Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts

May 28, 2016

Chronicle of Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima then Nuclear Devastated

Imagine Trump walking around with that football(Nuclear Codes)
Image result for hiroshima bombing                                                                                

Barack Obama visited Hiroshima Friday, making him the first U.S. president to do so. During his brief speech, Obama called for an end to senseless wars and shared his hope for a world without nuclear weapons.
Below is a timeline chronicling the events that make Obama's visit to Hiroshima so significant. Also included are visualizations detailing nuclear weapon statistics by country.

May 7, 2015

Japan is Joining the Gay Rights Movement

 In TOKYO — As the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to sanction same-sex marriage across the United States, gay couples in Japan are belatedly making strides of their own.
Starting this summer, one of Tokyo's largest districts will begin issuing domestic partner agreements that for the first time will give legal protection to gay couples in Japan.
"The purpose of the ordinance is to promote the diversity of society — which means to accept all the people irrespective of sex or sexuality," said Shigeru Saito, director of Shibuya Ward's General Affair's Division.
The new law stops short of conferring full marriage rights and lacks specific penalties. But it will forbid discrimination in housing — a common problem for openly gay couples, according to advocates — and provide other protections, such as ensuring medical consultation and hospital visitation rights, and requiring notification in event of the death of a marriage partner.
The measure will not affect taxes or other benefits regulated by the national government.
Supporters say that despite the shortcomings, the new law may speed awareness and acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Japan. According to a 2012 survey by the Dentsu advertising company, about 5% of Japan's population belongs to that community.
"It's good, but it's just a first step," said Olivier Fabre, who heads a gay support organization for Reuters' employees in Japan. "There is still a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding in Japan about LGBT. There are many people who are very hopeful that this has raised awareness."
Although there is little outright hostility toward the LGBT community in Japan, there hasn't much outright acceptance, either — at least until now.
A Reuters poll in June 2013 found that only 24% of Japanese favored same-sex marriage, the second-lowest of 16 developed countries surveyed. Poland was the lowest.
Western influence may finally be propelling the issue here, said Gregory Noble, professor of comparative politics and public administration at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Social Science. "Just in the last six months or so I have noticed more attention paid to gay marriage, probably mostly because of developments in the U.S."
Conservative groups organized several demonstrations against the Shibuya ordinance while it was being debated earlier this year. And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed doubt during a discussion in the Diet in February as to whether gay marriage was allowed under Japan's constitution.
Same-sex marriage has "fundamental implications for the place of the family in our society, and so requires extremely careful examination," Abe said.
Article 24 of the constitution states that "marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes." While that could imply that same-sex marriage is not permitted, some scholars argue that the language is intended only to ensure gender equality between marriage partners.
Abe's wife, Akie Abe, is an open supporter of gay rights.
Patrick Linehan, a former U.S. consul general in Osaka who lived openly with his gay partner, said in an interview last year that attitudes in Japan are changing, in part because of a lack of organized opposition.
"When I first came to Japan in 1988, I was told routinely by everyone that, 'Oh, there are no gay people in Japan,'" Linehan said in a May 2014 interview with Public Policymagazine.
"One thing we don't have to deal with in Japan that we have to deal with in the United States and many other countries are the organized groups that exist solely to fight against gay people," Linehan said. "There are no churches or political parties that stand up against gay groups and say, 'We hate gay people — gay people are the devil.' These organized opposition groups to our very existence are not here."
Maki Muraki, who founded of the gay-support organization Nijiiro Diversity two years ago, said her company provided diversity training for more than 100 businesses in Japan last year, including some of the country's largest.
"The fact that major companies in Japan are now dealing with this issue has a big impact on society. Once the companies start to take action, the general understanding will expand very quickly," she said.
The Education Ministry earlier this year issued a report instructing teachers and schools to expand a program protecting students with gender identity disorder to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students as well.
But the ballot box is where the change may prove most significant. Ken Hasebe, the Shibuya assembly member who sponsored the domestic partner law, was elected mayor in late April. His predecessor also had backed the measure.
The vote, Fabre said, will “send a signal to other politicians that the (LGBT) community is now worth courting."

April 2, 2015

Japan Has First Gay Marriage on Shibuya Ward


Fumino Sugiyama will finally be able to marry his girlfriend of four years. He couldn’t before, because same sex marriages weren’t recognized in Japan, and he is legally a woman.
With a landmark vote Tuesday by the assembly of Tokyo’s Shibuya ward, the district famous as a mecca for trendy youngsters became the first locale in Japan to recognize same sex partnerships as the “equivalent of a marriage,” guaranteeing the identical rights of married couples, including hospital visitations and apartment rentals. 
Sugiyama, who runs a couple of restaurants, said he welcomed the move as a key step in starting a long-needed debate about LGBT issues in Japan – a culture that values harmony so much that being different can get downright traumatic.
“We are not out to change the world,” said Sugiyama, 33, who knew of his male identity since he was in kindergarten and had cried as a child because he didn’t want to wear a skirt. “We simply want the right to be with the person we love.”
The new ordinance applies only to Shibuya, and it’s technically not legally binding, though violators will have their names posted on the ward’s website.
Shibuya – an area with a population of 217,000, including 9,000 foreigners – is also planning an aggressive educational campaign on LGBT issues.
Japanese conservatives, including the powerful politicians of the ruling party, have been unwilling to back the initiative, and protest rallies have popped up in Shibuya.
“A great social ramification will be expected from such a decision,” Mari Sato, a ruling party ward legislator opposed to the move, told the assembly ahead of Tuesday’s vote. “We need much more time to discuss this issue.”
The vote passed, with the majority of the 34 ward’s legislators standing up to show their approval.
Many Japanese lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people keep their sexual orientation secret for fear of a social backlash, so the number of people who will take advantage of the change is unclear. But Shibuya is expecting an influx of gay and lesbian people.
The first certificates are expected to be issued in July.
Shibuya ward Mayor Toshitake Kuwahara says accepting diversity matches the friendly, vivacious character of the area – a bustling place known for boutiques, live music and a Silicon Valley-like cluster of startups.
He says young “sexual minorities” live in fear, worrying about their future and grappling with self-doubt. “This is the reality,” Kuwahara told reporters recently. “The purpose is to realize a society where everyone can live in hope.”
Koyuki Higashi and Hiroko Masuhara, a rare visible and vocal lesbian couple in Japan, emerged from the Shibuya ward office Tuesday, holding up a rainbow banner that said, “Thank you, Shibuya,” in English.
The couple said they moved to Shibuya four months ago, just to apply for a same sex marriage certificate. They have been together for three years, and held a symbolic wedding at Tokyo DisneySea two years ago.
“To marry the same sex is no different from marrying the opposite sex,” said Higashi, 30, adding that she clutched Masuhara’s hand in joy the moment the ordinance passed.
Sugiyama, who was also in Shibuya to celebrate, acknowledged that the ordinance was just a beginning.
He said he struggled growing up as a transgender in Japan, and hated going to an all-girls school. He never thought of himself as female, even when he was on the Japanese national women’s fencing team.
It was when he was volunteering, sweeping the streets, that he was befriended by a Shibuya ward legislator. Pretty soon, LGBT people were flocking to the volunteer project from all over Japan.
That gradually started raising awareness, recalled Sugiyama, who co-heads an LGBT advocacy group called Tokyo Rainbow Pride.
Sugiyama has had sex reassignment surgery, but under Japanese law he is categorized as a female. This means he would not be able to marry a woman under national law, which does not recognize same sex marriages.
Now he can – in Shibuya.
Still, Sugiyama, who said he plans to have children, turned tearful, reflecting back on the years of pain, especially those he knew who had killed themselves, unable to bear the suffering. He was merely asking society to accept the LGBT lifestyle as an option, he said.
“We are not trying to take away the right of heterosexual couples,” he said. “It is society that must change, not us.”
TOKYO — The Associated Press

January 13, 2015

What is the secret to Japan’s Slender population?


Since McDonald's inaugural golden arches were erected in Tokyo more than 40 years ago, fast food franchises have flourished, but Japanese waistlines haven't. It’s a trend government planners say is thanks to mandatory home economics classes.
Today, there are more than 3,000 McDonald's franchises in Japan. The public has also embraced other greasy chains, such as Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken. In fact, it's become an annual tradition for Japanese families to down a bucket of deep fried poultry on Christmas Day.
And while Japan's population is not as skinny as it was before the Big Mac came along, they're not as fat as us. More than 25 per cent of Canadians are obese, according to the latest statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). About 3.6 per cent of Japanese adults are overweight.  
Boys cooking
A boy's cooking club at Azabu High School, where home economics is mandatory. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)
"Obesity rates have been gradually decreasing since 2003 in children and teens," says Takuya Mitani, a health education planner with Japan’s Education Ministry. Mitani says the government was able to stabilize the problem through early recognition and an aggressive approach to food education in Japan’s public school system.

Home economics for all

Twenty-two years ago, home economics became a core course, like science and math. At Azabu High, an all-boys school in central Tokyo, students spend hours in the classroom calculating the protein, fat, carbohydrate and calorie-count of various foods. They also whip up balanced meals in the school’s industrial kitchen.
"When I eat a delicious meal, I feel better. When I eat something that is not good for me, I don’t feel good. I feel worse. And so, food has a great impact on the human body," says 16-year-old Teru Arai.
In most Canadian schools, home economics class is an elective. In Japan, it’s mandatory for boys and girls from Grades 5 to 12. Tadaharu Minamino was the first male home economics teacher in Osaka Prefecture. He says making every student take the class has changed Japanese society, for the better.
Growing rice
Students at Sanya Elementary grow rice in buckets in their schoolyard. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)
"People wouldn’t be as healthy as they are now. And gender equality wouldn’t be as prevalent. The boys also learn to sew and babysit. And because of that, we now have this younger generation of men who are contributing to raising their children," says Minamino.
Grade 9 student Kouya Takahashi is part of an after-school cooking club at Azabu High.
"If I didn't learn how to cook in school, I think I'd be eating instant noodles or frozen food. I don't think I'd be cooking for myself," says Takahashi.
The club is supervised by Mieko Saito, the students' home economics instructor, but was created by the teenagers themselves. When I dropped by, a group of boys age 13 to 17 were making a very labour intensive dessert, made of chestnuts. I was told they chose that ingredient because it was in season.
"We don't just teach them about cooking; we teach them about the importance of eating local," says Saito.

Eating local

In the Tokyo suburb of Suginami, colourful plastic buckets line the schoolyard at Sanya Elementary School. Long shards of green grass shoot out of the pink, blue and canary yellow containers. The students are growing rice. About 20 kilometres north in Kawaguchi, students at Shiba Fuji Elementary have also planted the traditional Japanese crop. But they seeded their grains in a nearby rice paddy, run by a local farmer.
When I visited Shiba Fuji Elementary, Grade 5 students were working up a sweat in their home economics class. They had poured the rice they grew into plastic pop bottles, and were taking turns pounding it with a wooden stick to remove the husks. After that, they rinsed it, cooked it and made rice balls.
Sanya Elementary had already harvested its rice and is using it to supplement their school lunch program. I shared a meal with the Grade 2 class, and witnessed food education before we'd even broken bread. A small girl stood up and began what is a daily ritual at Sanya Elementary. She read the entire lunch menu out loud to her classmates. After the meal, students drew pictures of the ingredients they just ate and stuck them to a map of Japan on the wall. Images of plump purple grapes and pieces of ginger were strategically placed in the region they were grown to illustrate the importance of local produce.
Danielle Nerman travelled to Japan under the 2014 Foreign Press Centre Japan (FPCJ) media fellowship. The program is designed to enable Canadian journalists to broadcast and write articles that will give people outside of Japan an opportunity to learn about the country.
By Danielle Nerman, CBC News

December 20, 2014

Angelina Strikes a raw Nerve in Hollywood Lover’s Japan


Angelina Jolie’s new movie “Unbroken” has not been released in Japan yet, but it has already struck a nerve in a country still fighting over its wartime past.
And the buzz on social networks and in online chatter is decidedly negative over the film that depicts a U.S. Olympic runner who endures torture at a World War II prisoner-of-war camp.
Some people are calling for a boycott of the movie, although there is no release date in Japan yet. It hits theaters in the U.S. on Dec 25.
Others want that ban extended to Jolie, the director — unusual in a nation enamored with Hollywood, especially Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt, who both have reputations as Japan-lovers.
The movie follows the real-life story of Louis Zamperini as told in a 2010 book by Laura Hillenbrand. The book has not been translated into Japanese, but online trailers have provoked outrage.
Especially provocative is a passage in the book that refers to cannibalism among the troops. It is not clear how much of that will be in the movie, but that is too much for some.
“But there was absolutely no cannibalism,” said Mutsuhiro Takeuchi, a nationalist-leaning educator and a priest in the traditional Shinto religion. “That is not our custom.”
Takeuchi acknowledged Jolie is free to make whatever movie she wants, stressing that Shinto believes in forgive-and-forget.
But he urged Jolie to study history, saying executed war criminals were charged with political crimes, not torture.
“Even Japanese don’t know their own history, so misunderstandings arise,” said Takeuchi, who heads his research organization, the Japan Culture Intelligence Association.
Hollywood films that touch on sensitive topics for the Japanese have had a troubled history here.
Theaters canceled screenings of the Oscar-winning 2009 “The Cove” about the bloody dolphin hunts in the town of Taiji after the distributor was deluged with threats from people who said the movie denigrated the “culture” of eating dolphins although most Japanese have never eaten dolphin or whale meat.
Roland Kelts, a journalist and expert on Japanese culture, called the outburst over “Unbroken,” like the frenzy over “The Cove,” ‘‘banal and predictable.”
“None of them have even seen the film, and while it is based on one man’s story, it’s a feature, not a documentary. There are plenty of movies that depict the brutality and inhumanity of war,” he said.
“Unbroken” portrays the story of war hero Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell, who with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a plane crash, only to be caught by the Japanese and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.
Jolie said recently on a promotion tour in Australia that she wanted to depict a human story, one that gives hope, noting that war “brings out the extremes,” both the good and the bad, in people.
Japan has not always been averse to Hollywood portrayals of World War II.
Clint Eastwood’s 2006 “Letters From Iwo Jima,” which focused sympathetically on a gentle commander, played by Ken Watanabe, was favorably received here.
Japanese directors have made their share of movies critical of war. Akira Kurosawa made “No Regrets for Our Youth,” as well as “Ran” and “Seven Samurai.” Kihachi Okamoto’s “The Human Bullet” and Kon Ichikawa’s “The Burmese Harp” relay powerful anti-war messages.
But the release of “Unbroken” comes at a time some in Japan are downplaying the country’s colonization of its Asian neighbors and the aggressive act carried out by the Imperialist Army during World War II.
For example, some politicians dispute the role of Japanese soldiers in the Rape of Nanjing, which began in 1937, in which 300,000 Chinese were killed. They say that is a vast overcount.
Similarly, they reject historical studies that show women from several Asian countries, especially Korea, were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military. 

December 13, 2014

Japanese Shunkoin Temple Officiates Gay Marriages under Buddhism

Gay marriage is still not legal in Japan, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options for LGBT couples dreaming of tying the knot in Nippon. Joining big venues like Tokyo Disneyland, an ancient Zen temple in the picturesque city of Kyoto is offering gay weddings in traditional Japanese style.
Established in 1590, Shunkoin Temple follows Zen Buddhism and is an important site for a 20th-century school of thought that blends Zen and Western philosophy. They also take a strong stand on human rights, with their website proudly declaring, “Shunkoin Temple is against any forms of ‘Human Rights Violations’ in the world. No religion teaches how to hate others. Religion teaches how to love and respect others.”
Not only talking the talk, but walking the walk, priest Takafumi Kawakami says of their wedding services, “We welcome every couple regardless of their faith or sexual orientation.”
Les2In fact, the temple officially began providing gay weddings in 2011, but given the conservative nature of Japan, the service hasn’t been widely publicized or recognized here, but the temple is working hard to attract overseas couples both through their English website and through a new partnership with queer-friendly hotel Granvia Kyotoand tour operator Out Travel Asia to offer a 10-day wedding package tour.
Gay 2
By the way, if you happen to be in Kyoto, Shunkoin offers Zen meditation classes in English and has temple-style accommodations, so even if you aren’t looking for a venue for your gay wedding, you can throw a little love to this awesome LGBT ally and have a great cultural experience at the same time.

November 4, 2014

10,000 Missing in Japan, the suspected Kidnapper is “Dementia”

Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg
Asayo Sakai, a former nurse and housewife, drinks a glass of water in her apartment. Asayo was diagnosed with... 


  • Asayo Sakai banged on the front door, demanding to be let out. She was at her daughter’s apartment, where Asayo has lived for the past six years. She has no memory of how she got there or what she’s doing there. 
    As her daughter, Akiko, blocked the way, Asayo, 87 and suffering from dementia, lashed out, hitting and biting. The scene repeated itself with agonizing predictability for a solid year until one day Akiko, exhausted, gave in and opened the door, letting Asayo wander the streets of Osaka’s busy financial center in western Japan
    “I thought, get out of here, if that’s what you want,” Akiko said. “Mom turned into a monster and I couldn’t handle her. I thought my life was over.” 
    What happened next taught Akiko things she never knew about her mother -- and herself. Asayo’s walks lasted hours upon hours and into the early morning. At first, her daughter followed from a safe distance. When police assured her they’d try to keep an eye on Asayo, she let her mom roam around the city alone. 
    It was a risky act of desperation. Yet Akiko soon discovered within her own neighborhood how Japan is trying to become more dementia-friendly. In 2013, the government started a programthat helps families and communities deal with dementia sufferers on their own. Businesses are helping as well. Asayo’s story provides a glimpse of where Japan’s policies may be headed, how far the country still has to go, and the extent to which it is providing a roadmap for other countries. 
    Akiko is among the tens of thousands of Japanese grown children and other caretakers who, lacking access to nursing homes or sufficient help at home, have been pushed to their psychological limits. 
    “People are desperate to find ways to handle dementia patients,” said Hiroko Sugawara, who runs a government-funded educational campaign on dementia. 

    Elderly Care Crisis 

    That dynamic has given rise to a growing elderly care crisis in Japan, where an estimated 10,000 seniors with dementia go missing a year. Some disappear for years, others never return or are eventually found dead. Caretakers have snapped, injuring or even killing their loved ones. In 2012, 27 seniors in Japan were murdered or died from neglect, although it’s unclear how many suffered from dementia. 
    The number of seniors abused by family members jumped 21 percent to more than 15,000 in 2012 from 2006, half of whom suffered from the condition, according to a Japan Health Ministry survey.
    While other countries are aging, none have done so as rapidly as Japan, where an estimated 8 million people suffer from dementia or show early signs of developing the disease. That’s about 6 percent of Japan’s population. By 2060, 40 percent of Japanese will be over 65, up from 24 percent today, according to National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. And as the population ages, the proportion of tax-paying workers will decrease relative to the swelling ranks of dependent seniors. 
    Funding for the stay-at-home program, at just $31 million this fiscal year, is low compared with spending on the disease by other developed countries. At the same time, the government has been raising premiums and reducing access to state-funded services as part of a broader effort to reduce spending, adding to caretakers’ difficulties. Yet the concept of care that is more humane and less expensive than locking up patients in nursing homes is one that experts say holds promise. 

    Support Network 

    As families struggle with their loved ones at home, businesses are also striving to adapt as shoppers age. Dementia patients tend to buy the same products over and over again, said Kimika Tsukada, a manager of social affairs at Aeon Co. (8267), Japan’s largest retailer. They open food packages in stores, eat without paying, and get lost in shopping malls, Tsukada said. 
    Banks also pose a challenge for forgetful seniors. Elderly customers forget PINs for ATMs or where they’ve put passbooks, said Yuriko Asahara, for two decades a Tokyo suburban branch manager of Japan Post Holdings Co., the country’s biggest holder of bank deposits. Asahara recalled a 76-year-old woman who lost her passbook nine times in a few weeks. She has been regularly accused over a 20-year period of stealing money by another woman now in her 80s. 
    The growing number of elderly with dementia wandering Japan’s stores have resulted in some unusual caregiving arrangements. Asahara sometimes helps customers who’ve lost their way get home. Or she helps them replace missing keys, or decipher complicated utility bills. 
    Both Aeon and Japan Post Holdings have programs to teach sales clerks and staff how to handle customers who show signs of dementia. Retail and bank employees are among the 5.4 million Japanese who have taken the government-funded courses. 
    Aeon’s training program, which began in 2007, has trained about 10 percent of the retailer’s 400,000 employees, Tsukada said. Mizuho Financial Group Inc. (8411), among the country’s largest banks, required all of its 1,400 floor clerks to take a class in dealing with customers with dementia. Sumitomo Life Insurance Co. had a quarter of its 40,000 employees learn about the condition. 
    “It’s time for communities to step in and help out,” said Sugawara, the government program’s director. 
    As the years have passed since Asayo first began her walks, her Osaka neighborhood of Kitahama has become an informal support network. When Shigeo Asai, 75, the building manager of Akiko’s apartment house, spots Asayo in an elevator on his monitor at, say, 6 a.m., he invites her into his office for a chat. The small talk makes her smile and she then often returns to her apartment, he said. 
    Asai has also taken to telling other tenants about Asayo’s dementia. He encouraged youngsters in the building to greet her and spread the word to their parents, who now also help if necessary, he said. 
    “Akiko let everyone see how hard it is to live with her mom,” said Asai, whose elderly sister was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “That’s why we help. That’s the way to go. It can happen to anybody.” 
    Keiji Hori, 67, who owns the Rivoli cafe a block away, looks out for Asayo when he opens to serve breakfast at 6 a.m. He often sees her by herself with a bag on her shoulder. 
    One recent morning, he invited Asayo in for a cup of coffee and toast until her daughter came to look for her. He took an interest after spotting Asayo yelling at her daughter, whenever Akiko tried to follow her. 
    “I see her daughter does a lot for her mom and I came to respect and support her when I can,” said Hori, who has run the shop for more than 30 years. 
    Other locals are also keeping an eye on Asayo. The area has bars, cafes and restaurants open from 6 a.m. to as late as 3 a.m. 
    “You’d think people in cities are busy and cold, but they are so heartwarming and helpful,” said Akiko. “They watch out for my mom.” 

    Asayo’s Life 

    Asayo, a former nurse and housewife in an Osaka suburb, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, almost 10 years ago, at 77. Her husband, Masao, had died six years earlier and she had become depressed, stopped cooking, and lost weight, Akiko said. 
    For four years Asayo managed to live by herself. Then her condition worsened. She constantly rang her neighbors’ doorbells, searching for random children and her dead husband. She restocked far more mayonnaise and bananas than she needed, making piles in her kitchen. A tidy person all her life, Asayo cluttered her living room with cardboard boxes. When she tried to withdraw cash at her bank, she lost her temper, ripping apart her passbook in front of the teller. 
    In 2005, when Asayo was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Akiko was so distraught she bought a pack of cigarettes, lighting up for the first time since quitting smoking six years earlier. 
    “Mom would tell me she was fine living alone and that she was eating well, so I believed her,” Akiko said. “That was wrong. I shouldn’t have believed her.” 

    ‘Felt Ashamed’ 

    Asayo at first refused to move out of her two-story house in a suburb of Osaka, where she had lived for more than three decades. When Akiko finally convinced her mother to move in, she locked Asayo in the apartment to keep her safe. 
    That didn’t keep Asayo from sneaking out in the dead of night. Asayo could never remember where she lived, but she could always give her name to police. 
    “I felt ashamed to pick up my mom from police stations,” said Akiko who works at home as a freelance editor and runs an art gallery above her living quarters. 
    Asayo’s dementia had progressed to the point where many Japanese doctors would prescribe medication and send her to a hospital. In Japan, about 12 percent of dementia patients live at mental hospitals, partly because general practitioners, nurses and even nursing homes don’t have enough knowledge or resources to handle them. That compares with less than 1 percent in the U.K. and France
    Physical discomfort, large crowds or unfamiliar faces can make dementia sufferers aggressive, according to the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association
    Doctors prescribe treatments such as antipsychotic drugs including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY)’s Abilify and AstraZeneca Plc (AZN)’s Seroquel. They’re used to prevent patients from harming themselves or their caretakers, said Ronald Petersen, director of Alzheimer’s Research Center at the Mayo Clinic
    Asayo had been turned down by two daycare centers because of her urge to go outside and her tendency to slap people. On a third try, she was accepted into a three-day-a-week program. That still left long evenings and nights with both mother and daughter holed up in Akiko’s duplex apartment. 
    The day Akiko relented and opened the front door started out in the usual way. Asayo had been jiggling the door, wandering around the apartment, demanding to be let out for an hour. After Asayo dashed out, she walked for four miles nonstop, said Akiko, who followed her. 

    Rediscovering Freedom 

    After that first walk, something remarkable happened. As Asayo rediscovered her freedom, her anger disappeared and her mood lightened. She was laughing, flirting with strangers and regaling her daughter’s friends with tales of her youth. 
    “Letting her wander saved us and made us happy,” Akiko said. “It was unbelievably disturbing and stressful to keep my mom in the house.” 
    Akiko shut her gallery for several months and followed Asayo everywhere. Life, if far from perfect, was immeasurably better than during the endless afternoons and nights when both felt trapped inside. 
    “We got exercise, we were around other people and we stopped driving each other crazy,” Akiko said. 
    Then Akiko took another chance. She cut out many of the drugs her mother took for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and thinning blood. Asayo became more tranquil. 
    “There was a risk that her disease would progress,” Akiko said. “But I thought it would make both of our lives much easier if she calmed down, even if her memory were lost.” 
    Asayo is down to a few pills for hypertension and elevated cholesterol levels. She no longer takes Aricept, commonly used to slow the progression of the memory loss. It has side effects, including nausea and diarrhea, in 20 percent of people who take it, according to the Mayo Clinic. 
    Side effects may have also played a role in Asayo’s agitation and violence, said Steve Iliffe, professor of Primary Care for Old People at University College London
    “Patients can’t understand or express what they’re experiencing,” Iliffe said. Akiko “was right to do that,” he said. “That’s quite bold.” 
    There were still bad days, like when Asayo wandered in and out of the house for 12 hours before entering a high-end Italian restaurant. In front of the other diners, she called her daughter “a smuggler” and demanded a waiter call the police. Akiko grabbed her 5-foot, 99-pound mother, who fought back, and dragged her outside the restaurant. 
    “You can’t imagine how much energy she has and how robust her physique is,” Akiko said, pointing to her and her mother’s calf muscles, fit from all the walks together. “She looks refreshed and walks the same distance the next day. She’s lost her sense for pain. I find it really hard to keep up with her.” 

    Wandering Alone 

    Wandering is common in dementia patients, experts say. About six in ten people with dementia may not remember names or addresses, and they can become disoriented, said the Alzheimer’s Association. While it can be dangerous if unsupervised, walking helps calm down agitated patients, Iliffe said. 
    “Walking is therapeutic and helps reduce disturbed behavior and sleep,” he said. 
    Wandering alone, though, remains controversial. Many doctors don’t like the idea that patients are at risk of physical injury. Social workers counter that everything should be done to allow patients to safely do what they want to do. 
    “The best interest may be you do lock the door,” though not necessarily always, Iliffe said. “We all take risks in some way and are managing risks, so it’s about how much risk can we tolerate for somebody who can’t remember where they live.” 

    Teaming With Police 

    Asayo has tried to walk to the port town of Moji, 260 miles west, where she grew up, the youngest of four children. Later she moved to Kasugade, three miles west of Osaka, where she was a live-in nurse as young woman and helped to treat wounded World War II soldiers or prostitutes infected with syphilis. She has tried to walk there, as well. 
    To get to these places of her past, Asayo has asked businessmen and teenagers with punk rock hairstyles to point her in the right direction. She has also hailed taxis: Akiko estimates she paid as much as 5,000 yen ($48) for drives that often end at the police station. 
    Teaming with police was another turning point. Akiko no longer considers it demeaning to end her day with a visit to the police, upon whom she’s grown increasingly dependent. She feels comfortable letting her mother wander knowing police are keeping an eye out for her, she said. Asayo has been brought to all of the eight police stations within a 1.5 mile radius of their house. 

    No Protection 

    In Japan there are no laws protecting people who lack the capacity to make decisions. Both they and their caretakers can be sued for damages. About 115 dementia patients died in train accidents in the eight years ending in 2012 and some of the victims’ families have been forced to pay damages to the railroads, according to an investigation by Mainichi newspaper, based on government statistics on train accidents and police records. 
    In 2007, a 91-year-old man suffering from dementia in Aichi prefecture in central Japan slipped away from his wife and his daughter-in-law, wandered across railroad tracks and was struck and killed by a train. The family was sued for 7.2 million yen ($67,000) in lost ticket revenue by the Central Japan Railway Co. (9022)
    The court ordered the family to pay the full amount, because the family failed to prevent the man from wandering, according to court records. The case was appealed to High Court, which reduced the payment by half, holding only the 85-year-old wife, and no other relatives, accountable. 

    New Phase 

    Asayo hasn’t sustained any serious injuries so far, though she has cut and bruised her face after tripping and falling on the street. 
    Though her memory isn’t returning, Asayo is reveling in a new phase of her life. When she isn’t wandering, she’s regaling shopkeepers and restaurant workers with yarns about her relatives, and the doctors and nurses she once worked with. She talks about her daughter’s love affairs, real or imagined, and asks about the husbands or boyfriends of any woman listening. 
    Whether true or not, her stories make people laugh, encouraging her to talk even more, Akiko said. 
    “She is like an actress or clown on stage. She loves getting attention,” said Akiko. “I am horrified to think that I might never have known this side of my mom.” 
    On a recent day, Asayo was at daycare from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., coloring pictures, solving quizzes, bathing and eating meals and sweets with 20 other elderly people. About 90 percent of the cost is covered by the government’s universal long-term care system. The out-of-pocket bill, which comes to about 60,000 yen a month, is paid by Asayo’s pensions and her savings, Akiko said. 
    Asayo refused to have lunch a group of elderly women and sat at a corner table with a man in a wheelchair who held his lips and turned his face when he was spoonfed by a nurse. As Asayo munched her sautéed pork and a bowl of rice with her chopsticks, she encouraged the man to eat -- to make his mom proud. 
    The next day as soon as she returned from daycare, Asayo started jiggling the door, going up and down the stairs from the living area to the gallery, mumbling and calling for her dead cat Jeff. She wanted to escape to a friend’s place in the mountains. No one should worry, she said, because she’s a skilled worker and can get a job. 
    After Akiko opened the door at about 6:40 p.m., Asayo stormed out into a heat wave of 34 degrees Celsius (94 Fahrenheit). Humidity and heat filled the air as businessmen dressed in white shirts and suit slacks queued in front of bars for after-work drinks. She roamed around, calling her daughter a thief, demanding she go away, and crossed busy roads against traffic. 
    After 40 minutes, Asayo finally agreed to sit down at a restaurant. She sipped a sweetened ice coffee through a straw and ate the toppings of a margarita pizza with chopsticks. She pointed at two waiters and insisted they were Akiko’s boyfriends. 
    At about 8 p.m., she followed Akiko home, took off her top, and changed into a yellow, cotton pajama dress, which she wore inside out. She tossed two butter ball candies into each cheek, put four more in her pockets, sat on a red leather couch and waved a paper fan. 
    Asayo fell asleep without brushing her teeth, her trousers and glasses still on and the fan in her hand. 
    Akiko doesn’t press her to do things differently and leaves Asayo alone for the most part. 
    “Her remaining life is short. She should live happily as her mood dictates,” Akiko said. “I try not to stress us both by caring for her perfectly.” 

    Enriched Life 

    At 8 a.m., Akiko wakes her mother up, and sends her to the daycare. Akiko works, cleans the house, shops for groceries, and, when Asayo is back, she cooks dinner and listens to her mother’s constant banter. 
    “It was really hard at first, but I gained a lot from having her around. I’ve somehow lost a desire to do things for myself,” Akiko said. “She forced me to become an adult. I don’t really want to admit it, but my mom’s illness enriched my life.” 
    One of the many unexpected benefits of the new arrangement: the new friends in Akiko and Asayo’s lives -- neighbors, restaurant owners and policemen. 
    Akiko hopes to keep her mother home for as long as possible, she said. And she has learned to let go of the day’s tensions. 
    “You fight one day, Mom forgets it all the next day, turns into a charming lady and makes me feel silly for letting it get to me,” Akiko said. 
    “She lives in the present, forgets the past and can’t think of the future, so I try to be that way too.” 
    To contact the reporter on this story: Kanoko Matsuyama in Tokyo at
    To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rick Schine at; Anjali Cordeiro at Cecile Daurat

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