Banned Imports to North Korea

It has been widely reported that the sale of “luxury goods” (奢侈品) to North Korea has been panned by the Japanese government, but I have seen only example of what “luxury goods” consists of in the English media. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has a complete list avaliable on their web site(PDF), dated November 14. See below for my rough translation of this list.

As you read this list, consider which of them is so essential and valuable that you would not be willing to trade it for a nuclear bomb.

Continue reading Banned Imports to North Korea

Koizumi Continues to Flout His Own Constitution!

Koizumi Yarmulke.jpg
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi respectfully places his hand on the Wailing Wall, one of Judaism’s most sacred sites, in Jerusalem on Thursday during a trip to the Middle East that takes him to Israel, the Palestinian territory and Jordan. (AP)
(From Nikkei)

Who will stop Koizumi from continuing these perverse, random acts of worship?!

“Man-bags” catching on in the UK – Is the US next??

I have a running bet with a former colleague that “man purses” will catch on among American men in the near future, similar to their popularity in Japan. For some reason, he thinks that American men, with their embrace of such tasteful fashions as pink polo shirts with the collar popped, have more dignity than to carry a purse. That I find to be a somewhat insulting view of the Japanese – Americans are just as capable of making horrible fashion decisions as any other people of the world. So it was with great joy that I saw this story from a British tech news site:

Rise of the manbag: Are gadgets to blame?

We’re carrying too many techie toys…

By Will Sturgeon

Published: Wednesday 5 July 2006

The number of gadgets we’re carrying around on a daily basis – from BlackBerrys and mobile phones to iPods and PDAs – means men in the UK may be forced to embrace the metrosexual phenomenon of the ‘manbag’.

Smaller than a sports bag and often more stylish to boot, the manbag is becoming a must-have item for all UK gadget fans keen to stow their multiple devices.

And while four per cent of men surveyed for a piece of research from business communications company Damovo still go for the ‘batman’ utility belt approach of clipping their gadgets around their waist, it seems that stereotypical image of the gadget fan at large is being killed off by the manbag.

A third of respondents (32 per cent) still manage to get their techie toys into a pocket but by far the most popular option is putting all the gadgets into a bag.

Imperialist cuff links

I bought these on a hanami (flower viewing) excursion to Yasukuni Shrine last weekend. Tie pins aren’t quite my style, but the cuff links are great. (And Lady Curzon, a true aristocrat, gives her approval.)

Other items on sale at Yasukuni:

* Japanese flag cuff links. I didn’t buy these because they seemed too loud. I now regret that decision, and plan to purchase them the next time I visit.
* An authentic-looking Imperial Rescript on Education you can put up in your home for that classic fascist feeling. (Framed with a portrait of Hirohito: ¥9,000. Unframed: ¥1000.)
* Special manju, packaged with a caricature of Koizumi on the box and parodies of LDP slogans. Here’s a photo, because I love you:

Anyway, if you see a honky walking around Tokyo wearing chrysanthemum cuff links, you’ll know it’s me, so be sure to say hi.

Uniqlo arrives in the US

I had actually heard about this a few months ago, I think on some Japanese news site. But yesterday I was surprised to see that The Motley Fool had reported on it.

You’ll have to forgive me for not catching this one sooner. A year ago, I wrote about the possibility of Japanese retailer Fast Retailing’s Uniqlo business setting up shop in the U.S. and the potential competitive problems that could cause for Gap (NYSE: GPS). However, it looks like I wasn’t paying close enough attention, because in the last six months, Uniqlo has opened three stores in New Jersey and now has one store open temporarily in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.

I must admit, I was a little puzzled to see that their first three stores were in New Jersey malls, at least there is some kind of sense to it. After all, while we may not have the largest mall in the country, we are the undisputed center of the shopping mall lifestyle – as much as that association pains my holier than though New York oriented Montclair ass. Now, the fact that their next store was in Soho really shocked me. At least, shocked insofar as I can have any kind of emotional reaction to retail clothing. Which, I should not have to inform you, is rather minimal.
Now, will Uniqlo have any impact? Well, they’ve already managed to expand profitably into China, Korea, Hong Kong and apparently, England. I assume that if England had been a flop they would never have bothered with the US. But what does the Fool think?

Overall, I still believe Uniqlo poses the biggest threat to Gap’s namesake stores and its Old Navy shops, because the price point, style, and level of quality are similar. Whether or not Uniqlo ends up being a true threat will take years to play out, and Uniqlo will also need to prove that it will endure in the U.S. and is not just a passing fad. As a customer of Uniqlo for a number of years, I believe the company can compete successfully, largely because the company has had some success in the U.K., Hong Kong, and Korea.

I must say, I always liked Uniqlo well enough when I was in Japan. I have a jacket from there that I’m rather fond of, and the zip-up black hooded sweatshirt I got almost 4 years ago for something like 2500 or 3000 has very possibly been worn more days in total than any other single piece of clothing that I own, but in all honesty the main attraction of Uniqlo was that it was the only decent store in Japan where I could find clothes that I was comfortable with at a decent price. While the Gap and Levis stores in Kyoto might offer clothing that I would be willing to wear, they did it at prices dramatically higher than I would pay for identical items in the US, while Uniqlo, despite being in Japan, cost no more than the Old Navy at the Willowbrook Mall a short drive from my house in Jersey. Uniqlo may be a pretty good store in Japan, but is there any particular need in this country for a Japanese clothing brand whose style is, in my eyes, virtually indistinguishable from the preexisting mainstream American brands?

The pitfalls of the furry bra

At the risk of looking like Japundit, I present the Triumph® Heated Bra™, designed in response to the Warm Biz campaign.

This prompted a discussion with my friend “K.” As it turned out, she was an expert on furry bra physics:

[11:05] K: you know, i saw that earlier today and it doesn't make sense
[11:06] J: yeah... i imagine that boobies don't get that cold
[11:06] K: well, if it WERE that cold out... it's hard to wear a shirt over a furry bra
[11:06] K: but if it's warm enough for no shirt, then you don't need a warm bra!
[11:06] J: stop hating on the furry bras
[11:07] K: i don't hate it, but i'm saying that they didn't think it through
[11:07] K: like, it might be nice at a january football game
[11:07] J: yes
[11:08] K: but you're more than welcome to wear one
[11:08] J: mmmm fur
[11:09] K: it's like that diamond-encrusted bra... it's just... not comfortable!

UPDATE: I later showed this to a Japanese ladyfriend, “M.” Her response, in its entirety:

[10:46] M: that is pretty

Gov’t to launch ‘Warm Biz’ campaign from Oct 1

Can’t wait to see what Koizumi will wear! If he’s still PM that is…

BTW check out the LDP Manifesto (Click where it says “120”) for some great shots of Koizumi looking majestic and wise.

Gov’t to launch ‘Warm Biz’ campaign from Oct 1

Monday, August 22, 2005 at 19:28 JST
TOKYO — Japan will kick off the “Warm Biz” campaign Oct 1, an autumn-winter version of the “Cool Biz” campaign held during summer, to promote energy conservation by encouraging business people to wear layers of clothing and help reduce the use of heaters, the Environment Ministry announced Monday.

Under the campaign, office workers will be encouraged to wear knitwear, warm underwear and headwear so that they can comfortably work in an office with a temperature of 20 C, the ministry said.

(c 2005 Kyodo News. All rights reserved. No reproduction or republication without written permission.)