Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Streets of Ichinoseki - is Japan a Nanny State?

Time for a reflective piece of blogging I think. :)

I have nearly been in Japan working and living for seven months. It's been a hectic crazy time and I never feel there are enough hours in the day for what I want to do. Work is busy usually, with sudden short periods of quietness.
The Japanese workplace is not one that can be highly recommended. At my school most teachers have so many responsibilities for things outside class that one remarked to me the other day she had no time to prepare lessons. I see them working so very I hard I really could never complain about my workload!
Schools in Japan have a high importance placed on activities outside class. Not only do the teachers show the signs of being over-worked, over stressed and the rest, but so do the students. It's not uncommon to find students asleep when I arrive to class, especially in the afternoon. Coming to school on the weekends and staying until 7pm at night is also considered normal here for students.
I remember being very curious last year when in Japan as to why I saw so many children in school uniforms on Sundays. Now I know why, it's the norm here. One student told me he gets up at 4.30am to get to school on time as well. It's all a bit insane, but it's a cultural thing, the company, the employer is king. It's fair to say that Karl Marx isn't so well known in Japan.

Driving is interesting and frustrating at times. You have to be so careful around the place. I was told recently that in direct opposition to a place like India where might is right, Japanese law sticks up for the little guy. No matter how many rules a pedestrian or cyclist is breaking, if they are hit by a car then it's the car's fault. Bikes are everywhere here and mostly students ride them.
They go from footpath to road and back ad nauseum, they don't obey lights and signs, they never ever signal and naturally no-one wears helmets. In fact, they often ride on the right hand side of the road, into the traffic who drives on the left. The other day I nearly witnessed a collision between two cyclists as one was on the left and the on the right. As they were going in opposite directions they were on the same side of the road and were lucky not to end up on the ground cut and bruised!
Cyclists haven't cottoned on to being seen at night either. The few bikes that do have lights have lights so weak you can hardly see them. Very dangerous in my book, but from what I understand it seems Japanese law doesn't encourage people to take responsibility. I would call it a bit of a 'nanny state' to be fair.
For example earlier today there were vans going around with loud speakers telling people to be careful with their fires. It's common to see vans running around with warning messages to residents.They seem to feel the need to warn the public about things you'd think they know about.

Sorry - not meant to be a whinge, more an observation. When there is roadworks happening they deploy far more men than are needed. They get a couple if not more to wave people through with flags. They have flashing lights on the side of roads in places that are flood lit. And then other parts are complete darkness! It's all very confusing.
Anyways, enough of that! It's also a wonderful, beautiful country with amazing people! Don't be fool by my rantings!

As for the book - well I am please to announce it is now possible to follow me all the way from Bangladesh to Senegal! The final chapter, Senegal, is available for Kindle and Kindle devices such as the FREE Kindle for PC. The African chapters in particular are full of photographs. It's been an amazing ride getting it ready and up, and now all I have to do is compile the Europe and Africa chapters into complete books.

I present to you the chapter on Niger today. It's a truly wild and out there place, in the middle of the desert. It was difficult going, but in my mind a positive experience. I was taken in by a very kind guy who lives in Niamey, visited the Sahara and was faced with some of the most abject poverty I could imagine. One of the poorest countries on Earth, Niger presented challenges, hospitality and as always, adventure.

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