OSAKA, Japan (Reuters) – You’ve seen movies in 3D. Now, how about your favorite TV series?
Panasonic Corp on Monday unveiled a 50 inch high-definition 3D plasma television and glasses that make images appear like you can touch them.
A year has passed since U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers was forced into bankruptcy, sending out shockwaves that brought the global financial market to its knees.And just who did those waves batter the most?Well, in Japan, poverty activists and NPOs have told me the real victims of the Lehman Shock are the laid-off factory workers who were forced out of company housing and onto the streets, creating a new breed of homeless.In the year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, companies have laid off more than 230,000 contract workers, helping to push Japan’s jobless rate to a post-war record 5.7 percent (macro economist Edward Hugh notes this figure is closer to 12 percent if we include Japan’s “hidden jobless”). With a growing jobless rate, it’s easy to assume homeless numbers are up too, but it’s even harder to prove.That’s because official government numbers actually show a decrease in the number of homeless. But on the streets I have heard a very different story.”Homeless numbers are up big time. At a soup kitchen in Ueno Park there used to be about 600 people who came for meals but now there are about 1,000 people lining up,” homeless activist Yuuki Akira told me at a homeless festival during Japan’s Obon Holiday.”We see more young ex-factory workers with nice, clean clothes but no idea how to be homeless. They don’t know where they can get a free meal because they are so new at this,” he said.NPOs who help Japan’s homeless and working poor have told me likewise.”When the government did their homeless survey in January, they counted 299 people in Shinjuku ward,” Tsuyoshi Inaba, the head of Moyai NPO who advise the homeless and working poor, explained to me.”But we decided to go out and do our own survey and we counted 598 people — exactly double,” he chuckled. Inaba said the new homeless go undetected because they are out walking around during the day.A Japanese newspaper reported last month that soup kitchens in Tokyo are even running out of the most basic staple here: “Not enough rice!!” read one headline. The paper said the number of hungry mouths showing up for free food at various soup kitchens in Tokyo have doubled since last year.Perhaps this news is even starting to worry the homeless themselves. At one soup kitchen along the bank of the Sumida River, I noticed about 10 people had reserved their spot at the front of the line by laying out flattened cardboard with a rock on top. A smart way to guarantee a hot meal.Most of the people in line at this particular soup kitchen were 20- or 30-year veteran homeless men who appeared to know the lifestyle well. But they all told me one thing is for sure: More new faces, more scared faces are showing up for a free meal.Photo credit: REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
“Be nice to kids too,” shouts a kid with his hand raised.”OK, OK. Here, I’ll give you 26,000 yen worth of toppings,” responds the ramen chef who looks suspiciously like Japan’s opposition Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama, as he sprinkles more toppings on a bowl of noodles.With Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party at risk of losing power for only the second time in more than a half-century in an election on Sunday, the party is stepping up its campaign against the opposition with a new series of Internet attack ads – a rarity in a country that has leaned towards the polite and boring in election tactics.Dripping with puns, one cartoon commercial viewable on YouTube zeroes in on what the LDP insists are impossible promises by the rival Democrats in their campaign platform, or manifesto, as the opposition prefers to call it.The bowl of ramen is called the “boastful manifesto noodles” and the toppings – added one after the other as customers complain about the taste – represent pledges made by the Democrats, such as a 26,000 yen monthly child allowance.By the time the chef is finished, a worried-looking woman notes the noodle dish is completely different from what she anticipated.But a nonchalant chef assures her it’s been like this from the start – prompting a shocked gasp.In another LDP ad, four shadow figures easily recognizable as Democratic Party leaders flip-flop on some of the opposition party’s key policies including a refueling mission in support of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and free trade with the United States – a jibe at some recent changes in tone as the Democrats get closer to taking power.The conservative LDP’s use of the Internet might be thought to violate Japan’s election law, which has been interpreted as banning most cyber campaigning – prompting critics to call for its reform. But an internal affairs government official said the ads were probably OK since they didn’t make specific appeals for votesThe Democrats, for their part, appear to be taking the high road in their own Internet ads, avoiding harsh negative attacks and sticking to their main slogan – Japan needs a change.“We don’t want to play that game,” Asahi quoted a Democratic Party official as saying about the LDP ads.Photo credit: REUTERS/Toru Hanai