Posted in Japan News

Holding A Breath for 24 Hours

It started with just the news. Everyone at my school murmured on Wednesday how Typhoon Hagibis might still swirl away from us. Faxai didn’t hit Tokyo last time, and most teachers were hoping it would just go the hell away. I even said as much on Facebook that I was torn. On the one hand, I would’ve loved to have a day to sleep in, but on the other hand I needed to finish and print off my midterms.

By Thursday night, it was obvious from all the various weather radar sites that the Typhoon #19 was heading straight for us. Most of my Japanese co-workers and friends weren’t nervous, but also were a little nervous. It’s the kind of hesitant nervousness that comes with the years of experience in living through various typhoons. Nobody wanted to seem like they really cared, because who cared about typhoons really? Shrug, nervous laughter…check the radar at your desk when no one is looking.

However, the news proclaimed this typhoon would be unlike any other typhoon we’ve seen in the past decade. It wasn’t slowing down like most typhoons do, and it was going to cover most of the country with torrential rain and whipping winds. By noon on Friday, my school announced there couldn’t be any school on Saturday. JR East was already planning to shut down trains by 13:00!

It was kind of shocking. Up until this point, trains usually would shut down at 16:00/17:00. We all kind of expected the same time frame this go around, with most teachers expecting half a class day. Nope! We were told to not come to the school at all! Even full time and homeroom teachers were exempt.

A co-worker and I planned on a possible typhoon video game day. I would go over to hers, and we’d keep each other company through the storm.

“If the trains aren’t crazy,” she said.

“Yeah, we’ll have to see in the morning.” I shrugged and checked my phone as it buzzed again with another news pop up. “But it looks like the trains will be up and running? It should be fine.”

“Yeah, it should be.”

It’ll all be fine. Everything will work out. We’ll be OK. These storms never really hit Tokyo…

All these little reassurances we kept telling ourselves, because in actuality we weren’t entirely sure. It reminded me of Kentucky in the fall, with tornado season bringing hail, sleet, thunder, lightning, winds, and that blasted anticipation.

I hate the waiting of it, very similar to that sensation of when you’re just about to get on a roller coaster. You’re waiting in line, and waiting, and then you’re standing at the gates. Suddenly, you’re at the loading dock, and you’ve got to take that last step.

A big distinctive difference between the two is that I can choose not to get on a roller coaster, but I cannot choose when a typhoon is going to hit or how bad it will be when it does arrive. My anxiousness wasn’t at all helped by the charge in the air. If you’ve ever lived in a place that gets storms, then you know that charge. It’s that taste of rain on your tongue, the electric sizzle that’s just there, waiting to bust into action. As the barometer gets ever higher, that tenseness wraps around you and squeezes.

As I left for home on Friday night, I decided to stop by Don Quijote. I think everyone was feeling it. People were panicking, frantically calling their spouses and family over cell phones. The bread was gone. The milk was gone. The frozen foods were gone. Oddly enough, the canned food section still had a plethora of beans, tomato sauces, and etc. I shook my head and grabbed a bunch of canned chick peas, red kidney beans, mushrooms, and peas.

All the cup noodles were basically pillaged.
Even the onion bread was gone.
The meat, too.

Perishables would go bad very quickly in the event of an actual natural disaster. My mother taught me a long time ago that in a true survival situation, go for the cans. At home I already had emergency water and a first aid kit. I grabbed some batteries for flashlights (also in the emergency bag), and miraculously got a few bag of snacks for the maybe typhoon party.

I walked home quick. I knew I would need to cover my windows with cardboard. Even though my sliding windows were thick and made to withstand the full force of a typhoon, I knew my neighbors had a horrible habit of never taking their potted plants or laundry poles inside when a storm was set to hit us. Along my walk, I saw many people taping up their windows, pulling down shutters, or putting up actual wood planks like I’d seen in the news for hurricanes in Florida.

The whole neighborhood put down their shutters.
A nursery close to the station taped all their windows.

As soon as I got home, I grabbed the duct tape and cut up cardboard boxes to fit the huge Leopalace windows. I was a little too short to get all the way up to the tip top, but I figured it was a good enough job. The cardboard was just meant to keep the shattered glass from coming into the apartment, anyways, not be actual support.

I was sending out texts and messages as I worked. My friends were batting down the hatches all over the country. I let my family back home what my situation was and my plans. Thankfully, the work exhausted me enough that I could sleep.

In the morning, I was hit with a surprise. Even though JR East announced trains would be shut down by 13:00, apparently subways and other private train lines were already shutting down before then. My co-worker asked me not to try and get over to her place.

“I don’t want you to get stuck half way!” she told me over LINE.

To put things into perspective, last time a typhoon knocked out trains, JR East blundered the execution of their plans a little bit. The train company shut down trains at 17:00 on a Sunday, and promised that trains would resume at 8:00 the next Monday. It caused a lot of havoc, with people waiting in lines for hours to try and get to work or school. This time around, JR East and other companies weren’t taking any chances. They went with being overly prepared and simply shut it all down.

I checked both the train and bus schedules online. Sure enough, I realized that it wasn’t a guaranteed trip. I could very well end up stuck. I agreed with her and decided to just wait it out at my place. Left to my own devices, I decided to clean like a maniac.

The news of a tornado hitting Chiba was the first sign that Hagibis was definitely not going to be like any other typhoon. I noticed it hitting Japan’s Twitter News first. It was something to see, just this huge twister taking out buildings. The first confirmed death for Hagibis came from that tornado.

My phone buzzed and sent alarms at midday to inform me in Japanese on the Hagibis’ progress. Luckily, I can read Japanese kanji to a degree that I can glance at the emergency alerts to figure out where the alerts are supposed to cover and which ones I can ignore. I knew other people weren’t so well versed, so I stopped cleaning and went to work.

I sent out alerts to some Stonewall Japan pages so people could get information in English. I also sent out Tweets of English information. A lot of J-Vloggers and bloggers were doing the same, trying to get information out there so people wouldn’t be caught unaware about the situation.

NHK World was doing live coverage in English, which was a move I applauded. I appreciated that Japan Times and Japan Today kept regularly updating their information as well. I was glad to see that within our small foreigner community everyone was rallying to try and prevent another tragedy.

Then, the earthquake hit. At first, I just thought to myself, “Oh wow, the wind is really picking up!” When my picture frames began to bounce against the wall and my ceiling light swayed, I realized it wasn’t the wind. I ducked under my table just to be safe, because it felt like not a big deal…but I wan’t 100% sure because of the storm. It came and went, and I marked it as a 3 on the scale.

Sure enough, it was a 4 coming from Chiba and a 3 in my area. Called it! All the same, it didn’t help my already frayed state of mind. Three natural disaster-like events in one day, and all so close. I moved my emergency bag to sit right at the front door, and threw some clothes into my other backpack. Just to be super, duper safe.

In the early evening, the wind hit hard. I checked out my front door intermittently just to see what the wind and rain looked like outside. At one point, I opened my door and saw the sky was green. I promptly shut the door and said, “Not today, Satan.”

For those of you who don’t know, green skies mean bad thunderstorms and tornadoes are inbound, as in “you got minutes to find shelter, bruh.” I got lucky, though, no tornadoes for my area. The rain came of and on, off and on, either completely soaking the whole area or trailing off. I listened to it in between forcing myself to just relax and watch Netflix on my laptop.

I knew I couldn’t do anything, not yet anyway. My flood map showed a low chance of flooding. My alerts for evacuation were for the elderly, not for me, and not even for my specific area in Tokyo. I continued to retweet and put up messages I thought were useful, but otherwise I couldn’t do anything else. I texted my coworkers and checked in on a few friends, but it was just a waiting game.

Typhoon Higibis finally arrived at 21:00, and it hit hard. The rain suddenly dumped down, just swish, swish, swishing all over the place with the winds. My windows knocked a bit in their settings, but didn’t leak or break at all. I refreshed my flood maps and kept reading the evacuation alerts as they came. Honestly, I knew by that point it was useless to try to evacuate anywhere. If the river near my apartment overflowed, I wouldn’t be able to run out by this point. I had to just kind of hope I was making the right call to stay.

Regardless, I move my bags up into the loft area just in case a flood did decide to hit. All my electronics were charging up there anyway, so it just made sense. I stayed up in the loft, eating the snacks meant for a party, and watching the news. I heard about the community center that denied the homeless man shelter. It sickened me to think of someone getting turned away to sit on the street with just an umbrella and a “gambarre!”

And then an alert I never saw before popped up from Yahoo News. Puzzled, I searched for the kanji and my eyes went wide when I saw, “Volanic Eruption Warning,” come up. I thought, “Surely not Fuji?!” and nope, not Mt. Fuji. It was Sakurajima, all the way across the country. I was mad. I lived nowhere near there, why did my phone send me an alert for Kyushu?!

Around midnight, the winds decreased in velocity, although the rain stayed. My flood map and radar showed me that my area in particular was going to be spared from flood waters. To the west of me, dams were getting opened and the rivers overflowed to prevent dams breaking. To the east, a city not even that far away from me was being told to get to higher ground because the coastal lines were no longer safe. Somehow, I was sandwiched into a safe pocket that needed no evacuation or run away option.

I finally let out that metaphorical breath I’d been holding. The red parts of the radar shifted upwards to Saitama, and even though I was still in the yellow bits, I decided to call it a night. I sent my family messages that I survived and didn’t need to evacuate. If anything changed in the morning, I would call. I sent my last messages and so on, and finally went to sleep.

I got startled awake two or three times that night from my phone alarms. Once again, though, these alarms were meant for Sendai. Sendai is no where near me. I glanced at the kanji and rolled over. Just as it always tends happen, I fell into nightmares because my sleep got interrupted. I couldn’t remember them, just the general feeling that I was suffocating.

Finally, the next morning, I woke up to sunlight and the sound of children laughing. I checked my phone. All of my friends were safe. My coworkers were good. No need to worry. I let out a breath. I could breathe normally again.

I took down the cardboard. I put the grab bag back on the shelf. I made myself breakfast and a nice big pot of coffee. I knew I was supremely lucky.

As I scrolled through the news reports, I knew it could have been so much worse. My river was one of many on a system, placed about three or four dams away from the coast. Thank God for human ingenuity and for advanced weather warning technology, otherwise the death toll would’ve been catastrophic.

As it stands, about 70 people have lost their lives to the storm. Homes and damage to cities are being rebuilt and repaired, but there are bridges just gone. The tornado in Chiba plus the typhoon hit an already suffering part of Japan that was affected by the last big typhoon. Stories are coming in that reflect how Hagibis really was a horrible storm, but so many people were sparred because of the advanced warnings.

Now, some people are claiming the preparations were “too much” or an “overreaction,” but I disagree completely. It was easy to feel the might of that storm, and all it would’ve taken was one broken dam and a city would’ve been completely wiped off the map. Evacuations were necessary. Shutting downs trains was necessary. It was all absolutely necessary. The death toll isn’t this low because Hagibis was nothing; it is that low because there was a chance we could’ve lost everything.

Thankfully, I’m fine, but some people are not as lucky. Donations are being accepted for rebuilding efforts by the Japan NPO Center and Peace Winds. If you’re interested, the Japan Red Cross accepts monetary donations or they are always in need of blood donors. Please be careful and don’t give to any kickstarter or gofundme that claims to give funds to people in Japan! Kickstarter and Gofundme aren’t countries on the list that can start fundraising through those sites.

And if you’re worried about the next typhoon, check out this article to give you an idea about what to do.

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Posted in Japan News, YouTube Videos

Paternity Harassment Case in Japan Needs Your Help #patahara

If you live in Japan, then you’re no stranger to the endless working hours demanded by companies to their employees. The expectation of “work-life” balance is a pipe dream under most big companies, as they expect their employees to put everything aside for “company loyalty.” Parents in particular experience a specific form of harassment called “mata-hara” for women and “pata-hara” for men.

Respectively, “mata-hara” stands for “maternity harassment.” Women are often expected to give up their jobs after maternity leave, or are harassed for taking such leave in the first place. For men, “pata-hara” stands for “paternity harassment.” Men are often pressured not to take this leave at all. However, both maternity and paternity leave are protected under Japanese law.

Glen Wood is asking for help in his battle against the corporate giant Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co. (MUMSS). After his child was born pre-mature, he asked to take paternity leave in order to be with his baby, but his leave was rejected. Soon after, he said he experienced harassment from the company for taking leave. Mitsubishi UFJ has even tried to slander his name in order to win against him in court. See the video below for the full story:

To paraphrase the last of the video, Mr. Wood now needs help from the public. On July 5th, there will be a public hearing, and he will need as much support as the public can give him. Whether foreign or Japanese, if anyone has other stories of para-hara from this company, or harassment or abuses of power in general, your voices are needed at this hearing.

Mr. Wood had all his proposed testimonies against Mitsubishi UFJ rejected by the court judge. Without the voices from the public, he will be speaking alone.

If you wish to speak with him, you can find more information here: https://www.patahara.com/our-story.


More background information:

Posted in LGBTQ in Japan

Transphobia in Nichome: Bar Goldfinger Is On My Shitlist

Nothing pisses me off more royally than transphobia these days. TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Not-Actually Feminists) are everywhere, and in Japan they’re notorious on Twitter for bullying people for not adhering to the strictest of definitions of female – because intersex people are a myth in their minds. Since I’m the Stonewall Japan Vice President and Kanto East Block Leader, I keep an eye out for places and people that exhibit shitty behavior just in general.

In this particular case, I feel personally betrayed and hurt. Bar Goldfinger is one of the few standing lesbian bards in Nichome, Shinjuku. If you didn’t know, lesbian bars are kind of dying off, and I liked to visit for karaoke nights with friends. It was a frequent stop to bar hop on my way through on a Friday and Saturday night.

So when I heard that the owners were transphobic pieces of human trash that broke my heart.

It started with just a Facebook post on the Kanto East Block Page (name removed so I’m not outing anyone).

===============================================================

[Facebook Post: Name Redacted for Privacy Concerns]

“CW: Transphobia

This is my first time posting on Stonewall, so please let me know if my post doesn’t fit the guidelines in anyway and I’ll be happy to remove or edit it.

Just to note that this is as told to me by my friend so it’s possible that there are some slight details that have been lost. But I thought a lot of people in the community would be interested to hear about something that my friend experienced at the Bar Gold Finger Party last night.

The party takes place every 3rd Saturday and it clearly states Women Only on the website. My friend’s friend from France was performing as a DJ. The DJ wanted to bring her friend who is trans. The DJ confirmed with the venue that it would be ok to bring her friend in advance. However, when they arrived, their IDs were checked and so the trans person was not allowed to enter because their gender marker on their ID is male*. The DJ then refused to perform if her friend was not allowed to enter. And now the DJ is apparently blacklisted from Goldfinger. Apparently the trans person was told: “You don’t even look like a woman.”

I’m all about women friendly and queer friendly safe spaces. And I can understand why people might feel more comfortable in a female only/female majority space. But to me, this goes against the spirit of such ideas. It might be ok to exclude cis men from entering the party or the bar one day of the week, but what does excluding trans people achieve?”

*Note: The ID marker wasn’t male, as you will see below.

===============================================================

The friend has now posted a letter to Goldfinger via Twitter  in order to receive answers on the unfair treatment that happened that night.


Just to be clear, the marker was F, as in FEMALE, but the bouncer decided that Elin didn’t “pass” as female. That is some TERF bullshit.

When I see people posting in “defense” of this bullshit, the common arguments are, “Well, it’s a lesbian bar! Why not go to a mix bar?”

Trans women are women. That’s why. They’re not “mixed,” they are women who deserve a space to go be around other women.

“But-but some women don’t feel safe if a trans woman is there.”

Trans women never feel safe, and excluding them from safe spaces puts them in more danger. Trans women die when we don’t speak up for them and stand with them.

People will try to spin this as a, “Well, that’s just how they feel! They don’t mean any harm.” BUT IT IS HARMFUL TO SAY YOU DON’T BELIEVE TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN! It’s bullshit to try to claim you’re an activist for LGBTQIA+ rights and then turn around and pit in the face of the T in the goddamn acronym.

But don’t worry, Chiga-san doubled down on her TERF mentality and threw up this lovely sign with small print now.

Yeah you see that right, they’ve now added the fine print of Women (cisgender) ONLY, because fuck you that’s why.

A club that’s proud to exclude trans women isn’t a club I want to ever patronize, but not only that, I want every single LGBTQIA+ person visiting to know about this policy. I want my trans ladies to know that this place ain’t safe, and I want you to be safe so bad. YOU ARE VALID, and you deserve to be accepted and loved.

I ask that other LGBTQIA+ people stand with their trans sisters and don’t go to this bar. I will never be going back again, which sucks in a major way because I have so many fond memories of that damn place. It’s infuriating that the whole time it turns out the owners were so full of hate and malice towards trans people.

If you’re looking for a trans friendly event, try out this one below.

And finally, if you would like to be in a more inclusive space I do recommend checking out Vox. Vox is a new bar and dance club that promotes as an all around “all gender bar” and “any orientation ok!” It has an inclusive atmosphere, and even puts “FTM、FTX、MTF、MTX” into their event schedules.

If you have also faced discrimination at Goldfinger, please comment and share your story.


UPDATES: May 31st, 2019

Bar Goldfinger has been called out on Twitter by a ton of trans activists. Some of them have even suggested that perhaps Goldfinger should be taken out of Tokyo Rainbow Pride in the future because of its anti-trans stance.


Translation: Here is the issue. If the store (group) that has publicly stated they exclude trans women and also take part in TRP (Tokyo Rainbow Pride) which speaks on the solidarity of LGBT people and shakes the rainbow flag, it cannot but be forced to say “this is not acceptable” if they stand with transgender people. I think that’s not only me who thinks so.
Translation: For example, suppose a foreigner settles in Japan, overcomes various difficulties, and acquires their Japanese nationality. If you say to this person, “Yes, you are Japanese now, but you are originally a foreigner, and you can not be given the same rights as all other Japanese people,” it would be obvious discrimination. What GF is doing is such a vile act.
Translation: Hey TRP, Japan’s largest lesbian event bar that attends Tokyo Rainbow pride. Golfinger has declared that it should be operated as “cis-gender only” based on the current situation!
Translation from bottom Tweet and then top Tweet: [Speaking] as one of the cis-gender (assigned gender) male gays (male homosexuals). As someone who believes in LGBT Rights. This movement of exclusion of trans women can have an impact on the LGBT community and society, which will enhance transphobia. I strongly protest goldfinger. #NoGoldFinger #goldfingersince1991. At least, what role did transgender people play in gay rights (LGBT Rights)? They reestablished the foundations of what gender and sex / sexuality means to us. The most successful lesbian team should never be encouraging trans exclusion. The impact is [just] too great.

Also a good friend and trans activist, Tomato Hatakeno, wrote a very lengthy piece in Japanese about the issue. If you can read Japanese, I highly recommend it. I’ll try to see if Tomato-san will allow me to translate it into English so others can read it as well.

Bar Goldfinger has now updated their stance to, “If we find someone who doesn’t fit in this event (イベントの雰囲気にそぐわない方)we may possibly ask you to stay out.” in Japanese (shout out to my friend Luna for translating and letting me know about this new picture).

No photo description available.

Basically, it’s a shallow attempt to have their transphobic cake and eat it too, in my opinion. They got blasted on social media for being transphobic, and now they’re trying to find a “compromise” on the situation. Here’s the thing though…

IT’S STILL FUCKING TRANSPHOBIC TO KICK TRANS WOMEN OUT OF WOMEN SPACES YOU MASSIVE TWAT WAFFLES.

That is all.


UPDATE #2: I have made a vlog addressing “counterarguments”

Posted in Slice of Life

I Hate Exercise, But Luckily I Live In Japan

When I lived in Kentucky, I was significantly larger than I am now. My weight consistently fluctuated between 155-175 pounds (about 70-79 kilos ish). My issue was during university I would be more active and I’d have regular access to healthier options of food. In the summer, I worked long hours at Papa Johns and drive around delivering pizzas all day long. And yeah, of course, there was an abundance of free or discounted pizza happening all the time.

Couple this with a pretty awesome fact: I didn’t really care about my weight then, and honestly still didn’t really care about weight until maybe the past couple of years. I can say honestly I’ve had many self-esteem issues, but somehow my identity of me as a person/woman never got tied up with whatever the numbers on scale were.

Sometimes I would have phases were I really care. I joined my mom on weight watcher for a bit, then quit because I just stopped caring. My highest priorities in university weren’t exercising but just getting the grades and credits to graduate. I was the first kid in my family to get into university straight out of high school, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. Fuck the damn carbs, I need to stay up all night for a final study cram session, I’ll figure that out later.

When I got to Japan, I didn’t have a car for about a month and half of first living there. Instead, I arrived at the end of July in 2011, just before summer vacation started. I had a rusty bike and a big desire to explore Japan.

And so I biked everywhere, for hours upon hours, just going and going. I always thought the term “shedding pounds” was a weird term coined by protein bar companies, but I found out it was quite possible with the right amount of exercise! I watched as the numbers went down and just thought, “Wow, neat!”

Somehow, once again, my identity didn’t get tied into the numbers on the scale or the pants size. I was me, and I liked to study Japanese in my free time and read books. I didn’t really care about the loss or gains, just because really it didn’t matter to me.

I will admit that lately I’ve started to care. Ever since I moved back up to Tokyo last year, I noticed that even though I’m eating healthier than ever before, I am not losing weight at all. I turned completely vegetarian six months ago because my stomach issues were just unbearable. So now, I eat vegetables with rice or pasta, and that’s like my daily intake of food.

But I know that the main issue is the thing I hate the most: exercise.

I’ve been active before, as in growing up I bounced from a kids soccer team to a t-ball team to a basketball team to a color guard/winter guard year. All the same, I know I should exercise a hell of a lot more than I do.

Luckily, as the title states, I live in Japan.

What does that mean? Well, for one, I walk a lot already every day. It is easy to simply add more walking daily. I’ve already kind of started doing this, just getting up and going for walks if I ever get breaks at work. It also means the odds of me being able to walk around my neighborhood at night without any problems are high. I already have started walking 30 minutes every day when I get home from work.

In addition, even though I live farther out in the suburbs of Tokyo, I can in fact have my choice of gyms. I can just take taiken lessons (like demo lessons or demo weeks) and see which ones I like here and there. If I don’t like the company run ones, there is in fact a small community gym near my station. All in all, the building blocks to a healthier way of life are all around me, I just gotta figure out a path and take it.

I think it in general helps that I know I’m doing the weight loss journey thing as more or less just to stay healthy. I think being obese really isn’t something I want to go back to being, and I’m gaining back into that edge. I want to be able to travel and do things even when I’m old and grey haired, so in order to do that I know that I’ve got to take the exercise initiative seriously starting from now.

Turning 30 for some people means panicking, but for me it means evaluating. I know for a fact, like I can feel in my bones, that I definitely don’t have that old young metabolism anymore. I can’t just eat salads for a few weeks and lose 5 pounds anymore, I’m going to have to really put in effort to maintain/lose weight.

I’ve seen people do vlogs about their weight loss and doing more exercise and things, but I don’t really feel comfortable with the idea of doing a weight loss vlog journey. However, I do feel comfortable writing about it, and I think it’ll help me stay responsible if I talk about it here and there. Accountability is a good thing to have, I think.

I will be honest, I have no idea what my numbers are right now. I don’t own a weight scale anymore. The last one I owned was two years ago, and I never even used it but once in a blue moon. I will be getting a health check at my new place of employment in April, so then maybe I can give some updates. For now though, I just kind of wanted to talk about it.

I think my goal for now is get back down to a healthy 65(ish) kilos, like I was in my first and second Japan years. I felt really good at that weight, and I could go shopping no problem. Also, I feel as if that’s a realistic kilo weight loss goal I could accomplish in a year or so. This is definitely not going to be a crash diet nonsense thing, I’m making a commitment to putting in the work so I can have a healthier life…kind of thing.

I don’t intend to obsess or turn my whole life into the weight loss thing, I’ll just occasionally talk about it. What worked, what didn’t , how this feels, how this sucks, etc.

With any luck, a side benefit will be that I can run to the train station and not feel winded. I’m not saying that’s what inspired this whole journey…but I will say it played a part in the decision. I live fifteen minutes away, I need to be able to book it without dying in the mornings.

Anyways, thanks for reading! Be sure to follow along and check back in soon. I’ll be doing book reviews and such this week.