Friday, August 20, 2010

News Blast: No. 3 Economy, Atomic Echoes, Julia Roberts Does Not Hate Japan, And More


► In the 2nd Quarter heard 'round the world: China passed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy behind the United States, a place Japan held for the last four decades. The Times writes for Japan "the figures reflect a decline in economic and political power" and notes the reaction in the country "was one of resignation." The Wall Street Journal suggests the overtake is the shock therapy Japan needs, while The Economist wonders how Japanese firms will cope as China whizzes by.

Americans and people from Great Britain observed "Victory over Japan Day", marking Japan's official surrender August 15, 1945, effectively ending World War II (also celebrated in the U.S. on September 2 for complicated historical timing reasons). Some people in NYC celebrated with a kiss, aping the famed Times Square photograph. While bitter memories still abound across all nations, one  G.I. recalls his relief and reflects on the day's ominous atomic echo.

►For the first time since the end of World War II, the full Japanese Cabinet did not visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.

►"The great temples of Kyoto are still standing today because an American scholar named Langdon Warner, who took a fancy to Japanese art and culture, suggested to the U.S. Command that they test their new atomic bombs on different cities," notes a Japan Today article about Tokyo residents' fight to save historic school buildings in Tokyo's Chuo Ward.

The New York Times profiles Toshikazu Sugaya, a man wrongfully imprisoned 17 years after giving a false confession to three murders. Notes The Times: "Mr. Sugaya, now 63, has become a national figure, and perhaps the country’s most vocal critic of forced confessions — a recurring problem [in Japan]. He has written or co-written three books, including one titled 'Falsely Convicted,' and tours the country giving talks about his experience."

Asahi: "Signs in Japanese at overseas airports, train stations, tourist spots or other sites sometimes seem a bit off to native readers of the language, even when the grammar and usage are fine. The reason for that niggling feeling is often the wrong choice of fonts." Related: Jetwit's thoughts on Japan's Englishification.

►In addition to vuvuzela, bromance, and staycation, the third edition of the Oxford Dictionary adopts hikikomori, a Japanese word that signifies the abnormal avoidance of social contact.

►In movie news: an American actor releases a film documenting stories from hibakusha, Kurosawa's influential Yojimbo celebrates 50 years after its U.S. release, the man who played the original Godzilla speaks, CNN broadcasts a lengthy profile on actor Ken Watanabe, and Julia Roberts does not hate Japan.

Jakarta adopts Japan's women-only train cars. Related: Pink Tentacle posted incredible vintage posters encouraging Tokyo subway etiquette.

►A WTO panel rules in favor of Japan, the U.S. and Taiwan over the European Union's tariffs on liquid crystal displays.

►In food news: Japanese sushi students aim for better paying jobs overseas, Japanese whiskeys get foothold in U.S., Time Out Tokyo digs Japanese snow cones, and New Yorkers are invited to discover nutritious Japanese cuisine at the Healthy Food & Green Festival Sunday.

►From 4,000 teams to 2: Konan and Tokaidai play Saturday to win Japan's national high-school tournament.

The Economist reviews Jeff Kingston's Contemporary Japan, says it does "sterling service in stripping away or qualifying" old-fashioned conceptions about Japanese national identity, both from an insider and outsider perspective.

Size isn't everything in sumo. (Warning: video contains "strips of cloth tied tight and a lot of flesh" according to the WSJ reporter.)

►Hundreds of Pokémon players vie to be the world's best.

"In a small country like Japan, even storing a flower vase can be a problem."
Image via.

S.J.

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