories and spread the word about his country’s sport.  But would you want the special ambassador for your favourite in your own country to be someone who has bent the rules in order to prevent a foreigner from taking his personal records?  Well, would you?  Let me know.

High school skirt length posters criticised

Posted By Dave on February 28th, 2009

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/high-school-skirt-length-posters-criticised/

Well after my report on immoral goings on at my place of work this week, this latest news story I spotted seems quite appropriate.  In Niigata prefecture in mainland Japan there have been posters put up recently advising schoolgirls to wear longer skirts.  A couple of years ago on my old site I wrote about Okinawa holding the mantle for shortest skirts in Japan (with Hokkaido, bizarrely with it being the coldest prefecture in Japan, coming second).  But then Niigata came along and stole Okinawa’s thunder, leaving it only with the drunk driving, domestic abuse, and lowest salary titles.

But this plan is drawing some criticism, as Kyodo News reported:

Are short high school uniform skirts in bad taste? Posters urging high school girls to wear longer uniform skirts are causing controversy in Niigata Prefecture.

A group of teachers in charge of student counseling and guidance produced three kinds of posters and delivered them to all high schools in the prefecture in December in an effort to lengthen uniform skirts, which they think are currently too short and “lack good taste.”  The teachers are also concerned that students wearing short skirts could become targets for molesters and other crimes.

One of the posters reads, “You can smarten your mind and your skirts if you’re motivated.”

But the response from students has been cool, with many saying that devoting such attention to their skirts makes little sense.

In the 1990s, the combination of miniskirts and ‘‘loose socks’‘—baggy socks worn like leg warmers—became hugely popular among high school girls.  Although the fad for loose socks has passed, short uniform skirts are still popular among high school girls.

Many high school girls roll up their skirts at the waist, rolling them down when schools conduct uniform checks.  Some school girls resort to sweat pants underneath so they can continue to wear short skirts during the cold winter months.

Hiroshi Uchikawa, the principal of Koshi High School in the city of Niigata, who heads the group of teachers in charge of student guidance, said, “We’d like students to think about the issue through the posters, rather than ordering them to change the length of their skirts. There are some moves to make skirts longer,” he added.

A 16-year-old high school student walking in front of Niigata Station said in reference to the effort to make uniform skirts longer, “It makes little sense. We wear short skirts because everybody does, rather than because they look cute,” she said.

Think this story is worthy of a bit of commentary so let’s see where we can start.  First of all, they seem to be making a correlation between motivation and the length of a girl’s skirt.  Yes, the women’s revolution is a long way off in Japan.  This first comment is a joke though.  My school was pretty much the only one i 2005 to adopt the prefecture’s recommendation that schools in Okinawa try to increase the length of school skirts.  One of the biggest protesters against this movement and the crackdown on skirts was also one of the most motivated and skilled students I have had the privilege to teach.  She researched her arguments and tried presenting them to the senior staff-members at school, who dismissed her before she had even started (hence why she came to me about it).  There is absolutely no way you can question her motivation in life, and that has been evident since then.

The teachers being concerned that short skirts can make the girls targets for molesters and other crimes is a valid point, but that isn’t the fault of the girls that they get molested.  It’s like the “Well she looked like she wanted it” excuse in a rape defence.  If that’s the case then maybe all girls in Japan should be dressed in a burqa so they don’t attract the attentions of others.

The loose socks thing is a strange phenomenon and one that passed in a lot of places i the early 21st century in Japan.  Okinawa is always a little slow to catch up though and the fashion is still seen all over the prefecture.  Some of the socks they wear can be up to 2m long!  Yes, that’s two metres of sockage attached to their leg using “loose sock glue”.  The mind boggles.  While we’re on the topic of fashion, the sweatpants under skirt thing is something that I have never seen on other countries.  In Okinawa, due to the warm weather, the sweatpants are replaced by shorts but it still looks laughable seeing a girl waiting for the bus in a skirt that is about 6-8″ long and then a bright red or blue pair of shorts underneath, going down below her knees.

Final point on fashion rules at Japanese schools, and they do seem very strict in some areas ad lax in others.  Students are definitely not allowed to wear any sort of make-up, be seen with any type of jewellery (rings are out, as are even clear plastic earrings used to keep the piercings open) and hair is not allowed to have any sort of colouring whatsoever, but boys’ ties can be tight or not, top shirt buttons undone, and trainers are perfectly acceptable footwear to go with uniform.  What you will find most students do is have one pair of trainers for just about their entire school life.  When they go to certain rooms in the school they need to take their shoes off.  Instead of untying the laces and tying them again, they will just crush the heel of the trainers so they don’t have to spend seconds tying them again.  This may be practical in their little world but it does have the minor side-effect of making some of them look like they are homeless!

Last comment does a very good job of summing up a lot of Japanese society in one quote.  “We wear short skirts because everybody does, rather than because they look cute.”  And that is the thing here.  Styles adopted and opinions made because it is what everybody does, rather than because of their individual opinions.  Indeed individuality is very much frowned upon in favour of conformity on the whole.  It is changing ever so slightly these days, but at a veritable snail’s pace.

No doubt these posters will be stolen from schools and wherever else they are put up, most likely by the same people who are stealing boy’s baseball uniforms (happened last week and culprit was a university student) or women’s underwear (happens every week in most places in Japan).  If anyone has a picture of one of these posters, let me know as I would love to add a pic or 2 to this article.

Japanese high school drunken orgy shocker!!!

Posted By Dave on February 25th, 2009

Thought that post might get your attention!  Bet the number of spam I get shoots right up after this  post too.  Want to know more?  Well you clicked the link so I’ll assume you do.  On Monday classes were going on as normal with nothing exciting or out of place at all.  But then in the afternoon I was told that after school there would be a serious emergency meeting due to something that has happened at the school, and all teachers & students should be present.  I immediately got quite excited about this as it’s been a good few months since we had an “incident” at the school.  Maybe a theft of school property or vandalism?  Possibly drugs found on a student during a random search?  Well, not quite…

Apparently some of the residents who live close to school have seen students after school who may or may not be smoking, and the have seen cigarette butts in the vicinity of the school.  The have also seen kids dropping litter and a beer crate was found not far away from the school.  And horror of horrors, some immoral students have been seen… well for want of a better word, kissing!!!  These revelations seem to have shaken the school to its core so the kids had a serious dressing down about the effects of drinking, smoking and getting along with members of the opposite sex.  I can understand the issue if there was drinking and smoking going on at the school gates, but to complain because a couple of students have been seen kissing is surely goign a little too far.

So here’s hoping that the talk will have done good and that drinking, smoking and kissing will once again only be allowed to take place in the usual establishments: hostess bars.

Aso got low, low, low, low, low, low low…

Posted By Dave on February 25th, 2009

The more shrewd of you would know the title for this article is a homage to that modern-day Shakespeare (or so I’m led to believe by the cool kids) who goes by the name of Flo Ride.  There are three things that have got low and are worth mentioning.  Firstly, and more impressively, the Japanese Prime Minister’s popularity has dipped once again, according to latest polls.  The most recent figures from yesterday suggest his popularity is at 11%, which I think makes him about as popular as the Holocaust is within the Jewish community.  He is reaching hallowed and uncharteered waters of single-figure approval ratings which means he is getting oh so close to his target of being the least popular leader in a democracy.  He has just been on a trip to the US to visit the White House and newly inaugurated US President Barack Obama.  Surely the LDP will keep him in charge for another week following this visit so he can achieve his goal.

Which brings me nicely onto the next topic.  While Taro Aso is refusing any calls to call an election in the country, resign, or indeed to anything productive in government because he has to spend so much time helping Japan out of its economic crisis, he did at least manage to spare some time to become the first world leader to visit the White House under the Obama administration.  And didn’t the media in Japan love that.  The top story on NHK and Fuji TV news, and at the front of the newspapers, heralding how important Japan and Aso must be to be able to visit the new US president.  This was said to be a big meeting, confirming Japan as the cornerstone of Asia and a strong economic and defence ally to the United States.  This fanfare wasn’t really replicated in the US though, and at a glance at the main news feeds you would never really know Aso was in town, as other issues (cat in tree shocker, another NFL player shooting someone… that kind of thing) took centre stage.  The latest story here in Japan was highlighting the gifts that Aso gave to Obama (a pair of chopsticks made in the city of Obama, and a basketball jersey with “Obama” on the back, while his wife was given a sudoku game) and Obama gave to him “a crystal figurine in the shape of an eagle with the president’s seal and signature”.  What raised a smile there is the fact that 2 of the 3 gifts mentioned there are most likely made in China!  A nice little irony I hope wasn’t lost on them both.

And while Aso bpats himself on the back and continues to tell himself he’s doing a great job for the country, Japan’s economy nosedives even more.  Japanese exports are reported to have dropped 45% in January, giving the lowest figures ever reported.  The trade deficit is now at $9.9bn, again the lowest since records of this began in 1979.  Japan is in nothing less than a crisis and will be over the course of the next 12-18 months at least.  And Aso won’t be able to get through any strong measures to combat this because of the complete lack of public and Diet support he and his party have.  Still though, public criticism of the PM and the LDP party remains minimal.  People are happy to tick a box to say they don’t like Aso, but when it comes to actually doing something, heads are bowed hoping that someone else will take a stand.  I continue to wonder if that will happen…

Tired of walking your dog?

Posted By Dave on February 23rd, 2009

Does taking your dog for a walk everyday file you with doom and gloom?  Do you long for another way of getting Fido his daily exercise while Dog walkerenjoying the luxury of being in your own vehicle?  Well it looks like Daihatsu has a solution.

Combining men’s loves of dogs and cars has often been a tough game of compromise, but now you can attach the dog to the back of your car!  As you can see from this picture I found in a Daihatsu car catalogue, it’s a stroke of genius.  You get to keep comfortable in air conditioned luxury in your car, and man’s best friend gets exercise as he knows that if he stops or slows down, his carcass is just going to be dragged all the way to the shops.  I mean really, what could possibly go wrong?

Honestly though, I’m surprised I’ve not been driving around when I start to see canine entrails on the road.  Then when I catch up to the next car in front of me I see the remains of a dog who decided that travelling at 70kph wasn’t really sustainable for a toy poodle for any extended period.

I’ll give it about 3 months until I hear of this happening.

Mother dead in the closet; 15-year old daughter arrested

Posted By Dave on February 23rd, 2009

An update to this story was requested, and I’m happy to oblige.  Over the weekend a little more information came out in regards to this rather bizarre story I posted up here on Friday.  I initially wrote “a few more facts” although in light of the information I decided that maybe “facts” wasn’t such an appropriate word.  Here is some of the story I found, with my commentary to follow:

The husband and father, Morihiro Gushiken, says he last heard from his wife on January 11th, when she sent him an email from his daughter’s cell phone telling him “I am going to visit a relative with our daughter”.

After a few days, a worried Gushiken telephoned the relative, only to learn his wife and daughter were not there. He then reported the two missing on January 27th. Although Gushiken lived apart from his wife, he tended to the woman’s cat, and on February 17th the 45-year-old Gushiken entered the wife’s home and discovered a foul odor. Moments later, he tracked the smell to a decomposing body in a closet.

The body was so decomposed, police say, that Gushiken did not recognize it as being his wife. Identification was made by DNA. Police intensified the search for the still-missing daughter, finally tracking her down at a hotel in Hiyane District of Okinawa City, where she was living with a man in his 20’s. Interviews with the teenager turned up inconsistencies and contradictions in stories, with the girl first telling police he’d told her friends “my mother died in a car accident in the middle of January.”

The girl changed her story with police, saying “she strangled herself and I found her dead.” Asked why she ran away and began cohabiting with an older man instead of reporting her mother’s death, she said “I found my mother dead in the room, but I didn’t know what to do, so I just put the body inside the closet.”

Police say their investigation is continuing, and that they still believe the girl knows more than she’s admitting. The young man, meanwhile, is being investigating for having relations with an underage girl.

So police believe the girl knows more than she’s admitting.  They really are sharp as a dart here in Okinawa!  Don’t think it takes someone with a Masters in criminal psychology to deduce that.  So we’ve got the mother who died in a car accident in January, but then who strangles herself about a week later and died yet again.  Daughter found her dead mother and wondered if she should call the ambulance or police.  Thinking that her mother had already been resurrected once from this car accident, she decided the closet would be the best place for her to regain her strength and come back to life naturally.  I’m no Colombo, but somehow the story doesn’t seem completely watertight.

Am a little surprised they said the body was so decomposed they couldn’t recognize it.  I can imagine some decomposition, but it was only around 3 weeks later and the temperature isn’t so high in Okinawa yet to cause that much decomposition.  Admittedly, I am basing my knowledge on watching CSI Miami which probably isn’t the most effective way of learning about times and causes of death.  Possibly more efficient than the methods Okinawan police use, but still not great.

So we still don’t know who this mystery guy is the girl was living with when police found her, but I had to laugh when they story said he was being investigated for having relations with an underage girl.  It’s like the police are saying, “We’ve got to get one charge out of this, surely!”.  I really hope more information on this will come to light, namely who this guy is and what actually happened to the mother.  If I find more I will keep you updated.

Germany under the Third Reich: A colour photography special (4 of 4)

Posted By Dave on February 22nd, 2009

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/germany-under-the-third-reich-a-colour-photography-special-4-of-4/

Here is the fourth and final part of my photo feature on Germany in the 1930s and ’40s under the command of Hitler and the Third Reich.  I hope you’ve found the photographs included in these posts as interesting as I have while looking through them.  Looking through some of the pictures, you have to wonder whether the photographers had any idea of what they were documenting on film, and how the Third Reich had changed Germany and was changing the world.

Do let me know if you enjoyed this series and if so I’ll try to provide similar posts in the future.

 

 

Part 1 of this collection is here.

Part 2 of this collection is here.

Part 3 of this collection is here.

Strange… just as I was about to click to publish this post I hear Japanese nationalistic music and one of the uyoku dantai (right-wing extemist) black vans drives past showing the old flag from pre-WWII.

Bizarre Okinawan news of the week… just read it!

Posted By Dave on February 20th, 2009

Just as I thought the rest of the day might be relatively uneventful, Okinawa saves the day.  Just finished reading a news story that started off rather strangely, and en almost each passing sentence gets more dark and twisted.  Have a read for yourselves.

Missing daughter of woman found dead in closet in Okinawa home turns up in hotel

OKINAWA – Police on Friday found a 15-year-old high school girl who had been missing since her mother’s body was found in a closet in their home in Kitanakagusuku, Okinawa, on Tuesday. The girl was found with an adult male in a hotel in Okinawa City, police said.

According to police, the 46-year-old mother was found dead inside the closet by her 45-year-old husband on Tuesday. He told police his wife and daughter had been missing since telling him they were going to a relative’s house on Jan 27.

Police said the family lives in the same house but have been virtually separated and have not seen each other for years, because the first and second floors of the house were blocked off to prevent interaction. The father lives with his 78-year-old dad on the first floor, while the mother and daughter live on the second floor. They enter the house via the window and the front door respectively, police have learned.

Well, where can I possibly start on this one?  Probably the living arrangements prior to the woman’s death.  By the sounds of it, the woman and her daughter have been entering the family home through the window for some years now, due to the fact that the father has blockaded the main door.  You would think that after about 2 days of doing this, both parties would realise how utterly ridiculous this state of affairs is.  But no, this goes on for days.  The days turn into weeks, the weeks into months and the months into years.  Maybe the mother and daughter just found the door too passe, and wanted a more interesting way of entering their residence.

The next one confused me a little.  It said that the mother and father have separated and haven’t had contact for years.  But then the story goes on to say the mother and daughter had been missing since the father told them they were going to see a relative at the end of January.  So either they have contact or they don’t, but something there doesn’t add up.

Nothing is also reported about how the woman ended up in the closet.  Am assuming she was murdered and put there rather than her just deciding to go in there and getting lost and not being able to get out.  Unless she had just given up hope and went into the closet to die.  You can imagine her giving her daughter a Lawrence Oates-esque remark before her final voyage, “I am just going into the closet and may be gone for some time.”

And the wonderful reporting continues where nothing is said about who the girl was with and why she had been missing since January 27th.  I would love to hear the rest of this story and try to find some answers to the most bizarre of questions.  Can anyone beat this for a bizarre story of the day?

Germany under the Third Reich: A colour photography special (3 of 4)

Posted By Dave on February 20th, 2009

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/germany-under-the-third-reich-a-colour-photography-special-3-of-4/

Time for part 3 of this special feature on photos of Germany under the command of the Third Reich in the 1930s and ’40s.  The photos are in chronological order I believe, and you can see the mood darkening as the cultish leadership takes control of the country.  Hope you’re finding these shots and a look back into world history as interesting as I am.

 

 

Part 1 of this collection is here.

Part 2 of this collection is here.

Part 4 of this collection is here.

Please use… what?!?!

Posted By Dave on February 20th, 2009

Saw this sign a while back in Hokkaido and for a split second I had a “What the hell… moment”.  I’ll let you see the sign and then I’ll explain.

Use Yourself

Any guesses what this could.  It’s from a hotel cafe of course!  It was breakfast at the hotel cafe and they had a self-service buffet.  You have to be a little twisted to understand the bad English here but hopefully you can.

More Engrish to come soon!

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