Lord, save me from bad diary entries posing as journalism

Newsweek.com has an article about “Japan’s addictive arcades’ entitled “Zeon Attack!” which is apparently of such high quality that instead of putting it on the worthless physical pages of their magazine that people actually pay money for they made it WEB-EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY so that only the most elite, web connected readers that can understand high tech edgy things like Japan and video games would be able to read it.

Here are a few choice quotes to give you an idea of how awesomely insightful this article is.

  • Though I can’t grasp the Japanese way of counting, I still remember the precise way to defeat Bald Bull in the old boxing game Punch Out. Those old-school games are nowhere to be seen in Japan today. The modern arcade is an exotic, sensory-overload, nearly impenetrable to foreigners.
  • Kazuki and Mizuki, two high school sophomores at a Shibuya arcade, told us they play purikura about once a week to capture “memories.”
  • He said he plays about twice a month at about $3 a game, though the stack of character cards in his hand betrays a deeper addiction. “I can learn all the background and histories of the characters,” he said, adding he also reads manga related to the Sangokushi saga. [Ed: Clearly he wouldn’t be playing the game because of a pre existing interest in the Chinese history/classical literature upon which it is based.]
  • My Japanese interpreter, fighting as a boxing-gloved Kangaroo with a snowboard on its back and scuba fins on its feet, was defeated in the game by a tattooed girl. [Ed: Wow! A Tattoo!! Japanese arcades really are so much cooler than the US, where you would never see a kid with a tattoo!]
  • young people dubbed neets (who live with their parents and refuse to get jobs), and freeters (who only have part-time work) are much-discussed social groups who exacerbate the population and workforce imbalance. [Ed: Gosh, I wonder what “neet” and “freeter” stand for. I bet the explanation would be way too complicated for foreigners like Newsweek writer Brad Stone or me to understand. ]
  • Adults want Japanese kids to leave the arcades, go to work and save the country. But they’re too busy saving the world, one Gundam battle at a time. [Ed: He’s right! Nobody goes to arcades if they actually have a job or classes to go to! Arcades are probably causing the population decline!!]

Adamu is in Thailand – some initial thoughts

Hi everyone.

Blogging has taken something of a backseat in my life right now as I work on getting adjusted to my new life in Bangkok, where I’ll be based for the next year or so. I decided to come here and reunite with Mrs. Adamu (who’s working at an NGO here) after visiting in May and seeing that it wouldn’t be a complete disaster for me.

While I’ve traveled to several countries in Asia, this is my first time living someplace other than the US or Japan – the two parts of the world with possibly the highest living standards. Now I am living in a strange country that I know next to nothing about. I’m aware of some of the basic stuff, but certainly not enough to rant about it semi-coherently on this blog. But while I’m here, I’ll give you a list of some aspects of Thailand that have culture-shocked me so far:

Outlets that spark when you plug something into them.
Badly designed infrastructure (random low ceilings on staircases, doorknobs with sharp objects jutting out from them, unevenly spaced stairs, a tangle of low-hanging electrical wires in the streets with the occasional loose dangler) forcing me to stay extra vigilant.
Bangkok, a city the size of New York, has next no traffic lights.
Grime on the street (supposedly caused by diesel trucks and “tuktuks” – little scooter-taxis). The grime turns to grime-mud when it rains, making the streets slippery.
Speaking of the streets, they smell of funky Thai food constantly because they are lined with street vendors selling guavas, some kind of stinky spiked fruit, sausages, chicken, and other meats exposed to the open air and thus made inedible (to me anyway).
Constant reminders of how great the king is. It’s illegal to criticize the king here, but just to let you know I already think the king is great – I don’t really need to be reminded of it every day.
TV shows in Thailand make liberal use of cliched comedy sound effects – lots of slide whistles and BOIOIOING!
Living somewhere where I speak none of the language – but thankfully gesturing isn’t that tough and most Thai people can communicate with you in Tinglish. In fact, I would say that in general Thais’ English communication skills surpass those of the Japanese.
Aggressive salesmanship – tuktuk drivers scream “WHERE YOU GO” at me, the DVD sellers at Pintip Plaza get right in your damn face, Big C (a discount store, Thailand’s got lots of them) employs something like 6 people in their electronics section whose sole job is to approach people and sling them some jive.
There is a general chaos about this city. Thai people seem to like their driving aggressive, their crowds dense, and their food outside and on the sidewalk.

Just to name a few. That’s not to say things are all that bad here. It’s wonderful to be back with Mrs. Adamu, the food is generally pretty good, many people are friendly, and I can find more good American food (Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut – you know, only the best) here than I could in Japan.

I still really need to learn the language though. Thai is a little similar to Chinese in that it’s a tonal language. Right now most people just chuckle whenever I try and say something since I am just randomly stabbing at the tones.

I’ll try and keep you posted on interesting stuff I notice here. I’m especially interested in getting at some of the more interesting aspects of the Thailand-Japan relationship (though supply channels/factory management/FTA negotiations tend not to make great conversation starters), as that’s at least some sort of perspective I can start with.

William Gibson sort of mentions us

Actually he was only pasting this post from Marxy’s blog. So Marxy gets called William Gibson’s “current favorite English-language blog from Japan,” I am insanely jealous, and I consider digging up a copy of the Japanese translation of Neuromancer to write up my analysis of how unique tricks of Japanese orthography were used by the translator to reflect the situation of foreigners speaking Japanese in Japan in the hopes that it will attract some attention from the man himself.

Aso’s plan to de-Shintoize Yasukuni

Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who is still trying to become the next prime minister despite not having a snowball’s chance in hell, has a new plan to save Japan. He reckons that by taking the gods out of Yasukuni, the Emperor will be able to visit and none of those pesky lawsuits will have any standing. The English report:

Aso, known as a diplomatic hawk who has offended China and South Korea with remarks in the past, said his plan was not aimed at mollifying foreign countries. Instead, he hopes to resolve a domestic debate that flares up whenever a Japanese leader visits the shrine and has prevented the emperor from going there since 14 “Class A” war criminals were added to the lists of those honored at the shrine in 1978.

“It’s about expressing our respect and gratitude for those who died for their country and praying for the peace of the souls of those who died…without all this fuss,” Aso told a news conference.

“The tens of thousands of soldiers who died crying ‘Long Life to the Emperor’ filled those words with deep emotion,” Aso said in a statement outlining his idea. “So I strongly pray that the emperor can visit Yasukuni.”

Yomiuri Shimbun’s blurb says that the strategy to pull this off goes roughly as follows:

  1. Dissolve the religious foundation that administers Yasukuni and set up a new private foundation (zaidan hojin) to run the shrine.
  2. By special act of the Diet, establish a special corporation to administer Yasukuni.
  3. Most amusingly, change the shrine’s official name to 靖国社 – removing the character for “god” in the word “shrine.”

Adding to the craziness of this scheme, Yomiuri mentions at the end of its article that Aso wants this process implemented for all of the “gokoku jinja”—a group of 52 shrines scattered across Japan enshrining those from the area who died at war–“regional Yasukunis,” so to speak.

Needless to say, if you can’t de-enshrine war criminals, it’s gonna be tough to de-Shintoize Yasukuni (and, for that matter, 52 other shrines).

Just in case you’re worried, Aso still does not have enough support to run and hasn’t officially announced his candidacy yet. UPDATE 8/10: I spoke too soon. Muddafugga gots his twenty. Looks like he’s announcing later this month.