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News and Photos of Japan - Dive Deeper into Japan with Japan Correspondent Kjeld Duits

Positive Energy: Comme at 40

Comme des Garçons

Comme des Garçons is marking its 40th anniversary by bringing out a guerrilla-style, temporary brand called “Black” that epitomizes the style, the inventiveness and the originality of its founder.

Rei Kawakubo created black as the color of fashion’s rebel yell. She might have pronounced later, in her enigmatic way, that “red is the new black” and made that vivid color — checkered or regal — part of her repertoire.

But the Japanese designer did not just put women in black like a flock of crows flying across the brash 1980s. More significantly she, in the words of the innovative fashion retailer Carla Sozzani, “interpreted a change of mind in women and opened up a whole vision of femininity.”

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The New York Times • Wednesday June 10, 2009 • Add Comment

Traditional Architecture

Sake Brewery in Kawachi-Nagano, Osaka (#50614-1686)

For a country that has such a strong image abroad of being conservative, Japan is surprisingly careless about its architectural heritage. Since the 19th century, traditional architecture has been consistently fading from the Japanese landscape. Here is a list of good sites about traditional Japanese Architecture:

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• Wednesday June 10, 2009 • Add Comment

The Forgotten Grief of Okinawa

Japanese WWII Pilot Ready for Take Off

CNN has extensive coverage of the D-Day landings of World War II today. I deeply respect the people who fought for freedom on French beaches and all the way to Germany. What those young men accomplished is incredible and does not need to be exaggerated.

Unfortunately, CNN is repeatedly describing the D-Day landings as the largest in history. This however is incorrect. Although D-Day was enormous, it was exceeded by the invasion of Okinawa on April 1, 1945.

Some 1,300 ships, among which 40 carriers, participated. On the first day, 183,000 troops landed, growing to a final tally of 548,000. In comparison, on D-Day the allies landed 150,000 troops. If you count beyond the first day, though, D-Day does loom larger. Some 1 million Allied men landed on the Normandy beaches from June 6 to July 4, 1944.

I wrote an article about the Battle of Okinawa back in 2005, which brings the epic battle in perspective:

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• Saturday June 6, 2009 • Add Comment

We are only a sort of They

Japanese Stereotypes

Fellow correspondents tell me that they are noticing the same trend that has been worrying me for a while: newspaper editors seem to increasingly see Asia as a far-away place that doesn’t really need that much attention. “Those Asians, they are so different from us, their experience doesn’t relate to our daily life,” some seem to think. That of course, is a very limiting way of thinking. Some one hundred years ago, British author and poet Rudyard Kipling beautifully expressed how They are really Us:

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• Wednesday May 20, 2009 • Add Comment

Flu Epidemic Attacks Japan

The streets in Ashiya, a small town bordering Kobe, are surprisingly quiet. “It is like New Year’s Day,” says a young mother wearing a mask. “This is to protect my daughter,” she explains as she points at her mask. “She is at home as her school is closed all week.” As the H1N1 flu is now spreading much faster as authorities had expected, more than 4000 schools were closed in Hyogo and Osaka prefectures. Many museums and companies followed suit, leaving streets and trains far more quiet than is usual for a week day.

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• Tuesday May 19, 2009 • Add Comment

Japan's Pandemic Reaction is "Exaggerated"

Japanese Businessmen Wearing Masks

Japan’s pandemic reaction is “exaggerated” compared with other countries, says Hitoshi Kamiya, chairman of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s committee on vaccinations in an interview with the Japan Times.

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• Tuesday May 19, 2009 • Add Comment

Mexican Flu in Kobe and Osaka

Over 170 patients have now been infected with H1N1 in Kobe and Osaka. The worst hit area is Kobe. About 80% of the people here are wearing protective masks, and over 4000 schools as well as many businesses have been closed. This Associated Press report is already outdated, but gives some of the basic info. The quick spread may persuade the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise its pandemic alert to the highest level.

Associated Press • Tuesday May 19, 2009 • Add Comment