Voices | COMMUNITY CHEST

Readers' letters: carrying ID, subway 'saviors,' JA rackets, Taiji alternatives and goats

A selection of emails received in response to recent Community articles:

Diversity brings perversity

I still do not know why The Japan Times provides Mr. Debito Arudou with space to write articles like “ Visible minorities are being caught in police dragnet” and allows him a place to vent his anger at Japanese for enforcing their immigration laws.

Japan has laws that require us non-Japanese to carry ID; it is the law, and if you do not, you are liable to be taken in for questioning. There should be no discussion about enforcing the law. Mr. Arudou is still living in the past, trying to find fault and stir up controversy where none exists.

Seems to me, Mr. Arudou is using the same tactics used in the U.S. by race-baiters. He uses words such as “gaijin [foreigner]cards” when in fact these are called residency cards, like the one I carry all the time because the law requires it. Same as in the U.S.: You are required to carry a residence card (Green Card) if you are a foreigner with legal status. If the police in the U.S. stop you and you have no identification, they will take you in for questioning as well; it is no different from Japan.

Here in Japan, they do have prisons for people who break Japanese law, and when you do, you will pay the price. If you do not want to end up in a Japanese prison then do not break the law. Japanese prisons are not like prisons in the U.S. or other Western countries. Prisons are not designed to make staying there nice, nor should they be nice.

I think Mr. Arudou is wrong in trying to force his beliefs and Western thinking on all the people of Japan. This thinking goes against hundreds of years of Japanese culture. Lest we forget, a country is defined by its language, borders and culture. Japan is a homogenous rather than multiracial society for the most part.

Here in Japan, diversity means perversity, as shown by many that come to Japan and try to change it.

Just one man’s opinion.

DENNY POLLARD
Takahata, Yamagata

Tracing the subway savior complex

I read Michael Gillan Peckitt’s article “Giving up your seat on a train is a public affair” this morning and again this evening. I found it interesting.

I am a student now and am currently interested in medieval folk stories of Japan. Among them, there is a common theme of substitution.

For example, in one tale, a famous saint is to be killed in a farmer’s house while he is sleeping. However, a daughter in the farmer’s family realizes he is a good man, so she takes his place to stop him being stabbed by her relative.

Japanese people’s mentality, or “savior complex,” can be traced to these kinds of episodes, I assume.

If you have a remedy for this savior-complex inclination, could you let me know? Or is it possible to read the last part of today’s column as a solution? [That we should consider that] some people feel stressed when one offers them a seat in a dramatic way.

YUJI OTA
Otsu, Shiga

Clues on gender always welcome

Re: “Mind the ‘geb’: Little word is a big problem for Japan’s German residents“: Wouldn’t it be great if the first names of foreigners were printed in pink if female and blue if male, and if the full name of the foreigner could be, say, in italics, and then the married last name be in nonitalics?

Then, if both Immigration as well as credit card makers, etc., could do the same, the problem could be solved!

I lived in Japan for 23 years, becoming an ordained Zen priest, and now use that name when I’m teaching back in the U.S. There are a growing number of us priests, and when we get together at conferences and see the roster of new people, it’s impossible to guess the gender by the ordination name until we see them.

If we used the suffix “ni” meaning “female” as in bhikkhu/bhikkhuni, that would solve the matter, but then some women priests feel that makes them stand out as different, and wish to be “unmarked” like the male priests. So, sometimes we josh and call the women priests “ni so” (literal translation), and then call the male priests “nan so” (also literal) — which they think is ridiculous, of course. For them, it’s redundant.

And now in the U.S., we’re giving girls more ambiguous names like Taylor and Morgan, so some administratively correct clues can be helpful all around!

DAI-EN BENNAGE (ni so)
Mt. Equity Zendo-Jihoji
Pennsdale, Pennsylvania

All about the law of the land

As a resident in a Japanese rural community for some 20 years and JA [Japan Agriculture, aka the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives] “associate member” (it comes with the mortgage), I read with interest the well-informed and pertinent article by Colin P A. Jones in your Sept. 11 edition (“Five reasons why agricultural reform will be a tough slog“). Before the topic fades back into obscurity, I would just like to add my two cents worth.

In the absence of bovine muscle and fertilizer, Japanese agriculture is now almost entirely dependent on imported hydrocarbons to power farm machinery and nourish the soil. Until Japan secures its own unimpeded access to mineral oil, any attempt to assess the nation’s food self-sufficiency — whether in calorific terms or otherwise — without taking this into account must, perforce, be delusional.

In our community (buraku) of 25 households, 19 are what I would call hereditary farmers who supplement their income through part-time employment. The term “weekend farmers” belies the investment, efforts and dedication of these stalwarts who do their best under the exploitative regime Mr. Jones lays bare. However small their holdings, each of these 19 households has its own tractor, planter and harvester (the cheapest of these selling at over ¥1 million a pop), which mortgage the farmers to the JA even when their houses and land are — theoretically — their own. Any attempt to rationalize and consolidate land and mechanical resources would have baleful consequences for the (near-monopolistic) machinery makers as well as JA, who finance these sales, and so might be a little slow in getting traction.

Farming in Japan, it seems, has as much to do with politics as with agriculture; in that it is not alone. There must be a better way to feed humanity, and shortly we are probably going to have to consider it. Although the current sticking points in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations center on agricultural products, in the end it’s all about lawyers — pace Mr. Jones.

REA WILLIAMS
Isumi, Chiba

Fear of child being shot is factor

Re: “Ex-NYC graffitist scratched the surface in Osaka and declares it ‘dope’ “: Great story! It’s good to see more things related to the black experiences here. Being a father in Niigata city, I totally agree that not having to worry about your child being shot by some random bullet is a big factor in my choice to stay.

Already looking forward to the next article. Bless you for all your hard work.

ROBERT CONRAD
Niigata


No need for profanity. Let’s keep it clean.

A CONCERNED READER

Alternatives to Taiji dolphin hunt

Re: “Kaikoura and Taiji: a tale of two whaling towns“: Interesting article. Yes, it all has to start from somewhere. It starts with some beginning, the thought, the concept, the vision, the motivation and belief.

It’s unfortunate, though very revealing, how big-money politics are still supporting Japan’s status quo scenario and masking things as “cultural heritage.” Like many places in Japan, they [the people of Taiji]can rely on domestic tourism to survive.

Amazing in comparison, but very graphic, is the enjoyment of eco-tourism, the preservation of natural habitat and resources versus the catching, training and then offering dishes of the resources.

Another comparison could be going to the circus and watching lions and elephants but then having lion steaks and elephant burgers during or after the show. It makes you wonder about the differing entrepreneur spirit and vision at work.

Keep up the interesting and good work. More support is needed to local advocacy within Japan to help highlight, encourage and support locals in Japan. In many ways it’s similar to the fight for or against nuclear industry vs. public well-being, and public interest vs. corporate profit supported by high political resources.

It is very hard to effect change when it is masked or hides behind “patriotic” cloaking. Good work on highlighting and positively offering viable solutions and alternative options.

Hopefully, your article can get others to think positively for change.

ROSSO
Auckland


I am writing to say thank you for the article on the dolphin killings in Taiji. Your article brought attention to this problem and raised a wonderful solution.

I ask you to please continue to cover of the dolphin slaughter in Taiji. Right now [at the time of writing], there is a pod of 20 to 30 pilot whales trapped in the cove. They have been driven in, had their babies ripped away from them, and are so scared that they have been throwing themselves on the rocks and into the nets trying to get away. One of the young ones, stolen for captivity, was so heartbroken that it would rather die, and it took three of the “trainers” to hold it up so that it would continue to breathe.

These poor animals have been in this cove for over 24 hours and will continue to wait for hours more. They are scared and hungry and have to fight the rough waves in the shallow waters of the cove. All this so that tomorrow they can be slaughtered. This has to be stopped and we need your help. Thank you for helping be the voice for these beautiful animals, that can’t speak for themselves.

DAWN CHURCH
Statesville, North Carolina


I would not travel from the United States of America to Taiji to watch enslaved dolphins and whales in shallow sea pens or dirty tanks in the Whale Museum. Why would anyone do it if we could see them enjoying their live in freedom in other places?

People from all over the world are fighting for dolphins and whales and the SeaWorld empire is falling little by little. We are campaigning 24/7. We are not stopping. We are not doing it out of pride and we do not gain any money.

I would visit Taiji if they stopped slaughtering and selling these poor creatures. I cannot get out of my mind images like the one of a Risso calf lifting his/her body out of the water looking straight at the cove where his/her parents and other family members were being sadistically slaughtered. I cannot forget the image of one of the men kicking a dolphin on the back shortly before slaughtering a pod. The images of juveniles being terrorized back to sea knowing that they do not have a chance of survival without the protection and guidance from their families are imprinted in my mind.

What does [anti-dolphin hunt activist] Takayo mean by the statement below? What are we supposed to do?: “A dolphin activist named Takayo told me, ‘The fishermen will not swallow their pride unless we (activists) swallow our anger.’ ”

The Taiji men and women know that they are doing wrong or they would not try to hide their acts behind tarps. Taiji even closed a tsunami escape route to prevent international observers from observing the slaughter in the cove. Taiji reminds me of the Bataan Death March.

ERIKA BECERRA

Nothing is private in age of NSA

Re: “Readers’ letters: Ian Thorpe, the Yushukan, racism, teaching English, tipping and sunlight” (Community Chest, Oct, 1): Grant Piper is right (“Thorpe ‘outing’, a blow to privacy”) when he asserts that “sex and sexuality are private.” I would remind him, however, that human affections aren’t a private matter. In his narrow world, only bona fide heterosexuals would be permitted to openly display affectionate kisses or hugs in public. Gay men and women would be better off doing “that sort of thing” in private!

Would Ian Thorpe be better off keeping his homosexuality a “secret” (it’s never really a secret, is it?). Before coming out, Ian was deeply depressed, very anxious about his image and fearful of rejection from family and friends. No doubt he was also worried about the baying media, the tabloids and gossipy talk shows. Most of his fears, as he has since learned, were completely unfounded, and the gold medal Olympic swimmer is probably happier now than he’s ever been, even when he was standing on that medals podium a few years ago.

If people need privacy to feel fully human, as you have suggested, then I fear most Americans will never again feel entirely human — not after the Edward Snowden revelations about the Uber Big Brother spy network of the National Security Agency. Personal privacy in America is very much a thing of the past! America has gone “Hollywood” via the National Security Agency and now every citizen must try to please his or her “public.”

No, I’d say that the Thorpe “outing” was a blow for human freedom everywhere. And that’s my not so private opinion!

ROBERT MCKINNEY
Otaru, Hokkaido

Goats make great company

I enjoyed Amy Chavez’s article on goats in Japan (“Missing such sweet serow, Japan gets the goat“). I live in Okayama, the black hole of Japan, never mentioned in weather reports, cinema listings, concerts or museums. Amy often writes articles for other publications featuring sightseeing places in Okayama, often off the beaten track.

I keep goats. I bought my first goat, MiMi, six months ago to keep my 82-year-old mother-in-law company. Her cat had died and her dog is not cuddly, so I went to the goat farm in Seto and chose MiMi.

She was small and boney when she arrived, with a bad runny nose, but with lots of love, fresh vegetables from Mother’s tambo [farm] and a small mountain to climb, she is the perfect pet. She believes she is a cat and rubs herself around your legs before trying to sit on your lap. She is now the size of a St. Bernard dog, so lap-sitting is not for the faint-hearted.

I am often away on vacation because I love to travel and shop, so we decided to get MiMi a companion. His name is MoMo, not after Momotaro, an Okayama folk hero, but because his colouring is similar to a cow and in Japan, cows go “momo” and not “moo” as British ones do. He is a GoCow and MiMi is a GoBra because she looks like a zebra. Any offspring resulting from a union will then become CoBras, a first for Okayama.

People can visit the goat farm in Seto every day from 9 to 5, feed the baby goats, rabbits, birds and miniature pony, eat goat’s milk ice cream, have lunch with paninis made with goats cheese and watch the mothers being milked: a good experience for all ages — and who knows, you may bring back a new goat for a pet. They start from ¥30,000.

KATHRYN SANDAY
Akaiwa, Okayama

Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

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