Blogging in Iraq
Japanese photojournalist Hiroshi Okamoto, who travelled to Iraq on assignment in 2004 and spent one month in Samawa, has produced a food blog of his experiences. Although Okamoto says he hopes to introduce Iraqi cuisine to his readers, his blog also provides a rare glimpse of life at a Japanese Self Defense Force outpost in Iraq.
About 1,000 Japanese troops are stationed in Iraq, and, on the 20th day of his stay in Iraq, Okamoto is invited to lunch to eat Japanese food – food he hasn't eaten since arriving in Iraq and misses dearly – with some of them:
The food had arrived, and something seemed a little strange. Paper plates of cooked white rice, cans of non-alcohol beer and little plastic packets of pre-cooked food were placed on the table. Strange. There wasn't any little bits of fried tempura. Where had the sushi gone?? And how about buckwheat noodles (soba) that was supposed to be on the menu???
It turns out the dining hall (for the SDF base) wasn't set up yet, so, for yet another day, the Japanese soldiers stationed in Samawa had to eat in a temporary mess tent, and we were unable to eat a proper Japanese meal.
We all said a toast over our cans of non-alcohol Budweiser beer. The troops are given only one can to drink a day – our press team had long since finished the liquor we had brought with us to Iraq. Nonetheless, in the 40+ degree heat of midday the body craves beer, and near-beer or not, I was extremely happy with my can of non-alcohol beer…
We opened our plastic packs of food to find a dinner of broiled mackeral. Of course, once we finished our food there would be no second helpings.
Okamoto isn't actually a reporter; he's a sports photographer who was persuaded into going to Iraq by an editor, who cited Okamoto's combination of “talent and experience.” With a writing style both witty and relaxed, Okamoto clearly has genuine affection for everyone he meets in Iraq.
Learning Swahili in Tanzania
At least one Japanese person is blogging about Tanzania. Ninablog documents the life of Lulu, a grad student who's taking a break as she spends a year in Tanzania studying Swahili. “Lulu”, which means “pearl” in Swahili, is not her real name, but she reckons her nickname is easier for non-Japanese speakers to remember and pronounce.
Shanghai Kuma blogs (on Sony's So-Net blogging tool) about the four years he's spent living in China. Shanghai Kuma's genial way of writing, combined with his use of whimsical Japanese emoticons, makes the blog a compelling read.
Although his wife remains in Japan, Shanghai Kuma seems to enjoy his life in China, but there are some things about his native country he seems to miss. On a recent visit home to Japan he remarks he was able to drink plenty of milk coffee, something that they just don't sell in China.”I drank an entire liter carton yesterday,” he blogs. Once he starts drinking, he just can't stop.
While not exactly part of the Anti-Korean Wave, the popular blog Now's the time…to deflate Korea takes aim at “the tremendous amount of unbelievable things” one can encounter during everyday life in Korea. Intended for “those who like Korea, those who don't like Korea…and those riding the Korean wave,” the blog describes the life of “Christopher,” who teaches Japanese in Seoul.
In many ways, Christopher's observations resemble those made by foreign English teachers in Japan. However, Christopher is articulate and prolific, and his posts tend to lack the vitriol commonly found in so many Japanese blogs about Korea. However, Christopher does take care to poke and prod at what he considers to be the national Korean character. In a recent post he discusses what some Japanese consider to be the Korean tendency to copy or filch Japanese products and ideas. Even worse, Christopher says, these “stolen” products are then claimed to be Korean “originals.”
A case in point according to Christopher, is an online game produced in Korea called “Crazy Racing Cart Rider” that is clearly a copy of Nintendo's Super Mario Cart. A taste of things to come in an increasingly wired society, perhaps.
Blogs as a favorite consumer item
The Mainichi Daily News reports that “blogs top list of favorite consumer items in Japan.”
Dentsu asked 1,000 people from 15 to 69 years of age around Japan to choose their favorite things by citing some 150 products.
Weblogs, or personal websites, topped the list of the 10 most popular items selected by consumers in Japan during the first half of 2005, advertising giant Dentsu Inc. has said.
Japan Election Update:
‘Archaic’ Japanese election laws are affecting blogging in that country:
(Takafumi Horie, who's a candidate in the September 11 election) has stopped updating his popular Internet blog — which was registering over 50,000 hits a day — since Aug. 18, the day before he announced his candidacy.
Livedoor, his Internet services company, has also stopped carrying news stories on its Web portal site that mention specific election candidates, spokesman Kazuyoshi Omura said. The site plans to run an election special as soon as the elections are over.