Thursday, July 21, 2011

437,500USD for a man. 18,750USD for a woman.

Can you guess what that title indicates? This is an incentive bonus for the Soccer World Cup Victory which is stipulated by the Japan Football Association (The JFA). If the men's national team wins the World Cup, each member can receive 35 millions JPY (437,500USD. 1USD=80JPY). On the other hand, for the women's national team, each member can receive only 1.5 millions JPY (18,750USD). When this fact was widely reported, immediately after Nadeshiko Japan won the victory at the Women's Soccer World Cup in Germany, a lot of people questioned the huge difference between men and women, insisting that 1.5 millions JPY was too low whatever reason. In response to this, it's reported that the JFA is considering increasing the incentive bonus to 5 millions JPY (62,500USD).

Other than that, it's been widely reported how difficult it is for women to make a living as soccer players in Japan. In the national team which accomplished a great achievement at the right time and lifted a nation rocked by the disaster, there are only five "professional" players among 16 members who belong to club teams in Japan (Some belong to club teams in other countries). Others are amateur players. Although some of them are allowed to devote themselves to play soccer with a salary, many of them work during the daytime and practice playing soccer in the evening after work.

Speaking of women's club teams in Japan, some reports on the team "TEPCO Mareeze" are still fresh in my mind. The team was forced to break up by the nuclear disaster because it was run by TEPCO, which has been struggling to get the crippled nuclear power plant back under control. I've heard that the team was based in an area where the crippled plant is located, and many of the term members worked for the plant during the daytime (All the members were employees of TEPCO). As I wrote in the last post, the victory at the Women's Soccer World Cup inspires women to be persistent in what they want to do and live up to their dreams even if their goals aren't traditionally associated with women. Then, it will widely open the door for women in many fields. To support both women's soccer players and women who are struggling in other fields, I want to go to watch a regular women's soccer game.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The considerable achievement at this Soccer World Cup becomes more meaningful in Japan because it was made by women

The phenomenal final game at the Women's Soccer World Cup in Germany sticks in my mind. I'm sure that it is something indelible. Words like excitement, jubilation and amazement are not enough to express my feelings. I was captivated and inspired to carve out a new future.

When the US scored both the first and second goals, a lot of Japanese people supposed that the game was over, appreciating the amazing success of the " the silver medal". Contrary to the expectation, however, none of the Japanese players seemed to feel rushed or be in despair. They were playing as usual. They were undaunted. When Sawa, a well-known 32-year-old leading player who is a pioneer of women's soccer in Japan, equalized with a goal at the last minute, I realized how much she stuck to the championship. Her goal made me imagine her tough life and the very long journey here. At the penalty shootout, impressive performances made by the Japanese players, especially the goal keeper, made me think about many things.

Many English newspapers point out that the Japan team was playing on the shoulders of the nation devastated by the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent nuclear disaster, and it made the team become stronger and helped it gain the victory. As they said, I'm sure that all the Japanese players really wanted to encourage the victims and the nation by showing great performances because I often hear Japanese athletes saying that the best thing they can do for the victims and disaster-struck areas is giving impressive performances. However, more than that, I think that the strong passion of the Japanese players for soccer led to the championship.

In Japan, when the 1st Women's Soccer World Cup was held in 1991, soccer was considered as a sport for men and women's soccer players were hardly appreciated. Speaking of 1991, it was a few years after the so-called bubble economy was burst in Japan and it became necessary to make a dramatic change of the male-dominated Japanese society. It was at this time that women finally started taking important roles in society, as if to respond to the requirement. Since then, women have been struggling for 20 years to reform stereotypical images of women's roles and to obtain more lifestyle choices. Because of the background, I've noticed that many women identify themselves with the women's soccer team "Nadeshiko Japan" and are encouraged to be persistent in what they want to do or their beliefs. On top of that, since it's widely known that unlike men's soccer players, it's very difficult even for talented women to make their livings as soccer players, the considerable achievement at the World Cup captivates a lot of people and triggers a review of their lives. Even some conservative men say that women can make a breakthrough for Japan's stagnation. I'm not sure if women can play this role, but I'm sure that a dramatic change is necessary.

When Nadeshiko Japan left for Germany, nobody except a few staff members saw off the team at an airport. No reporters were there. In contrast, yesterday morning, a large number of people and reporters were waiting at the airport to offer a warm welcome to the impressive team. All the team members were stunned by the big change.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nadeshiko Japan! Do you know what the Japanese word "Nadeshiko" means?

At the Women's Soccer World Cup in Germany, Japan had some amazing victories and eventually reached the final game. The unexpected success has lifted the nation rocked by the devastation of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent nuclear disaster. The impressive performances made by the Japanese players have encouraged a lot of people to struggle to overcome difficulty and inspire them to make greater efforts to reach their goals. On July 17, Sunday (on July 18, Monday at 3:45 a.m. in Japan), Japan will play against the US for the championship. Fortunately, since that Monday is a national holiday in Japan, a lot of people will watch the very early morning final game live on TV in the hope that a miracle will happen. Actually, Japan has never beaten the US in soccer.

Anyway, the Japanese women's national soccer team has been referred to as "Nadeshiko Japan" since the Athens Olympics in 2004. Since women's soccer was unpopular, to make people aware of it, the team was given a name. Although I don't remember when the name became widely known, I'm sure that the fourth place finish in the Beijing Olympics enabled the name to be recognized. Now, I think that everybody knows what "Nadeshiko Japan" indicates.

Since Japan beat Germany at this World Cup, the meaning of Nadeshiko has been gaining the attention of reporters from other countries. Do you know the meaning? Nadeshiko means dianthus, which is a type of flower. However, nadeshiko implies yamato-nadeshiko/大和撫子. I bet that a lot of Japanese people think of yamato-nadeshiko from Nadeshiko Japan. What is the meaning of yamato-nadeshiko? Yamato-nadeshiko is used to describe Japanese women who have traditional Japanese beauty, kindness, and inner strength, although since people portray different images of these women, it's difficult to define them. However, yanmato-nadeshiko is generally used in a positive way and is often used as a complimentary word. I think that a lot of people still consider traditional Japanese beauty, kindness and inner strength (which yamato-nadeshiko implies) as characteristics which Japanese women shouldn't lose even if the times have changed.

In Japan, it's been said that traditional Japanese women have inner kindness and strength. They sense what somebody expects them to do, and then they usually do things for the person and back up the person not to be realized by the person that they do that for. In a good way, they are persistent in what they have decided to do and can keep struggling to reach their goals, although they often look fragile.It's been said that these inner feelings make them more beautiful. In my opinion, these women are described as yamato-nadeshiko. As the team name "Nadeshiko Japan" shows, the Japanese women's national soccer team often makes us think of these women.

Culturally, we often place more value on a single unknown flower which is blooming strongly amid the weeds than well-known beautiful flowers which always enjoy people's attention. Thus, we find the single flower beautiful. I hope that the explanation on yamato-nadeshiko has helped you understand something new.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Traditional things are coming back into our lives to beat the blistering heat in eastern Japan.

A few days ago, it was announced that the rainy season was over in eastern Japan and a blistering summer started much earlier than usual. Since power plants in eastern Japan were seriously damaged by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, major companies there are officially required to reduce electricity consumption by 15% and others including households are strongly advised to cut back to avert a massive blackout due to over capacity. To beat the blistering heat without relying on air conditioning, traditional things are being brought back into our lives. For example, I feel like the sound of Japanese wind chimes "Furin/風鈴”is heard more than last year (When we hear the sound, we feel cool, although I don't know how non-Japanese feel. Please see the YouTube videos and tell me how you feel). In my condo, a lot more windows have reed screens to block strong sunshine. It's reported that mosquito nets have been selling so well that there is a production bottleneck. Our traditional folding hand fans "Sensu /扇子" have been having good sales, as well. These things were necessary to beat the heat when air conditioning wasn't popular. 

Other than that, sutetekos/ステテコ, a sort of Japanese traditional underwear, have been drawing considerable attention. They were worn over underpants and under trousers. They'd relax in sutetekos and a sort of t-shirt, since the style was the best to beat the heat when air conditioning wasn't common in homes. However, with the popularity of air conditioning, wearing a suteteko in itself came to be viewed to be unfashionable, mainly by younger generations. Sutetekos became less popular.

However, in response to the requirement of cutting electricity consumption, fashionable sutetekos have been going on sale and are being offered as comfortable, casual pants for men, women and children. It's been said that basically, decent sutetekos are made from breathable and absorbent fabric to adjust to the hot and humid summer in Japan, so they don't stick to the skin. To test how comfortable they are, I bought one to try. Nothing makes me feel more comfortable and cool than sutetekos made from traditional fabric. Unfortunately, cheap ones made of other fabrics are not good.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Can you guess what they are for?

In Japan, early July is the time for summer sales. When I was having a look around to grab a bargain, certain products like the one in link #1 below caught my attention. Then, I realized that these things had become more fashionable, and I wondered why they had been very popular in Japan for a long time. After a while, I remembered what some non-Japanese who were living in Japan had said on a TV show. They insisted that they totally didn't understand why Japanese people love these things. They also said that they hadn't known how to use them when they first saw them in Japan. Anyway, can you guess what the stuff in the link #1 below is for?

Link #1

In that TV show, to test how well non-Japanese people knew about the stuff, a Japanese interviewer asked non-Japanese passersby what it was for. Some said that it was a towel. As far as I can remember, some other answers were a hat and a neck warmer. Nobody was able to identify it.

It's actually called "Hara-maki/腹巻. It can be translated as belly warmers. You put it on around your belly (Please see link #2 below). Generally, we put on belly warmers under our shirts to conceal them. When we put on fashionable ones, we sometimes wear them as a part of fashion. In Japan, letting your belly cool isn't good and can cause you to have a cold, although I don't know whether or not it's true. Because of this traditional idea, a lot of Japanese people care about keeping their bellies warm by wearing belly warmers. Mothers often put them on their small children. Even during summer, some people prefer to wear them while they are sleeping (Belly warmers for summer are made of cotton, and ones for winter are made of wool or acrylic fibers). School girls who want to make their uniform skirts short often wear belly warmers during winter.As you can see, belly warmer are used regularly and habitually by a lot of people, regardless of gender and age.

Link #2

You can also see the popularity of belly warmers from a very popular Japanese movie "Otoko-wa-tsuraiyo/男はつらいよ” (please see link #3 below) and a popular manga "Tensai-bakabon/天才バカボン” (Please see link #4 below). Many years ago, since many fathers wore belly warmers, old-time, everyday fathers in movies and mangas were portrayed this way.

Link #3


Saturday, July 2, 2011

A legal restriction on the use of electricity has been just imposed in eastern Japan

Yesterday, on the 1st of July, the government imposed a legal restriction on the use of electricity in eastern Japan where almost all the power plants were seriously damaged by the 3/11earthquake and tsunami. The legal restriction was the first since the 1973 oil shock. Because these power plants haven't fully recovered yet, companies which use more than a certain amount of electricity are officially required to reduce electricity consumption by 15%. If they fail to meet the requirement, they will have to pay a fine. Other than those companies, no obligations have been imposed but everyone is strongly advised to cut electricity consumption by 15%. Since small companies and households consume about two-thirds of the total electricity used in the area, their efforts are also a key to avoiding sudden blackouts due to over capacity.

In eastern Japan, great efforts to cut electricity consumption have been constantly made since the 3/11 earthquake. Because of this, the restriction requires everybody to make further efforts in order to get through summer. In shopping malls, more lights than ever are off to keep air conditioning on. Although I'm already used to the dimness, to be honest, I was a little surprised by the darkness when I stopped by a shopping mall today.

Actually, to avoid sudden major power outages, it's also important to level electricity consumption. From this viewpoint, operations in some factories have been shifted mainly to night. Automobile industry announced about a month ago that their days off would be shifted form Saturdays and Sundays to Thursdays and Fridays, and then the shift was implemented the day before yesterday. The industry is so huge and has such a great influence on a lot of companies that it's expected that the shift will be effective in the leveling of electricity usage. On the other hand, a lot of workers who have days off on weekends and have to do with the industry can be forced to work during their days off. Some of my friends who are managers say in a resigned voice that the shift will surely deprive them of their days off. Since managers are usually not labor union members, they are often required to cover extra duties on special occasions. My friends complain that when they were young, they were forced to work long hours without fully getting overtime payment because of the Japanese working culture. Now that they are managers, they are required to work harder to cover duties of younger workers who are protected by their labor unions since companies are required to comply with the law more strictly than when they were young. Although they find it unreasonable, they tend to bow to the inevitable since it's very difficult for them to find a better working environment.

Anyway, in both April and May, I succeeded in reducing electricity consumption at home by 33% compared to the same month last year. I've realized how much I'd waste electricity.

Posters -Saving power-

This is the TEPCO electricity forecast, which I check:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Now is the time for Japanese people to strengthen their body functions?

Not only because of global warming, but also because of the urban heat-island phenomenon, recent summers in Japan are much hotter than many years ago and the searing heat is becoming unbearable. However, the cause of the phenomenon can't be attributed to external factors alone. I think that our body's ability to beat the heat has diminished due to our economic development. As I wrote in my previous post, some doctors say that this summer is a good opportunity to strengthen your weak body functions (During this summer, all the people are required to cut electricity consumption due to the serious damages of power plants caused by the 3/11 earthquake).

When I was a child, air conditioning wasn't popular among ordinary families. Although some had one at their homes, they usually turned it on only when their guests came. As for me, I didn't have one at home until I myself bought it a few years after I started working. My mother always insisted that it was not good to rely on air conditioning, and she never intended to buy one. I agreed with her, but my hectic life caused by long working hours inspired me to buy one. Thanks to her, I think that I can bear up under the hot weather better than others. Because of this, until last summer, I often had to struggle with offices and public places which I felt that were overcooled by air conditioning. I don't need to worry about the overcoolness this summer because of the official requirement to cut electricity consumption.

When I was studying Mandarin at school in Guangzhou, China, I'd fight with Thai classmates over the temperature setting of air conditioning in our classroom. All the nine Thai classmates liked a very cool environment. In contrast, European classmates and I weren't able to stand the cold ( I could say the cold). Since we didn't have a common language to communicate well, I didn't get to know why the Thai classmates were very impatient with the heat despite them being from a tropical country. Given that they all were from affluent families, I guessed that they had spent all the time in overcooled rooms since they were born. When I lived in Malaysia, a French mother told me that her three-year-old daughter often caught colds because she had difficulty adjusting to a new environment; in contrast, her one-year-old baby girl had never been sick. The mother said that this was because her baby girl was born in Malaysia. These facts have proven that human beings have great abilities to adjust themselves to environments, and it's not good to hamper the development of the abilities.

Overeating and a lack of excises enabled by affluent lifestyles can often cause serious diseases. It's been recently said that skin-care products tend to diminish your body's natural healing ability and even damage skin. I think that now is the time when Japanese people review their lives.