ZAKZAK on why Dragon Quest is back on Nintendo

The Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior series (one of my favorites) has made the move back to Nintendo from Sony, starting with Dragon Quest 9 on the DS. Why?

According to ZAKZAK, an industry insider explains: “The key can be found in the DS’s surprisingly strong sales. Currently, the cost of developing a game ranges from 300-500 million yen, but that will jump to 800 million – 1 billion yen with next-generation systems such as the PS3. Most developers who got a look at the PS3 when it made its first appearance as a demontration system at the Tokyo Game Show were intrigued by the clear images but did not get it in their heads to go that far themselves in game design. It would just cost too much.”

Games on portable systems cost much less to develop. And the DS is already a monster product, clocking 12 million units in sales since its release in December 2004. And of course games for that system have been hits as well, such as the “New Super Mario Brothers” and “DS Brain Training.” Add the latest installment of Dragon Quest, one of the top console series ever, to that lineup would be tantamount to “arming an ogre with an iron staff” in ZAKZAK’s vernacular (an analogy akin to “pouring gasoline on a fire”). Future DQ games will be released on the Nintendo Wii.

However, DQ series developer SquareEnix is not putting all its eggs in the Nintendo basket. The new Final Fantasy games will continue to be released on the Playstation as the company announced in May. SCE is also a major shareholder in SquareEnix.

Krispy Kreme in Japan: Believe the Hype!


At Last, Melt-in-your-mouth Donuts are Coming to Japan for the First Time!

t2006121301donuts.jpgOn Tuesday, popular American donut chain Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD) let reporters get a look at the inside of their first store in Japan, located on the south side of JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, before its official opening on December 15.

KKD was founded in the US in 1937. It currently operates approximately 400 stores in 10 countries including Canada and the UK. The store’s flagship product “original glazed,” which will sell for 150 yen, features a crunchy outside and melts in the mouth.

In Japan, a Japan-based corporation jointly owned by the Lotte coroporation and management services company Revamp (PDF) will will manage the restaurants. The company plans to open 50 stores in the Kanto region within 5 years.

Comment: I can’t wait for this. I haven’t had KK since July and Mrs. Adamu’s been without for even longer.

Right-wing trucks in Kobe

The December 7 issue of Shukan Shincho ran a story in its “Heaven’s still a long way off” section about bothersome right-wing sound trucks that plagued the city of Kobe in the months of October and November. Here is a quick translation of the article:

The behind-the-scenes story of the 50 right-wing sound trucks that gathered in Kobe

Nihon Kominto img001.jpg A number of police officers watch the intersection intently. There is also an anti-riot squad carrying duralumin shields. Security trucks are stationed at hotels, and several patrol cars can be seen spinning their red lights at the city hall. This is what Kobe looked like on November 26 as a state of heightened security continued throughout the city. Just what was going on that day?

It all began in late October. The right-wing group Japan Emperor People’s Party submitted an application to use a public parking lot located on the city’s Rokko Island. The city administration granted the group permission saying there was “no reason to refuse them.” It was a contract to use a space that can hold 150 passenger cars for one month.

“Since then, several right-wing group sound trucks started gathering in Kobe. The prefectural police immediately deployed a massive amount of anti-riot police. They installed a checkpoint at the road in front of the parking lot and the two sides started staring each other down. There were some minor fisticuffs when the police searched the person of one of the group members,” says a local journalist.

Then on November 5, 50 sound trucks began a large-scale demonstration in town. A taxi driver who witnessed the event describes the scene:

“I saw them at the intersection on the west side of Kobe station, and it was a doozy. All of a sudden, black and white sound trucks were there as far as the eye could see. It’s quite a sight to see so many at once. They were playing military marches or something, but the volume was low. It was actually kind of creepy, too quiet.”

The real reason

Just what did they gather in Kobe in droves to protest? Masashi Takajima, action committee chairman of the JEPP, which continues its activities in Kobe, had this to say:

“Our recent sound truck activities were intended to protest the North Korea issue. That country is trying to return to the six-party talks while in possession of nuclear weapons. These activities are in response to that. The reasons we chose Kobe are several including the fact that they continue giving tax breaks to facilities owned by [pro-Pyongyang Korean-Japanese group] Songryon.”

However, an official from the Kobe Prefectural Police contends:

“We see their true objectives to lie somewhere else. At the end of September, just before Kobe held the National Athletic Meet [Kokutai], the large hotels in Kobe city established a ‘Liaison Committe to Exclude Organized Crime Groups.’ They made it clear that they would refuse to allow members to stay at or use their facilities. [These recent events] are in protest of that.”

Also, a senior leader of a right-wing group who participated in the sound truck activities murmurs:

“It’s true that the refusal to let gang members stay at hotels was the inspiration for the recent sound truck activity. More than the hotel issue, we intend to put pressure on the prefectural police who called for the exclusion of organized crime members. However, there’s a gag order in place and no one is allowed to tell the ‘real reason.'”

Takajima rebuts these claims, explaining, “That’s totally wrong. We never went to protest at hotels, nor did we talk about that in the sound trucks. A gag order? There’s nothing like that at all.”

The right-wing group quickly vacated the sound trucks from the premises of the parking lot on November 24, the day the contract expired. That is because the city refused to extend the contract. However, Takajima notes, “All we have to do is secure another location to base our activities from. We intend to continue our activities, including during [Christmas light show] Luminarie, when people gather in Kobe.” The battle between the police and right-wing groups looks likely to drag on.

Elderly restaurant owner arrested for performing Beatles songs at his establishment

A few days ago, the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC, an artist copyright lobby similar to ASCAP/RIAA) was arrested for performing copyrighted music by artists including the Beatles at a restaurant he owned. Joi Ito posted an outline of the initial coverage of this incident, but I’m here to pass along some more detailed information, gleaned from J-cast, an online news site:

Arrested for performing the Beatles!

The owner of a restaurant (age 73) was arrested for holding live performances of songs whose copyrights are under tha management of industry association JASRAC without obtaining the group’s permission. Cases of copyright law violations that lead to arrest are extremely rare. JASRAC has commented that “there was no other way,” but criticism of JASRAC, who filed the criminal complaint, have arisen on the Internet.

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Agency (MPA), the man is accused of copyright violation for performing The Beatles’ “Here, There, and Everywhere,” “Liverpool and All the World!” etc, which are managed by JASRAC, in his restaurant on the piano and harmonica for his customers without receiving JASRAC’s approval.
Continue reading Elderly restaurant owner arrested for performing Beatles songs at his establishment

Japan Times infiltrated by Soka Gakkai?

Weekly Friday printed an article in their July 21 issue taking a look at the controversy surrounding Soka Gakkai leader Daisaku Ikeda’s recent series of op-eds in the Japan Times, the “only independent English-language newspaper in Japan.” Let’s have a look:

FRIDAY, 2006.07.21

Indicting Reportage: Internal conflict arises at Japan Times over “Daisaku Ikeda” columns

Field reporters lodge fierce protests, claiming “promotional articles for giant religious group Soka Gakkai”

In our last article, we reported the behind-the-scenes power struggle that is ripping Soka Gakkai apart, but a “Soka scandal” has also embroiled the Japan Times, the English-language newspaper boasting the longest history in Japan (founded 1897).

It all started when the paper started running a serial column by Daisaku Ikeda (78), honorary chairman of Soka Gakkai. This column runs on the 2nd Thursday of each month, with 12 columns planned in total. But Japan Times emloyees have fiercely protested and it has reached a state where they have requested that the upper management cancel the series. A Japan Times employees explains:

“Soka Gakkai has been dubbed a cult in France, and it is united with a specific political group (New Komeito). It is absurd for us to let the leader of a religious group with these kinds of issues to write promotional articles and on top of that give him our serial space. Even from the perspective of journalistic impartiality, it isn’t to be permitted.”
Continue reading Japan Times infiltrated by Soka Gakkai?

Don’t mess with 2ch: ZAKZAK, Sankei Sports report

A couple interesting articles on the building discontent with 2ch and its founder’s scofflaw ways. Debito has the articles full-text in Japanese only on his awesome new blog (such discrimination!) but I have decided to translate them (not verbatim but true to the original, as usual) for the discerning English-reading public. BTW, I’ll only have really nice things to say about 2ch in the future:


2-Channel in a state of lawlessness – Attacks on individuals left on the site

A 30-year-old customer service worker recalls her painful memories:

hiroyuki 061105sha20061105001_MDE00430G061104T.jpg“I went back to my parents’ house after my home address was revealed on the Internet, but harassing phone calls kept coming into my office. Even my customers started to distrust me, thinking that I had someone (harassing me).”

The woman took the brunt of insults such as “ex-prostitute,” “too much plastic surgery,” and threats including “I’ll kill you,” and “Just die.”

There were rumors that “an old acquaintence in the same business posted the offending material around the time when (the woman) opened her own store,” but the “culprit” could not be identified. The woman filed a civil law suit holding message board’s moderator Hiroyuki Nishimura (age 29, pictured) responsible.

The Tokyo Regional Court ordered deletion of the posts and 1 million yen in compensation, but the court victory spawed a second round of attacks. On 2ch, there were several posts including “don’t get bent out of shape over such things,” “I’ll beat you to death,” and “Hurry up and hang yourself.” Her workplace’s web site was also flooded with similar posts, shutting it down. The woman took leave from work for a while due to the stress.

Nishimura’s reaction at the time was, “Since it wasn’t just a demand to delete the posts, but litigation to take money from the message board’s moderator, I think it happened because it provoked protest from regular users.”
Continue reading Don’t mess with 2ch: ZAKZAK, Sankei Sports report

MOF vs. MIC, local entities in deepening conflict over budget

I’m just trying to get my head around this story from FujiSankei Business-i:

MOF vs. MIC, local entities in deepening conflict over budget

FujiSankei Business i. 2006/11/6  

Hot issues: JFM, early return of FILP funds

Leading up to the 2007 budget revision, conflict is deepening between the Ministry of Finance, which touts fiscal reconstruction, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), which is backed up by the sentiments of local self-governing groups (i.e. municipalities). The two major issues are the scheme of how to deal with the Japan Finance Corporation for Municipal Enterprises (JFM), a government-owned financial institution slated for abolishment, and compensation for the early payback of funds from the Fiscal Investment and Loan Program (FILP). Debate is likely to heat up going into Nov 21, when the Deliberative Council on the Fiscal System (an advisory body to MOF) is set to finalize its budget proposal.

The MIC/municipalities side has taken the stance that the national government should subsidize the regional areas through various program revisions. MOF, meanwhile, has emphasized that the nation’s fiscal condition is even worse than that of regional areas. The two sides have collided head to head, with MOF offering up such criticisms as “The regional areas are not making serious efforts to reform the civil service.”

A typical example of this conflict is found in the JFM issue. The JFM historically procured funds from the market by issuing government-backed bonds, and lent those funds at long-term, low interest to municipalities’ water/sewage systems, hospitals, etc. However, after it is eliminated in 2008, it will transition into a new organization owned by the municipalities. The issue here is how to deal with the 2.6 trillion yen in reserves that the corporation had built up in preparation for a rise in interest rates.

MOF is of the position that, since the JFM is a 100% govt-owned financial insitution, “the leftover assets should be widely used for the people for fiscal reconstruction etc,” and is demanding that the reserves be placed in the national treasury. The MIC, in response, claims that the entire sum should be handed down to a successor organization to be jointly owned by the municipalities. At present there is no compromise in sight.

Meanwhile, the issue of compensation for early return of FILP funds began with a proposal from the municipalities. most loans received by municipalities from the government-owned financial institutions are long-term, with payback periods ranging from 20-30 years, and many of those loans were taken out during the era of high interest rates. As a result, the municipalities want to refinance while low interest rates continue, but in that case they will be required to pay compensation. Since the compensation depends on the number of years left on the loans, in reality, it will cost the majority of the future interest burden.

To that, the MIC is demanding the introduction of a system to eliminate the compensation requirement, but MOF has expressed virulent opposition. Since the compensation system was made clear in the contract signed at the time of the loan, the MOF’s stance is that the arrangement is valid whether the interest rates go up or down. Masaaki Honma, chairman of the MOF’s FILP Committee and member of the Deliberative Council, harshly questions the MIC’s attitude, remarking, “Eliminating the payment of compensation that was stipulated in the contract would be defaulting.”

The rift between the two sides is deep, placing focus on how the Prime Minister’s office will judge the matter. It will likely also be used as fodder to divine the depth of the PM’s leadership on near-term fiscal management.

PM Shinzo Abe a cult member?

Last week’s issue of weekly news magazine Shukan Asahi contained a feature story claiming to have strange video footage of Shinzo Abe attending a party in Nov 2002. This was around the time of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il’s admission of his country’s secret program to kidnap Japanese people. Abe, then Dep. Chief Cabinet Secretary, saw his star begin to rise as he received credit for pushing a strong protest of the program. At the party, for Ekojuku (Wisdom Light School), a “business consultancy” that uses fortunetelling and magic energies from the (now-deceased) founder’s hands to give business and career advice. The party was held to celebrate the birthday of the company’s founder, Hitoyoshi Mitsunaga.

Abe’s speech to the crowd gathered was as follows, in translation:

“Every November I attend Mr. Mitsunaga’s birthday party. We have a long relationship that goes back to the days of my father. Each and every day there are lots of hectic goings-on, but I am thankful, knowing that this is truly thanks to Mr. Mitsunaga. I would really like Mr. Mitsunaga to send his power to the diplomats in negotiations with North Korea now, and defeat North Korea. This is how I feel.”

The article goes on to detail numerous meetings between the two (who hail from the same area of Yamaguchi prefecture), the fact that Abe was a board member on some of Mitsunaga’s companies, and some dealings that the Abe family had with Mitsunaga. Sure, the man’s beliefs are his own business I suppose, but it just irks me that crucial details like the man’s philosophy (i.e. magic hand energies can sway diplomatic negotiations) don’t make it into English-language media reporting on a major world leader. Somewhat less irksome is the absence of credit given to Abe for his 2002 best dresser award.

I don’t feel like going into detail on this now, I just wanted it covered since I am working on a post about right wing religions in Japan.

Behind the Deletion of 30,000 Japanese videos from Youtube

You may have heard that YouTube deleted 30,000 Japanese videos from YouTube on the request of the powerful music industry group JASRAC. Well, here’s an article that goes into more detail on the efforts to quash the online sharing of copyrighted content.

Translated/paraphrased (translaphased?) from Nikkei (via 2ch):

Behind the Scenes of the “Request to Delete 30,000 Files” from Youtube – The 2nd Act May be to “Eliminate Anonymity”

Even if you did not receive complaints after putting another person’s music on your blog without permission in the 5 days following Oct 2, you should not rest at ease. That is because JASRAC’s monitoring team was constantly connected to American video posting site YouTube from 9 to 5 during that period. We have taken a look at the “Week of Strengthening Measures Against Youtube” during which 23 copyright-holding companies and groups launched a concentrated attack, making simultaneous requests for deletion.

“30,000 videos in 5 days” the Limit

JASRAC was responsible for about 10% of the 30,000 deleted videos. It’s a tiny number compared to the tens of thousands of videos per day on YouTube, but even regularly having a special person in charge of going around various sites on the Internet and monitoring copyright infringements, we were told in what was close to a scream, “Deletion procedures are an extremely minute process. Anything more than that is impossible.”

On YouTube, there is a web site, which regular users cannot see, that is reserved for rightsholders for them to request that videos be deleted. They search for videos by keyword and place a check next to videos subject to the request. Once the deletion request is sent to YouTube, most of the time deletion is completed the next day.

These requests seem simple, but they are rather work intensive. The page is of course in English. Since the name of the song used in the video is not displayed, there are times when it is impossible to judge whether the video actually constitutes a violation unless it is watched to the end. They cannot neglect to listen to even one part of the song.
Continue reading Behind the Deletion of 30,000 Japanese videos from Youtube

We still miss you Koizumi!

Koizumi post PM stump speech 200610160287.jpg
Koizumi has made his first public speeches since leaving office in support of LDP bids for office in two simultaneous by-elections to be held this Sunday in Kanagawa and Osaka Prefectures. I’m not all that interested in the races, since they both seem to be swinging LDP, it’s great to see the man’s face again.

Unfortunately, it looks next to impossible to get a full version of this speech. TV stations seem to only have carried parts of it, the online news sites don’t seem to be carrying it, Koizumi doesn’t have his own website, and the LDP’s site hasn’t uploaded it yet, if they plan to at all. Japan does have something like America’s C-Span, but it’s an extremely minor channel that very few Japanese people receive.

And yes I checked YouTube as well, but it wasn’t there. Thankfully I found some sweet footage while I was looking:

  • A Koizumi anime outlining some highlights of his administration, such as his style in selecting cabinet members and bringing his own boxed lunch to the historical summit meeting with Kim Jong Il – even Abe looks interesting when animated!
  • A TV clip reporting on a magazine article in Shukan Post that Koizumi moved out of the PM’s official residence the next day after the LDP presidential election, stayed in a 520k yen per night hotel room, only to move into a meager 50k yen/night room immediately after stepping down as PM. He brought dozens of classical music CDs with him, said he’d take a year to “recharge” and is enjoying a “leisurely retirement.” Meanwhile, Yoshiro Mori, Koizumi’s predecessor, has increased his political wheeling and dealing and is rumored to have a great influence on Abe. Mori had pledged to step down as his party faction’s chairman when Koizumi left, but apparently since Abe will do whatever he says, leading the faction is just too “fun” to quit. Despite Abe’s pledge to go it alone when deciding on a cabinet, Mori leaked to the press that he had a sit-down with Abe to discuss his new administration. The rumors are
  • And last but not least, a great retrospective of what made Koizumi rock – the photo ops. Watch closely to see Koizumi in a Guardian Angels uniform, with beret!