News Blast: Death Chamber Opens, US-Japan War Games, Cat Island, Museum Manga And More
►The New York Times reports Prime Minister Naoto Kan will face challenge in September from Ichiro Ozawa, "scandal-tainted power broker within his own party". The announcement comes shortly after the outspoken Ozawa told Japanese press that he found British People unlikeable and Americans 'monocellular', according to reports from Japan Today and Mainichi (confirmed by Great Britain's Telegraph and followed up humorously by The Wall Street Journal.)
►Where most Japanese political parties limit membership to nationals, regulations of the ruling DPJ allow membership to anyone over 18, including Japanese nationals living abroad and foreigners living in Japan.
►As Japan reviews defense policies, and a panel wary of China urged change, AFP reported the U.S. and Japan plan to practice 'war games' in December that simulate recapturing a remote southwestern island from an enemy. Notes the AFP: "Such an exercise could bring a stern response ... Japan has territorial disputes with both China—its key Asian economic rival—and Taiwan."
►A second wave of bilateral talks between PM Kan and President Barack Obama are likely to take place at the UN in late September. The discussion may encompass the planned relocation of the Marine Corps’ Futenma Air base in Okinawa, North Korea’s nuclear program, economic stimulus, and global warming. Related, Japan is working to disclose an expert report on the Futenma relocation by the end of August.
►This week Japan's Justice Minister allowed media rare entry into an execution chamber. Mainichi carries images and officials' description of the facilities and Reuters published facts about death penalties around the world, such as Japan and the U.S. are the only countries in the Group of Eight rich nations that conduct executions.
►In a long-awaited reconciliation move, Japan hosts World War II POWs. Five American POWs and the families of deceased POWs will visit Kyoto and Tokyo among other destinations in a government supported tour. Kinue Tokudome, founder and director of the U.S.-Japan Dialogue on POWs, explained to Stars and Stripes: "the idea that Japan should apologize for anything after what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the first and only nuclear attacks in history and carried out by the United States—is a sometimes difficult proposition in Japan."
►Meanwhile, California approved a bill requiring bidders for a prestigious high-speed railway project to release details on transportation of WWII POWs.
►Artists and writers reflect on Japan's tumultuous postwar history after the signing of the 1960s security treaty in the new documentary Anpo, due out in Japan next month. The film is directed by Linda Hoaglund, a frequent collaborator with Japan Society's film and education programs, who produced the fascinating kamikaze expose Wings of Defeat, and who has for years handled English subtitles for about 200 films, including those directed by Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki.
►International Herald Tribune Op-ed: "Japan and its youths, old beyond their years, may well reveal what it is like to outgrow growth."
►Africa unveils gorgeous kimonos for the 21st Century .
►Asahi launches "Fun! Fun! Fashion!" column. This week: socks!
►Japan invents the smallest, safest oil-to-plastic conversion machine.
►A new Japanese toilet measures blood pressure, body temperature, weight and sugar levels in urine.
►Sports Roundup: the New York Mets hold their first annual "Japanese Heritage Night", the trend is shifting for American managers of Japanese teams, Japan wins women's world baseball championship, Okinawa’s Konan High School took the Koshien national championship, and Sumo elite get iPads to enter 21st century and accommodate their meaty fingers.
►Japanese filmmaker and comic-book artist Shatoshi Kon (Paprika) "whose dazzling visual compositions and humane, emotionally resonant stories won him a devoted following in animation circles and beyond", according to The Times obituary, died in Tokyo at age 46. Read Japan Society's tribute in memoriam.
►David Mitchell talks to NPR about the inspiration for his acclaimed novel A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.
►Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami: writing a novel is "just like having a dream."
►Though conductor Seiji Ozawa says he has successfully completed treatment for esophageal cancer, he will still curtail appearances at the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto in Japan next month. We're hoping for his speedy recovery and look forward to him kicking off Carnegie Hall's JapanNYC fest in December.
►A Japanese manga exploits British Museum treasures (which sounds vaguely familiar!) Notes The Economist: "In Japan manga is a mainstream medium, with sales of magazines and books amounting to around $5 billion a year. Though many are juvenile, violent or pornographic, others are intricate narratives skilfully illustrated and meant to educate as much as to entertain."
►The Times says the Museum of the City of New York's Samurai in New York exhibition "delivers more than you’d expect ... In this case it offers a lot to think about in terms of photography and its role in early publicity and celebrity culture as well as a fascinating look at how different societies responded to 19th-century stirrings of globalization."
►Japan Times profiles Junko Fisher, a New York-based performer who teaches traditional Okinawan dance at Queens Library in New York.
►10-year-old Japanese guitar prodigy Yuto Miyazawa shreds onstage with Ozzy Osbourne.
►(To the Jurassic Park theme): Welcome... to Japan's Cat Island!