After almost a year and a half away, I am back in Tokyo; little in the local area has changed.
The recession continues with prices of grocery items much as they were when I came here in 2002. If anything rice prices have gone down rather than up in that time. 5kg of prewashed Akita komachi rice was 1698Y tonight, less than 2002. Imported goods at the supermarket also seem to be similarly priced - camembert - one of my benchmark items along with rice, Glico's puddings, butter and spaghetti remains the same.... It's hard to understand how it can be so when compared with Aus. where prices (and wages) have increased significantly over this decade.The bicycle police are still about and I managed to get a ticket on the first day of being here....fortunately being Japan the ticket is just a warning not to do it again and that 4000Yen (50 dollar) fines can be applied.The earthquake reporting system is still efficient. There was a rumble this morning and flicking on the TV I could read the message giving the location, the intensity (on the Japanese scale) and that there was no danger of tsunami. The trains are still clean, on time and efficient and ticket prices also have not moved since sometime before 2001. Akihabara station is being revamped. The disabled access esp at railway stations has improved dramatically and it was joy coming back from the airport not to have to carry luggage up or down steps anywhere until we got back to the apartment.
There have been changes, but mostly they are subtle. Jujo has 2 Indian restaurants now - a sign of the times internationally I think as Indians look for opportunities overseas - but the much loved Korean barbeque has gone.The old red brick buildings next door, that used to belong to the self defence force, have been turned into a library - I have yet to go in and have a look but it seemed very well patronised on the weekend.The rubbish system has changed - now most things have become burnable rubbish even styrofoam.... aaarrghhhh. Memories of the poisonous odour of styrofoam burning on the campus in China make me very suspicious of any claims that it is a burnable product. I doubt the incinerator filtering system could be good enough to burn everything without expelling dioxins etc into the atmosphere at unacceptable levels. The upside is that the days of rubbish Nazis sorting through people"s rubbish are probably over.
After Thailand, Cambodia and even Aus, the population here is noticeably old. I was reading the other day that the population of children has declined every year for the past 28 years.There have been changes in the laws regarding foreigners. Foreigners are now going to have to be registered with government health insurance to be allowed to renew visas for living here. % It has ended up that being registered with national health is not going to be obligatory - it seems like there was a lot of money pumped into the campaign to quash it by foreign (US) insurance companies.
If I understand correctly foreigner ID cards are apparently going to be linked across all government departments which means the immigration dept now need to be notified if you change job, place of abode, use medical services etc. It's much higher level of surveillance. Adults don't have the option of dual citizenship. As I venture further afield other differences will no doubt become apparent.Now to start on a mission to get someone to employ me to teach history....