Japanese vs US Blogs

High praise from Curzon at Coming Anarchy:

Educational and entertaining in one healthy dose, [Mutant Frog Travelogue is] probably the best East Asian blog around.

Thanks, I think we’re pretty great too! But that made me wonder — what do other East Asian blogs look like? What about, just for example, the highest ranked Japanese blogs on Technorati?

(Note about Technorati from their About section: “Technorati displays what’s important in the blogosphere — which bloggers are commanding attention, what ideas are rising in prominence, and the speed at which these conversations are taking place.” Hence, these rankings are a measure of what people with blogs are linking to, not the number of page views, influence, revenue, or any other factor (as far as I can tell))

For starters, let’s see what’s out there. Here’s a quick rundown of the top ten blogs in Japan and the US/English-speaking world (for comparison):

Japanese blogs:

1. がんばれ、生協の白石さん! “Fight on, Shiraishi of the Co-op!”

This is the blog of a Mr. Shiraishi, “very very average” employee of the Co-op (student cooperative/school store) at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. Shiraishi gained fame for being the writer of responses to comment cards that students would write to him. The comment cards are a well-known phenomenon at Japanese universities as the answer are often posted outside the Co-ops on a bulletin board. He differs from other such Co-op employees in that he actually answers the stupid joke comments that he gets rather than giving them a quiet death in the round file. For some reason this has become majorly popular in Japan, probably because college students throughout the country have wondered just what kind of weirdos answer their comments.

Latest post: Too much Mah-jongg!


Question: I am suffering from a lack of sleep from too much mah-jongg. I’d like to go to class, so what can I do?

Answer: Make an effort not to play mah-jongg too much! If you keep on like this, I think you’ll end up crying in public. Your free time only exists because you are studying and researching, so switch over from mah-jongg and do your best!

OK, this at least has some novelty value. I remember the comment board at Ritsumeikan answered my question why they stopped serving these awesome banana crepes (they’re a winter-only item).

2. 眞鍋かをりのココだけの話 Kaori Manabe’s “Stories that don’t leave this room”

Kaori Manabe is a popular (not to mention beautiful) model/actress/all-around talent, perhaps best known outside Japan for her role in the 2001 film Waterboys. Her blog has gained fame for its frequent updates, endless blathering on trivial topics, and plentiful photos of Manabe-chan.

Latest post: A Friendly Fire Festival

Inanity abounds:

There’s a very strange person called Mr. A that I see all the time on location.

Is he an airhead? Well, he’s more of a socially inept ‘go my own way’ type of guy. H

His special feature is to make statements that surprise people without meaning to at all.

His hobbies are playing the horses and movies (mostly thrillers).

His private life is shrouded in mystery (but he absolutely does not have a girlfriend).

Continue reading Japanese vs US Blogs

Aso Backs off of Tactless Emperor-Visit-Yasukuni Speech PLUS

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Aso Qualifies Remark Calling For Emperor To Visit Yasukuni

TOKYO (Kyodo)–Foreign Minister Taro Aso clarified Tuesday that his call over the weekend for the emperor to visit the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo was not meant for the emperor to go there ”in the current situation.”

”I made the remark from the standpoint of the spirits of the war dead enshrined (at Yasukuni) because they died for the emperor. I never said that (I wanted) the emperor to make the shrine visit in the current situation,” Aso told a news conference.

Aso said Saturday in a speech in Nagoya that ”From the viewpoint of the spirits of the war dead, they hailed ‘Banzai’ for the emperor — none of them said long live the prime minister. A visit by the emperor would be the best.”

Nothing witty to say about this guy, but I have discovered a wonderful site dedicated to the man. This site is as fascinating as it is jam-packed with information. Some quick highlights:

  • – He reads 30 comic books per week. 30! (Was once caught reading Rosen Maiden in the VIP room at Haneda Airport, and had comics shipped to him when he was in America)
  • – In addition to comics, he reads a ton of normal books and is an intelligent man with lots of stories to tell (Yet another counterexample to the facile notion that problematic politicians are simply fools)
  • – Visits Yasukuni Shrine every year despite being a Christian (Christians are, of course, forbidden to worship other gods as one of their most basic tenets)
  • – Is apparently aware of the existence of 2-channel as a “problem forum site on the Internet”
  • – Was voted best dresser in the political world in 1977
  • – Speaks English, having studied at Stanford and London University after graduating from Gakushuin, which before the abolition of the peerage in 1947 was an exclusive finishing school for the Japanese nobility
  • – Lived in Sierra Leone for 2 years developing diamond mines but left after a civil war erupted
  • – Once said, “I think the best country is one in which rich Jews feel like living.”
  • Continue reading Aso Backs off of Tactless Emperor-Visit-Yasukuni Speech PLUS

    Japanese Only?! Outraged over location discrimination

    Some of you may have heard about all the great Internet media content sites popping up in Japan recently. I sure have. They’re offering hit shows and the latest music for a small fee, so I couldn’t happier to finally be able to access Japanese TV/music easily from my home in the Washington, DC area. Let’s try these wonderful new services, shall we?

    Second Nippon TV: “You can only access this site from within Japan.” Crap!

    iTunes Japan: Yes, you CAN access iTunes Japan if you buy a special card from the infamous jlist.com (Thanks to Wikipedia for the tip). Unfortunately, people overseas can NOT access iTunes Japan without giving J-List (or J-Box) a cut.

    Yahoo!Japan Music: “Q: Can I download if I live overseas? A: Yahoo! Music Download is not compatible for purchasing songs from overseas. We are using a system that does not allow downloads from people connected from overseas (from IP addresses outside Japan). Based on the policy of the content providers, the distribution of the content outside Japan is not permitted, so we are using this system. Please understand. Hint: If you cannot download, no charges will accrue.” Huh? Now I’m rejected AND my intelligence is insulted!

    Final Fantasy XI (MMORPG): OK, This I can use and play along with thousands of Japanese otaku. Um, thanks but no thanks guys!

    Just a small but representative example. Listen up, Japan: I would gladly PAY for a lot of this stuff! PAY! MONEY! And I know there are thousands if not millions of Japanese and non-Japanese people who would similarly pony up. So what’s the deal?

    I don’t know for sure, but here are a couple guesses based on what I know about the Japan situation:

    1. I don’t know the ins and outs of Japanese copyright law, but I DO know that it is arcane and essentially designed to screw the consumer at every turn. One example: There is no general concept of fair use in Japan, making your run-of-the-mill Ultraman clip a possible lawsuit target! Copy protection on CDs is commonplace, criminal charges were filed against the creator of Winny (a P2P file sharing program in Japan) and of course let’s not forget about Sony’s mistaken belief that they could pull the same crap in the US that they get away with in Japan.

    Of course, the recording industry in Japan has had mixed results in its efforts to clamp down on piracy. They made something of a compromise in the 90s to allow CD rental to take hold in Japan (for copying to cassettes and later MiniDiscs) by first making sure they got a percentage of each rental.

    Nevertheless, the Japanese content providers, not to mention their consumers, are notorious copyright Nazis (see this iTunes forum post to see what I mean if you can read Japanese). The government, who would of course never miss a chance to suck up to big business, has gone so far as to run train ads featuring celebrities against consumer unauthorized downloads and use of pirated DVDs/designer bags etc. This may have something to do with it.

    2. iTunes, for its part, had a hell of a time convincing record companies to go along with its business model (especially since some of them (Avex and Sony) run their own digital services). Not allowing songs (or dramas et cetera) to be distributed abroad could in some way shape of form protect the interests of labels who might have ditribution deals in Asia, where Japanese content is hugely popular. Another worry for the content masters may be that allowing the Chinese, for instance, to download high-quality video of their precious content would only lead to more pirated DVDs.

    3. Avex’s service apparently suffered an attack from Turkish hackers in August 2005 (check here to see what it looked like — contains the F word!). Banning foreign IP addresses might be a convenient way to protect oneself from some of the less initiated loser 13-year-old hackers out there.

    4. In the end, this is most likely the same logic that is applied to DVD region codes and blocking Japanese video games in the American market and vice-versa. Controlling when and where the goods are sold makes it possible to coordinate marketing efforts (and of course set prices). But, at least in this case, what’s the point if the vast majority of the content offered is a) In a language most people overseas do not understand, and b) Not intended for export? As ADV films has found, the type of people who would seek out your product without the help of a coordinated marketing effort are the same people who will build a market for your product for free.

    I haven’t seen too much discussion on this topic (but then I don’t frequent tech forums). So why is this? Does anyone know for sure?

    In case of earthquake, don’t even think of running

    One of the shows on NHK this morning was talking about earthquake preparedness. Recently there’s been something of a boom in literature about what to do in the event Tokyo spontaneously falls down. If you go to bookstores around here, you see competing lines of evacuation maps, survival guides and the like.

    The blurb I caught on my way to work was about evacuation. After a major earthquake, the trains stop running and the elevated expressways are likely to have fallen down in places (think Kobe, 1995), so the only way to get out of the city is on foot, taking surface routes.

    This doesn’t sound too bad until you realize how many people are in the city, how narrow many of these surface routes are, and how likely they are to be blocked in places by falling power poles and other debris. One think-tank wonk made a computer simulation of an evacuation of downtown Tokyo, and figured that the streets in shitamachi (i.e. the area around Tokyo Station and Ginza) would be crowded to the extent of about 11 people per square meter. That’s about the maximum number of people you can squeeze into a square meter; imagine the worst Tokyo subway cars at rush hour, expanded to the size of an arterial street.

    Yet another reason why we need flying cars NOW.

    Nippon TV’s Online Video News Site Improved

    The video news site of Nippon TV (日テレ) has undergone a rebirth; no longer known as Nippon News Network 24, they have renamed themselves “NTV News 24.” In addition, the video streaming is much smoother at 300kbps and comes in clearer. Try the full-screen version!

    Now all they have to do is make it a constant stream for it to be perfect. I wouldn’t mind if they included commercials even, as long as it kept me up to date on the goings-on in Japan. Sometimes the print news sites (such as Asahi with its appallingly tiny photographs) just don’t cut it.

    More Kabuki

    Meaningless charade

    The moribund hearings have been as predictable as a Kabuki drama. Barring a major miscue, Alito’s inscrutability will carry him to the Supreme Court

    As predictably as a Kabuki drama, the media is using the metaphor of a kabuki drama to describe boring politics.

    It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Daniels/Eichwenwald Kabuki dance reflected a conscious effort to avoid invoking the homosexual angle in the story.

    Newsbusters refuses to watch gay kabuki.

    New Ghibli Movie ‘Ged War Journal’ directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s Son despite protest from father

    While we’re on the topic of linking to blogs, Kaiju Shakedown, an official blog of Variety magazine (meaning he gets paid for it, I guess), has been one of my favorites lately. I’ve always been a firm believer that close, obsessive scrutiny of a nation’s pop culture can tell one a lot about that nation’s people, so Grady Hendrix’s posts, written with that true Variety-style sarcastic wit, always entertain and inform.

    So it was the Shakedown where I learned about Ghibli Studios’ latest feature “Ged War History” (English title is apparently not finalized), directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro:

    But father Miyazaki was against it! In an unsuccessful effort to find out why, I translated the first diary entry from Goro’s blog. This first appeared in the comments section of Kaiju Shakedown, but I will reproduce it here:

    Introductory remarks — My father was against this

    My father, Hayao Miyazaki, was against me directing “Ged War Journal” [tr: my guess at a literal translation of the movie’s title].

    This may sound abrupt. However, first, I would like to make this clear.
    Continue reading New Ghibli Movie ‘Ged War Journal’ directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s Son despite protest from father

    Japundit gets it wrong on MOAG

    Japundit is celebrating its comment-generating post about the “controversy” over the Memoirs of a Geisha movie with a victory lap. But really, who cares? The blog, I assure you, is just playing into marketers’ hands.

    What no one seems to be mentioning is that putting a Chinese woman in a Japanese role was more than likely an intentional decision by the filmmakers to generate buzz. Or even if the initial casting decision wasn’t made specifically to ruffle feathers, the race mix-up angle has been played up way out of proportion for that reason. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the race-sensitive Asians and their apologists (at Japundit, MutantFrog.com, or other public forums) would get their panties in a bundle if those ignoramuses in Hollywood confused Japanese and Chinese people, so why not exploit that to get people talking about a movie that would otherwise not be very appealing to an uninitiated audience?

    Because realistically, a movie about a “geisha” probably couldn’t sell itself. Enough people in the States are vaguely aware of what a geisha is to the point of it showing up in the dictionary, but are Americans dying to see a tragic tale of star-crossed love between two stiff, unemotional Asians? Most people would understandably say, “Geesha what?” And as we all know, Japan isn’t nearly as sexy as it once was, and with Japan-China tensions being the hot-button issue that they are, a good bit of controversy never hurt anyone.

    So when you go see this movie, enjoy — but just remember that your thoughts on race relations, your expectations of artistic authenticity, and all else you hold dear are all being carefully manipulated by well-paid and savvy hucksters.

    Lady Goes Crazy on Trading Spouses

    Awesome! DARK SIDED!!!

    Reminds me of when I went to Baptist services with my friends when I was a kid.

    As shocked as I am to see such a misguided and hateful person, I have to admit that it’s a dream of mine to one day appear on television shrieking so violently that I need subtitles to be understood.

    Taken from AndrewSullivan.com.

    After some thought, I have decided that you can keep reading this blog even if you don’t believe in Jesus.