Japan's finmin Noda wins vote to become next PM Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, a fiscal hawk, will become Japan's sixth prime minister in five years after winning a ruling party vote on Monday, an outcome likely to please investors worried about a bulging public debt. Noda, 54, who defeated Trade Minister Banri Kaieda in a run-off vote, must cope with a resurgent yen that threatens exports, forge a new energy policy while ending the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, and find funds to rebuild from the March 11 tsunami at a time when huge public debt has already triggered a credit downgrade. Financial markets, political commentators and the Japanese public are skeptical whether the new leader will have the vision, determination and time to tackle those challenges.
29 Aug A member of a gang group was arrested last week after inflicting damage at the offices of a Tokyo talent agency in while in search of money lent to the father of actor Taiyo Sugiura, reports Nikkan Gendai (August 27). On August 25, a 57-year-old gangster from the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest criminal organization, burst into the Akasaka offices of Sky Corporation, where Sugiura, 30, is registered, and broke a glass door with a chair. "I lent money to Sugiura's father, and I want to know where it is," the suspect is quoted as saying. (Tokyo Reporter)
29 Aug Japanese comedy gets a bad rap. Foreigners either knock it for being too silly and too focused on slapstick or too pun-based and difficult to understand. The Japanese sense of humor is most definitely different from its Anglophone counterparts. Some things, however, are so funny that they transcend national borders and linguistic barriers. Learn the next few phrases, and you'll soon be laughing it up in Japanese. It's funny to catch people who aren't paying attention. If, for example, a group of friends are having a conversation, and Stan, an affable guy with a paunch and a tendency to daydream, ends up staring off into the distance, the rest of the group can laugh at him when he finally comes back to reality. In English we use NASA-style lingo to try and "contact" people like this who have "spaced out" - "Earth to Stan. This is Earth. Do you copy? Come in Stan!" (Japan Times)
28 Aug The Japanese, once one of the most TV-addicted people on the planet, are drifting away from the tube -- forcing networks to scramble for other sources of revenue, from pic production, satellite services, Internet streaming sites and other new technologies. Daily TV viewing time, which averaged more than five hours in the 1970s, shrank to 3 hours and 28 minutes by 2010, according to figures compiled by the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute. Males aged 10 to 20 are watching less than two hours a day. Meanwhile, program ratings have been trending downward for terrestrial networks, pubcaster NHK and commercial rivals TV Asahi, NTV, TBS, Fuji TV and TV Tokyo, despite spikes for major sport events and other special programming. (Variety)
28 Aug A local train in Iwate Prefecture collided with a bear Saturday morning and, after restarting, ploughed into a serow goat, East Japan Railway Co.'s Morioka office said. No passengers were injured, but the accidents proved fatal for the two animals, the JR East office said. The disruption to services caused two rapid trains on the line to be canceled, affecting about 220 passengers, it said. (Japan Times)
27 Aug ON a chilly night last November on the tiny island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea of southern Japan, I found myself alone in a dark concrete gallery, a sweater pulled over my pajamas. I was staying at the Benesse House Museum, a 10-room hotel set inside a contemporary art museum, on the island's craggy southern coast, and still battling jet lag. So instead of tossing in bed, I visited the deserted galleries of the museum - guests of the hotel are permitted to wander beyond closing time. Before long, I was transfixed by Bruce Nauman's art installation, "100 Live and Die," a neon billboard of flashing phrases. (New York Times)