Next Station: Ikebukuro is a blog on Japanese contemporaneity. Entries will deal with "pop" and apparently light topics, trying to show the socio-economic actuality behind them.
My "baptism of fire" happened on 11 March 2011. I was in Japan, in Sendai, the main city in the Tohoku Region, about 500 km north of Tokyo. I had been living there for more than 6 months and I was caught unawares and ill prepared at the centre of one of the most devastating natural catastrophes to have occurred in recent years.So every time I hear talk about another possible earthquake, a tremor even more powerful than the quake that shook Japan four years ago, I enter a state of alert.
Navigating around a Japanese city is not always as easy as it might seem. Not every street has a distinguishable name either in Chinese characters or Latin script. Almost all addresses, in fact, depend on codes, numbers and sub-numbers. My own experience of living in Japan has led me to the conclusion that the most difficult jobs are those that involve navigating around this complex system: postal workers, delivery operatives and police officers.
Across Japanese social media the news was greeted as this year’s “beauty revolution”: for the first time in the country’s history, the title of the most beautiful in the land was awarded to a mixed race contestant. Ariana Miyamoto is a 20-year-old from the province of Nagasaki, she is the daughter of an Afro American father and Japanese mother and she has just been chosen to represent Japan at this year’s Miss Universe event. Why is this so strange?
In recent days advice for Shinzo Abe has been coming thick and fast. The Japanese Prime Minister is set to lead the country past two significant historical milestones: firstly, 11 March is the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster and secondly, on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the Japanese surrender at the end of the Second World War, Abe is due to make an important speech, eagerly awaited in Beijing and Seoul.
Almost ten years have passed since a Japanese government had to face a similar diplomatic crisis. A video posted on the Internet by Islamic State requesting a ransom of 200 million Dollars for the release of two Japanese citizens, identified as journalist Kenji Goto and military contractor Haruna Yakuwa, has turned back the clock.
While McDonald's Japan is dealing with its worst crisis in more than a decade, rice from Fukushima would now appear to be safe, following the publication of the results of tests on the content of radioactive substances in rice cultivated in the province in Northeast Japan.
She may not be the head of a pariah State nor the leader of an international terrorist organization, but in recent days Angelina Jolie, Hollywood actress and director, humanitarian activist and former special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has been branded a threat to national security by the nationalist press and interest groups in Japan.
Of all the dishes of Japan’s extremely varied and healthy culinary tradition, sushi is probably the most overrated. Maki and sashimi are now the centre of an unstoppable global craze. Even political leaders and heads of state have been caught up in the hype surrounding what has come to be considered the crown jewel of Japanese cuisine.