Henri Daros (Self-portrait / Sketch)



by Peter Backhaus
[ The Japan Times, September 2, 2008 ]

As it is every September, people in Japan are looking forward to keirō no hi, the coming national holiday dedicated to the older members of the population. Respect for the Aged Day provides an annual opportunity to visit one’s elderly relatives, get involved in various welfare activities or just stay home in bed and rest.

Given that more than 21 percent of Japan’s population is 65 years or older, it seems reasonable to have something like Respect for the Aged Day. The origins of this holiday, however, date back to when Japan’s population was much younger than it is today, and when the holiday had another name.

On Sept. 15, 1947, a small town in Hyogo Prefecture first celebrated a day for the elderly, then called otoshiyori no hi (“day of the elderly”). In the following years, similar festivities were held in other communities throughout Japan until, in 1963, Sept. 15 was officially established as rōjin no hi (“day of the old people”). It settled to its present name, keirō no hi, only after the government declared it a national holiday in 1966.

One reason for this terminological confusion lies in the negative connotation often associated with words referring to old age. This is apparent with the word rōjin. While rōjin in the past has been a relatively neutral expression referring to elderly people, in recent times it has increasingly become associated with the weaknesses and frailties of old age. This is reflected in terms such as rōjin mondai (“problems with old people”) or rōjin boke, a derogatory term for senility.

And so various alternatives have emerged to replace the unpopular rōjin. The most common of them is kōreisha. Literally meaning “person(s) of high age,” it has so far managed to retain a neutral image. Another alternative is the previously mentioned toshiyori (person/people of advanced age), often used with a respectful o- attached before it.

The terminology of old age has been further enriched by new words. Best known are jukunen and jitsunen. The former literally means “mature years” and it first gained currency in the second half of the 1970s. Jitsunen literally means “true years” and is a more recent coinage. It was introduced by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 1985 to refer to people in their 50s and 60s, but failed to take root in everyday language.

And then there are the usual suspects: English loanwords. A popular one is shirubā (“silver”), as used in shirubā shīto (“silver seat”), train and bus seats reserved for elderly people. “Silver seat” made its national debut on the Chuo Line on Sept. 15 — keirō no hi — 1973. They were later renamed yūsen seki (“priority seat”), which is now most widely used.

One problem with the term shirubā is that it is frequently associated with welfare, and also with old-age problems, rather than with the more positive aspects of old age. A more neutral term is shinia (“senior”). It allows for expressions such as shinia-tachi (“seniors”), shinia-sō (“senior population”) and shinia-sedai (“senior generation”).

The reason behind the emergence of such creative vocabulary referring to old age can best be understood in light of Japan’s rapidly aging population. With the average life expectancy rising from around 45 years in the 1920s to 78 years for men and 85 years for women now, it stands to reason to assume that perceptions on what it means to be “old” are changing.

Take again the term rōjin. The Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living asked more than 1,500 elderly citizens living in the Tokyo metropolitan area, “from what age on does one become a rōjin?” The surveys taken in 1986 and 1996 reveal that the commonly perceived age of acquiring rōjin status is on the rise. The period most frequently identified in both surveys was between 70 and 74, with 49 percent responding so in 1986, and 41 percent 10 years later. A comparison of the results from the two surveys reveals that the rate of people identifying the beginning of the rōjin age group to be below 75 is dropping, while the number of people who consider it to start later than that is growing. Overall, the average age at which people think one becomes a rōjin rose by more than two years, from 71.5 years in 1986 to 73.6 years in 1996.

Problems on how to properly refer to older people thus reflect the rapid changes in Japan’s demography. With life expectancy on the rise, entry into old age is being postponed. The one thing that seems to be sure — and this is the good news — is that there will be many more days of respect for the elderly in the years to come. Whatever name they may go by.






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

Photo courtesy of Tsushima City Tourism Association
Photo courtesy of Tsushima City Tourism Association



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

Folding Screen with Portrait of Honda Heihachirō (detail), Edo period, 17th century Important Cultural Property Photo courtesy of the Tokugawa Art Museum
Folding Screen with Portrait of Honda Heihachirō (detail), Edo period, 17th century
Important Cultural Property
Photo courtesy of the Tokugawa Art Museum







19 September, Senin
Getsuyoobi / Monday )
Hari Lansia
[ Hari Penghormatan Bagi Para Lanjut Usia ]
Keiro no HiRespect-for-the-Aged Day ]


22 September, Kamis
( Mokuyoobi / Thursday )
Hari Awal Musim Gugur
[ Shuubun no Hi // Fall / Autumnal Equinox ]




12 September, Senin
( Getsuyoobi / Monday )
Hari Raya Idul Adha 1437H
[ Feast of the Sacrificeassociated with the pilgrimage to Mecca; Islamic ]




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.