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Made in Corporate Japan: New Approach to Business

Kjeld Duits, Thursday, August 31, 2006 Posted: 11:15 AM JST

(International Herald Tribune) - Now that Japan is emerging from years of sluggish growth, its corporations appear to have produced something few executives or analysts expected even a few years ago: a management method that incorporates lessons from American companies while preserving the practices that once made Japanese companies famous.

Even a few years ago, it was widely expected that recession and the mounting pressures of global competition would force corporate Japan to surrender such traditions as loyalty to employees and suppliers, responsibility to stakeholders and the like. Prominent analysts in the Tokyo offices of firms like Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch were among the most enthusiastic exponents of this view.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Japanese recovery. What was almost universally written off as Japan's "lost decade" has left this nation's leading companies stunningly competitive while still holding to the corporate ethos for which they have long been known.

"A lost decade? Nonsense. A painful transition? Yes," said James Abegglen, chairman of the Asia Advisory Service and an expert on Japanese corporate organization. "Companies have done what had to be done to redesign themselves. They've retained basic values while changing what had to be changed." Read article

Keywords: national_news

Veteran Japanese Politician Warns of Rising Nationalism

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, August 30, 2006 Posted: 12:43 PM JST

(AFP) - A veteran Japanese politician whose home was torched in a suspected arson attack by a right-wing activist said he feared the nation was leaning towards a more aggressive form of nationalism. "One type of nationalism in Japan has an antagonistic or reactionary nature, which tends to be hostile towards neighboring nations," said Koichi Kato. "Many Japanese tend to lean towards this nationalism. This is a very dangerous situation," he told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

The 67-year-old former secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a war shrine honoring about 2.5 million war dead including top war criminals. His house burned down hours after Koizumi's most recent visit to the Yasukuni Shrine on the emotionally charged August 15 anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. Read article

A Vote for Every Resident

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, August 30, 2006 Posted: 11:08 AM JST

(Asahi Shimbun) - Ten years ago this month saw a landmark referendum held in Japan. It was to decide on a local ordinance in the former town of Maki, Niigata Prefecture, over construction of a nuclear power plant. It was a much-publicized moment: Citizens deciding things for themselves about local issues was almost unheard of.

Things are different now. The citizens group Jumintohyo Rippo Forum (住民投票立法フォーラム - residents referendum legislation forum) says that since that first local vote, about 370 referendums have been held nationwide. Japan is among the countries that hold many referendums annually.

But more than 90 percent of them have been concerned with municipal mergers. Few votes are held over other projects, like airport construction. Why? Read article

Keywords: opinion_item

Asahara's Daughter Asks Court to Appoint Anti-AUM Journalist as Guardian

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, August 29, 2006 Posted: 05:53 PM JST

(Mainichi Shimbun) - The 17-year-old daughter of AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara has asked a local court to appoint freelance journalist Shoko Egawa as a guardian for her. Asahara's fourth daughter has filed a petition with the Kumagaya branch of the Saitama District Court, Hiroshi Watanabe, a lawyer for her, told a news conference. She has dismissed Takeshi Matsumoto, who also serves as a defense lawyer for Asahara, as a guardian for her. "I wanted to be independent of my family who lives on donations extended by followers, and sever ties with the cult, but my family and Mr. Matsumoto opposed that," her new lawyer quoted her as saying. Read article

Keywords: national_news

Japan's Mystery of Majesty

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, August 29, 2006 Posted: 03:21 PM JST

Time Magazine(Time Magazine) - Late on the afternoon of aug. 16, an imperial motorcade departed from Prince Akishino's royal residence in Tokyo and headed for Aiiku Hospital. The main car carried Akishino and his wife, Princess Kiko, elegantly attired in a checkered gray suit. As the unhurried motorcade reached the hospital in central Tokyo, where a throng of reporters and onlookers had gathered, Kiko opened the window and offered the crowd what the Japanese media have dubbed her "princess smile": an enigmatic expression that suggests she knows she's fulfilling her royal destiny. Kiko had come to the hospital to prepare for the arrival of her third child, scheduled for birth via a caesarean section on Sept. 6. Three weeks is a long hospital stay for an expectant mother, but Kiko is 39 years old and her doctors have every reason to exercise caution: she is quite possibly carrying the future Emperor of Japan. Read article

Keywords: national_news

Nationalism, Historical Memory and Contemporary Conflicts in the Asia Pacific: the Yasukuni Phenomenon, Japan, and the United States

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, August 29, 2006 Posted: 10:53 AM JST

(by Mark Selden) - I will make three points about the “Yasukuni Problem” and contemporary nationalism that seem to me absent in much of the discussion both in Japan and internationally. The first is the need to transcend an exclusively Japanese perspective by locating the issues within the framework of the Japan-US relationship that has dominated Japanese politics for more than six decades; the second is the importance of locating “Yasukuni nationalism” within the broader purview of competing nationalisms in the Asia Pacific, including Chinese, Korean and US nationalisms; the third requires that we deconstruct “the Japanese,” to recognize deep divisions among the people with respect to Yasukuni and to memories of colonialism and war. Each of these requires breaking with a monolithic understanding of the issues. Each has implications for moving beyond the present political impasse and reflecting on approaches that could contribute toward tension reduction in the Asia Pacific.


Aichi Women's Film Festival: September 6-10

Kjeld Duits, Monday, August 28, 2006 Posted: 06:40 PM JST

Aichi Women's Film Festival(by Jean Miyake Downey) - Again, I am marveling at how international independent films are opening up so many diverse, personal, brilliant, and creative perspectives on our world. Just a few years ago, journalism scholars expressed concern that the implosion of foreign news bureaus and dumbing down of mainstream media might result in less and worse international news coverage. However, the internet and independent films seem to have circumvented this dire possibility.


Korean Citizen Journalism Network Starts in Japan Today

Kjeld Duits, Monday, August 28, 2006 Posted: 02:25 PM JST

OhmyNews JapanThe Korean citizen journalism news site OhmyNews –part blog, part professional news agency– launches OhmyNews Japan today. Close to three quarters of the articles on the Korean site are produced by some 40,000 "citizen reporters".


The Rise of Japan's Thought Police

Kjeld Duits, Sunday, August 27, 2006 Posted: 10:21 PM JST

(by Steven Clemons) - Anywhere else, it might have played out as just another low-stakes battle between policy wonks. But in Japan, a country struggling to find a brand of nationalism that it can embrace, a recent war of words between a flamboyant newspaper editorialist and an editor at a premier foreign-policy think tank was something far more alarming: the latest assault in a campaign of right-wing intimidation of public figures that is squelching free speech and threatening to roll back civil society.


Is 'Disability' Still a Dirty Word in Japan?

Kjeld Duits, Sunday, August 27, 2006 Posted: 02:41 PM JST

In the 80s I organized the Osaka Charity Festival to collect funds to buy custom made wheelchairs for students of a special school in Osaka. At the time I was surprised that you saw virtually no people with disabilities on the street. There were also almost no attempts by the government for barrier free access. Much has changed since then. Almost all train stations now have elevators, special toilets can be found in many locations and the number of people with disabilities that you encounter on the street has clearly increased.

Yet, a lot still needs to be done. "Roughly one in 20 people in Japan has some disability or another," writes Tomoko Otake in the Japan Times today. "But where are they? ... most Japanese quite likely live their whole lives without ever interacting with their disabled fellow citizens." What needs to be done? Read Is 'Disability' Still a Dirty Word in Japan?

Keywords: national_news

An Underclass Returns -- and With it, What?

Kjeld Duits, Sunday, August 27, 2006 Posted: 02:27 PM JST

"All indications are that Japan is reverting to prewar norms," Writes Roger Pulvers in a Special to The Japan Times. "I am not referring solely to the new nationalism, bolstered by Japan's increasingly aggressive military stances, but rather to the notion of social equality -- or inequality -- that is being created for its citizens today."

Pulver compares Japan's "lost decade" -- "a decade that is now pushing 20" -- with an earlier period in Japanese history: "Japanese society is heading for a precarious roller coaster ride, just as it experienced in the 1930s. And comparing that era with our own presents some eerie similarities."

Keywords: opinion_item

Cast of Epic Japanese Film on Genghis Khan Includes Nearly 1% of Mongolia's Population

Kjeld Duits, Saturday, August 26, 2006 Posted: 07:03 AM JST

When you see huge crowd scenes in most movies these days, you're usually looking at digital people created on a computer screen. But the crowd in Aoki Okami (The Blue Wolf), a Japanese epic about the legendary Mongolian leader Genghis Khan, is made of flesh and blood. In the scene in which people in colorful traditional costumes called their leader's name in a thunderous voice, there were actually 20,000 extras on the set.

Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongolian Empire, took the throne in 1206. Aoki Okami, a movie adapted from a novel by Seiichi Morimura, covers Genghis' life, his battles and his relationships with women. The movie stars Takashi Sorimachi as Genghis and is directed by Shinichiro Sawai. The 3 billion yen movie is set to open on March 3, 2007.

Keywords: arts_entertainment

New Vending Machines Accept Donations, Bring-Your-Own Cups

Kjeld Duits, Thursday, August 24, 2006 Posted: 01:02 AM JST

A vending machine that accepts donations, the first of its kind in Japan, made its debut on the Tohoku Fukushi University campus in Miyagi Prefecture on April 26, 2006. Above the coin slot are two "donation buttons": one for a 10-yen donation and the other for a 100-yen donation. After buying a drink, consumers can push the buttons to make a donation. The amount of money will be taken from the change. They can also donate without buying a drink, or buy a drink without making a donation.


Nanjing Massacre Survivor Gets $200,000

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, August 23, 2006 Posted: 05:59 PM JST

A Chinese court has awarded a Nanjing Massacre survivor $200,000 in compensation, Associated Press reports today. Xia Shuqin, who was 8 years old at the time of the massacre by Japan's Imperial troops, sued Shudo Higashinakano and Toshio Matsumura. The two Japanese historians claimed in two books that historical accounts of the Nanjing Massacre were untrue.

The People's Daily Online has more positive, and representative, news about a Japanese historian. In Japanese professor makes research about Japan's war crimes, the newspaper shows a selection of photos of Makoto Ueda, a history professor of Tokyo-based Rikkyo University, doing research in China. Ueda made a research tour of war crimes committed by Japanese invading troops at Chongshan Village during World War II.

Keywords: national_news

The Immunity of Non-Combatants and the Myth of Good Intentions: Sixty-One Years After Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, August 22, 2006 Posted: 02:37 PM JST

(by Herbert P. Bix) - In late 1945, in a context of restored peace, American leaders set about constructing the postwar international order. Among the issues they confronted were the establishment of the United Nations and the reaction of U.S. citizens to the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The latter especially provoked a short-lived mood of uncertainty about the future of humankind in the nuclear age.


John Mark Karr and Lee Harvey Oswald: an Uncanny Resemblance

Kjeld Duits, Saturday, August 19, 2006 Posted: 08:55 PM JST

The first time I saw images of John Mark Karr, a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case, on TV, I was amazed by how much he resembled Lee Harvey Oswald. Especially the expression in Karr's eyes reminded me strongly of Oswald. I have put together some images, so you can see for yourself. Let me know what you think!


Japan has Tackled Sex Trafficking, but Challenges Remain

Kjeld Duits, Friday, August 18, 2006 Posted: 03:28 PM JST

(by Steve Silver) - Her journey began with an invitation from a wealthy neighbor " her mother’s childhood friend " in her small Thai village to come and work at a restaurant she claimed she owned in Japan. It ended with her in a Japanese prison, serving a sentence for murder.


Japan Times Calls Koizumi's Yasukuni Visit 'Callous'

Kjeld Duits, Friday, August 18, 2006 Posted: 01:04 PM JST

The Japan Times today carried an excellent editorial about Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi's latest visit to Yasukuni Shrine. "Mr. Koizumi," the editorial states, "did not talk about those who suffered at the hands of Japan's militarism, but rather the hardship Japanese soldiers experienced. He mentioned the feelings of his heart, but not the hearts of those who were victims of Japan's war of aggression, or the relatives that still suffer. In this respect, Mr. Koizumi could be seen as callous."


Japanese Beauty for the World

Kjeld Duits, Thursday, August 17, 2006 Posted: 07:14 PM JST

Anthropologist Sawa Kurotani, director of Asian studies at the University of Redlands in California, explains in a Daily Yomiuri special how Miss Japan, Kurara Chibana, became the first runner-up in the 2006 Miss Universe contest that was held in Los Angeles on July 23. She is only one of four Miss Japans to be among the five finalists in the pageant's history.


Koizumi's Farewell Present

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, August 16, 2006 Posted: 12:40 PM JST

Just a month before he steps down as Prime Minister, Koizumi managed to worsen Japan's relations with China and South Korea to newer depths. In terms of international relations, the Prime Minister's decision to visit Yasukuni Shrine on August 15th, the day the war in the Asia Pacific area ended in 1945, appears beyond stupid. It has further outraged the Chinese and South Koreans. But it also has some positive effects, which are largely overlooked by the international media.


What to Do about Japan Dolphin Day?

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, August 8, 2006 Posted: 09:44 AM JST

Dolphin activist Richard O'Barry is organizing another Japan Dolphin Day to protest what he calls the 'Japanese Dolphin Slaughter', for September 20th. In his latest article he asks for input on ideas: "Sign another petition? Protest? Or pack?"


Not So Lost in Translation...

Kjeld Duits, Monday, August 7, 2006 Posted: 12:17 PM JST

"A steady summer rain pelted the two salvaged umbrellas covering my backpack and summer-clad body as I stood, thumb out and somewhat hopelessly, by the Japanese highway. Cars passed by but did not stop." So starts Terry Redding's recall of a two week trip hitchhiking through Japan. It sounds ominous, another foreigner lost in translation in enigmatic Japan. Another story about how strange the Japanese are. Or so it seemed. When I read on, I instead discovered a declaration of love.


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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
Stone Bridge Press

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