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Old 2010-02-12, 20:35   Link #1341
SeijiSensei
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Japanese Valentine's Day Customs in Flux

This morning's NPR report on how the custom of "giri choco" is declining in favor of "jibun choco."

Audio [mp3]
Transcript
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Old 2010-02-13, 02:51   Link #1342
Vexx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
This morning's NPR report on how the custom of "giri choco" is declining in favor of "jibun choco."

Audio [mp3]
Transcript
Yeah.. as an avid follower of Japanese culture.... I can't but keep thinking the guys in Japan are doing themselves in by "not adapting to the times" (the older ones) or by "dropping out of the scene" (the younger ones).

And yeah.. the Yoshida Brothers do some very cool things with their instruments.
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Old 2010-02-19, 19:32   Link #1343
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Japanese Traditional Arts and Crafts

I don't know if there is a lot of people interested in those, so instead of creating a new thread I'll share what I have here:

First of all, before interesting myself in anime and manga, I was already fascinated by Japanese culture, as the cultural stream between France and Japan saw it's revival in the 80's and 90's as I grew up.

Oddly, what first piked my interest were Franco-Belgian Comics (aka Bande Dessinée) with strong japanese cultural content (Yoko Tsuno and Kogaratsu, which BTW I strongly recommend for all those that French doesn't rebuke).

But ultimately the revelation came with a single picture: that of a wakisashi or japanese short sword in a coffee table book.
Even now it represents for me the quintessence of japanese art and craft perfection and intention: a blade forged out of a complex mix of steels, cut and polished as a precious gem would be, protected by the finest woodwork and lacquerwork, and held by a functional combination of shark skin, silk and metal ornaments... all geared toward a goal of beauty and functionality.

Ermm... I'll stop the trance here.


So are you people interested in Japanese Traditional Arts and Crafts?

I have myself a broad interest, but I am especially interested in the followings:

Japanese Swords: if that wasn't already clear , and by that I mean the real stuff, not the cheap pseudo replicas.
I already own an old (but alas in poor shape) wakisashi, it cost me a few hundred bucks on eBay about 10 years ago, but being able to hold the real stuff is priceless, and anyway the fittings only are worth what I paid for it according to my antique dealer.
For now I don't have the money to buy anything but books, but later I'll start a collection of old swords (starting in the 2k $ range), with maybe a fine practice sword just for holding, not sure yet about commissioning one of those European passionate blacksmiths.

Japanese Kimonos: I find women kimonos to be absolutely beautiful, but since I'm a guy, so far my passion's expression has been limited in reading books, and carefully picking yukata for my female friends and relatives each time I go to Japan (I find Furisode to be even more gorgeous, but those a damn expensive...).

Japanese Traditional Architecture: I discovered it recently trough this beautiful book which I recommend. Since my country still has a living and even dynamic, albeit different tradition in using "living" wood for building, I often dream of how I would build my house.

Japanese Traditional Lacquerware and Japanese Traditional Ceramics: beauty and perfect finish, that's why one day, I'll own at least one or two pieces to be admired.

So, what kind of Japanese Traditional Arts and Crafts interest you the most?
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Old 2010-02-20, 00:53   Link #1344
Vexx
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I was interested in Japanese culture, arts and crafts, etc long before I got interested in anime.

Swords.... they aren't as mystical as myth would have it - but they are exquisitely evolved for the types of warfare they function in.

Kimono/yukata -- actually there are yukata for men (I have one). Worn around the house and at festivals. The hapi coats and hakata are usually less challenging for guys though

Architecture/furniture -- we're slowly slowly evolving our house along aesthetic lines and furniture. A bit easier to get stuff since we're on the west coast of the US.

My wife has inherited quite a bit of Japanese ceramic and wares (as well as some kimono and various art) - so that's a big jumpstart.

Our basic problem though is that we're both clutterbugs - *cleaning* and *organizing* is an exercise for Sisyphus
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Old 2010-02-20, 04:26   Link #1345
MitsubishiZero
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
I was interested in Japanese culture, arts and crafts, etc long before I got interested in anime.

Swords.... they aren't as mystical as myth would have it - but they are exquisitely evolved for the types of warfare they function in.

Kimono/yukata -- actually there are yukata for men (I have one). Worn around the house and at festivals. The hapi coats and hakata are usually less challenging for guys though

Architecture/furniture -- we're slowly slowly evolving our house along aesthetic lines and furniture. A bit easier to get stuff since we're on the west coast of the US.

My wife has inherited quite a bit of Japanese ceramic and wares (as well as some kimono and various art) - so that's a big jumpstart.

Our basic problem though is that we're both clutterbugs - *cleaning* and *organizing* is an exercise for Sisyphus
actually those "swords" are not swords, at least it's not called that way. Its official name is katana. I love Japanese culture and many of its core values. Katana is deeply involved in it and I want one so much I want it more than I want my next breath, but I am poor and good katanas cost quite a lot. I guess I have to wait till I get a job......
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Old 2010-02-20, 07:09   Link #1346
JMvS
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
I was interested in Japanese culture, arts and crafts, etc long before I got interested in anime.

Swords.... they aren't as mystical as myth would have it - but they are exquisitely evolved for the types of warfare they function in.
Actually I don't buy the mystical stuff anymore, but as I studied metallurgy in Material Science, I grew more and more fascinated as I realized all the intention and tradition poured in the making of a blade (for me, a lone, naked, polished blade is a work of art by itself, like a precious cut gem). I'm glad there are quite a few museums not too far from home were I can admire such beauties.

Quote:
Kimono/yukata -- actually there are yukata for men (I have one). Worn around the house and at festivals. The hapi coats and hakata are usually less challenging for guys though
Yeah I happily wore the Inn's Yukata when I went to Japan, but I haven't found a fitting one yet (haven't looked much actually), and anyway I would only wear it between my bathroom and sleeping room. Whereas a girls... well I suppose it's the same as for jewels (one of my other passion, exacerbated by myself being a geologist), when you are a guy, your pleasure is to see a girl wearing it (now the problem is when you have a lot of female relatives and friends, recently the youngest (8 year old) expressed jealousy, so I created a scheme to offer her a children yukata for X-mas).

Quote:
Architecture/furniture -- we're slowly slowly evolving our house along aesthetic lines and furniture. A bit easier to get stuff since we're on the west coast of the US.

My wife has inherited quite a bit of Japanese ceramic and wares (as well as some kimono and various art) - so that's a big jumpstart.
Yeah for all I've heard, it's much more easy in the West coast.
Here in Switzerland, at least we have a high density of antiquities circulating around (I'll indulge myself a visit to an antique weapon dealer one day).
And since we have a very active and creative tradition of woodworking, I'll find some way later to build or fit quite a unique house, for the garden I think I'll have only a small part in Japanese style, probably dry or rock.

Quote:
Our basic problem though is that we're both clutterbugs - *cleaning* and *organizing* is an exercise for Sisyphus.
Yeah we have the same problem in my family, not only did my mother came with a LOT of antique furniture from the Philippines when she married (love those also BTW), but we are also left with all the fine lacquered Chinese furniture my paternal grandmother left us. Plus more than a few massive wood Swiss furniture...

Quote:
Originally Posted by MitsubishiZero View Post
actually those "swords" are not swords, at least it's not called that way. Its official name is katana. I love Japanese culture and many of its core values. Katana is deeply involved in it and I want one so much I want it more than I want my next breath, but I am poor and good katanas cost quite a lot. I guess I have to wait till I get a job......
Actually you are slightly mislead there, katana is only a type of nihonto (japanese sword literally).
The katana is a daito or long sword, designed for infantry use; and used to come with a wakisashi which is a shoto or short sword, in the daisho (long and short) pair samurai wore as a trademark.

Basic criterion is the length of the blade, basically daito (tachi (early, long cavalry sword), katana) and shoto (kodachi?, wakisashi, tanto).

Are also included in Nihonto some two edged swords, forged using the same techniques (those are beutiful by the way), for buddhist ceremonial purpose.
Naginata, spear and arrow heads are also included in the family, as they are forged using the same techniques.

BTW, a tachi would be the crowning piece of my dream collection.

Provided you have a 1-2 k $ budget you could indulge yourself with a practice sword for iai or cutting if you want a semi-industrial katana with at least a temper mark, if you have less there are still cheaper practice swords (generally made of duralumin), which are still closer to the real stuff than cheap replica.
Otherwise, if you're not dead set on a katana, there are fine antique short swords (wakisashi) and daggers (tanto) which are relatively affordable.
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Old 2010-03-16, 16:04   Link #1347
Mystique
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Old news, latest article and report on the matter

Even as population shrinks, Japan remains wary of immigration
Quote:
TOYKO -- Much of what you need to know about Japan's long-standing attitude toward immigrants is summed up in the logo of the nation's official immigration agency: It depicts a plane departing, rather than arriving.

...
Given the forces of history and culture, the notion of a multiethnic Japan may seem impossible, a tautology in a country where nationality and ethnicity are fused to the point of being nearly indistinguishable. Yet a multiethnic Japan is what the country needs to become if it is to survive among the top tier of the world's powers.
Rest of article can be read in link above, I am curious to see what latest steps they try to take in an attempt to reverse this.

(Wonders if they'll reverse the years needed for permenant residency someday...)
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Old 2010-03-16, 16:41   Link #1348
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Well, I want to live and work there eventually, truth be told, despite all the crappy things I've heard about the whole biased issues and all that. I still think it's a decent place to be.
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Old 2010-03-16, 20:17   Link #1349
LeoXiao
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Originally Posted by Mystique View Post
Old news, latest article and report on the matter

Even as population shrinks, Japan remains wary of immigration

Rest of article can be read in link above, I am curious to see what latest steps they try to take in an attempt to reverse this.

(Wonders if they'll reverse the years needed for permenant residency someday...)
Maybe the government could just get rid of abortion or something. That would create some native population growth for sure.
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Old 2010-04-22, 13:31   Link #1350
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Japan struggles to face up to poverty
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Memuro, Hokkaido (April 21): Ms Satomi Sato, a 51-year-old widow, knew she had it tough, raising a teenage daughter on the less than US$17,000 a year she earned from two jobs. Still, she was surprised last autumn when the government announced for the first time an official poverty line — and she was below it.

"I don't want to use the word poverty, but I'm definitely poor," said Ms Sato, who works mornings making boxed lunches and afternoons delivering newspapers. "Poverty is still a very unfamiliar word in Japan."

After years of economic stagnation and widening income disparities, this once proudly egalitarian nation is belatedly waking up to the fact that it has a large and growing number of poor people. The Labour Ministry's disclosure in October that almost one in six Japanese, or 20 million people, lived in poverty in 2007 stunned the nation and ignited a debate over possible remedies that has raged ever since.

Many Japanese, who cling to the popular myth that their nation is uniformly middle class, were further shocked to see that Japan’s poverty rate, at 15.7 per cent, was close to the 17.1 per cent in the United States, whose glaring social inequalities have long been viewed with scorn and pity here.

Public shame
But perhaps just as surprising was the government's admission that it had been keeping poverty statistics secretly since 1998 while denying there was a problem. That ended when Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's party replaced the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party last summer with a pledge to force Japan's legendarily secretive bureaucrats to be more open, particularly about social problems.

"The government knew about the poverty problem, but was hiding it," said Mr Makoto Yuasa, head of the non-profit Anti-Poverty Network. "It was afraid to face reality."

Few impoverished Japanese seem willing to admit their plight for fear of being stigmatised. While just over half of Japan’s single mothers, like Ms Sato, are poor — roughly in line with the ratio in the US — she and her daughter, Mayu, 17, take pains to hide their neediness. They outwardly smile, she said, but "cry on the inside" when friends or relatives talk about vacations, a luxury they cannot afford.

"Saying we're poor would draw attention, so I'd rather hide it," said Ms Sato, who lives in a block-like public-housing project in this small city surrounded by flat, treeless farmland reminiscent of the American Midwest.

She said she had little money even before her husband, a construction machine operator, died of lung cancer three years ago. She said her family’s difficulties began in the late 1990s, when the economic slide worsened here on the northern island of Hokkaido, as it did in much of rural Japan.

Even with two jobs, she said she cannot afford to see a doctor or buy medicine to treat a growing host of health complaints, including sore joints and dizziness. When her daughter needed US$700 to buy school uniforms on entering high school last year, a common requirement here, she saved for it by cutting back to two meals a day.

The working poor
Poverty experts call Ms Sato's case typical. They say more than 80 per cent of those living in poverty in Japan are part of the so-called working poor, holding low-wage, temporary jobs with no security and few benefits. They usually have enough money to eat, but not to take part in normal activities, like eating out with friends or seeing a movie.

"Poverty in a prosperous society usually does not mean living in rags on a dirt floor," said Professor Masami Iwata, who teaches social welfare at Japan Women's University in Tokyo. "These are people with cellphones and cars, but they are cut off from the rest of society."

Gaining wide attention here are statistics showing that one in seven children lives in poverty, one reason the new government has pledged to offer monthly payments of US$270 per child and to cut the cost of high-school education.

Social workers say they fear that the poor will not be able to pay for cram schools and other expenses to enable their children to compete in Japan’s high-pressure education system, consigning them to a permanent cycle of low-wage work.

Ms Sato expressed similar fears for her daughter. Mayu wants to go to a vocational school to become a voice actress for animation, but Ms Sato said she could not afford the US$10,000 annual tuition.

Still, she remains outwardly upbeat, if resigned. She said her biggest challenge was having no one to talk to. While she was sure that many other families faced a similar plight in this small city, she said their refusal to admit their poverty made it impossible to find them.

"In bed at night, I think: 'How did I fall so far? How did I get so isolated?'" Ms Sato said. "But usually, I try not to think about it."

- NYT
Long story. I've condensed it as far as I can, focusing on Ms Sato's perspective. Deeper details available on NYT's website.

Reading it reminded me of Tokyo Sonata, an acclaimed movie directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, released in 2008. If you get a chance, do watch it.

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Old 2010-04-22, 22:44   Link #1351
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US$700 for uniform... Designer labels?
Really high cost of living over there.
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Old 2010-04-23, 05:08   Link #1352
Samari
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Japan struggles to face up to poverty


Long story. I've condensed it as far as I can, focusing on Ms Sato's perspective. Deeper details available on NYT's website.
I just read the condensed version you presented. Quite a sad story. I'm guessing in Japan they don't have a national health care system like the United States?
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Old 2010-04-23, 05:21   Link #1353
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Quote:
Reading it reminded me of Tokyo Sonata, an acclaimed movie directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, released in 2008. If you get a chance, do watch it.
It reminds me of an even older film, which was more specifically about children abandoned by their parents (due to poverty), released in 2004--"Nobody Knows".

Still the article does state a few things that are more than obvious for anyone with half a brain, almost to the point of being tautological.
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Old 2010-04-23, 13:47   Link #1354
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I just read the condensed version you presented. Quite a sad story. I'm guessing in Japan they don't have a national health care system like the United States?
Wait... what? The US has no/none/nada "national healthcare system". Its semi-freemarket pay-as-you-go with supplements from private health insurance (usually gotten by being employed) or a "last resort" government system (medicaid). It does have a "must render first aid and stabilize" policy.

Japan has a single-payer system that everyone participates in (I believe you can supplement with some minor private plans). The problem they have is one of shortages in some fields of specialty and number of beds at any given point. What Japan seems to lack is a "render first aid and stabilize" policy prior to shunting people away and a protocol for helping those find a hospital with space.
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Old 2010-04-23, 15:42   Link #1355
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Wait... what? The US has no/none/nada "national healthcare system".
See, I presumed that was supposed to be a subtle slam. But then I suppose it's possible that folks have read all about the "new" health care plan and figured we now have it all fixed. If only...

Poverty anywhere is sad, but to see the lengths that the Japanese government went to in order to try and make it look like there was no such thing. Heck, you'd think they were trying to hide the real story behind the moon landing (just kidding!).
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Old 2010-04-23, 15:55   Link #1356
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Originally Posted by FateAnomaly View Post
US$700 for uniform... Designer labels?
Really high cost of living over there.
Actually, now that you mention it, US$700 does seem abnormally high for school uniforms. I double-checked with the original story, thinking I might have made an error, but no.

Unless Mystique or LynnieS can help to verify, I guess we'd have to take the reporter at his word.
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Old 2010-04-23, 16:07   Link #1357
Vexx
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Actually, now that you mention it, US$700 does seem abnormally high for school uniforms. I double-checked with the original story, thinking I might have made an error, but no.

Unless Mystique or LynnieS can help to verify, I guess we'd have to take the reporter at his word.
If they have multiple piece outfits and two sets for each season... yeah, I could see $700 for the whole package.

Fairly depressing article but lacked some details (like the off-hand medical treatment remark).
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Old 2010-04-24, 00:21   Link #1358
Samari
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Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
Wait... what? The US has no/none/nada "national healthcare system". Its semi-freemarket pay-as-you-go with supplements from private health insurance (usually gotten by being employed) or a "last resort" government system (medicaid). It does have a "must render first aid and stabilize" policy.

Japan has a single-payer system that everyone participates in (I believe you can supplement with some minor private plans). The problem they have is one of shortages in some fields of specialty and number of beds at any given point. What Japan seems to lack is a "render first aid and stabilize" policy prior to shunting people away and a protocol for helping those find a hospital with space.
You misunderstood. Yes I know the United States doesn't have a national health care system...hence why I said "like the United States".
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Old 2010-04-25, 09:31   Link #1359
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Quote:
Even as population shrinks, Japan remains wary of immigration
I met a Korean guy in Fukuoka who was in a government program to get immigrants working in Japan (he was there for an interview and had another one in Tokyo the next day), though, so you have to wonder about that.

What he told me is that he had three years of scholarship and then he had to get out there and find a job--which wasn't being so easy, anyways.
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Old 2010-05-16, 23:04   Link #1360
Vexx
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Could have put this under "silly news" ... but actually I think its a great idea and culturally centered:

http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/l...cle7128300.ece

Wielding swords in samurai camp is the new aerobics for Japanese women


The sad part is that it is open to both genders but the men often drop out because they can't keep up.
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