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Some thoughts about the Akihabara Incident Juni 17, 2008

Posted by Izabela in Misc.
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Last Sunday (15.06) I went to Akihabara.One reason was that I wanted to browse through the newest electronic gizmos.
The other one was,that I wanted to know it something has changed since last week.It has.For one thing,there are now policemen patroling the streets. I don’t know for how long this will go on but I can’t remember having seen any before.
Policemen patroling the streets
The same goes for police cars.
One of many police cars patroling the streets in Akihabara,until now a very uncommon sight...

Of course, after such an incident this is totally understandable,it gives people a feeling of security. For me personaly,it does not,because,when there is much police patroling the streets it must mean that there is danger lurking around.
Although Akihabara was as noisy and crowded as always there was one place that seemed a little bit less noisier than usual.---

 
There a seemingly never-ending flows of people were laying down flowers,bottles and cans of soda/tea/alcoholic beverages (as an offering for the souls of those killed),lighting incense and saying prayers.Some few of them were foreigners.
After I bought a short novel and,yes,even a Manga (why? because one of the characters is POLISH… I haven’t read it yet,though) I went to a Ramen Shop to get myself something to eat.There I overheard a conversation between a waitress and a mid-aged man concerning the stabbings.
As I was sitting right next to him I asked him what he thinks the reason for it was. From what he said I understood,that,according to him the problem is,that social ties are loosening up and people don’t look,f.e,after/over their,f.e,neighbours as they used to in the past. For me,this sounded rather like symptoms than reasons so I started to think this whole thing over for myself.
Random stabbing sprees,although not often,do happen from time to time.This is the 3 time something like this happens this
What are the reasons? I think it depends on whom you ask.Tabloids (like the Yuukan (evening) Fuji) point out that he was a nerd,or,in Japanese,an Otaku.
above- the crime of an Akiba-otaku below- good-natured lolicon speed lunatic
Otakus is the therme for people spending enormous amounts of time for their hobbies (mostly somehow connected to Manga/Anime/Videogames) while they are o-taku (literary „(at) home“, this word is considered offensive although some people use it to describe themselves in the same way homosexuals began to use the word „gay“).This is something Akihabare is overflowing off.
To be honest,they are,mostly,very friendly,open-minded people.Kind of wierd or a little bit nerdy (f.e males dressing up as female characters from videogames…),yes,but personally,I would rather talk to them than to an average salaryman.Last but not least,I can not see how their unusual hobby could be anyhow harmful to others.But someone has to be the scapegoat I guess (in Germany,brutal videogames are considered to be the source of all evil by some self-declared inteligent people…)

On TV,most discussion amounted to something like this (place cursor on the picture for a translation).

17 casualities! Akihabara indiscriminate killing incident The company...parents....society is to blame

His claims,that his discontent with his life,his lack of personal perspectives for the future and his blaming of society for all this was,mostly,dismissed as a carmouflage for being a mere sociopath.What if the problem lies deeper? If you need more than a patch
to prevent to prevent the next spree from happening?
Although I feel repelled by his deed I can’t help feeling that there is at least a grain of truth in his accusations.Let me explain.
Japanese society is know for its high competiveness which puts a great amount of pressure and stress on its members.
It starts at craming to get to the best f.e middle school,than high school,then university (with Tokyo U (national),Waseda and Kaio (private) beeing a free-ticket to a good job,even when you are not better than s.o from a university not beeing among the top ten…)
After that,if your studies take longer than the normal 4 years,you will have great trouble finding a job altogether.
If you hold a job,you are expected to work more than your contract encompasses,especially if you want to be promoted even if it means not spending as much time with your family as you would like to.
This is considered rather normal by mainstream and rather worthy to achieve
(Or isn’t it? There seems to be a growing amount of people who have other,non-mainstream,individualistic ideas about life and/or its meaning like,among others,before-mentioned Otaku…)
What,if you fail to achieve this,for whatever reasons?
For example,if you have to start to work early because your parents cannot afford sending you to a private university and you fail to enter a public one (which much lower tuition fees)?

Basically you will never be able to get a well paid job and live a life as a so-called „freeta“ (=freelancer taking up one temporarily job after another) meaning poor healt insurance,virtually no possibility to reach a higher income level (freeta hour wages seldom go over 1000 Yen/hour,around 6 Euros) and,along with that,a good standing in society,

and thus only little hope to start a family.This is not a problem of Japanese society only,of course,but after the neo-liberal economic reforms following the bubble years the number of people actually confined to such a life-style and for the most part,excluded from attaining any prestige in society, is on the rise.

Until now the Japanese administration/society as a whole has not shown any significant efford to adress the problem these people are facing by,at least,offering them some free councling.

Kato Tomohito,the Akihabara stabber, was such a freeta.

Of course,

most people are able to,and will,endure/cope with such a situation without resulting to violence against others.A small amount of people will result to violence as a means to express their discontent when beeing confronted with the prospect of a rather sinister future.

The point is that,with rising numbers of people who feel themselves excluded by society and de facto no means of prevention the next incident is only a matter of time I think.

As to Kato Tomohito:

Most propably he will be declared mentally sane, sentenced to death and hanged in a matter of maximally 10 years,like the three that were today. (

Words fail me…. Juni 8, 2008

Posted by Izabela in Updates.
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Right now,I am feeling shocked and depressed.I’ve just turned on the TV and heared about the tragedy that happened today in Akihabara.
Basically a,(please excuse my choice of words here) 25 year old psycho-asshole drove a van (especially borrowed for that occasion!) into a growd of people in Akihabara (which on weekends is closed-off for motorized vehicles and always crowed…) at about 12.30 pm.Then he got out of the car and began to stab pedestrians randomly with a survival knife while moving towards Akihabara station where he was finally stopped by the police and arrested.
7 people (the youngest beeing just 19 years old) are dead,10 wounded. His reason?

He said that he was sick/tired/bored of living….

I don’t know what to say,words fail me. These people were complete strangers to him.

As Akihabara is only a short walk away from Ueno station and it’s markets I have visited it very often till now,the main reason being,of course,things like electronic dictionaries, a new photo camera or just browsing for the newest electronic gizmos.

I’ve,at least until now,found it to be a neat quarter with a unique,somewhat droll,but overall friendly,secure atmosphere.

Or at least,it used to be.

I would have propaply gone there today if my feet had still carried me so I spend the day in my bed…

I think this guy will most propably be sentenced to death (giving lawmakers the excuse to continue this sinister practice on the whole and to gain more support for it) and executed in several years.But he’s bored by his life and seemingly doesn’t care at all,so killing him would be a kind of favour..for me,it just adds up to the horrible randomness and senselessness of his whole act .

There is no possibility to set anything right for those killed or their relatives.I hope and wish that the latter ones will muster the strenght to go somehow on with their lives….

 

 

 

I can’t believe it… Juni 8, 2008

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I…can’t….believe….it.No,really,I haven’t thought seriously that I would make it.

40 km,a 14 hour march with a about 8 kg heavy backpack.Totally sober.

And I did even score quite well,I think. At the Fureai House (a meeting place for students in Iruma (2 stations away from the university) belonging to the Surugadai University) every arrival had to sign a score-list and I was the 13th student (apart from the staff members) arriving at 10.53 am today.I mean,in school,I sucked at nearly every sport (except anything connected with strength…).

Funny thing,just 2 hours ago,in Tokorozawa,I thought that I was going to give up due to spreading pain in both of my legs.

Someone there gave me,let’s call it,a foot massage (rather a stroking…) causing the pain in my right leg to emigrate to my left one.

But I kept going because I was suddenly curious how far I could get.So,there I was,in Iruma,where we where given some iced tea and Ramen.I was told that my two co-students had already returned by car to our student’s residence some 2 hours ago leaving me as the only representant of our alma mater.So I buckeled up whatever strenght I could find and was one of the first to leave Iruma in direction to Hanno.

6 km to go,still.At first,a cramp appeared in my left food,so I tugged it along with me looking like a cripple.After some time I managed to regain about 60% of my left foot’s functionality and 80% of my right one’s.G-d,that hurt.I reached the residents and was about to go/get somehow to my room when I heard from someone that there was still something left to do.I just catched the last part of what he was saying and understood „bowle“. Some alcohol would definitivly help to lessen the pain a liitle bit.So,still with my backpack on I somehow managed to climb all the steps leading up to the main university area.The was the „goal“ and nothing to drink. Everyone was made to go through a „goal“ where two students were holding a tape marking it (like in a race) and the whole performance was taped.

I somehow managed to return to the residence where,in the dining hall/meeting hall,everyone was greeted with cold tea and sandwiches.

Now I’m lying on my bed and my feet feel as they would be on fire.In conclusion I can say the following:

If you ever get the chance to go on such a trip and you want:

-a nice walk,maybe because you don’t feel as fit as to take up more: choose the shorter one

-blood,sweat and pain,maybe because of a wager or because you want to find out what you can take: choose the longer one

And in retrospective: That was nethertheless somewhat fun. We should totally do this at our university 🙂

Interlude Juni 7, 2008

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Today is the day of the so-called annuary „Overnight Walk“ all three of us will participate in.

 

Report 14-Little Edo&BBQ Juni 7, 2008

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May 28th…coming soon….

Report 13 Juni 4, 2008

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So,finally,here it comes:The article about the Sumo Basho on May,the 18th,at the Kokugikan in Tokyo.

The Kokugikan Hall (which can accomodate about 10.000 visitors) can be found near the Ryogoku Station. This area is also known as „Sumo City“ because of its over 300 years of sumo-history and many known sumostables located there.

Actually I would have started at precisely 8 o’clock,in the morning,so, in order to get there on time,I would have had to awake at

5.40 o’clock in the morning,go by foot to Motokaji and take next train to Ikebukuro (the ride is about 1,5 hours in one direction). As I spent the day before that in Akihabara buying myself a new photocamera I,of course,did not make it on time.

But that was ok,because, who would really like to spend 12 hours watching Sumo non-stop?

So,I arrived there at about 1 pm.

I don’t want to bother You by an explanation about Sumo.Most people identify it with morbidly obese men trying to push each other out of a rice-straw circle.Actually,there’s much more to it. I will not recaptitulate the history of sumo because I think it is rather well explained here,if You want to know more:
http://www.scgroup.com/sumo/faq/

To find the way to the Doyo wasn’t hard at all as it is practically next to the trainstation.There are also signs,as well,like this one:

Sign

If You follow the road to the left You also find several memorial sculptures of

famous Yokozuna (including their handprints!) on each side of the street

(actually,there are 7 of these,if I didn’t miss any…):

Like here... here.... and here....

here... also here... and here.

ugikan is pretty hard,especially when there are huge crowds of people all heading in the same direction:

Pretty hard to get through here...

So,what’s the Kokugikan Hall like? You probably haven’t had the chance to actually see a real one so here are a few pictures to give You a general idea:

Outside the Kokugikan Hall

Let’s draw a little bit nearer…

From this wooden tower the sound of a traditional Japanese drum was announcing the beginning of the tournament Not as small as it looked from far away

Two small Shinto shrines located in front of the Kokugikan

Wallpainting

Second wallpainting near the main entrance

When I arrived at the Kokugikan crowds of people were standing at the entrance without making any move whatsoever to get to their seats (if they had tickets at all,that is…)
Here is why:

I myself saw Asashoryu (Yokozuna (east)),except that he did not walk but arrived in a white limo and caused a major ruckus by just showing up.

Seems that Sumotori (Sumo wrestlers) have their own brand of „groupies“ :-D,like these:

Fans waiting outside the hall to show support for their favourite Sumotori

When I finally checked in the employee looked quickly at me and handed me an English program with all matches scheduled for that day:
Foreigners welcome!
I have to admit that I even used it half of the time ….Reading Japanese names can sometimes be very tricky. But,enough of that,let’s hurry,or else we’ll be late 😀

View from my place

This wasn’t the most expensive seat you could get (of course,if you are willing to pay 500 (!) Euro or so you can sit right next to where the actions happens) but it was a really good one to watch from.The funny thing is, I you don’t mind standing (and trust me,after getting used to stand for 1 hour non-stop on a train during rush-hours you don’t) you can have the same viewas someone who paid 15000 Yen because it is not prohibited to stand at the entrance doors as long as you don’t pose an obstacle to anyone whatsoever.

On each of the four walls you can see life-size portraits of past Yokozunas,if I‘ m not totally mistaken:

Great Yokozuna of the past

As You might already have noticed the hall isn’t filled,not yet. Most people will arrive later, when the upper-rank Sumotori matches will start (at about 4 o’clock pm). These are the ones you can enjoy f.e on Eurosports.

So I did,what most people do: I went outside and explored what else there is to do besides watching Sumo all day long.

This is were I met one of the many foreign fans that were there on that day.We first spoke in English,than he asked me were I am from (I’m a Pole from Cracow and German citizen).

To my surprise he’s a Half-Pole from Britain and so we continued in Polish.

He is also one of the editor’s for a very fine Sumo online magazin:

http://www.sumofanmag.com/

(honestly,if You want to be on the current about anything Sumo,than this is Your place!)

What else is there to do besides meeting other fans?

You can buy yourself something to eat/drink (600 Yen for a 0,5l can of Sapporo beer…is this the freaking Oktoberfest in Munich?!),something to commemorate your visit,like this here:

WHY?!

or take pictures with Sumotori you run into ,like I did:

Although he did not reach the maegashira (higher) ranks he\'s one of the most popular Japanese Sumo wrestlers and,besides that,a really nice guy

My hight is 177 cm...

Yes,that’s right: After their matches there are many Sumo wrestlers who will be walking around f.e outside and take pictures with fans or answer their questions. I guess it’s,besides beeing fun, a kind of advertisement for themselves and a way to gain a solid fan base.

When the day is coming to an end and the top matches take place the main hall gets really crowded.
First, there is the „dojoiri“ (the entrance ceremony,one for the east section,one for the west section,please notice the ancient-style sponsor advertisment at its end :-))

Then,there are the main matches,like this ones:

This one was that day’s record holder:39 seconds!

Sometimes the wrestlers prepare themselve for 2-3 minutes (propably a kind of psychological warfare to intimidate the opponent) and the actual match last for 7-25 seconds but that’s what I like about it,you don’t have to wait for all eternity to know the winner,unlike Football,which bores me to watch.

And now,to the top main event:Yokozuna (east)-Asashoryu against Yokozuna (west)-Hakushoushou (both are Mongolian,by the way)

ending with a special dance by Asahoryu. As far as I know the history of it dated back to the second half of the 16th century when a sumotori recieved 180 Koku (1 Koku=180 litres of rice,probably worth a lot of money back than) for his victory from Oda Nobunaga (or under his reign,I’m not sure) and was so happy about it that he grabbed a bow and performed a dance which remained as a tradition until this very day.

Before we leave the Kokugikan,let’s have a quick look at the empty hall:

Empty....

and the trophy exposition:

Trophies

As we still have time before the next train in direction to Shinjuku leaves let

me show You the secret of sumo-style weight gain.

Most people would propably guess something like this:

But there actually is a much healthier,tastier,more Japanese-style to gain weight,called:

Chanko

Chanko(nabe) is a special soup which,when eaten in large quantities,

can lead to weight-gain (the less you additionaly move the more).

If You want to try it for yourselves,here’s a receipt:

http://www.soupsong.com/rchankon.html

I did not try it that day because all restaurants offering it were overcrowded and a huge pile of homework was waiting for me back home.

So,after a quick visit to the nearby Buddhist temple (photos of which will be uploaded later cause Photobucket is somewhat slow..) I returned home and spend the next 3 hours writing essays in Japanese.

In conclusion, if I had the chance to see another Sumobasho live,I wouldn’t want to miss it at any cost and so should You!