There is a good book called "Japan Through the Looking Glass", which seems a particularly fitting title at present. Cognitive dissonance and things happening backwards in time don't seem to concern the locals, who just get on with whatever they are told to do.
It is a bit hard to explain what happened without Lewis Carroll's superior writing skills. On a Friday we were told, by a white knight, that one of us (as yet unspecified!) had agreed to lead a sub-theme of a new large five-year project, focussing on a topic which we didn't think credible or interesting. We had not, but we did know of the general existence of the large project (and in fact currently work on its predecessor). We had even arranged to be informed about this new project in a seminar next February. The White Queen told us to prepare carefully and think of some good ideas over the weekend, which of course, was impossible as we had no idea what we were preparing for. On Monday we met with the knight and Queen, were told what the project was about, voiced our strident disagreement with the underlying premise, developed a workable compromise, and then we had 48 hours to write a proposal for our sub-theme. That same day we all also managed to meet with the White King, in transit between meetings, for 20 minutes in a coffee shop in the middle of Tokyo. There are no other candidates for the funds, and it had already been decided that the proposal was to be successful, but in a rare act of temporal sense, it had been decided that this time it would be nice to plan in advance what each sub-theme was going to do, rather than to plan it afterwards, as usually happens. There was the trifling detail of one official form being required from our employer that takes two weeks to obtain but which had to be submitted within a week, but it turns out that time can in fact be warped when it really matters. Slightly more worrying is the fact that actually James and I do not yet have jobs for next year, because they depend on the other large project (organised by the shogi pieces) which does not yet have any budget at all, even provisionally. It is almost impossible to extract any useful information from the leaders of that project and we don't even understand the sort of moves they make. This makes doing any sort of planning something of a struggle. But we did it, and the knight very kindly did the translation as well as his own proposal. The most stressful part was done by a pawn, quite new on the chess board, who was given the task of calculating the budget, getting the form through JAMSTEC, and then submitting it on-line, on Monday afternoon. Right at the last minute, we suddenly discovered that our pre-ordained budget was 30% larger than we had catered for, which caused a bit of a panic until we arranged for someone else to take the excess off our hands.
On Tuesday we took the day off and enjoyed a lovely relaxing fun-filled day in Kamakura. Now everything seems so much better.