Nebuta-Festiva

The Aomori Nebuta Festival kicks off this weekend

One of Japan’s biggest summer festivals has kicked off in the northeastern city of Aomori.

The Aomori Nebuta Festival is known for its spectacular floats that parade through the city.

The floats, called “Nebuta”, carry huge illuminated paper lanterns shaped like legendary heroes and ancient warriors.

The parade started on Saturday night with 15 floats, each about 5 meters high and 10 meters wide. They were accompanied by dancers known as “Haneto” wearing matching traditional summer kimonos.

flight-jumper

Man Jumps from Plane at Narita Airport

A 33-year-old man was arrested after he opened the emergency door and jumped from a Philippine Airlines plane as it was approaching the terminal at Narita airport on Saturday.

According to police, the suspect, identified as Hirokatsu Tachihara, got out of his seat and opened the emergency exit door as Flight 434 was approaching the terminal at around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Fuji TV reported.

Police said he jumped about 4 meters to the tarmac and ran for about 150 meters before he was apprehended by security guards.

nanocellulose_gel

100 Companies in Japan Make Something Stronger than Steel — Will work together to produce nanocellulose

About 100 companies in Japan will work together to put nanocellulose, made from wood fibers, into practical use as a next-generation material, with one-fifth the weight of steel but about five times the strength.

Companies involved with its development include paper manufacturers, automakers, chemical companies and others.

They aim to utilize the new material for manufacturing auto parts, construction materials, artificial blood vessels and various other purposes.

Because nanocellulose is made mainly from wood chips, it is considered friendly to the environment. Thus, the government plans to support the development as part of its economic growth strategy.

Nanocellulose is made by chemically processing fibers contained in wood. The fibers are dissolved into pieces, each of which is measured on a nanometer scale. One nanometer is one-millionth of a meter and is about one-hundred-thousandths of the thickness of a human hair.

doraemon

Disney bringing Doraemon to US TV sets

The popular Japanese manga character Doraemon will make his debut on a US TV series next month.

Doraemon is a robot cat who travels back in time from the future to help a schoolboy in today’s world.

A TV channel operated by the US entertainment giant Walt Disney will start broadcasting the Doraemon show on July 7th.

The story will be set in an imaginary place in the United States and its contents will be adapted to US customs and culture. The characters will use forks, instead of chopsticks.

Tomioka-Silk-Mill

Tomioka Silk Mill Now a World Heritage Site

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided Saturday to add the Tomioka Silk Mill, a historic factory building symbolizing Japan’s industrialization from the 19th century, to the World Cultural Heritage list.

The mill and related sites in Gunma Prefecture became the 18th World Heritage property in Japan including natural heritage sites. They are also Japan’s first modern industrial heritage sites on the list.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his delight at the decision in a statement saying, “We would like to firmly protect this cultural heritage which is a treasure of the world and pass this on to the next generation.”

katsura

Prince Katsura, cousin of Emperor Akihito, dead at 66

Prince Katsura, a cousin of Emperor Akihito, died of acute heart failure at a Tokyo hospital at 10:55 a.m. Sunday, the Imperial Household Agency said. He was 66.

The prince was taken to the University of Tokyo Hospital in a critical condition earlier in the day, the agency said.
He has been in and out of hospital in recent years due to illnesses such as blood poisoning and possible infectious diseases since suffering an acute subdural hematoma, a condition in which blood gathers around or inside the brain, in 1988.

Joban-Line-JR-Train

Joban Line Train Operations Running in Fukushima Evacuation Area

Train operations on a Joban Line section that have been suspended due to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent nuclear accident were restarted on Sunday.    

East Japan Railway Co. <9020>, or JR East, the operator of the line, brought back online the 8.5-kilometer-long section between Hirono Station in the town of Hirono, Fukushima Prefecture, eastern Japan, and Tatsuta Station in the town of Naraha in the same prefecture.   

It is the first time that train operations have been resumed in an area where an evacuation advisory has been issued following the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 power plant.    
An evacuation advisory has been in place almost across Naraha, which is close to the damaged nuclear plant.   

Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto last month said that he aims to realize residents’ permanent return to their homes in the town in spring next year. Naraha residents in evacuation are now allowed to enter the town during the daytime.

Japan-dementia

Where’s Grandpa? – Japan’s Dementia Epidemic

Nearly 5 million people in Japan live with dementia and thousands are going missing from their homes and carers every month.

In Japan’s second biggest city, Osaka, Atsuko Hajihata is frantically looking for her missing grandfather Akinori Matsuyama.

For the last several months she has been handing out leaflets on street corners and train stations, asking people to contact her if they see her grandfather.

He walked out of the family home in January and has not been seen since. Ms Hajihata says she is nervous because she thinks he has dementia.

“I still have hope of finding him but I’ve heard that bodies of drowned people have been found,” she said.

“But maybe he’s being looked after by people.”

Some of the missing turn up in mental institutions or aged care homes.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s dementia epidemic prompts calls to improve missing persons network.

AKB48-attacked

AKB48 team members assaulted with saw

Two members of all-girl pop group AKB48 and a male staff member were wounded Sunday afternoon when a man wielding a saw assaulted them at an event in Iwate Prefecture, police said, adding they had arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder.

The group members were identified by the police and a local fire department as Rina Kawaei, 19, and Anna Iriyama, 18. They sustained cuts on their heads and right hands, while the male staffer sustained cuts on his left hand, the police said.

The arrested man, Satoru Umeta, is unemployed and from Towada in the neighboring prefecture of Aomori, the police said. He allegedly assaulted the victims with a saw, prompting an emergency call to the police that a man with a blade had been acting violently in an event hall.

Umeta has admitted to the allegations and was quoted as telling investigators, “I did it.”The victims were later transported to hospital.

454764

But I’m Sailor Moon?

A scout reboot?

Anime is full of dreams that are enchanting, powerful, and legendary. Japan today may be more well-known for sushi, Hello Kitty, and Godzilla, but it was surprisingly innovative in tackling sensitive social issues in the early 90s, specifically same-sex relations. Today it is not difficult to discover media (be it in television, print, or web) that tackles this topic, making for great dialogue.  Japan brought it to the limelight in the least expected area: Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon (美少女戦士セーラームーン).

The manga featured two proud lesbian lovers (Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus) in a committed relationship fighting evil and protecting Usagi (うさぎ), the moon princess. The plot reads slightly borderline cheesy but it was progressive in featuring warriors in a dedicated relationship to one another.  It is a matter DC Comics has recently played with in making the Green Lantern openly gay for its Earth 2 series for the The New 52, making it the first for the super-hero. Yet it is a century behind Takeuchi’s undertaking. She provided a world to her readers where love is fluid and valid no matter the gender.

Sailor Moon had a strong audience in Japan that it was eventually picked up for an American dubbed version that unfortunately suffered severe editing for length and content and was supplemented with additional educational segments stealthily named “Sailor Moon Says.”  At least the kids were learning about recycling, bullying, and body stigma. Sailor Moon arrived at America during the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Digimon, and Pokemon era—all very male dominated—that its cult following was unanticipated. Allison, in “Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls Abroad,” attributed this devotion to Sailor Moon and the Scouts being new kinds of superheroes different from the American ones. That is, Sailor Moon kept the human and superhuman personas much more intact. Each volume never focused on an identity crisis; it targets saving the planet, forming friendships, and love. It was almost as if being a girl was a superpower of its own that allowed these murky terrains that can be unsettling and raw.  

Fans point out that Sailor Moon was a pioneer in bringing lesbian characters to a mainstream audience, but it accomplished it at a price. The series fantasized lesbianism that it took away from it at times the love and intimacy and shifted it to a basic girl-on-girl action genre. The Sailor Moon series are divided into 52 different acts following the adventures of Usagi Tsukino (月野うさぎ), a boy crazy 14-year-old, as she “morphs” into the pretty, loving, evil fighting Sailor Moon.  The Sailor Scouts each possess special powers they receive from their corresponding planets; for example, Sailor Mercury gains her power from the planet Mercury and Sailor Mars from Mars.  The first series begins with Sailor Moon (Usagi), Sailor Mercury (Amy), Sailor Mars (Raye), Sailor Jupiter (Lita), Sailor Venus (Mina) and Darien (Tuxedo Max). The Scouts all live in Tokyo, Japan and attend the American equivalent of middle school. Amy, Raye, Lita, Mina, and Usagi overcome daily obstacles in school work, love, and plans just as any other adolescent. That was certainly a connecting point for most American audiences that these characters were vulnerable and not indestructible.

A manga depicts a story through illustrations and words, using dialogs and interactions between characters to present the story. The movements and exchanges, and the facial expressions, become the focal point to readers. In Sailor Moon, lesbianism is presented in an erotic nature, maybe not intentionally, but none the less very sexualized because of the way the characters are positioned from their body stances, clothing, and mannerisms. The Sailor Scouts’ costumes, for example, for their superhero alternatives are very skimpy that it makes anyone wonder how they could possibly fight evil in 8 inch heels and 5 inch mini-skirts, and tight fitted blouses. In a later series the Sailor Star Fighters, another group of Sailor Scouts, after their transformations donning black high knee boots, extremely small bras emphasizing the body rather than the story, but this also applies to male heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Aquaman—can any realistic male achieve a lean twelve-pack? The series was probably drawing audiences with these depictions for attention risking being a caricature. Sailor Five, a hentai manga, meaning pornographic comic in English, was an erotic parody of the Sailor Moon, underscoring the hidden sexual appeal Sailor Moon unknowingly possessed (Clements 336).

The Sailor Scouts are middle school students, yet specific body parts are prematurely developed. In the Sailor Moon Stars volume, for example, Mina and Raye, Sailor Venus and Sailor Mars, respectively, confront the three new Sailor Star Lights while wearing clothing so small that is accentuates their chests and slightly curvy figure (Takeuchi 1.1.16). The Sailor Stars Lights were the most explicit in their homo-erotic behaviors apart from Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. The Star Lights never label themselves lesbians, but the mannerism they exploited hinted the probable sexuality. These new fighters disguise themselves and lived as men while searching for their princess on Earth: they date, flirt with other girls, etc. When the day needs saving, they instantly transform into their female warriors; unlike Superman, the Sailor Star Lights “transform” into their new selves embodying new identities, emotions, and abilities hinting that gender is changeable, messy, and difficult depending on the context—really Sailor Moon dwelled into some gender studies 101 most 90s audiences were not ready to face, and it is definitely a magical point viewers overlook.

The transformation from female to male allowed the Star Light Scouts to no longer bottle up any act, longing, or expression. The male versions of themselves are assertive; for example, one of the Sailor Star Fighters while in her male consume kisses Usagi on the mouth to assure her she will never let anyone harm her (Sailor Moon II.4). The kiss is an obvious hint that the male versions of the female Star Fighters are extensions of the feelings they want to exhibit and repress while fighting in their female forms. In the last scene of the Sailor Stars volume, Sailor Tin Nyanko, tells Usagi, “you know [Usagi] I wouldn’t trust girls that pretend to be guys,” echoing that these heroes are imposters that need to accept their desires and show that it comes from a place of female attraction and love.

These instances and others in the animated and manga series are presented but are not marked “lesbian.” The Sailor Moon franchise taught its audience about friendship, acceptance, and support. As one critic noted about Sailor Moon’s success: its “strong plot, its earnest, honest romance, and its refusal to talk down to its audience” really made it thrive (Clements 336).  Sailor Moon remains a cult-favorite and has recently seen support from the online community that Hulu started airing unedited versions of the series that includes the same-sex relations—there’s even talk of a Takeuchi franchise reboot this Summer 2014. For all its stories Sailor Moon was beyond girl power, feminism, and heroes: it was a nucleus of love, determination, and defeating obstacles.

Japan is closer than you think.