Thursday, May 13, 2010

Changing Impressions on Japan

( Tokyo Trip)

Before coming to Japan I did not know a lot about the country or its people. But after spending a whole year here, I learned a lot as I have been having a lot of different experiences in a lot of different places of the country.
I cannot say that my impressions changed, but i can say that they have been intensified and improved.
As a summary of my journey here I should say that I did not stick with the same activities, as I have been to different festivals through out the year. I have also visited a lot of shrines and temples especially since I took the religion class with Kenney Sensei. I have learned a lot about religion and never expected the country to have a lot of different religions and practices. what was surprising too, is the manga culture in the country, i never expected before coming here and taking a class about it that the manga and anime was a part of the japanese culture. I only thought that it was like any other country just a form of entertainment nothing more.
I have also been to a japanese prison in a trip with scott sensei's class, and....japanese prisoners are so quite and hard working and clean, not at all scary as I guessed they would be before going to the prison. As for my anthropology class, this blog has pushed me to look up a lot of things before talking about them, and trying to understand them, and look at my surroundings in a critical, observational way. All that made my impressions about japan enhanced and the few stereotypes I had to completely vanish and be replaced by something more interesting and more real.
I certainly did not expect japanese people to be such nice people, and very helpful. I, personally, have never faced any discrimination from any japanese person for over 9 months now, and my impressions about the people is highly positive. The food, however, was a bit of a disappointing experience... as the regime in my own country Morocco is completely different and since I never liked fish anyways, I could'nt really enjoy japanese food at all. However, I was glad to meet such nice people who were all the time looking up for foreign restaurants to eat in when I was with them.
Before coming to Japan I expected the country to have 4 seasons just like back home, but I was surprised by how much the weather can change in a week. one day the sun the next day the rain..... it was interesting.
This is what I actually experienced during my journey in Japan and my love for its culture, and people has just been increased. I can't wait to come back again and experience some more.

The Grey Crime In Japan

Legal Retirement age in japan is 60 years old but because of the pappy boom in Japan, the government is considering an Elderly only from the age of 65 nowadays. According to the patrimonial model in japan, when parents get older, they live with their oldest son and his family until they die. This son gets the household and inherits the parents assets, properties, and business. The son works outside while his wife is supposed to take care of the house and her parents in law. Nowadays, with a lot of women working outside the house too, this standard family structure is not working anymore.
Nowadays more and more people go to live in medicalized nursing home where they pay for strangers to take care of them. the reason for that are not only the change in the family roles stated above but also: The increase in the number of the japanese elderly who are over 65 years old(76.3 for men and
82.8 for women), and the decrease in the birth rate 1.43. Beside, more and more older people are living on their own because they do not have children or family to take care of them.
However, these nursing homes cost a lot of money. and not a lot of people can afford to go there. Thus, this leads to a lot of negative consequences: the rate of suicide for elderly people is 33,5% of all suicide in Japan,Children killing their parents because the burden of the care is to heavy for them, and the criminality is very high among the elderly population.
In Japan, the rate of crimes by elderly people aged 65 or over is 12,3% and it is so far the highest among industrialized countries (US A: 5.4%, Germany : 3%, and South Korea: 3.5%.)this numbers is increasing and this is called the grey crime. those elderly people prefer to go to prison where they get food and shelter daily. And the crimes most done by these people are 65% theft, 3.7% violence.

Kumagai, Fumie. Families in Japan: Changes, Continuities and Regional Variations. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2008. ISBN-10: 0761840168. OCLC 213401097.
Kumagai, Fumie. "Research on the Family in Japan". In Yogesh Atal (ed.) The Changing Family in Asia: Bangladesh, India, Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Chapter 3: 159–237. Social and human sciences in Asia and the Pacific, 35. Bangkok: UNESCO Principal Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, 1992. OCLC 27787559.
The impact of population decline and population aging in Japan from the perspectives of social and labor policies” Yukiko Katsumata, Population Division,Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Secretariat, New York, 16-18 October 2000,
The living Arrangements and Familial Contacts of the Elderly in Japan” Kiyosi Hirosima, September 1987,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Japan Helps its people

The population of people in Japan who are 65 years old or above occupies more than 20% of the whole population, and the current birth rate is getting low. Also, japan has a number of mentally and physically disabled people as much as all the other countries around the world. Thus, more people will need some policies to remove barriers from their lives in order for them to be comfortable and enjoy their lives as they participate in the society and its activities. That is, the idea that we have to cope with not only physical barriers but also social, systematical and mental ones. These ideas are called "barrier-free", "universal design", and “new technologies”.
Barrier-free is about removing the mental and physical barriers that trouble people in need. This idea is considered to be the solution of physical problems, but also the purpose is to encourage those who have some difficulties in their lives to take part in the social activities. It also gives them an easy access everywhere. So barrier-free makes life easier and enjoyable for elderly people within their society. These obstacles are in roads and buildings like steps and facilities, the unfair chances for these people to enroll or to get a job somewhere, the prejudice and the discrimination against them originated in the ignorance and the indifference of the normal people. Barrier-free is aiming to eliminate all these barriers.
Universal designed products and facilities are for all people in spite of their age and disabilities. This idea has 7 principles which are the equality, the flexibility, the simple design, the easy understanding, the safety, the ecology and the storage. The examples of universal design are indentations of shampoo's bottle, the point display of beer cans, non-step buses and toilets with many functions. And those universal designed products are highly beneficial.
Japan is also making new technologies who aim more and more to help disabled Japanese people. This help differs on the technology the electronic companies want to make. Some examples would be:

1) Cyberdyne an electronic company made a robotic suit that can help elderly people or people with Parkinson diseases to move. The concept is that the robot The HAL“The Hybrid Assisted Limb” catches the message sent from the brain to the muscles to move and makes the body move accordingly to the original message. The HAL is expected to be applied in a lot of fields like rehabilitation, physical training, and also to help disabled people.

2) The Taizo Robot that motivates the elderly people with exercise by giving them moves to do for 2 hours before it needs to be charged again. the Taizo is heavy ( 7 kilograms) and very expensive( 10 000 euro) so not a lot of people will be able to afford it or carry it places.

3) Honda’s body weight support system is a ‘walking assist device’. This device takes the majority of the weight the person uses away. It can help people to walk and climb stairs.
All these ideas are made specifically to facilitate people's lives.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Religion in Japan

Omamori, Charms

Ema, Letters to the Gods

Fushini Inari, Shinto Deity For Rice

For This Post I decided to talk about religion in japan. As I am taking religion class this semester; my professor Kenney asked us to do an interview to discover a little bit if young people are religious in japan and how much they know about religion in their country and i thought about sharing my interview in my blog.
For my interview I chose to talk to my good friend who also happens to be my speaking partner. Her name is Maki; she is 22 years old; she was born in Osaka, and has no Siblings. In her family they consider themselves as followers of the Buddhist religion but sometimes they go to shrines so Maki corrected herself at the last minute and said that it is Shinto and Buddhism. She has been in the USA before as well as France, and she just graduated from Kansai Gaidai with an English major.

Set of questions and Answers:

Do you consider yourself as a religious person?

Yes; because I go to temples and shrines.

Which religion are you following?


Why? Because of your parents or personal believes?

When I want to refresh myself and settle, I go to a temple and I believe some gods make me feel better and see the truth. I believe that they protect me. That’s why I think I’m Buddhist and It is my personal believes.

Why do you go to shrines if you consider yourself as a Buddhist?

I don’t really distinguish between the 2 religions. Although I consider myself as a Buddhist, when I have hopes and dreams and want them to become true I go to Shrines not temples.

Do you have a Butsudan in your house?

Yes for my grand mother.

Do you worship it?

Mine is only like Greetings “ Good morning, thank you for today, good night…”

Regarding food, my family gives food to her but sometimes forgets.

When you give her food, what do you do with it afterward?

If its cooked food, we through it away. If its snakes, fruit, we eat it if it’s not spoiled.

When you travel, do you bring her souvenir?

Yes, I bought her souvenirs from Paris and put it in the Butsudan.

She is your Father’s Mother right?

No, my mother’s mother.

It is a bit of a special situation. My mother’s brother is Christian because of his wife, so he cannot take care of her. That’s why my mother decided to take care of her mother. If my mother does not care, we will put her bones in some temple.

If you don’t take care of the Butsudan what will happen?

I think something bad will happen like accidents or failure in work/ school/ relationships…, but I have never experienced anything yet.

Do you buy charms?

Omamori? Yes I like it.

Do you think they have power or you buy them only as accessories?

Not as accessories. I buy them to protect myself. I think that they have powers. For example, In my wallet I have a charm for coming happiness and in my cell phone I have one for chance.

What do you do with them when your done?

It is for 1 year, so when it is over a year, I return them to the temple, say thank you and buy new ones.

Do you celebrate other religious holydays beside the Buddhist ones?


I don’t think that it offends my Buddhist gods since celebrating Christmas does not mean ( for me) that I am celebrating Jesus.

Personal Notes.
After asking some of the questions above to other Japanese friends and getting almost the same answers about not distinguishing between Buddhism and Shinto, I wonder if the act of going to shrines and temples, and buying charms is not really just something cultural more than religious. I also remember Maki saying that she was not religious the first semester I met her, and while discussing the religion together, she suddenly said that, since she was doing all this rituals, that must make her religious. However, she still couldn’t distinguish between the 2 religions.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Todays post is going to be about two great photographers whose names are well known a bit everywhere in the world. In their special way, they changed photography and give it a whole other sense and meaning. The first photograph is Annie Leibovitz. She is an American portrait photographer, and her style is marked with the connection she is making between the photographer and the subject. Annie spends a lot of time understanding her subjects to reflect their true feelings through the photo. She would talk with her subjects, spend time with them, do whatever it took to feel like she was "one of them". For example, if she went to a concert tour, she would any activites her subjects would engage in, if they drank she drank, if they did drugs she would do drugs as well. There was nothign she wouldn't do to feel closer to her subjects. I feel like this dedication shows in her photos as you are able to understand the true feelings of the characters in her photos. Her feelings on the camera itself are actualy interesting as well, she claims that she feels free when carrying her camera, as she never knows what she will be able to capture with her camera. Her camera is her license to the world, she even goes so far as to say it is her duty to capture the world around her.
Often her subjects included celebrities, and many of her portraits are very well known such as her photoshoots of shows like The Sopranos and of the model Natalie Vodianova in the role of Alice in Alice In Wonderland.

The next photographer is in stark contrast to Annie Leibovitz. James Nachtwey is also an American photojournalist but unlike Leibovitz he is a war photographer. He is all the time taking pictures from places where the famine, the poverty, the war is striking. He once was injured by a grenade at Baghdad. He is a very dark individual, most likely because he has to work in such desolate environments where he is forced to see a lot of suffering. Along with the victims of war, he deals with the families of the victims and their grief. He travels from country to country, from war to war, to capture his subjects. Unlike Annie, who often focuses mainly on the colors and the lighting, James prefers that his photos be in black and white, to show the intensity of the suffering. Annie directs her subject, while James prefers to be in the background, and show how cruel the situation is without interferring. His pictures are powerful because they show the truth in what is going on in parts of the world. Even though James does not interact with his subjects in the way that Annie does, he is still accepted by them because he is very respectful. Here are a few examples of his work:

This picture shows an example of famine and war.

Here is a picture of a family that James stayed with, who are forced to live on the railroad tracks because of the poverty in the country. The father is handicapped because he lost his arm and leg in a train accident. Despite this hardship, he continues to be a good father to his children.

Both Annie and James are talented photographers with very different styles. I believe both are amazing in their own way.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Japanese People

When I first arrieved in Japan, I didnt know any Japanese person. I had no idea how they are, their character, behaviour, psychology... It seems silly to say that right now since people from all over the world are all the same. Every one is different in its own way. With the program of speaknig partner here in Kansai Gaidai, I met my speaking partner, who introduced her japanese friends to me, and from there I started meeting more people. Since we hang out a lot, we talked a lot about anything and everything; From their hobbies to their religion to their culture, to how they view the world in general. Not only that, but we are surrounded by only Japanese people wherever we go in the street, the restaurants, the malls... Everywhere people are helpful, quiet, nice, , attentif, obligeant, helpful, bow whenever we pass our eyes cross theirs as a form of politeness. At first I was very surprised by that behaviour, then I came to the conclusion that Japanese people are just nice and polite without any ulterior motives as it is in my country or the other countries where I have been. I guess that makes Japanese people special and different in a way.
As an example of this kindness, instead of asking my friends to take their pictures for my post and talk about them, I just went to the CIE building and asked strangers to do so. It wasnt that difficult really I just went to the computer lab and the lounge and asked two girls, introduced myself amd asked them if I can take their pictures and post it in my blog. At first they were very shocked then explained that it was for my Anthropology class, and that we are doing an academic blog, and that today's post is about Japanese people. After hearing my explanation, both the girls said that they are going to be happy to help. I started by asking questions about their hobbies, studies... in order to get to know a bit about them and have ideas about how to take their pictures. And the result was as follow:

Her name is Yuki. And she is a 4 year student in Kansai Gaidai. She is studying Latin American Literature, and speaks very good English as well as Spanish. She likes shopping, going to karaoke and spending time with her friends. She has already been outside of Japan many times before so she was very chil talking to my friend and I about everything she likes to do. She is also a computer assistant in the CIE's computer lab. I thought that she would be an Engeniering student since she is an assistant there but she said that it is just her part time job and that she is not a fan of computers, it is just that she hapen to know a lot about them. Yuki is from Osaka so it takes her really long time to come to Hirakata 3 days a week to work (Japanese student have a holliday right now). Yuki was very nice talking to us and answering our questions, she also was a little bit shy. What i wanted to show in this picture is Yuki in her desk with her laptop working. At first Yuki wanted to put the peace sign then we agreed not to go with this percepective and make the picture show she really felt about working on computers while she doesnt like it. By that I wanted to take a picture that showed a bit of sadness in her eyes because she had to work there to make some money without taking away some of her natural charms.

Her name is Ai which means 'Love' in Japanese. She is a 4th year English major and speaks very good English. She has already been to the US before, and knows a lot international people, so she was not shy while talking to my friend and I. She also did not ask a lot of questions about the blog. I still gave her the information as we studied in class that we need to introduced the subject and tell people about our work especially if they are going to be a part of it. Ai is living in Hirakatachi during the period of her studies which makes it easier for her to come to school and go to her part time job in a chinese restaurant that is in near the train station. Ai likes watching movies with her friends, reading books, chatting, and hanging out. But her biggest love is music, singing karaoke and she listens to music all the time. I wanted to show this part of her personality in her picture because when I went to talk to her not only she was doing her homework but also listening to music at the same time. I asked her to hold her music player in her hands over her work to show that music comes first in her life than even studies. And she is smilling in the picture because she has a beautiful smile and I wanted to show that in the picture as well.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Neighborhood Hirakata

Where to begin... I have been in Japan for 6 months now, and everywhere I go in Hirakatashi, seems like being at home. But the road that I take everyday is the one from my seminar house to school. Thus, I choose to talk about this part specifically.
When I first came to Japan, and tried to learn my way to school, it was a little bit difficult. As the majority of the students bike, we take the a small road between houses because the school's housing buildings are in a living neighborhood. As all the houses there are small, it was difficult to remember where to turn, so I kept on losing my way. This rises a conflict between the fact that the houses near by are really small and the University's housings are very big.
I have been living in the same seminar houses since lat semester and I like it. The students there are not allowed to make a lot of noise because of the neighboors who used to complain a lot to the school about the international students. As a result, that gives a very bad reputation about foreigners. At first i found it odd that the neighbors knew which school to complain to then I got told that Kansai Gaidai is the only foreign language school in Hirakata, and so Japanese people are really familiar with the international students and their problems.
Near the Seminar Houses(SH) is also a park where we enjoy the sunny days; find Japanese families playing games, and sports with their children during the weekends, people drawing, playing guitar and walking their doggs everynight. As for international students, they meanly use it to get drunk and be loud at nights.
What I like also is the fact that next to my SH there is the University's Gym where we go to play games with Japanese students. And that too, contrasts with the fact that everything is located in a small, quiet,typical Japanese neighborhood.
The neighborhood is surrounded by not only the park, the gym, the houses and the SHs but also by a lot of shopping places where it makes it easier for us students to find our way to the near by shops to shop for food, clothes,liquor... There is also a bus stop right accross the park and a near by Nepolese restaurant. All this is making the lives of the students, as myself, easier.