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Today's Contents:

1. The first bits: Cherry Blossom, Okazaki FM, new bar.
2. Course information.
3. Student Interview: Hugo Britos (Spain work-study)   
4. Japan Culture: Yakuza.
5. About The Yamasa Institute for Japanese Studies
6. Subscription Information

1. The first bits.

(a) Cherry Blossom, Okazaki FM, new bar:

FM Okazaki

It's that time of year again when the weather begins to get warmer, the 'Sakura' is in full bloom and many people go to the Otogawa river near Okazaki Castle to enjoy the scenery and and have a drink under one of the hundreds of trees that turns the river side into a beautiful pinky white colour. Unfortunately I will miss all the festivities as I'm too busy keeping up with all the questions to make it out of the office.......

The facilities at Yamasa continue to improve as we welcome the completion of the new radio studio in Aoi Hall and the arrival of FM Okazaki (more on that next week). Also starting this week is the long awaited renovation of the old Hattori Industries bath-house adjoining Sakura House, next to Aoi Hall. What???? Yes the bath-house is going to be renovated into a bar. The name of the new bar is as yet undecided - but the current project name is (unfortunately?) "Ofuro baa" (bath bar). I hope someone thinks of a name soon... maybe we should run a competition.

So what is this project all about?

As part of their degree course, local students studying architecture at the Aichi Sangyo University in Professor Yamada's seminar have submitted designs for the building. The winning design will be built on the site of the old bath-house and the students will then supervise the ongoing renovation themselves. Yamada sensei's seminar often meets in the "Infogallery" - a non-profit collaboration between Yamasa, the Foundation, Aichi Sangyo University and other local groups.

Demolition work on the old concrete baths has been completed, and renovations will start in May. A new on-campus bar should be up and running this September. Yamada sensei is apparently a fan of American style sports bars (he completed his PhD at Columbia in NYC), but of course we won't know the winning design for a few weeks.

Bath house renovation

Yamada sensei also assures us that it will be "gaijin friendly" ie with a counter high enough to sit at. I'm hoping for cider on tap and a subscription to Sky Sports (I miss watching Tottenham Hotspur...) but I wouldn't bet my money on it. Declan is hoping for Guinness on tap, long opening hours (which means he might not let me out of here before midnight - aargghhh!) and appears to be worried that the counter and tables might not be thick enough to support drunken dancing on tables. Each to their own I guess...
In the meantime I'll have to be satisfied with a six pack of `Brau' from Lawson and a park bench............

Congratulations: Congratulations are in order for former long-term Yamasa student Massimo Chigotti who got married to his Japanese girlfriend Saori last month in Italy. We wish him all the best. With a 'bambino' on the way at the end of September he's going to be a busy man.

(b) Jobs:

Recruitment ongoing for the following positions:

see http://www.yamasa.org/acjs/network/english/careers.html for details and other vacancies, and contact careers@yamasa.org if you are interested in applying. Most are connected with web publishing and translation. Study Japanese for free in exchange for part-time work in the International Office. These are ongoing positions - we need people all year round, so please contact us if you are interested in positions later in the year as well.

(c) Other bits:

Admissions Coordinator
The Yamasa Institute Aichi Center for Japanese Studies
1-2-1 Hanehigashimachi
Aichi Japan 444-0832

Tel: +81 (0) 564 55 8111
Fax:  +81 (0) 564 55 8174 (admissions)
Fax: +81 (0) 564 55 8113 (student affairs)
Email: admissions@yamasa.org
Email: newsletter@yamasa.org
URL: http://www.yamasa.org/acjs/
URL: http://www.yamasa.org/acjs/network/

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 2. Course Information


From May: Villa 1 full. Small number of rooms available in Villa 2,3,4.  Residence U is full but K has rooms available. From June, both U and K have rooms available. Space in Villa 2, 3&4. Student Village - shared & single (male) rooms available but no single female rooms. There are usually some last-minute changes, so check with admissions@yamasa.org for information or see the availability file for details.

Long-term Courses:

Student Visa: Applications for April 2001: The Immigration Office awarded the Student Visas on March 1st. As usual, all applications were approved. Applications for October 2001: nineteen already received. The deadline for applications is June 20th, quota is 55 places - 36 to go. If you want to apply for this start-date please complete an application form online (see program catalog for details: http://www.yamasa.org/acjs/english/programs/apply.html) or contact Admissions for information.

Short-term courses:

Discovery tour starting on June 29st - itinerary at: http://www.yamasa.org/acjs/english/programs/discovery_tour20010629.html Contact Admissions for details. There are still a few places available - join a very small private tour of all the best parts of Japan. Includes Kyoto, Seto, Atsuta Jingu, Nara, , Arimatsu Shibori museum, Isui-en garden, Ago Bay, Handa and Okage Yokocho, Uji, Byoudou-in Temple, Futamigaura, Goza Beach and many other locations.

Other Discovery Tours all have vacancies - contact Admissions for further information.

All SILAC programs have space but accommodation is limited. Contact admissions@yamasa.org as soon as possible for information.

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3. STUDENT INTERVIEW: Hugo Britos (Spain - SILAC/Work Study)

Hugo Britos

Jon: Ima ii desu ka?
Hugo: Hai, ii desu yo.

J: Supeingo hanasenainode nihongo ka eigo dochira ga ii desu ka?
H: Eigo ho ga ii desu. Nan de?

J: Is it ok if I interview you for the newsletter?
H: Sure, no problem...........Now?
J: Yes, if it's not interfering with what your doing.. Good, first off, can you tell me how you became involved in the workstudy program?
H: A friend of mine who was going to teach Spanish in Tokyo was looking for a short course to study Japanese and came across Yamasa's homepage. He saw that there were work study opportunities available and told me about them. I applied for one and got it.

J: So what exactly do you do?.
H: I translate the homepage from English into Spanish. I try to accommodate both European Spanish and Southern American Spanish when I'm translating so all Spanish speakers can understand what the homepage says.
J: Apart from the workstudy opportunity why did you come to Japan?
H: At University I studied English but took Japanese as one of my options so my interest grew from there.

J: What was your level Japanese like before you arrived in Japan?
H: I learnt a lot of grammar and kanji at University but there wasn't much conversation so I didn't get the opportunity to practice what I learned.

J: How has the course been so far?
H: Great! I really like the teachers and there hasn't been more than two students in my class since I arrived so I get a lot of opportunity to speak and practice. There was a Korean guy in the class for a few weeks; he was a good laugh.

J: How about outside of class, what do you think of Okazaki?
H: I went to Tokyo 3 years ago and I was shocked by the prices, Okazaki is not as expensive as I thought it would be. But it is a bit suburban for my tastes though, I prefer the bright lights and big city.

J: I understand exactly what you mean............(mind begins to wander to another time, another place).
H: Is that the end?
J: No, sorry, I got distracted for a moment. After you finish at Yamasa what are your plans?
H: I have to go back to Spain to finish my last year of University and from June I will be working for Iberia, the Spanish airline company. I'd like to come back to Japan, but I don't think my Japanese is quite good enough for the workplace yet.

J: What is it like working within spitting distance of the Director of the International Office.
H: I expected the job to be much tougher and the Director to be a ******* but it was a nice surpise to find that it was very relaxed in the office. There is one thing; I would like a desktop instead of a laptop because I hate laptops!!

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4. Things Japanese: Yakuza

Yakuza. The mere mention of the word, for many, conjures up images of tattoo clad gangsters with permed hair and fingers missing taking part in various criminal activities. But is this really true or are they infact just a misunderstood, misrepresented group of people who play an important role in Japanese society?

The word yakuza comes from the Japanese version of the popular card game, Black Jack - known as 'Oicho Kabu' in Japanese. The idea of the game is to reach 19 (as opposed to 21 in Black Jack) and anything above this number is worthless. 8-9-3 or(ya-ku-za) was used to describe 20. 8-9-3 (ya-ku-za) totals 20 and that is where the word originally came from and was used to describe people seen as worthless.

It was first used in the early 17th Century to describe men known as 'kabuki mono', or 'crazy ones'. These men earned a reputation for their odd style of clothing, strange haircut and bad behaviour. During the Shogun period these people, also known as Ronin (masterless samurai) travelled around Japan in small groups, robbing and pillaging small villages and towns.

Another group that emerged at about the same time were the Machi-Yakko (city servant) who were made up of shopowners, traders and ronin, defended their village, or town, from the marauding Kabuki-Mono.They were popular among the people of Japan at the time for their acts and it is this group of people that many latter day Yakuza regard as their true 'ancestors'. Many modern day Yakuza would like to preceived as the peoples helper and saviour, just as the Machi-Yakko were, 200 years ago.

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century, Japan underwent great industrial and social change and the Yakuza were not slow in adapting to, and exploiting these changes. They began recruiting heavily within the shipping and construction industry and also began to co-operate with authorities in return for more favourable treatment from police. The number of Yakuza members continued to rise steadily up until Japan's involvement in WWII. During the American occupation of Japan after WWII food was rationed and this led to a flourishing black market in a variety of goods and the emergence of a new kind of Yakuza (gurentai - or street hustler). The Yakuza began to take many of their cues from the Italian Mafia that was operating in America at the time and would dress in dark suits, withshoes and shortAcropped hair.

Between 1958-1963 the number of Yakuza members rose to a record 180,000 people, in approximately 5,000 gangs throughout Japan. This increase in gangs also led to an increase in violence as the gangs began to mark out their territories. From this high of 180,000 members in the early 1960's numbers have continued to decline. In 1988 the National Police Agency estimated that there were 3,400 organized crime groups operating with roughly 100,000 members (this compares to an estimated 30,000 members of organized crime in the US).

More recently the Yakuza has begun to branch into legitimate society through businesses that are easily accessable for them, such as finance, real estate and investment banking. There is even concern that the Yakuza is developing the kind of financial power that could threaten the whole economy. In 1992 steps were taken to reduce the Yakuza's increasing politcal and financial influence by passing the Act for the Prevention of Unlawful Activities by Boryokudan (Yakuza or criminal gang) Members in 1992. So incensed by this new law, wives and daughters of Yakuza members marched through Ginza in Tokyo in protest.

The new law has appeared to make little inroads into the perceived problem and the Yakuza are still ever present in Japanese society. An example of this was shown in 1995 when a large earthquake hit Japan. The city of Kobe, home to Japan's largest Yakuza organization the 'Yamaguchi-gumi', was hit the hardest and in the immediate aftermarth, with local authorities slow to respond to the devastation the local Yakuza provided food and clothing for thousands of people in need. This was not only an embarrassment for the local authorities but also a PR coup for the Yakuza.

Before I came to Japan the word 'Yakuza', for me, meant - gangster, a member of the Japanese Mafia who was indistinguishable in his criminal activities from his Russian, Italian or American counterparts. Many people think the same and regard the Yakuza as a detriment to Japanese society. But the longer I am in Japan, I begin to understand that the Yakuza perform a type of social service on the streets of Japan. It is often in the Japanese nature to shy away from conflict and to not go through legal measures in order to settle a dispute or when they have difficulties. In these cases they may seek help from the local Yakuza as opposed to the police. The situation may be solved in a crude or brutal manner but is often quicker and more effective than conventional means. This goes some way to perhaps explaining why Japan's crime rate is so low. Another argument is that the Yakuza are simply gangsters who have perfected the art of exploiting the Japanese tendancy to utilize personal relations, rather than legal methods so resolve disputes.

Membership: There are no specific requirements in order to become a member although individual gangs may have their own rules. Yakuza members can come from youths abandoned by their parents, people who haven't managed to, or are unwilling to, fit into the high pressure, rigid education system and refugees from other countries close to Japan.

Tattoos: Tattoos are seen as a symbol of Yakuza membership and are still frowned upon by many people in Japan. People with tattoos who try to go to onsens (hot springs), swimming pools and other public bathing facilities may not be allowed to enter, or may be required to cover up the offending tattoo and this can apply to foreigners not just Japanese, such is the stigma attached to tattoos. Normally, Yakuza members will sport a group or clan symbol. It is said that the reason Yakuza had tattoos was because the Bakuto (gamblers) would tattoo a black ring around their arm each time they committed a crime. Later, it came to signify the unwillingness to comply to the rules and norms of society.

Yubitsume: This is when you cut off one of your fingers and send it to the 'Kamicho' (boss) as an apology for disobedience, or to spare one of your 'children'. The first time it happens, the tip of the smallest finger is cut off, and then to the next finger and so on. This practice is said to originate from when the Bakuto. When a gambler couldn't pay back a debt, the tip of his little finger was cut off and this made it difficult for the person to hold a sword in the future.

Books on Yakuza: If you want to find out more about the Yakuza then have a look at the following books:

Yakuza Diary : Doing Time in the Japanese Underworld by Christopher Seymour.

Yakuza : The Explosive Account of Japan's Criminal Underworld by David E Kaplan, Alec Dubro.

The Photography : Yakuza, Portraits of Japanese Gangs by Michael Soejima.

The Tattooed Men : An American Woman Reports on the Japanese Criminal Underworld by Florence Rome.

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The Yamasa Institute is committed to providing high-quality education in the Japanese language.  We are a non-profit organization, a part of the Hattori Group.  We are accredited by Association for the Promotion of Japanese Language Education - APJLE, accreditation number B302 - and "the only Institute in the Mikawa region with the appropriate programs, systems, curriculum and facilities required for quality Japanese language education" according to the Ministry of Justice. Further, in recognition of the excellent quality of our programs, we are in the top tier of 'Appropriately Authorized Japanese Language Education Institutes' - in fact, the only school in the Mikawa area with this prestigious recommendation.  For full details see the accreditation section on the homepage at http://www.yamasa.org/acjs/english/accreditation1.html

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C O M M U N I T Y   M E M B E R S

Hattori Foundation (est.1919) - The Yamasa Institute
1-2-1 Hanehigashi-machi, Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, JAPAN 444-0832
Tel: +81 (0)564 55 8111 Fax: +81 (0)564 55 8113 Email: Inquiries

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