New Blog!

Hey there! I've decided to continue blogging at a different blog. The MEXT archives and some of my travel posts will remain here, but I'll be moving some stuff over. Hope to see you there!

Monday, 30 January 2017

What My Senpais Say about Work

So last Saturday, my main zemi was gathered for a special class. Our teacher had called back four of the senpais who had graduated last year to come and talk to us about what it was like to enter the Japanese workforce. Luckily for me, it was in the afternoon so I managed to watch Silence in the morning and then head to school. We basically had a two-hour sharing session, and then we went for a nomikai to continue.

Out of the four senpais, there was one civil servant (in the financial sector), two insurance company salarymen, and one bank salaryman. If I were to sum it up, I'd say that the civil servant seems to have it the best. You should have seen the faces of the other three when he talked about the time he leaves work and his yearly leave.

But one thing that struck me was the overtime work in Japan. All four have companies that have made work-life balance measures such as:

- Must take 5 consecutive days of leave a year
- No overtime day
- Highly encouraged to go home promptly.

But they don't work!

According to my senpais, they aren't fans of taking too much time off because then work just piles us. And even though the lights go off at a certain time (like maybe 7 or 8pm?), they'll just work without light, or just with the desk lamp. And they're all pulling 12-hour days, which to them is normal and not at all excessive.

For the bank senpai, he says that while there's a no-overtime day, it's more of a formality than anything. But the other companies really seem to be trying to get the workers to take time off - it's just that the workload is too heavy.

Oh and I also learnt that if even one yen is missing at the end of the day (for a bank), everyone has to stay behind. If it's paperwork, they have to look for the mistake. If the money's missing, they have to search. Which is why my senpai now gets jumpy when he hears coins drop. Plus that branch has like 10 nomikais a month, which is insane.

So now the financial sector sounds absolutely terrifying, though I still have a few kouhai's who want to go there. But my senpais do seem to like the work so I guess overtime is a part of such industries? And interestingly, I also learnt that my kouhais find Deutsche bank and other foreign companies scarier than Dentsu when it's about overtime. Apparently, the amount of work there is even more than Japanese companies. I was quite surprised at that, because I was expecting the opposite (plus the Dentsu overtime incident was quite extensively covered in Singapore).

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Happy Year of the Rooster!

Today is 初一 of the Chinese New Year! So Happy New Year everyone, we're finally in the year of the Rooster! I'm still in Japan, so nothing much to share except this amazing new year drawing that my cousin made (and she said I could share with everyone):

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Silence: Movie Review

So on Saturday, Silence was released in Japan! It's directed by Martin Scorsese and has spent 26 years in the making! As a big fan of the book (to the point where my Extended Essay was a comparison analysis of Silence and The Man Within), I was at the first showing at Hakata's T-Joy theatre on the first day.

Also, I discovered Snow! 
The film was amazing and I definitely recommend everyone to watch it (and read the book) once it's out in a theatre near you. So obvious, to try and get you to do that, I'm going to share my thoughts on the film.

Warning: this is going to be all rambly, possibly incoherent and very likely spoiler-ish. You've been warned.

First things first: between Silence the novel and Silence the film, the novel will always win. It has a greater complexity to it (at least for me), and it was what got me interested in Japan. That being said, the movie was fantastic. I've been waiting for this since last March when I heard that it was being filmed. So you can imagine my excitement.

Silence, if you've never heard of it, is a novel by Endo Shusaku, a Japanese who happened to be Catholic. He wrote lots of great novels, but Silence happens to be considered his masterpiece. The story is about two Jesuit priests who have arrived in Nagasaki. It's the Tokugawa era, and Christians are severely persecuted. The two priests have heard rumours that their teacher, Ferreira, has apostatized and came to find out the truth, plus minister to the faithful.

As you can imagine, this is not a happy movie. The scenes of torture are many and varied, and music is largely absent. The atmosphere of the book was carried over pretty well, and I love the movie for that.

So anyway, one of the priests is Rodrigues and it is his story that we follow. He's played by Andrew Garfield, but I managed not to see Spider-Man after five minutes. Rodrigues meets Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka), a complex guy who repeatedly apostatizes and then returns. And if you're interested, Kichijiro was one of the main characters I analysed for my EE. Sorry, forgot to say that I loved this so much I dissected it for my EE. (When I found this was going to be a movie, I emailed my EE teacher immediately)
Christ did not die for the good and beautiful. It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt.
I'm not doing a very good job of it, but the story explores the themes of faith and love - whether one can apostatise and still be a Christian, and whether it is better to apostatise to save a few or to remain firm and to bring about more martyrs.

And I think the book does a better job of exploring this moral dilemma. In the film, it is more obvious (to me, anyway), that these men are making the selfish choice when they commit apostasy. I should note that when I was talking about this film to my friend, she thought that the moral dilemma was very well-conveyed, so it may just be me, because I've been thinking about it ever since I read the book. So anyway, my thoughts:

Despite the protests of love and of the inability for the Japanese to truly understand Christianity (something I don't agree with), it feels to me that these men apostatized for the sake of their minds rather than for others. The scene where Ferreira first meets Rodrigues, and the look of unease when he is called "at peace", shows that this was done for their sakes, not for others.

These are men who have understood the glory and reward of martyrdom but not its suffering. They have remembered the words "suffer unto me" but not the words "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword". In short, they have only a one-sided understanding of Christianity. But that is something a lot of us have, especially with the rise of things like the Prosperity Gospel.

And like Kichijiro says, persecution is trying. In times of ease, it's easy to be a good Christian, but when it's your life on the line, can you do the same?

I do believe Kichijiro when he says that in another time, he would have lived and died a good Christian. In fact, I think the fact that he repeatedly tries to overcome his weak nature shows great courage - something that Rodrigues and Ferreira don't really show.
"[B]ut our Lord was not silent. Even if he had been silent, my life until this day would have spoken of Him."
The ending definitely has more complexity than the middle portion, and I enjoyed the fact that the state of Rodrigue's faith was left unanswered, and invites the reader to draw her own conclusions.

Plus, even though I was just all "this wasn't as complex as the book", I do realise that there are limitations to what the visual medium can do, even with voiceovers, and I think this is as complex as it could have been.

I heard that Silence is going to be released in Singapore, so please spend some time watching it. It won't be a comfortable film - and I mean for everyone, even Christians - but it is thought-provoking and beautifully shot. I haven't spent much time on that, but really, the film was gorgeous.

And to end, another Endo quote, though it isn't from Silence:
True religion should be able to respond to the dark melodies, the faulty and hideous sounds that echo from the heart of men. (From Scandal)
Now, I feel like re-reading Silence, Scandal and the other works of Shusaku Endo (and the works that I haven't read before).

Friday, 13 January 2017

Wagashi Class

Yesterday, I learnt how to make 浮島 (ukishima - the cake like thing) and 桃山 (momoyama - the biscuits in front). The MVP of the day was shiroan (white bean paste) because we used it for everything.

And I mean everything.

First the 浮島. Here it is just out of the oven. It's basically shiroan + egg + a little bit of flour + meringue. And then it's steamed to produce a fluffy cake!

The green stuff is matcha-flavoured and the pink is food colouring. My sides don't look so good but you can sort of see the "wave" when you cut it:

There are little bits of adzuki inside.

We're not supposed to cut it until it's cooled, which means we have to bring it home, but I had zemi that day and was late. Late in the sense that when I finished the wagashi class, my zemi had already started (for almost two hours). Sensei said that all would be well if I bring him what I make so the teachers helped me cool the cake down so I could cut his portion out.

And these are the 桃山 before they go into the oven. I made them in the shape of 梅 (ume; plum) and 松 (matsu; pine). I think ume is cuter though. Believe it or not, but the outside "biscuit" is shiroan (plus boiled egg yolk plus raw egg yolk plus mirin plus oil) and the inside is yuzu + shiroan.

Quite amazingly, it doesn't merge while baking but separates into biscuit plus filling!

And here they are out of the oven. The brown colour is from the mirin I brushed on top before baking. I guess it's better not to have too much.

I don't know if you can see if clearly, but there are cracks in the cookie. I think it's more obvious in the next photo:

The teacher says that if we let it sit a day or two, the cracks will disappear!

Everyone in the class was really nice. They knew I was rushing, so they told me not do the last part of the washing up and just leave. And the teacher even gave me a plastic bag (I was planning on just holding the box all the way).

And don't worry about my class - we ended up finishing at 11pm, so I was there for a few hours.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

New Year Buys

So this has been a very, very quiet week, as expected. Good for me, because I've made progress on my graduation paper, but I guess a little boring for you. And to break up the monotony for me as well, I thought I'd share about the things that I bought during the New Year sale!

Lucky Bags

1. Gindako

This one contained about 7 vouchers for a free plate of takoyaki (so about 4550 yen's worth if we average 650 a plate), 12 100 yen coupons (1200), 3 stamps for members (don't know worth) and a box of octopus rice mix (also don't know worth). So total worth is about 7000yen, I think?

2. Sanrio

Sadly, both the Ghibli and Baskin Robins fukubukuro (the ones I originally wanted to get) were sold out, so I ended up getting the Sanrio one (3240 yen). What can I say? I saw the pyjamas and they look pretty comfy and I've been wanting more pyjamas to wear around the house! Plus, it comes with a small tote, which will probably come in handy.

3. Tutuanna

On Jan 2, I went to Tenjin and saw the Tutuanna fukubukuro, which was only 1000 yen!!

And this is what's inside. I can definitely use most of these - I think there are two pairs of room socks plus more tights (though I'll probably only wear black) and the low socks for heels? Not sure what I'm gonna do about the high socks though, since it's not my thing.

4. Accessories

And opposite Tutuanna was this accessory shop! The 1080 bag has 10,000 yen worth of accessories and the 540 yen bag has 5000 yen worth of accessories (or so they say).

I got the 540 yen bag because I was told there was more variety. And this was what it contained:

Sale: BookOff

After I *ahem* succumbed to the fukubukuros, I went to BookOff and discovered they were having a sale!!

Only 20% off, to be sure, but for some reason that turned a switch in my mind and I bought like 2200 yen worth of books.

Two humour comics/short sections on what it means to be British (not sure if they're accurate but they were funny), two Agatha Christie books (there were so many today! Got one short story collection - which I just finished and enjoyed - and one Poirot that I highly doubt I've read before) and one book on food.

I actually put down a book on Book Collecting. Somehow, I wasn't in the mood for that.

And that's more or less the shopping that I did over the new year! Now, I'll have to be more careful with my spending, so that I don't end up spending more than my allowance for the month :p (Although I have been quite good compared to previous years)

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope your 2017 is full of happiness and laughter.

Nothing much to report on my end - I've been working on my graduation thesis, which seems to hate working more than me because it has crashed my excel and word a number of times. But I have to finish it by the end of this month so onwards I go!