July 2004


I was going to just write this as a comment to my earlier post, but there was a lot I wanted to say, so I’m just writing it as a new post. I mentioned how Oyata-sensei has had a problem with most of his students no longer being associatied with him. Here I will talk about three of his former students and compare/contrast what they have done since.

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Here are a couple of posters I thought were interesting that I took pictures of while I was in Imazu-cho in Shiga Prefecture visiting my wife’s family.

Defeat Poaching!

This first one shows the fairly low-ranked sumo wrestler 高見盛 (Takamisakari) endorsing a campaign against fish poaching. The large writing in the center approximately translates to “Defeat Poaching!”

This can be a problem in fishing communities, where fishermen leave traps for shrimp, mollusks, fish, etc. As long as you don’t get caught, it’s pretty easy to go right to where the traps are and help yourself. The real problem isn’t the occasional guy trying to get some cheap seafood, but competing fishermen that will raid the catches of other fishermen when times get tough. It’s easy to do, and it’s essentialy impossible to keep a trap from being raided.

So why is Takamisakari endorsing this campaign? I haven’t a clue. He isn’t a particularly good sumo wrestler, he’s currently only ranked komusubi. (The fourth rank from the top, and the lowest rank that can still participate in the grand sumo tournaments) He does have some popularity, or at least notoriety, due to his exuberant displays of energy before his matches. Maybe he’s from a fisherman’s family, or he just wan’t very expensive as a celebrity sponsor. If I researched it more I could probably find it out, but I’m too lazy.

Here is the other image.

national flag campaign poster

(Yes, I know you can see me in the reflection. The poster was behind a glass case, and I don’t exactly carry a polarizing filter with me.) I found this poster in a very small shrine about a minute walk from my wife’s home. The yellow text on the right reads, “Let’s fly the national flag on national holidays.” The black text in the center says “Now introducing a flag for family use. Price: 1,500 yen. (Pole and fittings included)” Finally the black text in the lower left hand corner translates to “Shinto Political Federation: Shiga Prefecture Headquarters”.

I find this very interesting, as this campaign is trying to promote Japanese nationalism by encouraging a practice that is fundamentally non-Japanese. During this trip I was only in Japan during one national holiday: Umi no hi.(Sea day) Despite this campaign (probably not an extremelly well-know campaign) I failed to see any national flags flown at any homes on this day. Of course it may have something to do with the fact that Umi no hi doesn’t really signify anything in particular, just that Japan needed a national holiday in July and needed to call it something, so they called it sea day, probably just because it’s summer and everyone loves to go to the beach in the summer. There may be more flags flown on more significant holidays, like the Emperor’s birthday or such, but I’m doubtful.

What I find most interesting is the group that published this poster, the Shinto Political Federation. This is the same group that had a meeting a few years ago which was attended by many prominent right-wing politicians, including the then Prime Minister Mori. It was at this same meeting that Mori made the infamous stament 「天皇を中心とした神の国」 (the nation with the Emperor at its heart in the land of deities) in May of 2000. This fiasco caused a big scandal that eventually led to Mori losing the Prime Ministership. It also led to gaijins residing in Japan making all sorts of jokes about Japan being “Kami no Kuni”.

Ryoko, myself, and our baby just returned from a month in Japan, visiting her family and such. There were some days when I didn’t have much to do and just sat around, but overall I had a really good time, as did my wife. She really needed this trip to be able to unwind a relax for a while.

This being my fifth trip to Japan, every time I go there and come back there are several differences that always catch me off guard, no matter how much I’m expecting it. There is of course the crowdedness of Japan, expecially Tokyo, that converses with the big open spaces here, and the fact that I’m a giant there while only moderately tall here. I’m pretty much used to both of those. What really catches me off guard every time is that Americans are fat. Really fat. Over half of the people I see look too fat to me, and a significant percenage of people are so freaking obese how in the world are you able to take a single step or fit into a chair or even keep your skeletal system from collapsing under the wieght!!! Maybe there is something to be said for places like southern California, where over half of the women have boob jobs and tummy tucks and are too tanned and wear too much makeup and everyone talks about how superficial they are and are way too preoccupied with appearance but at least they don’t look like a pod of whales that have re-adapted to life on land!

In Japan they just finished the summer Sumo tournament at Nagoya, where everyday they show all the matches on national TV. Sumo wrestlers are renouned for thier large size, but I regularly see people on the street here in the U.S. that would easily overweigh these giants. How is a human physically capable of being this corpulent as these Americans? It never ceases to amaze me.