Category Archives: Blog about Life

Welcome Cookie

Having been kind enough to invite me to be a guest several times to their podcasts, your perspicacious duo has also granted me, Cookie, an invitation to post textual contributions to the Impetuous Windmills blog! And everyone is aware that ‘I write better than I talk.’

Although I enjoy the company of your humble hosts, I do not necessarily share their interests; you won’t see any reviews of movies, video games, or TV shows here, mostly because I don’t play many games, see many movies, or even watch TV. I do read books sometimes, but honestly I don’t really like doing reviews.

Instead, I’ll be bringing you information on random things Japan, some travel, and other things I find interesting. What you should know from the get-go is that I live in west Japan, in Hyogo Prefecture; I’m the editor of the monthly online PDF magazine Hyogo Times, and like to explore my mountain-valley home. I’m also currently (albeit at a very slow pace) taking part in the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, which for me is a plot to visit  33 temples dedicated to Kannon in the Kansai area. I’m doing it for a variety of reasons, some of which would make you laugh, some of which would make you cry (to hear more about how I accidentally stumbled onto this pilgrimage, please see this page); I’ve been to five of the temples so far, and hope to complete the circuit before I leave Japan next year.

I’ll be posting soon with an actual bit of content, a look at one of my favorite holidays and how we’ve recreated it in my small town in Japan (without it becoming centered on cute furry animals… yet).

Til then!

Japan Culture Watch: Kanamara Matsuri

I often think I don’t take full advantage of living in Japan, in terms of my website contributions. I don’t mean I need to write travelblog entries, since that’s not the focus of the site. There’s plenty of good sources for that anyway, including friend of the Podcast Cookie’s own blog, which you can visit here. However, living in a foreign country does expose me to a lot of exciting and different material I should be using to fuel my blog presence a bit more directly.

Sometimes it’s hard to focus in on what I should write. For example, should I blog about visiting the Tokyo Game Show? Other sites do that, and their updates happen live, so a 2-week-delayed description of the goings on would be a little bit redundant.

Today I found my muse. I learned about a yearly festival held in Kawasaki, which is a little city part of the urban sprawl between Tokyo and Yokohama, called the Kanamara Matsuri (I will translate it later). Ladies and gentleman, Japan is a different world. I have not personally been to the festival; I only just heard about it roughly 27 minutes ago, but was so enraptured by it conceptually I needed to blog about it immediately. Disclaimer: if you are a minor and/or excessively prude, please don’t read the rest of this article.

Continue reading Japan Culture Watch: Kanamara Matsuri

MONGERING FEAR: Japan’s still in hot, irradiated water

Just dropping a quick post to link this article (It’s not an article, I don’t know what it is. I don’t understand the internet yet, or how to categorize all the different news-ish stuff one can access these days), which I thought pretty interesting. It’s fairly sensationalist, but it raises some nice questions the news media outside of Japan probably isn’t addressing.

I realize it’s been almost 4 months now since the 3/11 earthquake, and CNN et al can’t be tasked with covering a story more than 2 weeks, but please do not confuse international media silence with an actual resolution to the problems caused by the earthquake in March. Large parts of Northern Japan are, of course, still a mess reminiscent of Mad Max movies. The area immediately surrounding the Fukushima nuclear plant is still bathed in radiation, bathing, rather. Past tense is not accurate. The truth of what happened at the Fukushima plant will probably never come to light. TEPCO officials and the news do a lot of speaking, but very little talking, if you know what I mean. The current working plan seems to consist of watching the plant from afar and letting it shoot out all the radiation it can until it runs out, which should be about march 2012 according to current estimates. Boy, if that doesn’t inspire confidence.

I don’t pretend to be an nuclear engineer, or know anything about curbing a nuclear meltdown, other than calling the Justice League. However, as an educated consumer of news, and more importantly, electric power supplied by  TEPCO (I do live in TYO), I would enjoy getting something more than nothing and what seems like complacency. I am not Japanese; tearful apologies and bowing your head to the ground in front of  cameras doesn’t do much for me. Frankly, it’s not doing much for the general public here, either. Naoto Kan, the current PM faced tremendous pressure from his own party and constituents to resign after his perceived failures to handle the national disaster adequately. He did survive the vote of no confidence last month, but only because he promised to resign on his own “in the near future.” There’s Japanese politics for you.

And now I’m rambling. My main purpose is just to stress how the crisis is still very much ongoing, and though the Japanese put on a very brave and capable front, they are mired in inaction and politics as usual. While reading the linked article, don’t be surprised to hear about TEPCO’s yakuza connections, or bribing history, or never being held accountable for anything…that’s all standard procedure for Japanese hypercorporations (and even American ones, honestly). Let’s just see if and how anything changes, and if TEPCO can successfully switch its priorities around, and start focusing on the people of Fukushima first, and the yen second.

(Post Edit- Why solve a problem, when you can just apologize and resign? 2011/7/5)

Later days,

Sagramore

Medi(t)ation

(Title stolen from Sagramore)

When it comes to blogging, I tend to eschew posts recounting my personal life and activities. For one, I believe my life to be far from interesting. Unlike Sagramore, I do not live abroad, nor am I engaged in some grand life experience. My days are largely uneventful affairs revolving around legal research and legal school work, and I doubt such things are engaging to people outside of the profession. For another, there is some part of me that cleaves to the idea that posts must be about something, and that a record of my daily doings does not provide insightful commentary on the nature of life, the universe, and everything.

Nevertheless, I find myself enamored by the posts of my friend EmLem (who guest spots on the podcast as Cookie, and who also lives in Japan), even though they are personal and I cannot wholly relate to teaching English in Japan. Her style is somewhat colloquial, in that she writes much as one would speak, but there is strong compositional control behind it, so that the posts have a proper flow and craft to them, and are not merely the ramblings of someone putting thoughts on the page. (At times I envy that style tremendously. There is an artificiality to my own mode that I often resent. Perhaps that is the quasi-poet in me, who strives for rhythmical and grammatical balance above straightforwardness and clarity.) She also has a deft hand at interweaving more universal themes into her posts, which is why I enjoy them, though I am not a JET. In short, you should read her blog.

So inspired, and armed with the knowledge that perhaps personal blogging can in fact be about something, (not to mention such posts are a cathartic experience,) I think it worthwhile to try my hand at it. Today, after all, was not a normal day, and it was most definitely about something.

Today I participated in mediation to try to settle one of Dad’s cases. I say participate, but the truth is that I listened, and observed, and made a point to not become involved. Once or twice I was asked my opinion about the merits of settling for a certain amount, and I was flattered that Dad and Michie (Dad’s partner) valued my opinion, but each time I refused to answer, out of fear of my own inexperience and imperfect knowledge of the issues and facts of the case. But I was there in the room with the lawyers, the mediator, and the client, and I learned the ins and outs of mediation, at least from the plaintiff’s perspective, and I felt like I belonged.

The facts of the case itself I cannot reveal, nor do I think they are relevant. It is enough to know that we represent the plaintiff, and that she is suing for an injury, and that the defendant has denied any liability.

The mediation took place at a lawyer’s office on 2nd Avenue, in a building that looked like it had been built shortly after the Civil War. Inside it had been renovated, probably in the 60s, so it looked modern, but everything was weighed down by the wear and age that accumulates over fifty years. The suite itself was large, with a conference room, several meeting rooms, and about four offices. These rooms and offices were tastefully decorated and had a lived-in feel, which itself was odd because only one lawyer, our mediator, now uses the suite. He sits at the desk by the front door, where once I imagine a secretary sat clicking away on a typewriter, and the rest of the rooms, when not occupied by mediating parties, are used only by memories and specters.

The mediator first met with Dad, Michie, and myself, to go over the strengths and weaknesses of the case. He was also, I suspect, feeling out Dad to see how confident we felt, how much value we placed on the case, and how much we were willing to negotiate. Then he left to confer with the defense attorneys, and we brought our client into the room so she could wait with us. I don’t remember what we talked about.

The mediator soon returned, and this time he talked to our client while we listened. He began by asking her if she understood what could happen if we went to trial. She replied that she was not afraid to go to trial. He asked her what would happen if the jury decided to believe the defendant’s witnesses instead of her. She said she would be sad, and feel wronged, because she was telling the truth and the defendant’s witnesses were lying. The mediator said that didn’t matter. “Who is telling the truth is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what the jury will believe.” She began to stifle tears, and said that she did not like that they were making her out to be a liar. The mediator said that he believed her, but that his opinion was worth “what a cup of coffee used to cost.”

After the mediator left to talk to the defense, our client again expressed her dismay at the situation: how she could be telling the truth, and that the defense, in order to counter her, needed only to have their witnesses lie. It didn’t seem fair. Dad, looking more stern than I usually see him, replied that life isn’t fair. Twelve year old kids get cancer and die. People step out into the street and get killed by eighteen wheelers. Life isn’t fair.

“But I’m telling the truth.”

“So what?”

It doesn’t matter who is telling the truth or who is lying. What matters is what twelve people in that jury box choose to believe.

This was, as you can imagine, a bit of a shock to our client, and impacted me as well. Oh, I am aware of the subjectiveness of truth, and I know that there are two true sides to every story. The defendants no doubt believe that plaintiffs are greedy liars who fake injuries to try to get a payout, just as we plaintiffs think of defendants as unscrupulous liars who organize their business models around minimizing and sidestepping liability.

I do not like to think I am naive, though I am. I prefer the less pejorative idealistic. I believe in the law, in the ideal that the purpose of the law is to uphold fairness and justice. Yes, life is not fair, but we as a people refuse to let that stand, and so we seek to impose fairness on life. It may be corrupted by the lawmakers and the lawyers who only care about their bank accounts, but no amount of corruption can tarnish the ultimate ideal of the law. People may place their thumbs upon the scales of justice, but they cannot break the scales.

The mediation broke down soon after that. The Defendant offered too little, and we asked for too much. There is still work to be done, and trial is not for another three months, so we may settle it yet. If not, we will try the case, and we will see what the jury decides is just.

I have thought, in my naivete, that justice and truth are connected concepts. That proper justice is doled out when the truth is uncovered. But I do not think that anymore. Truth has nothing to do with justice. The truth is a pleasant fiction we wrap around ourselves like a coat.

Justice is the will of twelve strangers in a box.