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Baboo Mondoñedo

A different reality
Hokkaido, Japan –The implementation of the Reproductive Health Law in the Philippines can now proceed after the Supreme Court ruled on its constitutionality. It has been a long struggle mostly against patriarchy and medieval mindsets. We have fought windmills and succeeded in breaking through, advancing the interests of women. The law is not perfect but this is a start and we are thankful to those who helped swing it.

There will still be those who will try to mislead and blame natural calamities on the RH Law. Perhaps, they should instead do their part in helping mitigate the effects of climate change. Time to stop the bull.

Truth is that millions of women in the Philippines stand to benefit from the government support to be given them under the law. Hopefully, this will be a step in controlling the country’s population, which is one way to address poverty.

Here in Japan, they are on the opposite side of the spectrum. They have the lowest birth rate in the world. And we noticed seeing very few pregnant women. The government has had to look at how to reverse the shrinking population. They are encouraging women to have more children, such as pay to procreate. There is the “Angel Plan” to make having children easier by providing fund support. They also have the “Plus One Proposal” to increase the number of children by providing pro-parent working conditions, such as through establishment of more day care centers. Government is also funding matchmaking events to boost birth rate. Another solution being looked at is immigration.

In Japan, one feels there is a lot of space and less people, compared to the Philippines. No traffic and no crowds. We saw this in Osaka and Kyoto where we chased the sakura or cherry blossoms. But it was more apparent in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost, second largest and least developed island. Travel in Japan is relatively easy with efficient train service. It is also a paradise for foodies as one gets the best beef and other meat and the freshest harvest from the sea. We spent time in supermarkets and food shops just looking at the food available, making our mouth’s water.

From Osaka, we took the train to Hokkaido’s capital, Sapporo, a winter destination and where the Winter Olympics were once held. We caught the end of winter with snow on the mountains and the temperature dropped. The little we knew about Sapporo was its beer and we found indeed the city is home to Sapporo Brewery.

A main attraction is the Sapporo Beer Garden, located in the Genghis Khan Hall, a red brick building built during the Meiji era. One feels a sense of history upon setting foot inside the building. There is a large hall with wooden walls and a giant kessel or cauldron at the center that reaches up to the ceiling. The tables are equipped with roasters and one can cook lamb while trying different kinds of beer. The mood is jovial and families, friends, company groups and salaried men and women occupied the tables around us. Coming here was one way of immersion in Japanese culture.

Another attraction is the Chyuou Irshiuri Market where they sell the most exotic seafood one can imagine. One just points and there are kitchens that will cook the meal of your choice for you. There are many markets of similar nature around Japan.

From Sapporo, we took the train to Otaru passing through small villages and snow covered mountains. Otaru is a quaint city and port that faces the Ishikari Bay. The city has steep slopes with the altitude dropping sharply from the mountains to the sea. The area between the mountains and the sea has been developed and is now called “Hill Town.” The Otaru canal runs through the town and reflects the stone and brick warehouses, the heritage of the past. The name “Otaru” is of Ainu origin and there is evidence of Ainu history from as early as A.D. 400.

Unlike Sapporo where there are high-rise buildings, Otaru has little shops and restaurants and museums. Here they make sake rice wine, beer, and whiskey and have a thriving glass industry. There is so much to see just by walking around. But everything depends on the weather.

When we woke up this morning, we looked out the window and saw it had snowed outside. We learned the temperature is zero degrees Centigrade outside. Chill to the bones.

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