Friday, March 28, 2008

New books to review

I now have two new books on my desk to review, something I am actively looking forward to. Arudou Debito's "Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan" (which can be purchased at Arudou Debito's website or at Amazon Japan as well as a potentially controversial look at the media and reporting (more on that later).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

You've got to love it

Fairfax boss backs his team
March 25, 2008
THE CEO of Fairfax Media, David Kirk, has dismissed staff complaints about the treatment of journalist Gerard Noonan and expressed his "full confidence and support" in the executives who wrongly targeted him.,,23428272-7582,00.html?from=public_rss

Kirk said the three executives ... had "principled views" about staff who "damaged the reputation of the company and its mastheads".

The important point, says the story, is that at no time had any "disciplinary" action been taken, and that a full apology had been made.

Yes, well, that would be important, wouldn't it.

Such stuff are dreams made of

A Japan Times Editorial suggests: "Fertile ground for policy formation"

More than 100 Diet members from the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito, the Democratic Party of Japan and Kokumin Shinto have formed a supra-partisan lawmakers' association in response to a call by Sentaku (Choice), a policy study group mainly pushing for devolution and elections based on concrete and feasible campaign promises...

The Japan Times: Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Oh, if only it could be so...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blogger wins Japan literary prize

Writer blogs her way to top literary prize
The Associated Press
Mieko Kawakami, a former bar hostess and bookstore clerk, was just another obscure singer until she started a blog.

Not news, I know, but I wanted to recognise her achievement. And also to note the following quotes from the same AP article:

Kawakami's readership has shot up from a handful of people when she started the blog in 2003, to about 10,000 a day, soaring to 200,000 on Jan. 16, the day she won the Akutagawa Award. She writes in frenzied, urgent prose that gurgles with furor.
Shintaro Ishihara, the right-leaning governor of Tokyo, who won the Akutagawa in 1955 and sits on the awards committee, has lashed out at Kawakami's selection.

"The egocentric, self-absorbed rambling of the work is unpleasant and intolerable," he wrote in the magazine Bungeishunju, which administers the Akutagawa.

Adding to the appeal, Kawakami's award-winning novella, "The Breast and the Egg," explores the ideas of divorce, the questioning of beauty standards and other themes of solitary womanhood that are still relatively new territory in Japanese literature. Kawakami's stories in some ways are those of Japan's Everywoman.
Mieko Kawakami's blog can be found here (in Japanese):

Monday, March 24, 2008

"when in trouble, create a diversion; when in dire trouble create a front-page fantasy"

Politics, The Universe, Etc

9 . NSW pays $10 million to find out the bleeding obvious

The modus operandi of the NSW Labor Government is now well established: when in trouble, create a diversion; when in dire trouble create a front-page fantasy,

writes Alex Mitchell for on Wednesday, 19 March 2008 3:18 PM (email newsletter).

Not just in NSW. Too much of the foreign media in Japan believes the same practices are acceptable when they are in deep doodoo.


What do you call someone who tries to "recreate" events that never happened? Delusional?

What do you call a group of people who try to "recreate" events that never happened? Hysterically delusional?

What do you call the same group of people who repeatedly try to "recreate" events that never happened? Insane?

What do you call a different group of people who try to "recreate" events that never happened?


Read more: here.

Gray is good

In Japan, the colour gray is seen as representing seriousness, stability, reliability. It is the colour of choice for a suit. It is the tone that permeates Japan's palette.

But, where did the idea originate from?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Missing the bigger picture in Japan reporting

It is not unusual for reporting out of Japan to leave out the bigger picture. It's a theme I have harped on about for a long time. But, here is another example.

Japan, like many other countries, has problems with its health system. One mutually shared problem is a shortage of trained staff (specialists, doctors and nurses). For Japan, the problem is made more acute because of the need to be medically fluent in the Japanese language.

Where Australia, for example, can and does import medical staff from a LIMITED number of other countries, it does require such people to have English language skills. Australia also requires that people who work in its medical system must have been trained in medical systems that are similar in nature to Australia's.

But, when Japan's medical problem is reported on, in English, the "solution" offered always seems to suggest that if only Japan allowed more foreigners to work in Japan's medical system all would be well.

But doctors have often complained that it has kept their salaries stagnant even though specialists would earn lucrative incomes overseas. Unlike in some Western countries that welcome medical professionals from abroad, the gap in Japan cannot be filled by foreigners. Japan has virtually no foreign doctors due to strict immigration rules, although it took the landmark step in 2006 of allowing in a limited number of nurses from the Philippines.

The restrictions in Japan are logical. Medical staff who cannot speak the language or who are not medically trained in a manner similar to those they are working with (or to the same standard) would obvioulsy be a problem.

The Japanese language is difficult to master, particularly at the level required to complete medical examinations within Japan. In addition, there IS a growing shortage of medical staff worldwide. Given that English is the lingua franca it is far more likely a medico with the inclination to settle and practice in another country may be inclined to focus his/her efforts on a language that can be used in many locations, rather than only one.

Of course, the Japanese government, can and does offer incentives for people to study in Japan, taking the long route towards medical proficiency, and see that as a good opportunity.

But, the throw away suggestion that Japan should "change its immigration rules" and that this would be the simple fix needed is, well, illinformed at best.

Even if Japan were to feel the situation was so dire it needed to provide 24X7 interpretation/translation coverage for imported foreign doctors, the country would be very hard pressed to find adequately trained medical staff to fill its surgeries. Advanced nations everywhere are doing all they can to lure medical staff to their shores.

The problem is far more complex -- and the reporting should reflect that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What is the kind of leadership people really follow?

This may be the ideal:

Among the many qualities that make a good leader -- someone people choose to follow -- is a demonstrated love of learning. The smartest leaders know they always have more to learn, and, in doing so, they send a message to others that encourages their self-improvement as well.

But, is it the reality?

Having witnessed too many people being led astray too often, by people trying to set themselves up as leaders (faking it out) rather than by really having the qualities people should follow, I have to wonder.

A security camera that can detect hidden weapons?

A British company has developed a camera that can detect
weapons, drugs or explosives hidden under people's clothes from up to 25 metres away in what could be a breakthrough for the security industry.

Monday, March 10, 2008

the fake out

I am bemused. Why is it so many people think the fake out works? And if it does, that the results are a good thing.

Leaving aside my own issue (which is whole another thing [insert shameless plug for forthcoming book]), why is it that someone thinks they gain by faking someone out?

Here's a common scenario [with prejiduce]. Silly girl gets her first real promotion, now has some direct reports. SG is fairly capable, but by no means the world's best (at anything, really). Insecurity level is pretty high. Fears others may know this and wants to lock in position. So employs the fake out. The totally transparent, patently ridiculous fake out. Manages to fool some of the people some of the time. These are the people she then "trusts". Trusts on her team, trusts in their jobs, trusts with the work. In other words, the people she can fool are the people she trusts.

A meritocracy has not been created. Individuals are not rewarded for doing the job well. In fact, someone who does the job well is probably more likely to be singled out for "removal", if she or he is seen as a threat.

But what happens if some of the people SG has "trusted" are also just "playing the game"; doing their own fake out? Positioning themselves for their own power strike...

Not because, they are good or bad at the job, at this stage that may well be irrelevant, but because they can see, they have already witnessed, that the fake out works, so why not play the same game, if it gets them what they want?

All too silly, really. And it has so little to do with doing something well -- aside from trying to fake each other out, that is.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ryuhei Kawada, HIV positive Japanese MP gets married

I met Ryuhei Kawada any number of years ago. He looked alot younger then than he does in this photo care of AFP.

He had come to the press club, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan to participate in a press conference about Japan's tainted blood scandal. (A number of haemophiliacs had been infected with HIV via blood transfusions and he was campaigning for those responsible to be held accountable.)

It could be said Japan had been slower than some other countries to understand that AIDS / HIV was not so easily transmitted. The memory that stands out for me still, even today, is shaking his hand at our meeting, and seeing an expression of shock, even hesitancy cross his face and body; just before he stepped forward to shake my hand.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Fairfax witch-hunt after 'leak'

FAIRFAX Media has launched a witch-hunt for journalists who emailed embarrassing images of Rupert Murdoch murals decorating its new hi-tech "newsroom of the future" to rival newspapers.


Fairfax was severely embarrassed after decorators erected images of Mr Murdoch in the new newsroom last year, oblivious to the fact he was chairman of Fairfax's arch-rival, News Corporation, publisher of The Weekend Australian.

Dozens of photos taken by staff on mobile phones emerged from Fairfax the same day and the murals were hurriedly stripped from the walls as the media company tried to save face.,,23300055-7582,00.html?from=public_rss

It isn't like individual Fairfax journalists would join in a witch hunt themselves ... or would they?