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Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

I’m a big fan of Toshiro Mifune in Akira Kurosawa movies. This clip from the movie Red Sun, while enjoyable, just doesn’t get close to the charisma of Mifune in The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Rashoman. What is it about him? I think it’s that he intimidates you and he laughs at you at the same time. Anyone seen this movie?

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I have been a huge fan of Robotech ever since I was a kid. It’s actually a bit of an obsession. Today I was having a conversation about Princess Leia’s hair when suddenly I realized that maybe George Lucas inspired Minmay’s haircut. Don’t judge me too harshly for this post.

1. Minmay from Robotech in 1982.

2. Princess Leia from Star Wars 1977.

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When Jake and I went to Tokyo we did go to Tsukiji market. You can look at that post here. Did we wake at at 5am for the fish auction? Hell no. It looks like we missed out.

Tsukiji market in the Japanese capital Tokyo had accused tourists of flouting hygiene rules and causing disruption with flash photography.

Some tourists had been caught hugging, licking and even riding [my emphasis] the huge frozen tuna that are Tsukiji’s most arresting sight, an official said.

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A 16-year-old schoolgirl is making a unique pitch to become the first woman to play professional baseball in Japan.

High school student Eri Yoshida was drafted by the Kobe 9 Cruise, a professional team in a new independent Japanese league that will start its first season in April.

“I always dreamed of becoming a professional,” Yoshida, who is 5-feet (152-centimeters) tall and weighs 114 pounds (52 kilograms), told a news conference Monday. “I have only just been picked by the team and haven’t achieved anything yet.”

Yoshida throws a side-arm knuckleball and says she wants to follow in the footsteps of Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, who has built a successful major league career throwing a knuckleball.

Yoshida took part in a tryout held earlier this month and passed with flying colors. The right-hander held male batters hitless for one inning in the tryout and her successful outing helped her become one of the 33 players picked in the draft.

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The dolphin diet. Well, not really meant for people…

Dolphins at a Japanese marine park are going on a low fat diet after developing pot bellies and failing to look sharp in their aquatic performances.

Kinosaki Marine World in western Japan said Tuesday that all its 19 dolphins have been on a low fat diet since late August, when they started failing to hit jumping targets and keep upright while treading water.

“We were puzzled by their poor performance, then we noticed they looked rounder,” said park spokesman Haruo Imazu.

Keepers measured their weight and found all had gotten plumper, some up to 22 pounds (10 kilograms) heavier just during the summer.

All had the same menu — about 31 pounds (14 kilograms) of mackerel mixed with some white fish — but keepers found the mackerels had gotten fattier, adding too many calories for the dolphins.

Photo via Rosidae’s photostream on Flickr.

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Two weeks ago, I talked about the Japanese film trilogy The Human Condition which depicts the Japanese in Manchuria during World War II. *Spoiler alert.* There is a scene in the first film which is particularly poignant. The hero Kaji manages a concentration camp of Chinese political prisoners at an ore mine. Seven Manchurians are falsely accused of trying to escape by an over-zealous guard. Kaji tries all number of diplomatic ways to save the accused lives but all are ignored. Because of his attempts, he too is in hot water and is forced to watch the execution of all seven men. He sits and watches as the first prisoner is beheaded. Then the next. The third prisoner who we’ve gotten to know well in the film has a fiery temper. He has never trusted the Japanese. He has also fallen in love with a “comfort”(forced prostitute) woman who is also Chinese. As he is about to be executed he resists. He curses Kaji for not doing anything. He curses the Japanese. His execution does not go smoothly but he is killed nonetheless. At this moment, Kaji realizes that he must stop the executions. That in order to be a human being he must stop it. His humanity requires it. And he does stop the execution at great cost to himself.

Last week I also posted the following quote from John Ruskin:

One of the prevailing sources of misery and crime is in the generally accepted assumption, that because things have been wrong a long time, it is impossible they will ever be right.

I am feeling especially hopeless right now given the story of the Troy Davis, a man who is set to be executed within 24 hours for the murder of a policeman in Georgia. The witnesses against Davis have recanted. There is no circumstantial evidence supporting his guilt. Yet despite this every appeals court has refused to stop this execution. One of Davis’ lawyers pointed to the failure of a system that cannot, or rather refuses, to correct its errors.  Could Davis in fact be guilty? I suppose he could, but will we ever know given the fact that we refuse to investigate the witnesses’ new statements.

I might also mention that Georgia has a reputation for inequality in justice, so much so that whenever I read a blatantly racist judicial story I always think to myself: hmm must be Georgia.

What is humanity? Why do we feel so hopeless that we cannot do anything about the current state of affairs? I admit that I don’t know what to do in this case. What can we do? Where do we go from here? How do we retain our humanity?

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The Human Condition

Last night I watched the first part in the trilogy The Human Condition (Ningen no jōken). The Japanese film takes place in Manchuria during World War II and begins when an idealist writes a thesis on getting more productivity out of workers by treating them decently. He is sent to an ore mine in Manchuria to test out his theories – only the bosses seem more struck by the more productivity aspect of his theory rather than the decent treatment. This film without a doubt exhibits the most stark self-reflection by any country in film. What I mean to say is that the film does not paint the Japanese in any sort of positive light with the exception of the hero of the story. What makes this so amazing is that the film was made in 1959. Even today Japan has been accused of inaccurately portraying or glossing over their horrific war record in Japanese text books.

The villains aren’t always evil. Sometimes they are apathetic. Sometimes they are nationalist. Our hero is the lone conscientious objector among so many who look the other way. What does it mean to be a human? This film seeks to answer that question.

You can find this image and videos of the film on crunchyroll.com.

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