Archive for ‘Japan news’

November 6, 2012

Japan and China and the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute witnesses a quiet America

Japan and China and the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute witnesses a quiet America      

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States under President Obama is at pains to distance itself from the ongoing and never ending saga of Senkaku/Diaoyu. Japan and China continue to clash over this issue and Taiwan is also waiting in the wings because this nation also claims the same area. However, with respect to Taiwan, it is the clash between Japan and China which appears more problematic.

Japan and America already have differences over military bases in Okinawa. Also, for the indigenous people of Okinawa, then they perceive that their interests have been sidelined by both Japan and America. After all, a sizeable amount of American forces are based in Okinawa. Despite this, on the whole relations between Japan and America are positive because both governments have mutual shared interests throughout the region.

However, the issue over Senkaku/Diaoyu is clearly an unwanted problem in Washington. This reality means that the Obama administration is at pains to keep a neutral stance. Therefore, political elites in Washington are at pains to reduce the tension between Japan and China. This fact is based on history whereby many conflicts have emerged over minor issues which have been blown up by one side, or by both protagonists because of hidden motives related to issues at home.

Kenichiro Sasae, future ambassador to Washington later this month, told the Asahi Shimbun that “The U.S. government has made it clear that the islands are covered by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty…Its stance cannot be neutral if it is to respond firmly in the event of use of force or provocation.”

This statement by Kenichiro Sasae may be technically correct but not in its entire usage. If Japan was seen to be the party responsible, then clearly America will make their decision on this and other important issues. America can’t give carte blanche to any under-handed policies emanating from Tokyo. This isn’t implying that Japan is to blame for the current state of affairs between Japan and China over the disputed territory. Yet clearly America can ill afford to get involved with a limited war with China over an issue which can’t be sold back home.

Kenichiro Sasae also claims that the purchase of Senkaku/Diaoyu by the Japanese government was the best solution. He states this because Governor Shintaro Ishihara had stated that the metropolitan government of Tokyo would try to purchase the disputed area. Yet, while it is factual that Shintaro Ishihara shares nationalist tendencies, it also seems inconceivable that this couldn’t have been blocked by the legal system of Japan. In this sense, political leaders in Beijing “smell a rat” and irrespective if this is false, it does appear rather strange that such a tame excuse is being provided.

Kenichiro Sasae further comments that “It is important to recognize afresh each other’s role as allies in the changing global and Asian landscape and make a new Japan-U.S. relationship a starting point to cope with challenges together.” This comment is reasonable and applies to all partners internationally which have shared interests. However, the hands of America are tied when it comes to many international issues because no single power can dictate their respective geopolitical objectives.

America and other nations began to meddle in Afghanistan to a much larger extent from 1980 and this entailed many failed policies which initially favored Islamist terrorism and indoctrination. Over 30 years later and Afghanistan remains a failed state whereby opium continues to be sold and where terrorist attacks occur daily. Likewise, Iraq is still in crisis because of terrorism which followed the meddling of America and other nations and now Syria is being destabilized. On top of this, Libya is now a failed state and the chaos from this country is impacting on northern Mali. Maybe Kenichiro Sasae needs to focus on this reality and the growing influence of the Russian Federation, China, BRICS and other nations and organizations.

In another article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that In Japan you have nationalism within the thinking of the two local leaders in Tokyo and Osaka respectively. However, Shintaro Ishihara and Toru Hashimoto are out of step with the majority of Japanese nationals. Their political winning tickets are based on having strong personalities, being focused on business and expressing their thinking openly. Therefore, the current images of nationalists in China attacking things which are connected with Japan seem a million miles away to what is happening in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe and other leading cities in Japan.”

“The dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu is not in the interest of both nations but China’s overreaction is raising alarm bells. After all, many Japanese companies have invested in China and clearly it must be unsettling for Japanese nationals residing in this nation and doing business openly under the current conditions. Equally alarming, is that China appears to believe that it can bully Japan into submission by using “the nationalist switch” when deemed convenient.”

“Not all the blame can be put on China. After all, the status quo was not perfect but once Japan bought part of the area and nationalized Senkaku/Diaoyu by stealth; then clearly China was not going to ignore this. However, instead of going through the political channels and addressing things more appropriately, the nationalist angle created a very negative image.”

It is clear that Japan and China have made mistakes once more when it comes to this disputed area. After all, it matters not that Japan made the first error of judgment because the responses aren’t warranted by the tactics employed by political elites in Beijing. The dispute also highlights the decreasing power mechanisms of America and that the alliance between Japan and America isn’t so tight. At no point is Beijing overtly concerned about the role of America over this dispute because political leaders understand that America can ill afford another military conflict. This is based on the recent disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq following on from the distant legacies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

In this sense, America may trigger an increasing right-wing movement in Japan based on contradictory forces. One, that American bases and policies are an affront to Japan’s independence and secondly that Washington can’t protect Japan when it comes to important territorial disputes with China, the Russian Federation, South Korea and Taiwan respectively. Ironically, it is these two contradictory forces which Tokyo should be worried about and the same applies to America. After all, at the moment it does appear that Japan is on its own when it comes to the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute. Therefore, the mutual agreements between Japan and America may be “a paper tiger” when it comes to the territorial interests of Japan?

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

November 6, 2012

US and Japan holding military exercises: People of Okinawa are being marginalized

US and Japan holding military exercises: People of Okinawa are being marginalized

Joachim de Villiers, Hiroshi Saito and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States and Japan are currently holding military exercises which will last until November 16. Yet the biennial military exercise called Keen Sword appears to show a lack of sensitivity towards the people of Okinawa. This applies to the existing tensions between Okinawa and mainland Japan which continues to brush aside the demands of local people.

Currently the United States military is being forced to keep its head down in Okinawa after recent rape allegations and because of a brutal attack against a teenager. Of course, the issue of American bases throughout Okinawa runs much deeper. This doesn’t only apply to the actions of the United States but also towards the government of Japan. Yet with such recent heightened tensions over the deployment of MV-22 Osprey and the behavior of American troops, then once more it appears that the people of Okinawa are not viewed highly to political leaders based in Tokyo.

In Okinawa, many local people believe that the central government in Japan treats this area like a second-class region. This is based on the reality that a sizeable amount of the armed forces of America are stationed in Okinawa compared to mainland Japan. Historical realities also mean that the indigenous people of Okinawa seem to be a pawn which is openly manipulated by Tokyo and Washington. Therefore, if Okinawa is truly part of Japan, then why are the wishes of local people ignored so much?

The people of Okinawa on the whole are not demanding the expulsion of all American bases but they do want mainland Japan to share the burden. America is not insensitive to the demands of Okinawa but clearly the central government of Japan seems distant. After all, over 70% of all American forces are based in Okinawa despite repeated demands for sharing the responsibility with mainland Japan.

In the New York Times editorial (November 2, 2012) it is stated that “Many Okinawans believe, with justification, that their views are irrelevant to the Japanese government and the United States, whose geopolitical priorities trump local concerns about jet crashes, noise, environmental destruction and crime. That has not stopped protesters from tirelessly raising objections, most strongly in 1995, when three servicemen gang-raped a schoolgirl, and in September, when tens of thousands demonstrated against the deployment of the Osprey.”

Further down in the same editorial it states about America that political leaders“…should move swiftly to lighten its presence on Okinawa, by shifting troops to Guam, Hawaii and elsewhere in Japan. Okinawans will feel safer and less aggrieved only when they believe that Japan and the United States are taking their objections seriously.

The sad truth is that political leaders in Tokyo appear to view the area to be second-class because historically Okinawa (Ryukyu Kingdom) never belonged to Japan. Therefore, the government of Japan is still viewing Okinawa in a subservient manner. This policy is not only backfiring against political leaders in Tokyo but it is also impacting on America and the military forces based throughout Japan. Given this reality, then Washington should make the first move because little seems to change the hearts of political leaders in Tokyo.

Currently, relations between China and Japan have hit rock bottom because of the territorial dispute. Yet for people in Okinawa it is the lack of transparency within successive governments based in Tokyo which is the real issue.

Therefore, the current joint military exercises by America and Japan in the waters of Okinawa is also a symbol of major powers ignoring the wishes of local people. China may hog the headlines because of the current tense situation with Japan over territory. Yet in Okinawa it appears that their voices count for nothing because countless demonstrations and protests have not altered the major imbalance of American forces being based in Okinawa.

In the Asahi Shimbun (article written by Satoshi Okumura, Norio Yatsu and Tsukasa Kimura) it was stated that“Huge protests erupted in Okinawa Prefecture and other parts of Japan over the deployment of the Osprey to Okinawa Prefecture. Residents and local leaders cited the spotty safety record of the aircraft, and they repeated that the island prefecture continues to shoulder the overwhelming burden of hosting U.S. military bases under the Japan-U.S. security alliance.”

The government of Japan just like China uses nationalist rhetoric over the ongoing territorial dispute between both nations. Ironically, however, many people in Okinawa are also disillusioned with political leaders in mainland Japan because of the second-class nature of the treatment of people from Okinawa. It is time for political elites in distant Tokyo to wake-up to the demands of local people in Okinawa. Also, Washington must do more to defuse the situation.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201210310074

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

September 6, 2012

Tokyo to decline by more than half by 2100: truth or scaremongering?

Tokyo to decline by more than half by 2100: truth or scaremongering?

Kanako Itamae, Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Once more depressing figures released indicate the demise of Tokyo and Japan by 2100 whereby the population will be beyond recognition of what it is today. This is the stark warning according to another dramatic survey which can only see a static and moribund Japan which refuses to implement real social policies.

One interesting aspect of the survey which is negated is the reality of “a secular society” being over reliant on modernity, materialism, abortion and other aspects of the “new world.” It is clear that Japan does face major problems related to the birth rate and this latest survey relates to this. At the same time issues related to communication issues, hikikomori (social withdrawal), suicide and other areas of a social meltdown needs to be focused on.

Of course, issues related to long working hours, high cost of child rearing, new modern approaches to life and other complex factors; are all tearing apart at the declining birth rate in this country. Sadly, the Japanese government appears reluctant to help people who desire to have more than one or two children but who feel burdened to do so because of the financial hardship that this entails.

According to this bleak survey which was taken by seven academics and a number of bureaucrats, the population of Tokyo will decline to 7.13 million in 2100 from the current mark of over 13 million people. This is indeed dramatic because Tokyo and other major cities like Osaka and Nagoya are the backbone of this nation. Unlike many rural areas which are already suffering from declining populations.

Also, this will not be the end of the hollowing out because in 2100 it is predicted that the over 65 age group will account for roughly 45 per cent of the total population of Tokyo. This would indicate an even more severe crisis long after 2100 which would see the continuing demise of Tokyo and Japan itself.

According to alarming figures released by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, the overall decline of the population of Japan will be massive by 2100. Currently the population in 2012 is just over 127 million. However, according to the above institute this figure will decline rapidly to 49.59 million by 2100 based on current trends.

Despite this, it is difficult to believe that future governments will not do anything in order to alter the current birth rate crisis. Also, tinkering with immigration would help greatly in the short-term while refocusing on ways to help families afford to have more children. At the same time internal social movements may respond to the current declining population because the strains on the economy will be enormous if something isn’t done to alter the current situation.

In the past Japan was written off in many areas but despite this it is clear that this nation is helping the international community in many ways. This notably applies to helping the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, economic aid to developing nations and assisting the European Union during the current economic crisis.

If any nation can find a way to solve the many complex issues it faces, then Japan is a nation which can reinvent itself quickly. Therefore, while the current analysis applies to the reality of today, it doesn’t mean that the same reality will apply in the future.

http://moderntokyotimes.com

September 6, 2012

Remembering the fashion sector after the tragic tsunami which killed over 19,000 people

Remembering the fashion sector after the tragic tsunami which killed over 19,000 people 

Michel Lebon, Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The events of March 11, 2011, in Japan will forever be etched into the memory of this nation because of the utter devastation that followed. Over 19,000 people perished because of the tsunami which followed the 9.0 magnitude earthquake. Therefore, this event is now embedded within the psyche of Japan and this applies to both the trauma and the response to such devastation.

Internationally, countless nations supported Japan and likewise individuals, charities, organizations and various sectors gave generously to help the people who were hit the hardest. The fashion industry within Japan and outside of this country also supported the people of Tohoku. Likewise, the nuclear shadow meant that many people in the surrounding areas were also worried about this aspect. Given this reality, local fashion companies in Tokyo and other cities provided not only material support but also emotional support.

In Tokyo for example you had the Mighty Harajuku Project which was the brainchild of Sebastian Masuda (6% DOKIDOKI). While internationally powerful fashion houses responded to the tsunami in many different ways in order to support the people of Japan.

Often the fashion industry is portrayed to be “one dimensional” but clearly this sector is far from “one dimensional.” On the contrary, many within the fashion sector responded with care and sincerity. Giorgio Armani, and many other famous people within the fashion sector, showed the “heart of fashion” to the people of Japan.

Indeed, the deep shock of the tsunami and the enormous loss of life encouraged Giorgio Armani to show his deep respect of Japan. He did this during the Paris Fashion Week show in July of last year. During this major fashion event Giorgio Armani incorporated aspects of Japanese culture within his adorable designs.

In an earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Funds being donated by Armani are much appreciated and the same applies to other famous fashion designers who have done so much to support the people of Japan. Often people only see a single dimension towards fashion and this applies to enhancing beauty.”

“Armani’s exclusive haute couture collection (Fall/Winter 2011-2012) during the Paris Fashion Week highlighted the rich heritage of Japan.  His amazing designs focused on dresses being based on the kimono-style, elegant floral prints on exquisite silk, kanzashi, elements of geisha, and other unique images of Japanese symbols were fused within the stunning Armani collection.”

It may appear that fashion and the tsunami are a million miles apart and in terms of what happened on this tragic day, then this is true. However, in other areas both events came together because fashion helped many people during the psychological stress process and lack of confidence related to the nuclear crisis. Therefore, fashion for many people was “therapeutic” and a way of fighting back against so much trauma and despondency.

Financially, then all economic support was welcomed because many communities were devastated by the brutal tsunami. Alongside the financial aspect was a feeling that other people all over the world truly cared about the plight of people who had been hit the hardest. Once more this helped in the area of psychology.

In the past Japan had been a place for famous international brands to “make hay” and since this tragic event the fashion sector is once more buzzing in this country. In this sense, many international fashion companies and individuals were highlighting their deep appreciation related to past and current connections which remain strong. Giorgio Armani commented that he had been “profoundly moved by the tragic events” related to March 11, 2011.

Giorgio Armani’s fashion show titled the Hommage au Japon meant that his entire fashion collection highlighted the natural beauty of Japanese culture within amazing styles. This genuine warmth was appreciated deeply within the fashion sector in Japan and among lay people who adore the fashion sector. Like usual, the collection highlighted the panache of the individual who created such a stunning fashion display.

Overall, many within the international fashion sector showed their love of Japan by providing many different types of support. This applies to economic support, psychological factors, a collective feeling of humanity, showing the people of Japan that they weren’t alone during this tragic period and in other vital areas.

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

September 6, 2012

Japan and North Korea need to go the extra mile in order to lay the path ahead

Japan and North Korea need to go the extra mile in order to lay the path ahead

Ri Kuk-Chol and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Japan and North Korea have had a frosty relationship for far too long and it is hoped that officials from both nations will have laid the foundation stone for genuinely turning the corner. Of course, expectations are not too high because of countless stumbling blocks on both sides. However, if officials from Japan and North Korea can overcome genuine concerns and at least start to “walk together,” even if not in complete unison, then this will be positive.

North Korea must understand that negative relations with Japan only serve the enemies of Pyongyang. Likewise, political leaders in Tokyo have recently witnessed the “nationalist switch” in China and South Korea respectively. Therefore, it is clear in Tokyo that the only “trusted friend” in the region is Taiwan. Yet if the “Chinese economic bandwagon” one day swallows this island economically, then even this solace may be taken away.

The Russian Federation is also a central nation in the geopolitical reality of Northeast Asia and throughout other parts of Asia. After all, political elites in Moscow fully understand the geopolitical importance of Central Asia and developing strong ties with China and India respectively. At the same time the geopolitical importance of Mongolia is fully understood in the Russian Federation. Therefore, Japan should overcome its petty nationalist tendencies towards this major power and seek a solution to the disputed areas, which continue to hinder a powerful friendship based on mutual trust.

Turning back to events covering the talks today between officials from Japan and North Korea, it is obvious that both nations need to “break their respective chains.” The new political leader in North Korea can show the world that he is open to sweeping geopolitical changes alongside supporting genuine economic reforms with the help of China. Given this reality, Kim Jong-un can genuinely try to reach the masses based on the similar motives of Deng Xiaoping in China when he came to power.

The Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, Osamu Fujimura, stated prior to the meeting that “The abduction issue will be included as a matter of course.” Likewise, Koichiro Gemba, Foreign Minister of Japan, spoke in a similar vein when he stated that “We’d like to ask the North Korean side to positively work on pending issues between the two countries including the abduction issue.”

However, despite the seriousness of this issue it is clear that political leaders in Tokyo must move towards a more broad approach. Surely, other more important issues like the nuclear angle, geopolitical concerns, testing military hardware and building economic bridges must outweigh the continuing stumbling blocks. Once other developments move forward then naturally North Korea will be more forthcoming.

Japan must understand that millions of Koreans died defending Korean nationalism from Japanese imperialism and then against American aggression during the Korean War. After the brutal Korean War the United States then supported successive authoritarian governments in South Korea before the onset of democracy in this nation. It is too easy to point the finger at North Korea but the reality is that all nations have their own histories and outside forces led to a siege mentality in Pyongyang – but this siege mentality was not based on whims but on hard facts related to history.

Japan and North Korea need to forgo the historical and political obstacles in order to radically alter the situation. Osamu Fujimura stated that “We have been working based on the principle of settling the unfortunate past and on restoring normal relations.”

The new leader of North Korea showed sincerity by allowing a group of nationals from Japan to reclaim loved ones who died because of the tragic events of World War Two. Sadao Masaki, who is part of this group, commented that “Things have proceeded to a stage that is beyond what we had even hoped for. We are extremely grateful.”

In another article by Modern Tokyo Times about relations between Japan and North Korea, it was stated thatSome analysts are indicating that North Korea is reaching out because of current tensions between Japan and other regional nations based on territorial issues. For example harsh comments have been made by the leader of South Korea towards Japan in recent times. However, this is too cynical because the new leader of North Korea must be judged on what happens during his leadership.”

Analysts in Japan and North Korea are eagerly awaiting the outcome and clearly major powers throughout the region will be watching events closely. It is only hoped that political leaders in Japan and North Korea will move forward by showing sincerity and mutual respect.

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

July 13, 2012

Kagoshima Governor supporting the nuclear restart wins the election: Nuclear hype in the media

Kagoshima Governor supporting the nuclear restart wins the election: Nuclear hype in the media

Walter Sebastian, Hiroshi Saito and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

The mass media keeps on telling the world that the majority of Japanese individuals are against nuclear power. However, the recent victory for Governor Yuichiro Ito points to the reality that the nuclear issue isn’t the main concern for the majority of Japanese people. Therefore, despite the hype it is clear that the “nuclear option” is viable just like it was for the past few decades. Also, with the increased imports of energy hitting the Japanese economy hard it is clear that more and more individuals will put the economic well being of Japan first.

After the tragic events of March 11, 2011, related to the brutal earthquake and tsunami which unleashed the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the media spin is often anti nuclear. In fact, major agencies all over the world appear to “pick statistics out of thin air” when stating that the vast majority of Japanese citizens reject nuclear power. Yet clearly the election in Kagoshima, just like other elections, doesn’t back up this “alleged theory.”

In various elections held in Japan it is clear that individual politicians who support the resumption of nuclear power have won. Also, even when politicians won who may be against nuclear power, they were elected not on this reason but related to other factors. Therefore, despite the media hype and other negative postures towards nuclear power it is abundantly obvious that this issue isn’t the main focus for the vast majority of the Japanese electorate.

It also must be stated that over 19,000 people died because of the tsunami which destroyed so many places in the Tohoku region and surrounding area along the coast. On the other hand, the death total with regards to nuclear power remains to be zero. This isn’t to underestimate the seriousness of radiation in areas close to the stricken nuclear facility. The same applies to the local fisheries community and towns within the 30km zone which have been hit hard. However, it isn’t the Armageddon which was pictured by many articles during the early period of the crisis.

Not only this, if you visit Fukushima prefecture you will notice that the commercial capital in Koriyama is thriving. Similarly, while “some media agencies appear to have an agenda” this isn’t helping the local economy in Fukushima prefecture. After all, tourist numbers have been down despite gradually increasing in recent months.

Therefore, for individuals who are concerned about the livelihoods of people in Fukushima many have visited the tourist attractions to over compensate for people who have been manipulated by “false reporting” and over-hyped statements. Indeed, if individuals visit beautiful places like the Urabandai region in Fukushima, then clearly the stunning aspect of nature is a clear reminder that the vast majority of Fukushima prefecture is open to the business and tourist community.

Turning back to the Kagoshima gubernatorial election then Governor Yuichiro Ito was elected for the third time to continue to run this part of Japan at the local level. Yuichiro Ito supports the restarting of two nuclear power stations providing the new safety mechanisms have been firmly put in place. His challenger, Yoshitaka Mukohara, desired to block the return to nuclear energy in this prefecture and then scrapping the nuclear reactors in the future.

However, the vast majority of people selected Yuichiro Ito in Kagoshima despite all the media hype about nuclear power. Individuals elected him based on many factors which were unrelated to nuclear power and this is the point. Even if an individual wins who is anti-nuclear, it doesn’t imply that this was the reason why they were elected. Likewise, if individuals are selected because they support the resumption of nuclear power, it also doesn’t imply that the vast majority of people voted for this individual based on supporting nuclear energy.

The real issue for the majority of Japanese people is economics and not the nuclear issue. Therefore, Yuichiro Ito was elected on the grounds that he is restoring financial health to Kagoshima.

Some politicians, celebrities, the mass media, and so forth, are hyping the anti-nuclear issue because of their own agenda. Yet just like in Tokyo when anti-nuclear demonstrations are highlighted in the media – it is clear that on the very same day more people will be shopping for fashion items in stores throughout major fashion areas. After all, while the “nuclear issue” is important for anti-nuclear individuals despite the tsunami killing more than 19,000 people and nobody dying from the nuclear crisis, it is clear the majority of people are voting with their feat.

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

May 5, 2012

Japan tourism and Fukushima: Abukuma Cave, Koriyama, and Ura-Bandai

Japan tourism and Fukushima: Abukuma Cave, Koriyama, and Ura-Bandai

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

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Fukushima is a stunning prefecture in Japan which is awash with amazing landscapes where people can escape the stresses of life. Koriyama is the commercial capital of Fukushima prefecture and for many tourists this city is an ideal base. Also, since the events of March 11, 2011, this part of Japan received international attention because of the nuclear crisis but for the vast majority of this lovely prefecture, life is in full swing and is open for business. Therefore, for internal tourists in Japan and international tourists, it is a great way to support the local economy and at the same time have an amazing holiday because of the stunning nature of Fukushima.

Koriyama is an ideal base because of the amenities available which are top notch. This applies to high quality hotels, modern transport system which is served by the Shinkansen train system, excellent restaurants, stylish boutiques and a buzzing fashion scene, accessible to many places to visit, and a host of other factors. Indeed, it is clear that Koriyama in 2012 is a dynamic city which is the heart of the ongoing development of this beautiful prefecture.

The Abukuma Cave in Fukushima is a great place to visit because this limestone cave is well looked after and provides amazing views inside. Individuals are given two options which apply to a relaxing walk within Abukuma Cave. Therefore, for individuals who are not so healthy then this walk is advised because you can enjoy at your own leisure. However, if you are healthy and adore a challenge then the complex route is most rewarding. Yet be prepared for two or three very difficult areas where you have to nearly crawl in order to get through and continue your walk.

Scenic views within the cave are enthralling and clearly this limestone cave is well preserved and serves tourism in Fukushima extremely well. The views outside Abukuma Cave are also richly rewarding and you have other tourist attractions to enjoy. Therefore, a visit to Abukuma Cave is extremely rewarding and the history behind the formation of stalactites and stalagmites is very interesting.

Another amazing places to visit in Fukushima is Ura-Bandai and this notably applies to Goshiki-numa (five ponds of color). Of course the entire area is awash with amazing scenary and walks to enjoy. Yet the walk in Goshiki-numa is extremely rewarding and will always stay with you because of the stunning scenary and the richness of color. The reason behind the different colors of ponds, and why you have so many ponds and lakes, is because of the volcanic eruption of 1888 which flowed naturally into the Nagase-gawa which is a major river.

Most notable lakes and ponds that were created after the lava from the eruption in 1888 occurred apply to Nakase-numa Pond, Lake Onogawa-ko, Oguni-numa Pond, Lake Hibara-ko, and Lake Akimoto-ko. You also have a wealth of marsh areas. In total you have more than 100 ponds and lakes within the Ura-Bandai area (Bandai-kogen Highlands) and the Goshiki-numa (five ponds of color) walk is a must for all nature lovers. After all, the richness of different colors is a wonder to behold and the walking trail is really enjoyable and for photographers it is a paradize.

Also, for lovers of art and culture you have a stunning museum to visit called Morohashi Museum of Modern Art. The architecture of this museum is really pleasing on the eye and the backdrop of stunning mountains and a stream passing by the art gallery is truly inspiring and melts the heart.

The Morohashi Museum of Modern Art concentrates on such great artists like Paul Cezanne, Salvador Dali, and Pablo Picasso. Currently, you have a major exhibition which highlights the work of Salvador Dali. Also, within this lovely art museum you have many galleries to explore other artists and you also have a nice place to drink coffee and eat cake. This enchanting museum is a must place to visit because it provides a lovely cultural angle which blends naturally within the stunning scenary of Ura-Bandai.

Throughout Fukushima you have many amazing places to visit and given the circumstances of March 11, 2011, it is essential for internal tourists to support the local economy. The same applies to international tourists because Fukushima prefecture and the Tohoku region needs to recover completely from the devastation of the tsunami which killed so many individuals and caused havoc.

At the same time, tourists will be richly rewarded because Fukushima prefecture is a real gem. In Koriyama you will notice a thriving commercial centre where fashion is a major feature. From this ideal base you can visit many tourist attractions including stunning mountain ranges, lakes, ponds, the amazing Abukuma Cave, Tsuruga Castle, Oyaku-en Garden, and so much more. Simply put, Fukushima prefecture is an ideal location for tourists to enjoy stunning nature and relax by visiting an onsen, whereby you can refresh your body and mind.

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/fukushima/bandaikougen.html

http://dali.jp/english/ – The Morohashi Museum of Modern Art

http://www.tohokukanko-fukkou.jp/en/371.html Ura-bandai and Goshiki-numa

Art image – MARC CHAGALL  - currently on show at The Morohashi Museum of Modern Art

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

April 27, 2012

EU financial crisis: Japan gives the IMF $60 billion and America gives not a dime

EU financial crisis: Japan gives the IMF $60 billion and America gives not a dime

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The government of Japan is extremely worried about the financial crisis which continues to beset the European Union (EU). This factor meant that Japan promises to support the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the tune of an additional $60 billion dollars. The United States under President Obama is to provide not one cent to the new initiative which is meant to restore stability and freshness during a time of genuine uncertainty.

Indeed, Japan showed its international responsibility because this nation became the largest contributor outside the non-eurozone. Yes, it wasn’t the United States, China, or India – this applies to the so-called economic superpower and the two nations which hog the limelight for being the future economic superpowers. Instead, it was Japan once more which showed its economic potency despite receiving negative press in this field for decades.

In recent times it is clear that the debt of the United States is spiraling under President Obama irrespective if he blames the leader before him. Yet prior to recent times many past American leaders like Bill Clinton lauded it over Japan. After all, the American model was meant to be dynamic, transparent, and truly global. However, just like the EU and “the new way” both appear to be out of touch and in need of “a new remedy.”

Unemployment in the United States remains around the 9% per cent mark and in nations like Greece and Spain, it is out of control. Irrespective if all the above nations bounce back and the unemployment figures come right down, it is clear that they could never match Japan. After all, two negative economic decades on the whole in Japan but despite this the unemployment figure always remained very low in comparison.

Therefore, the Japanese economic model is clearly concerned about creating jobs, maintaining social order, investing in neglected areas, and maintaining social cohesion. On the contrary, Western capitalist nations run up huge unemployment figures in such a short space of time. Also, the gap between the rich and poor and social deprivation is much higher in nations like the United States and United Kingdom.

Of course, Japan is beset by internal problems related to the declining birth-rate and other important factors. Yet despite the political quagmire in Japan the bureaucratic system maintains stability even when the “boat is rocking.”

Let us also remember that Japan just promised $60 billion dollars despite the tragic and terrible events of March 11, 2011, when the devastating tsunami created havoc. This means that Japan is still facing the consequences of this tragedy, a very high yen, and an energy crisis because of the nuclear factor in Fukushima. However, despite everything, it is Japan which is dipping into its reserves in order to help the EU during its “hour of need.”

In a previous article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Ironically, despite Japan “throwing away two wasted decades” and the terrible events of March 11 when the earthquake unleashed a potent and deadly tsunami; the government of Japan stepped in and bought more of Europe’s debt in order to boost the European Union. However, given the huge economic crisis generated by the tsunami and ongoing radiation crisis, it is difficult to imagine America coping with such a strong currency given all the problems which are happening in Japan. Not only this, Japan increased its support of America during this trying time by buying more American government bonds and providing the European Union in 2012 can come up with a serious economic policy, then Japan promises to help.”

“Given this, it appears that Japan keeps on ticking while America keeps on selling more of its debt and given the lack of government policy directed towards the weakening dollar, it does appear that the government of America is not responsive to the international community. Therefore, the currencies of Japan and Switzerland are paying a high price because the value of the Japanese yen isn’t based on market fundamentals.”

Eammon Fingleton a writer at Forbes commented that “This is not the first time that Japan has stepped up to the plate as lender of last resort to the world financial system. At the height of the global panic in 2009, the Tokyo Ministry of Finance more or less single-handedly rescued this system when it injected $100 billion into the IMF.”

He further comments that “Let’s note that a balance sheet has two sides. The Japanese government’s liabilities may be large. But it is important to take a look at its assets before resorting to extravagant denunciations of its financial policy. What is clear is that the Tokyo Finance Ministry is increasingly borrowing from the Japanese public not to finance out-of-control government spending at home but rather abroad. Besides stepping up to the plate to keep the IMF in business, Tokyo has long been the lender of last resort to both the U.S. and British governments. Meanwhile it borrows 10-year money at an interest rate of just 1.0 percent, the second lowest rate of any borrower in the world after the government of Switzerland.” 

Japan remains to be an enigma but clearly this nation is much more vibrant than it is led to be believed by many within the international press who focus on economics. Therefore, once more it is Japan which is “stepping up to the plate” while America provides not one single extra cent despite the economic convulsions hitting the EU.

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/eamonnfingleton/2012/04/23/will-the-real-japan-please-stand-up-2/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

April 27, 2012

Edgar Degas and Japanese art: inspired by ukiyo-e

Edgar Degas and Japanese art: inspired by ukiyo-e

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Japanese ukiyo-e inspired many artists in distant lands and Edgar Degas was one of the many international artists who came to admire this art form. Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was born in Paris into a wealthy family and he was blessed to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. This intriguing individual in time would join the Impressionists but he also adored the art of the Renaissance.

Therefore, after studying he moved to Italy and copied the great masters of the Renaissance for five years. During this period he learnt the richness of this era and meticulously he would study the artists who blessed the art world with their respective lasting legacies. Not only did he study in Italy about the heritage of Renaissance art but he also copied each detail and this methodology suited his style.

The Impressionists were also igniting the art world during his lifetime and Edgar Degas was deeply inspired. Therefore, from 1874 to 1886 he also became fully embroiled in this art movement and entered his work to be shown in the many exhibitions of this timeframe. This period enabled Edgar Degas to expand and grow and not surprisingly the fusions of many different art forms blessed his art and creativity.

Ukiyo-e was also very important to Edgar Degas who was fascinated by the richness of Japanese art. Van Gogh had commented that “I envy the Japanese artists for the incredible neat clarity which all their works have. It is never boring and you never get the impression that they work in a hurry. It is as simple as breathing; they draw a figure with a couple of strokes with such an unfailing easiness as if it were as easy as buttoning one’s waist-coat.”

Edgar Degas also loved the diversity and creativity of ukiyo-e and you can draw parallels with his art regarding ballet dancers, bathers, stage performers, and other areas. Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, and a host of other artists, felt the pull of Japanese art and clearly Edgar Degas was also inspired. Therefore, if you change the ballet dancer and stage performers to bijin-ga and kabuki, you can see a rich vein materializing whereby his own artistic culture fused with Japanese art.

Also, not only did Edgar Degas collect ukiyo-e prints but many of his friends had a deep knowledge of this art form. Therefore, artists like Utamaro, Hokusai, Sharaku (an individual shrouded in mystery), Hiroshige, and other famous ukiyo-e artists, were highly admired. This factor clearly rubbed off onto Edgar Degas and just like Renaissance art and Impressionism had inspired him, the same can be said for Japanese art.

On the Yale Univeristy Press website Jill DeVonyar and Richard Kendall comment about the book calledDegas and the Art of Japan that “Degas and the Art of Japan explores the French Impressionist’s lifelong fascination with the work of his Japanese counterparts. Adding substantially to previous studies, the authors propose new links between some of Degas’s characteristic themes, such as laundresses and horse racing, and the woodblock designs of Ukiyo-e masters. Fresh light is also shed on another signature trait of the artist—his fascination with women in their public and private lives—which is echoed in the prevalence of female subjects in Japanese woodblock imagery.  Equally significant are revelations about Degas’s access to specific Japanese prints belonging to collectors and dealers in Paris.”

“Works by Degas in all media are considered—paintings, pastels, drawings, lithographs, etchings, monotypes, and sculpture—and juxtaposed with Japanese prints, illustrated books, and decorated fans. Comparable human predicaments and parallels in visual language are all part of this wide-ranging analysis, which deepens our understanding of one of the world’s greatest artists.”

The book called Degas and the Art of Japan clearly digs deep within the many aspects of his life. This notably applies to the legacy of the Japanese connection and how ukiyo-e inspired this amazing artist. Therefore, just like other notable artists he also understood the richness of ukiyo-e and this further sheds more light on this amazing art form.

Dieter Wanczura, a notable individual with rich knowledge of Japanese art, comments that “All things Japanese were suddenly stylish and fashionable. Shops selling Japanese woodblock prints, kimonos, fans and antiquities popped up in Paris like mushrooms. The Impressionist painters and Post-Impressionists like Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec or Paul Gauguin were attracted and impressed by Japanese woodblock prints. In 1875 Claude Monet created his famous painting La Japonaise, showing his wife dressed in a Kimono and holding a Japanese fan.”

This was the art world in this period of history in Paris and other major artistic cities where Japanese prints were growing in stature. Yet, the individuality of Edgar Degas also shines through because he was also an intriguing artist who fused many different art forms within his work.

http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300126334 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

April 5, 2012

Pola Museum of Art in beautiful Hakone: The Development of Impressionism

Pola Museum of Art in beautiful Hakone: The Development of Impressionism

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Pola Museum of Art (http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/english/index.php) in Hakone is situated in a very beautiful part of Japan because this area is famous for stunning nature. Therefore, many artists have flocked to Hakone in order to paint countless scenes of the countryside. Also, the cultural aspect of this amazing area is a real bonus because tourists fuse their holiday in Hakone by visiting many stylish museums and other cultural aspects of Japanese culture.

Currently the Pola Museum of Art is showcasing a special exhibition called The Development of Impressionism: Monet, Renoir, and the Next Generations which will be shown until July 8, 2012. This special exhibition is a pure delight because of the artists on view and the global impact of this art form.

The first section of the exhibition focuses on Monet and Renoir and internal convulsions which occurred in 1886. Then the exhibition highlights the two above name artists and focuses on their pursuit of art and other important aspects within this art movement during the 1880s. This is followed by looking at the Last Impressionist Exhibition and the significance of Neo-Impressionism. Therefore, other artists like Paul Gauguin and Odilon Redon enter the equation. Finally in this section, important attention is put on Paul Cezanne and his own personal artistic quest.

The second section of this adorable exhibition which is extremely well represented is titled Impressionism after 1990: Monet, Renoir and the Next Generations. Monet and Fauvism is the initial theme and this applies to the creativity of Monet and his influence on other artists. Therefore, Henri Matisse, Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck come under the microscope in this intriguing exhibition. This is followed by the close friendship of Pierre Bonnard with Monet and Renoir respectively. After this, the exhibition moves on to Matisse and his frequent visits to Renoir’s last place of abode in Cagnes-sur-Mer in southern France. Finally the exhibition closes with the artistic influence of Renoir on Pablo Picasso and this applies to the period called “Neo-Classicism.”

The Pola Art Musuem comments on their website that Monet, Renoir and the other Impressionists transformed French painting in the late 19th century. Using bright colors, they vividly depicted the worlds of nature and urban society, as caught in their own eyes. Starting in 1874, they organized group exhibitions in Paris, although these did not continue long. The eighth show, in 1886, in which “Neo-Impressionists” – namely Georges Seurat and Paul Signac – took part, virtually put an end to their group activity.”

“This exhibition examines how French Impressionism, led by Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste Renoir, influenced artists active in the 20th century such as Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. It consists of approximately 60 French works produced between the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th: the core of the Western painting collection of the Pola Museum of Art.”

Other adorable exhibitions currently on show include the art work of Itozono Wasaburo, Masterpieces of the Pola Museum of Art, Cosmetic Utensils, and Oriental Ceramics. The ceramics exhibition is a true delight because the richness of Chinese culture can be seen by the awesome display of amazing ceramics. Also, the mixture of Japanese artists and Western artists is a real treat and this especially applies to foreign tourists who may not know about the exquisite nature of Japanese art.

Visitors can also enjoy the stunning scenery of Hakone and eat scrumptious European cuisine which is served up at the restaurant within the museum. Alternatively, visitors can enjoy tea, coffee and snacks at the café. Also, the Museum Shop is well worth a visit because of the quality products available. Therefore, the needs of visitors are catered for and relaxing after visiting the various exhibitions on show is a great way to enjoy your stay and soak up the special atmosphere of this adorable museum.

In a past article about Hakone it was stated that Hakone is situated in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and the entire region is a tourist paradise whereby stunning nature is in all directions and you have so many cultural treasures to view. This notably applies to the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings; the Hakone Open Air Museum; the Pola Museum of Art; Venetian Glass Museum; Suzuhiro Corp. Kamaboko Museum; volcanically active Owakudani geysers; Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands; Odawara Castle Donjon; Local History Museum; Museum of Saint Exupery and the Little Pince in Hakone; Hakone Old Takaido Road Museum; Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum; Hakone Art Museum; Honma Yosegi Museum; Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History; and you have a wealth of parks and special walks to go on.”

Overall, the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone is an amazing place to visit for art lovers and for tourists who want to focus on the richness of culture. Also, the stunning mountains of Hakone and the many places to visit, means that individuals can enjoy the best of both worlds. This applies to stunning nature and the richness of culture and art.

Therefore, a visit to this stylish museum is highly recommended for tourists who will visit Hakone. After all, it is very rare to find sublime nature and so many museums and special places to visit which are located in the same environment. Hakone is also not so far from Tokyo if you travel by express train.

 

http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/english/index.php  Pola Museum of Art

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2012/02/29/japan-tourism-and-culture-hakone-jinja-historical-treasure-museum-and-mount-fuji/

Images in this article relate to the artists which will be highlighted and not to any specific art pieces which will be part of the exhibition.  Please view the website of the Pola Museum of Art to find out more.

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

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