National Topics

The romantic notion of rural relocation

| Oct 25, 2014

The romantic notion of rural relocation

by Michael Hoffman

Yu Iwamoto began adult life working in the slums, refugee camps and precarious schools of Afghanistan. Had he even heard, back then, of the Oki Islands off the coast of Shimane Prefecture? He may have. The little archipelago is remote but famous. Political rebels ...

Nico Nico moves into Ikebukuro

Oct 24, 2014

Nico Nico moves into Ikebukuro

by Patrick ST. Michel

Since launching in 2006, online video-sharing service Nico Nico (originally Nico Nico Douga) has become one of Japan’s central hubs for aspiring artists and entertainers to share their talents with users across the country. They’ve fostered a millions-strong community capable of influencing mainstream Japanese ...

A dark force targets youth at their jobs

| Oct 18, 2014

A dark force targets youth at their jobs

by Philip Brasor

In the ongoing discussion about workplace abuse, the media has advanced yet another new term. “Black baito” modifies the already popular phrase “black kigyō,” which are companies that manipulate or ignore labor standards in order to get employees to work overtime without pay. “Baito” ...

In-debt idols send wrong message to girls

| Oct 11, 2014

In-debt idols send wrong message to girls

by Philip Brasor

Two weeks ago a female pop group called The Margarines debuted via a Tokyo news conference. Since Japanese show business has no shortage of young women who want to sing and dance in order to “fulfill their dreams,” the new ensemble needed a gimmick. ...

Tourists may not warm to Japan's welcome

| Oct 4, 2014

Tourists may not warm to Japan's welcome

by Philip Brasor

A former colleague of mine always made it a point to tell people coming to Japan for a visit to bring lots of handkerchiefs because the public restrooms didn’t have towel dispensers. I always took a more positive view and emphasized that public restrooms ...