Friday, June 11, 2010

News Blast: Kickin' It With Samurai Blue

Artwork via Vanity Fair , ESPN and the AM I Collective.

World Cupdate

Japan's men's soccer team (affectionately nicknamed the Samurai Blue) landed in South Africa on Sunday to gear up for another warm-up World Cup match for 2010. Japan faced Zimbabwe on Thursday and came to a tie 0-0. Fans at home geared up too by holding a screaming competition in honor of their team. Whoever screamed the word 'GOAL!' the loudest got unofficial bragging rights. Norio Nakayama won (32 seconds) and said in regards to Japan’s fate in the World Cup the "The ball is round and everything may happen." But added: "Of course I'd like them to do their best and be hell-bent on winning." Watch a video of his winning scream here.

Naoto Kan Chosen as Next PM

The Democratic Party of Japan chose ex-PM Hatoyama’s Finance Minister, Naoto Kan, for Japan's next Prime Minister. Kan, 63, was elected last Friday by a wide margin in an internal Party vote. He has a reputation as a whistleblower and a civil rights activist. Early in his career in the 1970s, he served on the election campaign of Fusae Ishikawa, a major figure in the Women’s Rights movement. Also, while serving as a Health Minister in 1996, when his political party formed a ruling coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party, he exposed and apologized for his government’s accidental distribution of blood tainted with HIV. His frankness and candor won him many allies both within the political sphere and in the public’s eyes.

While Hatoyama’s Cabinet resigned en-masse to make way for Kan’s picks, Kan re-instated most officials in the same positions they previously held.

Kan will continue many of Hatoyama’s policies – most notably on the U.S. military base on Okinawa. He telephoned President Obama to discuss Futenma, saying  both the U.S. and Japan should do more to resolve the base issue. In his first press conference as PM, he said he wants to "drastically rebuild Japan" and that fiscal challenges are "the biggest issue the country must tackle and must be discussed beyond our party’s boundaries."

Almost immediately following his formal appointment earlier this week, a number of fake Twitter accounts purporting to be Kan himself cropped up, though they were quickly shuttered.

Beard Burn in Isesaki City

In Isesaki City, about 60 miles north of Tokyo, the municipal government has banned beards on all city officials. The ban follows a number of public complaints that found beards on some workers to be "unpleasant." Local barbers and 'beard advocacy groups,' such as the Hige (Beard) Club are trying to work within the confines of the ban: Minoru Fujii, a Tokyo member says "I am designing beards for my customers that are considered acceptable in the company workplace." According to The Japan Times’ 'Views from the Street' public opinion column, most people agree that public officials should be neat and tidy, but that banning all facial hair is going a bit too far. Isesaki is the only municipality in Japan to instate such a ban.

Government Adds 'Sexy' Kanji to Everyday Use List

The Council for Cultural Affairs added 191 new characters to the jōyō kanji list, the list of kanji approved for everyday usage and taught to elementary- and middle-schoolers. Most of the new kanji had been omitted when the last list was compiled in 1981, because they were considered too complex to have to write longhand on a regular basis. However, because most people nowadays write on computers or cell phones, there is no longer as much need to write by hand. New kanji includes: 額 (ton – stop or pause), 藤 (fuji – creeper plant), and 艶 (en – sexy/ voluptuous) .

Bite-Sized News:

►Construction on a golf course in Japan’s ancient capital Nara disturbed some ancient tombs. We're hoping nobody picked up a curse!

►The spread of foot-and-mouth disease in Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan’s livestock center, continues.

►Japanese and American manga publishers fight scanlations.

►Japanese construction conglomerate Shimizu, Corp. unveiled plans to build a floating eco-city. It’s a joint project between 14 Japanese universities and the corporation to be completed in 15 years. "We would like to make it a utopia that belongs to no particular state," says Makoto Kajitani, director of the Super Collaborative Graduate School project director and president of the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo.

►A UK vet will publish a book about his experience as a prisoner of war during WWII, detailing his resulting lifelong friendship with one of his Japanese prison guards.

►A moving memorial for butoh legend Kazuo Ohno by Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons.

►NYT profiles director Shu Matsuri, noting "contemporary Japanese theater remains by and large terra incognita" around the world. The paper also profiled vernerable Japanese dance duo Eiko & Koma.

►Arthur R. Miller, one of America's top legal minds collects the ukiyo-e woodblock prints of Utagawa Kuniyoshi because of the artist's championship of free speech.

Kuniyoshi in closing: "Graphic Heroes, Magic Monsters… is part history lesson, part barometer of Japan's political climate of the day, part manga precursor. It is all exquisitely created, boldly rendered, and remarkably preserved."

►Asahi reports "wacky candy says 'Japan' like no other gift"

►Finally, Japan Society launched a Japanese-language Twitter feed @js_desu  in addition to @japansociety, @Education_JS, @Innovators_JS, and @JSNY_Film. Happy following!


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