Archive for May, 2008

Green Machine

The other day I stumbled across Nihon Hacks, a site that offers creative ways to make life easier in Japan. It includes tips about recycling, composting your veggies, and using plastic tofu containers as planters. It got me thinking: is it easier to go green in Japan?

Obviously the Kyoto Protocol sends the message that Japan (among others) is serious about curbing global warming, but what about day-to-day living for the average citizen?

In an editorial article for CLEAN (Citizen’s League for Environmental Action Now), Todd Bynon, a writer and military man stationed in Japan, revealed what he considers to be key differences between living in Japan and living in the States.

In Japan:

1. Public Transportation is fast, clean and efficient, and cuts down enormously on car emissions
2. Recycling is taken very seriously, with fines imposed for incorrect usage
3. Japan is a leader in hybrid vehicles
4. Parks and “green spaces” are prevalent
5. Used-good stores are popular

Bynon is quick to point out that Japan could do better in the renewable energy department. Still, I think Japan is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to green living. My apartment building, in the middle of Los Angeles, doesn’t provide any type of recycling, and nobody I know takes public transportation on a regular basis; we all drive cars.

Check out BEE Japan, “a group of international members that promotes environmental awareness and green living in Japan,” for some inspiring ideas – including information on cross-country bike trips.

Sarah S.

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JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 30, 2008 at 10:17 am 6 comments

What to Do with Your $600 Tax Rebate

During these shaky times when airline companies are folding by the minute, travel companies have to really think of enticing reasons to get you packing. One of my friends just signed up for a hiking tour through Croatia. For two weeks, she’ll be scaling mountains and inhaling nature in the company of strangers. Another friend just got a ticket to Italy where he’s dishing out $100 to sit in on a family dinner. At that price I’m sure they’ll tell him to stay for dessert.

If Japan is your preferred destination, a pop culture tour is the way to go. I found one called Intermixi that takes you to Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo for $2,300. Hotel and airfare are included in this seven-day excursion. And aside from the traditional temple sightseeing they take you to cool hangouts like Harajuku (as in Gwen Stefani’s Mecca) and Akihabara, where geeks go to shower in electronics and anime.

I read on their site that they also visit some of Japan’s vast collection of odd-themed restaurants. The one I’ve been to was inspired by purgatory. Customers dine within the confines of a jail cell and must walk through dark corridors to get relieve themselves in hell (the bathroom). There’s also a J-Pop cafe, a ninja restaurant, and one where the waiters look like mortuary attendants and you eat your dinner in silence. Believe me, it got awkward quickly. Not recommended for first-dates.

If I were to go on one of these Japan tours I’d ruin it for everyone by unloading too much of my better judgment. My friend who went to Japan recently for the first time decided to try different rice balls at the convenience store. When she bit into one stuffed with a sour pickled plum (ume), she gasped and patooeyed it in her hand. I’m sure she’ll always remember that day. Imagine what a party pooper I’d be if I was there to warn her.

But if you’ve ever wanted to visit Japan and hoped for more than just temple-hopping I recommend one of these alternative tours. They seem like a lot of fun and, heck, it’ll help stimulate our staggering world economy.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 28, 2008 at 10:42 am

How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

Just like Hollywood starlets who never travel anywhere without their beloved, ubiquitous “purse dogs”, many Japanese people have gone gaga for Chihuahuas, toy poodles and miniature dachshunds. The Watashi to Tokyo blog claims that a series of ads for AIFUL, a finance company, is to blame for the trend. Each AIFUL CM commercial features a dad, his daughter, and a criminally adorable Chihuahua in increasingly silly situations.

Hmm. I don’t remember the “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” ads causing a similar lust for Chihuahuas in the States, but then, the Taco Bell dog didn’t have these enormous, soulful eyes:

The Japan Times explains that “For better or for worse, pets are no longer mere pets — they are members of the family, entitled to the very best. This is a recent and abrupt reversal of the traditional Japanese attitude which, free of the Judeo-Christian thinking that gave man ‘dominion’ over the beasts, was similarly immune to pagan reverence for them.”

It’s not only dogs that have experienced an extreme hit in popularity; as we reported last month, Cat cafes are gaining ground, too. And why not? Pets love you unconditionally and look cute in ridiculous outfits. All you have to do is remember to feed them. (Maybe they’re better than babies…)

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 23, 2008 at 7:49 am 2 comments

Japanese Game Shows Kick Butt!

So what’s the talk around the water cooler this week? At my office it’s about a Japanese iron-man competition that sends athletes running and jumping through obstacle courses so backbreaking I get bruises just thinking about it.

“Ninja Warrior” airs locally on G4 TV and like “American Gladiators” it comes with a cash prize at the end of the sweat-drenched tunnel. But in lieu of WrestleMania dramatics, “Ninja Warrior” (titled “Sasuke” in Japan) sets a more organic stage between man and nature — that is, nature carved into uncertain ramps, dangling ropes and a murky moat for the defeated. To me, the obstacles are far more interesting than any joust battle. My favorite is when the competitor clings onto a giant rolling pin as it goes spinning down a steep rail. A slip in concentration and the home-viewing audience collectively screams, “Ouch!”

The top prize for “American Gladiators” is a cool $100-grand. For “Ninja Warrior,” a mere $34K. So rather than for fortune and glory, Japanese competitors do it for a pat on the back.

Remember the movie “The Running Man”? Well, Japan has its own game show version called “Tosochu” but instead of ex-cons it’s B-list celebs running and hiding from men in black – marathon runners and professional athletes, in real life – for cash prizes. Within an hour’s limit, the longer they go without getting caught the more they win. They’re equipped with cell phones for group tasks, but other than that it’s each man for himself. There’s no blood-spillage like in the movie, but it still keeps you on the edge of your seat. Imagine a chubby Japanese girl screaming her head off when she spots a black suit in dark glasses only half a block away. Then imagine 100 caged suits suddenly let loose onto the course. I’d peeing in my pants if I saw them coming my way.

There’s no limit to the imagination when it comes to Japanese shows, so it’s nice to see them slowly trickling into the U.S. The American version of “Tosochu” will be airing on the Sci-Fi channel sometime soon. I can’t wait. (^D^)/

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 20, 2008 at 9:50 am 4 comments

Fresh, not Fishy

What comes to mind when you think of FRESH food? How about a slice of fish twitching on your plate? That’s what I encountered last month while dining on fugu (blowfish) at a Tokyo restaurant with a friend. We ordered a cut of the poisonous creature for our hot-pot broth. But before I could grab a piece with my chopsticks it started moving around, looking for a quick exit. Don’t worry, that fish was officially dead. It just took a few minutes for the nerve endings to catch on.

Freshness is no joke in Japan. No respectable sushi bar will serve day-old fish. At Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market you can seat yourself in front of a sashimi breakfast while fishermen next door haul in the catch of the day. The video above is an extreme example of fresh food. Believe me, most Japanese people have and never will see a chef slice through a live fish and release it back into the tank, seemingly harm-free. That’s just bizarre.

Though of course with high demand comes high cost. And in this economic recession freshness can be a luxury. I’m not a sushi connoisseur (can’t stand raw fish), so I prefer the 150-yen-a-dish conveyor belt sushi joints (a.k.a. kaiten sushi) scattered throughout Japan. The fish comes a tad dry and lifeless (though that’s a given), but if it’s between that or a McDonalds combo meal I’ll take the flounder. For 1,000 yen (just under 10 bucks) you can get 5 to 6 plates plus a bowl of miso soup. That’s more than enough to fill your stomach.

Though they might not move on your plate, there are all kinds of other fresh fish dishes like salt-roasted mackerel (saba no shioyaki), teriyaki sauce-soaked yellowtail (buri no teriyaki), and everyone’s favorite black cod with miso glaze (tara no saikyoyaki). I recommend any of them. They’re packed with so much flavor you wouldn’t guess it just emerged from the sea. Van de Kamps’ ain’t got nothin’ on them~ \(^_^)/

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 13, 2008 at 9:55 am

All the News That’s Fit to Print

Since the late ’90s, Americans have looked to the Internet for news that may have been ignored by traditional media. After online portal The Drudge Report published a rumor about President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (a rumor that Newsweek initially declined to write about) in 1998, Matt Drudge became famous. Independent journalism has been around a lot longer than the web, of course, but the sheer number of blogs, aggregate news sites and online-only journals (like Salon and Slate) have changed the way we perceive and process our news.

In South Korea in 2000, a site called OhMyNews was created by Oh Yeon Ho. Established as an alternative to mainstream newspapers, it was a huge hit among the would-be citizen journalist set and even helped change the course of an election. But when the company tried to open a similar site in Japan, they were met with resistance.

In Japan, everyday citizens aren’t as motivated to take the news into their own hands. According to the Japan Times, many Japanese don’t have the time or inclination to do research, conduct interviews or volunteer for writing positions that pay little if anything (citizen journalism isn’t known for big bucks). Also, they “are shy of using their real names.” In contrast, anonymous forums and message boards are hugely popular in Japan.
Lastly, “in Japan people basically believe what they read in the papers and see on the news,” so the impetus to strike out on one’s own to learn “the truth” isn’t really there.

Still, there are a few Japanese websites that encourage amateur journalists to bring smaller or little-known stories to light, such as JanJan and PJ News (“public journalists deliver daily news”), which works in conjunction with livedoor, a Japanese ISP. Who knows? Maybe a writer at one of those sites will break the biggest news story of the year…

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 9, 2008 at 9:50 am

Handsome Man for Hire

Hey single ladies… when you’re feeling lonely and want a warm male body by your side, who do you turn to? Your gay best friend? A bar of chocolate?

In Japan, the solution is simple: a hosuto kurabu, (or a “host club” for those who don’t read syllabic Janglish). It’s not so much a disco for maître d’s as it is a swanky lounge for lovelorn ladies to indulge in the company of men. Soon after choosing a name from the list they emerge from the dark, greeting you with a smile and a wink. Expect to dish out every last yen in your purse as they delightfully liquor and loosen you up ‘til you start seeing double. It’s what they do best.

Last year I saw a documentary on Osaka host clubs called “The Great Happiness Space,”z which took an entertaining look at this oft-speculated industry. (FYI, for the uninitiated: Few women I know have actually stepped into a host club. On top of cost, it’s unbecoming of a Japanese woman to be a red-light district regular. Men and hostess clubs, on the other hand, are a different matter.) What they found were women willing to spend thousands every night on their favorite host, Issei, vying with money and gifts for his affection, even proposing marriage from time to time. Of course, he’s yet to accept.

The sad reality is that most of these women are themselves club hostesses. So after serving out the champagne fantasies of Japan’s jaded businessmen, they transferring their fortune to a man who’ll return the favor.

Of course on the surface everyone seems happy. And there’s lots of money to be made. Hosts do all they can to keep their client in good spirits. But that doesn’t necessarily include sex. Repeat clients are always good for business, so it’s all about keeping them happily in the tease.

Personally, though, I’m happy staying home. Gay best friend. Chocolate bar. Life is good.

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 6, 2008 at 10:18 am

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