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News from Japan - January 11, 2022

Telecommuting in a Shinkansen, Japanese TGV
It is now possible to telework in the japanese shinkansen

In the land of on-time trains, there is something new. As you can see, we are not talking about France ...

Japan is the pioneer country of high speed trains. The Shinkansen (Japanese trains dating from 1964) are known for their aesthetics, their comfort, but also their punctuality. Surely you have heard those famous stories where drivers sometimes have to apologize deeply for being 1 minute late.

Well, these shinkansen are continually improving to provide services that meet the needs of passengers. This is how the company JR (Japan Rail) came up with the idea of now offering teleworking spaces. Accessible at no extra charge, anyone can come and work in these places whenever they want. 

Although passengers are generally instructed not to make phone calls on the train, these workspaces now allow online calls and meetings to be answered, without disturbing the rest of the passengers.

In addition, in order to enhance the experience, TGVs also provide blanks to mute and hide screens, for customers who prefer to work more quietly. And for those who need even more concentration, screen glasses and headphones with noise reduction are also available.

On popular roads, shinkansen are available every quarter of an hour, connecting major destinations such as Tokyo and Osaka. It almost looks like a high-speed subway. However, seats in a Shinkansen are almost as good as in a first class airplane on a domestic flight, hence the emphasis on customer service.

Same-sex unions by 2023 in Tokyo
Photo taken during the Tokyo gay pride, a city in which same-sex union is going to be possible from 2023

While gay marriage does not exist nationally in Japan, the governor of the Japanese capital, Yuriko Koike, has declared that she wants to recognize same-sex unions by 2023. She thus fulfills the wishes of Tokyoites, as well than a majority of the Japanese population now in favor of homosexual union.

In fact, 80% of 20-30 year olds support same-sex marriage, while reluctance among older people has also decreased in recent years, by more than 30% for the 40-50 year old generation, for example.

This movement also has the support of major Japanese brands, such as Uniqlo the Japanese H&M, which have shown their support for LGBT couples.

Nevertheless Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Prime Minister, has expressed reservations about the legalization of gay marriage. He came to power last October, and said he has not reached the point of agreeing to change the law.

This Tokyo project would be a big step forward for the country, considering the influence the capital has on the rest of Japan.

You have surely already heard of Shibuya, the district famous for its gigantic pedestrian crossing, surrounded by buildings, each one brighter than the other. It is in this part of Tokyo that the first certificates of same-sex unions were offered, in 2015. Then, other districts of the capital followed the movement and it is currently a hundred local authorities. who offer these certificates.

Purification of the soul in an ice bath
An ice bath to purify your soul for this shinto ritual

Every year, the second Sunday in January is dedicated to an ice-cold bath as part of this Shinto ritual. Near Tokyo, at the Teppou-zu Inari shrine, you can see men in traditional loincloths and women in white dresses immersing themselves in water of around 5 degrees. The purpose of this rite is to purify their soul, ensure good health and start the New Year off right. For this 66th edition, the faithful prayed in particular for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a purification ritual, immersing yourself in ice water can cleanse the mind or simply show the bravery and devotion of the believer. Indeed, beyond the psychic part, these prayers motionless in the frozen water solicit the endurance and the concentration of the practitioners.

This celebration stems from Shintoism, the oldest religion in the Land of the Rising Sun. Unlike religions with almost human divinities, she venerates the elements of nature, such as water, mountains or even the wind. It is still omnipresent in Japanese society, which has for example a holiday dedicated to the mountains - Yama no hi (山 の 日). For water, it's common for Japanese to spend time in onsen (hot volcanic water baths) or sentō (public baths). 

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