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.

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