News from Japan – Week 51

Here we are with the second to last news for the year 2020. I’ll be taking a break from 26.12.2020 until 5.1.2021. I’ll see about getting out a news article for the first week of January, but not sure if there will be one at this stage, it’s entirely possible that the first news of 2021 will only come out on the 15.01.2021. We’ll see.

We start this week with Japans biggest fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo, who has also been expanding overseas quite aggressively in recent years. But now the company has had to close its store in South Koreas capital, Seoul, Myeong-dong area. Relations between Japan and South Korea had never been that great but have been getting increasingly worse since last year. There have been ongoing calls to boycott Japanese products all over Korea, although according to the article, the boycotts seem to have become selective with the PlayStation 5 and Tamagochi, for example, being unaffected. 

Nikkei Asia -> Read the full article here

The next article talks about one of Japans year-end traditions, ōsōji (大掃除). The article equates it with “spring-cleaning” in western countries, but I think most people in western countries are going to be cleaning their homes pretty thoroughly for Christmas and New-Years, so I do not see the need for the Japanese exceptionalism here. Anyway, cleaning is always a good idea, though I feel like the article might be taking it somewhat over the top, what with talking about basically disinfecting your entire home. Still, cleaning is an important part of welcoming in the new year in Japan, so here, have an article about it.

JapanTimes -> Read the full article here

Since we are talking about traditions, let’s talk briefly about Sake. Japans traditional alcohol has long been sidelined by beer, whiskey and other beverages, with sake-consumption dropping rapidly since the 1970s. Judging from personal experience, I would say that most people think Sake is either a drink for old men or something to be enjoyed only on very special occasions (eating at an expensive Japanese restaurant for example). To boost appeal to well-off customers, there is now an initiative to promote aged Sake. Usually, Sake is viewed as a drink that needs to be consumed quickly after production, but now there is a group of brewers trying to change this image. 

Nikkei Asia -> Read the full article here

Since I also mentioned Japanese exceptionalism earlier, let’s talk about one of the grandfathers of that belief in the western world, the novel “Shogunby James Clavell. There are now plans to bring the novel to TV screens once more, although we do not know yet when this will be. Shogun was one of the first Japan-related novels I read, so it holds a special place in my heart, although I still think that it is a pretty “orientalistic” piece of work, going to great lengths describing how clean the Japanese and how dirty the foreigners were for example. 

ThatHashtagShow -> Read the full article here

Finally, let’s get political as approval ratings for Japans new (not so new anymore) PM Suga Yoshihide have been plummeting during the recent surge of the Coronavirus. Mr. Suga is perceived as not handling the crisis very well, appearing to instead focus almost entirely on efforts to revitalize the economy. That he was caught having a dinner party, in violation of his own government’s requests to refrain from such activities, has certainly not helped his ratings. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to secure enough support among the populace to secure re-election sometime next year. 

The Guardian -> Read the full article here

That’s it for this week, check back next week for the final news for 2020. Have a good weekend and stay safe. 


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