Tag Archives: Japan

On a Russian outpost in the Pacific, fear and fantasies of a Japanese future

Sergey Starzhinsky figures that his first taste of nearby Japan was a fruit-flavored lollipop that washed up on the beach in the 1970s.

These days, when sailors take his son-in-law’s sea urchins across the strait to Hokkaido, Starzhinsky has them pick up a large order of sushi before they head back.

An Asian Iron Curtain lingers on the edge of the Pacific, eight time zones and 4,500 miles from Moscow. In Russia’s ever-broadening quest for influence under President Vladi­mir Putin, this Cold War-era outpost is emerging as a pivotal piece on the Kremlin’s global chessboard.

Japan has long claimed that Russia illegally occupies Kunashir and a handful of other nearby islands on the southern end of the Kuril archipelago, which threads the sea between mainland Russia and northern Japan. Seen from Kunashir, the snow-sheathed mountains of northern Japan tower on the horizon, but there’s no regular passenger service to connect the two worlds.

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Posted by on September 14, 2019 in Asia, Europe, Uncategorized


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The Quiet Desperation of Refugees in Japan

An estimated 100 of the approximately 300 detainees at the East Japan Immigration Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki, are involved in a hunger strike that began on May 10. Strikers are demanding an end to exceptionally long detention periods — now typically exceeding a year — and a relaxation of the provisional release system, which places severe and impracticable restrictions on the lives of temporarily released detainees. Detainee anger is aggravated by the isolation, lack of information, and alleged medical neglect experienced at the detention center, where many long-term detainees suffer from deteriorating physical and mental health.

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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Asia


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There Will Be No Winner in the Japan-South Korea Dispute

A few short years ago it appeared, on the surface at least, that Japan and South Korea had finally put the past behind them and were ready to take their relationship forward. A 2015 agreement was supposed to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the “comfort women” issue, and was hailed as a “potentially dramatic breakthrough between the neighbors and rivals.” Amid the hubris, nationalists on both sides expressed their anger, and there were immediate anti-agreement protests in both Tokyo and Seoul. The 2017 presidential impeachment and elections in South Korea ushered in a change from a conservative to a progressive administration under Moon Jae-in, who had been openly critical of the agreement. A year later the agreement was shredded.

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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Asia, Uncategorized


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The prison inside: Japan’s hikikomori lack relationships, not physical spaces

Fifty-three-year-old Kenji Yamase doesn’t fit the traditional image of a hikikomori, but then perceptions of Japan’s social recluses are changing.

“People think of hikikomori as being lazy young people with
personality problems who stay in their rooms all the time playing video
games,” says Yamase, who lives with his 87-year-old mother and has been a
recluse on and off for the past 30 years.

“But the reality is that most hikikomori are people who can’t get
back into society after straying off the path at some point,” he says.
“They have been forced into withdrawal. It isn’t that they’re shutting
themselves away — it’s more like they’re being forced to shut themselves

A hikikomori is defined by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry
as someone who has remained isolated at home for at least six
consecutive months without going to school or work, and rarely interacts
with people from outside their own immediate family.

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Posted by on August 3, 2019 in Asia


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How can we help the hikikomori to leave their rooms?

Hikikomori is a Japanese term that describes people who stay holed up in their homes, or even just their bedrooms, isolated from everyone except their family, for many months or years. The phenomenon has captured the popular imagination, with many articles appearing in the mainstream media in Japan and beyond in recent years, but surprisingly it isn’t well-understood by psychologists.

While the condition was first described in Japan, cases have since been reported in countries as far apart as Oman, India, the United States and Brazil. No one knows how many hikikomori exist (the term refers both to the condition and to the people with it), but surveys suggest that 1.79 per cent of Japanese people aged 15-39 meet the criteria. However, while some assumptions about risk factors have been made, based largely on reports of specific cases, there has been a lack of population-based research. A new study, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, plugs some of the knowledge gaps.

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Posted by on July 31, 2019 in Asia


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No one is innocent in the debacle – but Trump’s ‘evidence’ of Iran’s role is mythical at best

The crackpot president of the United States of America has so snarled up the gangplank to truth these past 29 months that no matter how much “evidence” he and his crew produce to prove that the Iranians have been trying to blow up oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman – or not quite blow them up – the pictures have a kind of mesmeric quality about them.

Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration photos were edited to “prove” that there were more supporters on the Washington Mall than actually went there. And now his administration, anxious to prove that the Iranians are attacking oil tankers, releases video footage of Iranians actually removing a limpet mine from the hull of a Japanese vessel.

Well that proves it then, doesn’t it? Those pesky Iranians can’t even bomb their targets professionally – so they go back later to retrieve a mine because it probably says “Made in Iran” on the explosives.

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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Middle East, North America


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The Japanese aren’t daft – that’s why they’re getting out of Brexit Britain

One of the few remaining elegant wooden buildings in central Tokyo that survived allied bombing in the second world war is the Mitsubishi lodge. The Kaitokaku, set back from the main thoroughfares, its gardens overshadowed by skyscrapers, is a web of beautifully carved wood rooms where executives, bankers and clients who are part of the Mitsubishi keiretsu, or conglomerate network, socialise, with top officials from the phenomenally influential ministry of international trade and industry (MITI), and discuss business privately – drinking sake until three or four in the morning. Deals are done, new technologies discussed and consensus reached on what is happening geopolitically to Japan’s markets and how it should react.

The closeness of the relationship between business, finance and state is a universe apart from anything we know in Britain. Critics argue that the keiretsu represents a destructive corporatism and an obstacle to the operation of free and open markets; admirers that it allows member companies to share risks, find synergies, lower financing costs and encourage long-termism – so informing Japan’s agile industrial policy and directly leading to Japan having dozens of world-beating companies and brands. By contrast, Britain is not at the races.

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Posted by on March 4, 2019 in Asia, Europe


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Japan’s Hostage Justice System

The high-profile arrest of Carlos Ghosn has shone a light on Japan’s long overlooked “hostage” justice system, in which criminal suspects are held for long periods in harsh conditions to coerce a confession. Ghosn, fired as CEO/Chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors after his November 19 arrest on allegations of financial misconduct (but still CEO of Renault), was originally detained for 21 days – and then, to keep him in custody beyond the legal maximum, has been rearrested on other charges.

Ghosn has been refused bail, has not been allowed to have lawyers present under questioning, and has been unable to meet with his family since his arrest.

Many Japanese welcomed the new year with soba noodles, mandarin oranges, a heated kotatsu table, and green tea. But Ghosn, like other criminal suspects in Japan, spent the time in a small, cold, tatami-floored cell with only occasional opportunities for bathing and limited exercise.

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Posted by on February 1, 2019 in Asia



The Toxic Influence of Japan’s Rural Political Interest Groups

In Japan, 2018 ended with a rather anachronistic piece of news that nonetheless caused a minor shock in the international community. In a bid to resume commercial whaling, Japan announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Japan Times noted that legislators with large whaling communities pushed through the move with the acquiescence of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, despite a continued decline of whale meat consumption among the Japanese general public and refusal among major retail and restaurant chains to carry whale meat-based products. The article noted that the reluctance of younger Japanese to consume whale meat means any rebound in demand for whale meat after the resumption of commercial whaling is unlikely.

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Posted by on January 26, 2019 in Asia



Pielgrzymka na święty wulkan Japończyków

Niepokoję się, czy zdążymy przed nocą. Jest październik, ciemno robi się koło piątej, szóstej, ale dziś ciężkie chmury sprawiają, że od rana panuje mrok.

Podążamy przez gęstą puszczę – wśród oplecionych porostami cedrów, kryptomerii, buków i leszczyn. Wilgoć i mgła. Wokół ogromne paprocie, chaszcze. I mech, wszechobecny w Japonii mech. Pod nogami ścielą się gnijące liście, wystające spod nich korzenie drzew wiją się niczym oślizgłe węże. I jeszcze raz po raz ogromne, brunatne głazy – zastygła lawa.

Naszym celem jest góra Fudżi. Ścieżka, którą zmierzamy przez północne jej zbocze, to Yoshida – najstarsza spośród kilku prowadzących na szczyt tras, wytyczona kilkaset lat temu przez mnichów i ascetów. Korzystali z niej pielgrzymi, dla których trwająca często parę tygodni wyprawa była głębokim przeżyciem duchowym.

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Posted by on September 13, 2018 in Asia