Friday, November 30, 2012

Japan News Roundup: Tsunami Debris Relief, 'Corking' U.S. Troops, Training Santa-san

Island dispute sees dips in visits to Japan. Via.

• Japan will give the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration $5 million “to help with collection and disposal of marine debris from its March 2011 tsunami disaster” (BusinessWeek). Timely news as debris is expected to land in Hawaii soon, specifically on a beach where an estimated 20 tons of current-carried garbage already washes ashore every year (NBC).

• Japan put many 3/11 reconstruction projects not linked to disaster zones on hold "after criticism the spending was not directly related to recovery from the disasters" (Associated Press). With a quarter of the $148 billion reconstruction money earmarked for “unrelated projects, including subsidies for a contact lens factory in another region and research whaling,” the hold frees up only $210 million. In addition, the government plans to sell off some 56,000 homes lent cheaply to officials to raise approximately $2.1 billion for reconstruction (Bloomberg News).

• A United Nations envoy urged Japan to do more for residents and workers affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis, citing over-emphasized optimism on radiation risks and lack of access to health check results as major recurring problems. (Associated Press)

• With elections just weeks away, Japan's ruling party promised "cool-headed and practical" diplomacy in contrast with the opposition’s hawkish rhetoric, and restated its goal of phasing out nuclear power by the 2030s (Reuters). Meanwhile, Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada formed a new political group “that aims to get Japan out of nuclear power, create more opportunities for women and promote a work-life balance that makes it easier for families to raise children” (Japan Times). Political powerhouse Ichiro Ozawa has joined.

None of the candidates have won the hearts (or votes) of those in the tsunami-devastated region, who feel reconstruction has fallen off the political agenda (Reuters). "Many of the 159,000 people who fled their towns…are finally accepting that it may take decades, perhaps generations, before their town could be restored to anything like it was before the disaster” (New York Times).

• Japan unveiled an $11 billion economic package, "its second round of stimulus in a little more than a month" (Financial Times).

• The Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute between Japan and China “has affected a broad cross-section of Japanese business, from cars to cosmetics. But perhaps the biggest blow has been to tourism”, with JNTO reporting Chinese tourism down in 33% from 2011. (Wall Street Journal)

• In an annual government survey, Japan's feelings for the U.S., Russia and India are up, while views on China and South Korea "sank to their lowest levels in decades".

• U.S. commanders are telling troops in Japan to “put a cork in it” (TIME) and “buddy up” (WSJ), after a number of arrests and embarrassing incidents. America’s highest-ranking military officer in Japan said “the two countries are considering such countermeasures as joint U.S.-Japanese patrols and a ‘hotline’ in Okinawa for reporting troop misbehavior to U.S. military law enforcement officials” though “he opposed reopening the status of forces agreement, an accord on the legal jurisdictions for American troops that has long been a lightning rod for anti-U.S. base activists.”

• People Power: Forbes highlights more of The Nikkei's top 100 people having the greatest influence on Japan’s future; the first Japanese-American woman senator vows to push Japan ties (Asiance Magazine); now in her 70s, Yoko Ono carves new niches in her life, from fighting world hunger to revolutionizing men's fashion (NYT); Forbes also profiles Ernie Higa, the Wendy's Japan executive re-launching and revolutionizing the brand across the pacific (when talking about the country’s decline, he notes “Japan is still alive. It’s the third-biggest economy, and you can still succeed here by finding the right niche and adapting”).

• Sea Views: Tokyo activists rallied against dolphin and whale hunts over the weekend, part of demonstrations held around the world (AFP); Japan is on a quest to make bluefin tuna more sustainable (The Atlantic); The Times meditates on ama, Japan's free diving 'sea women'.

• South China Morning Post interviewed the authors of Strong in the Rain, the "harrowing but compassionate" collection of stories from tsunami victims. "There was a sense among many Tohoku people I met that telling their stories to journalists was grandstanding. They viewed their suffering as nothing special, compared to others," said one author.

• Language Lesson: Japan Times looks at "notable negatives" and other Japanese linguistic oddities, starting with the famous monkeys Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru (of "see/hear/speak no evil fame"). How did they get their names? "The negative verb inflexion -zaru, which happens to be a homonym for saru (monkey)."

• A look at the "sparkly names" trend in Japan favoring pop culture christenings for kids. (Kotaku)

• New book sheds light on 'grim' realities of mental healthcare in Japan. (Japan Times)

• Reuters weighs in on sumo's decline in an 'age of convenience'.

• A 'floating' high-speed train unveiled in Tokyo is set to hit tracks in 2027 and cut travel time in more than half. (Discovery)

• Food: For the sixth consecutive year, Japan was awarded the most Michelin three-star rated restaurants in the world, “though the number slipped to 14 from 16” (Reuters); with the adage sake "never fights with food", chefs outside of Japan are beginning to pair the libation with non-Japanese food (BBC); one of Japan's top airlines will offer KFC on fligths from Japan to U.S. and Europe over the winter holidays. (Business Insider); the Washington Post examined ji-biru, Japanese craft beer, one of "Japan’s least famous but most exciting gastronomic exports."

The legacy of 007 in Japan: “James Bond made his official Japan debut in ‘You Only Live Twice’: The gentleman spy came to Tokyo and Fukuoka, saw some sumo, consorted with ninja and got intimate with two homegrown Bond girls” (Japan Times). In a plot fit for a Bond flick, Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency said that plans for a new solid-fuel rocket were stolen from computers (NYT).

• Tis the Season: “On a recent weekend, 88 Santa wannabes packed the school in Tokyo's fashionable Roppongi district for a crash course in how to behave as ‘Santa-san,’ as the man in red is known in Japan.”

• Japanese toymaker plans to launch one-person electric helicopter next year. (WIRED)

• No plans for the weekend? Here's how to make Gudnam out of electrical plugs. (Rocketnews24)

• Kotaku examines the tiny might of 21st Century netsuke, and unleashes Japan's terrifying melon bear.

--SJ

Beware the melon-eating bears of Japan. Via.

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