Monday, September 24, 2007

Party Elder To Be Japan's New Premier

The politically uncertain terrain is finally stable in Tokyo. However cautious optimism reigns for Japan - India ties ahead in most quarters. This is the repoduction of an article from Washington Post below. Most Indian newspapers didn't seem to carry this in their online version at the time of publication of this blog!! - Editor
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Moderate veteran Fukuda easily won election as president of Japan's struggling ruling party Sunday, assuring his selection as the new prime minister in a parliamentary vote later this week. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

By Blaine Harden;Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 24, 2007;

TOKYO, Sept. 23 -- Japan's troubled ruling party on Sunday chose as its leader an admittedly uncharismatic party elder known for his dovish foreign policy and quiet political know-how.

Yasuo Fukuda, 71, a longtime salaryman in the oil industry before serving as cabinet chief under two prime ministers, will formally become prime minister Tuesday.

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, center, bows to lawmakers after being elected president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007, in Tokyo. Moderate veteran Fukuda easily won election as president of Japan's struggling ruling party Sunday, assuring his selection as the new prime minister in a parliamentary vote later this week.

He will take over from Shinzo Abe, 53, the relatively youthful but corrosively unpopular prime minister who left his party in perhaps its worst political mess since World War II, when he abruptly announced his desire to quit 11 days ago and checked into a hospital for stress-related stomach trouble.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has monopolized postwar political power in Japan, badly lost its way during Abe's one year in power, as financial scandals and failure to address a fiasco involving 50 million misfiled pension records led to a crushing defeat in midsummer elections for the upper house of parliament.

"It has become clear that we have not won the trust of the Japanese people," Fukuda said after his selection as party leader. The LDP still controls the lower house, which selects the prime minister.

"There will be no sudden improvement" in the ruling party's popularity, he added. "In order to win back trust, one can only build one block at a time."

To that end, Fukuda is promising to tone down the nationalist rhetoric of his two most recent predecessors, strengthen ties with China, negotiate with North Korea and carefully cultivate Japan's strong relationship with the United States.

He has promised not to visit the Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo, where Japanese war criminals are honored among the country's 2 million war dead.

After much-publicized visits by Junichiro Koizumi, the prime minister whom Fukuda served as cabinet chief, the shrine has become a potent symbol across Asia of Japan's seeming ambivalence about its wartime atrocities.

Abe exacerbated those concerns by backing away from his nation's previous apologies for its wartime policy of forcing women to become sex slaves for Japanese soldiers. Abe said there was no documentation proving that the military coerced women into sexual slavery, a statement contradicted by documents found by Japanese government researchers.

"The LDP can't afford to cause any more blunders," said Harumi Arima, a political analyst. "They want to wipe out the inexperienced, childish image of Abe, and they desperately want to win back trust from the Japanese people."

Fukuda conceded last week that he lacks charisma but argued that his party's problems -- a perception of incompetence and of being politically tone-deaf -- cannot be solved merely by a strong personality.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Evolution of music and dance in Japan through Indian history traced

This is an article that was featured in The Hindu last week marking a very interesting lecture by Inoue sensei. It seeks to showcase the ancient ties that the two cultures have enjoyed traditionally. Editor
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Ancient connection: Takako Inoue, Professor, Faculty of International Relations in Daito Bunka University, Japan, delivering a lecture in Chennai on Monday.

CHENNAI: We have heard of Vedic chants and those who recite them for a living may have even heard their peers and teachers tell them to go slow to avoid mistakes. But in Japan, a group of Busan monks performs a fast chant from Buddhist scriptures and literally swings the huge copies of the scriptures like a fan. This entire exercise is called ‘quick chanting’.

Little wonder then that the gathering of largely Indian audience on Monday evening was delighted with the lecture delivered by Takako Inoue, Professor, Faculty of International Relations in Daito Bunka University, Japan. She spoke on the influence of Indian music on Japanese culture and traced the evolution of music and dance in Japan through Indian history as far back as 2 A.D.

Prof. Inoue said: “When Buddhism was adopted in Japan, several kinds of exotic performing arts were brought through China and Korea.” Though modified and transformed over the centuries, Indian elements, such as the notes and the tala, even a few musical instruments and depiction of a few characters in Indian dance dramas can still be found, she explained.

The Shomyo (the Buddhist chants and its name derived from sabda-vidya) is said to have originated from the Vedic Chants, she said, listing the various instruments found in the Ajanta panels and the Sanchi Stupa sculptures.

Gigaku, a dance drama form now extinct, used masks and showed distinct Indian characteristics such as the Brahman and Garuda. Answering questions from the audience, she regretted that the interest in researching the ancient art forms was limited to the government.

Japanese Consul General in Chennai Kazuo Minagawa said Prof. Inoue’s lecture was ninth in the series of 12 proposed for this year, marking the 50th anniversary of the Japan-India culture treaty. Prof. Inoue had earlier presented a lecture on ‘Indian ideas rooted in Japanese mind’ in May at Madras University.

Monday’s programme was organised by the Consulate and C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation, whose director, Nanditha Krishna was present. Premeela Gurumurthy, head of Department of Indian Music, Madras University, and Yoshinori Yakabe, Japanese Consul (Culture, Information and Development Affairs) spoke.

Friday, September 07, 2007

JobSkills Program for SoftSkills

Nihongo Bashi recently launched a program for equipping Students with SoftSkills. This is aimed at Students preparing for a global career. More details on this are given below. Please note that this is an annoucement. Editor

Nihongo Bashi introduces JobSkills® English language training & soft skills development program in India

(openPR) - Bangalore, September 07, 2007: Linguistic services company Nihongo Bashi (nihongobashi.com) is expanding its portfolio of career-oriented education and training programs with the introduction of JobSkills®, English language training and soft skills development program in India.

The company is making its entry into this segment to help fulfill the huge demand for candidates with good English communication and soft skills to take on global opportunities, both from within India & overseas. In fact, the ITES industry has identified English skills amongst the workforce as a key requirement to continue the outsourcing/offshoring of jobs to India.

JobSkills® is a part-time Certificate program with a total of 60 contact hours per level of in-classroom training. Aptly titled JobSkills® , a leading management institute in Bangalore has already introduced this program to more than 120 students with a view to enhance job prospects in their final year. The program is based on the curriculum prescribed for various Cambridge ESOL examinations, the world's leading range of certificates for learners of English. It will be open to anyone with a minimum Bachelor’s degree in any discipline.

The focus of the JobSkills® program is on conversational English, mainly in a business context; the objective is to equip students with the confidence to converse in good English.

“The importance of good communication skills, particularly in English, cannot be overstated, particularly in today’s business environment as more global assignments get done out of India and more Indians travel overseas on work/ business,” says Karthik Tirupathi, President of Nihongo Bashi. “With JobSkills®, our aim is to equip students with the requisite career-oriented skills that will complement vocational skills they acquire within our mainstream education system. With the same rigor, commitment and professionalism that have made our Japanese education programs such a huge success in India, we expect to pave the way for rewarding global careers with the JobSkills® program.”

The JobSkills® program will be available through Nihongo Bashi’s offices in Bangalore, Chennai, NOIDA, Kolkata, Pune and Coimbatore

Typical customer service experience in India

To some this may be hilarious but ask anyone going through this...everytime it is hell. Hopefully Indians travelling overseas upon return will force vendors to provide a better level of service. Editor
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Here is a real life conversation with a vendor in India that I just had this morning. As you will realize, service standards are appalling and accountability is a missing. Can you guess when the laptop eventually got delivered?

Time of conversation: 12.30 PM

Customer: I believe that laptop still hasn’t got delivered...

Vendor: sir there was a little delay as my person was going to another customer, he is nearby and any moment he will deliver it

Vendor: sorry sir, it was a delay by our driver

Customer: I told you from the beginning that we need it on Friday morning...you said sure sir, no problem

Customer: even this morning you confirmed

Customer: how can I depend on your other commitments if you can’t keep simple ones like this?

Vendor: yes sir he left in the morning itself

Customer: but I didn’t get the laptop right?

Vendor: but slight delay due to the traffic

Customer: his leaving doesn’t help me

Vendor: sorry for that sir

Eventual delivery of laptop: 4 PM !!

SIMPLE THINGS

Key lesson from this scenario for every aspiring global citizen - Customer service means keeping smallest of commitments. Simple rules:

1. When you cannot deliver on commitments, you must anticipate it and let hem know well in advance. NEVER wait until the customer calls.

2.In case the customer calls you before you did, NEVER give silly excuses like the ones above. The customer can see through your excuses and that makes the customer even more angry because he/she thinks you are insulting his intelligence.

3. 1st Principles: NEVER commit what you are not sure of! Really simple isn't it or is it?

Chado and Tea Ceremony lecture/demo - New Delhi

Under the auspices of the Japanese embassy a tea ceremony has been organised at JNU in New Delhi. However what I found very interesting is a very nice write up and background about Chado reproduced below. This is a must for everyone at least once!

This is being presented by 15th Urasenke Grand Master Dr.Hounsai Genshitsu Sen of the renowned Urasenke Tea School of Japan. Editor
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Tea is known to people worldwide, but nowhere has it contributed as much to the cultural milieu as in Japan, where the preparation and drinking of tea, in a special form called Matcha (powdered green tea blended with hot water), became the basis for a profound spiritual and aesthetic discipline that has had a pervasive impact on Japanese civilization.

In the 16th century, Sen Rikyu (1522-1591) transformed the activity of preparing, serving, and receiving tea into a comprehensive discipline, establishing the foundations for Chado, the Way of Tea. Chado is known as the most representative form of spiritual culture of Japan. The Urasenke Chado tradition has stood firmly by the principles of Harmony, Respect, Purity, and Tranquility for over four centuries since Sen Rikyu’s time. Dr. Hounsai Genshitsu Sen, the father of current Urasenke Grand Master, Zabosai Soshitsu Sen XVI, was Urasenke Grand Master for 38 years (1964-2002) and is widely known as a global-minded promoter of the culture embraced by Chado and of world peace. He has traveled abroad on more than 250 occasions to spread the peaceful ideals represented in Chado. Since September, 2005, he has been serving as Japan-U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, a position he was appointed to by the Japanese Government.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF CHADO

The underlying philosophy of chado is summarized in the four words, Wa, Kei, Sei, and Jaku.

Wa means “harmony”. This is a feeling of being in accord with nature and other people. At a tea gathering, there should be harmony between host and guest, guest and guest, mood and season, the food served and utensils used. Sensitivity to the changing rhythms of the seasons and harmony with these changes pervades the Way of Tea. This harmony with nature quietly leads one to an understanding of the evanescence of all things and the unchanging in the changing.

Kei means “respect”. Respect, resulting from a feeling of gratitude, is extended not only to people but also to objects. The etiquette observed in the tearoom helps one to learn to apply the principle of Kei in one’s daily life. The hospitality of the host, the concern of the guests for the host and for each other, and the careful handling of the utensils exemplify this Kei.

Sei means “purity” Cleanliness and orderliness, in both the physical and spiritual sense, are very important parts of the discipline of chado. In the practice of chado, when the host purifies the tea utensils, he is simultaneously purifying his heart and mind. The guests, before entering the tea house, rinse their hands and wash out their mouths at a low stone water-basin, thereby symbolically purifying themselves.

Jaku means “tranquility”. This can be said to refer to a state of imperturbability. Nobody has the power to foretell what circumstances the future will bring. What we all can and should do, however, is develop our inner resources so that we can meet any situation calmly. We should learn to prepare beforehand for whatever we can conceive may happen, and this will provide us with spiritual fortitude.

Constantly practicing these four principles, whether in the tearoom or not, will increase one’s spiritual awareness and help one to find inner peace.