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Stories from and

Korean Comfort Women Issue Explained by Cartoon

A special exhibition on ‘comfort women‘- Korean girls forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese army during the World War 2 era- was featured at one of the leading cartoon festivals in France. It made several headlines as the Japanese government tried to block it, but failed. Korean net users have shared an English translation of Park Gun-woong's cartoon ‘Tattoo- A Story of a Comfort Woman’. (The cartoon- which is based on a true story- depicts violent assault, torture and rape. Viewer discretion is strongly advised) 

‘AFTER 25 Conference': Tokyo and Berlin Discuss Creative Culture

As Berlin and Tokyo mark 20 years of friendship as sister cities, representatives of two creative industries, including Chairman of the Club Commission of Berlin Marc Wohlrabe and Takahiro Saito, a lawyer and member of Let's Dance, a consortium that fights against Japan's dance regulations, will come together for the AFTER 25 conference on March 1, 2014 in Tokyo to discuss how creative culture can contribute to the socio-economic development of both cities: 

After the fall of the Berlin wall, extreme social, cultural and economic changes transformed the city into a unique playground. Today, 25 years later, it attracts creatives, tech startups, social entrepreneurs, and investors from all over the world.

Berlin recognized its creative sub-cultures as part of its identity and history, which now act as key drivers for tourism and economy. This transformed Berlin into a unique, successful city demonstrating how supporting creativity can grow into key economic and social factors fueling innovation and growth.

This dramatic yet positive change that Berlin went through leads us to the question: what role can Tokyo’s creative cultures play in laying the foundations for the city’s next phase? How can we paint a brighter future by aligning the creative potential of these two cities?

Japan Scores Well on Internet Freedom Status Report

U.S. based watchdog organization Freedom House compiled a report on Freedom on the Net 2013 and included the report on Japan for the first time.

Japan was evaluated as “Free”,  where the constitution protects all forms of speech and prohibits censorship, and Internet and digital media freedom are generally well established. For key developments during May 2012 to April 2013, Freedom House reported that: 

  • Political speech was constrained online for 12 days before the December 2012 election under a law banning parties from campaigning online.
  • In April 2013, the legislature overturned that law, but kept restrictions on campaign emails.
  • 2012 amendments to the Copyright Law criminalized intentionally downloading pirated content, though lawyers called for civil penalties.
  • Anti-Korean and anti-Chinese hate speech proliferated online amid real-world territorial disputes.  
  • A constitutional revision promoted by the newly-elected LDP party threatens to erode freedoms and rights that “violate public order” .

You can read the full report here.

PHOTOS: First Visit to Shinto Shrine of 2014 in Japan

Image of Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo by blogger Tokyobling.

Image of Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo by blogger Tokyobling. Photo used according to blogger's reblog rule

Hatsumōde (初詣 hatsumōde), the first Shinto shrine visit of the New Year, is a common practice among Japanese. Tokyo-based blogger Tokyobling posted a series of photos about the ritual of Hatsumode in Japan.

Japan's Open Data Catalog Launches Beta Version

Snapshot of the website, a catalog with an aim to provide a sphere for the use of data owned by different governmental ministries and agencies as open data.

Snapshot of the website, a catalog with an aim to provide a sphere for the use of data owned by different governmental ministries and agencies as open data., a website that aggregates publicly available data by Ministries and Agencies of the Japanese government, launched its Beta version on December 20, 2013.

Datasets by 21 governmental organizations and 567 groups are available under Creative Commons License Attribution 2.1 Japan detailed in the Terms of Use. This comes as a part of the efforts of the nation's Open Government Data Strategy adopted in July 2012, to promote the use of public data in an advanced information and telecommunications  society.

Refuse to Pay Pension Premium? Japan Could Seize Your Assets

The Japan Pension Service has announced that people who refuse to pay the national pension premium could have their assets seized if they still refuse to pay. Japan's young population have been reluctant to pay for national pensions mostly because they believe the system will be broken by the time they are old, and fear they won't receive the benefits. JapanCrush translated the reaction of netizens’ comments to this move. 

1,000 Days Since 2011's Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

December 4, 2013 marked the thousandth day since a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit the island of Japan on March 11, 2011, killing more than 15,000 people, devastating parts of the country, and causing a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. According to a survey conducted last month by the Reconstruction Agency, it is reported [ja] that there are still 277,609 evacuees who have not returned to their homes; 84 percent of them are from Fukushima prefecture.

Hirokazu Tanaka: One Name, Many Different People

Hirokazu Tanaka [ja] was 25 years old when he stumbled upon a news clipping that another Hirokazu Tanaka was drafted as a professional baseball player in 1994. This announcement, in which a prominent baseball manager read the shared name aloud, made the long-time baseball fan feel like a dream had come true.

Since then, he embarked on a journey to find other people named Hirokazu Tanaka, learning about the different lives of people sharing the same name. The coincidence continues to fascinate him and bother him. Once, he almost failed to have a loan application approved because the bank was not able to distinguish him from another Hirokazu Tanaka who had bad credit history and the same birthday.

Image of some Hirokazu Tanaka,

Image of some Hirokazu Tanaka, screenshot from

Through the Internet, Hirokazu Tanaka continued to meet other Hirokazu Tanakas. After 20 years, there are 104 Hirokazu Tanakas recorded by the organizer of this Hirokazu Tanaka movement [ja]. Fourteen Hirokazu Tanakas with completely different job titles ranging from apple farmer, graphic designer, composer, and engineer, appear in the book titled “Mr. Hirokazu Tanaka” [ja], literally, a compilation of Hirokazu Tanakas. 

Organizer Hirokazu Tanaka continues to meet more Hirokazu Tanakas, hoping one day to beat the number of people named “Jim Smith“, one of the most common name in English speaking countries.

Tanaka is Japan's fourth most common last name. As far as the author of this post knows, she is not related to organizer Hirokazu Tanaka.

Japan's Open Data Policy Still Needs Work

Open Data Index

Screenshot of Open Data Index

Even though the Japanese government is working toward advancing its open data policy, the country has a ways to go, ranking 30th out of 70 countries, according to an index compiled by Open Knowledge Foundation. Masahiko Shoji of Open Knowledge Foundation Japan writes:


Japan's open data on government spending, company register, transport timetables and legislation received low ratings. All data set fields were not able to receive an evaluation of “YES”. Such challenges are the same as that of the ratings among the G8 compiled by Open Knowledge Foundation in June this year, and it shows that the progress of Open Data efforts in Japan is small.

To find more about criteria of the rating, please visit here

Journalists Fear Japan's Proposed Secret Information Protection Act

The cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a bill [ja] on October 25, 2013 to impose tougher penalties on civil servants, lawmakers and others who leak national secrets and harm national security. The so-called Secret Information Protection Act has been unpopular among Japanese press, human rights advocates, and citizens who fear that the government would conceal radiation information.

Information security law expert Lawrence Repeta examines potential risks of this bill such as right to access information in comparison with the American cases of Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning.

Before the bill was approved, the government accepted comment from the public, and among 90,480 comments submitted in a two-week span in early September, 69,579 were against the bill. The bill awaits the approval of parliament.

Double Standards Toward Women in Corporate Japan Are a Joke

Photo of Japanese male employee and female employee working in office, discussing plans. Rroyalty free photo

Photo of a Japanese male employee and female employee working in office, discussing plans. Royalty free photo

A Tumblr post [ja] illustrating double standards in attitudes towards women in corporate Japan has been widely shared on social media among users:






If a boss asks him for lunch, they say he is getting promoted soon.
If a boss asks her for lunch, they say she is a lover.

If he talks with his colleagues, they ask what he is discussing.
If she talks with her colleagues, they say she's chatting again.

If he decides marry, they say to him “now you can settle down to work”.
If she decides marry, they say to her “when will you resign?” 

If he has overseas business trip, they will say to him, “it'll be a good experience, go for it”.
If she has overseas business trip, they will say to her, “are you leaving her family at home?”

If he resigns, they say, “he found a better job”.
If she resigns, they say, “here it goes again, women…”

The Tumblr post seems to be quoting a website [ja] that collects jokes around the world, but when and who made this joke remains unknown.

The post was sub-edited by Kevin Rennie and L. Finch

Creating Japanese Food With Ingredients from Crete

Five prominent Japanese chefs and five of their Greek counterparts got together at a hotel in Crete on January 14, 2014 to create ten dishes representative of the respective origins using local products. At the culinary event dubbed “CRETE delicious” [el], Japanese chefs demonstrated how Cretan products can be incorporated into Japanese popular dishes, and exchanged their healthiest recipes. More about the event including the menu can be found here [ja/en/el].

Chania, Greece. 15th January 2014 -- Group picture of cretan and japanese cooks after the event. -- "Japan meets Crete" is an initiative of Japanese and Greek entrepreneurs, star cooks and hoteliers. Japan's most famous chefs met with Greek chefs and prepared foods with the local fish and agriculture. ©Demotix

Chania, Greece. 15 January 2014 – Group photo of Cretan and Japanese cooks after the “Japan meets Crete” event, an initiative of Japanese and Greek entrepreneurs, star cooks and hoteliers. Japan's most famous chefs met with Cretan chefs and prepared foods using local fish and agriculture. Photo taken by Wassilis Aswestopoulos, ©Demotix

‘Abita’, Animated Short Film About Fukushima Children

“Abita”, an animated short film about Fukushima children who can't play outside because of the radiation risk, delicately illustrates their dreams and realities. The film, produced by Shoko Hara and Paul Brenner, won the award for Best Animated Film at the International Uranium Film Festival in 2013.

Shoko Hara, a student in Germany who was born in Okayama in the western part of Japan, wrote about the metaphor she used in the film.

We used Japanese symbolism in our film. The Dragonfly represents the Japanese island, because of its form. It also symbolizes hope, perspective, dream, energy in Japan and it unites all the natural elements like water, earth and air. These were destroyed with the Fukushima disaster, they don't have any perspectives for their future. Furthermore dragonflies in japan are carriers of fertility. The Dragonfly represents the inner world of the child, that it wants to be free in the nature, but it can't. Dragonfly is a popular symbol in japan and we often use it in arts, poems and in literature. 

Despite scarce media coverage in Japan, the film has been shared widely on social media.

Radiation remains a serious problem for residents in the area surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant since the plant suffered a meltdown following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Top 10 YouTube Videos of 2013 in Japan

RocketNews24 has compiled a list of the top 10 YouTube videos in Japan for the year 2013. The list includes a video uploaded by a popular Japanese idol girl group AKB48, a video of two cute kids showing off their new toys, and a video of a shocking moment of lightning during a thunderstorm striking a moving train captured by a YouTube user.

Protesters March Against Nuclear Plant's Re-Start on Japan's Kyushu Island

This is biggest rally ever in Satsuma Sendai City. The residents of this city do not want to talk about nuclear energy. Areas with nuclear power plants have received financial support from government. Taken on 15 December 2013 by rieko uekama. Copyright (c) Demotix

A group of young mothers march and sing, waving a flag with “No Nukes” written in German in Satsumasendai on 15 December 2013. The case for the transition to alternative energy from nuclear energy is often argued at anti-nuclear demonstrations. Photo by rieko uekama. Copyright Demotix

About 1,800 people marched on December 15, 2013 in protest of the re-start of the Sendai Nuclear Power Station [ja], according to the protest organizer. After two years of the plant's operations being suspended, Kyushu Electric Power Company applied for a review in July from the Nuclear Regulation Authority with the intention of bringing the power plant back online, making citizens against nuclear power feel unsafe.

The number may sound small for a little-known city of Satsumasendai in the southwest tip of Kyushu island, a community long been dependent on nuclear power for its economy, yet this is said to be the biggest rally in the last 40 years of silence to utter against 30 year-old nuclear plant. 

Greenpeace Japan submitted a letter [ja] on November 29 demanding the governor of Kagoshima prefecture not to approve restart of the plant. Citizen Media Miyazaki covered the protest on YouTube [ja].

UNESCO Honors Japanese Cuisine as Intangible Cultural Heritage

The United Nations cultural agency UNESCO has officially recognized Japan's traditional cuisine “washoku” as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” among its 14 new listings.

Image of Japanese cuisine taken by flickr user Kei Kondo (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Image of Japanese cuisine taken by Flickr user Kei Kondo (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Overjoyed after reading the news, Japanese twitter user Komachi jokingly commented that her regular habit is now part of renowned heritage:

That means I can say that I am cooking intangible cultural heritage [washoku] once every three days!

Artist Project Illustrates “Fear and Folly” of Nukes

A map created by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto – 橋本公 – shows all the 2,053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998.

According to the CTBTO website that hosts the time-lapse video, the artist created it with the goal of showing “the fear and folly of nuclear weapons.”

Hashimoto has also created a video that simply lists the names of all the atomic bombs launched in the past century.

Fashion Show in Japan Takes on Violence Against Women

Image from last year's fashion show. The two models look like

Image from last year's fashion show. The couple looks happy in their relationship on surface ,but the woman's hand is chained to the man's. In his left hand, he has a toy gun. Photo publicly shared on AWA's Facebook page.

The Asian Women’s Association, a non-profit women's right organization, is holding a fashion show [ja] on December 1, 2013 under the title “Fashion Resistance to Militarism” to call attention to the issue of violence against women. The full show from last year can be viewed here.

‘Japanese Banksy’ Bashes Nuclear Industry With Street Art

By 281_Anti Nuke

Anonymous Japanese street artist 281_Anti Nuke takes inspiration from his British counterpart Banksy to take on Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture.

You can see more of 281_Anti Nuke's works on his website.

Japan: OpenStreetMap Aggregates Typhoon Info

Typhoon Wipha in Izu Oshima island

A screenshot of OpenStreetMap for Izu Oshima island. 

OpenStreetMap users volunteered their time to create a crisis map of Izu Oshima island [ja], a small island to the south of Tokyo where more than a dozen of people were killed by mudslides triggered by this week's deadly Typhoon Wipha. The red dots on the map represent reports submitted by users, which give information on things such as disaster relief, blocked roads, and water supply.

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