Posts filed under ‘Japanese Politics’

Are Speedos the Key to Japanese Olympic Glory?

Who knew the science and art of creating the “world’s fastest swimsuit” was this complicated? Earlier this year, Speedo joined forces with NASA to concoct a cutting-edge, ultrasonically welded body suit called the LZR Racer. It’s been wind tunnel tested and contains polyurethane panels to “reduce drag” (skin friction). Apparently it feels seamless to the swimmer, and every Olympic hopeful in Beijing this summer probably wants to get his or her hands on one.

Until recently, Japanese swimmers were not allowed to wear Speedo brand. Forbes.com says that in the past, Japanese swimmers were contracted to select their swimwear from one of three Japanese firms: Mizuno, Asics or Descente.

For awhile it looked like the Japanese Swimming Federation wasn’t going to budge on its stance, but on Tuesday, June 10, the ban was lifted – under threat of possible revolt, specifically led by Kosuke Kitajima, a famous Japanese swimmer, who, while wearing the LZR Racer, won the Japan Open this month. The 25-year-old set new records at the 50-, 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events (in which he shaved a full second off his previous time), so who can blame him for wanting to keep up the winning streak?

Kitajima caused a minor scandal four years ago at the 2004 Olympic games in Greece, when he was accused of using “an illegal dolphin kick” at the start of his race. However, no whistle was called during the meet and he went on to claim the gold. To see if Kitajima wins again this year, tune in to the Olympics on NBC starting August 9th. Teams will be announced mid-July, and you can check your predictions against this guy’s.

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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June 13, 2008 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Green Machine

The other day I stumbled across Nihon Hacks, a site that offers creative ways to make life easier in Japan. It includes tips about recycling, composting your veggies, and using plastic tofu containers as planters. It got me thinking: is it easier to go green in Japan?

Obviously the Kyoto Protocol sends the message that Japan (among others) is serious about curbing global warming, but what about day-to-day living for the average citizen?

In an editorial article for CLEAN (Citizen’s League for Environmental Action Now), Todd Bynon, a writer and military man stationed in Japan, revealed what he considers to be key differences between living in Japan and living in the States.

In Japan:

1. Public Transportation is fast, clean and efficient, and cuts down enormously on car emissions
2. Recycling is taken very seriously, with fines imposed for incorrect usage
3. Japan is a leader in hybrid vehicles
4. Parks and “green spaces” are prevalent
5. Used-good stores are popular

Bynon is quick to point out that Japan could do better in the renewable energy department. Still, I think Japan is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to green living. My apartment building, in the middle of Los Angeles, doesn’t provide any type of recycling, and nobody I know takes public transportation on a regular basis; we all drive cars.

Check out BEE Japan, “a group of international members that promotes environmental awareness and green living in Japan,” for some inspiring ideas – including information on cross-country bike trips.

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 30, 2008 at 10:17 am 6 comments

A Princess’ Life, Not for Me!

If you don’t know already, Cinderella never lived happily ever after. Soon after marrying Prince Charming, she plunged into a life of public scrutiny, imperial scorn and utter depression. That was the case for Japan’s own Cinderella, Princess Masako, at least.

Media and public alike were enthralled by her story. The 29-year-old hailed from the well-to-do, but she was still a commoner. So when Masako accepted the Crown Prince’s marriage proposal in 1993 she vicariously fulfilled every young girl’s rags-to-riches dream. Never mind the prince had the looks and charm of Tweedledum; royal blood ran through his veins, bestowing him a lifetime of fine dining and fancy threads.

“You’ll never be a princess!” my dad said to the teenage me after I went behind his back and pierced my ears. It was around the same time of the Masako media blitz and my dad was certain I could’ve married royalty if only my ears weren’t pierced. By tradition, royal brides-to-be were supposed to be virginal, right down to the fleshy earlobe. But I could care less. I knew better than to think Masako would actually be happy in her imperial castle with the great big moat. In fact, I felt sorry for her.

Fifteen years later, Masako suffers from clinical depression following a very public nervous breakdown. It took her years to have a baby and even after doing so she’s still criticized as a failure, unable to produce a male heir.

“Princess Masako: The Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne,” by Ben Hills, gets into the nitty-gritty of her tragic decision to marry into the royal family. She was a Harvard graduate with a promising future as a foreign diplomat. Now she’s relegated to walking three steps behind her husband and barred from speaking her mind. (During a press conference, she was admonished for doing so after someone pointed out that she’d spoken more than her husband.)

Last year, the book became a point of controversy; up until then few dared to speak badly of the imperial family, who fought vigorously against a Japanese translation. It’s an interesting read and gives you a greater sense of Japan’s dark side. Happily ever after…? Yeah right!

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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April 8, 2008 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

A Town Named Obama

The presidential race heated up last week between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But as the days go by, Obama is building momentum as the younger, more charming senator who promises to lead the country toward “real change”.

Thousands of miles away, a Japanese fishing town is hoping he’ll come through. With a meager population of 32,000, the city of Obama (meaning “small seashore”) is rooting for their namesake, not because they enjoy universal healthcare, but because publicity for the Illinois senator lends attention their way.

More than most U.S. citizens themselves, Obama dwellers have been active participants in this year’s campaigning, following state primaries, wearing Obama tees, and covering wall-space with “I *heart* Obama” posters. And then there’s the red bean cakes printed with an anime-style mug of the senator. It sure beats bumper stickers.

Though Mayor Toshio Murakami admits that it wasn’t until Senator Obama started picking up pace when the city became an active supporter. He figures 8-10 odds in his favor.

Last year, the mayor expressed his support, searching for Obama’s address online and mailing over a pair of lacquer chopsticks, one of the city’s regional products. Next, he’s sending a good luck charm (“omamori”) from the local shrine. No doubt, if Senator Obama were to actually respond with a “thank you,” the mayor will extend a grand tour of the fishing town. And if that should come about all eyes will be on Obama, both person and place.

Now if only there was a town in China named Clinton.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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March 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm 1 comment

Aquatic Mammals: Cute or Tasty?

To the ire of the international community, this month a Japanese boat set out on their yearly hunt in the Antarctic Ocean for the world’s largest mammal. And for the first time in nearly 50 years their expedition will include the cherished humpback. The trip has garnered so much criticism that a chain of European aquariums has decided to remove Japanese goods from its stores. Others are sure to follow.

iruka2.jpg

Another protest took place last month in Taiji, Japan, this time against the slaughter of dolphins. The group, which included pro surfers and two actresses including “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere, paddled their surfboards right up to the fishermen in mid-slaughter. Of course the hunters, not caught up on their TiVo queue, seemed to care less who these people were and vehemently denied their appeal by the raising of their pitchforks.

The Japan Fisheries Agency defended both whale and dolphin hunting as long-held tradition, with organized whaling beginning sometime in the 1600s. Ironically, it’s said that industrial whaling only really took off during post-WWII occupation days. The U.S. government encouraged the practice as a source of food.

Naturally, the local whaling towns have taken a prideful stance against all those who invade their territory unannounced and harp on emotional issues they sympathize little with. After all, whaling is all they know.

Personally, I’m on the fence about this issue. As an animal lover, I feel for those highly intelligent mammals destined only to become somebody’s four-course sake accompaniment. At the same time, I applaud the hunters for not folding under international pressure. For a good portion of the 20th century Japan was considered one of world’s most dangerous nations. That status ended once U.S. occupational forces took over. But alongside defeat came down the nation’s psyche and any semblance of cultural backbone. You see it today in the way many Japanese bow down to international influence whether it by welcoming in the umpteenth McDonalds chain or with the hesitation to salute your own national flag. It’s become so much of a concern that in a hundred years you wonder what Japanese traditions will remain. Japan = Pokemon?! Just maybe.

So good luck to the fishermen for fighting for what they believe in. Mammal meat may be gross, but if that’s your thing then stick to it.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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December 7, 2007 at 1:50 pm Leave a comment

Trial By Jury, Japanese Style

In the U.S. we’re used to the image of “12 Angry Men” (and women) serving on a jury. On TV shows like Law & Order, Boston Legal and Shark, the prosecutors and defense attorneys must sway stone-faced jurors with impassioned speeches (and, hopefully, evidence!). In Japan, where conviction rates near 100%, a sole judge decides the fate of the accused in a courtroom. There isn’t much live testimony from witnesses. At least, that’s how it used to be.

Starting in 2009, Japan is overhauling its judicial system, in part to give Japanese citizens more participation in the process. According to The Christian Science Monitor, if the new system takes hold, it will give Japanese people even more involvement than Americans currently enjoy. For example, the six Jurors on each case can ask the defendant direct questions. Also, decisions don’t have to be unanimous: majority rules, even over judges (though it’s more complicated than that, of course).

For the past two years, hundreds of mock trials have been conducted throughout Japan to test out the new concepts. Mock trials include role-playing for kids, but also ask important questions of potential future jury members, known as saibanin.

Argument and debate are not exactly favorite pastimes of most Japanese; respecting authority and contributing to overall harmony is the norm, so the cultural significance of this change is high. The New York Times reported earlier this year that 80% of Japanese dread having to serve on a jury. Both kids and adults reported feeling “stressed” and “overwhelmed” by the prospect of deciding someone else’s fate, not to mention disagreeing with or challenging judges, who are authority figures and usually deferred to.

I will be very interested to see how this turns out. Stay tuned…

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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October 18, 2007 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Get out the Vote! Japanese Election Primer

While we here in the States are technically waiting until 2008 to cast our votes (though you wouldn’t know it from the amount of coverage the possible presidential candidates are already getting!), in Japan, their House of Councilors Election, or Upper House election, is mere days away.

Held every three years, and originally scheduled for July 22, the election was moved back a week to the 29th, a decision that faced some criticism for the short notice that was given.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s ruling LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) and its strongest opposition, the Ichiro Ozawa-led DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan), are difficult for Americans to distinguish at first, because their names sound so similar. Or maybe it’s just me…

The LDP has been in power almost exclusively since 1955, but recent pension plan scandals, and accusations of bribery, have caused trouble.

Check out this poster, below, that condemns bribery:

tadashi.jpg

There is evidence that this year, the DPJ will gain ground; as of July 20, DPJ was leading in the polls.

Japan is ruled by a parliamentary representative democratic monarchy (try saying that three times fast), headed by a Prime Minister. Though sovereignty is in the hands of the people, Japan keeps an Emporer as a powerful symbol of the state. This is similar to Great Britain, whose Royals perform important functions that are practical, diplomatic, and symbolic.

Anyway, much like America’s checks and balances from the Senate and the House of Representatives, Japan has a legislative and an executive branch. Regardless of July 29th’s election, Shinzo Abe’s Lower House will retain a 2/3 majority.

For up-to-the minute news on Japanese politics, check out the reports from Trans-Pacific Radio.

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!

JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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July 28, 2007 at 5:51 pm 1 comment


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