Posted in Japan News, Slice of Life

The Obligatory COVID19 Update

I don’t really know where to start, but I guess the situation changed from “something to keep an eye on” to “really concerned” about mid-February.

I remember when the news feed about the Diamond Princess hit my timelines on Facebook and Twitter at the start of February. My colleagues and I talked about it. We speculated about the quarantine efforts. Were they enough? Too much? How long would they keep people in there?

All these conversations took place between lessons. We drank coffee, complained about this class issue or another. I was having a couple of problem students, one of which involved a kind of serious incident. The homeroom teacher and I were strategically figuring out how to help the kid get through the next few classes.

During that time, I was concerned with actually finishing up my curriculum for the third semester. I was struggling to get my test together, too, because with only two months of subject matter to cover I wasn’t sure how to grade it out of 100 points.

Little did I know, very soon, it wouldn’t matter at all.

As the death toll kept increasing abroad, murmurs and tension started to rise. What tipped the scales from nervous to frightened for us was the news about the teacher who caught it in Chiba. Japanese teachers at my school pushed back against a formal top-down decision from the administration to continue holding the last classes and finals as normal.

I talked about it with co-workers and we all seemed to have the same concerns.

“If one student catches it, then that’s it, right? That’s the whole school?”

“For sure, the kids never wash their hands. They have sports clubs together, and that’s always how the flu gets around. One basketball player gets it and then half a team goes down.”

“So-and-so sensei has a family member with leukemia living at home. He’s terrified of passing it along to them!”

“Did you hear Racist-sensei? He doesn’t want the half kids at school, especially the half-Chinese kids. He thinks I don’t understand Japanese. Should’ve punched him in the face.”

“Don’t bother, he’s old. With any luck he’ll die off like all the other dinosaurs. The school is talking about only parents at the graduation ceremony. That’s a bit half-assing it ain’t it?”

Xenophobia is of course all over the place by this point. Restaurants denying foreigners is a time honored tradition in Japan, so of course in these stressful times it’s best to just swing that racism card harder than ever.

Sign in Nakano taken by Stuart Neilson

The “foreigner seat” effect took a strange turn for me. Up until February 2020, I never really experienced people avoiding to sitting next to me on a train before, but since the start of the pandemic hitting Japanese people would leave extra space around me when going to and from work. It’s of course nothing in comparison to the Asian discrimination that is getting people beaten and thrown out of their homes in other countries. All the same, it’s there, and I’m more pissed off it got thrown around behind my students’ backs than anything else.

When Shinzo Abe made his astounding out of left field announcement that all schools should close by March 2nd, it really hit my school hard. I went in early the next day to catch the morning meeting. The announcement on that Friday was essentially this:

Grades for third semester don’t count. Put in absences. Get out.

Well, get out company employees. Direct hires to the school would still come in, but with an irregular schedule. As most of the Native English teachers were company supplied, we had the weirdest stressful day. We scrambled to find team teachers or class books and get everything in order. I was rushing around trying to get things back to students before they went home (even if it didn’t matter, it was the principle of it).

When we clocked out on February 28th, we were told school wouldn’t start until April. Have fun, see ya, good luck!

The next couple of weeks were…strange. I don’t know how else to put it. Although the Japanese government kept telling people not to gather in groups, people did. Although Icheon and Seol got put on lockdown, I was going out to see friends at a restaurant. I spent days at home, but yes I would make plans to see people.

Some friends took the advice to stay isolated seriously, and others not so much. One of my friends stayed inside for a whole week before going out, too anxious to risk it. Another friend was at high risk, so also stayed at home unless absolutely necessary. He ended up deciding to leave for the UK because he didn’t trust his company after they offered homemade masks and demanded people return to work after only a couple of weeks off. I don’t blame him, as that company in particular is notorious for not caring about employees.

Other friends were taking the opportunity to go around and have a fun vacation. And again, I don’t blame them, either. The government’s lax as hell stance on anything besides shutting down schools prevented no one from going out to bars, restaurants, concerts, and even still traveling abroad. I went to Werq the World, an arguably smaller venue and concert, but I can’t claim I was some kind of quarantine saint.

I noticed the news abroad. I would stay home for a couple or three days at a time. I went over to a friend’s place and played video games with her for three days straight, then went right back home. I stayed off the peak hour times as much as possible, never taking the last train home or morning trains. People were, and are, still going to work and commuting.

I didn’t have a mask for a while. I only had a limited supply in my emergency bag, and the stores were emptied out. Even today, masks are hard to come by, with only a few select drug stores allowing one pack per day and per person. Finally, I found a set of masks in my old backpack. Even though they were the ones only good for keeping out dust and pollen, that’s actually what I desperately needed.

The allergy season hit me hard, so I was coughing and sneezing. I was getting very tired of the glares and whispers. Allegra helped push the symptoms away, but if I missed a single dose then my eyes would water, my nose would run, and the coughing would come back.

Then, I managed to get a sinus infection because I made the mistake of dusting my apartment (I’m highly allergic). No fever involved, just an annoyance with a side of anti-biotics. Coupled with seasonal allergies, I sounded sick, when really it was just bad timing. After about a week on antibiotics the sinus issues went away, but the itchy eyes problem never left and continues to plague me.

Image result for covid 19 symptoms vs flu

The news of Europe getting a few cases, then it hitting Italy seemingly overnight like a hammer really shocked me. The American cases grew and grew, and with the travel restrictions placed on Americans to Europe and visa versa, I decided to just stay at home for days at a time.

I called Delta Airlines around March 11th, as I was very concerned about my plane ticket to the U.S.A. Would I still have a flight? What about coming back? I heard people were getting rejected, flights getting slashed to Japan and other South Asian countries, quarantines, and travel bans.

Delta told me at that time, “Sorry, no changes and no refunds as stated in your receipt. However, if we have to cancel it because of a coronavirus issue, we will refund the ticket price to you.”

Frustrated, I could only accept that answer and move on. My mother, on the other hand, was very worried about me trying to travel over. The panic buying in Japan had taken toilet paper and masks in my Tokyo area, but in Las Vegas it was cold medicine, it was food, it was everything. It was honestly shocking to see the dystopian pictures of shelves emptied out.

I heard other places were wiped clean in Japan. I saw it on Twitter and on the news, but I guess I got lucky. My stores all around me only had the usual instant noodles and water bottles gone, but everything else was fine.

My mother had to drive to California to find toilet paper, though, so going home to America was looking like a grim prospect. Events all over Las Vegas got canceled, until it reached a point where even if I got there, the whole city would’ve been shut down upon my arrival. I would still have to wait and see about the ticket. I held out hope I could make it, but I also hoped I could eventually change it if I bothered Delta enough.

I wish I could claim I didn’t go outside at all anymore, but I would be lying. I did stay away from large crowds, though. I went over to my friend’s place for more video games, and then returned right back home. Plans for other events got canceled, so I stayed home some more. I was careful, washing my hands at every opportunity, using my mask when out and about, taking allergy meds and vitamins to try and keep healthy.

This past Sunday, I noticed my flight with Delta had changed. Due to the changes, I wasn’t sure if I would be making it home to Japan in time for work. The operator informed me that Delta was allowing any changed flight due to the company to then, and I quote, “be allowed to change to any date until December 31st of 2020.” I took the chance and moved my flight to August, because fuck the Olympics.

After the change was made, I told my family and cried. I felt torn between bittersweet relief that I wouldn’t have to go through the health screenings or get thrown in quarantine, but I also was really looking forward to seeing my family. After three years apart, I was so excited to finally be with them. I knew logically it was for the best, but it still hurt.

Nowadays I’m trying to stay good, practice social distancing. I’m staying home for days at a time. If I’m going out, I try to limit it to a few people or a person at any one time. Again, when going out I’m washing my hands at every possible chance (even though Japanese toilets have a 50/50% chance of having soap). But I’m limiting it to hours out and then right back home. Just friends, no one with kids or elderly people.

It’s still crazy to me how little has changed in Japan since the pandemic started. Everyone in general will use their masks, sure, but I still see pictures of bars packed with party people. I see people having hanami parties, bunched in together under the trees. Kids are playing around, free from school but going on play dates. Hell, I saw a child run up to a train partition door and lick it…so fear and panic isn’t really happening here.

Seeing the stories now of people dying from COVID19, people all ages, these kinds of crowds seem almost criminally dangerous? I know I might be throwing stones in a glass house as I haven’t been a perfectly isolated individual, but I also couldn’t imagine surrounding myself with hundreds or thousands of people if I could avoid it right now.

I’m not saying there should be panic. I do think there should be more steps taken to just shut things down. Even for just a week, shut down all non-essential work. Japan, in my opinion, has been lucky. The masks have been possibly helping to keep the numbers down, but it’s not enough. The shortages and the false sense of security could potentially bring on a second wave.

But maybe this country will stay lucky? Maybe it will stay the strange exception? I don’t know what the future holds. All anyone can do is try to be careful, stay home whenever possible, and just keep an eye out on the news. I’m trying to be pragmatic and realistic about my expectations, but it’s tough when everyone knows the government is under-testing these cases and we see pics like the ones in the parks.

For now (knock on wood), I’m healthy. If I catch symptoms similar to COVID19 I know my action plan, I know the hospitals around me, and I know enough Japanese to get help. I’m going to keep being cautious and do what I can to stay unaffected, but I’m a “prepare the worst, hope for the best” kind of person. Avoiding all human contact forever just isn’t feasible, and I’m supposed to go back to work in April.

Here’s hoping the pandemic has hit its peak here, but we’ll see I guess. I’ll update more in the coming months, because I’ve just got a feeling this thing isn’t over.

Posted in Slice of Life

2019 was a Wild Ride, Onwards to 2020!

Last year, I accomplished quite a bit of stuff. In both my professional and personal life, things changed all around for the better. I didn’t get every single thing done that I set out to do, but I took on so many new opportunities that I can’t regret a single moment of it.

At the start of the year, I set out to change my job. Two years ago, I really wanted to try getting out of teaching, but I failed the N2. I got set adrift and in panic mode without a good backup plan. In the end, I settled for an eikaiwa job. The job wasn’t great for me, and I ended up doing other part time work on the side to make it through some rough trials and tribulations of 2018.

Luckily, I got back to teaching at a school. It’s not a direct hire position, but the dispatch company I work for is very interested in retaining employees. The school I’m placed in has some great native English staffed teachers as well as multiple Japanese English teachers. It’s great to work in a bigger school with a bigger pool of people I can talk to. I’ve hung out with people after work often, which is a big change from the eikaiwa style of go home and pass out.

During that time, I also managed to complete an online TEFL course. I always pushed a TEFL course aside because I figured why get one if I didn’t intend to teach forever? But now I know better. Having the certificate is better than not, trust me. If you want to keep getting good teaching jobs, you got to get a leg up on the competition. Also, it’s not that expensive and you can work at your own pace for up to six months.

After the new school year started, I basically lost myself in work. I taught a reading literature class for returnees, and they are a joy. I think with this particular school and this particular curriculum, I feel more fulfilled and like a “real” teacher than ever before. I think if nothing else, I could teach at this particular place for more than a few years. Hell, I might’ve actually found a permanent place to stay until retirement, what a thought!

Yet, 2019 wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I encountered some pretty vitriolic transphobic comments on the blog and vlog. A few death threats were sprinkled along in there, but I didn’t let it get me down. I stood up for what I believed was right, and I will continue to support my trans friends no matter what. I am in the “LGB with the T” camp for life.

After the whole Gold Finger mess, I actually ended up taking my comedy hobby to a new level. I was a headliner in Nagoya…to all of like 10 or 12 people, but still, cool right? I never imagined being asked to do a show, and I never thought I would be getting paid to make jokes on a stage.

I also did more drag and other art performances. I did three or four duets, and then I created a dance group that performed in a huge venue! In between those, I was asked to be a part of a indie movie my friends were making. I was actually on sets and acting. Due to that, I got another role in a sci-fi movie! I can’t reveal much information about those projects, but when they’re released I would love to tell all the tales from behind the scenes.

And of course throughout the year I was volunteering with Stonewall Japan. As both Vice President and Kanto East Block Leader I was attending or organizing meetings, setting up agendas, putting out newsletters, and etc. During the summer time I was asked to get interviewed by news organizations, and I assisted in a couple of op ed pieces on marriage equality in Japan.

By the end of 2019, I also managed to basically complete a novel, which has been on the bucketlist for some time. I thought I would get it published before the end of the year, but it didn’t quite work out that way. It’s fine, though, because I think all my time was well spent.

I don’t regret a single part of 2019. I’m glad I did everything, but next year, I will be changing my focus.

This year is the year for my own projects. I want to move house, get the book published, and so much more. I will still do performances and take some opportunities as they come along, but I also want to make time for myself. I want to be able to spend time at home and relax, not constantly thinking about the next thing I got to do.

It’s simple goals, but they are goals worth having. I’m ready to take everything I learned and move forward in life.

I hope 2020 is great for us all!


New Years Eve I climbed a mountain! Click to hear all about it.

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.

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 Uncategorized

Bar Gold Finger Updates: Ogawa’s Message, Community Reactions, and the Cost of Transphobia

When pillars of a community screw up so royally they get featured on PinkNews, we kind of expect a message to come from them directly at some point. Chiga Ogawa finally gave us her message about “the events” that took place on that fateful night when Elin McCready was turned away for “not being feminine enough” to gain entry.

Anyways, Chiga Ogawa’s statement came out. It’s…a good start, but it’s not the best response to give in this kind of situation. You can follow the link for the PDF if you like.

Chiga Ogawa’s Notice In Japanese
Chiga Ogawa’s Notice in English

Now, here’s the thing: This apology lacks the impact it wants, because before this Chiga Ogawa talked to Shingetsu News about the events that took place. To be sort-of fair, Chiga Ogawa wasn’t quoted directly (which is some BAD journalism, but that’s a whole other nickpick). Instead her words were paraphrased all to hell, so what she exactly said is lost in this muddled interpretation of what she said, which doesn’t make her look very good in relation to this apology. Chiga Ogawa’s section in the report says:

In her exclusive interview, Ogawa explained that Bar Gold Finger does not have a policy of excluding transgender people. Six nights a week all members of the LGBT community are welcome to patronize the bar, and they have transgender customers.

Moreover, Bar Gold Finger has held specifically transgender-themed events, even in earlier times when the acceptance of LGBT people was not as wide as it is today. Ogawa herself has offered various kinds of personal support to her transgender friends.

The recent notion, therefore, that she is a “TERF” simply doesn’t accord with the decades-long record of Ogawa’s personal behavior and the policies and patronage of Bar Gold Finger.

Just because you have trans events doesn’t mean that you aren’t a TERF. Having a business that allows in a certain set of customers (as in FTM and Cis-gender) means that you’re specifically excluding trans women because YOU DON’T CONSIDER THEM WOMEN. Excluding trans women is the act of a TERF, a very specific minded TERF.

Sidebar: The article tries to make it sound like Elin McCready “started this controversy” but no, she didn’t. Bar Gold Finger staff started this controversy when they decided to be exclusionary. Plus, I’m the one calling Chiga a TERF, not Elin. Just to be clear, Elin has been a ray of sunshine in butterflies. I’m the bitchy one.

Also, where the hell are these trans friends of Chiga’s? Why aren’t they being quoted? Where is the actual evidence that she’s allowing trans gender people into the bar? Pictures, videos, testimonials, hell hit up Google and look at the reviews on the bar or something.

As someone who has been in the various communities getting a shit ton of feedback about the bar from people, I can tell you that I have received a lot of really discouraging comments about other people who have been turned away from Bar Gold Finger.

Before you’re like, “Only three isn’t a ‘shiton,’ idiot!” I chose these three out of the bunch because they were the most anonymous. I don’t want to go around outing friends and community members.

Many other long and heartbreaking stories have made their way into my inbox on Facebook and Twitter. A pattern very easily developed. Trans women were consistently asked for ID, had their attire questioned/analyzed, the way they spoke mocked, consistently asked, “Are you really trans?” in Japanese, and so on. You get the idea.

But don’t worry! Chiga Ogawa has a fantastic explanation for these stories!

Ogawa indicates that McCready was not allowed entry to the Women Only event because she and her staff felt that her presence was likely to be disruptive to other patrons, and that she didn’t have an entirely feminine presence about her in dress and demeanor.

Ogawa also noted that decades of operating a bar in Nichome has taught her to be careful. Not all individuals who are born male and wearing female clothes are genuinely transgender. In her own experience she has seen cases of heterosexual men cruising Nichome in drag with the intention of picking up women, as part of their own sexual fetishes.

Ogawa accepts the principle that transgender women are women. But running a bar in Nichome encompasses practical judgments as well as ideological ones. That means not all patrons will be given a welcome. Sometimes individuals will be turned away if there’s a sense that they may disturb the other patrons. Rightly or wrongly, McCready was judged to fall into this category in the context of the long-established Women Only event.

Still, Ogawa owns up to the fact that putting the “WOMEN (cisgender) ONLY” message on the May event poster was “a big mistake” on her part. It was a ham-handed attempt to settle the controversy which only made things much worse, and didn’t truly reflect her own feelings or the bar’s policies.

The bullshit excuse was underlined and put in bold by me, not the news agency.

As I said previously in my video, using the excuse that you’re equating trans women as drag queens or cross dressers is a flimsy way to hide your transphobia. Harassment is illegal and assault is illegal, period. Also, these supposed “men dressing up as women” might be like me, a genderqueer who identifies as both, or genderfluid, or myriad of other non-binary identities.

Getting back to the transphobia of it all, if you want to educate yourself on how to fight back against arguments TERFs regularly bring up (like Chiga’s) then read “‘I’m not transphobic, but…’: A feminist case against the feminist case against trans inclusivity.” Under the section “Playing It Safe:”

We don’t pretend to know for sure, though. We don’t think that this is something that anybody knows. The question, however, is what to do in the absence of knowledge. The sentiment, “better to be safe than sorry!” often surfaces at this point: we’re pretty confident about the relative risks of violence against women from cis men and cis women respectively; trans women are an unknown quantity; so better to play safe.

But safe for whom? This is where the feminist case against inclusivity may again turn out to rest on a circular pattern of reasoning. When keeping women’s spaces for cis women only is held to be safest for cis women, or ‘females’, is the tacit assumption that trans women are not (‘really’) women, and hence not a population which feminism needs to represent? If so, it would certainly be good to have this claim out in the open, since feminist opponents of inclusivity sometimes claim either to regard trans women as women or to be ‘agnostic’ on that issue â€“ one which, as will become clear shortly, we believe to be a fundamentally political, rather than a biological or metaphysical question.

If, on the other hand, trans women are thought of as a subset within ‘women’ – much like the group ‘white women’, for example – then this just raises the question of why some women’s safety should take precedence over that of others, especially when the risk allegedly posed to cis women by trans women seems to be purely theoretical – not supported by evidence – while the risk to trans women from cis men is beyond doubt. The World Health Organisation’s systematic review of violence motivated by perception of sexual orientation and gender identity in 2017 found that transgender people suffer from a disproportionately high prevalence of physical and sexual violence. Research suggests trans people are more likely than cis people to experience homelessness, and trans women in particular are more likely to engage in sex work â€“ both of which make a person more likely to experience sexual violence.

Excluding trans women from women spaces can kill them, like straight up get them beaten and murdered. Holding this line for who and who doesn’t “pass” in order to get into this bar tells trans women, “We would rather you be out there in danger than safe in here with us. You make us uncomfortable, and we would rather not question our own internal transphobia tonight. Get out and stay out.”

I find it hard to believe that just after doing this interview, Chiga Ogawa has done a complete 180 on her stance. Even though her official statement says trans women will be allowed into women only night, how the hell can I trust that to be true when I’ve got all the evidence pointing to all these past events wherein trans women were kicked out? And then this interview with her giving the standard TERF reasoning for not letting MTF and trans women not into women only spaces?

Now, also like I said in my previous video, I don’t want Gold Finger cancelled. I do want to see real, tangible change occur. I have hope. Even if this apology message has come far too late, and contradicts a news article days before Ogawa’s official apology was released, I do still have some hope.

Personally, I might have felt more at ease if Elin got a name drop in this apology, even if it was just one sentence. It seems like it’s just intended to bring back business, not actually ask for forgiveness. It doesn’t help that the news agency also predominantly displayed the next June Bride event at Gold Finger. This feels more like a business decision, not a sincere attempt to bridge the troubled waters between Gold Finger and the trans community.

No doubt the #BoycottGoldfinger movement that started on Twitter made an impact. I know also that Tokyo Weekender pulled an old article titled “Bar Gold Finger Chiga Ogawa: What Nichome Means to Me” off its website (although the video with Chiga is still up on YouTube). She’s losing her place as a leader in the community, and not without good reason.

Because really, this whole thing isn’t really about her, it’s about the constant stomping on trans women and their right to exist to women only spaces.

The first comment I got on my blog was a transphobic one. I removed it, because screw you whoever you are in Hokkaido. I didn’t want my trans and genderqueer friends to see that shit if they didn’t have to be exposed to it. But I need to make a point, so I’m going to show it and another transphobic comment I got on YouTube.

Trans women are women
Trans women are women

And also, I was a member of a group on Facebook and this happened (be forewarned, a lot of anti-trans rhetoric).

All the wrong words and all the wrong mentality. This is the classic case of pretending to want to be “educated” but in fact you’re putting this “opinion” out there to cause a fight on purpose. It’s trans phobic trolling. I left this group after I called it out and got chastised and demeaned for it.

When transphobia pops up, other transphobes get in on the action. I’ve had people hitting up my Twitter threads and trying to convince me that men sneaking into bathhouses are the same as trans women. TERFs got bold in these past couple of weeks, coming all out of the woodwork to express their stance “with Gold Finger” in “protecting women.”

The consequences I care about aren’t about Gold Finger’s attendance or boycott or whatever. I know for a fact that this fight is about pushing back against TERFs and transphobes who are belligerently ignorant. They don’t want to understand, they just want to hate and hurt trans people.

The apology is out there, but it doesn’t really fix the damage done. There is trust broken and a lot of healing to do. Nichome is supposed to be the place we can go to feel safe, but the safety of trans people should be included in those priorities. I still don’t feel like it is.

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 YouTube Videos

If You Wanna Get Caught Up…

So I’ve been vlogging a little bit more than usual, and my channel has been growing a little bit.

Basically in this video, I talk about how unhappy I was with the old way I was doing things and revamping the ideas on the channel.

Actually managed to do a semi-daily thing for a week, just talking about different things as they happened in my life.

And here we have the BEST THING I’VE EVER BOUGHT AS AN ADULT WITH MY OWN MONEY!!!

Ranting about the rainy weather and typhoons. Hahaahahaha, little did I know that I would have 5 more after that. 

Hello other typhoon, how are you? Man, these past couple of months had some brutal weather. Really, really tired of rain at this point.

Eating things I shouldn’t, also Mondays are cursed.

This one got the most views and hate. A LOT of people came out to defend Japan, which is normal. A lot of times whenever you talk critically about Japan, you’ll have tons of people try to tell you how wrong you are about the racism in the country. And most of those people DON’T ACTUALLY LIVE IN JAPAN, so it’s super frustrating. Somehow this little thing accumulated over 1,000 views, I guess because it was a hot topic at the time. Oh well, opinion unchanged (actually Japanese media is already proving me right in some instances, but what can you do?).

Anyways, hope that gets you caught up!