asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Things to come 22 January, 2014

Filed under: news — johnraff @ 2:40 pm
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Japan’s rapidly aging population is a problem that the rest of the world will have to face soon enough, so things like this will probably be coming to a place near you before long. A discussion on the radio this Monday, about how old people suffering from dementia could best be cared for, mentioned a recent court case. As far as I remember it went like this: a 91 year old man was being looked after by his 85 year old wife and their daughter-in-law, who had moved from Yokohama to be near at hand so that the old gentleman would be able to continue living at home in spite of his difficulties. This is exactly the kind of “care in the community” approach that has been generally promoted as being in the best interests of both the individual, who could still live in familiar surroundings with a certain amount of freedom, and the community, who would be saved the cost of a place in a home or hospital.

One day, however, the man came back from his day-care centre and while the daughter-in-law was making a cu of tea he walked out of the front door and disappeared. Later he wandered onto a level-crossing and was killed by a train. On top of their grief, the family were hit by a lawsuit from the train company who had cancelled services, paid for buses for passengers etc etc, and the court ruled that the wife and daughter-in-law had been negligent in their care of the old man and ordered them to pay 7,200,000 yen damages.

So people who sacrifice their own time and efforts to save the country from being saddled with another dependent are rewarded by being held liable for any slip in their work! This outrageous ruling, if it becomes the norm, will mean:

  • Family members will be extremely reluctant to offer to help in looking after relatives with dementia for fear of the being held responsible.
  • Old people will be looked on more and more as a liability and danger, and their ability to contribute to society overlooked.
  • Such peoples’ liberty will be more and more restricted – locked doors, maybe even physical restraint.
  • More and more, the only option will appear to be incarceration in some institution, where the level of care is sometimes horrendous, and at best lacking in the warmth of a family, and at high financial cost either to the family or to the community.

Of course the train company were only claiming their rights under the law, but this whole area obviously needs some rethinking.

 

 

A walk in the woods 16 June, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A "Jizo" Buddha at the pass on many country roads.

Beautiful day in Golden Week, and we took the road above the house up the hill, past the “Jizo” at the pass, down a bit and took this little road off to the left. More a track really, with an almost obliterated sign pointing to a village we hadn’t heard of. About a 20-minute walk though cedar plantations later we arrived at this “village”: three buildings drowning in the forest. A few years ago people lived there, in these rather nice traditional wooden houses, growing rice in paddy fields nearby, now planted with cedars or spruce which have grown up all around.

...another couple of years...

These once-handsome buildings are slowly collapsing, disintegrating and returning to the hills they came from. Sad but inevitable I suppose. It’s not really on to expect to make any kind of living out in a place like this. Just after the war there was a building boom to replace the flattened cities and since wood was (and still is, really) the main construction material large areas of Japan’s wild forest was replaced with plantations of quick-growing cedar and spruce. The idea of many people was that 20 or 30 years down the road these trees could be sold off at a good price, so were regarded as an investment for their childrens’ future. Unfortunately cheap timber imports from countries like Canada have knocked the bottom out of that, so now the value of a tree is less than the cost of transporting it down the hill into the town…

A footpath, still usable, led up the side of the hill from those houses to, we calculated, the next village a kilometre or so away. Just above was a little shrine with a couple of Buddha statues, an empty sake bottle and some flowers which were still fresh, so someone must have visited in the last day or two. A bit further on, down a slope, and sure enough there was the village, basking in the Spring sunshine. An image of rustic tranquillity. Really, quite beautiful, but so quiet. There is only a handful of people living there now, all getting on in years. Children have moved out into the cities to get jobs in offices and factories, leaving their parents tending the ricefields and cows in this corner of paradise. As it happens, we know a couple of the people here. The couple who live at the top looked after our house – opening the windows to let the breeze though once in a while, bit of weeding etc – while we were in Thailand for a year. Further down the road we ran into Hashimoto san, who must be 70 or so by now; he keeps some cows and grows rice.

I wonder what it will be like in 10 or 15 years when most of these people have passed on? Will there be a u-turn from the city, a boom in eco-living… or will this idyllic village go the way of those houses in the woods?

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