Monday, August 29

Back to school

Irene is back at school today. Her third "first day to school"

Last one week was busy for us getting new uniforms, boxes and bags (school bag, gym bag, lunch box and bag, snack box and bag, library bag...) shoes, socks.. and today morning, we dropped her to school in the new dress. White full sleeve shirts tucked behind a little pleated blue-green check pinafore, with navy blue socks and black shoes. (She did complain of the long sleeve shirts - I promised to get her short sleeve ones for summer)

It was a crowdy day at Sacred Heart school with the new kids, returning kids and parents all gathered at the nicely named "breezeway" to look at the class list and line up to be "herded" to the classrooms - what they nicely call the "homerooms". No class teachers - only home room teachers.

I still remember sending her to her first ever school - Himawari kodomono ie montessori - two years back, in April. With no Japanese, with no English even (though it would have helped her) I sent her off to school in her bus in front of High Town Shiohama. As she prayed and stepped in, she was very happy saying "bye" and did not notice tears in her dad's eyes. That was the best I could afford for her that time. She discontinued after the school closed for summer holidays and our vacation in India.

Today I was just remembering how God has been planting small seeds for her, how she is able to go to a school which I could never imagine for her.. Today also, as she quickly moved ahead with the row of kids, I could not stop tears filling my eyes.

God, please build her up to be a courageous, confident child, a bold and humble girl and a kind and loving human being. Kindly let us nurture the little thing, the trust that you bestowed upon us in the form of two of the sweetest of your creations.

Thursday, August 11

Six years not privileged

July 20 this year, my daughter Irene became six years old.

That weekend, I gave her a promotion. She can now have half tickets for the train and bus rides. She decored herself with a cute pink (wow, the pink-o-mania  is the biggest trouble I have grown in her being in Japan all these years) little handbag so that she can keep the ticket safe while travelling.

She enjoyed this privilege, though Ian was not very happy. But then I gave him my ticket and as long as he to put that into ticket gates, he is fine.

Things were fine the first two weekends. I bought her a pre-paid train card that she can use too. She enjoyed the promotion and proudly kept the pass in the handbag and did not fail to carry the bad whereever we went. But then the last weekend, we were caught in a bus. The driver objected on this half ticket business. She is 6, I told him. Fine, but is she a junior school student? Well, no, she cannot be. Japanese schools start on April 01 and one should be 6 by March 31 to get the status of shougakusei (junior school student). A July girl can only wait for the next year. Well, she is not. Ok, then no tickets. The privilege of the half ticket was taken off from her.

The international schools here start Sep and their age cut off in Aug 31. So I need to talk to them again in Sep if she can take half tickets - well she is not actually a shougakusei, but she is a grade 1 student.....

Wednesday, August 10

Has the shadow started fading?

In Japanese, babies are called akachan. aka means red. Youth is seinen. Literally blue life, blue years. Does that mean we cover the full VIBGYOR spectrum of life by youth. No colours after that than the fading violet? When we can only envy on the bright colurs around?

In one of our college magazines, I remember there was a story about shadows. The early part of the day, when we have long shadows, when we were running towards the shadows and slowly swallowing the shadow until it becomes zero. Afterwards we see it growing behind us. Now the shadow is following us. Wherever we go, the shadow follows us. And it starts growing... keep on growing and slowly fades away. Whoever was the author, he had nicely depicted this to reflect the similie of life. Very beautifully. Enjoyed reading it. For, in those days, we never realised how the zero shadow looked like. Theorotically, yes, you cannot define when the shadow is zero. But in these days of extreme planning, its not a bad thing to have a worst case estimate though.

When I crossed the last birthday, while I thankfully saw people like Cherian and Tom still bother to remember these silly dates, there was a slow transform happening in me. If, for eg., I take 70 as the longest practically useful period of life (God forgive, I am not trying to estimate my life - I am not even to be completing this word) then, I just hit the noon? I grew from red to blue and now the indigo and violets are coming in to fade away? When I look back I can only see my shadow of what I had been doing for this long. Is my shadow only growing long? Are the edges blurry, less sharp? Is it fading too?

Did I realise that only my shadow grows now? Earlier when my shadow was shrinking, I was growing. But now? When I was young, I had a legitimate doubt (so do I say) that I asked my father. I have got my head already. How and why do I grow more?

Looking ahead, what do I have? When I am starting to shrink, am I thinking of growing my career?

Start shrinking? There was a Shakespere poem in Ist PDC - All the world's a stage. The life cycle starts with a child who grows and later shrink to what the poet calls second childhood.  Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

If we were to know where exactly is the mid point, we would have been more cautious? Remember those old day funny quizzes? How much you can walk into a 1 km radius forest? 1 km. After that you are walking out of it. When do we start walking out? Remember the last days in college? When we realised we were walking out?

Well, I am talking against the beauty of life probably. The real beauty is that you never know when the last bell will ring. Still.. we should know there is a guy standing below the bell and no one can stop him once he decides to bang?

Tuesday, August 9

Traffic Police in Japan

Nothing surprising though.

I bought a car. A used car for USD2K. (Budget rose 100% from my last Japan life). I am in the process of transferring the registration to my name. Very simple steps compared to what the International schools out here have as their admission procedure.

1. I need to get a parking lot. Luckily I have parking included in my apartment rent. Last time, I used the car for one year. I paid more for parking in that one year, than the car purchase price. Anyway, this time I just had to get the papers from teh apartment office. The location of the apartment, the drive way, exact position of parking, driving directions till the slot. With their seal.

2. Next fill the Shako shome no youshi. This is the application form for parking permission. I filled in the details here. Car make, height, length, width. Police has to confirm that this car can be parked in this slot with no issues. Thats why this is being handled at the police station.

Police? Yes, in Japan there is no traffic police. Or in other words there is only traffic police. Traffic and parking pre occupies the police force here. You can see No parking, No stopping signs on any road here. At a minimum No Parking. If you see a road with no such sign? Well, by default all places in Japan are No Parking unless the expensive P is not found. In Tokyo this P would cost around 7-8 dollar per hour. In our office building, they have a full day scheme for 24 dollars a day.

So the police will always be patroling for these parking violations. You can see small Alto - Zen varieties of cute police cars driving past the parked vehicles. They use a long chalk which they use to mark the tyres-to-road line while they drive. They will then come again in 30 minutes. If the car is not moved - if the line over tyre and road are still aligned - they will put a small tag. You need to take this to police station and pay the fine. Could be like 100 to 200 dollars depending on the area.

Effectively the police here do nothing else than parking checks and traffic violations. Recently there was a house bugarly reported to which the Police said on the spot that they cant do anything. The burglars would have fled the country already. The default assumption is that, all mischief done by Chinese. And police cannot do anything, right? Not just me, even the Prime Minister knows the Police cant do anything. Read this

So now you dont wonder why only 1 out of 5 counters in the police station is handling non-traffic crimes.

Information / Reception
Consultation for crime victims
Registration of garage
Application for the use of roads (dont know what this is)
Parking matters (probably this is where parking fines are handled)

And on the 4th floor there was a counter for paying the fees too:)

Monday, August 8

Public vs Private in Japan

In this part of the world, Private would mean less efficient than Public. Interesting. I still cant figure out how in the public Japan post, the position of Post Master is handed down over generations.

Other aspects, the position of post master and school masters were as the local learned "masters" in earlier Indian villages too. Many be still so in some parts of India. Officer's Letters Describe WWII Bombings Officer's Letters Describe WWII Bombings

Daiba and the turns in history

Well, it did come. On Friday night - must be actually saturday very early morning. I was sleeping and suddenly woke up and Mother Earth was calling me:)

The building was shivering and I could see the tuk-tuk sound as the building flexes to contain the quake. Guess it was around 5 or so, but lasted only some 10 sec.

Anyway did not affect the good weekend. And what would be very interesting is the pics. These are some pics of Tokyo night view taken from around 100 ft + above sea level. Need to know more about Odaiba, read at

The cannon batteries Japanese placed then, if they had fired, the world history would have been different. Anyway the Perry black ships was a big turning point. You can actually link them to WWII also. Last week, it was a prayer day at Hiroshima. 150,000 souls departed in less than 48 hours - 60 years back. A lot of discussion still lingers around. Was it needed? Well, it was necessary, says one US military veteran. Otherwise it would have costed **** estimated lives of American soldiers to invade Japan. And this was cruicial to demonstrate to Russia what US has. US did not want Russia to come in and take over as they did in Europe.

If you can link Perry to WWII, you can easily link the current events to a future WWIII. Perry's black ships are now no longer just ships. These are now replaced with treaties, taxing, political pressure and etcetera.

Monday, August 1

The 'irresistible cocktail' that sealed Japan's fate - Books - Entertainment

The 'irresistible cocktail' that sealed Japan's fate
July 31, 2005 The Age

Saving lives was just one reason for dropping the bomb, according to a new book. Paul Heinrichs examines the arguments.

Could the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been avoided - or was the nuclear bomb's use justifiable in the context?

In the nuclear weapons debate, where opinions are highly polarised, there is an interesting new perspective. British TV drama and documentary director Stephen Walker has written an account of the three-week lead-up to the first dropping of the nuclear bomb in Shockwave. The Countdown to Hiroshima.

Following his earlier 60-minute documentary for the BBC and History Channel on the countdown's final 24 hours, the book focuses on each person's role.

Where he deals with US Secretary for War Henry Stimson's final approval on July 25, 1945, for the bomb to be dropped, Walker makes a striking and probably controversial statement.

"Of course, the decision was always inevitable," he writes. "So inevitable, perhaps, that it could hardly be called a decision. Everything conspired to that end. There were so many urgent reasons to drop the bomb. Together they made an irresistible cocktail."

Walker, 43, explained why. "The most obvious reason why the bomb was dropped, the one that everybody tells, was to save lives - to win the war decisively and quickly and save lives."

He cites his research into the minutes of a critical meeting on June 18, 1945, of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff with the recently appointed President Truman (following the death of Roosevelt in April 1945) to discuss the invasion of Japan.

It was two months after the German capitulation, but finishing off Japan was proving incredibly difficult. The meeting took place as the final battles were being fought for Okinawa, the last Japanese outpost before the home islands.

Although only a small island, Okinawa took three months of vicious, hand-to-hand fighting and the loss of 12,000 American and 107,000 Japanese soldiers, plus an estimated 100,000 Japanese and Okinawan civilians.

The plan was first for a massive invasion of Kyushu, the southern island, on November 1, followed four months later by a second invasion on the plains near Tokyo. More than 750,000 Americans would be involved. At issue was the number of casualties expected.

Walker said that although there is little that is specific - one estimate by General George Marshall was a loss of 31,000 men killed or wounded in the first 30 days - "they are talking about very serious casualties".

He said it was clear Truman reluctantly gave his agreement for the invasion plan "and the only recourse he knew or believed would have been the bomb to prevent that slaughter from happening.

"It is also obvious that whether or not the bomb did save lives ultimately - I'm not into that equation business - it clearly ended the war more quickly, and revisionist historians who say that it didn't are fools, in my opinion.

"It's obvious - you drop a bomb and nine days later Japan has surrendered. That would not have happened without the bomb."

Walker does not ignore other elements. He believes the US was also seeking to win the war quickly, and with a demonstration of nuclear deterrent to Stalin, because it feared Russia was poised to send troops across the border into Japanese-occupied Manchuria (it was), possibly into South-East Asia, and even threaten Australia.

After seeing much of Europe swallowed by the Soviets in the wash-up of the war there, the US did not want a repeat in Asia, Walker said.

"It was critical to Truman to drop that bomb and end that war quickly before the Russians could do it, and at the same time, show the Russians what an atom bomb looked like," Walker said.

As evidence of US thinking, he cites a document he found in the US National Archives, written within two weeks of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which contains a list of every major Russian city, its area, population - and the number of nuclear bombs required to wipe them all out. The answer was 204.

"There must have been a top-secret target committee somewhere in the Pentagon that had been put to work to find out how destructive these bombs could be when used - if used - on the Soviets," he said.

Asked if the bomb had been dropped gratuitously, Walker said: "I wouldn't say the bomb was dropped because they hated the Japanese but I would say the bomb was able to be dropped because they hated the Japanese - a slightly different point.

"Understandably. You know, the Japanese started the war, they had the most horrific record on POWs, which had already started to come out in a really big way.

"There was, absolutely without question, an orchestrated campaign, particularly in the American media, to caricature the Japanese as a slightly sub-human race."

In considering the atomic bomb's use, Walker likes to look at what might have happened had it not been used, given the enormous process and cost of preparations of the bomb.

"Suppose the war had gone on and American soldiers had died - and other Allies - and the electorate turned around said said 'My God, you've spent $US2billion of taxpayers' money on a weapon that could have ended this war, quite possibly, and you chose not to use it because you were squeamish about the Japanese?'

"Put yourself in that mindset - how can you stop it?"

Add to that the power and charisma of the military administrator of the project, General Leslie Groves, "a tough sonofabitch" who "for a few weeks here was the most powerful man on earth".

"This bomb was his baby. He had made it happen. Everybody was in thrall to this guy. He was the puppeteer behind the scenes. Truman, frankly, was a message boy, really. He did what he had to do, but Groves was punching it through," said Walker.

Groves' only defeat was Japan's ancient capital Kyoto, which he described as Stimson's "pet city" - Stimson had been there twice, and ordered it off the list of targets. Hiroshima took its place at the head of the queue.