Monday, July 25, 2011

Hope for the Future?

A few months ago, a parental magazine to which I subscribe had an article about ideas on kid's birthday party and there was one entitled "Japanese Tea Party." I cringed and went on to look. Much to my delight, there were some cute ideas in there, but here was the picture:

Photo credit: Fraincis Janisch from

Two things: 1. chopsticks in hair 2. the fold on the robe is that of a dead person*. In the following month's issue, there was a letter from the reader that said, "thank you so much for the great idea!" with a photo of white children dressed in the exact same manner. So here are my mixed feelings-- should I feel good that people are trying to teach their children to be multicultural or should I feel annoyed that they are just spreading stereo type?

But then on a hopeful note, one of my drama educators at thetheatre where I work was looking something up on her laptop for her students during break. She was just reading this very blog recently so when she opened up her laptop, her students could see the title pretty prominently on her screen. One of her students, a white boy about the age of 9 saw this and said "EVERYONE knows not to do that with chopsticks."

I would like to high five him and his parents.

Win some, lose some I guess.

*In Japan、in accordance to the Buddhist tradition, we dress the dead in white kimono and the fold is right over left. Apparently, it stems from the belief that things are opposite in afterlife. Consequently, if you dress an alive person in that manner, it's believed to bring bad luck to not only the person who is wearing it, but those who are around them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cool Biz

Since the earthquake in Japan, it's been the topic of much discussion all over Japan as to how to survive the deadly heat in the summer while conserving energy.

Let me paint you a picture. Summer in Tokyo is similar to summer on the American east coast or the Midwest. Temperatures can reach above 100 degrees and the humidity above 90%. According to my parents, Tokyo is not a place for humans in the summer. (I stopped visiting home in the summer because having lived in the Northwest for more than 10 years, I am now horribly out of shape for that sort of heat.) What makes it even worse is buildings are air conditioned to DEATH, which makes the outside air even hotter and because there are now so many high rises on the Tokyo Bay, the sea breeze is blocked, which is also making things worse. It's pretty much hellish there. When you get up north, it's not as bad, but as you go west, it's even worse. So this is a problem.

Even before the earthquake, people in Japan had been talking about ways to stay cool in summer. One of the things that was introduced to business men a few years back was a dress code called, "Cool Biz." Japanese business men still wear suits to work. So the idea here was to encourage businesses to allow their male workers to lighten their layers. An example is like this:

It's basically dress pants, dress shirt, no tie. Also some men wear a jacket with it. The fact that this has to become a category of business wear and a permissible dress code in corporations cracks me up. Did I mention I live in the Northwest where Microsoft/Amazon/Starbucks headquarters are and if men even tuck their shirts in people suspect they have a job interview?

So now this has been promoted as the way to be this summer. Politicians and TV news anchors are wearing Cool Biz to lead the way and so is my brother, god bless him.

Another one that I saw a lot in department stores on my visit home was this traditional men's underpants called "Suteteko" which is a pair of long, cotton boxers. Apparently wearing those under you pants, as opposed to restricting tighty-whities leaves you much cooler and pleasant. And they are now suggesting women also wear them at home.

Other, less humorous items include bamboo shades, climbing plants, Yukata (our traditional summer cotton kimono)--all things that people used to use to keep cool before technology kicked in. There is something to be said for old ways of doing things because people were smart. And perhaps it's not so terrible for us to figure out that stuff anyway. But I can probably say that because I am not on the un-air-conditioned subway everyday. I wish I could send them 65 degree weather from where I am. Good luck Japan.


And an update on the benefit from May. We raised about $3,000. Not $10,000 I wanted, but better than nothing. I think people who came had a good time and perhaps I will make it a personal goal to keep doing things until we reach $10,000. If you are interested in photos, please look on Facebook under "The Sun Always Rises." Thank you so much for those who came and/or donated!