A Lesser Known Side of Japan...

Ballet! Not all the medals are at the London Olympics.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ballet dancers win second prize


MOSCOW — Two Japanese dancers won second prize in the women's and men's categories at the prestigious International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, on Saturday.

The two are Miki Wakuta, 21, from Osaka, and Arata Miyagawa, 20, from Fukui.

Wakuta is a member of a ballet company in San Jose, California, and Miyagawa, who has been active internationally, belongs to one in Fukui.

"I was able to dance in a relaxed manner without thinking about winning a prize," Wakuta said. "I want to grow further by maturing as a person."

Miyagawa said he is setting his sights overseas.

"I put everything into it. From now on, I want to take part in auditions in Europe," he said


What a difference a day makes...

So much for the request that these albatrosses--I mean ospreys--do their flying over water:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ospreys may drill 60 meters off deck


U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys may fly at as low as 60 meters above ground during training across various areas in Japan after they become mission-operational, according to documents and other information.

The news is likely to stoke local concerns about the risks posed by the training flights.

The tilt-rotor transport aircraft, whose planned deployment to the Futenma base in Okinawa and subsequent training flights are opposed by communities around military bases in Japan because of the aircraft's spotty safety record, are also expected to fly one additional route during drills in western Japan, according to the information.


What is wrong with this picture?

Here's the article. Watch the logic twist, starting wih the headline:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Joint talks seek to show Osprey is safe


Japan and the United States will meet Thursday in Tokyo to discuss how to ensure the safe operation of the Osprey tilt-rotor military transport, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba said Tuesday.

Genba made the announcement a day after 12 MV-22 Ospreys were unloaded at the Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture amid mounting local protests over the safety of the planes, particularly in the wake of two recent crashes abroad.

In a rare disclosure of operational details, the press office at the Iwakuni base announced Tuesday the engines of the aircraft will be started up as part of preparations for future flights.

The transports, a cross between a plane and a helicopter, will be in Iwakuni for test flights in late August at the earliest before being eventually deployed to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to replace aging CH-46 helicopters.

Japanese officials said Tokyo is expected to urge Washington in the forthcoming bilateral talks to have the Ospreys fly over the sea as much as possible after the aircraft deploy to Futenma, which is in a densely populated area.

1. Doesn't the headline say "seek to show", not "see to find out if"? Someone has already made a decision, and the word "show" indicates they are out to defend their stance.

2. Urging them to fly over the sea? Shouldn't they be urging them to stay on the ground?

3. The US has a habit of sending products out into the world, then recalling them later when users start dying. Faulty cars, defective baby strollers, medicines that harm instead of cure...

We sense that this helicopter is another such product that someone desperately wants to get off the shelf before the sherriff arrives.


Do you like being called "you people"?

There was a big uproar in the US when a possible first lady sneeringly called her fellow citizens "you people". Of course we are all "people", but the implication was that one people's world and the other people's world do not really intersect.

Sometimes, that is true. People can be world's apart in what they believe.

Japan believes we-the-people have the right to physical safety.

So, when a country that believes it is OK for any madman to fill his private home with assaut rifles and explosives to be used against innocent movie-goers tells us something is "safe", are we talking about the same kind of "safe"?

I don't think so.

That's why America's new favorite military toy, the Osprey, should not fly in Okinawa, in spite of official assurances.

This is from Kyodo News in The Japan Times online:

Osprey on way but U.S. won't ignore safety: defense deputy


U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the United States wants MV-22 Osprey flight operations to be in full swing in Japan in October despite local opposition to the deployment of the funky tilt-rotor transport aircraft.

But he also made it plain Saturday that the U.S. will give top priority to ensuring the planes are safe before they start flying here.

"Safety is a very important issue," the No. 2 man at the Pentagon told reporters in Tokyo. "I take it very seriously, and I think the government of Japan and the people of Japan also take it very seriously. I think that's entirely appropriate."

Nice words, but I don't think we are speaking the same language.


Nature did it, not Godzilla

Tokyo Tower, after the 3/11/2011 earthquake

Godzilla didn't do it, nature did

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tokyo Tower shrinks as quake-bent spire is replaced


Staff writer

Tokyo Tower is standing a bit shorter than its listed 333-meter height because an antenna at the top is being replaced after being bent by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

According to Nippon Television City Corp., which manages the iconic landmark, the tip had been trimmed to about 315 meters by Monday after work to replace it began on July 10. But work to install the new antenna has added about 9 meters since, bringing it back up to about 324 meters as of Friday, an NTC spokeswoman told The Japan Times.

"It is the first time that the tower has been shorter than 333 meters" since its grand opening in 1958, she said. The tower will be returned to its original height by late August.

Tokyo Tower served as a broadcast tower for NHK and other TV stations until analog TV broadcasts ceased with the conversion to digital signals. Since the wobbling caused by the March 11 quake bent the antenna, NTC had to reinforce the damaged segment until it could be repaired. Nevertheless, the spokeswoman said its replacement was inevitable since all TV broadcasts have shifted from analog to digital. Despite the replacement work, the tower's observatories and facilities are functioning as usual, she added.

Tokyo Tower opened on Dec. 23, 1958 as a TV broadcasting antenna for Greater Tokyo. In 2006, the tourist spot logged its 150-millionth visitor.

In May, the 634-meter Tokyo Sky Tree took over Tokyo Tower's duties to become the capital's main digital terrestrial TV tower as well as the new record holder for height. Tokyo Tower remains a tourist draw and still broadcasts radio shows and some TV.


Put this on your wish list

Rockets are exciting, when they are used for space missions, and anyone can watch the launching from a distance. Japan, too, has a space probe launch site. With a launch scheduled for the public schools' summer vacation, it is a prime holiday destination this year:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tourists flock to Tanegashima for rocket launch


Tourists are flocking to Tanegashima island in Kagoshima Prefecture for Saturday's launch of an H-IIB rocket.

The H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 3, carrying the Konotori-3 cargo spacecraft, is scheduled to be launched from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Tanegashima Space Center on Saturday morning.

Hotels, bed and breakfast inns, rental cars and flights have been completely booked for Friday and Saturday, and waiting lists were growing. High-speed boat reservations were almost filled.

Saturday's launch will be the first for a large rocket during the school summer vacation period since 2001, when an H-IIA was launched that Aug. 29.

The H-IIB is larger than the H-IIA, and its white smoke and roar during liftoff are impressive.

The Konotori-3 is loaded with supplies and equipment for the International Space Station, where astronaut Akihiko Hoshide arrived on a Soyuz spacecraft Tuesday.


True Love leads to Birth of Panda

Japan's Ueno Zoo is a place of rejoicing. Their giant panda Shin-Shin, on loan from China, gave birth to a healthy baby panda yesterday.

Shin-Shin was introduced to another giant panda, Ri-Ri, in March. Love at first sight! This is the first natural panda birth to take place in the panda house at Ueno Zoo in more than two decades.


E-readers, Banzai!

My own book, (Paperwork, by Celine Nisaragi) just became available on Kindle--in English. This makes people who want to read it without having to pay shipping costs happy.

Now the same joy--getting a book instantly, without having to use planes, trains, or automobiles--will be available to readers of Japanese. The Sony e-reader has been around for a while. Now Kindle and Japan's own Kobo are joining the e-reader club.


From The Japan Times online:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Battle is joined to win new e-book market


In highly literate and gadget-loving Japan, e-books are curiously rare — but the battle for the largely untapped and potentially lucrative market is about to commence.

When e-commerce giant Rakuten unleashes its Kobo Touch e-reader later this month, it will fire the opening shots in the war for new literary territory, hoping for a slice of the ¥1.8 trillion that Japanese spend on books every year.

The Kobo will be joined later in the year by a Japanese version of the Kindle, Amazon's world-leading e-reader, pitting two of the planet's biggest names in e-books against each other.

At around ¥8,000 for either device — a price in line with Amazon's offering in the U.S. — both firms will be looking to lock customers in to their format with their eyes on the content prize, where the real money is.

"I want to start the reading revolution in Japan and in the world with Kobo," Rakuten Chief Executive Hiroshi Mikitani said Monday as he announced the July 19 launch.

"Kobo is a global device, a global platform, which allows anyone in the world to enjoy a variety of content."

Material in Japanese will initially be limited to about 30,000 titles, but Rakuten said it is aiming to grow that figure to about 1.5 million over the coming years.

Japan's existing e-book market is largely a niche segment, mostly comprising manga for cellphones.

Only a limited number of novels and nonfiction titles have been digitized in Japan, where the unique language protects publishers from foreign competition.

The situation has long frustrated IT-ready Japanese bookworms, some of whom have made their own e-books by cutting apart printed works and scanning the pages for their tablet computers.

But that is about to change.

Late last month Amazon broke years of strategic silence and said it would soon announce Kindle's launch in Japan.

Sony is also trying to cultivate the market with its slick Reader device, supported by its own e-book store with nearly 60,000 Japanese-language titles.

That is more than enough to cover best-sellers but still woefully incapable of keeping up with the 80,000 new books published in Japan every year.

Publishers, already facing falling printed book sales, have so far been reluctant to digitize their books for fear that e-books could kill physical sales.

But with the coming of behemoths such as Amazon, they have been galvanized by fears that a market-rejuvenating platform might slip from their grasp, said Yashio Uemura, a communications professor at Senshu University.

"The industry is feeling a sense of crisis that, if they do nothing and stay passive . . . huge foreign IT firms could take the e-book market," said Uemura.

The sector should more than double to ¥150 billion in 2015, from ¥67 billion in 2010, according to a study by Yano Research Institute, but it will still be dwarfed by sales of physical books.

Other research firms have given more aggressive forecasts amid high hopes for the Kindle.

The market for e-reader devices should soar to a whopping ¥70 billion in 2015 from a mere ¥2 billion in 2010, Yano Research said.

Amazon's entry, it said, "could trigger a significant expansion of available digital book titles over the next two to three years".

Kindle, launched in 2007 in the United States, has enjoyed phenomenal success among English-language readers.

In the U.S., e-book sales in the adult category surpassed those of hardback books in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Association of American Publishers, jumping 28 percent year on year to $282.3 million, compared with $229.6 million for hardbacks, up 2.7 percent.

Uemura is a key member of a new firm, created in April by a group of top publishers and a government-backed investment body, tasked with helping Japanese publishing houses digitize 1 million book titles in five years.

That means making e-versions of all books that can be purchased in Japan, plus a selection of out-of-print titles.

"In this country, where people love new gadgets, it's inconceivable that digital content won't enjoy strong sales," he said.


Bring on the sunshine gigawatts!

How much is a gigawatt? 3.2 of them equal the output of three atomic reactors.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Japan to become No. 2 solar market

Incentives could lead to ¥760 billion in new installations, increase output by 3.2 gigawatts



Japan is poised to overtake Germany and Italy to become the world's second-biggest market for solar power as incentives that started Sunday drive sales for equipment makers from Kyocera Corp. to China's Yingli Green Energy Holdings Co.

Industry Minister Yukio Edano on June 18 set a premium price for solar electricity that is about triple what industrial users now pay for conventional power. That may spur at least ¥760 billion in new installations with 3.2 gigawatts of capacity, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast. The total is about equal to the output of three atomic reactors.


In the Land of the Rising Sun--Raising Solar Power

Japan used to be famous for taking the long term view. Over the long term, renewable resources win.

This is from The Japan Times online edition:

Monday, July 2, 2012

SoftBank-Kyocera solar plant gets off to soggy start amid downpour in Kyoto


Staff writer

The first of the project's two solar power facilities, built in a joint venture between SoftBank group's SB Energy Corp. and the Kyocera group, began operations later in the day. The second facility is scheduled to go online in September, and each is expected to generate 2.1 megawatts. When both are up and running, their combined capacity will be enough to power around 1,000 households, SB Energy said.

The ceremony took place in a downpour, prompting SoftBank Corp. President and CEO Masayoshi Son to note that the weather proves Japan needs a mix of renewable energy sources.

"When it's raining, hydropower would be an appropriate energy source. When it's windy, you can rely on wind power, and geothermal energy can be used at other times," he said.

Noting the project was being initiated in the home of the Kyoto Protocol and on the day that the Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture was scheduled for reactivation, Son said critics of renewable energies need to take a long-term view and weigh the future costs of conventional electricity generation, especially nuclear power.

"After 40 years of operating a nuclear power plant, there are a lot of problems left over if you shut it down, especially nuclear waste," Son said. "Thus, over the long run, renewable energy sources are actually the cheapest forms of electricity."

Seishu Makino, senior vice minister at the industry ministry, also attended the ceremony.

"We hope the introduction of the system will mean a new business model and the entrance of new players into the renewable energy sector," Makino said before heading to the Oi power station for the restart of reactor 3 later in the day.