Electronista - Santa Clara,CA,USA
ASUS, in conjunction with Japanese wireless voice and data network provider NTT docomo, is due to release a 10-inch netbook with built-in 3G access that ...
Japan's 'Exam Hell' Hits Preschool
Parents Seek Any Advantage as Competition Heats Up Despite a Lower Birthrate
TOKYO, April 26, 2009
It's a quiet afternoon in suburban Tokyo as a well-dressed boy and his mother enter Nikken, a cram school for kindergartners and preschoolers. The mother bows to staff, confirms a pickup time, and drives off in her Mercedes as the boy hunkers down at that most iconic of Japanese institutions: the cram school.
Japan's juken, or "exam hell," has long evoked images of stressed kids competing for slots at top universities in an all-or-nothing exam. But this approach has increasingly moved down the ladder.
Now, in what is known as ojuken, nursery-schoolers are doing worksheets and attending special classes to secure a seat in primary school that their parents hope will ensure their long-term success.The reasons for the shift are complex. Japan's youth population is declining, and many colleges are scrambling to fill seats -- something that should make it easier to get into all but the most
Instead, many parents are ever more relentlessly seeking competitive advantages, especially as the economic downturn makes competition for jobs more intense.
"The low birthrate does seem to be pushing parents to give all they can to the one child," says Makoto Kobari, an associate professor at Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts in Kyoto. "It's an act of selective extravagance."
"There's definitely an ojuken craze heating up," says Naoki Ogi, head of the Practical Education Research Institute in Tokyo. But, he adds, "we're talking about a very limited part of society that this is happening in."
No formal data exist on the ojuken population. But the competition for the schools parents are targeting can be fierce: For the class entering Tokyo's Keio Gijuku Yochisha elementary school in 2008, for example, there were 2,468 applicants for 144 spots. In recent years, applicant numbers at Keio have steadily increased, up 10 percent over 2006.
The examination process itself takes place between November and December, with the school year starting in April. But ojuken is a year-round business. At Nikken, most families enroll children for two years and typically spend $22,000 on tuition.
Not surprisingly, parents tend toward the wealthy side, according to Kobari: Some 56.8 percent earn more than 10 million yen (about $100,000) per year. Most parents are university graduates and 76.5 percent of mothers are full-time housewives.
At Nikken, Kikuko Fukuda speaks quietly but firmly about what children must do to succeed.
"We advise families that children need at least a year, coming in a minimum of once a week, to have a shot at passing these exams," she says.
Fukuda adds that families go to great lengths to pay.
隨 著全球金融危機將日本拖入二戰以來最為糟糕的經濟衰退時期﹐無論是藍領還是白領﹐失業人口大幅增加﹐農業一時間成為一條頗有前途的新興職業途徑。某商業週 刊雜誌甚至打出“農業將會拯救日本” ('Agriculture Will Save Japan')的標題。東京一家新開的餐館Farmer's Kitchen還以有機蔬菜供貨商印有農民的海報來裝飾自己的牆壁。
看到農業成為為數不多的幾個還能創造就業機會的行業之一﹐日本政府已 經撥款1,000萬美元安排900人參加農業、林業和漁業相關的就業培訓項目。2月份﹐日本的失業率達到4.4%﹐較上年同期的3.9%有所上升﹐但仍低 於美國和歐洲的水平。部分經濟學家預計未來幾年﹐日本的失業率將升至創紀錄的8%左右。
然 而﹐田地裡的生活一點都不輕鬆。九名學員在僅有650人的山村Masutomi接受培訓﹐他們住在一家廢棄的小酒館里﹐共用一個洗手間﹐房子裏沒有淋浴設 施﹐更不用說沖水馬桶了。由於連鏡子也沒有﹐其中一位學員在佩戴隱形眼鏡的時候屢屢出現困難。當溫度下降到零度以下的時候﹐他們只能擠在廚房僅有的一個煤 油爐週圍取暖。
其 次就是繁重的勞作﹐比如搭建溫室﹐從家禽養殖戶那裡收集雞糞用作肥料等等。某天下午﹐這些學員展開了除草競賽﹐誰的草垛最大誰就算贏。開始的時候﹐他們的 熱情還很高﹐但是很快﹐他們之間的對話不由地轉到了附近的一處溫泉上﹐大家都希望哪天能一起去泡泡溫泉﹐緩解一下酸痛的肌肉。
Ota先生說﹐“我真正嚮往的是那種一個人住在樹林里的日子。”他說﹐他隨身帶著亨利•大衛•梭羅(Henry David Thoreau)的著作《瓦爾登湖》('Walden')﹐這本書講的就是回歸大自然的簡單生活。
儘 管農業培訓項目大受歡迎﹐政府也提供時間更長的一年農業實習期﹐許多年輕人由於無法適應農村生活﹐最後還是回到了大城市。去年﹐岡山轄區西部的農場主 Fukiko Oshiro僱佣了來自大阪等城市的五名工人在她的苗圃和果園里工作﹐其中包括兩個之前從事銷售工作的人。她說﹐到目前為止﹐已經有三人離開了。
Oshiro 女士表示﹐自今年年初以來﹐她經營的農場收到了無數由於經濟衰退而失業的人群的簡歷﹐包括附近一家三菱汽車(Mitsubishi Motors Corp.)裝配廠的失業工人。雖然Oshiro女士需要更多的工人擴大她的農場﹐但是她對這些申請者並沒有抱太大的希望。
Masutomi 的學員很快就發現﹐農村生活可沒有泡熱水澡的時間。白天除草完畢﹐晚上還得篩選去年收割的豆子。他們的培訓老師Yuichiro Oguro是一位年輕的本地農夫﹐他與大家分享了自己如何在一個小村莊、一個傳統價值觀和過時習俗仍佔主流的地方安定下來的經歷。作為與政府、企業和家庭 合作的一家非贏利機構的僱員﹐Oguro先生還負責接待各種來自城市的團體﹐後者希望體驗農村生活﹐時間從幾小時到一年不等。
Oguro 先生曾經花了幾年的時間騎著自行車環游世界。四年前﹐他來到Masutomi﹐和之前曾是救援隊員的妻子一起開創有機農作物的事業。Oguro先生說﹐為 了說服村民將他們的田地租給他﹐他可謂費盡心思﹐參加志願消防隊﹐出席當地葬禮﹐甚至陪同年長的男村民到“舞女酒吧”('hostess bars')消遣。
Oguro先生表示﹐“你必須學會如何入鄉隨俗。”現年30歲的Oguro留著山羊鬍子﹐一些學員稱他是西雅圖海軍棒球隊(Seattle Mariners)的外野手鈴木一郎(Ichiro Suzuki)的翻版﹐只不過身形稍微瘦削了一些。
Tanka poems are a reflection of the times
2009/4/25I received a letter from an elderly man living in Nagoya about a woman whose name can be read Hitomi Koyama or Oyama. The name may arouse fond memories in some readers like an image of a distant star they saw a long time ago.
Let me quote the opening paragraph of this column that ran in the vernacular Asahi Shimbun on Aug. 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II, 36 years ago: "(Tanka) poems by 'Hitomi Koyama of Amagasaki (in Hyogo Prefecture)' often appears in the Asahi Kadan column. She always writes about her only son who was killed in the war. Some readers may remember her name because of her poems' extremely strong tone of lament."
Koyama is said to have supported herself as a peddler.
"As long as I live/ I see a vision of my son/ Whom I saw off to war/ Before flags."
"The child I raised in poverty/ Grew up to be a man/ And perished in the war/ Today I have enough food to feed myself."
Now, the postwar generation accounts for more than three-quarters of the entire population. But back then, there must have been many aging parents across the nation who shared her sorrows.
Although the man who wrote me is younger, he wrote that Koyama's poems were "hard to forget."
Tanka poems that appear in the newspaper reflect the times. Koyama's poems were often chosen by Yoshimi Kondo (1913-2006), one of the selectors of the Asahi Kadan. "Mumei-sha no Uta" (Poems of nameless poets) published in 1974 is an anthology of poems that appeared on the column selected by Kondo. It reads like a postwar history of ordinary people.
"My mother visits wearing rags/ One of the nurses treats her kindly" was composed in a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients.
"Praying for a life of happiness/ I marry a miner/ And wash my husband's mining clothes for the first time." When I think of the subsequent decline of coal mines, I find the poem sad.
"The sound of splitting firewood/ Rings sad in the afternoon/ My wife does not speak about giving up farming." The Showa Era (1926-1989), which is fading into the past, is present in the 31-syllable poems.
And now, 2009, the 21st year of the Heisei Era (1989-), is being engraved in the Asahi Kadan by many poets, including a self-claimed homeless man whose name can be read Koichi Koda or Kimida.
It is the heartbeat of nameless poets whose stories may not go down in history but are all the more memorable for it.
--The Asahi Shimbun, April 24(IHT/Asahi: April 25,2009)
BBC News - UK
The career of one of Japan's biggest pop stars, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, appears to hang in the balance after he was arrested for being naked and drunk in a ...
The career of one of Japan's biggest pop stars, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, appears to hang in the balance after he was arrested for being naked and drunk in a public park.
Japan's interior minister has even weighed in, describing the incident as "one of worst acts one can do".
Roland Buerk reports from Tokyo on a case that is gripping the nation.
Definitionin the balance
If a situation is in the balance it has reached a stage where it will soon be decided one way or another:
The game hung in the balance until the last minute when an exciting point decided it.
SMAP's Kusanagi released after sobering experience
SATORU IIZUKA, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
SMAP's Kusanagi released after sobering experience (SATORU IIZUKA/ THE ASAHI SHIMBUN)
Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, a member of the SMAP singing group, is driven away from Harajuku Police Station in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on Friday after spending the night in police custody. Police sent the 34-year-old singer, dancer and actor to prosecutors the same day, but he was soon released. Kusanagi was arrested on suspicion of indecent exposure after being found naked and screaming in a park near Minato Ward's Roppongi district in the wee hours of Thursday morning. He told police that he and two friends had visited two drinking establishments between 8 p.m. Wednesday and 2 a.m. Thursday. During that time, he consumed more than 10 glasses of beer and shochu before engaging in the bizarre behavior. Later on Friday, Kusanagi apologized to his fans at a news conference in the ward. He said he had blacked out and "when I came to, I was at the police station and I was not sure if I was in a dream or reality." He is expected to take a break from public appearances.(IHT/Asahi: April 25,2009)
'Ambassadors of Cute' take Japanese 'kawaii' to the world
Whether at a luxury fashion boutique, a clothes store or even a 100-yen shop, the first word out of most young women's mouths the moment something grabs their attention is "kawaii!" (cute!).
And with Japanese characters like Hello Kitty, anime and fashion all gaining popularity abroad, the word "kawaii" is becoming understood across the globe.
So to take advantage of this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nominated three young women as "Ambassadors of Cute" earlier this year. The "ambassadors" are already taking part in events abroad, and will be appearing at the Japan Expo in Paris in July.
And so many different items can elicit the cry -- a glitter-caked T-shirt, an especially frilly miniskirt or a ribbon dress -- and subgenres such as the goth-like "Kimokawa," "Otona Kawaii" (mature cute), "Kawamen" (men's cute) have also appeared, making it even harder to pin down exactly what "kawaii" is.
Answers collected from the streets include "girly things" and "soft fluffy things"; but aside from the conventional image of cute, other answers were dark, frilly "kind of mismatched" clothes, and cheaper, handmade items.
From cheap "Yasu-Kawa," to the sexier "Ero-Kawa" outfits that are paraded around, from the stately "Hime-Kawa" (princess cute) to the monochromatic "Gosu-Kawa" (goth cute), Japanese fashion is growing more and more fragmented.
So why do these varied styles all earn the moniker of "cute"? Some feel that young women today simply have a poorer vocabulary than previous generations. Another theory is that a common label to describe these fractured styles provides women with a sense of security, and one woman interviewed claimed that "You can feel the cuteness from things that don't change."
It appears that the main line of fashion in Japan is shifting from what's in vogue to what's cute. (By Asuka Watanabe, lecturer in the Department of the Science of Living at Kyoritsu Women's Junior College)
1 day ago
TOKYO (AFP) — Apart from its economic might, Tokyo is counting on its culinary finesse to woo International Olympic Committee specialists scrutinising its bid to host the Summer Games in 2016.
The 13 members of an IOC commission, evaluating 2016 bids by Chicago, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid, were treated to Italian-style cuisine at Ristorante Aso during their on-site inspection, bid committee officials said Saturday.
Aso is one of 173 restaurants in Tokyo which were awarded a total of 227 stars by the French culinary guide Michelin for this year as the Japanese capital remained the most starred city in the world.
"The members of the evaluation commission praised the food with such words as fantastic and beautiful and took a picture of each dish," said Hidetoshi Maki, deputy head of the Tokyo bid committee.
"It was not only tasty but also good to look at. I believe they understand we have good cuisine to serve."
The IOC inspectors visited the one-starred restaurant in the upscale residential area of Daikanyama on Friday during their tour of planned venues for the 2016 Games.
The eatery was recommended by Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, who has cited choice international restaurants, safe neighbourhoods and tolerance of values and cultures as selling points for the city.
The lunch, usually priced up to 16,000 yen (160 dollars) a head, featured a plate of charcoal-grilled beef or steamed tilefish.
"When you open a shellfish risotto (rice), you find it is garnished with salmon roe. It was a kind of 'tricky' as Governor Ishihara has described the restaurant's cuisine," Maki said.
The IOC inspectors also attended an official dinner hosted by Prime Minister Taro Aso at the neo-baroque Akasaka Palace guest house.
They were joined by 28 Japanese guests including three Olympic medallists -- two-time double breaststroke champion Kosuke Kitajima, 2000 Olympic judo silver medallist Kyoko Narazaki and Senator Seiko Hashimoto, who won the 1,500-metre speed skating bronze in 1992.
The commission has already visited Chicago and will travel on to Rio and Madrid in the coming weeks. It will draw up a report one month before some 100 IOC members choose the 2016 host city on October 2.
Tokyo's bidders explained its financial health to the IOC evaluation commission earlier in the day.
"Governor Ishihara insisted that Japan is number two in the world's economic rankings. If Tokyo is a country, it is number 15 in the world," said Toshiaki Hosaka, director of operation planning at the bid committee.
He said Tokyo has set aside 3.7 billion dollars as a fund for the construction and maintenance of city-owned Games venues and infrastracture and won financial guarantees from the central government for cost overruns.
Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara (C) poses for a photo with members of IOC's evaluation commission for the 2016 Olympics
Postal scam divvied up savings
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Investigators looking into abuse of a postal discount system say the perpetrators figured out in advance how to divvy up the 240 million yen the scam would produce in savings, sources said Friday.
Prosecutors on Thursday arrested 10 people on suspicion of cheating the postal discount system for disability support groups. The discount was allegedly used for direct mailings by Best Denki Co., a Fukuoka-based retailer.
The direct-mail campaign was handled by Hakuhodo Erg Inc., a subsidiary of advertising agency giant Hakuhodo Inc. Sources said the Fukuoka-based Hakuhodo Erg and its parent company received about 20 percent of Best Denki's direct mail advertising budget.
The other companies and organizations involved also received several yen for every item of mail sent by Best Denki, sources said.
Investigators from the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office searched the offices of Hakuhodo Erg on Friday for evidence to trace the flow of money from Best Denki.
Investigators also searched the Ginza branch of Japan Post Service Co. On Thursday, they searched the New Tokyo branch in Tokyo's Koto Ward.
Sources said all the approximately 2.14 million pieces mailed from Best Denki under the discount were sent out from those two Japan Post Service branches.
Investigators are trying to determine whether any Japan Post Service employees were involved in approving the use of the postal discount system for the Best Denki bulk mailings.
To pay for the mailings in February 2007, Best Denki prepared a direct-mail advertising budget of more than 100 million yen, sources said.
About 20 percent of that budget, roughly 30 million yen, was paid to Hakuhodo Erg and its parent company in exchange for telling Best Denki about the mailing service.
The two companies split the cash evenly, sources said.
Wellco Co. of Hakusan, Ishikawa Prefecture, which printed all the direct-mail advertising materials, received 4 yen from Best Denki for each piece that was mailed, or about 8.5 million yen in total.
Similarly, 5.5 yen for each piece of mail went to Shinsei-Kigyo Co., which had tipped off Wellco officials about the postal discount system for disability support groups.
Of the amount paid to Shinsei-Kigyo, 3 yen per item of mail went to two disability support groups, Hakusankai and Kenko Forum, both based in Tokyo.
Publications by the two organizations were included in the mailings to allow them to appear to qualify for the discount system.
Shinsei-Kigyo and the two organizations received between 1.5 million and 5 million yen from the scheme, sources said.
Officials from Best Denki, Hakuhodo Erg, Wellco, Shinsei-Kigyo and the two disability support groups were arrested Thursday on suspicion of conspiring to abuse the postal discount system.
Investigative sources said similar rules to reward groups assisting in such mailings were in place for other direct mailings made by Best Denki.
Between August 2005 and February 2008, Best Denki sent out about 11.9 million pieces of mail using the postal discount system.
While Best Denki would normally have had to pay 120 yen per piece, it paid as little as 8 yen per item through the discount, which was created to assist disability support groups.
Sources said Best Denki saved about 1.3 billion yen in postage through the scheme.(IHT/Asahi: April 18,2009)
Diet set to OK consumer agency
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Proposed legislation to establish a consumer affairs agency to address concerns among the public about food and product safety and other issues looks set to pass the Diet in the current session.
Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) had submitted its own proposals for the entity that was first envisioned by former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, but decided to go along with the government bill after it was revised to include a number of the opposition party's ideas, officials said.
The ruling coalition and opposition parties are expected to reach a formal agreement on the revisions early in the coming week, sources said. That would allow for passage of the bill in the Lower House within days.
Once the legislation passes the Diet, the consumer affairs agency could be established before the end of the year.
Yoshito Sengoku, a head director of the Lower House special committee looking into consumer issues, has been negotiating with his ruling coalition counterparts on the wording of the bill.
He told reporters Thursday that Minshuto executives had offered a political compromise so that negotiations would continue with an eye toward passing the bill before the end of the current Diet session in June.
Under the current government proposal, the consumer affairs agency would gather complaints received by local consumer centers and analyze the information. The agency would be able to issue administrative directives to companies found to be egregious violators as well as recommend to other central government ministries that they take measures to help consumers.
Given widespread public anxiety about a spate of recent food scares and mislabeling scandals, getting the agency up and running probably can't come soon enough.
One Minshuto proposal that is being considered for inclusion in the revised bill is its insistence that an independent consumer policy committee be established that would have equal footing as the consumer affairs agency.
The committee would have the authority to obligate government ministries that receive recommendations from the committee to file reports as well as to conduct its own investigations into companies and order them to submit documents on whatever cases come to the attention of its officials.
The revised bill will also include part of a Minshuto proposal to strengthen the powers of local consumer centers.
On Thursday, Minshuto submitted a proposal that included upgrading those centers into administrative agencies, setting minimum standards for the number of people employed at such centers and for their benefits and having the central government shoulder the personnel expenses which are now paid by local governments.
Ruling coalition officials who reviewed the Minshuto proposal said they were open to compromise. Further discussions are expected among the directors of the Lower House special committee on Monday.
Minshuto executives, including Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama and Kenji Yamaoka, Diet Affairs Committee chairman, had called for a compromise because of the coming Lower House election.
Executives of Minshuto, which is embroiled in a scandal over illegal fund-raising, wanted to avoid appearing too passive on consumer issues to voters by opposing the government proposal and failing to pass its own counterproposal into law.
The previous Fukuda Cabinet approved a proposal to establish the consumer affairs agency last September.(IHT/Asahi: April 11,2009)
Japan pays jobless incomers to go
Japan's unemployment rate is at a three-year high
Japan is offering 300,000 yen ($3,000;£2,000) for a plane ticket home for some unemployed overseas workers.
In addition, there is 200,000 yen for each family member leaving the country.
The scheme only applies to hundreds of thousands of South Americans of Japanese descent, living in the country on special visas for factory work.
Japan's downturn has particularly hit workers from countries such as Brazil and Peru, often only on temporary work contracts making things like car parts.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that Japan's unemployment rate had risen to a three-year high as companies continued to cut jobs.
The jobless rate rose to 4.4% in February, from 4.1% in the previous month, the government said.
"The [returnee] programme is to respond to a growing social problem," said Hiroshi Yamashita, an official at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, referring to unemployment.
'Not totally welcome'
However those who take up the offer may not find it easy to return to Japan to work, as they would not be eligible for their current type of visa.
"It is not necessarily a totally welcome deal," said Iwao Nishiyama, of the Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad, a government-backed organisation that connects people of Japanese ancestry.
In the early 1990s, Tokyo relaxed its stringent immigration laws to allow special entry permits for foreigners of Japanese ancestry in South America to work in its factories.
These foreigners of Japanese descent, most of whose ancestors left the country to seek a better life in South America in the early 20th century, were offered special visa status.
These returnees, called Nikkei in Japanese, are not always fluent in Japanese and may not be totally accepted in the local communities.
To enable them to get a job during the downturn there have also been plans to offer them Japanese lessons.
Voice of America - USA
By Steve Herman A false alarm was sounded in Japan Saturday when the government announced North Korea had carried out an expected rocket launch. ...