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Whether covered or brazen, tattoos make a statement

The Atlantic - Jun 10, 2010
My neighbors are farmers. They regularly bring us cabbages, cucumbers, bitter melon, tomatoes, eggplants, persimmons, and other local specialties, and their arrival on our doorstep with a box of fresh-picked produce is as much an announcement of the changing seasons as the color of the sky or warmth of the wind. Our conversations often turn to rain, mulch, tools for tilling, and fruit yields from the old but still-productive trees they tend. They offer advice on reviving my stunted tomatoes, and we debate the relative merits of baseball caps for working the fields under the hot sun as opposed to the traditional straw kasa. None of this would be remarkable except that we live in the middle of Yokohama, a progressive city of 3.6 million people, and our houses are so densely packed that they almost touch. My neighbors are Japanese urban farmers, and have been for decades. Urban development in Japan often leaves small farm plots, rice fields, and other rural features intact while houses and apartments spring up all around them. (theatlantic.com)
ABrown_nutritious_6-9_post.jpgRyo Ishikawa, Prince of Japan TV Ads
Wall Street Journal - Jun 10, 2010

Ryo Ishikawa, Japan's teenage golf sensation, is known as the "Bashful Prince" at home for his innocent demeanor and winning smile. Bashful the 18-year-old may be, but green he's not when it comes down to business. As Mr. Ishikawa heads to the U.S. today to make his debut in the Professional Golf Association's U.S. Open, his fans will barely have a chance to miss him: a raft of endorsement deals for some of Japan's biggest corporations that analysts reckon have earned him about $10 million mean his face will never be far from a TV screen. Mr. Ishikawa's fresh-faced persona currently appears in television commercials for 15 companies, two more than the tally at the end of 2009 when he tied with Japan's longtime leading celebrity endorser, Takuya Kimura of boy-band/middle-aged-man-band SMAP, for appearing in the most television commercials in the country, according to Nihon Monitor, a research company that tracks broadcasts and commercials in Japan. (Wall Street Journal)

Whether covered or brazen, tattoos make a statement
Japan Times - Jun 7, 2010
News photo
(Horiyoshi III tattoos a man in Yokohama)

Tattoos have long occupied a place in Japanese society, generally in the shadows of the underworld and the realm of taboo. Ornate to the point of beautiful, tattoos have a mystique, from the pain that comes from having them done, the courage to endure it, and their significance not only to the wearer but to the uninitiated. More people in Japan, especially younger members of society, are electing to adorn themselves with the body art, and they're not necessarily keeping it under wraps. Some are meanwhile being inspired by famous figures who pursue what seems like a path of independence, such as pop singer Namie Amuro, who has not shied away from tattoos. However, prejudice over tattoos and discrimination against those who wear them persists, experts say. (Japan Times)

As Ginza changes, so does luxury market in Japan
Reuters - Jun 3, 2010

For a glimpse at the diverging consumer forces vexing luxury goods firms in Japan, take a stroll through the ritzy Ginza district where upscale and discount retailers are battling for shoppers' attention like never before. Ginza is Japan's answer to Fifth Avenue of New York and home to the flagship stores of most of the major global luxury brands doing business in the country, including Tiffany & Co, Bulgari and Cartier. A series of store openings by casual clothing chains is changing the face of the district, a reflection of the country's sluggish economy and shrinking market for luxury goods. The move downmarket has some in the Ginza establishment worried. A lot of money is at stake, with more than $5 billion in retail business generated within the district's eight "chome," or blocks, each year. (Reuters)

Sumo mired in grime, and not from the ring
Wall Street Journal - Jun 1, 2010

(AFP/Getty Images / Sumo stable master Kise leaves Ryogoku-Kokugikan hall
after attending a board meeting of the Japan Sumo Association.)

Sumo may be struggling to attract fans to its tournaments, but it's having no trouble getting attention from Japan's tabloid media and police. In the latest airing of massively oversized dirty laundry, police say a Tokyo stable master gave ringside tickets to high-ranking gangsters, according to Kyodo news. According to police, Kyodo says, the mobsters wanted the tickets so they could be seen on TV by their underlings and associates - in prison. Among the gangsters hoping for a moment in the limelight was Kenichi Shinoda, boss of Japan's biggest crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi Gumi, police said. As a result of the episode, 40-year-old stablemaster Kise - real name Naoto Sakamoto - was forced to resign. His 27 wrestlers will be absorbed into another stable. The affair followed allegations just days earlier that one of sumo's highest-ranking wrestlers, 34-year-old Kotomitsuki, may have been blackmailed over gambling on professional baseball. The weekly magazine Shukan Shincho - known for its lurid coverage of showbiz and sports - claimed May 20 that Kotomitsuki, who holds the second-highest rank of ozeki, paid gangsters 100 million yen in hush money over the gambling. (Wall Street Journal)

Japan: It's faketastic
Global Post - May 27, 2010
Fake Japan, wedding
(Partire Bay Wedding Village. (Iva Skoch/GlobalPost))

From fake European villages to sex dolls, how Japan creates imitations that are even better than the real thing. On a recent Saturday afternoon at a fake European village in Tokyo, a group of Japanese women with fake eyelashes sipped cappuccinos at a fake French cafe and watched a real wedding. A Japanese couple in Western wedding clothes was getting married in a fake, vaguely European-looking chapel by a Caucasian priest. A fake one, of course. Venues with European themes have exploded across Japan. There's the Country Farm Tokyo German Village, a Nagasaki Holland Village or Shima Spain Village. This particular hot spot, the Partire Bay Wedding Village, lies in the midst of Odaiba, the artificially created island in Tokyo Bay. It sits just past the replica of the Statue of Liberty and near the Venus Fort, a Venice-theme shopping mall built in the Las Vegas architectural style. The surroundings here - a somewhat quaint village square with a Romanesque fountain, complete with a live mime - are supposed to recreate an authentic European street scene. Many young Japanese consider it an ideal and cosmopolitan setting for what they call a Western-style wedding. It's working. The Partire Bay Wedding Village hosted eight weddings on this single Saturday. (Global Post)

By T.S. on June 13, 2010
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tag : Inside Japan



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Author:T. SATOH