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The Japanese way of encouraging someone in the group who is either discouraged or is trying hard to accomplish something difficult is well known.  They have an expression 'ganbate' that loosely translates: Go for it, we're pulling for you all the way! The pitch of group support sometime reaches an incredible level of emotional intensity. This kind of support can spur folks to do the seemingly impossible.

An interesting facet of Japanese culture is an ingrained, down to  earth sense of living.  I have witnessed this over the years on the Japanese TV programs that appear on our local Channel 26 Television Station in San Jose, California on Saturday nights. The stories come in installments, which may well exceed one-hundred. After a while you get to know the characters as if they were members of your own family. Often the context of the story is an occupation or trade. 

  I watched a story about a sensitive platform worker for the railroad who believed in choosing to live the consequences of one's actions. There were stories about families that made quality soy sauce, tasty pickles, soy bean paste; a daughter who become a village doctor because there was no doctor around when her mother needed one, a young woman shogi (Japanese chess) master, a young lady carpenter apprentice who works her way up becoming an architect with her own business; a tenacious, enterprising woman, Oshin, who after undergoing  severe hardships opens up a supermarket (based on a true story); a family that runs a funeral service; a talented doll maker whose son strives to follow in his footsteps;  an affable young man who presides over the local temple; an autistic young woman who is a genius at carving figures; a young man who designs neat carnival rides, a dedicated and respected middle school teacher who engages his students; a wise judge; a business tycoon who learns wisdom from world wise 'simple' folk - and the list goes on. While the human interest is maintained through the interaction of the characters, the background of the story gives insight  into the nuances of a trade or occupation and reflects the profound respect that the Japanese hold for all kinds of labor. In other words, the stories while entertaining exemplify desirable social values and give insights into all kinds of work. 

Japanese TV programs also are replete with stories of historical characters. Sometimes I fear I have more of a feel  for Japanese  history than for that of the U.S., which is slighted on  our big network TV networks. We appear to be a society that lacks a history. Thank goodness for our National Treasure, Ken Burns, who has restored some sense  of our own past with his fine historical documentary films like the Civil War and the Jefferson series.  I don't know why we don't dramatize more of our  history. Most of the Westerns don't count because they are too far out of historical reality. They say that cowboys, for the most part, lived boring lives. 

While I was watching the story about the railroad platform worker at a small town station I never realized what a challenging occupation that could be. Later I learned that perhaps an extremely gifted person can join the railroad at 18 and become a  station master at 35. Success in the Japanese National Railroad means that you have overcome an obstacle course of tough examinations that include questions on railway mottoes, reading difficult Chinese characters used  in station names, doing complicated fare calculations, and writing essays on given railway situations. To qualify for taking the exam at any given level, you also have to have an  appropriate length of prior service at all the preceding levels. 

Japanese Curios

On a clear night you can see a hare on the moon and its pounding Mochi (rice-cake) in a  mortar.

Yes, stones grow in Japan. The Oishi shrine in Chikugo is dedicated to a stone which that the faithful believe grows larger over time.

The Japanese sai or die, as in craps, is considered to be a charm against evil and a symbol for the universe with the dots representing heaven, earth, and the four directions of the compass.

If you want to remove a splinter, physical or mental, go to the Jizo shrine (Toge-nuke-Jizo -- splinter-removing-Jizo) in Tokyo  and  pay your respects. The Jizo deity does different things and is called by what he does.

In India, cows are sacred. In old Japan,  rats had it  good because a white rat was a messenger of one of the seven gods of luck, Daikoku. Because of this connection, they were not killed. Watch out if the rats leave your house, it's a omen of bad luck. The story goes that a rat couple wanted  the strongest husband in the world for their daughter. They asked the sun who declined saying that clouds had more power because they could cover him up. When they asked a cloud, he responded, "The wind is stronger than I  because it can blow me away." The wind could not make the grade either. "The wall stops me cold," he said. And the wall, though honored by the offer wailed, "The  rat is stronger. He can bore a hole right through me." So the couple wisely gave their daughter in marriage to another rat  who was indeed the strongest creature of them all.  


There's no definition  in my 1552+ page Random House Webster's for the word 'Senryu.' The dictionary does define haiku as the poem of 3 lines of 5, 7,  5 syllables. Senryu, named after the  poet Karai Senryu who died in 1789, is haiku with an attitude of fun. It a 17 syllable joke poem. You can call it a three-liner. It laughs at life and takes it seriously at the same time, a sort of irreverent haiku. The Japanese thrive on contradictions. Some examples.

Araigami Washing her hair,
waki no shita kara She calls someone
hito wo yobi Under her armpits.

Yes, armpits can be a turn on.

Uri hitotsu When we steal
nusumeba hatake A single melon,
mina ugoki The whole field moves.

If  this were haiku, there might be implied some deeper meaning about cause. Justice Andrew of the famous Palsgraf case would say I want to look at proximate cause here. But here it means no more than that the melons are attached by their runners and picking one up moves all the others.

Wata  ire wa There is a man
nonde sake kiru Who drinks his rolled up kimono
otoko ari And wears sake.

This fellow is getting high on money from the pawnbroker who holds  his thick kimono.

The Japanese Education System
For an in-depth U.S. Government Report, click below:
The Japanese Education System

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