Poor Google. They’re in a tough spot this time. The Internet giant has hit some cultural snags in Japan before, over how it rolled out its products in the Land of the Rising Sun. This time, they’re in trouble because Google used publicly available historical maps of Tokyo and Osaka in an overlay for its popular (and amazing) Google Earth program.
The problem is, the maps showed the locations of former villages where the “burakumin” used to live in feudal times. The locations have long since been developed with the concrete, steel and glass of modern Tokyo, but the antique map has dredged up centuries and shame, and a fresh spate of anger from the descendants of burakumin as well as government officials who’d just as soon forget that such prejudice ever existed — and apparently still exists. Continue reading →
I caught a cool video story today on NYT.com, about a Double Dutch competition held in Harlem. (You may have to do a search for it once you get to the NYT video page).
Interestingly, the competitive African American tradition, which counts the number of times you can jump rope in two minutes and then add on layers of amazing acrobatic performances, has become a focus of Japanese youth who are fascinated with black culture. The NYT story points out that Japanese teams have won “Best of Show” in this competition eight out of the past 10 years, and sure enough, a team from Chiba, the city northeast of Tokyo, won this event.
Another manifestation of this cross-cultural fascination are the young Japanese women who dress in retro-funky ’70s black styles, who are called “ganguro” — “gang girls.”
I finally saw Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of “King Kong,” and I’m afraid I was underwhelmed. It was corny, and overly long and not engaging, even when the excitement factor revved up for the final third of the film. It reminded me that although Hollywood has been making monster movies since the original 1933 “King Kong,” the monster with the most staying power and screen incarnations — over two dozen movies — didn’t come out of California, but from Tokyo. Continue reading →
Real sushi, from the source: a bento box at a sushi restaurant in Sapporo.
I’m in the middle of a two-week trip to Japan, and it’s been a fascinating visit.
I was born here in Tokyo (an Army brat — my dad, a Nisei from Hawaii, was stationed here and met my mom during the Korean war) and moved to the states when I was 8. But as an adult, I’ve only been in Japan twice — in 1994 and 1995. This time it’s for a family trip, and I’m traveling with my mom.