Friday, August 15, 2008

JT and the Weather

Up here in Niigata we get the JT a day late. No doubt about it. I think I've mentioned that before. But sometimes we get news or announcements that come even before that. For example, it might be Tuesday and we'll be getting the actual Monday paper, only the weather will be for Sunday. Or there will be an announcement that something will take place on Friday but it will already be Sunday. You'd think JT could get it right, or at least get the day right.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Is a Gaijin a Nigger

The current brouhaha on the JT's letters to the editors pages is about the word gaijin and whether or not it is racist or just good plain ignorant fun. Probably a little of both, cause what is racism but ignorance without the fun. Just plain ignorant. But I don't understand why JT runs such letters. Why they have run them for 20 years and probably more. When I was growing up my father used the word "nigger" but his wife and his kids, we didn't use it. It seemed to be a word that some families used. For instance, up the street from me was a family of four boys and they did use the word nigger when we were young kids but my the time the 60s kicked in they had given it up. My father's use of "nigger" was odd, though, and maybe idiosyncratic. For him it didn't necessarily refer to a black person. It had several uses, when I think back. One applied to a kind of behavior. If he saw a group of us lazing around in the summer heat, drinking Cokes, shoes off, hardly talking, he might say, "You're all niggard up, aren't you?" Or if he saw me or one of my siblings being stingy or petty about something he might say, "Don't be niggardly", and at that time we didn't know niggardly was a perfectly acceptable adjective. But his strangest use of the word was in cases like this, where he might open a story with, "Me and a couple of other niggers were....." And you'd realize the other two guys were white guys, or even Catawba indians, my father having grown up on a Catawba reservation.

My father is dead now but I'm sure he would never, ever use the word nigger in any context these days. Why? Because he would know just as we all know that it is just plain rude. Forget that it insults other people, that it might trigger a verbal or physical backlash against the user, that blacks use a variant among themselves, a variant that whites must use with some care. It's just plain rude, like South Carolina insisting on flying the confederate flag on the state house grounds in Columbia, SC. Why fly any symbol that offends so many people, such a great percentage of the population. And it's not offensive to, say, people who dislike flags based on that of Britains, or that have red and white as primary colors. It's offensive because it is a symbol of slavery, or being a slave. It means that most black people in South Carolina have no idea who their ancestors were because white folks came and kidnapped them and forced them to work apart from their countries and cultures and families and then sold them like.......worse than dogs. Like pack animals.

Which brings me back to gaijin. Some Japanese will look you in the face and call you a gaijin. Why do they do this? Because they are ignorant. Plain and simple. They may not mean a thing about it.....and that is ignorance.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Squabbling Foreigners...

The JT can't break its addiction to stupid letters from insane gaijin. I guess they think it makes your average Japanese letter writer (all 2 - 3 of them?) look good. Grant Piper, as usual, is at the center of the latest fray which is all about what a good letter to the JT should be like, about, whatever.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I thought it must be a joke, but no. The Japan Times changed its layout more than a week ago but the changes were so lame I thought it must be a joke. Stories are more "square" on the page. The fonts have changed. That's it. No new sections. No shift of emphasis from this or that or the other thing. What a waste!

And for the first time that I know of the Japan Times has told an outright lie. Readers have complained about the new weather section, which is not a section at all anymore but just a table showing the expected daily lows and highs of (1) select Japanese cities, with the lows listed first, and (2) select "international" cities, but with the highs listed first. And there are little sunshine and cloud and rain icons. But the JT claims that the meteorological agency has "categorically" decided to stop publishing the weather maps, showing highs and lows and isobars, that every has come to expect, that are quick and easy to understand.

They lie.

So nothing has changed. The paper even ran today (yesterday) two whole pages on the Japanese sword. For the life of me I can't think of anything more boring than the Japanese sword, unless it's the Japanese government. For one, they are basically against the law. Not everyone can own one and some of those who do do so illegally. For two, they are just swords. No matter how Japanese go on and on about the superiority of the Japanese sword the fact is that Damascus steel and Toledo steel were and are just as good, just as hard, and more useful in a fight against an enemy with armor and the sense to step out of the way and defend rather than just blunder straight into a fight with no idea of tactical defense.

Two-thirds of a page were devoted to a swordsmith who seems like a decent guy in that he knows he's just making swords. Fine, but below that was a story on Musashi Miyamoto, who for some reason is a hero to many Japanese, or so we are told. Musashi was a thug and a murderer and by all accounts insane. Perhaps that is the perfect Japanese hero. I don't know but I don't think so and I can't really imagine wanting to meet anyone of any nationality who would look up to such a person.

The other whole page devoted to the sword drones on about Zen (or zen) and slashing and killing and spiritual nonsense and I won't even go into it.

One final point. All the stories on both pages were written by the same writer. JT! Not a good idea! The article on the swordsmith was at least informative. The Musashi article could just as easily have come from Wikipedia's and the author practices the "art" of the Japanese sword as a hobby! JT. Get real. Give us some variety in our perspectives. Assuming that you have one of your own.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Finally, the admission, kind of...

Today's JT included an article by a writer from the LA Times. The article refers to "the governing elite" in Japan. It's about time. The folks running the country come from the same super-rich and juiced-in families who were running things here 50 and 100 years ago. The Japan Times won't come right out and say it, though. Certainly no Japanese staff writer will come out and say it. Get the foreign writer to say it, though, and you can say it but say you didn't.

Today's Irony of Irony: The JT have yet to weigh in on the proper response, if any, of Japan to the recent demonstrations in China, specifically whether or not there should be an tie-in with the demonstrations and the Beijing Olympics.

But the JT did run a story today on a local maker of shot put. That's right. Shot put. He makes the shot puts, the little cannon balls, that shot putters heave around. The shot put maker is angry about Tibet and has told the Chinese authorities they cannot expect to use any of his shot put at the Olympics. Good for him, but I wonder what makes one shot put different from another. They are all the same size and shape and presumably made of the same materials. Do some have splinters?

The JT does not enlighten us on this.

Two controversies are now boiling over at the JT. One concerns the weather section, which has been redesigned by a village idiot, who has been commissioned by the JT to screw up what once was one of the most attractive features of the paper, although JT could never make up its mind what page to feature the weather on.

The overall attractiveness of the paper, or lack of it, will change on April 22, when the look and feel of the paper will be overhauled -- perhaps justifying the recent increase in the price of the JT. The new look of the JT has been a front page blurb in the old look and current JT for several days now.

At least they could have made the changes on April 1. Then if the changes were a flop? APRIL FOOLS!!!!d

I can't wait. And neither should you.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wonderful Confusion

A wonderful example today of just plain sloppiness.

Page 1, under Today, down the left column. Under sports, Mao a close second after the short program at the world championships.

See page 11.

But in the right lower corner we see a color photo of Mao showing her gold medal after winning the women's title at the World Figure Skating Championships. Asada captured her first world crown after finishing second in the short program on Tuesday. (We get the coverage in Niigata on Saturday, after watching the competition on TV on Friday night!)

See page 11.

But on the page 11 there is just the story about Mao winning the entire two-day event, which of course consisted of the short and long programs!


But this was nothing compared to the TV coverage of both days of the championships. TV decided to cover the competition after everyone knew the results. After the first day it was clear that Asada and Ando and Nakano were still all in the running to win. That evening TV showed several commercials featuring all three of the Japanese contenders. But on day two, after Mao had already won, ALL of the commercials showed ONLY Mao.

But they are probably all represented by the same ad agency. Just guessing. Wouldn't surprise me.

In Weekend Scene today Burritt Sabin has a good special to the Japan times about the Uraga shipyards. The story is excellent but whoever wrote the headline must be a fan of The Ring movies because "Then there were ghosts" refers only to a single sentence about a haunted light house and a local resident who doesn't answer the question about whether the light house is haunted or not.

Gregory Clark's article, as is often the case, could have been cut by 95%. A single question is "does Tibet justify the calls for a boycott of Beijing's planned Olympic Games later this year?" is his subject.

I think Clark wanted to ask if Tibet would justify an actual boycott, not merely the call for one. In any case his answer to his own question is "no" and if Clark had just answered his own question in the first paragraph the whole piece would have played as a decent contribution to the Readers in Council Section.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sports and Madness

The Thursday paper arrived today, Friday, and page 21 run a picture of Tiger Woods winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament on last Sunday.

Timely, JT.

On the front page we have pictures of Toshihiko Fukui, who is leaving as the head of the bank of Japan, and of a murderess and Dick Cheney in Iraq, talking about something -- and I say that because the story next to Dick's picture quotes only Bush.

This blog will not quote Bush.

The real zinger today comes on the Opinion page, whose only saving grace is another fine editorial cartoon from Roger Dahl.

The zinger in question is a Readers in Council contribution from a Mr. Arnie Howe and it is just this sort of contribution that JT runs too much of. They should ignore them, chuck them, delete them, cancel the JT subscriptions of anyone who writes such letters.

OK. So what is wrong with the letter. Here's the first paragraph:

Regarding.......(reference to earlier letters).....As a conservative Republican who has always been active in politics and who never voted for George W. Bush for either his first or second term as president, I wonder how judgment comes into play when the U.S. Supreme Court decided (or stole) the first election from the American people and gave it to Bush? Also, who do we vote for this election?

Someone help me, please! What does this mean? Ignore the grammatical challenges that the JT editors should have corrected. The writer is a politically active conservative Republican who has never voted for Bush 43 for president. That's interesting! Who did he vote for? We'll never know and based on the letter I'm sure I don't want to know.

The letter continues:

No one really wants Sens. John McCain or Hillary Clinton, but Sen Barack Obama has just distanced himself from his pastor's inflammatory comments that "We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye."

Huh? No one really wants McCain and Clinton? Really? Gosh, Arnie. Someone best tell their supporters that!

.....and the logic of the "but".......I have no idea there.

Things get worse, though.

I have read "The Dignity of the State" and agree with Masahiko Fujiwara that democracy basically has failed and may lead to war and the destruction of our world. What can any of us Americans do when it comes to voting?"

Uh, vote? Maybe?

Will the candidates to what they promise and will the elections be fair?

The relationship to the previous sentence being what?

The answers are definitely no and judgment has nothing to do with it.

The answer to the question of what Americans can do when it comes to voting? The answer is "no"?


I suggest reviving the Samurai Fujiwara suggests. Maybe the world will see the good in this and follow Japan in getting away from democracy and back to the arts (emotions and forms) and restoring peace around the world.

Maybe, Arnie. Or maybe not.

But here have one of the JT's finest characters. Another foreigner who wants to bring back the samurai spirit. Oh, yeah! Sounds good. Let's bring back the spirit of an elitist group of degenerates. Wait! No! No need to as it's those same degenerates who run Japan!

The Japan Times would do itself and everyone a huge favor by either editing such contributions so they make at least a little sense or by just refusing to run such nonsense in the first place.

I have read Fujiwara's book. The only thing I will say here is that it is far more insane than the contribution from Mr. Hove.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Sunday Edition

Actually we get the Sunday JT on Monday because we don't live in Tokyo and the JT is too cheap and old-fashioned an outfit to have the paper printed outside Tokyo. In my home town in Georgia I can get the New York Times early edition first thing in the morning, the same morning the later editions come out in New York City. Japan is about the size of California yet can't imagine something as ambitious and consumer oriented as that, or at least the JT can't.

The best writing in today's paper is by Jack Gallagher, in his feature "Sports Scope". His first paragraph sums up the article: There is nothing sadder in sports than seeing a once-great athlete who has hung around too long. Gallagher's subject is Naoko Takahashi, the marathon runner. Gallagher takes a close look at the poor, money-driven choices that Takahashi made in her career. A good article.

Wayne Graczyk's "Baseball Bulletin" is, as always, informative and informative and informative some more.

Those are the highlights.

And now on to the bad and just plain weird.

The "Time Out" section should give itself one. Here we have a half-page article on Ultraman, written by Edan Corkill. Well, Edan. Next time leave this fluff on the JT web site and maybe, maybe give us a one-paraphrah synopsis in the hard copy JT and a link to the bigger non-story.

Felicity Hughes takes up the remaining half of the same page with a story about Cat Cafe Calico, a cat cafe (what else?) in Tokyo (where else?). Cat cafe. Nuff said. But Felicity, how about telling us where the cafe is. You know, like an address? Or web site?

The JT jump on the Metabolic Syndrome bandwagon with a story by Tomoko Otake. The most interesting fact? That the whole concept of MS is so lame, so lazy, and the definition so narrow that have of the 56 million Japanese over 40 would be considered "abnormal"!!!! So of course the old men who run Japan are requiring all Japanese to line up and be "tested" and measured for MS. Projection: In a year no one will remember what Metabolic Syndrome is unless a Eurotrash band comes out with that as a name.

March is St. Patrick's month so Roger Pulvers lathers on the Things Irish in his "Counterpoint" column. His final paragraph illustrates the yawn factor of this story: What will come to symbolize Irishness in the 21st century? That is the question I will address here next week.

You go right ahead, Rog. I'm sure Japan just can't wait to find out what will symbolize Irishness over the next 92 years.

The "Media" section is stronger than usual but as usual can't stay away from tales of free sex and shinanigans in Mark Shreiber's piece about (again, what else?) costume play in Tokyo. Geek culture. Somehow I think there might be a little bit more JT could say about Japanese culture, but that would require some real reporting, so............

Beoff Botting's story on Kazumi Nishio is sad. His main point seems to be that the dominatrix comedian is not dumb. She's a graduate of Aoyama Gakuin. And George H. Bush went to Harvard. Nishio is sure to go the way of Laser Raymond, or however he spelled his name.

The "Book Review" page consists of four stories: two by JT contributors and one each from Newsday and The Observer. We'll ignore those last two. Jeff Kingston reviews Justin Wintle's Perfect Hostage, about Aung San Suu Kyi, but Kingston tells us a lot about the subject and absolutely nothing, not a sentence, about the book. Good job, Jeff! Nothing like staying on subject. Donald Ritchie selects a book about Japanese poetry to write about and as usual he cannot resist name dropping and the little tidbits that show him to be the "insider" he so desperately needs to be. But he does manage to control himself right up until the last paragraph, when he writes "I am told that.....Princess Aiko is memorizing the 100 poems."

Notice that Donny didn't hear this. No, someone told him! Oooh!

The On The Road contribution by Peter Lyons is excellent. Many of Japan's auto innovations in engineering and styling are never seen on the roads here and Lyons tells us why. Nice job.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

JT for ADD Sufferers

The Japan Times thinks its readers suffer from attention deficit disorder for this is the third time in a week or so that JT has run a story that insists there is no big deal to Ichiro's hitless streak in the pre-season.

Each story is longer than the previous one.

A good motto for the JT: More to say about nothing at all!

The Readers in Council section today is not nearly as bad as it generally is. Ko Unoki says, rightly, that the average Japanese "citizen is by and large....quite hospitable to immigrants as indicated by the increasing number of international marriages". I agree that the average Japanese person is very hospitable but unfortunately the country is run by below average Japanese.....and the argument about international marriages doesn't hold up. Some statistics about international marriages are in order.

Peter Stevenson blasts those who, like himself, write letters to The Japan Times. He's fed up with the anti-Japanese sentiments that have been expressed in the last several months over the fingerprinting and photographing of foreigners as they enter Japan through its airports. His argument is, "The US does it; why not Japan?" Well, yes! The Let's Be Lemmings argument. A good one, and incidentally one that Stevenson levels at those he is criticizing.

But I agree with Stevenson, basically. What I don't get is why foreigners are finger-printed and photographed every time they enter the country, even permanent residents.

Paul Cassity is upset at the creation of a special panel to investigate US military-linked crimes in Okinawa. He makes a good argument but JT should have edited his letter. His basic point of "why the US military-linked crimes and not crimes by Japanese, since they commit the vast majority of crimes in Okinawa and elsewhere in the country"?

Darryl McGarry's letter might have made more sense if JT had no edited out the meat of it. I can make neither hide nor hair of what McGarry's point might be.

Eric Luong blasts an earlier contribution to Readers in Council by the prolific Grant Piper. Piper make the bold statement that food is not important, and a week or so ago he made exactly the same statement about sports. Poor Piper. I wonder what peters him out if it's not food or sports.

But no section of Readers in Council can ever be consistently bad or good or anything else. The section wraps up with a contribution from Greg Garrison who apparently stays awake at night because women want to earn more relative to men. Garrison, no economist, argues that money that goes to pay women more is taken from men, who then earn less, who then can't support their families, which then forces women to work more to augment the family income, which leads to divorce and victimized children!

And Garrison has a thing about lemmings, too. His final paragraph begins, "As far as other countries are concerned, why follow them all off the cliff? Just take a look at family health in the United States. Is this what women want?"

Poor Greg. Still fretting over what women want. He should make like Mel Gibson and just go have a drink, but leave the ranting at the bar or in the car, Greg.

Or he could re-think his argument about health care by reading the news from the JT from the day before about the 24,089 cases of Japanese patients being turned away from hospitals more than three times before being hospitalized.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Natural Selections

"Natural Selections" is a column written by Rowan Hooper. The columns are about science and nature, except for today, and generally they are very good.

Today's is just bizarre. I think Hooper ate a bad oyster last night.

For that is how he leads his story off. Here are his points:

a. Tokyo received more stars in the Michelin restaurant guide than any other city.
b. Hooper ate an oyster last night.
c. This is not a food column, though that's all he's talked about so far.
d. A noted Japanese chef implicitly made an ass of himself with the statement, "Japanese food was created here and only Japanese know it." Just mull that gem over.
e. "Well, how indeed?" Hooper's question, and he never answers it.
f. The chef, a non-competitive sort, apparently, turned down a chance to be rated by Michelin.
g. Tokyo Governor Ishihara is an idiot and a racist and everyone knows as much so why give the bonehead newspaper space?
h. Are Japanese and foreigners really different? (Oh, yawn!)
i. Hooper read a study last week that says Japanese brains are different.
j. Japanese and North American (and I guess that means caucasian Americans, as it nearly always does in Japan) volunteers were asked to look at a picture of a central figure, a face, surrounded by four faces in the background.
k. The participants were asked to determine the emotion of the figure in the center.
l. The Japanese reported that they were influenced by the emotions of the background figures when deciding on the emotion of the central figure.
m. The Americans focused only on the central figure.
n. A guy is quoted as saying basically what has already been said.
o. The guy says the same thing again and then makes the remarkable leap that this research backs up the Japanese phrase that the nail that sticks up gets hammered down!!
p, q, r. The study showed that Japanese tended to look move their eyes around the picture more, which of course they would if they were looking at the whole picture. Duh!
s. East Asians (notice not just Japanese anyore....I guess the only East Asians are the Japanese) are more holistic than non-Japanese.
t. What does any of this have to do with Tokyo and the food there?
u. Not much. Tokyo has more restaurants so it is logical to assume that more stars will be awarded to Tokyo than to other cities.
v. But does this explain the opinions of the racist Governor Ishihara, whose opinions are not stated in the article?
w. Hooper thinks not. Racists are just jerks.
x. And finally getting to a real point, Hooper points out that holistic doesn't mean better, just diferent.

Hooper could have written a valuable article on how Japanese do or do not tend to feel that being different can't be also being the same, or just another part of the same whole, but has to be better or worse.

The JT articles should have rejected Hooper's article and asked for a full rewrite, using his last paragraph as the lead in to a totally different article.

On the other hand, Ishihara sells papers so maybe the JT just wanted to see his name in their paper.

Or maybe in the end it was just a bad oyster day for Hooper.

Words to Live By

One of the oddest feature sections in the JT is "Words To Live By", as told to Judit Kawaguchi, who "loves to listen". Good for her.

Each "Words to Live By" features an interview (the "as told to") with.........well, an odd sort of character, to be honest, and a whole range of odd characters but it's not clear from the interviews if the subjects arereally odd or if Judit Kawaguchi is odd. Or maybe the question are odd. Or maybe it's just the editing but a lot of the opinions (and there are some doozies) don't have much context.

For example, this week's subject is Yuzo Narumiya, the founder and president of a prominent children's wear maker. He comes across as a reasonable enough guy but does express the following opinions, according to Kawaguchi:

"What is more proof of being original than being thought of as a fool?" An original fool. Everyone's goal!

"We can live without knowledge and still be winners." Yeah, we could win the lottery, for example.

"If you follow a business model you will never make it big." Throw away those MBAs, boys and girls.

"Maturity is just the process of collecting a lot of unnecessary knowlege." -- which we can live without and still be winners, remember? So......we get stupider as we get more mature. Hmmm...

"My parents hated the newly rich. So they.....never took a taxi." The relationship being?

"Rational people don't make hits [in business]." No, hits are for the irrational.

"I release my stress by taking the subway and listening into people's conversations." OK. I myself have never seen a conversation on a Tokyo subway.

"All the wisdom one needs to succeed in life can be learned playing sports such as soccer." Enuff said.

Virtually all the "Words" columns feature opinions such as these, enough to make me want to cross the street if I saw any of the interviewees coming.

Or maybe it's just bad translation into English. Or maybe the interviewer asks bad questions. Or maybe it's the absence of any context.

Or maybe the editors of the JT don't read the column, or just don't care.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring in Niigata

A surprisingly strong effort from the JT this morning.

Ads for Girl Friday, Temple University and an accounting firm on page one, along with five major stories and three color pictures, the smallest of which shows the Serbian Prime Minister leaving a news conference. Not much photo value in that.

On the back page we have a half-page ad for Niigata Prefecture and the spring that is just around the corner, or so says the ad. Kind of hard to see spring through the four feet of snow still on the ground in some areas of Niigata-ken, according to the Japan Meterological Agency weather web site.

Hardly any Japan content in today's paper beyond the six stories on page 2. I could do without the "Kammon tunnel marks 50th anniversary", if only because I can't see the tunnel itself marking anything beyond a hole in the ground.

Nova is still very much in the news, as part of the story about the foreign workers who rallied in Shibuya yesterday. The first paragraph of this story is very revealing: "Foreign workers staged a rally in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Sunday as part of their annual spring labor offensive, calling for proper and equal treatment on par with Japanese working conditions."

I guess the foreign workers have been calling for equal treatment for some time. Nothing surprising there but I would be surprised if they ever got it. I would appreciate some editorial comment from the JT on this issue, at some time. Hey! How about next year?

Lots of job postings today and the section starts with "Eastern Japan" and ends with "Western Japan and Overseas", only two sections. I wonder where Northern and Southern Japan are?

No subtlety at all in JT's choice of lead story for the Perspective pages, with stories from the Washington Past and the LA Times. The lead story is about beauty contest contestants who skin dead muskrats as part of the talent competition to win the title of Miss Outdoors. Japanese kill whales and American women skin large river rats. It's nice to have a balance in life.

The we have two whole pages (almost) dedicated to serviced apartments, something that Gregory Clark weighs in on in his editorial deeper in the paper. I say almost because the heading on the second page is "Serviced Apartment Special/World", the two world stories being about private-eyes and the use of police force in LA. Small world.

The lead story in the News Analysis/Topics section is about Prince Harry and there is hardly any analysis and little substance to the topic, with a huge "who cares?" factor. And the picture is laughable -- a quarter page shot of Harry completely disguised in a helmet, ski goggles and a scarf. It might be Harry. It might be Keith Richards. How would we know?

One the same page is a good, solid story by JT staff writer Takashi Kitazume and I wish we could see more staff-written articles in the JT. The story reports on a speech given on February 25 by Thomas E. Mann, who is a US election specialist. It's a bit after-the-fact to be reporting on the speech this late in March but Kitazume focuses on what is still true, i.e., that the US has not elected a democratic candidate yet, much less a president, and so the story remains timely.

Now to Gregory Clarke's piece in the opinion pages, entitled "Mistaken economic policies", which is kind of redundant as Clarke "seems" to feel, rightly, that currently there are no "correct economic policies" being carried out in the US and Japan. Clarke makes a first-year journalism major mistake of beginning his piece with "seems" as in, "Tokyo seems to have difficulties in handling economic problems." But other than that Clarke's piece is a fine one and he makes the very important point that it is difficult to increase consumer spending in Japan because many consumers have everything they want and/or can afford and don't have the interest or the money or the space for new purchases.

Clarke lays a lot of the blame for Japan's economic woes on the old men who run the place, the same men who want to spur demand by passing laws that make it easier for them, not the rest of us, to buy yachts and luxury apartments and houses.

Aside: The movie No Country for Old Men is called simply No Country in Japan. No Country in English -- no Japanese translation or title. "No Country" makes absolutely no sense in terms of the movie itself but you don't have to give yourself a headache wondering why it was changed, because this country IS an old country for old men, but not much for anyone else!

Strong sports writing today, as usual, with a Sports Scope story from Jason Coskfrey, but with a weak ending paragraph that says that if the players and coaches he has written about do in fact succeed at their jobs and can work together then that "could make all the difference". Small point.

Message to the JT: Please keep the weather section on the back page and don't make us have to look for it!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

There's something missing here....

To give you an idea of the content that passes for logical argument in JT, take a look at what the national news editor for the paper, Sayuri Daimon, had to say about the readership of the paper:

"...about 63% of our readers are non-Japanese and thus do not share the same common view of Japanese."

Whoo-hoo! How's about lumping together all non-Japanese first and Japanese second, then not defining what those uncommonly shared views are, just taking it as a given that they are not shared and so stating directly that common Japanese views are not found in the JT.

Well, I hope they are not found with Daimon-san, either!

But things get weirder. Daimon goes on to list four reasons for the JT to exist. The fourth reason is "to chronicle history.......We hope to portray the various arguments about the war."

How is that for just being plain confused? Are we to imagine that by "portraying" the various arguments about the war that the historical record of the way will change?

It's scary, but that could be exactly what the JT has in mind.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Today's paper has tacky adds in the top corner, something JT has been doing for years. In the upper left we have "the sauce of inspiration", Kikkoman soy sauce. In the upper left a familiar ad for "Japan Sword", a shop in Tokyo that specializes in samurai swords old and new. It's a great place. The folks that run it are friendly and will give you a great tour in English if they are not too busy.

In the lower right there is an add for Kurofune antiques. It is a poor ad that says and reflects nothing about the store.

On page two we have National News Briefs and the revelation that the Japan Meteorological Agency will now give "yellow sand" forecasts for three days instead of only one. The yellow sand was observed for 34 days in Japan last year so this decision is prudent. (The agency site is excellent and to be honest I look forward to more information about....isn't it also called Chinese dust?)

On page three we have a large ad for...what else? The Japan Times, the Weekly edition. Waste of space.

Under World News Briefs on page 4 we have four stories of almost zero world consequence: Thatcher leaves hospital after undergoing medical checks for something not specified; a drunken soldier runs his tank into a home in Moscow....hmmm, drunk Russians, drunk soldiers, lots of news in that; the only Englishman held in Auschwitz dies; and UK agent Pearl Cornioley dies. Pearl, aka Pauline, parachuted into Germany during WWII and did a fine job running the Germans ragged, according to Michael Foot.

The Time Out section devotes nearly two pages to cosplay, or costume play, and tries to claim that cosplay is now an international money-generating sensation for Japan, but offers no proof beyond mention of a single web site,, that is based in the US and that has "amassed" 101,400 registered users over a six year period. Harldy stunning but something JT often does, i.e., make a sensational claim with no support that passes the sensation test. Cosplay a great success? Yes, because look! There's a store that sells costumes! And as always JT tries to give the impression that cosplay began in Japan and is proof of Japan's innovation. Duh. Anyone ever hear of costume parties? Star Trek conventions? Halloween? Dudes putting on suits and ties everyday and traipsing off to the office?

The Counterpoint section by Roger Pulvers, listed as a special to the JT, though there is nothing special about either, is not a counterpoint to anything, certainly not cosplay, and is headlined "Surely it's time for Japanese to stop being so parochial". OK. That could be fairly said, I suppose, but not just about Japanese. But the article begins and ends with a brief mention of Nagisa Oshima, one of those comments just oozing with "we" Japanese this and "we" Japanese that, in this case the assertion that "we" Japanese (a) are too polite, (b) are prejudiced against Koreans, (c) avoid that prejudice and (d) need to call Koreans bad names publically, not behind their backs.

Too many "we" Japanese for me and Pulvers loses me in the second column. No harm done. The article is just fluff.

Philip Brasor's Media Mix piece on page 9 has a couple of points to make. Japanese like breed dogs and stray cats. That's the first point. The second is truly bizarre -- that the Emperor could bring animal rights to the forefront in Japan if he would just talk more about how he adopted a stray dog that wandered into the royal grounds in Tokyo, even though the story itself is probably not true.

That's the spirit! Back up your point with a myth, a fable, even a lie!

Advocate! Prevaricate!

Tokyo Confidential leads with a story that claims that Japanese women do not like men who are gentlemen or who act chivalrously. But the author, Michael Hoffman, points out that the original story in the Japanese media did not mention how many women the writer(s) talked to. So, Mr. Hoffman. If the "research" is questionable, is there really a story at all?

The readers in council once again makes me think that the letter writers need counselling themselves and/or need to get out of Japan.

Finally, in The Asian Bookshelf section Donald Richie reviews An American Artist in Tokyo: Francis Blakemore. Ritchie likes to review anything by anyone who likes Japan as much as he does, which is a fine way of keeping your job, Donald! Smart guy. And a good review, but the last sentence says this, " is equally impossible to think of real, personal friendship with Japan without considering Blakemore and her work."

So, all you guys and gals out there who love Japan, you don't really, do you, unless you have considered Francis Blakemore, just as Donnie has. I'm not exactly sure how you "love" a country, aside from the trivial and obvious ways the ministry of education here wants to teach kids to do so, but I am sure that a lot of folks have loved living in Japan and never, ever considered Francis Blakemore.

It's just a short leap from this strange assertion to the one we have heard so often from the United States that to be a Christian you must be a republican, to care about America you must support its wars, and so on.

One final note. Does the Japan Times really think its readers around the country are interested in (wait!)....The Japan Newspaper Museum? It seems to be for kids, judging from the line drawings in the big ad on page 19. A newspaper museum! Just where JT belongs!

OK. This first blog is pretty negative. There are some fine writers for JT. The sports writing and coverage is excellent and you can't go wrong checking out contributions by Wayne Graczyk, and Richie gets it right sometimes, especially when he puts his bib on and steps away from the Japonica Apologia crowd.

The food and music sections are generally good, too, and today's lead editorial was excellent.

When it's right, I'll say so.

Getting Started

Some words about why this blog is even here.

First, I've been reading The Japan Times for 20 years, so I figure I might have some things to say about it.

Second, although I only live about 250 kilometers from Niigata I get the Japan Times a day late. The date on the paper is right but the news is a day old. This annoys me and it is therapeutic to diss JT for this and for its content.

Finally, the paper is lousy as the official "English" paper in Japan and I would like to point out some of this lousiness and suggest ways the paper could be better.

Oh, post finally. It's also fun to blog.