Monthly Archives: February 2006

My second course started.

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     My second intensive course started today. It’s an English course as like another one I took two weeks ago. This spring I’m supposed to join 4 courses. The title of the course this time is “Explaining Japan & Japanese Culture to Foreigners”. I thought it would be interesting when I saw the title on the course descriptions a month ago.

     Because it was the first day today, we students just introduced ourselves through some games. Our teacher will announce to us what to do tomorrow because we wrote down some key words for topics, which we imagined that foreigners might be interested in, on the paper in the end of class. I’m looking forward to what we’ll do tomorrow.

     Our teacher is a quite young American man, from California. He’s taught English in the U.S for 2 and half years and here in Japan for 6 and half years, for 9 years in all. He’s nice and gentle. According to him, he likes arts, especially intaglio. That’s why he’s interested in ukiyoe, Japanese woodblock prints in Edo period, too. He knows about ukiyoe more than me.

     I’m now thrilled because may be able to find something new about Japan and Japanese culture through his and other students’ eyes. Whenever I meet someone new or know something new, I’m excited. So I was happy today because I was able to meet a new teacher and some new classmates. (There are 14 students in the class. I’ve seen about half of them before. Of course, I was glad to see them, too.)

     After finishing our first day of the course, I had lunch together with some of my classmates and our teacher. I was pleased that he joined us when I invited him. I enjoyed talking with them over lunch.

食玩 confectionery with toys

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     Shokugan(食玩) is short for shokuhin gangu(食品玩具),which means food and toy in the order, and it’s a general term of confectionery with toys. In the course I took last week, it was the topic I chose.

     Why did I choose it as a topic? I happened to visit a supermarket in a town called Kiyosu last Sunday and saw some such kind of confectionery sold near the checkout counters. All of the toys were bigger than the candies. Because it interested me, I studied about “shokugan” after coming back home.

     In the early years of the market in Japan, Glico, the caramel, sold by a confectionery company named Ezaki Glico, is the symbol of “shokugan”. The market as of 2004 has been up to billions yen.

     After Glico caramel went on the market in 1927, for 45 years, in “shokugan”, the confectionery had been main thing and the toys additional. In 1972, however, Kamen Rider Snack’s big hit changed the relationship of master and servant. In the end, many kids threw away the snacks without eating after getting the toys. That situation became a big issue. After that, the same phenomenon often happens.

     In 1999, Furuta Seika, the confectionery company, started selling egg-shaped chocolates named Choco Egg, whose toys were plastic miniatures of animals. Not only kids but also many adults bought the chocolates to collect the miniatures. It became a big social phenomenon. And the big hit made the “shokugan” market expand, the quality be better and consumers’ age raise. It affected the industries of food and toys very much. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%A3%9F%E7%8E%A9

     According to a report of a survey on “shokugan” by DIMSDRIVE, the net research company http://www/dims.ne.jp/timelyresearch, over 60 % people have every bought the confectionery.

     In December, 2005, about 10 % of people in their 20’s and 30’s are collecting something of “shokugan”. It seems to be a characteristic of Japanese phenomenon that adult people buy such things. Japanese people may be able to keep the feelings of kids after becoming adult, or may not be able to be mature even after becoming adult…

     Most of “shokugan” is around 200 or 300 yen. But sometimes some of them are sold over 10000yen on the Internet auctions. “Shokugan” has become a speculative target recently. It has been getting to have nothing to do with candies. But as long as the “shokugan” is a kind of confectionery, they can be sold at the food corner and the food and toys companies can keep the market.

     Japanese “shokugan” is culture? Or only a proof that Japanese society is immature?

The Death Penalty

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     During the course I took last week, I talked about lots of issues with other students. For example, the future of women after graduating from schools, the inheritance issue of Japanese royal family, the phenomenon of middle-age couples’ divorces, the ethnic issues in Japan, aboutthe death penalty, the issue of Japan’s aging society and so on.

     To tell the truth, I seldom talk about those issues to my friends. If we choose some of them as topics, we usually just gossip about them. If I cannot stand on a clear position even in Japanese, I’ll never talk about the issues in English.

     As I wrote above, I was able to think about lots of thinks this time, but what made a big impression on me the most was about the death penalty. I hadn’t known anything about it until one of the students chose for a topic. I studied it on the Internet and was very surprised at many facts.

     For example, the approval rate of retaining the death penalty is over 80% here in Japan. (2004) I was really shocked to know it because I had thought the approval rate of abolishing was higher or near 50%. Besides, the approval rate of retaining it has become higher recently. http://www.jca.apc.org/~haikiren/index.html This phenomenon seems to be in a few countries. Probably, recent vicious crimes affect the rate in the background. But over half the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty or practice now.

     What I was surpised at was not only the height of the approval rate of the death penalthy but also the way of practice. 
     The prisoner is told about that he or she is executed on the very day in the morning. He or She is taken to the scaffold while other prisnoers are outside for doing exercise from 9:00 to 11:00 in the morning. He or shie is taken to the next door before entering the scaffold room. The room is about a 12 mat room and has an altar, which has flowers, a Buddhist image, some Japanese sweets ( the prisoner can eat them, but it seems that most of the prisoners don’t eat them.) and some burning incenses, and has a white curtain. Beyond the cutrain, it’s the destination.

     The room is about an 8 mat room and has a 1m square scaffold in the center. The prisoner stands on it. There are 5 practice buttons to open the 1m floor because of soothing the executors’ senses of guilt.

     I’m going to study about the death penalty more a lot and about other issues of Japan.

My Birthday

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     I’ve been suffering from dizziness again since last Friday. Probably it’s because I was too busy. I had a tough time last week. I couldn’t do anything at home in the whole week except for looking up the dictionaries or searching on the Internet because I had taken an English one of the spring intensive courses at a university. I almost forgot even about my birthday. It was on 14th. Yes. My birthday is St. Valentine’s Day! But nothing romantic happened this year, either…I was studying hard in front of the PC on that day, too!

     Why did I have to study so hard? As the course I joined was quite high level, I had to spend much time with the dictionaries and the PC to understand the meaning of many words and to get information to follow the class. I realized my lack of vocabularies, of knowledge and of skill to speak English keenly.

     The course gave me a good chance to think about lots of things. For example, racial problem, falling fertility problem, or about death penalty, etc. To my shame I must confess that I either seldom thought about those things. After course, I had some opportunities to talk such things to some of my friends. They seemed to notice something, too. It’s about time to stop pretending not to see what we don’t want to.

     By the way, I had a special dinner last night to celebrate my birthday with my family. We had some delicious Spanish food. It was my first time to try it. Sardines’ salad, Spanish omelet, fried mushrooms with basil, boiled garbanzo, cod croquette, paella with lots of seafood and dessert. They were wonderful! My Spanish teacher is a professional cook, too!

Spring Intensive Course

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     One of the spring intensive courses that I had applied for at a university started today. The university holds many kinds of intensive courses, for example, aroma therapy course, tai chi course, English courses and so on, during the spring and the summer vacations.

     All of the courses I applied for are English. Each course has a two hours class a day in 5 days from Monday to Friday. The title of the first course, which started today, is Expressing Opinions Course; training to express own opinions and exchange views.

      The teacher is a YOUNG, HANDSOME Aussie. (Why did I emphasize some words?;-p) I like him and his class. He’s very good at creating a casual and relaxing atmosphere, and encouraging and stimulating students.

      There are five students including me in the class this time. Four of us are women and only one person is a man except the teacher. I have to make efforts to follow the class as well as I can. I’m weak in speaking English. I mean that words can’t come out of my mouth smoothly. It’s like squeezing a dried towel…

     Anyway I have to read (maybe just scan) lots of paper that the teacher gave me today as kind of homework from now. Hmmm. It seems that the class will become difficult tomorrow…Sigh I’m wondering if I can follow the class…

One Sunday

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      Today’s lunch: rice (small), boiled spinach, boiled sardines with soy sauce, and miso soup. They were 557 yen in total. I had lunch at a Japanese restaurant chain again. It’s not the same restaurant where I went to on Friday. Hmmm, healthy!

     After lunch, I went to a shopping mall in Kiyosu on a kind of duty. It was my first time to visit there. I was surprised to see something when I entered the shopping mall. I found a wall which consisted of hexagonal bricks.

     That was Spain pavilion’s at Expo. I thought I’d heard that a shopping mall bought some of those hexagonal bricks from Spain pavilion after Expo. I didn’t know that the shopping mall which had bought the bricks was the one which I was in. I felt a little bit happy.

     While I was on my way home, I saw the word “sale”. I have a weak spot for the word very much. I headed for the letters although I didn’t know what the shop was selling.

     “Is this a shop?” I thought. The building didn’t look like a shop. It was more like a warehouse with an office. But there was big cloth written the word “Sale” in front of the building.

     When I was getting closer, a woman came out of the building and said, “Welcome! I’ll show you inside.” I followed her half in doubt. This is a shop really?

     Yes. It was a shop. They sell Bali’s furniture mainly. There were lots of other goods, for example, baskets, batik, table wares and so on, too. I bought a tablecloth and two paper weights, which were in the shape of a gecko or a newt. I’m going to wear the tablecloth as a muffler.

Mom’s painting

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     My mother will turn 75 years old this year. Since divorcing she’s lived by herself in peace. She started learning the botanical art last year.

     Botanical art means to paint plants minutely like illustrations of encyclopedias or like photos. She has devoted herself since she went into the new world.

     Last night, she revealed me to the fact that her work had been submitted to an exhibition and it would be finish tomorrow on the phone. That’s why I went to see her work to the place where it had been on display, in a park today.

     Her picture was on the wall quietly among other skillful works. I was very proud of her because I knew that she had learned painting hard. She’d never painted until last year. Her paining seemed the shiniest for me. As I took some photos of it, I’m going to make post cards with the best among them.