Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Clubs defy credit crunch


If Japan is struggling to shake off a recession, then clearly nobody has told Tokyo’s party people as dance floors heave and thud to techno-house raves at the city’s clubs.

club-1With summer gone and the nights drawing in, DJ events continue to pack in club-goers, like those of events organiser Phonika, which hosts outdoor parties around a rooftop pool in Tokyo.

Tokyo models, fashion designers, cash-flashing expats and well-connected OLs (office ladies) sip champagne and cocktails overlooking the city, blissfully unaffected by the credit crunch, or simply intoxicated by the brief sense of escapism.

The events have taken off over the past year despite the economic gloom. Restaurants are closing, but queues outside club events snake around corners.

Opposition sees “Hitler Youth” in ruling party


JAPAN/When Japan’s new opposition leader compared ruling party lawmakers cheering the prime minister’s policy speech to “Hitler Youth”, the comment grabbed headlines, though it was perhaps just a sign of the depth of opposition frustration.

“I got  the impression that the atmosphere in parliament was similar to the Hitler Youth agreeing to Hitler’s speech,” Liberal Democratic Party leader Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters after Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s first policy speech since his Democratic Party ousted the LDP in a historic August election.

Stripped-down pole dancing

Ever thought about taking a fitness pole dancing class? I certainly hadn’t, and I was getting cold feet as I made my way into the Art Flow Tokyo dance studio. (corrects name of studio in original post)

I’m a free-weights guy, I thought; isn’t this pole dancing stuff for women? Is it too late to back out before I make a fool out of myself?

High town, low town


The modernity as well as the occasional indifference to change in Japan bookmarked my week, with both moments anchored in the countryside about one hour from Tokyo.

On Monday in a rice field converted into a school parking lot, a 6-year-old, Boston Red Sox cap-wearing Japanese youngster stormed my way. We had chatted in the past, although our last conversation consisted of “Chase me!”

Up, up, and away?


The race is on for the world’s tallest tower, pitting Japan against China and South Korea.

Tokyo’s Sky Tree Tower, now under construction, has upped its projected height by 24 meters to 634 metres, in hopes of toppling China’s Guangzhou TV & Sightseeing Tower – due to be completed this year at 610 meters (2001 ft).

Tokyo’s shrinking motor show


Before the Tokyo Motor Show kicked off this week, I wrote about how subdued the biennial event was likely to be this year, in the absence of any foreign automakers or even domestic truck makers.

But I’m not sure I was quite prepared for what I witnessed here on the second day of the media preview days.

MLB pitches to Kikuchi


Major League Baseball teams are lining up to lure Japanese high school baseball pitcher Yusei Kikuchi across the Pacific to join them in an unprecedented raid on the country’s young talent.

Kikuchi, an 18-year-old left-hander from Hanamaki Higashi High School in northern Japan, would be the most coveted young Japanese player to join an MLB team, but he is equally desired by Japan’s 12 professional teams.BASEBALL-JAPAN/KIKUCHI

Cracks at Japan’s press clubs


Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada got a rapturous round of applause and a gift of a T-shirt when he made a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Tokyo a few days ago. The reason had nothing to do with his diplomatic skills.

JAPAN-ELECTION/Reporters were simply grateful for his decision to open up his twice-weekly news conferences to journalists, including foreigners, who are not part of Japan’s rigid system of kisha, or press, clubs.

Brain-powered travel


It may not look like much, but this run of the mill electric wheelchair runs on brainpower – no hands required.

Part of a joint project between Japan’s Riken Brain Science Institute and Toyota, the chair reads subject’s brainwaves and converts them into movement.

Call me “Crasher”



My nickname among the Reuters photographers in Tokyo is “Crasher”.

They call me that because I always seem to get pictures right at the moment of a crash whenever I cover motorsports.

One colleague sometimes teases me saying “You’ve got to stop pouring oil on the track,” and I answer: ”I would never use oil — I only use banana skins!”