Vice Japan: The People & Food of the Homi Projects

From Vice Japan, a documentary about Homi Danchi, a suburb in Aichi Prefecture (Japanese with English subtitles):

1972年より造成が開始され、67棟に及ぶ巨大な集合住宅となった愛知県豊田市〈保見団地〉。この団地に住む7000人の住民のうち、約3000人が南米から移り住んだ人々。つまり、ブラジル人やペルー人が隣人として暮らす、日本では異例の移民団地である。

「The People & Food of the Homi Projects」では、この地で生活する自治会会長、ボランティアの方、1990年より団地に移り住んだ日系ブラジル人、そして、大学教授、市役所の方々に、外国人との生活で生じる問題、それに対する取り組みについて聞いた。1990年の入管法改正以降、ブラジル人人口が急増したために起こった変化を、どう受け入れ、対策を講じ、現在に至るのか。

Homi Danchi, which was constructed in stages from 1972, is a massive apartment complex with 67 blocks in Toyota, Nagoya [where Toyota cars are manufactured]. Around 3,000 of the 7,000 residents who live in this housing development are from South America. In other words, this is an extraordinary immigrant suburb where Brazilians and Peruvians live side-by-side with Japanese as neighbors.

In The People & Food of the Homi Projects, we asked the head of the neighborhood association, volunteers, Nikkei Brazilians who have lived in this development since 1990, university professors, and town hall staff about the problems that living with gaikokujin generates, as well as what the measures to tackle those problems were. What changes have occurred since the rapid rise in the Brazilian population since the amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 1990? How were the Brazilians accepted into the community? What measures were taken? What is the community like now?

This documentary is a personal favorite.

One of the documentary’s interview subjects is Keisuke Nagoshi, who has produced a photo book called Familia 保見団地:

ブラジル人たちは、日本人と比べてストレートに感情を出すので、そこら中っていったら言い過ぎですけど、よくイチャイチャしてますからね。自分はそうやってストレートに感情を表に出すのが苦手だから、羨ましい部分もあるのかも。

Brazilians are a lot more straighter in terms of their feelings compared to Japanese people, so they are always making out with one another. I’m a little jealous of that, because it’s a little difficult for me to be so straight with my own feelings.

100 years of Koshien

On the 100th anniversary of the National High School Baseball Tournament in Koshien, Kobe, Robert Whiting for The Japan Times:

The Japanese liked baseball because it was their first group sport. Most athletics in the pre-Meiji era were individual undertakings like kendo, jujitsu and sumo. It gave Japanese a chance to exercise their famed group proclivities on an athletic field. As with the rice-planting culture, everyone had a position, everyone had a role. At the same time, the Japanese also found the one-on-one battle between pitcher and batter similar in psychology to sumo and the martial arts. The Ministry of Education deemed the imported sport good for the national character and encouraged the game to be played on the high school and college level.

Ever the rebel (if she is one?), Kazama Sachiko, an artist for Mujin-to Production, wrote on her blog late last month:

昨日テレビをつけたら高校野球をやっていたので (なんとなく) 観戦した。甲子園出場をかけた二松学舎VS都立小山台の東京大会決勝戦で、これで小山台が勝てば都立高校は15年ぶり四校目の出場となるという。私も都立高校出身なので、小山台が勝てばいいなぁと思って観てたのだが、気になったのが選手たちの笑顔。2点リードしてたのに追いつかれ、二松に勝越されてしまった場面でも、投手がフニャフニャ笑っているので何だか奇妙な感じがした。そしてベンチの監督も同様に笑っていた。おそらく緊張緩和とポジティブ精神向上を狙った監督の指導なのだろうが、「これはピンチ!」と焦っていても「いかん、笑顔を維持しなきゃ」と心中とは真逆の表情を心がける意識の操作で、かえって集中力を欠いてしまうのでは無いかと推測する。何より観ていて状況と表情の不一致が不気味なので途中で応援するのをヤメた。

Yesterday I switched on the TV and since high school baseball was on I (somehow) watched the game. It was the finals for the Tokyo tournament between Nishogakusha and Koyamadai (a public school) that determined who would go to Koshien. If Koyamadai won, it would apparently be the first time in 15 years that four Tokyo public schools go to Koshien. Since I also graduated from a Tokyo public school, I also wanted Koyamadai to win as I watched the game. But there was something about the athletes’ smiling faces that bothered me. Koyamadai was leading by two points, but Nishogakusha caught up to take the lead; nonetheless, Koyamadai’s pitcher was still smiling (flabbily? フニャフニャ = lit. soft, limp), which I found to be quite weird. And their coach who was on the bench was also smiling. Maybe their coach had taught their team to de-stress and to increase their positive energy, my conjecture is that, wouldn’t people lose their concentration abilities if, even if they were in stressful situations, they had to keep smiling, an endeavour that is the polar opposite of what they thought in their minds? In any case, the disconnect between the team’s situation and the athletes’ expressions was really eerie, so I stopped supporting Koyamadai halfway through the game.

Doesn’t Sachiko’s description remind you of this comic?

War nostalgia in Japanese fan culture

Aleksandra Jaworowicz-Zimny, “Kandō Conservatism – “Moving” war narratives in Japanese online fan videos” for The Asia-Pacific Journal:

By sharing romanticized visions of the past via fan productions, some Japanese young people create an emotionally involved community touched by the semi-fictionalized past they share. Historical accuracy is far from the main issue here, emotional responses are given priority. However, reaching for conservative war discourse should not be treated as clear proof of nationalistic ideology and conservative political engagement among all video creators, as their intentions can be less obvious than the videos themselves seem to suggest. Most remain remote from political involvement, despite shared nostalgia for the past. Young people express through kandō narratives a yearning for pride in history, but also for peace. They also express a dedication to friends and family that motivates the soldiers in the works more than devotion to the state – central in conservative political discourse. This element is inconsistent with nationalistic or right-wing rhetoric. War-themed video fan productions reveal the relationship between an emotional kandō experience, nostalgia and conservatism. An idealized past that touches the viewer is also a past that viewers can take pride in, precisely what Abe Shinzo and other conservative politicians have sought to normalize.

Five more manga recommendations

Here are some more off-beat and hipster manga recommendations I hope more people should enjoy.

1. 鬱ごはん(秋田書店)  Short chapters about a single, unemployed fresh graduate in Tokyo who lives off very realistic meals of plastic bag-wrapped takeaway meals, paper box gyozas, and vending machine beverages.

2. おやすみプンプン(小学館)  A coming-of-age story about a boy (depicted as a bird, and various other life forms) who grows up in a troubled family in a Tokyo suburb. After finishing the series, read this English-language interview (spoilers!) with the author, Inio Asano, who explains the philosophy behind the story.

3. 月刊少女野崎くん(SQUARE ENIX) A comedy about a manga artist cum high-school male student. His classmate wanted to confess her love to him but ends up becoming her manga assistant. The premise isn’t really that exciting but the characters and stories are hilarious.

4. 竜の学校は山の上 (イースト・プレス)  This is an anthology of works by  Ryōko Kui (now better known for her widely available series ダンジョン飯 Delicious in Dungeon). My favorite is a short story that features a modern world where both centaurs and humans co-exist.

5. マイホームヒーロー (講談社)  A father takes extreme measures to protect his daughter from a criminal gang. How far can he go?

Tokyo’s competitive halal food scene

Tokyo MX did a really interesting special feature on the competitive halal food scene in Tokyo. Some observations about the report:

  • There are a lot of gaikokujin interviewees in the video, but at no point did the report dub over what the interviewees said with a Japanese voiceover.
  • The gaikokujin interviewees is more myth-busting evidence of the role of gaikokujin in Tokyo. An Indonesian Muslim who has been in Japan for 35 years says that she is jealous of young Muslims in Japan today, because she could not access as much Halal food before as she can now.
  • There are now Halal-certified washoku restaurants that contain prayer rooms and hire Muslim employees.