Seems to have been a week for the power of words. One in particular; concern.
First up was the selection of an as 2015's Kanji of The Year in Japan. An/安 (or yasui), as in anzen (安全)/safety, heian(平安)/peace, ,and fuan(不安)/unease or, for the sake of this piece, concern; a reference to the Abe administration's more heavy-handed approach to security, and the spread of global terrorism. Heavy stuff. Thankfully, some people have managed to crowbar in comedian Tonikaku Akarui Yasumura's mantra, ANshin shite, kudasai, haitemasu, yo!, to lighten the mood.
Then there was this, only-in-Japan gem;
'Noodle playing cards withdrawn over political correctness concern'
What could be so offensive about noodles (apart from desperate slurping sounds)? Well, nothing. In this case it was an accompanying haiku on the card to describe this particular set of noodles; “Strong koshi, fair-skinned, chubby, just like my wife,”. Koshi, in this case means 'crunchiness' but it can also refer to 'hips'. The use of the word 'concern', concerns me here. That they're only concerned about this, rather than flat out knowing that this is inappropriate. Come on Japan! You've so much catching up to do.
Still, more concern for foreigners in Japan might come from the under-reported news of three university cooperatives who plan to stop using signage in student guides indicating that they allow non-Japanese students to reside there. The concern here isn't that they're no longer going to accept non-Japanese students (that's not what's happening, by the way). Rather, it's the fact that a sign was needed in the first place! Can this country not see that such signs (and their implication) are the equivalent of declaring 'pets allowed'? And these 'signs' have been up for over 10 years! If it's taken over a decade for supposedly enlightened, liberal institutions to realize this, what hope for non-Japanese, non-students trying to put a roof over their heads. Maybe we'd better our odds by strapping on a collar, getting down on all fours and barking like a dog!
Anyway, the universities in question (Kyoto University, Doshisha University and Ritsumeikan University) are planning to remove the signs. Which probably means another 10 rounds of meetings before anything actually happens. Still, 'thanks' should go to the student association Anti Racism Information Center for bringing this to light.
Lots to think about then. But we can all have some of our concerns allayed; Tonikaku Akarui Yasumura's still got his pants on. The world isn't all bad.