“Akiba-kei” nerd to run for the upper house: ZAKZAK is there


An Akihabara Nerd to Run for the Upper House… Tarui Dresses Like a Fantasy Warrior on RPG-like Homepage

The LDP’s Foreign Minister Taro Aso is well-known for being popular among the Akihabara (read:anime/manga/video game nerd) set, but there is one man in the DPJ who considers himself an “Akiba-kei” (Akihabara-style otaku). That man is 39-year-old Yoshikazu Tarui, a former Lower House member. He is gaining attention for his uniqueness in such odd moves as putting pictures of himself dressed like a fantasy warrior on his business cards and homepage and displaying images of DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa dressed as “King Zawa.”

t2007021310tarui1_b.jpgOpen Tarui’s homepage, and a story on the theme of “a country built on entertainment” will begin. It’s set up like a role-playing game, and King Zawa asks “Warrior Tarui”: “Hey, what happened Tarui? What is it?” as the story progresses.

Tarui is well known as a professional wrestling and kickboxing fan in the DPJ, and “Killer Kan” a great general played by Acting President Naoto Kan also shows up. This is a pun on the famous wrestler Killer Khan who was big in New Japan Pro Wrestling and famous for his special move the Mongolian Chop. DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama’s appearance is still in the planning stages, reportedly.

Tarui is running in this summer’s upper house race as a proportional representation candidate, but in response to questions from Yukan Fuji (=ZAKZAK), he explains, “Since there are no Akiba-kei Diet members in Nagata-cho, I thought that I’d try and grab the segment of people who are interested in pop culture and digital contents, so I made this site.” His campaign promise is “promotion of the entertainment content industry.”

t2007021310tarui2_b.jpgHe has a fold-out business card with the word “Tarutsu” on the cover in the style of famous video game magazine “Famitsu” along with a photo of Tarui dressed as a warrior. Open the card, and along with pictures of Tarui with “King Zawa” and “Killer Kan” there is a pun-filled message: 「かったるい国政、変えたるい!!」 (I’ll change the tired old national politics!). On the back is the strong slogan: “Bring the first akiba-kei Diet member in history back to national politics!”

You’d think he’d have confidence in this masterwork, but Tarui actually seems to be keeping his distance: “I gave this to Kan, but I’ve been too scared to show it to Ozawa since I made it without asking. This might freak regular people out, so I am not giving it out so much. I am mostly just giving it to people in the industry.

Certainly, there are those in Nagatocho who are cool on the wacky concept, saying “all we can do is laught,” but a source close to Tarui explains that he’s “a totally serious person.”

Actually, in Tarui’s own running column in “Weekly Famitsu” magazine, he seriously explains his ‘pet project’: “Promotion of entertainment not only has economic effects for the country, but will also help to raise [Japan’s] image. Would you want to fire a missile at Korea after having seen Winter Sonata? If you consider those feelings, you can understand that entertainment content is truly the best diplomat for prevention of wat and boosting tourism and economic exchange!”

Even Aso must be surprised at this guy!

ZAKZAK 2007/02/13

Both sides are likely to run celebrities and other fluff candidates for the national PR seats this summer, but a seasoned policy wonk with a taste for the absurd? I like.

Watch Muhammend Ali vs. Antonio Inoki

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can now watch highlights from the historic Muhammad Ali fight with Japanese pro wrestling legend Antonio Inoki (read more about the fight here):

It’s a sports documentary in Japanese, but anyone should be able to get a picture of what the fight looked like. And what does it look like? A boring mess! This description of the fight put it well:

Inoki spent much of the fight on the ground trying to damage Ali’s legs. Ali spent most of the fight dodging the kicks by stepping out of the way or staying on the ropes. Occasionally, Inoki’s boot would connect. By the third round, a wound had appeared on Ali’s left knee.

I guess that’s what happens when you put a boxer and a wrestler together and then try and mix-match the rules of each sport.

News to me: Rocky was based on a true story

I was recently reminded of the Rocky movies when I was assigned some translation work related to the new sequel that’s coming out. Don’t ask me what it was, but I’ll tell you one thing: if I never hear the exchange at the end of the trailer again (Boxer: “What it that, from the 80s?” Rocky: “More like the 70s”), it’ll be too soon.

The Rocky movies have been great for their cheesy charm (sweet music), Rocky’s dogged determination and slurred speech (caused by Stallone’s own real-life speech impediment), and finding just the right mix of sports movie cliches to make them work. They inspire me (to the extent that I ever get inspired) in basically the same way as the awesome training scenes in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. That’s why it was especially heartwarming to hear from Ask Yahoo! that there really was a Rocky:

Sylvester Stallone’s signature character was inspired by a real-life boxer named Chuck Wepner.

Wepner, who calls himself “The Real Rocky,” had been a professional pugilist for many years when he challenged Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1975. An ex-Marine, Wepner was asked before the fight if he thought he had a chance against the Greatest of All Time. Wepner allegedly answered, “I’ve been a survivor my whole life…if I survived the Marines, I can survive Ali.”

In fact, Wepner did more than just survive. In the ninth round, he actually introduced Ali to the canvas. Wepner eventually lost, but he was the only fighter to ever knock down Ali while Ali was the champ.

Stallone watched the fight and soon went on to write “Rocky,” the story of a down-and-out boxer who gets his shot at the heavyweight title and goes the distance against a boisterous and beloved champion.

I’m sure, had I been old enough and cared about boxing, I’d probably be aware of that major event in Ali’s career. Still, it’s news to me. I don’t suppose the real Rocky went on to fight drug-addled supercommunists, though, did he?

So, that’s my message to the Democrats today: go the distance and see try not to lose by decision!

INOKIX Series Condoms(tm)

Sadly we missed this one prior to their selling out, but Japanese prophylactic major Condomania lists Inoki-brand condoms in their online catalog.

Condoms that have inherited “Inoki-ism!” Fighting condoms decorated with the Inoki ” DAAAAAAH !” pose!


12-pack ¥1,050

  • Big and bulbous at the tip
  • Plain type
  • Jelly manufacture
  • Pink color

12-pack ¥2,100

  • Thick knob-end for sustained effect
  • Serrated to prevent falling out
  • Jelly manufacture
  • Pink and green colors

Nothing says “I’m gonna kick your ass” like a pink condom, guys.

Heizo Takenaka to leave politics after Koizumi steps down, but who could possibly replace him?!

Japan Times reports on Takenaka’s announcement, which came at a post-cabinet meeting press conference:

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Heizo Takenaka said Friday he will retire from politics when outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi steps down Sept. 26.

Takenaka, a 55-year-old professor-turned-lawmaker, said he decided to quit politics because his job had been to assist Koizumi’s economic reforms.

But what I didn’t see reported in English was news of who will take Takenaka’s proportional representation seat in the Diet. You see, members of the upper house who were elected by PR don’t represent a specific district, so there’s no runoff to replace people who quit or die. Whatever party the person leaving belonged to gets to select the replacement.

In this case the LDP had a Ms. Shinobu Kandori at the top of their waiting list from when she ran in 2004. Kandori (41) is a former Judo star who went on to become a veteran and former CEO of Japan’s Lady’s Legend Pro Wrestling. Sometimes knows as “the strongest man in ladies’ wrestling”, her accomplishments in the ring include the distinction of being among the few female wrestlers to defeat a male wrestler (eat your heart out Andy Kaufman!) in an effort to break down the barriers between men’s and ladies’ wrestling. She was also a participant in the first-ever women’s version of anything-goes kickboxing called L-1. Outside the ring, she made waves by becoming the first female freelance pro wrestler, choosing to negotiate matches from outside the company. Her profile on her agent’s website lists her main hobby as gambling.

A Jan 2002 interview places Kandori’s legendary 1986 wrestling debut against Jackie Sato as the event that destroyed the image of female wrestlers as objects of adoration (“idols”) (Ed: corrected translation). Known for her brutality in the squared circle, Kandori specializes in chain deathmatches and no-holds-barred fights. Her theme song is “All We Are” by female-led hair metal band Warlock (watch and listen here on Youtube!). She considers herself a pioneer for women in wrestling, which her record no doubt backs up. Few before her in ladies wrestling had the muscular body of a Judo champ, which allowed her to try some new things like fighting men. Her goal as a leader of ladies wrestling was to make the sport more organized and to raise standards of who can become a wrestler.

But now she’s got some big shoes to fill. Her official blog doesn’t have much on it yet since the announcement just came out yesterday, but I wouldn’t count on seeing any more pictures of her chugging tomato juice from now on:


In case you were wondering what she’ll be bringing to her new job as a public servant, Wikipedia has an indication: Her unsuccessful political campaign in 2004 earned her criticism after she bluntly stated that she “honestly, like, [doesn’t] get this Iraq issue.” She also reportedly never made her mandatory social security payments, claiming that as a pro wrestler she never learned how to live in normal society. “The system is just too hard to understand,” she explained. “We have to change it.”

Thing is, the LDP actually sought Kandori out to exploit her fame (much like they tried to do with Horie), so in part she can’t be blamed for making such inappropriate comments. She’s just being honest, and if that’s good enough for the LDP, then it’s up to the voters to decide whether she deserves a Diet seat, right? Well, sort of. They voted her out, but now she’s back in on a technicality.

But just in case you thought Ms. Kandori lacked ideas, take a look at this brilliant campaign tactic from 2004:

million man arm wrestling.jpg
Translation: “Lend me your strength! It’s the million-person arm wrestling campaign”

Yes, the woman who once destroyed the door of Korakuen Hall’s green room in a fit of anger will join the ranks of Atsushi Onita (profiled before on this blog and whose official Diet secretary got in trouble earlier this year for kicking a rival wrestler in the face… and he apparently has beef with 26-yo Taizo Sugimura, another LDP Diet member of questionable merit) and the legendary Antonio Inoki.

Something tells me she won’t be offered any of Takenaka’s cabinet posts, but she might make a more pretty good Gender Equality minister.

UPDATE: Her other nickname is “Mr. Ladies’ Wrestling.” See that fact and a sweet action pose here.

Yakuza Push Back as Rigged Boxing Match Makes Waves in the Japanese Internet

Kameda Hide.jpg
I haven’t been following this issue too closely, but here’s a quick rundown:

On August 2, star Japanese boxer Koki Kameda fought Juan Landaeta of Venezuela for the World Boxing Association’s light flyweight championship. The match, which I naturally missed since I live outside Japan (but you can see some clips on Youtube here), was said to obviously have gone to Landaeta in terms of both points and the match’s momentum. However, at the end of the day Kameda was awarded the championship 2-1. The Japanese blogosphere (which scored its first political touchdown amid last year’s earthquake safety scandal) cried foul, the rumor being that the match had been rigged as a “present” for mob boss Goro Hide Hanabusa‘s birthday. Pictures of the two together (see above) soon surfaced, putting Kameda’s career in jeopardy not just for participating in a rigged match but for acquiring a dirty image in what is supposed to be a family sport.

Marxy, who has been following this story, has noted that the story has broken much faster on the Internet than in weekly magazines, Japan’s usual outlet for yakuza-related scandals. While diffusion of the Internet into daily lives in Japan has lagged behind the US (your aunt Ikuko still can’t book discount flights online, for instance), the more popular uses of the net (anonymous message boards, then blogs, and now Youtube) have proven effective tools in getting around the notorious disinformation found in traditonal news media (case in point). Japanese wiki, for instance, contains frank passages on taboo subjects such as the real identities of TV stars, exposure of staged events on TV, and now the role of organized crime in fixing boxing matches.

That is, it did until a few hours ago. Marxy just clued me in that Hide Hanabusa’s wikipedia entry was recently deleted due to “copyright issues”. Wikipedia will apparently instantly delete any entry that a rightsholder alleges contains a violation of his/her copyright. I have no idea whether that is the case in this instance, but it’s interesting to see that the yaks may have realized they’re being humiliated online and decided to take action.

Will the Japanese yakuza expand its Internet savvy beyond cheap cons in order to protect its image? Well, as far as this blogger is concerned, I figure I’ll be safe as long I keep writing in English.

When rikishi attack

Yesterday, Russian rikishi Roho was easily tossed out of the sumo ring by Chiyotaikai (video). As usual, Roho looked like he was about to rip someone a few new assholes. Unfortunately, he wasn’t messing around this time:

Still heated, Roho smashed a bathroom glass window on his way back to the dressing room and after receiving a reprimand from the JSA judging committee, proceeded to attack the photographers who were trying to take his photo.

“Violence toward field reporters is truly shameful and unforgivable for a sportsman,” the Mainichi Shimbun said in a statement.

Exactly what triggered the exchange is unclear but both Roho and Chiyotaikai received warnings from JSA Chairman Kitanoumi. The Russian wrestler later said that Chiyotaikai made a derogatory comment after the bout that set him off.

Roho will forfeit his bout against ozeki Tochiazuma Sunday and have two rest days.

Let’s see him try to get into an onsen now…

Sickeningly Insulting Info-tainment from the Daily Yomiuri

Consider these two phenomena:

1) Athletes endorsing products that supposedly help their performance; and

2) Exploitive marketing of second language learning products that offer a specific pattern of drills as a purported secret to learning the language.

By themselves, they are typical, if somewhat sleazy parts of everyday consumer life. But put them together and you get this nugget of infotainment from the ethically-challenged Daily Yomiuri:

Bobby Valentine learns the joy of Japanese

Yoko Mizui Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

“The most exciting thing that ever happened to me was not winning the Asian Championship and the Japan Championship last year. Nor was it winning the Major League. It was not even winning koryusen this year,” said Chiba Lotte Marines baseball team manager Bobby Valentine. “The most exciting thing was that at the age of 50 plus, I could discover Step Up Nihongo and learn the language.”

Valentine talked about how he learned the Japanese language and utilizes it in managing his team at a seminar to introduce a new e-learning system, “eSUN,” in Tokyo on June 26.

Step Up Nihongo (SUN) is a set of textbooks for non-Japanese to study the Japanese language, written by Shigekatsu Yamauchi, who also writes the monthly column “Japanese in Depth” for the Language Connection page of The Daily Yomiuri.

That’s right, just when you think Chiba Marines manager Bobby Valentine is going to give us some insight into ups and downs of his attempts to learn the language of his adopted home (which he incidentally lives away from in the off-season), BAM you get a sales pitch. There is nothing indicating that this article is an advertisement meant to promote a specific product. And adding insult to injury, there’s next to no info about how good Valentine’s Japanese actually is or how he really learned it. I guess it’s up to us to try eSUN and find out, right?

In the interest of fairness, there are dozens of press releases put out and promotional events held every single day in Japan announcing the arrival of some great new product. Every one of them claims to be newsworthy, making it up to the reporter/editor’s judgment to know what is really worth printing. If we give the Yomiuri the benefit of the doubt, “Bobby Valentine endorses Japanese study method” could be newsworthy in and of itself. He’s yet another success story of a foreigner in Japan, so people want to hear just about any tidbit of information that’s available. I mean, color me ignorant, but I didn’t even know Valentine was seriously studying Japanese, although I’m not about to start believing it now (Question: is his Japanese any good? According to this Nov 2005 interview it’s “a major problem”). Unfortunately, the article is not exactly written to emphasize the newsworthy aspects of the event. Again and again the writer emphasizes the benefits of eSUN.

Keep in mind that in the Japanese media, product placement passed off as news (i.e.: with no mark denoting that you’re looking at an ad rather than actual news) is rampant (for example, Nikkei has an entire Saturday supplement for just such a purpose). Marxy has some good coverage of that phenomenon on his blog.

I would say this article fits snugly into that tradition of unannounced advertising. Especially since after about 10 minutes of the most cursory research, I was able to unearth a good bit of info to that makes it unlikely that Valentine is merely a volunteer supporter of this learning technique.

First let’s consider: are we really expected to believe that the discovery of this product was the most exciting moment ever in the life of the Bobby Valentine, the only foreign manager (except for Sadaharu Oh I guess but he doesn’t count) in Japanese baseball to ever win the Pacific League and Japan Series championships and, coincidentally, the inventor of the “wrap” sandwich?

If it is, he’s been quiet about it up to now – he only mentions the product once on his official blog (which in turn is a marketing gimmick for a different site) in the form of a brief non-sequitur in a February 2006 post explaining how the blog works:

It is very interesting to note that David, who is bilingual in English and Japanese, learned his Japanese from the same teacher I am currently learning mine! Our teacher is Shige Yamauchi-sensei of ICI, a foreign language school in Tokyo. Using Step Up Nihongo (SUN), which is a wonderful teaching tool for those that want to learn Japanese, students can not only learn it by book and tape form but also interactive internet lessons as well.

But that brief endorsement was enough to warrant ICI, creator of the Step Up method and the company featured in the article in question, to include a full-on graphic logo (linked to the above blog post) on their website to let potential students know that Valentine endorses their methods:

And I’m sure he does – but I have a tough time believing he’s doing this simply as an uncompensated advocate. The article claims that Valentine was hooked on eSUN after someone handed it to him on a plane. Sure, and James Bond drives a BMW to impress chicks. Valentine is a businessman. Look at the way he’s doing his blog: some secretary is recording his thoughts while he’s on the road, and then transcribing them onto a blog that links directly to a major Valentine investment. Pretty shrewd!

And from the get-go, the seminar that constitutes the “where” of the article was held by a company run by a Yomiuri contributor. Considering that the very existence of his column is a convenient way to drum up business, sneaking in a cheap promotion of a celebrity endorsement of his product doesn’t make for much of an intellectual stretch. And being a part of the Yomiuri establishment must make it easy to cut in line ahead of other, less-connected Japanese learning methods.

So we’ve got a) An article that is clearly pushing a specific product but does not identify itself as an ad; b) a subject who in all likelihood is a paid (but unannounced) spokesman for the product; and c) The company offering said product has personal and financial connections to Yomiuri. In my own amateur opinion, such an article violates the “newspaper ethics” that the Yomiuri supposedly subscribes to as a member of the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association (NSK). Here’s the relevant excerpt of the NSK’s Journalistic Canon, Newspaper Advertising Printing Standards (for some reason these standards are left out of the English version of the NSK website):

[Newspapers] shall not print advertisements that correspond to the following:
3. Falsehoods or items for which there is a danger of misinterpretation.
“Items for which there is a danger of misinterpretation” refers to the following:
(1) [Advertisements] that use formatting and expressions that look ambiguously like editorial matter, making the fact that it is an advertisement unclear.
[rest omitted]

So as long as the journalistic canon applies to online articles (at least it seems to in the US) the DY might consider sticking the word “advertisement” above articles that serve little purpose than to sell us something. Until either that happens or I get definitive proof that Bobby Valentine has no endorsement deal with Step Up Nihongo, I will continue to be properly offended.

(Thanks to FG for pointing this article out to me)

The other world cup

World cup fever has gripped the, ummm, the world I suppose. But in all of this fuss over teams of humans from one country competing against teams of humans from another country for the greater glory of their history/race/ideology/religion its important not to forget the as of yet infantile league that will some day destroy them all. I am of course talking about the RoboCup.

And not only humans and robots are caught up in football fever! For according to this report from the BBC even monkeys are new getting in on the action, and this is something that is of great concern–for when monkeys and robots meet on the battlefield, no good can come of it. We have been down that dark road before and we much be very mindful of that awful conflict re-awakening.