Friday, June 18, 2010

News Blast: Manga News, Kan's First Week, Rice Ball Day And More!

Manga News reports on the BP oil spill. Image via.

Manga Brings News into the Now

A new Japanese website publishes the latest news in manga format. Many 1-2 page stories are commissioned from famous manga artists, and range from a 2-pager on the BP oil spill to a new study which proves that monkeys enjoy watching TV. We're hoping Hiroki Otsuka will be available to illustrate our news blasts!

Prime Minister Kan’s First Week   

The New York Times
reports Naoto Kan is off to good start, breaking politics as usual with tough talk and giving his party a poll bounce.Only a week in office, and Kan, the new Japanese PM with a whistleblower’s reputation, has been making waves. He unveiled a campaign to halve Japan's debt in 6 years, saying "Politics is power, and power must be used to remove the cause of people's unhappiness." In his first meeting with a foreign leader, Afghan president Hamid Karzai visited to promise effective use of  Tokyo's pledged $5bn in aid. Party members have even designed and distributed 'Yes We Kan'  T-Shirts, punning on his name and U.S. President Obama’s campaign slogan from 2008.

Kan said Tuesday that he would not visit the Yasukuni War Shrine in Tokyo during his time as Prime Minister. Yasukuni is a shrine for World War II dead, and has long been associated with ultra-nationalist sentiment in Japan. Protests frequently occur in and around it about Japanese foreign policy and immigration policies – it has symbolic significance for both right-wingers and left-wingers. When PM Koizumi visited frequently between 2001 and 2006, it caused a foreign policy rift with China. Kan says "I think it is a problem for the prime minister or cabinet ministers to officially pay their respects at the Yasukuni Shrine because Class A war criminals are honored there."

Controversial off the record comments Kan made a year ago are resurfacing. According to a new book written by Shokichi Kina, a DPJ party member, Kan told him that Okinawa "should just become independent" and that negotiations to remove the U.S. bases in the prefecture "aren't resolvable." The comments have come to light only days after Kan expressed his support of Futenma, and his intent to continue Hatoyama’s policies in respect to it.

Tokyo Indie Music Scene

CNNGo goes to a Go!Go!7188 gig and gets blown away. Writer/Photographer Alex Zolbert interviewed the local Tokyo indie band before the show. They were reticent and answered many of his questions only with blank stares, so he wasn’t expecting much. He ended up being pleasantly surprised by their "relentless" performance, and "their throngs of fans were surging and pumping their fists."

If you want to hear more great Japanese indie bands with attitude, check out this list from the end of the decade with acts like Shugo Tokumaru and Macdonald Duck Éclair. My personal favorites for the record: The Boredoms and Cokiyu.


The Japan Times gives an intriguing review of Confessions, which opened June 5th in Japan and receives its U.S. premiere at our JAPAN CUTS festival in July. Reviewer Mark Schilling says director Nakashima’s work "turns genre on its head," and that Confessions has "a strange power."

Also playing at JAPAN CUTS is omnibus film Mutant Girl’s Squad. Asahi gives an overview of the film’s drunken genesis at last year’s NYAFF and its international screening schedule.

World Cupdate – Samurai Blue Victorious

Samurai Blue defeated Cameroon 1-0 this week. The victory marks Team Japan’s first-ever in World Cup finals, and response to it in Japan was jubilant. Public viewings of the televised match happened in stadiums throughout the country, and late-night parties spilled out from bars into the streets after the winning goals .

Keisuke Honda, who scored the winning goal, said: "This goal was a nice birthday present for me. I am so happy now and there is a great atmosphere in the team. We were able to stop Cameroon’s attacking players and I think that was why we were able to get a good result. We had confidence before the game."

Fans at home were overjoyed, though many Japanese on the street don’t predict Samurai Blue progressing past the next matches. The World Cup Blog previews Japan v. Netherlands. Our fingers are crossed!

World Cup fans, or Japan Society's proposed staff uniforms? Via. 
Bite-Sized News:

Happy Rice Ball Day! Celebrating the world's oldest existing rice ball (aprx. 2000 y.o.).

U.S. bans military forces in Okinawa from drinking at off-base bars and clubs after midnight 

►June 16 was the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese delegation sent to the U.S. New York City holds three events to celebrate.

►Though recuperating from cancer treatments, maestro Seji Ozawa cancels more concerts, but still plans to appear at Carnegie Hall in December to launch their Japan NYC season.

►Taliban holds Japanese journalist for $1m. He says he's in good health, but giving into demands would have the incident repeated.

►In news about news, The Japan Times reports over 90% of Japanese still read newspapers every day--a consistent figure over the past decade where U.S. readerships have steadily declined .

►The Japanese government launches sexy new ad campaign... for bonds. One real-life testimony: "I want my future husband to be diligent about money. Playboys are no good."

►A space capsule that may contain the first-ever asteroid samples heads for its final destination from Australia to Japan. Related, Discovery News shows first photos of Japan's experimental solar sail spacecraft sailing.

►Japan-U.S. panel called to maintain a program inviting English and other foreign language instructors to Japan, challenging a government view that it is an unnecessary public project.

The Wall Street Journal reports about Japan's quirkier inventions becoming an economic conerstone, the rise of Tokyo’s bike commuters, revival of Japanese blood-type personality indicators, development of a baby robot, and not one but two Japan news recaps.

The Economist reports e-commerce bucks Japan's economic downs.

Time Out takes a Japanese 'staycation' in New York City. Getting hungry just looking at the food page.

►For drinking devotionals, CNNGo lists Tokyo bars affiliated with religious organizations. At Bozu’s Vow Bar  (Monk’s Vow Bar), the Buddhist décor isn’t fake and the bartenders are ordained Buddhist priests.

►Author Shoichi Uchiyama tells the Daily Telegraph that he's had to increase his monthly insect tasting sessions in restaurants across Japan because of their popularity.

►Not sure what pairs best with hornet larvae, but we may have something for escargot: Kanazawa brews sake fit for French restaurants.

N.O., S.J.

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