Hello all. I’m running later than usual because my dentist needed to fix my teeth today, Wednesday, rather than Tuesday, my normal dentist day. The good news is, the two plastic caps are off my teeth and I’ve got real ceramic teeth that look great. Those guys in Sweden know how to make teeth!
Today’s J-List post is below. You can also read it on the J-List website or the JBOX.com site.
For the past week we’ve been treated toa little freedom of speech, Japan-style: the local right-wing group, angry for some reason at our city’s major, has been driving their loudspeaker truck up and down the street calling for his resignation and generally howling bloody murder. By unhappy chance, we live right next to the mayor, which means we’ve gotten to hear all the ruckus. Exercising one’s freedom of speech by broadcasting through loudspeakers is a uniquely Japanese phenomenon, and right wingers (closely associated with the yakuza) can often be seen rolling through Japanese cities playing patriotic World War II songs to the general amusement/annoyance of everyone. During election season, politicians spend hours giving speeches from cars with loudspeakers mounted on top, and in Tokyo, political groups opposing anything from higher taxes to Japan’s participation in Iraq park their speaker trucks on a streetcorner and voluminously share their political views with everyone else.
I receive a lot of questions from people interested in living in Japan someday. While it certainly is difficult to come to a country as different from the U.S. or Europe as Japan is, it’s certainly doable if you are determined. Many foreigners come to Japan on a tourist visa (3 months) and use that time to look for a job. When you find one, you have to leave the country once to process your working visa then re-enter on that visa — most gaijin travel to nearby South Korea and do some sightseeing. Alternately, citizens of some lucky nations like Canada, Australia and New Zealand can come on “working holiday” visas instead. Westerners are usually shocked by the difficult system of “key money” you must pay when renting an apartment. Between a security deposit (2 months), a finders-fee (paid to the company that got the apartment for you), first months’ rent and “thank you money” (a move-in bonus for your landlord), it can cost $2000-4000 just to move into a small apartment. Of course, any discussion of how to work in Japan is precluded by the fact that to get a working visa at all, you must have a degree from a four-year university. So whenever young people interested in Japan ask me how they can come here, I invariably advise them to find a good, well-rounded university and get a degree — do that, and you’ll be surprised how easily the rest can fall into place.
The most popular anime in Japan isn’t Inu Yasha and it isn’t Naruto. The anime Japanese identify as their favorite year-in and year-out is Doraemon (do-RAH-ey-mone), the blue “robot of cat type” who came who came from the 22nd century to modern-day Japan to save his friend Nobita-kun, a bit of a slacker, from marrying a different girl than history intended. Together they have many adventures, usually using the many magic items that Doraemon carries in his fourth-dimensional pocket, like the Dokodemo Door (“anywhere door”) that lets him teleport to any place, a “small light” that shrinks anything it shines on, and his trusty time machine, the cause of many Back to the Future-style plot twists. The current staff of the long-running series including legendary Nobuyo Oyama, the voice of Doraemon since 1973, is due to retire soon, ending an era for Japanese fans of the show.