News from Japan – Week 49

Here we (or rather I) are again, with a new round of news with commentary by yours truly. The coronavirus continues to dominate headlines, with case numbers now regularly reaching 2000 or more. With a very high number of elderly people, Japan is uniquely vulnerable to the virus but was – until now – lucky enough to only be grazed by the claws of the virus. Should the virus intensify its hold on Japan and draw blood, the wounds it might inflict will probably be very painful.

On a less serious note, if you have more money than sense, the item described in the first article for today might be for you. Up until now, facemasks were not really seen as a serious part of fashion (unless you are a cosplayer I guess), but since almost everybody wears them daily now, they have suddenly become an actual part of our outfits and style. There are various designs and colours available so you can mix and match them according to your style. And now there are even masks that you can buy for 1 Million Yen. A company in Japan has taken a normal mask, plastered a bunch of diamonds on the front and now is trying to sell that. If you want to look like you are wearing a curtain from an 18th-century mansion on your face (or maybe that’s your cosplay), the company even has physical store locations on Tokyo where you can buy these monstrosities. 

Japan Times -> Read the full article

Since we were just talking about cosplay, let’s continue on a similar note. A university in Japans pretty rural and remote Niigata prefecture has opened an anime and manga department. To be honest, I find it somewhat surprising that it took this long for a university to pick up on this. So, if you are interested in studying about Anime and Manga, and learn from actual creators themselves, then starting from April next year that’s actually a possibility. Although I wouldn’t get my hope up about the program being available in English anytime soon, so better start studying Japanese so you can follow along (also see my article here).

Jotaku -> Read the full article

After a brief departure, it’s time for Corona-News again. As the situation continues to worsen in Japan, PM Suga is also seeing his approval numbers drop. When case numbers were low, his efforts to revitalize the economy had bought him some leeway in Japans critical public eye, but his relative lack of any type of formulated response to the recent wave of infections has made him the target of harsh criticisms, just three months into his tenure. As Suga is the successor of former PM Abe, he is simply serving out the remainder of the latter’s term and must call elections within a year. The timing of these elections is up to Suga, and he will surely have formulated a strategy as to when it is in his best interest to call an election. It remains to be seen whether Suga will become just another passenger on the ministerial carousel of Japan, or whether he can imitate his former boss Abe and become one of the few PMs to serve out his term.

Bloomberg -> Read the full article

If you are interested in the Aristocracy or Royalty, this one’s for you. Royal (or imperial) marriages are a big deal to some people and the Japanese public generally has a positive attitude towards their Emperor and his unique place in society, outdated as it may be. Now that the old emperor Akihito is retired and the buzz around the new emperor Naruhito has settled down, the new old topic around is the marriage of Princess Mako. Mako is the niece of the current emperor and has been engaged to her (commoner) college boyfriend since 2017. But due to one scandal or another (if you want to call it that), the marriage has been postponed numerous times and to this date, there still is no date announced for the wedding to take place. People have taken issue with the financial situation of would-be husband Komuro Kei, due to his mother allegedly taking on debt to finance his education, although she insists that the money was a gift. Members of the imperial household are held to very high standards. Should the marriage go ahead, however, Princess Mako would lose her special status and become a commoner, so to speak. Since she is willing to give that up, I don’t see why she should be held to those standards any longer. “Wo die Liebe hinfällt“, as the German saying goes. 

NY Times -> Read the full article

Finally, the Japanese buzzword of 2020 has been chosen to be “sanmitsu” (三密). Coined, or at least made famous by Tokyo’s governor-turned-poet Yuriko Koike, who just seems to love wordplay, it has now been chosen to be the buzzword for 2020. Which is not surprising, seeing as this year has been entirely dominated by the virus. Known in English as the three C’s (confined spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings), it was used as a catchphrase by Governor Koike for settings to avoid during the early stages of the outbreak of the virus. Since then, it has entered general use and is now a regular part of the vocabulary that is used when talking about the Coronavirus in Japan. 

The Guardian -> Read the full article

That’s it for this week’s news. I hope you have a relaxing weekend and a good start into the next week. Take care.

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