Sunday, February 21, 2021

"Kyoto slammed for manga telling people not to talk at restaurants" - SAVE THE WORLD! LEARN SIGN LANGUAGE!

Image and text from Japan Today, 2/21/21.

Ever since the pandemic began, Japan has been targeting restaurants as one of the primary risk spots for infection, with the main reason being that people inevitably have to remove their masks to eat.

And while some local governments have been asking restaurants to close their doors early at 8 p.m., to prevent diners from overdoing it on booze which tends to lead to loud talking without masks, the coronavirus doesn’t just come out at night, so people are now being asked to practice mokushoku, or “silent eating”, no matter what time they eat out at a restaurant.

While this seems to make sense, seeing as COVID-19 is an airborne virus, some people have been pushing back against the idea, even in Kyoto, where the city has now introduced a four-panel manga to help promote silent eating.

1. In the first panel, a character called Isamu enters a ramen restaurant and notices it’s quiet inside, even though a family is eating there. On the wall beside them is a blue poster, with mokushoku written on it in kanji, which asks people to eat in silence. These blue posters are being used a lot these days in restaurants and they’ve been widely shared on social media.

2. While Isamu waits for his order to arrive, he sees the family communicating to each other via smiles and hand gestures to express their thoughts on how good the meal is. Two of them give each other the thumbs-up sign while the other family member puts their hands above their head to form a maru circle, a gesture used to mean “good” in Japan. Isamu thinks to himself, “So this must be silent eating. This is great!”

3. When Isamu eats his ramen, he follows the example shown to him by the family, giving the staff a thumbs up while thinking “It’s delicious!” The staff smile in return and he feels that the meal enjoyed silently is really tasty.

4. Isamu sees the family leave the restaurant and it’s only then, when they’re outside with their masks covering their faces that they talk to each other, saying that the meal was delicious and they’d like to come back again. This last panel encourages everyone to “Do what you can when you can, bit by bit”.

The panel makes things pretty straightforward, laying out step-by-step alternatives to speaking for anyone confused by what mokushoku means, and Kyoto is keen for everyone to follow these guidelines when dining out.

However, what sounds good in theory might not be so great in practice, as a surprisingly large number of people were quick to criticize the idea online...


Friday, February 19, 2021

"Court backs Osaka high school's right to ask students to dye hair black" - Your hair is not naturally brown so paint it black...

Story from The Japan Times, 2/17/21.

Osaka District Court ruled on Tuesday that it is legitimate for a prefecture-run high school to ask its students to dye their brown hair black under school regulations and instructions.

In a lawsuit filed by a 21-year-old woman in 2017, the court, however, ordered the Osaka Prefectural Government to pay ¥330,000 to her for failing to include her name in attendance records after she stopped going school.

The woman sought some ¥2.2 million in damages from the prefectural government, claiming that she suffered mental distress as she became a truant student after she was ordered by teachers to dye her hair black. The school regulations ban brown hair.

“The school regulations are reasonable in light of conventional wisdom, and hair color instructions are based on a legitimate purpose under the school education act,” presiding Judge Noriko Yokota said.

Yokota also rejected the woman’s claim that her natural hair color is brown.

On the school failing to include her name in the attendance records when she advanced to the third year and not assigning her a seat in a classroom, the judge said that the school’s decision was extremely inappropriate, and that the school abused its discretionary power.

According to the ruling, the woman entered Osaka Prefecture Kaifukan Senior High School in Habikino in April 2015.

After she was repeatedly instructed to dye her brown hair black for violating the school regulations, she stopped attending the school in September 2016 when she was a second-year student.

The lawyer for the woman said at a news conference that the ruling is regrettable, adding that the court decision that her natural hair color is black is an unjustifiable factual error.

An official of the prefectural bureau of education said its position on school regulations and instructions was accepted. Regarding the school’s failure to include the woman’s name in the student list, the official said the bureau will work to prevent a recurrence.


Thursday, February 11, 2021

"The Legal Recognition of National Sign Languages"

The World Federation of the Deaf is pleased to continue to provide updated information regarding countries that have legally recognised their national sign languages. This infographic shows which UN Member States have explicit legislation that clearly recognises the language as a distinct language for all deaf people in that country. Many other countries have laws which implicitly or partially recognise their national sign language(s) by way of interpreting or education for deaf children. These laws are not included here.

Here you can review the former infographic of 2017:

More information on the 58 countries that currently recognise a sign language can be found here:


Thanks to Soya Mori for sharing this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

"No hugs or high-fives, but 150,000 condoms will be given out at Tokyo Olympics"

Photo and text from Japan Today, 2/10/21.

No socializing, no handshakes and definitely no hugs -- that's what athletes at the coronavirus-postponed Tokyo Olympics can expect this summer, according to a virus rulebook released Tuesday by organizers.

The 33-page document -- the last in a series of "playbooks" drawn up in a bid to ensure the Games can go ahead safely -- also warns athletes they could be kicked out of their events if they break strict anti-virus rules.

Under the guidelines, athletes will be tested for the virus at least once every four days, and will be barred from competing if they return a confirmed positive test.

Their time in Japan will be "minimized to reduce the risk of infection," and those staying at the Olympic Village will be expected to "avoid unnecessary forms of physical contact."

Organizers told AFP on Tuesday that they still plan to hand out around 150,000 free condoms to athletes, but the new rulebook urges them to "limit your contact with other people as much as possible."

"If you have been to the Games before, we know this experience will be different in a number of ways," the guidebook warns. "For all Games participants, there will be some conditions and constraints that will require your flexibility and understanding."

Really? Now Japan is thinking about safe sex?


Related: "Japan pledges safe Olympics; medical experts aren't so sure"

Monday, February 8, 2021

Weird/Cool Globalization: RAPHA BOUNDZEKI's rendition of Tenrikyo's Mikagura-uta

I know nothing about this Congolese songwriter and singer, RAPHA BOUNDZEKI, other that he did a mash-up which includes Sections 1 - 3 of Tenrikyo's Mikagura-uta (The Songs for the Service) at approximately 00:26 - 03:30 (but do watch/listen to the whole video). Sections 1-3 are part of the seated service, one of Tenrikyo's main rituals done twice a day by followers. It is accompanied by a hand dance (resembling, but not quite sign langauge). Rapha's dance is... different. Apparently he visited a Tenrikyo mission station in the Congo and picked up the words (and perhaps spirit?). I doubt this is officially sanctioned by the church, but it is lively, catchy and a great example of Weird/Cool Globalization.

For more about the Mikagura-uta, including its lyrics, English translation and commentaries, see Tenrikyology:

For more about Tenrikyo, see their official website:

Many thanks to Taiheiyo Church's Facebook page for sharing this. Aloha.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Book Review: Timeless Luminosity by Robert Aho (2020)

"Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out..." (Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1971: 89)


I must disclose that Robert Aho is my relative. But don't expect that I will fill this review with fawning acclamation and adulation for my beloved older cousin. On the contrary, my evaluation will be harsh and critical (because that's what cousins are for).

My early childhood memory of Bob is a letter he wrote to me with instructions how to make a snow fort. So, it should be no surprise that he became an architect. Timeless Luminosity is the book that Bob built, a blending of his profession and studies of anthropology, art, literature, philosophy and religion. It is a multivocal construction of Buddhist inspired prose and poetry related to his Near Death Experience (NDE) and suited for multiple audiences.

So why write about death (or near death)? This doesn't have to necessarily be a depressing or awkward subject. Many cultures view human existence as cycles of life, death and rebirth. For example, J. Stephen Lansing writes about the Balinese-Hindu conception of samsara, "Most anthropological descriptions of the life cycle begin with birth... in the Balinese case, it makes more sense to begin at the moment of death" (The Balinese, 1995: 32). And this is where Bob's composition begins as well.

The book's prose aims to explain Bob's early studies that seem to have prepared him for such an experience, the NDE itself and his meditations and contemplations afterwards. There are many Buddhist terms that might be too esoteric for some readers. The academic in me wishes that Bob included direct references within the text. (A guru might respond, "Silly academic, do you need me to hold your hand?" To be fair, there is a bibliography at the end of the book which would allow for one's own investigation of these terms, guiding the horse to water to allow it to drink at its own pace). But the bibliophile in me is glad there aren't any pesky citations or footnotes. I wish the prose was a bit longer because it is interesting and I want more details. Bob's style of writing is personal, brave and spiritual. It almost reminds me of the work of Haruki Murakami, writing about the adventures of a regular guy in otherworldly, dreamlike settings trying to understand the contradictions of life and death. After reading Murakami I usually feel like I have had a couple of drinks.

The book's poetry is assembled like mala prayer beads (108 verses and 4 introductory guru verses). The poems are separate and related, free verse and sometimes playful, reminiscent of the Buddhist Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The stanzas are different shapes and sizes, similar to pictographs resembling meditative imagery, breathing and/or heartbeats. This is Bob's shared meditation - he discusses reading the poems front to back and back to front. I feel like I can open to a random page and read them in any order. Random orders and timely contexts make for new revelations with every reading. Verses 21 and 31 especially speak to me during these trying and troubling socio-political times. We all need to shut off CNN (or FOX News) and meditate. I agree with Bob in that we need to examine our minds, look inwardly to see what awaits and relax. RELAX.

I conclude with Bob's own advice about the book. "Please enjoy. Do not take any of this too seriously, and don't take my word for it" (25). ENJOY.

Self-published, Duluth, MN USA
ISBN 9798633736199