Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Well, it's back...

What's back you ask? The Japanese summer. While officially, we are still in the middle of rainy season, I balk at the idea and state that summer has hit. By the time I get home, even at 9 or 10PM, I am soaked through and through... by sweat, not rain. The humidity is just hanging in there overnight and this morning, I used my air conditioner for the first time and am glad to report that it works fine.

It's this time of year that I truly loathe having to wear a suit to work. We do our best not to use too much AC at the office, but it's often a losing battle when we're standing in front of a class trying to stay active. If only we had a summer dress code, like the Japanese government has tried to push. They call it "Cool Biz" and essentially aims to save electricity by allowing employees to wear cooler clothing for the summer and thus lowering the need for AC.

How hot is it? Well let me just put it this way... the Japanese PM has left Japan and headed to Canada to cool off, that's how hot it is. He even marveled today at the wonders of Niagara Falls, saying "We don't have falls like that in Japan".

In other news... Japan has just received a slap in the face from the UN in response to it's blatant lack of progress on Human Rights issues. Dr. Diene, a special representative of the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights came to Japan last month for a follow-up to his visit in July of 2005. With Japan pushing for a seat on the UN's Security Council, the UN has put Japan on notice that it must do more to fight discrimination in this country if it wants to play with the big boys. The bottom line is that Japan is being very slow to change anything, not even able to pass an anti-discrimination law tabled in the Diet some time ago. The right-wing groups here seem to hold a lot of sway and are managing to keep the status quo in place. This article by DEBITO ARUDOU (who's web site you can see linked on the right) in the Japan Times Online talks about a book which was recently published in response to Dr. Diene's report. According to the article:

"Said book even provided manga for the masses -- depicting foreigners picking fights in bars, lying down on the job, and laying waste to apartments, then unjustly calling the human rights commission to "rat" on any boss, barkeep, or landlord who objected.
Mentioning the Diene report in passing (comparing it to "book of lies" "The Rape of Nanking"), the book demanded the Foreign Ministry show some backbone for a change, stop the U.N. "insulting our country," and "protect our sovereignty and independence."

That's right, foreigners don't deserve protection because we all pick fights, are lazy and tear up our apartments.... now I understand. I found it ironic that this right-wing propaganda book would mention "The Rape of Nanking" and call it a "book of lies." The very fact that they compare a report by a UN special envoy with this book gives "The Rape of Nanking" credence. For those unfamiliar with the book, it discusses a massacre by Japanese forces during their invasion of China in the late 1930s. Japan's nationalist movement to this day states that it has been exaggerated and that no such massacre occurred, and this despite eye-witness accounts and photos from foreigners who had been traveling in the region. This discussion is for another day, as I am on the verge of reading this "book of lies", it's sitting on my night table right now.

Luckily, there is a silver lining in the form of organisations such as the IMADR and the BLL as well as people such as our student Aiichirou who work to further the cause of minorities in Japan. With any luck, their voices will grow stronger with time and true change will come when they are finally heard.

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