Friday, December 7, 2012

Japan News Roundup: North Korea Missile Launch, Election's 'Third Force', Japan’s Only Male Geisha, Kobe Luminaire

Kobe Luminaire commemorating victims of the 1995 earthquake. Via.

• A major tunnel collapse near Mt. Fuji saw “about 270 concrete slabs each weighing 1.4 tons fall and cause the deaths of nine people” (BusinessWeek), after which "Japanese officials ordered the immediate inspection of tunnels across the country” (WSJ). BBC recaps reports from major Japanese media, with Yomirui writing the tunnel "has been inspected every five years” and officials saying “'no problem was found with the ceiling panels' during the last inspection between September and October.”

• Campaigning kicked off this week in “nuclear crisis–hit Fukushima, where more than 100,000 people remain displaced from their homes" (AP). With with polls showing more than 40 percent of voters are undecided, the Wall Street Journal gave a rundown of the political players, and, in separate article noted "a record number of parties—12 in total—are expected to register more than 1,400 candidates to compete for the 480 seats in the lower house" with 'third force' minority parties possibly tipping support from the larger conservative LDP and democratic DPJ parties. The nationalistic impetus of some popular candidates “could give not only Asian neighbors but also Washington cause for concern” (Reuters).

• In addition to the economy, a major platform this election is energy. The ruling party wants to “end Japan’s reliance on nuclear power by the 2030s, using a combination of energy conservation, a shift to renewable energy sources and greater use of cogeneration, which captures heat emitted as a byproduct of electricity generation.” The country is also "pushing ahead with ambitious smart city plans." (Financial Times)

A 7.3 earthquake struck northeastern Japan--an area still recovering from 2011--injuring several people and “generating small waves but no immediate reports of heavy damage.” (L.A. Times)

• “North Korea is proceeding with plans to test a long-range rocket this month in defiance of international condemnation that included Japanese warnings to shoot it down if necessary" (BW). Japan issued a shoot-down order and “called for close cooperation with the U.S., China, South Korea and Russia in preparation (WSJ). The U.S. Navy began moving ships into the western Pacific in preparation for the planned launch of a long-range rocket by North Korea (SCMP).

• The Senate unanimously amended the 2013 Defense Authorization Bill, committing the U.S. "to defend Japan should the Senkaku Islands come under attack by a third country" (Washington Times). Noting the “Chinese navy and military presence is expanding day by day” around the islands, the Globe and Mail bigs a bird’s eye view of the proverbial chess game unfolding:
The Japanese surveillance plane is an hour into its flight when it spots the first Chinese flags of the day… [the] craft are mere pawns, pushing forth in groups to test the response from the Japanese side as Beijing tries to assert its claim to a quintet of islands, and their surrounding waters, that Japan has controlled for decades. Later that day, the rooks and knights appear – China Marine Surveillance craft, sent nearly every day to police the area as if it were Beijing’s to patrol. They are cautiously matched ship for ship by boats from the Japan Coast Guard, the two sides often closing to within 100 metres of each other but never – yet – colliding.”
• U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka and Representative Colleen discussed why remembering Pearl Harbor matters 71 years later. (Morning Sun)

• "Japan wants to encourage the world’s two biggest emitters [China and the U.S.] to take part in a global climate-protection system that would be agreed to before 2015 and to include both developing and industrialized nations… The nation will pursue voluntary policies rather than binding targets under the Kyoto Protocol beginning in 2013." (Bloomberg News)

• An essay debate wages over at Council on Foreign Relations: Is Japan in decline?

• "For years Yoshinori Watanabe (aka ‘Mr. Gorilla’) ran Japan’s most powerful and successful yakuza group. Jake Adelstein on his mysterious death over the weekend—and his legacy of modern and ruthless management of the crime syndicate." (Daily Beast)

• Helping to bring kabuki to contemporary audiences around the world, actor Nakamura Kanzaburo died this week at age 57. His 100-strong all-male company Heisei Nakamuraza troupe is “noted for productions that respect kabuki's centuries-old heritage yet burst with contemporary energy and humor that are evocative of the early days of kabuki theater in the 17th century.” (Japan Times)

• With the passing of jazz legend Dave Bruebeck, some pick his "Jazz Impressions of Japan" as a top album--"a kind of musical journal of the Dave Brubeck Quartet's tour of Japan"

• “Eitaro is Japan’s only male geisha who performs in the role as a female dancer. He is the master of an ‘okiya,’ a geisha house in Tokyo’s Omori port district.” The articlenotes: “In modern Japan, geisha performers have become a rarity… One hundred years ago, there were over 80,000 geisha in Japan. Today the number of working geisha is estimated to be around 1,000.” (Daily Mail)

Fast Company posted some incredible images from MoMA's Rise of Tokyo Avant-Garde exhibition, noting "the show has an auspicious (and telling) relationship to the architecture housing it, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, an architect who came of age in Tokyo during the same period. Taniguchi’s restrained white walls couldn’t be more different than the sometimes frightening surrealism and utopian fervor of his one-time peers." The Wall Street Journal shared highlights of some 70 Japanese films of the period screening in conjunction with the exhibition.

Winner and runners up from this year’s annual Japanese mascot Grand Prix. “6,500,000 votes were cast to rank the 865 official mascots who entered." (RocketNews24)

The Kobe Luminarie is under way--a 12-day light festival that commemorates victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 (BesuDesu). More images from Getty Images here.

• From bottles to boxes: how to giftwrap Japan-style. (ChopsticksNY)


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