The undeveloped side to Japan

Last week, Japanese companies came under criticism after introducing a new company policy; banning women from wearing glasses at work. This came just months after protests all over the country to put an end to mandatory high heels in the workplace. 

Over the years I’ve grown to love Japan in all its culture and history, so disappointment struck when I came across this news article. The first thing I do when I wake up is reach for my glasses. I put them on and suddenly everything becomes high definition. It’s my routine. Heels though, I’m not so fond of – I can barely walk a metre without twisting my ankles so having to wear them all day would end up with me on a hospital bed. 

So why did these rules come about in Japan? 

Firms say that wearing glasses ‘gives a cold impression’ and that high heels look ‘professional’, both of which aren’t good enough excuses considering the rule makers were probably middle aged men. In that case, all genders should be forced to wear glasses and high heels. It was never a matter of professionalism or looking friendly. It’s pure discrimination coming from people with ‘traditional’ views. 

One person told to remove her glasses was a nurse in a beauty clinic. She was forced to wear contact lenses all day, drying out her eyes and causing her work to be disrupted. I don’t know about you but I would definitely not want a nurse jabbing things into my arm when she cannot see what she’s doing. Likewise, a working as a receptionist was also forced to remove her glasses whilst her male colleague was allowed to keep his own. 

You would think an innovative, fast paced country like Japan would do more to solve gender equality. But no. In 2016, the world economics forum ranked Japan 110th of 149 countries for gender equality, coming after Liberia and Azerbaijan – places where women have less access to education and where female genital mutilation is still a problem – suggesting the gender gap is worse than we think. Women working full time in hotels are required to wear skirts and high heels despite long hours and hard labour.

Japanese actress and KuToo founder, Yumi Ishikawa, started a petition after being made to wear heels whilst working in a morgue. The petition attracted thousands of signatures yet there has still been no change. Japanese officials say that a uniform is essential for employees to remain safe – so far, I can’t imagine a single scenario where my blurred vision and high heels will get me out of any situation. 

If a woman wants to wear glasses in any way shape or form, let her do so. If she wishes to wear contacts or get laser eye surgery, it’s her choice. Perhaps you should evaluate yourself if you think a woman wearing glasses gives a ‘cold impression’ It simply informs us of the dangers and curiosities of the outside world. Similarly, if a woman wishes to wear high heels, let her do so – but don’t make it a necessity. If her job requires her to move around often she would most likely want to wear trainers – for ease and efficiency. Finally, if you had any trouble reading this article and are currently thinking, ‘Why is this a big deal?’, try walking around on tiptoes for a day whilst looking through a kaleidoscope. 

Intermittent fasting for a week

Intermittent fasting (IF) has proven to help people with weight loss, increase energy and prevent type 2 diabetes. What even is it? Essentially its irregular fasting and eating within a certain time frame, or as I like to call it ‘skipping breakfast’.

IF has been around for a long time. In fact, it goes back as far as 2 million years when food was limited and cavemen would spend hours, if not days without eating. There are several types of IF such as 16:8 (fasting 16 hours, eating for 8), 18:6, 20:4 and the longest; the monk fast which is 36 hours. I decided to stick with the shortest 16:8, which was probably a good idea since I had never gone a day before without skipping a meal. 

Sunday night: I spent the evening with my family, a trip to a café and then the cinema. The start of my fast struck at 8pm, as I was on the car journey back home. Simultaneously, my mum exclaimed ‘Let’s get McDonalds!’. I declined and had surprising faces come back my way. I’m not one to turn down food. This was my first test, however the hardest part was actually resisting the temptation to steal a French fry or taste testing a burger. Anyway, I passed, but this was only one of many. 

Monday: I allowed myself a tea for the morning and water, of course. Nevertheless, I did not actually feel hungry which was unusual as I normally had breakfast between 6:30 and 7am every day. I downloaded the ‘zero’ app which timed my fasts and eating hours as well as acting as a diary and recording my mood. I also had my first weigh in: 57.2kg. 

15 minutes to go, and I started to feel a little peckish so I made my breakfast so that it would be done in time for midday. Porridge with bananas and dates, pumpkin seed bread with a slice of cheese and orange slices – a little more than what I would eat on a normal day but then again, I had just been fasting for 16 hours. I finished my food in about 15 minutes and instantly felt my eyes close. I needed a nap. I felt bloated for the rest of the day which resulted in me not being able to eat anything. At 7:30pm, 30 minutes to go until the next fast, I forced myself to eat –  anything I could find from mince pies to apple slices and greek yoghurt – I did not want to suffer the next day. 

Tuesday: The case of daytime bloating had miraculously disappeared as I woke up feeling fairly normal. I was meeting up with a friend for lunch and lucky for me, the restaurant opened at 12, giving my enough time to be distracted on the journey and allowing me to wait a few minutes after my fast to eat food, instead of making yesterdays mistake. I was introducing my friend to Sri Lankan cuisine so we ordered almost everything on the menu. The meals were light, so I didn’t get full. We also had doughnuts after at a stall we walked passed – mine was filled to the brim with Nutella, not the best choice when you’re fasting but how could you resist! I got home just before 8 and like before, I had to gobble down a meal in the space of 10 minutes. Before sleeping every night, I make sure to drink at least half a litre of water mostly so that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night as if I’m in the midst of a desert. Drinking water when you’re bloated however, was proving difficult, it felt like there was no place for it to go and had stayed in my oesophagus, leading me to have uncomfortable night. 

Wednesday: Sleeping was getting easier. Eating more food in one go was making me tired, hence getting easier for me to fall asleep (this had been a problem before). On the other hand, it also gave me less energy during the day; opposite to what the diet proposed. My fast broke a little later on Wednesday, 45 minutes later than intended. My first meal stayed the same, but I tried to eat it over a long period of time rather than all in one go. I was still bloated, leaving me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. At 4pm, I left for work, knowing fully that when I got back home my fast would be over. 10pm and I was hungry again, another test. Here, I was extremely tempted to have some fruit at least but opted for water – it was my only choice.

Thursday: Weigh in day- 57.7kg.

It soon became clear that I was either doing this diet incorrectly or it just wasn’t for me. How had I put on weight (even if it was just 0.5kg) on a diet that was designed specifically to lose? There were several explanations. Perhaps it was muscle weight (highly unlikely), the fact that I hadn’t worked out for a few days (likely), or that my diet was not actually healthy. I decided that it was not worth the bloating and tiredness to only put on weight and stopped my diet craze there and then. 

Overall, IF, to me was just not how I imagined. There’s no pleasure in waking up and having to wait 6 hours to eat your first meal. Throughout the week, I was so fixed on having only 8 hours to eat which lead me to binge eating and snacking more frequently. Skipping breakfast is already a crime, but constantly feeling full also made me skip dinner. So IF wasn’t for me, but it has worked for millions of people. Perhaps it would have been more effective had I tried for a long period of time, who knows? I surely won’t be going back to it any time soon.


Good enough

Read Part I – ‘Mirror, mirror’ here

Read Part II – ‘Reflection’ here

R:

My perfect daughter? 

Someone like me. A lady with poise, intelligence and beauty. A lady who starts her day at the brink of dawn, opens the curtains and enjoys the perched birds up on her windowsill. My home must always be clean; put everything back where it was found in its precise angle (I will always know). Keep a clean cloth in your pocket to remove any specks of dust if one saw them. I digress. My perfect daughter will start the day much like me. She will lay out her day dress the evening before and come down in the morning, trimmed and farded. 

I had been given with what I had not wanted some years ago. She had all the intelligence, and if she tried, her beauty and poise would glow. I had been given a daughter I did not want, and I was to live with her until her adulthood. I thought through her teens she would begin to glow. To my disappointment, such thing did not happen. There were times when her face was in desperate need of freshening up – maybe some colour to the eyes, some rose to the cheeks – but she would not let me touch her. Instead she was consumed in her books, her writing. Much like I used to be. Her hair was unkempt, her nails seldom painted and her bedroom always a mess. 

I must admit that she is not completely full of flaws. She taught me ever so much, since being given to me. I found it difficult at first, as my upbringing was completely different, and frankly I am a little difficult to persuade. The good news is that I no longer live my life in the past. She taught me to leave my regret, my anger and sadness and start living everyday as if it were my last. I no longer worry what others think of me; how I look or speak. She taught the value of beauty both inside and out. She made me realise how empty, vain and narrow I once was, and why I was disliked by so many. She was once the bane of my life but now I wish to be just like her, my imperfectly perfect daughter. 

C: 

What is a perfect mum?

Exactly like mine, no doubt about it. She’s awake everyday by 5am and plays her radio loudly. It used to drive me insane, but I learned to sleep through it soon enough. When I eventually get up and make my way downstairs, our breakfast is always laid out on the table and next to it, our pre-packed lunches for the day – with a drink and a homemade snack. She was never into processed foods. I longed to be awake by dawn every morning, but my lazy manners did not agree with me – mum always hated me for that, I hated myself too – but she doesn’t know. 

She gave me a lot of grief during my childhood and teens, but it’s understandable. I was awfully big, unkempt and overall just ugly. There were pictures of her at my age, hung up proudly in grandmothers home. She was the opposite of me. She was beautiful. And intelligent too. She was going to be a doctor before I came along, which is probably why she was always so disappointed in me. She preferred my sibling, I just knew. Why? They were more like her. 

I was tormented for a long time. God gave you hair, brush it. You were blessed with lovely long legs, show them off. In all honestly, I preferred being comfortable. She hated it. She tried to change me but failed. She asked other people to change me, they all failed. I wish I had been a little more cooperative though, as I may have looked a little beautiful today. She has her flaws, yes I know. But she gave up everything to look after me. She’s allowed to hate me, I owe it to her. 

Something unusual happened one day. I broke my mirror and she bellowed at me, leaving me to spend the night in tears. I decided to ignore her for the week; on the second day, she called me up to her room as if nothing had happened. She asked me to teach me my philosophy of life. And I did. She stayed silent after I finished and I left the room. 

Why is my mum the most perfect of all?

The next day she apologised. 

Reflection

Read Part I – ‘Mirror, mirror’ here

Rashida Stone heard clatter when she was watching television one evening. 

The little one ran in. 

Cindy broke the mirror, she said with a smirk 

A rarity, Cindy getting into trouble. Something the little one longed for. 

Rashida shrieked. Her best friend had told her there was always a clumsy one.

She now knew who it was. 

‘Unbelievable’ she thought, the third one she’s ever broken 

is what she wishes she said.

Instead the words came out loud and sharp, something ever so unpleasing. You see, Rashida claimed she had never said a foul word until she had children. Now they were all she ever said.

Cindy cleaned. Rashida did not help, or even peak, and even refused to listen to what happened.

In her mind, she was always right – arrogance thrived her, pride became her warmth. 

There was a part of Rashida that softened for the likeness of her children; all except one. 

Cindy and Rashida bumped paths at the door of Cindy’s bedroom.

They had been avoiding each other all night, both for different reasons. 

Cindy cowered. Rashida screamed and screamed for no apparent reason. 

Was the mirror expensive? No. Was it of sentimental value? No. 

Then what exactly was the problem? Not even Rashida knew.

Cindy cried all night. Rashida could hear her from floor one.

She reflected on her action, her overreaction and wondered what she had done wrong.

Her daughters sadness prolonged into the night, and then Rashida knew.

This wasn’t the first time such thing had taken place. 

Cindy was sad. Sad for a long time and would be sad in years to come – she thought. 

Rashida opposed her daughter. The happiest of person but the narrowest of minds; her opinions came through the mouths of others, her thoughts stolen from the depths of minds. 

Rashida stayed up and thought about her overreaction. She admitted she was wrong. 

She reflected upon her attitude until the dull humming of Cindy’s weep disappeared. Cindy’s light switch clicked, and both mother and daughter fell asleep. 

Apologies.

In the morning, it seemed as if Cindy’s mother had forgotten about last nights debacle. 

She avoided her mother all day; Rashida wondered why.

They both moved on but Cindy never knew.

Never knew if she was truly forgiven for her crime. 

Mirror, Mirror

Seven years ago, seven years to go

I thought my mischance was gone,

But as I opened the door, you flung off the wall and become a bundle of messy shattered shards. 

Stunned, I was, as I tiptoed around you.

Where do I start, how to pick up the pieces?

It was the seventh day of my week. It was blissful until you cracked. 

I picked you up whilst your pieces scratched and bore into my vessels.

I profusely bled all over you. Emotionless face, motionless you. 

The little one told Mama. 

You fell on me before. Seven years ago.

Mama cleaned it up without hesitation. 

They said its not good for me and they said good luck. 

It took me seven years to realise, and in seven years I will realise

that your myths aren’t true at all. 

Mirror, mirror on the wall.

You saw me at my worst yet you never spilled my secrets.

I smiled at you everyday for you to envy my perfection. 

You bow down to me on the ground even though you’re broken. 

You couldn’t take me anymore, so you gave in. 

The brightest of suicides ever seen. 

Your deafness was for the best.

Screams, thunder, lorries, hurricanes, colliding plates with floor.

Soft, hysterical crying. 

Sounds you were oblivious to. 

Mirror, mirror on the wall.

I lifted you up and you crackled some more. 

I didn’t know you during your hay days

but now I know that I am nothing without you. 

Mirror, mirror on the wall,

Look at me once more 

while I examine myself in your shrivelled body 

and endless blindness haunts you. 

Once upon a time in Hollywood: a true story

When I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s latest blockbuster, Once up a time in Hollywood, I was completely oblivious to its original story. My confusion led me to believe that this was just another one of those movies which made absolutely no sense but was a hit due to the big names involved. I couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, the movie was based off a true Hollywood story, the Tate murders. 

The film is introduced to us through the fictional characters of the actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton struggles to find any work other than westerns, meanwhile his stuntman spends his days driving around Hollywood in his bosses expensive car.

The film is as much about the late 1960s Hollywood than it is about the murders. The story follows 2 days of the life of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), who at first is documented going to the cinema to watch her own movie. Robbie portrays her character as gloriously dreamy and almost ‘not with it’. One of Sharon Tate’s final films was ‘The wrecking crew’, in which Tarantino places brilliant homage to the actor by not digitally replacing her with Robbie. August 8th, the second day and the real date of which Sharon Tate was murdered; but Tarantino changes this legacy. The real events occurred as the Charles Manson family snuck into the Tate family home and murdered the now 8 month old pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends .  

Tarantino’s version of events spared the lives of everyone but the murderers themselves. I was fascinated when Tex Watson (Austin Butler) comes up with preposterous in the middle of the night to ‘kill the ones that taught us to kill’. Tate and Dalton were neighbours on the Hollywood hills and this time, the killers approached the home of Rick Dalton. After a drunk night together, Dalton had set off on a walk encountering the murderers on his way and Booth had taken his long saved acid type cigarette whilst trying to do the mundane task of feeding his dog. This ridiculous yet chaotic scene involved the killers bursting through the front door and immediately attacking the residents. It was a bloody fight, with gruesome scenarios and the last killer to be burnt alive in the swimming pool by Dalton with his flamethrower. Tarantino humorously gave the alternative version of events of what could have happened on the night of August 8th 1969, but with underlying references of the true story such as blood filled rooms and a pregnant wife.

The film ends with a calm after the storm, Booth is taken to hospital whilst Dalton finally interacts with his neighbours. Sharon Tate’s dreamy voice is heard over the intercom, this being Tarantino’s way to show continuing legacies even when one is not present in a physical form

Back to my homeland part II

Read Part I here

I got out of the car and approached the worn blue gate, remembering the day my father had put it up. He told us it was for the animals in case they were to escape, but we all knew the real reason. Nevertheless, it had stood long and proud for so many years. Father had always locked the gates after sunset, opening them again at the glimpse of dawn. One day it was to be locked for three decades only to be opened by me.

I turned back to our ride. The children were fully awake now, but reluctant to open the door and face the humid air. Everything around me had changed; the roads, the bushes, the neighbours. My neighbours. I didn’t want to think about what may have happened. Father had told everyone to come with us, but they couldn’t leave. Years of farming, building a home and a family had given them a certain comfort to which they were too scared to leave behind. They waved us off in the middle of the night and wished us well on our journey, each one of them kissing my forehead as I sat confused, clutching onto a bronze coin at the back of a horse cart.

We all promised to write to each other and so we did for a few months. Father would let me write words from the new language I was learning. They would write back infrequently, and only in a code father understood. One day the letters stopped coming. Father told me they may have moved. I told him they could write to us from anywhere. When I said that, he twitched; tears filled up in his eyes. I wondered for many years for what may have happened until one evening when I sat to watch the daily news with father. As the screen flickered, I saw quantities of men and women walking thousands of kilometres to find a new home. Some lying on the side of the roads to rest, their children standing over their rested bodies. I realised then that this may have been the fate of my neighbours but remained hopeful. That was twenty five years ago. 

It was noon now and the sun’s rays had now taken full advantage of my now tender forehead. The silence of the village was interrupted by the loud start of an engine, I presumed the children wanted the AC back on and probably wondered how they could spend an entire month here. I wondered that too.

I remembered the days when the older children would take me to the lake where we’d swing off weeping willow branches that were toys to thousands of children before us. We spent entire afternoons in the lake, cooling down in its waters and taking shade under the old willow. The older children would take turns to lift me up the trees as my small legs couldn’t reach, comforting me each time as I was afraid of falling. 

‘Keep climbing!’ they’d shout, ‘We’ve got you’

They taught me to fish and build fires. I was always allocated to find the twigs, they said I had a good eye for finding the best ones. When it was raining, we’d take shelter under banana leaves and watch the grass turn green and the flowers bloom until there were specks of white, red and yellow across the fields. When the rain stopped, we’d run to pick them, being weary of snakes that were hidden away underneath the tall grass prairie. I always gave my bunch to father who placed them in a tumbler next to the photo of mum.  

They went away one day, the older children. They told to that it was to protect me and everyone in the village. One of them placed a coin in the palm of my hand and closed it very tightly. He said something after that but I was too distraught to listen. I don’t remember their name or even their faces, but when they left that day I remembered a feeling of emptiness. I can’t bear to imagine what he felt when he came back to find my father and I gone. If he came back at all. That same day I went back to the lake and tried to climb the old willow. I clambered up with my small bare feet, a few branches up or so, forgetting they were not waiting to catch me fall. He had always told me to put my foot into the small ledge to push me up to the top. But that day the ledge was filled will twigs and wet leaves; the scaffolding to a birds nest. I misplaced my foot and slipped downwards, scraping my hands against the ever so sharp twigs and landing forcefully onto the soft, damp ground. I cried and screamed in frustration and pain, lying on the ground, sobbing as my bleeding hands were covered in thorns and dirt. I fell asleep in the tall grass, not minding the snakes or the tigers. 

I can’t remember who found me, but they cleaned and dressed my wounds. I was bathed, fed and  well rested until father arrived home from work. That night he hugged me tightly and promised that he’d keep me safe. We left a few months later, taking nothing but a bag full of clothes, the photo of my mother and a key. 

The key I was now holding as the sun continued burn against my scalp. I reached for the padlock that had been unbothered for so many years, now coated in rust. Placing the key into the lock and hearing the ‘click’ of it as it opened. I greeted my children who were now staring at me wide-eyed from the car, welcome to my home.

That cake shop down the road

I saw her the other day  

in that cake shop down the road.

Mum’s old friend, or should I say

the wife of mum’s old friend?

Or should I say

the wife of mum’s old special friend?

The one who came over when dad was working.

I saw her the other day

standing with her daughter next to that cake shop down the road.

She saw me too but turned away,

probably mistaking me for mum.

Most people do anyway.  

I saw her the other day with her daughter.  

She’s all grown up now; maybe six, seven, eight?

Wearing glasses now, ‘How ironic’

I thought.

He used to tease me about my glasses.

I saw him last at the cake shop too, 

after everything was over.

Mum had taken us there for a treat,

I wanted chocolate cake.

They saw each other and nodded.

It started when they exchanged numbers at church.

He first came over to build a wardrobe with dad.

Mum cooked for him and he went home.

He came again the next day and the day after that

and everyday after that.

Mostly when her or dad were working.

They told us it was a play date but didn’t say who for.

Mum came to sleep in my room one day.

I was woken up to the sound of her talking

to him.

That’s when I knew

that our perfect family was ruined.

Dad found out a few months later.

I saw her the other day,

working in that cake shop down the road.

The door chimed as I walked in.

She stopped. For a second she thought I was mum.

I asked her for the chocolate sponge.

She slid the window open to cut me a slice

and said nothing.

I paid the vendor and left.

Then I heard a quiet voice behind me.

“Have a nice day.”

This poem was submitted by Laura Persson from Sweden.

Fog

~ The want to vanish is not the need to fade away.

Go where the fog takes you for it will show you the way.

Go where the fog takes you, we won’t see you from afar.

Go where the fog takes you for one day it will lift and leave you behind. ~

Gossip guru

Once a day my family and I gather around the TV to watch the Indian spin off of Big Brother. This version is by far more entertaining than any western episode I’ve seen to date, which is probably why we’ve been watching every episode of every season since the show began 3 years ago. We were now on the 80th day out of 100 and this week was family week, a chance for each of the contestants to get a visit from their friends and relatives. 

This year’s season was much relatable to me than the previous two as now there were Sri Lankan contestants; an actor/model and a newsreader. The newsreader and another actor in the house had fallen in love, and were making their relationship very public. She ignored warnings from her fellow housemates about the actor using her for votes against eviction (as she had much greater support from the audience than he did). Despite all this warning, to me, they definitely felt like a genuine couple and not acting for the screens.

The newsreader’s mum and two sisters came to visit in family week from Sri Lanka. They warned her about how she was being used wasn’t truly loved. They told her how she had lost any sense of her true self and was in fact being manipulated by the others, especially her so called lover. There was also another surprise for her; her father whom she hadn’t seen in 10 years.

However the rekindling was not how anyone would have expected. He stormed into the house and passed his now sobbing daughter in anger. Her father went to greet everyone in the house and then turned to his daughter to say “Is this why you came in here, to fall in love or win the game, this is not what I bought you up for.” My family and I sat in shock. This was not the greeting any of us had thought to see, especially after 10 years of seeing each other.

Then he said something which I really was not expecting:

“Everyone we know are talking, what will they think?”

This got me thinking; In this day and age, the times you can truly express yourself, why does it matter what others think? In the Sri Lankan community, there is still a stigma around falling in love and opening up about our feelings. Most marriages are arranged, depending on caste, religion and social standing. This still did not make it okay to build your opinions around what you hear through the form of gossip.

After visiting a Sri Lankan village last year, I became more understandable to why gossip had become something that everyone did. With a few houses, a church, temple and a small school on a small beach, there wasn’t really much to do. We had arrived on a Sunday night and by the morning, the entire village had acknowledged our arrival even though we had only met one person. But this was harmless. It was only truly toxic when someone it’s used to spread false news. The fact that the newsreader’s father had been so worried about the whole town talking, just shows the extent to which this can be used to manipulate and humiliate an individual.

My only true hope is that the next generation of individuals discards what anyone thinks or does. It’s better to strive for your own goal than follow in the lives of others.