Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their . . . Meh. Can’t be bothered.
4 ( +6 / -2 )
Japanese courts convict with a vengeance: a defendant brought before a court of law has less than a one in one thousandth of a chance of being acquitted.
Listen: once arrested in Japan, the odds are stacked heavily against the suspect. In a typical year such as 2006, when 153,000 unlucky souls—including myself—were taken into police custody, only 3% were released within the first seventy-two hours of their arrest. The remaining were detained, often incommunicado, for the next ten days where most were brow-beaten and some tortured into signing written confessions. In 54% of those cases, prosecutors requested an extension of detention in order to continue with their investigation, while another 28% who had already cracked were prosecuted outright, their confessions becoming the most damning piece of evidence used against them in a court of law.
Judges in Japan, far from being impartial adjudicators, rubber-stamp the paperwork of prosecutors, rejecting in 2006 a mere 70 out of more than 74,000 requests for extensions of detention, or less than one-tenth of one percent. The vast majority of those kept behind bars while their cases are investigated—that is, have their confessions coerced out of them—end up being charged with crimes. Again, over 99% of these are then found guilty.
Surely, some of them are innocent.
While the Gospel according to John may state that the truth will set you free, in the courts of Japan, truth can be the very slipknot they hang you with. So, what can you do if you are brought before the juggernaut that is Japan’s Ministry of Justice?
Lie, lie, lie.
Daily life behind Japanese bars:
11 ( +14 / -3 )
Want to know what Carlos Ghosn’s daily life in jail is like, read this:
-2 ( +1 / -3 )
Our kindergarten does have after-kindy day care called "Takenoko" (bamboo shoot), but it's a lonely place. Most of the mothers, because they do not work, come and fetch their children at two or two-thirty when the children are dismissed. This may be due to the fact that ours is a private kindergarten. Public kindergartens, I suspect, have more kids staying late.
-1 ( +0 / -1 )
In May of 2013 the White House issued a response to a petition on its We the People site which had called for the adoption of the metric system. The petition had garnered almost fifty thousand "signatures". While many proponents of the meters and liters were disappointed with the response, I found it to be fairly reasonable.
Patrick D. Gallagher, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, wrote:
“Right after the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson signed legislation that made it ‘lawful throughout the United States of America to employ the weights and measures of the metric system in all contracts, dealings or court proceedings.’ In 1875, the United States was one of the original 17 nations to sign the Treaty of the Metre. Since the 1890s, U.S. customary units (the mile, pound, teaspoon, etc.) have all been defined in terms of their metric equivalents.
“So contrary to what many people may think, the U.S. uses the metric system now to define all basic units used in commerce and trade. At the same time, if the metric system and U.S. customary system are languages of measurement, then the United States is truly a bilingual nation.
“We measure distance in miles, but fiber optic cable diameter in millimeters. We weigh deli products in pounds, but medicine in milligrams. We buy gasoline by the gallon, but soda comes in liter-size bottles. We parcel property in acres, but remote sensing satellites map the Earth in square meters.”
The “bilingual” nature of the way we measure things around us hadn’t really dawned on me until I read that.
As a bio/chem major in college, I have known for a long time that the metric system with its ease of convertibility was a superior way to measure the world’s phenomena. A calorie for instance is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. One kilogram of water is equivalent to the mass of one liter of water, which is also equal to the volume of a cube with sides ten centimeters in length. Try to make these calculations in the U.S. customary system and you’re bound to come up with the wrong answer.
Gallagher concluded, “In our voluntary system, it is the consumers who have the power to make this choice. So if you like, “speak” metric at home by setting your digital scales to kilograms and your thermometers to Celsius. Cook in metric with liters and grams and set your GPS to kilometers.
“We were thrilled to see this petition from ‘We the People’ succeed. Feedback like this from consumers shows everyone from policymakers to businesses how important having this choice is to Americans.
“So choose to live your life in metric if you want, and thank you for signing on.”
After reading the response, I realized that while I had been living the metric system for over two decades, I wasn’t completely committed to it. My speech was still being corrupted by pounds and inches and gallons.
So, from today on I will “speak” pure metric. On a clear day, I will I exclaim “You can see for 1.609 kilometers and 1.609 kilometers!” When a colleague puts in extra effort, I will thank him for “going the extra 1,609 meters”. I may even buy him 0.57 liters of beer to show my appreciation.
When I’m under intense pressure to perform, I may perspire what feels like increments of 3.785 liters and may end up missing a target by 1.61 meters. Shylock will demand 0.453 kilograms of Antonio’s flesh in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice”. When adamant, I will not budge, not even 2.54 centimeters. And when I die, they may lay me 1.829 meters under.
5 ( +6 / -1 )
Every time these kinds of attacks happen in Japan--and fortunately they are rare--one of the first things that comes to my mind is "Imagine how many people would have been injured or killed if the assailant had been armed with more than a knife."
4 ( +5 / -1 )
Let me tell ye, the pollution here in Fukuoka is bad and getting worse. Can I bill China for my asthma medicine?
4 ( +4 / -0 )
It would do Japan good to build up more of these partnerships to contain China's economic and military influence in the region. Call it the Buddhist Block: Mongolia, S.Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and while we're at it bring in India, as well.
2 ( +6 / -4 )
Kuwano was quoted by police as saying he restrained the woman because he didn’t want her to walk out on him.
Well, she's out of your life forever now, you sick bastard.
7 ( +8 / -1 )
Kids these days have no respect for their elders. When I was a lad, we stabbed our fathers in their bellies. And we looked them straight in the eye when we did it. Backing stabbing! What is the world coming to?
1 ( +1 / -0 )
I always liked the Mitsubishi Pajero and Pajero Mini, which means "jerk off" in Spanish.
4 ( +4 / -0 )
Well, we all know how long the Japanese government likes to think about things before doing nothing. The protestors should keep the pressure up until the government moves from mere "consideration" to real action.
8 ( +13 / -5 )
Great idea. Wish it was coming from someone other than Mr. Pander Bear himself.
1 ( +2 / -1 )
Bureaucrats in the Ministry of Industry and nuclear regulation agency, as well as employees at Japan's major electric companies ought to be forced to wear rainbow-colored propeller caps at all times until Japan has replaced the lost nuclear energy with renewable energy sources.
0 ( +1 / -1 )
When I wrote above of Japan’s need to reduce wasteful spending, I was thinking first and foremost about the need to reduce both the number of lawmakers in the national and local assemblies and to cut the generous emolument paid to politicians.
The Japanese Diet has 722 members, 480 in the House of Representatives—the Lower House in which real power lies—and 242 in the House of Councillors, or Upper House. In a country that has only 40% of America’s population, there is no reason it should have 35% more representatives in its national assembly. You could cut the number of politicians by about half to say 350—250 in the lower house and 100 in the upper house—and there would still be more than enough representation.
As for the salaries of Japan’s politicians, I first became concerned when my wife, who was working in the local mayor’s office, told me that the city assembly members earn some ¥800,000 per month whether they are in session or not. Whenever the assembly does meet, they are given an additional per diem just for showing up. Biannual bonuses and first-class “fact-finding” trips abroad at public expense are a matter of course, and when they complete their term they receive another bonus. Not a bad deal—almost makes me want to change my citizenship and become a politician. But, when this city (Fukuoka) continues to struggle with debt brought on by misguided projects, for which these feckless leaders voted, I can't help feeling that something is wrong.
An interesting article last year in the Japanese Times, which goes into some detail about the finances of the Tokyo metropolitan government, shows that Fukuoka is not alone in overspending and overcompensating its "leaders".
The article says, “At ¥11.8 trillion, the metro government’s budget for fiscal 2011 is equal to Saudi Arabia’s, and was barely eclipsed by South Korea’s ¥14 trillion and Norway’s ¥12.7 trillion budget in fiscal 2010.”
I don’t know about you, but I was flabbergasted when I read that. Granted, the yen has been riding high lately which has a way inflating the price of everything, but Korea, a country that is technically at war and has the world’s sixth largest standing army at 653,000 troops, and a population 3.7 times larger than the city of Tokyo, spends only 19% more to run an entire country than Ishihara spends to run the Tokyo metropolitan government . . . Something's very wrong with this picture.
What’s more: “According to the metro government, Gov. Shintarô Ishihara will receive ¥1,359,900 a month in fiscal 2010. His bonus, paid in June and December, totaled about ¥6.6 million, bringing his annual income to about ¥26 million. At the end of each four-year term, Ishihara also received retirement benefits. He received more than ¥47.2 million at the end of the first term in 2003, followed by over ¥45.2 million at the end of his second term in 2007. He is expected to receive ¥43.5 million after his third term expires in April.”
That’s a hell of a lot of money. In his first term in office alone Ishihara earned a total of about ¥151,200,000 (between $1.3 ~ 2 million, depending on the exchange rate). By comparison, Obama earns roughly the same amount of money—$400,000 per year (about ¥31 million)—as the so-called "leader of the free world".
Again, something is very, very wrong with this picture and the sooner Japanese cotton on to this, the better. It's high time for a "Green Tea Party" to shake this country up and end politics as usual.
-1 ( +1 / -2 )
Even at 10% the consumption tax will still be comparatively low to other countries. I do, however, have two concerns about the Noda plan: the uniformity of those planned tax hikes, and, two, the heavy-reliance on revenue increases alone to address Japan’s debt crisis.
When you consider how much the national and local government wastes on unnecessary public works—such as cementing the countryside over, spoiling Japan’s once beautiful coastline with “tetrapods” (gigantic concrete blocks resembling jacks), reclaiming land in a country with a falling population, and building gleaming new airports in places where nobody in their right mind would fly in or out of—it’s not difficult to see that there is quite a bit of room for cuts in spending. I say, for every one percent increase in the consumption tax, the government should try to find ways to reduce government spending by, say, 5 percent. They could start with cutting the number and pay of politicians, reducing budgets in the nation’s behemoth bureaucracy, eliminating redundancies, and so on. It’s high time for Japan’s public servants to start serving the public rather than the other way around.
Secondly, increases in the consumption tax should not be uniformly levied, as is the case today, but applied in a manner such that the tax is less regressive, less burdensome on those least able to afford it. For example, maintain or reduce the current 5% consumption tax on basic foodstuff, but raise it to 20% on, say, junk food and fast food. (Devil in the details, I know.) Keep it at 5% on domestically produced clothing, but 25% on clothing manufactured in China or Vietnam. Maintain the 5% consumption tax on hybrid and electric cars, but raise it to 15% on other vehicles, 25% or more on gas-guzzling SUVs and luxury cars. By manipulating the tax rates in this manner you can steer people towards habits that have long-term positive benefits on the environment, health, and society.
On second thought, nix that idea. It’ll only encourage corporations to grease politicians’ palms in order to get their products exempted from the higher consumption tax. By all means, though, let’s eliminate wasteful spending.
0 ( +1 / -1 )
How many parents would raise their prodigal son's allowance?
0 ( +0 / -0 )
Living downtown as I do, it’s not uncommon to see homeless men rummaging through the garbage in search of empty cans. Some of the more industrious of these vagabonds can amass such a stash of crushed cans—all crammed into large plastic bags and lashed together on the backs of bicycles—that from a distance they can look like camels accoutered for an expedition.
It always made me wonder how much a vagrant could earn in this manner so I was delighted when a local news program did a story on the city’s homeless.
One kilogram of used cardboard, according to the reporter, can be sold to the scrapyard for about seven yen, or just under a buck (US), meaning that even the most determined homeless man can only earn about two hundred yen ($2.50) a day. Every kilo of aluminum cans, on the other hand, brings in ¥140. After collecting cans all day long, a hobo might make about ¥1000 ($13), or enough to buy a bentô and perhaps a couple cans of happôshu.
A friend told me that one of the happier moments in a homeless man’s foraging life is when he comes across an alluminum alloy wheel for a car. One wheel in good condition can be sold for about ¥500 ($6.40).
0 ( +0 / -0 )
Japan Today and the Japan Times need to work on their headlines. The often read like Buddhist kôans and have me scratching my head for a minute before reading the article. How about "Scientist unveils world's first thinking robot"? Saves you two words that you can use later. Waste not, want not.
0 ( +0 / -0 )
I'm in there among those stats. I tend to do much of my "newspaper" reading on my iPhone via Facebook at the detriment of my poor eyes. Perhaps Apple can come out with an iPhone that's half the size of a iPad. They could even call it a "Big iMac".
0 ( +0 / -0 )
As if the LDP could have done a better job.
Most of the problems facing this country today could have been addressed by the government over ten years ago if the Liberal Dems, who know very little about liberalism and democracy, had shown true leadership. Instead they let them fester and fester. Shame on the bastards for using this dire moment in Japanese history to try to gain some political points!
0 ( +0 / -0 )
Ditto what tkoind2 said.
Let me add that once they get this messed settled I hope they will challenge the koseki data-imput system next so that it finally allows for middle names. (What a revolutionary idea!) My poor son as an affliction of a first name (his actual first in kanji+my family name in katakana with no space between the two) because of this. What we applied for and what we got were very different things and now to scratch my family name off we'll have to go to court. Good grief.
0 ( +0 / -0 )