For a cloudy day in January, it is strikingly warm in Matsuyama city. Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku, Japan’s smallest main island. Usually the coldest month of the year, Matsuyama is today enjoying a very mild 14 degrees C.
The warmer winter days are only one sign of the increasing grasp of climate change in south Japan. Regional typhoon patterns are also changing, and the combination of rising temperatures and increasing typhoon damage poses new threats to the region.
For this article, I tried to thing of an interesting perspective I could provide here. In the past, I’ve talked with some first year Primary or Junior High ALTs who didn’t know much about the Senior High School (SHS) system. I figured I might be able to help out by giving everyone an idea about how SHS work, and what teaching at a SHS is like, at least in my experience.
I woke up this Christmas Eve with a new anticipation. Instead of performing the traditional caroling and cookie decorating with my family, back in America, I would be traveling to Matsuyama Castle as a Samurai.
On an empty train station platform in rural Japan, there is a poster pasted on the wall with a message in imposing red letters: “Stop Karoshi!” Karoshi is a phrase meaning ‘death by overworking’, and the concept has become so normalised that it has entered the Japanese lexicon. The phenomenon, despite efforts to counter it, appears set to stay.
At first glance, the Japanese government appears to be working hard to battle the nation’s unhealthy working hours, but its current approach is at best superficial and at worst a purposeful avoidance of the problem.
Last December I went to VR Zone Shinjuku, a virtual reality park in Tokyo, for the second time. It opened in July 2017 and will be closing in March of this year, but another location, VR Zone Osaka, opened last year on floors 8 and 9 of the Umeda HEP Five building. These theme parks are a part of “VR ZONE Project i Can” which is an initiative headed by game/toy company Bandai Namco to popularize virtual reality. It all started with a pop-up VR park that ran from April to October 2016 in Tokyo’s Odaiba district, near the famous giant Gundam statue.
What’s in a name? Or, in the case of Japan, what on earth is the name in the first place? I found out the hard way just how tricky a Japanese name can be.
Names are important. Abraham Lincoln is reported to have never forgotten a person’s name, even of those who he only ever met once. I assume the reporters meant twice, as with those he met only once, there’s no way to tell. I can tell two things for certain from this: Lincoln understood the power of names, and Lincoln never had to learn the names of Japanese school children.
“Take a chance, you stupid hoe. 怖がってるんじゃねえ。” –Gwen Stefani
February started off on a positive note. Work was going fine and I no longer felt on the brink of losing anything. I felt extremely busy, and found myself working overtime. One Tuesday, my manager sent me home early for that reason and my week seemed to slow down immediately. I finished my transcription assignments for my other job and got some things done for several police departments.
I am terrible at vacationing. When I go on a trip, I have neither an itinerary nor the desire to construct one. I am the type of person that would be perfectly happy to sit in a cafe or on a nearby beach, or even just in the hotel room where I’m staying. So how is it that I managed to go on a four day, timetable packed down to the minute, snowballs to the walls trip to Hokkaido for the Yuki-Matsuri? The same strategy I usually follow when traveling; I went with a friend who is semi obsessed with getting the most out of their vacation. The following is a story of pitfalls and highlights that I’ve assembled from some notes that I took during my time outside of Shikokuchuo. I hope you’re enticed by the highlights, and that you’ll learn from (or at least get a laugh out of) the mistakes we made during our time in the far north of Japan.
“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been.” –Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Though each day passed in seeming monotony, I can’t say that they hadn’t each injected some influence into my path. One overcast day while riding in the passenger seat in one of my parents’ cars, I suddenly realized that I needed to take responsibility for my life. My life is the way it is because of all of the decisions I have made. Even if I were not the one calling the shots, I was responsible for the ways I reacted to the things that happened. Instead of feeling like a victim of my circumstances, I realized that I needed to take responsibility for those circumstances I found myself in. I resolved to take it upon myself to improve what I could. This changed the way I viewed things and altered the course I was on.