Sumo wrestling, Japan’s NASCAR, to remain Japanese, stagnant

From an article about Estonian Rikishi Baruto:

Out of 708 wrestlers in Sumo’s six divisions, 59 were born outside of Japan. There have now been three foreign Yokozuna grand champions.

Hawaiian Akebono was the first in 1993, then his compatriot Musashimaru and now Mongolian Asashoryu.

The current crop of foreign wrestlers comes from across the globe, including Tonga, Brazil, Bulgaria, Russia, Mongolia — and Estonia.

Their number is unlikely to increase much more, however.

Perhaps fearing a gradual foreign takeover of Japan’s ancient sport, in 2002 the Japan Sumo Association limited the 55 stables to one foreign sumo wrestler each (a few stables already had more than one foreign wrestler when the rule was introduced).

For the moment the Mongolians are cleaning up. Yokozuna Asashoryu heads a gang of seven countrymen in the top division. From the other end of the continent, European wrestlers like Russian Roho, Bulgarian Kokkai and Kotooshu from Georgia are also starting to push their weight around.

The old presumption that foreigners could only ever succeed by brute force has already proved wrong, says Mark Schreiber, veteran sumo watcher.

“All the Hawaiians had going for them was their bulk. When I look at the new crop, I see a slightly different style,” he says.

“Now you get people who are big, and who have technique. You certainly see that with the Mongolians.”

In the farcical image game that is professional sports, these issues can be confusing. I am tempted to make accusations of racism to the Japan Sumo Association, but there are many possible reasonable counter-arguments . But despite my initial gaijin rage that bubbled up upon reading this, I eventually had to laugh it off and decided to “let the baby have its bottle”.

There is a perceived need for sumo to give its fanbase “what it wants” because without them there can be no sumo. Perhaps this move was meant to rein in more liberal trainers who want to beef up their stables or find the next Asashoryu (Mongolian wrestler currently dominating the sport).
Continue reading Sumo wrestling, Japan’s NASCAR, to remain Japanese, stagnant


Bringing together Adamu’s post on nostalgia and mine on the wide world of cola, I bring you CCCP Cola. I saw a bottle of this in the supermarket in Almaty, when I was in Kazakhstan, and just had to try it. I asked our local host about it and found that despite the name it was actually created after the fall of the USSR as a nostalgia product. For the curious, it certainly tastes as if it were brewed before Communism fell, perhaps when Stalin was still alive-and aged in Lenin’s formaldyde-preserved armpit. And no, it isn’t in the Cola Database. Maybe I should write them a review.

Also have a gander at this awesome Kazak bar that Curzon, Saru and I saw while we were there.


The General Theory of Nostalgia

Nostalgia has been a recent theme of several sites I frequent.

First up is the puzzling surge in Soviet nostalgia among the former Socialist bloc. He and MF witnessed it firsthand in Kazakhstan. Why on earth would people wish for the days of Stalin, when, for example, millions of political dissidents were killed and fear reigned the day? Curzon posits that “many feel they have lost their national pride, and they want it back.”

Now, what is meant by nostalgia? Curzon talks of nostalgia on a national level: a combination of the older population feeling nostalgia individually for things Soviet, and the youth who yearn for what their grandparents told them of their nation’s history.

Then we have Dr. David Thorpe, reknowned music snob, feeling nostalgia about bad music from a few years ago that we think is good. He gives an insightful explanation as to why we look at songs like “November Rain” differently from when they were played 20 times a day on the radio:

Those of us who bear the burden of an unhealthy obsession with pop culture are often stereotyped as being unreasonably nostalgic. I’m not sure I buy that. Those of us with more discriminating tastes know that the pop music of the past isn’t really better than the pop music of today, but the appeal of shitty songs from the past is no less mesmerizing. Nostalgia isn’t the right word; I don’t yearn for the days when Whitney Houston battled Eric Clapton for the year’s biggest tearjerker. I don’t fondly remember turning on MTV and seeing the “Unbreak My Heart” video three times in a row. Regardless of this, cultivating an appreciation for pop music I once hated is a vital part of my education as a music snob. Sure, I may spend my days studiously furrowing my brow at high-minded avant-garde music that plebeians like you could never properly appreciate, but that doesn’t mean I won’t throw on a Color Me Badd record once in a while. Continue reading The General Theory of Nostalgia

Feel the burn-out

Just spent the whole night translating a project I shouldn’t have taken. It was a hard assignment (lab notes on drugs to treat vaginal cancer) and I really didn’t have the time this weekend. The other translators on the project were great, but I couldn’t really pull my weight because I took the job amid personal shit that I needed to attend to.

They say there’s no satisfaction like a hard day’s work, but I just feel burnt out at this point. Note to self: think about what your schedule is actually like for the next couple days before you accept a big job.

Anyway, this blog has been pretty quiet for a few days. Both the MF and I have been busy. I haven’t even been following the news!

When he gets back and things calm down for me expect more. I have fascinating questions to pose the gaijin community and something about a trip I took.

Random Picture:
“レンジャー” Ranger (as in Power Ranger) in Japanese.

The Non-formation of Intellectual Individuals at the Root of Society’s Fragility


OK, back to real posts. This opinion piece from Toyo Keizai (E. Asian Economy) Magazine comes a bit late, but it’s a very thought-out leftist stance that I have yet to see in the English language. Here you go:

by Yamaguchi Jiro (Professor, Hokkaido Univ.)
 ← Wow, it looks like he’s got a WordPress blog! Cool! And here‘s the Japanese original of this article:

The politics of 2005 have already begun. This year there are few major elections, save for the Tokyo Assembly, and it is predicted that there will be little change in Japan’s political situation. Quite the contrary, with the 60th anniversary of the end of WW2, we should perhaps make 2005 the year in which we recap how far Japan has come since the war and further the debate on Japan’s future path.

Looking back at the 50th anniversary of the war’s end 10 years ago, we must acknowledge a huge difference in the international environment and domestic opinion. 10 years ago, Murayama Tomiichi, then chairmnan of the Japan Socialist Party, had the Prime Minister’s seat, and public opinion displayed reflection over the past half-century along with a sense of atonement with the victims of the War. Furthermore, Japan bent over backward to achieve resolution on various pending issues, such as aid for “comfort women” and reconciliation ceremonies with the various countries in Asia via PM Murayama’s 50th Anniversary talks.

However, 10 years later, the Japanese public overflows with the exact opposite sentiment, as shown in their distrust of surrounding countries and their dissatisfaction with being made the villain of modern history. The PM is visiting Yasukuni Shrine, and plenty of people support him. And as Japanese-American military cooperation deepens, we have gone so far as to send SDF troops all the way to the Middle East. The postwar framework of the SDF and security has been dismantled, and Article 9 of the Constitution has already lost its significance as a norm. And in the case of the Japanese hostages in Iraq, the opinion that those who oppose the government’s policies deserve to die reached all the way to parts of the mass media. Continue reading The Non-formation of Intellectual Individuals at the Root of Society’s Fragility

REPOST: My reply to FG flames

Enjoy. This is a continuation of the discussion on the TokyoDV boards. I figured I said enough for people who don’t give a shit about some flame war to get a kick out of it as well:

It’s funny, I was totally wrong about why FG exceeded its bandwidth (didn’t know about the Tsunami-induced traffic surge), but I get all the flak over something I’m more or less right about.

It doesn’t take some genius or seasoned Japan expert to get an impression of what some website is all about. All it requires is a few months (if that) of watching the posts.

I don’t know what the selection process is for front-page articles on FG is, but they are available in an RSS feed (how I get them) and in that sense can be taken as if they were a collaborative blog. You’d have to be a fool not to realize that the point of posting articles on a website is to entertain, inform and maybe get the scoop faster than the other guys. Continue reading REPOST: My reply to FG flames

Mechanical Pencils

I have a fantastic mechanical pencil that I got in Japan, which I guard carefully because I don’t know where and when I might be able to get more. Since the label had completely rubbed off I had no idea who the maker or what the model number is so I was just looking around on the web to find out. It turned out to be a discontinued Staedtler 925.
Steadtler 925
Although a German manufacturer, I haven’t been able to find a single English language store online that seems to sell this model. Although discontinued, it has been replaced by a slightly different model of the same number.
New Staedtler 925
Hopefully I can find an art/drafting specialty store that carries these, because I haven’t been able to find any other mechanical pencil with the same kind of comfortable, solid feel and reliable mechanical performance of this one. Most mechanical pencils, even those from a reputable manufacturer like Pentel, tend to be made of plastic, which wears down to slipperiness and lacks the proper heft to really write comfortable.

Now, pencils may seem like an awfully mundane topic in a world of wireless internet, robot dogs, and digital cameras, but it is also worth appreciating the hundreds of years of evolution it takes to perfect such a commonplace device. My borderline obsessive quest for a particular pencil illustrates well how important little variations of material or ergonomics can be in such a daily use device. Realizing how rare it is to find even a mechanical pencil that truly lives up to one’s expectations of quality makes even more remarkable the intricate high tech devices all around us.

Anyone with even the slightest interest in engineering, ergonomics or the history of technology is strongly encourage to read Henry Petroski’s book The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, a book which is far more interesting than you would expect.

The Ownership Society (Makes me want to puke)

That’s the title of my new song, as yet unwritten. It harks back to the days when long, parenthetical song titles dotted the top 10. I like to think it’s something Jello Biafra would come up with.

OK, so what is this concept? This is something that the President has been touting, especially in reference to Social Security. But here are some key areas: Continue reading The Ownership Society (Makes me want to puke)