Friday, November 16, 2012

News Roundup: Japan Elections Set, Beijing Let's Japanese Marathoners Run, Tsunami Teens Visit NJ, Japan's Innovative 'Greatness'


• Japan averted its “fiscal cliff” by passing a crucial bill to keep the government from running out of money by the end of November (BBC). This comes when GDP figures “indicated the most dramatic contraction since the country was hit by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011” (CNN). With media crying recession (NYT), CNBC posited that amping global demand over domestic stimulus might be Japan’s only hope for recovery. BusinessWeek pointed out the agreement ended the budget standoff and paved the way for elections while "polls showed voter discontent with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at a new high." Noda indeed dissolved parliament and set elections for December 16, reported Associated Press, which noted “if Noda's center-left party loses, the economically sputtering country will get its seventh prime minister in six and a half years."

• With a third round of talks, China and Japan appeared "no closer to ending their stand-off over the tiny, uninhabited islands known to China as the Diaoyus and to Japan as the Senkakus." The Economist asked “why China seems to be fanning the flames of its row with Japan in the East China Sea” noting that "Japan and China established diplomatic relations in 1972, the leaders of both countries agreed to put the issue of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands to one side; to let future, supposedly wiser, generations deal with the problem." Reuters examined how debts and double-dealing sparked the row, and CNN said to “avert either a new cold war or a brief hot war” a possible trilateral solution is needed between Japan, China and the U.S. “based on simple principles: doing no further harm, putting aside differences, and expanding areas of mutual interest.” Examining the stand off, BBC described the islands:
Mostly rocky outcroppings which serve as a home to migratory birds and a herd of wild goats, the islands are closest to Taiwan, about 210 km (125 miles) northeast of Taipei and 1,800 km from Tokyo...The largest, Uotsurijima in Japanese, rises up like a forest-canopied mountain from the sea, with no port for landing. A little larger than New York's Central Park, the island's highest point tops the Eiffel Tower.
• The organizers of the Beijing Marathon reversed its decision and will let Japanese runners take part in the event. (Kyodo News)

•  Japan and North Korea reopened stalled bilateral talks, though "Japan and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic relations. The abduction issue and concerns over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs have long strained ties." (AP)

• Nikkei Business highlighted “the one hundred people creating the next generation” in Japan featuring puts 100 people in the categories of "revolutionist," "creator," "hero," "leader," "thinker," "newcomer," and "decider."

"Struggling to learn" is accepted in Japanese and other Eastern education systems, but is often seen as a weakness in the U.S. (NPR)

Japan is seeing a continued decline of post-secondary enrollment of Japanese students in U.S. schools and American students into Japanese schools. (Forbes)

• Teens who survived Japan's tsunami visited a high school in hurricane-affected New Jersey, talking for the first time to an audience that "can relate to the damage that a natural disaster causes." How long did the recovery take in Japan? "It’s not finished yet,” said one student. (Daily Record)

• The New York Times looked at the role sports played to help Japanese deal with the 3/11 disasters. "Unlike in the United States, where athletes might play a different sport each season, Japanese students commit to a single sport that they practice year-round. As a result, teammates and coaches provided a support network for many athletes affected by the catastrophe. Sports also helped connect student-athletes to family members and neighbors, many of whom played sports themselves."

• The new book Strong in the Rain gives voice to the survivors of #Japan's 3/11 disaster. Japan Times calls it "a riveting story about Japan's March 11 cataclysm told uncommonly well by two veteran Japan-based journalists who share their emotions, experiences and insights while giving readers ringside seats through captivating interviews with survivors. The authors give a haunting voice to the people of Tohoku, one that will linger in your memory, as their evocative prose conveys a sense of the panic, horrors and heartbreak endured."

• More on the decline of sumo, Japan's 2,000-year-old sport "hit by a 54-year recruitment low thanks to bullying scandals, death, allegations of illegal drug use — and a strict diet regime… Just 56 boys took up the this year while twice as many wrestlers gave it up." (The Sun)

• "Japan’s Sport Council on Thursday awarded a contract to design and construct a centerpiece, billion-dollar national stadium that forms a key part of Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games to lauded U.K. firm Zaha Hadid Architects. " The Wall Street Journal's image gallery includes the winning design as well as finalists.

• "Within a decade [after WWII] Tokyo was on its way to being bigger and richer than ever. And it was producing huge amounts of art, feisty and fantastic, a wave of which comes surging out at you like a blast of sound — half noise, half music…" The New York Times reviews Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde opening this weekend at the Museum of Modern Art. Related, the Boston Globe reviewed Reinventing Tokyo at the Mead Art Museum.

• The Mori Art Museum opened a retrospective of darkly disaster-evoking artist Makota Aida, noting "the frequency of natural disasters in Japan is often invoked in explaining elements of the nation's aesthetic, from lightweight wood-and-paper architecture to the ephemeral beauty of ikebana." Also, a new exhibition at the Kyoto National Museum shows "fine line" between Japanese calligraphy and art. (Japan Times)

• Artist Laurie Simmons discusses her latest muse with New York magazine: a Japanese love doll.

• "Until the 1980s, people in Japan generally strove to hide their relatives with dementia from the outside world. By and large, it fell on the spouse or the children to care for them — or the wife of a son whose parent had Alzheimer's." (Japan Times)

• The chilling history behind the abandoned Japanese island featured in the blockbuster new James Bond film Skyfall. (Verge)

• As everyone in the U.S. prepares for Thanksgiving feasts, Malaysia's The Star profiles the power of satsuma-imo (sweet potato) in Japan's culinary culture.

• A Japanese maitre d' was named Best Waiter In The World. (Business Insider)

• "It gave us the Walkman, the pocket calculator and heated toilet seats, but Japan's path to innovative greatness is littered with failures such as the TV-shaped radio and the 'walking' toaster" (AFP). Much new innovative 'greatness' from Japan dominated the news this week: Pepsi Japan's 'fat-burning' new flavor (The Week), which may be "too good to be true" (TIME); odor-absorbing underwear (Wired); and using 3-D scanners to make plastic miniature figurines of their customers (RocketNews24).


Hashima Island, featured in Skyfall. Via.

UPDATED: 11/24/12

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