Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

I now pronounce you man and game

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Japan has given birth to some of the world’s most memorable video game characters, from Mario to Sonic the hedgehog.

So it was only a matter of time before something like the wedding between Nene Anegasaki and a college student who refers to himself as SAL9000 took place.

What makes this wedding special is that Nene happens to be all digital,  a character from SAL9000′s favorite video game.Nene Anegasaki on SAL9000's DS

“In the Japanese otaku or nerd culture, there’s a tradition of calling characters ‘my wife’, and I sort of thought of Nene as ‘my wife’. Since I was calling her that, I thought we’d just have to get married then,” he explained to Reuters.

Deflation? Don’t blame me

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The president of Aeon bristles at the suggestion that he’s partly the reason for deflation in Japan, as the country’s No.2 retailer and its rivals slash prices to snag yen-pinching shoppers.

AEON/“It’s stupid. They don’t know anything,” Motoya Okada told a group of reporters, when asked about a recent magazine article that criticised Aeon, budget fashion chain Uniqlo and other retailers for a price war that, the story argues, only hurts the economy by squeezing profits and wages.

Japan’s ‘shadow shogun’

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Often said to prefer to rule from the shadows, ruling party Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa dominated the front pages of most of Japan’s major newspapers on Thursday, after giving Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama what reports said was a dressing down over government spending the previous day. 

JAPAN-POLITICS/

Ozawa and other party officials had presented Hatoyama and several cabinet ministers with a list of suggestions that included scaling back a key election promise to provide universal child allowances and abandoning a pledge to abolish an unpopular levy on gasoline.

Church attacks shake Kansai

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In the minds of many people, religious rivalry could occasionally be expected to  spill over into violence in places as diverse as the occupied West Bank or Glasgow’s ‘Old Firm’ football derby.

Japan’s Kansai region, home to the world’s most renowned Zen gardens and some of the country’s finest cuisine, on the other hand, is not generally seen as a tinderbox of religious tension.

Tizzy over emperor’s China audience

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Just one month after U.S. President Barack Obama set off a furore in the blogosphere with his deep bow to Japanese Emperor Akihito, the elderly royal is back in the headlines due to a hastily arranged audience granted to China’s heir apparent.

Visiting foreign dignitaries are often granted audiences with the emperor — nothing unusual there.

Murakami magic

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What strikes me about Haruki Murakami is how such a worldwide audience has embraced his novels. People have taken to his writing not for its Japanese-ness, but for its stories and universal themes.

The 60-year-old Murakami is not your typical Japanese author. The jazz lover and triathlete has lived in the United States, Greece and Italy, and his works have been translated into over 40 languages. He is a regular favourite in Nobel literature prize predictions and has won various international awards, most recently from the Spanish government.

Wanted: Japan’s next fun fad

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I’ve always seen Japan as a nation of trend lovers. From Tamagotchi digital pets and “print club” photo stickers to the morning banana diet and Billy’s Boot Camp, people here seem ready to jump all over the latest fad.

But 2009 wasn’t much of a year for fun and games in the world’s second-biggest economy, according to ad agency Dentsu’s latest Hit Product Recognition survey.

JAL’s game of chicken

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JAL/

“Turbulent” wouldn’t properly describe the recent flight path of national flag carrier Japan Airlines, in a spiralling game of chicken with its retirees and unions over a $3.7 billion pension shortfall.

President Haruka Nishimatsu, who needs a pension deal to get bridge loans and bailout money from the state,  is asking for an average 40 percent cut from retirees and current employees.

Retailers do the limbo

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JAPAN-ECONOMY/For some of Japan’s retailers trying to jumpstart consumer spending, setting prices is like doing the limbo: How low can they go?

Japanese retailers reported mostly dismal first-half earnings results, with the industry stuck in a slump as shoppers remain reluctant to open their wallets even as the economy emerges from recession.

Two dimensions of 3D

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An old Saturday Night Live segment once included this joke when Frank Sinatra was still alive:

“‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ is back in town, and sources report nobody’s interested and nobody cares.”

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