Monthly Archives: April 2007

Election Campaign Car

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     Japan has a unified local election every four years. It is divided into two and the first half was on April 8. And the latter one is today on 22. That’s why many people had suffered from those noises recently until yesterday.

     Anyone who has been here in Japan during an election campaign must know what I mean. I don’t know how election campaigns are held in other countries, but basically Japanese way is very simple. Electioneerers just shout their own candidate’s name repeatedly with the loudspeaker, waving their hands in white colored gloves to passers-by from their campaign car. No policy, sometimes no candidate! If the candidate is somebody, he or she is too busy to do own campaign.

     Those campaign cars are really noisy! When and who started that bad way? I don’t know the answer to the question, but it’s certain that all candidates in Japan continue the practice.

     Here’s a survey about it: Do you think it’s effective in getting votes that election campaign cars call the name of candidate repeatedly? It’d been conducted by Yahoo! Japan from April 16 to 21. The number of the total votes is 20979. 73% of the voters replied “No. It has, rather, the contrary effect.” to the question and only 8% replied “Yes.”

     Most voters seem to have the same opinion: “Those election campaign cars are just noisy!” and “I will never vote the candidate whose campaign car just shouts his or her name!”

     People regard the candidates who or whose electioneerers just call their names as of selfish and stupid because those campaign cars sometimes shout near even hospitals or schools, and it has no policies there. In the terrible case, electioneerers just beg for the electorate’ votes with the loudspeaker, shouting “Help us!” I’ve heard that some electioneerers shouting “Write ○○○(the candidate’s name) on your voting paper! That’s all!” Are we electorates so stupid? Awful!

     Don’t candidates know that most people hate the way of election campaign depends on campaign cars at all? Yes, at least their electioneerers do. But they won’t stop the way because they think that they should do while their opponents keep using those campaign cars…

     There’re some reasons why the evil campaign cars exist still now, I think. Many electorates, especially young people, feel not much in politics. Recently most candidates have introduced handing their manifestos out to people, but it’s insufficient in quantity. With thinking of that, many candidates and their supporters may do nothing but calling their names to make people write them on the voting paper.

     In brief, it’s we electorates’ fault to suffer from the campaign cars. If we really want to let candidates and their electioneerers stop shouting with campaign cars, we should have more interests in politics and know people who reform conditions are we ourselves.

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A New Class

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      There are many universities in my neighborhood. Many of them have extension courses, and adult who are not undergraduates can also study there. That’s why I can receive the benefit. I have joined in a university’s open courses for some years, and a class where I belong to started yesterday.

     Basically, the academic year starts in April at most of universities in Japan. So you can see many freshmen who look nervous look around restlessly with a map on campus. Yesterday I saw many youths looking for their classrooms saying, “Where is room XXXX?!”

     I visited a cafeteria before heading for my classroom, but students filled there for lunch because my class is the third period and starts at 1:30. And many people were recruiting freshmen into their clubs or group activities outside. This time, the campus is really lively. I feel younger in the atmosphere.

     The class I take this year is for speaking of TOEIC and TOEFL tests. I’m not planning to take those tests for the present, but I applied for the class because I like the teacher and the schedule is convenient for me.

     It seems that students practice reading aloud mainly in the class. The teacher will give us many tips on how to speak English. I mean students are supposed to learn about the speed, volume, intonation, accent and so on.

     There were about a dozen undergraduates and about 7 adult in the classroom yesterday. I don’t know how many students take the class exactly until the end of the registration time. Each language class needs at least 5 undergraduates to be held. If the class has less than 5, it’ll be cancelled. It means I cannot study English at the university.

     I made a new friend in the class yesterday. According to her, she just moved around the town recently. She was so excited to study at the university. She, another friend of mine and I explored a new cafeteria and a library after class. All of us have high expectation of our campus life this year. So…

     May many undergraduates enroll the class!

A Volunteer Guide Training Course

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      I am now joining in one of courses of NHK Cultural Center in Oasis 21, Sakae named “Kantan Eigo de Nagoya Gaido” in Japanese, or “Guide round Nagoya with easy English” in English. It is a kind of volunteer guide training program hosted by Aichi Goodwill Guides Network (AGGN) http://nagoya.cool.ne.jp/aggn/ 
. It’s held twice a month, and participants are supposed to guide people from overseas at Nagoya Castle this autumn practically.

     In this month, we had already the two classes; one was for introduction, and in another one last Tuesday, we had three guests and listened to their experiences in Japan. All three are women, and the two of them are from France and another one, U.S.A.

     To my delight as Japanese, all in all it seems that they have had a good time here in Japan. They might not be able to speak out surrounded by many Japanese people, though. Wonderfully, all of the three have made yukata, which is a cotton kimono for the summer season. I’ve never done it before!

     The American woman has finished her yukata and now making a new one for her husband. She seems to be very interested in Japanese culture, and she even has own many apparatuses for Japanese tea ceremony. She brought some of them with her to the meeting and showed them to participants, but it was first time to see some of them in person for me in spite that I’m Japanese.

     “Really?!” She was very surprised at my admission. A lady who was hearing our conversation said as laughing, “Which is Japanese?”

     Yeah, I thought the same thing! I’ve never made yukata and worn kimono! I’ve never joined in a tea ceremony! I was wondering why I was sitting at one of seats for guides, no, I should have sit at a guest seat.

     I don’t like admit it, but I’m quite ignorant. I was going to study English through the course first when I applied for it, but my idea changed. It seems that I can discover the goodness of Japanese culture and learn it in the course. I’d like to learn many things on Japanese culture and to give the goodness to people from overseas someday.

     Oh! For that, I have to study not only Japanese cultural things but also English hard!

★photos: Oasis 21 in Sakae 

Yang Ming-Shih Style 24 Simplified Form of Tai Chi Chuan

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      Last Sunday I went to Gaishi Plaza, which used to be called Rainbow Hall, with a friend of mine to attend a big meeting of Yang Ming-Shih Style 24 simplified form of tai chi chuan. I started learning it last fall, and the friend has learned for 4 years. The meeting was held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the affiliate in Aichi prefecture.

                                                                  
      There were more than 2000 people of all ages and both sexes in the hall. Those 2000 people were about to do tai chi chuan together when I arrived there. That was spectacular. I didn’t doing together with them at that time because I’ve just begun learning and cannot do it well, but I would like to join them next time when it’ll be held 5 years later.

     It seems that there are many styles of tai chi chuan all over the world, and martial arts are the beginning of it. Some of them are competitive and some use arms. Yang Ming-Shih Style 24 simplified form of tai chi chuan was born and has been raised here in Japan. Mr. Yang Ming-Shih, the patriarch, was born at a good family of martial arts in China and came first to Japan as an exchange student in 1940s. But he couldn’t come back home because of the Communism Revolution at the same time. That’s why he decided to remain, and contrived and tried to popularize his own style tai chi chuan here in Japan 

      With the origin of it, Yang Ming-Shih Style tai chi chuan is no longer in Chinese martial arts or exercise. It is a Japanese exercise for building up your health. It differs widely in that others are sometimes competitive. Yang Style one, rather, avoids competition. It looks like a dance and it is often compared to the action of cranes.

     In the meeting, there were many performances by learners. I was impressed by elderly people’s one. All of them were over 77 years old. The oldest was 90. More than 100 people of them did tai chi together. They looked very energetic and beautiful. Late medical treatment tends to life extension, but it is missing living happily and healthy. And the missing point is an aim for doing Yang Style tai chi chuan. It is said that it improves circulation and strengthens inner muscles. And if you are fit as a fiddle, you must be happy!

                                                                
     
 By the way, age of 77 means happy in Japan. The abbreviation of the Chinese character for happiness looks like the number 77. And 7 is also considered a lucky number.

     Anyway, I hope live long happily and healthily!

The Final Intensive Course

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     I usually take some English intensive courses during the spring vacation. In fact, I took four courses this spring. I put down about the three of them here so far, and today I’ll write about the final one, which just finished last Friday.

     That was in the end of February. An English teacher, who teaches at some universities, emailed me and offered a private course. I’ve taken some of his classes and he is my first English teacher at universities. As I know many people who are eager to study English, I volunteered to advertise his private course and gathered about 10 students. They were divided into two courses; in March and April because of the applicants’ convenience and the number of 10 which was quite big. I belonged the April one.

     Each course had 4 days and each day had a 2-hour lessons. The topics were “Reality TV” , “Internet blogging”, “Recycling” and “The aging society”. In the topic of Reality TV, we discussed about the change in TV shows". In the 60s and 70s, basically TV programs were shot in the studio, and viewers just watched them at home. But since the 80’s, programs so-called reality TV has been popular, and viewers not only watch them at home but also take part in the programs, and recently TV producers and audiences have interacted and created programs together.

      The second topic was blogging. Yes, this page is also a blog. You know, blogs are quite easy to set up, you don’t need any special computer skills. That’s why many people all over the world like me have own blogs and express many things freely every day. As for me, this page is very useful to improve my English skills. For Japanese English learners, it’s difficult to exhale what they have learned. I’d like to exchange views with others in my blog someday, not only using it as a workbook, though.

     We discussed about recycling on the third day. In Japan, the way of the disposal of wastes depends on each municipality, but in general, people have to separate wastes into many categories. For example, in Nagoya where I live, wastes are separated over 10 kinds: kitchen wastes, spray cans, cans, glass bottles and jars, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, plastic containers, paper containers, milk cartons, newspapers, old clothes, unburnable wastes and so on. According to the article that we used in the class, the recycling system in Japan is going to be destroyed by exporting PET bottles against the Basal Convention. We need to reduce the amount of waste produced and rebuild the recycling system.

     The final topic was the aging society. As you know, Japanese are long-lived. The average life span is now for men close to 80 and for women to 90. Japan is one of the richest countries and is brimming over with different foods imported from the world. We haven’t experienced any wars domestically for over 60 years since the end of World War II, and have made dramatic progress in medical treatment and medicine. According to the article we used in the class, it’ll be not so pessimistic about the aging society. If we raise the age of elderly people from 65 to 70, the ratio of the young to the old goes down, and we’ll have much population of workers. (Yesterday I saw many senior citizens, some of whom were over 90 years old, and they were really energetic…)

     The final course was well-organized and well-balanced. I mean students can learn proper English grammatically, phonetically and practically, and have many opportunities to speak English. We had it at one of the participants’ house, and we enjoyed in relax ambience. Anyway, I was able to think and learn many things through the English courses. I’m going to join in some this summer again because I can not only improve my English skills but also expand my knowledge through them.

Nunavut

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      My final intensive course starts tomorrow, but I’m going to write about my third one today. The course’s theme was Canadian life. The teacher was of course a gentle Canadian. The students researched about famous Canadians and some provinces and territories, and made presentations in turn in the course. One of my topics was about Mr. David Suzuki, an environmental activist, and another one was about Nunavut, one of Canada’s territories.

     I’m going to introduce Nunavut Territory.

     Nunavut is the largest and the newest of the territories of Canada, and located near Greenland. It was separated officially from Northwest Territory in 1999. The 84 % of the population is Inuit. That is, Nunavut is, as it were, an area of Inuit. For more than 30 years, Inuit people had tried to be independent from other areas. Their long-cherished wish came true then.

     The meaning of Nunavut is “our land” in Inuktitut, the language of Inuit. By the way, the official language are Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English and French.

      The capital is Iqaluit, which is located on Baffin Island. Nunavut is divided into three areas by the differences of culture and geography: Baffin, Kivallq, and Kitikmeot.

     Nunavut is the least populated and the largest of the provinces and territories of Canada. It has a population of only 30.850 spread over an area the size of Western Europe. If Nunavut was a country, it would be the least densely populated in the world. For example, Greenland has almost the same sized area but the population is twice. The density of the population in Canada is about 3 people / k㎡, in Japan is about 330 people / k㎡, and in Nunavut is only 0.015! There are about 28 communities in Nunavut, and the smallest one has only about 30 people.

     The climate is the cold latitude, and there are the tundra and the taigas in Nunavut. In Iqaluit, the capital, the average temperature in January is -29.7 degrees and in July 11.4 degrees! How cold!

     In Nunavut, the assembly is only one. It’s unicameral. There are no parties and the members of the assembly are elected individually, and the premier, the head of government is elected by and from them. The present premier, Mr. Paul Okalik’s basic policy is fusion of Inuit culture and traditional knowledge and the political and government decisions.

     They have some problems. For example, about 56 % of the population is under age of 25 (2003). Because of the age, they are short of numbers of workers and they need education, they cannot make money. If they had enough labor, they wouldn’t have many jobs, anyway. Moreover, prices are very expensive, and it’s double to three times as in the South. So now they are investing money to education and trying to improve the income level by 5 year planning.

     For another problem, they have many alcoholic people. They don’t have anything to do. Some say one of the reasons is night under the midnight sun. For a measure of alcohol abuse, you may not able to buy alcohol in most areas.

     Nunavut has some problems, but it has also many resources, wilderness, own culture and history, and future.

     How about visiting Nunavut someday?

Excursion

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      Last Wednesday morning, I got up at 5:30 in the morning. How early! It was because that a friend of mine came to Nagoya from Tokyo that morning. It was the third time to see him for me. I met him first in the cyber world. I mean, he and I started knowing each other through the Internet, so-called SNS (Social Network Service) last year, and I hadn’t met him in person until last August. Anyway, another friend of mine, who lives in my neighborhood and also has known him through the same SNS, and I went to see him together. 
    
All of us met at Nagoya Station around 7:30, and headed to Yanagibashi, where there are wholesales markets, especially of fish. Many fishmongers were coming and going there. We walked and saw around the market area, being careful to get in the way of them. And then we went to an eating place there because that time was about to go calm down and we expected that they would serve fresh fish for meal. Yeah, I was able to have some fresh cockles there.

     After breakfast, we went to a coffee stand and had some coffee there, and then went to Handa City by train. Because another friend of mine, who lives near Handa, was supposed to show us around Tokoname area, we went to see her there. The place arranged to meet her was at Red Brick Building in Handa.

      This building was built as a beer factory in 1898, and was used as a storehouse of Nakajima Aircraft Industries Ltd., the precursor of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., during World War II, when it was attacked by North American P-51 Mustangs, the fighter planes, flew from Iwo Jima, which became well-known by the two movies produced by Clint Eastwood last year. The building was registered as a cultural heritage three years ago. I wrote about the building last year, if you are interested in it, please take a look at the page, too: http://moshimoshimo.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!1D0F2197A6F55843!344.entry.

     After all of us gathered, we strolled around an old street nearby named Konya-Kaido, where there is an old rice cracker store and we dropped by.

     Then we headed for Tokoname, which is famous for potteries, especially teapots. And it has some sightseeing spots, for example Yakimono-Sampomichi (Pottery path), ceramic museums, or Centrair, the airport. We went to Yakimono-Sampomichi, which has many interesting places, for example old ceramic factories, pottery shops, and cafes and so on. Most of the shops and the cafes use old ceramic factories’ buildings. http://www.excite.co.jp/world/english/web/?wb_url=http%3A%2F%2Ftoko.or.jp%2Ftokoname%2Dkankou%2F&wb_lp=JAEN&wb_dis=2

     We had lunch at an Italian restaurant in Tokoname, and went back to Nagoya. We went to Iwasaki Castle and Goshiki-En, a temple, and it is really curious! I am going to write about the castle and the temple later on.

   We went to a café for a break, a restaurant for a dinner, and a karaoke for burning energy. And I came back home around 1:00 in the morning! Ahhhh, I had a really wonderful day together with my friends!