Love Thy Neighbor (if you can)

Few Japanese institutions suck more than the Jichikai, neighborhood organization. But I guess you could never really understand Japanese culture unless you’ve been a member of one.

When I first came here, the neighborhood organizers didn’t even attempt to include me in their 回覧板, revolving info notebook, matsuri making, or neighborhood clean up days. They DID have a meeting behind my back about not attending a government mandated snow shovelling day, but I was blissfully ignorant of both the mandate and the meeting, not being included in the chain of information and all that.

As time passed and I moved to the Hama, the Jichikai started to collect my dues (which were about 300yen a month,) but still left me out of meetings and assigned me no responsibilities.

This is the sweet spot. You look responsible without actually having to be, well, responsible.

Then I got married and having a Japanese last name meant my days in the sweet spot were over.

Now we actually get the information folder, which keeps us abreast of how they spend all those 300s of yen as well as neighborhood events, and leaves us out of excuses for not showing up to Weeding Day or a myriad of similar things I would just rather not do.

Today’s Rather Not Do is radio taiso duty.

For those blissfully ignorant, this particular remnant of militarism involves school aged up kids lining up(according to age and neighborhood) in the schoolyard and doing old school calisthenics as commanded by a voice on the radio, complete with piano music in the background with a good marching beat.

At 6:30 in the goddamn morning.


This being my second year of shitty radio taiso duty, I thought I had it down. Hold up neighborhood sign? Check. Line up kids? Check. Stamp their attendance cards? Check.

So I'm sure you can imagine my immense displeasure when I came home after four weeks away to find TWENTY-FIVE messages from the Jichikai wanting to talk about radio taiso.

Having not been born in a generation of duck-and-cover when scissor style high jump was the norm, I am not familiar with forties era crappy bouncy stretch exercise. Last year I also had a very sleepy three-year-old on my hip, so instead of standing in the front of the line per taiso duty, I asked a sixth grader to do it.

That's what the twenty five messages were about.

Fucking sue me already.

Today I managed to wrangle a jet-lagged-up-at-5am HRH to go stand at the front of the line, but next year and every year after that I'll pay Me Too to do it. If they don't like it, they're welcome to leave me off the list.

Love thy neighbor?

Bite me.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gaijinwife
    Aug 20, 2012 @ 18:25:38

    25?? Bloody hell, that’s ridiculous! I have yet to do hardly anything for our one – but thats because Granny K does most of it and hub attends all the weed eating ones – as per the 回覧 request for a man and a machine to turn up.


  2. illahee
    Aug 20, 2012 @ 20:17:05

    i hate the rajio taisai. WTH?? my husband insists that our son goes, so whatever. i just ignore it. if he goes, he goes. if not, who cares? luckily i have never been in charge of it, either. this year it’s at 7:00 in the morning, not too bad. but i really don’t want to go.

    there’s a group in the neighborhood who do it every day. maybe 6 people? my husband often joined them, but not recently. i just don’t get it.


    • hamakkomommy
      Aug 27, 2012 @ 15:15:01

      I think it’s the dwindling numbers of children that have made this a mandatory gig. MIL said when her sons were in school, there was a group of moms who liked that sort of thing and organized it with zilch work for the rest of them. And that was back when they did it every day, too. Me First’s school is the result of combining two schools several years ago, and I’ve noticed that the other half’s radio taiso is being organized by the senior citizen’s club, not the Kodomo Kai. That makes more sense to me. There are way more seniors than children, and some of them are doing the radio taiso every day anyway, like you said.


  3. Anna
    Aug 24, 2012 @ 12:45:40

    When my sons were in school 30 years back we had it EVERY day during summer vacation. I loved it. The kids got up early, left for the radio taiso and didn’t come back until lunch…..the good old days when kids played outside, catching bugs and building secret houses in the woods.


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