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The way to crush the middle class is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation. – Vladimir Lenin

Archive for the ‘Naoko Fujimoto’ Category

Christmas on the Other Side of the World

Posted by iusbvision on December 17, 2007

Santa Claus, reindeer, fir trees, illuminations…Christmas is coming! You may wonder what gifts you are going to give to your family. For your sister’s baby, you may give an Elmo with Pizza toy; for your brother you may give a Nintendo DS if you have a big enough budget; and for your mother, you may buy a cake plate set because they were at a great price in an after Thanksgiving sale. On the Christmas holiday, most American people have a wonderful dinner, exchange gifts, and stay together with their family.

Unlike American people, Christmas in Japan is not family oriented. Most young Japanese people do not celebrate Christmas with their families when they go to high school. Children in elementary and junior high schools are, of course, looking for Santa Claus. Their biggest concern is how Santa Claus will get inside their Japanese style homes. Because most Japanese people live in apartments, they do not have chimneys.

So their parents make the excuse that “I gave a house key to Santa Claus,” “I will open the windows when I go to bed,” or “Santa Claus does not need the chimney because he is magical.” Before Christmas, the parents need to answer all kinds of questions about Santa Claus such as “Yes, Sweetie, Santa Claus parks his reindeers on the street or the rooftop. He is not going to get a parking ticket. I told you that he does not need the chimney on the rooftop!”

Most Japanese children know that Santa Claus is from the Western culture, so some children believe that he comes at dawn after that he delivers all of the presents in Western countries. However, it does not make sense because of the time zone; Santa Claus should travel to England and the rest of Europe, the Middle East, Russia, China, Japan, the Pacific Ocean countries, and then America. If Santa Claus does not mind different religions but works for children’s happiness, there are more than 2 billion children in the world, so Santa Claus makes more than 822.6 visits per second in 31 hours.

Some Japanese college students and office workers celebrate Christmas with their boyfriends and girlfriends. The boyfriends make reservations at restaurants on the top floor of skyscrapers or restaurants in a trendy spot. It is beautiful to have dinner looking down at the night view in the cities, but the average cost of the restaurant is about $300 for a couple. The couple may exchange their gifts at the restaurant. Even though they are not going to marry, some boyfriends give rings to their girlfriends. The girlfriends may give a scarf, perfume, or wish tickets, which are more reasonable than the rings. Japanese men need a large budget for Christmas. While they are dating around Christmas, they may not think anything about their families.

However, New Year’s is the most important holiday in Japan. Most people celebrate the holidays with their families having a nice dinner and wonderful gifts. Japanese New Year’s dishes have different meaning and some dishes are unique in each city. It is similar to the symbols of Thanksgiving such as turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc which have different meanings from the pioneer and colonial periods. For example, people from different cities have local styles of Ozouni, which is rice cake in a soup. Tokyo’s Ozouni is based on soy-sauce; however, some people use miso in Nagoya; in addition, some cities by the ocean use seafood for the base. Therefore, each Ozouni has different colors of soup.
With those different styles of celebrations, people celebrate the holiday season with family and someone special. No matter where people come from, they exchange gifts and people love spending time with their family. They will smile at each other and have the happiest moments in a warm, cozy house. In closing, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Naoko Fujimoto

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Posted in Naoko Fujimoto, Volume 4, Issue 7 | Leave a Comment »

Myanmar: A Country Which Has Many Names

Posted by iusbvision on October 22, 2007

On September 24, Buddhists monks lead a demonstration march with an estimated 100,000 people through Burma’s former capital. They protested the high price of oil—in last two years, their government raised it  more than nine times and the government has recently increased prices by 500%.

The monks and citizens in Myanmar have been perplexed by the gasoline prices; they decided to march against their government, the Junta, which has been in power for 19 years. According to CNN News, more than 200 people have died and the death toll is expected to increase; however, each media reports a different number of deaths.  Numerous others have been arrested by the government.

In addition, many international journalists and activists have had difficulties reporting on the political situation.  A Japanese journalist, Kenji Nagai (50), was shot when he reported on the march. His documents, including some notes and memory cards of his digital cameras, were completely erased when his relics came back to Japan.  

He entered Myanmar with a sightseeing visa. According to the official report from the government in Myanmar, he should not have been reporting and that he joined in the protest march.   

Immediately after Nagai’s death, parts of his visual reports and documents were made available through the internet by other journalists. However, the government shut down all internet access in the country. The government dislikes free internet access, activists such as the daughter of General Aung San (a Nobel Peace Prize winner), and international journalists.

Behind this political situation, there is a complex history. Even the country’s name is complicated. Historically, Myanmar or Myanma is the name of the country. When the British first arrived, they heard Bamar which became Burma. The Bamar is the main ethnic group with 134 groups, including the Junta. The ruling military Junta changed its name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989. One year later, thousands of people were killed in the suppression of an uprising. 

In 1947, General Aung San, who had agreed to honor the agreement between the states in Myanmar, was murdered, and a year later the British departed. The new government did not honor the agreements; therefore, the disagreements between the main ethnic groups of 134 continuously caused many civil wars. Most groups wanted independence for political reasons.  

With all those political conflicts, such as disagreement with oil prices, the monks and Buddhism are very important cultural icons in Myanmar. The citizens mostly support the monks and they are diligent in learning Buddhism. Citizens provide the monks with food, money, and even their doctor appointments as a symbiotic relationship.  Therefore, if one person strikes at the monks, the person strikes at the spiritual heart of the country, and striking at a monastery, effectively strikes at a village.  

Some of the citizens are escaping from Myanmar and working in neighboring countries such as Thailand. Most of them have not received an official educational degree, so they work in factories and restaurants. Some of them become housekeepers like servants. Their payment is extremely low; for example, a Thai worker would be paid double for the same work. 

According to The Age, more than 1 million Burmese are living in Thailand and most of whom do not have identity papers. When the government finds them, they are repatriated to Myanmar. In any of the surrounding countries, the citizens live with police harassment. Moreover, if they use the term Burma and are overheard by the wrong people, it is considered  a political act worth 3 years in jail.    

The Junta has a practice of “Not just taking the tree, but taking the seed too,” which means that if one person commits a political act, their whole family, extended family and friends are targeted for punishment and imprisonment. Therefore, many people hesitate to be active in changing this situation.

The citizens still live under unstable situations and will have sleepless nights until they can safely walk on the street and freely speak upon what they think.

References:

Asahi News  http://www.asahi.com/english

BBC News  http://news.bbc.co.uk

CNN News  http://cnn.com

Irrawaddy.org  http://irrawaddy.org

The Age http://www.theage.com.au

Naoko Fujimoto

Posted in Naoko Fujimoto, Volume 4, Issue 5 | Leave a Comment »

Globalization: An American Import

Posted by iusbvision on October 9, 2007

After taking a shower on a given morning, you may wear an Indian cotton shirt, and then you have to answer your Korean cellular phone as your friends call from  Mexico on their vacation.     

While you wait for water to boil in a Chinese pot, you eat some Chilean grapes. After you drink your Italian cappuccino, you drive in a Japanese car to IUSB. In your Taiwanese backpack, international business textbooks and Thai notebooks and perhaps, an American pencil, are inside.      

Globalization is everywhere, South Bend included. For example, the Meijer on Grape Road has become one of the icons of globalization. You may be surprised how much of the merchandise in American supermarkets is originally from foreign countries. The foreign food section is growing every season, and now they have a whole section for Asian, European, and Mexican food. They have a nice collection of sweets, seasonings, staples, and some instant foods from Germany, Japan, Thailand and many other countries. Moreover, some local people buy foreign food from the Saigon Market downtown and the Oriental Market on Grape Road. There are many other international supermarkets around South Bend.    

However, it may be passive-globalization if people only buy foreign products and enjoy tasting foreign food. They may feel they are having a cosmopolitan outlook when they consume foreign products, but they are just consumers in the global business. On the other hand, active-globalization occurs when people become more creative with their own interests by adapting new ideas from the world.    

World famous designers, like Thakoon Panichgul, adapt foreign traditional arts into their collections. In the fashion industry, it has become very popular to study and adapt foreign skills. For example, he has adapted Shibori, a traditional Japanese folded and dyed fabric printing technique, into his sportswear for the next spring collection. He found new abilities of mixing Western and Asian cultures with his endless imagination and vitality, thereby creating new fashions.       

On the IUSB campus, some professors teach how important it is to be active in those global situations like Thakoon Panichgul does. In economics, sociology, and even English classes, those professors require students to interview international students about their cultures and influences from America. Through the interviews, the students build up their international communication skills and find new inspiration from learning different cultures. The professors believe that their students will have a chance to be the next entrepreneurs in working with people from all over the world.         

Moreover, every Wednesday at three o’clock at the Jordan International Center, which is located on the Hildreth Street, there is an international meeting open for all students. At this meeting, participants talk about different cultures, religions, and everything in between; in addition, there are many other international events sponsored by Latino and Chinese Student Unions and the International Office.      

The students may find new inspiration through those international experiences on campus and become more successful in global situations. However, in an ordinary life, people always receive inspiration when they communicate with other people, no matter where they are from. Perhaps, the most important fact is that communication will allow people to create great things in the world.   

Naoko Fujimoto 

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Toilet Tolerance: Asian and Western Styles

Posted by iusbvision on September 12, 2007

“Oh the bathroom! I wish it was the exact same as the Asian style!” screams one student from Japan.  A student from Taiwan adds, “It is a kind of embarrassing to use American bathrooms” and another student from Thailand says, “American bathrooms have no privacy!”  Some Asian students on campus complain about distinct differences between Western and Asian style restrooms. 

Visualize the restrooms at IUSB. When someone is in a bright red stall at Wiekamp, you can see the person’s legs, which means the door has a space to show somebody is in it. The space would be helpful for security reasons, etc; however, the door is one of the reasons Asian students feel uncomfortable. 

Most Asian bathrooms have full cover doors, which means that you cannot see inside and need to knock on the door to make sure nobody is in it. You may think that it is not good for security but there are emergency call buttons in most restrooms and stalls. If you are in a stall and a person knocks your door, you simply say, “Somebody is in here!”

Asian bathrooms promise a very nice private room with a music box, called Oto Hime. A Japanese bathroom company, To To Toilet, exploit noise problems and relaxation in the stalls. Some people are embarrassed when they make bathroom noises; therefore, they flush twice—before and after—using bathroom. The company produces the music boxes, which make the sound of running water, classical music, etc so when those sensitive people, when using the bathroom just push a button to reduce the noise. 

Moreover, some music boxes have emergency call buttons just in case something happens in the stall. These music boxes are popular in all kinds of public restrooms, even schools in some Asian countries, especially Japan. The music boxes decrease wasting water and promise users relaxation and a safe environment while in the restroom.  

In addition, one reason for the full cover doors are differences between Western and Asian style toilet seats. Western toilets are like chairs; however, some Asian toilets are not like the chair style. Users stride over a toilet and squat, so they need to hide themselves with the full cover doors. To keep those traditional Asian toilets clean, there is a sweeper in each public restroom, so in some Asian countries people tip the sweepers one to two cents after using.

However, if IUSB wants to adapt for those minority opinions—it may be difficult to exchange all doors for Asian students but they may be able to adopt the music box idea since people in the stall can feel more relaxed and safe— IUSB needs to budget about two hundreds dollars for each music box.  So if IUSB were to add this idea for the library, it would need at least fifteen music boxes. (Hopefully they could find some discounts for educational industries.)    

The most important thing is that bathrooms should be clean and safe. Some bathrooms at IUSB, especially some restrooms in Northside, may not be perfectly safe since not many people are around. If restrooms have enough toilet paper, soap, paper towels, sanitary maintenances, and security, the bathroom should be perfect. Flush away any cultural differences if you find the perfect restroom for you.   

Naoko Fujimoto

Posted in Naoko Fujimoto, Volume 4, Issue 2 | 8 Comments »

Getting Along with ALIENS

Posted by iusbvision on August 27, 2007

When the new semester starts and you may be excited to meet new friends—maybe you will meet future girlfriends or future husbands this semester. Relationship opportunities are everywhere, so you start looking around on campus. Girls are pretty in their boots, boys are nice in their shirts with ketchup stains, and foreign students are wandering on the campus.   

Suddenly you realize that there are so many international students—African, Asian, European, and South American—especially after a certain amount of time when the library and Student Activity Center become virtual immigration offices—maybe you even feel that you are an isolated minority in those places.  

For summer semesters, international students (more than 80 students from over 25 countries) study at Indiana University South Bend. However, you may want to know why they study in South Bend—a small, quiet city in the middle of America—Why not somewhere else, perhaps Notre Dame or other universities in the Californian weather?    

There are a couple reasons why many international students come to study at this IU branch and stay in South Bend. One of the more popular reasons is deals with their financial issues. Most students have a limited budget because of expensive non-residence tuition and other living costs.  

For international students, it is reasonable to stay in South Bend. For example, student housing like a dorm at IUSB costs about four hundred dollars per month including all utilities. It may be a little expensive compared to local apartments in South Bend; however, some dorms in other state universities may cost more than six hundred dollars per month. Moreover, as do domestic students, they have other living expenses, so it is obviously quite reasonable to stay in South Bend.   

Many international students are drawn to the renowned programs at IUSB such as the Toradze Piano Studio and the other excellent music programs. Future world famous musicians study at IUSB and they usually perform in New York City, Rome, and the other beautiful cities around the world. However, there are always free concerts for students, performed by our most talented musicians almost every weekend on the IUSB campus. Those schedules are available at the Box Office in Northside.

Moreover, extremely talented students participate in MBA programs, and become computer and science majors. They study and receive great transfer opportunities to Bloomington and other universities. Unfortunately, MBA programs at IUSB do not have concentrated programs like Bloomington does; however, it is still a great start for international students. After graduation and studying at IUSB, international students open their business as entrepreneurs and they are very successful, such as the owner from Thailand at Club Noma in downtown South Bend.     

In addition to the above, there is a language school, the South Bend English Institute, which is attached to this campus. After graduation from the institute, most students choose to continue studying at IUSB because they do not have to take complicated entrance exams like English tests for foreign students. Of course there are many other unique reasons for each international student.

For both American and international students, it is a great opportunity to share campus experiences.  They may have communication difficulties when they meet for the first time, but the reward for being patient can be lasting. Ployngarm Rasmeefueng, who is an MBA graduate from Thailand said, “If each person has patience and wants to communicate, there is always a way to get along with people from all over the world.”  

All people may feel like aliens because of different family backgrounds, environments, and cultures.  Once past those hesitations, they become more international and communicate person to person, and their lives may become livelier. Have a great semester exchanging cultural experiences at IUSB!

Naoko Fujimoto

Posted in Naoko Fujimoto, Volume 4, Issue 1 | Leave a Comment »