“America Against the World,” a recent book based on comprehensive polling data from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, makes the point that our exceptionalism is not exceptional with particular force. While a robust 60 percent of Americans agree with the proposition that “our culture is superior to others,” such self-confidence pales next to that of South Korea and Indonesia, where some 90 percent of the population assents to the idea. The book’s authors, Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes, also note that “poll after poll finds the Japanese to be the most pessimistic of people, expressing far less satisfaction with their lot in life than might be expected given their relatively high per capita incomes. Yet, compared to other Asians, the Japanese are, like Americans, highly self-reliant and distrustful of government and, like Europeans, secular. It is the Japanese public, not the American public, that is most exceptional in the world.”
Yahoo Japan’s “everybody’s politics” section is becoming quite an amazing little site. I mean look at this hot top image promoting their new 2007 Upper House election feature:
It’s like dueling Kim Jong Ils!
Just look at some of these amazing features:
Best of all everything is free and better yet ad-free. Why? My guess: They are gearing up to claim to have a significant impact on next year’s Upper House elections and in the process boost traffic.
One of their newer features, however, indicates a major shift by some of the traditional media content providers – free, full-length articles from Japan’s weekly and monthly magazines! The Japanese internet so far has been pretty devoid of good free political analysis or even in-depth news coverage. This is largely explained by the newspapers and magazines’ reluctance to put their content online for fear of losing readership and, in the case of newspapers, the considerable special privileges they get as so-called public institutions. is “Read and Compare Political Articles” which reprints the main political articles in weekly journals, in their entirety, completely free of charge (or even banner ads, while we’re on the topic)! Downsides: No pictures, and the articles are deleted fairly soon after publication (about a month it looks like). But if you’re diligent you can at least save the articles you want on your computer (or if you’re like me, g-mail them to yourself).
This serves as an essential boon to Japanese and Japan watchers overseas (who can now vote in all aspects of Japanese elections after a court decision), who before could only view headlines for free, unless they wanted to sign up for media companies’ exorbitantly expensive pay services.
There still leaves much to be desired in terms of Japanese media content being available on the web (full newspapers, anyone?). But this is a very helpful step in the right direction!
Our latest Kabuki Alert come from Wonkette:
White House Kabuki: The Administration Reacts to the SCOTUS
The Bush Administration’s preliminary reactions to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld are in — and they’re not terribly exciting or surprising.
At a press conference earlier today with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, President Bush got peppered with questions about the decision. Pretty much every non-Asian journalist in the room asked about Hamdan. Bush said that “we take them [the Supreme Court] very seriously.” Glad to hear it; so do we. He also stated that “we will conform to the Supreme Court.” Nothing controversial there.
So the definition of “political kabuki” in this blog post seems to be “reacting to a Supreme Court decision while a Japanese politician is in the room.” We’ve seen it earlier defined as “a meaningless horse and pony show debate in Congress” and “putting off tough fiscal policy decisions to protect one’s legacy as Japan’s reformist PM.” Let’s nail it down people: Just what is “political kabuki”? And where did the term come from?
I’m busy packing now, but I just wanted to direct you to this recent rant from Nikkan Gendai (a sensational tabloid that uber-commentator Naoki Inose has described as a good read on the ride home when you just want to say fuck you to the powers that be). According to the writer’s unscientific observations, more than half of Japanese men are now sitting down to pee.
Question to you: is this true? I’m not sure exactly how this guy was investigating men’s rooms, but find out!
At this one place where I worked (scanning Japanese medical journal articles for the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD) what pissed me off in the men’s room was noticing people purposely not flush the urinals, as if they were afraid of the germs contained in the flusher. There were days when I’d notice that none of the urinals were flushed. Granted, these are NIH contractors, so they know a lot we don’t. But that doesn’t give them some pass to “let it mellow” just because they think their immune systems can’t handle it! And anyway, isn’t leaving stagnant urine around a health risk of its own?