Japanese child’s sad story of learning that “goodwill” is sometimes just “self-satisfaction”

It’s a hard truth they learned early on in life.

Recently, a Japanese netizen posted a controversial tweet claiming that sending 1,000 origami cranes to disaster areas, in order to “cheer up” the victims, is more a method to gain self-satisfaction and less an act of good will. That seemed to have gotten Twitter thinking…where does “kindness” end and “self-serving ambitions” begin?

It’s the age old debate. If you’re doing something for someone else just to feel good about what you did, is it really a selfless act? What makes someone a selfless person, or a kind person? Not just acts of “goodwill”, as one netizen, @wo__OIL, learned early in life:

“When I was in elementary school, our homeroom teacher was hospitalized and we decided to fold 1,000 paper cranes for them. I, the outcast of the class, was given 50 sheets of black origami paper, and even though I wasn’t very good at it, I worked really hard to fold 50 paper cranes. But after finishing them, I was told, “Black is an unlucky color!” and they were thrown right into the trash. It was then that I understood that ‘Goodwill is just for self-satisfaction’.”

It’s a strangely deep conclusion to make as a child, and a sadly cynical outcome of being bullied, which is a problem for many grade-school students. The netizen rightly believed that, because they rejected his efforts, their classmates weren’t invested in the act of goodwill in itself, but in the image of themselves doing a good thing.

Their selfishness lies in the fact that they weren’t willing to share the experience of doing a nice thing for someone, which is probably why the netizen knew, at a young age, that they were wrong. The post, with its intense realism and hard-hitting theme, quickly spread among Japanese netizens, who sympathized with the netizen’s experience:

“That’s bullying more than anything else. A person who has good intentions can also have evil intentions. ‘Goodwill’ isn’t limited to decent people.”
“This exact same thing happened to me when I was in preschool. I had only black paper and when I made the cranes, they got mad at me and said ‘This is bad luck and it’s dirty!” and threw them away right in front of me…”
“When I was a kid, I was told that God is watching the people who completely reject other people’s hard work, because they’re not decent people.”
“That’s a cruel story. But people who have been hurt can understand the pain of others.”

It’s hard to find people who are truly good; that was a harsh truth that this netizen was forced to learn at an early age. But that’s part of being human; we are all flawed creatures, and though we may do bad things, we do many more good things, too. Countless tales of kindness on Japanese trains have proven that.

Source: Twitter/@wo__OIL via My Game News Flash
Top mage: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

Japanese dad teaches son WAY too much about working adult life with visits to role-play park

After repeated visits to indoor amusement park for kids, son feels just like a lot of grown-ups do.

Japanese Twitter user @HattoriM sounds like a pretty nice dad. Recently, he’s been taking his young son to KidZania, an indoor amusement park with a unique and educational concept.

KidZania is set up like a miniature city, and kids can role play at a number of different jobs, experiencing what it’s like to work in over a dozen different professions, including as a firefighter, sushi chef, flight attendant, dentist, courier, or journalist. To make things feel as real as possible, many of the jobs are partnerships with actual companies, which allow the use of their uniforms and logos, and kids even get paid in KidZania’s in-park currency, which they can put into a mock bank account or exchange to participate in other activities.

▼ KidZania

There’s more to do at KidZania than a kid can pack into a single visit, and so @HattoriM has been taking his son every week, which is letting him get a detailed preview of grown-up life…which now seems like it’s gotten too detailed, as @HattoriM tweetd:

“I’ve been taking my son to KidZania every week so he can experience the different jobs. At first, he enjoyed it, but recently he’s started saying ‘I don’t want to work.’ He’s pretty precocious…”

Yes, it seems that by making the KidZania role play activities a fixed part of his son’s weekly routine, @HattoriM has turned KidZania’s role playing into plain old work. He doesn’t mention whether his son is doing the same activities each week or has been able to avoid any repeats so far, but either way, knowing that his weekly trip to KidZania is going to involve performing some sort of assigned task is enough to have soured him on the excursions.

World-weary yet understanding commenters chimed in with:

“So your son has come to realize the sadness of working.”
“I always suspected some kids felt that way after spending the day at KidZania.”
“And thus another NEET is born.”
“Well yeah, if you have to work every weekend, you’re going to hate it.”

As alluded to in the last comment, the negative reaction might be partly caused by @HattoriM taking his son to KidZania on the weekends because he’s busy with school during the week, leaving him without much in the way of unstructured free time in which to have fun on his own terms.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the time @HattoriM’s son has spent at KidZania (which also has many satisfied visitors, we should point out) has been a waste, at least not in the eyes of some other commenters.

“Well, if the experience encourages your son to become a self-employed entrepreneur, than it’ll have been a great learning experience.”
“There’s a limit to what kids can experience at KidZania, and if your son continues learning about different things, eventually he’ll find a field he wants to pursue a future in.”

It’s also worth noting that @HattoriM himself is anything but lacking in ambition, as he’s a researcher currently specializing in the structural biology of metal homeostasis. That’s a field that most adults don’t even know exist, let alone kids, and so perhaps his son will take after his dad and go on to have a fulfilling career that isn’t one of the ones featured at KidZania.

Source: Twitter/@HattoriM via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso

Nearly 70 percent of young Japanese women self-identify as otaku in survey

Seven out of ten say they enjoy anime and manga, and over 15 percent spend more than 90,000 yen a year on their otaku hobbies.

When most people hear the word “otaku,” the mental image they get is of a guy. Maybe he’ll be sporting one of the other stereotypical otaku visual cues, like a plaid shirt, unfashionably cut jeans, or an oversized backpack, but in any case, the initial otaku most people see in their mind’s eye is a man.

However, Japanese marketing research Shibuya109 lab recently conducted a survey among women aged 15 to 24, and found that nearly 70 percent of the respondents self-identify as otaku.

For the purposes of the smartphone-based survey, which collected 400 responses, Shibuya109 lab defined otaku as “a fan who spends a lot of time or money” on their hobby. By that criteria, 69.3 percent of the respondents said that yes, they are otaku.

As for where their specific otaku interests lie, the top five responses were:
● Anime, manga, and/or video games: 28.2 percent
● Japanese male idols/celebrities: 24.9 percent
● Japanese bands/musicians: 10.1 percent
● Foreign male idols/celebrities: 6.9 percent
● Japanese female idols/celebrities: 6.5 percent

Further down the list, and all making up less than 5 percent of responses, were the smaller otaku demographics for things such as sports, movies, theme parks, and fashion, some of which don’t fit the “geeky” stigma often attached to the word otaku.

In addition to being part of the largest field of interest, anime and manga enjoy widespread popularity even among those who didn’t pick it as their number-one otaku passion. When asked if they liked anime or manga, more than half of the women said they did, with their answers breaking down as:
● I like them a lot: 35.5 percent
● I like them: 34.5 percent
● I’m indifferent: 12 percent
● I don’t like them very much: 11 percent
● I don’t like them at all: 6.8 percent

The survey also asked how often the women indulge in their otaku hobbies, with the most common response, by far, from 61.4 percent, being “almost every day,” with only 3.6 percent saying they go otaku just once a week.

However, some may question the applicability of the label “otaku” for some of the respondents based on their monetary expenditures. 17.3 percent of the respondents said that, annually, they spend less than 5,000 yen (US$45) on their otaku hobbies, a cutoff line that’s low enough that you could exceed it by buying two anime Blu-rays or a single major release video game. But on the other end of the spectrum, 4.3 percent of the women said they drop more than 150,000 yen (US$1,340) a year on their otakuism, with a total of 16.9 percent spending more than 90,000 yen, and 15.2 percent, the largest single demographic after the sub-5,000 group, spending between 30,000 and 50,000 every year.

Shibuya109 lab also repeated the survey with on-site questionnaires at Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya 109 shopping center, one of the city’s fashion meccas, and got slightly different results from the 100 responses it collected there. For that group, an even larger proportion, 77 percent, identified as otaku, but their biggest interests were male idols/celebrities from Japan (35.1 percent) and overseas (19.5 percent), and only 5.2 percent of the shoppers would call themselves anime/manga/game otaku (though te majority, 54 percent, still said they liked anime/manga). They were also much bigger spenders, with 27.3 percent spending 90,000 yen or more a year on their hobbies.

Still, the smartphone survey results show that there are plenty of young Japanese women interested in the orthodox otaku triumvirate of anime, manga, and games (some of them very, very strongly).
Source, images: PR Times

Japan now has more foreign residents than ever before, even as country’s total population shrinks

But if Tokyo somehow seems even more crowded to you, you’re not mistaken.

Many people in Japan were recently surprised to learn that, by certain geographic measures, the country is as big as Europe. On the other hand, perceptions about the country’s diminishing size in terms of population have been once again confirmed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

On Wednesday, the ministry released the results of its annual population census, with a total tally of 125,209,603 people residing in Japan as of January 1 of this year. That’s 374,055 less than last year, the ninth consecutive annual drop and the biggest dip since the organization began keeping such records in 1968.

If that has you wondering why downtown Tokyo feels so crowded, it’s because the nation’s capital actually saw its population rise by 0.55 percent, with smaller gains also reported for the neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba, as well as Aichi (which includes the city of Nagoya) and Okinawa Prefectures. On the other end of the spectrum, despite a large number of young city dwellers saying they’re thinking of giving up big city life and moving to the country, the largest population drop, 1.3 percent, occurred in mostly rural Akita Prefecture.

But while Japan’s overall population continues to shrink, its foreign population is now larger than ever. The number of foreigners residing in Japan (classified as those with visas with durations of over three months) rose by roughly 7.5 percent to 2,497,656 people. Increases in the foreign population were observed in 46 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, with the sole exception being Nagasaki, ironically one of the first regions of Japan to have historically significant contact with other nations.

One of Japan’s foreign residents

As for non-immigration-based methods of increasing population, less than a million births took place in Japan for the year, with the 948,396 babies being born representing the lowest figure since 1979, which is as far back as the ministry’s records go. Okinawa was the sole prefecture to have more births than deaths for the year.

▼ If you’ve ever struggled to get a screaming baby to fall asleep, 948,396 seems like a lot, but on a nationwide scale, it’s really not.

The low number of births, naturally, is also shifting the population towards being older as a whole. The ministry’s data showed 74,843,915 people between the ages of 15 and 64 (the block between the end of compulsory education and the common retirement age in Japan), which calculates to 59.77 percent of the total population, the first time on record that demographic has dipped below 60 percent. Children 14 and under accounted for 12.57 percent of the populace, with those 65 and over making up the remaining 27.66 percent.

With no change to these trends in sight, Japan’s population is likely to continue to become smaller and older as time goes by. Hopefully the country’s elderly care workers will be prepared to give them the medical and emotional support they need, or to at least stop them from getting into street fights with bladed instruments.

Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications via Nihon Keizai Shimbun via Jin
Images ©SoraNews24

School in Japan removes traditional Tanabata decorations for being incongruent with Christianity

Secular summer festival’s wishing tree gets taken down, clever complaints from students go up instead.

Every year on July 7, Japan celebrates Tanabata (which is sometimes loosely and inelegantly translated as the “Star Festival”). As part of the festivities, stalks of bamboo are placed inside buildings or in public spaces, and people write down wishes they hope will come true on brightly colored pieces of paper, which they then attach to the stems of the bamboo leaves (as pictured above).

The tradition has been going on for generations, and is something that takes place all over Japan…well, almost all over Japan. In the run-up to July 7, Japanese Twitter user @rrrRr0902x spotted a Tanabata bamboo display on the campus of his college (the name of which he declines to mention), and jotted down his wish, for more Twitter followers, on an orange strip of paper.

However, sometime later he passed by this same spot again, and noticed that the tree was now gone. In its place was a notice saying:

“By order of the Religious Center, the Tanabata decorations that had been placed here have been removed. It seems the practice is incongruent with Christianity. We are sorry, but we hope you will not take this too harshly.”

While Christianity is a fairly minor religion, in terms of believers in Japan, many of the country’s institutions of learning have connections to 19th-century missionary efforts, and several Japanese universities that teach non-religious subjects have religious roots. @rrrRr0902x’s school is a Christian college, and apparently someone in the administration felt the Tanabata display was inappropriate.

But while it’s understandable that a religiously founded school would be averse to displaying symbols of other faiths within its facilities, the decision to remove the Tanabata decorations is surprising because Tanabata is a secular celebration. It has its roots in the Chinese folktale The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, which is a story of two young lovers who can meet only once a year, and who are represented by the stars Vega and Altair, which are separated by the Milky Way. While it contains fantastical elements, the tale has no connection to Buddhism, Shinto, or any other religion.

Despite the school’s hope that students would not take the decision too harshly, a number of them did. When @rrrRr0902x passed through that part of the school for a third time, there were a number of handwritten notes from other students, which, in the absence of any bamboo to tie them too, were simply stuck to the wall. Some of them read:

“My wish is that next year everyone gets to enjoy Tanabata.”
“My wish is that this will become a school that’s tolerant of other cultures.”
“Do you think you can get away with anything as long as you say ‘amen?’”
“Now I can understand how Luther felt when he started the Protestant Reformation.”

Though one of the messages references Japanese tradition as being part of “other cultures,” it’s worth noting that the administration at some of Japan’s Christian schools is staffed primarily by Japanese nationals, so it’s possible that the decision to remove the Tanabata decorations came from people born and raised in Japan. Nevertheless, @rrrRr0902x, and most people leaving comments about his tweet, feel it’s a needless buzzkill to shun one of Japan’s secular summer traditions, and hopefully the person asking to be allowed to celebrate Tanabata next year will have their wish granted.

Source: Twitter/@rrrRr0902x via Hachma Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/Phoenix7777

A reminder of why you shouldn’t be quick to judge who’s sitting in Japans’ priority train seats

Pregnant woman’s “battle” for a seat has a twist ending.

In the corner of just about every train car in Japan you’ll find a bench of “priority seats.” While they’re shaped and sized just like any other seats on the train, the priority seats are there for passengers who have an especially strong need for a place to sit, as opposed to stand, during their journey.

Good manners dictate that priority seats should be kept clear for, or at least given up for, passengers who are elderly, physically disabled, or pregnant. Of course, sometimes entirely able-bodied individuals snag one of the seats and don’t want to vacate it, and this is what appeared to be happening on a train recently being ridden by Japanese Twitter user @otamiotanomi.

@otamiotanomi, who was standing, noticed a pregnant woman step onto the train and make her way over to the priority seats, only to find them all occupied. But rather than try to find a seat elsewhere, the pregnant woman took up a standing position in front of a younger woman who was sitting in one of the priority seats. When the younger woman didn’t make any move to give up her seat, the pregnant woman made a show of shifting her purse on her shoulder, showing off the pregnancy marker that many pregnant women in Japan carry in order to subtly state their claim for a priority seat.

▼ A pregnancy marker, declaring “There’s a baby in my tummy.”

But the younger woman continued to sit and fiddle with her smartphone. Figuring she had to make a more overt issue of her pregnancy, the pregnant woman then began rubbing her stomach in large, expansive strokes, and this finally got the young woman’s attention. Yet even this didn’t convince her to give up her seat, because instead of standing up, the younger woman instead shifted her own purse, revealing her pregnancy mark.

“I witnessed a battle,” @otamiotanomi tweeted, and while that’s a dramatic way of putting it, his story made waves throughout the Japanese Internet, earning well over 150,000 likes. It’s a good reminder that you can’t always judge with just a quick glance what sort of physical conditions a person may have. Even people who look young, fit, and non-pregnant may have injuries or ailments that make it painful or even impossible for them to stand for extended periods of time, and keeping in mind the possibility of circumstances beyond your perception is the best way to mentally deal with such situations (repeated shanking, of course, remains the worst way).

Source: Twitter/@otamiotanomi via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso

Tokyo companies’ late-night overtime habits exposed in time-lapse YouTube video channel【Videos】

In the busiest city in a country famous for working employees to death, Tokyo Workers hopes to help people find the work/life balance they desire.

Once upon a time, I was offered a job by a large, prestigious Japanese company. As we were discussing the terms of the contract, I asked the interviewer (my potential boss) how much overtime I could expect. “Oh, we don’t really do overtime here,” she said, which sounded great to me. However, also sitting in on the interview was a rank-and-file worker from the department, who chimed in with “Yeah, we usually only have, like, two hours of overtime each day.”

As you can see, Japanese companies aren’t always completely upfront about how much overtime work a job requires. So in order to present a more accurate picture of their working environments, the organization Tokyo Workers films the Tokyo offices of major Japanese companies, in time-lapse, to see how late their interior lights are on.

▼ It’s past 10:30 p.m. when Toyota’s Tokyo office goes dark

▼ At 10:20, the majority of the office lights are still on at Sony (the central building in the video)

Tokyo Worker uploaded its first video in the spring of last year. About seven months prior, Dentsu, one of Japan’s biggest advertising/PR companies, had instituted a mandatory 10 p.m. lights-out policy, following the suicide of one of its overstressed employees. Tokyo Worker wanted to see if the company had made good on that promise, and sure enough, they had, as shown in this video of all the light’s blinking out at Dentsu just as the clock strikes 10.

▼ Plenty of lights still on at video game developer Square Enix (the top three floors) at 11 p.m.

However, Tokyo Workers’ goal isn’t necessarily to expose and shame companies that burn the midnight oil. The organization even admits that, all else equal, simply reducing working hours will have a negative impact on a company’s output. But what Tokyo Workers wants to do is close the gap between how much overtime work job hunters expect to do (based on information available to them before joining a company) and how much they’ll actually end up doing.

▼ The offices of manga publishing powerhouses Shogakkan (left) and Shonen Jump’s Shueisha (right), where a lot of employees probably aren’t getting home in time to watch the start of the late-night anime TV programming block.

▼ Two buildings owned by Kodansha, another publisher with strong ties to the anime/manga industry

The organization cites a late-2016 study by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare which found that 31.9 percent of college graduates end up switching jobs within three years, which is a startlingly high number for a country where lifetime employment with the same company was the norm just one generation ago. Through its videos, Tokyo Workers aims to give job hunters a better picture of the featured companies’ corporate culture, so that they can avoid jumping into a job they don’t understand the reality of and eventually quitting, forcing them to look for new employment and the company to find a new employee.

▼ A wide shot of Tokyo’s Tennozu district, home of JAL (Japan Airlines) and JTB (a.k.a. Japan Travel Bureau).

▼ Past 1 a.m., there are enough lights still on at the East Japan Railway building (seen on the right) that some employees probably won’t finish work in time to catch their last train home fot the night.

Tokyo Workers acknowledges that the connection between what time the lights go off and what time work stops isn’t absolute. Some office lights might remain on for security reasons, and in this digitally connected era, just because people aren’t in the office doesn’t mean they’re not still working. Still, it hopes that these candid videos will be of use in letting prospective employees know what they’d be getting into before they decide to sign an employment contract.

Source: Tokyo Workers via IT Media
Top image: YouTube/Tokyo Worker