Hello Kitty, First Female Sumo Wrestler?

The Japan Sumo Association has selling Hello Kitty Sumo limited edition merchandise at events, and the items became such a hit that they are now available on the Internet.

Among the goods available for purchase are mobile phone straps:

Hello Kitty is playing the role of the “Yobidashi-san”, or referee.

And here she is wearing the mawashi, the infamous diaper of the sumo wrestler.
Towels and mugs are also available:

Continue reading Hello Kitty, First Female Sumo Wrestler?

New Photo Galleries

I’ve finally installed the photo gallery software that I’ve been meaning to for some time. Called, appropriately enough, Gallery, it is a php based user installed package, much like the wordpress software that runs this blog. I first installed the beta of Gallery2, but for some reason I couldn’t get it to finish the installation procedures and I ended up just using the fully functional release of 1.5 instead. I haven’t yet explored what it can do much at all, but I have it running on this server at www.mutantfrog.com/gallery with a few galleries of photos, some of which have been online before and some which have not.

The week after the one that started today is my spring break, and over that week I should have the time to both fully repair the blog, and to set up my gallery installation properly, hopefully with matching themes and links that make them appear to be an integrated web site. If anybody out there has used gallery before and has any specific tips, feel free to pass them along.

Semipalatinsk TEST SITE, Kazakhstan

From the New York Times:

On this spot on a summer morning in 1949, Soviet scientists detonated Stalin’s first atomic bomb. Over the next 40 years, in the air above the steppe and the soil of the surrounding area, scientists detonated at least 455 more.

Kazakhstan’s nuclear arsenal is now gone, returned to Russia in the 1990’s. But one of this sprawling country’s dismal inheritances after decades of Moscow’s rule is this vast poisoned zone. It is a measure of the disarray bedeviling many corners of the former Soviet Union that access to it is fully unrestricted.

If you can find your way here, you can enter at will.


The test range is a peculiar post-Soviet legacy. In an area roughly the size of Israel, the Joe One site is just one of several places where the hundreds of bombs were detonated. Across this vast stretch, no one who wanders the range can be sure of the risks. No one who lives nearby can be sure the meat in markets did not come from animals that grazed on radioactive grass. No one knows where all of the irradiated metal has gone.

What is known is this: The site has been stripped almost bare. Scavenging gangs have yanked the thick copper cables from the ground and dismantled and carted away the parked aircraft and fighting vehicles.

If only I had had more time on my trip to Kazakhstan a year ago! Someday I have to go back and take a Semipalatinsk and Aral Sea tour.

The Korean ipod Resistance

A friend send me this text, allegedly of an ad taken out by iRiver in South Korean newspapers, encouraging people to buy Korean instead of those trendy American mp3 players. For the record, I have an iRiver H140 hard drive based mp3 player, and in my opinion it kicks the ipods ass anyway.

Does shouting ‘mansei’ buck-naked make Korea independent? U.S. firms are sweeping up most of the world’s HDD-type MP3 player market… As a sovereign MP3 state, we could not simply sit back and watch. After spending countless nights in the research room, we’ve finally produced a precious son for the world market… There will be many difficulties, but we are not afraid. We are the descendents of martyrs who braved bullets and swords to bring about independence to the cry of ‘mansei.’

Welcome Back IE

Ok, some of you may have noticed that this blog was not loading in Internet Explorer for at least the past week or two. I spent a decent amount of time trying to diagnose the problem, and after a protracted period of completely and utterly failing to do so, I decided the only course of action was to completly wipe out my installation of wordpress and reinstall it.

Having done so, the problem seems to have cleared up, and everything is very nearly back to Normal. There are quite a few glitches and missing features remaining, since although I did back up the graphical theme correctly, I also wiped out most if not all of my customized html and php, which I will have to redo over the weekend when I have time to mess around with that again. Still, things work now, and I should be doing some more posts in the near future. Other plans also include installing a separate photo gallery program more suitable to manageing large numbers of photos, so I can finally post the hundreds that I’ve been meaning to without having to rely on the clunky blog/photogallery format that I’ve experimented with in the past.

Japanese Quiz #2 日本語で芸能クイズ!

In an effort to further alienate my readers, here’s a J-Pop quiz in Japanese!




Kokutai National Sports Festival to Be Almost Completely Opened to Foreigners

Daily Sports Presents!

It was announced on Mar. 2nd that the restrictions on qualifications for participation in the Kokutai, Japan’s national sports festival, will be greatly relaxed for students of Korean schools in Japan, Japanese-Brazilians, and other players and coaches with foreign citizenship to take, opening the door for their participation. The Japan Amateur Sports Association (JASA) will make the official decision at a Kokutai Committee meeting on Mar. 4. The changes are expected to be implemented in next years combined Kokutai in Hyogo Prefecture.

Under current regulation Japanese citizenship is a prerequisite for participation in the Kokutai, and limited to foreign students of Japan Basic Education Law Clause 1-defined schools (Clause 1 Schools) who are (1) entered in such high schools or colleges, (2) have been an exchange student of such high schools or colleges for more than 1 year, or (3) graduated from such high schools or colleges.

The revision to rules regarding players and coaches of foreign nationalities will admit long-term residents (as defined by the Immigration Law) as participants, treating them in the same way as Japanese citizens. This change will allow the participation of students of Korean and other ethnic and international schools, defined as “various schools” the same as preparatory schools in the Basic Education Law.

International students at Japanese universities, heretofore barred from participating, will be allowed in if they have lived in Japan continuously for 3 years.

The National High School Sports Federation has been accepting non-Clause 1 school students since 1994.

My Comment: Well, it’s about time. The government has also recently decided to allow graduates of International Universities apply to Japanese grad school. Good going, guys!

Born Into Brothels: Charity, Hollywood-style

I saw this movie, Born Into Brothels, at the E Street Cinema the other day. It’s about this British woman, Zana Briski, who goes into the red light district of Kollkata, India, to shoot photos. Eventually she decides to teach the children living there how to take pictures and tries to use this as a gimmick to raise funds for them to go to good schools. It’s charity, Hollywood-style.

While it was interesting watching her navigate the international and Indian systems to try and save the kids from what all can agree is a pretty horrible life, you can’t fight the feeling that for her they are no more than “noble savages” whom she has decided to civilize. Plus she only succeeds in getting one or two of the children to actually stay in school. The rest of them are either held back by their own lack of discipline or by their parents who need the children to sustain their livelihood in the sex trade. Letting these kids play with cameras and taking them to the zoo ends up giving some of the kids false hope. Suchitra, one of the most enthusiastic photographers, ends up becoming a whore despite hoping for the best: “When I have a camera in my hands I feel happy. I feel like I am learning something…I can be someone.”

Also, the director had a very narrow and gimmicky approach to helping these kids. They were only worth helping insofar as they remained photogenic, their families and the rest of India be damned. There are lots of scenes of hopeless Indian bureaucracy — forms are filled out with old typewriters, moldy records litter offices — but they aren’t put into any context except to serve as barriers to Briski’s mission to save these children through the magic of photography. One gets the feeling that she doesn’t understand much about India’s problems save for what she can see immediately surrounding her.

Now that the movie has won an Oscar for Best Documentary, however, protests have arisen from a Kollkata NGO that claims that the woman didn’t follow proper protocol. The filmmakers didn’t check in with the largest NGO in the area before filming in a dangerous location, and in addition ignored attempts by the organization to contact them. At first, the NGO’s complaints sound like territorial bickering and sour grapes. Like many institutions, they are looking to get a piece of the pie and are probably bitter that they didn’t get an ounce of credit in the film for the work they do. But take a look at this:

DMSC officials, who have not seen the film but heard about it from other sources, said they fear the documentary is inauthentic in not being shot in Sonagachi, but in some other neighbourhood in the city.

Doubts are also being raised about the identity of the children showed as offspring of sex workers of Sonagachi.

“No one told us that a documentary was being made on the lives of the children of sex workers. We are not unhappy about that, but we wish a balanced view of things were presented. Also, we want the collective uplift of the children and not only a few individuals,” said Dutta.

OK, now I feel cheated. These people weren’t even in the *real* Red Light District! Was this lady pulling a fast one on us? It sounds like the lady who made this probably had a good reason to avoid a legitimate NGO — this stinks of the crass heart-string pulling filmmaking that Oscar loves. She was doing exactly the kind of stupid crap that they would frown upon — going in and exploiting the kids to get a few good photographs and a lot of recognition.

I had my doubts when watching the film — not only is the film woefully light on background, the film leads you to believe that these kids are totally uneducated and don’t speak English. But in certain parts of the film you can overhear kids speaking English or they’ll say something in English with a far-too-good accent.

Don’t get me wrong — you don’t doubt the woman’s sincerity when watching the film — it’s just that her approach is so wrongheaded as to be harmful. Now that it’s won an Oscar, people might actually believe that this kind of behavior is legitimate charity work.

Sumo wrestling, Japan’s NASCAR, to remain Japanese, stagnant

From an article about Estonian Rikishi Baruto:

Out of 708 wrestlers in Sumo’s six divisions, 59 were born outside of Japan. There have now been three foreign Yokozuna grand champions.

Hawaiian Akebono was the first in 1993, then his compatriot Musashimaru and now Mongolian Asashoryu.

The current crop of foreign wrestlers comes from across the globe, including Tonga, Brazil, Bulgaria, Russia, Mongolia — and Estonia.

Their number is unlikely to increase much more, however.

Perhaps fearing a gradual foreign takeover of Japan’s ancient sport, in 2002 the Japan Sumo Association limited the 55 stables to one foreign sumo wrestler each (a few stables already had more than one foreign wrestler when the rule was introduced).

For the moment the Mongolians are cleaning up. Yokozuna Asashoryu heads a gang of seven countrymen in the top division. From the other end of the continent, European wrestlers like Russian Roho, Bulgarian Kokkai and Kotooshu from Georgia are also starting to push their weight around.

The old presumption that foreigners could only ever succeed by brute force has already proved wrong, says Mark Schreiber, veteran sumo watcher.

“All the Hawaiians had going for them was their bulk. When I look at the new crop, I see a slightly different style,” he says.

“Now you get people who are big, and who have technique. You certainly see that with the Mongolians.”

In the farcical image game that is professional sports, these issues can be confusing. I am tempted to make accusations of racism to the Japan Sumo Association, but there are many possible reasonable counter-arguments . But despite my initial gaijin rage that bubbled up upon reading this, I eventually had to laugh it off and decided to “let the baby have its bottle”.

There is a perceived need for sumo to give its fanbase “what it wants” because without them there can be no sumo. Perhaps this move was meant to rein in more liberal trainers who want to beef up their stables or find the next Asashoryu (Mongolian wrestler currently dominating the sport).
Continue reading Sumo wrestling, Japan’s NASCAR, to remain Japanese, stagnant