… And now for the Weather

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It snowed today in Osaka. It’s not supposed to snow in Osaka. That’s the whole point of moving to Osaka.

The wind was pretty strong, too. The birds tried to fight it but were simply blown away.

Ten minutes later it looked like this again:

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2015 Opinion Poll by Japanese Government on Death Penalty

Every five years the Japanese government holds an opinion poll on death penalty in Japan. Death penalty is still enforced in Japan, with currently over 100 prisoners on death row, new convictions every year and executions done every year with 2011 as the only exception.

The poll has found just over 80% of the respondents in favor of keeping death penalty, with barely over 9% in favor of abolishing it. The support of capital punishment has been high throughout the 21st century, while back in 1975 it went as low as 56.9%. Most people who support death penalty name reasons like satisfaction for the victim’s family or prevention of further crimes while those opposing it were mainly worried about wrongful convictions, which is a valid point. Reports about convicts being released from prison or even death row after they have been found innocent, give enough evidence that the Japanese justice system is far from perfect.

But the existence of capital punishment is only half of the story, the other half being the treatment inmates receive. Being sentenced to death means automatically being locked up solitary confinement literally for the rest of your life. What solitary confinement does to a human’s mental health and why it should be categorized as torture is well described in this article about prisons in Australia. Another specialty of the Japanese death penalty system is the fact that inmates do not know the day of their execution. One morning they wake up, are being called upon, have enough time to write their will and then get hanged. Their families will only be notified after the execution meaning they can not say goodbye. It also means that inmates wait for years, often for decades, waking up every day without knowing whether it will be their last.

Even most Japanese do not know how the death row system works. Would they respond differently if they knew?

Read here on the recent opinion poll on death penalty in English.

How to Use a Japanese Toilet

How to use a toilet

I found this in a Japanese bathroom – a description of using a Japanese squatting toilet because it seems as if there are people out there who are still doing it wrong. It fits almost perfectly to a survey by the Japan Today about foreigner’s use of Japanese toilets. The survey found that most people prefer the Western style toilet over the squatting toilet.

Even though virtually every Western style public toilet in Japan comes with the heated seat and the nozzle that cleans your butt for you I think I still prefer the Japanese style toilets for a simple reason. You don’t have to touch them. Your feet touch the ground and that’s it, no sitting on a seat that has seen God knows what in its time. They are much more hygienic – you might feel a bit uncivilized but well, it’s a toilet. You don’t dine in it you pee and take a dump in it.

Going to public bathrooms in Japan really has spoiled me. If you live in Germany you learn pretty soon that going to the bathroom anywhere but home costs you. Be it a whole machinery of coin inserting slots and gates that won’t let you pass through in every train station or be it grumpy looking personnel in a department store, you don’t pay you don’t pee. Some bathrooms even take more for a toilet stall than for a pissoir, which is especially annoying for women who don’t really have a choice and end up paying more for the exact same business than men simply because of their anatomy.

Not so in Japan. Wherever you go you are greeted with a supply of free public bathrooms for the use of which nobody would even think about charging you. Plus, in general I have experienced them to be rather clean or at least bearable – be it in the city or in the countryside, be it in a half abandoned train station or a high class department store in Umeda.

Japan, contrary to Germany, seems to have come to terms with the fact that every human being has to dispose of waste from time to time – and I love it!

On the Japanese hostage in Syria

Kenji Goto, a freelance journalist has been held hostage by the Islamic State in Syria.

IS have threatened to kill him and a fellow hostage from Jordan, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, unless Jordan agress to swap the two hostages with Sajida al-Rishawi, an al-Qaida-affiliate prisoner on death row. Even though it was reported on Thursday that Jordan had agreed to make the swap, nothing has happened yet. Since IS had set the deadline for yesterday and the Japanese government has so far heard no news about Mr. Goto, it is uncertain what is happening to the journalist right now.

For the first time now his wife has come forward, pleading to prime minister Abeand to do everything they can to return Mr. Goto safely to Japan. During the time of the hostage crisis Mrs. Goto has received several mails from her husband’s captors.

My prayers go out to the family and I hope Kenji Goto will be able to return safely to Japan, his wife and his two young daughters.

Read about the incident in English in Japan Today and the Japan Times

Pokémon ORAS

In November our New Nintendo 3DSs arrived, together with the brand new Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire games. Since we had booked them in advance in the Pokemon Center in Umeda, they threw in the Artbook, some other stuff and Kyogre and Groudon figurines. It was pretty neat.

I’m basically through with the game now with Latias being my absolute favorite Pokémon so far. It’s a shame you can’t leave Hoenn, though, it would have been nice to explore Johto and Kanto as well.

The great thing about living here is that the Pokémon Center Osaka holds events every few weeks where you can download shiny Pokémon for free and impoverish yourself buying Pikachu tails, cookie jars and more stuff than I’d like to admit. 

They have arrived!

New Nintendo 3DS

Pokemon Artbook

Kyogre

Groudon

Pokemon ORAS

Pikachu tailCookie jarTissue box