Friday, October 30, 2009

Bullying and Violence by Students

A junior high school teacher was beat up by his student in our area recently.

Kaisei area, sorry to say it, seems to be the worst. I don`t know what it is
about Kaisei Town. It is a beautiful area and I have taught many of the kids there
while they were in elementary school or even at my English school but some of the junior high school students are very difficult. The kids at the elementary
school were great!

These days it seems:
The junior high students think nothing of swearing at their teachers. We have
monster parents coming into schools and kicking over chairs in the staff room
or screaming at teachers over the phone for forty minutes.

What is it about Japan these days?

So much has changed since I arrived twenty years ago now.

It is a much more violent and angry society. Is it simply

Japanese often seem to have a disdainful attitude towards spiritual
study or religion, however I think we need a good dose of something
spiritual, especially now.

I think Japanese need to practice being kinder to one another.

I just saw a high school boy kick another boy in the stomach
on the Odakyu line and then grab his private parts and attempt to take
a picture with the boy`s cell phone. The smaller boy had been complaining to the bigger boy, why do you always bully me?

Of course no one did anything except me.

I got up and asked the bully which school he went to. He mumbled something. Then I took a look at his school symbol on his jacket.
He was a high school student judging by his uniform. Maybe I should
have done more--stopped the train--flagged down a station attendant.

I asked my wife to try to track down the boys school. He obviously lives in
Matsuda, and the letters on his jacket were stylized either NA or MA. I think
they were the former.

What has it come to that people here tolerate watching another boy kicked in the stomach in front of them and pretend not to notice?

The announcements at all the stations say that we should report anything unusual at the train stations.

But when I reported rough-housing, a chimpira-looking punk was
slapping and pushing a high school boy at Shin Matsuda Station on the platform, the station man refused to look in spite of my explanation in Japanese and pointing at the altercation only five metres away--just across the platform.

In exasperation I finalled yelled:
"Nihongo ga wakarimasuka?"

To which of course, he pretended to not understand.


I told a friend the stories above and he said:

"Oh yah, I see the junior high kids hanging from the rings on the
Daiyuzan line and kicking each other in the stomach all the time."

Sometimes I don`t understand this country.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Gaijin ga Kusai"

I often go for a walk. I don`t smell (to my knowledge) I am clean enough--showered that day. I don`t wear cologne. And as my Japanese
listening ability has gotten better, I swear I hear the word "kusai,"
often right at the moment when I am passing (usually two) young guys either in their teens or early twenties. The word is usually said
in a kind of muffled manner and it is said suddenly, right when I am
abreast of them (right when I am passing them).

The young guys are usually very small. I don`t usually hear it from
young big guys. It is usually young tiny guys that say it.

This phenomenon doesn`t seem to occur when I pass men in their thirties or older, tall men, and I have never heard a Japanese woman utter it when I pass them. I have never heard children utter it
when I pass either.

But it does happen once or twice a year when I pass young Japanese men
often in a pair or more--never alone, and they are usually under
5` 7."

Do young tiny, Japanese men have especially sensitive noses? Or could I be all wrong? Does the particular gaijin aroma waft downwards to the noses of petite Japanese men?

Does anyone else experience this interesting phenomenon?

My Japanese wife doesn`t mind my odor unless I have eaten Mexican
that day, then the whole house minds.....

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer,
Cleveland , Ohio

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught
me.. It is the most-requested column I've ever written.

My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone...

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and
parents will. Stay in touch

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their
journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret,you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God
never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful,beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19.. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one
is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no
for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie.
Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words'In five years,
will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you
did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone
else's,we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come.

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Its estimated 93% won't forward this. If you are one of the 7% who
will, forward this with the title '7%'.

I'm in the 7%

Friends are the family that we choose for ourselves

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Results of Japan Living`s Poll on Teaching English in Japan

What`s your opinion about working for English schools here?

What is or was your experience working for English schools in Japan?


Positive 33.33%

Mostly Positive 28.57%

Average 14.29%

Below Average 19.05%

Poor 4.76%

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Japan at a Crossroads

By Brent Sutherland

It's typical journalese that any given election is referred to as the most significant election in quite some time. In the case of the incipient Japanese election it's entirely accurate. Since its founding in 1955, the Liberal Democratic Party (some say that it is neither) has run Japan. Aside from brief periods with coalition governments over the years, the LDP has run the post-war system. Now it looks at last as if the LDP might suffer a truly decisive defeat in the Diet election that they must call by September, 2009.

The point at which the LDP jumped the shark would have to be former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa's February G8 news conference in Rome where he appeared to be intoxicated. Mr. Nakagawa followed up his apparently ethanol-fuelled news conference with a visit to the Vatican Museum where he engaged in Mr. Bean-like shenanigans such as climbing over a barrier protecting a statue of the Trojan priest Laocoon, and then literally getting a feel for some of the paintings. Needless to say the footage of the news conference became the first, and likely last, time that Mr. Nakagwawa obtained so many hits on YouTube. Despite the fact that he explained his condition was caused by an amalgam of cough medicine, jet-lag, and a single glass of wine, his resignation was immediately accepted by Prime Minister Taro Aso. It seems Mr. Nakagawa's reputation as an imbiber preceded his Roman binge.

Aside from the Nakagawa debacle, the LDP has much more fundamental problems. The LDP has succeeded over the years because they have persuaded a lot of people to vote for them. That might seem like an obvious point; but to perennial constituencies such as farmers and business people both large and small - they are the natural ruling party. As long as Japan was prospering, and there was plenty of pork to go around, the LDP did well. Now that Japan is mired in seemingly terminal economic decline and huge deficits constraining spending, the entire party feels like Mr. Nakagawa must have felt the morning after his aforementioned outing. During the 2001 to 2006 period that Junichiro Koizumi was Prime Minister, he was able to carry the party along with his personal popularity. In fact, in the 2005 election the LDP gained one of its largest majorities ever. If it weren't for the term limits imposed by the LDP charter, it's concievable that he would be still be Prime Minister to this day. However, being a wealthy bachelor bon-vivant, he likely wanted out of the spotlight, and so he declined asking the party to amend their charter.

In contrast, Taro Aso has earned opprobrium by sticking the taxpayer with an expense account that James Bond would be ashamed to submit to Ms. Moneypenny. They both patronize many of the same decidely upscale eateries in Tokyo on a nightly basis, but being a jet-setter happened to look good on Mr. Koizumi whereas the public wonders why Mr. Aso can't have his wife fix him a meal once in a while. Mr. Koizumi was able to display true leadership in a, regularly, consensus-driven Japan by way of sheer charisma. His free-market based reforms such as privatizing post-office savings went against the grain in a society that may now be capitalist, but has always been paternalistic.

Now those reforms have mostly been abandoned in favour of the traditional LDP style of status-quo, pork, and cronyism. While Mr. Hosokawa pursued his reforms, he could plausibly claim to be displaying leadership, ideological coherence, and a willingness to deal with budget deficits. Now that the LDP has fallen back on old ways, the main opposition party shows in sharp relief. The Democratic Party of Japan was formed in 1998 by the merger of several smaller parties. Over the years several prominent LDP members such as Yukio Hatayama (the present DPJ leader) and Ichiro Ozawa (long time controversialist) have crossed the floor with the explanation that LDP dominance was unhealthy for the nation. It's presumable that personal ambition also played a part in that, but many of those who had taken part in that self-selected "equalization draft" are now prominent members of the, presently, very competitive DPJ. As per the DPJ's home page, "First of all, we shall build a society governed with transparent, just, and fair rules. Secondly, while the free market should permeate economic life, we aim for an inclusive society which guarantees security, safety, and fair and equal opportunity for each individual."

Thus the DPJ has staked its territory firmly in the centre-left. Its primary appeal is to urban workers who feel their interests have been sacrificed over the years to perceived special interests such as farmers and the construction lobby. Indeed, a large part of Japan's budget goes towards ever more grandiose public engineering projects, such as the underutilized bridge-tunnel crossing Tokyo Bay. Ideological moderation and pragmatism combined with an avowed willingness to confront vested interests has an obvious appeal to people who work for a living. Over the years the Liberal Democrats have actually done things that are both, but they have also successfully co-opted all but the nuttiest fringes of the right while occasionally forming a coalition with the Socialist Party when that was necessary to cling to power. In the case of the former the visits to Yasakuni shrine (resting place of 14 Class A war criminals) seem to have sufficed, and in the latter it seems a mere taste of power was enough to entice the left into coalitions dedicated to upholding the status-quo. That is partly what has made the present-day Social Democratic Party an essentially spent force, although their wooly-sweater variety of rhetoric and ideology makes them seem out of touch to many voters. For example their implacable opposition to US military bases in Japan is a non-starter at a time when relations with North Korea are so tense.

Given that the summer is likely to be the first time that the DPJ will have a chance to win an election, it would only be speculation to extrapolate from what they say they stand for, in terms of predicting how they might actually govern. However, given that Mr. Hatoyama is now the odds on favorite become the first Prime Minister in a long time who is neither LDP nor part of a LDP coalition , it is worth speculating on the point. Mr. Hatoyama himself is the grandson of a former Prime Minister and the son of a former Foreign Minister. At 62 he is youngish by the standards of Japanese politics and he holds a Ph.D. in engineering from Stanford. That likely gives him a broader perspective than the typical Japanese politician. His background enables him to pose as both a political insider and outsider concomitantly. Another DPJ member; Marutei Tsururen, became the first European member of the Diet in 2002. He may be a bit of a token, but this does bode well for the DPJ's stated policy of accommodating immigration and being more internationalist in general.

In terms of China-Japan relations, it seems like that could only help. It's reasonable to conclude that the sticking point of the Yasukuni visits could be resolved by just not going there. The people to whom the visits matter are never going to vote DPJ in any case. Improved relations with China would lead to the expectation that China would be more encouraged to pressure North Korea to behave. As far as the USA goes, the DPJ's centre-left ways would seem to be a logical fit with Mr. Obama's outlook. It's unlikely the domestic-policy orientated Obama administration will ever be as interested in Japan and Asia, in general, as some other Presidents were. However, as long as Mr. Obama does not vomit on Mr. Hatoyama they should get along fine. Once you get past China and the USA, everything else is more straightforward for Japan's foreign policy. Japan's financial condition may be questionable, but funding will likely be found to continue money diplomacy.

It's in domestic policy that differences between the LDP and DPJ get more interesting. Part of the DPJ's platform is trimming the bloated bureaucracy. This is a laudable goal, but it's a fact that the LDP would be unable to govern without the close cooperation of the civil-service. Diet debates are notoriously stilted because "I'll get back to you on that after I do some research so I can give you a thourough reply" is a very typical answer for any given question that comes up. What that often means is "I need to get back to my assistant minister to get an answer written up on what my department has already decided but I don't know myself". If the DPJ is truly seriously about trimming the bureaucracy both in terms of headcount and influence, then they might not receive such close cooperation. It's easy to say ministers should know their own portfolios, but the reality of Japanese political culture is that networking/fundraising/infighting takes priority over research/policy making/debate for most legislators. In Japan it may be more important for elected leaders to obtain the consent of the civil service than the public that they both ostensibly serve.

In terms of social spending, again, the DPJ proposes to trim the fat while retaining the meat. Given Japan's huge budget deficits, this will not be easy. In fact, the only realistic hope for public health and pension plans to continue at their present relatively generous levels is for Japan to have a fresh batch of young taxpayers. Japan has the lowest birthrate in the developed world at present and 21% of the population are over the age of 65. Unfortunately all exhortations to go forth and multiply, emptiomized by generous baby bonuses, etc., haven't had much effect - which brings us back to Mr. Tsururen. Ever since the economic boom of the 1980s Japan has had de facto immigration of unskilled workers. Brazilians with even the most seemingly remote Japanese ancestry were admitted as guest workers. The visa exemption that was a holdover of the Shah's reign allowed any number of Iranians to enter Japan for whatever combination of economic and political reasons they had. In fact, Japan's best starting pitcher during their 2009 World Baseball Classic victory is the son of an Iranian émigré, Yu Darvish of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Mr. Darvish and Mr. Tsururen have obviously found their places in Japanese society. However, it remains an insular island nation where it's not easy for newcomers to fit in, and unemployment is rising. The government has recently come up with a program where these Brazilian guest workers are paid 300,000 yen each, plus 200,000 for each dependant, to go home. For some of the dependants, though, Japan is the only home they have ever had. No matter what economic problems Japan has at the moment, a labour shortage is coming sooner or later. The LDP has recently taken baby-steps towards developing a comprehensive immigration policy, such as granting visas to foreign nurses and mulling the idea that Japanese language ability be a criterion for residency. That being said, the biggest problem remains the idea that most Japanese people can't see their nation having either a multicultural or melting-pot paradigm. Those who do try their best to assimilate are often regarded, at best, as eccentrics, and at worse, as "sell-outs". The Japanese might tolerate the strangers in their midst, but they still tend to ask them, "When are you going home?" Given the demographic imperative, changing that will likely be the DPJ's greatest challenge.

Brent Sutherland is a freelance writer living in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Those Who CAN...Teach!

by Kevin Burns

Teaching is a sometimes maligned profession, especially by some of the non-Japanese living in Japan. However I feel otherwise.

Those who can....Teach!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Little Schools

Why does English teaching have to be systemized and run by a large company, anyway? The collapse of NOVA is like the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. The little schools are picking up the crumbs of NOVA and thriving. There's nothing wrong with this. There is something to be said about learning English at smaller, more personal schools--they generally pay better attention to their customers.

Shawn Thir, Let`s Japan!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

H1N1 Flu

Why is this strain of flu causing so much concern?

It's a brand new mutation that's never been seen before. That's why it's not just hitting people in the highest risk groups — those over 65 and younger than two.

Flu is not usually a huge worry among the vast majority of healthy people because over the course of our lives, we are exposed to several flu strains. We develop some immunities. When we get the flu, we'll normally just feel really awful for a week or two. But when you have no immunities at all to a new strain, normally healthy people face as much of a risk as higher risk groups.

How does swine flu kill?

Swine flu — just like any other flu — is a respiratory infection. It exploits a weakened immune system to attack major organs — especially your lungs. When it gets into your lungs, it can lead to pneumonia, which can kill you. The flu can also cause secondary infections in your body — any of which can lead to failure of vital organs and death.

--from CBC News

Sunday, May 03, 2009

List of famous Koreans in Japan

[edit] Business and Economics

* Han Chang-Woo, CEO of Maruhan
* Son Masayoshi, CEO of Softbank
* Shin Kyuk-ho, CEO and founder of Lotte

[edit] Entertainment

* Arai Hirofumi, actor
* Ihara Tsuyoshi, actor
* Jyongri, singer
* Crystal Kay, singer
* Kim Hong-Jae, conductor
* Lee Sang-il, Japan Academy Prize winning film director
* Minami Kaho, actress
* Miyako Harumi, singer
* Miyavi, musician
* Romi Park, voice actor
* Sai Yoichi, Japan Academy Prize winning film director
* Sonim, singer
* Tei Towa, DJ
* Verbal, singer
* Wada Akiko, singer

[edit] Literature and Poetry

* Lee Hoesung, Akutagawa Prize winning novelist
* Lee Yangji, Akutagawa Prize winning novelist
* Tachihara Masaaki, novelist
* Yang Sok-il, novelist
* Yu Miri, Akutagawa Prize winning novelist

[edit] Science and Technology

* Woo Jang-choon, agricultural scientist and botanist

[edit] Politics and Law

* Arai Shoukei, politician, House of Representatives
* Haku Shinkun, politician, House of Councillors
* Kang Sang-jung, political scientist, professor at the University of Tokyo
* So Man-sul, politician, Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, chairman of Chongryon
* Togo Shigenori, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Greater East Asia

[edit] Crime

* Hayashi Yasuo, terrorist in 1995 sarin gas attack by Aum Shinrikyo
* Jo Hiroyuki, uyoku assassin
* Machii Hisayuki, yakuza godfather
* Mun Segwang, failed assassin of Park Chung-hee
* Obara Joji, serial rapist
* Sin Gwang-su, North Korean spy, involved in North Korean abductions of Japanese
* Takayama Tokutaro, yakuza godfather

[edit] Sports

* Akiyama Yoshihiro, judoka
* Ahn Young-Hak, North Korean soccer player
* Arai Takahiro, professional baseball player
* Chong Tese, North Korean soccer player
* Morimoto Hichori, professional baseball player
* Harimoto Isao, professional baseball player
* Hiyama Shinjiro,professional baseball player
* Kaneda Masaichi, professional baseball player
* Kinjoh Tatsuhiko, professional baseball player
* Kanemoto Koji, pro-wrestler
* Kanemura Kouhiro, pro-wrestler
* Kim Chae-Hwa, South Korean figure skater
* Kim Jong-Song, North Korean soccer player
* Kim Yong-Gwi, North Korean soccer player
* Kin Taiei, mixed martial artist
* Lee Tadanari, professional soccer player
* Maeda Akira, pro-wrestler
* Maenoyama Taro, sumo wrestler
* Momota Mitsuhiro, pro-wrestler, also known as Rikidozan
* Okayama Kazunari, professional soccer player
* Ōyama Masutatsu, martial arts expert
* Ri Han-Jae, North Korean soccer player
* Ryang Gyu-Sa, North Korean soccer player
* Ryang Yong-Gi, North Korean soccer player
* Ryouji Sai, pro-wrestler
* Tamarikidō Hideki, sumo wrestler
* Tokuyama Masamori, professional boxer, former WBC super flyweight champion
* Tatsuhito Takaiwa, pro-wrestler
* Yoshida Mitsu, pro-wrestler, also known as Riki Choshu

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Japan`s Future: Is it too Late Anyway?

I think in a way it is too late. Yet I don`t think countries should ever
throw in the towel.

Japan`s waffling about whether to become multicultural or not, is in itself,
hurting the country. Recently Brazilians and people with Japanese blood
from abroad, are being essentially bribed to return to their country of origin
(the country on their passport).

They should be encouraged to stay in Japan and supported. However that is
just my opinion. I am obviously not the prime minister of Japan.

Japan needs to come up with a well thought out, long range plan for her future. Is she going to become a multicultural nation or not?

The issue still seems to be so much up in the air.

However, if the answer is yes, we are going to be like Britain, Canada and America for example, then how can we best accomplish this?

ie) Help newcomers to settle in well and learn Japanese, limit racism,
insure a safe and fair employment system for all ie) tenure not based on
race would be one example.

Also, how can we prepare the Japanese people for this--how can we promote the positive points of multiculturalism.
In Canada it was everywhere when I was growing up--on
TV and other forms of media. It was taught in the schools
--the benefits of being multicultural.

Or if Japan chooses to go it alone. What are the benefits and costs of that.
How can we limit the costs? Are we going to be satisfied with
a much poorer standard of living, as we must pay more taxes to
support the elderly for example.

For me, being a Canadian. Although I like Japan and I like living
here. I always have a way out should things get too difficult.

But for the average Japanese, they are stuck here depending on the
government to make the best decisions for the country.

However, waffling and no decision making is even worse
than choosing one of the above ways to the future.

I truly hope Japan becomes multicultural however. I think the benefits
far outweigh the demerits.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Brown Rice: Tell this to your Japanese Partner

"Brown rice has 400% more vitamin B1 than white (B1 converts carbohydrates to energy); 300% more fiber, for bowel health; and you can also receive various essential oils through consumption as well. Many people complain that genmai is hard to digest. The trick is to cook it with some crushed barley, which is sold for the purpose, and causes the grain to soften up and become almost puffy. The resulting rice tastes great."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

President Obama puts science in its rightful place

by David Suzuki

Science has taken a beating over the past few years – especially in the U.S. and Canada. We’ve put up with incessant braying from climate change deniers who, in the words of Guardian writer George Monbiot, "ignore an entire canon of science, the statements of the world’s most eminent scientific institutions, and thousands of papers published in the foremost scientific journals" just so they can "pick up a crumb: a crumb which then disintegrates" in their palms.

George Bush’s administration was so anti-science – blacklisting and purging scientists and suppressing or altering scientific studies – that 60 top scientists released a statement in 2004 accusing the administration of distorting scientific fact "for partisan political ends".

Science hasn’t fared much better here in Canada. A year ago, an editorial in the scientific journal Nature criticized our government for its skepticism about the science of global warming, and for muzzling federal scientists and closing the office of the national science adviser.

How refreshing it was, then, to listen to U.S. President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech on January 20.

"We’ll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost," the president said. "We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories."

What’s even more refreshing is that President Obama is backing those words with action. He has appointed top scientists to key positions, including Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as energy secretary, leading marine biologist Jane Lubchenco to head up the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and Harvard physicist John Holdren as head of the White House Office of Science and Technology.

These appointees understand and take seriously the science of climate change. President Obama also understands the geopolitical ramifications of policies that help fuel climate change, as he made clear in his speech when he noted that "each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."

It was refreshing also to hear the new president talk about choosing "hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord" and about "what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage."

That common purpose and need for courage, as the president knows, extends beyond U.S. borders. After all, migratory Pacific salmon don’t recognize the line between our nations, nor do rivers like the pristine Flathead, which flows from B.C. into Montana and forms the western boundary of Montana’s Glacier National Park, or threatened and endangered species like grizzly bears that breed, feed, and roam across our common border. And the winds that carry pollution and greenhouse gas emissions don’t get turned back at the border for endangering citizens on either side.

Here in B.C. where I live, most of the species at risk – from grizzlies to monarch butterflies – cross back and forth regularly between the two countries. We can’t hope to protect them without strong and complementary habitat-protection policies in both countries. We also need agreement on policies to protect the waters that flow between our two nations. President Obama said during his campaign that he opposes industrial development in the headwaters of the Flathead. "The Flathead River and Glacier National Park are treasures that should be conserved for future generations," he said in reaction to a push by the B.C. government for development in the region, including an open-pit coal mine 40 kilometres from the Canada-U.S. border.

Climate change is another issue that must be addressed quickly and effectively by both nations. President Obama has proposed an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists and economists around the world know that putting a price on carbon emissions, through cap and trade and carbon taxes, is the best way to bring our emissions under control. And while a number of Canadian provinces have joined with U.S. states to implement cap-and-trade programs, our federal government has yet to act.

It’s great to see a U.S. administration that isn’t afraid of real progress and change. But, as President Obama noted, it isn’t just up to the American government to create that change; it’s up to all of us. And while he was referring to American citizens, we Canadians must also join to confront the challenges that both our countries, and indeed, the entire world, face. It’s time to realize that, when it comes to finding solutions to our common problems, science matters.

Science Matters has been running weekly since 1999. To read past columns, please visit

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Japan by the Numbers

The “Wide” feature in the current Shukan Shincho (Jan 15) presents a baker’s dozen of stories under the collective title of “Scary Numbers for Japan.”

The first touches on how one married woman out of three is on the receiving end of physical abuse. Another shocker concerns rampant food waste: each day, the magazine reports, Japanese discard the equivalent of 30 million servings of food. And Fukuoka Prefecture is the top-ranking prefecture in dispose of dogs and cats, which are euthanized nationwide at the rate of 350,000 a year.

Meanwhile, prosecutions for possession of marijuana are soaring, and headed for 15,000 cases per year. Despite the use of more women-only cars, during 2007, 1,600 “chikan” (gropers) were caught in the act on trains in Tokyo alone. And statistics of runaways from home show that only the segment that’s been increasing are those aged 60 and over.

The weekly also takes note of the rapid surge in registration of Chinese nationals in Japan. From just 84,397 in 1986, their numbers had climbed to 424,282 by 2002, and at the end of 2007, reached 606,889, accounting for 28.2% of foreign residents in Japan and for the first time surpassing Koreans, who numbered 593,489.

“More students have been coming here from China,” an immigration official explains. “More IT-related technicians are coming to Japan to work or for training. And marriages between Japanese men and Chinese women have been increasing.”

While the aforementioned official pointed out that by admitting them Japan is able to secure high-quality labor and activate its academic institutions, the magazine does not shirk from noting the downside, that is, how these newcomers have affected law and order. Of the 14,787 crimes by committed by foreign nationals, those by Chinese were roughly proportional to their numbers—about one out of every three.

On a related note, proposals to establish “Chinatowns” in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district and commercial centers in Nagoya, Sapporo and other cities have been made, causing anxiety among local residents—not so much over crime, but toward food-related problems, such as sanitation and abnormally high levels of agricultural pesticides in imported items.

“Last January, three Chinese approached me about declaring everything within a 500-meter radius of Ikebukuro Station to be Chinatown, which I felt was preposterous,” says Mitsuru Miyake, chairman of the Ikebukuro West Exit Merchants Association. “My biggest concern would be safety. Both the police and I are saying they have ties to gangs. And they’re also impolite; they scatter parts of Shanghai crabs and the stinky remains of fish all over the street around here.”

“Even with a part-time job at an izakaya (pub), Chinese manage to send money back home,” a Japanese journalist based in China warns. “So the Chinese who come to Japan to study bring their families over. Anyone can find work as waiters or in convenience stores, or as a janitor, so if a Chinatown can be established, they’ll wind up bringing in their whole family one at a time, including by illegal means.”

--Japan Today