From the “almost two years old but news to me” department:
Via the comments section at Neojaponisme, we have this series of videos decrying modern anime fansubbers as cliquey, Japanese language-worshiping elitists who offer “Japanese lessons” instead of actual translations. Their refusal to create plain, easily digested subtitles and refusal to translate culturally specific Japanese (instead offering copious on-screen liner notes) scares away potential new fans and is generally useless, he argues.
On a basic level, he is absolutely right that for a general audience, translations should be very clear and nearly invisible. It’s what I strive for in my job and on this blog, for sure. But from my (admittedly limited) experience with fansubbed anime, it’s clear enough that fansubbers are not in it for the benefit of a general audience. In the era of Wikipedia, BitTorrent, and Youtube where esoteric cultural knowledge is rapidly becoming obsolete, being an elite fansubber is one of the few sure-fire ways left to secure King Geek status. Maybe having an insular subculture makes it harder for good anime titles to break through into the mainstream (as has been fansubbing’s most often-cited benefit), but isn’t that kind of the whole point?
Ever wonder which parts of Japan gamble the most? No? Well, stick with me and you might learn something about which prefectures are most willing to line up and pay the poor tax.
Each year, Mizuho Bank (which has a special relationship with the lottery from its days as a government bank) tallies the total number of lottery (Takarakuji) tickets sold and divides that number into each prefecture’s population to obtain an average per capita spending total. According to their numbers for fiscal 2007 (as reported in the Nikkei), the top ticket buyers were Tokyo, Osaka, and Kochi prefecture in Shikoku. There was a huge gap between the top of the list (Tokyo’s 12,933 yen) versus the bottom (Yamagata’s 5,328 yen). The top prefectures tended be prefectures that house large cities, such as Aichi.
Prefectures with the lowest home ownership rates tended to buy more lottery tickets. Tokyo and Osaka, the first and second highest per-capita lottery players, also have the two lowest home ownership ratios, in the same order. Okinawa has the third lowest, and its residents are Japan’s sixth biggest lottery gamblers. On the other hand, Aichi, another prefecture full of takarakuji hopefuls, had the seventh lowesthome ownership ratio. (Bonus fact: Toyama prefecture had the highest home ownership rate in 2003 (around 80%). Toyama residents play it relatively safe with a middling per capita lottery spend of between 7,000-7,999 yen).
The outlier was Kochi prefecture, however, indicating that low home ownership, a signifier of relative poverty, does not make up the only factor explaining the results. An official from Kochi prefecture’s budget division speculated, “Perhaps the prefecture residents’ nature of determination and love of gambling had an impact.”
A brief overview of Japan’s lottery system
Though it only brings in about 1/20 the revenue of the almighty pachinko, Japan’s lottery, with its estimated 15,000 or so ticket booths outside train stations (more booths than pachinko parlors, one for every 8,600 people), has been a highly visible form of legal gambling in Japan throughout the postwar era, along with horse racing, yacht speedboat racing, bicycle racing, and mahjong.
According to Wiki Japan, lottery-style gambling in Japan got its start in the Edo period as Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples offered tomikuji (essentially the same as a lottery) in order to raise funds for repairs. Over the years, tomikuji faced various bans from the authorities, and private-sector lotteries remain criminalized to this day. In July 1945, a desperate wartime government instituted a lottery, but Japan surrendered and chaos reigned before a drawing could even be held. A national government-backed lottery was re-instituted during the US occupation in 1948, though it was abandoned in 1954, leaving only regional lotteries. Takarakuji took its current form in 1964 with the foundation of the Japan Lottery Association, a grouping of the regional lotteries.
According to association data, in fiscal 2007 (the period covered by the above survey) Japanese gamblers bought 1.0442 trillion yen in tickets, or about 8,200 yen per person. The US doesn’t have a national lottery per se, but the UK does – on average, UK residents spent 80 pounds (12,905 yen by the current exchange rate) per capita on national Lotto in 2008. The UK lottery’s press kit (PDF) claims that 70% of adults are regular players (but doesn’t cite a source), while a 2007 poll from Japan’s lottery association found that 55% of those polled had purchased at ticket at least once in the past year. The UK system, in which operations are contracted to a private company, appears to be more efficient than the one in Japan. According to the UK press kit, 10% of every pound spent on lottery tickets goes to operations and expenses (5% in dealer commission, 4.5% in operating costs, and 0.5% in shareholder dividends), versus 14.4% of each ticket in Japan (with 45.8% going to paying winners and 39.8% going into the general accounts of each prefecture and major cities).
The odds of winning a current popular Japanese game Loto 6 is 1 in 6 million, which is comparable to other lotteries I am familiar with in the US (and of course less likely than getting hit by lightning).
This has to be one of the most poorly fact-checked articles on Japan ever.
I am with a group of friends on a short trip to Tokyo. Keen to see some Japanese countryside, and to experience a part of everyday Japanese life, we’ve asked the concierge at the city’s Mandarin Oriental hotel, where we are staying in some style, how we might visit an onsen.
Easily, is the answer. Hakane is one of the country’s most famous onsen resorts (Japan has 2,000 such places, and 20,000 hot springs), and lies just two hours from Tokyo. Better still, it’s reached on a bullet train, meaning we will also get to enjoy another of Japan’s iconic experiences. The concierge will organise tickets and transfers.
But not our short trip to the train, sadly. If you were to have a nightmare involving public transport, forget buses, Tube delays or people barking into mobiles. Think, instead, of Shinjuku, Tokyo’s main railway station […] a vast and bewildering maze, made all the more bewildering by the fact that there isn’t a word of English anywhere, or at least none that we can find, as we scour signs and dash from one bemused, monolingual Japanese commuter to another asking for help. […]
All too soon we are disembarking at Odawa to pick up the local service to Hakone-Yumoto. We sit and ride through increasingly pretty countryside while gaggles of Japanese schoolchildren beam at the Western strangers in their midst. We revel – as we have done so often in Tokyo – in the otherness of the whole experience.
Where to begin?
1) The Mandarin Oriental is near Tokyo Station, on the other side of town from Shinjuku. If this guy was taking a “short trip” to the station, he was probably getting the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station.
2) But let’s assume, arguendo, that he really did go to Shinjuku. He wasn’t really riding a “bullet train,” then, since the real bullet trains don’t go to Shinjuku. It was probably an Odakyu Romance Car. Unlike the Shinkansen pictured in the article.
About a week ago the New York Times had an article entitled “Seeking Recognition for a War’s Lost Laborers” on the lack of recognition for the Asian victims of Japanese forced labor in the construction of the famous “Railway of Death.” According to the article, the history of the 200,000-300,000 Asians who were employed, and often killed, in the construction of the railway, which was being constructed to link Bangkok and the Burmese (Myanmarese) capital of Rangoon (Yangon) to provide logistical support for Japan’s invasion of Southeast Asia, has been almost completely overshadowed by stories of the smaller number of Western POWs.
Between 200,000 and 300,000 Asian laborers — no one knows the exact number — were press-ganged by the Japanese and their surrogates to work on the rail line: Tamils, Chinese and Malays from colonial Malaya; Burmans and other ethnic groups from what is now Myanmar; and Javanese from what is now Indonesia.
“It is almost forgotten history,” said Sasidaran Sellappah, a retired plantation manager in Malaysia whose father was among 120 Tamil workers from a rubber estate forced to work on the railway. Only 47 survived.
By contrast, the travails of the 61,806 British, Australian, Dutch and American prisoners of war who worked on the railway, about 20 percent of whom died from starvation, disease and execution, have been recorded in at least a dozen memoirs, documented in the official histories of the governments involved and romanticized in the fictionalized “Bridge on the River Kwai,” the 1957 Hollywood classic inspired by a similarly named best-selling novel by Pierre Boulle.
One reason given for this inequality of historical memory are that virtually none of the Asian victims were from Thailand, giving the local government little incentive to commemorate them. Another is that, unlike the American and British POWs who wrote memoirs and gave countless interviews to journalists and historians, virtually none of the Asian laborers were literate, and they lacked ready access to mass media.
At this point, I would like to present some photos I took at a very peculiar museum that Adam, his (now) wife Shoko, and I visited when we were in Kanchanaburi, the location of the famous Bridge on the River Kwai.
The Jeath War Museum (JEATH is an acronym for Japan, English, American and THai) is a rather eccentric museum based on the collection of a wealthy Japanese history buff, who apparently purchased a building a number of years ago, stocked it haphazardly with local WW2 memorabilia of both great and small interest, and has not had arranged to have it cleaned since.
First, some photos from outside the museum itself.
This is a picture of the famous Bridge which I quite like.
Here are Adam and Shoko posing with the bridge behind them. I do not know the sleeping man, but I have to assume that he is a war criminal of some kind.
This is a silly little train which lets tourists ride across the bridge and 1 or 2km into the jungle on the other side, and then ride backwards to the other side.
I blurrily snapped this memorial obelisk in the jungle across the river, from aforementioned silly train. It says something along the lines of “the remains of the Chinese army ascend into heaven.”
This plaque is location near the bridge. I did not, however, see one for the British POWs, although I certainly could have just missed it.
And now we reach the museum portion of our tour. I do not seem to have any photographs of the entrance area, but the first thing you see upon approaching the entrance to the museum proper are these statues of historical figures, with biography written on the wall behind them. I will transcribe the highly amusing text another time.
Here is Tojo.
Adam and Shoko again, with their good friends Josef Stalin and General Douglas MacArthur.
The lovable Albert Einstein gets a wall as well.
Inside the museum we are confronted with more dramatic statues, such as this tableau of POWs constructing the railway.
Here is one in a cage. Note the real straw.
Eerie closeup of another caged POW statue’s face.
Adam and his new friend, the WW2-era Japanese soldier driving an old car.
Another old car. I do not recognize the make, but it is covered in dust that may weigh as much as the steel.
US Army signal core teletypewriter
Recreation of Japanese army tent
Read the text carefully. Do you know when the CD was invented?
A message from Japan to the Thai people. It’s a bit hard to read, so if anyone wants I can transcribe it.
A British anti-Japan political cartoon
Overall, the museum is a complete shambles. While it has a huge array of cool stuff, it is strewn about almost at random, covered in dust, and sometimes behind other stuff. Not to mention placed in crowded and un-lit cases with poor labeling. Despite the numerous flaws, it is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area, but I can’t say that it will do much to provide any sort of historical narrative, and certainly does not even try to meet the standard hoped for by the Times article I began this post with.