Friday, October 26, 2012

Japan News Roundup: Daiichi Plant Leaking, No Japan in Presidential Debates, Okinawa’s Firefighters Bare Chests & Hearts


• Nuclear News: Reuters reported that Fukushima’s Daiichi plant "may still be leaking radiation" into sea 19 months after it was crippled by the tsunami. Japan’s nuclear regulators say the situation is “precarious” (Bloomberg). The New York Times shared the latest study findings that fish near the plant continue to show elevated levels of cesium, noting that "Japan still has bans on the sale of 36 species of fish". Related, The Economist profiled the heroism and humility of the "Fukushima 50"—the plant workers who risked their lives immediately following the nuclear crisis, and Fast Company looked at the robotic innovations developed to address the crisis.

• In a lengthy feature, National Geographic answers the question "Why Are China and Japan Sparring Over Eight Tiny, Uninhabited Islands." As tensions over the islands continue to simmer, The Economist reported that “businesses struggle to contain fallout from the diplomatic crisis” with "almost 30,000 Japanese firms in China". Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reported that Japan's coastguard saved 64 Chinese seamen from burning freighter.

• "America's top diplomat in Asia" chided Japan over revolving-door politics (Reuters), with U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell quoted as saying "If you only have one meeting and you're off to a new minister in a couple of months, it's hard to develop that sense of confidence, that sense of intimacy that frankly ... is an intrinsic component of effective diplomacy."

• Last Friday, the U.S. imposed night curfew on its troops in Japan after arrests from suspicion of rape. This week Kyodo News reported Japanese and U.S. officials agreed to “work closely in reviewing rules governing the off-duty activities of American service members stationed in Japan.” Stars and Stripes, an independent news agency of the U.S. armed forces, noted "the U.S. military hasn’t always been so quick to express regret about accusations of serious crimes committed by troops in Japan – although it seems to be learning it has more to gain from doing so than not."

• As the 2012 U.S. presidential debates came to a close, the Wall Street Journal’s Japan Real Time blog pointed out that while there were 53 mentions of China over the three debates, there were 0 references to Japan.

• Word spread quickly online (and was even picked up by Associated Press) when a photo appeared of Japanese-American WWII vet Frank Tanabe casting his absentee ballot for the 2012 election from his hospice bed. He passed away at age 93 this week.

Photo by Amal Chen via The Epoch Times.

The Epoch Times carried a moving article from Japan Society's event with atomic bomb survivors and President Truman's grandson sharing stories with New York high school students. A full webcast of the event is now available. Stars and Stripes carried related reports of American WWII POWs sharing their stories of imprisonment with Japanese children, and a Japanese child of war speaking of sacrifices for all sides during war.

Japan Times reports that 25% of Japanese government funds earmarked for reconstruction and recovery in the disasters-struck northeast region are not benefiting those directly affected. Meanwhile, New Orleans students fundraised to donate jazz instruments to Japan's tsunami-zone kids in need (ABC News).

Jiji Press reported that "Japan was at the bottom among the Group of Eight major countries" as it fell to 101st place in the World Economic Forum's 2012 global gender equality rankings. Related, a Japanese court rejected a suit challenging outdated remarriage ban on women (WSJ).

• "More than 50,000 years of history" were pulled out of a Japan lake, according to the Los Angeles Times, and the unusual proprieties of the sediment will help scientists improve the practice of carbon dating.

National Geographic profiles Japan's Otton frog, an endangered species with the rare amphibial trait of having a spike in its even rarer fifth phalange on its front legs, for fighting and mating. Discover christened it the 'Wolverine Frog'.

New York Times' LENS photo blog wanders in Japan's haunting 'Suicide Forest'.

• In food news, Burger King Japan unveiled their pumpkin burger (HuffPost), Globe and Mail profiled Hidekazu Tojo, inventor of the California roll (plus recipes!), and the Financial Times reviewed Barak Kushner's Slurp!, the author's exhaustive study of the history and culture of Japanese ramen.

• This week Amazon released its first Japanese-language Kindle (PC Magazine).

Jalopnik got a rare tour of Nissan's Private Heritage Museum in Japan, and shared some amazing photos.

The Atlantic takes and in-depth look at the fandom and culture growing around Japan's pop superstar hologram, especially burgeoning "do-it-yourself musicians".

• With Halloween around the corner, Kotaku looks at why Halloween has finally become popular in Japan (and conjectures why it wasn't before: because nobody wanted to dress as yurei, Japan's soul destroying ghosts). Japan Times lists Halloween parades happening this year in Japan, and profiles the fearsome Onibaba, Japan's legendary 'Demon-hag'.

• Giving their NYC counterparts a run for their money, Okinawa firefighters bare their chests for a sizzling 2013 charity calendar. According to RocketNews24, money raised goes to the nonprofit MESH Support, an emergency helicpoter ambulance service vital for the health and safety of the multi-island prefecture's inhabitants.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Japanese Oktoberfest at Yotel New York

Nothing says “Oktoberfest” like giant blonde men and bratwurst.

Or maybe . . . . . mini Kimchee empanadas and a smooth, unfiltered rice ale?

The latter proved preferable at midtown Manhattan’s Yotel as they launched their first annual Japanese Oktoberfest on a humid and rainy Tuesday this week.

“We decided to put our own unique spin on Oktoberfest, using our Japanese design aesthetic as inspiration,” said Jo Berrington, Marketing Director at YOTEL. In its second year of operation, the hotel, home to restaurant Doyho and Manhattan’s most expansive outdoor drinking space, thought that celebrating the traditional German holiday would be the perfect excuse to extend Terrace’s hours into the fall–they had been strictly cut off at summer’s end in the previous year.

On the night of Oktoberfest’s launch, rain interrupted the city; sleek white picnic tables were taken under Terrace’s sturdy tent, which was effective in keeping all visitors, pork tenderloins, and Weizens dry.

A little past the evening’s halfway point, a young waiter could just barely be seen emerging onto Terrace from Dohyo inside. Approximately 60 seconds later, he disappeared again. This happened once or twice more. When he made it over to the bar, he apologized as he offered New York-style pretzels, paired with chipotle mayo or miso mustard.

“I finally told the kitchen they had to give me a tray that held 18. Ten was not cutting it,” he relayed about his inability to get much further than the doorway when carrying what was clearly the favorite of the night’s Richard Sandoval-prepared food pairings.

Other employees of Terrace were equally attentive and helpful. The bar’s regular servers seemed just as knowledgeable as the brewery’s representatives, happily explaining the differences between Hitachino’s typical Oktoberfest offerings—Nest Weizen and a Belgian-style White Ale—and the company’s Real Ginger Brew, a little something for those seeking more traditional Japanese flavorings.

But perhaps the most popular beer of the night was the Rogue Red Fox, distributed by an American brewery in Oregon—fitting, as it has the added appeal of exclusivity: The red ale is brewed specifically for the Japanese island of Hokkaido and is available only on that island and in New York.

Japanese Oktoberfest runs Wednesday, October 3 – Tuesday, October 9 from 5 pm to 9 pm, and will be available during brunch hours over the holiday weekend. Reservations are required, and can be secured by calling Dohyo at 646.449.7790.

Marisa Rindone