Journal

 

Friday
Dec022016

Shh!! I'm recording!!

How many of you out there remember holding a microphone up to the speaker and recording the radio onto a cassette tape? I do.

 

In 1983, cassettes tapes accounted for 47.8% of music sales; vinyl 44.6%. The jump in casette sales was a result of the debut of the Sony Walkman in the early '80s. Although CDs overtook cassettes in 1991, their sales peaked barely a decade later in 2003. Downloads overtook CDs in 2012.

In 2013, CDs accounted for 30.4% of all music sales. Downloads, meanwhile, accounted for 40% (singles, 22.4%; albums, 17.6%) Sales of ringtones peaked at 11% in 2008.

iTunes was released in January 2001; the iTunes Store in April 2003. The first iPhone was released in 2007.

 

Thursday
Dec012016

Childhood Poverty in Japan

There has been much handwringing of late with regard to the childhood poverty rate in Japan. This is something I would like to address in future posts, but for now I want to share this graph I found which shows childhood poverty rates by prefecture.

Overall, Japan has a childhood poverty rate of 13.8%, considerably less than America's rate of 21%. But looking at individual prefectures, we find that the poverty rate of Okinawa, the nation's worst, is 37.5%. Ōsaka has the second highest childhood poverty rate at over 20%. Kagoshima is third and my prefecture of Fukuoka is fourth with just under 20%, meaning one in five kids is living in poverty. Sobering statistics, to say the least.

Friday
Nov252016

Inhaling Water

I am often asked why I came to Japan. I usually reply: “It’s a long story." Here's part of that story.

"Inhaling Water", a prequel to A Woman's Nails, offers a look into how one might forsake the Devil ye know for one ye don't.

Thursday
Nov242016

Curse of the Fire Horse

Painting by Uemura Shōen (1918)

Like me, Haruka was born in 1966. According the Chinese calendar, this was a once-in-six decades Year of the Horse, called the Hinoe Uma, or Fire Horse.[1] Superstition had it that people born in this year have “bad personalities” . . .

Those Chinese have certainly got your number!

Listen. The superstition is even less flattering for women born in that year: the Japanese believe that women born in the Year of the Fire Horse are so headstrong that they will end up driving their husbands to an early grave, a concern widespread enough that the birth rate actually plummeted in Japan in 1966.[2] Haruka used to tell me that thanks to the superstition, it was a breeze getting into the schools of her choice. There was never much competition. The same was true when she started job-hunting: no shortage of work for a cute, young woman with big tits. If only I . . .

Had large breasts?

If only I had been a Japanese girl born in 1966. Anyways, whether you want to believe it or not, Haruka fit that stereotypical image of the Fire Horse perfectly—stubborn, overbearing, selfish. I often joked that sooner or later she was going to kill me. So, it wasn’t all that surprising to me that she would one day decide she was going to take it easy and become “a housewife”. What did surprise me, though, was when she told me she was going to visit Mexico.

 


[1] Hinoe Uma (丙午、ひのえうま). In addition to the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar there are five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—bringing the total number of years in the Chinese calendar to sixty (12 animals x 5 elements = 60 years). Those of you familiar with Asian cultures may have heard that the sixtieth birthday is a special one. It signifies the completion of the cycle and a rebirth of sorts. In Japanese, where a baby is called akachan (赤ちゃん, lit. “Little Red”), those who become sixty are usually presented with something red.

   In the 20th century, 1906 and 1966 were Hinoe-Uma years. According to the theory of Yin-Yang and the five elements, Hinoe and Uma are characterized as being on the Yin side of Fire. It was commonly believed that more fires occurred in those years than in other years. There was also a widespread belief that women born in Hinoe Uma year were unyielding, and henpecked their husbands to death. For more, go here.

[2] The number of births dropped some 25% in 1966. The figure was so low that it was not matched again until 1989 when the effects of Japan’s dwindling birthrate started to be felt. 50.9% of the children born in 1966 were, like Haruka, the first son or daughter, the highest rate ever. For more, go here.

Wednesday
Nov022016

Ishiganto

  Walking down a cobbled slope in the Kinjō-chō neighborhood just south of Shuri Castle in Naha, Okinawa, I spotted a sign usually overlooked by tourists who can't read kanji: 敢當

  Ishigantō are ornamental tablets or engravings placed near or in buildings and other structures to exorcise or ward off evil spirits. Shí gǎn dāng, as they are called in Mandarin Chinese, are, according to Mr. Wiki, "often associated with Mount Tai [north of the city of Tai'an in Shandong province] and are often placed on street intersections or three-way junctions, especiallyin the crossing."

  Ishigantō were introduced to the Ryūkyū Kingdom from China and can be found throughout Okinawa Prefecture, where they are called Ishigantō or Ishigandō and to some extent in Kagoshima Prefecture, where they are called Sekkantō.

Wednesday
Oct122016

My Darling

  This morning, I came across the results of a survey conducted by the Fujiya Company, maker of Milky, a kind of milk-based taffy which the company has been selling for over sixty-five years.
  According to Fujiya’s survey the most common ways that Japanese women without children call their husband are:

By their name with -kun added, 31%
By a nickname, 29%
By their name without -kun or -san added, 14%
Another 11% call their husbands “o-Tō-san” (father) or “Papa
The remaining 15% call their husbands in other ways
 
  Once children are born, things change considerably:
    

The most popular way by far to call one’s husband is “o-Tō-san” (father) or “Papa”, at 50%.
The next most common way is by their name with -kun added, 18%.
Another 9% call their husbands by their given name, but without -kun or -san.
 14% call their man by a nickname.
And the remaining 9% call him in other ways.
  I conducted a quick survey of my own on 16 first year students between the ages of 18 and 24. The results were as follows:
  I have written in the past about the different ways Japanese men refer to their wives. I will try to write about how they call their wives in the coming days and post it below. 
Now, how do men call their wives in Japan?


If they haven’t got kids, 46% call their wife by her first name.
19% by her name plus -chan.
Another 19% by her nickname.
6% of “men” call their wife o-kā-san or mama (Ew)
10% in another way.
  When children come into the picture, things change as we saw above.
39% now call their wife o-kā-san or mama
 22% by her first name alone
13% by her name plus -chan
 9% by a nickname
17% in another way
  One reason for the change is that once a child is born, everyone’s role in the family shifts, from wife to mother, from father to grandfather, and so on. People are often called by a name reflecting their relationship to the child. This is especially true the first or an older child is a boy. He will be called o-nī-chan or o-nī-san even by his parents. A wife will call her husband o-tō-san or papa, her own parents o-bā-chan (Grandma) and o-jī-chan (Grandpa).
  Although we use our first names in our family—my younger son seldom if ever calls his brother o-nī-chan (“big brother”)—my wife now calls her own mother Grandma.
  Cosmetics maker Pola looked into this phenomenon and its unexpected, and perhaps unwanted, consequences.