Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Activist Arudo

Japan watchers are probably familiar with the name Debito Arudo.  Born David Christopher Schofill (surname later changed to Aldwinkle) in the US in 1965, Arudo made Japan his full-time home from the early 1990s until 2011, becoming a naturalized Japanese (and proud owner of a new cognomen) in the process.  Arudo has been an indefatigable campaigner for the rights of foreigners in Japan, successfully suing a business owner in Hokkaido whose spa refused foreign guests. While Arudo has done the expat community susbstantial good, I find his unrelenting criticism of Japan and the Japanese debilitating; rarely does he have anything positive to say about the country.  The activist continues to comment on the expat experience, submitting a monthly column to the Japan Times. But now that he's back stateside, he should consider human rights abuses closer to home. For starters, he might want to take up the cause of Moslem Americans, increasingly targeted by their own government in its domestic war on terror- seems to me they have a much harder time of it than expats in Japan.       

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Naruko (鳴子)

The naruko is a wooden clapper formerly used by farmers to scare birds away from crops. Suspended from string or wire, the naruko produces a loud noise when agitated by wind.  Today the instrument is used as a noisemaker at dance festivals.

* Some readers of this blog may remember a photo of 'Narukoman', a festival participant dressed in naruko costume; unfortunately, I experienced technical problems with the uploaded photo and cannot show it at present. 

The Hanging Scroll- More Bits and Pieces of Japan

The hanging scroll (kakejiku- 掛け軸) is one of the most characteristic of Japanese arts.

Scrolls are placed in alcoves (called tokonoma).

The Tokuri: More Bits and Pieces of Japan

The earthenware bottle from which nihonshu (日本酒), or Japanese rice wine, is decanted is the tokuri (徳利).  The term is sometimes used to denote bottles (not necessarily earthenware,though) containing shouyu (醤油- soy sauce)and other liquids used in cooking.  The cup pictured is referred to as a sakazuki  or guinomi.  Incidentally, tokuri may refer to a ''turtle neck' shirt or sweater.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Calling All Municipal Hires

If you are a native English instructor directly hired by a municipal board of education, you probably haven't seen a pay raise or bonus during your tenure; regardless of your years of experience, and regardless of the glowing evaluations you may have received from your schools. You've probably been stuck at 300,000 yen/ month pre-tax, maybe with a housing allowance, but that's all.

If you are a veteran municipal hire, it may not sit too well with you to have better-paid, less-experienced colleagues who work under the auspices of a certain nationally-sponsored program- co-workers whose local taxes are paid for them, for instance, and whose post-tax salary is a guaranteed 3.6 million yen/ year.  It doesn't sit well with me.

Veteran teachers may be interested to know that from 2012, native teachers hired under this Ministry of Education program will have to pay their own taxes.

But here's the rub: in the 3rd year of their employment, such teachers will receive 3.9 million yen in pre-tax remuneration, and in the 4th and 5th years, 3.96 million.

The time is long since due for veteran municipal hires to receive compensation equal to that of these teachers- at the very least.