Saturday, July 3, 2010

News Blast: Work, Go, Watch

You go Go! Image via.
Japan's Workplace Divides

The Wall Street Journal reports some surprising news: "a new divide is emerging between Japan’s haves and have-nots: gender. And it favors women." At the same time, Japan Today carried two interesting articles on the changing demographics of Japanese workplaces.

First up:  restaurant kitchens – both in Japan and the US – have long been bastions of male dominance. In Tokyo the dynamics are changing. Chefs Mika Yamasaki and Chisako Hori, are both owners of prestigious and Michelin-rated restaurants in the area. Yamasaki recalls that when she was first starting out as a restaurateur, and visited a bank to apply for a loan, she was "promptly shown the door." This comes on the heels of news that for the first time Tokyo has overtaken Paris as the city with the most Michelin-rated restaurants.

In the second story, at an unnamed factory immigrant workers are clashing both with Japanese workers and management as contractually promised prayer breaks are challenged. Japanese workers protest: "Why do we have to be used as a stopgap so they can go pray?", while immigrant workers respond, "We’d get more work done by discouraging workers from cigarette breaks." This situation raises thorny issues around workers’ rights in Japan, where many immigrant laborers are in the country on very short-term visas. Kenichi Ozaki, a clinical psychiatrist and commentator for J-Cast, which published the story, says "It’s going to be necessary for personnel management to change a policy that allows for ‘cultural diversity.’ One of the strengths of Japan’s manufacturing industries in the past had been a uniformly standardized work force. […] It will be important to listen to opinions about different ways of thinking with an open mind, and then work to build consensus."

Japan a Go for Go

This November the Asian Games (a local analogue to the global Olympics) adds a new event: Go, the 2,500 year-old Chinese board game. Widely played in Japan, Go is a highly strategic and complex game that will likely appeal to chess aficionados. YouTube has a neat how-to.

At the next Asian Games, the Japanese Go team goes up against the Chinese, South Korean, and Taiwanese teams. The Japanese team has been training for months already, in solo matches and also in doubles, which is extra challenging because team members are not allowed to consult with each other during the game. As per the Asian Games’ regulations, all Go contestants must take drug tests to qualify. Yuta Iyama, a competitor on team Japan, said "We cannot imagine body-building drugs having any effect on the game of go, but I will be careful about what I ingest."

JAPAN CUTS Above the Rest

The Wall Street Journal
notes our JAPAN CUTS film fest opened "with a double barreled big bang."

Reviews have started to come in: Nippon Cinema covered Boys on the Run  and Parade. Reel Talk takes a look at Confessions and Blood of Rebirth. Meniscus reviews Dear Doctor and Golden Slumber. And extended roundups came from New York Press and Firefox (which added two reviews).

If you're an NYAFF die hard (and you probably are), and on the fence of whether JAPAN CUTS is for you, The Village Voice sums up the differences in their preview feature this week:
"Loosely tied to the New York Asian Film Festival, the Japan Society's artier, slightly more serious survey of contemporary Nipponese cinema may never escape the ferocious and freaky shadow of its partner fest. Yet in its fourth and biggest year yet, Japan Cuts proves too vital to be considered a spillover event, with a section dedicated to the best unreleased treasures of the past decade (fittingly billed here as "the Naughties" and including 2005's shouldn't-be-missed Hanging Garden and the equally necessary Memories of Matsuko, a 2006 candy-colored musical tragedy)."
Got thorns?
(Note: You have until July 6 to win tickets from SciFi Japan to the King of Thorn screening next week.)

In related news, Director Yoji Yamada (his new film, About Her Brother is in JAPAN CUTS) and actress Kaori Momoi saw a special advance screening of the American remake of their film The Yellow Handkerchief, which stars William Hurt and Kristen Stewart and opens in Japan later this month.

World Cupdate: Final Installment

Sad news for Samurai Blue Fans – Japan lost 5-3 to Paraguay during penalty kicks, marking the end of Team Japan’s first-ever foray into the World Cup finals. The New York Times profiles their head coach, Takeshi Okada, and the team blog dissects the close loss. (We should have seen it coming from this ominous photo from WSJ.)

Japan did come out a winner on one World Cup front: Twitter announced the country set a global record for the most-ever tweets per second during the game.

Related: we now tweet in English and Japanese.)

Bite-sized News:

►As one Japanese girl makes contact with an estranged American dad, the Washington Post takes a look at effects a U.S. military base in Japan can have on families. Of note: "A generation of biracial Okinawans know about intercultural relationships, writ small. They know about romance and separations, child-support battles and reunions. They know that Japanese children refer to their biracial peers as 'halfs,' and nowadays, they know of the local American-Asian school, for biracial children, where those kids are taught to call themselves 'doubles.'"

►In Japan UNIQLO drops Japanese for English as the official store language. 

►Japan's 'hot dog king' bows out of this year's annual Nathan's Famous 4th of July hot dog eating contest on Coney Island, where he won six time is a row 2001-06. While he'll be missed, we have video of him showing how to gobble the goods at our April j-CATION table talk.

►The recent scandal where Sumo wrestlers and officials organized an illegal baseball betting pool went before the Japan Sumo Association this week. The board called for the suspension or resignation of all those alleged to be involved.

►Paris expects nearly 200K people for the biggest ever Japan expo this weekend.

►Did Japan's 382 million mile there-and-back-again asteroid probe achieve its mission? The New York Times wants to know.

The Times also has a must-see and a must-read this week. Chief film critic A. O. Scott notes  I Was Born, but... is "one of a handful of silent, black-and-white old movies that have the power to make all the subsequent advances in the medium look redundant." (Now playing at IFC in NYC.) In addition, the book section writes that David Mitchell "meticulously" recreates Edo-era Japan in his new book The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and applauds his mastery "not only of virtuosic literary fireworks, but also of the quieter arts of empathy and traditional storytelling."

The Telegraph excerpts Jake Adelstein’s fascinating book about the Tokyo underworld.

►On the heels of news that Japan Rail will begin installing safety screens at all subway stations in Tokyo, a salaryman saved a woman who had fallen onto the subway tracks by jumping down and pulling her into the gap between the platform and the tracks.

►Japan brewers use seaweed to come up with sake dark.

►As if the World Cup was not enough: Japan lost to the U.S. to advance to the world softball finals.

►Say chirashi! Japan Times posted their latest photo contest winners.

►BoingBoing has a video of a Harvard research project that created self-folding origami. The comments section has some cool ideas for practical applications.

N.O., S.J.

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