Matt Thorn comments

Posted in: Lawmaker breaks taboo by handing letter about nuclear fears to emperor See in context

I think the folks here praising Yamamoto don't understand that he has actually hurt the effort to ban nuclear power in Japan and to truly fix the problems in Fukushima. Yes, the right-wingers are bashing him for the same reason right-wingers are bashing Obama over the Affordable Care Act (to wit, they hate everything he does, by default), but within Japan Yamamoto is being criticized from the left, and from anti-nuclear activists. His actions were irrational, if only because the Emperor is in no position to do anything at all. He's completely powerless in this situation. And if you think his actions have at least helped raise awareness of the problems in Fukushima, think again. For two days, no one has been talking about Fukushima, because everyone's been talking about Yamamoto's behavior. He has in fact obscured the issue of Fukushima and nuclear power in general.

I remember seeing Yamamoto make his debut on Japanese TV as a teenager twenty-some years ago. He was a handsome kid, but made his name by acting like a lunatic. When I heard he was going into politics, I thought it was a joke, but when he began to speak out on progressive issues, I supported him. Since this kerfuffle, I've heard other stories about his behavior that have completely disillusioned me. He seems unable to suppress his celebrity instinct to make everything about himself, and to stand out by acting like a jackass. Right now, in the effort to end nuclear power in Japan and clean up Fukushima, Yamamoto is standing in the way, period. He should resign, do that famous Japanese hansei, grow up, and think about what he can do to really contribute to the causes he seems to genuinely care about.

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Posted in: Lawmaker breaks taboo by handing letter about nuclear fears to emperor See in context

It's interesting to see the enthusiastic support for Yamamoto here. I'm an anti-nuclear lefty, but I groaned and rolled my eyes when I heard this news. I'm scouring Twitter (in Japanese) for voices of support for Yamamoto, but they are few and far between. The lefty Japanese folks I follow on Twitter are mostly saying, "I don't support what Yamamoto did, but (Abe is worse/I can understand the feeling of desperation/etc.)." I could only find one person wholeheartedly supporting his action. Search for "Taro Yamamoto" in Japanese on Twitter, and you'll find pages and pages of blistering criticism, and not all of it from the right. Maybe it's hard for those not living under a figurehead monarchy to understand the full implications of essentially requesting the monarch to become involved in a political issue. And while it is of course a humanitarian issue in many ways, it is unfortunately very much a political issue. The unequivocal support people are showing here indicates to me that they really don't understand the issue. I was a strong supporter of Yamamoto until yesterday. Now I find him an embarrassment. He needs to deal with this, but so far he's just making excuses. I'm surprised his staff did not stop him.

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Posted in: Japan’s coolest capsule hotel to close See in context

I've walked by this place a few dozen times and it definitely looks very stylish from the outside. It took me a few months to figure out it was a capsule hotel. Too bad I live in this city and don't have an excuse to stay there!

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Posted in: 'Bionic man' walks, breathes with artificial parts See in context

Nit-picking: 6 and half feet is most definitely not 185 centimeters. More 198 cm. 185 cm would be about 6' 1" (which happens to be my own height).

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Posted in: Cookpad starts English site See in context

CookPad rocks. I have a paid subscription that offers some nice perks. I made two meals last week culled from CookPad that my Japanese wife loved.

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Posted in: Why elderly Japanese women have names in katakana See in context

Picking nits here:

Even now, those belonging to the oldest generations in Japan — the women in particular — have a lot of trouble reading kanji.

No. Unless when you say "oldest" you mean "over 110." Even then, I think not. Meiji education reforms requiring basic primary education for girls, including of course learning to read and write at least a few hundred kanji, kicked in by the end of the 19th century. (That's why the first magazines specifically for girls began to appear in 1902--I'm going to be lecturing on this very topic in one of my classes this week.) Some rural areas may have been lax about literacy, but I think you would be hard pressed to find an old person of either sex who has trouble reading kanji, unless that person has a learning disability or came from a particularly dysfunctional background.

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Posted in: Practical tips for dealing with stalking in Japan See in context

Sensato, the law does of course also protect men. There is nothing in the law about the sex of the victim. The writer either misspoke or does not understand the law.

One important bit of advice that was overlooked, and I say this as someone who has gone to the police in Japan to complain about a stalker: Always keep a detailed record of every bit of inappropriate behavior, including the date, time, place, and circumstances. Any time anything sketchy happens, write it down. Each incident may seem trivial, but a record showing a pattern of harassment will be a huge help when push comes to shove. The Japanese police are reluctant to act (on anything!) without a LOT of evidence.

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Posted in: 12 of the best places in Kyoto to enjoy autumn colors See in context

As someone who's lived in Kyoto for fifteen years, I strongly recommend that if you want to visit one of these temples/shrines in leaf-viewing season, get there first thing in the morning, before opening time. Otherwise, what you will mostly be viewing is other tourists like yourself.

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Posted in: The 10 most common surnames in Japan (and their meanings) See in context

Maria, another source lists "Katoh" as No. 10. http://www.douseidoumei.net/00/sei01.html

kimuzukashiiiii-san, according to the same source, there are a stunning 41,835 surnames that are used by only one family each! It's a huge list, but there are some real odd ones in there. Unfortunately, they don't provide the pronunciations, and since they're so rare, the only way to find out for would be to ask someone who has the name! http://www.douseidoumei.net/00/sei14.html I'm proud to say that my own wife's surname is used by only two families in the entire country, and is listed 49,38? nationally. I don't want to give the final digit, because it would be pretty easy to find her if I did! Whether you consider it a blessing or a curse to be easily found with Google depends on your disposition and who's searching for you, amirite?

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Posted in: Japanese men reveal costumes they want their girlfriends to wear See in context

Ambrosia wrote:

You can find numerous articles about how a fair number of women in societies with "both conservatives and progressives" (not so subtle but nice try) rent porn, go to strip clubs with their partners and avail themselves of prostitutes and how those numbers have been increasing over the years. There are numerous porn website which target women and even Best Erotica Awards which are given to porn aimed at a female audience.

All true. What is harder to find, though, is hard numbers about, for example, how much of money paid for erotica is paid by women. In Japan, the market for digital manga in 2010 was about 40 to 50 billion yen (400 to 500 million dollars). Erotic manga for women account for a solid majority of all those digital manga. (http://diamond.jp/articles/-/7939--Sorry, Japanese only.) I study manga for a living, and I've talked to publishers and editors who tell me that erotic manga for women, both digital and paper, are big sellers. If the shelf space given over to them both in convenience stores and ordinary, "respectable" bookstores is any indicator, that's certainly true. There are even pornographic manga magazines specifically targeting teen girls, which would be illegal everywhere in the U.S. by definition. The phenomenon you note show that attitudes about women as consumers of erotica are changing in America and presumably elsewhere, but when it comes to women actually putting money down on the figurative or literal counter, I don't know of any country that can currently compete with Japan.

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Posted in: Few married women interested in having an affair: survey See in context

These figures are at odds with others I've seen, including those from the Japan Family Planning Association. The results of such surveys vary wildly and depend on how questions are phrased and how they are asked. Responses to questions as private as these, when asked face to face or over the phone, are worthless. Even in anonymous, written surveys, Japanese people, according to economist Takashi Kadokura, grossly underreport sexual activity of any kind, in contrast to Latinos/Latinas, who grossly overreport their sexual activity. He claims that widely publicized surveys suggesting that Japanese have sex less frequently than people in just about any other country are misleading and should not be taken at face value.(http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/ASIN/4344981928/pelican-22/) And Marital Consultant Hiromi Ikeuchi says, "In my consultations regarding divorce, my sense is that 80% of married women desire an extramarital affair, and 30% actually have had or are having an affair." (By the way, she says the number one reason women have affairs is sexlessness in their marriages.) (http://diamond.jp/articles/-/3340) Granted, the people she's talking to are people who have marital problems, but her 30% figure sounds much closer to what I've seen in my own experience living most of my adult life in Japan. In short, 10.8% is laughably low. They are fibbing, and they are probably fibbing to themselves. "That wasn't an affair. That was special." Or "That was just an accident and doesn't count." These are the fibs they tell themselves to avoid labeling themselves as adulterers.

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Posted in: Japan and the rise of the male parasol See in context

I'm 48, and have lived in Japan most of my adult life. The other day it was HOT. Seriously hot here in Kyoto. My wife and I were going out for the day, and knew we'd be walking under the blistering sun for a while. I had left my summer hat at a theater the week before. My wife suggested I use one of her parasols. I said yes. Wow! What a difference. My own piece of moving shade! It was fantastic, and I didn't give a damn what anyone else might think. I'm not trying to protect my lovely skin from blemishes. I'm protecting myself from heat stroke, and also from the skin cancer that my father (whose fair skin I inherited, and who spent most of his youth working under the sun) developed later in life. Parasols rock. Parasols are awesome. If that makes me a soft, herbivorous sissy, fine. I will choose that over the punishment of a harsh sun any day. You manly men can just on suffering in the name of manliness.

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Posted in: Japanese men reveal costumes they want their girlfriends to wear See in context

Maria said:

Men rely far, far more on visual stimuli than women do. The overwhelming majority of porn is aimed at heterosexual and homosexual men. Erotic literature is aimed at women, whose sexual feelings are sparked by other senses.

That is probably true in general, but keep in mind that Japan has a thriving market in pornographic manga by and for women, which can be purchased at any convenience store. If you go to the massive semi-annual Comic Market in Tokyo (attended by more than 190,000 participants daily over a period of three days), you will find that the single biggest-selling genre of all the self-published manga on sale is "boys' love" (which might be translated as "guy-on-guy action") ranging from steamy to barely legal. These are purchased, not by gay men, but by women, and many of them cheerfully refer to them as "okazu," which is a euphemism for material used for stimulation during (or immediately prior to) masturbation. So the phenomenon you describe may arise only in societies where both conservatives and progressives condemn visual pornography as something no self-respecting woman should want to look at. Here in Japan, the emphasis is less on "morality" and more on "discretion." People don't care what you do behind closed doors as long as the participants are consenting adults and no one gets hurt.

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Posted in: Japanese men reveal costumes they want their girlfriends to wear See in context

ambrosia, I'm not sure what you mean by:

I suppose that as long as the girl isn't sporting a bob, straight bangs or a short hair cut most Japanese guys would be fine with her in any of the above costumes.

Do you mean Japanese men only go in for long, straight hair without bangs? Ayame Goriki, the most popular young actress today has very short hair and the guys go gaga for her. (I love short hair myself, but I don't really get Ayame's appeal.) Here's a link to an article on the 10 most popular actresses of the first half of 2013. Scroll through and you can see lots of different hairstyles! Bangs seem to big these days, too. I think the men who go for long, straight hair like Pavlov's dogs are all over the age of fifty. http://www.oricon.co.jp/entertainment/special/page/607/

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Posted in: Japanese men reveal costumes they want their girlfriends to wear See in context

I've lived in Japan for most of the last quarter century, pretty much right at the center of otaku culture. This list is so unsurprising it's actually disappointing. The school swimming suits and the school phys-ed uniforms that so many Japanese guys get excited about do nothing for me. As for sailor-style uniforms, I like to see nicely-designed ones that suit a girl well, but that's more about style than anything sexual. So why is my reaction so different from those of the Japanese men around me? Simple. I have no fond memories from puberty and adolescence of these items. Many commenters seem to think that men are drawn to the uniforms because they're drawn to young girls. I think it's more the nostalgia aspect. The closest American equivalent I can think of is the cheerleading uniform. Beyond that, there aren't many iconic uniforms in the U.S. that everyone wore and the sight of which instantly brings you back to the age of thirteen. Remember: Most Japanese people spent almost every day of their teen years wearing a school uniform! With the decline in population and rising competition among schools, uniform designs have become an important recruiting tool. Some hire famous designers to create them. I know Japanese women who selected a school entirely on the basis of the uniform. I have no interest in seeing my own wife in the generic cosplay school uniform in the photograph, but I'd love to see her in the uniform of a certain girls' school here in Kyoto!

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Posted in: Photo of Pizza Hut employee with dough on his face causes stir See in context

Actually, it's at least the fourth recent incident in which a young part-time worker did something stupid, posted it to Twitter, and got sacked. There was the Bronco Billy steak house employee photographed inside a refrigerator (not the walk-in type), and the teenaged employee of the Marugen Ramen restaurant photographed with a frozen sausage in her mouth and holding a package of some kind of food. The latter was posted with a comment about the fun they had screwing around and all the stuff they stole. Both restaurants not only apologized, but have also voluntary closed their doors until they believe they can once again ensure their sanitary conditions and the behavior of their staff. It's hard to imagine an American establishment voluntary shutting down temporarily after something like this.

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