City skyscape photo that I took from Odaiba

Monday, February 18, 2008

Jehovah's Witnesses and Latter Day Saints

I've never had a Jehovah's Witness come knocking on my door, until yesterday. The proselytizer was a foreign, native-English speaking woman, maybe in her late 30's, who was alone. Her opening sentence was something to the effect of: it's easy to be scared with the increased news reports of violence that we have in our world today. I must admit, that intro put me on my guard.

However, in my apartment, I have a small video screen that shows me the live footage of the person at the front door when they buzz my apartment. Upon realizing that: a. we were separated by two locked doors, so I wasn't in harm's way, and b. it was cold, but she was still outside trying to follow her religious convictions; I decided to be polite.

She never at any point asked me if I wanted to be having this conversation with her. And apart from asking if she could share a scripture passage with me, there were no other simple yes or no questions. She seemed to have a basic script that she followed, which I'll paraphrase. First she said that Scripture offers hope for the dire situation of the world, and she read me a passage in Psalms. Then she asked me if I believed what it said. And I asked her how she got my address. She said that usually they get people's addresses because some Japanese person informed them that there was an English-speaking person at an address, who they should go talk to. Then she asked me again if I believed the message of the passage. I told her well, yes, and that I was going to a church here in Tokyo, of which she wanted to know which one. She was friendly about it and said that she knew my church. Then she asked me if I thought it was possible for God's kingdom to exist here on earth. And I told her, "I don't mean to be rude, but I am talking to a friend on the computer right now, through Skype." She told me that she understood and we courteously wished each other well.

I do wonder how (or perhaps from whom) she got my address though...

Additionally, a couple weeks ago, as two of my coworkers and I were going home from work, a pair of Mormon missionaries got on our same train. They promptly interrupted my lively explanation of the current state of the U.S. primaries, without even so much as an inkling of any recognition of or remorse for their intrusion. They asked us what we were doing in Tokyo and tried to relate to us. As it turned out, they live at my same train station (my other two coworkers live at the stop before mine). So when the missionaries and I exited the station ticket gates, they informed me that they were here to serve everyone and they gave me a paper that had a map and their contact information on it. I asked them if there was a Latter Day Saint church at our station, and as it turns out, there is. Huh.

Anyway, I have found it interesting to encounter these two religious groups in Tokyo. It just doesn't seem like their standard approach to proselytizing would go over very well with the average Japanese person. But who knows. And regardless, here they are.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday in Tokyo

News about the U.S. presidential primaries has been featured semi-prominently here. Back during the week before the New Hampshire primary, I saw Hillary "cry" three times on TV. As they were covering the Super Tuesday contest tonight (which is Tuesday daytime back in the U.S.), I was struck by a cartoon of the Clintons and Obama sprinting for the "goal." I started taping it so people could see what some of the coverage here has included. Generally speaking, the news does cover both the Republican and the Democrat race, but the two faces I've seen on the news by far the most have been Clinton and Obama.

Clintons vs. Obama race

Here's another video -- this one is about the Hispanic vote. At the end, they go back to the newsroom in Tokyo and then transition to their correspondent in New York.

What I find most interesting about the coverage on TV here is how detailed it is. I have been keeping up on the news of the presidential elections (using the Internet) on a daily basis for at least the past month. Japanese viewers watching the first video could see how small things like Hillary's tearing up or Bill Clinton's negative attacks on Obama have impacted who leads in the polls. In the second video, people can see: 1. how the support of Senator Edward Kennedy and comparisons to President John F. Kennedy are impacting Obama's popularity, and 2: how ethnic voting demographics are an important part of U.S. elections. Also visible in the news: color-coded maps of the U.S.; graphs; clips from other rallies, debates, venues, and conferences; brief footage of candidates and their key surrogates speaking; explanations and graphics about the U.S. political process; etc. All this adds up to several Japanese people at work (both coworkers and students) being able to make small talk about the U.S. election. And perhaps even more interestingly, multiple people have told me they know more about what's going on in U.S. politics right now than they do in Japanese politics. The reason: eh, they don't care about Japanese politics.

P.S. If anyone knows how to record video on TV using a digital camera without getting those dark waves, please let me know...

Friday, February 1, 2008

add raw horse meat to the list

Back at our favorite izakaya tonight, I tried raws horse meat (basashi). It tasted...kind of like steak and buffalo. It was okay -- a bit chewy. I wouldn't go out of my way to order it again. A couple of the people I was with really love it though. You eat it like regular sashimi, dipped in soy sauce.