Friday, November 23, 2012

Japan News Roundup: Obama Meets With Japan & China, Elder Crime Rise, Massive Mascot Boom

Noda congratulating Obama on 4 more years? AP photo via.

• President Obama ended his tour of Asia in diplomatic discussions with leaders of Japan and China (ABC), but "talk of trade was overshadowed by discussions over how to prevent violence over South China Sea territories." During the talks Obama "once again touted the U.S.-Japan alliance the 'conerstone' of regional security" (BusinessWeek).

• Japan's foreign minister Koichiro Genba answered some basic questions about Japan's stance on the island dispute in a New York Times op-ed. BBC News reported that Japan named the new ambassador to China: career diplomat Masato Kitera, 59, who will go to Beijing next month.

Reuters analysis of Japan's upcoming elections elections:
[The] likely scenario is that the December election ushers in a period of confusing coalition politics... that will complicate policymaking in a political system already criticized as indecisive as Japan struggles with such challenges as China's rise, the role of nuclear power after last year's Fukushima crisis and the ballooning costs of a fast-ageing population. Such prospects would deepen concerns at ratings agencies over Japan's ability to deal with its high public debt, which at more than twice the size of the $5 trillion economy is the heaviest among leading industrialized nations.
• Likely conservative Prime Minister candidate Shinzo Abe says strengthening Japan's economy and the military are the top priorities for his party as the country approaches elections on December 16 (BW). Meanwhile "the veteran Japanese politician’s Facebook page is sure getting lots of attention" (Wall Street Journal).

• "In next month's general election, politicians -- nearly all of them men -- will make promises on what they will do to fix Japan's economic morass. Very few of them will even mention women." (Agence France Presse)

Japan will spend $12.3 billion on its next economic stimulus. (BW)

• Japan's government is sending $4.7 million to Pakistan, where parts still remain underwater two months after a moonsoon caused massive flooding (Pakistan Observer). They are also sending $500K for New Jersey's hurricane recovery (New Jersey News). Two Japanese NGOs fight to get aid for war-torn Mali (Asahi).


• Despited ¥12 billion loss, a Miyagi Prefecture shipbuilder launched its first vessel built since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. "The ship is painted blue, green and orange, the colors used in the flags of the hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima." (Japan Times). On the otherside of the Pacific, a California port is building a tsunami-resistant harbor in response to 3-11 (Washington Post), and one oceanographer finds it ominous that Japan's tsunami debris is late landing in Washington State. (

• Just as U.S. airmen were turned over to Japanese prosecutors to decide charges for suspected assault (ABC), several more violations from armed forces personnel were reported in Japan, ranging from trespassing (AP) to indecent exposure and drunk driving (AFP).

• Though "the number of elderly criminals being caught by Japanese police has rocketed…with pensioners committing almost 50 times more assaults than two decades ago," the trend "goes against that of society at large, where the overall number of crimes in Japan fell 5.8 percent on year, to 2.14 million in 2011, its ninth straight year of decline." (Herald Sun)

• Incidences of bullying in Japan has more than doubled since last academic year, with 144,000 reported over 6 months. (NHK)

Japan Times offers a strategy for learning Japanese, with this news:
According to the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State, which has compiled language-learning expectations for their professional staff (people who already know other languages), Japanese is one of the five most difficult languages to reach speaking and reading proficiency in, requiring 88 weeks of study (2,200 class hours).
• While Japan's ninjas head for extinction (BBC) and sumo wresting declines as the national sport (Financial Times), the country has been experiencing a massive mascot boom (Reuters).

• Hiroki Kuroda agreed to $15 million deal with the Yankees. (ABC)

• Japan's opened its first environmentally friendly highway rest stop, equipped with some 4,000 solar panels and public toilets that use only recycled water. (UPI)

• For Japan's toilet giant, "global lavatory domination remains elusive, especially among shy U.S. consumers," because, according to top brass, Americans don't like talking about bathroom business.

• Japan's HEARBO made great strides in robotic sound processing. (Endgadget)

• Astronauts from Japan, U.S. and Russia returned to earth. (MSNBC)

• Chef Elizabeth Andoh whips up a cookbook showcasing cuisine and ingredients from Japan's disaster zone. (WaPo video launches immediate when opening link.)

• Yahoo's Japan Ramen project selected nine Japan-based foreigners (including six Americans) to spread the joy of noodle making around the world. (JT)

Scottish roots of Japanese whisky. (The Scotsman)

• Renovations on "once worthless" old Japanese homes, some from the 1600s, are yielding return of investments as high as 80%. (BW)

Japan's public libraries are thriving. (JT)

• One new photography book looks at the physical and spiritual aesthetics of bonsai (JapanCultureNYC), another captures the "living hell passengers endure on Tokyo's trains" (News Australia).

• A major Zeshin show and multimedia retrospective of David Lynch's artwork opened in Japan. Plus, the little known art of indoor moss installations. (JT)

• Sadly the Japanese gallery Ippodo is selling off its New York inventory and closing its Chelsea space on December 31. (ArtInfo)

• Kirie, the traditional Japanese art of paper cutting, gets a contemporary spin. What appears "to be ink paintings done with a sumi-e brush… are instead layered sheets of black and white paper, painstakingly created by using nothing more than a cutter knife." (JapanCultureNYC)

• "Good design and Japan go hand in hand," said the New York Times in their review from the Design Tide Tokyo expo.

• Verge reports from the 2012 Tokyo Designers Week, taking in "skateboards made from kimonos, giant rabbit art, Kinect-powered alarm clocks, giraffe-shaped skyscrapers, and over six hundred cellphones."

• "I believe it is necessary (for designers) to value the Japanese cultural undercurrent," legendary designer Hanae Mori told Asahi in an exclusive interview.

• Variety reported the anime Evangelion 3 broke box office opening records in Japan for the year, and that the seminal WWII anime Grave of the Fireflies will be released in US for the first time as part of a touring Studio Ghibli Retrospective.

• NTV launched a YouTube page with clips from their insanely creative hand-crafted site gag amateur contest show Kasō Taishō:


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