Japan News Roundup: Elections This Weekend, N. Korea's 'Sucessful' Launch, Japanese World's Healthiest People
Saturday, Dec 15, 2012 6:00AM / Members only
N. Korea's missel trajectory over Okinawa. Via.
• “Japan's voters go to the polls on Sunday in elections that look set to deliver a painful setback to the governing Democratic Party of Japan, only three years after it ended decades of nearly unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party” (BBC). Some call it “one of the most complex and confusing general elections in the country's history” (NBC), in which “a circus-like myriad of parties spans a spectrum of views from the super-patriotic, calling for a more hawkish Japan, to those linked to the grass-roots movement demanding an end to nuclear power, a call that has grown following the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant meltdowns last year” (AP). Though “voters appear more disenchanted with all parties” (Economist), the most important issue for all seems to be “how to jolt Japan out of its 20-year economic slump” (AP).
The Washington Post explains Japan’s election process: “The election is largely local, with the country divided into 300 constituencies and voters in each district selecting their preferred candidate. The remaining 180 seats are filled proportionally, based on each party’s share of the vote. The party that controls the lower house — the more powerful of the chambers in Japanese legislature, called the Diet— then installs its party president as prime minister.”
Ahead of elections, citizens from areas ravaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami ask for leaders to “put together a faster and more robust reconstruction effort” (Kyodo News). “According to government figures more than 320,000 people remain in temporary housing across the affected region” and a recent report said “of the nearly 24,000 housing units set to be constructed in three prefectures, only roughly 13,700 will be completed by March of 2015. That's four years after the tsunami hit” (CNN).
Complicating matters for candidates, self-censorship on Twitter and other social media platforms “stems from a 1950 law that lays out—in great detail—what candidates for public office can and can't do in the official campaign period before election day” (WSJ), though ‘rad’ manga campaign posters offer a solution (Kotaku). Among the many candidates are a sprightly 94-year-old (Yahoo), a vocal environmentalist (Deutsche Welle), and ‘flamboyant’ fringe politician Shintaro Ishihara, who once opposed diplomatic ties with China in a pact signed in blood, and who “published a book at the height of Japan’s economic power that lectured his countrymen on the need to end what he considered its postwar servility to the United States” (NYT).
• Days after announcing a delay, North Korea fired a long-range rocket (TIME):
The launch, which allowed Pyongyang to test its ballistic-missile capability in defiance of U.N. restrictions, angered the U.S. and its Northeast Asian allies. The White House called the launch “a highly provocative act that threatens regional security.” South Korea Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan called the launch “a threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula and around the world,” the Yonhap News Agency reported, while Japan called it “intolerable.” The U.N. Security Council passed resolutions banning North Korea from such launches after its nuclear tests in 2006 and ’09.Considered a 'success' by North Korea, the launch sent the missile over Okinawa into sea (Japan Times). A chronology of North Korea's missile programs (AP).
• Japan scrambled jets to intercept a Chinese military surveillance plane over the disputed islands in what the ministry is calling the “first known violation of Japanese airspace by a Chinese plane since it began keeping records about 50 years ago” (NYT). The U.S. is eager to stay out of the dispute, even as it “sends aircraft carriers to reassure its allies and develops an ‘AirSea Battle’ doctrine aimed at defeating China” (AOL):
"We don't take sides anywhere in the world on these things," said Pacific Command chief Adm. Samuel Locklear, repeating the administration's mantra in a talk to the Asia Society during his visit to Washington last week. That said, he went on, "I don't think these [conflicts] are going to go away, and we have to figure out how to get through them without miscalculation, without bringing warships and warplanes in."• “As Japan gropes for a way to deal with its problems—a prolonged recession, a leaderless political system, the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and a rapidly aging population that the economy struggles to support—the photographer Shiho Fukada has been looking at the symbiotic relationship between Japan’s current political turmoil and its unemployment crisis.” (New Yorker)
• “No one knows whether it’s their great diet, good health care or just great genes, but after two decades Japanese citizens are still the healthiest people in the world, according to a decades-long study on population health published today.” (ABC)
• After pleading guilty, Okinawan authorities sentenced U.S. marine to four years in prison for molesting and assaulting a woman in August. (Kyodo)
“The U.S. Navy in Japan says it will ease one of its new behavīoral restrictions Wednesday, letting sailors once again drink alcohol at home after 10 p.m…. Sailors are still prohibited from consuming alcohol outside their private residences or off-installation between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., regardless of leave or liberty status.” (Stars and Stripes)
• A 1400 year-old warrior was found still wearing his armor during an archaeological at the ‘Pompeii of Japan’. (io9)
• “How Japan's murky underworld became the patron and power broker of the ruling party that intended to clean up politics.” (Foreign Policy)
• Huffington Post will partner with Japan’s major newspaper Asahi Shimbun to launch its first effort in Asia. (AllThingsD)
• Oscar-winning Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki's (Spirited Away, Ponyo) is working on his first film in five years. Based on one of Japan’s oldest novels, Taketori Monogatari (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter), the film will be released in 2013. (Telegraph)
• With artists as teachers and fans as students (and an industry that generates 400 billion yen per year domestically), manga studies become more prominent in Japanese colleges. (Yomiuri)
• Though lessons “are potentially quite thorny”, the Washington Post asks what the U.S. can learn about gun control from Japan, which had 11 gun-related murders in 2008 when America had over 12,000.
• Why the ‘Fukushima 50’—actually hundreds of workers who stayed at the crippled nuclear power plant to bring the reactors under control—remain largely unknown. (BBC)
• Scientists believe Japan's samurai caste may have been toppled by women’s makeup.
• Actor Jeremy Irons speaks out for the world's longest-serving death row prisoner, a Japanese boxer on death row for 44 years. (The Guardian)
• “Gold” chosen as 2012’s Kanji of the Year; runners up were were “ring” and “island.” (WSJ)
• “The average score of Japanese elementary school students in global achievement tests in mathematics and science last year showed a marked rise from the previous survey in 2007.” (Japan Times)
• “Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae visited the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism on Nov. 21, within one week of his arrival in Washington, D.C. He paid his respects to the Nisei who died in U.S. military service during World War II and to the 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who were incarcerated in internment camps.” (Rafu Shimpo)
• “Japan's mythological account of the world on the brink of annihilation is in a class by itself. Other stories of its kind are tragic, terrifying. Japan's is comic, even bawdy.”
• The Guardian caught up with Mariko Mori just before her exhibition Rebirth opened at the Royal Academy. ArtInfo has a slideshow.
• Tis the season: Japan’s snow monkeys head to the onsen. (Windsor Star)
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Japan News Roundup: North Korea Missile Launch, Election's 'Third Force', Japan’s Only Male Geisha, Kobe Luminaire
Saturday, Dec 8, 2012 7:23AM / Members only
Kobe Luminaire commemorating victims of the 1995 earthquake. Via.
• A major tunnel collapse near Mt. Fuji saw “about 270 concrete slabs each weighing 1.4 tons fall and cause the deaths of nine people” (BusinessWeek), after which "Japanese officials ordered the immediate inspection of tunnels across the country” (WSJ). BBC recaps reports from major Japanese media, with Yomirui writing the tunnel "has been inspected every five years” and officials saying “'no problem was found with the ceiling panels' during the last inspection between September and October.”
• Campaigning kicked off this week in “nuclear crisis–hit Fukushima, where more than 100,000 people remain displaced from their homes" (AP). With with polls showing more than 40 percent of voters are undecided, the Wall Street Journal gave a rundown of the political players, and, in separate article noted "a record number of parties—12 in total—are expected to register more than 1,400 candidates to compete for the 480 seats in the lower house" with 'third force' minority parties possibly tipping support from the larger conservative LDP and democratic DPJ parties. The nationalistic impetus of some popular candidates “could give not only Asian neighbors but also Washington cause for concern” (Reuters).
• In addition to the economy, a major platform this election is energy. The ruling party wants to “end Japan’s reliance on nuclear power by the 2030s, using a combination of energy conservation, a shift to renewable energy sources and greater use of cogeneration, which captures heat emitted as a byproduct of electricity generation.” The country is also "pushing ahead with ambitious smart city plans." (Financial Times)
• A 7.3 earthquake struck northeastern Japan--an area still recovering from 2011--injuring several people and “generating small waves but no immediate reports of heavy damage.” (L.A. Times)
• “North Korea is proceeding with plans to test a long-range rocket this month in defiance of international condemnation that included Japanese warnings to shoot it down if necessary" (BW). Japan issued a shoot-down order and “called for close cooperation with the U.S., China, South Korea and Russia in preparation (WSJ). The U.S. Navy began moving ships into the western Pacific in preparation for the planned launch of a long-range rocket by North Korea (SCMP).
• The Senate unanimously amended the 2013 Defense Authorization Bill, committing the U.S. "to defend Japan should the Senkaku Islands come under attack by a third country" (Washington Times). Noting the “Chinese navy and military presence is expanding day by day” around the islands, the Globe and Mail bigs a bird’s eye view of the proverbial chess game unfolding:
The Japanese surveillance plane is an hour into its flight when it spots the first Chinese flags of the day… [the] craft are mere pawns, pushing forth in groups to test the response from the Japanese side as Beijing tries to assert its claim to a quintet of islands, and their surrounding waters, that Japan has controlled for decades. Later that day, the rooks and knights appear – China Marine Surveillance craft, sent nearly every day to police the area as if it were Beijing’s to patrol. They are cautiously matched ship for ship by boats from the Japan Coast Guard, the two sides often closing to within 100 metres of each other but never – yet – colliding.”• U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka and Representative Colleen discussed why remembering Pearl Harbor matters 71 years later. (Morning Sun)
• "Japan wants to encourage the world’s two biggest emitters [China and the U.S.] to take part in a global climate-protection system that would be agreed to before 2015 and to include both developing and industrialized nations… The nation will pursue voluntary policies rather than binding targets under the Kyoto Protocol beginning in 2013." (Bloomberg News)
• An essay debate wages over at Council on Foreign Relations: Is Japan in decline?
• "For years Yoshinori Watanabe (aka ‘Mr. Gorilla’) ran Japan’s most powerful and successful yakuza group. Jake Adelstein on his mysterious death over the weekend—and his legacy of modern and ruthless management of the crime syndicate." (Daily Beast)
• Helping to bring kabuki to contemporary audiences around the world, actor Nakamura Kanzaburo died this week at age 57. His 100-strong all-male company Heisei Nakamuraza troupe is “noted for productions that respect kabuki's centuries-old heritage yet burst with contemporary energy and humor that are evocative of the early days of kabuki theater in the 17th century.” (Japan Times)
• With the passing of jazz legend Dave Bruebeck, some pick his "Jazz Impressions of Japan" as a top album--"a kind of musical journal of the Dave Brubeck Quartet's tour of Japan"
• “Eitaro is Japan’s only male geisha who performs in the role as a female dancer. He is the master of an ‘okiya,’ a geisha house in Tokyo’s Omori port district.” The articlenotes: “In modern Japan, geisha performers have become a rarity… One hundred years ago, there were over 80,000 geisha in Japan. Today the number of working geisha is estimated to be around 1,000.” (Daily Mail)
• Fast Company posted some incredible images from MoMA's Rise of Tokyo Avant-Garde exhibition, noting "the show has an auspicious (and telling) relationship to the architecture housing it, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, an architect who came of age in Tokyo during the same period. Taniguchi’s restrained white walls couldn’t be more different than the sometimes frightening surrealism and utopian fervor of his one-time peers." The Wall Street Journal shared highlights of some 70 Japanese films of the period screening in conjunction with the exhibition.
• Winner and runners up from this year’s annual Japanese mascot Grand Prix. “6,500,000 votes were cast to rank the 865 official mascots who entered." (RocketNews24)
• The Kobe Luminarie is under way--a 12-day light festival that commemorates victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 (BesuDesu). More images from Getty Images here.
• From bottles to boxes: how to giftwrap Japan-style. (ChopsticksNY)
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Saturday, Dec 1, 2012 5:39AM / Members only
Island dispute sees dips in visits to Japan. Via.
• Japan will give the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration $5 million “to help with collection and disposal of marine debris from its March 2011 tsunami disaster” (BusinessWeek). Timely news as debris is expected to land in Hawaii soon, specifically on a beach where an estimated 20 tons of current-carried garbage already washes ashore every year (NBC).
• Japan put many 3/11 reconstruction projects not linked to disaster zones on hold "after criticism the spending was not directly related to recovery from the disasters" (Associated Press). With a quarter of the $148 billion reconstruction money earmarked for “unrelated projects, including subsidies for a contact lens factory in another region and research whaling,” the hold frees up only $210 million. In addition, the government plans to sell off some 56,000 homes lent cheaply to officials to raise approximately $2.1 billion for reconstruction (Bloomberg News).
• A United Nations envoy urged Japan to do more for residents and workers affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis, citing over-emphasized optimism on radiation risks and lack of access to health check results as major recurring problems. (Associated Press)
• With elections just weeks away, Japan's ruling party promised "cool-headed and practical" diplomacy in contrast with the opposition’s hawkish rhetoric, and restated its goal of phasing out nuclear power by the 2030s (Reuters). Meanwhile, Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada formed a new political group “that aims to get Japan out of nuclear power, create more opportunities for women and promote a work-life balance that makes it easier for families to raise children” (Japan Times). Political powerhouse Ichiro Ozawa has joined.
• None of the candidates have won the hearts (or votes) of those in the tsunami-devastated region, who feel reconstruction has fallen off the political agenda (Reuters). "Many of the 159,000 people who fled their towns…are finally accepting that it may take decades, perhaps generations, before their town could be restored to anything like it was before the disaster” (New York Times).
• Japan unveiled an $11 billion economic package, "its second round of stimulus in a little more than a month" (Financial Times).
• The Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute between Japan and China “has affected a broad cross-section of Japanese business, from cars to cosmetics. But perhaps the biggest blow has been to tourism”, with JNTO reporting Chinese tourism down in 33% from 2011. (Wall Street Journal)
• In an annual government survey, Japan's feelings for the U.S., Russia and India are up, while views on China and South Korea "sank to their lowest levels in decades".
• U.S. commanders are telling troops in Japan to “put a cork in it” (TIME) and “buddy up” (WSJ), after a number of arrests and embarrassing incidents. America’s highest-ranking military officer in Japan said “the two countries are considering such countermeasures as joint U.S.-Japanese patrols and a ‘hotline’ in Okinawa for reporting troop misbehavīor to U.S. military law enforcement officials” though “he opposed reopening the status of forces agreement, an accord on the legal jurisdictions for American troops that has long been a lightning rod for anti-U.S. base activists.”
• People Power: Forbes highlights more of The Nikkei's top 100 people having the greatest influence on Japan’s future; the first Japanese-American woman senator vows to push Japan ties (Asiance Magazine); now in her 70s, Yoko Ono carves new niches in her life, from fighting world hunger to revolutionizing men's fashion (NYT); Forbes also profiles Ernie Higa, the Wendy's Japan executive re-launching and revolutionizing the brand across the pacific (when talking about the country’s decline, he notes “Japan is still alive. It’s the third-biggest economy, and you can still succeed here by finding the right niche and adapting”).
• Sea Views: Tokyo activists rallied against dolphin and whale hunts over the weekend, part of demonstrations held around the world (AFP); Japan is on a quest to make bluefin tuna more sustainable (The Atlantic); The Times meditates on ama, Japan's free diving 'sea women'.
• South China Morning Post interviewed the authors of Strong in the Rain, the "harrowing but compassionate" collection of stories from tsunami victims. "There was a sense among many Tohoku people I met that telling their stories to journalists was grandstanding. They viewed their suffering as nothing special, compared to others," said one author.
• Language Lesson: Japan Times looks at "notable negatives" and other Japanese linguistic oddities, starting with the famous monkeys Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru (of "see/hear/speak no evil fame"). How did they get their names? "The negative verb inflexion -zaru, which happens to be a homonym for saru (monkey)."
• A look at the "sparkly names" trend in Japan favoring pop culture christenings for kids. (Kotaku)
• New book sheds light on 'grim' realities of mental healthcare in Japan. (Japan Times)
• Reuters weighs in on sumo's decline in an 'age of convenience'.
• A 'floating' high-speed train unveiled in Tokyo is set to hit tracks in 2027 and cut travel time in more than half. (Discovery)
• Food: For the sixth consecutive year, Japan was awarded the most Michelin three-star rated restaurants in the world, “though the number slipped to 14 from 16” (Reuters); with the adage sake "never fights with food", chefs outside of Japan are beginning to pair the libation with non-Japanese food (BBC); one of Japan's top airlines will offer KFC on fligths from Japan to U.S. and Europe over the winter holidays. (Business Insider); the Washington Post examined ji-biru, Japanese craft beer, one of "Japan’s least famous but most exciting gastronomic exports."
• The legacy of 007 in Japan: “James Bond made his official Japan debut in ‘You Only Live Twice’: The gentleman spy came to Tokyo and Fukuoka, saw some sumo, consorted with ninja and got intimate with two homegrown Bond girls” (Japan Times). In a plot fit for a Bond flick, Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency said that plans for a new solid-fuel rocket were stolen from computers (NYT).
• Tis the Season: “On a recent weekend, 88 Santa wannabes packed the school in Tokyo's fashionable Roppongi district for a crash course in how to behave as ‘Santa-san,’ as the man in red is known in Japan.”
• Japanese toymaker plans to launch one-person electric helicopter next year. (WIRED)
• No plans for the weekend? Here's how to make Gudnam out of electrical plugs. (Rocketnews24)
• Kotaku examines the tiny might of 21st Century netsuke, and unleashes Japan's terrifying melon bear.
Beware the melon-eating bears of Japan. Via. 48 views Share
Saturday, Nov 24, 2012 8:00AM / Members only
Noda congratulating Obama on 4 more years? AP photo via.
• President Obama ended his tour of Asia in diplomatic discussions with leaders of Japan and China (ABC), but "talk of trade was overshadowed by discussions over how to prevent violence over South China Sea territories." During the talks Obama "once again touted the U.S.-Japan alliance the 'conerstone' of regional security" (BusinessWeek).
• Japan's foreign minister Koichiro Genba answered some basic questions about Japan's stance on the island dispute in a New York Times op-ed. BBC News reported that Japan named the new ambassador to China: career diplomat Masato Kitera, 59, who will go to Beijing next month.
• Reuters analysis of Japan's upcoming elections elections:
[The] likely scenario is that the December election ushers in a period of confusing coalition politics... that will complicate policymaking in a political system already criticized as indecisive as Japan struggles with such challenges as China's rise, the role of nuclear power after last year's Fukushima crisis and the ballooning costs of a fast-ageing population. Such prospects would deepen concerns at ratings agencies over Japan's ability to deal with its high public debt, which at more than twice the size of the $5 trillion economy is the heaviest among leading industrialized nations.• Likely conservative Prime Minister candidate Shinzo Abe says strengthening Japan's economy and the military are the top priorities for his party as the country approaches elections on December 16 (BW). Meanwhile "the veteran Japanese politician’s Facebook page is sure getting lots of attention" (Wall Street Journal).
• "In next month's general election, politicians -- nearly all of them men -- will make promises on what they will do to fix Japan's economic morass. Very few of them will even mention women." (Agence France Presse)
• Japan will spend $12.3 billion on its next economic stimulus. (BW)
• Japan's government is sending $4.7 million to Pakistan, where parts still remain underwater two months after a moonsoon caused massive flooding (Pakistan Observer). They are also sending $500K for New Jersey's hurricane recovery (New Jersey News). Two Japanese NGOs fight to get aid for war-torn Mali (Asahi).
• Despited ¥12 billion loss, a Miyagi Prefecture shipbuilder launched its first vessel built since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. "The ship is painted blue, green and orange, the colors used in the flags of the hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima." (Japan Times). On the otherside of the Pacific, a California port is building a tsunami-resistant harbor in response to 3-11 (Washington Post), and one oceanographer finds it ominous that Japan's tsunami debris is late landing in Washington State. (MyNorthwest.com)
• Just as U.S. airmen were turned over to Japanese prosecutors to decide charges for suspected assault (ABC), several more violations from armed forces personnel were reported in Japan, ranging from trespassing (AP) to indecent exposure and drunk driving (AFP).
• Though "the number of elderly criminals being caught by Japanese police has rocketed…with pensioners committing almost 50 times more assaults than two decades ago," the trend "goes against that of society at large, where the overall number of crimes in Japan fell 5.8 percent on year, to 2.14 million in 2011, its ninth straight year of decline." (Herald Sun)
• Incidences of bullying in Japan has more than doubled since last academic year, with 144,000 reported over 6 months. (NHK)
• Japan Times offers a strategy for learning Japanese, with this news:
According to the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State, which has compiled language-learning expectations for their professional staff (people who already know other languages), Japanese is one of the five most difficult languages to reach speaking and reading proficiency in, requiring 88 weeks of study (2,200 class hours).• While Japan's ninjas head for extinction (BBC) and sumo wresting declines as the national sport (Financial Times), the country has been experiencing a massive mascot boom (Reuters).
• Hiroki Kuroda agreed to $15 million deal with the Yankees. (ABC)
• Japan's opened its first environmentally friendly highway rest stop, equipped with some 4,000 solar panels and public toilets that use only recycled water. (UPI)
• For Japan's toilet giant, "global lavatory domination remains elusive, especially among shy U.S. consumers," because, according to top brass, Americans don't like talking about bathroom business.
• Japan's HEARBO made great strides in robotic sound processing. (Endgadget)
• Astronauts from Japan, U.S. and Russia returned to earth. (MSNBC)
• Chef Elizabeth Andoh whips up a cookbook showcasing cuisine and ingredients from Japan's disaster zone. (WaPo video launches immediate when opening link.)
• Yahoo's Japan Ramen project selected nine Japan-based foreigners (including six Americans) to spread the joy of noodle making around the world. (JT)
• Scottish roots of Japanese whisky. (The Scotsman)
• Renovations on "once worthless" old Japanese homes, some from the 1600s, are yielding return of investments as high as 80%. (BW)
• Japan's public libraries are thriving. (JT)
• One new photography book looks at the physical and spiritual aesthetics of bonsai (JapanCultureNYC), another captures the "living hell passengers endure on Tokyo's trains" (News Australia).
• A major Zeshin show and multimedia retrospective of David Lynch's artwork opened in Japan. Plus, the little known art of indoor moss installations. (JT)
• Sadly the Japanese gallery Ippodo is selling off its New York inventory and closing its Chelsea space on December 31. (ArtInfo)
• Kirie, the traditional Japanese art of paper cutting, gets a contemporary spin. What appears "to be ink paintings done with a sumi-e brush… are instead layered sheets of black and white paper, painstakingly created by using nothing more than a cutter knife." (JapanCultureNYC)
• "Good design and Japan go hand in hand," said the New York Times in their review from the Design Tide Tokyo expo.
• Verge reports from the 2012 Tokyo Designers Week, taking in "skateboards made from kimonos, giant rabbit art, Kinect-powered alarm clocks, giraffe-shaped skyscrapers, and over six hundred cellphones."
• "I believe it is necessary (for designers) to value the Japanese cultural undercurrent," legendary designer Hanae Mori told Asahi in an exclusive interview.
• Variety reported the anime Evangelion 3 broke box office opening records in Japan for the year, and that the seminal WWII anime Grave of the Fireflies will be released in US for the first time as part of a touring Studio Ghibli Retrospective.
• NTV launched a YouTube page with clips from their insanely creative hand-crafted site gag amateur contest show Kasō Taishō: http://www.youtube.com/user/masqueradentv
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News Roundup: Japan Elections Set, Beijing Let's Japanese Marathoners Run, Tsunami Teens Visit NJ, Japan's Innovative 'Greatness'
Saturday, Nov 17, 2012 1:05AM / Members only
• Japan averted its “fiscal cliff” by passing a crucial bill to keep the government from running out of money by the end of November (BBC). This comes when GDP figures “indicated the most dramatic contraction since the country was hit by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011” (CNN). With media crying recession (NYT), CNBC posited that amping global demand over domestic stimulus might be Japan’s only hope for recovery. BusinessWeek pointed out the agreement ended the budget standoff and paved the way for elections while "polls showed voter discontent with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at a new high." Noda indeed dissolved parliament and set elections for December 16, reported Associated Press, which noted “if Noda's center-left party loses, the economically sputtering country will get its seventh prime minister in six and a half years."
• With a third round of talks, China and Japan appeared "no closer to ending their stand-off over the tiny, uninhabited islands known to China as the Diaoyus and to Japan as the Senkakus." The Economist asked “why China seems to be fanning the flames of its row with Japan in the East China Sea” noting that "Japan and China established diplomatic relations in 1972, the leaders of both countries agreed to put the issue of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands to one side; to let future, supposedly wiser, generations deal with the problem." Reuters examined how debts and double-dealing sparked the row, and CNN said to “avert either a new cold war or a brief hot war” a possible trilateral solution is needed between Japan, China and the U.S. “based on simple principles: doing no further harm, putting aside differences, and expanding areas of mutual interest.” Examining the stand off, BBC described the islands:
Mostly rocky outcroppings which serve as a home to migratory birds and a herd of wild goats, the islands are closest to Taiwan, about 210 km (125 miles) northeast of Taipei and 1,800 km from Tokyo...The largest, Uotsurijima in Japanese, rises up like a forest-canopied mountain from the sea, with no port for landing. A little larger than New York's Central Park, the island's highest point tops the Eiffel Tower.• The organizers of the Beijing Marathon reversed its decision and will let Japanese runners take part in the event. (Kyodo News)
• Japan and North Korea reopened stalled bilateral talks, though "Japan and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic relations. The abduction issue and concerns over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs have long strained ties." (AP)
• Nikkei Business highlighted “the one hundred people creating the next generation” in Japan featuring puts 100 people in the categories of "revolutionist," "creator," "hero," "leader," "thinker," "newcomer," and "decider."
• "Struggling to learn" is accepted in Japanese and other Eastern education systems, but is often seen as a weakness in the U.S. (NPR)
• Japan is seeing a continued decline of post-secondary enrollment of Japanese students in U.S. schools and American students into Japanese schools. (Forbes)
• Teens who survived Japan's tsunami visited a high school in hurricane-affected New Jersey, talking for the first time to an audience that "can relate to the damage that a natural disaster causes." How long did the recovery take in Japan? "It’s not finished yet,” said one student. (Daily Record)
• The New York Times looked at the role sports played to help Japanese deal with the 3/11 disasters. "Unlike in the United States, where athletes might play a different sport each season, Japanese students commit to a single sport that they practice year-round. As a result, teammates and coaches provided a support network for many athletes affected by the catastrophe. Sports also helped connect student-athletes to family members and neighbors, many of whom played sports themselves."
• The new book Strong in the Rain gives voice to the survivors of #Japan's 3/11 disaster. Japan Times calls it "a riveting story about Japan's March 11 cataclysm told uncommonly well by two veteran Japan-based journalists who share their emotions, experiences and insights while giving readers ringside seats through captivating interviews with survivors. The authors give a haunting voice to the people of Tohoku, one that will linger in your memory, as their evocative prose conveys a sense of the panic, horrors and heartbreak endured."
• More on the decline of sumo, Japan's 2,000-year-old sport "hit by a 54-year recruitment low thanks to bullying scandals, death, allegations of illegal drug use — and a strict diet regime… Just 56 boys took up the this year while twice as many wrestlers gave it up." (The Sun)
• "Japan’s Sport Council on Thursday awarded a contract to design and construct a centerpiece, billion-dollar national stadium that forms a key part of Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games to lauded U.K. firm Zaha Hadid Architects. " The Wall Street Journal's image gallery includes the winning design as well as finalists.
• "Within a decade [after WWII] Tokyo was on its way to being bigger and richer than ever. And it was producing huge amounts of art, feisty and fantastic, a wave of which comes surging out at you like a blast of sound — half noise, half music…" The New York Times reviews Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde opening this weekend at the Museum of Modern Art. Related, the Boston Globe reviewed Reinventing Tokyo at the Mead Art Museum.
• The Mori Art Museum opened a retrospective of darkly disaster-evoking artist Makota Aida, noting "the frequency of natural disasters in Japan is often invoked in explaining elements of the nation's aesthetic, from lightweight wood-and-paper architecture to the ephemeral beauty of ikebana." Also, a new exhibition at the Kyoto National Museum shows "fine line" between Japanese calligraphy and art. (Japan Times)
• Artist Laurie Simmons discusses her latest muse with New York magazine: a Japanese love doll.
• "Until the 1980s, people in Japan generally strove to hide their relatives with dementia from the outside world. By and large, it fell on the spouse or the children to care for them — or the wife of a son whose parent had Alzheimer's." (Japan Times)
• The chilling history behind the abandoned Japanese island featured in the blockbuster new James Bond film Skyfall. (Verge)
• As everyone in the U.S. prepares for Thanksgiving feasts, Malaysia's The Star profiles the power of satsuma-imo (sweet potato) in Japan's culinary culture.
• A Japanese maitre d' was named Best Waiter In The World. (Business Insider)
• "It gave us the Walkman, the pocket calculator and heated toilet seats, but Japan's path to innovative greatness is littered with failures such as the TV-shaped radio and the 'walking' toaster" (AFP). Much new innovative 'greatness' from Japan dominated the news this week: Pepsi Japan's 'fat-burning' new flavor (The Week), which may be "too good to be true" (TIME); odor-absorbing underwear (Wired); and using 3-D scanners to make plastic miniature figurines of their customers (RocketNews24).
Hashima Island, featured in Skyfall. Via.
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- Founded in 1907, Japan Society has evolved over 100 years into an internationally recognized nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that offers opportunities to experience Japanese culture, fosters sust...Founded in 1907, Japan Society has evolved over 100 years into an internationally recognized nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that offers opportunities to experience Japanese culture, fosters sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S. and East Asia, and improves access to information on Japan. The Society is America’s major single producer of high-quality content on Japan and presents over 100 events annually, from world-class exhibitions, performances and film screenings to exclusive tastings, lectures, workshops and conferences.
- Occupation: Association
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