Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Can the IT Idea of Fashion Take Over Asia?

If there is anything that visually identifies a Japanese adult, and especially a female adult, it is the sense of fashion.  People in Japan's major cities are absolutely meticulous about how they dress in public, even in the most casual of situations.  Countless magazines advise both males and females on proper coordination of shirts, coats, and pants, while various TV programs show how to properly apply makeup and introduce shops that help those with subpar sense of fashion.  Even those who do not care too much about visual presentation inevitably have to conform to the fashion sense just to feel socially acceptable.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Danger of Gaps in Expectations during Social Events

Tokyo is a fine city for meeting new people.  Dozens of organizations ranging from students doing it on their free time to fully professional outfits run social events that bring together complete strangers from all walks of life to help them expand their often limited number of friends and acquaintances.  Generally, what makes these events so fun is that people go in with an open mind and very little expectations, making them extremely conducive to conversations with literally anyone.  In a Japanese society where social status and looks can be paramount, such situations, to say the least, can be quite rare to find.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

When Food Becomes the First Line of Institutional Globalization

In any university, often the cafeteria becomes a sort of the student body's microcosm.  The cheap and hearty fare of the speedy provided lunch menu is a godsend for poor students with tight class schedules.  Even for those with time to spare, cafeterias are perfect places to meet up with friends within the college, as they are usually centrally located, easily reached from offices and classrooms scattered around the school campus.  It is over the busy lunch hours when student life at its most basic social aspect becomes apparent.  Gossip, stories, and laughs fly across food halls unusually loud by Japanese standards.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Difficulty of Japanese People to Get outside Their Normal Social Circle

As mentioned in the previous post, Tokyo is full of social events that help foreigners meet Japanese people and simultaneously allow many Japanese people to learn about foreign cultures and meet foreigners. Many Japanese people take advantage of these events to get an idea of how English speakers speak and think, so that they can improve their language and international communications skills for the purpose of work and just personal interest.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How Confrontational People Become Social Pariahs in a Non-Confrontational Culture

When the author was traveling in the Middle East, one of the characteristics that stood out most for him was just how aggressive people communicate with one another to get anything done.  When there is any sort of conflict, often there is a shouting match between the opposing parties, with little care for the noisy ruckus they are creating in the immediate surroundings.  Interestingly, the passerby usually do not even bat an eye at the conflicts that are happening right next to them, happily ignoring the anger on the streets as they go about their daily business as if it is all peaceful and quiet.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Can the Rohingya Crisis Lead to Ideological Realignment in Asian Politics?

Political realists have little concerns for morality as it is manifested in politics.  However human suffering from mass killings of wars and massacres can be, for realists, they are only perceivable as concrete actions to advance certain political interests.  Even the very idea of appealing to outsiders' sympathies toward those suffering incredible pains can be productive if propaganda featuring those episodes of suffering can help generate a sense of unity and motivate people into action (or inaction).  Realists who think this way must be watching with great interest what is unfolding among Muslims living Myanmar.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Regrettable Left-Wing Tyranny of Opinions on American College Campuses

The author is often asked why he chose to study in Japan when there are so many more reputable schools in the US.  Surely, even though he was flatly rejected by several of the country's best, if applications to slightly lesser known schools are submitted, there would have been a fairly good chance he would receive admission and scholarship to study.  In response, he would often cite the cheaper tuition and shorter time needed to complete studies in Japan, along with familiarity, convenience, and even lower living expenses in Tokyo.  But in using such mundane reasons, he declines to state one of the biggest reasons for not studying in America.

"It's So Difficult to Make Friends in Japan!"

Thus goes perhaps one of the most common statements among foreigners met in Japan.  And curiously enough, statements of such kind are uttered during some of the most popular meetups where hundreds of Japanese and non-Japanese from all walks of life mingle, specially designed for finding friends among complete strangers.  While being in an environment where people aggressive meet people for the explicit purpose of befriending them, foreigners lament that it is hard to make friends.  Clearly, the reason is not because they have little opportunities to meet other people.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Frequent Suicides can Actually be Good for Social Stability

When working in Tokyo, taking the train to work (or anywhere, for that matter) is part of daily life.  And since people are so reliant on trains to go anywhere, it is especially irritating when they are delayed or canceled for unforeseen reasons.  Japanese train services are famously punctual by design, but even then, there are times where good service and design does not equate lack of issues.  The most frequent of these issues is 人身事故 (accidents involving bodily harm), an euphemism for people jumping into train tracks to commit suicide and delaying services in the process.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Does Wanting to Meet New People Make a Person Narcissistic?

In Tokyo's social meetups, attendees frequently ask each other about their respective personal hobbies.  Trying to come up with something that is not too cliched ("I like to travel around the world!") the author usually tell people that he enjoys going to such social events and speaking with complete strangers.  In fact, he would add, he enjoys speaking to strangers so much that he'd rather devote more time meeting new people out of the blue that go through the troubles of communicating and setting up meetups with his own long-time acquaintances.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Getting Reacquainted with Japan's Workplace Frustration

Being a poor student at age 29 should not inspired this much envy.  If anything, a 29-year-old student should be the epitome of someone who is too old to be clueless about what to do with his/her life, at a golden age where careers are made or broke.  For anyone who genuinely cares about moving up the corporate ladder, it is not a desirable position to be in.  Yet, when conversations turn to the idea of being a 29-year-old student here in Japan, the general reaction among people of similar age has been one of "why can't I be a student now too?" coupled with discussions on the unglamorous daily grind of paid work.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Excessive Praise of Anti-Poaching Heroes Masks Economic Desperation of Poachers

The articles are everywhere.  In local and foreign news outlets, the dedicated lives of anti-poaching patrols in some of the world's most wildlife-abundant areas wage constant wars against poachers, who commit murders for a quick buck.  By showing the aftermath of wildlife slaughters on widely circulated posters and visual reports, both public and private sources make the anti-poaching patrols out to be heroes saving the planet from shortsighted human actions, driven by unparalleled ignorance, uncontrolled want, and the massive profits to be made in the black market.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Does Living in the Middle of Nowhere for Years Makes a Person Less Socially Competent?

If there is anything that characterizes life in rural Africa, it is the small social circles that many expats (more often than not, choose to) confine themselves.  A small group of people have very specific conversations about work and life in a small town, dealing with issues that largely remain unchanged over the course of years.  The fact that people and topics of conversation change so little in such a long time means that expats living in rural Africa develop a very specific way of speaking to a very specific group of people, tailored for long-term relationships and not so much for meeting new ones out of the blue.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Does the Presence of More Singles Reduce the Potential for Economic Growth?

If there is any issue that defines Japan, it is its demographic one.  Among the youths, ever-fewer people choose to get married and have kids, while increasing longevity ensures that a bulging elderly population steadily increases the average age of the entire population.  The presence of "herbivore" men (and women), defined by their almost complete lack of interest in romantic relationships, aggravates the problem into something that is not easily corrected by simple incentives for bigger families.  The mentality of the population has dramatically shifted to one that questions the very virtue of family life.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Can Urban Design Combine the Practical and the Monumental?

Odaiba is a piece of reclaimed land in the middle of Tokyo Bay.  Given how new the land is, and the centralized nature of its original planning, despite being in the middle of the city, the neighborhood does not look like any other in Tokyo.  While the rest of the city is parsed up into millions of tiny plots occupied by houses, office buildings, and shops standing shoulder to shoulder, intersected with narrow two-lane roads, Odaiba is characterized by almost an excess of open space.  A massive concrete promenade runs through the neighborhood end to end, punctuated only by a few trees.