Wednesday, 31 December 2008

10 times better with Our Man

Oh, it's that special time of year, yes... amid the slow news days of the fag end of the year - which every news editor, local newspaper hack and tired blogger dreads - is a lifeline: The end of year list of top ten biggest/best/easily-compiled-so-we-can-nip-off-down-the-pub stories of the year. Well, would Our Man stoop to such an underhanded, unoriginal way to fill some virtual copy inches? You're darned tootin' he would. If it's good enough for the original Top Tenner David Letterman, above (er, shouldn't that read: "Moses" - Ed.), then it's good enough for Our Man. Here is Our Man's Top 10 list of, er, top 10 lists:

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

E is for Emperor

Our Man can't complete this sentence: Emperor (insert name here) deserves our respect because... How about a multiple choice answer? 

a) He lives in a big palace.
b) His dad had the job before him.
c) He is a Constitutional Monarch (that means we are not allowed to guillotine him) 
d) He looks and moves like a thunderbird puppet.

The correct answer's d), isn't it? The current incumbent (Thunderbird 2, let's call him) is Akihito, son of World War II emperor Hirohito (Thunderbird 1). Now, Thunderbird 2 is worried because Thunderbird 3, Prince what's-his-name-with-a-comedy-mustache-married-to-a-recluse, has only one son, and only sons can become emperors, and the Dad wants two boys (is he splitting heirs?). Or something. As more astute readers may be able to tell, Our Man is struggling to retain interest, but suffice to say the goings on at the Imperial Palace (which incidentally, if you run around it twice makes a lovely 10k-run through the centre of Tokyo) are carefully and respectfully documented by the press here. But won't be by Our Man. He's with the French when it comes to monarchy. Thunderbirds are go! But the constitutional monarchy is better than having a president, like say President Aso. True, but since the position is allegedly purely ceremonial, why not put a completely non-political person in there like that nice chap from SMAP or that ice skating celeb Mao-chan? That would make those black-van-driving ranters a lot less sinister.

OK, OK, for a proper look at the constitutional role of the emperor and what-not, click here

Monday, 29 December 2008

Another reason not to read the Japan Times

It seems Jun Okumura in his excellent GlobalTalk21 blog has the lowdown on trouble-at-mill at the Japan Times - GlobalTalk 21: Tokyo Confidential Is Officially Dead(?). Giving another reason not to subscribe to a newspaper, sadly. 

Beware, Canadians!

This week's choice for blog of the week (hey, only a day late, Our Man will have this Japanese punctuality thing nailed within a year or two) was a no-brainer. Our Man has already linked to the blog at least twice and ripped off the videos and stolen ideas from  it on numerous occasions, so it's about time he made an honest woman of her, getting a bit muddled up here... Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, gaijin and regular jin, Our Man presents... Fatblueman. Hey, that's not a political blog it's written by an ENGLISH TEACHER and he plays the guitar and sings (quite well, Our Man might add). Not political? Try this on for size:

It must be said, beware of Canadians. They too are well armed with irony, and know how to use it.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

D is for the Democratic Party of Japan

Our Man doesn't know a great deal about the Democratic Party of Japan (or much else for that matter) but here's what he does know:
  • They are not the LDP
  • Their parliamentary members comprise frustrated ex-LDP members.
  • They are at least as broad a church as the LDP with opinions ranging from conservative to liberal with a smattering of union bolshevism.
  • They are led by not-so-spritely-67-year-old Ichiro Ozawa who has a chronic heart condition. He is under doctor's orders to avoid stress and not to work after 3pm. Hmmm, an ideal candidate for prime minister?
  • And these guys are the best hope for democracy in Japan.
  • Yikes.


Saturday, 27 December 2008

G is for Gaijin

Want a fight? Bring up race and the word used in Japanese for "foreigner" - gaijin (pronounced guy-gin - as in Madonna's ex-, and Our Man's favourite tipple). Our Man's feeling for the Japanese language is about as finely tuned as an Austin Allegro, but for Debito, gaijin is akin to the word "nigger". For a scholarly approach to the linguistic ins and outs of the use of the term, click here. For a, how do you say, better explanation, watch the news report below from Fatblueman. What's Our Man's position on the whole gaijin-word-thing? Ooh, it's bullet time, readers:
  • It's not nice to be called a foreigner, but that's what Our Man is.
  • Real instances of racism in Japan are even less nice, but being called an outsider is not the same as having your face slashed with a Stanley knife.
  • Many of the folk who don't like being marked out as foreign ("Ick, I have to have carry a gaijin registration card... Oh, people think I smell/have big feet/no culture") should take a good look at their home countries. Living in Japan is the first experience for many white folk to feel that they are in a minority, that they don't belong. You think immigrants and their children in Britain, the USA or wherever don't have to face prejudice or jump through ridiculous bureaucratic hoops just to lead a normal life? Japan may be a pain in the backside sometimes, but it is no worse than where you come from.
  • Oh, and some of Our Man's best friends are gaijin.

Friday, 26 December 2008

You talk funny

What's with all the third person Our Man says this, Our Man says that? Can't you just say: I say this, I say that? Are you just a pompous stuck-up Brit with delusions of grandeur? What kind of a loon are you? Enough of the questions already. Here's the deal: There is no I in Our Man. Pompous? A little. Delusional? Absolutely. The kind of fellow who invents questions and answers - and then answers them himself - is not the kind of chap I'd like to sit next to on the bus. Don't sit then, stand. Stand with a blog that has a voice and an opinion and a nifty silhouette.

A loon on a bus.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Caption competition: Festive spin

It's Christmas Day, so Our Man will wish you all a merry 'un and offer this picture as his free gift to you. Well, there are strings attached. He couldn't come up with a good caption. Can you help out? The best he could think of was All the news that's printed to fit, without fear or flavour. Not very Christmassy. Can you do better? Anyway, Merry Christmas to all. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Work is the curse of the drinking classes

Nothing says Christmas like Karl Marx, don't you think? He even looks a little like Father Christmas though was a little more of a turgid writer and perhaps a little less generous than St Nick - although both would have approved of the giveaways governments are handing out right left and centre. Anyway, apparently he has been gaining a cult following over here in time for Christmas thanks to the sluggish economy and a new comic fictionalised version of his bestseller Das Kapital (Marx's 'Das Kapital' comic finds new fans in Japan). Great idea for a stocking filler for the Marxist who has everything... 

Our Man seeks Our Woman

Encouraged by an anonymous comment-leaver looking for "any blogs by chicks... especially on Japanese politics or foreign policy", Our Man has been scurrying through the back corridors of the internet to come up with some decent blogs on Japanese politics written by women (what's wrong with men? Plenty, no doubt). Anyway, while on this mission, Our Man (should that be Our Person?) found a post he/she/it somehow missed - The platypus and Japanese politics - which was great, but not written by a woman, as far as Our Person can ascertain. He/She/It also found an entertaining feminist site, where he/she/it nicked the picture from, but they don't appear to write about Japan. There is the excellent Nihon Sun written by Shane Sakata, who despite sounding like a Spaghetti Western actor, is in fact a woman, and more importantly, a good writer about Japan, especially for the non-Japan expert. Check out a recent post here - Nihon on the Net 12/21/08. There are, of course, hundreds of women blogging about Japan, a good one here - Narrative Disorder, but none that are primarily about Japanese politics (in English) that Our Man is aware of, but he would love to be corrected on that score. Got any worthy of adding to Our Man's blog roll?

Monday, 22 December 2008

Left a bit, right a bit

Where is Our Man on the political spectrum? He thought he was left of centre, a man who believes in social justice, but wants reasonably low taxes and telegenic leaders (this is called the third way, readers). But now he finds himself swayed by telegenic losers and promises of future hardship. Check this out, courtesy of Guido:

Of course, you could argue old Fred Thompson is a stooge for the Republican elite, but darn it, he does talk a lot of common sense. Mind you, Our Man has never been accused of having much of that. On reflection, Our Man is an extreme centrist, or more precisely, a marxist-capitalist-democratic-elitist individualist. And then some.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

It's not easy being green, er, or yellow

It's that time again (as on time as a Central Trains arrival into Birmingham New Street), yes it's BLOG OF THE WEEK. By the way, the thinking (such as it is) behind Stig of the Dump, er, Blog of the Week, is to open Our Man's eyes (OK, and his readers') to other, often better blogs. One such blog is Mutant frog Travelogue which not only has an excellent name, but is also broadly yellow, a colour quite unlike most straight-out-the-box WordPress or Blogger blogs. And it's politically colourful too.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Saturday night special

Just a quick note for anyone in need of a summary of the Japanese political scene, click on this here link right here. It will whisk you through the ether to an excellent round-up of the Japanese political scene  (is Our Man repeating himself?) on a blog Our Man can't spell at this late stage on a Saturday night. Anyway, it is written by the excellent Tobias Harris, and rare for him, this is a succinct piece, a genuine summary (OK, Our Man is repeating himself). Anyway, back to the egg nog. As you were, chaps.

Privacy, or public hypocrisy

Can it be true that a bunch of fellows from that group-oriented society known as Japan is standing up for the rights of the individual? Apparently so, as lawyers and professors from Sophia University have asked Google to remove images of Japanese street scenes from their Street View project to turn everything real into virtuality (or something like that) - Japanese group asks Google to stop map service. Apparently folk have complained because the views from the street included someone sunbathing and someone else visiting a strip club. Well, Our Man has this to say: POINT ONE if you don't want people to see you doing something in public - don't do it in public. POINT TWO: if it were the government filming the streets, Our Man would oppose it tooth and nail. But it's a company that is offering all its data to the public for free. The Government already has all the data it needs on us, how about evening the score for the little guys?

In other news:

Thursday, 18 December 2008

12 days of Christmas - the LDP mix

Inspired by Fatblueman's excellent song and video, Our Man has come up with a low-tech Christmas ditty of his own to explain the long-hoped-for spark of life that the demise of the LDP might bring the Japanese political system. Right, all sing along now, even you cynics at the back. You know the tune:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me...

An incompetent ruling party,

Two lame ducks,

Five golden shoe-ins

Six decades of kissing ass 
Seven samurai counting
Eight carmakers a wilting
Nine months left of the LDP

10 million readers sleeping
11 Skypers sniping
12 bloggers gloating

...and the end of the LDP.

Sole survivor (darn it)

Now, Our Man doesn't know about you, but he never tires of watching the video of Bush the Younger nearly being hit by a disgruntled Iraqi journalist's shoes. (The second shot came the closest). It's one of those "what if" moments in history Our Man likes to ponder - what if Kennedy had lived; what if Hitler had never lived, what if Neil Kinnock hadn't fallen on the beach. But as an interesting aside, while most fair-minded people in the world were implicitly or explicitly rooting for the shoe-flinger, here in Japan, the mainstream media's gut instinct to back the incumbent kicked in. Rather than praise the plucky Iraqi's audacity, the onus was on how skillful baby Bush was - Japanese media praises Bush’s reflexes. (And you can watch the video there again and again). More items to file under Only In Japan - Sarah Palin's favourite smoke and Something smells fishy (no, it's not fish, and it's not rude - it's foreigners of course) and The Least Festive Things to Do in Japan this Christmas. But let's not forget the festering LDP, with more evidence of trouble-at-mill in Political Japan awaits a black swan and Update on the LDP Dissenters; Plus, Why the DPJ Isn’t Winning. Of course, the shoe-flinging episode would never happen in Japan, where we all remove offensive footwear before going inside. House slippers just don't have the weight of leather.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Fourth estate crumbles

Our Man likes newspapers. They have given him a living in the United States, United Kingdom and lil' ol' Japan too. The very good ones (Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Independent, Financial Times, Washington Post, in his humble opinion) are great reads. And the ones that aren't so good are useful for litter trays for the cat and papier mache projects with the kids. So, it's with a heavy heart he hears of the near death experience of some genuinely great papers (Who will mourn local newspapers? - many thanks to Dr Datsun Kildare for the link). He can't quite join in the spirit of Jon Stewart... but he has hope that while most newspapers may die, journalism will not. Step up the virtual Tom Paines of this world. We need you now.

P.S. See this great link from Mutant Frog Travelogue On The Media on Kisha-clubs which explains the Japanese press lobby system and why the newspapers here are so dull and the weeklies so important. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Wise words

A belated Blog of the Week goes to a site that anyone interested in Japanese politics should paste into their favourites, right now. The blog is Shisaku, which had Our Man chortling over two particularly astute lines this week: 

Please call the election on Monday. I am sorry. Anything is better than this.


The Yomiuri Shimbun, the newspaper whose first impulse is to burst into embarrassing, slobbering applause for whatever the Liberal Democratic Party's current leadership is trying to foist upon the public.

Ho, ho, ho

In the spirit of goodwill to all men (and women, and boys and girls, young and old, fat and skinny, Democrat and Republican, yes we can), here's a jolly little video doing the rounds that Our Man is delighted to share with the world, care of Fatblueman (what can I say, it was a slow news day):

Compare the above, with the kind of anti-social antics drunken Englishmen can get up to, causing no end of grief to their Japanese hosts, and when it makes it to TV, to better behaved foreigners living here: Outrageously rude foreign tourists at Tsukiji fish market
Bah Humbug... and here is the rest of the news:

Monday, 15 December 2008

End of the road

In a very short while the world will come to view car manufacturers as no better than the tobacco industry.
Actually, in some ways, the tobacco pushers are better: since the 1970s it has been pretty clear their products are addictive, deadly and with no redeeming features. Only the foolish or self-interested could deny it.
Is that not the same of the automobile? Forget, for the moment, the massive number of deaths from traffic accidents every year; forget the addiction to oil that they have driven the world to; forget even the irreversible environmental destruction that their manufacture and daily use is wreaking; they have reshaped our cities and towns so that we cannot imagine living without them. Suburban living is impossible without them. Could you get to work, go to the shopping mall, pick up the kids, do the supermarket run, buy some made-in-China products from the DIY superstore on a Sunday without one? In short, could you live your life without your car?
The answer for many in urban Japan is "yes". There is excellent public transport (at least in the most populated places) which means that you really can live without one. (Our Man knows, he and his family of five have lived without one for 18 months, and counting).
The answer for the rest of the industrialised world though is "no". The American city, a role model for all the world's cities since World War II, does not work without the car.
Our Man doesn't want to get into discussions of whether we have hit peak production of oil - we either have or we haven't - but at some point in the near future we have to accept there will be no more of the black stuff to burn and we have nothing even remotely close to replacing it as a power source. And here's the point: Propping up the Big Three (or Big Three Stooges as Japan Without the Sugar calls them) would be a woolly mammoth waste of resources. By all means, pass the $14 billion to the auto industry - but spend the money on closing it down and retraining the redundant workers to do something worthwhile to a post-automobile world. Think Our Man's lost it? Why not ask someone from Michigan what he thinks: Senate to Middle Class: Drop Dead.

How to make friends and influence people, Aso style

Today's top political picks, concern a certain Japanese Prime Minister and his somewhat underwhelming ¥23 trillion pork barrel project (a trillion here, a trillion there and pretty soon you are talking about serious money) and his even more underwhelming way with words... Slouching towards irrelevance? and Aso not picky about who he insults. Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Style is Our Man's middle name

In one of his more lucid moments, Our Man thought: wouldn't it be nice to have an online stylebook for folk. All the best dressed news organs have one, you know. They help set the tone and educate staff and readers alike (lord knows Our Man could do with a bit of educatin' when it comes to the arcane ins and outs of the Japanese political system). The best stylebooks are actually a good read in themselves (honest). Then, in an even more lucid moment (think our man had one cup of green tea too many) he thought: that might be quite a bit of hard work. After a quick lie-down, Our Man concluded it could only be done piecemeal, not with a big old multi-billion-all-or-nothing-bailout-blowout so in vogue at the moment. Well, here's a first stab at the first entry... L is for LDP. Feel free to leave comments on any entry if you think Our Man has left out anything worthwhile, or written anything particularly erroneous. By the way, he might completely ignore you if he doesn't agree, but he's like that sometimes. Did you think this blog was a democracy?

L is for LDP

Just as the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman nor an empire, so too the Liberal Democratic Party is neither very liberal, democratic nor much of a party. Formed in a shotgun wedding between two former rival parties in 1955 to keep the socialists from power, the LDP is a factious, not very ideological mish-mash of a group broadly defined as pro-business, pro-US, anti-communist with a well-oiled political machine not above the odd briefcase stuffed with cash. The party has been in power almost continuously since its creation. See a duller, but more correct explanation of the LDP here from the US Library of Congress.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Won't you drive my car?

So, the US auto bailout plan has stalled thanks to a little self-interest from union-hating Republicans (Meet the GOP's wrecking crew). Our Man is in two minds about the whole bailout thing. Why should the tax-payer bailout an inefficient, gas-guzzling, planet destroying industry? On the other hand, if we allow it to fail, down goes America and there goes the global neighbourhood. Decisions, decisions. Meanwhile, why not take a little trip to the US without leaving Japan thanks to the always entertaining Adventures of a Foreign Salaryman in All your US Navy bases belong to us; also, Shisaku notes Americans paid in yen over here can celebrate feeling richer in Market Magic. What a consolation. By the way, the excellent moody picture above is from Abandoned Cars in Asakadai, not Detroit. Worth checking out. (The pictures, not Detroit).

On an unrelated note, the excellent What Japan Thinks has reproduced the Yahoo! JAPAN’s 20 most clicked-through headlines of 2008. None are political, and most are to do with dead celebs. Is that what Japan thinks?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Happy hour in hard times

Amid the gloom (Official Data and 6 More Indicators Say Japan Recession is Worse Than Thought) and particular worries for foreigners in Japan (Are You Prepared?), it's easy to get despondent. But Our Man will not go quietly into the night; when the times get tough, the tough get going, Caribbean Queen. Er, that is, it's time for a pep talk. Here's Our Man's Top 10* reasons to be cheerful:
  • It really does look like Japan is ready to ditch the LDP for the DPJ or just about anyone else.
  • Thanks to the downturn, we are unlikely to see any more of the Bush babies in the White House. Dear God, please.
  • The price of oil has gone down, wiping the smile off the faces of Putin and pals.
  • The legacy of Thatcher, Reagan and their bastard love children Koizumi, Blair and Merkel has to be reappraised downward. Remember, statesmen's stock can go down as well as up in value.
  • In a recession, there are fewer adverts ruining the enjoyment of your favourite telly programmes. Or newspapers. Or anything.

* In the interests of cost-cutting, this list has been downsized. But there is a free picture of Japan's man of the moment, Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Outlook overcast

Over the last few months, the good folk of Abiko had been quietly confident the global downturn wouldn't come to their neck of the woods. Sub-prime mortgage crisis? America's problem. Fall in the Tokyo Stock Exchange? It's OK, we don't own any shares. But in the last couple of weeks, the view from the shores of Teganuma has got a whole lot murkier. A (real) estate agent told Our Man her branch completed one sale in November - the target was six. The three salesmen now have to make do with two cars instead of three. All the talk is of cutbacks and closures. A salaryman working for a big Japanese machinery exporter based in Tokyo said sales were down 30 percent in November, year-on-year, and cancellations on future orders were matching any new sales. And he wasn't looking forward to his winter bonus.

Any good news? A luxury-car dealer said his company sold 16 Italian sports cars last week. His customers? Doctors and lawyers - they have admirably stepped up to the plate to replace his former customers, investment bankers at Lehman Brothers. There's some career advice in there somewhere. 

For more examples of the downturn, click here.

Shocked and awed

Our Man tries his best not to watch TV, but he just had to post this link, via the excellent MetaのTame site. Here's what happens when the mindless mentality of Japanese pop TV which passes for culture meets real history. Yes, we have idol TV's take on Adolf Hitler. Really. Our Man doesn't have the heart to link anywhere else today. Are you sitting comfortably, see it here (thanks to Japan Probe) and weep.

Finished watching? The clip raises a few questions. Off the top of Our Man's head:
  1. How clueless are the idols?
  2. How clueless are the producers?
  3. How ever will the History Channel compete?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Climb every mountain

One of Our Man's earliest memories is of listening to his gran warbling out Climb Every Mountain (or did he just remember the reel-to-reel tape of it?), while he was still in nappies. But the song is relevant to today as there are quite a few of the daunting peaks to conquer in Japan, not least a real one (above, in Mañana, Utsugi-dake, mañana), but also economically (Japan's GDP shrank more than first thought in second quarter, How Japan's lessons from the bubble count for nothingBrazilian ethnic school closing due to foreigner job cuts) and politically - Surprising political poll results in Japan showing the party's nearly over for the ruling party. There is always hope, however, as Japanese tend to make mountains out of molehills. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Language schools as political metaphor

Still having trouble figuring the difference between your LDPs and your LBWs; your New Komeitos and old Komeitos; and your Ozawas and your Obamas? Fear not, Our Man is here with another of his handy cut-out-and-keep guides to Japanese politics:

Awaiting the implosion with glee

So the smart money is now on not only the end of the Taro Aso era, but even of the crumbling of the LDP which has had its own way pretty much unchallenged since its formation half a century ago. Wherever you look, the numbers don't stack up well for Japan's answer to Gordon Brown (only without his charisma) or the LDP - in The fall, Observing Japan sees Aso completing his grandpa's wishes, though Even as LDP Loses DPJ Fails to Win… is a timely reminder that two-party politics is still a ways off.

While we await impatiently the spectacle of the implosion of the LDP, cheered along admirably in the Trans-Pacific radio podcast Armitage in Tokyo, Six Party Talks, and the Aso Premiership Under Siege, how about a little reminder that, much like every other country in the world, Japan is not overly fond of other places in How Japan views the outside world, although they used to be keener on other worlds (pictured above in Vintage alien landscapes by Kazuaki Saito). And, brother, if you can spare a dime or 450 of them to be exact, you could get yourself an Osaifu Saver personal finance RPG game from Takara Tomy to, er, help save you some loose change. And finally, amaze your friends with your knowledge of Japanese idioms with "Smells Like Water". Pass the whisky, Our Man says.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Late night at the Times?

Our Man nearly choked on his frosted flakes this morning... Now before getting into it it should be stated for the record that Our Man admits to making mistakes. He has a particular problem remembering which bear or bare is the right spelling, but tries not to confuse politicians' names. Seems the Japan Times has been confusing opposition leader DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa with a certain slightly more charismatic President-Elect. What's wrong with this paragraph on the front page of the Times this morning about falling approval rates of the Aso cabinet?
Ozawa was favored by 34.5 percent, up 10.1 points from the previous poll, while Aso was backed by 33.5 percent, down 17.5 percent. It was the first time Obama has finished on top since Aso became prime minister in September.
When rewriting copy from Kyodo, Approval rating for Aso's Cabinet falls into 'critical' level: poll, remember to read through the story before hitting the print button. Yes, we can.

Aso sees the light, briefly

Has Taro Aso had an epiphany and decided to woo the press? The Asahi puts it down to a good lunch, Suddenly, Aso's the reporter's best friend, while the excellent Global Talk21 still sees the gods turning against Aso (Framed by His Own Hands?) with the equally excellent Shisaku keeping the faith in Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. Other news in the LDP parish is Obuchi chosen as minister only because she has a child (and there was Our Man thinking it was because her dad was a former PM). Elsewhere, we have Debito on his chosen subject of discrimination against foreigners in Japan (Non-Japanese cause fish market to ban all tourists for a month) and a look at the dull art (or is it arty science?) of economics with a far from dull article on the tarnishing of the show home of Koizumi's reign, 2008: Roppongi Hills at Five; why the developing world is key to saving ourselves in Some unpleasant Keynesian arithmetic; trouble with loose change in My 20 Cents… and that rarety of poor service in Japan (At least they're trying...). And finally... just the headline alone is shocking to Our Man, seeing as how dull most papers are here: Over 70% of Japanese households have newspaper subscriptions. Enjoy.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Put the toys away (for a bit)

There's an awful lot of white noise on the web about Japan: nifty, but pointless technology; ultra-sexy dolls and asexual idols. Meanwhile, the powers that be continue to have things there own way; despite widespread dissatisfaction with the government and its latest inept leader, there are no barricades being thrown up around Narita Airport to demand leadership. Our Man is no conspiracy theorist, but while the country obsesses over the cult of kawaii and the latest Nintendo DS game for Christmas, the LDP can lurch from one self-induced crisis to another, safe in the knowledge that apathy is the best form of defence. Our Man says: it's time to put away the toys for a bit and open our eyes. What should we look at? We could do a lot worse than start with a quick shufty at Japan Without the Sugar, which Our Man is happy to name as Blog of the Week for its consistent willingness to buck the trend, kick those deserving a good kicking and - get this - talk about politics in an engaging way. Whatever will they think of next?

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Flushing out the truth

About time, Our Man thought seeing a six-page special on Thailand in Thursday's Japan Times.
Finally, a chance to get some in-depth understanding of what's going on in the troubled land of milk and green curry. Er, think again. The headlines were even more bland and sycophantic than usual. "Staying on course," was the lead. Hmmm. Skip to the back page. "A history of greatness" and "Sophisticated logistics solutions at every level."
Headlines with no verbs? Duller than a stage-managed interview with a Japanese Prime Minister? Typefaces all funky looking? Oh, it's an advertorial. This word derives from the latin "ad" (pile of) "ver" (steaming) and "torial" (crap). We all know times are tough for the fourth estate, but are the folks at the paper so short of cash and so contemptuous of their readers that they would pass this turgid piece of PR off as journalism?
And Our Man thought there was something a little more interesting going on in Thailand at the moment than suggested by the headline "Staying on course." 

Still, Our Man believes in recycling and has found a perfect use for the pullout: 

Friday, 5 December 2008

Thematically challenged

Not sure if today's briefing has an overriding theme (sometimes even Our Man can't make reality stand in an orderly queue), but here are some suggestions:

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Lost and found

Our Man is quite used to being lost. In fact, he's made a career out of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, most notably as a cub reporter nipping out for a fag (in the British sense of the word) while covering President Bill Clinton's first speech of 1994, me thinks. While outside (Our Man did inhale), he completely missed the Prez and First Lady glad-handing everyone including his editor back in the building. Ah, the glory days of nicotine addiction. Anyway, Our Man is gratified to find others in his adopted home can get equally lost, with or without a Complicated map (pictured above). The excellent Observing Japan has more analysis of the LDP losing its way under Conservatives, Clientelists, and Koizumians and there's more evidence of the traditional media losing their grip (Japanese print media in crisis and Japan Times censors article about Soka Gakkai). Interestingly though, new media has its fair share of problems (Social Not Working? and Blog usage habits in Japan). Then there are the lost in translation posts worth a perusal (“Get Your Picture Taken with F*cking Angels” and Worst Place for a Christmas Party), although RDV knows a thing or two about how to say "to google" in Japanese (guGUttara?). But I'll leave the final word to a fellow Britisher's article I read in a newspaper (remember those?) - Moving back to socialism? - which valiantly defends pragmatists against ideologues. Moderation in all things, as Our Man's mother used to say.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

All aboard the Abiko super express

There's a definite train theme to today's briefing. As well as the helpful public information about where's best to lie inebriated from one end-of-year party too many (Japanese lubrication lenience?) - something Our Man would never countenance - there's one chap's vision of hell involving trains (A philosophical Essay: What is hell?). Our Man's would be riding in the carriage pictured above (Decorated trains in Japan). In addition, there are various examples of the LDP and country heading off the rails (The center cannot holdObama's choice of diplomatic team worries JapanMore Thoughts on the Immediate Future of the LDP) as well as the wit and wisdom of a disgraced Self-Defence Force general (Tamogami says he would nuke AmericaLet 100 flowers bloom). These last posts have nothing to do with trains, and neither does the final recommendation, Misconceptions, however, it carries the essential warning: don't believe everything you read. You read it here first, folks.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Joy to the world

Many thanks to Shisaku's post Joy in Mudville, which had Our Man ready to call out the Abiko Imperial Navy (pictured above) to defend the honour of the city, until his somewhat addled mind realised the headline didn't refer to the nearby formerly putrid lake, but the schadenfreude of the last post. Anyway, much obliged for the recommendation, the plug has firmly launched OMIA into the stratospheric heights of triple-digit visitor numbers.  

Consensus politics: Time's up for Aso

Monday, 1 December 2008

Comparatively speaking...

Our Man does like a spot of comparative politics, let's compare some notable world leaders. How about Kim Jong Il, illustrious beloved father of North Korea, and, er, Taro Aso, Prime Minister of Japan. Hmm, so much to consider. Here's a handy cut-out-and-keep table to help:


You get the idea... (with thanks to Guido Fawkes for the inspiration).

Bargain-killers, poll-cheaters and dead lovers