Saturday, May 03, 2008
Friday, May 02, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Sushi is the delicious raw fish on rice eaten in Japan, and it's so popular here that we have to plan carefully when we want to go eat it, to avoid having to wait an hour to get into the restaurant. By definition, sushi is raw fish on vinegared rice, with the vinegar originally added to keep the sushi from going bad back in the days when there was no refrigeration. Although the standard cut fish perched atop a pressed piece of rice (called nigiri-zushi or hand-pressed sushi) is the most famous type, there are many other varieties, including gunkan-maki or "battleship roll" with seaweed around the outside of the rice; maki-zushi or rolled sushi; and one of my favorites, chirashi-zushi or "scattered sushi" with different kinds of fish sitting on rice, which you mix together then eat. Certain types of sushi actually contain no fish, yet are still considered sushi, including cucumber rolls and the favorite of kids throughout Japan, tamago or scrambled egg sushi. Although Japanese eat a lot of raw things from the sea, the same cannot be said of the Chinese. I've got an American friend who has a Chinese wife, and whenever we eat dinner with them I rub my hands together in anticipation, knowing that she'll give me all her sushi and sashimi.
Oops, talking about food again, and getting hungry...
Although you probably don't know much about how the law functions in Japan, most Japanese have at least a basic idea of how the courts operate in the States, thanks to the many kaigai dorama or "overseas dramas" that are shown here. As a general rule, the law and lawyers don't play a large part in people's lives in Japan, which seems to be partially for cultural reasons and partially due to people just having a little more common sense and courtesy when dealing with each other. Awards for civil lawsuits are based on actual, provable damages, which makes it very hard for a plaintiff to get an unreasonably large judgment; in addition, lawyers' fees are based on the damages sought by plaintiffs, rather than damages actually awarded, which eliminates a lot of potential for greed. On the criminal side, prosecutors currently enjoy a mind-boggling 99% conviction rate, nearly always after a defendant makes a signed confession. There are some difficult cultural elements involved here, but the conviction rate is so high in part because prosecutors only bring cases for which they have solid evidence. Big changes are coming for the legal profession though, as Japan prepares to introduce a trial-by-jury system in which citizens will act as "lay judges" and determine the the outcome of cases. Personally, I don't think it will fly: between the tendency of Japanese to be overly group-oriented and come to agreement for the wrong reasons, the occasional amano-jaku, the kind of "absolute contrarian" that refuses to do things that are popular that I talked about recently, which in the case or something like a jury trial could really cause problems for the justice system here.