Original Copy of Constitution Featured in Tokyo Exhibition

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A special exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary on Wednesday of the enforcement of the Constitution is under way at the National Archives of Japan in Tokyo, featuring the original copy of the nation’s supreme charter.

The original document has a signature of Emperor Showa, who died in 1989, and his official seal.

About 60 items related to the establishment of the pacifist Constitution are on display, also including the New Year’s statement by Emperor Showa in 1946 declaring the concept that he was divine to be false.

The admission-free exhibition will run through May 7.

The exhibition also highlights Tokujiro Kanamori, who served as state minister in charge of the Constitution under the government of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida after World War II. He headed the legislation bureau before the war.

The exhibited items related to Kanamori include the English dictionary he used to look up the definition of the term “symbol” and a list of anticipated questions and answers drawn up with senior officials of the legislation bureau regarding a draft of the Constitution… (read more)

Source: The Japan News


[VIDEO] Americans Gather Near U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to Protest Trump’s Travel Ban 日本のアメリカ大使館前で入国制限令に対するデモ

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TOKYO –  reports: A group of demonstrators gathered Tuesday morning near the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending the entry of refugees and restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Roughly 50 people, mainly Americans living in Japan, gathered near the embassy in Minato Ward at around 8 a.m. They held signs with slogans like “Build bridges, not walls,” “No Muslim ban” and “Immigrants make America great.”

“We will protest in solidarity with these individuals, including refugees from war-torn nations, as we stand against this unlawful, immoral and unjust action,” the organizers said in a Monday news release.

“We urge the Trump administration to cancel this executive order and to obey federal court orders against its implementation, and we ask all elected officials and world leaders to speak out against this despicable act,” it said.

Organizer Jesse Glickstein, an American lawyer living in Japan, said the demonstration was part of the global backlash against the immigration clampdown. Protests flared up around the world soon after the policy was implemented last Friday, which is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Glickstein, who is Jewish, said his grandparents immigrated to the U.S. after surviving the Holocaust.

“This, to me, is possibly the most offensive thing a president can do,” Glickstein said before the protest began.

“I think this is important so that the Japanese people understand that the majority of Americans are not in agreement with this,” he said. “We welcome refugees, we welcome diversity, and this administration honestly is basically … waging war on this concept.”

Protester Alexander Gonzalez said he rejects the policy because it targets specific citizens. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan: Taking Cosplay to a New Level 

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Shiguma Aika, second from left, talks with other cosplayers at a broadcasting studio in Osaka.

OSAKA — Keisuke Uranishi reports: An Osaka-based woman is amping up her creativity in a bid to make a difference as a cosplayer.

Shiguma Aika is a famous cosplayer who became known outside Japan about 10 years ago.

“I believe cosplay is a culture Japan can be proud of. I want to be even more creative than now.”

“We can overcome the language barrier and quickly get along with foreigners — that’s one of the good effects of cosplaying,” she said to listeners at the end of an internet radio program late last year.

Sporting bright white hair, Aika appeared on the show with three other cosplayers. Seated in a broadcasting studio, they looked like they had stepped out of an anime world.

“We can overcome the language barrier and quickly get along with foreigners — that’s one of the good effects of cosplaying.”But Aika is not content just to get into a character by cosplaying. She also uses it to express the world the character lives in and share its allure with spectators and other people. She aims to perform “creative cosplay,” shedding new light on the work in question and make it shine more brightly.

“In reality, wars are always going on. I had fun cosplaying, but then I thought I might be able to go a step further and use cosplaying to express [more serious] themes, such as the nature of war and love for humanity.”

For example, Aika and her fellow cosplayers performed a scene from a popular game inspired by the Shinsengumi samurai warrior force at a festival about Japan in Shanghai in February 2012. The Shinsengumi fought for the Tokugawa shogunate in the years leading up to the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan News]

The performance won huge praise from the audience as they demonstrated a theatrical sword fight on stage filled with the passion of Shinsengumi members, many of whom died at a young age.

The festival was a formal event and commemorated the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China. But the organizers, which included the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai, recognized cosplay as an important cultural field that plays a role in the “Cool Japan” promotional movement, and decided to invite Aika and her fellow cosplayers.

Aika said she gained a lot of confidence as a cosplayer at the festival.

Love and war

Aika comes from Osaka, and became fascinated with cosplay in her adolescence. She devoted herself to it more and more because she felt that trying to look like her favorite manga characters would bring her closer to them in mind as well. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan: ‘City & Design’ Magazine, Cover Illustration by Isamu Kurita, 1966

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Nervous in Japan: Book Buyers Snatching up Variety of Books About Trump

Books related to U.S. President Donald Trump have increased in popularity as the new leader takes office.

Signs at Yaesu Book Center’s flagship branch in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, read, “Trump inaugurated as president” and “How will the world change?” with portraits of the former businessman displayed near the entrance of the shop.

The special section features about 20 Trump-related books, including collections of his speeches and forecasts on the impact of his presidency on the Japanese economy. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTOS] East-West World: Abandoned American Frontier Theme Park in Japan

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Western Village first opened its doors back in the early 1970s. Originally quite a modest affair known as Kinugawa Family Ranch, the Wild West theme park did well and gradually expanded, hence the name change. Yet despite such success, changing times resulted in changing fortunes, and in 2006 it was forced to close — meaning that the park now sits empty and forlorn by the side of the road. An odd, wholly unexpected sight in a relatively sparsely populated area a few hours north of Tokyo.

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Increasingly battered by the weather and years of neglect, it nonetheless still retains the look one would expect.

abandoned western theme park in japan

abandoned western theme park in japan

Visiting at the end of a politically tumultuous 2016, however, it wasn’t these out of place structures that made an impact. Instead, it was the park’s haunted looking residents and their unintended, yet no less terrifying depiction of a world turned utterly upside down. The world in which we currently live in, basically.

Considering its theme, and the period in which Western Village opened, it’s perhaps not surprising that one particular, distinctly larger-than-life personality was chosen to front it.

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And, as a follicly challenged right winger with a weirdly orange complexion, such a choice seems disturbingly prescient.

abandoned western theme park in japan

So now, instead of an innocent recreation of all things cowboy-related, this celebrity led world feels like a truly disturbing vision of a potentially very near future. One in which the inner machinations and ulterior motives of those pulling the presidential strings are very much to the fore.

abandoned western theme park in japan Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] History of Japan 

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Imagine consuming nitrous oxide, helium, and cocaine, then explaining Japanese history. What’s not to like? A funny video that compresses a lot of information into an entertaining, easy-to-unpack container.

 


[VIDEO] Tokyo Comic Con 2016 変態東京コミコン「グラビアポーズしてください!」

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Japan’s Shrinking Population and Local Innovation: Turning Empty Houses into Guesthouses

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In many cases, guesthouse operators actively promote interaction between guests and locals. It is hoped that the new guesthouses will aid the revitalization of regional communities, and attract people to relocate from urban areas.

Sachio Tanaka reports: Hachane in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, is one of such guesthouses. The word “hachane” is a local expression meaning, “See you again.”

“It is enjoyable to see people who come to stay in my guesthouse spending time with locals, and observe the relationships between them growing.”

— Sakiko Morioka, 30, who moved back from Tokyo to her home city last year

Hachane’s building formerly accommodated an izakaya restaurant and residence. After the izakaya closed, the building reopened as Hachane in April this year after undergoing renovation.

Yoshiki Koizumi, 45, who operates Hachane, formerly worked for a real estate company in Tokyo for about 20 years.

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“According to Yukari Maeda, author of ‘Japan Hostel and Guesthouse Guide,’ published by Wani Books Co., which includes information on about 100 facilities, the number of guesthouses has rapidly increased in the past two years.”

After being attracted by the natural environment and climate of the town — which is also the hometown of the parents of his wife, Michiyo, 40 — Koizumi began the guesthouse business jointly with Yoshiko Iwai, a 36-year-old business consultant whom he has known since he was a company employee.

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“Guesthouses are used mainly by young people, who can bring new ideas and a sense of value to local communities. If it also solves the problem of empty houses, it can serve a dual purpose.”

The guesthouse is on the second floor of the building. Four guest rooms can accommodate up to seven people in total.

A 20-square-meter shared dining room is equipped with kitchen appliances, and guests often congregate there.

Guests also share a bathroom and shower room. The room charge is from about ¥3,000 per night.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan News]

The first floor of the building is now a pizzeria run by Chiho Takagi, 43, Michiyo’s elder sister, and the restaurant serves as a space for guests and locals to interact.

Koizumi also organizes agricultural events such as rice planting in cooperation with local farmers.

“I hope many people will come to appreciate Tokamachi’s homely atmosphere,” he said.
Read the rest of this entry »


Niigata Elementary School Teacher Calls Fukushima Evacuee Student ‘Germ’

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The boy complained to the teacher in charge of his class that he felt bad because classmates treated him like a germ, according to the board of education. He also reported to the teacher last month that he was bullied.

Jiji Press NIIGATA (Jiji Press) — A teacher at an elementary school in the city of Niigata added “kin,” or “germ” in Japanese, when he called the name of a male pupil evacuated from the prefecture of Fukushima following the country’s worst nuclear accident in March 2011, it was learned Friday.

A woman and child sit on a beach as Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (Tepco) Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station stands in the background in Kashiwazaki City, Niigata Prefecture, Japan, on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida痴 approval is critical before Tepco can go ahead with plans for the restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, the world痴 largest nuclear power station by generating capacity. Photographer: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg

“The board expressed deep apologies to the pupil and his parents. The boy evacuated to Niigata with his family from Fukushima after the unprecedented triple reactor meltdown accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was knocked out by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.”

Due to the remark by the teacher, in his 40s, the fourth grader became unable to go to the school, according to Niigata’s board of education.

“The boy reportedly said that he cannot go to the school and does not want to see the teacher.”

The board expressed deep apologies to the pupil and his parents. The boy evacuated to Niigata with his family from Fukushima after the unprecedented triple reactor meltdown accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was knocked out by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Read the rest of this entry »


Yuki Da! Tokyo has November Snow for First Time in 54 Years

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Tokyo (AFP) – Tokyo woke up Thursday to its first November snowfall in more than half a century, leaving commuters to grapple with train disruptions and slick streets.

Snow began falling before dawn with the mercury approaching zero as a cold weather system moved south.

The Japan Meterological Agency said it was the first time snow had fallen in November in central Tokyo since 1962.

Amounts were greater in suburban areas closer to mountains but even central Tokyo saw brief accumulations, which the agency forecast to be as high as two centimetres (one inch).

That was the first November accumulation since records began in 1875, the agency said.

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“I was surprised to see snow at such an early stage of the season,” said Hiroko Tanaka, a Tokyo resident.

“I felt this may be a sign of something abnormal in terms of natural phenomena,” she told AFP.

But experts say the situation is nothing to worry about.

“Today’s snowfall and accumulation occurred because several elements came together at once by chance,” said Sakiko Nishioka, an agency official in charge of weather forecasting.

“It does not mean this can signal any unusual weather conditions this season such as a super cold winter,” Nishioka told AFP, adding that it was also unclear if it was related to climate change or events such as El Nino.

Tokyo, which extends over a wide area and includes many suburbs, enjoys relatively mild winters compared to some other parts of the country where snowfall is more frequent. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Tsunami Warning Issued After Quake Off Fukushima in Japan

TOKYO (AP) — An earthquake with preliminary magnitude of 7.3 struck Tuesday off the coast of Fukushima prefecture in Japan. A tsunami warning for waves of up to three meters (10 feet) was issued.

The Japan Meteorological Agency says the quake struck around 6 a.m at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles). It warned people along the coast to move to higher ground.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the magnitude at 6.9. The earthquake shook buildings in Tokyo, 240 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of the epicenter.

Fukushima prefecture is home to the nuclear power plant that was destroyed by a huge tsunami following an offshore earthquake in 2011…(more)

Developing…


This Day in History: Soviet pilot lands Russian MIG fighter plane in Japan, Sep 06, 1976 

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A Soviet Air Force pilot lands his MIG fighter jet in Japan and asks for asylum in the United States. The incident was a serious embarrassment for the Soviets, and also provided a bit of a surprise for U.S. officials.

When the Soviets first put the MIG-25 (known as the Foxbat) into production in the 1960s, U.S. officials became nearly hysterical. The new plane, they claimed, was the fastest, most advanced, and most destructive interceptor jet ever built. Its debut, they argued, meant that the United States was falling dangerously behind in the race to control the skies. On September 6, 1976, those officials got a close-up look at the aircraft.

Soviet Air Force Lt. Viktor Belenko took his MIG-25 out of Soviet airspace and landed it at a Japanese airfield at Hakodate on the island of Hokkaido. Japanese police took the pilot into custody, where he immediately asked for asylum in the United States. Experts from the U.S. quickly arrived on the scene to get a firsthand look at the aircraft. After being questioned extensively by both Japanese and U.S. officials, Belenko was flown to the United States and granted political asylum.

For the Soviets, the MIG-25 incident was a major diplomatic and military embarrassment. To have one of their most advanced planes delivered into the hands of their enemy was mortifying and was viewed as a serious setback to the Soviet weapons program. Read the rest of this entry »


Japanese Robot Makes Sushi in Seconds 

Kawasaki's sushi-making robot. Kazumichi Moriyama/YouTube

Kawasaki’s sushi-making robot. Kazumichi Moriyama/YouTube

The Japanese robotics manufacturer Kawasaki has created a bot that can prepare nigiri sushi in under a minute.

As robots get more advanced, they will likely take over many jobs in the future — including those of sushi chefs.

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For a sneak peak at this impending automation, look no further than a new creation from robotics manufacturer Kawasaki. The robot can make sushi in under a minute.

First spotted by Gizmodo, the video shows a miraculous bot that assembles nigiri, the traditional type of sushi in which a piece of raw fish sits on a little ball of rice.

giphy (77) Read the rest of this entry »


Emperor Akihito of Japan Raises Possibility of Leaving Throne

Emperor Akihito, 82, spoke publicly for the first time about retiring, saying he feared it would become ‘more difficult’ to fulfill his duties.

Jonathan Noble reports: It has been something of an open secret in Japan that Emperor Akihito would like a privilege most people take for granted: At 82, he wants to retire. The question is whether the Japanese and their elected leaders will let him.

In an extraordinary televised address on Monday, the popular emperor spoke publicly about the issue for the first time. Though his words were characteristically vague — he discussed his age, his rigorous daily schedule and what he called his increasing physical limitations — the message was unmistakable.

“I am concerned that it will become more and more difficult for me to fulfill my duties as a symbolic emperor,” he said in a prerecorded address that lasted about 10 minutes and was broadcast on multiple Japanese television networks.

If Akihito steps down, the move could redefine Japan’s royal family, the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy. While the emperor now has only symbolic power, an abdication could also resurrect a contentious issue in Japan: the debate over allowing a woman to occupy the throne.

[Read the full story here, at The New York Times]

First reported in banner headlines by the Japanese news media in July, Akihito, who has been treated for cancer and heart problems, was said to want to retire and pass the title to his son Crown Prince Naruhito, 56. Prince Naruhito appears to share his father’s quiet temperament and wish to keep the monarchy apolitical.

But abdication is complicated because of Japanese law, which says an emperor serves until death. Parliament would have to change the law for Akihito to step down. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Japan’s Emperor Akihito to Make Rare Public Address

Japan’s Emperor Akihito is set to deliver his second ever televised address to the nation, after reports he wants to step down in coming years.

Japan’s Emperor Akihito is set to deliver his second ever televised address to the public.

Last month, Japanese media reported that the emperor wanted to step down in coming years, which would be unprecedented in modern Japan.

He is not expected to use the word “abdicate” because he is barred from political involvement.

The palace said on Friday he would be speaking about his “feelings regarding his duties as a symbol of the nation”.

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Five things about Japan’s emperor

People in Tokyo sum up Japan’s Emperor in one word

  • Has adopted a more modern style, making efforts to draw the imperial family closer to the people.
  • He married a commoner in 1959 – their love story captured the nation and was dubbed the “tennis court romance” as they met over the nets. Together he and Empress Michiko have three children.
  • Has sought to heal the scars of World War Two, saying last year: “Looking back at the past, together with deep remorse over the war, I pray that this tragedy of war will not be repeated and together with the people express my deep condolences for those who fell in battle and in the ravages of war.”
  • Acknowledged his Korean ancestry in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup, which Japan and South Korea jointly hosted. This surprised many in Japan given the country’s bitter colonial legacy on the Korean peninsula.
  • His passion is marine biology and he is an expert on the goby fish.

[Emperor Akihito’s reign in pictures]

There is no legal provision for abdication in Japanese law, which would mean a law change would be required.

[Read the full story here, at BBC News]

Under the constitution the emperor is not allowed to have political powers so a wish to abdicate could be seen as him interfering in politics.

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to issue a statement after the emperor’s speech.

A pre-recorded message from the 82-year-old emperor, who is revered in Japan, will be made public at 15:00 local time (06:00 GMT).

Public broadcaster NHK reported the emperor, who has had heart surgery and was treated for prostate cancer, would ask Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife to take over many of his public duties. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: 19 Dead, Dozens Injured in Stabbing Attack in Japan

tokyo-earthquake-14

TOKYO, Japan (WCMH) — At least 19 people are dead and 20 others injured following a stabbing rampage at a facility for handicapped people outside of Tokyo, Japan.

Japanese media NHK reports the attack happened in the city of Sagamihara which is west of Tokyo.

Police say the knife-wielding man entered the facility and began attacking just after 2:30am Tokyo time. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


Japanese Supreme Court Upholds Special Surveillance to Keep Tabs on Muslims

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Japan has actually done remarkably well in averting terror attacks and has never been the victim of lethal jihadist violence. Some have praised Japan’s effectiveness in forestalling Islamic violence, proposing it as a model for other nations.

The Japanese Supreme Court has affirmed the practice of extensive surveillance of Muslims, rejecting an appeal by 17 plaintiffs who challenged the policy on the grounds that it violated Muslims’ constitutional rights to privacy, equal treatment, and religious freedom.

 “The most interesting thing in Japan’s approach to Islam is the fact that the Japanese do not feel the need to apologize to Muslims for the negative way in which they relate to Islam.”

In 2010, over a hundred Japanese police files were leaked to the public, which revealed widespread monitoring of Muslims across Japan. The files reportedly showed that the Japanese government was keeping tabs on some 72,000 Japanese residents who hailed from member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Tokyo police had also been monitoring places of worship, halal restaurants, and “Islam-related” organizations, according to the documents.

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“Along with surveillance, Japanese authorities also apply tight immigration standards. Muslims seeking a working visa or immigration permit, for instance, are subject to detailed scrutiny, which is credited with preventing the sort of terrorist activity that has plagued Europe. “

Soon after, 17 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit saying that their privacy had been violated, and challenging the extensive monitoring of followers of Islam in Japan.

[Read the full story here, at Breitbart]

After two appeals, the case made it to Japan’s Supreme Court, which on May 31 concurred with a lower court that awarded the plaintiffs a total of ¥90 million ($880,000) in compensation because the leak violated their privacy.

Nonetheless, the high court dismissed the more general charges of police profiling and invasive surveillance practices, which a lower court had upheld as “necessary and inevitable” to guard against the threat of Islamic terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Cherry Blossoms Flood the Inokashira Park Lake in Tokyo

Christopher Jobson reports: Every spring, photographer Danilo Dungo spends time at Inokashira Park in Tokyo, famous for its abundance of blooming cherry trees. The photographer has become a master at capturing the event from all angles, especially with aerial shots that show the pink flowers covering the nearby lake…(read more)

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Source: Colossal


The Art Institute of Chicago Recreates Van Gogh’s Famous Bedroom to be Rented on Airbnb 

Kate Sierzputowski writes: Moving the art viewing experience from a linear surface to a three-dimensional environment, the Art Institute of Chicago is launching an interactive experience alongside their latest exhibition—entry to a full-size replica of Van Gogh’s painting The Bedroom. The room, available on AirBnB starting today, includes all the details of the original painting, arranged in haphazard alignment to imitate the original room.

[Read the full story here, at Colossal]

The installation was built to celebrate the exhibition “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms,” a show which centers around three paintings of his domestic space he created from 1888 to 1889. The exhibition also serves as the first time the paintings will exist within the same space in North America. The first of the three paintings was produced shortly after moving into his “Yellow House” in Arles, France, yet suffered water damage soon after its completion. Van Gogh painted two other versions of the paintings to preserve the composition, one while at an asylum in Saint-Rémy in 1889 and…(read more)

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Source: Colossal

 


Monkey Orchids Exhibition in Japan

 


Japanese Journalist Held Hostage in Syria 

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The Japanese government is seeking information after reports a Japanese freelance journalist is being held hostage in Syria and has been threatened with execution, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday.

“Given the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on details.”

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said this week it had received information that an armed group holding journalist Yasuda Jumpei hostage had started a countdown for an unspecified ransom to be paid and had threatened to execute or sell him to another group if their demands were not met.

“The safety of our citizens is an important responsibility of the government, so we are making every effort and making full use of various information networks.”

— Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga

RSF said in a statement on its website that Yasuda was kidnapped in July by an armed group in an area controlled by the militant Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syria wing, shortly after entering Syria earlier that month.

It urged the Japanese government to do what was needed to save Yasuda. Suga said the Japanese government knew of the case but was not aware of any fresh developments.

“Given the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on details,” he told a regular news conference. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Japan: Odaiba’s Huge Gundam Robot Lights Up for the Winter Season

The full-scale Gundam statue in Odaiba, Tokyo, has a fresh look, with a projection mapping presentation made especially for the winter season.

Source: The Japan Times


Japan Literally Just Made Godzilla an Official Japan Resident & Tourism Ambassador

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Image by Flickr

photoLindsey Patterson writes: Japan has made a bold move, making Godzilla an official resident. It’s unknown if Godzilla sightings will be a daily occurrence, however, many local businesses wouldn’t mind. It’s believed by many that fortune follows any place that is destroyed in a Godzilla film. Hopefully, they’re providing room and board for him as well because nobody wants to rent to a monster that’s always destroying cities. There has been no comment from Godzilla’s new neighbors but it’s suspected that his destructive life has been left behind, only to be utilized for his film career. Making Godzilla an official resident of Japan could be seen as claiming Godzilla, their own creation, and letting the United States know that they are only temporarily borrowing the idea for a couple of movies.

Born in 1954, it’s taken long enough for his residency paperwork to go through. Shinjuku also made copies of Godzilla’s residency plaque, for the first 3,000 fans that demanded proof of his residency.

The plaque of Godzilla’s residency reads:

“Name: Godzilla
Address: Shinjuku-ku, Kabuki-cho, 1-19-1
Date of birth: April 9, 1954
Date of becoming a Shinjuku resident: April 9, 2015
Reason for special residency: Promoting the entertainment of and watching over the Kabuki-cho neighborhood and drawing visitors from around the globe in the form of the Godzilla head built atop the Shinjuku TOHO Building.
Previous visits to Shinjuku Ward: 3 times; Godzilla (1984), Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah(1991), Godzilla 2000 Millennium (1999)”

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Image by Flickr

Shinjuku, a neighborhood in Tokyo, is home to Toho Cinemas. Toho Cinemas, the company that makes the Godzilla movies, erected a giant Godzilla head on their building, which is sure to make for some amazing Japan tour pictures. It is complete with glowing eyes and claws, making it stand out against the night sky. Not only is there a giant Godzilla head, but it’s animated as well. He roars and comes equipped with Atomic breath, too. Soon after the Godzilla head was erected, a ceremony was held, naming Godzilla the local Tourism Ambassador for the area and even awarded a plaque of appreciation. Surely, Godzilla plays an active role on day-to-day lives in the area. Japan tour guides won’t be complaining either. It’s likely that assigning Godzilla these new responsibilities will ensure higher tourism rates for the Shinjuku area, and possibly all of Japan.

It’s unknown if this move is related to the impending release of The first Japanese Godzilla movie in 12 years, but it’s likely that it is. Toho is planning on releasing the new Godzilla movie throughout Japan in 2016. It will be the first Japan produced Godzilla film since 2004 and should be expected to be a huge hit. The United States is planning an American Godzilla movie, to be released in 2018, it’s second attempt at taming the monster that Japan has perfected. The American Godzilla film did create a resurgence in fan support, making 3.2 billion yen ($26 million USD) in Japan alone and a whopping 57 billion yen ($470 godz3million USD) worldwide. Toho is quoted as saying that they will be making “a film that will not bow down to the Hollywood film,” and is expecting to blow fans away graphics made possible by more recent technological advances. It isn’t surprising that Toho is not planning to link the new Japanese Godzilla film to the one made in the United States. The new Japanese Godzilla will stand alone. Does this mean that the cheesy style of the old Godzilla movies will be lost forever? Maybe. The styling of the new movies has not been released but, taking all things into consideration, fans will likely have to revisit their old favorites if they desire the original Japanese Godzilla feel.

[Image by Flickr]

It’s understandable why Godzilla is so dear to Japan. He is the embodiment of many historical moments that have effected Japan. He symbolizes the feelings that Japan had after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, being a mutation caused by nuclear testing in the Pacific. Despite the serious undertones of his origin, Godzilla has received several awards, including the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award and a star in Hollywood. It’s no wonder that’ during his residency and Ambassador ceremony, it was said that he is “the pride of Japan.

It’s unknown how much Godzilla’s salary has been effected by becoming Tourism Ambassador but he must be making movie star wages in Japan and the United States. Surely, he will be a lot busier this day, making movies, attending ceremonies, and possibly making the occasional appearance for Japan tourists, because why would anybody make a trip to Japan if seeing the great Godzilla isn’t a guarantee, right?


[VIDEO] Bass Guitarist Tal Wilkenfeld & Her Japanese Translator タル・ウィルケンフェルドと日本語通訳 

Tal recruits a random Japanese man at a coffee shop to translate a message to her Japanese fans. Things just didn’t go as well as she had hoped…期待に胸を膨らます、日本のファンの皆に、来日ツアーのメッセージを伝えるべく、そう­思い立ったTalは、コーヒーショップにいた適当な日本人らしき男を強引に通訳に仕立­ててみた。だが、、、やはり適当な日本人らしき男は、適当で使い物にならない通訳でしかなかった­。


Explosion Hits Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine

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Yasukuni is widely seen as a symbol of the country’s militarism before and during World War II. Among the 2.4 million war dead enshrined are 14 convicted class-A war criminals.

TOKYO— Mitsuru Obe reports: An explosion at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo may have been politically motivated, police said.

“Many Japanese on the political left warn about a return of that militarism, and there was widespread anger at the Abe government’s passage in September of legislation expanding the overseas role of the country’s military.”

No one was injured in the blast, which came at 10 a.m. local time Monday, a national holiday in Japan, just before a ceremony in celebration of the autumn harvest.

“The bills, which cast off restrictions that had been in place since the end of World War II, prompted months of street protests and scuffles in parliament.”

It left the walls of a bathroom burned and a small hole in the ceiling, according to local media, which reported investigators found batteries and wire at the scene.

Yasukuni is widely seen—including by some people in Japan—as a symbol of the country’s militarism before and during World War II. Among the 2.4 million war dead enshrined are 14 convicted class-A war criminals. Read the rest of this entry »


50 Ways 10 Ways 5 Ways Japan Could Use Its Restricted Military Under New Law

After Japan’s defeat in World War II, its new constitution banned it from going to war or deploying military forces except for self-defense. Now Japan’s parliament is expected to pass legislation as early as Thursday night to allow troops to support allies fighting in a war, even if the conflict is beyond Japan’s borders. Here are five ways Japan’s Self-Defense Forces would change….(read more)

Source: WSJ


Rolling Sushi Art: Osaka’s Dōtonbori Canal Turned into a Gigantic Conveyor Belt Carrying Plates of Sushi the Size of Compact Cars

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The world’s first conveyor belt sushi restaurant opened in Osaka, Japan in 1958. Now Osaka’s Dōtonbori canal has been turned into a gigantic conveyor belt carrying plates of sushi the size of compact cars. This enormous floating piscine parade is an art project called Rolling Sushi.

These photos and the video are from a recent test run to make sure all the sushi successfully floats. The colossal conveyor belt will be on display in Osaka for the first couple weeks of October.

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[via Kotaku]


ヤクザの分割 Japan’s Gangsters Find Extortion No Longer Pays, Forcing Yakuza Split

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The Yamaguchi-gumi was founded in Kobe in 1915 by Harukichi Yamaguchi as an association of Harukichi_Yamaguchidockworkers. The man credited with building the Yamaguchi-gumi into Japan’s largest yakuza syndicate was Kazuo Taoka, the charismatic third don dubbed ‘the bear’ for clawing his opponent’s eyes during brawls.

Alexander Martin reports: The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest and most powerful yakuza crime syndicate, is undergoing a major split on its 100th anniversary after years of police crackdowns and financial strains.

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“Such exploits furnished material for countless yakuza movies over the years, some of which implicitly celebrated the gangsters as upholders of traditional Japanese values of loyalty and sacrifice.”

Japanese police, fearing the outbreak of a bloody gang war, have been on alert since news broke in late August that groups within the Yamaguchi-gumi were parting ways with its sixth-generation don. The result is two groups– the Yamaguchi-gumi and a rival syndicate, both of which are based in central Japan.yakuza

“Even today, the existence of yakuza groups isn’t technically illegal. They have offices as well as fan magazines dedicated to their underworld endeavors.”

Experts say the split reflects the harsh environment facing the yakuza, Japan’s homegrown mafia, following a slew of anti-gang laws that have choked off their revenue.

“Clampdowns against the yakuza have been enforced at all points, making it increasingly difficult for them to rack up profits.”

— Yoshiaki Shinozaki, an attorney with decades of experience fighting organized crime

Once tacitly accepted as a necessary evil to handle society’s dirty work, the yakuza are now taboo for large corporations, and gang members are having more trouble extorting money through protection rackets or serving as muscle men in real-estate schemes.

The Yamaguchi-gumi was founded in Kobe in 1915 by Harukichi Yamaguchi as an association of dockworkers. The man credited with building the Yamaguchi-gumi into Japan’s largest yakuza syndicate was Kazuo Taoka, the charismatic third don dubbed “the bear” for clawing his opponent’s eyes during brawls.

“Once tacitly accepted as a necessary evil to handle society’s dirty work, the yakuza are now taboo for large corporations, and gang members are having more trouble extorting money through protection rackets or serving as muscle men in real-estate schemes.”

During Mr. Taoka’s reign from 1946 to his death in 1981, the Yamaguchi-gumi expanded its membership, developed ties with show business and spread its tentacles into political and financial circles.

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“Public attitudes toward the yakuza hardened over the years. Racketeers known as sokaiya were especially feared by corporate Japan for extorting money by threatening to publicly humiliate and expose corporate secrets at annual shareholders meetings.”

Such exploits furnished material for countless yakuza movies over the years, some of which implicitly celebrated the gangsters as upholders of traditional Japanese values of loyalty and sacrifice. Even today, the existence of yakuza groups isn’t technically illegal. They have offices as well as fan magazines dedicated to their underworld endeavors.

Top members of the Yamaguchi-gumi arrive in Kobe in 1988 for the funeral for their boss, Masahisa Takenaka, who was killed by a splinter group’s gunman. Photo: Associated Press

Top members of the Yamaguchi-gumi arrive in Kobe in 1988 for the funeral for their boss, Masahisa Takenaka, who was killed by a splinter group’s gunman. Photo: Associated Press

“We will undermine them by moving ahead with strategic and focused crackdowns on both their human resources and funding sources.”

— Ichiro Kume, police chief of the prefecture that includes Kobe

But public attitudes toward the yakuza hardened over the years. Racketeers known as sokaiya were especially feared by corporate Japan for extorting money by threatening to publicly humiliate and expose corporate secrets at annual shareholders meetings. In 1997, the former chairman of Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank (now part of Mizuho Financial Group) committed suicide after the bank was found to have lent tens of millions of dollars to a sokaiya leader.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

The government’s top spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, confirmed signs of recent disorder in the Yamaguchi-gumi and described them as an opportunity to weaken the groups. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTOS] Vintage Pictures of Everyday Life in Japan from 1949-1951

Schoolgirls on a street, Japan, ca. 1949-51Ginza, Tokyo, ca. 1949-51Japan, ca. 1949-51......

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Source: vintage everyday


‘Onibaba’, Kaneto Shindo, Japan, 1964

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Japanese poster for ONIBABA (Kaneto Shindo, Japan, 1964)

Designer: unknown

Poster source: Posteritati


China Restricts Exports of Drones, Supercomputers

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China has been strengthening its control over its technology industry, as it seeks to avoid infiltration by foreign spies and build up globally competitive tech companies.

Eva Dou reports: China is curbing its exports of advanced drones and supercomputers, in the country’s latest move to tighten control over technologies linked to national security.

Starting in mid-August, Chinese makers of super-powerful drones and some advanced computers will have to obtain an export license, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs on Friday.

Computers will require an export license if they exceed 8 “teraflops” – which means they can process more than 8 trillion calculations a second, roughly equivalent to the processing power of 33 Xbox 360s.

China has been strengthening its control over its technology industry, as it seeks to avoid infiltration by foreign spies and build up globally competitive tech companies.

Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

China’s drones have also caused political incidents in recent months, after unmanned aircraft sold by Shenzhen-based SZ DJI Technology Co. were flown onto the roof of the office of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the grounds of the White House in Washington. Tensions flared between Pakistan and India last month after Pakistan’s military shot down an Indian “spy drone” in the disputed region of Kashmir that appeared from pictures to be made by DJI. Read the rest of this entry »


Executive Arrested in Japan Over Disappearance of $390 Million in Bitcoins

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The global virtual currency community was shaken by the shuttering of MtGox, which froze withdrawals in February 2014 because of what the firm said was a bug in the software underpinning Bitcoin that allowed hackers to pilfer them.

Japanese police on Saturday arrested Mark Karpeles, head of the collapsed MtGox Bitcoin exchange, over the disappearance of about $390 (£250 million) worth of the virtual currency, local media said.

France-born Karpeles, 30, is suspected of having accessed the exchange’s computer system and falsifying data on its outstanding balance, Kyodo News and public broadcaster NHK said.

“They say it’s under investigation. That’s all they say. They seem to refuse to make public more precise information about MtGox’s own (information) and how and when it was stolen, if it was really stolen.”

—  French investor, to AFP last year at a creditors’ meeting in Tokyo

The global virtual currency community was shaken by the shuttering of MtGox, which froze withdrawals in February 2014 because of what the firm said was a bug in the software underpinning Bitcoin that allowed hackers to pilfer them.

Police did not immediately confirm Karpeles’ arrest but local television footage showed authorities taking him into custody.

The exchange – which once boasted of handling around 80 percent of global Bitcoin transactions – filed for bankruptcy protection soon after the cyber-money went missing, admitting it had lost 850,000 coins worth 48 billion yen ($387 million at today’s exchange rate).

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Ross Ulbricht Silk Road mastermind

“A cloud has been hanging over the Tokyo-based exchange and Karpeles as investors have demanded answers, and called on the firm to publicise its data so that hackers around the world can help analyse what happened at MtGox.”

Karpeles later said he had found some 200,000 of the lost Bitcoins in a “cold wallet” – a storage device such as a memory stick that is not connected to other computers.

Bitcoins are generated by complex chains of interactions among a huge network of computers around the planet and are not backed by any government or central bank.

A cloud has been hanging over the Tokyo-based exchange and Karpeles as investors have demanded answers, and called on the firm to publicise its data so that hackers around the world can help analyse what happened at MtGox. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan’s Peaceful Self-Defense

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Shinzo Abe moved closer Thursday to securing passage of legislation that will allow Japan to participate in collective self-defense. After seven decades of sheltering under the U.S. security umbrella, the Prime Minister’s move would give Tokyo the ability to fight alongside an ally when either one is threatened, while protecting stability and democracy in East Asia.

The Cabinet adopted a new interpretation of Japan’s postwar Constitution last July allowing this cooperation. In April the U.S. and Japan announced new defense guidelines to put it into practice. On Thursday the lower house of the Diet approved the plan, and now the legislation moves to the upper house.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Progress hasn’t come easily. Most Japanese oppose the plan, and according to an Asahi poll, Mr. Abe’s approval rating has fallen sharply to 39%. There have been tussles on the Diet floor and raucous protests outside it. Mr. Abe will need the support of coalition partners with pacifist tendencies to prevail in the upper house, though he could still overcome a defeat there with a two-thirds majority in the lower one. Read the rest of this entry »


Breaking with the Past, Japan Moves to Allow Military Combat for First Time in 70 Years

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Mr. Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military.

TOKYO — Jonathan Soble reports: Defying broad public opposition and large demonstrations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a crucial vote in Parliament on Thursday for legislation that would give Japan’s military limited powers to fight in foreign conflicts for the first time since World War II.

“The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression.”

Mr. Abe’s party and its allies in the lower house of Parliament approved the package of 11 security-related bills after opposition lawmakers walked out in protest and as demonstrators chanted noisily outside, despite a gathering typhoon. The upper chamber, which Mr. Abe’s coalition also controls, is all but certain to endorse the legislation as well.

“These laws are absolutely necessary because the security situation surrounding Japan is growing more severe.”

— Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression. It was a significant victory for Mr. Abe, a conservative politician who has devoted his career to moving Japan beyond guilt over its militarist past and toward his vision of a “normal country” with a larger role in global affairs.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Parliament on Thursday. He has championed legislation that would giving the Japanese military limited powers to fight overseas. Credit Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Parliament on Thursday. He has championed legislation that would giving the Japanese military limited powers to fight overseas. Credit Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency

“Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say it violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, Japan’s wartime foe turned ally and protector, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China.”

Mr. Abe has pressed this agenda, though, against the wishes of much of the Japanese public, and his moves have generated unease across Asia, especially in countries it once occupied and where its troops committed atrocities. Final passage of the bills would represent a break from the strictly defensive stance maintained by the Japanese military in the decades since the war.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

“We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and refrain from jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability.”

— Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, condemning the package

Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say it violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, Japan’s wartime foe turned ally and protector, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China.

Mr. Abe has spent considerable political capital pushing the bills through. Voters oppose them by a ratio of roughly two to one, according to numerous surveys, and the government’s support ratings, which were once high, fell to around 40 percent in several polls taken this month.

[Read the full text here, at The New York Times]

Mr. Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them if it had been free to act. Read the rest of this entry »


Oldest Man in the World Dies at 112

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A Japanese man certified as the oldest living man by Guinness World Records died Sunday due to chronic renal failure, Saitama city said. He was 112.

Sakari Momoi, a resident of the city, was born on Feb. 5, 1903. An official at Saitama city said that he had fallen ill about two weeks ago and died at a nursing hospital in Tokyo.

Mr. Momoi was born the year the Wright brothers succeeded in making their first powered flight, and was 42 when World War II ended. He was originally from Fukushima prefecture and worked as a schoolteacher.

Misao Okawa, also from Japan, was the oldest living person at 117 before she passed away in April. The oldest living person now is Susannah Mushatt Jones of Brooklyn, N.Y., according to Guinness World Records. She turned 116 on Monday. Read the rest of this entry »


First Robot Wedding Takes Place In Japan

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 reports: Japan became the first country to host a robot wedding as people gathered in Tokyo on Saturday to watch two robots — Frois and Yukirin — get married. Sure, Frois and Yukirin may be robots but that did not stop the affair from being a traditional ceremony with cake, dancing, music, and a wedding kiss.

Those who attended the wedding paid roughly $81 — in lieu of a gift, perhaps? — to join the occasion. Those who paid the fee received an official wedding invitation with a picture of the two robots inset in a heart.

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“Pepper, the world’s first robot with feelings, officiated the ceremony in front both robot and human guests. Made of white plastic and measuring less than four feet, Pepper has been created to recognize human voice and facial expressions.”

Read the rest of this entry »


That’s a Lot of Yen! Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium to Cost Over $2 Billion

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Jun Hongo reports: Japan’s sports minister on Monday said the government will stick to its original construction plan for a new national stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, noting the project will now cost about $2 billion.

Designed by U.K.-based architect Zaha Hadid, the new stadium will feature two arches on its top and a retractable roof that won’t be completed in time for the Games. Construction is scheduled to finish before the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which Japan will also host. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan: Thousands Rally in Tokyo Against Abe’s Security Bills

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Thousands of Japanese rallied Sunday in protest at plans by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bolster the role and scope of the pacifist nation’s military

The protest which surrounded the Diet building was held as the nationalist premier tries to force through parliament a set of controversial bills making the changes.

国会で審議が進められている安全保障関連法案に反対する抗議集会が行われ、主催者発表­で約2万5000人の人が国会周辺を取り囲みました。

The bills are a pet project of Abe, who says Japan can no longer shy away from its responsibility to help safeguard regional stability, and must step out from under the security umbrella provided by the United States.

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The draft legislation would broaden the remit of Japan’s well-equipped and well-trained armed forces.

It would allow them to go into battle to protect allies-so-called “collective defense“-something which is banned by a strict reading of Japan’s pacifist constitution. Read the rest of this entry »