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.