Omotenashi means “hospitality” and that is what we know and love Japan for. But, of course, this is not where the dreams of a tolerant and friendly society end. If you have ever visited or lived in Japan and you proudly have a tattoo you might well have experienced discrimination you have never even thought of. Fitness centers, public bath houses, swimming pools and even parts of public beaches are increasingly refusing access to people who have a tattoo.
While years ago this illegal “rule” was just limited in some way to family spa lands and some more private clubs, it has now spread into public areas, and even international hotels such as the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo are refusing access to their spa facilities unless you are wearing a full-cover body suit to cover your tattoos. Asked for the reason, the official statement of a Ritz Carlton Executive in Tokyo was: “It is a Japanese custom and we respect it”.
I see. As a German I cannot help remembering the history lessons we had to endure over and over again at school. For so many years we barely learned anything else than about our terrible Nazi history not so long ago. We saw Jewish people getting refused access at first, later to be branded with first stars on their cloth and then tattooed numbers. We saw pictures of them walking and living separately from us “Aryan” Germans. Of course it did not end with the Jewish people. Basically anybody that could possible harm the society (which one?). And it was a lot. In the end we killed 6 million people and we could have surely killed more if we had not run out of cash that we stole from the people we killed and put into camps.
Anyway, when I went to stay in South Africa for a year at the age of 17, Apartheid was still in bloom, also we could think it was the final bloom. Nevertheless, i saw people separated by skin colour when they entered buses or went to toilets. In good establishments you would barely see a “kaffir” (black person) except as a waiter. It was quite an experience to be thrown back into history and just a few years later experience the fall of apartheid. Nelson Mandela died a couple of days ago. Thank you for what you did!
Japan, I love you! But what are you doing? Have you not learned your history lessons? Do you really want to go down that road?
We could argue that tattoo is a symbol of the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia, which had its high time back in the 1980′s. People are scared of them and the tattoos make them feel uneasy during relaxing time at the spa or in the gym. People fear for their kids, so they have a special space where people with tattoos are not allowed.
Ok, just the fact is that there are barely any incidents where “normal” (non-Yakuza) people are involved. Yakuza incidents are usually limited to within their groups and even the definition of Yakuza is very fuzzy. Many of the Yakuza do not have tattoos and some could pass as a normal salaryman or bank manager from their appearance.
In any way, a tattoo is hardly a way of recognising a “bad person” (悪い人). And even if that person might be a “bad person”, it does not mean that he (or she, in fact… the rule applies also to the ladies) will in any way interrupt the business or annoy the other guests.
Japan, this is discrimination and I would like you to stop it. Also, by the way, it’s against the law. Please consult your lawyer.
It might be hard for you to think that you can just change a rule like that overnight. Ok, take your time but start today. You have six more years to go before the whole world will be looking at you. When world-famous athletes and millions of foreign guests will flock to Japan. To experience the Olympics but also a country that is admired in the West for its hospitality and kindness.
Foreign media will report about every little corner and cultural aspects and you can be sure that refusing entry to foreign visitors to onsen (hot springs), one of Japan’s most valuable tourist assets, is not going to stand good in the light of an open, global society.
Thank you so much for your consideration!
Here in Japan, you can get a decent meal for (arguably) as little as 500 yen. Some people choose to spend the same amount on a cup of coffee at a café or on the go. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer as to how we should spend our money, yet the majority of us are still inclined to think that cheaper is better. Needless to say, we can argue that the price of a drink at a café includes cover charge giving you the right to occupy a seat for the next couple of hours — or even more — without being disturbed.
But if we could get a coffee of the nearly equal or same quality for half the price offered at giant chains, we would be tempted at least to try it, right? And that’s where convenience stores come in and are thriving now to satisfy Japanese coffee lovers of all ages.
At Seven Eleven, a regular-size coffee is offered at 100 yen. Their coffee brand, Seven Café, is proud to present an original drip coffee machine. Simply order a coffee at the cashier, receive a cup (for iced coffee, you need to get a different cup from the frozen section and bring it over yourself), place it in the machine and press the button. There you have a freshly brewed hot coffee in less than a minute.
Self-service convenience store coffee (or “konbini coffee”) has already been voted the number one trend of the year by Nikkei Trendy. Each chain has established its own brand to differentiate their product from one another.
At Family Mart, Famima Café offers a blend coffee for 150 yen (120 yen for a small cup) and uses an espresso coffee machine made in Germany.
Lawson’s Machi Café, on the other hand, boasts the “hospitality” of its employees, unlike other chains, where they make the coffee behind the counter and hand it to customers themselves.
M’s Style Coffee at Mini Stop uses two different coffee blends: one for hot coffee and the other for iced coffee.
And finally, at CircleK Sunkus you can choose from four types of (hot) coffee at its Fast Relax Cafe: Original Taste (100 yen), Organic (150 yen), Extra Blend (160 yen), and Blue Mountain Blend (180 yen). They also have iced coffee and Lipton tea on the menu.
For all coffee lovers out there, konbini coffee might now have become a serious alternative to Starbucks, which is almost as ubiquitous today as a convenience store. While convenience stores have always been appreciated for just being there, ready to serve customers 24/7, authentic coffee at the counter is certainly a great addition to their service and may even attract fans in its own right.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP government has succeeded in passing the immensely controversial new state secrets bill, in spite of a human chain around the Diet today, a wave of protests over the past few weeks, and the opposition of most of the other parties in the parliament.
After being rushed through the Lower House, it was today approved in the Upper House Special Committee on National Security to become law.
Abe is in danger of becoming the Kishi of the new century. Nobusuke Kishi was the arrogant and impervious premier during the 1960 renewal of the Anpo security treaty with America, that was ratified in the face of massive protests across the country.
A nice summary of the bill was provided by Jake Adelstein in the Japan Times:
The first rule of the pending state secrets bill is that a secret is a secret. The second rule is that anyone who leaks a secret and/or a reporter who makes it public via a published report or broadcast can face up to 10 years in prison. The third rule is that there are no rules as to which government agencies can declare information to be a state secret and no checks on them to determine that they don’t abuse the privilege; even defunct agencies can rule their information to be secret. The fourth rule is that anything pertaining to nuclear energy is a state secret, which means there will no longer be any problems with nuclear power in this country because we won’t know anything about it. And what we don’t know can’t hurt us.
The right to know has now officially been superseded by the right of the government to make sure you don’t know what they don’t want you to know.
In a time of increasing territorial tensions with China, many see the new state secrets bill as another erosion of Japan’s liberties as Abe seems to be turning the nation ever more to the right.
Japan already has a very low press freedom ranking compared to its economic status, and this looks set to plunge to the levels of China with the passing of this new bill.
Protestors worry the new bill could be used to prosecute people seeking public disclosure of sensitive information. The government disputes this and points to Article 21 in the Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression, including public demonstrations.
And yet the latter has the government has hardly sold its argument well to the public. Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba likened protesting against the new act to an act of “terrorism”!
A survey by the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun showed 61% of ordinary voters are worried about the speed with which the bill has been pushed through the two parliaments, where the LDP holds a majority in both.
With the new state secrets bill about to become law, don’t expect a Japanese Edward Snowden any time soon.
Particle science can be pretty mind-boggling at times, right?
But if you are region is competing to host the ILC (International Linear Collider), you need to have your grasp on what’s an electron and what isn’t a positron, and all that jazz.
How do you make this exciting? Well, you could hire Team Lab, for a start.
That’s what Sefuri did. The region is located in Fukuoka and Saga prefectures and is one of Japan’s candidates for the ILC (the other is in the Kitakami Mountains in Tohoku).
Team Lab came along and recruited some actual local schoolgirls from Saga to make a “high school musical” about the science.
The result is the vibrant Sefuri ILC High School video.
According to Team Lab, “even though this work is less than 300 seconds and has had over an incredible amount 200 shots taken, it has incorporated the determination of the production team that have worked through scenes mere seconds long for extensive shots of scenes, costumes, props, motion graphics, animation, and more.”
Along with an exhibition at Tokyo Cultuart by Beams, they also made a very spectacular GIF Tumblr website for the promo, and which is guaranteed to give you a headache if you watch it for too long.
Although it’s very well done, we do wonder what it’s appeal could be to the bods that make these multi-billion-dollar decisions. Sure, it shouts “Cool Japan” (in a way that the central government could never understand) but it might be shooting itself in the foot by not taking itself seriously.
The ILC is, in the words of ScienceMag.org, “The ILC is expected to pick up where Europe’s Large Hadron Collider leaves off in studies of the Higgs boson and other exotic particles. Physicists in North America, Europe, and Japan agree on the need for the collider and have collaborated in the design stage. Each region would like to host the ILC, but Japan has emerged as the most ardent suitor. It is not clear, however, how the machine will be paid for.”
With Tohoku’s budget set to be occupied by post-disaster reconstruction for many years to come, ILC Kyushu is in with a real chance.
Here is the making-of video too!
The video also features the brilliant Shota Mori. He made this hilarious Taxi Driver-inspired “Sleeve iPhone” that generated quite a buzz earlier a few months back.
While the crowds were flocking to see the latest innovations in the Japanese automotive industry for the Tokyo Motor Show, there was another big car event in Odaiba last week.
As Nissan and Toyota et al showed off their concept cars that might just indicate the future of mobility (or the labors of an generously funded R&D department), November 24th also saw a one-day-only Itasha exhibition out in the bay.
Itasha are heavily — well, let’s be honest, overly — decorated cars that reflect the owner’s tastes in moe. A typical Itasha will feature shojo girls and other anime characters, and of course is driven by a self-professed otaku.
On Sunday, over 80 cars were driven down to Odaiba to be shown off to the world.
This “three-dimensional” Madoka car was spotted earlier this year and caused a storm on Twitter. Nice to see it back.
[All images via MyNavi.]
Leading fashion magazine CanCam has been going for over thirty years and now it has finally got itself its own exclusive male model.
After launching the careers and seeing immense success in the heyday of Japanese magazine publishing with the likes of Norika Fujiwara and Ryoko Yonekura, and most famous the trio of Moe Oshikiri, Yu Yamada and Yuri Ebihara (aka Ebi-chan), now CanCam has finally turned to a man to prop up its brand.
Yuuki Sawa is a nineteen-year-old sophomore student at Rikkyo University in Tokyo and this is his first modeling gig, which isn’t a bad debut by any standards. He was spotted by the editor of CanCam during the Mr Rikkyo Contest, where he was one of the judges.
CanCam’s prime readers are said to be young office ladies and female college students looking for tips for how to be mote-kei, i.e. popular with the boys.
Its name is an inventive if bizarre take on “I can campus”… whatever that means. Since the departure of Ebihara as its main cover model a few years back, its fortunes have famously declined, along with most fashion titles, though the one-time boom in offering omake fashion item giveaways helped boost sales for many. (For a comparison of the first ever issue of CanCam and the thirtieth anniversary issue in 2011, see this interesting article on Néojaponisme.)
Yuuki Sawa’s debut in the magazine is in the January 2014 issue, which went on sale last week. As he is a senzoku moderu (exclusive contract model), we can look forward to regular appearances by him every month.
Can Yuuki Sawa and this new gimmick by CanCam help the magazine regain its once lofty circulation of 500,000 during the Ebihara days?
In post-Fukushima Japan, we need more projects like this.
While the LDP government slowly cranks up the return to full nuclear power, some Japanese corporations are being more realistic about the future. One of them is Kyocera, which has built the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant at a cost of $275.5 million.
The solar power plant is Japan’s largest and has a capacity of 70 megawatts. That’s enough to power some 22,000 Japanese homes (which are typically a bit smaller than American or European ones).
According to Kyocera, the plant “is being operated by a special purpose company established by Kyocera and six other companies to sell the electricity to a local utility under Japan’s feed-in-tariff (FIT) program.”
The Kyushu facility covers an area of 1,270,000m2, roughly the same area as 27 baseball stadiums.
Expectations and interest in solar energy have heightened to a new level in Japan with the need to resolve power supply issues resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. To further promote the use of renewable energy, the Japanese government launched a restructured FIT program in July 2012, which stipulates that local utilities are required to purchase 100% of the power generated from solar installations of more than 10 kilowatts (kW) for a period of 20 years.
Kyocera is also being savvy about the PR advantages of being a green pioneer in Japan, not to mention how it can tie in with regional tourism, a formidable money-spinner. That’s why it is promoting the site not only for its long-term eco implications but also its own intrinsic value as a visiting destination for technology buffs (of which there are more than a few in Japan) or even sightseers hoping for good views of nearby Sakurajima.
Additionally, a tour facility has been built adjacent to the 70MW plant — which is open to the public — featuring a circular viewing room where visitors can observe the 290,000 solar panels from an elevated vantage point and enjoy the view of the ocean bay and grand Sakurajima volcano in the background. Display zones for visitors such as students and tourists provide information about environmental issues and the science behind photovoltaic energy generation. By dedicating this facility, all parties involved hope to foster a deeper understanding of renewable energy and further facilitate a low-carbon society.
Let’s hope that vision isn’t too far away.
Get a taste of Chinese food in the appropriate Communist garb now in this Cultural Revolution-themed restaurant, which is apparently now open in Ikebukuro.
Ikebukuro is one of the most multi-cultural parts of Tokyo, though that’s not saying much. There is a large contingent of Chinese people but we’re not sure if they are behind this latest gimmick.
Well, in theory this kind of restaurant shouldn’t surprise anyone, given that there seems to be a themed eatery for almost any hobby or idea somewhere in Japan. Maids? Of course! Thunderbirds? Yep, there’s a cafe for that. Rabbits. Yes, one for those too. Robots and girls in bikinis? Check. Hypnosis?! You’d better believe it.
The staff at “The East Is Red” restaurant are supposed to dress in Red Army uniforms, while the menu is a (large) Little Red Book. Needless to say, the wall has plenty of Chairman Mao pictures.
Kitsch? Yes. Irreverent? Perhaps. Genuine? Not so sure.
So far, the only major media to pick up on the story has been the Xinhua network and a few 2chan-related blogs. Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku did some digging but even has not been able to ascertain if the restaurant actually exists or not.
We have also not been able to find the actual restaurant so are leaning towards thinking it must be a fake post.
In true Cultural Revolution style, could this just be a propaganda stunt by Chinese netizens or a late Halloween joke?
If anyone knows any better, please share in the comments section!
Who are all the anti-nuclear power demonstrators?
Emperor taboo-busting renegades like Taro Yamamoto? Just young hipsters or hardened veteran activists?
No, there’s plenty of ordinary folk who work in regular offices too. And they even marched in their “uniforms” to prove it.
October 30th saw a “suit demo” in which some 600 office workers rallied in Shinbashi, a real salaryman hub, in order to protest the re-starting of nuclear reactors in Japan.
The start time was 19:00, which as everyone who has ever worked for a Japanese company knows, is pretty early for people to have left their desks for the day. Still, some things are more important than finishing off their email to a colleague. These suited protestors were for once not putting in overtime at the office but instead were marching in Ginza.
Although there is a kind of cosplay-esque vibe to the “themed” demo, it is ultimately a pretty sincere attempt to convince the government that even ordinary white collar workers are concerned for the safety of atomic energy in Japan.
To start up to date with future Suit Demo events, follow the organizers on Twitter.