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Tuesday, May 9, 2006


Home help, Kimigayo, raccoons

Silver centers

Viki in Saitama read the first posting about utilizing Silver Center workers and then this past week read that Saitama might have not caught onto the idea yet.

"But they have!" she writes, "At least in the part of Saitama I'm in. I use their service all the time."

She was introduced to them when she lost her dependable high school students, who were clearing her yard of weeds and bamboo grass. "I live in Iruma in Saitama and my friend says they have the service in Tokorozawa as well. I would just assume other cities here have them. My center says they have masses of work and not enough people, so they're busy all the time."

Maybe the reader who wrote in originally should try again. Or does it really vary from city to city?

Noisy cars, noisy bikes

Paolo is an Italian resident of Osaka who has been living in Japan since August 2002. He's being driven of late with "noisy bikes and cars, for example, even in the dead of night."

Do we know anyone who might be able to help him with this problem?

Oh Paolo, how we sympathize. Mostly you are hearing "bosozoku" (young hoodlums) racing about. You may have seen news clips on TV, showing police chasing them to try effect some control.

Noise pollution is a huge problem in Japan, but I guess you'll just have to learn to do what the Japanese do (who are often just as annoyed): edit out what you don't want to hear, or wear ear plugs.


Riled Reader writes: "As a non-Japanese teacher in a higher education institution under the authority of the Ministry of Education, I stand silently but with respect when the national anthem of Japan, the 'Kimigayo' is played. "Must I actually sing it in order to keep my job, or is there an exception for foreigners."

This been a controversial subject since the end of World War II, with the LDP pushing for the restoration and observance of such national traditions. In 1999 the Japanese government passing the Law Concerning the National Flag and Anthem, which designated "Kimi Ga Yo" as the official anthem and the Hinomaru as the national flag.

Schools have seen much conflict, as the Ministry of Education requires the anthem to be sung and the flag to be flown at events at Japanese public schools, and expects school teachers to respect both or risk losing their jobs.

Know that you are not alone in feeling uncomfortable. Many of your Japanese counterparts have equally strong feelings on the subject. Teachers have sued the government; teachers have lost their jobs. One school principal in Hiroshima even committed suicide over the matter.

So step gently. Find out where your own principal and your colleagues stand on the issue. Ask them to ask their union representatives how foreign teachers should behave?

Right now, to offer basic respect without opening your mouth seems a fair compromise. What do other teachers think?

Unwanted tenants

An "araiguma" (American raccoon) took up residence in our roof late last year. It was quiet and respectful, so we let it be. But yesterday -- shock horror -- it gave birth, and I now have the newlings of newborns above my head as I work. If I call the landlady or city office, I am pretty sure the solution will be deadly -- a cage, and then gas or poison. Wanting only to return them to the wild, I am looking for humane animal groups that can offer advice or come and take them away.

I have tried the local zoo and various Web sites that are araiguma-friendly, but no luck. The problem seems so widespread in certain parts of Japan, that no one seems to have an answer barring culling. Has anyone else has a similar experience, with a happy ending?

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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