Friday, December 07, 2007

Immoral Effects

From a foreigners prospective living in Japan does seem strange, and unsurprisingly this isn't a new phenomenon. I recently came across scans of a book ‘Sketches of Japanese manners and customs’ from the 1860s written by a British guy living here at the time.

The book is available online here. If you've got a few minutes to kill, which judging by the fact that your reading my blog you probably do, have a look. It reveals a lot not only about Japan but about western attitudes as well.

One nice example is a comment the author makes about the Japanese custom of communal bathing, 'It would seem natural to conclude that such a system must have immoral effects, but the Japanese attribute no evil consequences to it'. Westerners are really such prudes... but they really did a good job of moralising Japan.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

How to avoid being a sexual offender

I forgot to pay my internet bill, again. This means that for the next few days I have to come down to the lobby of my building to use the web, which has the one advantage that I can also watch TV while I'm here. Japanese TV is one of those interesting experiences that is hard to explain without watching. For those wanting to see an example of something I found on the web recently, have a look here.

What I saw today was a little stranger however. A special on one of the talk shows about how to avoid be falsely accused of sexually molesting people on crowded trains. To put that in context, sexual offending on trains is such a big issue here that most trains have carriages reserved only for women. So its not surprising that the occasional innocent person my get accused of doing it, but it seems a bit strange that there is a show in prime time specifically teaching ways to avoid being accused.

The show had a section explaining different ways of standing so that your hands are always visible, or ways so that you can avoid being close to females. This was followed by a section on what to do in case you are falsely accused, and then an interview with one guy who claims to have been falsely accused and spent 3 months in prison for it.

Oh and of course, the excuse the falsely accused guy gave for it not being him, "It wasn't me, it must have been the half standing behind me!". Half is the wonderfully politically correct term for those with one Japanese and one foreign parent, who are invariable considered by most Japanese as criminal foreigners just like the rest of all. Sort of reassuring that they somehow managed to find a way of combine the endemically Japanese phenomenon of train perverts and the fear of criminal foreigners in a single story.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Information Density

In Japan you often see small two dimensional bar codes that cellphone cameras can decode as a web address. They are normally about a cm square, and are often found on the bottom of advertisements and occasionally on the business cards of certain Japanese companies that want to seem tech savy.

Last week I came across this somewhat larger than usual example, about 16square meters... which to store a single web address seems like overkill. Interestingly no text, so the only way to know what it was advertising was to scan it.

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