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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
News and Photos of Japan - Dive Deeper into Japan with Japan Correspondent Kjeld Duits

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

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

Tokyo 135˚

Tokyo 135˚ Kimono

The Tokyo 135˚ shop is hidden away on the second floor in a small building on a back street of Harajuku, Tokyo’s energetic youth culture district. If you don’t know it is there, you’ll most probably never find it. You’d miss out on Harajuku’s best modern kimono shop.

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• Wednesday December 3, 2008 • Add Comment

Back to the baths: Otaru revisited

Foreigners banned

The story is familiar to regular readers of Zeit Gist. Debito Arudou, a naturalized Japanese citizen, originally from America, was living in Sapporo, Hokkaido, and had heard of the Yunohana public bath’s policy of denying entry to foreigners. In 1999, media in tow, he decided to put that onsen’s policy to the test. Sure enough, entry was denied, with the accompanying explanation that foreigners often “cause trouble” and, as such, the regulars “dislike sharing the facilities with them.”

The origin of this controversy is the behavior of Russian sailors. The Yunohana “onsen” is located in Otaru, the main port between Japan and the Russian Far East. Otaru attracts over a thousand Russian vessels and more than 25,000 sailors a year on stays of varying lengths. In the mid-1990s, Russian sailors were frequently showing up drunk at the city’s various onsen and jumping into the tubs with soap on their bodies, thus rendering the facilities unusable.

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The Japan Times • Wednesday December 3, 2008 • Add Comment