Foreign Workers:
Neither Clowns Nor Terrorists

by Didier Andre Guillot
Special To The Japan Times
August 12, 2016

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mentioned his newly reshuffled government’s intention to “revolutionize people’s working style.” It is great news that Japanese political leaders recognize the need to address some of the entrenched employment traditions that no longer serve the country’s ambitions. Obsolete employment practices are one of the problems faced by Japan to regain its international splendor. For this new policy to succeed, it must also include reflection on the attitude toward foreign employees. Put bluntly, Japan needs to revise how workers from other countries can contribute to the nation’s reinvigorated internationalization.

To become more international, a country needs an engaging attitude toward foreign affairs, people and cultures. Attracting more tourists will not suffice; an international country needs to make sure its foreign employees feel welcome and are appropriately integrated. The leading international countries of today have put this recipe to good use. Japan needs to do similarly to succeed in its renewed international quest.

Here are a few recent personal anecdotes that provide some useful context to understand the Japanese situation. They occurred in and around Fukui Prefecture, which is arguably different from Tokyo and Osaka. But they actually serve our purpose quite well, Fukui being, as the tourist brochure says, the “real Japan.”

A classic example is the weekly trip to the supermarket where, inevitably, children stare at the foreign face as if they had seen an alien pushing a shopping cart. Finding medical assistance can be an enlightening experience as well, like that phone call to a specialist clinic during which the doctor asked, after he learned that his interlocutor was French, if he was a terrorist. Or that visit to (another) specialist clinic where the doctor treated the patient not to a (normally expected) physical examination but to a (totally unexpected) high-five. Or the tour with some visiting parents to a famous local tourist spot, where the owner of a restaurant barred us entrance to her parking lot, assuming, as she confirmed later, that “the foreigners (in that car) would probably not appreciate the local delicacies served here.” I love oroshi soba and my parents would die for “sauce katsudon.”

These anecdotes reflect the general attitude of Japanese people toward foreigners, one of cross-cultural misunderstanding, certainly to be attributed to a rather high level of parochialism rather than to any malignant intention. The people of Japan are not to blame; they simply have not received a sufficient level of exposure to foreigners to know how to interact with them appropriately. Governments, national and local, should bear most of the responsibility since they design and implement the education and social policies that impact their citizens’ cultural awareness and sensibility.

What is needed from national and local bureaucracies is a genuine attention to non-Japanese matters. The recently opened Tourist Information Center in front of Fukui Station posts a sign outside its door advertising “bycycle rental.” A small misspelled sign for a tourist information center, but a giant indicator for a country. There is also a need to portray foreign influence in a more appropriate fashion. A few months ago the local NHK news program covered a new security system at highway toll stations; the simulated attack featured an English-speaking assailant!

So Japanese citizens are generally under-informed or misled in their perceptions of foreign people living around them. But how could that be possible since most Japanese kids have foreign (read English) native speakers as assistant language teachers in their classrooms at some point of their educational curriculum? Beyond language acquisition, they should also be introduced to foreign ideas, behavior and attitudes.

It could be that the role models are inappropriate, which raises the issue of differentiation. For lack of skills or interest, managers in public and private offices put little effort in the selection and retention of talented contributors, a basic cornerstone of efficient human resource management. Differentiation is as necessary between the good and not-so-good foreign workers as it is among Japanese employees. Japan needs to learn better how to differentiate between foreign contributors with the potential to make a positive difference to Japan’s future, while letting others go. Treating everybody similarly, with the smallest common denominator (e.g. short-term contract, no organizational commitment) is like shooting oneself in the foot. Less efficient employees will accept the temporary conditions, knowing they won’t find better elsewhere, while those with potential will not, knowing that they will be recognized for their real potential elsewhere. Japan needs less discrimination but more differentiation toward its foreign workers.

Obviously, there is quality among the many language assistants who contribute to Japan’s education. So children might be underexposed to cultural awareness issues because foreign assistants, despite their upmost efforts and dedication, are often considered more as entertainers than educators. Kids see them as amusing characters who deliver entertaining performances.

In a Confucian tradition, the sensei (professor) who educates is revered, the jester with his or her tricks is made fun of. At the latest welcoming ceremony at my university, the only foreigner invited to address the audience was a gentleman, dressed in a bright yellow, red and green clown costume, doing juggling while giving an “inspirational” address to new students and their parents: the modern version of the court jester entertaining royalty and their guests during banquet time.

Being an entertainer is a perfectly legitimate profession and entertainment can surely convey inspirational thoughts. But consistently categorizing foreigners in that role creates long-lasting social trauma. When foreigners are pictured as either clowns or terrorists, children cannot develop a healthy attitude toward non-Japanese people and the possibility of having a simple but efficient living and working relationship with them.

The vast majority of non-Japanese living here love this nation and wish it the very best. They have needed skills and competence but are not given the opportunity to contribute fully. Social psychology teaches us the universal human need for belonging and achievement. The many non-Japanese who live here are not asking for anything but the opportunity to contribute to their full potential, and in return to receive a sense of gratitude and acceptance for what they are contributing.

If Japan wants to maintain or regain its global significance, the “revolution of people’s working style” called for by Abe is indeed necessary. The full internationalization of the Japanese economy will require a proper selection and retention mechanism of foreign employees and a legislative and cultural revolution that would allow them to contribute fully alongside Japanese employees.

Didier Andre Guillot is a specially appointed associate professor
at Fukui Prefectural University.






August 2016 Events
A selection of events in and around Nagoya
in August (and beyond).

Photo courtesy of Inuyama City
Photo courtesy of Inuyama City



A selection of exhibitions at galleries and other venues
in and around Nagoya in August

Left: Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) © 2001 Studio Ghibli・NDDTM Right: Bathhouse, model (Spirited Away)
Left: Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)
© 2001 Studio Ghibli・NDDTM
Right: Bathhouse, model (Spirited Away)







11 Agustus,  Kamis
Mokuyoobi / Thursday )
Hari Gunung 
Yama no HiMountain Day ]





17 Agustus, Rabu
( Suiyoobi / Wednesday )
Hari Peringatan Proklamasi
Kemerdekaan Republik Indonesia

The Independence Day ]


Calendar August 2016.

Calendar August 2016 on white background. 3D illustration.






July 2016 Events
A selection of events in and around Nagoya in July (and August)

Photo courtesy of Toyohama Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Photo Courtesy of Toyohama Chamber of Commerce and Industry



July 2016 Exhibitions
A selection of exhibitions at galleries and other venues
in and around Nagoya in July
Émile Gallé, Dragon Vase, c.1864
Photo Courtesy of the Daiichi Museum of Art



JULI (JULY) 2016



Tanabata Matsuri (Star Festival)



7 Juli, Kamis
( Mokuyoobi / Thursday )

Festival Tanabata (Festival Bintang)
 [ Tanabata Matsuri / Star Festival ]


18 Juli,  Senin
( Getsuyoobi / Monday )

Hari Samudra (Hari Bahari)
[ Umi no Hi / Marine Day ]



Bedug Lebaran (Foto Henri Daros)



Hari Raya Idul Fitri
The End of Fasting Month, Islamic ]
6 Juli, Rabu, 1 Syawal 1437H
7 Juli, Kamis, 2 Syawal 1437H


July 2016 Calendar


Surviving the Rainy Season in Japan: 40 tips

The Unconventional How-To Guide for Living in Japan 

Rainy day in Shibuya, Tokyo

Photo of people near the Shibuya cross in Tokyo in a rainy day.

Now that the rainy season has arrived, what perfect timing to discuss how to survive this time of heat, moisture and sweat. And now, 40 ways to survive the rainy season in Japan:

1. Buy an air conditioner. Although, you may find buying a car is a better investment.

2. Try an electric fan (or two, three… or ten). Fans are a great alternative if you wish to avoid using an air conditioner, because of its harmful effects on the environment. *Tip: put a bowl of ice in front of the fan for cooler air.

3. Go out. Take advantage of the A/C spewing out in every public building and mode of transportation – on the train, in restaurants, at the mall, in movie theaters. Sure, you have to spend a little, but it’s cheaper than buying an air conditioner (unless you REALLY like to shop).

4. Don’t go out. Contrary to #2, if you own and use an air conditioner, why not stay in?

5. Carry a “sweat” towel. Everyone uses them. You will need it. The day you forget is a day you’ll regret. (I know, so cheesy. But seriously, forgetting the towel can be miserable, especially when you resort to wiping sweat off on your already-sweaty clothes).

6. Drink lots of water. Carry a water bottle. Of course, vending machines everywhere make it nearly impossible to become dehydrated, but why not show the earth you care? Especially if you own and use an air conditioner. Either that or carry a crap-load of change (although, this is inevitable in Japan).

7. Buy a pretty hand fan (団扇, uchiwa or 扇子, sensu). Or just take the free, plastic ones people pass out at train stations.

8. Eat hiyashi chuuka. And zarusoba. And somen. Basically, just eat cold noodles.

9. Indulge in soft cream. Here’s your chance to try every flavor you’ve ever wanted for the sake of staying cool. Lactose-intolerant? Avoiding dairy? Uh, well, see #19. Try fro-yo or sorbet instead.

10. Use an umbrella. They aren’t just for rain in Japan! Then again, it IS the rainy season, so the umbrella is dual-purpose.

11. Camp out at the beach. Although, if the ground starts shaking: run. Away from the beach.

12. Get a haircut. As short as possible.

13. Accept the fact that your hair will not behave and frizz out for the next few months.

14. Go swimming. (does it even need to be said…)

15. Head to the hills. It’s just cooler. At least, in the woods, not on the face of a mountain with no tree cover.

16. Brace yourself for bugs. They come in droves.

17. Buy a mosquito net for your bed. If you are like me and attract mosquitoes all the time, especially at night while sleeping, get something. (alternatively, see the Mosquito Repellent post below)

18. If you don’t buy a net, accept the fact that you probably won’t sleep well due to mosquitoes until summer is over. If you sleep like a rock, well, you’ll just have to deal with itchy bites. Unless your one of those lucky jerks who seem to repel mosquitoes. I wish I was you.

*For a complete guide on how to keep away mosquitoes this summer in Japan, try A Survival Guide to Mosquito Repellent in Japan. And for those annoying bites, How to Find Anti-itch, Insect Medicine in Japan.

19. Buy an ice cream maker from Amazon.jp. (Be sure to check your freezer space first – if you even have a freezer…)

20. Take two showers a day. (No, this isn’t green, but you’ll need them).

21. Visit an onsen or sento. Clean off the sweat and whatever else is sticking to you.

22. Accept the fact that people will repeatedly say “atsui desu ne” (暑いですね, it’s hot, isn’t it) for the next few months. Even if you and they are all sweating in a room, with thick, stagnant air and it’s incredibly obvious that you are all experiencing heat exhaustion, someone will still pipe up, “it’s hot, isn’t it?”

23. Don’t sit in a school gymnasium with the entire student body if the sliding doors are shut. Don’t do it.

24. Drink ocha (green tea) and mugicha (barley tea) and the many other cold teas.

25. Wear deodorant. (Obviously)

*Can’t find deodorant? Try, How to Find (Good) Deodorant in Japan

26. Take a trip. Go anywhere that doesn’t have a rainy season, or is currently in the middle of winter.

27. Accept the fact that your sweat will rarely leave your body unless you are carrying around that sweat towel.

28. Wear quick drying clothes. Spend tons on nice clothes through an outdoor retailer, or just go to Uniqlo.

29. Mold will grow everywhere. Keep your living area aired out. Put produce in a crisper or fridge.

30. Carry around wet wipes. These are great for any time of the year, but you may find them more necessary in summer when out and about.

31. Carry extra clothes. Always have a rain jacket, if not a small umbrella. Extra socks and/or sandals may also come in handy. An extra shirt and pants or shorts may also be useful if you find yourself soaked (either from rain or your own sweat).

32. Grab those packs of tissues everyone hands out near train stations. Never know when you’ll need them.

33. Buy a blender.

34. Make smoothies with the blender. Buy frozen fruit from The Flying Pig, and/or freeze your own, add veggies and whatever else for a nice chilled treat.

35. Wear crocs. Everyone wears them here, particularly during summer and the rainy season. Waterproof, cheap, and… stylish? When in Rome…

36. Buy some sweat pads.

37. Drink sports drinks. And eat food with soy sauce. Make sure you replenish the salt you’re losing, especially if you have low blood pressure. (Of course, if you have high blood pressure, forget this entirely.)

38. Take cold showers or baths. 

39. Use a Laundromat, an air dryer, or a dehumidifier to dry your clothes and bedding if you need them right away. You can hang them outside (as is custom here), but be prepared for longer drying time.

40. Live in Hokkaido. They don’t even have a rainy season. (Uh, but winter is an entirely different story…)




And of course, a few more to add:

41. Forget number 4 on the previous list – with all the energy conservation we should be doing, go out instead and share the A/C instead of using it at home. (Although with the temps the way they are right now there really isn’t much of a need for A/C…)

42. Check tenki.jp or yahoo to find out the expected laundry index for the next few days, so you know the optimal time to do laundry. (Although, keep in mind drying inside or using a dryer at the laundromat may be a better idea when it’s really humid or wet.)

43. Get out, travel, and boost Japan’s economy! Sure, the weather isn’t ideal, but travel is typically pretty low during this time – you may score some great deals and perhaps run into less crowds. Besides, some places in Japan look absolutely stunning in the rain and/or on cloudy days. Just carry an umbrella.

44. Pick up some hydrogen peroxide to help clean the mold that will accumulate – especially in your bathroom/shower area (hydrogen peroxide is kinder to the environment than bleach).

45. Mix up some vinegar+water – if you notice your clothes smell worse, particularly in the underarm area, spritz some vinegar mixed with water on the area right after you take off the shirt, then wash normally. I’ve found this to be helpful in combating underarm shirt smells. And hey, vinegar water is also excellent for natural cleaning around the house!

46. Avoid puddles and cars at bus stops – from @jaydeejapan

47. If you have oily skin, go out and get your self oil-control strips. Apart from a towel, this will help a great deal. – from bhatiavaibhav (in the comments below).

48. Try citrus! From @kirsty_girl: “I find eating a grapefruit in the morning helps.  I have no idea why.”

49. Tea Tree oil fights mold and mildew – magicacorn says:

It works like magic to kill off and prevent the growth of mold and mildew on anything from cloth to wood to tile/grout. You just mix 1 tsp with one cup of water in a spray bottle and spritz away. The smell is fairly strong, but not unpleasant, and it does fade in a day or two. I sometimes even put a teaspoon or two in the washing machine if I have towels that smell musty. You can also use the oil for a ton of physical aliments too…what can I say? I love the stuff!

50. Use vinegar against gnats – Brandon (@pickmybran) says:

To get rid of them, you should mix apple cider vinegar (ringo-su) with water in a bowl and leave it near the problem area.

51. Be cool as a cucumber (and fruit!) – also recommended by Brandon:

Raw vegetables are a delicious treat in summer. Try summer squash, zucchini, various peppers, and even okra raw. They’re healthy, but also, since they are not cooked, are cool in the mouth.

52. Throw a beach party! – May as well use the humidity as an excuse to add to a tropical atmosphere. Hat tip to Brandon.

53. [Your tip here]. After reading the first 40 tips, what other advice do you have to get through rainy season?

Posted for ‘Surviving in Japan’
by Ashley
(except the pictures )






June 2016 Events
A selection of events in and around Nagoya in June.

Photo courtesy of Atsuta Jingu
Photo courtesy of Atsuta Jingu



June 2016 Exhibitions
A selection of exhibitions at galleries and other venues
in and around Nagoya in June.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Octopus from Takasago in Banshu, from the series "Celebrated Products of Mountains and Seas" Collection of Nagoya Broadcasting Network Co., Ltd.
Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Octopus from Takasago in Banshu, from the series “Celebrated Products of Mountains and Seas”
Collection of Nagoya Broadcasting Network Co., Ltd.




A Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day Message

Tokyo Weekender, July 3rd, 1998
Opinions, Trends & Culture
By Weekender Editor  


by James Bailey

If America and Europe really want Japan to in­crease its imports, all they’ve got to do is create more holidays.

With the possible exception of Big Macs, nothing from the West has been welcomed here with more open arms, and fewer nontariff trade barriers, than those special occasions featuring a thin sliver of religiosity stuck between several thick slices of un­fettered capitalism. Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day, Halloween—the Japanese have enthusiastically im­ported these and then, in a time-honored tradition familiar to anyone who’s listened to domestic ver­sions of that musical genre known as “rock-and-roll,” twisted them beyond all recognition.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are imports from America, which strikes me as a very counter-intui­tive development, like something called Brother­hood Day originating in Bosnia. To be sure, their bleating commercialism loudly announces their All-American bona fides. But when it comes to produc­ing the living examples of the self-sacrifice and love that these days are intended to honor, Japan has what economist David Ricardo would recognize as comparative advantage over the U.S.

Take, for example, mothers. In his autobiogra­phy, newsman David Brinkley writes that “none of us could anticipate when Mama could or would let down enough, give enough of herself to show some small sign of kindness or generosity.” Playwright-politician-editor Clare Booth Luce, according to Sylvia Jukes Morris’s biography, Rage for Fame, admitted in old age that “Mother poisoned my life.” Playwright David Mamet’s mother, writes John Lahr in a profile in the Nov. 17, 1997, edition of the New Yorker, told her son, “I love you but I don’t like you.” Richard Nixon, according to Nathan Miller in Star-Spangled Men, “made it evident” later in life that “he wished (his mother) had shown him more open affection.”

Put them all together and they spell M-O-WHAT?

All this is not to say that America is bereft of maters and paters who deserve their carnation cor­sages and neckties. However, to invoke Ricardo’s doctrine of comparative advantage once again, a society which tells you that personal happiness is a right, as opposed to emphasis on fulfilling familial obligations, is going to be filled with a lot more resentful moms and dads who regard any act of self-denial as a “sacrifice” rather than a “duty.”

As the debate on what to do about Social Secu­rity heats up, we’ll undoubtedly be hearing more from American moms and pops about how the chil­dren they sacrificed so much for ought now to do a little belt-tightening of their own and give up those health club memberships we never had during the Depression.

But, look at how local moms and pops in Ja­pan have reacted to the belt-tightening they’ve had to endure.

Health care for the elderly was made completely free in 1972. By 1984, the elderly were paying for 10 percent of their health care costs; by 1997, that per­centage had doubled, without “any widespread public opposition,” according to The Associated Press. In 1985, future pension benefits were sub­stantially cut and current contributions substan­tially hiked again “with scarcely a whimper from the public,” writes Sheldon Garon in Molding Japa­nese Minds.

In 1994, the age of eligibility at which one begins receiving pension benefits was raised from 60 to 65; currently, the percentage of over-65 Japanese males who are working is twice that of their American coun­terparts; the government is clearly determined to make sure that this country’s chief welfare provider for the elderly is not the government, but the family.

Given this situation, one is compelled to para­phrase Walter Mondale and ask: where’s the beef­ing? Where are the whimpering recriminations that would be never ending if a similar situation existed in the States? We’ve sacrificed for our children, the blue-tinted and bespectacled brigades would howl, and now they’ve joined forces with Washington to deny us a comfortable retirement. Oh, how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.

Remarkably consistent throughout Japan’s his­tory has been the desire of parents not to be bur­dens on their children. Generations ago, that meant willingly allowing yourself to be carted off to the mountains to starve to death so as not to take rice from the mouths of your offspring. Today, that means not growing resentful every time your re­tirement benefits are cut. To a degree that the carping AARPers would find unbearably onerous, Japanese mothers and fathers consider their obligations to their children to be virtually unending.

So, the local observance of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is yet another example of the sneaky Japanese swiping American holidays without pay­ing the U.S. a single cent in licensing fees. I, for one, would be willing to call it even-steven if they’d export some of their mothers and fathers to remind some of ours about the values that these days are intended to honor.


mother's day.1

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Maywood – Mother, How Are You Today – YouTube
[ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NSGJB7Fe1s ]






May 2016 Events
A selection of events in and around Nagoya in May

Kamezaki Shiohi Matsuri. Photo courtesy of Handa City.
Kamezaki Shiohi Matsuri. Photo courtesy of Handa City.



May 2016 Exhibitions
A selection of exhibitions at galleries and other venues
in and around Nagoya in May

Toshusai Sharaku, Ichikawa Yaozo III as Tanabe Bunzo Collection of the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation
Toshusai Sharaku, Ichikawa Yaozo III as Tanabe Bunzo
Collection of the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation



MEI (MAY) 2016



Japan String and Bamboo Music

Golden Week / Oogon Shuukan

3 Mei, Selasa
( Kayoobi / Tuesday )
Hari Peringatan Konstitusi
 [ Kenpo Kinenbi / Constitution Memorial Day ]


4 Mei,  Rabu
( Suiyoobi / Wednesday )
Hari Hijau
[ Midori no Hi / Greenery Day ]


5 Mei, Kamis
( Mokuyoobi / Thursday )
Hari Anak-Anak
[ Kodomo no Hi / Children’s Day ]

8 Mei, Minggu
( Nichiyoobi / Sunday )
Hari Ibu
[ Haha no Hi / Mother’s Day ]



The Beautiful West Flores, Indonesia (Photo CNN-Travel)


1 Mei, Minggu
Hari Buruh Internasional
International Labor Day ]

5 Mei, Kamis
Hari Raya Kenaikan Yesus Kristus
[ The Ascension of Jesus Christ; Christian ]


6 Mei, Jumat
Hari Isra Mi’raj Nabi Muhammad
[ Prophet Muhammad’s ascent ]


22 Mei, Minggu 
Hari Raya Waisak 2560
[ Feast marking Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death ]


Calendar - May 2016



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