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Thursday, July 4, 2013

You're Old, And Japan Drives Home The Point

Japan is old… and not in the biblical sense… unless you mean Methuselah, in which case, that's correct…

Confused? We don't want you to be… what we want you to be is safe. As such, Japan It's A Wonderful Rife (that's me!) is putting up a warning that this blog is for people looking for information and for people with a sense of humor (it doesn't even have to be a good sense of humor… you know who I'm talking about)…

For those of you who are not looking for information and do not have a sense of humor, Japan- It's A Wonderful Rife will paint a large 'A' on you… or a star… something… to designate that the rest of us need to watch out for you.

Japan has something like this too. It's called a Kōreisha mark (高齢者マーク - or elderly car mark), and is a sticker (sort of) that is placed on a car to indicate - or warn - others that there is an older person behind the wheel.

You've heard of sexism (you haven't toots? Let's talk!) - well, this is ageism. But, what are you going to do?

As of February 2011, 23.1 percent of Japan's population is 65-years-of-age or older. In fact, 11.4 per cent of the population is 75-years-of-age or older. That's a lot of shades of grey. That's like 75 shades of grey… or maybe 11.4 percent shades of grey. Okay… I've beaten that to death.

Speaking of death, and the fact that Japanese people don't seem to like it very much, the Kōreisha mark is actually a part of the Road Traffic Law of Japan, and says that when a person who is aged 70 and over drives a car and if his/her old age could affect the driving, he/she should endeavor to display this mark on both the front and rear of the car.

Endeavor… that means they should try… they don't have too.

However, Japanese drivers aged 75 and over MUST display the label.

The whole - "warning - old person driving in front of you" is a laugh.

It's like you are guilty before doing anything wrong. So what if you are old? If you are a good driver, you are a good driver!

I saw younger drivers - in their 20s, for example, driving like maniacs at speeds not meant to be traveled on those goat-paths the Japanese call roads. The two-way roads are 1-1/2 lanes wide, with enough room for two cars to pass each other only if one drives off into a rice field beside the path.

I once saw my driver pull up to a 4-way stop… the last car to arrive, in fact, bow and drive off first. She nearly killed us (I was in the car!), and screamed - for my benefit, I assume - in English: "Ladies first!"

Yeah… bowing and sexism. This blog has it all.

So… branding the aged because they are old, without taking into account their driving skill levels?

Hell - give them serious driving tests if you must - ever year. Make a few yen at it - there's plenty of old people!

When the Road Traffic Act amendments of 1997 were introduced, the Kōreisha mark was instigated for drivers of 75 years of age and older.

But, in 2002, this was amended to be mandatory for 75+ drivers, and 'requested of' by those 70+.

So... the Kōreisha label began in 1997. And while its meaning hasn't changed, the label has. From 1997 through January 2011, the label was an orange and yellow teardrop-shape, and was often called the momiji mark (紅葉マーク) which means, poetically, the autumn leaf mark.

The old style Kōreisha mark.

Pundits, however, called it the kareha mark (枯れ葉マーク) which means 'dried leaf mark', or the ochiba mark (落葉マーク) translated as the fallen leaf mark.

On February 1, 2011, Japan changed the shape of the Kōreisha mark to the four-leafed variety you see at the very top of this blog. It was done because there was criticism that the old mark's orange and yellow graphics looked like dead or dying leaves, so something peppier was done to honor Japan's soon to be dead. (Soon, is a relative thing in Japan, however.)

Anyhow… the Japanese now know this as the 'four-leaf clover' mark, and… waitaminute, waitaminute! The four-leaf clover mark? I see that, but do the Japanese actually see it as that? Let's look at this… clover, regardless of the number of leaves… according to Guinness World Records, Obara Shigeo (surname first) on May 10, 2009 in Hanamaki City, Iwate-ken, Japan found a 56-leaf clover. Does that seem odd to anyone else?

But the real issue is the Kōreisha mark with four leaves.

Four… in Japanese, the number four can be read as 'yom' (used not so often, but I certainly heard it) or as 'shi'. The Japanese word for death, is pronounced 'shi' (she).

So… would they really mean to add a four-leaf clover mark (considered lucky to the Irish and one Japanese world record holder)? It just sounds like they have marked these seniors for death… like the crystal is flashing and it's time to enter the carousel.*  

There are two ways to display the mark. There is a magnet version that can be attached to back of a car, and a sucker type, which can be proudly pushed against a car window right beside some of those adorable bumper stickers like: 'My son married a whore', or 'My grand-daughter daughter is fxxking a gaijin, I want to die'.

Anyhow… the law does stipulate that drivers who are so feeble as to be trusted to drive safely, must ensure that the mark they purchase is affixed properly. It's your responsibility old man!

Going the way of the magnet? Make sure your car has a large enough metal spot that can hold a magnet… not all cars can.  And don't put it on the rounded parts where it might fall off.

The sticky window mark? Don't be a goof old man and place it on the inside of a widow, sorry, window that is darkened (smoked glass).  

Anyhow… here's the best part of the whole Kōreisha mark:  Should you, the old person who is 75 years of age or older, be driving a motor vehicle that fails to promote that fact with the Mark of Cain, sorry… I went biblical again… the Kōreisha mark, do you know what the penalty is?

Death by hanging? No.
Public flogging? No.
A chance to save face via harikari (ritualistic suicide)? No.
Forced to live in the home of your daughter? No.
Jail time, including three meals a day and all the anal sex you can handle? No, don't be ridiculous. The Japanese respect their elders! They would be giving - not receiving!) 
A fine? No.
Slap on the wrist? No.
Forced to eat mochi? No.

No… nothing happens.

There is no penalty.

And, with no penalty, there is no deterrent. Not that it matters anyways.  It's all much ado about nothing.

While compliance is expected of Japan's mostly law-abiding citizens, I still can't believe that Japan made a law that everyone must follow, but will not penalize you if you don't. Perhaps the feeling of public humiliation is penalty enough.

Andrew Joseph
PS: *Logan's Run nod.

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