Why don’t the Japanese do more about crows?

In the most extreme example of this, the woman who is in charge of the bins for our block of flats was standing almost next to a crow ripping apart rubbish bags to get at some food without doing a single thing about it. Considering that you can get rid of a crow simply by pretending to throw a stone and that they sometimes attack people’s heads as well rip open rubbish bags, it seems strange that the Japanese don’t do more about these pests.

I think it’s partly a (Buddhist?/ Zen?) attitude of letting nature get on with its natural business, as also seen with the Japanese generally swatting at flying bugs much less than I do. More than that, though, I think it’s mainly not taking the initiative and doing anything unless you’re told to – if the government announced that crows were the enemy I’m sure you’d soon see an almost Cultural Revolution-style attack on them…

Why doesn’t Japan produce more geothermal energy?

I’ve been wondering this for a while. With its many volcanoes and hot springs, Japan clearly has the ability to produce electricity from heat underground. It also has some big companies that make the hardware. However, Japan only gets 0.3% of its energy from geothermal sources, making up just 5% of the world’s total and being about the same as the tiny population of Iceland use.

A student of mine works for a Japanese company building a new geothermal plant in Indonesia, and she claimed that the main impediment in Japan is that most good sites are in national parks. An article on the topic on the Economist website mentions that but puts more emphasis on resistance from onsen hot springs owners who are worried that all their hot water might be drained away. While they are a surprisingly powerful lobby in Japan, I think it’s much more likely to be the influence of the power companies, who for some reason have resisted any pressure to produce renewable energy and have had the political clout to make sure no pressure is put on them (the same main reason for nuclear accidents etc).

Why don’t the Japanese worry about crying wolf?

The Aesop’s fable of the boy who cried wolf too many times for attention and then wasn’t believed when it really happened it well enough known in Japan. However, the authorities doesn’t seem to have understood the moral of the story. To give a few of numerous examples:

– Escalator announcements sometimes tell you to hold onto the handrail, not to walk on the escalator, to be careful in case they suddenly stop, to stand within the yellow lines and not to take on pushchairs

– Every station in Japan has apparently spent every day in the last ten years or so on an extra high security alert

– The news warns you of the danger of something virtually every day, including the danger of getting a cold because the weather is dry (meaning not humid)

The Japanese being humans, they basically switch off and ignore all of the warnings just the same as I do. There are examples of the government noticing this, including a more detailed list of categories of typhoons so people actually take the serious ones seriously, but even those tend not to work as the news programmes hype up each and every storm so much that the actual data of the warning level gets lost.

The reason why Japanese in charge suffer even more than most from crying wolf seems to be that in Japan you always have to do your best and put safety first (“anzen daiichi”), and that leads to warning everybody about everything in a way that has the exact opposite effect.

Why don’t Japanese dogs bark?

That’s an exaggeration of course, but it’s generally amazing how quiet and well behaved they are – so much so that I’m almost certain the owner of the two barky dogs next to Yokohama International School in Yamate must be foreign. According to a few websites the Shiba-ken (called “Shiba-inu” for some reason in English) is a breed that rarely barks anyway. However, not running and barking at all and sundry (not even foreigners!) like in the UK, Turkey, Thailand and virtually everywhere I’ve lived certainly doesn’t seem to be breed-specific in Japan. Do they have some dog training tricks which Google hasn’t managed to find for me?

Why don’t sakura trees have cherries?

We do call it “cherry blossom” in English, after all…

From the Wikipedia cherry blossom page:

“A cherry blossom is the flower of any of several trees of genus Prunus, particularly the Japanese Cherry, Prunus serrulata, which is sometimes called sakura after the Japanese (桜 or 櫻; さくら). Many of the varieties that have been cultivated for ornamental use do not produce fruit. Edible cherries generally come from cultivars of the related species Prunus avium and Prunus cerasus.”

This forum also explains that some ornamental cherries do produce (small and crappy) fruit, but that might be a disadvantage because the fruit both makes a mess and attracts birds which make more mess. Someone also adds that there are ornamental versions of other fruit trees (such as ornamental pear trees) that similar things are true for.


Why is Japanese cedar pollen allergy such as problem?

I knew it was a man-made problem, but didn’t know the details until I read The Economist this week. After WWII the sugi trees were planted to provide material to rebuild houses, but after import tariffs fell it became too unprofitable to even be worth cutting the trees down. It’s not just the sheer number of trees that is responsible, though – as they grow higher, each tree emits more and more pollen every year.

Why are Prius owners the worst drivers in Japan?

I notice this again and again, and often are growling at the crap driving before I even see what car it is, so it’s not some kind of prejudice.

My theory is that the car simply attracts holier-than-thou types who think they have even more an entitlement because they have a green car. It’s certainly not due to actual concern for the environment that the Prius has become a bestselling car in Japan, that’s for sure. It actually seems to be more some kind of showing off, though I can’t quite work out how or why.

How could anyone who has visited Tokyo still think that the Japanese love nature?

… as many Japanese and foreign authors still seem to.

For one thing, it depends who you are comparing them to:

“The plane from Shanghai flew low enough over Japan for me to see the landscape clearly. Japan seemed incredibly green after China, where trees were a rarity. In fact, the trees visible from an airplane in China were usually those planted around Japanese shrines” Chronicles of My Life by Donald Keene pg 53

and while a Japanese garden might seem very artificial and contrived compared to an English one, it is certainly more natural than an Italian or French style garden or park.

Why is Japanese frost different?

Frost is quite rare here in Tokyo but tends to look like shards of ice that lie in the soil or point straight up from the ground – in fact I’ve mistaken it for broken glass before now. In six years I’ve never seen the crunchy icing on the top of the glass style of frost that is one of the best things about a British winter.

I’m guessing the main reason is that Japanese winters are dry whereas British ones are fairly humid (or damp is probably a better word), with British frost being basically frozen dew made from moisture that comes out of the air.

Why do the Japanese judge by season, not by temperature?

I was in the park with my daughter the other day on a fairly chilly evening and noticed that she was the only one with long sleeves on. That shouldn’t have surprised me, what with salarymen changing to short sleeved shirts all on the same day (even before “cool biz” came along) and swimming in most of Japan stopping on 31 August whatever the weather on 1 September, but it did make me ponder the matter again.  

You hear a lot that the Japanese are obsessed with seasons and nature generally, and if you look at the street decorations, elementary school syllabuses, advertising, and changes in kimono during the year, that does seem to be true. Ditto for the big fuss about new rice and the best seasons for fish. Frankly, though, I think it is more to do with not wanting to stand out, and been put through the excessive reactions to stories of me swimming in September I can quite understand why anyone Japanese would want to avoid doing anything that causes comment…

« Older entries