You may have noticed that, despite my repeated promises to the contrary, articles have been very few and far between in recent weeks. To the few people reading this and the blog in general, I thought I should post a quick update about whats going on behind the scenes at Japanseikatsu HQ.
Regarding the lack of articles recently, I think the easiest explanation is that I have simply burned myself out. Writing up to three articles a week about “samey” topics has become stale to me. Going forward, I hope to be able to post more regular content again, but on a schedule of once a week. Instead, I hope to be able to promote the blog a bit more, getting more eyes on what I write would hopefully be a motivator again.
In the same vein, the “News” articles are going on an indefinite hiatus. Instead of posting weekly updates, I’ll simply post about it if something significant happens instead of forcing out an article even when nothing noteworthy has happened.
I am still new to the world of blogging and am mostly simply winging it. I hope that my few readers are not put off by the new direction and will stick with me until I find a style that suits me, as well as you lot (hopefully). Thanks for reading and take care!
Hello everybody, I am back after a brief and unwanted hiatus due to private stuff. Hopefully, things will settle down a bit more going forward. Just as a brief update on the situation in Japan, the state of emergency is set to end on the 21st of March in all areas of Japan. Most prefectures had already lifted it, but starting from the 21st even Tokyo and surrounding prefectures will go back to (somewhat) normality. Infection numbers have been going down drastically, but it remains to be seen if it will stay that way after the state of emergency ends. The Olympics are still set to take place this year, but there is lots of talk about reduced spectator numbers or no spectators at all, so at this point, it’s anybody’s guess how the event will go. Anyway, without further ado, allow me to bring you this week’s news with commentary by yours truly.
Because I did not release a “News” article last week, I missed an important anniversary that I thought I should mention, so have an article about it. March 11th, 2021 was the 10 year anniversary of the terrible earthquake and tsunami, that devastated the Tohoku area of Japan and caused a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear power plant. The rebuilding efforts are still ongoing, but in a bid to show that Japan can overcome even a disaster like this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a few videos that show what it is like now in affected areas of Tohoku. The article is somewhat short and fails to give any links to the videos, so let me help you out. The videos are released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs YouTube channel “外務省 / MOFA” and there’s a long version and a short version each.
Next up, we have an article about the visit of some American officials of the new Biden administration to Japan. Before and after the election of Joe Biden as US president, there were some experts in Japan who voiced concerns that a non-Trump administration could be more China-friendly, which in turn could hurt Japans interests. To be honest, I could never really tell where they got that idea from and thought (and still think) that having an actual human being as the president of one of the biggest nations on earth is definitely the better option.
Sticking with foreign policy, our next article deals with Japans response, or rather lack thereof, to the coup in Myanmar. As most of you will probably be aware, last month the military forcefully seized power in Myanmar, a country that is used to being under the rule of a junta. This time however, the people of Myanmar are determined to make their voices heard to the global community and have been holding protests against military rule every day. The military has responded with violent crackdowns, killing dozens of people since the start of the demonstrations. Other members of the G7 have responded by putting sanctions on the government of Myanmar. Japan is in a fairly unique position, as it has fairly strong ties to Myanmar. Japanese companies have invested heavily in the country and more and more workers from Myanmar come to Japan to combat the manual labor shortage. Nevertheless, Japan is one of few nations who have not imposed any sanctions. While they have condemned the coup strongly and demanded the release of political leaders, that is about the size of it. Japan can often appear a bit aloof and follows a hands-off approach, but maybe now is the time to finally do something about that.
Lastly, and again sticking with diplomacy, let’s talk about something that I had honestly no idea even existed until now, which is the city of Ishigaki in Okinawa. The disputed Senkaku Islands, governed by Japan but claimed by China fall under the jurisdiction of Ishigaki. China, in its usual schoolyard bully fashion, has put heavy pressure on Ishigaki, forbidding Chinese tourists from visiting the town in a bid to hurt them economically. In the face of this aggression, the citizens and council members of Ishigaki are increasingly becoming sympathetic to Taiwan, who share the same plight as them. Now they have put forward a resolution that calls for the central government to establish a “Japan-Taiwan Basic Relations Act”. I really do not know enough about this issue to go into any more detail, but I find it highly interesting so I recommend you check out the following article.
A lot of diplomacy and foreign policy, but I will leave it at that for this week. Let’s hope that the virus situation stays stable even when the state of emergency is lifted on Sunday. I hope you all will have a nice weekend and a productive next week. Read you soon (hopefully).
The start of a new month is always a bit hectic for me, so it took me until now to get around to writing my next blog article. It’s finally getting a bit warmer again. Hopefully, that means that spring is around the corner as I am getting tired of the sheer noise that the AC makes. Anyways, here’s this week’s news with commentary by yours truly.
Japan is a country that is regularly struck by natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods, if you can think of any type of disaster, Japan has probably experienced it in the last five years. To counter this, Japan is also one of the countries that has advanced research into disaster prevention the furthest. Underwater structures off the coast to block oncoming tsunamis, skyscrapers that are built with a kind of concrete that can flex somewhat, so the building can sway and absorb the shock of an earthquake, just to name a few. Now they are looking to share this knowledge across borders and to create a global standard for disaster prevention. It can never be a bad idea to create a global standard and bring more equality to the world, and it’s nice to see an initiative from Japan, where globalization usually lags behind a bit.
The next one isn’t strictly speaking news, but it came up in my feed so I thought to include it. In this column, Mr. Justin Whittinghill talks a bit about the gift-giving culture in Japan. As he rightly points out, this is a true conundrum to even native Japanese, with a lot of symbolism and hidden meanings that are hard to fathom if they are not culturally ingrained. To offer my own take, in Tokyo, at least, it seems like giving gifts is far less of a big deal. I have never even met most people from my apartment block, let alone have I ever received – or given – a towel from/to any of them. But when me and my wife got married, we did receive lots of cash from relatives and dutifully sent them gifts back. Age difference also seems to play a role in my experience, with people saying receiving gifts from people who are younger than them makes them uncomfortable.
This one is news again. Trouble never seems to stop for PM Suga Yoshihide. This week his PR chief has resigned over allegations of bribery because she had a dinner in 2019 paid for by a Japanese broadcaster. So far so not-so-good, but the broadcaster also employs Suga’s son, which means that the PM is now directly involved in the scandal. This will definitely not help him recover his plummeting approval ratings, as there is also still a lot of anger regarding his decision to forge ahead with this years summer olympics and his handling of the coronavirus.
Finally, we have an article about an archaic tradition – or one of many – in Japan, the custom that couples have to take the same surname if they wish to get married. Most other countries allow for pretty flexible names after marriage, with the couple taking on a double-name or keeping their old names, but Japan is one country where one party (99 out of a 100 times it will be the bride) has to give up their family name if they wish to get married. Personally I do not agree with some points that are raised in this article, for example some people claim that they are defined by their name which is something that I can’t entirely get my head around. But giving people more freedom of choice can never be a bad thing, and Japanese families will certainly not be destroyed just because mom and dad do not bear the same surname.
That’s it for this weeks news and for the first article in March. I have made a regular content schedule for this month, so let’s hope that I can stick to it. Check back again from time to time to find out if theres anything new and interesting!
I had originally said that I would post more regularly in February, but one thing led to another and I was very busy with other work-related stuff so in the and I could not really live up to that promise unfortunately. Somehow the month went by really quickly and now it’s already the final non-holiday. Anyways, let’s finish it up with a nice bit of news and hope that next month will see more regular posts again.
We start off with an article about a website. Not mine, unfortunately. Instead, the article is about a website where people can make anonymous noise complaints, which will then be shown on a map. The idea is to create a space where people can vent, as well as create a resource for people that are looking for a new home. Nothing can be more frustrating than moving into your dream home, only to find out that the neighbors are unbearably loud. As someone that lives beneath a family with two kids, who seem to play basketball in their living-room, judging by the noise that they sometimes make, I can relate. The article goes on to give voice to parents, citing their concerns that society does not have enough empathy for kids. In my opinion, this is a two-way street. Sure, people complaining about kids being noisy when outside in the park might lack empathy. But parents who think that living on the top floor with two kids (in a 2-room apartment, mind you) is a good idea, lack empathy just the same in my view.
Next up, we have an article on Tesla, the electric car manufacturer. While wildly successful in other parts of the world, Tesla seems to have some trouble getting their cars to sell in Japan. Even a reduction in prices has not seen sales figures rise. The article then goes on to mention, that Tesla faces homegrown competition in the Nissan Ariya. What the article fails to mention, however, is that Japan also produces the Toyota Prius, which is one of the first eco-friendly hybrid cars that were widely available and commercially successful. So people that are ecologically aware are more likely to drive a Prius than to fork out for a Tesla. From personal experience, climate awareness is not a big thing in Japan, another factor that might contribute to low electric car sales. When Greta Thunberg was campaigning a few years back, most people in Japan were more concerned with whether she was a boy or a girl, rather than the message she was delivering.
The Coronavirus has claimed another victim, this time it is the Hadaka Matsuri (The Naked Festival) according to the following article. The festival, which has taken place consecutively for 500 years (or so the Temple, where it is held claims), will still be held, just in a more corona-appropriate manner. Instead of loads of naked men, jostling for twigs and sticks that a priest throws at them, only a select few were allowed to gather and pray for fertility among other things.
Once again a week has passed and it is time to give you a roundup of news from or about Japan, as ever with commentary by yours truly. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Usually, I do not really cover events that happen on the weekend, but this one shook Japan (literally) quite badly, so here goes. Saturday night, Japan experienced a magnitude 7 earthquake, originating in the same area as the devastating earthquake that happened on 11th, March 2011. I live in Tokyo, relatively far away from Fukushima the epicenter in Fukushima, but still it was definitely the strongest earthquake that I have experienced in my time in Japan. What I found particularly terrifying was the length of the shaking. I did not check my watch or anything, but I would say the ground was shaking violently for a solid two minutes or so at least. Miraculously, there were not casualties and only relatively few injuries, especially when compared to the disaster of ten years ago.
In other disaster news, Japan has finally started distributing coronavirus vaccines, a good two or three months later than most other major nations. If you read last week’s article, then you will also know that there are fears about vaccine doses going to waste due to an incompatibility with widely used syringes. All in all, it does not look like the Japanese government will be able to innoculate enough people by July, when the Olympic games are supposed to take place. Estimates I have seen, project Japan achieving herd immunity from the virus around September or October of this year, at the earliest. But canceling the Olympic games altogether might as well be the end of the current Suga administration, so they might try to force it through in the hopes that they can save their own hides. The Suga saga is definitely not over yet and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.
Once again going back to an item from last week’s article, you may remember that there was a scandal surrounding the then-head of the Olympic committee, controversial former prime minister Mori Yoshihiro. After saying that women talk too much in meetings, the 83-year old resigned from his position. Keen to combat the image of Japanese politics as an “old boys club”, the Suga administration has now made Hashimoto Seiko, woman and ex-athlete, the new head of the committee. With polls showing that a vast majority of the population thinks the games should not be held this year, she certainly has her work cut out for her.
Another shorter one this week, after doing this for a while you kind of come to realize how much news is just the same stuff repeated over and over again so going forward I am going to keep things shorter I think. Still, I hope that you enjoyed and see you next time.
It’s time for another roundup of news, as ever with commentary/opinions/remarks by yours truly. Yesterday was a public holiday and it seems to have been a somewhat slow week, so expect a fairly short roundup. Anyway, let’s get into it.
We start off with politics, where we have a really good summary of prime minister Sugas time in office up until now by the Washington Post. Even though he started off on a high note, with stories of humble beginnings and familial devotion, that image soon fell away and revealed what lay underneath – a tone-deaf bureaucrat with little understanding and empathy for the general populace, especially the younger generations. As the article succinctly puts it, “for a man who spent eight years as the government’s chief spokesman, Suga has stumbled in communicating a clear message”. Coupled with the fact that he seems to think he is above the virus restrictions that he himself implemented, it is no wonder that his approval ratings have plummeted this far.
Sticking with politics, next up is Yoshihiro Mori. A former prime minister (with approval ratings as low as 7% after just one year in office), he now heads the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee at the ripe age of 83. He made headlines this week, complaining that meetings with women talk too long because they talk too much. The article then goes on to talk about women in power and the gender-gap in Japan, painting a pretty accurate picture of just how backwards Japan can be in this regard. Politicians often go unpunished, even when voicing radical remarks like this one and it remains to be seen whether Mori will face consequences over this or not (the author of the article believes nothing will come of it, however at the time of writing reports are in saying that Mori is expected to resign over this incident).
Last up for today is an update on the Coronavirus. A lot has been happening in Japan, and while we are still under lockdown here, case numbers appear to be going down. One big talking point has been the slow rollout of Vaccines in Japan, a country with a populace that is somewhat skeptical of inoculation. Vaccinations might now start as early as next week, after a long approval process, with critics saying that the government lacks any sense of urgency in getting the new drugs approved. Now, there is another logistical problem however. Many of the syringes in use in Japan are not suitable to draw out all of the vaccine from the vials that the manufacturer ships them with, leading to Japan suddenly having 12 millions less doses available to them than originally planned for.
January and the beginning of February have been somewhat quiet for the blog. Going forward, I hope to return to a more regular release schedule. If any of you are still out there, make sure to be on the look out for more content for the rest of February!
Anyway, for now let’s bring you up to speed on the news from and about Japan that caught my attention during the last week, as ever with commentary by yours truly.
Let’s start things off with the entertainment business. If you are at all familiar with the Japanese entertainment and media world, then you will know that it is an industry rife with sexism, sexual harassment, and misogyny, although that is hardly unique to Japan. The stereotype of young, attractive women having to suffer (or give into) the advances of creepy old men is alive and well in the industry as a whole, and in Japan as well. A few content creators managed to flee from the Ojisan-infested office spaces of Japans all the way to America, where they have now created a miniseries called “HodoBuzz”, a series that seeks to specifically highlight the issues that female reporters and announcers (news anchors) face in the Japanese media industry. One would think that gender should not have too much bearing on whether one’s ability to write compelling articles or report the news, but as this series points out: that is not the case and female reporters are often reduced down to their looks and find themselves out of work quickly once they pass a certain age.
On to politics. Japan’s new (or not so new anymore) prime minister (Suga) has been facing stiff opposition over his handling of the coronavirus. As I mentioned in previous “News from Japan” posts, Suga has seen his approval ratings plummet since he took office, with no real sign of recovery in sight. Since Suga only inherited the leftover term from former PM Abe, he will have to face an election this year. At this stage, it seems highly unlikely that his party, the ruling party LDP (Liberal Democratic Party), will want to go into these elections with a candidate like Suga, who is in a very vulnerable position. The LDP, who has dominated Japanese politics since the end of the Pacific War, is a party that is split into many factions, many of whom follow strict seniority rules, often simply deferring positions and candidacy based on age. So whether Suga will actually stand for election this year (if he even wants to) remains to be seen and will depend a lot on his faction’s ability to forge alliances within the party.
Looking abroad briefly, many of you are probably aware of the military coup that took place in Myanmar on Monday. Japan has had generally favorable relations with the ousted government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who herself has been arrested by the new military rulers. Japan has been investing heavily in the region, with many companies outsourcing production and development to the south-east Asian country. On the other end, people from Myanmar have been coming to Japan under the new “Specified Skills” visa, a visa designed to combat the manual labor shortage. Nevertheless, Japan was among the slowest in the region to condemn the coup, which appears to have been non-violent for the most part. Whether it was simply due to bureaucracy grinding along, or whether there was some other intention, it took the Japanese government almost until evening on Monday to release a statement on the coup, while other world leaders where much quicker to respond. The military has said it will only be taking control for a year to ensure, in its eyes, fair elections and will be giving power back to a democratically elected government afterwards. Whether that holds true remains to be seen.
As a quick addendum to the former post, were I mentioned that people from Myanmar had been coming to Japan to combat manual labor shortages, the number of foreign workers in Japan has hit a record high last year, even when entering the country was not allowed for most of it due to the Coronavirus. Thanks to a rapidly aging population, the demand for (cheap) labor is only going to go up from here, so probably we will be seeing an article like this every year from now.
Since it’s all been a bit gloomy until now, let’s finish with something more exciting. Seeing the huge success of places like Disneyland or the Universal Studios in Japan, Nintendo decided it wanted in on the action. Super Nintendo World, Nintendo’s own theme park inside Universal Studios in Osaka, was supposed to open yesterday, but due to the current state of emergency the opening was delayed until further notice. Nevertheless, promotional material is available in the below article, although I am not sure how they managed to film any of that under the current circumstances. If you always wanted to meet Mario and company in person, then now you can. Though you will still have to wait for the virus to finally pack its bags and leave us alone.
Thats it from me this week. Let us hope that I can actually stick to my promise of more regular content from now on. Only time will tell, but I am nothing if not an opportunistic optimist. See you next week, take care.
Once again, we have the news for you with commentary by yours truly (slightly delayed, if you have been paying attention).
As ever, the coronavirus is still going strong, unfortunately. Japan has put several prefectures under a state of emergency, to combat the surge in infections, but as the following article explains these measures have not been very effective up until now and it will probably still take some time before the infections numbers start going down.
In that same vein (also from the same outlet), Japan is still forging ahead with the Olympics. Originally supposed to be held in the summer of 2020, the games got instead delayed for one year until summer 2021. But thanks to the ineffectiveness in curbing the virus as described in the above article, it is looking like holding the games this year might not be the best idea either. The Japanese public tends to agree, as the following article points out. Personally, I think everybody should just agree to push back the Olympic schedule by four years, so we could have Tokyo 2024, Paris 2028, and so on. Would be a nice show of global solidarity, after suffering through a pandemic together, and isn’t that perfectly in line with the olympic spirit?
On the topic of solidarity, now might be a good time to point out that Japan still has no effective protections for LGBT people in place. Being LGBT in Japan is highly stigmatized and many people choose to repress their true selves as to not garner negative attention from the critical public. As the following article by Human Rights Watch points out, now would be a good time for the Japanese government to address this issue.
Finally (a short one this week), we have baseball news. I have to admit, I have absolutely no clue about baseball. But it’s a big sport (possibly still the biggest, although football is getting close) in Japan and other parts of the world, so theres bound to be people out there who are interested in this. Tanaka Masahiro is returning from playing in America, and will be throwing and batting balls on home soil again in the near future. The Japanese have a big interest in watching their talent thrive overseas, so I am sure that Tanaka is popular enough with the fans here.
That’s it from me for this week. I have to admit, I have not been paying as much attention to the news as of late. You can only read so many articles about the Coronavirus before you get slightly depressed. Let’s all hope that this Corona business will be over soon, and we can all go back to laughing at whacky Japanese music videos by Pico Taro. Until then, take care and have a good one.
It’s been an awfully long time since I posted something on here, I hope there’s still somebody out there reading what I have to say. There is a new state of emergency in effect in multiple prefectures across Japan, thanks to rising coronavirus infections and I am working from home for the time being. It took me a while to get used to working from home but hopefully I will manage to post regular content from now on. Since there hasn’t been a new “News” article since 2021 began, I thought I would start that up again. So here we go, enjoy the usual potpourri of random news with commentary by yours truly.
Somewhat old news at this point and I mentioned it above already, but the Japanese government has begrudgingly declared a new state of emergency across multiple prefectures of Japan. First it was only for Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, but since then the list has grown to include basically all other bigger metropolitan areas across Japan. While Japan is still seeing lower numbers of infections than other countries, the situation is definitely getting worse, so the government’s reluctance to act is somewhat puzzling.
Unperturbed by the virus, however, Japans population is still growing older. With 118 years of age, Kane Tanaka is the world’s oldest person. Apparently, she was born the same year as novelist George Orwell. I wonder if she ever read “1984”.
Since we are on the topic of novelists, let’s talk about a Japanese one. Mishima Yukio is regarded as one of the most talented authors Japan has produced, but unfortunately, he was also not quite right in the head. Maybe more so than even the stories in his books, his real-life story is fascinating. A staunch imperialist and venerator of the emperor, he was in full support of Japan shaking of “American rule”, returning to pre-war time glory and installing the emperor as head of state again. But nobody really seemed to care for his right-wing rhetoric, so in 1970 he took hostages at a military facility in order to get the message across. When that failed to garner significant attention even from the people present, he then committed ritual suicide on the spot.
Back to more worldly news, another problem that is facing Japan at the moment is that of the Olympics. Originally supposed to be held in 2020, due to the Coronavirus, the games were postponed until Summer of this year. But at the moment, it is not looking like Japan will be ready to hold the games in their original capacity. While vaccine is slated to be available as early as February, the virus will most likely still be a problem come July, so the IOC and the Japanese government are faced with the hard question on whether they are going to cancel the event or make concessions, such as holding the contests without spectators. In any case, Japan has invested a lot into this project, so holding the event without attendance, or worse, outright canceling the games would be a big financial blow to a country that is drowning in debt already.
Since the declaration of a new state of emergency, Japan has also temporarily halted immigration. Since yesterday (20th of January), no non-Japanese is allowed to enter the country for the time being. Even people who applied for a visa under the “Residence Track” scheme will not be allowed in. It’s unclear how long this will go on, but if you are outside of Japan, even if you already have residence status, you will not be able to return for a while. As a resident of Japan, I always find it scary how easily I could find myself locked out of the country that I call home. In other news, people who violate quarantine will be publicly announced. Not sure how it works legally, but I already see the articles about people losing their jobs due to being publicly shamed by the government. Foreigners who violate quarantine rules will also be liable to lose their residence status.
Hello everybody, it’s been awhile. Happy New Year! Frohes Neues Jahr! 明けましておめでとうございます！2021 is here, and in many respects not much has changed since 2020. But why should it, we are only about a week in after all. Todays post is more akin to an announcement, which is exciting, I always wanted to do one of those. I’ll also talk briefly about Corona.
First, I am going to start a new category about traveling to Japan. While the sites main focus is still going to be on working and living, not traveling, I am going to post the occasional article about travel to Japan as well. Frankly, I have a feeling that I am going to run out of things to write about at some point if I stick to only articles about working and living in Japan, so going forward I might diversify even further and write about all kinds of stuff.
For now though, the first new category will be about traveling to and around Japan. To be honest, not too much is decided yet, due to Corona you can’t travel to Japan anyway. But hopefully I’ll still be able to find something interesting to write about, and give you a bit of a virtual traveling experience, or help you stave of Corona-induced depression by planning your next travel once this is all over.
The Coronavirus in Japan
That brings me on to my next point, the current state of things in Japan. Since November last year, virus infections have been rapidly going up. This week Japan has been hitting numbers of over 6000 new infections multiple days in a row. The country had been fine for most of last year, but it looks like finally “shit is about to get real”, as it were. Starting from today, a state of emergency is in effect in Tokyo and the surrounding areas but measures taken to combat the virus appear to be somewhat toothless. Restaurants and bars have been requested to close at 8 p.m. and stop serving alcohol from 7 p.m., and companies have been requested to implement teleworking as much as possible and try to reduce people coming into the office by about 70%. But you have read correctly, those are merely requests and there are likely going to be many establishments and companies who will simply ignore them. I am skeptical whether these measures will be enough to prevent a further spread of the virus. In other countries like Germany, for example, restaurants and bars have been required to completely close shop since November and infection numbers have not been going down.
Anyways, I will be working from home for the foreseeable future. I will keep you posted about further developments in the Coronavirus situation in Japan. I hope that, now more than ever perhaps, there are at least some of you out there that enjoy my content and keep coming back for more information surrounding Japan. Stay safe everybody.