Monthly Archives: March 2005

The Ten Billion Names of Kim Jong Il

Harper’s magazine has graciously published a list of names which the North Korean government claims foreign leaders use to refer to Kim Jong Il.

Supreme Commander at the Forefront of the
Struggle Against Imperialism and the United
States

Greatest Saint Who Rules with Extensive
Magnanimity

Lode Star of the Twenty-First Century
Best Leader Who Realized Human Wisdom
Leader with Extraordinary Personality
Perfect Picture of Wisdom and Boldness
Eternal Bosom of Hot Love
Master of Literature, Arts, and Architecture
World’s Best Ideal Leader with Versatile
Talents

Humankind’s Greatest Musical Genius
Master of the Computer Who Surprised the
World
Man with Encyclopedic Knowledge
Guardian Deity of the Planet
Heaven-Sent Hero
Power Incarnate with Endless Creativity
Greatest Man Who Ever Lived
Present-day God
World’s Greatest Writer

You know, he may have something here. From now on I would like to be referred to as “World’s Best Ideal Leader with Versatile Talents.”

For a profile of the Dear Leader see my earlier post.

オモシロ記事三昧 Interesting article roundup

I’m busy, so I don’t have time to write individual entries on these, so here’s a synopsis of some stuff that caught my eye:

From ZAKZAK, everyone’s favorite online tabloid:


Japan’s favorite pickles NOT kimchee after all —An earlier report that Japan’s #1 pickled dish was in fact Korean kimchee turns out to be false. Asazuke, a general term for Japan’s traditional lightly pickled vegetables such as takuan or umeboshi, is in fact Japan’s favorite. “After all,” the ZAKZAK reporter concludes, “We are Japanese!”

North Korean fans get violent with Iran after losing 1-0
“Kill the foreigners” shout thousands of angry fans; Zico’s Japan shudders
NK Fan gets the Smackdown
The Marmot has covered this pretty well, but seriously I thought that the DPRK’s citizens were either above it or just too weary to get angry over soccer. Ogura Junji, Vice Chairman of FIFA, expressed surprise, saying, “There was a clear security problem in North Korea.” Kind of hard to believe from the world’s most notorious police state.

Japan is up in arms over the incident as well, and there is a possibility for the location of June’s Japan-NK matchup to be moved depending on NK’s response.



TSUTAYA buys Virgin Japan from Marui, shifts focus from “renting”
—Virgin’s “huge foreign investment” selling media products expanded throughout the 1990s, but it could not compete with the consumer’s shift toward renting CDs and DVDs (In Japan, CD rental shops are ubiquitous, unlike in America where I have never seen one). Though Virgin Japan has centered its business on media sales stores on Marui Properties, it will now focus on creating rental/sales combination stores within Marui properties (presumably shopping malls and stationfront properties).

Since Tower Records opened its first store in Japan in 1979, and after the relaxing of regulations on foreign-owned companies in Japan, Virgin and HMV have also joined the market. Opening large stores all over the country, these record stores have become a part of Japan’s youth culture.

Since then, however, consumers’ focus has shifted entirely from buying media to renting it. Marui bought the Virgin chain in April 2003 and had been attempting to revitalize it.

From Excite News:
What the hell is a Weather Certificate?! —The Japanese Meteorological Service provides Weather Certificates to confirm what the weather was like on a given day. Great for when you need a good alibi or when making insurance claims. (Do any other countries do this?)

There are some more articles, but they really deserve their own entry. Expect them later.

Solving Territorial Disputes

As we watch relations between Japan and Korea continue to fray over an increasingly nationalistic fight for a bunch of silly rocks in the middle of the ocean, we may wonder, how can this be resolved without halting trade or firing shots?

As a Mr Mark Thoma points out on his blog, there has been a significant decrease in violent crimes committed by American youth, inversely correlating to the growth of violent video games. That is to say, as young people in America have been engaging in more simulated violence they have in fact, contrary to the typical close minded conservative Joe Lieberman position, been at the same time engaging in less real violence.

What does this have to do with the dispute between Japan and Korea of ownership of Dokdo/Takeshima, you may be thinking? For the answer, let us turn to this article reprinted by Yahoo News, originally from Yonhap.

N.Korea Agrees To Provide Free ‘Dokdo’ Online Game
SEOUL, March 18 Asia Pulse – A North Korean company has agreed to provide a partially free service for an online game related to the Dokdo islets, a group of South Korean outcroppings, which it co-developed with a South Korean firm, the Southern partner said Thursday.

“The North Korean company, which developed the game with us, answered positively to our suggestion of providing the game at no cost for a while,” said NKmall (www.nkmall.com), which imports North Korean products.

“LG Telecom (Kosdaq:032640) will give a free service to its subscribers for the game from Friday to Thursday next week,” it added. The game play involves guarding the islets from invaders. LG Telecom is one of South Korea’s three mobile phone operators

Dokdo has become a hot issue domestically as a provincial assembly in Japan voted on Wednesday to designate a day on its calendar to promote its claim over the islets, sparking strong protests from South Korea.

The two Koreas are finding some common ground in their opposition to Japan over the issue.

South Korea is also considering importing North Korea-made postage stamps concerning the rocky islets.

Dokdo, a set of volcanic outcroppings in the East Sea, lies halfway between South Korea and Japan. Seoul has maintained a small police detachment there since 1954.

The way is clear. As the youth of America have begun turning from stealing cars to Grand Theft Auto, from shooting each other to playing Counterstrike, from getting in schoolyard fist-fights to Street Fighter, so must nation states follow. By channeling agression from the real to the virtual realm shall we preserve peace.

Perhaps instead of fighting an actual war for control of Liancourt/Dokdo/Takeshima, Japan and Korea (and maybe France too, but we all know they would lose) could have select champions to battle it out in computer games? Of course, the selection of game will be a source of great controversy. First person shooter games like Counterstrike, or real time strategy like Starcraft would undoubtadly go to Korea, and Japan would wipe the floor with them in fighting games, but at least diplomatic efforts would be focused on something sensible for a change.

The Tale of Nasubi

Those living in Japan may remember a segment on the popular TV program Dempa Shonen called “Kensho Seikatsu” (“Sweepstakes Life”) in which a poor comedian named Nasubi was trapped naked in a room and forced to to win sweepstakes if he hoped to survive.

Or, maybe you don’t remember. For you, here is a great retelling of the saga of Nasubi, complete with screen captures and funny moments. Here’s a taste:


Nasubi on his first day

Nippon Television’s (NTV) producers have obviously never heard of the Geneva Convention. If they had, they wouldn’t have treated poor Nasubi the way they did. They wouldn’t have stripped him naked and shut him in an apartment, alone with no food, furniture, household goods, or entertainment. They wouldn’t have kept him there for over a year until he had won $10 000 in prizes by sending in postcards to contests. They wouldn’t have cut him off from the world and they would have told him that he was on nation-wide TV.

It all started one snowy day in January, 1998 with an audition. The audition consisted of choosing lots because the only talent needed for this challenge was luck. A group of aspiring comedians showed up, and among them was a young man whose stage name is Nasubi, which means eggplant. Nasubi was ‘lucky’ that day, and was chosen over other aspiring young comedians for a mysterious “show-business related job”. He was immediately blindfolded and driven to a tiny one room apartment somewhere in Tokyo.


Nasubi’s empty room
When he arrived at the apartment, he was shown a stand full of magazines, a huge pile of postcards, and told to strip naked. The room was empty except for a cushion, a table, a small radio, a telephone, some notebooks, and a few pens. There was not a crumb of food, a square of toilet paper, or any form of entertainment. Whatever he needed, he was to win by sending thousands of postcards into contests. The producers left and Nasubi was on his own in his unique survival challenge. Imagine what was going through his mind: How am I going to eat? Why are they doing this to me? How long will it take to get out of here? He must have thought he was in a bad episode of The Prisoner.

Japan’s ODA “a hotbed of corruption” says Cambodian opposition leader

From Yahoo News:

In a press conference at a Tokyo hotel Mar. 30, Cambodia opposition party leader Sam Rainsy of the Sam Rainsy Party described Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) as “a hotbed of corruption,” offering criticism of the country’s efforts. To enter the UN Security Council, Rainsy called on Japan to “establish new aid policies that further democratization in developing countries.”

Mainichi continues:

The party leader said of Japan’s ODA to Cambodia, “Large-scale construction projects such as bridges and hospitals destroy the environment and do not work toward alleviating poverty or other problems of the people as a whole. The ODA network (that set aid policy) is not operating properly in Cambodia,” seeking a reevaluation of management. Japan is the biggest aid donor to Cambodia. Throughout 2003, Japan gave USD$76,680,000 (based on net disbursement) just in grants in aid. (Uramatsu Junji reporting).

South Korea Bans DPRK Execution Video

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the infamous North Korean execution video has been essentially banned in Korea. (Unfortunately it seems that the location Adamu found last week no longer hosts the video-the web site is only an archive of current the most recent Japanese news programs.)

“We have told of many public executions [in the North]. But officials in Seoul always ask us for material evidence,” says Pak Sang Huk, an escapee from the North. “Now that we have evidence, they don’t want to see it…. The people who brought this tape through China were speechless when they visited KBS [Korean Broadcast Service] studios, and were shunned.” Mr. Pak claims those who filmed the executions risked their lives to do so.

Seoul’s effort to avoid broadcasts of negative images or facts about North Korea is part of a larger strategy dating to the Sunshine Policy and Korean summit of 2000. In this view, unification of North and South can’t be achieved if the South criticizes or acts in a manner that the North deems hostile.

I’m genuinely amazed that the South Korean government has decided to keep this tape out of the media. Sure I understand that they want to engage the Northern regime in peaceful dialogue and tone down the anti-communist propaganda that has filled much of the public discource in post-separation South Korea, but they should realize that reporting factual information about the horrors that occur in the North should NOT be classified that way. By muffling the South Korean free press I fear they may do more long term damage.

On the plus side, South Korea has the highest penetration of high speed internet in the world, and a vast culture of file sharing software. I just hope that some Korean internet sites not associated with big media (maybe Ohmynews?) will take up the slack and make this video avaliable to the Korean population. Maybe someone will be ambitious enough to take the thorough news reports that have aired in Japan, subtitle them in Korean, and then release those videos on the internet.

FCC Gets an F

I think this quote from the new FCC Chairman, Kevin J Martin is definitive proof that the agency has become so utterly worthless that it no longer has any right to exist.

“This order involves a television program that the majority admits ‘contains references of a sexual nature that were broadcast at a time of day when children were likely to be in the audience,’ ” he wrote in that opinion. “Yet the majority concludes that the program, in which a prostitute is hired to sexually arouse a horse by removing her blouse and to ‘extract’ semen from the horse, is not indecent because the prostitute is ‘never seen actually touching’ the horse. Despite my colleagues’ assurance that there appeared to be a safe distance between the prostitute and the horse, I remain uncomfortable. I respectfully dissent.”

Update: For anyone interested in a more serious take on problems with spectrum regulation, read this article.

A Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee was formed in Washington, and it had one key recommendation: “Public safety agencies will not be able to adequately discharge their obligations to protect life and property” if they don’t get more frequencies within five years. The report was released on September 11, 1996.

And we all know what happened exactly five years later, when public safety agencies still did not have sufficient spectrum for their emergency radio communications network.

Japanese Towns Can’t Keep off the Dole

Just a quick link, quote, and commentary shot straight from my hip for a story:


1 DAY BONUS: Over 40 localities to delay mergers

03/28/2005
The Asahi Shimbun

The delay gains merging municipalities an extra year of benefits.

Localities poised to merge in a central government plan to reduce costs are learning that sometimes it pays to be late.

Of the 44 municipalities that are set to merge nationwide by April 1, more than 90 percent, or 41, will postpone the move to qualify for one more year of extra funds, an Asahi Shimbun study shows.

In fact, 24 of the cities and towns delaying their mergers are pushing the date back only one day to gain the bonus. By delaying, the 41 municipalities will receive between a few hundred million yen and nearly 3 billion yen more in tax allocations, the study said.

This merger is the “Great Heisei Merger” which follows the “Great Showa Merger” and the “Great Meiji Merger”. In the Meiji period, the tens of thousands of feudal hamlets that had existed in the Bakufu period were reorganized into more modern style towns and cities when the Meiji Constitution came into effect in 1888. In Showa, there was further reorganization. There is a great World Bank paper on the topic that I completely missed out on when I wrote a paper about this for class. Doh!

Basically, the Showa merger in the 1950s switched from the more hands-off, autonomous style of the Meiji/Taisho/early Showa eras to a mostly centralized funding system. Basically the towns send all their money to Tokyo and then get it doled back to them. It was seen as more efficient since all policy was being made from Tokyo anyway. This new round of mergers reflects more the changing demographics of Japan than a planned economy. Many towns are simply running out of people, so merging would give people more access to public services etc.

Koizumi wants to go back to the more hands-off approach, allowing the Prefectures and towns to have more tax collecting power. The Keidanren wants him to go a step further and eliminate prefectures altogether, making a 9-member United States of Japan (called doushuusei), but this is maybe a first step.

Funny, then, that he’s using funding incentives to get the mergers going. Local governments who have been nurtured with central government welfare aren’t going to change so easily. They’ll be happy to wait an extra day to get a bigger check.

Japan Goes to East Timor: The Original Soundtrack on MP3


In 2002, Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF, Motto: “There are some people I want to protect”) sent a brigade of engineers to East Timor to aid in the rebuilding after the chaos of the secession movement. Since this was the first time in a while for the SDF to do anything at all, the dispatch was kicked of with great fanfare.

As part of that effort, JGSDF Engineer Katayama Yoshio of the first wave of troops composed the following songs, which the Japanese government was nice enough to make available for download. Allow me to share:

The Winds of East Timor”—They messed up the links on the site so that both the first and second songs link to the second song. But with my “elite skills” I magically changed the filename from “timor2.mp3” to “timor1.mp3” and PRESTO! all their base belonged to me. The sound? Picture a Muzak version of Southern Allstars crossed with the wussy background music to those public service announcements on Japanese TV.

The Stars of East Timor”—Sounds like any given anime theme from the early 90s meets any given American sitcom theme from the 80s. Compare this with the ALF or Perfect Strangers theme if you dare.

The Other Side of East Timor”—OK, now we’re getting intense. You thought East Timor was gonna be some walk in the park? Fuck you then. Every corporate instructional video or infomercial that I’ve ever scene probably had this for opening music.

The Independence of East Timor”—Final Fantasy ending theme, Karate Kid ending theme, the music for the unveiling of a new car model, take your pick. Never before has Muzak sounded so triumphant. It’s as if to say: “May the East Timorese have a generic and cheesy future full of last-minute soccer goals and defeated bosses.”

East Timor Jubilee”—Let’s party! Remember the parade song in Final Fantasy VII? This sounds JUST like that. Nobuo Uematsu may have a juicy lawsuit opportunity here. Listening to this makes me think the first thing East Timor did when they gained independence was have a nationwide conga line.

The Dunes of East Timor”—OK, now we’re back to anime themes. Nothing more to say about the song, really, but I have to admire this guy’s use of a MIDI keyboard.

Don’t believe me? Listen for yourself!

In all honesty, these lame songs make a pretty apt soundtrack to Japan’s efforts in East Timor. They ignored the problem there for decades, instead opting to trade with the Indonesian government out of economic self-interest and (maybe) a belief in macro-economic assistance to raise living standards in other countries. The afterthought of an SDF dispatch is about as uninspired as these songs are, and about as sincere-looking as the guys holding hands at the top of the site.

Thanks to JGSDF, RPGamer, ClassicTVHits.com, and Barbneal for the songs!

【夜行バス転落死】Death on the highway: Girls falls to death on overnight highway bus

You can see where the window can be opened
Here’s the long and short of it:

[Tomeido Accident] Witnesses recall, “She just fell suddenly,” Wind pressure cited as possible cause
The victim
12-year-old Kokubo Misato of Mihama, Aichi, who died in the early morning of March 26 after falling from the window of a large charter bus at the Yakitsu Interchange on the Tomeido Expressway South Yakitsu, Shizuoka. A witness who dialed 110 (Japan’s 911) at around 1:50 am, a Tokyo truck driver (36), told Mainichi Shimbun reporters, “A person suddenly fell from the window of the charter bus as it was moving and rolled on the highway. The car directly behind the bus hit its emergency brake,” describing the scene at the time of the accident. Prefectural highway patrol are investigating the possibility that Kokubo opened the window herself and was then carried away by the wind, and are hurrying with reproduction trials to find the cause of the fall.

The bus’s windows are 1m above the floor, and about 50cm above the seat. They are in total 2m wide, but 1m of the window could be opened slide-style. The bus company maintains that “you cannot fall out of the window while seated.”

A student noticed that Kokubo was missing after a gust of wind from the fully open window woke her up.

The girl’s Japanese abacus teacher, who had led the trip to Tokyo Disneyland, said, “When we stopped at the service area (before the accident), there were children who opened the windows because it was so hot and humid.”

As someone from 2ch mentioned, the cops need to investigate the BUS COMPANY, not a possible hit and run!

What you might not get from these reports is that these buses are SHITTY. These people were returning to the Nagoya area, which is about a 5-hour drive by bus. I’ve ridden them several times (from Tokyo to Kyoto, an 8-hour trip) because they are so much cheaper than the obscenely expensive Shinkansen. The seats are small, the stops few (in one case non-existent) and the drivers unresponsive to demands. I once asked that the heat be turned down because I had a fever and it was completely uncomfortable, to no avail.

The bus company seems to be trying to blame this on the girl. That’s bullshit. Everyone SLEEPS on these overnight buses. No one is playing around the window, believe me. It shouldn’t have taken a girl’s death to show them that they need better bus design and a consistent heating policy.
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