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Friday, April 11, 2008

Joe in Japan: Day one


Joseph in Hirosaki, 8 years ago. Somehow I don't think I was very happy that day.

Yay, business plan complete!

Even if we don't make it through to the final, it will all have been worthwhile, as I now have a very nice template to work from for any future start-up!

Forgot to mention earlier: These past few weeks I've been following Joe, an American guy whose been preparing for a 5 month stay as an exchange student in Hirosaki, northern Honshu. He finally arrived there last week, and tonight updated his blog for the first time.

Boy oh boy have I enjoyed reading it. He's a great writer. It takes me straight back to my first trip to Japan 8 years ago (when I did actually go to Hirosaki myself, although it was only by looking at Joe's photos tonight that I realised this, having completely forgotten the name of the place). It's so refreshing to see Japan through fresh eyes, and without prejudice or disdain.

Reading that Day One entry of his I couldn't help but feel it was the beginning of an epic Murakami novel.

Hmm, anyway, time for bed.

xxx

7 Comments:

Anonymous Joe said...

Thanks for the kind comments, Joseph! I'm really glad you and others are liking the blog. :)

11/4/08 11:38  
Blogger Shari said...

As you are recommending it, I'll also start reading Joe's blog, but I'm not inclined to elevate newcomer's perspectives over more seasoned critical eyes. Honeymooners always see things with a warm, rosy glow, but that doesn't make their perspectives are more valuable and certainly not more accurate.

Also, there is always prejudice in all perspectives. Sometimes the prejudice is an unfairly positive bias rather than an unfairly negative one. Both are distortions, though the former is rarely criticized. It's my feeling that the tragic death of Lindsey Hawker was the result of a positive bias as she bought into the Japan being safe and the people being non-violent myth strongly enough to take a risk she never would have taken back home.

Seeing the negative as well as the positive isn't an indication of disdain or prejudice, but just about being realistic. That applies to all cultures, including our own.

I don't mean to sound negative, but recently one of T.'s (Australian) female coworkers was raped by two men in Tokyo, and, once again, I think she put herself in a position she never would have put herself in back home and part of the reason that happens is the positive bias applied to Japan and Japanese people. Now, she's not only clearly suffered post-traumatic stress, but she's struggling to get the Japanese criminal justice system here to take her charges seriously. I'm not inclined to embrace positive Japan-based naiveté with a warm heart right now.

11/4/08 11:49  
Blogger Joseph said...

Joe: you're welcome!

Shari: That's pretty shocking, really sorry to hear that. It must be especially difficult for her having to deal with a reluctant criminal justice system.

I agree with your thoughts on Lindsey too and have long thought the same myself.

I would also mention that I doubt you would enjoy Joe's blog to the same extent as I do, as for me, reading it brings back fond memories, and it's likely that I am attaching meaning to it that is not necessarily carried in the raw words.

11/4/08 15:47  
Blogger Joseph said...

now I've woken up a bit...

I was also thinking that, like you said Shari, it's not necessarily a wise thing to elevate the opinions of a newcomer above a seasoned critic. But that doesn't necessarily rob the newcomer's contribution of any value.

If one of my friends was to buy a Macbook and start blogging about it, I don't think I'd start using their blog as the definitive (or even vaguely accurate) guide to using a Mac.

However, what I could get from reading about their first impressions is that sense of wonder that I too had (but may have since lost after one too many kernal panics). It reminds me why I first fell in love with thing, and reaffirms my appreciation which may have become lost under subsequent frustrations.

I think that's why I love observing children encountering things like Father Christmas for the first time. There's that real sense of excitement and wonder that is yet to be tarnished by the time Father Christmas took his beard off and turned out to be your dad in disguise.

Essentially, I think it helps to maintain balance, especially in a world where there tends to be far more focus upon the negative.

[nonetheless, I think it's only understandable that one takes a somewhat dim view of 'the positive bias' when one has a personal connection with someone who has perhaps could be thought of as its victim].

11/4/08 16:47  
Blogger Shari said...

Joesph: The situation for women who are victims of violence in Japan is appalling. If I were still blogging and in the mood to have all the apologists claim I was failing to see the sunshine and lollipops, I'd talk about this in detail, but I would encourage you to look into it when your life isn't a cascade of other responsibilities (as I know it is now). A few things to consider are that:

• domestic violence wasn't even a crime in Japan up until about a decade ago as husbands roughing up their wives was not something the police or criminal justice system would be involved in.

• Japanese women who are raped are always queried as to the extent that they "provoked" or failed to resist in such crimes. One of T's students was raped by her stepfather (this was year or two ago) and the police blamed her for letting him into her apartment. The fact that he was her stepfather didn't seem a good enough "excuse". The prevailing mindset in Japan is that women who dress the part or position themselves in certain ways (walking around late at night alone, allowing a visitor into their homes) are responsible for allowing themselves to be raped.

• Moderate violence and assault is so accepted that Japanese women see it as a matter of course when it happens. When I related the incident where a stranger shoved me on the street for no reason, my female students response was that Japanese older men are prone to such behavior and that they had had such experiences as well, particularly when they were younger. This was in addition to being groped and chased by strange men on various occasions.

The Australian woman is currently gathering character affidavits to assist in proving her reliability as a rape victim to the justice system. T is writing her one such character reference, but I honestly doubt that anything will come of the "investigation."

I do see myself from a long, long time ago in Joe's blog. Everything is shiny, quaint, precious and fascinating. I remember that feeling. I don't think I'm cynical now, but I'm also not into seeing the Japanese as so much better than everyone else. Part of the problem for me with male bloggers who live in Japan is that they're kids in candy stores here and become apologists for anything bad that happens and disbelieve when experiences that are outside of their experiences as men occur. Life is very different for women in Japan (both Japanese and Western) and the main problem is the law does not stand behind them when they are victims.

Joe: I didn't say your viewpoint was not valid or of interest. I just said it wasn't to be elevated above others. I'm sure your perspective will also make me remember notions I've long forgotten. However, you're in phase 1 of the well-known phases of life here in Japan for the foreign person and probably won't stay long enough to reach phase 2.

11/4/08 17:12  
Blogger Shari said...

Bah, I confused Joe and Joeseph and didn't realize I was talking to you twice! Sorry about that!

Anyway, I'm all for balance and focusing on the positive, but, when it comes to Japan, you know that there tend to be three main viewpoints:

"Weird Japan" - aren't the Japanese so funky and clever.

"Bad Japan" - the Japanese are racist automatons who go through life as drones memorizing things and not thinking for themselves

"Utopia on Earth Japan" - the Japanese do everything better than us and I can't imagine a better existence!

My view has always been that it's a place to live like any other place to live with good and bad points. I don't see the same focus on the negative being over-stated, but it could be my resources and acquaintances are different than yours.

11/4/08 17:18  
Blogger Joseph said...

That's OK. I feel like there must be more than one of me at the moment in any case.

You're right in that I don't know much about the problems women face in Japan other than those of discrimination the workplace (etc) that we have studied at uni) and the occasional problems *Twinkle* has had on the street (and in the office). I think a few more years of me living there with will no doubt open my eyes to the kinds of problems faced.

11/4/08 17:24  

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