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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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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.
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.
It is 8 months since Akihabara’s popular pedestrian heaven was closed because of the murder spree. Fuji News Network reports on a group of Akihabara fans who are holding concerts at a small venue in Akihabara for 100 days to encourage re-opening the pedestrian heaven. I hope they succeed. We already lost the pedestrian heaven of Harajuku, and now only Ginza’s is left in Tokyo.
Since the custom of giving chocolate on Valentine’s Day was first promoted in Japan in the 1960s, it has always been the women who have been doing the giving. Usually to men they are clearly not in love with, like a boss or a male colleague. Men get their chance to return the favor on the later invented White Day, held on March 14th. Now confectionery giant Morinaga believes that men are ready to initiate the gift exchange.
A Turkish salvage team has begun the second round of extensive salvage of the Turkish frigate Ertuğrul. The warship was shipwrecked in 1890 off the coast of Wakayama Prefecture, resulting in the loss of 533 sailors. The tragic event turned into the foundation of Japanese-Turkish friendship. Turkey will hold an exhibition of the recovered items as part of Japan Year events planned for 2010, the 120th anniversary of the disastrous shipwreck.
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.