Stories from Quick Reads and Japan
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)
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 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.
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.
Data.go.jp, a website that aggregates publicly available data by Ministries and Agencies of the Japanese government, launched its Beta version on December 20, 2013.
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.
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 [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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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].
“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.
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.
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.
Overjoyed after reading the news, Japanese twitter user Komachi jokingly commented that her regular habit is now part of renowned heritage:
私、3日にいっぺんくらいは無形文化遺産作ってる！と言えるわけですね。 「和食」無形文化遺産に登録決定…ユネスコ（読売新聞） – Y!ニュース http://t.co/Fxvh0uoCNO
— komachi (@komatchr) 2013, 12月 4
That means I can say that I am cooking intangible cultural heritage [washoku] once every three days!
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.
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.