#coronavirus: uncomfortable reflections

#coronavirus interrupted our lives, destroyed business, killed people (still does), and fills our days with uncertainty and fear. And yet, somehow, we are the lucky ones, the ones that are surviving a global pandemic. A global pandemic, so tragic that we have to look back to the past, a hundred years ago to create a parallel to understand our current situation. The Spanish flu (whose origins are in Kansas, USA. If you don’t believe me, you are free to google it) killed about 50 million people worldwide.

Did the world learn something from that tragedy? Did we become a better society? Well, no, because a while after recovering from such a disaster, we had another war, the famous and disgraceful WWII.

People fascinate me. And one of the reasons people fascinate me is because I find our behavior self-destructive. We need to stick together to survive, We know we need each other, and yet we seem determined to finish the other.

We start by creating division.

Our excuses are lame. Our reasons are something like these:

  • The people from the country next to us are not as sophisticated as we are.
  • We don’t like them because they are different from us.
  • We don’t like them because they are black.
  • We don’t like them because they are brown.
  • We don’t like them because they are not from here.
  • We don’t like them because their language is different from ours.
  • We don’t like them because their religion is different from ours.
  • We don’t like them because they are transgender.
  • We don’t like them because they are not like us.

What is wrong with being different? When being different became a crime?

Our time on this earth is limited, why do we keep strengthening the divisions?

  • What do you win by insulting the immigrants next door?
  • What do you win by hurting transgenders?
  • What do you win by supportive conservative governments?
  • What do you win by putting racist misogynist people in power?

Do you think hurting the vulnerable is going to put you in a better position in society? Attacking immigrant children is going to make you great?

We didn’t learn anything from 1918 flu, but let’s be sure to take a lesson from this #coronavirus 2020. And we certainly didn’t hold the USA Government accountable for the outbreak of AIDS, and swine flu. Why are attacking China so badly? Why do we look down on them? I, personally, won’t allow any hatred toward China to spread either. Do not believe the people who divide us, do not pay attention to them. Think, read, and research for information on your own.

We need change. But if after this ordeal, you choose to be the same, that’s on you and that’s your prerogative (I guess), but please do not stand in our way. Do not stand on the way of those who want change. Change is happening whether you like it or not. Change is happening, no matter how hard it is for you to understand it. Change is happening because we want a better society, where people are respected.

If we have survived the #coronavirus then it is our duty to make it worth it, it is our duty to live a life that inspires and triggers change. This is our duty as the survivors of this era.

Drawing by Yoneko Shiraishi

Katakana is not English

Japan is my home, and its beautiful language, the Japanese language, brings back warm childhood memories as if its beautiful sounds could melt time at will; But as beautiful as melodious as it is, we somehow misunderstand katakana changing its meaning, and confusing katakana with English.

And it was during this last summer that my nemesis, katakana, and I engaged in frenzy battles.

At work, I entered the room full of expectant faces; they all looked at me with anxiety. I could sense their nervousness without “reading the air” (空気を読むkūki o yomu), I smiled at them trying to break the ice and I following my motto “when in Rome, do as Romans do” I decided to sacrifice precious lessons minutes of class to introduce myself, my likes and dislikes; telling my students about the random things I love doing.

“My name is Yoneko, I love sewing, and I love cooking,” I started.

Excuse me, Shiraishi-san, what does that word mean,? someone asked

“Which word,? I asked “Sewing?, perhaps?,” I tried replying

“No, the word you said before that,” he said

“Oh, you mean love,” I answered only to be welcome by ghostly silence.

I tried saying “love” again with more emphasis. But again their blank expressions told me I was getting nowhere. So I tried again this time but with the katakanize version of love = rabu (ラブ)Then I saw understanding blossoming in their eyes like sakura flowers in warm days.

I spent the summer traveling and lecturing in various places in the island, facing the same conundrum, as soon as I said the word love; using its English phonetics love「lʌv」I was received with clueless stares, but as soon as I used the katakanized version of love 「rabu」(ラブ in katakana) people understood what I was saying. In the summer of 2018, I traveled around the country lecturing 150 people from which 140 people didn’t understand the proper pronunciation of the world love favouring its katakanize version instead. 

This made me understand that we not only misuse katakata when it comes to borrowing words from other languages but what’s worst, we think our katakanize pronunciation of English words are actually English pronuntiation.

As I mentioned in one of my posts on consult-culture.com, misunderstanding katakana “as most Japanese speakers will keep using the katakana pronunciation when speaking English because, as aforementioned, Katana is the alphabet that helps us understand sounds we are not familiar with, we rely on it. Therefore, some people, as it is logical, trust that the sound katana is providing us, it is the sound in the original language, which is, unfortunately, not always true” Indeed, not always true, if we keep relying on katakana as if holding onto a crutch to avoid a false move, we would never actually reach port, furthermore, I would like to assure you that making mistakes are an important, if not vital, part of learning. Do not feel afraid to make mistakes, because those students who make mistakes are the bravest of all. 

But I do understand the apprehension to speak English and not to make mistakes, after all, the Japanese language has a very specific set of rules that must be followed in order to make the message clear to the listener, but remember those rules do not apply to English.

Moreover, the hesitation of Japanese people when learning a language can be traced to their cultural characteristics.


In the graph above we can see six cultures dimensions (hofstede-insights.com) in which the hesitation of making mistakes can be understood in the dimension of uncertainty avoidance according to Professor hofstedes means “The Uncertainty Avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity”. Thanks to Professor Hofstedes we can understand in depth the hesitation of Japanese people, when exposed to the unknown and new, and this also allows us to create teaching methods suitable for our students.


・Hofstede-insights 2019 

・James Stanlaw Hong Kong University Press 2004 

・Tina Wells “Easy katakana” Passport books 1989

 ・そのまま通じないカタカナ英語のミス James H.M Webb 1988 

・Yoneko Shiraishi “Misunderstanding katakana” @consult-culture 2017 

International Affairs Forum

This has been a hectic week, but I didn’t want to spend another day without thanking you for your support to @consultculture
Thanks to you we’re growing. Thank you very very much.


Remembering summer: In autumn

The streets were crowded, for which it was difficult to walk. However, we all felt happy close to each other. In August, the weather still hot for which cold beer, for a wine drinker, was more than welcome. Holding my beer, I walked through small alleys following something, something that was calling me, and without consciously realizing it, my instincts were following the music.


The music around us woke up my senses bringing me back to the tribal origins of my humanity. I felt bewitched, I suddenly couldn’t hear the person next to me, neither the laughter of the crowd, I could only feel my body vibrating to the pulse of the drums, as if the ancestor of thousand years before me, before us, were waking up to take their immutable place in our lives at that very moment.

I could swear there were Gods around us tying us all together with invisible ribbons to remind us that no matter where we are from, we are all one, the same, united by the same ancestors, the same beginning, and the same spirits.

“I felt bewitched, I suddenly couldn’t hear the person next to me, neither the laughter of the crowd”

Yoneko Shiraishi

Shibuya: History and beauty

Shibuya, one of the most cosmopolitan districts of Tokyo, is everything you would expect from a modern city: cheeky, entertaining and provocative.




But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, Hachiko could tell the story better than anybody else. He could tell you about the war days and how the bombs took his beloved master, how he bravely kept waiting for years until death came for him, too.

He let Shibuya be at night with the condition to restore its well-mannered behavior during the day.



Shibuya, has come a long way since the days of WWII and has become, along with its little sister Harajuku, the center of the Japanese fashion world.





In Shibuya time is ethereal


Shibuya is in another dimension, where bad memories can become sweet and precious. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Hachiko yourself.

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Tokyo Station: The rebirth of a giant

Tokyo station  resembles  the scenery of a film set from the 1920s. With its inspired European architecture, lighting and breeze atmosphere, it invites you to dream of a Japan that no longer exist but that we all yearn for.


Bombed during WWII it wasn’t until 2012 that it will be restored to its former glory to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its existence.



And the surroundings  of the Tokyo station do not disappoint.




At my arrival to the Imperial Palace I saw the merge of the new and old. All in one


The Imperial palace guarded by thousand samurai souls



Everything in Tokyo glows mystery.

Arthur Huang: The artbytecritique, his drawings and Nakanojo

Knowing Arthur Huang is knowing an artist and scientist who has decided to use art to make an impact on society.  And following his desire to make an impact on society he actively participates in exhibitions and open shows in different parts of Japan, being his last exhibition in Nakanojo Biennale (中之条ビエンナーレ) where he showed not only his talent but his commitment to helping remote towns reviving and sustaining their economy.

Arthur Huang’s work is subtle  and yet it has a big impact on you, because it is just so beautiful to look at.

And if you see his work from afar, they resemble rain drops

Arthur Huang’s work is Friends and locals visited Arthur Huang’s exhibition

Here with Nick West from gensojapan.org discussing about what they know best, art.

Arthur welcoming visitors’s questions.

You can also find Arthur Huang in #artbytecritique group on Facebook and artbytecritique’s website is https://atobaito.wordpress.com.

Shinjuku: The beast and the heart of Tokyo


When I arrived to Shinjuku for the very first time, I got lost and I almost ended up crying in one of its corners, as I am houkouonchi, which means literally “person with no sense of direction” (方向音痴 ほうこうおんち)I still hopeless to find my way around this big city.

But if you survive your very 1st day in Shinjuku, the beast and the heart of Tokyo, then you can rest assure that you will survive anywhere else in the world.



Shinjuku is at first overwhelming and scary, but with time, it opens its arms to you


And it can even become your friend and protector, if we give it time. Just a little bit of time.

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