Is This Disneyland, Or Am I In Prison?

Katakuri-chan says, "Prison is fun!"

No country has more faith in the power of an adorable mascot than Japan. Their talisman-like powers have been employed in almost every walk of life: museums, theme parks, tourist attractions, festivals, and even whole cities. What is it about these mascots that make it appropriate for them to be as superfluous in a society as dedicated to serious work as Japan?… [Read more]

A Beacon of Hope For Japanese Nationalists

"It's only a model..." ~Patsy, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

In a publicity stunt so ridiculous it could have been cooked up by Glenn Beck, former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara has suggested that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe build a lighthouse on the disputed Pinnacle Islands. This move, he claims, would help break the political stalemate that Japan and China have been sitting in for the last year, thereby improving the situation, somehow.… [Read more]

Ask Mrs. Vera: Will the Fukushima nuclear plant destroy the world?

Mrs. Vera, in mourning for Sol III.

Dear Mrs. Vera,

Will the Fukushima nuclear plant destroy the world?

Yours Sincerely, Leó Szilárd, Budapest, Hungary

Dear Louis Lizard and all my troubled readers fearing the end of the world before they ever get to see Belgium up close in person and say “Walloon” a lot,

Don’t panic. Let’s all just quickly, quietly and in an orderly manner proceed to the sub-sub basement while thinking centered thoughts about frolicking, boiling dolphins fleeing the Pacific Ocean, um, er, I mean contented piles of algae growing slowly on the shores of Antarctica, as we make our way to the panic room/world headquarters in our new exciting subterranean mise-en-scene, before finally drawing a deep breath and relaxing.… [Read more]

“Barefoot Gen” Stomps His Way Into the Present Day

Barefoot Gen

Just in time for the 68th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Choubunsha Publishing Company has released a new and updated version of “Barefoot Gen”, a bilingual edition of the graphic novel that will now be told in both Japanese and English. This highly acclaimed manga was written and illustrated by A-bomb survivor Keiji Nakazawa.… [Read more]

An Uncomfortable Occasion For Glendale, California

Because they had a choice?

In a park in Glendale, CA, a new memorial statue was unveiled this week. The park is in a largely Asian and Asian-American neighborhood and will feature the image of a young Korean girl dressed in traditional clothing. The problem? This girl is a “comfort woman.”

Because they had a choice?

The issue of comfort women (as they are commonly referred to by historians) dates back to pre-WWII times and is still hotly contested today, more vocally than at any other time previously.… [Read more]

Racism: No Longer an American-Made Product

Waving the Hinomaru

While visiting my friend today, I was witness to an unpleasant situation that had been unfolding before her for hours prior to my arrival. This friend works on the social media end of an international corporation. This company is associated with a celebrity who has an opinion on the verdict of the Martin/Zimmerman trial. The opinion as I read it wasn’t explicitly violent or incendiary, however because it appeared on the internet a veritable shit-storm quickly arose.… [Read more]

Lighting the Way: Summer Festival of the Dead in Japan

Oban Festival

Japan has been getting a lot of attention lately for its “suicide culture” recently, a phenomenon brought into the spotlight by Larissa MacFarquhar in her new article in The New Yorker. But suicide isn’t all there is to the Japanese understanding of death and the dead. A much more lighthearted example would be the Obon Festival.… [Read more]

Updates On Fukushima: Holding TEPCO and the Diet Accountable

No More Fukushima!

We have yet another problem arising from Fukushima Daiichi, threatening to make a bad situation even worse. In June a new leak was discovered under Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactor #1, and as usual TEPCO has decided to downplay the serious nature of this incident. As they have many times before, TEPCO is trying to muffle the sound of a dangerous situation with good PR.… [Read more]

Abe Akie Wants You To “Like” Her Husband

Abe Akie

In a nation where we’re constantly bombarded online with targeted political messaging (think back to the Obama For President 2012 5-a-day email bomb), it might be easy to forget how charming that kind of attention used to be.

As hyper-connected to technology as Japan is, it has mostly been through traditional channels that politicians have tried to reach voters.… [Read more]

Japan: A Demographic Problem With Obivous Solutions

Even the royal supports it.

What could be scarier than imagining your entire culture collapsing? With the current demographic projections, this may be a reality for Japan in the not too distant future. Population decline, starting around the 1970s, has been steady and consistently troubling there. The widely accepted causes of this decline include very low birth rates, very long life expectancies, and a lack of foreign nationals living in the country.… [Read more]

Will the Pacific Become the New Middle East?

The Spratly Islands are a few of many islands disputed by regional players such as China and Japan. The potential for increased diplomatic and/or violent tensions should not be ignored.

The old adage “generals always fight the last war, especially if they’ve won it” applies not only to the military and war, but to almost all aspects of human conflict and interaction, such as diplomacy. Paradigms often change right underneath the noses of so-called “experts” or policymakers.

The Spratly Islands are a few of many islands disputed by regional players such as China and Japan.… [Read more]

Skipping Rocks: the Quarrel Between Japan and China, and What it Means to America

Skipping Rocks

As the New Year unfolds before us, we find ourselves falling off one rock and headed down toward another. We’re a bunch of Rockhounds, really, with an excellent collection going. While we’re busy arguing about the Fiscal Cliff, however, there are other dramas unfolding around the world.

Across East Asia there have been huge political changes following several important national elections this year.… [Read more]

Saving the National Rifle Association, and Protecting Americans

nra-president-wayne-lapierre-6775wlapierre

Despite the armchair psychology, while Newtown school mass murderer Adam Lanza was probably rather off upstairs, National Rifle Association CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre isn’t a psychopath. He’s a million-dollar-a-year shill in a nice bespoke suit who seems to know which side of the toast the butter’s on.  His idea of a flannel outdoorsy shirt probably has a Brooks Brothers label.… [Read more]

With Vision on Long-Term Goals, Japanese Overwhelmingly Support Obama for Re-Election

It's all coming in to view.

Scrolling through the world and Asia news sections on CNN and NPR like I do most evenings, I came across a poll summary that was a refreshing change from what I usually spend my time scouring over. This poll was conducted by AFP-Ipsos, a Hong Kong-based think tank. The survey targeted two major economic forces with which we share incredibly important ties: China and Japan.… [Read more]

Allow Me To Introduce the “Green Tea Party”

SAMPLE

There is an up-and-coming political group, deeply conservative and spawned from the power struggles of the last decade, gaining traction by stoking the fires of fiscal dissatisfaction and social frustration that are gaining more traction with the voting populace.

This party’s platform includes such charming planks as radical nationalism, anti-immigration reform, a belligerent distaste for taxes, and a blind eye to programs that help struggling school districts, unions, and recipients of social welfare.… [Read more]

Travel Log: Japan

miyajima

Striving towards becoming borderless involves traveling the world. How else can one really experience a culture without visiting?

Tomorrow is my last day here and the heat and humidity was definitely my biggest surprise. I travelled throughout the country and everywhere it was over 90 degrees with 70 % humidity. Obviously good preparation for Cambodia where the heat index is forecast to be about 110-115 degrees next week.… [Read more]

Do You Have a Flag? Sino-Japanese Relations In Potentially Hot Water

A little diplomacy, a la Eddie Izzard.

East Asia experienced a series of rapid-fire international relations conundrums over the weekend on the uninhabited islands trailing off from Okinawa in the South China Sea. The Japanese national government, spearheaded by the governor of Tokyo, made a move that upset the Chinese so much that a small group of nationalists made an excursion out to the islands in order to express their grievances.… [Read more]

From Hiroshima With Love

An image from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park the day before the anniversary of the Bomb; Japanese people are staging a “die-in” protest in honor of the victims of the atomic bombing; image courtesy of Getty Images AsiaPac via www.zimbiopictures.com.

In honor of the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, I would like to offer sincere condolences and a wish for deeper understanding and greater empathy the world over. Sixty seven years ago this August 6, at 8:15 AM, 140,000 were killed by the destructive power of the world’s first nuclear weapon detonation.

An image from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park the day before the anniversary of the Bomb; Japanese people are staging a “die-in” protest in honor of the victims of the atomic bombing; image courtesy of Getty Images AsiaPac via www.zimbiopictures.com.… [Read more]

HIV/AIDS Prevention: Back to the Basics for Japan?

Image source: http://www.nationalhivawarenessmonth.org/

Image source: http://www.nationalhivawarenessmonth.org/

Since HIV/AIDS hit the surface of public consciousness in the 1980s, it has been frequently discussed and impressed upon the psyche of more than a generation’s worth of young people worldwide. As a member of this 1980s generation, I knew it was a problem that lurked about us, but I was at a loss for how to define or describe it.[Read more]

Could This Be the End of Jiro’s Dreams?

original image source: http://www.robsworld.org/chopsticks.html

This week, the latest Japanophile documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, made its way to my local theatre. It is the story of world-renowned sushi chef Jiro Ono’s quest for perfection, his relationship with his son and protégé, and the future of the sushi business. I went to the theatre with the expectation of it being a simple documentary with some great looking seafood sprinkled throughout (like so much spicy tuna roll topping), but I was pleased to find much more.… [Read more]