This did not come from The Onion:

More sex. That’s what one expert says is needed to solve Japan’s baby shortage.

Japanese people simply aren’t having sex,” Dr. Kunio Kitamura, director of the Japan Family Planning Association, was quoted as saying by the Japan Times, an English language daily.

An association survey of 936 people between the ages of 16 and 49 showed 31 percent had not had sex for more than a month “for no particular reason” — a condition known as “sexless.” (Where I come from, we call it “NERD!”)

“As much as subsidies and welfare programs are important, sexlessness is also a critical issue in this problem.”

To which a friend of mine replied:

Seriously, what Japan are they surveying?

Obviously not Roppongi.

A suggestion to Gyao, Yahoo Doga, and Dai-ni Nittere

Competition is heating up among Japan’s big time Internet TV operators, the Yomiuri writes:

More than 10 million people have signed up for Usen Corp.’s Gyao Net TV service since it started broadcasting in April 2005. Yet despite the numbers putting the free service ahead of competitors such as Yahoo, the nation’s largest cable broadcaster’s service is still deep in the red.

Go read it if you care to.

The article goes on to note that this and other services continue to post losses while they compete for viewers. I would like to heartily to suggest that all three services do the following:


(Note: All of the top 3 Internet TV sites in Japan use DRM to keep foreign viewers out)

This way, you could sell ads to a much wider spectrum of merchants (j-list? foreign companies catering to Japanese living abroad?) and quickly boost viewership! Get on it people!

Lawson CEO: Expect almost completely automated kombini in next five years

There was a cool piece in today’s Nikkei (special Monday high-tech supplement) asking Lawson CEO Takeshi Niinami about the future of kombinis in today’s rapidly-advancing world.

Asked about what to expect from Japanese convenience stores (kombini) within the next five years, he laid out his vision: a person will be able to walk into a Lawson, be identified by the mobile payment system in their phone, pick up items on the shelf, and walk out without going to the register. RFID chips on each item will cause sensors at the door to automatically total their purchases and charge it to their mobile wallet.

The real bonus of this setup: Niinami believes that the average Lawson, which requires about 20 employees today, will be able to get by with just five. I, for one, will happily await the day when I don’t have to deal with some shit-ass at the register who thinks I’m an alien. Although I guess I’ll still have to deal with people when I want my bento microwaved…

Philip K Dick android stolen?

Well, that may be what the mainstream media wants you to believe, but come on-we ARE talking about a Philip K Dick ANDROID here! How could anyone familiar with the man who wrote A Scanner Darkly, Valis, Ubik, The Man in the High Castle, and of course We Can Build You, which stars a cybernetic simulacra of Abraham Lincoln think that a robot containing a complete copy of his surviving records was merely stolen, like a mere piece of luggage? I fully expect to see this android again. My guess: the Replicant Liberation Front freeing their spiritual leader.

Is Japan Buying Pro-whaling Votes? Pretty much, but you already knew that

But of course:

Scale of Japan’s aid to pro-whaling nations revealed

In a written reply to a query on Japan’s “marine aid” to developing countries, the government acknowledged pouring 617 million yen ($8.7 million) last year into St Kitts & Nevis, the tiny Caribbean nation that hosted the IWC conference.

Nicaragua, the top recipient of Tokyo’s largesse, was awarded about $17 million, and the Pacific island cluster of Palau got $8.1 million.

All three countries voted with Japan, Iceland and Norway at last weekend’s conference in favour of the “St Kitts & Nevis Declaration”, calling for the 20-year ban on commercial whaling to be scrapped.

Keep in mind this pales in comparison to the billions (PDF) of dollars Japan spends on aid that’s largely unrelated to whaling and more concentrated on giving handouts to Japanese companies.

Of course, not all countries are so quick to offer themselves up for sale:

TUVALU: Tuvalu Opposes Tying Aid To Whale Vote

Monday: June 26, 2006

(Radio Australia)
Tuvalu says it would be a mistake if countries such as Australia and New Zealand start using their aid programs to persuade Pacific countries to support them in international forums.

Japan has been accused of using chequebook diplomacy to influence the Pacific on whaling after six island nations voted to support a Japanese resolution at the International Whaling Commission.

New Zealand’s opposition National Party spokesman on foreign affairs, Murray McCully, has suggested taking a more robust approach towards small island states.

But Tuvalu’s prime minister, Maatia Toafa says, “Well I don’t think that is fair because as far as Tuvalu is concerned, we are an aid-dependent country and we feel that we should be left to make our decisions without any influences.”

Well, Tuvalu, if one didn’t tie aid to something, what’s the guarantee that the money won’t be wasted on traditional canoes or 900-number network infrastructure with no concrete return for Japan? Something tells me you’re just holding out for a sweeter deal.

The other world cup

World cup fever has gripped the, ummm, the world I suppose. But in all of this fuss over teams of humans from one country competing against teams of humans from another country for the greater glory of their history/race/ideology/religion its important not to forget the as of yet infantile league that will some day destroy them all. I am of course talking about the RoboCup.

And not only humans and robots are caught up in football fever! For according to this report from the BBC even monkeys are new getting in on the action, and this is something that is of great concern–for when monkeys and robots meet on the battlefield, no good can come of it. We have been down that dark road before and we much be very mindful of that awful conflict re-awakening.

URGENT: Want to Work in DC? Can you read Japanese? We have a job for you!

UPDATE: This job opportunity is no longer valid.

As some of you may know, I am leaving my position as a translator/researcher here at a Washington law firm for the hotter, smellier (but nevertheless totally awesome) pastures of Bangkok. However, plans have hit something of a snag since we can’t seem to find my replacement!

So I’ve decided to repost the ad here in the hopes that some of my readers (or their friends) might be up to the task. Here’s the official job posting:

The Washington, DC office of Dewey Ballantine LLP seeks to fill a part time or full-time position with the International Trade Group’s Japan Team. The candidate will work closely with attorneys and other legal professionals in assisting with filings and conducting research both in Japanese and English.

Required qualifications are outstanding English-Japanese bilingual and English writing skills, professional translation experience from Japanese to English, and a strong interest in Japanese policy matters. A brief language test will be given during the interview. Please no J.D. candidates or attorneys.

Please e-mail your resume/cover letter to:
Maki Hishikawa
Director of Japan Research
Dewey Ballantine LLP

Dewey Ballantine LLP is an equal opportunity employer.

Basically, we are looking for someone with native-level English but also very strong Japanese reading comprehension skills — i.e. sufficient to digest any given newspaper article in Japanese and be able to abstract it in well-written English. Feel free to forward this to anyone who might be interested and qualified.

Things I wish happened: Masayoshi Son wrestles bears? Actually, no.

Look at this headline from May 4’s Mainichi online news:

Son scares off bear after elderly dad seriously injured in attack

At first, I thought this story was about Masayoshi Son, Japanese-Korean internet mogul and Japan’s richest man. But no, turns out it’s just some guy’s son who scared off the bear.

How cool would that have been if my first inclination had been true? He’d be a triple threat as the man who: a) Overcame his minority status to rise to the upper rank’s of Japan’s business elite; b) Helped introduce broadband Internet to Japanese households after years of lagging behind to the point where penetration has now outstripped the US; c) Can fend off any bears who threaten his elderly dad. Well, he got two out of three at least.

Rest of the story:

Son scares off bear after elderly dad seriously injured in attack

NIKAHO, Akita — An elderly man was seriously injured after being attacked by a bear while picking wild plants in the mountains here Thursday morning, police said.

At around 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, an adult bear attacked a 69-year-old pensioner who was picking edible wild plants with his son on a mountain in the Kisakata district of Nikaho, local police said. The man suffered serious wounds after the bear scratched his face and left arm.

The 37-year-old son fought back with a tree branch and managed to scare away the beast. The bear fled the scene and disappeared.

At the request of the local government, a local hunter was mobilized to search for the approximately 1.7-meter-long animal while police officers patrolled the neighborhood asking residents to exercise caution.

A residential area is located about 500 meters away from the scene of the attack. (Mainichi)

May 4, 2006

Supreme Court: Stop your sniveling about Yasukuni

The Supreme Court of Japan dismissed a 278-plaintiff appeal against Koizumi yesterday, holding that his visiting Yasukuni “is not something that interferes with others’ religious faiths” and therefore cannot be the basis for a damage award.

However, they declined to rule on the constitutionality of the visits, stating that since there was no standing for the claim for damages, there was also no need to make a constitutional ruling. It’s another case of squirming out of the hot seat: the Supreme Court has used this tactic before to avoid addressing sensitive political questions, most notably whether the Self-Defense Forces are permitted under Article 9. (See my earlier post on the subject.)

Full story at the Japan Times if you’d like to know more.