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Dispatched Workers in the Manufacturing Sector

Unemployed Worker in Japan

Up until last September, we thought the U.S. financial and economic crisis was just “fire on the other side of the Pacific.” Now we know otherwise: this America originated crisis is striking Japanese corporations directly. The Japanese manufacturing sector had been leading the Japanese economy; but exports, particularly those related to autos, having played a key role, have dropped drastically and corporations are slamming the door on production. Large numbers of temporary and seasonal workers that are being fired or simply not being hired are becoming an object of grave public concern. In particular, the focus of controversy is the problem of regulating dispatched workers in the manufacturing sector. I’d like to present some ideas on how to handle the regulation of dispatched workers in the manufacturing industry.

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Hiromasa Suzuki • Wednesday February 25, 2009 • SocietyAdd Comment

UNESCO: 8 Languages in Japan Could Disappear

Ainu Man

With only 15 speakers left, the Ainu language is “critically endangered” while seven other languages in Japan are also at risk of disappearing, according to a UNESCO report.

These eight languages in Japan are among about 2,500 around the world that have become or could become extinct, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s report said.

UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger listed eight languages in Japan, such as the Ainu language, as independent tongues under international standards rather than indigenous dialects, an official with Paris-based UNESCO said.

In addition to Hokkaido, the Ainu language used to be widely spoken in Russia’s Sakhalin as well as the Chishima island chain off the coast of Hokkaido, including the Northern Territories. But the speakers there have died out.

“Few people speak Ainu in everyday life,” said the Sapporo-based Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture.

The seven other endangered languages in Japan are Yaeyama, Yonaguni, Okinawa, Kunigami, Miyako in Okinawa Prefecture, Amami in Kagoshima Prefecture, and Hachijo in Tokyo. The first six languages are spoken on the Nansei island chain, which stretches from north of Taiwan and south of Kyushu, and Hachijo in Tokyo’s Hachijojima island and nearby islets.

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Asahi Shimbun • Sunday February 22, 2009 • SocietyAdd Comment

This Is Their Youth

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Young adults in Japan are unemployed, disenchanted, and depressed. A surprising number refuse to leave their rooms. Director Hiyao Miyazaki says that even his own movies like “My Neighbor Totoro” could be harming the country’s youth. Roland Kelts talks to poet Misumi Mizuki, novelist Ryu Murakami, and other artists to understand why. And he finds something surprising: Japan’s troubled youth might be changing the country for the better.

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Kurt Andersen • Friday February 20, 2009 • SocietyAdd Comment

Military Prostitution and the U.S. Military in Asia

US Helicopter

Where there are soldiers, there are women who exist for them. This is practically a cliché. History is filled with examples of women as war booty and “camp followers,” their bodies being used for service labor of various kinds, including sex. Contrary to common assumptions in the West, prostitution is not “part of Asian culture.” Just about every culture under the sun has some version of it during times of war and times of peace.

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Katharine H.S. Moon • Wednesday February 11, 2009 • SocietyAdd Comment [6]

100 Days of Concerts to Re-Open Akihabara's Pedestrian Heaven

It is 8 months since Akihabara’s popular pedestrian heaven was closed because of the murder spree. Fuji News Network reports on a group of Akihabara fans who are holding concerts at a small venue in Akihabara for 100 days to encourage re-opening the pedestrian heaven. I hope they succeed. We already lost the pedestrian heaven of Harajuku, and now only Ginza’s is left in Tokyo.

• Monday February 2, 2009 • SocietyAdd Comment

Enryo

enryo - constraint

Enryo (遠慮) is one of the most quintessential Japanese concepts. Japanese dictionary Kōjien provides the definition “restraining speech/actions towards people” (人に対して言語・行動を控え目にすること). Enryo is central to the image of Japan as a passive society, where people work to avoid conflict through self-restraint. Enryo means not using your mobile phone on the train, not throwing out all of your trash in one big bag, and recently, not lighting up that cigarette wherever you want.

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Neojaponisme • Wednesday January 28, 2009 • SocietyAdd Comment

Japan Doesn't Need Immigrants Says US Economist Dean Baker

Tomare Traffic Sign

“Maintaining its Fox News like attack on pension programs, the Washington Post had a front page article about Japan’s efforts to keep immigrant workers. It goes on to warn about how it will need many more immigrants in the future because of its declining population.

Actually, because of something that economists call ‘productivity growth,’ Japan can count on continuing improvements in its standard of living even without immigration. In fact, since it is a densely populated country, it is possible that its standard of living will actually increase more rapidly in the absence of immigration.”

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The American Prospect • Sunday January 25, 2009 • SocietyAdd Comment