Men who maintain their masculine cool in embarrassing situations of failure

Kokone Nata (那多ここね), a manga artist, is in the middle of an exciting big break transition from pixiv to Square Enix after Nata’s series, Cool Doji Danshi (クールドジ男子), went viral on Twitter.

The manga is about four ikemen. They look cool, and keep their cool even in everyday moments of failure, which includes listening to loud music with their earphone unplugged, leaving their wallets behind at the convenience store, and raising their hands to adjust their glasses on days when they wear their contacts.

How did Nata come up with Cool Doji Danshi? According to an interview with Buzzfeed Japan:

「たまたま落書きした男の子のイラストが、財布を忘れてるようにしか見えなかった。ドジってるのに、はたから見るとクールな印象を保っているように見えたので、『クールドジ』ジャンルとしてシリーズにしました」

“I thought a doodle of a boy I drew looked like he had forgot his wallet. He had messed up, but from the side he looked really cool, so I decided to start a series of “cool doji” boys.”

The entire series of illustrations can be found in this Twitter thread.

Asahi Aera: The gaikokujin left behind during natural disasters

From Aera, a magazine published by the Asahi Shimbun, on gaikokujin in Japan who feel most isolated when typhoons or earthquakes strike in Japan:

最大震度7の巨大地震に襲われた北海道では、外国人観光客や在留外国人も被災した。北海道庁は地震発生当日の6日、英中韓の3言語で相談を受け付ける臨時電話窓口を開設。避難所や給水所などの情報提供のほか、それぞれ個別の相談にも乗っている。気象庁は緊急地震速報や津波警報などで使用される単語を多言語に翻訳した辞書を作成したり、ホームページで台風や地震などの災害情報を英語で詳細に発信したりしている。日本政府観光局や各自治体、民間のNGOなどを含めると、外国人向けの情報発信はたくさんあるのだ。

Tourists from overseas and resident gaikokujin were also affected by the major earthquake, which had a maximum magnitude of 7.0, in Hokkaido. The day the earthquake struck, the Hokkaido prefectural government opened a temporary hotline that took calls in English, Chinese, and Korean. The hotline provided information on evacuation sites and water provision stations, as well as advice on individual matters. The Japanese Meteorological Agency made a multilingual dictionary of Japanese words used in emergency earthquake warnings and tsunami bulletins, and provided detailed information on typhoons and earthquakes in English on its website. If one includes the efforts by the national tourist bureau, local governments, and civil society NGOs, there was a lot of information provided for and broadcast to gaikokujin.

こうしたサービスが存在していることを知らない外国人が圧倒的に多い。外国人が日常生活で頼る日本人の友人らも存在を知らないため、発信した情報が、肝心の外国人まで届いていないのが現状だ。いかに外国人に直接情報を伝えるのかの試行錯誤が続いている。

The vast majority of gaikokujin do not know about these services. Neither do the Japanese people who gaikokujin rely on in their everyday lives. Therefore, the current situation is that the information broadcast is not reaching their intended audience: the gaikokujinThe trial and error of getting information directly to gaikokujin continues.

Mainichi Shimbun: How JR West teaches its employees about railway safety

According to Mainichi Shimbun, JR West, which operates the Sanyo Shinkansen line, unironically instills a culture of safety by making its employees sit inside a train tunnel and to get a feel of what a train passing at 300 km/h is like:

50代のベテラン男性社員によると、研修は「300キロ/h近接体感研修」と呼ばれる。

According to a veteran employee in his 50s, the training is called the “300km/h experience training.”

怖いと聞いていたため、上司に「行きたくない」と申し出たが、「順番なので」と認められなかった。

He heard it was scary and told his supervisor that he didn’t want to go. But his supervisor said: “It’s your turn now.”

当日は2班に分かれて順にトンネルに入り、ヘルメットと防護眼鏡を着けて通路内に座り、新幹線が近づくと頭を下げた。

On the day, the employees were split into two groups and each entered the tunnel. Donning helmets and safety googles, they sat in the tunnel access path, and ducked their heads when the Shinkansen train neared.

It’s supposed to be a valuable corporate learning experience:

男性社員は上下3本をやり過ごしたが「風圧がものすごく、ドンと押さえつけられるようで怖かった。研修に何の意味があるのか」と言う。

The male employee sat through three trains in each direction. He said, “The wind pressure was really strong. I felt pinned down. It was scary. Was there any meaning behind this training?

グループごとに議論し、感想を書いて研修は終了。別の日に研修を受けた同僚も「怖い」と話していたという。

After the exercise, there was a group discussion, and everyone wrote reflection papers. A colleague who received the training on a different day also said that it was scary.

Here are other corporate ideas from Japan’s world-leading railway companies (actually, both are from JR Tokai, another operator of the Shinkansen):

Applications to volunteer at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are open

Applications to volunteer at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opened this week. Apart from the odd share on Facebook, how excited are people about the volunteering gig? Although I’m about to make some concerning observations, I still (unironically) want to apply.

1. Application requirements

People were complaining about the application requirements long before the application went live yesterday. Here’s an example as early as two years ago from RocketNews24, whose English-language writers are usually more gung-ho about these Japanese events:

Here is a brief rundown of some of the conditions and qualities that a potential volunteer should be able to meet.

  • Possess communication skills
  • Speak a foreign language
  • Work over ten eight-hour days
  • Have knowledge of events or experience watching them live
  • Be over 18 years old in 2020
  • Go through three stages of training and an interview
  • Pay for own transportation and accommodation

Of course, this being a volunteer position, there is no payment for those selected, but the Organising Committee points out that they can keep their uniforms for free. You might be wondering why someone with such skills and availability would want to help out at the Olympics for next to nothing, and you wouldn’t be alone judging by some of the many comments that poured in.

“They wasted so much money on this pork barrel and now expect to get skilled workers for free? I mean why would they actually give some of the money back to the regular people?”
“I’d have a hard time hiring people like that for 2,000 yen (US$20) an hour.”
“This is what happens when they squander money on things that aren’t needed. Welcome to the low-(labor)-cost Olympics!”

So, as with all job applications, what does the online application entail? (Wait—volunteering isn’t supposed to be a job, is it?)

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The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

First, they want to see if you have any volunteer experience, and any volunteer leader experience, and write an essay about it.

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The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Next, they want my language experience and my language test scores. I guess it helps that I need to take the IELTS for law school in Hong Kong. Also, I guess JLPT N1 vocabulary such as 顔から火が出るほど恥ずかしい would infinitely legitimise my volunteer contribution to the biggest modern event in post-Heisei Japan.

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The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Now, they want to schedule a training appointment with me a year in advance. What will they even talk about in those training sessions?

This is at least six times more information than I had to provide for a real job application last summer.

2. The government is concerned no one will volunteer

After receiving a certain amount of backlash about the volunteer application (and still going ahead with it anyway), the Organizing Committee became concerned that no-one from Japan, unlike me, would take the bait to volunteer for the Olympics.

It’s telling that they did not put a deadline for the application; merely an ambiguous statement that the application closes in December.

NHK reports that universities all over Tokyo are considering giving college credit for students who volunteer:

都内130余りの大学にNHKが取材したところ、回答した半数近くがボランティアに参加すれば、単位認定する方向で検討していることがわかりました。

NHK contacted over 130 universities in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Nearly half of those who responded said that they were considering giving course credit to students who would volunteer. 

大学教育に詳しい東京大学の小林雅之教授は「ボランティアは本来、自発的に参加すべきものであり、災害などのボランティアとオリンピックとではそもそも性質が異なる。大学が学生に対し、単位で誘導するようなやり方はのぞましくない」と指摘しています。

Masayuki Kobayashi, a professor at the University of Tokyo and an expert on university education, said, “volunteering is something you’re supposed to do out of your own volition [cf doing something for compensation]; and volunteering after a natural disaster happens is very different from volunteering at the Olympics. I don’t like this system of universities incentivising students to volunteer with credits.”

Or, as RocketNews24 puts it:

While rewarding student volunteers with credits to advance their undergraduate programs is a nice gesture, the move also makes clear that the Olympic Committee does not want to pay for highly-skilled individuals who must speak a foreign language, work over ten full days, and sit through several training sessions. Not to mention that they must pass an interview.

One of the people NHK interviewed for its report is a Waseda University student called Kazuki Matsumoto, whose essay on the volunteering application went viral.

According to the English version of Mainichi Shimbun (because the equivalent article in Japanese is behind a paywall):

Website creator Kazuki Matsumoto, 20, a second-year student at the Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics in Tokyo, did not plan for his website to spread like wildfire. He put the page together in roughly 6 hours on Aug. 19 thinking he might just show it to a few friends. By the next day, however, it had made its way across several social media platforms, and climbed into the Japanese domestic top 3 “trends” ranking on Twitter for a time.

[…]

Marketing writer Megumi Ushikubo, 50, who often interviews young people, pointed out, “The acceptance by young people that even if something is unpaid, ‘there is meaning in simply working up a sweat and doing your best’ ended with the bubble generation.

“The young generation today feels rather strongly that they want to be of use to other people. One could even say that is the spirit of volunteer work,” Ushikubo emphasized. “Simply calling for participation without being able to concretely explain how volunteering will be helpful will only lead to antagonism. Clearly explaining and gaining understanding (from young people) will be important.”

The website text (in my opinion) is actually a giant jab in Shinzo Abe’s eye:

いよいよ、2020年東京オリンピック・パラリンピック大会(以下、東京五輪)まであと2年です!
私も、このやりがい先進国・日本で「美しい五輪」が実現することを大変心待ちにしています。

There’s just two years until the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. I eagerly await for Japan, the country with a can-do attitude, to create a “Beautiful Olympics” from the bottom of my heart.

その東京五輪において、東京五輪組織委員会の皆さんは、私たち学生に、やりがい溢れるボランティアの機会を与えてくださろうとしています。
日本には昔から、「若いうちの苦労は買ってでもしろ」ということわざがありますが、この貴重な機会を、組織委の皆さんはなんと無料で提供してくださるのです!!

The Organizing Committee has kindly bestowed us students the opportunity to volunteer, a role that fills us with motivation! There’s an old saying in Japan that goes like this: “Be willing to pay for your sacrifices while you are young.” However, the Organizing Committee is generously giving us this invaluable opportunity for free!! [Note: I suspect this is a pun in the Japanese phrase 若いうちの苦労は買ってでもしろ: you don’t even need to pay anything to sacrifice yourself to the Olympics. = 無料で提供してくださる ]

こんな機会、ほかにあるでしょうか? 

Will there be any other opportunity like this?

世界に誇る東京五輪でボランティアをすれば、やりがいや感動を得られるのはもちろんですが、その経験は今後の人生においても活かされ、私たちの身近なところでは、例えば就職にも直結するのは確実です。
東京五輪のスポンサー企業には、日本・世界を代表する名だたる大企業が連なっています。
東京五輪でのエピソードをESや面接に盛り込めば、パナソニックだろうが野村證券だろうがリクルートだろうが朝日新聞だろうが、内定間違いありません!

Once you volunteer at the Olympics, a world-class event, not only will you be motivated and moved, you can make use of your volunteering experience in your future life; for example, there is a definite connection with your career search. Many big name companies that represent Japan and the world sponsor the Tokyo Olympics. Once you talk about your Tokyo Olympics moments in your resumes and interviews, whether it’s Panasonic, Nomura Securities, Recruit, or Asahi Shimbun, you will most definitely get an offer!

[…]

1兆円以上もの予算を提示しながらボランティアにはたとえスキルがあろうが無かろうがびた一文出さない組織委の倹約精神、「排除します」と堂々宣言した人間をトップに抱えながら「ダイバーシティ」を掲げる厚顔無恥、東京五輪なんか大した興味もないだろうに宣伝効果やらCSRやらを意識して金だけ出しておく大企業、戦中の金属供出を彷彿とさせる都市鉱山からのメダル製作、本当に環境のことを考えているのならオリンピックなんかやらないほうがよほど環境にいいという当然の論理を無視できる二重思考、どう考えても耐え難いであろう酷暑に対して打ち水で挑もうとする竹槍根性、睡眠やコンピュータの専門家から明確な異論反論が出され、諸外国では廃止が検討されているにも関わらず今更サマータイムを導入しようと躍起になる政治家、問題は山積しているというのに未だにやりがいや絆や感動などといった聞こえのいい言葉に簡単に騙されてしまう国民、これらの要素が揃えば、美しい国・日本は世界に誇る自己犠牲の精神をもって最高の五輪を実現できるに違いないからです。

An Olympics budgeted for a trillion yen, but the Committee is too frugal to even give a penny to any volunteer, skilled or not. Top executives who advocate for diversity while shamelessly excluding people. Conglomerates who have no real interest in the Olympics but dish out huge sums for marketing and corporate social responsibility. Producing Olympic medals in cities as if forging metal for war. People who practice doublethink and know that the Olympics shouldn’t happen for environmental reasons, but say that the Olympics is great for the environment. The “bamboo spear” mentality of tackling what everyone knows with be unbearable heat with mere water sprinklers. Politicians who all of a sudden become excited about daylight savings time even with heavy criticism from sleep and computer experts, and that it is an outdated concept which many other countries are considering abolishing. Japanese citizens who are easily fooled by nice sounding words like yarigai, kizuna, and kando, even though there are problems mounting everywhere. Once all of these elements are present, with the power of Japan, the Beautiful Country, and its world-famous ideology of self-sacrifice, we can definitely have the best Olympics ever.

What about Japan’s gaikokujin students? Surely their love for Cool Japan® must be a huge motivating factor? What does NHK’s reporting have to say?

インドネシアからの留学生は「大きなイベントなので通訳のボランティアとして参加したいと考えています。ただ真面目に働く日本人のように1日8時間もずっと働けるか心配です」と話していました。

An Indonesian exchange student said, “Since it’s a big event, I would like to try to join as a volunteer translator. But I’m worried whether I can work diligently for eight hours a day like Japanese do.”

Perhaps in response to all of the above criticism, Nihon Keizai Shimbun reports that the organizing committee is considering doing the following:

国内のスポーツ大会のボランティアでは交通費は支給なしか、支給されても500円相当が多いという。検討委の清家篤座長(前慶応義塾長)は「予算の制約のなか、最大限出せる金額」と評価した。

It is said that instead of paying nothing, paying 500 yen in transportation fees is already a lot. Atsushi Seike (former Keio University president) said, “This is the biggest amount we can give in our limited budget.”

One, of course, is a hundred percent bigger than zero. So that’s the standard they are judging themselves with.

3. What is volunteering?

Katsuo Satoshi takes a stab in his essay, “Volunteers Sought for 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Under Harsh Conditions”, in GQ Japan:

まだまだボランティア文化は日本に定着していないのかもしれないが、“無償”であることを前提に募集することに、私は以前から疑問を持っていた。本人の自発的、自主的な意思が最も尊重されるべきものだ。どうしても成功させたい事業、大会だが、財政的に、特に人的に余裕がない。そんな場合に不足分を補うために限って頼るのがボランティアでなければならないと考えている。

It may be because a culture of volunteering hasn’t been cultivated in Japan. But I have always questioned the fact that the Committee is recruiting people for free. The most important part of volunteering is that it is voluntary and of your own will. The Olympics has to succeed, but it doesn’t have enough financial or human resources. The inevitable conclusion is that the volunteers are the stop-gap that they have to rely on.

But I don’t think this is about whether a certain country has instilled enough volunteering spirit in its national psyche. The truth is that volunteer is free labour. And that’s not even accurate: volunteers are paying to be exploited. They need to find room and board, money for food, and of course plane tickets to get to Tokyo.

Every single situation of free labour carries a real risk of exploitation. If you’re not in an employment relationship, who’s going to help you? In a foreign country?

While I cannot profess to be an expert on the volunteering spirit, here is one perspective I received from a triathlon athlete who newly joined an organization I was working at in the past month. The athlete told me that the volunteers at Rio were on call at every moment. They were the ones who made sure a masseuse came when an athlete wanted one, that there was enough sodium in the energy drinks, and that they paved over every single logistical nightmare that could happen so they could get to their events. It is, after all, their fifteen minutes of fame.

So, is anyone ready to become every Olympian’s abused minion for a week?

Japan Times: “Japanese athletes under fire after Asian Games scandal”

Philip Brasor on the anatomy of a scandal in the Japanese media:

The weekly Shincho’s coverage of the basketball story was typical. Describing the news conference with the four disgraced athletes after their return from Jakarta as a “public execution,” the magazine revealed its stance, which is that the matter was blown out of proportion by the mainstream press, who kept demanding the players apologize to the nation in humiliating fashion. These young men’s lives, and not just their careers, have been destroyed.

[…]

Shincho questioned the Asahi Shimbun’s decision to report the players’ late night rendezvous, implying that the newspaper, acting out of a smug sense of journalistic professionalism, not only ruined these players’ lives but brought attention to this area of Jakarta and, at least temporarily, scared away business. The reporter added that South Korea was probably happy about the scandal.

Speaking of scrutinizing the Asahi Shimbun’s journalistic practices, the Asahi Shimbun published a whole book recently about why it is so hated and why it is a staunch defender of liberalism in Japan. It’s like how someone wrote a whole dissertation about why, despite not wearing pink on Wednesdays, she can still sit with Regina George.

NYTimes: “In U.S. Open Victory, Naomi Osaka Pushes Japan to Redefine Japanese”

Motoko Rich on Naomi Osaka’s win against her idol, Serena Williams:

In becoming the first Japanese-born tennis player to win a Grand Slam championship, Ms. Osaka, 20, is helping to challenge Japan’s longstanding sense of racial purityand cultural identity.

Her emergence comes at a time when Japan is also grappling with a declining population, a looming demographic crisis that has prompted the country to open its doors slightly to accommodate an increase in foreign residents and descendants of Japanese immigrants who want to return to Japan.

When natural disasters happen

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FNN

It has been a tough week for Japan. On Tuesday, a typhoon sliced through the Kansai and Shikoku regions, killing a number of people and trapping thousands more at Kansai International Airport. This morning, Hokkaido was the victim of Japan’s latest powerful earthquake, which damaged the island’s main airport in Chitose.

The growth in Japan’s tourism industry is “off the charts.” So is the number of foreign-born individuals resident in Japan. But if Japan is naturally prone to so earthquakes, the odd volcanic eruptions, and now—thanks to climate change—typhoons, is it ready to deal with the foreign-born residents and the 40 million tourists that Prime Minister Abe wants to welcome by the 2020 Olympics?

Some observations.

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News Zero / Nippon News Network
  1. During the typhoon, a ship that had lost power crashed into and damaged the access bridge connecting Kansai International Airport and the mainland.
  2. Around 8,000 people waited overnight to leave the airport. They spent the night inside a hot, suffocating glass building with no ventilation as electricity to the terminal had been cut off.
  3. The morning after, they waited in the hot, scorching heat for at least five hours for a tour bus or a ferry to get them off the airport island. (関西空港では、利用客を5日朝からバスや高速船などで空港島の外に運んでいますが、中には炎天下で体調を崩すなどして空港の施設内にとどまっている利用客もいます。)
  4. Never mind that the typhoon will cause inevitable economic impact on the Kansai region, which is very popular with tourists, especially from China and South Korea. The bigger question is why 8,000 people were left stranded at Kansai International Airport with no electricity and no or very little communications or announcements as to what was happening. Why did the flooding happen? Did the airport really not have a contingency plan for dealing with typhoons or even the very extraordinarily small probability that one day something might happen to the access bridge? Will anyone step out to admit responsibility?
  5. How do local and national governments and businesses that provide critical logistics infrastructure like airports, railways, and hotels take care of non-Japanese speaking individuals in emergency situations? The same question was posed by Nikkei Keizai Shimbun during a major earthquake that happened in Osaka in June. Tourists are the people who are (with some exceptions) least likely to be familiar with the local language, let alone what happens during an earthquake or typhoon. Will they be made aware of how governments respond to natural disasters and release information, and of what to do to protect themselves?
  6. This is not the first time that circumstances led to a large number of people being trapped in a small space. In January, over 400 passengers were trapped overnight on a train stalled under 77 centimeters of snow during a snowstorm in Niigata Prefecture. JR East neither gave any information to parents and family members worried about the people trapped on the train nor accepted offers of assistance from the local government to rescue people using minibuses, the Self-Defence Forces nearby to shovel away to snow, or even from taxi drivers, because JR East became myopically obsessed with rescuing everyone at the same time (乗客全員の救済にこだわっていた):

あえて言えば、線路閉鎖のための踏切警備を警察に依頼するとか、自衛隊の除雪車を要請するとか、天候の状況次第だけど、ヘリで救出を依頼するなりの方法はあったかもしれない。しかし、JR東日本は自分たちで解決できると思ってしまった。それは悪意ではない。鉄道マンの誇りだと思う。ただし、大災害を前にして、誇りを捨てて助けを求める。それは決して恥ずべきことではない。

Certainly, there could have other methods of rescue, like asking police to take care of the level crossing while the railway line is closed, or asking the SDF for snow blowers, or, depending on the weather conditions, asking for a helicopter rescue. However, JR East decided to deal with the train itself. This is not a malicious decision. I think this shows the pride of the railway men who run the company. But, during a natural disaster, they should put away their egos and ask for help during. This should not be a humiliating thing to do.

Apparently the people on the train survived the ordeal by swapping seats with each other or reading examination textbooks. I certainly wouldn’t have had the patience. I don’t think Japan’s tourists will either.