Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Tag: Japan

The Reiwa Era

Tuesday, 30 April, 2019

That’s what begins tomorrow in Japan when Prince Naruhito becomes the country’s 126th emperor. He will ascend the Chrysanthemum throne and lead the country into the new Reiwa era. This will mark the end of the current Heisei era, which began with today’s abdicating Emperor Akihito in 1989.

The talented young Japanese photographer Tatsuto Shibata was born in Ibaraki, a prefecture bordering the Pacific Ocean northeast of Tokyo. Shibata’s compositions oscillate between the classical and the quirky, like this Buddha.

Japan


Shark Day

Thursday, 12 July, 2018

Kazuki Okuda is an illustrator and “2D artist” based in Kyoto. An impressive array of his work can be found on the showcase site Behance, which is owned by Adobe.

Shark


The Silence of the Scorsese

Saturday, 4 March, 2017 0 Comments

In the 17th century, two Portuguese Jesuits travel to Japan to find their mentor, who has disappeared and supposedly renounced his faith. The Japanese authorities, fearful of colonial influence, have outlawed Christianity, which makes the priests’ mission mortally dangerous. In his 1966 novel, Silence, Shusaku Endo explored the many intricate, terrible torments feudal Japan devised to kill priests. Snippet:

“Two trees, made into the form of a cross, were set at the water’s edge. Ichizo and Mokichi were fastened to them. When it was night and the tide came in, their bodies would be immersed in the sea up to the chin. They would not die at once, but after two or even three days of utter physical and mental exhaustion they would cease to breathe.”

The plight of those “hidden Christians” (隠れキリシタン Kakure Kirishitan) portrayed by Endo was one of the reasons Martin Scorsese decided to turn the book into his latest film. The severity of his Silence is complete. The priests who survive capture and torture are forced to live as Japanese subjects, with Japanese wives, and are finally buried as Buddhists. Their notions of religious community and cultural identity are consumed by the flames of the pyre. But there is a ray of hope as Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) secretly gives absolution one last time to a hidden Christian.

Silence has not done well at the box office and the Oscar for Cinematography category in which it was nominated, went to La La Land. Still, it is a powerful statement about faith and despair and the performances of Issey Ogata as the Inquisitor and Tadanobu Asano as the Interpreter are stellar. In time, people will come to treasure Silence.


The Google Lunar XPrize: shooting for the moon

Thursday, 26 January, 2017 0 Comments

Ten days after the death of Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, the Google Lunar XPrize has revealed the names of the five teams going forward to the final stage of its competition. To claim the award of $20 million, the winner must launch by 31 December and their lander has to move at least 500 metres across the surface of the moon, and transmit images and high-definition video back to Earth.

The five finalists are:

  • Synergy Moon, an international venture aiming for cost-effective space exploration
  • SpaceIL, a non-profit operation based in Israel
  • Moon Express, a lunar-resources company based in the US
  • Team Indus, a for-profit lunar company from India
  • Hakuto, a Japanese venture operated by ispace, a private lunar exploration company

Notably absent is Part Time Scientists, a team based in Germany that announced it had secured a launch contract last year. And the really big surprise is the nonappearance of the long-time front-runner US-based Astrobotic. It said it was withdrawing because rushing to make the XPrize deadline conflicted with the company’s goal of building a long-term business. Astrobotic hopes to launch its first mission in 2019.

SpaceIL and Team Indus have signed launch deals with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Indian Space Research Organization’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, respectively, and Hakuto will share the trip with Team Indus. Moon Express and Synergy Moon will launch with Rocket Lab USA and Interorbital Systems.

XPrize


The silence of the Jesuits in Edu Japan

Friday, 25 November, 2016 0 Comments

“Two trees, made into the form of a cross, were set at the water’s edge. Ichizo and Mokichi were fastened to them. When it was night and the tide came in, their bodies would be immersed in the sea up to the chin. They would not die at once, but after two or even three days of utter physical and mental exhaustion they would cease to breathe.” Silence, Shusaku Endo

In his 1966 novel, Silence, Shusaku Endo explored the many intricate, terrible torments feudal Japan devised to kill Jesuits arriving to spread the word of God. The plight of those “hidden Christians” (隠れキリシタン Kakure Kirishitan) convinced Martin Scorsese to turn the book into his latest film, which will have its premiere next week in front of a very critical audience at the Vatican.

“It’s called the pit. You’ve probably heard about it. They bind you in such a way that you can move neither hands nor feet; and then they hang you upside down in a pit,” so writes Endo describing a popular torture venue above which Christians were hung upside down and bound. They were then cut slightly behind both ears, just enough so that blood trickled out, leading to a lengthy, painful death.

Andrew Garfield, who plays Father Sebastião Rodrigues in Silence, told Fandango he spent a year preparing for the role: “I got to spend a lot of time with Marty and with Jesuit priests; one in particular being Father James Martin, who’s become a real mentor to me and a spiritual director for me, basically. Teaching me about all things Jesuit in a visceral way, not just an intellectual way. In a ‘lived’ way. I just fell in love with the whole process of what it is to be a Jesuit priest.”


Watching robots working

Thursday, 27 October, 2016 1 Comment

There is something satisfying, almost mesmerizing, in watching these robots working at the Komatsu Spring Industrial Company, which was established in 1941: “Since then we have worked consistently hard in the design and manufacture of springs, displaying developmental ingenuity to become one of the world leaders in the field of precision springs and playing a leading role in the precision mechanical equipment industry.” Japanese manufactuers, given the country’s demography, have no choice but to adapt.

The background music, which these robots love, is Sountrive – Goko Bane.


Ko Un can win

Wednesday, 12 October, 2016 0 Comments

The Samsung catastrophe has made this a very bad week so far for Seoul, but the Nobel Prize in Literature will be awarded tomorrow and, according to Ladbrokes, Ko Un has a 14/1 chance of winning it. The South Korean poet was born on 1 August 1933 and among his works are haiku-like reflections with epigrammatic juxtapositions:

Some say they can recall a thousand years
Some say they have already visited the next thousand years
On a windy day
I am waiting for a bus

Other works, however, are longer. Much longer. There’s his seven-volume epic of the Korean independence movement under Japanese rule, Paektu Mountain, and this is topped by the monumental 30-volume Ten Thousand Lives, which was written during the years 1983–2010 to fulfil a vow Ko Un made during his imprisonment, when he expected to be executed following the coup d’état led by Chun Doo-hwan. If he lived, he swore that every person he had ever met would be remembered with a poem. Ko Un would be a deserving winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, but Japan’s running writer, Haruki Murakami, is our bet at 5/1.


Evil is neither awful nor tragic. It is the enemy.

Tuesday, 26 July, 2016 0 Comments

Another day, another dreadful deed: Nineteen residents at a Japanese care centre for people with mental disabilities killed in a knife attack. Police have arrested a former employee. He is reported to have said he wanted people with disabilities “to disappear.”

The number 19 was central to another report, one equally dreadful, which went under-reported at the time, perhaps because the source was the Iranian Shia Ahlolbayt News Agency. “ISIS burns 19 Yezidi girls to death in Mosul” was the headline. After reading it, William Dalrymple, the English writer and historian tweeted yesterday, “This is so awful and tragic.” His choice of words was criticized by some who felt that “awful and tragic” were timid synonyms for such a monstrous crime.

Quite simply, “awful and tragic” do not cut it when we’re talking about deeds that “constitute a direct negation of human liberty, and vent an undisguised hatred and contempt for life itself.” So said the late Christopher Hitchens in The Enemy, his meditation on the death of Osama bin Laden.

According to Hitchens, “this force”, the one we have seen at work recently in Sagamihara, Ansbach, Nice, Mosul, Orlando, Brussels, Paris… “absolutely deserves to be called evil.” Here’s the full quote:

“I thought then, and I think now, that Osama bin Laden was a near-flawless personification of the mentality of a real force: the force of Islamic jihad. And I also thought, and think now, that this force absolutely deserves to be called evil, and that the recent decapitation of its most notorious demagogue and organizer is to be welcomed without reserve. Osama bin Laden’s writings and actions constitute a direct negation of human liberty, and vent an undisguised hatred and contempt for life itself.” — Christopher Hitchens, The Enemy

UPDATE: In Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, two IS adherents murder Fr Jacques Hamel, 84, by slitting his throat while he was saying Mass. Evil is now ascendant in Europe.


The Japanese are different

Friday, 3 June, 2016 0 Comments

First, the news the world has been awaiting: Seven-year-old Yamato Tanooka, who went missing in bear-inhabited forests in northern Japan after his parents abandoned him, has been found alive. Yamato’s parents said they made him get out of their car on a mountain road last Saturday because he had thrown stones at people and cars. After being reunited with his son, father Takayuki Tanooka told reporters: “The first thing I said to him was that I was really sorry. He nodded and said OK, like he understood.”

This clip by the Oh! Matsuri team about the Onbashira Matsuri (Sacred Pillars Festival) in the Nagano Prefecture offers a glimpse of what makes Japan different. Groups of men chop down 16 huge fir trees from the local forests and engage in all kinds of raucous ceremonies as they haul them to the Suwa Grand Shrine. The ancient spectacle is held across the region every seven years to replace the shrine’s sacred pillars.


Surreal English/Japanese phrases

Tuesday, 26 April, 2016 0 Comments

“What a nice barbed wire.”
“Thank you. I knitted it myself.”

While that’s the kind of surreal exchange one could imagine happening in a bar on Mars run by Salvador Dali, it’s actually an example of conversational English as presented by English Vocabulary Not on Any Test, a book that’s big in Japan. And that’s not just an idle phrase, either. The Twitter account has 88,000 followers. The book depicts ordinary people doing ordinary things, using English and Japanese. The target market is Japanese speakers who want to learn English as it is used in conversation across the Anglosphere. Well, an Anglosphere where HR managers convey the bad news by saying, “I’m afraid to say this, but you are passed your best-before date.”

Japanese English

Note: “octopus wiring” is authentic Japanese English and the term is used internationally to described hazardous arrangements of electrical cables.


Angela’s ashes: The decline of Merkelism

Monday, 14 March, 2016 0 Comments

On Friday, Japan paid tribute to the 16,000 people who died in the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck off the Pacific coast in 2011. It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded to have hit the country and the ensuing tsunami permanently damaged three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Chancellor Angela Merkel, 8,900 km away in Berlin, decided that Germany would end nuclear energy production, even though nuclear provides 16 percent of its energy and is still its largest low-carbon energy source by far. The result is that Germany’s electricity costs are now among the highest in the world, and its electricity production is still primarily from coal (45 percent). Wind, biomass, solar, natural gas and hydro comprise the remaining 40 percent, in that order.

Mrs Merkel’s unilateral resolve to end nuclear energy production was typical of her increasingly absolute ruling style and this tendency reached its high-water mark last year with her unilateral decision to open Germany’s borders, which has resulted in over 1.1 million migrants and refugees entering the country in the past eight months. The euphoric welcome given to many of the arrivals last summer at Munich’s main train station has been replaced by seething rage, especially since the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne, where hundreds of women were sexually harassed and assaulted by men of largely north African and Arabic background.

The bill was presented yesterday when the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party made dramatic electoral gains, entering state parliament for the first time in three regions off the back of rising anger with Merkel’s open-door migration policy. The AfD was founded in 2013 by a group of economists and journalists calling for the abolition of the euro; now it’s a platform for a public that has become increasingly polarised by an establishment that’s seen as out of touch with the people. Angela Merkel’s popular decline is proof of the wisdom of term limits. Germany should consider enacting them.

Merkelism