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11 December 2012

Sociological Novel: How to maintain a plutonomy, Chapter 1

A plutonomy means a form of capitalism that is designed to make the rich control a nation's government, its economy and its society.

At a certain place in a certain country, the wealthy have gathered and are having a meeting.


They are the elite of the country.  Although few in number, they control the majority of the country's wealth. This is why they can do anything.  They have the power to manipulate society to suit themselves.  They have the economy, of course, politics, and even the media which forms public opinions in the palms of their hands.


 As they all gather under the chandelier, one of the wealthy breaks the ice while drinking his champagne.


"Hey, the global economy is on a bit of a downturn recently. I feel that our wealth has also been on a decreasing trend. Shouldn't we come up with some kind of countermeasure to this?"


"You're so right. Taxes are still just too high! We should really bring down things like the income tax rate."

"-and let's privatize the public enterprises. And relax the regulations. Let's pressure the government to get rid of regulations which are an obstacle to business. And to reduce labor costs, make them allow more temporary workers. The politicians and government officials all got where they are now through our donations and pay-offs; they'll do whatever we ask."


"But the government's budget will shrink by the amount the taxes we pay goes down, won't it? How do we make up for the deficit?"


"That's easy. We just reduce the education and social welfare budgets which have been used for the public up to now. The expensive taxes that we've been paying have been diverted to those that barely pay any tax. That's why we just need to keep raising consumption tax, insurance and pension payments, which they have to pay an equal amount of."


"But surely the public won't allow it. If we do that, public services will be degraded, the burden on individuals will increase, and they'll be critical that the rich get preferential tax treatment, and that workers are treated as disposable. We have to be conscious of the fact that this country is a democracy. Even if we have all of the wealth, regardless of one's assets, when it comes to votes it's one person, one vote after all."


"Which is why we'll use the media. We are also their major stockholders and advertisers; well feed them this information. We'll tell them that freeing the economy will lead to the development of the public and government as a whole, that they should consider the principles of capitalism, and that a large variety of cheaper, high quality goods and services will become available to consumers thanks to this freeing up. We'll tell them that if enterprise profits, workers will also receive benefits through the trickle-down phenomenon. If we run a campaign like this using some kept scholars, nobody will oppose us!"


The proposals decided upon at the meeting were executed by the government, and went unopposed by society thanks to the media's guidance of public opinion. Now then, on to the second meeting ten years later.



To be continued to Chapter 2



The story is an interesting and cynical perspective of the past few generations of society, specifically focusing on the disparity in wealth between the wealthy and the average member of the public. The story shows the wealthy conspiring to widen the gap between themselves and the workers of society.


It may be interesting to read this story along with a song. "Mercedes Benz". 

27 November 2012

Translated Novel: "Let's Fundoshi" Chapter 7

A Candadin man experiences FUNDOSHI, Japanese traditional male underwear, swimming suit and custume for festival.

Read Chapter 1 first.

“But this is a very Japanese thing. You might not like it because of difference of religion and customs” said Gen. He seemed so considerate.

“Don’t worry. I know things like that” Jacques replied. Speaking of religion, Jacques’s family has been traditionally Catholic but actually he visited church a few times a year. He was not a dedicated Christian. He wouldn’t mind things like that.

Besides, as he learnt Japanese culture in his major, he was taught Shinto has been recognized as festivity rather than religion. Like even Japanese prime minister is Christian or Buddhist, he could visit Ise Gingu shrine. It is said Japanese Shinto does not hold strong faith. Shito is polytheist. Unlike monotheist Christianity, it is rather considered flexible in terms of how to be faithful. It is similar to Native Americans primitive religion that admires nature as divinity.  

The origin of the festival was that during Edo period, a big tsunami hit the town and flooded the shrine which ended up pulling enshrined body to the shallow in the sea. Then local fishermen at that time carried that back to the shrine.

Next day, towners gathered in Watanabe’s to discuss festival matters. Yuriko joined as a member of the organizer family. Participants were mostly shrine parishioners but young boys, middle age and elderly men who would be carriers of the mikoshi (portable shrine that contains enshrined body) attended as well. Gen and Taro were among them.   

At the shrine, ceremony of purification would be done and then the mikoshi will be carried by the men, women, young and old until near the beach. From the beach to the shallow was men’s job. That was called “Sea walk.”

Jacques made a proposal for the preparation as an organizer. The proposal as a responsible man in charge of the festival matter. He took off his Yukata to show his proposal. Jacques stood and others sitting on tatami (straw mat) floor looking up to him.

“This year we are going to wear this for the Sea Walk.”

All the members looked at him shocked.

“Isn’t this Fundoshi?” one man said.

Jacques was only in white rokushaku fundoshi and bandana and tabi shoes.


“Jacques-san, why are you wearing this?” said Taro.

“Because this is tradition of the festival.”

“Why, are you, foreigner propose that?” said another.

“I am in charge of this festival so I want to do things successfully and make it joyful for those who carry mikoshi and those who view that.”

“But showing bare ass, we don’t want to do that” said one young man.

“If you want to do that, why don’t you do that alone?” said another young man.

“No. All of us have to do “Sea Walk” in this fundoshi. If not, significance of the ceremony is denied.”

“We don’ t want to be told what to do by a foreigner like you” said another man.

“So are you really a Japanese man? Don’t you mind changing form of traditional ceremony that runs for centuries? Before you treat me as outsider, why not ask yourself how much you know about yourselves?”  


All of the sudden, people became silent for a while.

Taro stood up.

“Jacques-san is right. If we cannot carry mikoshi in fundoshi, we would never be truly Japanese men. It is an insult to the enshrined as long as we loathe our own tradition .

Again, silence. Then Yuriko spoke out.

“Taro is right. It seemed only those who truly understand Japanese tradition here are Taro and my husband, Jacques. For women, it was just great to view guys’ bare asses lined up.” Yuriko tried to support the two men.

“Yuriko, let me join. I believe I’ve got good son in law.” Taizo said. “When I was Jacques’s age, all the men wore fundoshi in festival. It was a uniform for the festival and all of us together bathed in the sea getting fundoshi wet. All of us got unified. That was a most shining moment of our life.”

Taizo smiled. His eyes sparkled. He looked happier than ever.

Finally proposal that all the men participating in “Sea Walk” wear fundoshi on naked bodies was approved.


To be continued to Chapter 8

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06 November 2012

Translated Novel: "Let's Fundoshi" Chapter 6

A Candadin man experiences FUNDOSHI, Japanese traditional male underwear, swimming suit and custume for festival.

Read Chapter 1 first.

“That’s right.”

“No. I never saw men in fundoshi in the festival. They wore short pants and naked in upper body.”

“You might not remember but before you grow up, all the men carrying the mikoshi wore fundoshi on their naked bodies. Then they crossed the ocean in that outfit.”

Jacques said “you mean summer festival. Will that be held this year as well?”

“Yes, this year we will be the hosting family as captain and organizer.”

“Oh, really?”  Jacques became very curious. 

“Yeah, but the festival has become less attractive these days. Originally, men carry mikoshi crossing the ocean wishing for health and safety and success in fishing. When the festival started a long, long time ago, all the fishermen wore fundoshi so we followed the tradtion but some youngsters started to feel ashamed of exposing ass.

When I was young, nobody was. Actually that kind of outfit has significance because girls could find their most suitable type of guy among naked group. My late wife once told me she chose me because she liked my ass that she saw in the festival.”
Yuriko looked surprised so did Jacques.

Why Japanese guys have become ashamed of fundoshi, Jacques decided to search it on internet. What he found was that as Taro explained, it was mainly due to westernization of Japanese lifestyle. Since late 19th century, Japan has actively acquired western culture to modernize the nation. As a consequence cloth has changed like kimono to western cloth. Because men started to wear pants, fundoshi as underwear could not fit to new cloth. So men changed underwear as well.

Fundoshi as swimwear was seen as barbaric from westerner’s perspective because bare ass is exposed on the beach or swimming pool. In the old days, Japanese olympic swimmers practice in fundoshi but in tournament they changed to modern swimwear.

As industrialization progressed, modern swimwear has become cheaper to purchase so fundoshi has become less common. In the old days, ordinary citizens had no choice but to wear fundoshi.  In that sense, modern swimwear was convenient choice to use when it comes to putting on and off to do thing in restroom.


Nowadays fundoshi is only worn by sumo wrestlers and men in festivals as entertaining. But in festivals fundoshi has become less seen. Because people wear less frequently making it less chance to see men in fundoshi. It has become embarrassing thing to show and see. Now men in festival wear short pants which cover their ass and thighs, instead of fundoshi.


But festival should succeed some kind of tradition from the old time. Should people abandon it just because it does not match current style? As Taro said, it is a matter of identity. Can Japanese do things like that without hesitation?


Next day Taro’s father Gen visited Watanabe’s place to hand over duty as organizer of summer festival. This year was Watanabe family’s term. Gen and Taizo were both fishermen and parishioners of the local shrine. Each parishioner family has to host and facilitate annual festival in rotation.


That role was played by male head of the family and its first adult son or husband of first daughter. As host, they had to lead the mikoshi march which was biggest event in the festival. They have to be in the front of mikoshi carrying bar and calling out to the carriers as captain.


But Gen looked at him strangely and said, “Can you do that? Taizo seems not well and you are foreigner.”

Jacques got angry and replied,

“Sure, I can. Don’t treat me like a fool.”


Continued to Chapter 7

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11 October 2012

Translated Novel: "Let's Fundoshi" Chapter 5

A Candadin man experiences FUNDOSHI, Japanese traditional male underwear, swimming suit and custume for festival.

Read Chapter 1 first.

“Hi, Taro” Jacques greeted him. He met him in a situation he never wanted to meet in. But surprisingly Taro wore Fundoshi swimwear as well. Red Fundoshi.

Jacques asked him “you came here for swimming” in English.

“Yes, in this traditional swimwear, Why are you wearing it?”

“I came to Japan so I thought of trying it” he pretended to be casual.

“Nowadays, even Japanese don’t wear it as swimwear. Most Japanese do not know how to wear it. Even I recently learned that” said Taro unhappily.  

“Why did you want to wear it?”

“Not to lose identity as Japanese.”

Taro said glaring at Jacques and then ran towards the sea. His muscular strong body and ass in red Fundoshi tells what he wanted to tell. Jacques followed Taro.

“Are you jealousing me? You think I took away Yuriko from you.”

He reached where Taro was in the water. The two bathed to the shoulder.

“Westerners came to Japan and showed their superiority to plant inferiority to us. They made us think everything west is better and got down Japanese traditional culture.”

Taro said in Japanese.

“What has to do with Yuriko? Do you think she chose me because I am westerner.”

Jacques replied in Japanese.

Taro kept silent for a while and then spoke out.

“I am sorry. I never meant to blame you. But I just couldn’t accept this. I loved her for a very long time. I thought I could marry her. But it ended up like this. I am so ashamed. But you being foreigner makes me so hard. Kind of inferior complex. I lost to you because of culture. When I was in England, westerners don’t really know things other than the West and looked down upon us. I thought you are one of them, that makes me so hard.”  

“I am not. I studied Japanese and Japanese culture. I like Japanese and Japan. Yuriko is Yuriko. She is wonderful. Not because she is Japanese. Can’t you understand? I was attracted to her and fell in love. She gladly responded to my love for her. That’s all.”

Jacques explained desperately. Suddenly Taro smiled to him.

“You are right. She just chose you. That is the fact I have to accept. I understand.”

Taro went back to the beach. Jacques looked at his back while bathing. Jacques felt comfortable. It is because of Fundoshi. In the water, it made him feel better than modern swimwear. He could feel water on his bare ass. This is nice swimwer!

When Taro got to the beach, he looked back to see Jacques and said,

“Fundoshi suits you, Jacques-san. You look handsome.”

Then Taro went away from the beach.

Jacques thought bathing in water. Do Japanese feel inferior complex to westerners? That is the reason why they don’t wear Fundoshi any more? Functionally western way should be better. But when it comes to succeeding tradition, one should have different thought.
Speaking of succession of tradition, Jacques had mutuality. That was Jacques being French Canadian. French descendants were minority among Canadians. In State of Quebec, many immigrated from France. But they were on unfavourable status compared to British descendants that accounts for majority. It had been that way since foundation of the country. Outside Quebec was English speaking only in North America.

Those who spoke French as mother tongue always had problems. Sometimes independence movement arose. Jacques’ parents sent him to English schools taking account into such status. He chose to attend college in Toronto to learn things in English. It was better for him but he could not help thinking that might have resulted in losing his national identity somehow.

That was strange mutuality with Japanese.

Jacques told Yuriko about what happened on the beach with Taro.

Yuriko seemed surprised and said, “Taro wore Fundoshi.”

“Oh, Funshoshi swimwear. I wore that as well in my childhood. All the kids had to wear that. In Fundoshi, if a child got drown, someone could easily catch his cloth. We also wore it in festival” said Taizo.

“Festival, Summer Festival every year?” Yuriko said that with surprise.  

Continued to Chapter 6.

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