Archive for September, 2008

Happy Birthday to the Little Prince

Prince Hisahito, the first boy to be born in the Japanese royal family in more than 40 years, turned two on September 6th, sparking a renewed discussion about Japan’s males-only imperial succession law. Basically, Hisahito’s birth in 2006 was a relief to some Japanese conservatives, because it put to rest their fear that imperial gender roles might be on their way out.

While there have been Empresses (tenno) in Japan’s past, the most recent was in 1771, and the position is known as a temporary fix, rather than a long-term solution.

Hisahito’s uncle and aunt, Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, struggled to have children for seven years, and uncertainty about the royal line kept the country on edge. When Masako gave girth to Princess Aiko, speculation was rampant that the laws of the chrysanthemum throne may have to be altered to preserve the monarchy. If no changes were enacted, what would happen to the imperial line? Would it die off?

The Independent claims that, prior to Hisahito’s birth, public support for allowing Princess Aiko to eventually assume the role of Empress was at 80 percent.

Editorials filled the pages of The Japan Times and Asahi Shimbum, politicians took stances, and talk of adoption also cropped up. The Imperial Household Agency put so much pressure on Masako to have a baby boy that she suffered from stressand depression.

Prince Akishino (Naruhito’s younger brother) and Princess Kiko (then 39) eased Masako’s difficulties when they had Hisahito, who is currently third in line to inherit the throne.

Sarah S.

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September 30, 2008 at 8:49 am 5 comments

For a Cheap Motel, Stay at a Cafe

You’ve been running around Tokyo with blistering feet. On top of that, your Akihabara shopping spree has left you penniless — and you haven’t even booked a room for the night. What do you do? Head to the nearest Manga cafe, of course!

It’s a one-stop haven for all your geeky needs. Pay as little as $3 and you get a private cubicle with a high-speed computer for shopping, gaming, chatting and whatever else people do online. Shower rooms, free non-alcoholic beverages and phone chargers are provided at no additional cost, so there’s really no reason to go home.

And as implied by its name, manga cafes are loaded with comic books. That was the original idea: To provide an affordable way for kids to catch up on their favorite graphic novels, which are $3 to $4 a copy but can easily add up when there’s over 100 in a series. But as video games got bigger, so did the demand for privacy between man and machine. (Don’t you hate it when mom nags about dinner just before a boss battle??)

Moreover, manga cafes are a lifesaver for when you’ve just missed the last train. A 12-hour stay costs no more than $30 — half the price of a seedy Tokyo business hotel (though just as stinky). There are no beds, unfortunately, but some cafes supply comfy recliners.

Serving as a home away from home, manga cafes have become the populationbreeding ground for the nation’s ‘working poor’ population, so it’s not usual to see men milling about in suit and tie. Teens love it because they can spend the night with boyfriends/girlfriends… just holding hands, of course. There’s little privacy to do much more.

Of course, many a gaijin have also found their way here. It’s a novel approach traveling on a shoestring budget. You’d be the coolest tourist ever IMing your friends from a manga cafe. “Hey! Guess where I am?!” you’ll greet to your friends in Baltimore, followed by, “Ugh, I think the guy in the next cubicle farted.” Definitely something to write home about. (^_<)

Himawari

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September 26, 2008 at 8:25 am

Japan’s Political Scene Heats Up This Fall

Talk about a dramatic and intense week in politics. We’ve got liberals versus conservatives, old establishment versus new, “change” versus “more of the same”, popularity versus substance, economic woes, party unity…

I’m talking about Japanese Prime Minister’s Yasuo Fukuda’s resignation, and the rush to find a successor, of course.

Who’d you think I was referring to? 😉

Some of the same political issues facing Americans this fall — taxes, national debt, spending reform, national security — are playing out in Japan. It’s sort of comforting to know we’re not alone in dealing with these topics.
Japan’s LDP (Liberal Democratic Party), which has held majority rule for most of the past 50 years, has had difficulty keeping its Prime Ministers in place. Fukuda follows in Shinzo Abe’s footsteps by resigning after about a year.

What’s the deal? Why can’t Japan find another Junichiro Koizumi (who served as Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006) to lead? Well, it’s not for lack of trying.

Enter perpetual contender Taro Aso. The 67-year-old, manga-loving Secretary-General and former Minister for Foreign Affairs will likely replace Fukuda. (Then again, that’s what people said about Aso last year, after Abe’s resignation.) According to the Christian Science Monitor, charismatic Aso is “known for his controversial comments” but is also “well-liked among Japanese youths.” Sounds like a McCain/Obama hybrid. Egads!

Also running for the slot is Yuriko Koike, who has served both as a Defense Minister and Environment Minister. Somehow I doubt you will ever see that combination on an American politician’s resume. She’s also a former TV announcer. May the best man or woman win — and last longer than a year.

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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September 23, 2008 at 9:41 am

Get on the Bus!

With the fluctuating price of fuel, more people are ditching the train and getting on the bus. Some bus companies have nearly doubled their fleet with the number of long-distance riders skyrocketing these past few months. A bullet train can get from one side of the country to the other in little time, but a bus can get there at little cost. Case in point: A 1 1/2 hour train from Tokyo to Sendai City (almost 200 miles away) costs about $150. A bus between the same cities is only $35.

But enough about money. A Japanese bus is also about comfort and luxury. Reclining seats are as smooth as velvet. And attached to each is a foot rest and meal tray. There’s also a personal A/C vent, and unlike Greyhound you’re guaranteed to get there in one piece. Restrooms are in the back and coffee and tea are complimentary.

Safety is also key. Women have the option of not having to sit next to a man. Yeah, that might sound strange but many women in Japan avoid men like the plague. Why else would there be a demand for ‘women-only’ train cars? So now more females than ever are taking the bus.

As much as I love traveling the bullet train, it’s really hard to pass up a good thing like this. And being that we might be in this recession over the long haul I’d say hop aboard while you can. In this economy you never know what’s next to fold.

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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September 19, 2008 at 10:33 am

Long Live Instant Noodles

It’s been 50 years since Chicken Ramen Instant Noodles were invented in Osaka, the Japan Times reports. You probably know them as Cup Noodles, the Styrofoamy, hot, flavored goodness from your college days or early 20s. One of my roommates back then used to keep a 24-pack under her bed, and they were always welcome on a cold autumn day. Chicken soup is comforting no matter the style, but something about instant Ramen is extra-nostalgic for me.

The rest of the world caught on to the appeal of instant Ramen in the early 1970s, and the popularity of the ubiquitous noodles has grown ever since: over 100 billion served worldwide. (Take that, McDonald’s.)

According to “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio, inventor Momofuku Ando, who died at age 96 last year, believed that it was never too late to make your mark. He is quoted as writing, “I invented instant ramen when I was 48 and Cup Noodles at 61. In life, there is no such thing as too late.” So beloved is “Ramen King” Ando that a statue of him was erected outside the Nissin Instant Ramen Museum (yes, you read that correctly) in April.

The noodles aren’t fading away any time soon, either; new applications are constantly being found for them. Their packaging makes them perfect for emergency relief, and even astronauts carry vacuum-sealed versions. Here’s to 50 more years of instant noodles!

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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September 16, 2008 at 8:56 am

JUST IN: Tokyo Breathing Room

This week I’m taking off for Tokyo. It’s my annual trip to visit friends, eat like a sumo wrestler, and shop, shop, shop. I’m there for only a few days so I plan to wake up early, jump on a commuter JR train to Shibuya, jog three miles to Omotesando’s Kiddy Land, cross 40 minutes through town to Akihabara, then circle back 20 miles to Shinjuku — and that’s before lunch.

Tokyo is a lot like New York. You’re oftentimes relegated to public transportation and your bed is never around for a nap. So what you do is trudge through the city morning-to-night, shopping bags digging into your arms, until you finally collapse from exhaustion. Believe me, it’s great for losing weight — I lost five pounds in last year’s two-day shopping spree — but if you want to enjoy the city it’s a miserable way to go.

So I was excited to hear about ‘rental dressing rooms’ springing up across town. The brainchild of a company called COS-Pa, you pay between $5 to $7 for 30 minutes to sit down, wash your face and powder your nose. It’s originally designed for cosplay girls to spruce up before a night on the town, but I figure they wouldn’t mind me sneaking 40 winks, so as long as I pay them. Each room comes with all the necessary amenities: a mirror, tissues, electrical outlet, hair brushes, and an all-you-can-drink bar. Non-alcoholic, of course. Bobby pins, hair spray and nail polish are an added cost.

Japan’s heat gets pretty nasty during the summer. By mid-afternoon your shirt is drenched, your hair is frizzled beyond repair and your makeup has all but melted away. It’s hard to believe no one thought of rental rooms earlier. Well, that’s aside from love hotels, of course. And that’s a whole ‘nother kind of rental space. (^o<)

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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September 12, 2008 at 8:41 am

Where Will Wii Go Next?

When I was in 5th grade, Nintendo was the best. We all knew how to skip over the worlds in Super Mario Bros. and head right to levels four and eight. I can still conjure up the theme music for the underground, blue-brick sections if I think for a second. I even had a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine. Oh, the shame. 🙂

Now some of my friends have Nintendo Wii parties. (Throw your own! Here’s what you need: A) alcohol B) food and C) Nintendo Wii.) My favorite game is tennis. If you move just right you can serve an ace that’s impossible to hit back. Which, let’s face it, is the only time I’ll be capable of that particular feat.

Having sold 26.9 million units around the world since 2006, Wii (and its “Wiimote”) has beaten its rivals, Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox. But in the world of competitive gaming, it’s hard to stay on top for long. In fact, when you’re #1, lawsuits seem to come out of the woodwork. A U.S. company has recently announced intentions to sue Nintendo in a Wii wand patent lawsuit.

What’s next for Wii’s fans, though?

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata tells the Wall Street Journal about the company’s latest innovations, such as Wii Speak, which allows you to compete against your friends from different locations — and presumably taunt them. Then there’s the recent unveiling of Wii Music (think Guitar Hero), which was created by Shigeru Miyamoto — the original mastermind behind Super Mario. I can’t wait to try it!

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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September 9, 2008 at 12:04 pm

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