Friday, July 9, 2010

News Blast: Hostel Hotels, Dogged Champ, Dutiful Dads, Obama's Matcha Mouth And More!

For hot politics and hot days: matcha ice cream! Image via.
Some Japanese Hospitality Biz is Anything But

In his regular column in The Japan Times, controversial American-born Japanese civil-rights activist Debito Arudou (AKA David Schofill) alleges racial discrimination in the hotel industry. He points out that "Japan has no national civil or criminal legislation outlawing and punishing racial discrimination, meaning businesses with 'Japanese only' signs aren't doing anything illegal." A minority of ryokan (traditional-style Japanese inns), as well as modern hotels, insist on only serving Japanese clientele. Stated reasons for this vary. A manager of a ryokan points out that because foreign guests may be unfamiliar with Japanese customs and amenities (for example lack of Western-style beds and toilets) they could be uncomfortable. Other hoteliers' excuses are more xenophobic, claiming that foreign guests "steal hotel goods or cause trouble for other guests, thus making it a crime issue."

Arudou has made it his business to call out these hotel managers, and many of them have changed their policies after protests from activists and other guests. In a related article, the travel resource CNNGo reveals statistics from a survey conducted by the Japanese government where 27% of hotels did not want foreign guests staying with them.

Hot Dog Eating Champ Arrested

Citing contractual dispute, onetime six-time champ Takeru Kobayashi didn't compete in Coney Island's annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest this year. He then spent a night in jail after rushing the stage to try to compete at the last minute.

This is all very sad news, as Kobayashi was a gracious and amiable guest at our j-CATION fest a few month back.

Bite-sized News

►The invaluable Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, which subsidizes people from around the world to study Japanese in Japan, may go to the budget cuts chopping block.

►Kumiko Makihara's International Herald Tribune op-ed tells how being tall and tan in Japan can lead to racial profiling.

►Japanese fathers, who reportedly spend less time on domestic duties than any other developed country's dads, are encouraged to "swap their desks for diapers" with new government initiatives.

►A new play, staged in replica 1945 streetcars in Hiroshima, commemorates the courage of female operators and conductors when the atomic bomb struck. Actual operators, who served during and survived the attack, were invited to the premier. Naoko Hata, 81, said: "I am pleased that young people will pass along what we did then."

►After a record year of on-the-job attacks, Japanese railway companies offer staff martial arts training.

►The diplomatic ties between President Obama and new Japanese PM Kan were strengthened by Kan’s promise to prepare some matcha (green tea) ice cream for the American head of states’s next trip to Japan this November. Apparently, matcha ice cream is one of Obama’s favorites.

►About a dozen monkeys escaped a Kyoto University research center in Aichi Prefecture on Monday. They climbed up trees and "used the branches as slingshots to propel them over the fence." Since the escape, seven have been apprehended and five remain at large.

►Author superstar Haruki Murakami has gone on the record to say that there is a slight possibility for sequels to his newest novel, IQ84. The wildly popular novel, published over the past year in three parts, spans over 1,500 pages, though Murakami says that there are still stories left to tell with the characters. The first two parts of IQ84 are due next fall in the U.S. In the meantime, appetites can be sated with Neojaponisme's in-depth, thoughtful review.

►Teachers Gone Wild! Follow the exploits of the Japan Society Educators’ Study Tour to Japan on tumblr or at their Twitter page.

►A rave for Lincoln Center's presentation of the Japanese play Musashi from The New York Times.

►It was a hot one in NYC this week, which means it’s time to try some Japanese summer recipes! Cold somen noodles are great and super quick, or make your own  diplomacy-strengthening matcha ice cream.

►Osaka celebrated Tanabata (Star Festival) with 50,000 water-tight lights. The Japanese annual fest takes place on the seventh day of the seventh month (July 7),  but Japan Society invites families to celebrate Sunday, July 11.

►We missed this in-depth article from April featuring kamishibai storytelling, as well as the work of master storyteller Tara McGowan, who appears at our weekend Tanabata festivities.

►Everything you wanted to know about four months at Japan Society, but were afraid to ask!

N.O., S.J.

No comments: