25 October 2004

Google Wins Again!

I've just started using Google Desktop search, Picasa, and Hello. It's been a good couple of days... I just got Google desktop search (desktop.google.com) installed on both of my Windows machines (at work and at home), and just picked up Picasa (the easiest description is that it's a Windows version of iPhoto, plus it does great image indexing of your hard drive); and I'm trying out Hello, Google's photo-IM application.

They're all great! Desktop search in particular is a can't-go-back experience (I just wish it worked on my Mac!). Interestingly, all three of these apps bring functionality to Windows machines that's already built in in some form to Mac OS X (unlike Windows' "Find in File..", the search function on the Mac works reasonably well although not as well as Desktop Search! Picasa and Hello are iPhoto and iChat).

What I didn't say about Japan

In my goodbye speech at Eurocentres, I talked about what was different (or not) from when I visited Japan in May. Being a polite guest, here are a few things I didn't say. Even between May and October of this year (2004), there were some noticeable changes in Japan.

The most pronounced, as I mentioned in my last post, is the difference in attitude towards foreigners and particularly Americans. While the Japanese don't yet have the open contempt for our idiocy that young Europeans do, it seems to me there's a noticeable distance developing in the attitudes of Japanese. The desire not to sit next to me in the trains, for instance, was palpable. While Japanese are arguably still the most hospitable people in the world (I personally have had a businessman walk 15 minutes out of his way to take me to my destination), in particular younger Japanese aren't anxious to associate with foreigners (however quickly they adopt foreign music, fashion, or food).

Something else I noticed -- which must have been going on in May as well, but I became more aware of -- is that there just aren't very many younger Japanese. Of course, there are still Japanese kids, as our visits to the Elementary and High School attest. But the elementary school we visited now has only 138 students; at its peak size, that same school building housed 1700 children. That particular school, near the center of town, was hit by both the suburban migration and the birthrate; but the demographics around Japan's low birthrate are truly amazing.

Current Japanese birthrate is only about 1.2 children per mother[1], well below the 2.1 needed for flat population. Simply put, the population of younger Japanese is going away. This in turn is driving a huge change in the percentage of the population which is retired: while it's rising in every country, in Japan it will reach 30% of the population by 2030 [also from 1] (in the US, where we have a almost-breakeven 2.07 birthrate [2] plus lots of immigration, our retired population is estimated to peak at around 19%).

That kind of tremendous retired population, not to mention the long-term implication about a continually shrinking base of young people, are real problems... and yet, every Japanese person I've talked to was quite fatalistic about it. "Yes, we'll have to import lots of workers," or "Yes, it will be quite a burden," were typical comments. I was surprised since there are steps one could take (raising child tax credits, making day care more available/affordable, etc.) to try and encourage individuals to choose to have another child; however, no one seems to be examining those. It's a particular piece of Japanese fatalism I guess, like the attitudes towards the banking crises.

One last change: I think younger Japanese are getting fatter. It certainly would make sense -- American-style fast food is propagating throughout Japan, and many younger people reject the fish-and-tofu-heavy traditional diet that has historically made Japan's low heart disease rates the envy of the developed world. While I don't think they'll reach the average obesity of Americans any time soon, the trend is observable on Japan's trains and subways.

[1] http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/handbook/c02cont.htm#cha2_2
[2] http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/peo_tot_fer_rat/NAM

comment from old blog site:

Hi there,

Just found your blog while I was looking for people with experience at Eurocentres in Japan. I have been to Eurocentres 3 times before, twice in Paris and once in Moscow and I was very pleased with those schools. Of course each school is different so I was wondering what your impression of the Kanazawa school was. I have been living in Japan for 5 years and never studied in a program, just on my own. Any candid comments would be greatly appreciated.

Rebekah Hamner
rahamner at hotmail dot com
from Austin, Texas
living in Tottori, Japan


23 October 2004

Seeing America from Abroad

The W. has successfully changed how the rest of the world regards Americans. The most prominent one is a change in attitude about Americans. If you don't leave the country often, it's hard to realize how completely George Bush's action have changed the attitudes the rest of the world has about America. A few years ago, attitudes about America and Americans (especially in Japan) were often positive. While we might be regarded as typically loud, somewhat overweight, and under-educated about history (all true), we also represented a very dynamic country with a huge opportunity for self-improvement and a record of supporting liberty more than anyone else could claim.

Now, attitudes are totally different. The rest of the world looks at us as a bunch of warmongering idiots, can't possibly understand why we elected George W. Bush as President or how we could possibl think of re-electing him, and general regards being American as a negative. If you're traveling overseas now, being American isn't something you mention quickly.

While people are understanding of the fact that not 100% of Americans support Bush's wars, the default perception of America has changed a lot. Japan has a somewhat less negative reaction, in my experience, than Europe. Europeans and especially young Europeans have a very negative view of recent American actions. The long-term implications of this for America's relations with Europe ought to worry any thinking person.

21 October 2004

My Last Day Speech at Japanese Class

Test your Japanese reading ability!

A few possibly unusual Kanji:
漫画人 = "Mangajin", a magazine name
白山 = "Hakusan", the tallest mountain near Kanazawa
石川 = "Ishikawa", the prefecture Kanazawa is in こんにちは!

åå¹´å‰ã«ã€ã‚ãŸã—ã¯ã€Œæ¼«ç”»äººã€ã®ã€€ã–ã£ã—ã‚’ã€€ã‚ˆã‚“ã§ã€ãƒ¦ãƒ­ã‚»ãƒ³ã‚¿ãƒ¼ã®ã‚¢ãƒ‰ã‚’ã€€è¦‹ã¾ã—ãŸã€‚ã€Œã“ã®ã€€å­¦æ ¡ã«ã€€ã„ããŸã„ã€ã¨ãŠã‚‚ã£ã¦ã„ã¾ã—ãŸã€‚ã€€ä»Šå¹´ã®äº”æœˆã«ã€ã‚„ã£ã¨ã€€é‡‘æ²¢ã«ã€€ãã¾ã—ãŸã€‚
いま、五か月あとで、もう 一ど 日本語を べんきょうするために 金沢に 来て いろいろな ことは おなじ です。

金沢の天気は まだ いつも かわって います。りょこう は ニッかいめ でも いい 天気 の ふつかかんを 見たことがありません!
金沢の自転車のルールは まだ ぜんぜん ありません。
よしかわさんのりょりは まだ おいしくて、
日本の小学生は まだ かわいくで、
片町は まだ たのしいです、
そして 四月の学生のクリスさんは まだ 金沢から 動きません。

けれども、ほかのことは かわりました。
いまごろのじきは、たいふうが よく 石川けんに 来ています。
あいにく、くまも よく 石川けんに 来ています!

この りょこうのあいだに 私は 白山にのぼって 日本の山ののぼり方を ならいました。
石川けんの天気 のせいで、なにも 見えなくて も あたらしくて たのしかった! 
ã‚‚ã†ã€ã‘ã‚“ã©ã†ã‚’ã€€ã—ã¦ã€é«˜æ ¡ç”Ÿã‚’ã€€ã—ãªã„ã§ã€€ã†ã¤ã€€ã“ã¨ã€€ãŒã€€ã§ãã¾ã™ã€‚

しかし、ユロセンターの いちばん たいせつな ことは ぜんぜん かわりませんでした。
ã›ã‚“ã›ã„ã¯ã€€ã¾ã ã€€ã˜ã‚‡ã†ãšã ã—ã€ã‚„ã™ã“ã•ã‚“ã¯ã€€ã¾ã ã€€ã‚„ã•ã—ãã¦ãªã”ã‚„ã‹ã ã—ã€ã»ã‹ã®å­¦ç”Ÿã¯ã€€ã¾ã ã€€ãŸã®ã—ãã¦ã€€ãŠã‚‚ã—ã‚ã„ã—ã€ãƒ¦ãƒ­ã‚»ãƒ³ã‚¿ãƒ¼ã¯ã€€ã¾ã ã€€ã•ã„ã“ã†ã®å­¦æ ¡ã§ã™ã€‚ã€€ãã‚Œã€€ã‹ã‚‰ã€€ã‚‚ã€€ä¸€ã©ã†ã€€ãƒ›ãƒ¼ãƒ ãƒ»ãƒšãƒ¼ã‚¸ã‚’ã€€ã¤ãã£ã‚‰ãªã‘ã‚Œã°ãªã‚‰ãªã„ã€€ã¨æ€ã£ã¦ã„ã¾ã™ã€‚ã€‚ã€‚
みんなさん、どうも ありがとう ございました。
また 合う とき まで、さよなら!