Japan’s First Plea Bargain Raises Questions, Comparisons

In the U.S., the majority of criminal cases are resolved via a plea bargain  — a practice that has been in place for decades. Plea bargains aren’t globally ubiquitous, however; Japan only introduced the method in June 2018 for matters involving bribery and/or organized crime, and the nation’s first case to be resolved via plea bargain made headlines in mid-July.… [Read more]

Is This Disneyland, Or Am I In Prison?

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

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?

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

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

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.”

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

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

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

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

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]