Voices | COMMUNITY CHEST

Readers' letters: Roppongi, Ferguson, 'Massan,' Julien Blanc and more

Some emails received in response to recent Community articles:

Racism in black and white

In a recent Japan Times article entitled “Kick out the touts who rule Roppongi” (Foreign Agenda, Dec. 3) , Gregory Clark pens a tale of his experience walking through Tokyo’s untamed Roppongi district. In the second paragraph Clarke bemoans the fact that “little has been done about the blight of the mostly African touts that infest the area.” Now if that line alone doesn’t send up red flags signaling ethical problems ahead, just read on (and don’t miss the part about his disappointment over the fact that the police, “armed with pistols and handcuffs,” fail to heed his suggestion about checking the immigration status of these men of color committing no crime, just for good measure).

The headline for this basically racist rant could have just as easily read “White man vexed Japanese cops won’t follow his orders to harass black man.” Then, of course, I might not have read it and discovered the lesson in civility these Japanese police officers could offer law enforcement in New York City and other places where a gun-toting constabulary might be all too willing to follow Clarke’s charge against unarmed black men not doing anything illegal.

While a number of readers have voiced their objections to Clark’s commentary on similar grounds, The Japan Times lacks any specific official channel for addressing their concerns. If anyone needs policing here, it’s the paper itself and there would be no one better to do that than a public editor armed with a pen, paper and the ability to make a sound ethical judgment.

JT CASSIDY
Yokohama

Don’t forget all the other deaths

Re: “A world away from Ferguson but feeling the flames” by Baye McNeil (Black Eye, Nov. 28): I share your wrath, but at the same time I think there are individual deaths which become iconic and draw public indignation, while every day millions of other human beings are killed by famine, wars and illnesses without any attention paid. We should remember this when we are casting our ballots — wherever we are in the world — and at least as long as democracy survives.

SILVIO PIERSANTI
Umbria, Italy

Nothing but kudos for ‘Massan’

Re: “Foreign wives of Japan offer NHK and ‘Massan’ criticism and kudos” by Louise George Kittaka (The Foreign Element, Nov. 10): I love this drama. It’s the first one my husband and I can watch together and both truly relate to. Everything that she’s experiencing, I’ve experienced and we’ve experienced as a couple.

I am the foreigner here and my husband is Japanese. We’ve been married for 36 years and have been through a lot of unimaginable issues related to just about anything. Coming to Japan 30 years ago was like arriving in the Taisho Era — everything seemed ancient. In fact, it still feels this way for some aspects of our daily life.

The drama makes us both cry while we watch each episode, every day. Kudos for this drama, and I truly hope that there will be more of this in the future.

MARIA FUJISAWA
Machida, Tokyo

Scottish accent stopped us watching

I was surprised by the line in the article that said, “Fox can do a fair Scottish accent.”

I am an American who has been to Scotland, and I don’t think Charlotte Kate Fox sounds at all like a Scotswoman. When she speaks in English, she sounds totally American, not only to me, but also to my Japanese husband. That was one of our peeves with the program.

We stopped watching it.

LORA TAMURA
Tokyo

Blast against Blanc was refreshing

Re: “Let’s ensure no happy returns to Japan for this vile ‘dating coach’ ” by Jake Adelstein (The Foreign Element, Nov. 5): Thank you, thank you, thank you for making the public in Tokyo aware of this incoming problem! I really hope that The Japan Times (or anyone for that matter) can plant a female who will file a criminal complaint against Julien Blanc so that this trash can be stopped. The women of Japan do not deserve such disgusting, disturbing and horrific treatment.

On another note, as a female I was very pleasantly surprised to see such empathetic and compassionate writing for women coming from a male author! Good for you, please keep it coming! It is so very refreshing to see love and compassion being written toward women through the press instead of oppression and marginalization. It is inspiring, and I thank you for putting it out into the world.

As an American, even a woman who has taken no part in it, I am deeply, deeply ashamed of how many of my countrymen abuse women in Japan, and women around the world. It is vile and disgusting, and it is going to take a lot of writing like this article to change the underlying causes of such disgusting acts of inhumanity. I sincerely grieve for how much Japan, and most other countries, have been so abused by the USA.

Please know that we are trying to change, but we are pretty much living under fascism over here. Change is slow but we are still fighting for it! Unfortunately, most Americans are now very, very uneducated (and stupid) so it is an uphill battle, but one on which the people won’t give up.

In conclusion, dōmo arigato gozaimasu for this wonderful article, and for having a male writer who is humane enough to write it. I wish the Japanese people happiness, prosperity and good health; and best of luck dealing with the subject of the article. I sincerely hope that Japan can imprison him, kick him out or make him pay for what he is doing.

Thank you for your time, and your wonderful article.

BARONESS CASTRA NEMICI
Portland, Oregon

Chance for cops to redeem themselves

This article is amazing. I’m glad that people in Japan and around the world are becoming more aware of misogynistic men. It’s a social disease that is sometimes encouraged in movies and popular culture. We can’t allow people like Julien Blanc to roam the streets and act erratic.

Although I’m a bit weary of the media even giving this guy any attention, I feel that it’s the media’s job to expose criminals, and he’s the worst kind of criminal I can imagine. Anybody that abuses women or men should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

If Blanc tries to come to Japan, he should be arrested immediately for his previous offenses. The National Police Agency in Japan has been criticized lately for not doing enough to protect citizens. This could be a good opportunity for them to redeem themselves and show that they care about public safety and justice for all.

CHRISTOPHER GULBRAA
Nagoya

Germany also remembers

In your The Foreign Element article from Nov. 3 titled “Yokohama ceremony to remember the ‘war to end all wars,’ ” the memorial services held for Commonwealth soldiers in Japan are described.

There is mention that “neither the French nor German embassies were able to provide information on specific gatherings or respects paid at any graves here of their own nationals lost in wartime.”

Every year in November, on the occasion of Volkstrauertag (People’s Mourning Day), Germany commemorates the war dead and the victims of violent oppression.

This year, the Consul General in Osaka, Dr. Ingo Carsten, attended a joint remembrance ceremony with his French colleagues in Kobe. Wreaths were laid at Yokohama Negishi and Yokohama Yamate cemeteries on Nov. 15 and at Funabashi Narashino cemetery on Nov. 16 by embassy staff.

These three cemeteries and a number of other graves are visited by embassy or consulate general staff once a year.

In Germany the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (Public Alliance for German War Graves Care) is charged with collecting information about German war dead in Germany and abroad and caring for the graves. The Federal Foreign Office supports the work of the Volksbund worldwide.

You can find more information here: www.volksbund.de/en/volksbund.html

DOMINIK BOHNEN
Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany
Tokyo

Track ‘gross national pregnancy’

Re: “Maternity harassment verdict benefits women, men — and our humanity” by Hifumi Okunuki (Labor Pains, Oct. 29)

Only in Japan! Only in Japan would unenlightened women gang up on the victim of mata-hara and berate her for seeking fairness and greater gender equality in the workplace. How insane is it for a society to penalize pregnant women when the national birthrate is in such steep decline? It would be repugnant to do so even if the birthrate was holding steady.

You’d think that a working woman’s pregnancy would be celebrated by her co-workers and management; that they’d wish her well, show support, be happy for her? Apparently this isn’t so in the “slave-driven salaryman” work culture of Japan!

Perhaps if some of these pompous corporate alpha males had to go through a nine-month-long pregnancy and then give birth, they’d better appreciate the fact that childbearing is not for the faint of heart or the “slacker.” Some women do not survive giving birth, so arduous is the ordeal. Men, on the other hand, have been known to cry when they carelessly hit their thumb with a hammer or get a splinter in their finger, poor babies. Let’s face it, the male of the species can be a real “candy ass” at times.

The 40-hour work week doesn’t seem to have harmed the GNP of most EU nations, so why does Japan insist on clinging to the slave-driven salaryman tradition? Even in the Edo Period, most Japanese peasants or “serfs” (chained to the land) were able to enjoy week-long festivals and fairly light duties in the winter months. Only in the modern corporate era is the salaryman driven to work six or seven days a week, 12 hours or more each day. There isn’t any humanity in this labor arrangement.

Are Japanese the most masochistic people in the world? I’ve heard salarymen boast that they’ve never taken a holiday! Talk about wearing a corporate yoke and plodding along mindlessly through life. Cradle to grave “security” comes at too high a price.

I’ve heard that highly educated women in Japan fear the idea of getting married and having children. Many opt to remain single and devote all their energy to their chosen career. Great, punish a woman for having a medical degree or superior qualifications in engineering. How utterly absurd in corporate-driven Japan. We need a new social contract in Japan, one that celebrates the far more important GNP — the gross national pregnancy rate.

Back when Nobel Prize-winning scientist Shuji Nakamura (blue LED inventor) was slaving away at a small electronics company in Shikoku, he was derisively called “Slave Nakamura” by his non-Japanese colleagues at international conferences. American and European researchers recognized his genius and wondered why he continued to be treated like a shackled animal, exploited by a system that didn’t appreciate his engineering brilliance. Fortunately Nakamura took heed and drastically changed his life for the better, though slave-driven salarymen everywhere must still criticize his decision to throw off the yoke. Nakamura was at risk of becoming a “Showa no ossan” [Showa Era old man] but he had the courage to rebel.

I wonder if Eric Fromm had Japan in mind when he wrote “Escape from Freedom”? There are labor laws in place to protect workers from unfair exploitation, but few ever seek the protection of such laws. It took courage for that health care worker to finally get her day in court. Now I fear that she’ll be harassed by other women! Japan is a culture of custom (on and giri [duty and obligation] ?) as much as it is of legal rights or the law. The American South once looked upon human slavery as a “fine” tradition, one that was supported by “Holy Scripture” in the Bible. They say that even Satan can quote Scripture when it suits him.

Who knows, in 100 years, Japanese women might very well have the same maternity rights as those in Norway! But I’m not overly optimistic.

ROBERT McKINNEY
Otaru, Hokkaido

Later, Lao nicknames not so funny

Re: “Bicultural baby names can be double the trouble” (The Foreign Element, Oct. 21): My daughter is from Laos. Her name when I adopted her as a 6-month-old was Chantavy. That became her middle name and she was given the first name Anne, after a good friend from university.

Many years later, I returned to Laos for an extended period of time — about 17 years — and I developed a large Lao “family.” Another Lao son named his two sons Jimmy and Archie, after me. The mother of these two boys is named Toui, which means “fatty,” but she is not at all fat and is quite a slim, beautiful woman.

Here, nicknames rule. If you are dark-skinned, you can expect to be called Leh or Dam or even DamDee. All these are skin-color names. People who once were, or are, fat will be called Toui or Ouanh.

If you were a small pink baby, you might be called Gkoong, or “shrimp.” Noi is a common nickname and means “small.” Nyai is very common and means “big.” If you have a cleft lip, your name will always be Ven.

As you can see, in Laos they are not very sensitive when giving nicknames. Sometimes they are quite cruel. Two kids in my Lao “daughter’s” school were called Kee (“poop”) and Dtawt (“fart”). They apparently hung around together a lot. These names are used almost unconsciously, with people not really thinking, most of the time, about their meaning.

The list goes on and on. They are usually started in the family and are thought of as comical when the babies are small. Later on, not so funny.

If you go looking for someone, you must know his/her village call name. If you use their official name, they may have no clue who you are looking for, even though the person may be living next door.

JIM ARCHER
Vientiane

Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

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