SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

  • Li Gang Zhe “Freedom of Speech, Control, Self-discipline and Surmise by the Media”

     Recently, amid Covid-19, freedom of speech and control of the mass media are highlighted. According to the Kyodo (News Service), “Reporters Without Borders “(RSF) (HQ: Paris) reported on April 21, 2020 that world rankings of freedom of the media in 2020. Japan was 66th in 180 countries and areas, a rank up comparing with last year and was pointed out editorial policy of Japanese media depends on their economic profits. Hungary, power politics under the Orban administration due to the Covid-19 pandemics, was 89th. China, under information control, kept the same ranking at 177th. North Korea, which insisted no infected persons, dropped to the lowest 179th. Norway kept the first rank during these4consecutive years. Finland and Denmark followed. The United States went up to 45th from 48th. In connection with those rankings, the writer is interested in how the freedom of speech is guaranteed or controlled in each country. To begin with, in almost all the countries, “freedom of speech” is guaranteed by the Constitution. Even in the dictatorship countries by Communist Party like China and North Korea which are the lowest in the ranking, freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of assembly must be guaranteed. However, actual situations may be in “unconstitutionality”. However again, since their national power can trample on the Constitution, they cannot check their “unconstitutionalities”. Then how about in democratic nations? Japan, which is an advanced and democratic country, cannot be said to be a country where freedom of speech is guaranteed. I asked students in my seminar to check Japanese ranking of the freedom of press and came to know that Japan is 66th. I was surprised to hear that students were talking “it may be quicker to count Japanese ranking from the back”. Even young students, who rarely read newspapers usually, feel so. A staff of my university told me that an Associate Professor, Kanazawa University (in the same city with my Hokuriku University) has died from the new coronavirus. I was surprised and searched on internet. He was 42 years old. Since the middle of November, he has been recuperating at his house getting some medicine from hospital after being diagnosed with influenza. Since he was not cured completely in spite of the fever went down a little, he telephoned twice to the public health center for PCR testing and was told twice that he cannot get PCR test without doctor’s diagnosis. His wife tried to speak through SNS, since he had been working away from home, and found about his death when she has asked a staff member of his university to confirm his presence. He was asthma originally and judged to have been Covid-19 by PCR testing after his death. I thought the above was an important news for mass medias. But it was not published in newspapers nor reported on TV. It was on December 5th , ten days after the incident, when the Hokuriku-Chunichi Shinbun (Newspaper) reported the incident shortly as follows. [Hokuriku-Chunichi Shinbun on December 5 , 2020]In Ishikawa Pref., medical institutions, which can test both Covid-19 and influenza, are designated at 180 places. The late Mr. Hiroo Takahashi, 42 years old, an associated professor, Kanazawa University, could not get PCR testing which should have been prepared well. The Tokyo Shinbun (Newspaper), the same network newspaper with the Hokuriku-Chunichi run the news. But even the local people could not get to know his death. Why did this news not made the headlines? Is it concealment done by the university? Is it a “surmise” (read between the lines) toward the authorities? We have no way of finding the truth. But I believe that it is the real function of media in democratic countries to take up such incident and pursue a liability of the authorities. There may be other reasons to hide or underreport. My acquainted knowledgeable people were very suspicious saying that the Government were hiding something intentionally, or freedom of press was controlled, or media side were self-restraint or surmise. It is good example that Japan is ranking 66th. Then, how about America which is ranking at 45th? I lost profess toward democracy completely through the Presidency election this time. I, as a multi-linguist, watching medias in Taiwan and Korea every day or Chinese media in America with big interests in the election relying on YouTube. I have been watching a lot of “the backside information” every day and was disappointed with actual conditions of election processes, i.e., how actual conditions were not reported objectively.In conclusion, American democracy has already collapsed. Mainstreams of American media report is just a side of the truth. They are closing their eyes to the fact that “electoral fraud” has robbed “the authority” and their reports seldom touch the establishment and has trampled the Constitution of the United States and their democracy. SNS and net-media are restricted the people and are opposite politically. It was typical that twitters were controlled by President Trump. It was unprecedented that remarks by the President of the United States, which is the biggest democratic country in the world and was controlled by the independent judgement of the medias. Not only twitters but also other main social medias like FACEBOOK controlled the voice of citizens. It is indescribable for medias, which are not national authority to control the voice of citizens by their own “fact check”. If there is only biased coverage, citizens cannot get the truth of political judgement. If so, justice and fairness of the election, which is the means of execution of democracy, would be distorted. It is no exaggeration to say that democracy has collapsed.   Media, which should have a mission to convey the truth to citizens fairly and justly, lose their neutrality (by the writer’s standard of value) and intervene politics, we cannot get news of fairness, justice and freedom anymore. My values, philosophy and idea, which I have espoused and pursued, have crashed in my heart. I may lose my grounds of criticism hereafter against authoritarianism. Everybody knows the medias are controlled severely in authoritarianism countries. However, in democratic countries, a lot of people consider that the freedom of speech is “out of the questions”. There may be no difference between both countries in which citizens are deprived of the right to know the truth. Leaders or intellectual persons in authoritarian countries sneered at the election in America which is the “So-Honzan (head quoter)” of democracy saying “Look! Democracy is hypocrisy and freedom of speech is an untruth.” “Our system is superior to democracy.” They emphasize their system superiority over their correspondence against Covid-19 too. Nevertheless, I do not think authoritarianism, which oppress freedom of speech ruthlessly, can justify themselves and must be forsook by the citizens soon or later because those countries are “people’s republic” in which sovereignty lies with people, not the feudal country. Administration, which has been built for the sake of farmers adopting a slogan “Dictatorship by the Proletariat”, has converted to “Dictatorship by the bourgeoisie and the elite”. In any countries and any day or age, I do not think the administration which do not govern the country without reading the mind of people, will last long stably. In Chinese classics there is a golden saying “水能載舟、亦能覆舟“(by Xun Kuang). It means “statesmen are equal to ship and people are equal to water”. Water runs safely putting a vessel on but can overthrow a vessel sometimes. It is a commandment for statesman.  SGRA Kawaraban 658in Japanese (Original) Li Gang Zhe/Professor Hokuriku University Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • XIE Zhihai “What we can see in the delay of vaccine development in Japan.”

     We greeted the New Year 2021 carrying over global issue “COVID-19”.A lot of people in Japan, especially in Tokyo, have passed over their New Year holidays worrying about epidemic of infected person, far from being healed from “CORONA fatigue”.We had plenty of topics relating to CORONA such as epidemic during New Year holidays and the second emergency declaration.  Medical service workers must be tired with chronic fatigue by CORONA and we worry about their mental health too. Recently the news about the number of infected persons is more distinct in Japan rather than the news of vaccination in Europe and America.   If Japanese pharmaceutical companies could develop corona vaccine first in the world, the news will become a topic and Japanese would have been vaccinated by now. In the last December, vaccine developed by Pfizer (USA) was lifted in London. Around that time, German pharmaceutical company announced their vaccine development. I thought vaguely, at that time, Japanese leading pharmaceutical companies will announce their development and they would commercialize it rather than Japanese people accepting Pfizer or German vaccine. However, we have not heard any news so far. What happened to Japan?  Japan is a country of craftsmanship and technical developing and there are many leading pharmaceutical companies. But I realized Japanese presence pared down. In Japan, up-and-coming startup is not so distinct and there are few charismatic young Presidents of world-wide reputation. There are a few entrepreneurs who interest me personally. And I began to think that the presence of such charismatic entrepreneurs might drive a country and boost the country morale regardless of the industry.    Of course, there are Presidents who start business and are active internationally in Japan. For example, Masayoshi Son, Soft Bank Group and Hiroshi Mikitani, who launched Rakuten.There are many entrepreneurs in overseas. Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group in China. Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group in UK, the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple  Inc. which has a presence even now in America. Besides those entrepreneurs, Elon Musk, Tesla Motors, is the most prominent President in America now. Mr. Yoshihiko Yamada, ex-Vice President of Panasonic, who has worked with Elon Musk in Tesla Motors for two years, made a severe comment (toward Japanese people) in special issue of the Toyo Keizai titled “Tesla vs. Toyota”, saying that “Not limited to Panasonic, Japanese companies cannot keep up with sense of speed of Tesla. It will be impossible unless there would be charismatic corporate executives or founders.” Yes!  What Japan is lacking is a sense of speed. Before I explain what Japan is lacking, I convey why Japan is impressive first. Above all, people in Japan wear mask and wash hands properly. It is attractive that public places are clean. The number of infected persons in Japan is much more comparing with other countries.  I think Japan is impactful but lacking in sense of speed. COVID-19 has made everything stagnant. In America and European countries, they are developing vaccines at a terrific speed, despite there are a lot of infected persons. China developed vaccines quickly adding to their drastic infection control measures. Japan is not included in such countries regretfully. I am not familiar with pharmaceutical industry. But I searched one opinion. Mr. Yasuhiro Fujiwara, the Director General of PMDA (Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency), opined at the Nikkei-FT (Financial Times) Conference for Infections “In Japan, we cannot do large-scale clinical testing and Japanese weak points were made clear by COVID-19.”The point is systems. Certification of new medicines is cautious and take long time in Japan. It will be natural, amid unprecedented pandemic of COVID-19, to take time to develop new medicines through conventional procedures. Against CORONA, there should be any exception on priority basis in order to get information about infected persons quickly. I hope they should not give up or slow down development of new medicines.    What Japan will shine brilliantly “after CORONA” is the people who do not give up their challenging spirits toward something new taking crisis management.  In conclusion, I quote the words by Mr. Uichiro Niwa, ex-Japanese Ambassador to China and ex-Chairman of Itochu Corporation. He said “From now on, there will be something impossible in Japan as if that’s norm. Because of it, you cannot neglect what you can do regardless of age.” It sounds very reasonable. But it was written in 2019, before COVID-19, in the book titled “Shigoto to Kokoro no Ryuugi” (The Style in Business and Heart). And those phrases were quoted from “Donguri no Seikurabe” (Comparison of Stature of Acorn) in which if we compare stature, we will lose jobs. How touching those words were! We have entered a New Year in world-wide chaos. But I hope bright future would wait for us after our efforts. XIE Zhihai / Associated Professor, Kyoai Gakuen University  SGRA Kawaraban 657 in Japanese (Original)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala 
  • WANG Wenlu “Minorities at the time of emergency”

     One year has already passed with the outbreak of corona virus and our daily life has changed completely. We are in cold season now and the number of infected persons in the world is increasing. Recently we, foreigners in Japan, felt distress at a certain news. The Japanese government stopped foreign researchers to enter into Japan, when the new variant of the coronavirus was confirmed. In the middle of August 2020, when I expected to return to my parent’s home or go abroad for my overseas survey, the Government decided to ease restrictions of foreigners to enter Japan and foreign researchers were accepted in our workplace. At the beginning of March 2020, I went to America for my survey and research and attended a learned society. It was the time when the COVID-19 pandemic spread in China (and Italy too), but in America, there were no restriction and I could attend a learned academy. During one week after my entrance to America, I could access to any libraries without any trouble. At the middle of March, however, universities were closed and we were requested to refrain going outside. Every day, I checked entry restriction in the homepages of Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and requested airline companies to prepone my flight to Japan. Luckily enough, I could return to Japan before entry restrictions. Government asked the people, who returned to Japan, not to use public transportation and home quarantine themselves for two weeks. I could remember those days clearly when I felt uneasiness and panic. I could not go back to my house and meet my family because I am a foreigner in Japan. It affected much of my friends too. “In Japan it is foreigners who are forsook first when there is something.”“It will be the same everywhere in the world.” When I complained to my family, above was the answer. It is certain that modern societies are formed by the frame of “nation-state”.  Each one of us belong to certain groups and are defined by those groups. Ofcourse, there are refugees who do not belong to any nations or multinational people. Real image is complicated.  For the people who go to foreign countries, they have to be minorities in population. If there are differences in color of skin or in speaking majority, such differences would be distinct. Due to such differences, they ought to be misunderstood or discriminated. Especially in an emergency like recent COVID-19 pandemic, such severe circumstances which minority people are put become distinct.  When I was in America, I did not wear a face mask when I out though I knew spread of infections . It was because I did not like to be involved in troubles at sight. At that time, according to news reports, Asian people, who wore face masks in the world were misunderstood to be caught by the coronavirus and had violence against them. According to “STOP AAPI HATE” platform, which was built by a non-Government organization and university officials in California for the purpose for Asian American or Pacific Islanders who could report when they receive violence, 1843cases were filed within eight weeks in between of March when this platform started.  It is said that 8.1% out of 1843 cases is physical violence and the reason, according to respondents, are masks or clothing. There are other platforms, which transmit, gather information and analyze discrimination against Asian people.  “Sinophonia Tracker” (operated by overseas Chinese researcher), “I Am Not a Virus”(campaigned by Australian non-Government organization).Hashtag on “JeNeSuisPasUnVirus” on SNS is drawing attention also. All the platform mentioned above are having all eyes about treatment of Asian people, including Chinese. On the other hand, there were reports that African immigrants in Guangdong, China had to be left compulsory by landlords and were quarantined despite of non-infection. There were other reports in India. Mongoloid people, who came from North Eastern Region and skin color is akin to Chinese and Muslims who are social minority and were violated or discriminated in non-Muslim countries. Discrimination itself has no direct relation with infectious diseases. Existing discrimination issue were disclosed furthermore by infections. Historically speaking, in the time of crisis, there have been elimination or attack on minorities which did not belong to their own group. We remember the Massacre of Koreans after Great Kanto Earthquake (of 1923) in Japan and in non-Muslim countries hostility against Muslim (minorities in population) after the synchronized terrorist attacks 9-11 in America. I think however, majority or minority is very flexible and depend on time and space. I myself, who live in Japanese society as a foreigner belong to the minority but as Chinese, who residing are majority as foreigners in Japan. Since it is difficult to distinguish us from Japanese by appearance, we may be able to camouflage as Japanese who are majority in Japan andif can speak Japanese language fluently. I think it very arbitrary to categorize by nationalities or skin colors. Amid pandemic of the COVID-19, there became few reports which are hostile to certain groups recently. However, we cannot forget any “otherings” easily which can be seen in many countries or areas in varying degrees in one level or another. In near future, there may be other pandemics on global scale and the human race may suffer from various disasters. I hope we could keep our tolerance looking back on the COVID-19 this time. WANG Wehlu / 2019 Raccoon     SGRA Kawaraban 656 in Japanese (Original)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • XIE Zhihai “The Governmental GoTo Campaign” -GoTo School, rather than GoTo Travel-

     I came across a blog which was written by a mother who has a daughter as first year college student. I do not know her, but her tweet weighed heavily on my mind and made me think variously. Her daughter entered college this spring, but she has never passed through college gate. Despite she is in second semester now, she is passing her time as if it is usual to stay home. Amid such circumstance, her mother received a transfer slip for tuition for the second year. She ended her tweets saying that “it’s OK GoTo Travel. But please do something for GoTo School.”  I think this tweet are real cry of parents who have children who cannot go to school and this gives indescribable bitter feeling. I wrote before in “kawaraban” that college must be the place which can offer chances to students no matter what happens. If we compare the present with one year before, I am worried about decrease of their studying time. As to teachers, they require more work than last year to prepare for their teaching and time to upload their lectures. However, it would be meaningless if parents, payers of tuition, and students cannot understand such efforts. Early popularity of on-line classes is welcomed. But there is a limit. President of Waseda University Aiji Tanaka wrote in the Weekly Magazine “Economist” on October 13, 2020 “Society at present want such human resource as tough intellectuals and flexible feelings. Tough intellectuals can learn 70% by on- line. But it will be impossible to learn flexible feeling by on-line.”  Students cannot go to school and lose time not studying are not limited.  Educational circumstances and studying time this year has brought worriedness in educating students, high-school students and students of all over the world. UK magazine “Economist” worried in their issue of July 18, 2020 that children who cannot go to school due to the COVID-19 pandemic are damaged greatly. For example, they warned possibilities of domestic abuses, malnutrition and low mental health. They pointed out how loss of learning opportunities would affect future economy saying that “according to the World Bank, in case the school closes due to the COVID-19 the loss will be 10 trillion Dollars”.  When I read this estimate of the World Bank, I remember the words first in mother’s blog (mentioned above) “GoTo School! rather than GoTo Travel”. It is said that birthrate is declining in Japan. I think the Government must establish sustainable economic policy forecasting future, rather than covering immediate economy. Everybody in Japan now know the words “GoTo Travel” which did not exist in this spring. If so, I hope the Government would establish another policy which can make up for delay of educational chances for students.  Recently, the Ministry of Education announced emergency handout to university students and subvention to universities. For example, the University of Tokyo and Waseda University paid 50 thousand yen and 100 thousand yen per person respectively to students who are in financial difficulties in order to prevent withdrawal from Universities. Of course, it is important to prevent withdrawal from school. But at this moment, opportunities of going to school are decreasing and lessons are done by “on-line”. If we can offer exciting teaching or program and students are satisfied with their selection for their Universities, they will never think of “withdrawal from school”. According to another survey, difference of annual income between University graduates and high school graduates is more than one million yen. Considering such situations, students will leave University because of financial difficulties, it would be necessary to have measures against tolerization for registered absence or giving a chance to return to school.   We must establish such measures speedily and eagerly like “GoTo School”. Severe winter is coming. However COVID-19 will increase or decrease this winter, I hope every student, who are going to school, can get chances of studying before a year 2019 or more.I like to initiate educational fields and will do my best keeping that in mind.  XIE_Zhihai / Associate Professor, Kyoai Gakuen University  SGRA Kawaraban 655 in Japanese (Original)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • KIM Sinhye “My Experience at Takahata Town”

     Rikkyo University (Faculty of Social Welfare), where I am studying at, and Takahata Town (Yamagata Pref.) started “Takahata Project” as a corporation program in April 2001. In November 2010, we concluded the Friendship Agreement and we started communicating and exchanging our opinions in various ways. For example, we had practices, exercises, research and study in agricultural experiences.   Takahata Town is an agricultural town in the south-east of Yamagata Prefecture having 23,000 populations and famous for their “Delaware Grapes” which is major production in Japan. It is called “MAHOROBA no sato” (Mahoroba village). “Mahoroba” is an archaic word and means “a beautiful and livable village surrounded by mountains and having abundant crops”. When you get off at Takahata station, Yamagata Shin-kansen, you can see Iide Mountains in the south, Asahi mountains in the west and the Mt. Zao in the east.  You can see also rich land of rice, vegetable and fruits.     I was posted to Takahata as an instructor in graduate school, Rikkyo University on June 19 and 20, 2019. It was a corporation program between Rikkyo University and Takahata High School. I had a special school and lesson to be discussed to the students who were elected for welfare course. Purpose of this program was to develop human resources who later would represent the communities in Yamagata municipalities in future.  On the first day, I lectured on “Basic social welfare” to around 50 students of second and third grade. I told them first about being catalyst and chosen the way to social welfare and explained how fun it is to learn it as students who enrolled themselves during first of April. I explained about present situation in Japan and South Korea and future issues on social welfare in both countries.   On the second day, in the class of “social welfare research” where research issues were set up by themselves, I lectured about my research, which I am proceeding now in graduate school. Then, six students of third grade presented their task-oriented research. There were variety of subject matter: solitary death, forced double suicide, taking care of elderly people, tourist information about Takahata, how to revitalize the area etc. We were interested in every topic and could deepen our discussions.  During my lecture, I told them about an aging society with a low birth rate, society where population is decreasing and city which can possibly extinct. One student commented “I have never thought of society with a low birthrate deeply and each of us have to think seriously, not as somebody else’s business. I would like to make an effort starts from our generation now. I thought it to be the first step to let other people feel sense of crisis.”What I liked to convey most to high school students is: “social welfare” is not only an issue for elderly nor handicapped people and should be grasped “as if it is our own”. And I was impressed with students accepted my opinion thoroughly.   Another student described his impression writing “I had a feeling that Kim-san, you are so cool, researching and finding solution of an issue like suicide in both countries, Korea and Japan widely.  I like to be a man who can contribute to the society facing social issues straightly.”Such writing resonated in my chest and it was a good chance to consider the meaning of my research – the issue of suicide and its protective measure -.  Beside special lecture at Takahata High school, during my two days stay at councilor house of Takahata High School (ex-staff member of Takahata town office), I got to know a lot. For example, I enjoyed precious and unusual experiences like tea ceremony, kimono and work at grape farm. Also, I enjoyed visiting Kameoka Monju (Daisho-in) which is one of the three big Monju in Japan. (other two Monju are Abe-monju in Nara Pref. and Chion-in in Kyoto).*“Monju” means transcendent wisdom.They showed me sightseeing areas like Takahata winery, Tumewari Sekitei Park (stone garden) and Akutu Yahata shrine.  Those placeswere very amusing to me.  Through my Research “Social Welfare”, I hope to continue myexchange activities not only for both countries like Japan and Korea,but also world-wide. KIM_Sinhye / 2019 Raccoon  SGRA Kawaraban 654 in Japanese (Original)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala 
  • SHIN Hyewon “How to keep proper distance?”

     When I was a junior high school student, I wrote an essay as a homework about myself. I do not remember well about its detail. But conclusion was very compliant saying “I am what I am” as a Korean who live in Japan might be beyond high flown by novels.  And I remember that I was glad when our homeroom teacher praised me.  I was a fearless teenager who were nerves about small matters keeping myself open and did not hesitate to expose my thinking in public.  Looking back that time, I feel giddy and dread to concede “a foreigner who lives in Japan”. I was not an admirable Japanese speaker. I kept sending small messages to the people around, so that they can change their rigid ideas about me.  Sociologist Prof. KISI Masahiko wrote in his book “Assimilation and Dissimilation” that minority means they are kept asking about their identities and majority means they are free from such questions. I did not know the outlook. But I think there was a strong meaning, to keep on asking the question to myself and but to people around me.    And now, I chose “foreigners” who live in Japan as my research and I am continuing it. People may think that I have become more forethoughtful and nervous as compared to my teenage. When I speak about something, I stop for a while to breathe deeply and reconsider it. It feels that I am adult now and have to speak means: If you can differentiate yourself as a person and a Researcher (Professionally) then it is a proof that you have grown up.  I am collecting and accumulating feelings of wrongness obscurely which I feel in my daily life.  At the time of entrance ceremony of schools, I heard “Only Japanese can enjoy beautifulness of cherry blossoms”, “Glad to be born in Japan”. I am not concerned about words which are unimpressive. I have just acknowledged for the words “As I thought, you are a Korean” or “Now, you are complete Japanese” despite they are not malicious. I had a feeling of frustration rather than consideration very often when I reveal my name to a friend with whom I converse. Our communication slowed eventually.  Such feelings were my motivation and basic stance of my research.I intended to proceed, keeping possible attention not to be lugged when I debate. What it means is a continual working and answering despite being severely criticized by others. It might be the same for everybody.  What I have in my thought might have been answered already and I was asked to explain it more precisely and freshly. When I went on reading predecessor’s consideration, I realized that I had to find new words for explanation. I realized to keep my thought to under one’s hat to overwhelming deed.  As individual concerned, I could not be an advocate for others. I felt strongly that I was working for unprecedent research and I proceeded my research in actual fields. What I experienced and felt in Japan was just a track. Likewise, experiences and sensitivities as “foreigners in Japan” present infinite varieties. When I encountered such occasions, I, as individual concerned, was confused, depressed and hurt. Research will not give “desirable” answers. Generalization might be just arrogance.  Looking  back as mentioned above, what I got as graduate school student were respect for predecessors and awareness for others.I got prudence also because of such respect and awareness. I could not keep proper distance between a person concerned and a researcher thou but sometimes, I became overcautious or emotional.I inspired myself thinking that other researchers would be in difficulties to keep proper distance and had trial and error.  If I could borrow my childish courage like old days when “I am what I am”, I think it would be meaningful to keep distance as “who I am”.Thinking that, I hope I will proceed my research life.  SHIN_Hyewon : 2019 Raccoon, Specially appointed Associated Professor,The University of Tokyo, Komaba, Liberal Arts Division  SGRA Kawaraban 653 in Japanese (Original)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala       
  • Bao Lian Qun “Multilingual Localization in China during COVID-19 Pandemic”

    Soon after the new coronavirus infections was discovered, Chinese government sent more than 42 thousand medical personnel, which included national army medical teams, to 16 cities including Wuhan city in Hubei Province. We saw the Chinese words like “抗疫(fight with infections)“、”援湖北”(assist Hubei), "最前線(forefront)”、”出征(go to the front)“ in mass media and slogans of each medical teams. Mass media reported repeatedly that medical personnel were sent to the “front” (Hubei province) and was being prepared for “fighting” against infections. People nationwide were strained.  There was another “war” actually besides the “corona”. The “language war”.  Languages are strong “weapons” which are indispensable in daily lives and in social activities. But medical personnel, who were sent to Hubei, had difficulties in languages. Because there were a lot of elderly persons who spoke dialects which medical personnel baffled. Both sides could not communicate with each other’s and medical care was hindered.  As you may know, there are 56 races in the Chinese main land and you may understand there are a lot of dialects also. What I like to draw attention point out here is there are big differences among such dialects, except for few dialects, is standard Mandarin. It is said that they could not communicate each other in the past when they have crossed a mountain. People in Japan, where standard Japanese language is popular, may not be able to believe in such situation. We can say that standard Chinese language are not prevailing in the whole area in China. People, who weren’t had school education, cannot speak standard language. Especially, in the pandemic, elderly people who did not had school education or people who spoke only local dialects had difficulties in communicating with the people who came from other areas.  There are three dialects in Hubei province. Southwestern Mandarin, Lower Yangtze Mandarin and Gan Mandarin. These three dialects are divided to smaller dialects. Medical teams, who were sent to Hubei Province, engaged in their medical treatment divided into nine areas.Four areas in Southwestern Mandarin speaking area (Wuhan, Jingzhou, Yichang, and Xianyang), three areas in Lower Yangtze Mandarin area (Xiaogan, Huangshi, and Ezhiu), Huanggang dialect area and Xianning dialect area where they speak Gan dialect. Medical personnel could not understand such dialects and that affected treatment.  And patient could not answer the questions which medical staves asked and answered in local dialect as they do not know standard Mandarin.  When the medical team of Qilu Hospital in Shandong University arrived Huangang City, they realized difference of language. A nurse Mr. Z. started “self-help” because he realized communication difficulties between medical staffs and patients and affected to their medical efficaciousness.  He completed “Communication Book between Medical Staffs and Patients” on February 1 and put it to practical use at the Medical Center in Dabie-shan area.  Mr. G. who belonged to the fifth medical team in the hospital and arrived at Wuhan on February 9, realized also language problem and completed “Wuhan Dialect Practical Hand Book” (『国家援鄂医療隊武漢方言実用手册』), under cooperation of doctors and other university staff member in Wuhan, within 48 hours after his arriving at Wuhan. They used it immediately.  Mr. Li Yu-ming, Language Resources High-precision Innovation Center in Beijing, came to know that medical team in the hospital, have edited “Wuhan Dialect Practical Handbook” (『抗撃疫情湖北方言通』). And he organized a service team named “Language Service Team for Fighting Infections” under cooperation with Universities, research institutions and enterprises and completed, in only three days, a “tool” named “Wuhan Dialects for CORONA Infectious Control”. This handbook introduced translation and conversation between nine dialects in Hubei Province and standard Mandarin.  It contains 156 vocabularies and 75 sentences which are used in infection control and medical treatment. He gave this handbook to medical personnel in the “forefront” and to patients.  There are various “tools” for language problem at medical sites. Web-Site- Net-Version, On-Line Telephone, Telephone Counseling, Net Text etc.DUB (data under voice) and Micro Video are always reproduced. We have “WeChat” version too. In this “tool”, everybody can start sound reproduction system by scanning QR cord and listen sound broad casting so that sentences spoken by standard Mandarin and dialects can correspond.Moreover, “Fusion Media Pocket Book” is printed in the style of pocketbook and “TikTok” version is also prepared. Beside such tools, there contains various software like dialect translation software, voice sending software by intelligent, telephone medical assistant robots, and retrieval site by the company “Qihoo 360(Technology)” which can confirm whether it is a mere rumor or not. The government of Hubei province and Wuhan city offered video simultaneous interpretation service to overcome “language” problems.     Utilizing such printed matters, they established “Foreign Language for Corona Control“、and “Easy Chinese Language for Corona Control” (『疫情防控外語通』)and offered to medical sites and foreigners. It is said that “Easy Chinese language” (『疫情防控“簡明漢語”』) was made getting a hint from “Easy Japanese language” which are given to foreigners in Japan. More than 500 people and a lot of organizations and types of industry are involved in participation of “disaster language service” by “Language Service Team for Fighting Infection”.We understand now that huge number of people, not only medical personnel but people, who belong to other fields than medical field, involved in medical countermeasure and offered “disaster language service”.  SGRA Kawaraban 648 in Japanese (Original)  Bao Lian Qun / Professor, Oita University(Japan), Researcher at 中国言語戦略研究センター(Nanjing University)    Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • XIE_Zhihai “Is the COVID-19 a good opportunity for revitalization of local area?”

    Our daily life has drastically changed due to COVID-19 in 2020. To begin with, lifestyle of inhabitants in the cities, where population density is high, had to be changed. Large enterprises started working remotely to prevent commuter rush. However, companies which have little infrastructure for remote works or workers in service industries who cannot work remotely had to go to their offices being petrified by coronavirus which are floating everywhere. City life cannot avoid the “three C’s” (Closed, Crowded, Close contact) anywhere and it is considered as gloomy.   People here in North Kanto area, 100 Km away from Tokyo, where I am living, have been easy-going because there is no “three C’s” because of its automobile society. At ramen shops, they make “three C’s” queues always, not to protrude to roads and the lines are “straight”.I had an impression that it is Japan. When you go to supermarkets or drug stores, you can see a lot of people there. And the situation is the same with “before the COVID-19 pandemic” and they make “three C’s” queues. (At present, you can see a seal on the floor to keep space between a guest in front.) There are differences how people understand TV broadcasting which are sending regardless of cities and countryside.  Then, how do people in the cities understand the life and actual situations of countryside?When people began to talk about “remote XXX”, we have been talking about movement from city to countryside. If we can work from home or work once or twice a week at office, we can live in big house in countryside without high rent in the cities and go to office to take care of something when needed. We can expect vitalization of countryside by such work style.According to weekly magazine the “Toyo Keizai” issued in July, there would be a lot of merits in “movement to countryside”. You can work and child-care in spacious living environment.But I, living in countryside, do not think it will be easy to move in.  I looked around our town where I live and neighboring city where I work and I observed present situation of countryside from my car window. I would like to convey my message hereunder how people understand the situation when they consider movement to countryside from city under the COVID-19 pandemic. When I walked around for the first time for six months, I was surprised at the shops which have closed. I do not know exactly whether the close down was from pandemic or not. You can see a lot of private owned restaurants, general stores and clothing stores closed. Not only IZAKAYA (Japanese Pub) chain but fast-food restaurants also withdrew. As they did not remove their signboards, people who just pass by car could not  know their closings.  In another column of the Toyo Keizai magazine, they wrote : If people, who move to countryside from city, would be allowed to do side jobs, they will work in local companies or advise the companies in countryside being home in cities. If so, there would be positive effects from the viewpoints of vitalization of business activities of local companies and development of industries in countryside. If they can do so, it may be wonderful. But I think only the people, who live in cities, can say so. It will not be possible for the people, who move to countryside only one-hour ride on Shinkansen, to live like in Tokyo. Hence, it is not exaggerated. For example, after office hour and before returning to their homes, Tokyo people post a letter in postbox and go shopping in supermarket or convenient stores withdrawing some money from ATM. They may drop at drug stores. They act without any preparation every day.    However, here in countryside, each destination is remote. We need to take own car to faraway place as there is no public transportations available.  Car is only conveyance. When they move to countryside, they must open an account at a local bank to buy a car because there are few mega-banks in our prefecture and local banks are working for their existence. We can find local banks everywhere. I opened an account at a local bank out of necessity a few years ago and was obligatory to buy a car.       I like to simulate possible situation of migration, not transference, under the CORONA-19 pandemic. In case, people, who telecommute with Tokyo office, like to visit local office to contribute to local enterprises, must have a car and its time consuming. The office of local companies may not be necessarily near stations. Then, you might possibly feel right for the employee to have house nearby. When he has a meeting at Tokyo Office, he has to be dropped by his family member to the nearest railway station because taking a car self-driven could be expensive due to the troll tax and the parking fees.    Another situation, related to car, is a case of family with small children. In this case, there must be two vehicles in family one for children being dropped and pick up from school regularly and for others. There are traffic congestions every morning at rotary of the nearest station and we can see many students (including university students) in uniforms who are sent by their mothers. In the afternoon, we can see also middle and high-school students who go to jyuku (cram school). Can you imagine that mother, who works energetically in city is too busy dropping and picking up her children?To raise young children is another story. Parks are not adjoining resident areas.  Mothers must send their children to parks by car if they do not live near parks. It is characteristics of countryside areas. You can see one swing in parks in cities. Since there are no such parks in countryside, you cannot see children, who are brought by their mothers, are playing at small parks near their houses. You cannot see students of higher grade of elementary schools go to parks and play together, which is quite common in the parks in Tokyo.  There are no delivery services of perishable foods like Amazon Fresh or supermarkets which are common in cities. Only one delivery services in countryside is by cooperative. There were no Uber_Eats or “Demaekan” but now Uber_Eats has started their service since September.  If restaurants here, would close or withdraw, what shall we do?  In addition to restaurants, you can see a lot of vacant houses in this area. Last year, a high-rise condominium was completed in front of the station which Shinkansen stop. Due to extension of pedestrian deck which connect station and condominium, it was “SOLD OUT”.We saw, however, many vacant houses even after its completion. After the pandemic, I thought the number of occupiers (tenants) would increase due to the media which report about spread of “remote works” or “movement to countryside from cities”. I saw flyers in newspapers which introduce many types of this condominium saying that “condominium for investment” or “for speculative purposes”.  I can even see fliers now.    I have written about present situation of local area. For the people who have been living in local area for a long time, they know automobile societies well and will not be reluctant to move to local area. On TV, we can see pictures where a lot of people who moves to-and-fro in city center. But such pictures are different from real circumstances of local areas. I think people, who evaluate migration to local area, are living in city center. Of course, it will be the best to live in a big city like Tokyo. But we cannot say “it is invincible life” and there would be “pitfalls”.  Revitalization of local area is a big issue in Japan even if there was no coronavirus. My town is making strong efforts for PR activities for tourist and for special products. I think it is important and appealing to attract migration from big city to local area as much as possible possible, points like “livable area” or “no natural disasters”. At the same time, they should improve infrastructure so that migrants can accustom to a town life immediately, for example, increasing frequency of fixed route buses and better transportations.     SGRA Kawaraban 651 in Japanese (Original)  XIE_Zhihai /Associate Professor of Kyoai Gakuen University Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala 
  • XIE Zhihai “Now is the time for considering carbon-free society as environmental issues”

    One good thing about the COVID-19 is the sharp decrease of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emission due to static of the economy. However, as you may know, it will be temporal and not for long.We must work on for the global warming countermeasure together with sustainable economic growth. It is an energy policy. It is the shortest way of global warming countermeasure heading for “decarbonized society”, that we decrease consumption of coal and fuel oil and accelerate alternative renewal energies.  People agreed to “keep rise in average temperature of the whole earth lower than 2 degrees on the AC and keep 1.5 degrees lower comparing with the time of Industrial Revolution” in the Paris Agreement in 2015.Many countries are moving for the direction of “carbon-free”. “Carbon-free” starts from decreasing and stoppage of usage of coal. Discharge of CO2 at coal-fired power plant is double of LNG power station.The advanced nations have declared stoppage of coal-fired power generation. In case of U.K. they will stop by 2025, France by 2021 and Canada by 2030.  And those nations organized PPCA (Powering Past Coal Alliance) in 2016 and 33 nations and 29 Governments have already joined.  Then, what about Japan? There are 140 coal-fired power plants already. And Japanese company is building a huge coal-fired power plant, which will start operating from 2024, at Vung-ang, Vietnam. Among so-called “G7”, Japan is only nation which is building coal-fired power plants in overseas and is getting sever criticism from other membership countries of the Paris Agreement saying that Japan is not so positive in decarbonation, despite Japan is targeting to decrease greenhouse gas by 23% as compared to the year 2013, and, by the year 2030. Japan has received the disgrace “Fossil award” from “Climate Action Network (CAN)” at UN Climate Action Summit COP25 in December 2019. It was second award in a row.  Ministry of Environment, Mr. Koizumi pledged at COP25 that “we have committed ourselves already in decarbonization and we will fulfill it”.  After COP25 last December, Japanese policy for coal-fired power plant is changing. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced on July 3, 2020 that about a hundred of coal-fired power plants out of 140 plants, which are old type and volume of CO2 discharge is large, shall be stopped in operation and disposed by 2030. At the same time, Japan decided to make their export assistance condition of coal-fired power station stern.We can say this may be the first big step to “decarbonization”, but it is not complete stoppage of using carbon.  Why cannot Japan stop using carbon? There are two main reasons domestically and across. In domestic, almost all the nuclear power plants had to stop operating after “3.11” (Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011) and the number of coal-fired power station (running cost is lower) increased gradually without any debate. Japan cannot abolish coal fired power stations easily, because coal-fired electricity occupies 30% of total electricity in Japan. Developing countries in South East Asia, they are still developing coal-fired power stations. If Japan would stop involvement in such markets, China and/or India will definitely enter in  business.  And Japan may lose such broad market.    Beside such reasons mentioned above, re-recognition of renewable energy will be necessary to get out of so-called “coal addiction” as Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres pointed out,It has been told that cost of coal-fired electricity is cheap and cost of electricity by renewable energy is high. Such understandings, however, are not correct anymore. During these ten years since 2011, the cost by solar power generation has gone down by 80%.According to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewable energy cost by solar power and wind power will become lower than that of coal-fired electricity by 2030.  As for the overseas market, economic profit from export of renewable energy technology is higher than export of coal-fired power station plant itself. And it will be appreciated highly by international societies.  To attain the carbon-free societies, prevalence of renewable energy is essential. The government is targeting the share of renewal energy will rise to 22~24% by 2030 and coal-fired electricity will be decreased by only a few percent and upto 26%. This target figure should be reconsidered.For example, the Japan Association of Corporate Executives insists the share of renewable energy shall be 40% in 2030. The Renewable Energy Institute, established by SON Masayoshi after “3.11”, advocates the target figure shall be 45%. If the Japanese Government would aim seriously at situation where renewable electricity is main electricity, they should introduce renewable energy more brazenly.And if they can do it, “carbon-free society” is not far from materialization.   SGRA Kawaraban 649 in Japanese (Original)  XIE Zhihai / Associate Professor, Kyoai Gakuen International University    Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Jaeun YUN SGRA Café “Teachings of Countermeasures against Coronavirus and Japanese Model”

     Recently, Pew Research Center, American research firm, announced an interesting report. They asked 14 countries question、it was “Do you recognize pandemic of infectious diseases as a strong menace?” (research period: June – August) Which country do they understand it as “strong menace”?  South Korea was the first and the figure was 89%. Their answers were “Yes, it is a strong menace”.  The second was Japan and the figure was 88%. When we compare the differences between two countries, we can say that both countries feel “menace” equally. Whereas, the other countries, U.S.A. 78%, England 74% and Germany 55% (the lowest). Sweden, which took lax measures, scored 56%.  When we see the news by mass media and glaring correspondence against coronavirus by the Government in South Korea, we can easily understand their strong menace feelings. But it was unexpected that strong menace feeling in Japan was too high. Mass media reports about the coronavirus were restrained and correspondence by the central and local Government were lax in Japan.  It became distinct that the measures against coronavirus in Japan depend on the efforts by individuals who felt strong threat. Movement of people has decreased sharply and all the Japanese Railway companies fall into the biggest red despite of no compulsory measures. If there would be “Japanese model”, it will be a thoroughness of behavior modification by individuals. (I have a doubt for calling “Japanese model”, because it will be not easy to imitate.)  At SGRA café this time、 under the title “Japanese measures against the new coronavirus from international viewpoints”, I had a feeling of differences in the meaning between the reports from various countries and Japanese cases. Five countries (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India and the Philippines), except Vietnam, are democratic system countries and have tracking technique using systems for mobility limitation and personal information management. Violation of human rights is allowed partly for the purpose of “repressing spread of coronavirus”. Such limitation of movement which bring penalty paying, mandatory of face masks, limitation of business suspension have been introduced already in the countries in Europe and the America. We cannot deny the fact that failures in the past were effective as a kind of “social vaccinations” in South Korea and Taiwan and regulatory measures, as social consensus, were applied. In the Philippines which consist of many islands, and India which has big land and population, had to decide to apply strong limitation of movement.  Japan did not take a hard line. But there was no “pandemic” in Japan like Europe and America. Under the COVID-19, I am carefully watching the gathering of denialists against face masks for the coronavirus. (Anti-Government denialists at anti-lockdown demonstration) Participants of such gatherings are so-called “anti-intellectualism” and we can say that, it reflects the values which have been cherished in Europe and the America.   The tone of the considerable press in Japan about the infection control measures in Korea has been “totalitarianism”. I trust “Korea as a democratic country” and have been looking that if control measures constrained, there will be a backlash. It was the “anti-Governmental demonstration” on August 15. I thought it was quite foolish for the participants to demonstrate. But it was certified that Korea is a democratic country despite being different from the America and Europe.  When we think in this way, Japanese case was exceptional. There was no authoritarian control measures and people’s backlash was not so strong despite a public-opinion poll showed that more than half of people were dissatisfied with the measures taken by the Government. There was “No-mask Event (Shibuya Cluster Festival)”. But it was dilapidated if we compare with Korea, America and Europe. “Voluntary restriction of movement” under the words “self-restraint” was pursued and use of Shinkansen at Obon holidays decreased significantly. It was “Japanese characteristics” which is different from the America and Europe where personal freedom is emphasized, and different from South Korea and Taiwan where authoritarianism remains, and different from China and Vietnam under authoritarianism itself.  It may be possible to say that individual taken measures have led anti-coronavirus measures in Japan. So-called “self-restraint policeman”, which is interpreted negatively, may be a part of “Japanese model”.  We cannot overlook the case in Toshima Ward Office in Tokyo.  Staff member of Toshima Ward Office were arrested threatened eating house having changed to “self-restraint policeman”.  In other countries, the role of “self-restraint policeman” is performed by real policeman and we can see the particularity of Japan clearly there. (Of course, we cannot encourage self-restraint policeman because personal sanctions are not allowed by the penal law in Japan) We may be able to say KINDAICHI Kosuke (a detective) solve the case before policemen. (For your information, I am a fan of YOKOMIZO Masashi(novelist))    We must consider, however, the fact that Japanese lax regulations hindered economic recession. In the busy shopping districts in KUNITACHI city where I am living and our neighboring city TACHIKAWA, a lot of shops and restaurants were closed. A venerable stationery shop (established 81 years ago) and a steak house (established 30 years ago) closed. It will be difficult to pick up the economy without squelching a menace of the coronavirus to a certain degree.  Reports at SGRA café have made it clear that consistency of economy and epidemic preventions is not easy.  The lesson, which we learned from the war against the coronavirus during this half year, is that “it is quite difficult to have consistency in both economy and epidemic prevention”. That will not change until we find clear evidence of attenuation of the coronavirus or vaccine development. Most probably there will be no change next year in “repetition of control and expansion” as this year. Since our “wishful thinking” have been betrayed one after another, we must think in this way. It may be the most effective that we take measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus assuming the worst possible cases.  Photos of the Day  Questionnaire total result  Recording of the Day   SGRA Kawaraban 647 in Japanese (Original)  Jaeun_YUN / 2020 Raccoon,  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala