It is tough to talk about a social problem faced by a social minority, especially in a country like Japan where social minorities are often assumed to be absent or nonexistent. Many people simply do not want to face the uncomfortable fact that there are minorities among them who missed out of the country's general sense of prosperity and order. Instead, they struggle for both society's acceptance and just make ends meet in the direst of material conditions. A recent Japanese film Shoplifters, in such sense, is truly an uncomfortable one to watch for many Japanese people.
Monday, July 2, 2018
Thursday, June 21, 2018
at 9:06 PM
Living among the cultural Other is difficult, and it is especially difficult to do so in a foreign country. Strange language, strange food, and even stranger people. All this can be depressing to face for people who are residing abroad for the very first time. They just do not have experience in handling people who do not come from same cultural background, raised under same educational and social atmospheres. In short, such is the situation faced by the migrants from rural China who now reside in Vladivostok. But they are not the only ones faced with such difficulties.
Friday, June 15, 2018
at 6:27 PM
In Vladivostok, it is difficult to miss the city's two most obvious landmarks. A pair of suspension bridges, towering above the low-rise cityscape, connects its centuries-old downtown area with southern suburbs across the Golden Horn Bay, and mostly wilderness Russky Island further south with the southern suburbs. Already nicknamed "Russian San Francisco" for the zigzaging bays intersecting the city, Vladivostok only reminds more of the north American city with the bridges that look conspicuously like the Golden Gate.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
at 8:30 PM
The Asian Exhibition Gallery at the Tokyo National Museum features some of the most exquisite artefacts from Pacific islands to the depth of ancient Mesopotamia. The display is often a potpourri of different things from different eras, discovered by different people and sourced in different ways. But in all the confusing variety of the artefacts, the central message of the Gallery was never lost in each of the exhibit: that the various cultures of Asia, as represented by the artefacts present, serve as the cultural foundations of Japan as a country and people today.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
at 10:24 AM
The clock strikes 2pm at a local art museum in the well-off Tokyo neighbrohood of Shirokanedai, and the floors seem to fill with more and more people. The museum's eclectic collection of a permanent exhibition on the history of art deco in Japan and a special exhibition on French children's books is drawing what seem to be a highly varied but equally enthusiastic audience. College students carefully reading the descriptions bump shoulders with housewives snapping photos and middle-aged men in suits. From the looks of the crowds, it just does not look like a weekday afternoon in any way.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
at 5:10 PM
In the quiet residential neighborhood of Fukagawa in Tokyo's eastern suburbs is a leafy children's playground. Amidst the tall trees, slides, and swings favored by local children and parents is a building that looks oddly out of place. A three-story tall stone building, built in the modernist Western style so favored in early 20th century Japan, greet park visitors. The neoclassical facade of the building is imposing enough to be a centerpiece for a major history museum, yet, located in the little neighborhood park, it has to settle for a much mundane role: the neighborhood public library.
Friday, May 11, 2018
at 11:25 AM
One summer of 2008, the author found himself on a bus from South Korea, crossing straight across the DMZ north into the North Korean city of Kaesong. It was a different time, when hopes of reconciliation between the two Koreas was high. Hyundai Asan, a subsidiary of the giant South Korean conglomerate ran the tour, and the bus passed through Kaesong Industrial Complex, the symbol of economic cooperation between the two sides. While tourists are monitored per usual protocol, there were talks of a better future among the South Koreans used to living under liberal administrations.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
at 6:48 AM
Imagine you are sitting in an academic conference, listening to presentations by scholars from a field for which you have little background knowledge. Among the audience they are members who are from the same field as the presenters, and they listen intently to the presentations. Because they were able to comprehend the contents so thoroughly, at the Q&A session, they ask extremely detailed questions about the research presented, and a highly technical conversation between the presenter and the inquirer follows. You, people from other fields, neither understood the presentations nor the questions.
Friday, April 13, 2018
at 10:16 AM
Honestly, keeping in touch with people is not a forte of the author's. Despite having thousands of people that he acquainted (some deeply, many quite briefly and superficially) accumulated as friends on Facebook, he not only barely speak to any of them, but do not even bother to check up on what they share with their friends publicly. The resulting lack of information is so extensive that he is even completely ignorant of big life events of theirs, like weddings, birth of children, moving to a different country, or changing jobs. He can only hope that they know more about his current developments.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
at 2:10 AM
The little town of Gori an hour outside the Georgian capital of Tbilisi is mostly known for one thing today. It is the birthplace of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. To most outsiders today, Stalin is known mostly for his unpredictable political purges and disastrous collectivization efforts, leaving hundreds of senior Soviet leaders and millions of its citizens dead. But in his hometown, Stalin is still celebrated, not least for his contribution to defeating Nazism and turning the USSR into an industrial power within a generation.
Friday, February 9, 2018
at 7:38 PM
One of the lectures the author took at the University of Tokyo makes a great point about the idea of rich countries hiring foreign laborers from poor countries to fulfill supposed shortages in labor. The lecture argues that the supposed shortages are socially constructed, where the mentality of the general populace changes to one of complete dependence after they taste the ease of paying relatively little money to foreigners to do their dirty unwanted jobs. Society has become used to having foreigners fill the very bottom of employment hierarchy.
Monday, January 29, 2018
at 10:09 AM
Even for someone who does not follow Chinese popular culture too closely, the author cannot escape the recent news of the government banning any display of hip-hop culture on television. After the CCP decided that the subculture of underground rap that is gaining some mainstream popularity in the past months can supposedly instigate crime, take youths away from proper, healthy values as citizens, often based on so-called vulgar lyrics of rap songs, international news outlets have ensured that lovers of hip-hop and rap music, especially in the US, deepen their already steep hatred for the Chinese government and society.
Monday, January 22, 2018
at 11:00 AM
After years of working in an ecommerce startup, the author has come to miss one thing that dominates the office landscape of tech startups: the high-rising stool chair. In lieu of cubicles with their low desks and chairs that characterize established corporations, tech startups prefer a much more flexible arrangement where people are always on the move, working wherever they can find space to put down their laptops. To facilitate the mobile nature of fast-moving employees, startups employ a series of these high-rising chairs, alongside equally high small tables.
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
at 6:00 PM
Japanese salarymen are a hardworking bunch. After hours of toiling away in the corporate cubicles, they often have to put up with hours more of semi-mandatory drinking after work "officially" ends just to build necessary (?) camaraderie with coworkers to make sure work goes smoothly. With sleep time taken away by the drinking and the drunken stupor afterwards, it is no wonder that many salarymen feel exhausted during the day, at their corporate cubicles. Thankfully, corporate Japan is also highly forgiving of its workers' tiredness during the day, allowing them to openly take naps at their workspaces.
Thursday, January 4, 2018
at 10:21 AM
As a Master's student, the author did not consider himself to be the intellectual type. The days of "studying" in London was spent mostly on the road, "studying" by observing Europe and its sociocultural realities on the ground firsthand. That only new year spent in Europe, for instance, for instance, happened to be in Sarajevo, far from the libraries and study rooms of LSE where he was supposedly preparing for exams. He felt that the greatest opportunity granted to students is having plenty of free time, useful for personal explorations that need not to be immersion in books.
Saturday, December 9, 2017
at 5:33 PM
Today was the final exam for graduating medical school students at the University of Tokyo. The final exam took the form of individual clinical simulations, where each student separately, in designated time periods, perform certain required medical checkup procedures in front of their professors. Students from other departments were called up to perform as mock patients for the final exam, and the author was luckily selected as one of the privileged (?) few who had the opportunity to witness firsthand the final examination process.
Sunday, November 19, 2017
at 12:37 PM
When the author was attending elementary school in Japan as a child, the concept of catering for foreigners within both the school environment and community was practically unheard of. While foreigners have already been not rare even in a provincial city like Kanazawa by the early 1990s, the general mainstream society basically pretended that if the foreigners are treated not any differently from the Japanese, they will assimilate into Japanese culture in no time. As much as many foreign residents treated to go along with such idealistic wishes of the Japanese majority, to accept a new culture while abandoning an old is difficult.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
at 1:27 PM
One of the favorite tools for teachers in American high schools is the Scantron. These machine-readable little slips are the key to automating multiple choice tests. Teachers enter the correct answers in the scanning machine before the multiple-choice test even happens. And then students color in the bubbles that correspond to what they think are the right answers on the Scantron slip. Immediately after the test, the teacher gathers all the slips and shove them into the scanning machine. The machine automatically grades everyone's test, and the teacher is saved from having to manually check all the answers.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
at 5:45 PM
A few months ago during a trip back to San Diego, the author heard about an initiative ran by PhD students and postdocs at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). The initiative involves a weekly trip by a few science researchers to the nearby drinking holes, where they will mark themselves as people doing scientific research and take questions from other, normal customers. By taking the time to appeal to the laymen's curiosity about science, they are hoping to reduce the distance between scientists and normal people, and make more people understand the necessity of scientific research for their own daily lives.
Sunday, October 29, 2017
at 2:09 PM
When a restaurant or a retail shop advertises itself topic to the general public, one of more common method used is to emphasize its long tradition of operations. The term "Since (insert year of founding here)" is frequently placed right next to the company name and logo. The logic goes that if customers recognize just how long the company has been in operation, with no change in business or name, they can have the assurance that the products being sold are of high quality. After all, those same products have been satisfying generations of customers, and if there were not satisfied, there is no reason the company still exists.