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Shinzo Abe, James Mattis Reaffirm U.S. Commitment on Senkakus

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Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis clearly said during talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday afternoon that the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture are within the scope of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which obliges the United States to defend Japan, according to a senior government official who attended the meeting.

At the opening of the meeting, Abe said he hopes and is certain the two countries “can demonstrate in our country and abroad that the Japan-U.S. alliance is unshakable.” In response, Mattis said that he intended to make clear during the meeting that Article 5 of the security treaty will be important five years or 10 years from now, just as it was a year ago or five years ago.

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Mattis arrived in Tokyo on the day to hold talks with the prime minister, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and other members of Abe’s Cabinet to exchange views on the security environment in East Asia and to address mutual security concerns. The new U.S. defense chief’s visit to Japan marks the first by a U.S. Cabinet member under the administration of President Donald Trump. The ministerial meeting with Inada is scheduled for Saturday, after which they will hold a joint press conference.

During these talks, the two sides are also expected to confirm that the United States will firmly uphold the “nuclear umbrella” (see below) over Japan in its defense.

During his presidential election campaign last year, Trump was ambiguous about defending the Senkakus and also suggested that if Japan doesn’t contribute its due share to shouldering the burden of stationing U.S. forces in Japan, it would be acceptable for Japan to possess its own nuclear weapons to confront North Korea’s nuclear threat. These remarks caused apprehension on the Japanese side.

Read the rest of this entry »

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話を聞いてくれる男性をレンタル: Japanese ‘Rent Men’ Who Are Paid Just to Listen

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Japan has struggled with problems of social isolation, most notably the phenomenon of ‘hikikomori’ where people, often teens and young adults, refuse to leave the house or engage socially, instead opting to play video games or remain in their rooms.

Tokyo (AFP) – From lonely pensioners to Japanese schoolgirls with shattered dreams, Takanobu Nishimoto and his crew of middle-aged men will lend an ear to clients who would never dream of spilling their guts to a therapist or worse, their families.

Anyone in need of company can sign up to his online service to rent an “ossan” — a man aged between 45 and 55 — for 1,000 yen ($10) an hour.

“For me, the service is a hobby more than anything,” says Nishimoto, who first came up with the concept four years ago and who now has a growing network of some 60 men across Japan.

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“The people who rent me are just asking me to keep them company for an hour or two, mainly to listen to them.” 

“The initial idea was to improve the image of guys my age, people who might not be spring chickens anymore and not taken so seriously.”

And while the 48-year-old professional fashion coordinator is used to renting himself out, he insists conversation is all he offers to between 30 and 40 clients a month, roughly 70 percent of whom are women.

“The people who rent me are just asking me to keep them company for an hour or two, mainly to listen to them,” he tells AFP between sessions, giving the example of a woman in her 80s who would book him every week for a walk around the local park.

“I almost became like her son,” he says.

Other clients include a fisherman who was sick of waiting in solitary silence for a catch, a college student with ambitions to get into show business but who lacked family support, and an awkward young employee who did not know how to behave around his direct supervisor.

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“I never know exactly what they’re going to ask for when they rent me, and of course that’s a bit scary, but it’s also why it’s so interesting. Honestly, I’ve never had problems with any weird clients… I’ve had plenty of emotional experiences.”

Japan has struggled with problems of social isolation, most notably the phenomenon of “hikikomori” where people, often teens and young adults, refuse to leave the house or engage socially, instead opting to play video games or remain in their rooms.

But the people who come to Nishimoto do not suffer from detachment from society or challenges adjusting to it. Read the rest of this entry »


Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese 

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Amos Zeeburg writes: The stories have become all too familiar in Japan, though people often do their best to ignore them. An elderly or middle-aged person, usually a man, is found dead, at home in his apartment, frequently right in his bed. It has been days, weeks, or even months since he has had contact with another human being. Often the discovery is made by a landlord frustrated at not receiving a rent payment or a neighbor who notices an unpleasant smell. The deceased has almost no connections with the world around him: no job, no relationships with neighbors, no spouse or children who care to be in contact. He has little desire to take care of his home, his relationships, his health. “The majority of lonely deaths are people who are kind of messy,” Taichi Yoshida, who runs a moving company that often cleans out apartments where people are discovered long after they die, told Time magazine. “It’s the person who, when they take something out, they don’t put it back; when something breaks, they don’t fix it; when a relationship falls apart, they don’t repair it.”

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The death rate for U.S. whites (USW), U.S. Hispanics (USH), and six comparison countries (France, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia, Sweden) since 1990.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

These lonely deaths are called kodokushi. Each one passes without much notice, but the phenomenon is frequent enough to be widely known. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reported there were 3,700 “unaccompanied deaths” in Japan in 2013, but some researchers estimate that because of significant under-counting, the true figure is closer to 30,000. In any case, the frequency of kodokushi has been on the rise since they emerged in the 1980s.

[Read the full story here, at Nautilus]

The increase seems to be associated with deep social changes in the country, particularly the breakdown of the traditional multigenerational Japanese family. In 1960, about 80 percent of elderly Japanese lived with a child; since then that number has split in half. Read the rest of this entry »


Special Nude Drawing Classes Help Japan’s Middle-Aged Virgins With Women

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Sarah Cascone writes: There’s an unusual social problem in Japan: a growing group of middle-aged men who seem unable to lose their virginity. The efforts to help this population include a special course, with nude figure drawing sessions designed to familiarize them with the female form.

“The first time I did this, in autumn last year, oh…I was so amazed. Their bodies are incredibly beautiful. One thing I learned is that there are many different shapes of breasts and even genitals.”

— 41-year-old Virgin Academia student Takashi Sakai

The classes are part of the Virgin Academia, run by Shingo Sakatsume. The correspondence course comes with a 100-page textbook, Virgin Breaker!, and runs for a full year, with participants keeping a counselor apprised of their progress in their efforts to meet women.

Shingo Sakatsume with the Virgin Academia textbook. Photo: courtesy Shingo Sakatsume.

Shingo Sakatsume with the Virgin Academia textbook. Photo: courtesy Shingo Sakatsume.

AFP reports that a National Institute of Population and Social Security Research survey from 2010 found that one in four single Japanese men in their 30s had never had sex. This group has become known as yaramisos, and has seen an influx of growth over the past two decades, as the country’s economy has struggled.

“Many men seem to have lost confidence as they’ve lost their economic muscle,” matchmaker Yoko Itamoto told AFP. Another factor is the decline of arranged marriages—without them, some men, unprepared for the realities of adulthood, founder in their efforts to forge romantic relationships.

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“I think that we should approach the growing number of ‘unwilling virgins’ (people who want to have sex but aren’t able to) as a social problem and one of the reasons that Japanese people avoid marriage or marry late,” wrote Sakatsume for Ignition. “The phenomenon also influences our country’s declining birth rate.”

Sakatsume sees Japan as a place of contradiction, where sexual imagery is widely found, but no one actually wants to talk about sex—and a woman can be arrested for making art based on her vagina. Another woman from France, decided to display hers full frontal. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan is Paying to Have Japanese-Language Nonfiction Books Translated into English

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Government opens another front in public relations battle with China, South Korea

TOKYO— Peter Landers writes: Japan’s government is paying to have Japanese-language nonfiction books translated into English, with the first works to be produced under the program arriving in American libraries this month.

“Japan is among the top nations in the world in terms of books published, but unfortunately, they’re just published in Japanese. If they were known around the world, there are a lot of books that people would find really interesting.”

The move is one of several nontraditional public-relations steps by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, which is trying to enhance Japan’s profile among U.S. opinion leaders and the general public as it engages in a public relations battle with China and South Korea.

“Some efforts have been overtly political. South Korea has created a website in seven languages to make its case that two islets claimed by both Tokyo and Seoul rightly belong to South Korea, and last year sponsored an exhibit in France on forced prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II.”

Japan’s foreign ministry has boosted its public diplomacy budget. Measures include spending $5 million to fund a professorship in Japanese politics and foreign policy at Columbia University. Another program, begun last year, sends Japanese people from various walks of life to places like Lawrence, Kan., and Lexington, Ky., to talk about life in Japan.

The books translated into English with Japanese government funds will carry the imprint “Japan Library” and be published by the government itself—a different approach from that of some other nations that subsidize private translations. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Japan vs. The Islamic State

The brutal beheadings of Japanese nationals Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa by the Islamic State in January have shocked the island nation and lent momentum to an effort to expand the limitations imposed on its constitution and military after its defeat by the United States in World War II.

Leftists in Japan fear that the incident will encourage a departure from the country’s pacifist constitution, whose Article 9 states that “the Japanese people forever renounce… the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.” Right-wingers, meanwhile, see an opportunity to allow Japan to assert itself as a truly sovereign state.

VICE News reports from Japan as its prime minister and right wing are pushing for re-militarization of the pacifist nation, amid protests from the left who staunchly oppose any changes to Article 9 of the constitution.

 


[VIDEO] How to Drink with Japanese People

MOVIE LIFE KYOTO is a video series which aims to introduce Japanese culture to foreigners in a light-hearted and humorous fashion. With English narration and Japanese subtitles, they’re filled with little factoids and hilariously on-point observations that will be of interest to foreign visitors and a source of much ‘that’s so true!’ amusement for Japanese people, too…(read more)

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Did Japan Botch ISIS Hostage Deal?

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The country’s ISIS hostage crisis is a tragedy—one that its government helped to create. Is the Abe administration more concerned with saving face than saving lives?

TOKYO — Jake Adelstein writes: ISIS says it will kill two Japanese hostages if the Japanese government fails to pay a $200 million ransom  by 12:50 a.m. ET Friday. But The Daily Beast has learned that the current crisis might have been averted last year if the Japanese government had not interfered in negotiations to save the first hostage captured by the terrorist group. Indeed, even now Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration seems more interested in saving face than saving lives.ISIS, which has already executed thousands of Iraqis and Syrians, as well as international aid workers and reporters, captured Haruna Yukawa, the founder of a private security company, in northern Syria in August 2014. The next month, the group asked Japanese journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka to mediate the trial it was planning to stage against Yukawa, 42, whom it suspected of being a spy.japanese-hostages

Tsuneoka, who was held hostage in 2010 in Afghanistan and is one of the few Japanese journalists with a pipeline to ISIS, told The Daily Beast last year that the group invited him and Japanese Muslim scholar Hassan Ko Nakata to follow the trial as an Arabic translator.

“There has been some speculation in Japan that the government’s inaction leading up to the release of the hostage video was an attempt to deepen the country’s involvement in the fight against ISIS and justify its remilitarization. Since last year, Abe and his Cabinet have been pushing for a reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution under the guise of ‘collective self-defense’ that would allow Japan to go to war with its allies…”

But Tsuneoka said he and Nakata were not allowed to travel to Syria to try to negotiate Yukawa’s release after the police raided their homes on October 6, a day before their planned departure, and seized their passports. Tsuneoka was detained for questioning for 24 hours but was not arrested.

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“…They also have announced intentions to abolish Article 9, the Japanese constitutional clause that forsakes warfare. These moves have met with widespread opposition among the Japanese but have been downplayed in Japan’s increasingly compliant media.”

Police sources said the raid stemmed from an ongoing police investigation into Tsuneoka’s involvement with a student who may have been attempting to join ISIS. Tsuneoka and the student are under suspicion of violating the rarely enforced Article 93 of Japan’s criminal code, which prohibits “preparing or plotting to wage war privately upon a foreign state”; if arrested, tried, and convicted, the two could face up to five years in prison. Tsuneoka has denied the allegations, though he acknowledges buying an airplane ticket for the student, who had no credit card.

“Now a backlash against the government’s handling of the crisis is growing, with thousands of people tweeting, with some sarcasm, that the prime minister should give himself up to ISIS in exchange for Goto.”

The day after the raid, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that Japan would take measures to “curb extremists.” Japanese nationals would be barred from traveling to Syria, Iraq, or other countries in pursuit of terrorist acts and from offering financial resources to terrorists and extremist groups, in line with domestic law. Read the rest of this entry »


Why do Japanese still buy CDs?

Other countries might be going digital, but Japan’s music fans are sticking with the compact disc. Pauline Chiou reports.JPCD

Via CNN