Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
“Japan syndrome” hits about 10 Japanese tourists to Paris a year. The victims are so disappointed at the dirty streets and rude waiters that they succumb to a nervous breakdown at the idea of having wasted a week of leave and savings on a trip to the City of Lights.
There is said to be a psychologist, Japanese of course, who treats these despondent compatriots at the embassy. So when I read about a group of Japanese volunteers who gather once a month to clean the famously cobbled streets of Paris I saw a story.
Place de la Concorde is a busy intersection of ferocious drivers in underpowered cars hurtling past some of the most beautiful architecture in the city. At the epicentre I find a group of 20 Japanese dressed in green tops holding tongs and brooms, with cameras and gloves, waiting for their leader Osamu-san to start the slow march up the Champs Elysees.
I interview Osamu-san. It is stunted and in three languages. His reasons for the group’s existence seem not to require explanation: Paris could be cleaner and so the group is cleaning it up. Simple. “Green Bird – Keep Clean, Keep Green” read their vests. “It’s not so clean in Osaka, either” he says smiling, not wanting to appear superior.
For a variety of religious and cultural reasons, women are sometimes excluded from certain traditional Japanese rituals such as entering the ring of the ancient sport of sumo.
At a hadaka matsuri, or naked festival, I covered this week, women were not getting into a muddy pond with loin-cloth wearing gents but were having fun on the sidelines.
The Sapporo Snow Festival was held February 5-11 on the northern island of Hokkaido and I had the job of chronicling this in pictures for Reuters.
Capturing the Sapporo Snow Festival was not as easy or beautiful as the pictures would appear. On the opening day, snow fell continuously, while the bitter cold made roads and walkways treacherous.
As Washington readies for the inauguration of Barack Obama, one Japanese firm is finding out how well his face sells — literally.
A mask factory near Tokyo is churning out Obama masks that are fast becoming the firm’s top-selling face, while others are also cashing in on the popularity of the new U.S. president.