Sunday, March 9, 2008

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.

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