Saturday, 31 January 2009

Why use four words when 90 will do?

Hey folks, has Our Man got a treat for you. Not only has he got a doozy of a blog of the week here, but he's also a day ahead of deadline - and that's important in a country where turning up for a meeting only five minutes early is considered being late... what the...oh yeah, anyways, click on the winner right here. Now, Our Man enjoys the eclectic mix of opinions on the blog and he enjoys even more its obnoxiously cumbersome name, but most of all, he likee aloto that it was recommended by an anonymous agent provocateur. The name of the blog? Why, it's:

RECONCILIATION BETWEEN CHINA AND JAPAN and the 
COOPERATIVE SECURITY NETWORK

BEGUN WITH AN INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON RECONCILIATION BETWEEN JAPAN AND CHINA AT THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY IN AUGUST 2006, THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS IN THE RESEARCH SCHOOL OF PACIFIC AND ASIAN STUDIES IS HOSTING AN INTERNATIONAL NETWORK TO ENCOURAGE RECONCILIATION AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF COOPERATIVE-SECURITY INSTITUTIONS IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION. THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG IS TO INVITE DISCUSSION AND DEBATE ABOUT THE BEST WAYS TO ACHIEVE THESE OBJECTIVES. WE WELCOME YOUR POSTS AND COMMENTS.

Catchy, huh?

There's liberals and then there's liberals



While Our Man mulls his bid (that's newspaper speak meaning sits on his arse) for public office, he just had to put a quick link in here to an entertaining rant on fuckedgaijin (above) against the LDP - Is Jiminto getting its ass kicked next election - not because of any great political insight, but because the ranter used the logo for the British Liberal Democrats - a far less obnoxious party than the LDP, methinks. Liberal is such a misunderstood term, eh readers? 

Friday, 30 January 2009

Our Man for parliament?



Well, the comments on the last post have got Our Man thinking (always a dangerous activity). If you're such a smarty pants, why don't you show the bums how to run the country? All Our Man needs is an issue to galvanise public opinion (er, the economy?), a loudspeaker van and a pair of white gloves, and he's away! Well, while Our Man bounces the idea of running for parliament (yeah it's called the Diet in English, but that's just plain silly) around in the empty skull of his, why not check out these morsels about his potential opponent - Aso speaks to Obama (but he wasn't first, boo hoo) and Obama vs. Aso (a great translation of how Japanese bloggers see the contrast between Aso and Obama). All Our Man needs now is a platform. Got any policies he could borrow?

Thursday, 29 January 2009

So, what year was it again?

Here are your options:

  • If you think - the old order is decaying and folk are unemployed, hungry and willing to try any new system that promises an equitable share of the goodies - it's 1919*.
  • If you think - the world is united against an unpopular, unwinnable foreign war and the students are revolting (so what else is new?) - it's 1969*.
  • If you think - folk have had enough of a self-serving political elite whose promise of borscht and a potato in every pot just doesn't cut it any more, why comrade - it's 1989.
  • All of the above? Hey, it must be 2009. Da! Groovy! Gut! Yatta!

Answers on a postcard please. Anyway, here's the rest of the news printed to fit (with commentary by Yours Truly):



* Yeah, OK, it should have been 1917 and 1968, but it looks niftier if everything ends in a 9. This is called intelligent design.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Free shot of Mount Fuji for every reader



Allow Our Man to offer a little breather between posts of fighting in the streets, lest the impressionable might think Our Man has it in for Japan. When he sees shots like this, it reminds Our Man there is even more to life here than swanky robots, crowded commuter trains and inept politicians. Better still, click on this here link and see more full-size stunning pictures and prose by a chap far too talented to be doing this for free.

F is for freeter

One of those cool English-but-not-quite words that has entered the Japanese lexicon (a lexicon is like a Toyota but with more legroom) is freeter, which Our Man understands to mean temporary worker, ie not an indentured corporate slave. In times of plenty (a couple of months back) the freeter could flit between crappy jobs without a care in the world - sort of like the Generation Xer in the West. The freeter was viewed by the rest of the indentured slaves, er, corporate warrior salarymen, negatively - as childishly not taking the role of breadwinner. But in harder times, the freedom of the freeter is a double-edged sword as companies cut freeters (and foreigners) first. This has political implications. Here's what happened when some freeters organised to try to march to the multi-millionaire pad of PM Taro Aso (remember him?) back in October to complain about their lot in life:



They didn't get very far. This time.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Out of touch, out of time




Laid-off hotel workers clash with police

Check out the above video and link to a TV report about what happened on Sunday when rumours spread of the imminent closure of a hotel in central Tokyo - police had to seize the place from staff desperate to keep working there. Seems like an awful lot of staff for one hotel, and how did the TV cameras get inside the place before it all kicked off? But no matter. There are some uncomfortable questions for Our Glorious leaders to answer, allow Our Man to summarise:

  • The LDP can no longer rely on the public's long encouraged political apathy. Do these folks look apathetic to you?

  • Do you really think these folk will be fooled by a ¥12,000 (100 quid) bribe to vote for you?

  • Don't you think you should admit business as usual ain't gonna do it this time?

  • Haven't you heard? The secret's out. You are not worthy of the people's trust.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Clear and present danger

It's time Abiko woke up to the threat of amphibian attack by North Korean agents. Our Man has EXCLUSIVE VIDEO EVIDENCE of an invasion underway by THREE landing craft at dawn:

Add Image

When will the pacifists at Abiko HQ wake up to the clear and present danger of dawn abductions of the city's fish by Communist infiltrators? The surface fleet of the Abiko Maritime Self-Defence Force (pictured here during peacetime manoeuvres), even to this day, has NO NIGHT CAPABILITY to repel the enemy. 

What a load of rubbish


Our Woman returned from a day in Tokyo brandishing a surprise for Our Man. Sadly, it wasn't a morsel of overpriced Leicester cheese, it was a copy of the Daily Yomiuri. For those not in the know, the DY is the (more or less) English language version of the world's best selling newspaper (if you believe what you read in papers) - the Yomiuri Shimbun. A few factoids for you folks:

  • Yomiuri is a combination of yomi (meaning read) and uri (meaning sell). This apparently is a very clever name for a newspaper.
  • The gaijin editorial staff at the paper refer to it with the more accurate name Daily Gomiuri (from gomi meaning rubbish).
  • The Japanese Yomiuri claims a circulation of 10 million, but, like quoted circulation figures the world over, you should divide that number by at least three. The genuine readership figures for the English language DY (stripping out library copies, freebies given out at seminars like Our Woman attended, and, er, airport lounges) are a closely guarded secret, but are probably a couple of hundred.
Anyway, yesterday's Gomiuri was full of the usual crap - a none-too-subtle blend of arse-licking for the LDP, turgidly written articles, shite headlines (the front page lead was Govt to make greater use of remote isles and the "news" that begs the questions: a) How old is this story? and b) who gives a f**k anyway? Case in point - on the front page was "Nye tipped to be next US ambassador" - a story of only limited interest, as Jun Okumura points out, ever since the role of ambassador has largely been replaced by the telephone. Besides, J-bloggers had nailed the story and sucked it dry circa January 9th.

It all makes even turgid editions of the Japan Times look positively sparkling. Shame they wouldn't do this, though.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Journey to the centre of the Earth



There's only one thing Our Man likes more than milk in his tea, and that's a damned good cup of coffee. Where better than from Lancemento Coffee, his local bean emporium? (Not the world's best website, but damned good coffee - try the baru-mountain blend) Anyway, while waiting for the master to grind the beans, Our Man spied this map on the wall. It's the world, from the Japanese perspective (with a few added yellow flags for where the coffee beans come from). It was a jolt to the system to see Abiko, not Greenwich, at the centre of the world. When in Abiko, do as the Abikans, as they say.

Hanging haphazardly from the walls are fraying hemp coffee sacks from Papua New Guinea, Jamaica and Costa Rica; and not-so glorious techni-colour shots of the proprietor as a young man in Brazil. Morimoto-san, opened the shop after spending years dissatisfied as a salaryman in Tokyo. Our Man asked him whether he had made the right decision to jack in his well-paying job and pursue his love of coffee.
"Too early to say."
Oh, when did you open the shop?
"Nine years ago."

Speaking of maps, take a gander at Our Man's bid for global domination (down there on the left, in the broom cupboard). He's seeing red, all over the place.

America in 2012: The view from the day before the day before yesterday

Our Man had so much fun gazing into his crystal balls the last time, he's given them another rub. Here are his predictions for the Obama administration. Check back in four years and be amazed at how right he was (normal Nostrodamusuvian rules apply). Ahh, he's getting something now...


  • The Obama-love-fest will end when Mercury enters Uranus (or the Congressional elections in 2010, whichever comes first.
  • The lefty intelligentsia will slag Obama (correctly) for being way too centrist, but nobody will pay them the slightest bit of attention, because:
  • Multi-millionaire media moguls will say he has turned the land of the free into the United Soviet Socialist States of America.
  • Bi-partisanship won't actually work all that well.
  • He'll get into a foreign policy adventure that will end badly.



  • He'll be brought down in "Air Force One Duty-Free-Gate".
  • America will run out of gas and we'll all be reliant on Chinese dumplings for fuel.
  • Obama will do just enough to make the world safe again for the laissez faire mob to mess it all up. Jeb Bush 2012 anyone?

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Inefficiency is the way forward

People had to ration in the austerity years after World War Two

Our Man is seriously confused. If he accepts the formula of the last 30 years - you know, the market knows best+private=efficient vs government knows Jack/public = red tape - then he should turn to the market to get us out of this mess. Hmmm. Well, left to itself the market turned banks into casinos and citizens into gamblers betting all on black - but lady luck plumped for red. OK, so the market can't make our dreams come true now. Can the future really be secured by mortgaging ourselves to the hilt to build more bridges and murals and such? Our Man doesn't want to wait for a world war to regenerate the global economy. Our Man's not sure where to look for answers, but he suspects Japan is a good place to start. He thinks any residual strength of the Japanese economy comes from its formerly inflexible labour market. Remember the far-from-free-market idea of jobs for life? Remove the fear of unemployment from enough folk and they'll happily spend their money to keep the economy afloat. Turn every worker into a super-efficient streamlined free agent - and they are stuffing their futons with cash for fear of the karate chop. As Japan is discovering now.

While Our Man goes looking for any loose change in his sofa, why not try these ideas to while away the time. Who says austerity has to be, er, dull:

Friday, 23 January 2009

Night the of post last

Our Man's a bit tired tonight, so he's gone a bit off-topic here. (What? a post with no reference to Obama in it?) Anyway, you'll find an amusing approach to learning Japanese, more evidence of sloppy thinking at LDP HQ, a bit of injustice, a little international piracy (about the only growth industry in the world today) problems in the J-office and a good piece of satire Our Man missed taking the piss out of BBC reporting of Japan. Goodnight, Jun-boy. 



Thursday, 22 January 2009

My fellow Americans...

Are you getting a bit tired of the wall-to-wall Obama coverage? Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Yes, it's a generate-your-own Obama speech. Here's Our Man's first effort, can you do better? (idea lifted lock, stock and two smoking barrels from Devil's Kitchen): 

My fellow Americans, today is a groovy day. You have shown the world that "hope" is not just another word for "America", and that "change" is not only something we can believe in again, but something we can actually inspire. 

Today we celebrate, but let there be no mistake – America faces big and fat challenges like never before. Our economy is cheesy. Americans can barely afford their mortgages, let alone have enough money left over for politicians. Our healthcare system is sleepy. If your wrist is sick and you don't have insurance, you might as well call a journalist. And America's image overseas is tarnished like a sausage brief case. But yodelling together we can right this ship, and set a course for Abiko.

Finally, I must thank my green family, my friendly campaign volunteers, but most of all, I want to thank Japanese for making this historic occasion possible. Of course, I must also thank you, President Bush, for years of eating the American people. Without your threadbare efforts, none of this would have been possible.



Pick up a penguin


What with the all the goings on in DC, Our Man completely forgot about goings on closer to home, namely blog of the week (even better than soup of the day), where he can point readers in the right direction (and maybe get the odd reciprocal hit or two back (what Our Man giveth with one hand, he taketh with two grasping fists, that's the Way of the Blogger, don't you know) when, darn it, Our Man was beaten to it, by a Penguin, no less. Yes, the modestly titled Japan. A blog. By a Penguin. linked to Our Man first. Well, fair dinkum, Our Man appreciates the hits, and more importantly, he had a good old-fashioned chortle at the penguin's posts. Our Penguin doesn't appear to blog about politics much, but Our Man likes his style, and gives heartfull communication to him (that was a very clever joke because, er, just click on the link, OK?) and is happy to recommend him to all who wish to sail upon him. And yes, that absurdly small picture is a penguin thermos flask.

Why the Japanese love Obama

So how's Obama's coronation playing in Japan? The lunchtime talk-shows were full of cooing over Michelle Obama's dresses, and the news had reports of unemployed Japanese shelling out for hastily produced CDs of his speech to motivate themselves (my friends, you can watch it here for free). Most Japanese are envious that America has a charismatic boss who looks like he means to do something about the sagging family business, with the obvious contrast to Our Beloved Leader, er, what's-his-name. Japan is lumbered with a dysfunctional ruling party, a dysfunctional opposition, a stifling bureaucracy, a crumbling economy and no-one stepping up with the wherewithal to clean up the mess. Of course Obama's playing well here. He's Japan's only hope.

Anyway, here's how other J-bloggers see it:


Finally, an action doll for our times
Memo to Japan: Blackface is not such a good idea
Obama good, Bush bad
I wanna look like him, talk like him
Conservatives humbled - lessons for Japan

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

One more time

So, there it was. Our Man enjoyed the inauguration speech, and the booing of George W. Did you miss the speech? Here it is in two parts (but it misses the garbled Oath of Office). Will Obama end up being  another let-down like Blair, full of good words, but ultimately disappointing? Probably, but here's hoping otherwise...




Obama's speech - live right here folks

Don't have a telly, but want to see what all the fuss is about over there in Washington DC? Check this out (and it's commercial free too). The show starts at 2am Central Abiko Time (that's High Noon in DC or about teatime in Blighty), but the talking heads are already, er, talking. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Good riddance Bush - the video game

Goodbye Mr. Bush
Bush goes away from the White House... Tell him goodbye YOUR WAY (throwing boots, eggs, daisies or candies) This is a multi-highscore and cumulative-score game!

Same old change

A worker checks face rubber masks modeled after President-elect Barack Obama in Saitama Prefecture. (Mainichi)

In the clamour for change and all that the Coronation of the new Emperor, er, inaugur-whatsit of the president has ushered in, there sure seems to be a lot of the same old let's-cash-in-on-Obama going on, even over here. A quick round-up is in order:


Part of this, of course, is the me-too-ism of the media (Dag-nab-it, America's got the big story, what have we got? A picture of naff Obama cack? Run with it!) Just like Our Man ran the other day? How do you plead, Our Man? Guilty, m'lud. Hard to justify the Obama magic show though.

Political balls (of the crystal variety)

Sorry about the late posting (and on this of all days), so you folks in America will be going to bed without the benefit of a nightcap from Our Man (assuming you can sleep, what with the coronation and all in a couple of hours), but Our Woman had to use the computer for tax returns, which you can appreciate, takes precedence over even the new President (dang, that was clever). Anway, it struck Our Man that he hasn't made any predictions for the New Year in Japanese politics. Taking a leaf from Nostrodamus's playbook, Our Man has gazed long and hard into his crystal balls and concluded it's time to make some absurdly vague predictions that could be interpreted as coming true, some obvious truisms not worth predicting, and a few wild predictions, that if in the million-to-one chance they do happen, he can hark back to them and show the world just what a smart cookie he was. Right, have you dimmed the lights and got your ouija boards working? Here goes:
  • 2009 will be a year in flux.
  • There will be an election in 2009.
  • The next prime minister will be more popular than Aso.
  • The next prime minister will quit for health reasons.
  • A woman will save Japan.
  • The economy will get worse, before it gets better.
  • Our Man will become a famous-in-Japan-only rock singer and get his own spot on several of those inane quiz shows where he can hang out with skinny women and remark on how intelligent rabbits are.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Pantomime politics and lame welcomes

Oh, you might have missed it (Our Man did, ahem) but the two main parties over here, Tweedle Dee and, er, no wait a minute, the LDP and the DPJ held party conventions yesterday, in which, wait for it, the opposition DPJ said "We're gonna win the next election" (due by September) and the LDP said "Oh, no you're not." But they will, hence the curiously lame welcoming message for Obama, as if the LDP don't really think they will be around to have much to do with  him and Hills. Here's that lame message in full (lifted from the Japan Times here):

"In the U.S., the new Obama administration will be formed," the statement adopted at the convention says. "We will strengthen Japan-U.S. relations even more, and cooperate on various issues, including the economy, finance and defense."

Wow, tell it like it is, cooperate on those various issues, baby!

Fond farewell

You might not be aware, but change is in the air. Yep, this is the last day the rest of the world can feel superior to Americans by virtue of who's in the White House. Now, it's customary for satirists to comment that they are sad to see the back of (insert name of politician who has overstayed his welcome here) because he was such an easy target for humour. Not Our Man. Good riddance Bush the Younger. Well, OK, mind if Our Man posts just one easy-target-for-humour video? (Lifted from the Huffington Post).



Want to see something as equally ridiculous, but about Japan - try reading Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people, then go to Debito for the rebuttal that it deserves (with some excellent comments too). Hey, what are the chances of a Japanese Obama? Fuckedgaijin found the answer in "Those people" (which links to the NYT article about homegrown traditional Japanese discrimination against their own). Think the answer is "Not in this lifetime, bud."

Sunday, 18 January 2009

What a ball, what a ball


Our Man made it back in one piece from the 2009 Tokyo bloggers' ball held in that hotbed of youthful abandon, Shibuya, though with a slightly sore head. Our Man had a chance to listen to some learned political gossip and even picked up some technical jargon (he learnt that a Twitter is not the same as a twitcher). How would you explain the night if you had to give a powerpoint demonstration? Why, like this:

  • Some real smart cookies were there. You could have had a boat race up the Edogawa with the number of Ivy League-Oxbridge grads in the room.
  • You could fit the great and the good (and the ugly) of the Japan English blogging world in one pub. And what a pub it was - the Pink Cow. Check it out here.
  • Our Man had a sore neck (literally) from looking up to (literally) some of the folk there. If a boat race wasn't on, we could have made quite a formidable basketball team. Tokyo bloggers are tall folk (literally).
  • Our Man didn't get to talk to everyone there, but he did bump into a couple of Economist journos, a news editor who blogs about cats, and the Malaysian foreign minister (Our Man thinks, his memory is getting a bit foggy).
  • Our Man had great pleasure in buying young master Tobias Harris a bottle of Kirin, and had a delightful chat with Jun Okumura, and would have bought him a glass of wine, had he needed any more of the truth serum.

Many thanks to Ken of Trans-Pacific Radio for pulling it all together. The highlight for Our Man? He got a hug off Traci, proprietoress extraordinariness of the Pink Cow. 

Truth, justice and the Rumpolian way

John Mortimer

Another loss to the world this week. John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey died on Friday. Consider this, members of the jury, e-mailed in from a fellow agent provocateur:

As John Mortimer died today (aged 85), here’s a story he told from his days as a barrister:

A female witness was asked what the accused had said to her. ‘Can’t possibly say, m’lud, it’s too disgusting.’ The judge took a piece of paper and asked her to write the offending words down. ‘Do you want a screw?’ was what he read. He handed the paper to the jury, each member of which read it and passed it on. A somewhat elderly jury member was dozing when his neighbour, an attractive female, nudged him and passed him the piece of paper. He read it with surprise and pleasure and was about to put it in his wallet when the judge said, ‘Pass me that paper.’ ‘It’s a purely private matter, m’lud,’ replied the man.

You're not in Abiko anymore...

Lifted from Kirainet.com - A geek in Japan is the following great time-lapse thingy of the jewel in the crown of Japan - no, not Mount Fuji silly... Tokyo.


Saturday, 17 January 2009

Your patriotic duty - shag an immigrant today

So, what is to be done about the dying economy? The Wall Street Journal says, spend baby spend: The Truth About the Japanese Stimulus. Meanwhile, the Spectator cautions Obama (Japan's older brother) not to spend, lest he turns into the dreaded Tony Blair:


What's Our Man's position on this? Well, we could do worse than start with the missionary position. There is growing evidence that to save Japan, not only must we shop like there is no tomorrow, but we must open the floodgates to new immigrants and shag like bunnies (One New Year's Resolution Japan Badly Needs). Now there's a platform Our Man can get behind. Lie back, Olga, and think of the economy.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Change that Japan can't quite picture

Our Man is all for Obama. He likes the fact that he's the first left(ish), black(ish), intellectual(ish) president (maybe) and can speak real good too (sorry, flashback to Our Man's Arkansan days when the expression You think your shit don't stink? passed for after dinner repartee). There's just one problem. Hmmm. How to put this delicately. Er, Japanese aren't up to their usual high standard of artistic excellence when it comes to picturing a personage of Africanage heritage. That is to say, Our Man is not alleging any racial slur or anything, just that, well, the trinkets, pictures, souvenir T-shirts etc, look... well... CRAP. Can't this nation of brushstroke-counters do better? 

Consider, gentlepersons of the jury, Exhibit A, when a town called Obama suddenly found itself newsworthy:


(lifted from here)

or Exhibit B (behind the woman flogging stays at her hotel):

(lifted from here)

or Exhibit C, advertising a pachinko parlour:

42-19639083 by nonprophet.
(lifted from nonprophet)
A load of rubbish, Our Man thinks you'll agree (the last one wasn't that bad though). Seen any funny ones Our Man could hang on the back of his loo door?

Thursday, 15 January 2009

I am not a number

The Marxists had Che Guevare to decorate their student digs, liberals had this fella:



R.I.P. Patrick McGoohan.

Care of Guido

You say you want a revolution...

HisMastersVoiceSign.jpg

Here are a few bits and bobs to keep you busy until Our Man can find his groove again.
A bit of old school politics: Prime Minister Aso doesn’t want to get it
Age old problems of office romances in Beware of ‘Ugly Betty’
An unlikely defection in Viva La Revolucion!
And some, er, just darned good writing in Diplomacy: Ur Doing it Rong.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Losing it

Our Man's usually a pretty easy-going guy with an if-in-doubt, leave-it-out, leave-it-be approach to life; a libertarian if you are looking for a label. Usually, but not today. Today, Our Man is pissed off. Today, he lost a friend to cancer. We say "lost" and talk of heroically "losing the battle" as if it were a fair fight. Our Man sees nothing fair in a woman reduced  to a gibbering wreck, half her weight, in so much pain that her last days were spent in a fog of morphine, unable to recognise her own sons. From perfect health to a painful death in eight months.

She was a smoker.

Ahh, it's a shame but it was her own fault, the more callous might say. Maybe so. She made a bad choice (if starting when you are young and foolish and remaining addicted is a choice), but she paid with her life. What's the Japanese government's excuse? Until 1985 they owned Japan Tobacco and today they still own 50 percent, and resist pressure to tax fags more. You can check the figures and make your own mind up about Japan Tobacco and the government. 

Our Man has made his mind up. Rest in Peace, Miyano-san. Rot in Hell, Japan Tobacco, and all your stinking friends.

T is for tobacco



1,122,200,000,000
 - Value in yen of Japan Tobacco's fag sales here last year
300 - the cost in yen of a pack of 20
66 - Japan Tobacco's percentage share of the domestic market
63 - percent of tax on a pack
50 - percent of the company owned by the government
33 - percentage of Japanese who smoke (50% men, 13.7% women)
1 - Lung cancer's ranking as a cause of death in Japan  (that's 103,152 people a year).

Figures from here and here and here.

Vacuums and such

Oh, before you have your nightcap (or hair of the dog, or liquid lunch, depending on which time zone you're in) Our Man saw a couple of good political pieces - the first is a long un, but good un on the power vacuum at the very top over here, and the second is a good rebuke to Our Beloved leader's somewhat mangled view of the protestant work ethic. Finished reading? Back to the mines everyone! 

Monday, 12 January 2009

Political animals



It's hard to keep track of them all, but today is a national holiday in Japan. In fact, despite the image in the West of an always-working, no-time-to-chill kind of country, Japan has more national holidays than the US (that wouldn't be hard, it has to be said) and the UK put together. Probably. Our Man can count 16 holidays on his Yomiuri-Disney calendar this year, excluding the end-of-year shutdown. There's a national holiday just about every month and sometimes three. Anyway, this month it's, er, Sea Life Day? No, that's in July... Boys-are-better-than-girls-day? No that's in May. Ahh, got it, it's Coming of Age Day, when the nation celebrates adolescents turning 20, the age when they can officially not vote and buy fags and booze instead. Our Man will be celebrating by taking his little monkeys to Ueno Zoo, so who can you trust to keep a wary eye on the state of the Japanese state while his back is turned? Fear not, this week's BLOG OF THE WEEK  - GlobalTalk21 - is more than capable of the task. And let's be honest, if you want to know who's moving and who's shaking their body politic, all you really need is a RSS feed to the panda, elephant and gorilla of the blogging zoo - GlobalTalk21, Observing Japan and Shisaku. Though, it's fun to visit Our Man in the monkey house, but watch out, he likes throwing poop at the gawpers.

Odd sign picture from an equally odd (but good) blog - Signs from all over the world.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Exciting new exciting things

The more observant of you out there might have noticed Our Man's been tinkering with the blog. Exciting additions for the New Year include:

  • A nice little quote of the day thingy somewhere down there on the right hand side.
  • A world map cluster thingy on the left which will chart Our Man's bid for world domination (no stats in yet. Hey, Abiko wasn't built in a day you know).
  • A whole gaggle of links to interesting blogs and whatnot including here, and here and here.

Is that it? For the moment, yes. Exciting, huh?

Who was that feisty older chap by the wayside?

Spend any amount of time in the country and you can't help but see posters like this of Our Beloved Leader proclaiming: "First, the business climate" (if Our Man's code-breaking unit has the right cypher). Chris, in between scaling some impossible mountains around the country and taking some incredible photos to give us a peek at the peaks (see what Our Man did there?) kindly e-mailed in the picture above with a plea to readers: If it's FIRST THE ECONOMY, what on earth is NEXT? Good question. Answers on a virtual postcard please (every correct answer out of the hat will receive a free subscription to Our Man in Abiko and a week's voluntary work in his family tin mine). As a free bonus, here are some other poster-pols strutting their stuff:
  
This is a famous "guts pose" from a DPJ-pol in Kamakura. Menacing, huh?


Ohmigod. A woman. Are they allowed to vote too?

Ah, there's that older chap Aso and, wait, a member of the LDP youth wing, they're still loyal. The Reich will last a thousand more years!   

Wow, how inspiring. But a part of Our Man still thinks America does political posters better:


Saturday, 10 January 2009

Is that a Kondratieff (Kondratiev) phase or are you just pleased to see me?

Our Man had a chance while waiting for his Friday night pizza to arrive to read a good academic piece called Capitalism's Demise? (Our Man knows how to party) which conformed to the iron-clad newspaper rule that the answer to any question in a headline is "No, stupid!" (Will we be living on the moon in 2030? Is Putin the new Stallone? Can Aso save the LDP?) Anyway, despite some bamboozling jargon - apparently we are up to our knees in a Kondratieff (Kondratiev) phase and (Our Man's favourite) we are having a lot of problems with political cleavage (chance would be a fine thing), this is what Our Man could figure out from the boffins:

  • Capitalism ain't about to collapse, it just feels that way. It's not a crisis, just a recession or maybe a depression, you'll be relieved to know.
  • The dollar is toast as the world currency.
  • The poor white trash and inner-city blacks who provide the backbone of Uncle Sam's military mission to spread freedom to the oil-producing parts of the world have had enough of being cannon fodder and don't want to play global cops no more.
  • Once the world realises America's military has had enough, and the buck can't buy what it used to, all bets are off.

Hmmm. Looking pretty bleak for the old New World Order. Never mind, let's have an in-depth look at that political cleavage problem: 



(image lifted from here).

Friday, 9 January 2009

Up the creek without a payout



So, what to do about stimulatin' the economy? (Apparently, that's something of an issue at the minute). GlobalTalk21 has some sage advice here: What to Do with the Two Trillion. Ooh, I know, how about spending it on some more concrete? (Tranquil time out #39). Japan certainly needs the kind of political leadership in evidence at its corporations (Inspiring the troops!). Oh, and brother, can you spare $184,000 in annual fees? (Japan Recession Results in Closing of Hakusan Golf Course). Meanwhile, the countryside wilts. (Can Japan Maintain Its Ecosystem?) 

Can Our Man have his ¥12,000 now? He could do with a stiff drink.

Improbably named bourbon picture (note to non-Brits - knob is a part of the male anatomy) nicked from here: Knob Creek lovers should plan for some serious lounging at Lexington Bluegrass Airport)

Thursday, 8 January 2009

How to solve the global recession

The LDP's cunning plan to solve the economic mess we are in:

  1. Give everyone a ¥12,000 payment (about a hundred quid) - amounting to ¥2 trillion which they can spend on, er, a week's worth of groceries and a case of shochu.
  2. Spend another ¥6 trillion on unneeded bridges and such (about three hundred quid per person)
  3. Pass the bill on to the next government (or generation).
  4. Wait for Obama to solve everything.
  5. Then flog more stuff to the Yanks.

Brilliant!


Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Gimme shelter

Our Man was just ruminating on the similarities between the LDP elite suggesting the unemployed homelessfolk heading to Tokyo's parks were just out for a free lunch, and Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" approach to politics (LDP lawmaker apologizes for hinting 'tent village' residents don't want to work), when Google's auto-suggest-RSS-blog -thingy (that's a technical term, readers) actually suggested a good blog for a change - Wronging Rights. If you thought genocide and refugee tent cities were poor subjects for humour, think again. They had an interesting take on the following video, which despite being obvious pro-UN propaganda, is the kind of propaganda Our Man laps up (especially because it features one of Our Man's favourite songs of all time).  Bored with the right-on video, want something with a Japanese connection? Try this, all about Japanese porn with Africans for charity. Dang, wish Our Man had thought of that first.



It's life Jim, but not as we know it



The thing that makes news, well, newsworthy is it has to be new. Well, not wishing to mess with the space-time continuum, but Our Man has been a bit asleep at the wheel and it is time to turn off SS Abiko's holiday auto pilot and have a look at the worlds outside his captain's porthole for any interesting alien life forms he might have missed. So, without further ado, here's yesterday's news today (or yesterday, depending on when you read this). Phasers on stun!

Here's a surprise for Our Man, a video interview with Debito - Interview with Debito on TkyoSam’s Vlog: Shizzle! - surprising in that Debito comes off as far less pompous in the flesh than he does on paper (the charitable might say the same of Our Man). Japan is certainly the richer for his presence, which might not be true of Gaijin Maids Brutally Treated or American Meat Ads Friendly Not Beefy.

Oh yes, this blog is supposed to be about politics. How about these links -

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The way obits should be written

Laughter's end.

C is for chrysanthemum club



Speaking as a former member, Our Man knows the chrysanthemum club is not about flowers and is not nearly as fun as the Mile High Club (although Our Man really wouldn't know, sadly). The term was originally used as a gibe against Edwin O. Reischauer and his buddies in postwar Japan. Well, here's a gosh-darn real Japan expert to explain, this from Patrick Smith in Japan: A Reinterpretation:

So named for the seal of the Japanese imperial house, the term was never meant to flatter. Chrysanthemum club members were called geisha. They were considered uncritical apologists for Japan, a role they fulfilled on many occasions. Theirs was the perspective of results. That is, they left out or glossed over the unattractive things about Japan so that ‘success’ appeared to be the sanitary consequence of altogether agreeable arrangements. The appearance of ‘cultural schizophrenia’ and corruption are put down to ‘the untutored Western eye’.

Today, members of the club include English re-writers at the Japanese newspapers, foreign English teachers flattered by being called kawaii, quite a few bloggers enamoured with all things Japanese, and of course journalists who know which side their bread's buttered on. Now, you are probably wondering, if Our Man were a flower, would he be a chrysanthemum? An English rose? Or a noxious weed? Well, he did used to work in the Japan/LDP propaganda industry as a copy editor for the Daily Yomiuri. These days, Our Man likes to think of himself more as one of those unnoticed plants behind the vegetable patch that every now and again produces something edible - somewhere between rhubarb and stinging nettles.

Monday, 5 January 2009

New Year message from Our Principal


What a year it's been at our cram school! Now, it's come to The Principal's attention that there's been some grumbling about the quality of the lessons (there's no pleasing those grumpy senior year and medical students). Sure, we've been peddling the same old lesson plans for 50 years, but look at the number of satisfied customers, why they are literally filling the parks! It's never been a better time to be in the Let's Do People cram school. Sure, we've had to let a number of our foreign and temp contract teachers go, but this no time to jump ship. Do you think you could do better without me? The future is bright, because, let's face it, it can't get any darker!

Onward and Upward with the LDP!

T. Aso

P.S. There is still room available on my kanji reading course, and nobody seems to have bought my Reading Manga for Profit booklet.



(Pictures from here and here

Turn on, tune in, and whatever



It's that time again, yes, the day after deadline for the blog of the week. Our Man's been a bit busy what with New Year and all, although he was given time off for good behaviour and allowed to eat pizza instead of the traditional New Year's fare (plain noodles and reheated bits and bobs). Anyway, Roy over at Mutant Frog, reckons Our Man will run out of Japan blogs to highlight in two months. Well, this is now blog of the week number ...er just a minute... six, so it's getting tight. When Our Man started out those six long weeks ago back in '08, it seemed the whole world wide web was his oyster... he's now learning it's a small virtual world after all. But the winner is, well it was easy, the only one to organise a party and allow Our Man to attend: Trans-Pacific Radio. And, not only do they have podcasts and such, but they also do a fine line in commentary. But, they don't seem to do pictures, and Our Man can't find the station on his AM dial...

Phew. Now just need another two or three more blogs to make it to two months. Our Man is still seeking Our Woman, by the way...

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Y is for yakuza



Our Man spent a lovely time these last couple of days wintering in sunny Kamakura (you know the place, it's got a big Buddha, a beach and, bizarrely, a bunch of Hawaiian surf shops). Anyway, while strolling with the family on the beach (above), Our Man made contact with a passing German who didn't pass on any secrets, but did ask a pertinent question: why does Japan tolerate the yakuza? He said he found it hard to believe that any other country would put up with 80,000 hoodlums being left to their own devices. Eighty thousand? Surely not. That's the population of downtown Abiko. So, Our Man did a spot of research (that is  journalese for typing "yakuza" into the search box over at the Japan Times) and found this here useful roundup of what's officially known about the yakuza. Yep, probably is 80,000 - one gangster for every 1,600 law-abiding Japanese or so - one for every three policemen, or 110 for every sitting member of parliament.

Our Man's never had a run-in with the men in black, but his mother-in-law did when she ran a coffee shop years ago in the Kansai region. A gangster sat at the counter one busy lunchtime. Our Man's mother-in-law had to make a decision: Placate the hoodlum and be indebted to him; or risk her own safety and the shop's fixtures and fittings by chucking him out. She bravely took the honourable approach and refused to serve him, figuring her business would never keep good customers if they thought it was yakuza-friendly. He sensibly took the hint and never returned. She went into the storeroom for a quick breather so the customers wouldn't see her shaking.

For a more interesting look at the underworld's links to the wholesome Japanese idol entertainment world, click here and take a peek at the comments too. Anyway, are there that many folk in organised crime in Britain or Germany? Our good German thought not, but who knows?

Saturday, 3 January 2009

You shall go to the ball



Our Man is chuffed to be on the guest list for 2009's Tokyo bloggers' ball. Just take a little look-see at the guest list here and marvel at the top Japan bloggers who'll be talking turkey and suppin' sake. If you happen to be around in downtown Tokyo on the 17th, why not swing by and help make sure Our Man's provincial ways don't embarrass him too badly in front of the big city folk? If you want to attend, click on the link (above) this week and let the good folk at Trans-Pacific Radio know how many whales to harpoon, er, seats to reserve. Now, must iron the carnation and water the tux...

Friday, 2 January 2009

W is for whaling



When Our Man was just Our Boy in shorts back in Blighty, he knew two things about the Japanese: they had the super nifty Mitsubishi Zero fighter; and they hunted whales (although not with the Zero, as far as he knew). Since then, the world has moved on and has even been prepared to buy Mitsubishi's products again, but there is still that pesky whaling thing. Let Our Man state unequivocally his completely not-on-the-fence-honest position on whaling: it's not the most moral thing in the world, but then it's no worse than drinking milk with your tea. You what? Bullet time:
  • It's morally difficult to justify eating whale meat. It doesn't taste very nice, we have plenty of other stuff to eat and whales are fairly smart creatures who are mammals and therefore somehow morally superior to fish.
  • Well, is it any less moral to eat cows? Some say they don't taste very nice, we have plenty of other stuff to eat and cows are fairly smart creatures who are mammals and therefore somehow morally superior to fish.
  • Yeah, but we are talking about drinking cows' milk, not eating the darned things. OK, but in order to drink your gold top, your cow needs to become pregnant at least once a year. Only about a quarter of the calves go on to produce milk. The rest are killed.
  • So, which is worse, the killing of wild animals for their meat, or the mass murder of generations of cows so Our Man has something to put in his tea?
OK, two wrongs don't make a right, but Our Man thinks he's turning Japanese, he really thinks so, on whaling. It's not good, but is it really that bad? Greenpeace would disagree, but even they have adapted to Japanese sensibilities - Greenpeace softens protest tactics.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Brain teaser for the New Year

What famous political document does this Japanese equation equal?


+


+



= ????

Answer: The US Declaration of Independence (Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of course!) Hope you all find yours for the New Year.