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31 May 2007

Suicidal Society, Japan

This week has been suicidal week for Japan. On Monday, minister of Agriculture and Fishery, Toshikatsu Matsuoka  committed suicide by hanging himself in the Diet members' residential building. He left several suicide notes including one to the whole nation. He was amid so many scandals. On the same day, famous singer, ZARD stepped down from the stair of the hospital, where she was hospitalized for her cancer cure. She did not leave any suicide note but it was speculated that she may have committed suicide. Next day, an old man who was the head of the organization linked to the minister's scandal jumped off the building.

Then on Wednesday, a high school girl hanged herself in her school. Everyday around 100 people committed suicide. It is estimated 1,000 attempted to kill themselves. Japan's suicide probability rate is double that of the U.S.

Why, so many?

We had the tradition that valued suicide act like harakiri of Samurai. It had been considered honorable.

We live in the society that an individual cannot speak out inner-self. It is called "Culture of shame."

We are living in kind of depressed society.

The theme to live in Japanese society is how to survive in such depressed and stressful environment.

21:00 Posted in Japan News, Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: suicide, Japan

24 May 2007

TV Mini-Series "Shogun" God Cursed Sodomite!

I rent DVD of TV Mini Series "Shogun" aired in U.S., 1980. I remember when I first visited the U.S., American host family where I stayed played the video of this show to welcome me. It was a very popular show. So I just wanted to see it again.

The story takes place late 16th century in Japan, when Japan was not unified. An English shipper captain, John Blackthorne was saved by the Samurai Lord, Toranaga after his ship was wrecked by the heavy storm. Blackthorne then learned how to become Samurai. Later Toranaga became the shogun, the general who governs whole of Japan. Toranaga is actually named after Tokugawa Ieyasu, who founded Tokugawa dynasty that continued for 2 and half century just by his descendants.

It was almost 10 hour show. I enjoyed only first 2 hours. As for rest of the show, I fast forwarded just to see how Japan was depicted. More than half of the show was spoken in Japanese. I could not understand how American viewers could enjoy it although each Japanese conversation was interpreted by Japanese care taker woman for Blackthorne. Kind of frustrating to see for the English viewers, I wondered. But there are many new and exciting things introduced in the show especially for westerners such as Harakiri, a man and a woman taking bath together. Not common in modern Japan but typical and normal in that era.

 There was a very interesting thing even for Japanese. That proves that sometimes foreigners know better of our country's history. In the scene, Japanese care taker woman named Mariko told Blackthorne that he should choose a woman to sleep with for his health. Blackthorne declined. Then Mariko said "Do you prefer a boy?"

He was so shocked and got angry and then said "I am not God Cursed Sodomite! My intimate customs doesn't include boys." I was surprised, too. But the truth is in that era, Sodomite was considered normal in Japan.

If you want to know more about that, please read this post.  



21:00 Posted in Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: japan, samurai, gay, homosexuality, tv

19 May 2007

Short Novel: The Flight to Tokyo, Chapter 6


A story of a B-29 bomber pilot who time-travels from the war-time Tokyo to present-time.

Please read from Chapter 1 to Chapter 5 first.

 Jim and Sayuri were taking a taxi to get to where his sister, Katie was. Sayuri had been worried that how Katie would respond to Jim’s appearing. It has been 60 years since Katie parted from her brother. How would she believe that Jim was real brother who she had believed being dead. In fact, no one could believe Jim time-slipped and he was still 21 year-old man.

 Jim suddenly said “Stop, please.” The taxi stopped on the street near sidewalk. Then Jim said to Sayuri, “Is that store selling dolls?”

Sayuri looked at where he pointed by finger. She could see the show window that displayed several dolls on the shelf. The sign of the store said “Akasaka Ningyo-ya (Doll shop).”

“Yes, it is doll store. Why?” said Sayuri.

“Well, I want to go there and buy a doll for my sister. Can we go?”

Sayuri couldn’t understand what he was up to but said “Yes, let’s go.”

They went out of taxi. Sayuri asked the driver to wait for 10 minutes. They went inside of the store.

 There were lots of kinds of dolls displayed in the store. Western antique dolls, Chinese dolls, Japanese traditional dolls with kimonos. Hundreds of dolls to choose. She asked Jim what kind of doll his sister would like. She just teased him because she knew his sister was too old to like a doll. But in Jim’s memory, Katie was 10 year-old girl. Jim looked very serious looking for a doll.

“I am searching for a particular one.” After a while, Jim shouted “Oh, there it is. I found one.”

Sayuri was surprised that it was Japanese dolls wearing bright yellow kimono. Sayuri paid the money for a doll and they went back to the taxi.


After 10 minutes, they reached the U.S. embassy. They got out of a taxi. Nancy was waiting at the entrance.

“Thank you, Nancy .”

“My pleasure, Sayuri. The ambassador is waiting for you, two” said Nancy .

Nancy took them to the ambassador’s office. Actually, she was not the ambassador any more.

Kathleen Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to Japan was packing her things. Tomorrow she would be flying back to the U.S. Kathleen Bolton heard the knock on the door by Nancy .

“You can come in” said Kathleen. Nancy opened the door.

Jim and Sayuri entered the office. Jim looked at Kathleen. They both looked shocked. Jim was shocked to see Kathleen looking like his grand mother he knew. Jim had already seen her at the Civic Hall. But at this moment he was seeing her in much closer distance. Kathleen was shocked to see her brother who was supposed to be dead 60 years ago looking just like she remembered.

“Nice to see you again, the ambassador. As Nancy told you and it should be hard to believe this is your brother, James Austin.” Sayuri said very nervously.

“So you are the one who claims to be my dead brother.” Kathleen said smiling.

“Are you really Katie? Kathleen Austin? You really survived from the sickness” Jim asked.

“Yes, I am. Austin is my maiden name. I was married to a man named George Bolton later. He died 10 years ago. Yes, I was survived because I was the only hope for my parents since my brother died. I went through many surgeries to survive. That is common knowledge. What are you after? Is this some kind of joke? Do you want some money? Yes, everyone knows I am a widow of a very rich man. I do have so much assets. But you should be more clever to deceive me.”

The way Kathleen talked sounds accusable. That was what Sayuri expected.

“I know you would be surprised. I am the one more surprised. I still could not believe I time-slipped to 60 years later. But it is true. I do not know how to prove it. Well, why don’t you ask me any question only you and I could share? I know a lot about you and our family.”

Kathleen then said, “Actually, I am too busy to play such a silly game but since you came over here and resembles my brother so well. You seem to talk the same way as my dead brother as far as I remember. Alright. What is your favorite tune, which we always listened to?”

“Glenn Miller’s In the Mood” Jim answered.

“Correct, next is who was your girlfriend you date with when you were in high school? What was her name? I met that girl several times at home. She was a beautiful girl with brown hair.”

“Her name was Dorothy Jackson. But I broke up with her before joining the army. She already dated with other guy.”

The question and answer time went on for 20 minutes. The ambassador asked questions related her brother’s personal matters, her parents, relatives, neighbors and herself which he might know. All the answers he gave her seemed correct. But the ambassador still looked suspicious.

 “Well, you know so much about my brother, me and my family. Some of the things were I did not even remember. But I still cannot help thinking about you being imposter. You can do complete research for me. If you are after big money, you would want to do that. You can even get a plastic surgery. But this is too strange if you impersonate my dead brother and tried to look as young as he was at the time of his death. Making up such a fairy tale. You know I am not that stupid. I graduated from Harvard University and then worked for State Department for decades. I am now 70 year old lady. You should know you cannot make me believe such a Hollywood kind of fantasy. Why are you doing this?”

For a while, there was a silence among 3 people in the office. But Jim said to Kathleen.

“Kathleen, do you still have a Clara?”

“Clara? What are you talking about?” Kathleen wondered.

“A doll I bought for you before leaving home.”

“Yes, a doll, Clara. Yes. I still have it right here.”

Kathleen pointed to a doll in the glass case set on the side board. There was a doll of little girl. Typical western doll but it got tainted after 60 years of the time. The clothes Clara was wearing faded. No one could tell what it looked like when it was made.

“You know about Clara. Well, I talked about this doll’s story with some people. You might hear from them. It is a doll I kept because it was precious gift from Jim. Last gift from him. One time for many years I put it in the attic to forget about him. But since I was appointed to live in Tokyo where Jim died, I brought it here. Why do you want to talk about it?”

“Do you remember what we promised before I left home? I bought a present for you. Clara’s sister.”

“Clara’s sister. Yes, I remember Jim promised to bring Clara’s sister with him if he would come back home alive. You also heard that story from someone” said Kathleen without surprise.

“You and I should remember what should Clara’s sister wearing” said Jim looking Kathleen seriously.

“Yes. So what? Is that what you brought?” Kathleen looked annoyed.

“Katie, please open it. This is Clara’s sister, only I could choose what you want.”

Jim handed the box wrapped with “Akasaka doll shop” logo paper. Kathleen took it saying nothing.

She then opened the box and saw the doll wearing kimono.

“Oh my god. This is the doll I asked Jim to buy. You know it. Only he could know that. You are my brother, Jim.”

To be continued to Last Chapter.


21:00 Posted in My novel | Permalink | Comments (0)

12 May 2007

Learning Japan's hidden history by American scholar

Male Colors: The construction of homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan

by Gary P. Leupp, Professor of Japanese History at Tufts University, USA,

I happenned to buy this book almost ten years ago in America.


Before reading this book,  I had thought it unlikely that there was any homosexuality in Japan . I also took a negative view of homosexuality, seeing it as a result of the decadence of Western culture. When I came across this book, while in the USA , I was therefore astonished to learn about an aspect of Japanese history about which I, a Japanese, knew nothing.


The book is primarily concerned with male homosexuality in Japan during the Edo Era. However, the Introduction also mentions nanshoku (literally, “male colors”), as the practices of homosexuality and pederasty were then known, as it was prevalent at earlier times. It is said that Kūkai a monk who introduced Buddhism to Japan from China brought the practice of nanshoku, and it was at first mainly among monks that the practice spread. However, during the Age of Warring States (16th century), nanshoku became extremely common among men of the samurai caste. Historical records show that famous samurai lords such as Oda Nobunaga and Takeda Shingen, for example, had sexual relations with their retainers, and there still exist documents showing that Takeda Shingen and his vassal Kosaka Masanobu wrote pledges of sexual love to each other.


After the years of war and chaos, the Edo Era (1603-1867) began with the Tokugawa Shogunate establishing its rule over Japan . However, the Nanshoku Culture continued, and records show that 7 of the 15 Tokugawa shoguns engaged in homosexual activities. Homosexuality was not restricted to the samurai, but was prevalent among the ordinary townsfolk as well. At that time, nanshoku was classified as two main types. In the first type, a couple of men with a marked age difference were seen as having a relationship modeled after older and younger brothers. The second type, on the other hand, was influenced by the male-chauvinist perspective of contempt for women, and one partner took the female role, enabling two men to imitate a heterosexual relationship without having to lower themselves to sexual contact with impure females.


Ihara Saikaku famous novelist in that era, wrote Kōshoku Ichidai Otoko (The Life of an Amorous Man) which is representative of the practice of nanshoku among the common people. The principal character, Yonosuke, the son of a rich merchant, has sexual intercourse with 3,275 women and 725 men during the course of his life. That is a ratio of 5:1, but it probably reflects the general male sexual orientation at the time. To summarize, homosexuality was not a minority concern in society during that era, and the typical male sexual orientation was what would now be termed “bisexual”.


The above information raises the question of why Japan changed so drastically to a society in which homosexuality is regarded with loathing. Leupp indicates the process of modernization during and after late 19th century known as Meiji Era as the cause of this. After Japan opened up to the rest of the world, many Westerners visited Japan and transmitted aspects of Western culture, one of which was severe criticism of the Japanese nanshoku Culture. The ruling and influential classes at that time had great concern about such hostility, and started to insist that nanshoku was morally wrong, in order to bring Japan into line with the Western system of values.


However, a great change can now be seen to have taken place in Western society. In Europe, the USA, and some other countries, the Gay Liberation Movement has been successful in recent years, and in some European countries and some US states even homosexual marriage is now accepted. In other words, Westerners, who introduced loathing of homosexuality to Japan , as part of “modern culture”, have now reconsidered their own value systems. These are certainly curious times in which we live!


Leupp also points out that, in terms of the main currents of society, nanshoku in pre-modern Japan offers a good historic example for discussion about homosexuality. Homosexuals are now generally considered to be a minority of the population, making up 2% to 5%, or perhaps 10%, of the total. However, at least with respect to Japan during the Edo Era, it is difficult to see this as being the case. At that time, Japanese men seem generally to have been bisexual. To conclude, this book suggests that human sexuality is neither innate nor created by a particular family environment, but is a product of the wider society.


It is not just a history of Japan but whole humanity, isn't it? 

22:20 Posted in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: gay, japan, homosexuality, history

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