Tuesday, February 14, 2012

St. Valentine’s day, the Japanese way.

The 14th of February is a day on which the hearts of many Japanese men throb, in (literally) sweet expectations of pleasures to come.

The day is recognized as the “St. Valentine’s day”, a day on which you express your love to your sweethearts. That bit is pretty much the same all around the world. What is unique in Japan is that it is mainly a girl that is expected to express her love, giving a box of chocolate to the boy held dear in heart. Often the presentation is a surprise one, coming from an unexpected admirer of the opposite sex. That’s why the boys’ hearts throb on this fateful day.

Conspiracy theories abound as to how the Japanese Valentine’s day has “degenerated” into a unidirectional offering of cacao based sweets. Some say that it was a campaign of the chocolate manufacturers which kick-started the now (in)famous tradition. Brainwashing aside, chocolate giving has taken hold most probably because it somehow resonated with the Japanese psyche.

Japanese girls seem to like the idea of giving a box of chocolate to the loved one, as it fits the image of sweet feminineness. Boys, on the receiving side, admire the tenderness and considerations expressed this way. It is thus the result of a cultural marriage between the Western tradition and Japanese conception of what is feminine that has made chocolate giving on Saint Valentine’s day such a runaway hit.

It is interesting how much and deeply one could delve into the traditions and cultures of a particular nation, by taking note of a seemingly trivial custom. One would be able to reveal many things about the Nation of Japan, just thinking about the chocolate giving on Saint Valentine’s day. This short essay is intended as just a starter. I would be able to deepen my thoughts better, with the help of a box of chocolate.

If I get one, that is.

A Japanese girl offering a box of self-made chocolate, from http://umasou.com/barentain/, a recipe site for Valentine’s day chocolates.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How a Japanese prime minister has become MHP.

When I was a kid, it used to be that the prime minister was considered the nation’s top job. A boy often had the aspiration to become one some day, pouring out in school essays how he would then change the nation. Quite apart from the obvious flaw of Japanese society that girls usually did not (and still do not) aspire to become politicians, the classic picture does not hold anymore. The times they are a-changin’.

The prime ministers come in and go through the now famous revolving door of Japanese politics. When a prime minister is elected and comes into the spotlight, he (sadly, in Japan, we don’t have yet to write “or she” here as a historical fact; same applies to U.S. presidency) enjoys the “honeymoon” with the Japanese populace for a very short time. That period is then followed by a series of humiliations, both public and private, fueled by the overjealous attention of the Japanese media whose main job these days are forcing politicians to step down. One government figure resigned, one mission accomplished.

Thus, a Japanese prime minister (“JPM”) has become the synonym for the “MHP” (Most Humiliated Person) of the nation. No wonder a boy doesn’t aspire to become a P.M. any more. Nobody wants to be humiliated, or deserves to be.

This thought is just in. A female prime minister might really change the situation for the better, as it is not such a decent job to humiliate a lady. Even the media bastards know that.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. He has had his share of humiliation. I am personally sorry for him.