Finnish design

This post is for Trish, Jani and Nikki.

I have discovered that Japan is a bit mad for the Moomins. A Moomin theme park will open in Tokyo in 2015 and there is Moomin merchandise in many stores. I have seen many Moomin books, cookies, sweets etc.

And while out for some retail therapy with P some weeks back – I found the perfect answer to my study blues … A Pikku My t-shirt just for me.

My in my pikku my shirt

My in my pikku My shirt

But Moomin is not the only Finnish influence we have noted in Japan. The wondrous and colourful designs of Marimekko have also found a home in Japan. On mobile phone covers, bags, key chains and numerous other places. I had not seen a Marimekko outlet, that is until this weekend. I was in Kagoshima (about two hours flight from Tokyo and one of the southern most points in the main island chain), when out to dinner in the main shopping precinct there it was – the first Marimekko I have seen in Japan. Sadly for me it was after closing time, so I was not able to indulge in any Marimekko design magic. But I still got someone to take my picture!

If only we had got there earlier

If only we had got there earlier

Oh and one final things, you know your great relaxing chair Trish. The wooden one with the fabric cushions (scandanavian/sweedish/danish design)? Well I have been tempted to buy one for us from the local homewares store. The chairs in the apartment are industrial to say the least. Comfort is not a factor they have considered in furnishing this place (nor is upkeep, actually). But only being here for 12 months stops me every time I get close. Maybe I will just have ot get myself one when I get back to Oz.

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Crunch time

Just thought I would let you know it is not all sushi and kimono spotting for me over here…

Tomorrow, I have 11 hours of classes and an exam. Anyone want to swap? Wish me luck.

[but there is good news, friends from Oz are in Tokyo this week, so there is a plan to catch up with them after my horrible Friday!]

Yoi otoshi o

In Japan, Christianity is not a dominant belief, and so Christmas is not recognised as a national holiday. For the Japanese people, Oshogatsu- the celebration of the New Year – is the significant event at this time.

So while Tokyo is dressed in its finest lights, and the stores are all full of sales, and the most beautifully wrapped gifts – it is not majorityivly motivated by Christmas, but by preparations for the upcoming New Year.

The area where we live is a playground for Tokyites – it has several big shopping centres, with outlet stores that are not found elsewhere in Tokyo, and a wide range of eating options ranging from food courts to themed restaurants and even a museum dedicated to a Japanese delicacy the Takoyaki. Over the last five weekends there has been a fireworks display every Saturday night – each time a different light display running for about 10minutes. All this, and not even for a single special event – just a taste of the celebratory atmosphere here in Tokyo in the final lead up to the new year.

A truly rainbow bridge

A truly rainbow bridge

Firework Christmas tree?

Firework Christmas tree?

Sparkley patterns

Sparkley patterns

So pretty

So pretty – it almost makes winter worth it. Almost!

A key event for the Japanese people is Hatsumode – the first visit to the Shrine of the new year. But the lead up to the new year is a busy time, as is the lead up to Christmas in many other countries, with many parties and events to end the current year and put its activities behind us, and preparations for the coming year. It is also a big time for families to gather, something that is familiar for me from my own country.

As part of the separation between the ending year and the coming new year, the Japanese also have two sayings to wish others well at this time:-
Yoi otoshi o – is used in December, to wish others a good new year, and
Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu – is used in January, to wish others a happy new year.

Now that i have explained this,
Yoi otoshi o to all my friends and readers.

Yoi Otoshi o from us in Tokyo

Yoi otoshi o from us in Tokyo

Winter break part IV

Those of you who have been reading the blog (and its comments) closely will know by now our destination. But I know that many of you have far better things to do with your time than spend time reading my blog, so for you the mystery might still continue …

So here is the next clue, and it’s a double one.

Former Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Yatoyama resigned in 2010 following the failure to deliver an a key policy for the Japanese people who live in our destination.

Next update on the winter break, I’ll just tell you all where we are going…..but who knows when I’ll get around to that!

Smiles from an increasingly chilly Tokyo.

Winter-break part II

The plan is coming together.
Our household now has a Japanese driving licence … neither of us thought to get an international licence before we came, so thank goodness for good arrangements between our countries.

Licenced up

Licenced up

Planning a winter-break

As many of you know, I don’t usually last a whole winter without breaking free for some sunshine and swimming. So you can imagine the trepidation I have as I approach my second winter in a row. But I have a plan, well …. a plan in the making, to follow my own wisdom and make a break for some warmth during winter. Stay tuned for further details as they emerge.

Research topic

The time has come for me to think seriously about the topic and specific question for my independent research project.

I thought about this only a little bit – certainly not enough – before I left Oz, and now things are quickly coming to the crunch time. I have two main areas that I am interested in researching … so I thought I’d run them past the blog-o-shpere. This might sound crazy, but it is a way to guage your views, and at the same its a kind of way that I can take a ‘toss-of-the-coin’ look at the ideas to see if I get a better sense of my own reaction to them.

So here are the ideas:

1. Consider the role of parental leave policies on labourforce participation in Australia.
The idea would be to either;
a) focus on the period since the introduction of the ALP’s paid maternity leave scheme to if there was an effect, or
b) to consider the difference in participation rates between employers with (ie. public sector and big corporates) and without (small business) paid maternity leave policies
I would ideally like to look at the comparison across the OECD to look at the relative influence of various policy instruments, but the feedback that I have on this approach is that much of this type of comparative analysis across the OECD has been done to death.

1a. A variant on this would be to look at the influence of parental leave provisions on the gender differential in lifetime earnings. Again either foe Aus only or for OECD (if it has not been done to death).

2. Review the structures of international institutions to consider the role that structure plays in determining the effectiveness of the institution, and to assess whether these structures remain appropriate given the shifting  balance of global power from west to east.

The idea here is that some international institutions have been very effective in delivering outcomes for global problems, while others appear to deliver little in the way of solutions. The purpose would be to consider if there are institutional design features that can help to explain the effectiveness of institutions, and to think about whether the design of these institutions is appropriate (i.e gives adequate representation/say to the emerging nations) as the balance of power alters from the 20th to 21st century.

At this stage, these ideas are mostly just the ramblings of someone on the search for inspiration. The research is not going to be the essence of my life’s work from here on, but I would like it to be interesting enough to keep me motivated and inspired for the coming 12 months. And I will have to turn these ideas from ramblings to research proposal over the next 3 weeks to meet the deadline set by the university. So if you have views on these topics, or even other inspirational ideas for my research then I’d love to hear about them.

Transport for three

Check this out for an amazingly innovative use of technology and space. I just love these bike carriers …

131019 Field trip 054

You can see them all around town. Adults (no prizes for guessing, it is usually women in this society) with two kids on their bike – the bigger kid on the back and the younger one on the front (even some really little kids too) – it all seems very convenient, although requires some great balance by the adult.

131019 Field trip 055

And so great for the kids to be able to see what is going on around them. The kids also have these really cute little helmets with cartoon characters on them.

Super cute.

131019 Field trip 056

Ticket to fly

Good news today – P’s visa is finalised.

He is back in possession of his passport and has a ticket to Tokyo booked.

Only a few more sleeps, and I’ll have an adventuring partner (and a housekeeper!).

Behind the Fluro in Tokyo’s suburbs

When I get asked how I am finding Tokyo, I can’t help but to respond that I feel that I am still in a bubble. As I have said before, both my apartment and the university are located in international areas of Tokyo so, even a month in, I often feel that I have very little sense of the ‘real’ Tokyo. I don’t mean that I am expecting Tokyo to be one homogenous place – like something from a movie set, but I guess I feel that what I see on most days has heavily foreign influence.

So when I have managed to escape the commuting route to see other parts of Tokyo, I have been conscious of trying to wander around away from the big streets and fluro signs, and just explore.

It seems that when you walk only a few steps from the main streets and the big train stations, there is another ‘secret’ side to Tokyo.

Here are snaps from one of my wanders, when I happened to take the camera with me.

footpath gardens

footpath gardening

washing day

how about these powerlines?

such tiny space between houses