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WIT Life #15: Power Spots


WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Interpreter/Translator/Writer Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken, 2000-03).  In her recent posts, she’s been watching the news in Japanese and sharing some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

A visit to a shrine, or hatsumoude, is an essential part of Japan’s oshougatsu. This year’s visits incorporated the idea of power spots, or places from which you can receive special energy. Depending on what sort of wishes people hoped to fulfill, they made visits to “power spot shrines” targeted to their desires. The third most popular request was for success in business, and one temporary worker interviewed expressed hope that work would continue to come to him. Currently laborers such as himself make up 1/3 of the work force, and their protests have received much news coverage.

The second most popular request was for luck in love, with one woman insisting that the shrine she had been visiting for the last couple of years during oshougatsu was the reason she was able to get married last year. Incidentally, the idea of searching for a marriage partner in the same way as searching for a job has become so prominent in Japan that the expression “konkatsu” has come into vogue. This phrase derives from kekkon katsudou in the same way that “shuukatsu comes from shuushoku katsudou, or job searching.

Not surprisingly, the #1 request was for financial success in 2009. The power spot profiled for this purpose actually enshrines a poor god. The idea was not to go there to worship him but to beat him up, which is supposed to represent getting rid of your own weaknesses. Footage of demure Japanese women kickboxing this statue was quite entertaining.

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In another mention of the ubiquitous temp worker, a 23-year old one attacked a taxi driver with a box cutter in Osaka. This is the fourth attack on taxi drivers in this area since the end of December, one of whom died. The news this morning had a poll of whether protective glass separating the passenger should be added to taxis, but many Osaka drivers opposed the idea. They offered reasons such as that it gets in the way of making monetary transactions. 78% of Tokyo taxis have protective glass, but only 16% in Osaka do. Security cameras are installed in 600 Tokyo taxis, but only 200 Osaka ones. The governor of Osaka spoke to reporters about addressing this issue in the future.

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