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.
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.
“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.
The following is a brief guide to the assorted stars, planets and other things that can be seen in the skies above Ehime during the coming month. It will also provide some basic advice on how to see them. Almost all can be spotted without any equipment or expertise whatsoever. All you need is a cloudless night. Many events will be observable on multiple nights while some are more brief – you’ll have to rely on the benevolence of the weather for the latter!
If you’re interested in a guided tour of the night sky, albeit in Japanese, consider taking a trip to Ishizuchi this month. See the Mt. Ishizuchi website for more: Ishizuchi Star Night Tour.
On Saturday, February 3rd, Stonewall Shikoku held an ice skating event in Ehime’s very own Matsuyama. Stonewall Shikoku is the Shikoku branch of the national Stonewall group, a place for LGBTQIA+ people to interact with each other while in Japan to share their experiences, help each other with queer-specific problems, and make connections with other people within the community. Stonewall Shikoku is currently headed by CIR Micah Rabinowitz who is based in Kochi prefecture. Some of his duties include putting out a regular newsletter about regional and national LGBTQIA+ related issues and organizing island-wide events for people across the region to meet up. One such event was a camping trip held at the end of summer last year.Continue reading →
One of the main reasons why I went to Japan was because I wanted to find myself. I grew up jumping from place to place, but when it came time for my identity to solidify during my adolescent years, I found myself in Kansas. Suffice to say, I didn’t know anybody other than my sister who shared my heritage. I didn’t know what it meant to be Japanese or Mexican. I definitely didn’t know what it meant to be both of those while also being an American. I had a long, drawn-out identity crisis when I was in university. So I thought that I might be able to find some answers in Japan. Long story short, I realized that identity is something that we create for ourselves, rather than something we find. It’s a constant process of reshaping and tweaking.
Magical realism is defined as ‘an amalgamation of realism and fantasy.’ It originated in literature from Latin America, yet numerous novels from and about Japan have drawn on elements of this genre. Japan often appears fantastical and duplicitous, especially to outsiders. Western media often exacerbates this notion, and though it is frequently true, it can sideline the presence of everyday life. Magical realism both represents and overcomes this problem by presenting multiple realities and using tangled narratives. Authors introduce reality as paradoxical, often with an underlying darkness at play. Magical realism allows characters plagued by trauma to comprehend events that have affected them, their ancestors and even society as a whole. Elements of science fiction and fantasy, dreams intertwined within narratives and prose that verges on poetic are all characteristics of magical realism. Below is a succinct, and by no means definitive, introduction to magical realist Japanese and Western authors’ who write about Japan.
My first day of work as a server was on November first. I trained for the first two weeks, learning the ins and outs of my role. To be honest, it was the last thing I wanted to do as a college graduate and JET alumna. But the truth was that I needed a temporary job that brought in a decent income. Many of my close friends are or have been servers and they recommended the job to me, so I decided to go for it.
“Failing is just as sweet as success. I’ve tried them both and have no preference. So open your eyes and scan the horizon. Pick a direction and don’t stop driving.” -From Autumn to Ashes
I actually do have a preference, and that’s success. But seriously, for much of my life, I have felt almost limitless. I scan the horizon, consider my options, and zoomed in, I can see only a few prospects as someone with a degree in psychology: social work, graduate school, or a monotonous office job that I would probably hate. Zoomed out, I can choose from a variety of jobs, go back to school, and do literally anything I want. It’s never too late. I’m lucky enough to have my groceries, utilities, and rent covered so if I get a job, it would be relatively easy to find a new direction. Zoomed out even more, I could apply to schools and jobs abroad, travel, anything. Whatever I decide to do, though, the most important thing is to pick something and follow through. That’s what I do when I find myself floundering. Just pick something and stick to it.