Category Archives: SOCIETY

The Best Japanese Tweets About Carlos Ghosn’s Prison Bail Outfit

Source: Gaijin Pot

When Carlos Ghosn was released on bail last Monday, it wasn’t the ¥1 billion ($8.9 million) bail amount making the rounds on Twitter, nor his lengthy 108-day detention period. Rather, it was the ridiculous workman outfit he was wearing when leaving the detention center.

Lawyer sorry for embarrassing Ghosn by planning workman disguise

— TokyoReporter (@tokyoreporter) March 8, 2019

All Ghosn wrong

The former Nissan CEO was released in Tokyo after being arrested on three counts of financial misconduct. He was first arrested on November 19 over charges of false accounting, and again on December 21 for shifting his personal financial losses to Nissan. He denies all charges.

According to a BBC article posted on March 8, a member of Ghosn’s legal team named Takashi Takano took responsibility for the “amateur plan” that was Ghosn’s ineffective workman disguise. Last Friday, he wrote on his blog, “I feel sorry about that… due to my amateur plan, the fame he has built over a lifetime was tainted.”

Still, we can’t place all the blame on Takano. It was always going to be a tall order to disguise such a famous face from the paparazzi, who almost immediately recognized Ghosn behind his cap and face mask. In fact, Ghosn is so famous in Japan that he inspired a manga series about his leadership at Nissan called The True Life of Carlos Ghosn which became a bestseller in the early 2000s.

Via Bloomberg

Although Ghosn’s legal team might be regretting the failed attempt at disguise, it has become marvelous ネタ (neta), or joke material, for Japan’s Twitter users poking fun at the half-baked idea.

1. Ghosn vs Baikinman

One side-splitting neta was comparing Ghosn’s disguise to similarly pathetic disguises in Japanese cartoons, such as Baikinman from popular children’s anime …continue reading


The Strange Story of Hay Fever in Japan: Construction, Conspiracy Theories, Climate Change

Source: Gaijin Pot

The history of hay fever in Japan is intrinsically linked to the Cryptomeria japonica. But to lay all the blame on the Japanese cedar tree misses some interesting parts of a story of the fortunes of modern living.

Japanese people often refer to hay fever as the national illness, or kokuminbyo (国民病). About a quarter of the population is estimated to suffer from it. That compares to just 8 percent of adults in the U.S., where it is simply referred to as a pollen allergy.

It wasn’t always this way. Hay fever was first reported here in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympic Games, when the nation sought to showcase its recovery from World War II defeat. Large pollen volumes in 1976, and again in 1979, promptly boosted the number of hay fever sufferers, and, as we entered the 1980s, the ailment was affecting so many people that it was regarded as a social problem.

The curse of the Japanese Cedar

Around 60 types of plants in Japan are recognized as causing hay fever, but by far the worst culprit – provoking symptoms such as sneezing, sore eyes, runny noses and more in a whopping 70 percent of sufferers – is the native cedar tree, or sugi (杉).

Despite its current role as the bad guy of Japanese hay fever, the cedar was a savior, of sorts, in post-WWII Japan when it was used to reforest mountains throughout the country that had been stripped bare by excessive logging during and after the war for use as fuel and lumber. Those treeless mountainsides had led to huge disasters and fatalities, particularly landslides, but the government-funded planting of the fast-growing cedars prevented any consequent large-scale damage.

Despite its current role as the bad guy of Japanese hay fever, the cedar was a savior, of …continue reading


The Story of Shimokitazawa

Source: Gaijin Pot

Shimokitazawa, “Shimokita” to the locals or just “Shimo” to the syllable-adverse is a southwestern corner of the capital city that’s been touted as a hipster haven, a thrift store goldmine, an epicenter to the city’s boho community and Tokyo’s answer to Greenwich Village in New York.

Although these labels aren’t necessarily incorrect, there’s so much more to this former farming village turned black market, turned “World’s Coolest Neighborhood” according to a 2014 listing by Vogue, nestled between the well-trodden locations of Shibuya and Shinjuku.

It’s a corner of Tokyo that’s long thrived off the power of community, where local traditions and modern ideologies meld together to embody a vibe that can’t be matched. It’s innovative, but the area’s evolution couldn’t be more organic. There’s a reason why it’s so loved, but to really appreciate Shimokita, you’ve got to learn a little about its history.

Agricultural beginnings

Look at a map of Tokyo from the mid-1910s (if you can find one!), and you’d see the area that made up Shimokita was actually a mass of farming land, framed by fields and forests, with the Kitazawa river running through the middle from west to east. Shinganji Temple and Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine are the only real markers of the area in that time that still exist in their original location today.

Shimokitazawa is a stop after Shinjuku on the Odakyu Electric Railway Line.

After the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, residents of the inner-city settled in the area to avoid the dangers of a potential future disaster. Four years later (1927) the Odakyu Odawara line opened, and more Tokyoites started setting up home there, attracted to the positioning between the city’s major business hubs as well as the extra space suburban-style living offered. Word spread, and by the 1930s Shimokita’s landscape had begun its …continue reading


3 Things Working Women In Japan Deserve More Than White Day Chocolate

Source: Gaijin Pot

Every March 14 — or White Day— reflects Japan’s strict culture of “obligatory” gift-giving, not to mention its awful holiday-naming abilities. It’s actually when men “payback” the women who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Unlike in the West, women are expected to give giri choco, or obligatory chocolate to their male coworkers, as well as bosses (who are probably male, anyways).

Like so many other women, my showing up to work on Valentine’s Day without that giri choco wasn’t worth the nagging guilt that tugged at my psyche. There I was, scrambling at the convenience store to buy those last-minute KitKats mostly to avoid the guilt of …not giving freaking KitKats.

But did my KitKats just pass on this same guilt to my male coworkers who have to give back on White Day? Will they even care? Will I be disappointed today if I don’t get anything back?

Most of all, how the f*** did Japan convince me to expect gifts from men when that’s never been my brand.

How did I get here?

If heaps of guilt is what makes people take action, then why don’t we use that to incite real change, not just for bringing choco to work? In lieu of White Day chocolates, here is a list of “gifts” — basic things working women in Japan deserve but that men can also benefit from — that we actually want today.

I’m gonna gift wrap it nicely by coining some brand new Japanese-English katakana phrases to help that giri-guilt catch on. Maybe we have something here. It’s a White Day miracle!

A countdown to what we really want in the workplace

3. Giri Remoto

ギリリモート (obligatory remote work)

What it means: Remote work needs to be much more widely recognized as a valid form of work in Japan.

Remote work opportunities are one way for …continue reading


A Trans Woman’s Marriage in Japan is in Jeopardy Over Legal Limitations

Source: Gaijin Pot

Elin McCready is a transgender woman living in Tokyo who is happily married to her wife of 19 years, Midori, with whom she has three children. But their marriage status might be forcibly revoked now that she is trying to legally change her gender in a country where same-sex marriage isn’t recognized.

According to an article on Channel News Asia, McCready, who is a linguistics professor at Tokyo’s Aoyama Gakuin University, ran into a brick wall of bureaucracy upon submitting paperwork to change her name and gender as part of her transition.

“We’ve effectively broken the system,” said McCready.

After successfully updating her U.S. passport back in her hometown of Texas, and her Japanese foreign residence card to her new name and gender here in Tokyo without issue, she reported the changes to her local municipality as required by law. But the ward officers rejected these changes, citing the fact that McCready and her wife cannot both check the “wife” category on their residency certificate.

McCready explained, “Their options are to say ‘Okay, we allow your marriage,’ in which case they have set a precedent for same-sex marriage, or to say ‘No, we don’t allow your marriage,’ in which case they have to unilaterally cancel our marriage without our consent.”

She believes that she is the first person to present this dilemma to the Japanese government, which is still discussing the case four months later.

Government officials initially proposed an idea that devastated McCready — changing the couple’s relationship status from “married” to “enkosha,” meaning “distant relatives” or “difficult-to-describe relations.”

But the couple has no intentions of breaking up, as Midori expressed, “The thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of our family to both of us and the fact that neither of us has any desire to go out and form a new family.”

Of …continue reading