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It is frightfully quiet in the former elementary school in the historical town of Kyoto. Yet the corridors and former classrooms are crowded with people. Some one hundred men and women from young to old, sit, stand and lay reading manga. This is the Kyoto International Manga Museum and it is incredibly popular. Only two years old, the museum has already welcomed half a million visitors.
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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The small town of Ugo in Akita Prefecture, like many small Japanese towns, struggles with graying and depopulation. In the past ten years alone, the town’s population declined ten percent. But it has found a remarkable solution to its problems, it has given the town a moe takeover. Wikipedia describes moe as a Japanese slang word originally referring to fetish or love for characters in video games or anime and manga. Local products are now sold in packages that feature bishojo illustrations. The effect was amazing. Sale of rice, for example, doubled. Interestingly, a young man interviewed in the clip didn’t buy the rice to eat it. He displays the bag of rice in his room, next to his huge collection of anime figures…
Asahi TV • Tuesday January 27, 2009 • Trends
In this 2005 gem, William M. Tsutsui (Univ. of Kansas) explores the role of the Godzilla film series in popular culture. Despite Godzilla’s remarkable public presence, it is surprising, Professor Tsutsui observed, “how little scholarly attention this giant radiation-breathing reptile has received, either in Japan or in the West.” Donald Ritche, whom Tsutsui described as “the dean of American film critics of Japan,” once damned Japanese cinema as “‘a plethora of nudity, teenage heroes, science-fiction monsters, animated cartoons, and pictures about cute animals.’” Only a handful of scholarly essays on Godzilla have appeared, and few “have attempted to contextualize the film historically.” In his talk, Tsutsui set out to correct that: “I would argue,” he declared, “. . . that the Godzilla films can provide us valuable insights into Japanese culture since World War II.”
“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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This year it is 100 years ago that Osaka was devastated by a fire that raged through the Northern part of the city for a full 24 hours. At 4:20 in the morning on July 31, 1909 (Meiji 42) a fire broke out at a knit-wear factory in Osaka’s Kita-ku. In late Meiji (1868-1912), there were only two fire engines—powered by steam—for the whole city, and most of the buildings in Osaka were made of wood. This proved disastrous. As a strong north-eastern wind drove the fire from one bamboo gutter to the next, it soon went wild. Within hours, a huge area south of Osaka station was engulfed in flames.
Japanese TV treats us almost daily with reports of terrifying crimes that make you check your locks three more times. If we are to believe the Japanese media, we now live in very dangerous times and Japan is far less safe than it ever was in the past. Most Japanese, if not all, believe that the country has become unsafe. Society is falling apart, many think. Oh, those good old times, when you could trust your neighbor and walk the streets safely. Here is some data about those good old days: