You want newspaper? I give! I give!

Getting there, getting there.

This time tomorrow my first kanji exam will be over. When I pass, I will receive my first ever kanji certficate, hurrah! The harder the tests get, the bigger the certificates become! Fingers crossed.

Today was a looong day. I was woken at 7.45am by *Twinkle*’s head appearing at the top of the stepladder. She’d been away for about 10 days in Kansai, and despite having taken the overnight bus back from Osaka, (and thus having not really slept for 24 hours) was still fairly energetic upon arrival…

Our Japanese reading class was quite intersting, focusing on student’s study habits However, for some reason that escapes me know we spent the last 20 minutes discussing what women in Japan have to put up with at the hands of men (barely a day goes by without a headline that reads something like today’s Yokohama official arrested for groping woman on morning train). Shoes with built in mirrors / digital cameras to facilitate up-skirt peeking, and precautions to take when riding on an escalator were also discussed. I tried to not appear to be too knowledgable on the subject.

I then had a break for a couple of hours, perfect for kanji study – or sleeping in the library for that matter… then it was the dreaded Multicultural Theory class. The one taught in Japanese, that I don’t understand, and in which I had to give a talk about what Rastafarianism meant to me as a Brit. A Brit who went to the Hereford 6th Form College, and hung out with friends in the local park every lunchtime getting stoned, influenced to a degree by Reggae and so forth. Well, it certainly woke them up. I swear Japanese students believe in subliminal learning, i.e. learning when asleep.

That seemed to go down ok, and then the sexual theme of the day continued with an examination of Japan’s Maid Cafes (where all the waitresses are dressed up in little frilly outfits straight out of manga – once again influenced by school girl uniforms which I mentioned last week were the starting point for the current trend of wearing ridiculously short shorts and knee length boots, even if it bloody freezing and pissing it down with rain).

It’s hard to escape from “fashion” over here. Looking through the Rikkyo student mag I was surprised to find several pages devoted to photos of current students on campus, detailing what they’re wearing. I can’t quite imagine (Sheffield Uni’s) Steel Press doing that. In Sheffield I don’t get the feeling that I get here, that is, that the girls have put considerable effort into deciding what to wear. having said that, look at the Goth culture that has emerged around Devonshire Green (Sheffield) on a Sunday! It’s staggering how many teenagers gather there, all dressed in black, big shiney leather trenchcoats and dishevelled miniskirts. The only difference is, if they were in Japan, they would have been photographed many times, had the phenomena that they are described in the fashion mags, and catergorised so as to take their appropriate place in Society. Instead, they just gather on Devonshire Green every fortnight and frighten the foreign exchange students who live in Victoria Hall. Everyone else ignores them. “They’ll grow out of it one day”.

Back home and I knocked the carton of orange juice on the floor over. It’s turned distictly autumnish, and I’d like to turn the heater on. But no, the environmentalist in me tells me to put another jumper on instead, which I do.

I get distracted by the news, damn the convenience of RSS. If that young guy who knocked on the door last Sunday seriously expects me to take out a subscription for the Yomiuri Shimbun he’s going to be dissapointed when he comes back next weekend. I told him I got all my news off the net. I told him I never read newspapers (apart from the Guardian, a daily copy of which we have at uni), but he still insisted on giving me a week’s free trial, no obligation. I told him time and time again, no thanks, but he seemed to think that as a gaijin I was just missing the point. “Furee, Furee, no manee!” he said in his best English; I assured him that I could understand the Japanese equivilant that he had used up to that point perfectly well, and that no matter what language he spoke I still didn’t want the paper. He was not to be put off however, and handed me the usual 2 boxes of washing powder (it is customary to receive washing powder as a free intro gift in such situations. One then palms these off on one’s neighbours as “Hello, I’m your new neighbour” presents), which we don’t need, before jumping on his scooter and dissapearing down the road. I now have a pile of newspapers beside me that is growing larger by the day…

Hmm, perfect for mopping up spilt orange juice.

One step closer to nuclear?

Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Tuesday that Japan should openly debate whether to develop its own nuclear deterrent following North Korea’s atomic test, while stressing that the government doesn’t support such a move.

…But he said the regional security environment has changed since the policy was introduced in the 1960s.

“It’s only natural to discuss how we should cope with the changing environment around us,” Aso said. “I’m not in favor of suppressing a debate over whether we should or should not possess nuclear (bombs) or stick to the three non-nuclear principles.”

full story


Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday plans to order Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) to give greater reporting focus to the issue of North Korean agents’ abductions of Japanese citizens.

full story


[Prime Minister] Shinzo Abe [grandson of Class A War criminal Kishi, who was responsible for putting an end to hopes for a pacifist Japan in 1959] …was in the center of a raging storm last year when Asahi Shimbun revealed in several articles that the then-deputy chief cabinet secretary and Shoichi Nakagawa, another LDP member and now agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister, pressured NHK, Japan’s public television network, to censor a documentary program about a people’s tribunal set up to judge the use of sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. Most of the victims were Koreans, Chinese, Filipino and Indonesians.

Following the report, an NHK producer also conceded in tears that they were made to remove key footage, including survivors’ heart-wrenching testimony, from the program that was aired in January 2001.

full story

I fought the law, and I won

You may recall that last month I inadvertantly signed up for two modules at uni that I was not elligible to sign up for. The modules I’d chosen were not to be made available to students in the Social Sciencs department unless they had taken certain qualifying modules the previous spring.

I was told that it would be necessary to give up the two classes I’d chosen, and instead take some other courses that I had little interest in. At the same time, it was suggested that I resist this request, and have my case put forward before the St. Paul’s committee.

On the day of the meeting I was rather busy, and so accepted the kind offer made by one of my professors to attend on my behalf, and state my case.

In the middle of my sakubun class today I received an email, congratulating me on winning my case; indeed, I had, apparently, set a precedent, and thus based on the ruling by St. Paul himself, all students in a similar situation will now be able to continue in their courses as they had desired.

You see, it IS possible to beat the b*****ds.

production line

I’ve just munched my way through 180 grams of chocolate coated peanuts. Yes, THAT’S how rebellious I’m feeling.

Phrase of the week has been “Shakaiteki na ru-ru”, which translates roughly as “the rules of society”. They’ve been popping up everywhere; in conversation with friends, in conversation with teachers, in dictating how those around me behave, in dictating how I behave. I should take the example of my classmate Jon who was found on Friday night by police, in a flowerbed, covered in muck and sick.

Ok, Ok, maybe I shouldn’t go quite that far, but nonetheless, a little loosening of the belt is called for (I’ll save those sort of antics for next year in Sheffield…)

I’m a bit peed off with my attitude towards uni. The fact that I don’t understand as much as others around me causes me to put pressure upon myself to study harder, thus I spend much of the week stressing over how I am going to utilise every second given to me to ensure that I do REALLY well. Thus, I don’t do other things that I want to do, such as write The Daily Mumble – having not done so for a while I now realise how important it is for me to vent. Here.

Oh Bugger I just accidentally opened Excel.

Take the forthcoming Kanji test as an example. It was set about a month ago, and will focus on the meaning and readings of 96 kanji of medium difficulty. I’ve actually learnt all the readings of them – that only took a couple of days of hard work, and I feel very happy about that – but I am yet to start learning the meanings of the 600 or so compound words that could potentially appear in the test, which is now 3 days away.

Thing is though, it doesn’t actually matter if I don’t pass. It’s a voluntary test, it doesn’t affect any grades. It doesn’t prove anything, and even if it did, so what. So, I’ll learn what I can before wednesday, do the test, and be happy that I’ve learnt whatever I’ve learnt.

Now, to just extend that attitude to the rest of my studies! Ha!!

Bloody hell I have such a big issue with expecting so much of myself, I feel it’s quite detrimental to my general well being. I’m trying to chill out, I really am. But then that is a direct challenge to my strong desire to Not Be A Victim Of The System, to excel in order to break free of the chains that bind the poor, the uneducated.

AHH! Warning lights! Haven’t we been here before? Do you have to work through the rat race in order to not be a part of it? I don’t think so. Surely one can simply say No, I won’t do that. It’s tricky though when you are in a place like Tokyo, where life without money is problematic, to not buy into the system to a certain extent. This takes me back to my uni course. Is it important to do really well? What is more important? Japanese language proficiency or good grades? The two are not the same. We are told that it is important to have a reason for studying abroad. Those who have no goals for their year do not reach their goals – surprising that…

So what exactly am I hoping to get out of this year? Well, that’s the thing, I just don’t know. In Sheffield my goal was good grades, it’s what everything was generally geared towards. Very UnSteiner, Very UnJoseph, I loathe the stress I feel from those around me, and in particular the stress I put upon myself.

Here though, it’s a bit different. It’s a Pass or fail year, which essentially means go to class, do your homework and be nice to Sensei. I’m almost tempted to not do Wednesday’s test. (You know I will though).

performer at Kawagoe Festival

I want to get a part-time job. Maybe in a convenience shop – there are some that are willing to empoy foriegners (thanks Miyu). Yes, I could potentially earn a lot more teaching English etc, but I want to take advantage of this year when I can just about get by on the finances that I have, I don’t need to earn a lot of money. I don’t need to worry about supporting a family etc, something that may not be so in a few years.

In order to do a part-time job, I’ll need to ease the pressures of study. Less study…

…ok, so forget the uni system, let’s think now How important is the aquisition of the Japanese language to me? Do I really need to become fluent. I know plenty of people who have been here for many, many years, decades in cases, whose spoken Japanese is nothing to write home about, but who are perfectly happy with the knowledge that they have aquired naturally.

What I’m getting at here, is, should I be dedicating my precious time to classroom-like study of the grammar and language etc, you know, at home alone surrounded by text books, or should I just do the bare minimum to satisfy sensei and then get on and do stuff outside the home. Or watch TV. Those damn groovy dramas. 9pm Monday nights, I forget which channel. Music university thing.

It all leads back to my percieved role. Permission to use the word *Fuck*. (permission granted).

*Fucking fuckity fuck* I feel so bloody tied to the expectations that accompany my given role at Sheffield University that I could be Japanese! Like the girl who was for all intents and purposes being sexually assaulted on the train the other day, but who felt so obliged to follow the rule which states that one must not cause a fuss in public that she said not a word.

Imagine feeling so constrained that you can’t even defend your personal space, when it is being so dramatically invaded! Whilst no-one has got their hands up my skirt, I do feel similarly victimised by this bastard society that has me in my place – that being the society that is a construct of my own mind, encouraged by the partcipation of many people around me.

I even thought about dying my hair green tonight. Getting my flourescent jeans sent over from the UK. Wearing a hat that says something as strong as *FUCK*, but in a way that is not offensive to other people. I don’t want to upset others, I just want to be myself.

But there you go, here we have yet another clash. It’s this bloody concern for others, or rather, the concern for the (aggghh, opened Excel again, who put it next to iTunes?) peace of mind of others, that holds me back. If Joseph was to do exactly as he wanted, which to be honest is at the moment to be a bloody lazy student and not really do any work – there’s been days when I’ve just not wanted to go to classes due to a feeling that they’re mendou kusai (tiresome, bothersome), if Joseph was to behave in this way, there would be people who would be somewhat dissapointed in him. He would not be fulfilling their expectations. I’m not talking specific people here, erm, well perhaps I am. Specifically I mean all the adults (in this context I cannot be categorised as such) in the UK whom I respect, and whom I don’t want to dissapoint.

Something to smile about: *Twinkle*

I want to be free! Wasn’t that why I came to Japan in the first place, 6 years ago? To escape from those ties? It worked, back then, in my gaijin bubble, free to do as I pleased, free to use my credit cards. Now, I’m here courtesy of a UK-based system that I have chosen to be a part of. I have to play by the rules – If I don’t my funding will dry up and there’s no credit to fall back on this time!

Are those carefree days really over? Do I actually have the ability to recapture the freedom of those years gone by? These past two weeks I have conciously mourned the passing of my childhood. Walking back to Ikebukuro station from uni I have wished I was one of those school boys, age about 5, grabbing each others caps and running away with them, shouting, laughing, falling over in the subway. I want to do that. All I can do is a make a lame attempt to immitate such freedom through my worn patchwork jeans, and unshaven face. Where’s my voice?! I want to sing! I want to shout. I want to feel the freedom that my friend Alfonso felt in 1996, when he stood on the Lauberhorn and shouted “Fuck you Frau von Almen!”, the evil old granny who made our lives above the clouds so difficult. We lived in a ski resort – but were banned from snow sports!

I feel quite sad. I don’t want to feel regret. What should I do?

It’s interesting. In the past I would have attributed the feelings that I have now to the lack of a loving partner. But now I am loved and cared for. Will I ever be able to find true satisfaction? Currently, I am using the excuse “well, it’s the (educational) system I’m in at the moment that prevents me from doing as I really wish”. But after I graduate, won’t it simply be, “Well, I need to work to pay off my debts, to pay the rent”.

Do I have to play the capitalist game? Does one have to play by these rules to ultimately work through and escape their grasp?

Or can one simply say “No”?

Octopus legs anyone?

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