Apolitical comments

Posted in: Britain eagerly awaits name of new princess See in context

My bet is "Victoria" - traditional and classy name (Makes me think of "Victorian architecture" and queen Victoria. Not to mention the word "victoria" is Latin for "victory" - great name for a successful person). "Diana" brings rather dreadful memories involving the car accident from 1997 which was fatal to young Princess of Wales.

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Posted in: Michelin-star sushi restaurant in Tokyo defends foreigner rules See in context

To be honest, I'd rather be denied reservation to a place like this than being treated with disrespect by people who are prejudiced against "barbarian" foreigners who cancel reservations.

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Posted in: 7 family members perish in Akita house fire See in context

Terrible tragedy. I remember when in 2011 two people died in a garden arbor close to my house - I could see the fire through the window. Hope that fire in Akita wasn't intentional. Wonder how it all happened - I must say it's a common misconception to think that during fire people die from being set ablaze - but death can also occur from simply choking on the smoke created by fire, or being hit by a heavy object. It's especially dangerous in old buildings which don't meet modern safety standards.

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Posted in: LDP gears up to revise pacifist constitution See in context

There is a lot of criticism about changing the constitution, but thinking rationally - I don't believe there's a real difference between having a "self-defense" army and a regular army - they're essentially both military forces supposed to effectively kill large amounts of enemy forces - only the context differs. It's just a matter of law, which can unfortunately be completely ignored or reinterpreted in a way that destroys the initial sense. Even invading another country can be explained as "protection of own citizens" - that's one of the rhetorical tricks used by Russia in conflict with Ukraine - "protection of Russian minority in Ukraine".

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Posted in: 8 places you need to visit to really understand Japan See in context

I think it's a good starting point if someone is planning a trip to Japan and doesn't have to care about the expenses. However the list could be sorted to reflect chronology of events associated with these places. Either from modern to old, or the other way around. It would be interesting to visit some of the graves of major historical figures, because it shows modern attitude towards them and how the buried people are perceived nowadays. Still, imagining myself a fictional scenario that I've already "been" to all those places, I wouldn't say I "understand" Japan or am "enlightened" about it. The more you know, the more you're aware of the things you don't know. There is also cultural distance to consider - Chinese or Korean people visiting Japan may relate to their own culture, as there are many cultural similarities between Japan, China and Korea. Despite rivalry on political level, folk cultures of all the 3 nations share a common vision of reality in general (with the Confucian emphasis on praising the ancestors), of course with the particular religious dogmas out of the picture (because they always divide people, even in the most monolithic societies). I live in Europe, so, to paraphrase words of historical Italian traveler to Japan "A Pole will always stay a Pole."

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Posted in: It's a Honda See in context

This plane reminds me of a pregnant dolphin, which makes it look nice.

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Posted in: Switzerland, Scandinavia top global 'happy' index See in context

The issue with such indexes is that you can "adjust" them to show whatever you want to see. Just use different indicators. Same people can be described one time as "happy" and other time as "unhappy", depending on the factors someone personally picks. Also, talking about happiness on a national scale is a very big stretch. Happiness in the common sense is associated with emotional state, not GDP rates. Not to mention the distinction between a fake happiness (acting out gestures and body language associated with happiness) and real happiness (internally experienced).

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Posted in: Must be good ramen See in context

Sorry, but I prefer rosół.

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Posted in: More than 100 lawmakers visit Yasukuni shrine See in context

This whole situation sounds a bit passive-aggressive to me. You can't have the cake and eat it.

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Posted in: Maglev train sets world record speed of 603 kms per hour See in context

It's great people make such developments. Still, the cost of building and maintaining such a network is extremely high. Plus it's a kind of trip only the high class can afford. So I doubt average citizen can benefit from it.

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Posted in: Japan must apologise for WWII until it is forgiven: Novelist Murakami See in context

I was on a crowded train once and saw a man who accidentally stepped on a woman's shoe. She made a remark on this. The man immediately said "I'm sorry." to which the woman replied angrily: "What does your apology change!?" This is exactly how I feel about this issue. Apologies, no matter how honest and ceremonial - won't change facts. The war issues will be dug out repeatedly over and over, there's no chance to "close" this uncomfortable period of time. The only thing anyone can do is to live with it. Of course, saying "sorry" is a nice thing to do, but there are crimes no apologies will ever erase.

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Posted in: Hillary Clinton launches presidential campaign See in context

I wonder how this election will turn out... as a candidate Hillary Clinton has experience and is widely recognized. She can potentially become first female president in the American history, right after the first African-American president. Still, it is not a comfortable time for democrats, and there are quite a few issues that are going to be exaggerated during the campaign, I'm sure of it. The eventual result will show which party tells more convincing stories about their candidates.

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Posted in: Take aim See in context

Live performances are always better than seeing motionless historical items in a glass case.

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Posted in: Multiracial Miss Japan hopes to change homeland's thinking on identity See in context

It sounds pessimistic, but I am convinced she is fighting for a lost cause... at best she might just be considered an exception from the general trend against haafus and gaijins. You can't beat hundreds of years of isolationism with just one person - even with "open" borders, there is still a strong culture opposing foreigners and anyone having least knowledge about modern culture of Japan can sense this - and I'm not talking about the metropolitan, cosmopolitan culture, free of national identifications - this is a completely different matter. The essence of national culture lies not in the cosmoplitan world of big cities but in the rural areas.

You might say as a counter argument that words like "haafu" and "gaijin" are neutral - but I disagree. It's just the most cultural and subtle way of telling someone "You don't belong here." "It's not your place." "You're a threat to us." "You have nothing to say here."

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Posted in: Japan opts for massive, costly sea wall to fend off tsunamis See in context

I think all commenters here agree that concrete barriers are not a stunning visual attraction for the people living there as well as tourists, but who has time to think about that when a whole area is flooded?

Let me quote you some article I found on Marine Insight ("What are Sea Walls?"):

Sea walls are extremely utilitarian and since in these times, the threat of tsunami has increased substantially, it becomes important to build such preventive structures in order to lessen the menace of such natural calamities and to assure the people of their safety through a very visible, physically demonstrative and effective barrier.

I put this quote because the article was written out of the particular Japanese context. Now tell me, where does it say sea walls can stop the tsunami waves altogether? It can only lessen the losses. The only smart solution here would be just to move out of the endangered zone, but I am aware there are multiple reasons why people would rather stay.

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Posted in: Berlin Film Festival See in context

They look like they were just drenched with ice-cold water.

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Posted in: Why is Japan such an unpopular tourist destination? See in context

If you want to have an ad campaign that really convinces people to visit Japan, you should listen to the tourists in the first place. They have the most important information you're looking for. They see Japan through their own eyes, own superstitions, religion, etcetera. All there is to do is to use this information, make a proper research. For example: I live in Europe and here where I live nobody thought of advertising walking in the woods, until they acknowledged that the British tourists really enjoy it since most woods in the UK are privately owned and surrounded by fences so no one can really go there and just have a walk.

I had a chance to read many tourist brochures made by JNTO, and I'd say they're okay. But okay means they could be better. In these brochures there is sometimes a certain atmosphere of pride a Japanese person has about own country. But in most cases tourists won't feel the same since they don't identify themselves with Japan. It's just not natural for a person from outside. People would rather see things that interest them personally. So, personally I believe a "wink" to the tourists themselves would be something good, a subliminal message that says "we understand your needs". But the tourism level is not just a matter of advertising. Things that are promised through advertising are verified by personal experiences.

For me, my interest in Japan is, and will probably always be just a hobby, part of a knowledge I have no practical use for. I never visited Japan and I'm not going there soon (low chance of getting there at all). The main reason? Geographical distance (8603 km approximately to Tokyo), and - as a result - high costs combined with the fact that I live in the 2nd world and I'm not high enough on the income chart to go there, even if I made savings for a long time. Cultural distance - would probably need someone to act as a translator for me. No personal connections that would make it easier for me to travel there.

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Posted in: Kanda Myojin shrine See in context

@Cricky Rituals like that can be logically perceived as meaningless, as they do not change anything in the physical reality. But what matters here is one's mind. Whatever makes people feel better about themselves (gives them a sense of completion, reaffirmation) and (in their opinion) gives them better chance to succeed in whatever they're doing, makes it an important part of social life. Not to mention that if many people share the same ideas they reinforce each others' beliefs. In the same manner some other rituals are widely disregarded.

I think sociological functionalism would have said that it represents the Integration part of the AGIL (Adaptation, Goal achieving, Integration, Latency) paradigm made by Talcott Parsons. That is:

The harmonization of the entire society is a demand that the values and norms of society are solid and sufficiently convergent. This requires, for example, the religious system to be fairly consistent, and even in a more basic level, a common language.

Max Weber had a theory about protestantism and how it integrates with capitalism. He wrote a book called "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism", where he had a thesis that protestant religious dogma supported the industrial work system in Germany. In the same manner a book "Tokugawa Religion: The Cultural Roots of Modern Japan" was written by Robert N. Bellah. So, it's not as meaningless as one would have thought, although the conclusions made are highly subjective. But this is a social science, not mathematics. You can't expect it to be objective.

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Posted in: China launches website on disputed islands See in context

These islands are definitely a tricky situation for all sides involved. Resolving the conflict in a non-aggressive, diplomatic way would require someone to resign from the territorial claims and as a result, humiliate himself. So in my honest opinion the situation is going to remain like that for many years to come. It kind of reminds me how the map of Antarctica looks nowadays, lots of territorial claims, and no actual globally accepted ownership of the territory.

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Posted in: Okinawa vote a blow to Japan-U.S. ties, say analysts See in context

Talking about worsening US-Japan ties is just a mere speculation about things that did not happen, meaning US-Japan relations haven't really changed a bit at the moment. Japan is a unitary country and regional politics stand lower in the hierarchy than those of central government. So assuming there are going to be changes because there is some number of local people who are complaining about American presence, it would need to be approved by the central government. I personally don't see that's going to happen soon. Other users have wrote enough reasons to support this opinion.

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