Friday, April 18, 2008

Notes of Japan, 4-18-2008 (Personal Entry)

I. University Summary
So this college (Nagasaki GaiDai or Nagasaki College of Foreign Studies) is more of a closer-knit facility of 4 or so buildings and maybe 500 students, tops.

It apppears that the JASIN students (from the US, UK, and France,) are the minority, because there are the NICS students from China, and of course the domestic students.

II. Forgivable Social Mistakes
Making social mistakes here is more forgivable than making them back home because being a foreigner, I'm expected to make a social misstep anyway.

Even if I make what would be considered an AMERICAN social misstep, the Japanese and Chinese students will probably think nothing of it because they don't know what an American social mistake is like.

Moreover, if it's a social mistake on both sides of the pond, then they'll probably only think it's a Japanese social misstep and kindly show me the error of my ways and how to do it right next time.

III. Disturbing Death Customs
You know, I read that at least 99% of the Japanese get cremated. I'd rather have burials and I'll tell why in a little bit.

Don't they even do organ transplants when someone dies? What keeps them from giving organ transplants? Their population declines nowadays, so some more organ trnasplants may help reverse that trend.

Now, I strongly prefer burials over cremations. You see, when I was little, I thought cremations were a sign that the spirit went to Hell. The spirit burns in Hell, the body burns in a furnace, so I (erroneously, I hope) put the two-and-two together and automatically assumed being cremated meant having gone to Hell.

From that, I thought of cremation as a disturbing and depressing thing to do to a corpse.

Why I still think it's disturbing is because I'm a sci-fi fan, alright? I believe future technology will resurrect people who have been dead longer. And when that technology keeps improving itself, it'll learn how to resurrect corpses who have been dead even longer than that. Nowadays, medical science only lets us resuscitate anyone who's been dead for 30 seconds to five minutes. When medical science advances like it already does every year, it'll eventually learn to resurrect anyone who's been dead for hours, days, weeks, months, and even years!

Of course some people will call that optimism certifiable, but so what? We once thought the idea of HUMAN FLIGHT was certifiable, and weren't we glad to have been proven wrong 104 years ago! (105 this December 17th.)

But back to the subject- I doubt future technology will know how to revive cremated remains though, at least anytime soon. Having your body preserved in embalming fluid and buried underground where the temperature remains constant year round makes the corpse stand a better chance of resurrection. (So it seems at least, to some people.)

And finally, would you feel more comfortable sleeping in a nice, plush bed or over a wooden board with coals burning underneath? Some people have a nagging instinct (or thought) in them that says the dead would also "feel" more "comfortable" in a nice, cushioned coffin so that's also why they and I would never consider cremation.

IV. Too many holidays! Right??

I went to a lecture about Japanese Society today and learned there are 15 national holidays and a few imported ones (Valentine's and Christmas among them.)

Some were created by the government because they thought the Japanese work too hard and save too much, so they ought to relax and shop more. (Nice move.)

But to have to decorate and prepare for so many holidays, to me, feels stressful because you have so much to decorate and prepare so soon so often. How is it supposed to be enough fun then? If someone else did the decorating and preparing for me (and also took turns, so I don't sound selfish), then I wouldn't mind so much.

V. Unzen and the Onsens

Tomorrow morning, I'm leaving for a weekend field trip to Unzen-yama, a dormant volcano that still has natural hot springs. We'll do a long hike up some mountain, and that'll be pretty darn arduous, so I'd better have a towel on me, but the blast of refreshing wind at the top will be the reward. Regardless, I'd better bring a water bottle.

Another is a Karaoke, and I might ask one of the more "up-front" (blunt) guys to critique me a la Simon Cowell, to see if I still sing as good as I used to, or if I need to re-polish my singing voice.

A. Onsen
The big one is the Onsen- my advisor (and teacher from one of my classes), Marc Tiedemann, will not let me wear swim trunks to an onsen.

It's public like a swimming pool, but is for relaxation and warmth, and you're supposed to BARE ALL before stepping in. I wouldn't feel comfortable about doing that so he said I can wrap a towel around myself if I don't want to display my 'parts, so now I'm relieved.

He did say wearing a swim trunk to an onsen is like going inside a Wal-Mart with an umbrella on, if you don't appreciate how the store lights shine on you, for example. It's not prohibited, but it just "isn't done." To not wear a swim trunk to an onsen is one of those "unwritten rules" that foreigners may miss too often.

For more about Unzen, see

For more about onsens, see

More to come, たぶん.


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