With his robot Erica, Hiroshi Ishiguro, the so-called bad boy of Japanese robotics, aims to redefine what it means to be human
Tag Archives: Japan
Growing scandal’ is the only way to describe the unfolding story about Moritomo Gakuen, a private education company in Osaka responsible for the controversial early education programs and schools currently under scrutiny in the Japanese parliament and press because of its close connection to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
What a year 2016 has been. Recently, a usually frugal girlfriend of mine drained her bank account by moving into a new, swanky apartment, and by buying a bag and shoes from Prada. It seems she’d had enough of the litany of bad news. もう今年に耐えられない (Mō kotoshi ni taerarenai, I can’t take this year anymore) was her explanation. わかるよ、お姉さん (Wakaruyo, onēsan, I feel you, sister).
Since the dawn of anthropology, sociology and psychology, religion has been an object of fascination. Founding figures such as Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim and Max Weber all attempted to dissect it, taxonomise it, and explore its psychological and social functions. And long before the advent of the modern social sciences, philosophers such as Xenophanes, Lucretius, David Hume and Ludwig Feuerbach have pondered the origins of religion.
In the century since the founding of the social sciences, interest in religion has not waned – but confidence in grand theorising about it has. Few would now endorse Freud’s insistence that the origins of religion are entwined with Oedipal sexual desires towards mothers. Weber’s linkage of a Protestant work ethic and the origins of capitalism might remain influential, but his broader comparisons between the religion and culture of the occidental and oriental worlds are now rightly regarded as historically inaccurate and deeply Euro-centric.
It’s a common sight on Japanese mass transit: Children troop through train cars, singly or in small groups, looking for seats.
They wear knee socks, polished patent-leather shoes, and plaid jumpers, with wide-brimmed hats fastened under the chin and train passes pinned to their backpacks. The kids are as young as 6 or 7, on their way to and from school, and there is nary a guardian in sight.
A popular television show called Hajimete no Otsukai, or My First Errand, features children as young as two or three being sent out to do a task for their family. As they tentatively make their way to the greengrocer or bakery, their progress is secretly filmed by a camera crew. The show has been running for more than 25 years.
The Democratic Party made history Thursday, electing Renho as the first female leader of the main opposition force.The 48-year-old mother of two and former swimwear model, who previously served as deputy leader, was set to give a striking image makeover to a party dogged by lackluster popularity linked in part to its disastrous performance in power during the Fukushima nuclear crisis.“We are up against the juggernaut of the ruling coalition and the highly popular administration” of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Renho said after being elected.
It’s been a quarter-century since Japan’s asset bubble burst – and a quarter-century of malaise as one “lost decade” has followed another. Some of the criticism of its economic policies is unwarranted. Growth is not an objective in itself; we should be concerned with standards of living. Japan is ahead of the curve in curbing population growth, and productivity has been increasing. Growth in output per working-age person, especially since 2008, has been higher than in the United States, and much higher than in Europe.
Travelling from Europe to Asia can provoke a tinge of envy. Asia will define the 21st century. Europe resembles a basket case. Asia is the new world. Europe is the old continent. That is, until you arrive and take stock of east Asia’s reality, a tangled web of unresolved historical disputes and rising tensions. It makes Europe’s accomplishments over the past six decades seem dazzling.
“Let us learn from the mistakes of the past,” reads a sign at Hiroshima’s memorial to the 140,000 victims of the A-bomb. In a park tourists stroll past the gutted dome of the only building at the centre of the atomic blast of 6 August 1945 that was left standing. A museum displays waxworks of the living dead who struggled from the rubble, their clothes torn, their bodies scorched. There are few places where the devastation wreaked by the 20th century comes across as powerfully as in Hiroshima – which Barack Obama will visit later this month – and it is this that explains why Japanese people see themselves as victims, not perpetrators, of second world war atrocities.
The tragedy of the Kumamoto earthquakes has been covered a lot by now (including by myself in various radio and newspapers pieces). What do I personally have left to say about it? First a simple thing then a cute thing, then a ‘serious’ thing. Try not to change channels after the cute one, huh?
First, and very simply – I wish it would stop. The earthquakes are decreasing, but we are already on day 6 as I write this and there have been six or seven strong level 4 quakes tonight. In fact, just to prove the point, another hit right now – just as I typed the word ‘we’ in the previous sentence. About two hours ago there was a quake strong enough to get me up and running for the doorway (again!). So, mother nature – enough already. Come on! We here in Kumamoto, both Japanese and foreigners need to get on with our lives. Plus I haven’t a cup of tea with milk in it for 5 days now. I’m British – i need my milk tea. But there is simply no milk to be had, or bread, or a range of very normal ordinary food stuffs. I’ve still got no gas, like around 200,000 homes here. But at least I have water. Unlike around 200,000 homes here. But I’m already straying into the ‘serious’. Seems that I can’t help it.
With a reemerging China in great power politics, instability on the Korean Peninsula, ongoing territorial disputes with Russia, and the rise of non-state actors, Japan is recalibrating its national security calculus at a time of changing dynamics in the Asia Pacific. The reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution to allow for collective self-defense and the accompanying structural changes to the country’s institutional fabric gives rise to the notion that Japan’s military industrial complex is poised to come into its own. But how will Tokyo manage its transition to what the Abe administration has termed “proactive pacifism” amidst condemnation from neighboring countries, internal push-back from both rival and coalition political groups, and a citizenry largely conditioned in a culture of non-militarism?