I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Donald Trump: A Most Unusual Politician! –

Standard

The nominees have been decided, and the election is set for November.
Donald Trump will face Hillary Clinton in the presidential election this fall, and it is guaranteed to be one of the most unusual elections ever.
While Hillary Clinton is an establishment political figure who has been in the national spotlight for well over 20 years, the same cannot be said of Mr. Trump.

Of course, he is a well known television fixture who has been famous for many decades.
But he is a political newbie.
In the past, he has toyed with the idea of running for president before deciding against it.
Back then, he would have run as a third-party candidate, and his views were much different from what they are today.
He was more of a moderate when he considered a presidential bid in the year 2000, but times have drastically changed his views.

It is difficult to draw any parallels of previous national party presidential nominees.
Ronald Reagan was also an entertainer, but by 1980, he had made a successful transition from actor to California governor.
Say what you will about his policies, but it was clear that his political success was built on his political brand, not whatever success he had as an actor.

Donald Trump is in a league of his own, and he probably wants it that way.
He plays by his own rules.
I, for one, am excited to see how this election plays out.
There is some chatter that the GOP may change its rules at the last minute to deny Trump the nomination, but that might even be more risky than simply letting Trump become the nominee.
After all, how would Trump’s loyal supporters react to such a tactic?

All I know is, we’re in for one heck of a show!

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Obama Visits Hiroshima –

Standard

President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima at the end of May was a historical event.
Marking the first time a currently serving American president visited the symbolic site, it received a wide coverage on the media and generated both eager anticipation and skepticism.
Some went home to catch the speech that would be delivered by President Obama, while some set up a demonstration at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial to demand a formal apology.

I didn’t see the event on TV actually (I might’ve been working), but I did read the transcript of Mr. Obama’s speech.
I thought it was a well-written speech, carefully worded to offer both sympathy to the victims of the atomic bomb and also to assure other countries in the SE Asia that it America didn’t condone the expansionist Japan of the past (not that he explicitly pointed out wartime atrocities–but by emphasizing the evils of using technology to kill and the need to find a way to global peace).

In his speech, he repeatedly mentioned the idea of remembering the past so that tragedies may not be repeated again. In other words, reflecting on past mistakes as a moral compass to guide our future.

I thought it was a good speech.
But then again, I don’t have a personal connection to World War 2 or Hiroshima.
Everything I know about the war I learned in Social Studies 10 class.
So I was curious to know how my Japanese friends and acquaintances felt about Mr. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima.
When asked about the absence of direct apology in the speech (like some people have been demanding, but as far as I can tell these people are in the minority), one person told me, “For many Japanese people, what’s important isn’t whether America apologizes or not. He officially recognized the victims of the bomb, and that’s enough.”

Another opinion was that apology would’ve been inappropriate because Japan committed wartime crimes as well, and that it would be better to focus on building good relationships with other countries rather than holding onto grudges from the past.

As a foreigner living in Japan, I too agree that it’s important for countries to cooperate, rather than sabotage each other for political or economical gains.
Years from now, when the increasingly aging population is forced to accept immigrants of foreign nationals in order to replenish the number of workers (which is a point of debate), I hope both Japanese people and foreigners alike think of this event and remember that even former enemies can work together.

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Superstitions in Japan –

Standard

I’ve never considered myself a superstitious person.
I tend to prefer logical explanations to things in life based on facts, because I find them easier to follow and accept than the alternatives.
There are of course many things in life I don’t understand, and I’m generally perfectly happy to label things as “unknowns” or “mysteries.”

I’m comfortable accepting that there are elements in life that are unexplainable to me because I don’t have the necessary pieces to see the full picture for the time being.
If the inexplicable happens to coincide with my interests, I usually try to gather as many facts as possible, until I’m satisfied that I have at least a somewhat passable understanding of the subject.

Why am I rambling on about this?
It’s because I’ve generally dismissed the supernatural beliefs as being little more than artifacts of cultural/historical heritage.
In other words, I considered them to be somewhat obsolete mode of thinking that was gradually on its way out, at least in developed parts of the world that already saw the benefits of industrialization and therefore scientific progress.

So what surprised me was realizing that not only was I getting acclimatized to old Japanese sayings based on old beliefs (e.g. “Be careful what you say, oni is listening,” or “Don’t be reckless with words, words have souls.”), but I actually found myself heeding to those words at times.
On New Year’s Day when we visited the shrine, it felt natural to pray to the local deity even though I clearly remember how strange that felt a few years ago.

And I still don’t think that I’ve become any more superstitious than I used to be.
For that matter, the vast majority of the Japanese people I’ve met since coming here don’t take these old superstitions seriously.
For the most part, Shintoist and Buddhist rituals seem to be part of cultural legacy they enjoy, but not much more than that.

The interesting transformation for me was going from being an amused observer to being an appreciative participant.
If you ask me if my luck would change if I didn’t draw the New Year’s fortune at the shrine, I’ll say, no, of course not.
But at the same time, if I skipped going through the motions at the beginning of the year, I’d probably feel like missed out on something.

When i think about it, it almost feels like there’s an incompatible dualism that’s only come to seem normal.
But I really don’t feel any internal conflicts.

Maybe I’m being influenced by the openness of Japanese culture to accept different belief systems.
Or not. In any case, I feel that I understand Japanese ways of thinking better.

I once met a Japanese drummer who regularly went to a church to play worship songs.
At the time, I wondered why.
Now, I don’t think that’s strange at all.

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Is Tokyo the Real City That Never Sleeps? –

Standard

A while back, I noticed what I consider to be a unique phenomenon.
I’ve lived in many places over the years, but Tokyo is the only place that had such an effect on me.
No matter how much I try, I cannot go to bed on time.

“On time,” of course, may change from day to day.
Some nights it’s perfectly acceptable to stay up all hours, so long as you don’t have to get up the next morning.
But even on those nights before work, it still presents quite a challenge.
As someone who values sleep, it baffles me.

I’ve lived in many types of places over the years.
Cities, suburban areas, rural areas — name it, and I’ve been there.
But I’ve never stayed up particularly late on a regular basis before I moved to Tokyo.
So i can’t figure it out. I remember how staying up until 2:00 a.m. used to be a shocking thing to do during summer vacation.
Now 2:00 a.m. is packing it in early!

I know lots of other people who are the same.
I sometimes get messages from fellow Tokyoites at all hours of the morning.
I once got a couple of text messages from a friend (who is in his 70s, mind you) early in the 5:00 hour. (And, yes, I was asleep by then!)
The notification sound effect on my phone woke me up.
I’m sure it’s possible he had woken up early, for example, to go to work, but given his age, I doubt it.
I don’t think he went to sleep at all!

It’s very unusual, but it’s so common in Tokyo.
I’d love to know why.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think many other cities ignore sleep so regularly.
Perhaps someone has an answer.
I’d sure like to know why!

Donald Trump Becomes the Unofficial Official GOP Presidential Nominee

Standard

Donald Trump has all but officially secured the Republican nomination for president, and it has surprised just about everyone who follows politics.
Sen. Ted Cruz proved to be a stiff challenger to Trump’s campaign, and despite winning many previous contests, suddenly dropped out of the race following his loss to Trump in the Indiana primary.

Gov. John Kasich, the more moderate-sounding governor of Ohio, remained in the race just a little bit longer than Cruz.
But given that he has only won his home state so far in the primaries, Kasich made the predictable decision to bow out of the presidential race, as well.
That leaves Trump as the last man standing, with no challengers to his nomination.

This would seem to remove any doubt about the inevitability of Trump’s nomination.
A lot of talk in the political world focused on brokered convention, and many bigwigs in the GOP hoped that a Paul Ryan, a Mitt Romney, or some other white knight would come from nowhere and secure the nomination on the second ballot (after no candidate could garner a majority of delegates on the first ballot).
That scenario now seems like a complete fantasy, if it ever had any real-world possibility in the first place.

On the Democratic side, the primary race will continue in earnest, with Sen. Bernie Sanders refusing to drop out, even though reality tells him that he should.
Cruz had much more of a realistic shot at securing his party’s nomination, but even he saw the writing on the wall and decided not to fight on.
Sanders has so far declined to do the same.
This will no doubt make it more difficult for Secretary Clinton to focus on her opponent in the fall.
How that will affect the contest in November remains to be seen.

One thing’s for sure: This race will be enormously entertaining. It already has been.

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Jam Sessions in Tokyo –

Standard

One of the reasons I decided to settle in Japan rather than Vancouver (my hometown), was because of the music scene in Tokyo.
I didn’t know any Japanese musicians personally.
But surely, I thought, in a city with more than 12 million people (which is around 1/3 the entire population of Canada), there must be a lot of opportunities for musicians.

Eager to connect with local players but having no idea where to start, I turned to good ol’ Internet.
I looked up websites for jam sessions and made a list of places to visit.
The first thing that I realized was that, compared to what I was used to, many of the jam sessions were on the pricey side.
Of course the meaning of “expensive” just depends on what the local norm is, but I was used to going to jam sessions for free.
But some of the more well-known jams in Tokyo charge anywhere between 1000-3000 yen for entry.

I haven’t been to jam sessions in cities other than Vancouver and Tokyo/Yokohama, so I can’t really compare either of these places to what’s typical around the world. There probably isn’t one standard business model anyway.
But comparing Vancouver and Tokyo jams, the one clear difference is the target audience.

In Vancouver, it was good for the venues to get musicians who were willing to play for free (even students) because that meant these places could draw in customers who just enjoyed having a meal with live background music.
I remember a jam session that even served a free plate of fries or pint of beer to all the players.
For the players, it was a good chance to meet others and to play in a stress-free environment.

In Tokyo/Yokohama, jam sessions are typically where amateur musicians go to practice music with others and improve.
Depending on the jam, you might see a lot of beginners or players with a lot of experiences.
I think one of the reasons why people go to these jams is because for many, practicing at home isn’t really an option (although the biggest upside, of course, is to mingle with other regulars).
Naturally, the players are the main customers of these jams, and there’s often a cover charge in addition to minimum order.
I feel that regular restaurants (as opposed to dedicated jam spaces) could benefit from hosting jams, but I haven’t found one yet.

Anyway, it’s been really great meeting people at these jams over the years.
They came from all sorts of different backgrounds and some of them became close friends.
I hope to continue finding more good jams in the future…!
In the meantime, if you know a good place, please feel free to leave a comment…

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- March brings a record number of tourists to Japan –

Standard

Well, it’s official.
Japan saw over two million tourists visit the country in March.
Suffice it to say, that’s a lot for a single month.
Not surprisingly, the majority came from China and other neighboring countries in Asia.
For those of us who live in Japan and see Chinese tourists almost every day, that’s pretty much a given.

The country seems to be gearing up to meet its goal of 40 million tourists by 2020, which to many seems like an ill-advised idea.
Even now, with about half that number of tourists visiting the country every year, there is a severe lack of hotel accommodations.
In four years, is it really possible to provide lodging to twice as many visitors as we are having now?

Seems a little far-fetched to me.
But, with fewer economic opportunities to turn to, Japan seems to rely more and more on tourists to boost the economy.
This seems like it ought to be more controversial in Japan, but perhaps the people are so hungry for anything to work that they’d settle for an assist from the Chinese.

Cherry blossoms, of course, were a major draw for the tourists.
Being near Meguro River, you could see the tourists out in force.
I can’t imagine what viewing the cherry blossoms will be like in 2020.