Sunday, December 30, 2007

Now and Then 11

Negishi: Meiji - Today

A fascinating article about this destroyed and landfilled area :
'An expatriate revisits his Yokohama childhood haunts' (Japan Times - May 19, 1999)

John Carroll, 'Trail of Two Cities', ed. Kodansha, Tokyo, 1994, p. 120:
"There used to be great scenery and swimming all along this coast from Honmoku to Kanazawa Hakkei. They have been replaced by one of the nation’s largest petrochemical and industrial districts, the 610-hectare Negishi Bay Seaside Industrial Zone. The reclamation work was started in 1959 and completed in 1964. Among the companies with plants here are Nippon Petroleum, Tokyo Electric, Tokyo Gas, and Nisshin Oil Mills.

Either out desire to compensate the local people for what they had lost or out of diabolical sense of humor, the metropolitan government built in place of the beaches a giant pool complex that can accommodate twenty-five thousand people a day..."

Japan Nieuwsbrief nr. 251

Link naar: Japan Nieuwsbrief 22 tot 28 december

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hyoutan in Kannai

In ひょうたん, the most enjoyable yakiniku restaurant in Yokohama.
三本閉め to end this year the right way:

Friday, December 28, 2007

Premier Fukuda in China

Donderdag 27 december. Premier Fukuda in China aangekomen voor een 4-daags bezoek. Het nieuwsprogramma 'Vandaag' van de VRT Radio 1 heeft me enkele vragen gesteld over het belang van dit bezoek.

Audiobestand (mp3 - 821kb (of via de Radio 1-website)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Yokohama Skyline & Bay Bridge

A quick tour with my motorbike to Bay Bridge for a few late afternoon and evening pictures

6 pictures in flickr

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Now and Then 10

Water-Gazers (near The Grand Hotel): Meiji Era - Today

"The Bund became a true promenade in 1885, when it was extended 18 feet seaward from the road. Pine trees were planted between the road and the new esplanade. Benches were set at intervals. Stone posts linked by chains were placed near the top of the seawall (…)

Guests at The Grand Hotel could use the telescope on its Piazza. Its lens disclosed pointillistic scenes - families picknicking or fishing boats, lads and lasses skinny-dipping in the bay. Rudyard Kipling, a guest at the Grand in 1889, peered through the telescope at Japanese and American warships.

The Grand Hotel and other buildings on the Bund disintegrated in the 1923 earthquake. The city asked Marshall Martin, a Japanese-speaking Scotsman who had lived in Yokohama for half a century, to serve as an adviser for the city’s reconstruction. Martin persuaded the city to use the rubble of the quake-flattened Bund buildings to reclaim the sea for a park. Martin would have been inspired with this vision of Japan’s first seaside park by a keen appreciation of the view of bay from the Bund. He would have been a water-gazer (...)

What a practical idea: build a grassy park to celebrate life on the desolate site of death and destruction (...) The fill extended the land 50 meters seaward and 774 meters along what had been the Bund. Yamashita Park opened on March 15, 1930.

If one spot has to be named the spiritual heart of Yokohama, this it it."

(Burritt Sabin, 'A historical guide to Yokohama', ed. Yurindo, Yokohama, 2002, p. 49-51)
(John Carroll, 'Trail of Two Cities', ed. Kodansha, Tokyo, 1994, p. 40-41)

Now and Then 9

Motomachi: Early 20th century - Today

"When Yokohama was chosen by the shogunate as the site for the foreign settlement, the original habitants were forcibly relocated to the area at the foot of the Bluff. Originally named Honmura, it later came to be known as Motomachi, the ‘town of the orginal ones’. Most of these ninety families had been eking out an existence partly by farming and partly by fishing. Now along with the outside merchants they sought to provide specialized services to the resident foreigners. Some succeeded or made a fortune by hanging on their property till it inflated greatly in value, but most soon lost all they had and once again moved on.

Incidentally, there were some trades that were absolutely essential in those days that no longer exist today. Blacksmithing and carriage-making, of course, but also water selling. Getting decent water was vital in the early days - for supplying ships in the harbor, putting out fires, and because diseases like cholera and typhus were rife due to contaminated water. Drilling took place on Daikan-zaka, one of several slopes that link Motomachi to the Yamate Bluff, and in several other locations. The cholera epidemic of 1879 claimed many victims, but is was only in 1882 that Dr. A. J. C. Geerts, a Dutch sanitation engineer, was able to take the first steps towards creating a proper drainage system (...)

In the early 1890s one Katherine Baxter cut short her sampan tour of the city because of the ‘evil smell’ from open drains and landed at the entrance of Motomachi. She passed the time peering into the open shop fronts and watching ‘coopers, makers of idols, baskets, dolls, wooden pillows, and clogs, straw hats, raincoats and sandals, trifles of bamboo and paper, and weavers of towels’. She noted paper, books, and smoking apparatus, cheap jewelry, ornamental hairpins, switches of coarse black hair, and other articles of personal adornment. Then there were the restaurants, from which ‘proceeded the most horrible smell imaginable, that of pickled daikon’. Baxter had forgotten the ‘evil smells’ from the open drains (...)

In the early days 70 percent of the customers for the Motomachi stores were foreigners, and shop owners used to pick up people arriving on ships and take them directly here. However, from around the time of the 1960 Olympics, the majority of the shoppers became Japanese. The five-hundred-meter-long promenade is now a smart shopping district, with around 250 shops offering merchandise that is unique, fashionable and très expensive."

(Burritt Sabin, 'A historical guide to Yokohama', ed. Yurindo, Yokohama, 2002, p. 8-9)
(John Carroll, 'Trail of Two Cities', ed. Kodansha, Tokyo, 1994, p. 85-86)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Now and Then 7

Isezakicho (Theater Street): Meiji Era - Today:

"Novelist Osaragi Jiro remarked that he had never seen a foreigner during his boyhood in Yokohama. The comment is telling. We tend to focus on the port and the Foreign Settlement, but foreigners were never more than a fraction of Yokohama’s population. By the 1870s the city consisted of the Settlement and the Japanese quarter Within the Gates (Kannai) surrounded by Tobe and Yoshida, along Yokohama Road from the Tokaido, and Chojamachi. In the latter areas, Kangai (Outside the Gates), toiled the shopkeepers, artisans, and laborers who supplied the mercantile houses in Kannai. (...)

Isezakicho (just Outside the Gates) was the theater district. Isezakicho (also called Theater Street) provided people Outside the Gates respite from hardscrabble lives. Theaters opened as early as eight o'clock in the morning and the day’s program ran through eleven o'clock at night. (...)

Here, Outside the Gates, were cheap tenements for dock workers and young women who worked in the tea-processing factories. In 1903 there were an estimated six to seven thousand such unfortunates living in the neighborhood, most of whom hailed from northern Japan. There were a hundred men for every eighty-three women and only one in twenty of the men had a family. Still, one foreigner noted "many children with black eyes and runny noses". Many were put to work at such trades as chimney cleaning when only seven or eight. There was little except theaters to brighten the lives of these workers. (...)

The large picture signboards, programs posters, were placed over the entrance. Sometimes the boards stretched in series the length off the façade. Azure, crimson, and gray banners announcing actors' names in bold theatrical calligraphy hung from bamboo poles that leaned at a rakish angle over the road down which rolled drays, rickshaws, and mobile restaurants.

Isezakicho offered more than the kabuki. There were cheap bazaars, teahouses, baths, curio shops, restaurants, archery galleries, and raree shows. Henry Frinck, music critic for the New York Evening Post, made a round of Isezakicho raree shows in the mid-1890s. He witnessed a demonstration of "the wonders of electric light, telephone, and phonograph… to gaping natives". Some shows were decidedly less progressive. He "saw a poor crippled girl without hands an feet, sitting on a table, holding in her mouth a pencil, with which she drew very fair pictures of ships and animals. Then she took a stick in her mouth, and with the aid of her stumps of arms and legs, made a paperboat. After her came an idiotic-looking individual with a heavy sack on his shoulders spinning around like a top, evidently not having enough brains to get dizzy with." (...)

Post-quake fires incinerated all Yokohama’s theaters. Theater Street survived only on picture cards. After the quake, roadside trees were planned, and movie theaters were built. The Nozawaya and Matsuya department stores were reborn in ferroconcrete.

Isezakicho burned in the incendiary raids of 1945. The U.S. Occupation Forces requisitioned the few buildings that survived. Clubs sprang up to cater to the Occupation Forces. Black GIs stimulated interest in jazz. Black musicians played in clubs in Kannai along Isezakicho’s back streets. (...)

The Yokohama jazz scene ebbed with the gradual repatriation of the Occupation Forces. (...)

In 1978 Isezakicho was closed to traffic and turned into a pedestrian mall."

(Burritt Sabin, 'A historical guide to Yokohama', ed. Yurindo, Yokohama, 2002, p. 101-108)
(John Carroll, 'Trail of Two Cities', ed. Kodansha, Tokyo, 1994, p. 108-109)

Wereldnet 18 december

Wereldnet dinsdag 18 december2007. Correspondenten in Macedonië, Engeland en Japan.

Voor Japan heb ik verteld over de kanji van het jaar ('nise': vals, imitatie, namaak, misleiden).

Audiobestand: via de Wereldnet-site.

Monday, December 10, 2007

De doodstraf in Japan

Japan heeft vrijdag drie ter dood veroordeelde gevangenen opgehangen. Daarmee komt het aantal terechtstellingen dit jaar op negen, het hoogste aantal in 31 jaar. Japan is naast de Verenigde Staten het enige geïndustrialiseerde land dat de doodstraf uitvoert. Mensenrechtenorganisaties hebben de executies veroordeeld. Zelfs de Raad van Europa heeft geprotesteerd. Maar in Japan roept de doodstraf weinig weerstand op. Meer dan 80% van de bevolking staat achter de doodstraf. Het nieuws heeft vrijdag het tv-journaal van de openbare zender NHK zelfs niet gehaald, terwijl het bericht van de terechtstellingen buiten Japan wereldnieuws was.

Wat mensenrechtengroepen vooral afkeuren is de sfeer van geheimhouding rond de doodstraf. De uitvoering van het doodvonnis wordt maar de ochtend zelf aan de veroordeelde meegedeeld. Elke dag kan zijn laatste dag zijn. Gemiddeld wacht een gevangene 7 jaar en 11 maanden op zijn executie. Sommigen worden één jaar na het vonnis al terechtgesteld, maar anderen moeten meer dan 30 jaar wachten. De oudste terdoodveroordeelde is 86 jaar en wacht al sinds het begin van de jaren 70 op de voltrekking van zijn straf. Het is de minister van Justitie die de uitvoering van elk individueel doodsvonnis moet bekrachtigen en daardoor beslist wie de volgende aan de beurt is. Op dit ogenblik wachten nog 104 gevangenen in de doodcellen.

Het is zeker dat Kunio Hatoyama, de huidige minister van Jusititie en een hevige voorstander van de doodstraf, het ritme van de terechtstellingen gaat opvoeren. Om de kritiek rond de geheimhouding te counteren heeft de minister ditmaal de namen van de veroordeelden vrijgegeven. Hij heeft zelfs in het parlement uitleg gegeven over de executies. Dit was nog nooit eerder gebeurd. Maar dit verandert niets aan het feit dat gevangene zelf elke dag in onwetendheid moet leven in isoleercellen en onderworpen is aan een veel strenger regime dan de gewone gevangenen. Zelfs de familie wordt de kans niet gegeven om afscheid te nemen. Zij worden maar ingelicht na de uitvoering van de doodstraf.

De bekendste veroordeelde is Shoko Asahara, de sekteleider die het brein was achter de gasaanvallen in de metro van Tokio in 1995. Zijn doodsvonnis is in september 2006 definitief geworden. Het is weinig waarschijnlijk dat deze alom gehate figuur zeven jaar op de uitvoering van zijn vonnis zal moeten wachten.

Nog even vermelden dat Kunio Hatoyama de doodstraf in Japan heeft gerechtvaardigd met een typische Nihonjinron-theorie: 'als Japan de doodstraf heeft, dan is het omdat Japan beter is dan het Westen', meent de minister. Hier een vertaling van Hatoyama’s verbijsterende hersenkronkels in een interview met de Shuukan Asahi van 26 oktober (vertaling Japan Death Penalty Information Center

Q: There is a big trend to abolish the death penalty worldwide. Why do you want to keep it in Japan?

HATOYAMA: The Japanese place so much importance on the value of life, so it is thought that one should pay with one’s life after taking the life of another. You see, the Western nations are civilizations based on power and war. So, conversely, things are moving against the death penalty. This is an important point to understand. The so called civilizations of power and war are opposite (from us). From incipient stages, their conception of the value of life is weaker than the Japanese. Therefore, they are moving toward abolishment of the death penalty. It is important that this discourse on civilizations be understood.

(Gepost in De Standaard Expatblog)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Doodstraf in Japan

Vrijdag 7 december. Flip Feyten van 'Feyten of Fillet' (de dag in zestig minuten) van Radio 1 heeft me kort geïnterviewd over de terechtstelling van 3 terdoodveroordeelde gevangenen. Japan is naast de Verenigde Staten het enige geïndustrialiseerde land dat de doodstraf uitvoert.

Audiobestand (mp3 - 1213kb)

Japan Nieuwsbrief nr. 248

Link naar: Japan Nieuwsbrief 1 tot 7 december