Monthly Archives: February 2012

2012 Picture of the Week (8/52) – Old Sotetsu Train

Japan is very well known for its trains. There are a lot of newer trains, but this is one of Sotetsu Line’s older trains. This is the 7000 series, which was introduced in 1975. It’s 37 years old!

I took this picture in Futamatagawa Station.

Although you can't see it, this train is a local train bound for Yamato.

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Filed under Asahi-ku, Japan, Kanagawa, Picture of the Week, Yokohama

2012 Picture of the Week (7/52) – River Maintenance

In Japan, a lot of urban rivers have an artificial appearance. They have unnatural banks, guiding them roughly along the same route they used to flow. One of the local rivers near Shonandai, the Hikichigawa, is an example of this. This week, I walked past the river, several weeks after I saw construction equipment in the river. They were flattening the riverbed and removing any large rocks. The area in this picture has stairs down to the river, where there were many rocks where people could go down and fish or play in the river. However, they removed them, most likely for safety reasons. Unfortunately, this has removed places where wading and shorebirds can fish from. This week, I have a bonus picture showing what they’ve been doing.

The publically accessible stairs on the left are now closed.

This sign explains what they're doing.

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Filed under Fujisawa, Japan, Kanagawa, Picture of the Week

The tradition of gift money

Japan is a country famous for gifts.  People give gifts on many occasions, and I’ve received gifts from students so many times I’ve lost count.  Usually, it’s food.  But with the birth of my daughter, I’ve received baby-themed gifts.  I like receiving gifts like this.  On the other hand, there’s gift money.

Gift money is given to new parents by family and relatives.  This is also done at New Year’s.  Family gives gift money to children.  However, by my definition, the Japanese gift money tradition is not really a gift.  My wife and I have received gift money from her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  It’s been quite helpful for paying for many baby related things, including clothes, supplies, and paying for the birth itself.  Now that she’s home and the gift giving has died down, her family is expecting something in return.  What they now expect is for us to use half of the gift money to buy them gifts.  That’s right, they give us money to buy them gifts after we’ve already used the money during the most financially difficult time we’ve ever had.  This is something that both my wife and I really dislike about Japan’s gift tradition.  While we appreciate their generosity, as the money did help us a lot, it seems inconceivable from my cultural background that we are now required to buy expensive gifts for everyone that gave us money.  Sure, it seems like it’s returning the favour as a thank you.  But we’re in the middle of a difficult time financially, and we need to be able to save as much as possible for the coming months.  Raising a child is expensive, and the last thing we need is to spend money on gifts for family.  Maybe I sound ungrateful to some of my Japanese readers, but you have to understand the situation of new parents.

Here’s the most irritating thing.  They want the gifts as soon as possible.  They want it immediately.  If we don’t give gifts in return, they won’t say anything to us, but they will complain a lot to my wife’s parents.  We don’t want her parents to have to deal with angry relatives that want gifts from a couple of new parents who can’t really afford to give them gifts.  It seems like it’s more important for my in-laws to get gifts than for us to have financial security.

Thank you very much, Japanese gift money tradition.  You sure know how to screw over new parents.  End of rant.

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Filed under Culture

2012 Picture of the Week (6/52) – Seven & I Holdings

To Canadians and Americans, the style of this logo may seem familiar. I took this picture outside a 7-Eleven store. Seven & I Holdings is a company founded from the merger of Ito Yokado (a major large general store in Japan) and 7-Eleven Japan. It also owns Denny’s Japan restaurants, Sogo and Seibu department stores and the American 7-Eleven company. So, for my readers in the USA, if you go into a 7-Eleven, it’s a Japanese owned company.

The sign says "Tobacco," "Alcohol," and "Bank ATM."

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Filed under Fujisawa, Japan, Kanagawa, Picture of the Week

2012 Picture of the Week (5/52) – Tokaido Kiosk

This is a day late, but I’m counting it. I’d intended to make this update yesterday. This time, it’s the unique Kiosk convenience store on the Tokaido Line platform in Fujisawa Station. It’s modeled after an old Tokaido train.

Inside is a regular station platform shop. Outside, it looks like an old-fashioned Tokaido Line train.

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Filed under Fujisawa, Japan, Kanagawa, Picture of the Week

Things I’ve heard often: My child could never do well!

When I was a newcomer in Japan, I was in for a big shock.  I was used to having parents constantly talk about how well their children behaved or how well they were doing in school.  But no, they don’t do that in Japan.  That would be bragging.  That would be rude.

Japan is a society where individuality is frowned upon.  Personal achievement is discouraged, and children should just be the same as everyone else.  It seems that for both children and adults, those in authority (parents and bosses) tend to emphasize the faults so much, that it always sounds like everyone is incredibly negative.  In business, bosses often berate and insult employees as a form of encouragement.  What is this, reverse psychology?  Tell them they’re crap so they’ll do better?  And then they have them work so many hours, although not very efficiently or hard.  Not allowed to go home before the boss.

As for children, I’ve heard parents speak about their kids in the most negative ways.  Sure, some parents are quite positive, and they will talk about how well their children are doing, but I usually hear the negative far more.  One example is the kind of mother who expresses surprise whenever their child does something good.  Today was just one example.  One of the children I teach does quite well in class, although he is sometimes very stubborn and doesn’t listen.  However, he did an English test 2 weeks ago in which he passed with flying colours.  He had a perfect score.  Not one mistake.  When he and his mother were shown his test and result, she was shocked.  She couldn’t believe it.  It was as if something impossible happened.  She never said anything positive about her son, not even telling him he did a great job.  What did she do?  She insisted that he made mistakes.  She kept asking us what he did wrong.  There must be mistakes!  Her son cannot get 100% on a test!  It’s impossible!

Give me a break! Your son did well.  Get over it.  No need to make a scene about it and display utter disbelief and shock.  Kids in Japan these days are pushed so hard to perform well in school, going to cram school every day after school, having no time for themselves or to just be a kid.  It’s no wonder the suicide rate is so high in Japan.  Everyone is pushed so hard to perform well that many are pushed beyond the breaking point.  They snap.

No way will that happen to my child.  I will tell her she did well when she does well.  No mock disbelief.  No insulting, even though she’s done well.  I’m not going to raise my child to have an inferiority complex.  I will raise my child to believe in herself and have confidence.  Maybe it’s just in my culture to think this way.

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Filed under Culture, Daily Life