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In the News

Metro Tokyo ordinance on sexually explicit manga walks fine line on freedom of speech
The Mainichi Daily News, 12/13/2010
SDP head criticizes Kan's possible dispatch of SDF to Korean Peninsula
The Japan Times, 12/13/2010
2 Japanese local assembly members visit one of Senkaku Islands
Associated Press, 12/13/2010
Why Japan is ready for anything Pyongyang might want to throw at it
Guardian, 03/01/2010
Japan disputes racism allegations at U.N. panel
Kyodo, 02/26/2010

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JAPAN NEWS
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Would the Japanese Administration Engage in Social Media?

National Diet Building, Tokyo

In recent days, the new US administration has started rolling out a new online strategy. The redesigned White House website gives us a first glimpse on how the Obama team is trying to implement its social network approach.

In Japan, the use of SNS by official bodies seems to predate the US somewhat. Some municipalities took a page of Mixi’s rulebook, the biggest social networking platform in Japan, and implemented social features to their website. The prime goal was often to discuss disaster prevention amongst citizens, as stressed by a successful Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ initiative in 2005-2006. Sharing local information in this earthquake-prone country is tantamount in a society shaped by communities and the feeling of belonging to a trusted group of people.

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socialevangeli.st • Tuesday February 24, 2009 • Add Comment

Japan’s Fearless Women Speculators

Photo of Japanese Currency (10,000 Yen)

Nakako Ishiyama sits quietly in the living room of her apartment in the old Nihonbashi quarter of Tokyo, not far from its famous stone bridge – the point from which, in Edo times, all distances in Japan were measured. The neighbourhood was once part of the city’s financial district, and Ishiyama’s flat is strolling distance from the Bank of Japan, the venerable institution that controls the amount of yen in circulation and, via the interest rate it sets, the cost of money.

Ishiyama serves green tea and autumn chestnut biscuits. She has been telling me about her investment history since around 2000 – the time, not coincidentally, when the Bank of Japan first pushed interest rates down to within a hair’s breadth of zero. Largely without the knowledge of her husband, Ishiyama began investing the couple’s money, mainly in lots of around $50,000. And didn’t stop. Each fund in which she entrusted their retirement nest egg – or toranoko, “tiger’s cub”, in Japanese – has a more elaborate name than the last. As she lists each one she invariably adds as a suffix the words nantoka nantoka – “something or other” or “thingamajig”. It is not altogether reassuring.

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Financial Times • Monday February 23, 2009 • Add 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 • Add Comment

Keio's Man Ahead of his Time

40904-0081 - Yukichi Fukuzawa

Next time you come by a ¥10,000 bill, take a look at the face of Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901) that appears on the front, for he was a most remarkable man.

In October 1858, Fukuzawa, then a 23-year-old samurai, opened a small school of Western science (known as “Dutch studies,” because the textbooks were from Holland) in Edo, present-day Tokyo. In 1868, the year of the Meiji Restoration, when the Emperor was made head of state after the overthrow of the feudal Tokugawa Shogunate, the school was named Keio Gijuku after the name Keio then given to that era. In 1918 it became Keio University, the first private university in Japan.

To mark its 150th anniversary, the school is now holding an exhibition focused on the ideas and achievements of Fukuzawa, one of the iconic intellectuals of modern Japan.

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The Japan Times • Saturday February 21, 2009 • Add Comment

This Is Their Youth

70828-4554.

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 • Add Comment

Japanese Toy Travels Back in Time

Bandai Showa Ginza Diorama

The past few years, Japan has embarked on a nostalgic trip back to the Showa Era (1926-1989). People conveniently forget the terrors and destruction of war, debilitating poverty, discrimination of minorities and the high crime rates of this period, and instead focus on an imagined utopia. Most of the nostalgia has expressed itself in books and movies, but toys are increasingly traveling back in time as well.

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• Thursday February 12, 2009 • Add 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 • Add Comment [5]