Tuesday, March 25, 2008

'Busier than adults'

The typical day of an elementary school student:

(NHK NewsWatch9 - 2008, March 20th)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Japan Nieuwsbrief nr. 263

Link naar: Japan Nieuwsbrief 15 tot 21 maart

De Japanse lach

Westerlingen en Japanners interpreteren gelaatsuitdrukkingen verschillend, las ik in de krant. Westerlingen zien emoties als individuele gevoelens, maar Japanners daarentegen zien emoties in samenhang met de groep. Zo zou onderzoek uitgewezen hebben.

Of een lachend kind temidden een groep lachende dan wel ernstige kinderen staat, maakt voor een westerling niet zoveel uit. De westerling interpreteert de lach van het kind los van de groep. De Japanner echter kijkt ook naar de gemoedstoestand van de omringende groep. Lacht de omringende groep niet, dan interpreteert de Japanner het lachende kind merkelijk minder gelukkig.

Dit deed me denken aan Japanse smileys. Japanners snappen westerse emoticons niet altijd. De :) is in Japan (^_^) en de :( is (;_;). Dat is perfect verklaarbaar, stond in LiveScience.com: omdat het in Japan niet altijd gepast is om breed te lachen, zijn voor de Japanners de ogen belangrijker dan de mond. Onderzoek heeft inderdaad bevestigd dat Amerikanen meer naar de mond dan naar de ogen kijken. Zo waarderen Amerikanen een lachende mond met droevige ogen als vrolijker dan Japanners dat doen.

In ieder geval, Japanse smileys zijn bijzonder gevarieerd. Meer hier.

(Gepost in De Standaard Expatblog)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Now and Then 24

The French Hill: End Meiji era - Today

"In Naka Ward’s Yamate area, the slopes going down towards the Yokohama Doll Museum make up the area that is still today called 'French Hill", or furansu-yama. The origin of this name comes from the long history of foreigner settlement in Yokohama; about 130 years ago, the French military was stationed near French Hill, while the British had its military in the area of today’s Minato-no-mieru-oka Park/Iwasaki Museum.

Foreign military did not always have a large presence in Japan. Although conflicts between Japanese and foreigners took place constantly with the influx of the foreign population, the Shogunate government, asserting its sovereign right, took the responsibility of mediating conflicts and ensuring the security of the Settlement.

The turning point came in 1862, when the samurai of Shimazu Hisamitsu, father of the lord of the powerful Satsuma domain (today’s Kagoshima Prefecture), clashed with a group of foreigners at Namamugi-mura Village, which left one foreigner dead and two wounded (See Now and Then 23). The reason of the clash – cultural misunderstanding, hubris of the foreigners, or willful murder committed by the Japanese due to their dislike of foreigners – remains unknown, but the Namamugi Incident eventually led to the stationing of French and British garrisons to protect their respective legations in the Settlement (...)

As elsewhere, the British and the French delighted in games of one-upmanship. The French, for example, built their flagpole higher than that of the British, while the British made sure they had more troops than the French.

The French also cultivated shogunate officials, especially the highly capable Oguri Tadamasa, who, along with Kurimoto Kon, welcomed their help in constructing a naval shipyard at Yokosuka. The French also established a language school and a small iron and steel plant near Ishikawa-cho. All this reflected the desire of Paris to build up its influence as part of its global competition with the British. The French Minister Léon Roches, who served as a translator for the French army for several years in North Africa before joining the foreign service, vastly overrated the shogunate’s chances. But his liberal support for the government no doubt encouraged Harry Parkes, the British minister, to cultivate contacts with the pro-Emperor party. Eventually, Roches lost the trust of the French government, which ordered him home in the middle of 1868.

The foot soldiers could not have enjoyed all this tit-for-tat tomfoolery very much, since the conditions under which they were forced to live on Camp Hill were hardly idyllic. At first the British simple erected tents on the fields covered with nightsoil that stank to high heaven, while a damp fog clung to the heights in the morning. Many soldiers died of smallpox. When drunk, which by all accounts was a frequent occurrence, the Englsih akatai ("red troops") were referred to as akatombo, or "red dragonflies". Similarly, the French were known as the "blue troops".

Foreign residents were allowed to lease land on the Bluff from 1867. Nevertheless, the foreign residents were clearly happy to have troopers nearby. Writing in 1866, A.B. Mitford, the Second Secretary to the British Legation, admitted that "for nearly four years I never wrote a note without having a revolver on the table and never went to bed without a Spencer rifle and bayonet at my hand". The foreign troops were not withdrawn till 1875."

John Carroll, 'Trail of Two Cities', ed. Kodansha, Tokyo, 1994, p. 87-88

Yokohama Echo, August 2004

Now and Then 23

Namamugi ('The Namamugi Incident') : End Edo erea - Today

'The period between the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry's Black Ships at Kurihama in 1853 and the Meiji Restoration in 1868 was a tumultuous and dangerous time for the foreigners who lived in Yokohama.'

The Namamugi incident is one of my favourites stories about misunderstandings between Westerners and Japanese in the Edo Period. Only a few Westerners were in Japan at that time.

Namamugi was a village on the Tokaido. Today Namamugi is a cheerless, ugly industrial area between factories, fuming trucks, the port and highways. Despite this, I like to bicycle in this area. It’s so different from Minato Mirai. Pressed between a canal, a highway and a railroad live people in crumbly houses. You can see remnants of farm houses, humble fisherman boots, empty shops, people almost living in the street. This is light-years away from rich Japan. But the Tokaido passed through this hamlet. History was written here:

"The period between the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry's Black Ships at Kurihama in 1853 and the Meiji Restoration in 1868 was a tumultuous and dangerous time for the foreigners who lived in Yokohama.

Japan was in the heat of an internal struggle for power, precipitated by Perry's arrival, between the Tokugawa Shogunate and those who advocated the return of the Emperor to the throne. Many of the followers of the latter group, led by the Satsuma and Choshu clans (in present-day Kagoshima and Yamaguchi Prefectures), fervently pursued the exclu-sionist sonno-joi ideology (expel the barbarians, revere the Emperor). This manifes-ted itself in numerous attacks, often fatal, on the foreign residents of Japan.

One of the most notorious such attacks was the so-called Namamugi Incident, which took place in 1862 in the village of the same name located just off of the old Tokaido road, in present-day Tsurumi Ward. Charles Lenox Richardson, a British merchant visiting Yokohama from Shanghai, was on horseback headed for a sightseeing trip to the Kawasaki-Daishi temple with three British companions. On route, at Namamugi, they encountered the 1000-strong procession of Shimazu Hisamitsu, the powerful daimyo of Satsuma, who was on his way back to southern Japan from the capital, Edo. The tourists looked on at the procession from horseback and did not dismount when ordered to (whether this was due to miscommunication or due to arrogance is still unclear), which enraged the retainers of Lord Shimazu. On the grounds that the foreigners were not showing the proper respect to their lord, the samurai unsheathed their katana and attacked, cutting down Richardson and seriously wounding two of his companions. This incident had a great impact on political and everyday life at the time. Foreigners became increasingly angry at the number of attacks against their ranks and called for their govern-ments to take action, while at the same time they felt increasingly vulnerable and worried for their own safety. Defences in the residential areas of Yokohama were quickly reinforced.

Events culminated in the Anglo-Satsuma War, in which British warships were sent to Kagoshima to "settle" the dispute one year later in 1863. Kagoshima was shelled relentlessly, and it is estimated that 180,000 people were displaced in what became a showcase of the "barbarians" superior military power. The war served as an important psychological turning point for both sides. Having witnessed with their own eyes the stark realities of what Western technology could do, the incident provided the impetus for the Satsuma clan to do an about-face with regards to their exclusionist ideology, and they became champions of modernizing Japan in the Western model. The British also sustained substantial losses in the battle, and they were forced to acknowledge the strength of the Satsuma clan, while also facing jeers from other nations for their "defeat" at Kagoshima."

Source: Yokohama Echo, March 2003

More: Burritt Sabin, 'A historical guide to Yokohama', ed. Yurindo, Yokohama, 2002, p. 272-280