Thursday, May 31, 2007

Too Many Foreigners

The Japanese attitude towards foreigners is something I could say a lot about, but its not something I could even pretend to understand yet, so Ill avoid that topic for a year or two. But occasionally I am going to hear/see something so ridiculous that I have to say something about it, such as today when I found out the number of foreigners living in Japan.

Now its obvious that there aren't a lot of foreigners here, I can remember by the end of my stay in Nara that if I went to a place and saw more than 2 foreigners I would start to wonder what was going on. But its always good to have a number, and today while reading an international newspaper I found one, 1.6% of the Japanese population is officially a foreigner.

Ok now lets compare that to NZ, 17.5% of people living in NZ were born overseas as of the last census. Now before I said 1.6% of people in japan was OFFICIALLY a foreigner, well what makes you a foreigner in Japan and NZ is slightly different. Of that 1.6% over half were actually born in Japan! They just had the misfortune of foreign parents, so cant possible join the exclusive Japanese club.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


One of my favourite things about Japan has always been the fireworks, and generally the ones that fly or go bang, not just the cute little ones. You can buy fireworks at any time of year here and they aren't tied in to any particular holiday, so its something you can do a couple of times a year which is what makes it even better.

Of course its still too early in the year for the massive 2 hour long fireworks displays, which make summer evenings fun, but that didn't stop me and some friends letting off our own in a park one night last week. Ok you might think that doing them in a park is a bad idea, but this is Japan, where else are people going to do them? Well the first pair of policemen who we met in the park also thought it was a bad idea and suggested we do it in our gardens.

Now about 90% of the population of this city we don't have our own gardens, so we didn't really know what to do with our bag full of fireworks. Though when we were leaving an hour or so later we thought that letting off a few little ones would probably be ok. The second set of police men didn't think so... and I am so glad that it was a different pair. The chances of be recognised there are now much to high and I wont be able to do fireworks in that park for at least a month, which is a pain as its the only large park nearby.

That night left me with a large surplus of explosives sitting on the shelf in my room. That particular surplus got a lot larger today when I discovered a fireworks wholesale shop. It was paradise, a shop where everything was cheap and explosive! Some very interesting types including rocket propelled toy cars! And the best thing was right next door was another shop exactly the same. I now have a truly scary amount of fireworks in my room though...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Natural Onsen

As I said in the last post I went to Nikko over the weekend, and one of the things I wanted to do while I was there was goto an Onsen. Now my past experiences with Onsen have be somewhat mixed, ranging from natural hot springs in the middle of forests, to essentially large bath tubs and given Nikkos reputation for natural beauty I was hoping to find something of the former.

Having been somewhat lazy about organising the trip I just decided to ask at the Tourist information centre which of the onsen are of the more natural kind, and was told about 3. Me and my friends chose the cheapest of these which turned out to be owned by a hotel. That's quite normal here, so I wasn't overly worried. We went there paid our money and were lead to the onsen.

Turns out what the tourist information centre consider natural is in the basement of a building, with no natural light, tiled wall-to-wall, with several rocks to one side of the room and the hot water coming out of a tap. I hate to think what the others were like.

We did find another one while tramping that was about as natural as you can get, some hot puddles in the middle of a swamp. Unfortunately they were only big enough to bathe your feet in, still was nice.

Crime in Japan

Well despite 6 months worth of warnings last time I was in Japan about all the things I shouldn't do because of the crime rate here, I never actually saw any crime. That changed yesterday when I saw a theft from a souvenir shop in Nikko (Oh yeah, I went to Nikko, nice place). Of course the theft was by a monkey, so it doesn't really contribute to the crime rate.

Cute little bastard walk over to the shop, took one of the bags of snacks, and then just bolted. I call it a bastard because like every other animal in this country it tried to attack me, all I wanted to do was take its photo...

Oh yeah and as to crime I recently heard on the news that there had been a rash of gun related crime, apparently last year there were 53 shootings! 3 of which were fatal. Considering that the population of Tokyo alone is over 3 times that of NZ, how do you we compare.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

No I dont hear Voices

This week is "health check week" at Tokyo University. Apparently the University wants to check all students, except for first years, to see if they are dying or not, and apparently its something I'll have to look forward to every year while I'm here.

I guess its good that the University cares about its students (well, except for the first years), but I really wonder why they want to know? If they find that I have some horrible incurable disease does that mean I don't graduate?

Thinking about it, I expect they are more practical than that, and I would probably be passed on to the medical department for study. I want to be involved in writing a few papers here, but that's not the way I have in mind. I find out in two weeks.

They were thorough, blood tests, X-rays, ECG, etc. and then just for foreigners a mental health survey. I have at times thought the Japanese consider most foreigners to be crazy, but I was somewhat surprised that the mental health survey was reserved solely for us.

No I don't hear Voices that no one else hears, and in the last year I haven't believed anyone was out to get me. I answered no to so many questions that by the end I was starting to get slightly nervous, it was like sitting a multi-choice exam and answering A to every question.

Oh and apparently I am 168cms tall...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fucking Bird

Why is it that every animal I feed in Japan attacks me? Last time I was here it was the deer in Nara park, this time a bird. I was sitting under a tree eating lunch and a raven landed nearby and was just hopping round looking for crumbs. Everyone here thinks they are horrible birds, but until today I quite liked them, so I threw it a chunk of bread. It took it and flew off, seemed happy enough, a couple of minutes later it came back. Landed on the seat behind me, snuck up behind me and tapped my back. I went to look round and the bloody thing bit me. If all the wildlife here is like what Ive met so far I understand why the Japanese don't pay much attention to looking after the environment.
This page has been responsible for distracting Free Counters people since 18/11/2007.