Shiiba Village Japan

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Adventures in Shiiba - October 1995
Erik Kassebaum

Cafes and the Art of Conversation

One of the things that I miss about life in California is being able to go to Cafes after work to meet with friends, read, write in my journal and listen to jazz. During the last five years there has been an incredible growth in the number of cafes in America. There are many reasons why such has taken place but one of the biggest has to do with people trying to rediscover the art of conversation.

It's one thing to get drunk and to talk, but it's quite another to have a good cup of coffee or tea and to have an interesting conversation with someone. Alcohol may make a conversation easier to start, but it does nothing to improve the quality of the conversation. Some of my friends here in Shiiba have mentioned that it would be nice to have a cafe which was open as late as the "Snacks" are so as to provide people with another entertainment alternative.

Three Funny Ways to Avoid Running in an Undokai

  1. Arrange to be in a different country (expensive, and requires much planning)
  2. Create a Typhoon (Very dangerous and not for beginners)
  3. Amateur Cameraman (requires at least two cameras -- and if you are under the age of 40 you will also need a video camera)

To the teachers, staff and students of Shiiba and Matsuo Junior Highs Schools - congratulations. The undokais for both of the schools were excellent.

Obaachans and Politics?

Before I came to Japan I read quite a few books on Japanese corporate culture and the Japanese educational system. Nowhere did I find any mention of "obaachans." After two years in Japan I have come to think of Obaachans as being much more than the cute little old ladies which seem to be everywhere.

Most of the Obaachans that I have seen and met, though cute are tougher than most Sumo Wrestlers and are more skilled at managing human relations than most company presidents that I have read about.

I think the "obaachan factor" will become politically significant in the years to come for the number of women who are working outside of the home is increasing and the population of Japan is getting older. In the future obaachan's will be much more of a political force than they are now. How different do you think Japan will be in 10-20 years?

Note: Obaachan is a cute way of saying that a women is (old enough to be) a grandmother.