Category Archives: Featured

12
May

Hunting in Vain, Pt. 1

-by Avery Fane

The most important part of the Japanese school process is finishing. This isn't, however, as simple a thing as graduating. That much is easy, if not guaranteed by virtue of paying admission. The most important part of Japanese schooling is getting a job.

It just so happens that, for some reason, I was dedicated to being a 'salary man', or business man, if you will; which for the most part has been an employment category closed to foreigners. There's never been a shortage of educational or political positions for foreigners, but after growing up on Japanese media programming myself, I found myself idolizing and striving to be a 'salary man' myself.

The procedure is very interesting, in all its quaint iterations; I'll walk you through the steps I took.
Against my better judgment, the first thing I did to receive the golden 'naite', (unofficial, whilst official, promise of employment upon graduation) through the school's recruitment process. As much as I grumbled for years that the program didn't work for me, looking back, it makes sense—considering that I was at a primarily business school, and that many of the corporations I yearned to work for weren't available through the school's network. First there was a seminar. Students crowded into a hall in their 'hiring suits' (carbon copy cheap suits that everyone buys to, as is Japanese custom, not stand out), while hung-over representatives from the company gave a lazy presentation. I attended a number of these, same deal across the board.

18
Apr

Warm Hands

Story by Tyler McPeek

Artwork by Dean Christ

 

“Excuse me for being rude Oda-san, may I give you the report you wanted now?”  The lips of the young worker were pressed tightly together, and his eyes were fixed as he waited for Mr. Oda to respond.  Standing before Oda-sempai, a man some 25 years his senior, the young man’s frame was stiff, portraying a protocol and formality that made him appear tight and rigid beyond his years.

     “What?  Excuse me, what?”  Blurted Junichiro Oda.  Then, without pause, “Oh, that.  Right.  I’ll take that now.  Thanks.”  Oda wore a discerning face, but his mind was elsewhere as he feigned interest in the recently acquired finance report.  The report contained pages and pages of rhetoric and fluff, which accounted for vast stretches of logged hours by a group of younger associates in the company, sadly padding three pages of essential, yet depressing debt figures accrued by the agency during the last quarter.  Still, to present these figures in any other fashion would have been inappropriate, considering Oda’s superior position in the company’s corporate structure.

     It was nearing 7:30pm, and Oda desperately wanted to leave the office.  He knew of at least 3 of his underlings who would stay all night if necessary, but would never leave before him.  Still, certain procedures had to be observed, appearances had to be maintained, so Oda-san gazed at the report, slowly flipping through the first few pages.

     Through the glass partition that surrounded his cubicle-office-hybrid, he could see the majime associates busying themselves with the task of looking busy, but as soon as he looked away, he could feel their anxious eyes focusing on the curves of his meaty face, the sag in his tired composure, the blue reflection of the computer screen in the thick lenses of his bifocals.

29
Dec

The Importance of Linguistics to Students of Japanese

-by Tyler McPeek

Below is a blog post that I wrote for “Polyglossia” (the group blog for floridalinguistics.com), originally titled, "The Mainstreaming of the Linguistic Sciences."  The content is something important to consider for all students of Japanese, literature, and other foreign languages.  Please give it a read and give me your thoughts. -T

For awhile now, I’ve been working on a site that deals with issues related to Japan, Japanology, and the Japanese language.  What originally started as a kind of “Japan Fan” site, assisting and entertaining people who study Japanese, enjoy “things Japanese,” have lived in Japan, or hope to live in Japan, took on new meaning for me when I started studying linguistics.  I realized that I was doing a disservice to my visitors, especially those who are studying the Japanese language, if I don’t provide a scientific view of the Japanese language that is geared to the mainstream and literary student of Japanese.  In fact, the mainstreaming of the linguistics discipline for literature and foreign language discipline-based students of language generally has become a very important issue and goal for me.

When talking to a friend from Taiwan, I was somewhat surprised to hear that Taiwan has not a single undergraduate linguistics department, although they do have graduate programs.  What was even more surprising was the fact that all students of English, and presumably other foreign languages, in Taiwan are required to take at least an intro course in linguistics.  So, while Taiwan does not have any universities who have reached the level of offering an undergraduate program in linguistics, they appear to understand the importance of linguistics and the scientific study of language to the average language learner even better than Americans, though we have many undergraduate programs in the US.  We are missing something here in The Sates.

24
Dec

Christmas in Japan

-by Tyler McPeek

Do the Japanese celebrate Christmas?  The simplest and most accurate answer to this question is “yes.”  The question is really, “How do the Japanese celebrate Christmas?”  Well, essentially the Japanese have reversed the holidays of Christmas and New Years, in terms of cultural significance.  In the West, New Years is a party holiday, for friends and lovers, and Christmas is a “quiet” (in theory at least) family holiday at home.  In Japan, by contrast, New Years is a holiday for family.  It includes a special menu of home cooked food, a trip to the local Shinto Shrine to pray for a good new year, and some of the best television programming of the year, enjoyed at home with one’s family.


Christmas, on the other hand, is a dating holiday.  If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, Christmas is probably the most important date holiday of the year.  It is, therefore, possibly the loneliest holiday for the “lover-less.”  Those without a significant other may be confined to sitting at home and watching some romantic television drama, featuring a couple going on a Christmas date–to add insult to injury.  This all assumes, of course, that we are not talking about Christian Japanese, which are very few in number.  They undoubtedly observe some semblance of a religious Christmas, but likely still go on a date to observe the holiday on a native cultural level.  Neighboring South Korea, on the other hand, has oodles of Christians and celebrates Christmas in a more traditional, western manner.

13
May

Yakuza and the Gaijin, My Experience

-by Tyler McPeek

People have been asking me to write about some of my experience with the Japanese mafia (better known as the “yakuza” / ヤクザ / 893).  I came up in Japan in the Hokuriku Region, specifically Ishikawa-ken.  Since I know a lot of these people very well (and some of them are notorious in my area), you’ll excuse me for declining to mention people by name and leaving out a few other details of specificity.  This article, and anymore that I may write in the future on this subject, are more for learning purposes and public interest, and not at all to upset friends and acquaintances–for obvious reasons, if for not out of loyalty and respect alone.  The reader may consider this and all other articles in this series to be "fictionalized memoir" or just plain "fictional memoir."  The "I" in these articles can be regarded to be the first person character that I am creating for this work, no more autobiographical than any other character the writer might create and write about, utilizing real world experience of the writer, to the best of one's ability, to give the fictional world texture, grit, and accuracy.

The crowd that "I" knew well (I’ll not use the word “affiliated” with) was a group of people from the Yamguchi-gumi / 山口組, or the ‘Yamaguchi syndicate’ for lack of a better translation.  It should be noted that none of the people I knew/know ever referred to themselves as “Yamaguchi” anything, but rather only by their regional affiliation, which was in reality an arm of the Yamaguchi organization (the biggest and most powerful in Japan–Wikipedia puts it at 50% of all yakuza in Japan.  I would put it at more than that, but it is a difficult percentage to define, for reasons that have to do with how you define “yakuza” at the fringe, which I will explain in more detail in another post).  In fact, the word “yakuza” was a word that was used more outside the organization than in.  The Yamaguchi syndicate’s crest is pictured below.

Yamaguchi-Yamabishi

3
Dec

Japanese Actress on ABC’s Fast Forward

-by Tyler McPeek

So there is a famous Japanese actress playing a character on ABC’s new series “Flash Forward,” based loosely on the science fiction novel of the same name by Robert J. Sawyer.  In the show, the entire world blacks out for 137 seconds, and each person sees a short glimpse of their life several months in the future.  One American man sees himself speaking Japanese (a language he doesn’t know) with a beautiful Japanese girl (played by Takeuchi) that he is in love with.. (I know that this is a vision of the future that many of you out there probably share!!)  His character spends much of the show learning Japanese and looking for the girl in his vision, and she does the same.  See, there’s hope for all you guys out there too! LoL

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