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30 April 2014

"Only one person" Lifestyle has become more common in Japan

Recently in Japan one third of households are single person, meaning living alone in one residential unit. Percentage of life-long unmarried people is 25% in male and 15 % in female today. That is 3-4 times increase from 20 years ago.

Businesses respond to that trend. Home electric appliances such as toaster, juice mixer, hot plate targeted to single life people make big sales. Travel agents provide tours for single attendee, which only one person can apply alone. Karaoke room for one singer.

Share house, kind of dormitory style apartments have been built for single households. Since living alone for life is no longer marginalized, such lifestyle is no longer inconvenient one.

Some worry about aging population with low birthrate caused by more unmarried people. Why has such lifestyle become common recently in Japan? You might not believe that since Japan is more traditional and group-oriented society than any other advanced nations.

One of the factors is economy. Japanese economy has gone bad. Especially, among younger generation, income has dropped drastically from their parents' generation.  

The other factor is Japan's lack of dating culture like the West. Japan is conservative society so marriages had been commonly arranged by the couples' parents and relatives. That way couples needed no love affairs to reach engagement. Marriage has been considered customary life event among older generations.

Nowadays free choice is important in terms of finding a partner. But not many youngsters do not know how to hunt their appropriate partners because their parents cannot teach them how and culturally such things are not popular so they are not trained to do so. That is a big difference from the West.

Anyway, Japan's population is aging and more people are becoming single-person household. Is it so bad? If so, how should it be amended?

One way to do is lowering life expense. Providing free school education, free medical care, free school meals and financial aids for households with children.  

The other is acknowledging diversed lifestyle, not only single-person life but people with children like single-mothers or fathers. Traditional family lifestyle is father-mother and children but nowadays there are many unmarried parents in the world. Like in France more than half of all parents, in US one-third are unmarried. In Japan still only 2%. Japan's system makes single parents hard to deal with society. We have to change that if we are worried about aging population. It is better to help those who want to have children but give up than taking on those who are unreluctant.

Personally, however the population as a whole is aging, it is totally up to individuals to choose what she or he wants to be. No one should tell others what to do.

What do you think about this issue? How is the situation in your country?  

20:47 Posted in Japan News, Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: life

04 March 2014

Very homosocial and divine experience in Fukushima

Not homosexual, homosocial! I joined naked men in thong festival in Hobara town, Date-city, Fukushima Prefecture.

You may feel familiar with Fukushima. Yes, that is in the same prefecture in which that severe nuclear accident occurred after the earthquake and tsunami hit the nuclear plants 3 years ago. Hobara is 50 kilometers away from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants.

On 2nd of March, I traveled to Fukushima from Tokyo. I brought my gaiger counter (radiation level measure).  This was my 5th trip to Fukushima since that disaster. My purpose this time was my third time participation in the festival as naked man in thong walking and running on the street. Other 2 times I joined radiation clean-up mission of the town.

What my gaiger counter indiated at the Tokyo Railway and Fukushima Station were very similar.

radiation

radiation, Fukushima

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 years ago, it was different. The below is what I took in Hobara Station July 2011, 4 months after the accident.

radiation, Fukuhshima

As you see, the counter needle went more right. It was over 0.1 Rem. More than 10 times of normal level.

However, it went down but still radiation level is higher than normal.

On that day I went to the gathering place near the Itsukushima Shrine in Hobara town to put on thong.

Fukushima

Over there around 70 men gathered to prepare for the participation. All guys became naked and bathed in hot water tub and after that they got themselves in thongs by local festival staff. Naked guys waiting in a room holding thongs in their hands. Talking about their bodies. Someone joked about that. (See the photos on this Japanese site which were taken 3 years ago) The thong contains cup to hold guys' private thing. After it was tightened by the staff, it was like being chained on your ass to hips. Kind of extra-ordinary feeling.

fundoshi, thong

It is called, Fundoshi or Mawashi in Japanese. Sumo wrestler wear that. In the old days, it was maily used as underwear or swimwear for all the men in Japan.

The festival is named, Tsutsuko-hiki Festival. It literally means pulling the Tsutsuko, divine rice in a big straw bag which weighs 800 kg. To wish for rich harvest and health of the localies. By pulling the bag from all the direction the rice turns out to be soft and sweet rice cake. If you eat that, you can stay healthy all year around.

I learned about this festival when I joined the radiation clean-up mission. Then I decided to join the festival every year to wish for betterment of the town's environment. Only God can change things better, I guess.

After dress-up of the thong guys had to wait for the main event for 1 to 2 hours. Until then other things such as performances or children sports event went on outside.

During that waiting period, guys chatted each other drinking sake (Japanese alchohol beverage) and eating foods in a small room. It is the very men's world. Talking about life, sex and etc. I hesitated to talk about nuclear things because it was too serious for the localies.

Guys were mostly from Fukushima. One young man was from Australia. He said that he now lives in Iwaki-city in Fukushima as translator. He said that he enjoyed wearing Fundoshi. That amazed me. Only one caucasion young man among 70 Japanese men. It was like the short novel I wrote on this blog. A foreign guy experiences very traditional thing which modern Japense do not any longer.

After an hour long talk, I found myself very drank. The main event started and I ran with other guys to the shrine. Guys transported Tsutsuko on the carrier shouting "Wasshoi." After transporting it on main streets of the town, we placed that on the road. Then we, guys pull and bang that on the road shouting.

Later we transported that back to the shrine and the Tsutsuko bag was cut to open. Rice cake in it was divided and handed to participants and gallery. I enjoyed this festival last year and two years ago. However, this time I got too drank to remember what exactly I did.

I just hope things are getting better in Fukushima, Japan and the whole world.    

 

 

16 February 2014

Dear Madame Ambassador Kennedy, Re: Okinawa Issue

Surprising thing happened in Okinawa. US Ambassador to Japan met with mayor of Nago city and visited the controversial construction site for new US Marine base.

Maybe because she responded to the below editorials of local newspapers.

EDITORIAL [Dear Madame Ambassador Kennedy] Please Meet with Mayor Inamine

[Editorial]Dear US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy: We want the US government to change its Futenma replacement policy and cancel Henoko landfill

However, I wrote the letter to her. That might have worked as well, I guess.

The below is what I wrote to her early this month and is a progressed version of a letter I wrote to her last November.

okinawa, military, dugong

 

February 3, 2014

 

My name is Masagata, a Japanese man living in Tokyo. I used to study at San Francisco State University, where I majored in International Relations. I am now working as a translator using the English knowledge I acquired in the US.

 

I am writing this letter to tell you about a matter that is very important to both of our nations. I am sure that you are well aware of many issues between the two nations. I would like to mention the most important of these: a matter that might result in long-term deterioration of the current healthy relationship between the two nations. I urge your government to rethink its ways of dealing with this issue.

 

The matter in question is the relocation of the US Marine Base from Futenma in Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan’s southernmost tropical islands, which are a little like Hawaii. In 1996 both the American and Japanese governments agreed to relocate Futenma base to Camp Schwab to get away from the densely populated area around Futenma. Camp Schwab is on the coastline of the island, in an area called Henoko.

 

okinawa, military, dugong

 

 

There has been a local resistance movement since the relocation plan was announced. Locals near Camp Schwab are concerned about the deterioration of their living environment. Many environmental activists also oppose the plan because of the abundance of forms of wildlife that are unique to the area around Camp Schwab.

 

okinawa,military,dugong

okinawa, military, dugong 

 

I took the photo of one of the above when scuba diving in the nearby sea. It shows clown fish swimming above the coral reef like in the film “Finding Nemo”. The other photo is of a dugong, an endangered marine mammal that eats grasses in the sea. I enclosed purple paper craft of dugong made by locals.

okinawa, military, dugong

It is just ridiculous that the nation that protests Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic Sea – and even dolphin hunting in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture – is helping to threaten another marine mammals that live in Japan.

 

On November 22nd, 2013, in Nago City (to which Camp Schwab is attached), the city council made a resolution demanding the Okinawa Governor not to permit landfilling of the sea. However, the governor permitted the landfill in December even though a majority of Okinawans disapproved his decision.

 

The following month, in January, Okinawa Prefectural Council made a resolution demanding the Governor’s resignation. Okinawan protest activists announced legal action against the prefectural government in order to cancel the permit. Later, on January 19th, the mayor of Nago City, INAMINE Susumi, was re-elected because of public support for his policy of the city’s refusing corporation with central and US governments regarding construction of the new base project.

 

If the project is implemented as planned, the sea will be reclaimed and dugongs and other creatures’ lives would be threatened. Dugongs’ sea grass is found in the reclaiming area. They will lose their feeding place. Then what will happen is that your nation will be accused of helping to diminish such wonderful and rare creatures for the interests of the few. The few, you might know, are certain businesses and government people who want some gains from the project. Actually, the Japanese Ministry of Defense carried out an environmental assessment in which it was claimed that there are no dugongs in the sea. But the environmental organizations such as WWF and The Nature Conservation Society of Japan claim that the MoD’s assessment was wrong and the organizations’ own research found clear traces confirming the existence of dugongs. Recently, Okinawa’s local newspaper revealed the news that the MoD was aware of the finding but had covered it up.

 

You might say this is something to be handled by the Japanese government, and that it is not the responsibility of the US military. But that sounds very hypocritical. The US military is the one that uses the facility. The US government can cancel that project and find another relocation site outside Okinawa. If the US continues to attribute this to the Japanese government, it is just like what Japanese conservative politicians say when it comes to the “Comfort Women” issue: “The Japanese Imperial Army was not responsible for kidnapping women in Asia during the war period in the early 20th century, it was what outsourced local brothels did.” 

 

There may be casualties and incidents resulting in bloodshed during protest activity against construction. Such news will be broadcast all over Japan. The construction will take several years to complete. Resentment will continue to build. Your military and diplomats will have to deal with such problems for a very long time.

 

In fact, the US military presence in Okinawa and even nationwide is becoming nothing but troublesome. More of us know that the US military presence no longer functions as defense or deterrence like in the Cold War era. China is said to be a new threat but we know that US-China relations have become more vital for your nation since China owns more US treasury bonds and buys more US goods than Japan does. China has become a larger economy than Japan these days. President Obama spends more time having dialogues with Chinese leaders than with the Japanese Prime Minister.

Plus, US needs China for negotiation with North Korea in terms of nuclear missile issue.

 

Recent incidents indicate US reluctance to defend Japan from China. In 2010 a Chinese fishing ship collided with Japan’s coast guard ship in the sea near the Senkaku Islands, a disputed territory between Japan and China. The captain of the ship was arrested by the coast guard. The US Secretary of State said it would have no involvement in this matter and the captain was later released. Last year China announced expansion of its Air Defense Identification Zone to the Okinawa area. Japan objected to it and demanded China to cancel the expansion, but the US did not follow what Japan did to China but requested US private airliners to submit flight plans in that zone to the Chinese authorities, precisely opposite to the Japanese stance.

 

We can easily predict that the US would not help Japan even if China and Japan became involved in a dispute for some reason such as the territorial right to the Senkaku islands. The US cannot send troops to assist Japan fighting against the Chinese military because such action might cause great losses for your national interests. China has many ways to sanction your nation.  

 

Military experts say that the biggest reason that the US military forces stay in Japan is to cut cost of their own because Japan provides host nation support fund, which we call “Sympathy Budget” that accounts for more than 70% of total expense for the US bases in Japan. There are more than 130 facilities of US military in Japan. Most of the troops are stationed in Okinawa prefecture that accounts for less than 1 % of total of Japan’s territory. Okinawa has been occupied until 1972, which is 20 years after mainland Japan regained sovereignty and was the only place that experienced ground battles within Japan, causing 200,000 civilian casualties during WW II.

 

Deploying your military so much in our country, especially Okinawa is just causing growing distrust against your country. I believe the Okinawa issue presents the perfect timing for your nation to rethink its military deployment in Japan in order to improve the relationship between the two nations. Constructing a base on reclaimed land in the Henoko sea is the worst possible idea.

 

US military presence functions to apply American influence on our nation. Yes, it did work that way but you really have to know this may be working negatively. The image of your country itself is no longer positive like in the past. In other words, the US is no longer a powerful land of dreams, nor is it any longer a role model for us. One example of this can be seen in a recent best-selling book on your country’s poverty issue. The title of the book is “Hinkontaikoku America” (Poverty Superpower, America). It was written by a Japanese journalist, TSUTSUMI Mika. The book describes how Americans are struggling with poverty in a plutonomy society and explains how Japan should not follow suit.

 

We know that a lot of young Marine troops stationed there come from poor families that cannot afford college education and have problems like domestic violence. They join the Marines by system, so called, Poverty Draft. That is why they cause troubles with Okinawa locals.

 

The interesting thing to note is that Japan was democratized and the wealth of the nation was redistributed from pre-war plutonomy by the US occupying forces. Thanks to them, Japan has become the most egalitarian society among industrialized nations. We do appreciate that. We are always good friends to you as long as you are what you should be. So please keep being a good friend to Japan.

 

Below is a photo of me, taken in Washington 20 years ago when I was attending university. I remember some of my classmates told me that I looked like JFK when I made a presentation on his foreign policy. I have many wonderful memories from the time I spent over there. People were very friendly and kind to me. I do not want to feel betrayed any longer.

okinawa, military, dugong

 

 

 

Sincerely,

 

I hope that she saw the scenery like that over there.

27 November 2013

Dear US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy

The following is what I wrote to newly appointed US ambassador to Japan.

 

Okinawa, military,

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My name is Masagata, Japanese man living in Tokyo.

I used to study at San Francisco State University. My major was International Relations. I am now working as a translator using English knowledge I gained there.

 

I am writing this letter to tell you a very important matter for the both nations. I am very sure that you know many issues between the two nations. I would like to mention the most important one that might severely deteriorate current healthy relationship between the two for a very long period of time.

 

That is relocation of US Marine Base, Futenma in Ginowan city, Okinawa prefecture, the Southernmost tropical islands like Hawaii. In 1996 both US and Japanese governments agreed to relocate Futenma base to Camp Schwab to get away from populated area. Camp Schwab is on coastal line of the island. The area is called Henoko.

 

Okinawa, military, dugong

 

 

There has been local resistance movement since the relocation plan was announced. Localies near the Camp Schwab are concerned about deteriorating of their living environment. A lot of environmental activists oppose the plan as well because of abundance of wild life, which are very unique, only found in that place. One symbolic creature is dugongs, endangered marine mammals that eat sea grasses in that area. It is just strange that the nation that protests Japan’s whaling is helping another marine mammals endangered. Some activists are planning to take legal action against US government regarding this issue. Please read the enclosed newspaper article titled, Dugong plaintiffs consider new action in U.S. to block Henoko landfill.

 

If the project is implemented as planned, the sea will be reclaimed and dugongs and other creatures’ lives would be threatened. What will happen is your nation will be accused of helping diminishing of such wonderful and rare creatures for the interests of the few. The few, you might know, some business and government people who want some gains.

 

You might say it is what Japanese government handles, not what the US military is actively involved. No one in Japan thinks so. The US government can cancel that project and find another relocation site outside Okinawa. In fact US military presence in Okinawa and even nationwide is becoming nothing but troublesome.

 

More of us know US military presence no longer functions as defense or deterrence like in the Cold War era. China is said to be new threat but we know US-China relation has become more vital for your nation since China owns more US treasury bonds and buys more US goods than Japan does. President Obama spends more time having dialogues with Chinese leaders than with Japanese prime minister. We can easily predict the US would not help Japan even if China and Japan get into dispute for some reason. US cannot send troops to assist Japan because such action might cause great loss for your national interest. 

 

Deploying your military so much in this country is just causing distrust against your country. I believe Okinawa issue arising is a great timing for your nation to rethink military deployment in Japan to better relationship between the two nations.

 

Sincerely,

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I am planning to write more detailed version of the above later on adding some progress regarding Okinawa issues.