January 21, 2006

Jan. 21, 2005

In the today's newspaper (Jan. 21, 2006 Asahi Shimbun), there was an article about Japanese food "Oden." It said that this "Oden" used to be consumed by elderly people, but thanks to the sales in convenience stores, this food is becoming popular food among young Japanese people. Moreover, it is not only consumed in Japan, and it is spreading among Asian countries, too. For instance, the sales of Japanese "Oden" at convenience stores in Shanghai is surprisingly three times higher than the sales in Japan!!

At first, I got interested in this article because one of my favorite Japanese food is "Oden." But, as I read the article, I became interested in the fact that this "Oden" is becoming a famous food in Asian countries. It's easy to notice how things from overseas spread in Japanese society. For example, many Japanese women started to do "yoga," for many hollywood celebrities started to do it to keep their body healthy and slim. We can easily see the influence on Japanese society from things brought by other countries. On the other hand, it's very hard to realize how Japanese things are spread in other foreign countries. We rarely have a chance to know the influence of Japanese things upon other countries.
Therefore, today, I was happy to find out that Japanese food was noticed and was favored by foreign people. I believe the taste for food go beyond borders!!

January 15, 2006

Jan. 16, 2006

Right now, I'm researching on 2nd and 3rd generation of the Muslim immigrants in France, for the report I have to submit on Friday.
And I realized that the more I find out about present condition in French society, the more I discover how difficult it is to live together with immigrants from different countries.
In addition, I also realized that the problems of the immigrants (the 1st generation) and the problems of the 2nd generation immigrants are quite different...Because what the 2nd generation of the Muslim immigrants consider niggest about the problems they carry is the problem of IDENTITY. They have great difficulty of finding their identity in French society. On the other hand, immigrants (the 1st generation) don't have problems of 'hard to find identity' while living in French society, for they already have a stable identity as Muslims.

Now, I would like to explain more about the problem of "identity." Why do 2nd generations of Muslim immigrants carry such kind of problems???
First of all, most of the 2nd generations of Muslim immigrants are "French." This is because, in France, you can acquire French nationality if your birthplace is France, that means if you were born in France you will automatically become French. Moreover, unlike the 1st generation, the 2nd generations of Muslim immigrants are educated in French schools and they possess the similar sense of value with the French people. That'S why they don't value the identity as "Muslim" so much compared to the 1st generation. Therefore, not only they possess French nationality, but they are also influenced by French culture and are becoming culturally French too.
However, the reality they face in the French society is the fact that they are still treated as immigrants and suffer from harsh discriminations. For example, the unemployment rate of the 2nd generation of Muslim immigrants are twice as high as that of French people. They have hard time finding a job, and as a result, many people (2nd generation of Muslim immigrants) face poverty and live in the apartments for low incomes in the suburbs. (By the way, there's also a problem on these suburb areas. They are ghettoized and are cut off connections from the French society! )
In short, even though these 2nd generations of Muslim immigrants are really becoming "French," many of them feel that they are excluded from French society and are not provided with the same equal opportunities (to participate in the society) as other French people.
Now, what would you feel if you were neglected from a society where you have tried so hard to adjust? Furthermore, the homeland of these 2nd generations of Muslim immigrants are France!! They don'T have any other place to go home. That's why they feel despair when they are not accepted as French. And that's why they have difficulties finding their identity because they don't have "the core" where they can rely on to develop their identity.
And when all the feelings (anger, dissatisfaction, complaint, etc.) that 2nd generations have become too strong or too large to control,,,,,unfortunately, it might come out as violence.

Well, since I was writing a report on riots that arouse last year in Paris, I learned many things about the 2nd generations of Muslim immigrants that live in France. And I felt reallly shocked by the fact that these people can't find a group to belong to. I'm sure I would feel very uncomfortable and unsafe if I were in their unstable position. I would also feel terrible loneliness for having no identity to present proudly to others.
I know that violence is not good and it won't solve any problems. However, if I experience the same unjustice in the everyday life, I can't be sure if I could control my feelings and feel scared to think of the possiblities of explosion.

January 05, 2006

Jan. 6, 2006

About a week ago, I found some interesting statistics in the news article in Japanese newspaper and I would like to share it in this blog, because I think it is related to the issue of "social diversity" in Japan. (By the way, I found this news article from "Asahi Shimbun"Dec. 30, 2005)

This news article wrote about international marriages in Japan, and it said that about 6.6% of the marriage among Japanese were international marriages, last year. This means that 1/15 of the marriages were between Japanese and non-Japanese! In addition, this data indicates that the number of international marriages among Japanese and non-Japanese have increased by 1.5times, compared to the data from 10 years ago.
I was very surprised by this statistics, because I have never realized that the number of international marriages are increasing rapidly in the recent years! Moreover, I was interested by the fact that only the international marriages are increasing in Japanese society!(Because the total number of the couples who get married every year is not changing so much.)
I felt that this statistics show "social diversity" in Japan. Not only that, I also think it shows the changes in Japanese people's mind and beliefs. This is because, in Japan, marriages are used to be believed as some kind of contract between families. Marriages were not held between couples, but between families. So, the couples were not able make decisions about getting married or not by themselves. "Marriage" was a family matter.
That's why, marrying non-Japanese was something many Japanese people used to hesitate, I think. But, I think the data about the increase in number of international marriages show that Japanese people are becoming to think open-mindedly about the "marriage". The marriages are becoming something that couples could decide freely and without their parents' judgements.
But maybe,,, even marriages become couples' business, parents can't stop from worrying about their child's marriage...

Well..., it's quite fun to think about things that datas and statistics might be indicating to us!!

Jan. 5, 2006

How are you spending your winter vacation??
Are you having fun??

In my case, I have been spending my vacation playing around and not doing my homework...
Well, now, I would like to share one of my thought about something that happened yesterday, during the shopping with my friend at Shinjuku.
After couple hours of shopping, we both became very tired because all the shops were on sale and they were crowded with tons of people(girls!). Therefore, we decided to go to "Starbucks" and have some break. While we were looking at the sweets and having a hard time deciding which sweets to eat, a foreigner came by and asked us if we were waiting in the line or not. Since we still couldn't decide what to eat, we did some gestures meaning "Go ahead" to him.

Now, I don't think this is such an unusual experience which I have to share it in this blog. But, what my friend pointed out after this incident made me think...
After a while, my friend said "Isn't it rare to see foreigners talking to Japanese people in English? Because, these days, most of the foreingers try to talk to us by using Japanese."
What she pointed out was interesting to me, because I have never thought like that before!
But is it true??
Maybe yes, what she pointed out might be true, for I meet many foreigners who could speak fluent Japanese these days. Or, maybe it can be just a coincidence, that we meet many foreigners that speak Japanese and not their own language.

But, I certainly believe that the number of people who become interested in Japanese or decide to learn Japanese is increasing, because of the spread of Japanese cultures among the world.
Yet, I don't mean "traditional" Japanese cultures such as kimonos and samurai, but the modern cultures like Japanese comics, trends, etc. For example, when I used to live in abroad, I used to receive questions like "Are there still samurais living in Japan?" or "Do you wear kimonos at your house?" and etc. I guess many people carried an unrealistic image of Japan, a country of mystery. But nowadays, I hardly meet across such questions because many people became to carry some real image about Japan by receiving the information of modern Japanese culture from comics, magazines, newspapers , internet, etc. For instance, I have seen many Japanese comics sold at bookstore at Thailand and I have seen some cute goods of Japanese character, "Hello Kitty" in America! Therefore, I think more and more people are having the chance to meet the modern Japanese culture and I feel happy for it, because it might create interest to some people or it can break the misunderstood imaginary of Japan.
Well,,, these were some things that came up in my mind after my friend's opinion and I just wanted to share it in this blog. I know my thoughts are very UNorganzed and they are hard to understand. I 'm very sorry, but thanks for reading!!

November 23, 2005

Nov. 29, 2005

Is imitation a bad thing?
...Couple days ago, when I was watching TV with my friends, a Japanese pop singer was singing her song. I would say she's like a Japanese version of "Britney Spears". After we finished listening to her, my friend said that "I became embarrassed when I'm watching her, because she's totally imitating American pop singers! "
I was very surprised when I heard this. First of all, I have never thought that she was copying American singers. Yes, maybe she's not a common type of Japanese idol because she is known for her sexiness. (Most of the Japanese idols are cute, and not sexy, I think.) But, I just thought she was acting sexy because she was actually sexy. In other words, I have never thought that she was influenced by the American culture.
The second reason why I felt surprised was that my friend strongly belived that "imitation" was something very bad. Well, I know that copying someone's ideas and making as if they are your own idea is not legal. However, I used to think that imitating something you thought was cool or cute was not that bad. For example, don't many girls always follow the "trend" in clothes every season? Well, at least in Japan, when a famous singer says that clothes that are in "blue" are going to be the fashion for the coming season, then, most of the girls start to wear blue clothes. That's why, I used to think that imitating something or someone is not a bad thing to do.
But, after I heard my friend's comments, I started to get confused...maybe imitating something or someone is actually a bad thing, for one might lose their originality.
But, but, we often hear that the world is becoming "borderless," and therefore, different cultures and customs come in and out. I think it's so hard not to get influenced by other culture!!
It's a natural thing that we get attracted by fascinating things and things that are new to us. And it's a natural behavior to feel that we want to adopt it into our own custom.
So, I would like to ask again...is imitation a bad thing?

"Gaijin" and "Gaikokujin"

(I'm sorry to ask a question that only the ones who know Japanese can understand, but...) Which word do you usually use, "Gaijin" or "Gaikokujin"?

If you are Japanese, I'm sure you don't really much care about which word to use, "Gaijin" or "Gaikokujin", because they mean the same, they both mean "foreigners" in Japanese. Yet; these two words might not mean the same for foreigners.
Today, when I was chatting with my friend at a coffee shop, there was this really cute foreign girl walking in the street and when we noticed how pretty she was, we started talking like ''That gaijin is really cute!!""Yeah! I wish I had a small face like hers!"etc. etc. And, I realized that I was using the word "Gaijin", and not "Gaikokujin".
Next moment, I remembered what my english teacher at high school used to say..."I don't like to be called "Gaijin" because I feel like being called "outsider," and not "foreigner".
(By the way, in Chinese character, we write "Gaijin" with the letters meaning "outside people," and we write "Gaikokujin" with the letters meaning "foreign country people.")
So, yes, he was right. The word "gaijin" do mean "outsiders" and "gaikokujin" means "foreigners". When my teacher pointed out this difference, I was surprised to hear that some people feel displeasure by being called as "gaijin" , because most of the Japanese use the word "gaijin", without any means of hurting someone. We, Japanese, don't know that there is such a difference in meaning and the possibility that the word "gaijin" might hurt the foreigners. That's why we don't really care about using "gaijin" or ""gaikokujin", and end up using both the two words unconciously.
Therefore, it's really scary and awful thing to not have knowledge, for we might hurt other people even though we don't mean to hurt them. And I think we should especially be careful when meeting people from different culture, ethnic background, tradition, etc. because we rarely share the same belief. We might think things in a totally different way. And a simple word can insult the person or discomfort the person.

So, from now on, I thought that that I have to use the word "Gaikokujin" because I KNOW that the word "Gaijin" can displease some people.

November 14, 2005

Nov. 14, 2005

Yesterday, I saw a wedding picture of the famous couple (TV stars of Japan) in the newspaper. The bride's wedding dress was very beautiful and she was really cute, she was like a pretty doll!!
And I thought I wish I could wear such a beautiful and cute wedding dress like hers in the future.

I think most of the Japanese girls dream of wearing a beautiful white wedding dress someday in the future. And I used to think that it's a natural (usual?) thing to wish for. Because, it's so common in Japan for the brides to wear wedding dress and the grooms to wear the tuxedo, and have a wedding ceremony at a nice chapel.
However..., I became to realize that maybe if the foreigners see this wedding event in Japan, they might feel weird or strange about the fact that most of the Japanese are having their wedding events in a western style. Because,,, first of all, we, Japanese have our own traditional style of wedding! And secondly, most of the Japanese who are having their wedding in the chapel are not even Christians !!
Well, I don't know why the western way of having a wedding have been so penetrated into the Japanese society. But, I have heard that when the famous Japanese designer, Yumi Katsura, have first brought the wedding dress from abroad and tried to spread into Japanese society, she had been criticized from many people. Maybe those people who criticized the wedding dress were scared or afraid that these new style from different cultures might affect the traditional Japanese style of wedding. And yes, it did. And, maybe this is a very sad thing because the traditional styles are in danger of ceasing. But, since the western style of wedding became so common in our society right now, I (and all the girls in Japan?) just can't stop dreaming of wearing a dress and having a ceremony in a chapel !

October 28, 2005

Oct. 28, 2005

Today, I went shopping with my mother. I really love shopping and I love it more when I go with my mother, because she buys me some clothes when she's in a good mood(^0^)!

Well, anyway..., when I was walking inside a department store, I found some signs(posters?) on the wall that said like this, "Information center is this way→→"
I guess since the building of the department store was under construction (for the earthquake-resistant,) these signs were meant to guide us through the way. But, I wouldn't have cared about these signs if they were only written in Japanese. I would only have thought how kind it is to show us the way. However, I felt these signs very interesting, because they were not only written in Japanese, but also in English and in Korean.
These days, it's not un unusual thing to see road signs(traffic signs?) that are written in Japanese, in English, and in Korean. I also have seen boards that are placed on train stations with the name of the station written in three languages. Yet, I have only seen signs with three languages when they tried to inform the name of the places or explain the places where tourists are likely to visit.
And it was my first time to see the guidance written in three languages in the place unsuitable for sightseeing. That's why I was surprised when I saw these signs.

I think these signs show us the increase in number of foreigners coming to Japan and living in Japan, because if their were no need of explaining the way in English and in Korean, the signs would have only be written in Japanese, like it used to be. There were necessities to guide in three languages! In other words, the department store couldn't ignore the existence of English-speaking customers and Korean-speaking customers.
It's really amazing how these small signs could make us realize many things. And today, I learned that we could see some effects of "the diversity" from the small changes filled in the cities. It was very interesting to find one of the effects from the globalization of the world in our daily life.

October 22, 2005

Oct. 22, 2005

How much do you know about your own country?
Or, do you know a lot about your country?

Today, I would like to share one of my embarrassing experience that I had when I used to go to the International school in Athens (Greece), about five years ago. There were only two Japanese (including me) in the school when I used to go to there, so I used to face situations where I'm requested to tell people about my own country, Japan. However, at that time, (to my shame,) I really didn't know anything about my country. Therefore, I used to think like "Don't ask me questions about Japan!!" But, unfortunately, people especially teachers would often ask me "How about in Japan?" and I really had hard time thinking of an answer. And one day, when my Greek teacher asked me a question about Japan, I couldn't answer and said "I don't know." Then, she said "You don't know !? But you are Japanese, aren't you??" I was really embarrassed and was ashamed of myself. (I almost cried! I was really embarrassed!!) At first, I didn't know why she's asking me questions like this and making me humiliate in front of the classmates. However, when the time past, I started to realize that she had shown me how embarrassing it is to know nothing about my own country. And from that day, I tried to absorb as many information I can so that I can be prepared for any kind of questions I get about Japan.
Five years have past from this experience, and I still can't say that I know a lot about my own country. And I feel the need of learning about Japan more these days, because there are many opportunities that I meet different people from different countries everyday.

...well, the reason why I talked about this experience today is because I 'm going through similar experiences at my part-time job. I am working part-time at a cake shop for about a month, but I still don't know many things about the cakes I sell. Therefore, when the customers ask me questions about the cake, like "Is there an alcohol in this cake?" or "How long do these cookies last?", I have to go to the workshop and ask someone else. And everytime when I face the questions I don't know, I get embarrassed for my ignorance. I know that I should have able to know the answers for all the questions I'm asked because I'm selling the food and I'm in responsible for the product. Therefore, when I finish my part-time job these days, I try to buy the cakes that I have never tried before and study them, so that I can know more about the cakes and will be ready for any kind of questions I receive.
To conclude, I guess we should not accept our "ignorance" and leave it that way, because eventually, the ignorance will definitely lead us to a situation where we feel ashamed at ourselves and regret for not knowing. That's why we have to keep learning and absorbing!!

October 16, 2005

Oct. 16, 2005

This morning, my mother was talking on the phone with my father, who lives in Brazil by himself. They were discussing about the airplane that he would take when he comes back to Japan temporarily during this winter vacation.
Now, here's a question. Do you know how much time it will take to travel from Brazil to Japan, or from Japan to Brazil?

Well, the answer is ...it will take us about 36 hours of flight via America. Now, do you think it's a very long trip?? When I heard this, I thought it's too long! In fact, when I actually travelled to Brazil last summer, it felt sooooo long!! However, when I was complaining about how long and how tiring the flight was after I came back to Japan to my grandmother , she pointed out that in the old days, it took more than a month of voyage to reach Brazil! I felt embarassed by complaining about the travel, because 36 hours of flight is nothing compared to the months of voyage! And I realized that I have to appreciate living in the present world where development of technology have enabled us to travel around the world easily and quickly.
In addition, I also thought that maybe the convenience in transportation led by the development of technology have helped diversify the culture, religion, and race within the nation-states in the world. This is because, since people can visit other countries more easily in the present days, the globalization of the world advanced and the borders are becoming indiscernible. And, I think it will lead up to the diversification inside the countries.

Well, these were couple things that popped into my mind this morning, and I'm sorry that I can't put them into neat and organized sentences. I just hope you (who is kind enough to read my blog) can understand my English!

October 15, 2005

Oct. 15, 2005

Last night, I saw a movie, "Charlie's Angels," showed in TV. It's an American movie which is a remake of famous TV series that was played during '70s. It was a fun movie and I really enjoyed watching it. And there was one thing I noticed when I was watching this movie, so I would like to share it in this blog.

I haven't seen the TV series of "Charlie's Angels" since I was not born yet, at that time. However, I'm pretty sure that the main characters (the three angels) were all played by American actresses in the drama. In contrast, in the movie version of "Charlie's Angels," the three angels were played by two American actresses and one Asian-American actress. I felt this difference very interesting because I thought it is related to the today's diversification inside the states. Now, especially in America, people from different cultures are living together and the situation is often called "salad bowl," where each ingredients are keeping its individuality(identity). And I thought that the change in the angels compared to the ones 30 years ago might be caused by this "salad bowl" situation in American society. Living in a complicated and diverse society, American people in the present world have to think more about the people with different identities. And I thought that the difference in three angels is reflecting the feelings that American people carry.
Or, I also thought that maybe three angels are presenting the ideal of peace among the diverse American society, the dream of people living peacely by respecting the other people's differences.

Maybe the casting of three angels have nothing to do with the diversity of American society. But, it was interesting for me to think about the possibilities of relations between the casting and the American society.

October 04, 2005

After watching "Balablok"...

Today, I saw an animation called "Balablok" in my English Seminar(2) Course.
Strangely, all the characters in this animation were figures, like triangles, spheres, squares, etc.
The story goes like this...

Two squares are walking together. During the walk, they meet several figures on the way. But, they act differently according to the figures they meet. For example, when they met some other squares, they exchanged greetings with their own language. However, when they came across a sphere, they suddenly changed their attitudes. As soon as they realized that they were larger in number and that they were in superior situation, they started to tease this poor sphere! Luckily, two other spheres came by and helped the sphere. But, at the next moment, the three spheres became the dominant and started to attack the squares! Luckily again, a square that passed by joined the battle, so the fight became even with three spheres versus three squares. The battle came to a standstill. Then, both sides called for help. Many supporters, which looked like soldiers to me, came quickly to help them…And the horrible war started.
Both sides attacked continuously, until all the figures collapsed. Then, from the ruins left at the battlefield, a new figure was born. It was a rectangle.
The story ends when two rectangles went for a walk and met another new figure, a triangle.

When I finished watching the video, I couldn't feel just enjoyment even though this animation was constructed by cute characters and cute pictures. Something about this video made me feel mixed and unclear. And now, I don’t know if I can put my thoughts together in neat sentences, but I would like to try!
First of all, this animation was surely not happy ending. We could easily imagine what's going to happen after the ending of this story. Unfortunately, the figures will continue to attack different types of figures and the fight will never end. It’s a very sad story.
And to make it worse, I think this animation exactly reflects the ugly parts of human behavior. If we think that the different shape and color of the figures in this animation represent the different culture, religion, and race in the human society, we can easily understand why figures in the video took such violent actions. For example, like the scene where two squares attacked a sphere, when there is a dominant group composed by one race, people in that group are likely to misinterpret that people from different races are inferior. And sadly, such misunderstandings could lead to prejudices and discriminations. Another example is the battle of squares versus spheres. When there are two groups that presumably carry similar or equal power, it is likely that the situation will turn into a conflict, more badly "war," since one tries to rule another.
In addition, there was this shocking part in the video where some spheres sacrificed their life to win the war against squares and became the destruct systems themselves. To me, those scenes linked to the terrorist attacks and suicidal bombings in the world today.
It was a very simple animation. And the story was also simple. There were no person or no characters that tried to teach us lessons in the video, but still, this animation had a great impact on myself. It seems as if the time after the video pasts more and more, the scenes become more vivid and more unforgettable. Maybe that's because the video was in a form of short animation and that I was able to concentrate without getting bored; yet, it was surprising for me that I was able to recall my memories and remember the scenes so easily. I think watching this video was a successful lesson to me, by letting me think of many things that I don't usually wonder about.