Friday, September 23, 2011

Japanese people live with natural disasters based on the rooted concept "諸行無常/ shogyo-mujyo"

After the 3/11 earthquake, many people in Japan offer a silent prayer for the victims on the eleventh day of every month. In tsunami-stricken areas, people usually face the sea which took many lives and washed everything away, and then pray for the victims. When a well-known American who has been living in Japan for many years saw this, he said that if they were Americans, they wouldn't face the sea because they would think of the sea as being dreadful and hateful. Although I was not sure if his view was common in America, I found it very interesting.

Actually, living in Japan means living with natural disasters. Traditionally, Japanese people live knowing that earthquakes and typhoons will very likely hit where they live. We try to protect ourselves from natural disasters, but we don't try to fight against them. On the contrary, for a long long time, we have been subconsciously thinking about how to get along with natural disasters and deal with them well. For us, natural disasters are an inevitable part of life. Needless to say, if we suffer losses due to natural disasters, we'll surely be filled with great sadness and it will take some time for us to get back on our feet again. Still, we try to live harmoniously with nature without thinking of it as being dreadful. We do know that nature has enriched and will continue to enrich our lives, and natural disasters are a necessary part of nature. As a matter of fact, many fishermen who lost everything due to the 3/11 tsunami smile and say that when their businesses go back to normal in a few years, the sea will become more bountiful than ever.

We have been living with natural disasters forever. Partly because of this, it is traditionally thought that everything is always changing and nothing will exist forever. This concept is reflected in the Buddhist teaching of "諸行無常/shogyo-mujyo" (Everything is evanescent).

Since the 3/11earthquake, it's been said that powerful earthquakes could happen anywhere across Japan because the plates moved a lot on that day. As a matter of fact, there have been a lot of earthquakes including strong ones in the past six and half months. The frequency has grown dramatically. To make matters worse, this summer, powerful typhoons have damaged Japan more seriously than usual. Under these circumstances, the concept of "諸行無常/ shogyo-mujyo" often comes to mind. At the same time, I'm wondering if we can overcome the current crisis based on that concept the same way we had in the past. This is largely because we've been struggling agaisnt the man-made nuclear disaster in Fukushima, which will cost a lot to overcome.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Women over 40 in Osaka have significant characteristics !?

People in different areas of Japan have different characteristics. Please think of when the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami hit Tohoku, the northern part of Japan. At the time, a lot of people worldwide seemed to wonder why the victims were able to stay calm in such a dire situation. It was widely reported that they were very endurable and tolerable. I've heard that the Japanese word "我慢/Gaman" was widely introduced in newspapers (Gaman is defined as the ability to endure the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity). It's been said in Japan that people in Tohoku (northern Japan) have greater endurance than those in other areas.

Anyway, women over 40 in Osaka are referred to as 大阪のおばちゃん/Osaka-no-Obachan, and are well-known as middle-aged women who have significant characteristics. Unlike a lot of Japanese people, they usually speak out whatever they think of, and they speak loudly and quickly . When they are asked for their opinions, they are very outspoken. On top of that, they are very good at making their stories funny. They always try to haggle for bargains. They tend to stick their noses in others' businesses. Because of these characteristics, some from other areas say that women over 40 in Osaka are meddlesome and impudent. On the other hand, some say that they are friendly and dependable. Other than that, they like outfits which make them stick out whereas similarly-aged women in Tokyo like outfits which make them blend with others. You can find these characteristics in all the people in Osaka, but women over 40 are the most distinctive among them.

Although I currently live in Chiba next to Tokyo, I grew up mainly in Osaka. Because of this, I'm familiar with these characteristics. Rather than that, I had assumed that I was familiar with them until when I heard a woman talking at the locker room of a gym a few weeks ago. The woman looked in her 30s. Her accent and way of speaking immediately made me realize that she is from Osaka. Although the locker room was noisy, her voice stood out to the point where everybody there could hear what she was talking about. She was very talkative and didn't give others any chance to interrupt her. When I returned to the locker room after working out, she was still talking. The two listeners seemed a little tired. I thought if they were Osaka people, they could stop her. I realized how strong characteristics of Osaka people are " in areas other than Osaka".

In your country, is there an area where people have significant characteristics?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pandas from China love Japanese food !?

A few weeks ago, one of major Japanese newspapers, the Asashi newspaper, uploaded a video about two giant pandas at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. In the video, the cute pandas are eating with gusto (Please see the Youtube video). The caption says that the pandas are becoming overweight because they eat too much.

These pandas came to Japan from China in February. At the time, it was a controversial matter since the annual rental fee for them, "about 950,000USD (78,000,000JPY)," is supposed to be paid for by tax money (The zoo is run by Tokyo prefecture). However, the 3/11 massive earthquake seemed to sweep the criticisms away. As a matter of fact, in late March, they started playing a more significant role than expected because a lot of children, not only in seriously-damaged areas but also in the Tokyo area (where all the people were shocked by the huge quakes), needed things which could cheer them up.

As you may know, on the 2nd of September, Mr. Noda was inaugurated as Prime Minister. In his address, he likened himself to weather loaches (which are very popular fish in Japan), saying that he knew he looked dowdy. He insisted that he was a weather loach, not a goldfish, so he would work his fingers to the bone in his own uncool way. I'm sorry I can't translate the statement into English well. We hope that the weather loach will do well, cheer us up and last a long time in office.