Home Affairs Ministry to push Internet users to use their real names in an effort against the “hotbed of evil”

I recently discovered Technorati Japan‘s beta site, which is exactly the same as Technorati in English except it’s in Japanese and geared toward Japanese Internet users. The coolest thing about it for me so far is the fact that you can look at what books, CDs, and (most importantly for this site) news stories that Japanese bloggers are discussing at the moment. With that I bring you this latest story, ripped from Technorati Japan:

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (Somusho) has toughened its stance on eliminating anonymity on the Internet, thereby pushing people to use their real names so they can safely use the net, which has been cited as a “hotbed of harmful information.” They will decide on specific plans with the Education Ministry to encourage the use of technologies with a low level of anonymity such as blogs (diary-like sites) and SNS (Social Networking Sites) at elementary schools.

This suggestion will be included in the final report of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ “Information Frontier Research Council” to be issued next week.

As the number of people using the internet domestically increases, developments such as the growth of suicide sites and bomb-making guides making their way onto the Net show that the Internet is flooded with harmful information that can lead to crime. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has reached the conclusion that in order to eliminate those negative aspects and make the Internet contribute to the development of the economic system, it is imperative to urge the use of people’s real names and improve the Internet’s trustworthiness.

Comment: Make no mistake: The Somusho is taking dead aim at 2-channel, Winny, and all the other anonymous web sites that have been the backbone of Internet activity in Japan since it got popular. They have heard every horror story about the suicide sites and piracy and are falling all over themselves trying to keep it from being a long-term trend. I’m not sure what to make of it — there are a lot of unhealthy things going on over at 2-chan, that’s for sure (Stay tuned and you’ll see an extended post on 2ch in due time). But then again, brainwashing the children of Japan to put their real names on the Net doesn’t seem like it’ll do much good. Here’s what some blogs are saying about this (thanks again, Technorati!):

From Garter House Annex:

This just makes me sigh.. My strength is leaving me. OK, here’s what I think:

Clearly anonymity does play a part in the dissemination of bad information. I don’t deny that. Nevertheless, I think the negative long-term impacts of repressing anonymous expression will far outdo any positives. Well, you could leave it at “There go the politicians again, going ahead without thinking about such things.”

I’m sure some official would excuse this activity by saying that simply urging isn’t a regulation, but in fact it has the same effect to the person who would be regulated. This is just official-speak and doesn’t fly with the general public.

Since I’m just judging from a news story I might be totally off, but let me give 2 slightly more specific opinions:
1. If they are really putting a priority on “contributing to the economic system”
then they are an era too late! Instead of worrying about the “economic system” they should worry about the development of “society.” If they do that then I think the pros and cons are more obvious.
2. I don’t know whether Yahoo added this or if it was said by Somusho, but I’d like go beyond my difference in position with the government to advise them that they should stop calling the Internet a “hotbed of evil”. Did they rip off “axis of evil” or simply appropriate it ignorantly? If it’s the former they just don’t understand what’s going on, and if it’s the latter then they are just too ignorant for words (Though I couldn’t imagine they would be). It’s ridiculous whichever way you slice it.

Taiwan Retailers voluntarily removing US beef from shelves amid mad cow fears

More in our continuing coverage of mad cow disease panic.

Taipei Times reporting that some retailers are voluntarily removing American beef from their shelves following the recent announcement of a second confirmed case of BSE (mad cow disease) in an American animal.

Some local supermarkets and those in Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store (新光三越), Breeze Center (微風廣場) and Pacific Sogo Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) have echoed the Consumers’ Foundation’s (消基會) call to halt the sale of US beef.

However, other major retailers, including Carrefour, RT-Mart (大潤發), Tesco and Costco, have claimed they will abide by the government regulations and continue to sell their stock of US beef. Removing beef products will lead to immense financial losses given US beef’s dominance in the market.

Costco, the nation’s largest importer of US beef, has sold an average of 22.5 tonnes of US beef, or NT$10 million (US$320,000), per week since the import ban as lifted on April 16.

No word yet on whether Yoshinoya Taiwan will be continuing to use imported American beef. I just found an actual 24 hour open Yoshinoya only a few minutes bike ride from my apartment (and next door to a Mos Burger!), so as long as they serve gyudon I’ll be eating there, regardless of this irrational fear resulting from isolated cases. BSE is certainly worth being scared of-a terrifying disease where your brain basically rots in your skill-but so far there’s no evidence that anyone has actually eaten meat from an infected US animal, in contrast to the genuine outbreak in Britain several years ago in which dozens of people died.

Hello Kitty more dangerous than previously thought

Taipei Times

Hello Kitty talk starts brawl
A scuffle broke out late Thursday night between a group of Japanese tourists and locals at a restaurant in Wanhua (萬華), Taipei as result of language barriers and miscommunication. The group of seven Japanese were giggling and talking about the “Hello Kitty” magnets which have recently a stirred frenzy among fans and collectors in Taiwan. Thinking that the Japanese were laughing at them, a table of Taiwanese patrons next to them — about 10 in all — approached the group and somehow a fight started.

The magnets in question are part of a promotion by 7-11 (which some readers may not know is now actually a Japanese company) here in Taiwan. This year is the 30th anniversary of Hello Kitty, and I believe that there are 30 unique magnets to collect. One random Hello Kitty magnet is given away free with every purchase at the convenience store, encouraging quite a lot of repeat business from obsessive collectors. Naturally under these conditions it is virtually impossible to avoid accumulating a couple of these things and I managed to find two in my desk, one still in the wrapper and one opened, so I present them to you here so you can see that they were clearly worth fighting over.

On the package they call the effect where ridges in the plastic reveal a second image when you change the viewing angle ‘3D.’ I remember it well from a plastic He-man ruler I had when I was about 7 years old. Just by slowly rotating the ruler you could watch an epic battle for the future of Eternia unfold. In this case the effect is used for nothing nearly so cool, but in an extra-crappy way doesn’t even show two different pictures but only makes Helly Kitty’s parents or whatever disappear and reveal a 7-11 logo.

‘Cool Biz’ taken seriously, goes international

The Japan Times

Students in suit, tie need not apply

Environment Minister Yuriko Koike said Friday students applying for jobs had better not wear jackets and ties to the interview.

Students who passed the civil service’s written examination must next visit specific ministries and agencies for interviews.

Those applying to enter the Environment Ministry, however, have been showing up in suits despite the government’s “Cool Biz” summer dress campaign, which shuns suits and ties.

“It is regrettable that young people go for the ‘safe’ ways,” Koike said at a news conference.

The “Cool Biz” campaign, which started June 3, has been pushed as a way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by curbing the use of air conditioning and promoting sales of cooler apparel.

The Taipei Times

Men urged to doff suits
A group of women’s rights and environmental activists called yesterday for men to discard business suits in the summer in favor of casual shirts to reduce reliance on air conditioning. The activists, led by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Shu-ying (黃淑英) urged the men to get stop wearing suits during summer to help save energy. Noting that air conditioning is the prime reason for surging power consumption in summer, Huang said that one degree higher on air conditioner thermostats nationwide in summer means the country could save 300 million kwhs — the amount that Penghu residents use in an entire year. Wearing suits requires a temperature of between 22?C to 23?C to make an office or room comfortable in summer, Huang said, claiming that room temperatures could be raised if men wore less clothing.

More on Kissinger and China

I mentioned earlier that Henry Kissinger was either lying about or woefully ignorant of Chinese history and implied that this was due to his personal biases.

Jonathan Mirsky’s review of “Mao: The Untold Story” in the June 2005 issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review (pg 59) contains this quote:

Mr. Kissinger, for instance, was so star-struck by Mao and Zhou Enlai that he committed many indiscretions and security breaches with both of them while serving Nixon.

The previous page also states that Zhou Enlai:

the most attractive man [visiting statesman like Henry Kissinger] had ever met.

For more information on Kissinger’s early negotiations with China, see this article at the National Security Archive at GWU. This article was written in 2002, shortly after a number of relevant records were declassified in mid-2001, so if you think you know the history of US/Chinese diplomacy based on pre-2002 information, you should probably read this article. There are also links to a number of original, formerly classified documents, such as this

These documents also illustrate some differences between Kissinger’s public statements regarding China and Taiwanese policy and his private diplomatic efforts.

As important as this exchange was, in his 1979 memoir Kissinger misleadingly wrote that “Taiwan was mentioned only briefly during the first session.”(5) Yet some 9 pages, nearly 20 percent, of the 46-page record of the first Zhou-Kissinger meeting on 9 July 1971, include discussion of Taiwan, with Kissinger disavowing Taiwanese independence and committing to withdraw two-thirds of U.S. military forces from the island once the Vietnam War ended. Moreover, Kissinger told Zhou that he expected that Beijing and Washington would “settle the political question” of diplomatic relations “within the earlier part of the President’s second term.” Kissinger did not say what that would mean for U.S. diplomatic relations with Taiwan but undoubtedly Zhou expected Washington to break formal ties with Taipei as a condition of Sino-American diplomatic normalization.

This memo from Kissinger to Nixon actually lists Taiwan as the first issue discussed at the Kissinger/Zhou Enlai (spelled Chou here) meeting.

[Page 3]He immediately moved to their fundamental concern, Taiwan, and I rejoined with our position on Indochina.

Some other interesting statements from this particular memo include:

Chou spoke of the Chinese fear of a remilitiarized Japan, and a violently and contemptuously attacked Soviet imperialism, which he claimed had learned its lessons from the U.S.

Clearly China’s current attitude towards Japan is not as divorced from their historical attitudes as some might think.

According to Kissinger’s secret memo to the president, Zhou’s primary themes of discussion were as follows:

the preoccupation with Taiwan; the support for the North Vietnamese; the spectre of big power collusion, specifically of being carved up by the US, USSR, and Japan; the contempt of the Indians, hatred for the Russians and apprehension over the Japanese; the disclaimer that China is, or would want to be, a superpower like the Russians and we who have “stretched out our hands too far”; and throughout the constant view that the world must move toward peace, that there is too much “turmoil under the heavens.”

Most of those are already clear, but the last is particularly interesting. In his recent editorial Kissinger claimed to believe that “Military imperialism is not the Chinese style. China seeks its objectives by careful study, patience and the accumulation of nuances.” I still believe that his understanding of Chinese history is fundamentally wrong, but based on the contents of his 14 July 1971 “Eyes Only” memo to President Nixon-where one would expect total honesty-he actually seems to have believed China’s claims the whole time. The fact that Kissinger believes (and believed) that China’s foreign policy is basically one of peace does not excuse such blatant misinformation as “The Chinese state in its present dimensions has existed substantially for 2,000 years”, but it does perhaps relegate it from sinister propaganda to mere incompetence.

Bandai lists top cartoon characters in Japan: Anpanman #1 4 years running

Yahoo News (Thanks 2ch):

According to Bandai‘s “Children’s Favorite Cartoon Characters Ranking” released on June 22, “Go! Anpanman” was the top choice for boys and girls for the fourth year in a row.

At #2 and below were, in order: “The Precure Duo“, “Pocket Monsters“, “Winnie the Pooh“, and “Hello Kitty“.

Anpanman was overwhelmingly preferred by the 0-2 age bracket, with 58.6% choosing him as their favorite. For 3-5 year olds the top was “Precure” (LINK NOT SAFE FOR WORK), a show popular among young girls. “Pocket Monsters” was the favorite for both the 6-8 and 9-12 age brackets.

On Anpanman’s popularity, Bandai gathered, “There are lots of characters that show up on the show, and the stories, where the goodguys always win, are easy to understand and entertaining for both children and their caregivers.” (Metropolis magazine online has a good article on the origins and popularity of Anpanman)

The survey asked the opinions of 2000 caregivers of children 12 or under in the beginning of April of this year.

Adamu’s attempt at the TOEFL essay

The assignment: Write an essay answering the given question within 30 minutes.

The Question: Think of the most important class you’ve ever taken. Why did you enjoy the class so much? Use specific reasons and details to explain your answer.

My time as an undergrad at American University was at first unengaging. I’ve always been the type of person who feels like they’re above the material and already knows what they need to know. Nevermind the fact that my grades weren’t all that great — the teachers just didn’t like me. That was until I took Individual Freedom vs. Authority, the most meaningful class I took in college and without which I may have even dropped out of college.

My first step toward an attitude change was found in the mountain of reading I had to do for this class. Before coming to AU, I went from being a top student in the honors program in high school to a community college where the classes were light on both reading and depth. As a result, I first often didn’t come to class prepared even though the teacher assigned Plato, Voltaire, and other difficult philosophical works on government. But when the teacher called on me to explain the significance of the Allegory of the Ring, I was stumped. The embarrassment of not knowing was a new feeling and I was determined not to have to do it again. From then on, I did the reading and took notes to make sure I understood it.

Harder still was the group work. Our professor split us up into groups and assigned each a chapter in The Republic to analyze and present to the class. While I had worked with groups before in high school, it wasn’t until I met the other group members that I realized that my classmates were not only more prepared than I, they understood the material better! I knew I had to get my act together.

It took a few weeks of chagrin, chiding from the professor, and low quiz scores before I realized my attitude problem was a real danger to my chances of succeeding in college. Thanks to the teacher and my classmates, who consistently set the bar higher than I did for myself, I eventually was able to keep up with the material and manage an A- for the course. The skills I acquired there came with me for the rest of my time in college and I will never forget the lessons learned.

Afterthoughts: Mrs. Adamu said that the structure was all wrong (Topic sentences first!) and that they weren’t asking for a personal story (though I insist they were). Comments?

Jenkins’ Trip to NC

Charles Jenkins, the man who deserted the US Army to face a living hell in North Korea, is back in Japan after visiting his mother in North Carolina. He enjoyed his 2-week weeklong visit to his hometown, and we know this for a fact because reporters were in his face the whole time. Jenkins and family were greeted by a line of photographers and reporters starting at Narita airport, a similar line when he touched down in North Carolina, and from the beginning to the end of his trip the media followed him as if he were the pied piper. To show you how closely he was followed, just take a look at the things they covered:

Jenkins meets his mother

Jenkins gives present to friend
Jenkins visits graveyard

Jenkins and family go bowling
Jenkins visits Veterans’ Museum (For this story, I saw on Japanese TV news that a reporter shoved a microphone into Hitomi Soga’s face as she was viewing the exhibit to ask, “What do you think about the museum?”
Jenkins visits lake where he used to play as a child

They followed him EVERYWHERE. Before he came, I naively considered going to NC (only 3 hours away) to try and interview him. I was unprepared, however, for the absolute explosion of coverage that followed his arrival.

My boss explained the obvious to me: the kidnapping story captures the Japanese public’s attention on a level that goes beyond even America’s fascination with the Michael Jackson case. As a result, reporters are never far from Jenkins or Soga. While they may have stopped recording his every move during the period of downtime preceding his trip to the US, they were hot on his trail as soon as something dramatic happened. The media scramble might be a little distasteful, but I must admit I eat it up like the glutton I am.

But why is he putting up with this bullshit? I mean, there are ways to avoid reporters if you want to. The answer to that, I believe, is that the publicity keeps him in the public eye and will make it easier for him to sell his memoirs when they come out. Time Asia bureau chief Jim Frederick is working closely with the former defector to get his biography written and published. I know I’ll get it as soon as it comes out.

UPDATE: NKZone points us to a THINK News‘ link to a sympathetic editorial from the Raleigh News & Observer.

The other “cool biz”: ‘Ventilative clothing’ makes headway worldwide

ZDNet via Yahoo:

Great for the rainy season, President Ichigatani’s original model.

Sales of the strange but refreshingly cool fan-equipped long-sleeve work jacket “air conditioning wear” have begun. This year the design is all new. With 7 types in sizes from Small to 5XL they are suitable for young and old, boy or girl. They hope to sell 100,000 or 10 times the total last year.

The air conditioning wear is a work jacket with 2 fans located at the lower back. By blowing air on the clothes, it vaporizes sweat and cools the body with the vapor, providing the same basic feeling as a cool fan hitting your body after getting out of the bath. The jacket won’t stick to your body, and you won’t feel icky or smell from sweat since it is vaporized right away.

Despite its hot-looking appearance, if you try it on you’ll be surprised at its coolness. If it gets cold, you can just turn it off, and unlike an air conditioner it can be adjusted for each person. 4 AA batteries power the coat for 5 hours, a substantial energy savings over air conditioners.

Click here for more pictures!


AP brings good tidings:

Japan’s ‘Family Mart’ to Open in U.S.
06.21.2005, 09:14 AM

AWESOME Japanese convenience store operator FamilyMart Co. said Tuesday it plans to open 200 stores in the U.S. over the next four years, the first in California.

The inaugural U.S. store will open July 20 in West Hollywood, California, under the name “Famima,” the nickname widely used by Japanese.

It will offer traditional Japanese convenience store staples like “omusubi” rice balls, “bento” box lunches and sushi, as well as U.S. fare like takeaway sandwiches, the company said in a statement. < -- I've died and gone to heaven! "We would like our American customers to experience a new shopping style," it said. FUCK YEAH, I have been waiting for this for EIGHT YEARS!!! The store will also feature wireless Internet access, an ATM, a copy machine and an eat-in area, it said. COOL! The company said it plans to have three U.S. locations by the end of the year and about 200 by February 2009. OPEN ONE IN DC. I BEG YOU. FamilyMart already has about 11,500 stores, including franchises, in Japan and other Asian locations including South Korea, Thailand, China and Taiwan.

Guess what? When “Famima” opens in DC, I never have to go to Japan again! I’ll just eat lunch there every day! Haha! I never thought Forbes Magazine would make me feel like dancing on air, but then I never expected this either! Joy!