Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Culture Note #6: Happy Golden Week!!! ゴールデンウィーク

If you are new to Japan, let me tell you about Golden Week. It is a glorious time when nobody works and everybody travels....and I do quite mean EVERYBODY! If you know what is good for you...Don't leave the house!

I am giving you fair warning to let you know that Shibuya and Shinjuku will be twice as crowded...It is normally pretty crowded, but it's usually efficient at least.

People book their vacations MONTHS in advance...sometimes even half
a year. If you are planning to do an impromptu trip, it is going to cost you a lot of money. Even the cheap places mark up their prices. You can expect to spend at least 10,000 yen to travel and eat for a few days during golden week.

Notes: Travel activity is anticipated to peak on May 2 with people leaving the large urban centers and on May 6 in the opposite direction. Heavy traffic can also be expected on April 29 and May 3 and 5.

A Bit 'o' History

In 1948, Japan decided on holidays. They just so happened to all be concentrated into one week, end of April to early May. There is a huge spike in spending during this week and everybody makes money! In 1951, "Jiyū Gakkō" had record sales and the director of Daiei Films to coined the phrase"Golden Week" based on the Japanese radio lingo “golden time,” which denotes the period with the highest listener ratings.

So...if you think there is some awesome ancient history about golden week....sorry to disappoint. It's kinda like how department stores in New York invented Santa and Coca Cola made him red. It's still awesome though^_^.

At the time, April 29 was a national holiday celebrating the birth of the Shōwa Emperor. Upon his death in 1989, the day was renamed "Greenery Day". In 2007, Greenery Day was moved to May 4, and April 29 was renamed Shōwa Day to commemorate the late Emperor.

Thought this was funny... so I tried to google image some pictures for this blog post. This is the first image that comes is a Japanese ad for getting a wax...I guess everyone was clicking on it..haha.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Culture Note #5: What is Karoshi?

Karōshi 過労死 is Death by Overwork

Only in Japan does such a thing exist or is even an issue. Japan has been known for it's hustle and bustle lifestyle but not without a cost. All those who live in Japan know that when it turns night, every izakaya is filled with drunken salarymen. However, for every one of those there is one somewhere else working excessive overtime.

Karoshi is usually a stroke or heart attack. However, suicide that was caused by stress is also considered Karoshi. This is a recognized death by insurance companies. If a family member dies of Karoshi the company that they worked for will pay out the family...not well mind you.

This is a serious problem in Japan and they have attempted to rectify it, but after understanding the dynamics of the culture, I can say that it won't change anytime soon. The expectation from workers is intense.

I know people who sleep a a couple hours a night to than wake up and go to work. The offices pay for dinner and taxi cab fare. I also know people who's companies have paid for hotels nearby the office so that they do not need to leave for too long.

I will leave the topic of crazy suicide rates in Japan for another day. Now please enjoy this un-PC game based on Karoshi


Thursday, April 9, 2009

How to #17: continue to hanami after hanami season! Follow the sakura!

"The Ground Sakura"

When: Mid April - Early May

Where:Hitsujiyama Koen in Chichibu, Saitama

How: From Ueno or Tokyo station ride to Ōmiya station. Reserved seat costs ¥2800, and a non-reserved seat cost ¥1580. (Japan Rail Pass or JR East Rail Pass work) Do yourself a favor and get the reserved seats! Tickets sell out on the way don't get stranded!

My notes: It was great! The azaleas aren't as vast as advertised but it is still an amazing sight. Shibazakura is kind of considered and obaa-san place. There are some very decent matsuri food, like huge yaki-ika. I recommend that you leave most of your stuff in the lockers by the station. It's a very nice hike in the park so enjoy!

Footage I took from Shibazakura last year!