Tag Archives: Japan

What I am reading at the moment

At the moment I cannot immerse myself in reading particular subjects that interest me, e.g. philosophy or psychology. To some extent, my unbounded enthusiasm does not appear to be boundless just now. For now it is best for me to read something lighter; something that I usually enjoy whenever I leaf through my books.

I bought this anthology ages ago but, until yesterday, I had not found the perfect opportunity to savour it. It was compiled and translated by The Japan Foundation. The book contains the various informative views of novelists, critics, translators and artists alike, on Murakami’s work and his phenomenon around the world; in other words, it is a symposium on Haruki Murakami and his works of art.

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Indeed, I feel good

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Filed under Japan, Music

I am so happy and sleepy, but this is not relevant to this entry

I have plenty of things to say and they have been weighing on my mind.  I will try my best to get some of them out of my head in an organised way, at least I am trying, despite being rather sleepy.

I have just finished reading Underground, one of Murakami’s books. Which means I have read all of his current work until his new book comes out in the near future. I bought this book some years ago but could not get round to reading it; the reason for this is that I could not cope with the very small font. It drove me nuts and because of this, it was extremely difficult for me to concentrate on the story. Eventually, I managed to give it a go again, although it took me ages to finish it. After a lot of effort, especially with my hands sweating profusely every time I picked up the book,  I thought of it as a very interesting read.

Underground is a journalistic piece of work, in which the author interviewed the victims affected by the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. Murakami also interviewed members and former members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, the leader of which, Shoko Asahara, ordered some of his close followers to perpetrate this senseless act of terrorism. The story provides an insight into the lives of the innocent people who were caught off guard by the horror of the event.  Not only does it reveal how they felt about the incident, the book also provides some background information on these people – who they were, what they did and where they came from – so as to establish their characteristics. As sorry as I felt for the victims, I found the interviews a little bit repetitive. Understandably, the author wanted to give a precise account of what really happened on the underground on that particular Monday.

The second part of the book both irritates and intrigues me at the same time. In this section, the interviews allow us to go inside the minds of those who seek refuge – or as they call it “searching for enlightenment” –  in a religious cult. What I gathered from the interviewees was their sense of alienation, loneliness and isolation. They were disillusioned with the hard realities of life and were trying their best to look for something more meaningful in their existence. Some, with a background of good education and respected jobs, decided to abandon their lives and promising careers to  join this doomsday cult, pinning all their hopes on the the leader of Aum to cast light on the questions that they had been asking themselves. They gave up their own identities and ways of thinking and instead, replaced them with the guru’s ego and his flawed, warped ideologies, deserting a human’s basic common sense of what is right and wrong.  Because of this, to me, they  were just weaklings who were exploited by their master.

What I gleaned from reading this book was a personal understanding of my own imperfect Self. No matter how hard I try, I will never be completely fulfilled in life, but nevertheless shouldn’t I make the most of it? It does not matter who I am and what I do as long as I cause no trouble to anybody and have the ability to make my own decisions on how to live my life. I think I am satisfied with myself. At least, I would never dream of hurting other people like some of the Aum people did in the Underground.

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My favourite new dance routine

Kawaii is a Japanese word which means cute or pretty. And I think the word is appropriately used in relation to the Japanese, as they are such lovely people, and to their popular culture which is so endearing and interesting. Because of this, I suppose, lots of Thais, including myself, are nuts about many cool things from this likeable nation.

Last weekend, I came across a Japanese band, called Sweet Vacation on NHK World, Japan’s public broadcast TV channel which appeared unannounced on Sky last week. The band consists of two members: a Thai female lead singer who sings brilliantly in Japanese, and a Japanese male musician. I do not know much about their music but I find their songs, like the one in this video, very catchy. While I was listening to it, I felt like shaking my body and dancing with the tune although I cannot understand the lyrics; and in fact I do not need to either. I am still able to enjoy this tuneful song.

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Violence can be funny

-Warning-

The following movie clip contains scenes of extreme violence, self-mutilation, torture, sexual situations and rape. Yet, for some reason all of these actions come across as comically exciting.

Welcome to the cinematic world of Takashi Miike and if you have never experienced his movies, all I can say is where have you been. Ichi The Killer is a brutal and bizarre movie. It is over the top and violent for the sake of being entertaining – a very black comedy with a surrealistic sense of humour. The movie is based on a manga, a Japanese cartoon book by Hideo Yamamoto and is consequently in the style of a caricature which makes the atrocious scenes easy to swallow, if you can take them all in. At the same time, you might be enormously shocked with laughter.

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When an animation can move you so much

Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 Japanese animation. The story is about a boy and his younger sister who were both left orphaned as a result of an air raid which killed many Japanese, including their mother who died from burn wounds, near the end of World War II. The story is told in the style of a flashback on the last day of the boy’s life. He and his younger sister had had to go to live with their aunt as there was no one that the two of them could turn to. But later on their presence irritated her, resulting in them being treated badly. In the end, when they could not stand her any more, the little brother and sister decided to leave and squat in an abandoned bomb shelter. What happened after this is a very harrowing story.

This is one of the saddest animations I have ever seen and does not have a happy ending, although it is a well related tale of the impact of the war on those innocent victims who sufferred from this terrible event. I was deeply moved by this poignant cartoon.

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Stabbing in Japan

What happened earlier today in Japan is unsettling me. I am aware of the fact that, as often as not, there are bad things happening in this beautiful world. Some occasional events have massive repercussions on all people, like the tsunami or 9/11, but others might or might not affect anybody, and yet the killing of innocent Japanese citizens by some lunatic weirdo, for some reason, is strongly disconcerting me. It is definitely disrupting the equilibrium of my mind, along with the matter of not knowing the severity of this incident on some of my Japanese friends. I truly hope that they will be able to deal with it easily. After seeing the news, I decided to write to S. who is one of my Japanese friends. I am so anxious to know what she is thinking and feeling right now regarding this tragic event. Hopefully she will be ok and won’t lose faith in her fellow citizens. There are always crazy people everywhere, not only in Japan. At the same time, while I am worrying about her feelings, she may even care nothing about the stabbing at all. But who knows? And I personally care. May this horrible thing never happen again, whether in Japan, here, or the rest of the world. I just wish.

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