May 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
A typical nest is composed of interlocking twigs, often recycled from the old nest, and pieces of wires of various lengths and thickness, gathered from the surrounding, to strengthen the nest structure. Tokyo residents have observed that crows in the city have learned to use coat hangers instead. look
PHOTOGRAPH: Marianna Rothen
November 11, 2013 § 1 Comment
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan views with deep concern the “Designated Secrets Bill” now under consideration by the Japanese Diet.
In particular, we are alarmed by the text of the bill, as well as associated statements made by some ruling party lawmakers, relating to the potential targeting of journalists for prosecution and imprisonment.
It is at the very heart of investigative journalism in open societies to uncover secrets and to inform the people about the activities of government. Such journalism is not a crime, but rather a crucial part of the checks and balances that go hand in hand with democracy.
The current text of the bill seems to suggest that freedom of the press is no longer a constitutional right, but merely something for which government officials “must show sufficient consideration.”
Moreover, the “Designated Secrets Bill” specifically warns journalists that they must not engage in “inappropriate methods” in conducting investigations of government policy. This appears to be a direct threat aimed at the media profession and is unacceptably open to wide interpretations in individual cases. Such vague language could be, in effect, a license for government officials to prosecute journalists almost as they please. read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Clarissa Bonet
Marx said that quantitative differences become qualitative ones, but a dialogue in Paris in the 1920s sums it up even more clearly: FITZGERALD: The rich are different from us. HEMINGWAY: Yes, they have more money
October 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
The most heavily reported unauthorized release of Japan’s defense information in recent years concerns a video recording of a Chinese fishing boat ramming a Japan Coast Guard vessel near the Senkaku (Chinese: Diaoyu) islands in September 2010. But the video itself was not classified as a “defense secret,” so its release cannot be considered a breach of the Self-Defense Forces Law (“SDF Law”). The leaker, who was identified as a member of the Japan Coast Guard, was not prosecuted for any crime. However, the 2010 incident incited demands for stronger secrecy protection laws and led to the appointment of a new government committee to study the issue.
The rarity of high profile leaks of confidential Japanese government information is a sharp contrast to the United States, where federal prosecutors have brought as many as eight cases against accused leakers since President Obama took office in 2009. Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are known all over the world for releasing masses of secret data for publication in mainstream news media and online publishers like Wikileaks.
For open government advocates, one of the most fundamental questions concerns the life cycle of defense secrets. Secrecy designations are ordinarily limited to fixed periods of time. The proposed Designated Secrets Protection Law would set a maximum term of five years. At the expiration of this term, officials could either decide that information remains sensitive and therefore extend the secrecy term or that it is no longer sensitive and the information can be declassified and released to the public or transferred to a public archive for easy access.
When NHK reporters recently asked Defense Ministry officials to describe the life cycle of defense secrets under the 2001 Law, they received a detailed response. During the five-year period from 2006 through 2011, approximately 55,000 records were designated “defense secrets” under the SDF Law. What is the current status of these 55,000 records? According to Defense Ministry officials, 34,000 were destroyed once they reached the end of their fixed secrecy period. When asked how many of the records were de-classified for potential release to the public, the officials delivered a very precise response: one. read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Li Hui
Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head
August 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
Do you feel like some ridiculously awesome, eagle-eyed super mutant? Martin tells io9 his goal in creating massive images has always been to extend the limits of human perception – what he calls the image’s “transhuman aspect.” The point is to feel like a goddamn superhero:
It’s the idea of creating a view that literally extends our senses far beyond what we can sense on our own. This image shows you orders of magnitude more stuff than you can see when you are actually there. Even if you are on Tokyo Tower with binoculars or a telescope, this image shows you more than you can possibly take in, in person.
The founder of 360Cities.net, a website where photographers can upload 360-degree images of beautiful locations around the globe, Martin is no stranger to this medium. He’s even created an image that’s bigger than the one you see here, but this one, he says, is his favorite. look
ART: Inomati Aki
I made no attempt to contact any of the people who had been so important to me in the past. I had already let important connections unravel through inattention, and that carelessness has been a bane to me all my life
August 7, 2013 § Leave a comment
Debate is heating up in Tokyo about the advisability of hiking Japan’s consumption tax. Which should come first- economic growth or fiscal reconstruction? The prime minister must decide in a matter of weeks.
It’s after midnight and I’m sitting in a Roppongi bar discussing the subject with a knowledgeable Japanese bureaucrat.
“It’s essential to raise taxes,” he says, cradling a well-aged Islay malt. “If we don’t, investors will lose confidence and our bond market will collapse.”
“Aren’t you risking a serious recession?”
“A temporary blip, maybe. But the strengthening of public finances will be good for future growth.”
The year was 1997. read more
My turn. Put the contraption on me, use the pump to blow it up, and get out. If you do anything else, or if you come back, I’ll never forgive you
February 26, 2013 § 1 Comment
Most or many of his thirty or forty books (no one seems to know exactly how many there are) are out of print. Only his 1971 travelogue, The Inland Sea, and some of his film criticism, are read except by those with a specialist interest in Japan. ‘I wish I had an agent – I could just send it off to him or her,’ he writes in his journal in 1996, with another unpublished novel on his desk. ‘But I can’t. No agent has ever accepted me.’ A hundred pages, and seven years, later he is taking an ‘orphan manuscript’ of short stories to a vanity publisher. Both The Japan Journals and the earlier Donald Richie Reader (2001) transmit a resentment, on the part of the younger fans who have edited them, that he is not more famous and better regarded. In a self-defeating introduction to the Reader, Arturo Silva indignantly sets out the neglect suffered by his hero: ignored by ‘editors and bureaucrats’, unrecognised by the academic establishment, forced five times to rewrite a profile of Kurosawa for the New York Times magazine, only to have it spiked. ‘For all the work and decades spent on it, Richie’s view of Japan seems still to belong only to the “happy few”,’ he observes unhappily. ‘One difficulty of “placing” him is that Richie is neither an academic nor a popular writer . . . Indeed, Richie is doubly other: caught between two facing mirrors that no one bothers to look into.’ Wounded partisanship of this type leads one to suspect a straightforward explanation for his unsuccess: that Richie simply isn’t much of a writer. But is there more to it than this: a reflection of the times he has lived through; something inhospitable in the intellectual atmosphere of Tokyo itself?
No one has written with more concentration about the peculiar quality of exile enjoyed by the gaijin, the foreigner in Japan. Densely hierarchical, structured by invisible networks of deference, obligation and taboo, conventional Japanese society offers no formal place to the ‘outside person’. But this alienation is so absolute that it is experienced as something close to liberation, a stimulus to observation and analysis. ‘Japan has afforded him’ – the author – ‘a situation of writing,’ Roland Barthes wrote in Empire of Signs. This situation is ‘one in which a certain disturbance of the person occurs, a subversion of earlier readings, a shock of meaning lacerated, extenuated to the point of its irreplaceable void.’ Japan, to put it in drastically un-French terms, puts you on your mettle. It is an observation that Richie returns to again and again. ‘In Japan,’ he recorded in 1992, ‘I interpret, assess an action, infer a meaning.’
Every day, every hour, every minute. Life here means never taking life for granted, never not noticing. For me alone I wonder? I do not see how a foreigner can live here and construct that shroud of inattention, which in the land from whence he came is his natural right and his natural tomb . . . it is with this live connection that the alert foreigner here lives. The electric current is turned on during all the waking hours: he or she is always occupied in noticing, evaluating, discovering and concluding . . . It is the difference between just going to a movie and living it for a few hours, and going to the same film as a reviewer, taking notes, standing apart, criticising, knowing that I must make an accounting of it. The former is more comfortable; the latter is better.
This is indeed the excitement of life in Japan at its best, and it provides obvious opportunities for the writer. From a journal entry in 1998:
Smilingly excluded here in Japan, politely stigmatised, I can from my angle attempt only objectivity, since my subjective self will not fit the space I am allotted . . . how fortunate I am to occupy this niche with its lateral view. In America I would be denied this place. I would live on the flat surface of a plain. In Japan, from where I am sitting, the light falls just right – I can see the peaks and valleys, the crags and crevasses.
There is another lucky side effect for many expatriates: personal alienation, the inescapable sense of being different from everyone else, is cancelled out, or at least rendered invisible, by the larger, universal alienation of being a gaijin. This is the partial explanation for something else remarked on several times by Richie: as he shyly puts it, ‘the strange prevalence of people of like preferences among foreign Japanese specialists’. read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Lukas Wierzbowski
Search a neglect. A sale, any greatness is a stall and there is no memory, there is no clear collection
February 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
Needless to say, a building on this scale is a rarity of sorts anywhere in the world, but to find one in Japan really is something special — even more so for it to be long abandoned and left to the elements. Yet unlike many crumbling structures, it’s an absolute joy to walk around. Plus despite the decay, there’s none of the bleakness that often pervades such exploration. read more
ART: Sol LeWitt