Thursday, February 23, 2006

"Empirical & Amusing"

I visited an Australian pals house last week and had a great time drinking wine, eating, talking, and watching a movie on his new wide screen TV. But... there was one point where I was going on about the naming of "Nishi-Tokyo" and my friend suddenly said "There you go again! You're always so empirical!". I was a little taken aback, as I considered it to be a non-touchy topic, especially since every local I've talked with also doesn't like the name "Nishi-Tokyo" (formerly "Hoya-shi & Tanashi-shi" - two cities that were merged and renamed "Nishi-Tokyo", which means "West Tokyo"), but I did the social thing and backtracked... for a few days that is, and then I decided to write my Australian pal a letter, which is as follows (with some names taken out to protect the guilty):

Hello Abcdef-pal,

I was thinking about your accusation that I'm too empirical, so I thought I'd respond to that. First, let's have a look at the dictionary definition of "empirical":

empirical, adj.
1. derived from or guided by experience or experiment.
2. depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, esp. as in medicine.
3. provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.
[1560-70; EMPIRIC + -AL1]
empirically, adv.
empiricalness, n.
Syn.1, 2. practical, firsthand, pragmatic.
Ant.1, 2. secondhand, theoretical.

While some of that I would agree with - that I make many decisions and take many stands "derived from or guided by experience or experiment", and I don't have a problem with the synonyms "practical, firsthand, and pragmatic", but with regards to some recent issues, like [a certain software company], [a certain bunch of politicians], etc., those are most definitely not "depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, esp. as in medicine". Especially regarding [a certain software company], I think you must know that there is something foul and very wrong with that company! As for [a certain politician], I hope [that certain politician]-supporting PR spinmeisters haven't gotten to you and made you blind. Short-term they are happy to buy their new plasma TV's, but long-term they don't care what happens to this world of ours.

Closer to home, that idiot at the company we worked at really did try to pawn off mutant English as a company slogan for the website. I wasn't able to get it all the way over to real English, but at least they fixed it grammatically. Again - this is a very real thing - and the real issue here is having the backbone to stand up against that which is wrong. An embarrassment on the company's website is a stain on everyone in the company. Again-again-again, it's real, very real. Not simply a matter of opinion.



PS - Nishi-Tokyo. I may have overstated my case on that, but I was purposely going overboard in an attempt at humor. Obviously that failed, but I'm disappointed in you that you failed to see the humor of the situation and chose to attack me on that instead.... Nishi-Tokyo is high comedy you know, in a very irritating way, but high comedy nevertheless.

And then I got a phone call from him this evening... and he stated that he was "amused" by my e-mail (Hmmm.... why does that sound like fingernails on a chalkboard?), and that he had been thinking about the Nishi-Tokyo issue and "It occurred to me that it's more cultural than geographic". I was about to answer that, when he said "But that's not why I called!" and he jumped onto other conversational tracks.

Sigh... here we go again! We talked for a bit about this and that and after hanging up, there I was in front of my computer, so I sent him another e-mail, as follows:



You mentioned that it occurred to you later that the meaning of "Nishi-Tokyo" might be more cultural than geographic? It doesn't matter mate! Either way the name enshrines the inferiority complex some people in Hoya-shi had regarding being on the fringe of the Ku's and right next to Saitama... It's... like... very nasakenai desu yo! Mattaku!

Sophistry may cloud the issue, but the issue is still there for those who open their eyes! (He-He-He!)


Yes, I know - it's foolish to be going on about this! Anyway, here is some background on what comprises Tokyo and what the issue with "Nishi-Tokyo" is. In an attempt to get you interested, I call your attention to the fact that Tokyo is not a city.... Details below:

The quick road to understanding the geographical nature of Tokyo and the cities within it, is to look at Los Angeles. When people say "Los Angeles" from afar, generally they are referring to everything within Los Angeles Country, (which includes, confusingly enough, Los Angeles City). Here is a list of the cities within Los Angeles County:

Agoura Hills, Alhambra, Arcadia, Artesia, Avalon, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bell, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Beverly Hills, Bradbury, Burbank, Calabasas, Carson, Cerritos, Claremont, Commerce, Compton, Covina, Cudahy, Culver City, Diamond Bar, Downey, Duarte, El Monte, El Segundo, Gardena, Glendale, Glendora, Hawaiian Gardens, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Hidden Hills, Huntington Park, Industry, Inglewood, Irwindale, La Canada, Flintridge, La Habra Heights, Lakewood, La Mirada, Lancaster, La Puente, La Verne, Lawndale, Lomita, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Lynwood, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Maywood, Monrovia, Montebello, Monterey Park, Norwalk, Palmdale, Palos Verdes Estates, Paramount, Pasadena, Pico Rivera, Pomona, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Rosemead, San Dimas, San Fernando, San Gabriel, San Marino, Santa Clarita, Santa Fe Springs, Santa Monica, Sierra Madre, Signal Hill, South El Monte, South Gate, South Pasadena, Temple City, Torrance, Vernon, Walnut, West Covina, West Hollywood, Westlake Village, Whittier

Tokyo is along the same lines, but there is no Tokyo City only "Tokyo-to", and how to translate "to" is such a headache that I'm not even going to attempt it right now, so let's just simplistically and inaccurately call it a county to clarify the idea that it's an area that contains a group of cities. Another complicating factor with Japanese cities, is that whether they are called "shi" (city), "machi" (town) etc., depends upon their populations and other factors. I regularly surprise people here by explaining that in the US, a tiny town with a population of 173 can still be called a "city". In Tokyo's case, the central area is composed of "ku"s (generally translated as "ward" in English), and outside of those, there are mainly "shi"s (generally translated as "city"). But increasingly, most (all?) of them are operating just like cities. They each have a town hall, elected representative, etc. In looking around for a list of everything within Tokyo, I find on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's site:

- that Tokyo has 23 ku, 26 shi, 5 cho and 8 son. The following paragraph (from the TMG site), explains the complicated system in some detail:

"Tokyo is a metropolitan prefecture, divided into smaller administrative bodies. The 'central' region is divided into 23 special wards (ku in Japanese), and the western Tama Area is made up of 26 cities (shi), 3 towns (cho) and one village (son). The 23 special-ward area and the Tama Area together form a long, narrow stretch of land, running about 90 kilometers east to west and 25 kilometers north and south. The Izu Islands and the Ogasawara Islands, two island groups in the Pacific Ocean, are also administratively part of Tokyo, despite being geographically separated from the metropolis. The islands have between them 2 cho and 7 son."

I wanted to put a complete list of all ku's, shi's, cho's & son's in here, but I've only come up with a list of the 23 ku's and the 26 shi's, which is as follows:

Tokyo's 23 Ku's: Adachi, Arakawa, Itabashi, Edogawa, Ota, Katsushika, Kita, Koto, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Suginami, Sumida, Setagaya, Taito, Chiyoda, Chuo, Toshima, Nakano, Nerima, Bunkyo, Minato, Meguro

Tokyo's 26 Shi's: Hachioji, Tachikawa, Musashino, Mitaka, Ome, Fuchu, Akishima, Chofu, Machida, Koganei, Kodaira, Hino, Higashi-Murayama, Kokubunji, Kunitachi, Fussa, Komae, Higashi-Yamato, Kiyose, Higashi-Kurume, Musashi-Murayama, Tama, Inagi, Hamura, Akiruno, Nishi-Tokyo

With that background out of the way, let's return to Nishi-Tokyo (West-Tokyo). As Nishi-Tokyo is right in the center of Tokyo, the term "west" only makes sense if you forget Tokyo and focus on the 23 ku's. It's a nonsensical name that looks very much like a heavy-handed and clumsy attempt to make sure people understand that that area is actually in Tokyo, and is not part of neighboring Saitama (to the north!). I should go into more detail on this, but I'm tired and you've probably stopped reading this way up the page anyway, so I'll stop here! If you want more details, send me an e-mail and I'll add something to this.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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