The Globalism Game

Osaka Ali rides the Hankyu Line train often and his eye frequently goes a-wandering. Recently, an in-car ad for a University called Ritsumeikan in Kyoto caught his attention. The poster was attractive enough to get him to look at their website. The events page yielded an even more interesting find: a panel discussion with the former president of the Japan Foundation, Kazuo Ogura. The title of the discussion was what hooked him, “Geneology of Anti-Globalism”. Faaascinating …

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Ogura was recently invited to be a visiting professor at Ritsumeikan, a role to which he brings considerable experience. The Japan Foundation is a government organization (part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) that promotes Japan and Japanese culture around the world. Their main work includes arts and cultural programs, Japanese language education and intellectual exchange. As president of the Japan Foundation, Ogura oversaw literary symposia on the work of Haruki Murakami, arts exchanges with Afghan craftsmen, educational programs for Chinese students, programs for teens in disater-struck Aceh, Indonesia, co-operation between the US and Japan after Hurricane Katrina and the launch of the Japanese in Anime and Manga website. He additionally served as a deputy foreign minister for the Japanese government as well as an ambassador to three countries. He was joined on the panel by two other professors at the Ritsumeikan College of International Relations.

Osaka Ali decided to check it out, understand his adopted country a little better, and find out from the panel why they think that the world is turning against the idea of globalism. From the sub-prime crisis to the financial meltdown in Europe to the Arab Spring, the global fabric has been straining and tearing. Now grass roots phenomena like the Occupy movement are growing and spreading. “Geneology of Anti-Globalism” sought to learn where these movements came from, what birthed them, how they survive and thrive and how they are influenced by their local conditions.

The discussion covered many topics ranging from the number of democratic countries vs autocratic ones, export and import flows, money transfers, the degree of freedom of expression in various countries, the loss of languages and dialects, the proliferation of Non-governmental Organizations and even the number of foreign films to Japanese films in the Japanese movie market. It was enough to make an amateur researcher’s head spin (are you still with me?). Norihisa Yamashita and GyongSu Mun, both professors at the Ritsumeikan College of International Relations, also enriched the conversation contributing perspectives on the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty and Japan-Korea relations. Luckily all was made understandable by very capable translators commissioned by the University staff.

Who’s down with TPP? (Yeah, you know me)

After the discussion, Ali got a chance to talk to Professor Ogura and was able to ask him what his view of recent activities by anti-Globalist movements meant as well as what it means to be pro-, counter- or even perhaps alterna- globalism. His answer was a surprise in its simplicity. He said, “People reject globalism when they feel that they cannot participate. When you feel that globalism is something being done to you, you might reasonably reject it.” Participation in society, government, the world is the answer when the interconnected world makes life less than ideal and more like a straightjacket. The message Ali took from the conference is that the world will inevitably become smaller, but opportunity and duty require our participation and our voices. Even learning to communicate in a new language is way to participate, to be active and not a passive victim of global changes.

The panel participants with Professor Ogura at far left

After that Osaka Ali realized that he had a international-sized hunger in his belly. Heading home, he stopped in downtown Osaka. He had to reach out for a little bit of familiarity, somewhere, somehow … comfort food. But where to find the right meal after the deep intellectual discussions, amongst throngs of gastronomic choices available in downtown Umeda? Then, turning around after passing through the station, it stood just ahead … a grand announcement of the only kind of meal that could satisfy. The “Big America Grand Canyon” burger at McDonald’s. Osaka Ali made his way into the familiar fast food paradise without reluctance. Globalization 1 – Osaka Ali 0 …

The Monster Truck of Burgers

Gaijin Life In Japan

Learning to read Japanese is easier than you may think. I was able to read simple sentences and signs after about a week. I’d like to pass on how I learned the language so that it will make your travels to Japan so much more enjoyable.

Have you ever considered traveling to Japan but don’t know much about the country? Are you concerned about the language barrier? Hopefully I can help. I lived in Yokosuka, Japan for two years and have recently moved to Yokohama due to my wife’s medical condition. From the time that I have lived here and from the material that I have studied, I have learned a lot that will help you when you visit Japan.

Once you decide to travel, to Japan, it would be of great benefit to purchase a language course that uses audio that is spoken by native Japanese. That way, you can be assured that the words are being pronounced are done so correctly. Before you purchase a course, do a little research to which one is best for you. You may even check at your local library for some. Do not worry about trying to become fluent, you need to only learn some greeting and what to say in places like restaurants, train stations, and shopping malls. The Japanese people will be amazed and appreciate the fact that you took time learn some Japanese.

Now to the reading….

When you first look at the picture, you probably think that you could never learn to read that. What if I told you that you could learn to recognize the hiragana and katakana characters in about a week? Would you say that I am crazy? I would have said the same thing if I was told that. But its true and that’s how long it took me. Here’s how. I found a hiragana and katakana chart online and made flash cards of each one. Next I purchased an app from Google Play called Dr. Moku. It is an app that uses mnemonics to help you remember. I began using the flash cards and the app for about two hours a day. A week later is had them all memorized.Ok, so you can make out words on signs, menus, stores, etc, but you have no idea what they. That’s where a pocket dictionary comes in handy. And even if you decide not to learn any Japanese but still wan to travel here, don’t worry. Many places have signs in English and many people speak the language as well.

I will be posting pictures and sharing my experiences in hope that it can help you decide if Japan is a place you like to visit. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me anything. Take care and God Bless!

Grab and go …

You see strange things on the streets of Osaka. A professor of art once told me that a defining characteristic of Mexico City was its surrealism. So far in my experience, Osaka hasn’t matched El Districto Federal in the surrealism department, but sometimes it comes close … like the time I was walking through the suburbs surrounding Kansai University and witnessed a man taking a walk with his calico cat … on a retractable leash. He did this without a hint of self-consciousness. But the truly strange thing was that the cat accepted this situation as a completely natural circumstance. Of course, Osaka Ali took this event as proof positive of the imminent end times. Sorry readers, I didn’t have the guts to take his picture and post it here. Perhaps next time.

On the other hands, ummm, hand, I did have the cojones to snap a shot of this:

Easy rider …

Quite a handful an eyeful. Did Salvador Dali design this bicycle seat and forget to license it to Avocet? Well, it appears to be a beautiful accessory attached to an attractive custom “Von Dutch” style pinstriped cruiser bicycle. From what I could tell, the material of this saddle was a black polyurethane surface. I don’t think that it had inscribed handprints and fingerprints, so it wasn’t totally realistic, but I guess it was satisfactorily realistic enough for the owner to install it and presumably ride it. Notice the conveniently placed beer can. Do you think that the bike came from the factory with this seat as a standard option? All that I can say in hindsight *ahem* is that this bicycle seat gives new meaning to the word, “ergonomic”.

Does any reader know who manufactures this saddle?

This artifact was found at approximately 34.706561,135.499287