Author: Richard Katz, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
Japan stands apart in a world where most countries seeking to boost growth encourage foreign companies to set up new facilities on their soil or buy domestic companies. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) helps because the fresh ideas of foreign companies spill over into the broader economy, boosting the performance of their local suppliers, business customers and sometimes even their own competitors. The spectacular success of China, Southeast Asia and post-Communist Eastern Europe would have been impossible without it.
Only one major country has said ‘no thank you’ to these benefits: Japan. In 2019, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ranked 196 countries’ stock of inward FDI as a share of GDP. Japan came in dead last — just behind North Korea.
How is this possible when, almost 20 years ago, Tokyo incorporated inward FDI into its growth strategy? In 2001, FDI was a miniscule 1.2 per cent of GDP, compared to 28 per cent in a typical rich country. Then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi set a goal of 5 per cent by 2011 and changed Japan’s Commercial Code to remove some impediments. That made sense. Japanese economists have shown that even the small amount of FDI in Japan has helped.
By 2008, FDI had risen to 4 per cent. Then momentum stalled. As of 2019, the ratio was only a smidgeon higher, at 4.4 per cent, versus 44 per cent in other rich countries. If Japan performed like others with similar characteristics, the ratio would have reached an estimated 35 per cent of GDP by 2015.
To make matters worse, Tokyo is hiding how badly it has failed from itself. The Ministry of Finance reported that inward FDI climbed to US$359 billion in 2020, thereby achieving Shinzo Abe’s …continue reading
Japanese cinema is often lauded as bringing to life some of the most fantastical and bizarre, but also relatable and thought-provoking works. Coming into prominence around the world in the mid-1900s, many Japanese movie directors have made a name for themselves with seemingly controversial and/or extraordinary techniques that deviate vastly from the recognised western storytelling.
The wide range of Japanese movies means that there is always the perfect choice for all situations: whether you’re in for an effortless viewing on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or keen for an over-the-top action/horror thriller that will leave you feeling all kinds of squeamish.
10 Popular Japanese Movie Directors You Should Know
We’ve listed below 10 Japanese movie directors who have shaped Japan’s cinema experience, with some prime examples of their work for you to watch.
Let’s discover each of them in more details below.
1. Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki is synonymous with Japanese cinema. Thanks to his stunning visuals and captivatingly unique storytelling, anime has become one of the most recognised and respectable artforms in the cinematic world.
Hayao has directed many animations in his lifetime but his crown jewel would be ‘Spirited Away’, a 2001 film about a young girl involved in a fantasy dream which broke the previous box-record held by ‘Titanic’ and even won an Oscar.
His studio, from which the likes of Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle also come from, is known for its unique strong and meditative protagonists and passive, often misunderstood villains.
2. Takeshi Kitano
Also known as one half of the nationally recognised ‘Two Beat Duo’, Takeshi Kitano is a renowned …continue reading
In Japan silence is definitely golden. From the trains to the offices, other countries are buzzing with conversations and noisy phone calls, whereas the Japanese prefer total silence, casting judgmental glances on anyone who dares to break the peace. This is why Japanese is the only language that has a sound for a room with utter silence (しん or しーん; shin), which shows how important this state is considered.
Silence as an introduction
There is a telling story in the book Japanese Beyond Words by Japanese culture expert Andrew Horvat of an American businessman who used his knowledge of Japanese culture to his advantage in a presentation to a Japanese company. While the representatives of his rival’s companies launched into long-winded talks full of gesticulation and high-energy arguments, the American businessman sat stiffly in his seat. To the Americans, this must have seemed strange; however, in fact he was sending a subtle message to the Japanese people present about how much he understand their way of thinking. As Horvat recalls, the American’s silent approach was lauded by the Japanese present as showing that he had 貫禄（かんろく） (kanroku; an air of authority).
This illustrates a key expression in Japanese, ‘let silence talk and language be silent‘. Much like the word しん, Japanese people believe that silence can communicate things as or more effectively than words. Likely this is a leftover from the days of Buddhism being the predominant religion in Japan, as many Buddhist teachings speak about being able to understand the fundamental nature of things without words and actions.
Mokusatsu and killing them with silence
Such teachings have even affected the world of business where people often encounter silence being used in a strategic way to force the other party to show their hand. It is often felt that whoever starts negotiations first …continue reading
Socks in the West have a slightly notorious reputation; an obligatory Christmas gift to please your father or a fashion faux pas when paired with sandals. But in Japan, the deep-rooted reverence for footwear produces a fascinating market filled with a plethora of multi-colored, wonderfully weird and scandalous socks.
For centuries, the Japanese have taken off their shoes indoors, and once they do, they should be wearing good material underneath (10-year-old, socks with holes in the toes won’t cut it and don’t even think about going barefoot.)
There is even a special slang term: zettai ryōiki, meaning ‘absolute territory’, that refers to the scandalous breach between sock and skirt.
It is no wonder that Japan is universally known to produce well-made and durable socks; they are seen more than in other parts of the world. So as the Japanese sock industry continues to skyrocket, why not start off on the right foot and take a look at what’s in store?
Tabi socks have caressed the feet of nobility, peasants, samurai and geisha since the 1400s. Its split-toe design is intended to pair with traditional thonged sandals, geta and zori, that once dominated the streets of ancient Japan. Then, circa 1922, tire manufacturer Bridgestone took tabi for a walk with the invention of rubber-soled jika-tabi, a boot-sock hybrid that literally translates to “tabi for the ground.”
With the introduction of Western-style shoes, tabi socks have lost some of their necessity, but that doesn’t mean they have fallen into obscurity with the sock-sandal combination still worn throughout sweltering Japanese summers. The modern renditions forgo the classic colors of the past with patterns and styles that lure in the masses (think sumo and …continue reading
Calling all Tokyo mamas: this baby-friendly Halloween Festival will be celebrated online! Take part in one of the most unique parades of the capital where mommies can dress their mini witches and warlocks and show them off online with other familes. Be sure to browse through the stores you want to snag some candy from during the Candy Rally and which parade you’d like to participate in ahead of time!
SAT, OCT. 30, 2021
ANY TIME (PARADE FROM 11 A.M. & 1 P.M.)
ONLINE (SEE “MORE INFO” LINK) – to get it listed!
Attending any of these events? Send us photos through Facebook or Instagram for a chance to be published on the site. #SavvyTokyo
You know what’s even better than buying Heat Tech? Recycling your Heat Tech.
Got some old Uniqlo Heat Tech or down wear that’s so worn out that you don’t plan on wearing it anymore? Instead of throwing it away, you can get free money for recycling it! From October 15 to November 30, you can get digital Uniqlo coupons (worth up to 1,000 yen [US$8.77]) for bringing in your old Heat Tech shirts, down jackets, or down vests.
This so-called “Re:Uniqlo” campaign aims to bring a greener image to the company, right down to the paperless reward coupons. The recycled items that are still wearable will go to places where clothes are in high demand, like refugee camps, non-profit organizations, UNHCR, and more. Unwearable items will be recycled into new clothing.
The Re:Uniqlo process on your end is pretty simple. All you need to do is bring what you want to recycle to a Uniqlo store, and you’ll get 200 yen per Heat Tech item or 1,000 yen per down-based item (jackets or vests). The 200-yen coupons are redeemable for purchases over 201 yen – which means you could potentially snag something for just 1 yen – and the 1,000-yen coupons can be used for purchases totaling over 5,000 yen.
▼ Here’s a sample of what the digital coupons look like.
There are a couple of catches, though. You can only earn a maximum of 1,000 yen for recycling Heat Tech items, so even if you bring in twenty Heat Tech shirts, you’ll still get 1,000 yen (and a much more minimalistic wardrobe). As for the down-based items, the only catch there is that scarves and blankets don’t count. But once you get your paperless coupon on your smartphone, you can use it …continue reading
The other night, Japanese Twitter user Hamigaki (@___1_9_9_) had a dream about her grandfather. He wasn’t doing anything fantastical, like flying through the sky or shooting lasers. He was just eating a bowl of udon noodles.
It was a pretty mundane dream, except that Hamigaki’s grandpa passed away some time ago. He doesn’t show up in her dreams all that often, either, so this was sort of a special occasion, even though he hadn’t done anything particularly special, and after Hamigaki woke up she wanted to tell her mom about it.
So the adult daughter grabbed her phone, called her mom, and told her about her dream the night before where Grandpa was eating udon, to which Mom replied:
“Yesterday I put a bowl of udon on the butsudan.”
A butsudan is a cabinet-like altar found in Japanese homes. While they have a statue or image of Buddha inside, they’re primarily considered a shrine to the spirit of the family’s ancestors, sometimes with photos of them inside as well. The family not only offers prayers and incense at the butsudan, but in accordance with Japanese faith traditions, also often puts out offerings of food.
▼ A butsudan inside a Japanese home’s living room
What makes Hamigaki’s story especially surprising, though, is that the food families offer to their ancestors on the butsudan are most typically things like white rice, fruit, or small cakes or candies. Udon noodles are a pretty unique offering, and Hamigaki’s grandfather showing up in her dream on the exact day her mom (his daughter) made udon for him starts to feel like some deeply significant timing.
It’s debatable whether or not what he did was actually destruction, but the police say there’s no question it was a crime.
On Monday, Kyoto Prefectural Police officers made their move and arrested a 43-year-old male resident of Takasago, Hyogo Prefecture. With this, they brought an end to his nine-month spree of destruction.
What kind of destruction? Mosaic destruction.
Mosaics aren’t recognized as protected species in Japan, and their lack of physical form means that destroying them doesn’t qualify as vandalism. The problem, though, is that the man had been destroying the mosaics in adult videos.
A little background for those unaware (or aware but not in a position to admit it): Despite Japan’s unabashed appreciation of sexy entertainment, the showing of uncensored sexual intercourse is prohibited in adult videos, and so the performers’ naughty/fun bits have to have an obscuring mosaic placed over them. However, while there’s no shortage of unusual fetishes in Japan, mosaics themselves aren’t necessarily one of them。
So most viewers would rather watch adult videos without mosaics, if only there were a way. That’s what the man from Hyogo, who has admitted to the charges, was offering. Through his website, the man took requests from users for what adult videos they’d like to watch mosaic-free, then went to work making their dreams come true. However, a key point is that unlike the scrambled broadcast pornography in some countries where the distortion effect is separate from the performers’ image and can be removed once payment is confirmed, in Japanese adult videos the mosaic itself is part of the image, and not something that can be peeled off to reveal the action going on …continue reading
Shortly after his victory in the contest for the position of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) President, and being sworn in as Japan’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida dissolved the lower house and called a national election for 31 October. If the LDP retains sufficient power in this election and the July 2022 upper house election, Kishida could lead Japan for at least several years. An important question then for Japan’s future is whether Kishida will remain a dove or follow former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s more hawkish line.
The chief strategist who enabled Kishida’s victory was Shinzo Abe. By ensuring Kishida’s victory, Abe remained a powerful figure in the LDP. Kishida’s faction, the Kochikai, is traditionally dovish, while Abe’s faction, the Seiwakai, is known for being hawkish.
Kishida’s basic foreign policy has so far been a continuation of his predecessors, Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga. In his parliamentary policy speech on 8 October, Kishida highlighted ‘freedom, democracy, human rights, and rule of law’. He emphasised the importance of the US–Japan alliance and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) — which includes Japan together with the United States, Australia and India — as well as Free and Open Indo-Pacific cooperation. Before dissolving the lower house, Kishida had telephone talks with the three other Quad leaders, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which gives us an indication of his foreign policy priorities.
Kishida highlighted the North Korean threat, including the issue of the abduction of Japanese citizens, nuclear proliferation, missile development and the need to normalise the bilateral relationship. At the end of the foreign policy section of his speech, Kishida also mentioned China, Russia and South Korea. His tone towards South Korea was chilly, towards Russia …continue reading
Singing your heart out at a karaoke box is one of the most popular ways to hang out and unwind in Japan, regardless of age or gender. Within the confines of the dimly light soundproof walls, it’s easy to let loose and forget all the stress of the previous week.
It’s no wonder why some might even argue that it’s pretty much a cultural pastime. There are even one-person karaoke boxes available—à la the animated Aggretsuko—where customers can practice for their next trip to karaoke with friends or just let off some steam.
While it might be tempting to sing in English, since you’re already in Japan, you might as well try singing some Japanese songs. Not only will it impress whoever you’re with, but it can also help improve your overall pronunciation of Japanese words.
Here are some easy songs in Japanese that we suggest you try for your next karaoke party.
5. Disney songs
This one is a no-brainer—Disney songs. Regardless of nationality, we all grew up with these songs, so you probably already know the tune, tempo or beat. Even in a different language, it won’t feel entirely unnatural for you to sing, considering the familiar melody.
Moreover, the lyrics are written for kids to sing along to, so it’s not nearly as difficult as you think. There is practically a song from everyone: “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, “Be a Man” from Mulan, “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid are just a few examples
When in doubt, keep “Let it Go” from Frozen as an ace up your sleeve. Even if you stumble with the words, everyone else in the room will be too busy screaming the song over you to notice. …continue reading