人種差別主義者,ぞんざい, racist, bigot. Standing together we can push back the hate and bigotry. A personal experience.


So here I was working at the 7/11 near my home. For the most part it is actually very mundane work. Though you really get to see a full range of people as they come in and out of the store. Yet today while I was at work I ran into that ugly dog of racism that pokes its head out here and there in Japan.
I left the USA more than 16 years ago and living in Japan I have run into racism a few times. Though mainly from other foreigners who bring it with them from where ever they come from. I have had bosses that are racists and I have dropped friends that turned out to be racists. It is funny to think back on how I ever could have missed that the friends I let go were racists.

Back to the 7/11, I was restocking the shelves when a man walked into the store. He walked past everyone in the store and headed straight for the alcohol section. After a few minutes he was waiting at the register. As the other staff member was stocking the drinks I headed to the register and proceeded to ring up his things. Well I did not get far before his racist bigotry sprung to life.
I had just rung up the alcohol and asked him in a polite fashion to please press the button confirming that his is of legal age to buy alcohol. And that is where he let me have it. What I do not know as he barely made sense. The only word that made sense was that every fifth or so word into his speaking he would ask to see the manager.  And claiming that he had worked out a deal with the manager. Though there was no deal and he was just being a racists bigot trying to see how far he could push it. I asked him to calm down and was shocked when he started waving his finger at me and asking for us to call the police.
I told him in front of the manager that what he was doing was a form of harassment and that I would call the police.  With that he quickly changed his tune. He stopped addressing me and quickly worked with the other staff, the other staff is actually a part time college student.  And within a few minutes he was out the door.
And with that I thought it was the end. But a few seconds later he walked back into the store and threw some racists names in my direction and asked the college student that people like me should not be working behind the register.
The saving grace was that I was not alone and that other costumers were there. And here is where the story takes a positive spin. The other costumers that were there came to me afterwards and told me not to worry as people like that racist man must be ignored. Just ignore their bigotry and let them leave as soon as possible.
So I asked myself the question, are Japanese people just waiting for bigotry and racism to fade away? By not confronting it are they allowing it to die a slow quiet death or are they allowing it to fester? I know that there are certain places in Japan that Japanese people will not live as coming from those neighborhoods and or towns actually starts your life out with a black mark and can prevent you from attending certain universities and even being able to work at certain companies.
Because those places were places where the lower class people lived during feudal Japan.
But I love Japan and I hope that racism does fade away quickly. I do know that the best way for us to stop racism is through education and communication. Just like those costumers that came to me afterwards. They have been coming to the store for a long time and talk with me daily. We communicate, we have made those connections and through that we have made a strong bond.
And those strong bonds will allow us to push back the hate, and bigotry. We must be strong together and stand united against hate and bigotry.

Memories drive us


There is always a new feeling when old memories come back to haunt us. That idea of what we can be and what we could have been build conflict within us.

Please enjoy the first chapter of my newest release. Memories. Genre Urban Fantasy.

SparkMemories by Jin Okubo

The morning was just like any other he had experienced in his twenty-five years of life. Yet, stumbling through the apartment to do his morning bodily evacuation, he had an idea that would lead him from this day on. The idea was about a way to make life easier through invention. As the saying goes “necessity is the mother of invention”. Here was a true living version.

Taking time to look around the apartment, he evaluated what and where he could build from. The apartment had a lingering haze reminiscent of a honky-tonk bar. If he looked hard enough, he could swear that there were eyes looking back at him. The eyes told him to spend the rest of his life looking down the barrel of a shot glass or some other mind-numbing drink. He had felt the loss of hope in those eyes.

Decided he would not allow it any longer, he chose to change it. Light was the first thing that had to be allowed. This was in order to see about clearing up this living area to make it a representation of some new hope. Walking around the un-opened boxes sent him by loved ones in an attempt to reach him, he threw open the curtains and let light flood into the room. The light that flooded his senses brought new forms of pain that he had not experienced for days. He never enjoyed the sun and what it symbolized. It brought with it life and warmth, and they were two things he had given up on. As he walked the dying path he had chosen, he knew that light was contrary to the solitude he worked so hard to attain. This was especially true after she had left … or was she taken? The thought stopped him in his tracks. He wanted so much to remember, but never could get a good grasp on the events of that day.

He felt all the way to his core that he was at fault. Still in the haze of light and shadows that were his past he could not really, truly be sure of anything. It had now become just bits and pieces of places not fully formed or names only half-spoken in his mind. He could not see himself in her arms, though. Every time the sun struck him head-on, there he was again. Hers were the eyes that brought life, life that would never let go. “Move past this” was the thought that kept tearing at his heart, but there he was in her arms, unable to move. The smell of her hair was just out of reach, teasing his mind. He could almost savor that sweet fragrance again, but, like the elusive sun melting Icarus’s wings keeping him at bay, his golden memories melted just before he could get a solid grasp of them.

There he stood for the world to see, paralyzed with joy. This basking in the sun was a rarity in his life, where few moments of pure pleasure existed as islands in a vast sea of despair. Slowly, he turned to see what life had become in the dank pit he called home. He had taken a spiraling fall down the ladder of success almost as quickly as he had climbed it.

Here he was at rock bottom and this moment was where he would see his own life for what it had become. He had reached the goal of living on the outside as he felt on the inside. He was a rotting cesspool full of bile and despair.

The apartment was not one that could be taken all in at one glance. In order to take in the volumes this pit spoke about its owner, someone would have to take in each section in the proper light. Why anyone would choose to live this way was beyond the reasoning of any normal citizen of modern society. The first thing to be noticed was the floor—or rather, the lack of it. Strewn throughout the apartment were boxes filled with clothing in need of washing and plates with moldy food. A closer look brought the eyes to a focal point: a beautiful porcelain teapot bought at some obscure auction. This teapot was something of an oddity in this apartment, which caused the onlooker to wonder why anyone would live in such disrepair, while at the same time maintaining such a beautiful piece of antiquity.

In the sun the pot shined like a fire that refused to be put out; it was like a beacon of life, pure and white. It was reminiscent of the life spent in days gone by, a time in some distant dynasty where ordinary people would live out their lives as farmers or merchants of some kind. This was not the trend of current times, but there it sat, something more than two centuries old still in near-mint condition from what could be seen by walking around it: a diamond in the mist of coal for all to see and digest.

Still the question remained: who was this man who kept such a priceless artifact sitting on a desk where a mere inch away sat a plate with a slice of pizza? By the looks of it, any person with eyes could tell that the pizza had been sitting there for at least two months. The mold had completely covered the plate in a suffocating barrier and looked as if it was getting ready to attack the teapot. He would never allow that to happen. Preventing that invasion was his daily chore.

Clean the pot, keep it safe, and place it in its proper location where it would remind him of what he truly did not know.

Not picturing himself as a person who would buy such antiques led him to the conclusion that it must have been the woman in his memories who purchased it. She was gone and not even this pot would bring her back.

As most folks know, porcelain of this quality is made in pairs to fulfill the Yin and Yang. The mate of the pot had disappeared at the time that she had. The thought that they would never be re-united was constant in his mind.

An ashtray could be clearly seen half-covered in a greenish slime, the clear offspring of the pizza. Yet, rather than clean it, someone had continually stubbed out cigarettes in the slime. By the looks of it, the slime was feeding on the nicotine. This was something that would have taken time to grow in a lab, but here it was flourishing in this rather new and extreme ecological environment with each new butt that had been put out in it.

A new cigarette butt had recently been stabbed into the organism, dripping a grayish black mixture of ashes and slime over the edge onto the desk. The dry stains around the ashtray indicated there was no hope for life on the outskirts of the ashtray. The fact that certain death awaited the slime had kept it within the limits of the ashtray. Yet, now and then it would try to reach out and infest.

A picture hung on the wall in the direct line of sight between the pot and the ashtray. The picture, which was and was not truly a picture of what it was meant to represent, hung stoic in all its glory. Although only a single wallet-sized picture, it hung in grandeur, framed in a fashion befitting a royal portrait. It had been maintained on the wall with such care and dedication, it appeared to blend into the wall. It was easy to forgive the fact that the picture was nothing more than eyes staring blankly into the void, the rest of the image having been damaged by fire. It only laid proof to his madness for having a portrait built into an apartment he did not own. What was even worse was the fact that the portrait this man cherished was nothing more than eyes. Looking hard enough, it was clear that the eyes were the eyes of a woman. There was a kindness in those eyes that gave reason for the disrepair. What reason lay within the eyes could only be speculated, although as he stood there, the eyes gave him pause to ask for forgiveness. They seemed to smile back at him in such a way that his heart felt the tears come as he stood there, letting them rip deep. They tore into the memory of his lost love, allowing him to retain the pain, but not the memory.

There were no other pictures on the walls. This one and only picture had been kept free from any external influences that lay about this cesspool of an apartment, just as had the pot. The frame was made of wood so exotic that one could not rightly say which tree had provided its flesh in order to bring these eyes to life. The glass appeared to have been handmade in some artistic institution.

Everything about this frame indicated the state of mind one would have needed to have been in: obsession, it was, or could it have been called devotion. When a love, a true soul mate style of love is lost, there are two things that can be done: move on and find something else to fill the void or devote the remainder of one’s life to the memory. With him it was hard to tell, for he did not open the dark recesses of his heart. Like a home closed up for decades, everything was kept under the cover of dark sheets or else left alone to the ravages of time. Yet, the true treasures of his heart where kept in perfect order, locked away in the deepest crevice, far from prying eyes.

It had not been that long since he had lost her—just a couple of years. Still, without her there to keep order, he was at a loss. The dreadful event that had taken her and his memory now forcing him into re-learning the fact that a room needs to be kept, though, that was about to change. As of this day, he had made a decision to bring the rest of the apartment up to the standard of care enjoyed by the pot and the picture. But where to start was the issue revolving around him. In all actuality, it had stumped him. He was at a loss about what to do with the amount of unwanted growths that were continually fed by the countless care packages sent by his family. This in turn brought about the first decision in his steps to bring everything back under control. He got a trash bag to take care of the filth. Taking the first of many boxes, he opened it to find a sweater next to a container of juice, which, lacking refrigeration, had spoiled beyond recognition.

The juice in the trash bag, along with the sweater box, was placed under the picture. This process was repeated for the next six hours. In the end, eight bags full of trash, twenty sweaters, thirty shirts, two pairs of pants, and countless socks left his apartment free from the cancerous growths. With bags now placed in the kitchen, he started the next part. To further clean the floor, he would also have to wash clothes. Armed with another trash bag, he started picking up the garments strewn across the floor. Finishing with four trash bags full of clothes, he needed to see if the washing machine still functioned.

In the country he now called home the washing machines where smaller than those common in the western world. With the machine at max capacity, he could clearly see that it held only a third of a trash bag of his clothing. The cleansing of the apartment continued. The floor was now noticeable, though dust balls were still seen scudding about the room with the slightest breeze. This was easily rectified by a mop-style cleaner.

The cleaner held a moist paper towel on the flat surface of the floor and was attached on the other side to a pivot joint, followed by a handle, allowing the towel to remain in full contact with the floor as the cleaner was pushed about in any direction. Just as the Americans in the early days of settling the western United States eradicated the buffalo from moving trains and such, he also eradicated the copious amounts of dust balls.

This massive cleaning prompted the use of another trash bag for the used paper towels. With a furrowed brow he pondered Dam rug, how do I even take care of it? Do I wash it? A rug that he could not even remember buying. It would require a turn in the washing machine in order to bring its original colors back to life. He dropped it in line behind the trash bags full of clothing yet to be washed.

With a lively chime, the washing machine indicated that the first load of clothing was now done and required drying. Carefully, he took the clean clothes to his veranda where he could hang them to dry. Just then he noticed something had been growing where his rug had been apparently not needing a constant source of light to live, it reminded him of himself.

He chuckled. He had to take care of this, although by the looks of it, a simple wet paper towel would not be sufficient. Taking the cloth towel that he had used ever since he had moved into this new place to dry his hands after washing them every morning, he set it in the sink to soak. He sprinkled laundry detergent across the grungy rug and then followed by getting onto his hands and knees. Using the soaked towel, he started to scrub away every bit of mold. Upon finishing the task at hand, he noticed that he had not eaten all day. Deciding that the floor needed time to dry, he stepped out for a bite to eat. But the trash blocking his way had to be handled first. It took him three trips to take out all of the trash bags from his apartment. As he did this, he noticed the sun was marking the time as late afternoon. Since he did not like being outside after dark, he decided that a quick walk to the liquor store was all that time permitted.

He went there to buy a sandwich and something to drink there before once again attacking the monumental amount of things to clean. What a society in which he lives where everything that is edible can be made into a sandwich. He stood there wondering what to get, but could not decide. She was working that day and by chance saw that he was in need of some help. Walking out from behind the counter, she asked in a soft voice if she could help him in any way.

Nothing looked particularly good to him. Suddenly noticing that she existed, an end to his confusion was at hand. Looking up into those nice brown eyes brought him face to face with something that had been lacking in his life since the woman of his dreams had been taken. With a nice smile he calmly stated that he had no idea what was good. She nodded and returned his smile while saying that the vegetable sandwich was one of the top choices and that the nutritional value was probably worth the price. Taking the sandwich in hand, he glanced down at the drink he had already chosen, which he was now sure would ruin this healthy meal by introducing toxins not to be found in a healthy vegetable sandwich. This frustrated him with questions about the true value of health for a man in his state. She quickly saw in his furrowed brow that he was truly in need of help—and more than just in food. He needed help for his life. She walked over to the drinks and pulled out a simple green tea.

Handing it to him, she simply said, “This will compliment that sandwich.”

From then on he would only eat lean meat for health reasons, but more so because someone had taken the time to care.

Finding out the name of this woman would not be as simple as asking for it. The thoughts started to flood his mind, ‘What kind of man would he be if he were to try to pick up a woman just after meeting her? What would she think of him if she was even remotely interested? Where would any form of a relationship go, matching a stable and sensible woman with a man bent on self-destruction?

Would this even work?

There was only one way he could find out and that was through the simple admission that he was interested in her. However, this would have to wait for another time when he could be better prepared and look more the part of a gentleman instead of some stranger off the street. What was important now was the task at hand. He followed her slowly back to the counter and paid for his small meal. With a nod and smile, she accepted his payment and thanked him for his patronage. This was when their eyes met, giving them both a glimpse of the spark, that solitary spark that fuels whirlwind romances. She blushed; he simply smiled back at her as he walked out the door. A quick glance back into the store revealed that she was watching him even after he had walked out the door. He smiled again as he started his trudge back to the apartment, where he would continue with his work. This work of changing the conditions that had kept him a prisoner to his past would consume him until it was done.

Everything until now had become the past now that he had been given a renewed spark for life.

He started to realize that there could be life after such a loss. His life began to show signs of flourishing. He just had to want it badly enough to move in this new direction. The rest of his cleaning seemed to take less time, although he did not complete it until early the following morning. The clothes were washed and hung out to dry, the ashtray lay empty and clean, and there were just four more trash bags remaining to be disposed. Once they were taken out, he returned to his sanctuary. In this new womb he had created he would soon be full of life rather than gloom, which prickled the back of his neck even now as he stood there in satisfaction of his accomplishment. His mind would never really be free and clear of the gloom.

A glance around his apartment bore witness to what he could truly become with the past properly packaged and thrown away. Where the piles of gift packages had once claimed space, there was now beautiful emptiness. Where the clothing and the rug had once desecrated his floor, there was only pure wood. The copious amounts of dust balls were all corralled into the trash and led away, leaving nothing more than a distant memory.

Lying down on his bed with a nice book, he read a few pages before drifting off into a dream—one he had been having ever since he could remember, yet this time it came harder, faster, and was more painful than ever.

The pangs he suffered from this dream were there to remind him about what he had lost. There was no denying that he could have changed the outcome of the events that had led to the loss of his love. There was a certain truth when he spoke to his one confidant about the numerous events that kept these memories in his head and yet still a blur, and that truth was REGRET. There was regret where something else had been torn out. This was a thorn in his side about not being a man. Could he have changed what had happened, and if so, then what would he have done? Could he ask for another chance to run through the maze, a maze where he would gladly starve looking for the cheese? But this was his lot in life. As long as he could remember, he had chosen the sequence of events that laid the foundation of what he had become. That fact clearly still held true. It was in the past. That is where these fevered dreams came into meaning. For a man whose soul was wracked with regret, they served as a reminder. Why do people let others torture one’s soul when they can do such a great job on their own? The clear thought was more of a wisp of smoke rather than anything as tangible as the pain about to come.

By Jin Okubo Please find my book at Memories

Oh My Japan Anthem


This is an interesting thing, as the national anthem of Japan still praises the Emperor of Japan even though we live in a democracy and the emperor is little more than a figure head. Teachers have lost their jobs over it, because to refuse to sing it at school events is against the rules stated by the Ministry of Education.

Here is some background from wiki,

Lyrics

Official[29] Kana (Hiragana)[29] Rōmaji[14] English translation[39]
君が代は
千代に八千代に
さざれ(細)石の
いわお(巌)となりて
こけ(苔)の生すまで
きみがよは
ちよにやちよに
さざれいしの
いわおとなりて
こけのむすまで
Kimigayo wa
Chiyo ni yachiyo ni
Sazare-ishi no
Iwao to narite
Koke no musu made
May your reign
Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,
Until the pebbles
Grow into boulders
Lush with moss
Poetic English translation by English professor Basil Hall Chamberlain[40]
Thousands of years of happy reign be thine;
Rule on, my lord, until what are pebbles now
By ages united to mighty rocks shall grow
Whose venerable sides the moss doth line.

Controversies

Inside Japan

Schools have been the center of controversy over both the anthem and the national flag.[41] The Tokyo Board of Education requires the use of both the anthem and flag at events under their jurisdiction. The order requires school teachers to respect both symbols or risk losing their jobs.[42] In 1999, several teachers in Hiroshima refused to put up the anthem while the Hiroshima Education Board demanded that they do so. As the tension arose between them, a vice principal committed suicide. A similar incident in Osaka in 2010 also occurred, with 32 teachers refusing to sing the song in a ceremony. In 2011, 9 more teachers joined the rebellion, along with another 8 in 2012.[43] Hashimoto Toru, the mayor of Osaka, slated the teachers as “It was good that criminals (teachers) who are intent on breaking the rules (of not singing the anthem) have risen to the surface (public)”.[44] Some have protested that such rules violate the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the “freedom of thought, belief and conscience” clause in the Constitution of Japan,[45] but the Board has argued that since schools are government agencies, their employees have an obligation to teach their students how to be good Japanese citizens. Teachers have unsuccessfully brought criminal complaints against Tokyo Governor Shintarō Ishihara and senior officials for ordering teachers to honor the Hinomaru and “Kimigayo”.[46] After earlier opposition, the Japan Teachers Union accepts the use of both the flag and anthem; the smaller All Japan Teachers and Staffs Union still opposes both symbols and their use inside the school system.[47]

In 2006 Katsuhisa Fujita, a retired teacher in Tokyo, was threatened with imprisonment, and fined 200,000 yen (roughly 2,000 US dollars), after he was accused of disturbing a graduation ceremony at Itabashi High School by urging the attendees to remain seated during the playing of the anthem.[48] At the time of Fujita’s sentence, 345 teachers had been punished for refusing to take part in anthem related events, though Fujita is the only man to have been convicted in relation to it.[49] On September 21, 2006, the Tokyo District Court ordered the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to pay compensation to the teachers who had been subjected to punishment under the directive of the Tokyo Board of Education. The then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi commented, “It is a natural idea to treat the national anthem importantly”. The ruling has been appealed by the Metropolitan Government.[50] Since October 23, 2003, 410 teachers and school workers have been punished for refusing to stand and sing the anthem as ordered by school principals.[51] Teachers can also be punished if their students do not stand while “Kimigayo” is played during school ceremonies.[45]

On 30 May 2011, and 6 June 2011, two panels of the Supreme Court of Japan ruled that it was constitutional to require teachers to stand in front of the Hinomaru and sing the Kimigayo during school ceremonies. In making the ruling, the panels ratified the decision of the Tokyo High Court in ruling against 13 teachers who had asked for court relief after being disciplined between 2003 and 2005 for refusing to stand and sing the anthem.[52]

Outside of the school system, there was a controversy regarding “Kimigayo” soon after the passage of the 1999 law. A month after the law’s passage, a record containing a performance of “Kimigayo” by Japanese rocker Kiyoshiro Imawano was removed by Polydor records for his next album Fuyu no Jujika. Polydor did not want a record to stir up emotion in Japan; in response, Imawano re-released the album through an independent label with the track in question.[53]

 

 

 

By Jin Okubo author of Love

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Jin-Okubo/dp/1495962717/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429834864&sr=8-1&keywords=jin+okubo+love

Oh my Japan Family


Japanese men are not considered by the outside world to be as openly loving as in the west. In fact when I talk with many of my students the men who have kids and love them confess that they have never told their children that they love them. Some of them would not even confess that they would tell their spouse that they love them. The closest that they get to I love yoBookCoverImageu is the word だいすき(daisuki) which literally translates to the word I like you a great amount.

What does that say about feelings in Japan is it strange for a foreigner to see this or as I am married to live this. There is a word in Japanese that translates to love it is 愛してる(aishiteru) I love you. But it is very rarely used, this was a constant thought as I considered my romance novel Love. If you have read it you get the story of Robert who is talking about his love and if you have read the companion novel excerpts you will see that his love is Japanese though she was born in the USA she would be considered Japanese American.  What does this topic have to do with anything.

Well in my class one of my students brought about an interesting point about Japanese society, what follows is my students essay.

By Jin Okubo author of Love 

The changes of Japanese Culture

I tried to think of this topic, focusing on two views the “Housing situation” and “Communication among families.”

Most of Japanese typically traditional houses once had some fusuma (paper sliding doors) and shoji (sliding paper screens) as partitions between rooms. When we had big events or ceremonies as wedding parties and funerals we could make two or three rooms into a very large single rather quickly by taking down those partitions.

It was natural for all the members of the family (which had more children than in the modern family, consisting of a few generations under the same roof) had time to spend together in the same rooms.

The majority of the houses had “irori” (like a fireplace without a chimney) and the whole family gathered around it to eat, work and chat. An irori room was, in a manner of speaking, a living room and they always communicated with each other there.  Children studied, enjoyed reading books and playing, watched TV and so on in the rooms where their parents could keep their eyes on them.

In the 1960’s a new life style called “Kaku-kazoku” gradually spread around Japan. It means a small family consisting of parents and children only. In those days, Japan was in a period of high economic growth. Many young people living the local regions went to work in the big cities and made their families there. So their old parents also became Kaku-kazoku. Here and there Japan was on track towards the nuclear family.

Not only the area from within the houses but also the family connection changed. Many people came to think that such a lifestyle was more comfortable than living with many different generations.

Now is the time that young families have their own residence even if their parents own large plots of land and live in big houses.

In addition, with the idea of individualism , our housing situation has gradually changed. The rooms are partitioned by walls, not fusuma and shoji. It’s normal for children to have their own rooms. They can play games, chat and exchange mails with anybody through their own phones, and watch TV. They can do them all without their parents’ interference.

If they shut themselves up in their rooms, they never see their fathers who go to work very  early and come back home very late for  days.

There’s no place like an irori any more. A comfortable kitchen and a sophisticated living room have replaced it.

It’s no exaggeration to say that those changes take opportunities of communicating and understanding each other away from the families.

We see the same conditions in our communities, too. Ceremonies as weddings and funerals tend to be held in ceremonial places. And we often hold our domestic events at the restaurants or we we are also invited to other such places. Of course they are very convenient and easy for us, but I think such ideas also come from the structure of modern houses.

These changes keep us away from opportunities to step into our neighbors houses and associate with them.

In this way I think there’s a big correlation between our lifestyle (including housing situations) and communication.

Cherry Trees


It is that time of year again. Yes if you live in Japan it is not April first a solitary day that is important. It is the month of April that is important. Because at this point and time of the year the cherry blossoms start to bloom. Towns, cities, the country seems to be in a festive mood and everyone and their mother are out in full force to sit under the trees, eat to excess, drink past excess and enjoy life.

If you are single it is one of the best times to meet a significant other. That is unless you are like me and have anxiety around large crowds of people you don’t know, and also have hay fever. But besides that you can go out to one of the countless festivals and or celebrations and enjoy the cherry blossoms.

They are beautiful I must say that but for me I have always been fond of Orange Blossoms, but that has to do more with the memories I associate with the flower.

By Jin Okubo author of Love.

Below you will find an excerpt from the wiki page. Please enjoy it.

Flower viewing

Main article: Hanami

“Hanami” is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura or ume tree. The custom is said to have started during the Nara Period (710–794) when it was ume blossoms that people admired in the beginning. But by the Heian Period (794–1185), cherry blossoms came to attract more attention and hanami was synonymous with sakura.[7] From then on, in both waka and haiku, “flowers” ( hana?) meant “cherry blossoms”. The custom was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court, but soon spread to samurai society and, by the Edo period, to the common people as well. Tokugawa Yoshimune planted areas of cherry blossom trees to encourage this. Under the sakura trees, people had lunch and drank sake in cheerful feasts.

Woodblock print of Mount Fuji and cherry blossom from 36 Views of Mount Fuji by Hiroshige.

Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the sakura zensen (cherry blossom front) as it moves northward up the archipelago with the approach of warmer weather via nightly forecasts following the weather segment of news programs. The blossoming begins in Okinawa in January and typically reaches Kyoto and Tokyo at the end of March or the beginning of April. It proceeds into areas at the higher altitudes and northward, arriving in Hokkaidō a few weeks later. Japanese pay close attention to these forecasts and turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing parties. Hanami festivals celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom and for many are a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful view. The custom of hanami dates back many centuries in Japan. The eighth-century chronicle Nihon Shoki (日本書紀) records hanami festivals being held as early as the third century AD.

Most Japanese schools and public buildings have cherry blossom trees outside of them. Since the fiscal and school year both begin in April, in many parts of Honshū, the first day of work or school coincides with the cherry blossom season.

The Japan Cherry Blossom Association developed a list of Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots[8] with at least one location in every prefecture.

Oh my Japan Geisha


This may seem like a running theme but it is not. Just a few posts and I urge you all not to take all Japanese this way. To do so will do a grave injustice to the countless of Japanese who support the openness and fairness of all people. Without them I would not have been able to see my son born or to have my lovely wife.
All in thanks to Ariana Miyamoto we are seeing other stories of great people in Japan who are denied the hold a certain status not because of a lack in ability but by this old mentality that you must be Japanese to hold that position.
I give you ‘A beautiful life’: The Australian woman who became a geisha the story of Fiona Graham.
This lovely story shows how beautiful Japan is and what foreigners who love this country such as I want to immerse ourselves with. There are aspects that we want to learn and master, one of my friends made a comment just last week that if I was living in a city like Kyoto I would be considered a Japanese Foreigner because I tend to live a more Japanese life than even some natural born Japanese. But This story is not to detract from the serious conversation that needs to be happening about race relations in Japan. And the people who are denied a certain station in their profession not because they lack the ability but simply because they are not 100% Japanese. I urge you to read the full story http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/01/travel/cnngo-travel-hokkaido-geisha/

By Jin Okubo Author of Love

 

 

 

Oh my Japan


Recently I became ashamed of my Japan. I immigrated here about 16 years ago and have just become a Japanese citizen. Now like all countries Japan has its share of racism but had never truly worn it on its sleeve as a badge of honor, as it was and is no honor to be racist. Yet I find that I wish more and more that the old die sooner rather than later.
This has to do with two people, one is the Japanese Sumo Champion.
He is considered to be the greatest Sumo wrestler of all time. He is just dominating the sport. Yet he will never be accepted or even offered the position of Master of Sumo. And the sumo association is not shy about the reason. He is not Japanese, that is it. I was and still am shocked that such dispicable behavior exists in Japan today.

And not just that but from high class people in Japan. I am not talking about the Japanese rednecks referred to as Yankies here in Japan, but people in high office and official leaders of the sport. For that very reason I am ashamed for them, of them, and disgusted by their public shaming of this great great wrestler.

The other person is a lovely person. Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto born in Nagasaki. But that fact that she is half Japanese the racism has started to come out of the wood work. And the disgusting thing about it is that the people are openly being quoted in newspapers as to the only reason they do not want her to be Miss Japan is because she is half Japanese. They do not care that she was born here, or the fact that she identifies as Japanese. And when you hear her story you, you hear a story of bigotry and racism in Japan. And this disgusts me. So how can I make Japan better. Well I speak about it. I bring the attention to people of the world that all of Japan is not as racist and bigoted as the assholes who spout such hatred and vile. I dream of the day when racism will be gone but I fear that as long as pride over birth right exists we will not have it.

I ask that you reblog this and share it to get the word out that Japan has bigotry and racism just like every other country but that there are people like me who want it to stop and will speak out against it. I am proud of these two who have broken through so many barriers and shown just how far someone can go in a country as closed minded as Japan. New York has nothing on Japan. If you can make it in Japan you can make it anywhere.

My own personal experience in my new post Oh my Japan persoanal.

By
Jin Okubo

My romance novel Love