WIT Life #150: Tiger Mask, Toshiba’s Strides and a Moncchichi Milestone
WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.
Recent articles from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times brings bright tidings from Japan in the midst of a new year which has started with PM Kan’s low popularity ratings and a still lagging economy. One WSJ article describes the recent phenomenon of the Tiger Mask movement. On Christmas Day last year, a gift of 10 school bags was left at a child welfare facility with a note signed by “Naoto Date.” This was a reference to a character from a popular 1960s manga and TV anime called Tiger Mask. Naoto Date was a wrestling hero who went by the name Tiger Mask and who had grown up in an orphanage.
This act of generosity made by someone adopting this name has inspired numerous copycat donations, and in total there have been over 700 instances of contributions to these types of facilities in all 47 of Japan’s prefectures. Although the first donation was of school bags, later offerings have included food, stationery and cash. A wonderful outcome of this movement has been an increased focus on the country’s welfare facilities for children, and there is talk of increasing employees of such facilities for the first time in 30 years.
The NYT article discusses the Toshiba employee who helped develop the company’s revolutionary glasses-free (“naked eye”) 3-D television. This 39-year old researcher, Rieko Fukushima, began working on the project 9 years ago when she returned from maternity leave. Her success has been attributed to the combination of the fact that she is a driven woman with a supportive husband at a company trying to diversify its work force. In 2004, Toshiba introduced measures like more flexible working hours and a career track with a reduced workload to help women with work-life balance. Thanks to this progressive policy, most employees who take maternity leave for the first time return to their jobs, as opposed to only 1/3 of the general female working population (here it is said to be 2/3). A Goldman Sachs report offers the following staggering statistics: “If Japan’s [recent] 60% female employment rate could match the [male] 80% rate, the country would have 8.2 million more workers to replenish its rapidly aging population and raise its gross domestic product by as much as 15%.”
Finally, a little bit of natsukashisa for you from the WSJ’s Japan Real Time blog, a fabulous feature that offers a variety of Japan related news for daily consumption. Today’s entry highlights the upcoming 37th birthday of Monchhichi, Japan’s favorite monkey. I loved this character when I was younger, and when I found out that Japan was its country of origin I made it my mission to find Monchhichi wherever I went and sent them home to my sister, as we had played with them together as children. By the time I returned from abroad, she had amassed quite a collection! Although Monchhichi struggle against bigger players like Hello Kitty, they have managed to hold their own over the years, peaking in the 80s when I grew up and having a brand relaunch in 1996. Here in the States they can be found at Target and other retailers.