David Chart's Japan Diary

September 5th 2004

Last week, I promised you some excitement in this week's diary.

Sorry about that.

Last week was fairly uneventful. I did go to the immigration office, and that seemed to go smoothly. I have to go back to actually get my visa extension, either late this week or early next, but it doesn't look like that will be too much trouble either. So, anyway, that's done. I went with Hang, and it turns out that she's decided to only stay until the end of December, which is a pity. She also really doesn't like filling forms in.

I also got my test results back from the previous week. The listening comprehension section was a bit of a disaster: 75%. I'm not sure why I found it so difficult, because we did the equivalent passage from the following chapter this week, and I found it much easier. So, partly just one of those things, and partly I need to watch more television. I don't know where I'll find the time for that, though. The written test went much better: 94%.

I'm not sure why things seem to be so much easier now than they were, say, six months ago. I do have a number of hypotheses, though. The first is that I am simply getting more used to Japanese. The gaps that self-study had left in my knowledge have been filled in, and now I can learn just what we're being taught. The second is that I was out of learning practice when I started, and now I'm getting back into the swing of it. The third is that the lessons have got relatively easier, although I don't see any other evidence of that. Other students aren't making similar comments...

Oh yes, I can now also honestly claim that my talent has been favourably compared to Shakespeare's. Admittedly, in an example sentence by a teacher I doubt has ever read Shakespeare, but hey, that's a mere detail. (It would be amusing to work out what our class would be like if the example sentences were all accurate. Quite a remarkable group of people, I think.)

Actually, the most exciting thing that happened this week happened in yesterday's episode of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Sailor Venus/Aino Minako went into hospital for the operation that had a slim chance of curing her brain tumour and saving her life.

It didn't.

She died.

Minako is a central character who has been in the show since the first episode. She's one of the good guys. And she's died. This is not, I think, something that would happen in a show aimed at three to six year olds in the West. We also got to see the impact of her death on the other characters, particularly Sailor Mars/Hino Rei. It's one of the best depictions of grief I've seen in a TV show; she actually went through the stages of stunned - angry - mourning. Rather faster than is likely in real life, admittedly, but still, all three stages were there. You could watch the performance and actually believe that this person had just lost a close friend. Keiko Kitagawa is a remarkably good actress.

While I have my doubts about certain other contrasts between Japanese and Western children's television, I think the willingness to actually deal with death is a point in favour of the Japanese writers. More of the world is involved.

This week, I'm offering no hostages to fortune. Next week could well be really boring.