Saturday, 20 September 2008

¥200,000 For Living In An Area You Chose In The First Place

A man who lives next to a funeral home wants money because he lives next to a funeral home. The unnamed litigious bastard from Kyoto has sued the funeral home for ¥200,000 and the District Court has ruled that they need to raise the height of their fence to three metres. All this because he claims that the sight of coffins has disturbed his "spiritual calm". Even if there were such a definable thing as "spiritual calm", I don't see how it could be disturbed by merely seeing coffins. It's not like they were parading the corpses through the street, attaching strings to their limbs and making them dance to brass-band hits. What the hell is the legal definition of "spiritual calm"? The shameless chancer told the court that he "can't laugh, and [has] to live behind closed curtains". What.

Max's Vision Of The Apocalypse #3517

Cthulhu lives! I don't know why this isn't all over the news - it's easily the most important archaeological discovery in centuries. Oh wait, I do know why it's not all over the news! It's because the academic and journalist communities are both heedless of the impending apocalypse! I remember now.

So, as I was saying, Cthulhu lives. And his non-Euclidean nightmare-city is located underwater (just like Lovecraft said it was), inside a massive stone temple (just like Lovecraft said it was), just off the island of Okinawa (, less like Lovecraft said it was).

The unbelievers are always the first to die. Something to bear in mind.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Happy Birthday, Aya!

It's Ueto Aya's 23rd birthday! She has blessed the world with her existence for another year! Yaaay!!

Let's have a gratuitous Birthday Gallery for Aya! Yaaaaaay!!


Saturday, 13 September 2008

Race For The Prize

Well, we've had a week of campaigning for the LDP Presidential Election. I've been following the campaigns very closely on your behalf, and you know what? It's been a fairly depressing week.

You see, it's pretty much a given that Aso is going to win - he currently holds more votes than the other four candidates put together. At 197 out of 386 available votes, he's clearly not going to be beaten. With 34 votes secured is Yosano, in what the Yomiuri Shimbun are laughably calling "second-place". On the off-chance that Yosano can mobilise every prefecture to use their three votes each for him, then he may only lose by 22 votes. The other three aren't even worth talking about any more.

Once Aso has won, which he definitely will, he'll call for the Lower House to be dissolved. Then there will be a general election, which at this point is being projected for the 9th of November. Asahi conducted a poll which puts public support for Aso in the LDP election at 42%. Ishihara came second with 10%. This is all in stark constrast to the Official Osu! Tatakae! Nippon! poll of readers, which puts Ishihara in the lead with 66%, and Ishiba in second with 33% (voting still open - see the sidebar). The Asahi Poll of actual, potential voters is more important in this discussion though.

Everything seems to indicate that whoever succeeds Fukuda as the LDP President (so, Aso) will also succeed him at the next general election. Which in some ways could be a bad thing - the reason it takes so long to pass laws in Japan at the moment is that the Upper House is a DPJ stronghold, and they're constantly at odds with the LDP Lower House. Then again, I definitely don't think it would be a better government with Ozawa at the helm - he's not very trustworthy. He claims that he's one of the few politicians with principles and ideals in Japan, but his policies and political-party-jumping clearly show that he's an opportunist.

Like I say, though, it's not likely that Ozawa will win - people may be tired of the LDP, but popularity always spikes with a leadership change. The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted a series of polls which showed that if Aso won (which he will), he would beat Ozawa 59% to 27.6%. If Ishihara won (which he won't), he would also beat Ozawa, but only by 43.5% to 40.1%. The other three all lose in those Vs. Ozawa polls by at least 10%.

So, now you know what's going to happen over the next two months. Aso will win on the 22nd, and then on the 9th of November he'll become Prime Minister. For definite.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Every Time...

Every time I think the West can't fall further behind Japanese technology, someone in Japan produces something like this:

These are sunglasses that have screens on the inside.

Our new device supports MP3/WMV audio files, MP4/MPG/AVI (Divx3/4/5&xVid)/ASF video files, JPEG. It’s also compatible with miniSD cards and features a USB2.0 port, four EQ presets (Rock、Classic、Normal、Bass), and a Lithium ion battery(750mAh).

No comment required, I think.

Leg Queens 2008!

Well done to actresses Miki Maya (40's Category), Asaka Seto (30's Category), and Ryoko Hirosue (20's Category), and ex-volleyball player Kaoru Sugayama (Sports Sategory), for winning the Parcassio Beautiful Leg Awards! Parcassio is a company that produces leather for use in shoes. Hence their sponsoring an award for legs.

Sugayama, Maya, Hirosue, Seto, and their respective legs

Sugayama said, "I didn’t wear high heels at all before because it was too painful. But the new fabric Parcassio have made is very comfortable". News sources haven't reported whether she said this before or after the judges awarded the prizes, but obviously they wouldn't stoop so low as to just give the award to someone who was going to praise Parcassio's products. What is this, a marketing gimmick or a celebration of legs?! Have a little faith, for chrissakes.


Here's a good thing which is kind of related to Japan, ish. CubeeCraft host a veritable army of cultural icons and characters in the form of downloadable cut-and-fold models. The army gets updated frequently, and the figures look really easy to put together. I got a bit excited and downloaded about 20 of them. Have a look because they'll almost certainly have some sort of figure from your childhood there.

Sample pictures:

Seriously, they've got loads.


And yet I can't find it in the headlines of any online newspaper. What a scandal.

Pokemon Platinum is out! That's right, motherfuckers! It was supposed to come out on the 13th, but it seems to have been released yesterday. I'M PLAYING IT RIGHT NOW!!

For all your Platinum news needs (which must be substantial), I refer you to the fantastic Serebii and Bulbapedia. If you have an R4 cartridge (which one out of my two readers does), look in NDS-Roms.

Go forth. Rejoice.

My Penis Is 10,000 Volts

I've been informed that some company in Japan has developed batteries that can be recharged with urine. Available in AA and AAA forms, they have been named "NoPoPo (Non-Pollution Power) Aqua Batteries". "Aqua" presumably meaning "urine".

The basic principle is that a mixture of magnesium and carbon reacts when mixed with a liquid to produce, in the case of the AA battery, up to 500 milliamp-hours (mAh) of life.

"Liquid" presumably meaning "urine"

Each time the battery is recharged it has a lower power level than the time before and the life cycle allows for about 3 to 5 recharges before disposing of the battery. Each battery can potentially keep its charge for up to 10 years which could be great for many life saving devices in remote locations. The batteries can be recharged with various different fluids using the new development which forms electric power using liquid as a catalyst.

"Various different fluids" presumably meaning "urine"

Since the battery does not contain mercury and other harmful materials, it can be easily disposed of without worry for the environment.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

10th Anniversary Of Maid Cafes!

A book has been released by publisher K-Books or R's Publishing (depending on which article you read) to mark ten years since the first maid cafe, in which four "freelance editors and writers" talk about its history and impact. There are also interviews with maids, and probably a healthy number of pictures. The book is 176 pages long and only ¥1365 (£6.50)! Quite a bargain.

It Was Legal?!

I've just found out that "the Tokyo metropolitan government has decided to ban the sale or transfer of daggers to people under the age of 18", from the Yomiuri. This is because of the Akihabara stabbings in the summer. I was utterly unaware that it was legal in the first place. Glad they're taking the step forward, shocked it hadn't happened before.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Some People Are Just Wrong

Some sicko is stealing urns of ashes from a crematorium in Toyama. He leaves messages where the urn was saying things such as, "I'll take care of it. Don't worry" and "I got the urn. I'm old-woman mania". In some cases he left lingerie where the urn was. If you can read Japanese there's more detailed coverage here.

Fairly perverse, right?

Death, Death All Around

Anyone in Japan eating rice or drinking shochu is fucked. I think we can safely say that's everyone.

Mikasa Foods have "sold about 700 tons of mold-tainted rice after mixing it with regular foreign rice over the past five years". One source claims that the "Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is aware of the incident and is quickly trying to identify the clients to which Mikasa Foods sold the contaminated rice". Which is merely an understated way of saying, "Teh Gubberment am FREAKING OUT!"

Mikasa sold 743 tonnes of moldy rice to various companies, six of which were alcohol companies. 145 of those 743 tonnes contained high levels of Aflatoxin B1. If anyone can find out what Aflatoxin B1 is then tell me, cos right now I'm just telling people it turns them into zombies. Another 598 tonnes had three times the legal limit of Acetamiprid, a pesticide, that probably eats your babies.

Nishi Shuzo, a shochu company in Kagoshima have had to recall 300,000 bottles. A Nishi Shuzo spokesman said today, "In a way, we're also victims. We're filled with anger over the actions of Mikasa Foods". Which is merely an understated way of saying, "Aaaargh! Aaaaaaaarrrggggh!"

Small Faces

Right, not so much news as a question. People are making a fuss at me over the fact that Amuro Namie has been named "Kogao Queen" for the second year running. "Kogao" means "small face". I have absolutely no idea how someone can be named a queen of small faces. Why does this position exist? What the hell? That's my question: what the hell?

Japanese Work Ethic In Action

Just as he's about to leave, Fukuda has suddenly become very popular. In the press conference in which he announced his resignation, Fukuda's competence was called into question by a reporter. The usually discrete and calm Fukuda got pissed off, telling him, "You say I sounded detached, but I am able to view myself objectively. I am different from you."

[click to enlarge]

This out-of-character heckle-putdown, "あなたとは違うんです" ("I am different from you"), has been taken up as a new catchphrase by the members of 2chan. Do a search on threads containing the phrase and you'll see a fairly impressive volume of posts. The ascii artists on there haven't been slouching either, and pictures of Fukuda looking badass have been circulating. These ascii pictures were put onto t-shirts within 2 days of appearing on 2chan, and the merchandising has expanded to a vast array of confectionary as well as mugs, hoodies and baseball caps.


All this within a week of Fukuda announcing his resignation. God bless Japan.


Cash For Trash

Turns out that Japan is potentially one of the top five richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. A study by the National Institute for Material Science in Tsukuba has found that Japan's landfill sites contain ass-loads, literally metric ass-loads, of gold, platinum and other precious metals within the circuitry of discarded electronics like old mobile phones. We're told that "Japan has unwittingly accumulated three times as much gold, silver and indium than the entire world uses or buys in a year" and that in terms of platinum they have six times global consumption. An article from The Times says all this, but longer, and with less italicisation: here.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Master Criminal Eludes Tokyo Police - Lock Up Your Children!!

Original and very amusing article here. That article has given us the quote of the week, courtesy of Officer Toyama Tadayoshi: "This monkey is driving us crazy. It's so agile, and we only have nets." Apparently the monkey that terrorised passengers at Shibuya station last month is still out there! It's now suspected that the monkey got to Tokyo by riding a train from the mountains into the city. So far the monkey has humiliated police by consistently evading all attempts at capture and by urinating on them from atop a power line. Some pundits (me) have speculated (on this blog) that it might be the spirit of Ancient Japan passing comment on the current state of the Japanese Government.

Hitting The Fan

What a time to start blogging about the politics and current affairs of Japan! (Yes, this is a blog about the politics and current affairs of Japan!)

As you'll no doubt be aware, Fukuda is standing down. No - not Fukuda Koichi, the guitarist from Static-X! No - not Fukuda Yoshitaka, founder of the Aiful "consumer finance" company that makes ¥100 billion a year by screwing over home-owners! I'm talking about the important Fukuda!

(No - not Fukuda Asuka, formerly of Morning Musume!)

After just one year as Prime Minister, Fukuda Yasuo is resigning because he wants to "avoid a political vacuum," in a situation that needs absolutely no punchline. He announced his resignation on the 1st, and now his potential replacements are ready to campaign. Let's meet the contenders!

Aso Taro

The Secretary General is already in the lead with the support of 23 out of the 47 prefectures. He is a big manga-reader, and the last time he stood for election in the wake of Abe's resignation everyone was so sure he'd get the job that shares in manga companies rose. Because he's such a big manga-fan, he gives speeches on the streets of Akihabara. Obviously. Outside of the comic-book world, however, he's managed to piss off both America and China, and has claimed that Japan is the only nation in the world to have "one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture and one race".

Upshot: Aso's a racist and a lunatic.

Ishiba Shigeru

The Defence Minister is pretty much only remembered now for talking about UFOs. Last winter some joker in the House Of Representatives raised a question about how the government would respond to an alien landing and the media subsequently freaked out about it. Fukuda managed to dodge the debate by saying, "I myself have never seen a UFO", but silly old Ishiba managed to get drawn into a huge discussion about how the Japanese military would react to an alien threat. Read that article linked, by the way - it's gold.

Yesterday Ishiba made his position on economic reform as crystal clear as it's ever going to get: "I think reforms are necessary, but the pain is spreading all over. If unexpected bleeding occurs, we cannot perform a successful operation without a transfusion".

Upshot: If aliens land, he's the only man who can save us. If the economy needs reforming, God help us all.

Koike Yuriko

Koike was Defence Minister before Ishiba, for just over 50 days. Before that she was Advisor on National Security for 10 months. She was a member of the Japan New Party, then it fell apart in '94. Then politicians from that party founded the New Frontier Party and Koike joined. That fell apart in '97. Then politicians from that party founded a Liberal Party, which she joined. She left it in '00. Then she joined the right-wing New Conservative Party. That broke in '03. And since then she's been in the LDP.

Upshot: If she's elected she'll either leave in a year or merge the Prime Minister position with the Cabinet Secretary and Minister of Finance positions and fill it by grabbing the first person she sees on the street. I very much hope she wins.

Ishihara Nobuteru

I've never heard of this guy before, except that his father is the Governor of Tokyo. He did say something great in the run-up to announcing that he would stand against Aso, though: "Such occasions must be provided where various proposals can be presented. If no one comes forward, I will stand up even if it may cost me my life." He appears to think that this election is going to involve some sort of duel to the death. Out of all the candidates he's my favourite - that kind of melodrama can't go unrewarded.

Upshot: Willing to kill or be killed enroute to Polling Day. Even if he doesn't win, we'll certainly be hearing more from him.

Yosano Kaoru

At 70, Yosano is the oldest of the lot. He's also a complete wuss. "All the candidates have their own characteristics. I’m hoping we can have various discussions before the public, and I’ll just do my best," that's what he said yesterday. Ishihara's going to kill him in seconds. Ishihara's a badass.

Upshot: No chance.

That's all of them. Today they'll be getting out onto the streets, shouting their slogans through megaphones, arguing furiously over whether the economy needs to be reformed, stimulated or left alone. By the 22nd this will all be over. Bring on the death-matches and aliens!