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Japan News

Poverty in Japan

1890s • Woman Carrying Charcoal

With Japan’s frightening economic decline and news of massive lay-offs by the country’s most respected companies in the news headlines daily, this description of poverty in Japan more than a century ago is sobering:

A road, at this time a quagmire, intersected by a rapid stream, crossed in many places by planks, runs through the village. This stream is at once “lavatory” and “drinking fountain.” People come back from their work, sit on the planks, take off their muddy clothes and wring them out, and bathe their feet in the current. On either side are the dwellings, in front of which are much-decayed manure heaps, and the women were engaged in breaking them up and treading them into a pulp with their bare feet. All wear the vest and trousers at their work, but only the short petticoats in their houses, and I saw several respectable mothers of families cross the road and pay visits in this garment only, without any sense of impropriety.

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• Friday December 19, 2008 • Add Comment [1]

Only Third of Japanese Think U.S. Ties Healthy

Obama Loves Obama

Only a third of Japanese think ties with the United States, Tokyo’s most important security ally, are in good shape, according to a poll released just weeks before President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

The level of Japanese dissatisfaction — the worst since 2000 — reflects unhappiness at Washington’s removal of North Korea from its terrorism blacklist and declining confidence in the U.S. economy in the wake of the global financial crisis, the Yomiuri daily, which published the poll, said on Thursday.

Many Japanese also fear Washington may focus on building stronger ties with a rising China while losing interest in Japan.

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Reuters • Friday December 19, 2008 • Add Comment

Will Japan's Streets be Filled with Homeless?

A homeless man sells the Big Issue on the streets of Osaka

Japanese union members demonstrated in front of the gate of a large Canon factory in Southern Japan last week. The camera producer laid off some 1,100 workers. The same day Sony announced that by 2010 it will cut 16,000 employees. For many Japanese employees, still used to the idea of lifetime employment, the news is devastating.

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• Wednesday December 17, 2008 • Add Comment

Japans economisch stelsel kraakt onder wereldcrisis

A homeless man sells the Big Issue on the streets of Osaka

Een Japanse vakbond demonstreerde afgelopen week voor de poort van een grote Canon-fabriek in zuidelijk Japan. De camera-producent zette 1.100 werknemers op straat. Dezelfde dag kondigde Sony aan dat het 16.000 werknemers de deur gaat wijzen. Voor vele Japanse werknemers, nog gewend aan het idee van lifetime-employment, komt het nieuws als een donderslag.

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• Wednesday December 17, 2008 • Reageer

iKjeld Relaunched

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• Wednesday December 17, 2008 •

Japan Cracking US Pop Culture Hegemony

70619-0013 - Anime Cell

Just two decades ago, Japan’s image in the world was of an economic juggernaut, challenging America and other industrialized nations with its push for dominance in everything from microchips to supercomputers. Discussion of Japanese culture typically referenced the traditional and offbeat worlds of, say, Kabuki or sumo.

Today, Japan sets the trends in what’s cool. Sarah Palin’s famous glasses came from a Japanese designer. Tokyo has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, with eight of them earning three stars. Even America’s favorite food show, “Iron Chef,” is a Japanese import. Japanese women are pushing the limits of literary pop culture with blogs and cellphone novels. Japanese comics occupy ever-greater shelf space in bookstores, and animé-influenced movies like the “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man 3” find huge audiences in the West.

What all these media share is a nuanced Japanese aesthetic that has infiltrated global sensibilities – a sort of new “soft power” for Japan. In the process, they’re challenging delineations of good and evil from the world’s main purveyor of pop culture, Hollywood, as well as American ideals of the lone action-hero.

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The Christian Science Monitor • Monday December 15, 2008 • Add Comment

Selling a Bit of Japan

Domo-kun

Japanese pop culture is slowly but surely eating away the cultural stronghold that the US has kept for more than half a century. From manga to animated movies to food, Japanese influence is increasing worldwide. Japanese pop culture is hot. One of the net’s top shopping sites for Japanese pop culture products is J-List, run by Peter Payne, who also writes peterpayne.net, a very popular blog on Japan which every day attracts some 1,000 visitors. I talked with Peter about how he ended up selling a bit of Japan to the world.

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• Sunday December 14, 2008 • Add Comment