Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Net noodle-slinging heats up before election

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“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.

JAPAN-ELECTION/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.

Punching puppets offer election action

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Attack advertising is in its infancy and Japanese election debates are staid affairs between men in suits who take their turns to speak and don’t get angry.

finger-puppet-7The election on Sunday is a battle between the heavyweight LDP and the up-and-coming Democrats, who have a big lead in the polls, but the only big punches you’ll see thrown are among tiny finger dolls on a puppet stage.

Japan vote decision a bit of a tough one

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JAPAN-ELECTION/If the woman who works in my dentist’s office is anything to go by, some Japanese voters are having a devil of a time deciding how to vote in an election just over a week away.

Pollsters are predicting that the opposition Democrats will win by a landslide, ousting the conservative party that has ruled for nearly all of the past half-century.

Bands gorge on attention – not sushi – at Summer Sonic

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The world’s top rock bands were blown away by record crowds at Japan’s “Summer Sonic” music festival earlier this month.

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Headliners such as Beyonce, Linkin Park, Kasabian and Keane helped Asia’s biggest music event celebrate its 10th anniversary in front of a record 250,000 in Tokyo and Osaka.

Aso flags LDP conservativism

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To some people a national flag is little more than a piece of cloth, while to others it is a sacred symbol that embodies a country’s ideals. It was the latter that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso apparently tried to score some easy points with this week in the run-up to the Aug. 30 election that voter surveys show his Liberal Democratic Party party is likely to lose.

In a televised debate, Aso accused the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan of defacing the national flag, commonly known locally as the Hinomaru or “sun circle”,  at a gathering for one of its candidates in southern Japan this month.

Sony game changer, or Game Over?

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Sony unveiled its leaner, meaner and — most importantly – cheaper PlayStation 3 in Tokyo Wednesday after a gamescon debut in Europe, but it offered little beyond a quick glimpse of what it hopes will stop the money-bleeding of arguably one of the most troubled products in its history.

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After rising to industry dominance with its PlayStation and PS2 consoles, Sony’s gaming unit grew to account for 60 percent of the conglomerate’s profit, and its chief, Ken Kutaragi, was seen as a possible future CEO.

Blu-ray rental shelves still look bare

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Some of my friends have bought Blu-ray disc players recently and brag about the breath-taking picture quality on their big flat TVs. Sales of Blu-ray recorders have outstripped those of regular DVD recorders by almost seven to three in recent months in Japan, research firm GfK Marketing Services Japan says.

But some Blu-ray users complain that movie rental stores don’t have much of a selection in the format. Tsutaya, Japan’s largest movie rental chain and a unit of Culture Convenience Club, says some of its stores carry as many as 300 Blu-ray titles, but that’s barely a fraction of the average 40,000 DVD titles available.

Where’s the holy water?

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My young son and I were heading into Catholic church on Sunday in Tokyo when we noticed something odd: There was no holy water at the entrance.

It felt strange. What could be more Catholic than crossing yourself with a dab of holy water as you race into Mass to find a pew?

from MacroScope:

How to count a recovery

If it takes two successive quarters of falling GDP to enter a recession, how can a country emerge from recession with only one quarter of growth?  In the past week or so, journalists have declared the recession over in France, Germany and now Japan.  Of course, most reports rightly ask how long this will last and stress that a genuine recovery is far from certain.

Some people regard the two quarters definition of a recession as arbitrary and a bit silly, something supposedly cooked up by one of Lyndon Johnson's economic advisers  to avoid acknowledging a downturn until after the next election.

The new face of Koizumi

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One in five politicians in the Japanese parliament is the child or grandchild of a politician, reinforcing a longstanding practice of influential political families handing power down to the next generation.

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But voter criticism has been mounting ahead of the Aug. 30 election — especially in Yokosuka, a port city southwest of Tokyo, where former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has passed his seat on to his 28-year-old second son, Shinjiro Koizumi.

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