Who blew up what now?

I was just wondering why there are is so much news being created by the Japanese right wing, while the hard core left wingers never even seem to make the paper. Since the Red Army organization was eradicated in the late 80s, Japan has seen several incidents of terrorism and pseudo-terrorism (assassination, sarin gas incidents, death threats, arson, etc.) committed by right wing extremists and religious wackos that live in a universe entirely distinct from the political spectrum, but left wing activity seems to be mainly limited to retirees having picnics. Hence my surprise when I noticed this article, which is actually from a month ago, and yet I somehow failed to notice.

Japanese leftist group claims responsibility for blast near US base

A Japanese extreme left-wing group has claimed responsibility for a small explosion near a US army base outside Tokyo ahead of US Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit to Japan.

The group, calling itself the Revolutionary Army, said in a statement to media organisations here that the blast was an “angry blow of an iron hammer” at Washington’s plan to increase US troops in Iraq.

“It is an preemptive attack to stop Vice President Cheney’s visit to Japan,” the statement added, attacking moves to strengthen the US-Japan military alliance.

Cheney is scheduled to arrive here next Tuesday on a three-day visit during which he is expected to tour the US naval base in nearby Yokosuka.

The Metropolitan Police Department said Saturday they thought the group was a faction of a militant left-wing group called Kakurokyo (The Revolutionary Workers’ Council), known for a series of attacks using crude home-made incendiary devices in protest at the US military presence in Iraq.


This is the first I recall hearing about any left wing bombing attacks in Japan in recent years, but it is certainly more believable than the “Al-qaeda in Japan” theory that US officials suggested. Of course, the fact that kakurokyo took credit for the attack helps.
Below is an actual wanted poster for members of the Kakurokyo (革労協), from the Nagano police department.

外園 悦夫 田中 優
森永 美佐枝 後藤 あざみ

As is typical with these extremist groups (left wing or right wing) there appears to be a confusing array of factions, counter factions, splinter groups and rival claimants to the same, but this wikipedia article on at least some of the people calling themselves kakuryokyo (specifically the “liberation faction”) actually does list some crimes over the past few years of which they are accused. According to the article, there were a total of 8 explosive related attacks, beginning in April of 2002, when they planted a timed explosive device in a train of the Keisei network. There have also been 7 crude missile attacks on US military bases in Japan, beginning with one in 2002, three in 2003, two in 2004, and then in 2007 the one mentioned in the Yahoo news article linked to above.

The early attack incidents are discussed in slightly more detail in this 2003 Ministry of Justice white paper, which for some reason creepily includes discussion of these criminals with attempts by peaceful anti-war groups to increase collaboration with peaceful left wing anti war groups in other countries, such as US based A.N.S.W.E.R. and the UK Stop the War Coalition.

The same MOJ document ends with a discussion of the “continuing threat” of the Japanese Red Army, which it says former supports of have formed the group “Movement Solidarity,” who are responsible for the formation of JAPAC, the Japan-Palestine Project Center. According to this report, “Movement Solidarity” had held a JAPAC conference at which former Red Army members said that they would “Maintain the meaning of the ‘Battle of Lod’ in the joint Palestinian struggle, carry on that sacrificial spirit, and continue with all their power to hammer out the direction of joint Palestinian activities relevant today, as strengthening the bonds of solidarity with the people.” The “Battle of Lod” refers to what is more commonly known as the 1972 Lod Airport Massacre, in which three Japanese Red Army members engaged in a suicide attack in support of the Palestinian cause. Some people believe that this attack was inspired by the Japanese kamikaze suicide squads of World War II, and that it in turn inspired Palestinian suicide bombing, that has now became a widespread feature in guerrilla insurgencies throughout the Middle East region and beyond.

The report also mentions that several Red Army are still wanted by the police (as of 2003, but I do not believe the situation has changed), and that one Bando Kunio had been reported as hiding out in Negros Island in the Philippines.

On a related note, Red Army member Yu Kakumura, who was arrested in 1986 carrying pipe bombs in his car while driving on the New Jersey turnpike is reportedly schedule to be released April 18 of this year. According to this decision of the Tenth Circuit US Court of Appeals on October 31, 2006 in response to a motion filed by Kakumura’s attorney:

He filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging the method by which the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) calculates and awards good conduct time (GCT). Under the BOP’s method, Kikumura’s release date would be April 18, 2007. Employing the method Kikumura advocates, he would be released from prison on November 17, 2006, as he is a model prisoner and has received the maximum amount of GCT that he could earn.

The request for early release for “good conduct time” was denied, which implies that he will be released on this coming April 18.

A recent trend in Anime: Small production teams (think Homestarrunner or Adult Swim)

An interesting piece from FujiSankei Business-i (in translation):

Animation Produced in Small Teams is a Breath of Fresh Air for the Industry: FROGMAN Co., Others Showcase A Powerful Individuality
March 13, 2007

Animation produced in small teams have been hitting the market one after the other recently, which is a new development as works are usually produced in production teams of dozens or even hundreds of people. The new works, which maintain a high level of quality while showcasing the creators’ intense vision in every nook and cranny, a feat that can only be achieved in a small team, are blowing a new wind throughout Japan’s animation industry. (by Ryuichi Taniguchi)

Improved Performance of PCs Plays a Role

Makoto Shinkai, director of “Five Centimeters Per Second” (秒速5センチメートル) gave thanks before the 200 people who had gathered to watch his animated film shown at Cinema Rise in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward on March 3: “I am happy to show a film that I made the way I wanted it in a large space.” This was his first film since his long-form “Beyond the Clouds, at the Promised Location” (雲のむこう、約束の場所) was shown at the same theater in November 2006. He seemed to have felt a positive response from the excited crowd of waiting fans that filled the seats.

In the past, animation production was assumed to require a large staff, but Shinkai released his first 25-minute short “Voices of the Stars” (ほしのこえ) created almost entirely by himself on a PC. The imagery, which measures up to animation made by pros, and the story, about susceptible young men and women, made the piece a hit with the younger generation and gained its creator recognition as a member of the new generation of animation directors.

However, Shinkai did not choose the path of producing his work in a major studio with a large staff at his beck and call. He continued using PCs and producing his films with a small staff to complete his “Beyond” and the more recent “Five”.

Shinkai explains, “For a year and half, I had the animation staff come to my home, and created it at a steady pace using my desktop. He didn’t create the whole thing by himself as in “Voice of the Stars,” but he made drastic staff cuts compared to the number of people involved in “Beyond.” As a result, Shinkai was able to realize a film in which his vision crept into every nook and cranny, from depictions of the lyrical countryside, to the village landscapes, to the endless sky and ocean.

Productions that can make full use of the creator’s individuality because of such a small staff are made possible by high-performance PCs that can be used to draw, color, and even edit finely detailed images. It’s easy to see how individual creators like Shinkai can make it into the animation industry if they have talent and backup in terms of funding.

Product Placement Comes to Anime

The films produced by FROGMAN Co, led by a man who goes by the same name, were also born of superior talent, a PC, and the Internet. The company creates animation using Flash, an animation software that can play simple video on a PC, and began offering programs on the Internet starting in 2004. These short films gained an following, and in April 2006 FROGMAN’s “Falcon’s Claw, Secret Society” (秘密結社鷹の爪) debuted on TV Asahi.

On March 17, “Falcon’s Claw, Secret Society The Movie: The Fuhrer Dies Twice” (総統は二度死ぬ) opens in theaters. FROGMAN spoke at a sneak preview held in Roppongi on March 4: “I’m so happy because cinema is the apex of film.” Just as in the TV version, FROGMAN does almost all the voices himself and drew most of the animation. He was overjoyed to see his brainchild up on the big screen.

The big-screen version of course cost more, but the costs were covered by including product placement within the film. Since it’s a comedy, the film blatantly displays company logos and products to make the crowd laugh. They even included a “budget gauge” on the side of the screen that dips during the more elaborate CGI scenes as a gag for the audience.

Another Internet-based talent is Rareko. She published her work on the Internet and eventually worked into picture books and DVDs after they became popular. As more and more companies seek out dormant talent, it looks as though we’ll keep seeing unique, individual animation.

The Companies Backing up Individual Talent

Individuals’ talents can only blossom fully with the support of a corporation. Shinkai has received support from Comics Wave (headquartered in Shibuya) since he began work on “Voices”. CW is a company that manages publishing rights for content and scouting/development of creators. They contract with manga artists and illustrators and serve as a conduit for bargaining with companies that want to use the creators’ characters.

DLE (HQ: Chiyoda Ward), a company founded in 2001 as a company that provides consulting for the video content industry, serves as FROGMAN’s producer. In addition to producing television programs, the company also aids in Flash animation and helped bring FROGMAN into the limelight.

Fanworks (Shibuya) produces independent animation and supports Rareko, of “The Fragile Tank” (やわらか戦車) fame. When the Internet-based animation took off, they served as a conduit for commercialization demands and helped boost its popularity by forming the “Fragile Tank Coalition Force.”

To close out, here are some YouTube clips of some of the shows mentioned in this article:

Falcon’s Claw Secret Society:

Fragile Tank:

Five Centimeters Per Second:

Koizumi’s very well-funded think tank kicks off

Koizumi is the flagship advisor to a newly-established think tank. The XX, which will be chaired by economist Naoki Tanaka, who was close to the Koizumi administration. Here’s one of the initial reports from soon after Koizumi left office:

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Major Japan Firms To Set Up Think Tank, Invite Koizumi As Adviser

LONDON (Nikkei)–Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and other leading Japanese companies plan to establish a think tank possibly by the end of this year and invite former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to become one of its advisers, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun has learned.

The firms aim to use the research organization to heighten the ability of the private sector to make policy proposals to the government as well as make their opinions known overseas.

The new entity will be modeled on the Brookings Institution and other U.S. research and policy bodies that participate in policy formation in Washington. It will conduct in-depth studies on international matters ranging from natural resources, currency and energy to diplomacy, security and the environment.

Promoters of the plan, including Toyota, Canon Inc. (7751) and Nippon Steel Corp. (5401), whose top executives have headed the Japan Business Federation, Japan’s top business lobby, have already begun soliciting other large firms to help fund the project.

The think tank will be headed by Naoki Tanaka, a noted economic analyst, according to the plan, which the group hopes to make public possibly early next week.

During the Koizumi years, the LDP had tinkered with the idea of forming its own think tank to build intra-party policymaking capabilities vis-a-vis the bureaucracy, but it never ended up happening. A well-known private, conservative think tank that makes its presence felt could achieve the same purpose. There are lots of think tanks in Japan now, but many are either tied to universities, major corporations, and specific commentators and lack the same prestige, power, personnel, and policy clout of the US model.

Except it seems like the only major outlet reporting on last night’s kickoff ceremony is the sensationalist Gendai:

Former PM Koizumi Raises 2 billion yen

Since leaving office, Koizumi has stayed out of the public eye, save for Diet appearances. Last night (Mar 12) he showed up at the kickoff ceremony for a private think tank, an event that was attended by business and industry heavies. What was most surprising was his ability to raise cash. The 4 founding companies have invested 100 million yen, and the 80 member companies have contributed 20 million yen apiece for a total of 2 billion yen. Naoki Tanaka, a commentator cose to the ex-PM, will serve as chairman. The chairman’s salary is 50 million yen annually, and Koizumi himself, who will serve as an advisor, will reportedly receive substantial advisor’s fees. Despite this, the think tank is designated as a “voluntary organization” and not a foundation or political organization. What’s going on here?

Americans might be somewhat used to the idea of former political leaders finding second careers as lobbyists after they leave office, but the Japanese press can always score some cheap points by accusing someone of making too much money.

But as much as I want to defend Koizumi, I have to wonder why this venture is launching with so little fanfare or detail. It doesn’t even seem to have a website yet. Is it truly going for a Brookings-style approach, or will this end up as Koizumi’s shadow war room to try and influence the government from behind the scenes (like former PM Nakasone’s organization)? I don’t think I’m alone in echoing Gendai’s sentiments — どうなってんのか?

Gendai is up front about its sensationalism

The latest Nikkan Gendai daily e-mail magazine tries to get to the bottom of the recent scandal involving MAFF Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka’s creative accounting (his funds management body “booked costs totaled 44.76 million over 11 years through 2005” that were supposedly incurred in an official Diet office that members use for free):

[Matsuoka’s] appointment as Minsiter was Bush’s will?!

It’s hard to imagine why the now-desperate Agriculture Minister “Something something regenerated water” Matsuoka was ever appointed to the Cabinet, but getting to the bottom of things, it looks like it was all “the gift of foreign pressure” from the US. Reportedly, the MAFF ministerial post was Matsuoka’s “merit badge” for playing the consensus-building role to re-re-open US beef imports to Japan in July 2006. President Bush, who hails from Texas, a state with a large ranching industry, exerted his will, and ex-PM Koizumi backed him up… or so the story goes. Doesn’t it just seem like that’s what must have taken place? (いかにもありそうな話ではないか。)

Once again I have to appreciate Gendai’s nerve, much in the same way I have to respect Weekly World News for continuing to put Batboy on the cover every week.

No cabinet reshuffle…for now

Japanese PM Abe chose to use the newspaper holiday to respond directly to recent speculation that a cabinet reshuffle is in the works.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Abe: No Cabinet Reshuffle Before Upper House Election

TOKYO (Kyodo)–Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that he has no intention of reshuffling his Cabinet before the House of Councillors election to be held this summer.

”I am not at all thinking about reshuffling my Cabinet, and the election will be held under the current Cabinet,” Abe said in an NHK program.

Speculation about a Cabinet reshuffle is rising as the premier’s popularity tumbles in part due to a series of gaffes by his Cabinet ministers.

The upper house election, seen as a make-or-break test for Abe, is set for July. This is preceded by unified local elections in April.

Earlier this month, Yuya Niwa, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s General Council, indicated that Abe may reshuffle his Cabinet in late April.

This makes sense. Abe can ignore public opinion polls to a certain extent, but elections reshape the political landscape and have a direct effect on his ability to govern. They also serve as an indirect referendum on how the top leadership is doing. The “late April” theory is based on how Abe would react to a poor showing in the unified local elections that are to be held in April. Without getting into a numbers game, there’s no guarantee that the LDP will do well in the local elections, but their chances are much better than they are of the party keeping its seats in the upper house election scheduled for July. By ruling out personnel changes at this stage, there will be fewer opportunities for people to call for Abe’s head moving into the upper house elections, which allows the PM to push forward with the constitutional amendment process. Even if Abe otherwise loses mometum, he is eager to push for progress toward revising the constitution while he remains in office.

So what happens after July? Neither major party (LDP or DPJ) is enjoying a very positive image right now. The LDP has been embroiled in scandal, but many similar scandals are bouncing right back in the DPJ’s lap, earning them the title of “boomerang party.” And on top of that, recent regional political developments, including the election of unaffiliated Miyazaki Governor Sonomanma Higashi and the rejection of major party official backing by both of the main candidates in the upcoming race for the Tokyo governor’s office, are giving rise to speculation of voter dissolutionment. These developments make any predictions difficult, but suffice to say that if Abe’s LDP fares as poorly as they are fearing then a cabinet reshuffle would be a kind prediction of Abe’s fate.

Right now the LDP only maintains its majority in the upper house through its alliance with the New Komeito, and if the LDP loses still more seats it would have to rely on them even more. So on top of the familiar political problems, such a situation might inspire the Komeito to want more direct say in policymaking, or in other words more cabinet representation, especially since they’ve been against some of Abe’s least popular actions, including the readmittance of anti-postal privatization Diet members to the LDP. If I were them, I wouldn’t hestitate to say I told you so, and if the LDP does badly enough the Komeito might have to start considering whether to start eyeballing the DPJ (since the Komeito is essentially interested in teaming up with whoever is in power to maintain political cover for Soka Gakkai).

Some foreign observers are optimistic about the Abe administration and dismiss the questions of Abe’s leadership as “shallow”:

The fourth credibility problem is reform policy. PM Abe’s formation of many competing study groups is a huge step forward. These groups institutionalize the progress made in the Koizumi years. However, investors have yet to see much concrete economic legislation as a result. In addition, PM Abe’s slippage in public opinion polls raises questions about the outcome of the July Upper House election. Once again, I am optimistic. Much of the criticism of PM Abe is, in my view, shallow, and the election is likely to come out well. However, investors need evidence.

It’s true that Abe needs to put something out there in terms of reform without letting the public fixate on scandal after scandal. And who knows, maybe he’s got some last-minute cards up his sleeve, though he’d have to get creative since there aren’t any really sexy economic reforms on the horizon. But while legislation might quell investors’ fears, the public continues to cry for blood. And fact is, the “shallow” bickering over who said what offensive thing hints at deeper discords in the Ade administration, which the Shisaku blog has down cold:

Abe needs a ugly, old, leather-skinned Chief Cabinet Secretary—an ancient reptile of a pol who could grab Abe by the collar, drag him in the Prime Minister’s office, throw him into the big chair there, press down on Abe’s left shoulder with his right hand, get right in the PM’s face and tell him, “Your mouth is making my life difficult. Now you’re going to go out there and say the following to the press. Not one word less. Not one word more. OK? And then when you’re done, you will come right back here—because you and I are going to call in a few of your ministers for a little talk. Now get out there.”

Shiozaki Yasuhisa is not that person. He is a smart, careful, well-spoken, good-looking conservative with a sense of Japan’s place in the world. However, he does not scare Abe in the least—and that’s what Abe needs, to be a little less blasé about his and his government’s conduct.

I assume Shisaku’s referring to Abe’s statements that have led to a flare-up of protests over his approach to the comfort women issue, because he’s been talking about them recently with the same wit*:

Stupid man. Stupid, incurious, arrogant, dogmatic man who deserves to lose in July.

Why has his prime ministership replicated intellectual trajectory of the Bush presidency, only at 12 times the speed?

But the Japan Times reminds us that the coverage of these issues for the TV-watching domestic audience is rather subdued, and these foreign policy issues will likely barely register in the public’s mind come July. Still, I think the criticism of Abe’s political insensitivity is valid in a host of other areas (comments on White-collar overtime exemption – somehow good for fighting a low birth rate? – and readmitting a political ally to the LDP who Koizumi kicked out for opposing postal privatization because “he agrees with me”?). The leathery father figure just isn’t there for him.

So now that Abe’s dug in his heels and refused to budge on a possible cabinet reshuffle, we can look forward to 4 more months of 5 million yen utility bills, birth-giving machines, hamstrung economic reform, and blank stares from zombie Abe. But hey, if he can push through the public referendum bill it might have all been worth it to him to mess up everything else and lose the upper house. As an admitted voyeur of the whole process, I have to admit it would be more fun to watch him freefall than to make a comback.

*I’m assuming Shisaku is a he. I have no clue who writes that blog.

Tokyo bridges and their late German relatives

If you want to get a glimpse of the Weimar Republic, one way to do it is by visiting Tokyo and walking along the Sumida River. There, you can see two famous bridges inspired by German bridges that didn’t manage to outlive the Third Reich.


Eitaibashi (“Long Reign Bridge”) is one of the most famous bridges in Tokyo, and rightfully so. It crosses the Sumida River close to what would naturally be Tokyo Bay, were it not for Odaiba and all the other little islands built up there over the last few decades.

Back in the days of old Edo, Eitaibashi was a sharply arched wooden bridge, as captured in this classic woodblock print by Toyoharu Utagawa. This first bridge was built in 1698 to commemorate the 50th birthday of the fifth Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. It was a Big Deal at the time, because the only other way to cross the river was by ferry.

The Tokugawas planned to dismantle the bridge in 1719, but the locals on the east side (the opposite side from central Edo) were so adamant on keeping the bridge that they agreed to take over the bridge themselves. This proved to be a bad idea, because the bridge collapsed in 1807 under the weight of travellers trying to get to the Tomioka Hachimangu shrine on the east side. 1,500 people died.

Although the later Tokugawas discussed building a second Eitaibashi, the Meiji Restoration put a hold on their plans, and the new bridge was not built until 1897. It was the first iron bridge in Japan, although much of it was made of wood. This also proved to be a bad idea, because the Tokyo earthquake of 1923 tore the wood apart and ruined the second bridge.

So the third and final Eitaibashi, constructed almost immediately after the earthquake, was built entirely of iron. It was modeled after the Bridge at Remagen on the Rhine River in Germany. This wasn’t a bad idea per se, although the Bridge at Remagen was itself ill-fated: the Germans blew it up to stop Allied troops from crossing into central Germany, inspiring a Hollywood production in the process.

Anyway, the third Eitaibashi is (perhaps miraculously) still intact. Its sky-blue paint job makes it not particularly picturesque during the day, but its lighting at night is downright gorgeous. The lights turn off around midnight, much like the Tokyo Tower’s.


Kiyosubashi (“Pure Cay Bridge,” named after the adjoining districts of Kiyosumi and Nakasu), just up the river from Eitaibashi, is equally famous, although it’s more picturesque during the day thanks to its lovely blue paint job. It was also built right after the Tokyo earthquake of 1923, although it had no predecessor in that location since “central Tokyo” was not quite as big in those days.

The inspiration for Kiyosubashi was the old Mülheim Bridge in Cologne, not far from the Bridge at Remagen. Ironically, the Mülheim Bridge was also blown up, just days before the Remagen Bridge. This was only partially intentional. The Germans had set up explosive charges on the Mülheim so they could blow it up if the Allies began to cross. Then, before the Allied troops were even close to the bridge, a bomb went off near the bridge. The strengh of this bomb wasn’t enough to damage the bridge, but it was enough to set off the charges on the bridge, thus causing the Germans to suffer the ignominy of accidentally destroying their own bridge. A more modern, utilitarian Mülheim Bridge was built after the war and completed in 1951.

Adamu slightly ahead of the curve and the new Internet environment in Japan

Shukan Playboy is finally getting around to investigating what I termed “living the dream” back in November. So am I correct in celebrating the fact that my summary of an Asahi article totally scooped a sleazy porn-filled tabloid’s low-priority human interest story? I don’t know, but on the scale of “nailing the Japanese mainstream media in English for a small audience” this rates about a 6, above prematurely praising the Asahi’s website (a 2) but well below exposing Bobby Valentine’s shady Japanese language lesson promotion schemes (easily my best work, a 10).

Also of note: Japan Times talks about malicious comment attacks on Japanese blogs. Are these frequent organized comment attacks on blogs a result of decades of social decay, as one expert alleges? Or could it simply be that there is a surge of new Internet users who learn their Internet manners from 2-channel? Couldn’t this problem be nipped in the bud if popular bloggers would only effectively manage their comments sections?

Blogs are really only starting to mature in Japan, so I can understand why the issue is newsworthy. What I don’t understand is why the most recent example is almost a year old.

I wonder why the article focused almost completely on victims’ stories and some expert opinions but neglected to mention what’s actually being done about the problem. A major recent development that came out 2 weeks ago was the announcement of new guidelines for ISPs that would make posters of malicious comments subject to having their personal identifying information disclosed to the victims of the comments (making it possible to sue for defamation). It’s a development that could put an end to the very practice the article is whining about, so it would have been nice of the author of a news article to let readers know what’s happening right now as opposed to last year. All we got instead was misleading bureaucrat-speak: “Currently, there is no regulation to curb enjo against Japan’s estimated 8.68 million blogs, said Yuko Fujii, an official in the information policy division at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.”

Also also of note: There’s a long interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on the occasion of his fact-finding mission in Japan. He must have a lot to learn because these are the only substantive comments he makes about the Japanese-language version of his site:

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it is said that in the Japanese Wikipedia, people would go to the discussion page, then discuss and discuss and discuss until they reach a consensus — and finally someone will go and very cautiously change the entry. Whereas in English, we change the entry and fight about it. I’ve heard this not just from English speakers but Japanese themselves. I wonder if it might not be some kind of self-humorous image of Japanese that endless discussions for consensus occur before something happens. It could be true, though I don’t know. But I’m told that the culture is different. Maybe I’ll be able to find out when I hang out with the Wikipedians here.

Why do you think the rate of growth has slowed on the Japanese Wikipedia compared to other languages?
I don’t really know. That’s what I’m here to find out. Maybe it needs more promotion. But it’s very difficult to say. Some of it is the Japanese Wikipedia used to be larger than the French, and there were twice as many editors working in the French Wikipedia. So we used to joke that “there’s more French but the Japanese work harder.” (Laughs)

The part about consensus-based editing is sort of true, at least from what I’ve seen. People will complain about content without making changes immediately, but that’s not universal and I don’t think there necessarily needs to be consensus, just perhaps no big objections.

Anyway, I hope that he learns a lot during the month he’s spending in Japan, including another eye-opening phenomenon that Wikipedia Japan has created: the posting of otherwise taboo information that is little-reported in the major media (such as the fact that the famous “Kano Sisters” are not actually related, or the bogusness of the Densha Otoko phenomenon, as discussed here).

How to be friendly, Japanese-style

How to greet peopleCurzon and I stumbled across this sign in a tiny village while hitchhiking across the Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori last summer. Roughly translated it says:


  • Good morning!
  • Good day!
  • Good evening!
  • Good job!

Kids and adults! Let’s work on greeting each other!
Kawauchi Community Center

Naturally, the few elderly people we saw in this village gave us puzzled stares as we passed through, leading me to believe that this sign was just there for decoration, kind of like a speed limit.

Note to Self: If you ever get a photo op with the crown princess, do NOT pick your nose


March 7

Crown Princess Masako speaks to a student about his prize-winning invention, the Omni-Directional Electric-Powered Wheelchair, as Crown Prince Naruhito looks on at the 65th Concours of Schoolchildren’s Inventions in Tokyo Wednesday. (AP)

He’s never going to live that one down, no matter how advanced his rag-doll transporter might be. Thankfully for him, you can’t go to jail for disrespecting the imperial family anymore.

More kabuki in the House

This time, it’s being reported in this piece of syndicated commentary by William Lind.

You can almost hear [the House Democrats’] glee as they offer the anti-war voters who gave them their majority one of Washington`s oldest dodges, ‘requirements’ the Executive Branch can waive if it wants to.

The kabuki script currently goes like this. Congressional Democrats huff and puff about ending the war; the White House and Congressional Republicans accuse them of ‘not supporting the troops;’ and the Democrats pretend to be stopped cold, plaintively crying that ‘Well, we all agree we have to support the troops, don’t we?’

‘Supporting the troops’ is just another dodge. The only way to support the troops when a war is lost is to end the war and bring them home.

I guess “theater” doesn’t sound exotic enough to suit a Beltway hack.