Thursday, November 17, 2005


Last night, Lyani and I were heading down the block for some お持ち帰り (omochi-kaeri: take-out) when what to our wondering eyes should appear but a man passed out on the street corner! The guy was sprawled on his stomach at full-length, and two chaps were standing there by his prone form. One of these chaps looked suspiciously like a certain friend of Lyani's from the IUC. We walked downstairs, and sure enough, it was Lyani's friend. He gave us the low-down.

"The guy just collapsed there," said he.
"Drunk?" I asked.
"Almost certainly," he answered.
"In our upscale neighbourhood?" I enquired sarcastically.
He chortled. "Yeah, he must have just gotten fired from his job as a high-powered stockbroker on the Japanese equivalent of Wall Street." (The drunk man was certainly not wearing a suit.)
"So is he alright?" Lyani, ever the humanist, inquires.
"Yeah, do you want us to send the keisatsu (po-po, 5-0, cops) up this way?" I asked.
"Um," said he, "actually, the guy seems to think he is alright just lying there, on the corner of the street."
"He was talking?" Lyani was amazed.
"Yeah, more like mumbling, but he is conscious."
I laughed and said, "OK, I guess we'll be on our way, then. Good night."

Just another day in the life of a resident of Kotobuki-cho.

I am a CatI just finished reading NATSUME Souseki's "I am a Cat" (Three Volumes in One) (夏目漱石著吾輩は猫である) a few days ago. It is absolutely hilarious, funnier even than "Botchan", about which I wrote in a previous blog entry. The only drawback is that I read all three volumes at once, something that I would actually not recommend. There is only so much one can take of intricate social commentary from the viewpoint of a cat; in fact, this is most likely why NATSUME killed off his feline hero at the end of Volume III, Chapter IV, despite the fact that the stories ("I am a Cat" was originally published as a serial in Hotoguisu (Cuckoo), the leading literary magazine of the late Meiji period). So by all means, read this book. Just do it a volume at a time!

Finally, several of you have asked me questions about foreigners in Japan recently. And I have given you answers which turned out to be less-than-accurate. So let me set the record straight!

This page has a wealth of data, current as of 2003. It turns out that there are just under two million registered foreigners (i.e. legal aliens, Englishmen in New York, etc.) living in Japan, comprising 1.5% of Japan's population (127 million people). The highest concentration of said gaijin is found in Tokyo, unsurprisingly. Of these foreigners, 74% are Asians (32% Koreans, 24% Chinese). South Americans weigh in next, at 18% (mostly Brazilians), and a goodly number of these are Nikkei, second-generation Japanese who have returned to Japan after their parents emigrated to South American following World War II. Now we get to Westerners, who make up just 7% of the total number of foreigners. Of this 7%, 3% are North Americans (2.5% US citizens) and 2.6% are non-Russian Europeans.

Of these non-Russian Europeans, a full 35% (of the 2.6% of the total foreign population) are Brits. 13% are French, 9.5% are German, about 5% are Italian, 5% Irish, 5% Spanish, 5% Beneluxian (Benelux is Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), and 5% Scandinavian. This leaves about 17% for others, meaning, in this case, mostly Eastern Europeans. Let us assume that one-fifth of this 17% are Bulgarian (a ridiculously high estimate). That would translate into roughly 1700 Bulgarians living in Japan, versus 48,000 Americans. This would mean that about 0.005% of Bulgaria's population of 7.5 million live in Japan, versus 0.01% of America's population of 300 million. So it is not possible that there are more Bulgarians, per-capita, in Japan than there are Americas, as I erroneously stated there might be.

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