Quartz: Immigrants could be the answer to Japan’s population crisis

From the video description on YouTube:

Japan’s government recently passed a law that will give work visas to hundreds of thousands of low-skilled foreign workers as it tries to replenish a rapidly shrinking workforce. The country, which has historically seen itself as culturally and ethnically homogenous, has a deeply ambivalent attitude toward immigration, and the new law is drawing its fair share of controversy. Opponents say it’s too vague. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insists the workers who enter Japan under the new law will be there only temporarily, sparking concerns it risks making immigrant workers second class citizens. Regardless,  it is a major immigration overhaul in all but name, say observers.

2019 also saw an explosive growth in non-fiction books about immigration to Japan. A few of these are waiting on my shelf at home to read:

Netflix: Aggretsuko Creator Interview with Rarecho & Yeti

37 days left!

Aggretsuko is one of my favorite shows, period, precisely because big entertainment companies don’t seem to like to invest in documentary investigations into modern millennial anxieties.

The first season was a grimly realistic picture of work (not just in Japan, but everywhere): serving tea to your overbearing boss, barely tolerating weasel colleagues that side only with your overbearing boss, and befriending the power figures in your office just to survive. Plus there was Haida, my favorite submissive male hyena.

The second season, released this past summer, takes it one step further. We don’t stop aging, as Retsuko’s mother helpfully reminds Retsuko’s, and so we don’t stop fretting over when we want to get married as our friends do.

Granted, this is just my view of the show. I want to balance things out on how the weeaboos see this “anime” on MyAnimeList:

The plot itself was pretty all over the place in terms of quality. At times I felt appreciative on the show’s preachment on the issue of marriage presenting different respectable sides from different respectable angles. However, at times I found myself often confused on a characters ability to make a basic easy decisions that could resolve a problem simply without having to drag it on. The writers painted the picture of the relationship as controlling and suffocating, yet Retsuko can’t even define that as the reason for ending their relationship, only that her partner won’t marry her and start a family with her. I knew Retsuko was clueless, but I didn’t know the writers wanted to make her completely moronic to not see this after her eyes were opened to the relationship’s problems. On another note can someone please explain to me why there is tid bits of FILLER scattered throughout the series. Ten episodes is not ample time to play a round of fucking golf with the boys. WHO GAVE THESE WRITERS PERMISSION TO MIX AGGRETSUKO WITH ACTUAL FUCKING MUSICAL NUMBERS. WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS FANWORKS HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME.

With respect, knowing golf is pretty much mandatory in the Japanese corporate world, so I don’t see why a writer would have considered that as filler.

small MUJI: volume 1

Check out these miniature dioramas Tanaka Tatsuya has made using Muji products. Here’s the description on Muji’s website:


There are many different kinds of lifestyles around the world.
Muji items are there to support people’s lives.
This time around, we’ve captures snapshots of how people life using Muji items from our ordinary lives from extraordinary perspectives.

The miniatures are being shown at MUJI Kamppi Helsinki until February 2020.

The Party to Protect the People from NHK: Party Political Broadcast

With 38 days left till 2020, Tales From Tabata continues its 2019 in review with this party political broadcast from the Japanese House of Councillors election this past July.

NHK customarily airs the party political broadcasts of candidates who stand for seats in the proportional representation blocks. One of my friends in Japan showed me this video when I visited Tokyo in August and thought it was ironic that NHK had to air a 15-minute video of a politician criticizing NHK, and that the only way the party could get its message on TV was through NHK. But isn’t that the beauty of public service broadcasting?

Tachibana Takashi, the man in the video, ultimately won his seat in the election.

SoraNews24: “Vandalism on rise at Japanese shrines as pro-Hong Kong protest prayer boards are defaced”

Casey Baseel, quoting a NHK News article:

…[I]n recent months some of Japan’s most prominent places of worship have seen their ema display areas becoming proxy battlefields for a dispute taking place thousands of kilometers away. Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple, one of the city’s most famous landmarks and sightseeing destinations, has been finding ema that have been vandalized if their written wishes show support for the ongoing Hong Kong political protests.

This isn’t something that’s only happening in Kyoto, either. Nara’s Kasuga Shrine, Osaka’s Hokoku Shrine, and Kagawa Prefecture’s Konpira Shrine have also been reporting similar problems. Ema on which the original purchasers wrote messages such as “Hang in there, people of Hong Kong” and “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” a rallying cry for protestors, have had their messages crossed out or written over with “One China.” In extreme cases, the ema themselves have been found snapped into pieces.

You can find these ‘prayer boards’ or ema (絵馬) at almost every (manned) Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples where people write their wishes on wooden blocks and hang it in public. These are eventually burned for the local kami(s) to receive people’s wishes.

According to NHK, the reaction on Weibo was mixed:


Various comments have appeared one after the other on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.


Among the comments are ones critical one of protests [in Hong Kong]: “I feel inexplicably complicated about emas that support the protests amongst other emas that wish for good grades and finding someone you love.” Other comments are critical about the graffiti itself: “It looks stupid to go all to way to a shrine in Japan to express your political views, but it also looks stupid to scribble on other people’s ema”.

Granted, people usually pray for good health or good luck on exams, rather than a political solution that China will never satisfy. But I find it extremely offensive on every level for folks to come judge what’s written on other people’s ema or even vandalize or destroy them.

It’s not just a matter of freedom of thought or freedom of expression. Places of worship are safe spaces for our hopes and fears. That must not change.

Chiitan: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

With 40 days left till 2020, Tales from Tabata begins its video year in review by recapping how Chiitan☆ caught John Oliver’s attention in New York City.

According to the Washington Post‘s Simon Denyer:

Essentially, John Oliver became a fan [of Chiitan☆]. And to join the fun, he made a mascot of his own, named Chiijohn, who traveled to Susaki.

All of this left Chiitan the mascot unhappy. So Oliver was challenged to a “no-holds-barred match” and to explode through tables (a reference to another Oliver piece about WWE wrestling). The comedian tweeted drily: “I’m in a public beef with an unsanctioned Japanese otter. I needed this.”

Susaki, with an aging population of 20,000 people, is not quite sure whether to laugh or cry.

FT: “Tokyo woos hedge funds in crisis-hit Hong Kong”

Leo Lewis and Don Weinland for the Financial Times (paywall):

The Tokyo government has embarked on a discreet bid to woo hedge funds away from crisis-hit Hong Kong, dispatching a delegation to the city this week on a 48-hour mission to persuade money managers to relocate to the Japanese capital.

Government officials have organised a flurry of meetings between finance executives from Japan and dozens of Hong Kong hedge funds in an effort that has the unofficial but explicit blessing of Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, according to people familiar with the lobbying push.

Interesting financial markets gossip, but I wonder how competitive their pitch is compared to Singapore’s? Tokyo might be getting easier for non-Japanese people to stay, but people tend to compare Singapore and Hong Kong for the taxes.

Trippin’: A Design Lover’s Guide

I was stunned to discover Trippin’: A Design Lover’s Guide hiding on the bottom shelves of Book B in Hong Kong last weekend.

This fabulous, pocket-sized zine (more of a full-length book really, running at over 120 pages) by Ryan Len and Ella Zheng, who are based in Singapore, is overflowing with fantastic travel destinations to all the cool places in Tokyo people have told me about in the past 5 years, from 21_21 Design Sight (they went to the same show as I did!) to Scai The Bathhouse in Nezu, a beautiful front and back cover, and funny illustrations.

And although the zine is starting to get dated (the Muji Harajuku, for example, moved to Ginza this past April), this guide goes a long way to show that Tokyo isn’t just a place to get boring chain store ramen and Bic Camera electronics.

But what really blew my mind away was the guide’s middle section, which is dedicated to all the paper items that Len and Zhang collected in Tokyo. And I thought I was the only person in the world who had an obsession with collecting pamphlets from traveling in Japan and then scanning them! The icing on the cake was a fictitious pink sales slip that bookstores and publishers traditionally use to record book sales.

Trippin’: A Design Lover’s Guide can be found on Len and Zhang’s website.

TBS News: Japanese university student arrested in Hong Kong gives his full story

TBS News has identified the university student that Hong Kong police arrested near Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the arrest to Japanese media on Tuesday but had declined to disclose his identity.

TBS News uploaded an interview with him outside what appears to be Cheung Sha Wan Police Station onto Yahoo News Japan. As articles on Yahoo News tend to disappear after some time, I attach the clip through Twitter below:

I’ve decided to exceptionally translate the entire article, which is a story of why touring conflicting zones for fun is such a bad idea, below:


The Japanese college student who went to Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where police and demonstrators continue to clash, and was arrested by police was released before dawn on November 20. Immediately after his release, he told JNN [Japan News Network] in an exclusive interview that “[he] didn’t know why he was arrested.”

「こっちは何もやっていないんですよ。石も投げていませんし、ただ見に行っただけなのに」(東京農業大学3年 井田光さん)

“I didn’t do anything here at all. I didn’t throw any rocks. I only came to see what was going on,” said Ida Hikaru, the arrested student.


Ida, aged 21 and a third-year student at the Tokyo University of Agriculture, was released just past midnight on November 20 Hong Kong Time, and came out of the police station. Ida said that he was visiting Hong Kong as a tourist on November 17, went to see the protests at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon, and was arrested by the police. He left his passport at his hotel, and his wallet contained his university ID card.


“They said I was charged with rioting. As to how I was arrested, I was surrounded and couldn’t go home. I only got out by going to a place that the journalists were using to leave. I don’t know why I was arrested,” Ida said.


According to Ida, he had briefly entered the university campus, and was arrested when he tried to leave. At the time, “I was pinned down and beaten by the police together with the other protestors, but I wasn’t treated roughly at the police station,” Ida said. “I hope the protest participants arrested together with me also get arrested soon,” he said.


“Most [of the people arrested together with me] were minors. They were mostly 10, 16 years old. They were pretty bloodied up,” Ida said.


As this was happening, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which supports respect for human rights and the establishment of democracy in Hong Kong, on the 19th. The Act requires the U.S. government to review each year whether China is protecting ‘One Country, Two Systems’, which guarantees Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. The Act had already passed in the House of Representatives last month. The Act becomes law after the two houses in Congress combine the bill and President Trump signs the bill, and is further pressure to China.


As the U.S.-China trade war continues, Mr. Trump has not expressed a clear stance to the bill. Observers are paying close attention as to how he will react.

War tourism only demonstrates the privilege of those who do not live in conflict zones. Unlike Ida’s wishes, none of the people arrested with him are likely to be released any time soon.

The comments on Yahoo Japan are equally scathing. Obviously all online comments should be approached with suspicion. But it was only a year ago that Japan saw Hong Kong as a hip and Instagrammable place to visit over the weekend. Now, I doubt we have the same reputation.


It is the case that the mayhem in Hong Kong right now as an extremely dangerous situation, and also requires, politically and diplomatically, discreet judgment.


Since this interview was done right after he was released by the Hong Kong police, he probably doesn’t know how he was been treated by the press in Japan…


There’s nothing wrong with going to Hong Kong, but if it’s true that he dropped by to see the protests while he was on holiday, then he’s reckless.


He probably doesn’t “prepared” in the sense that a war journalist could be locked up in the course of discharging his duties. If he got injured or was locked up for a long time, it could also have become a diplomatic problem.


I myself worry about Hong Kong, and am strongly against the Chinese Communist Party’s oppression, but I think it’s reckless for one to go to protest scenes for tourism purposes and not if you are truly committed to being part of the protests.


It might be extreme to expect a 21 year old college student to have this kind of “preparedness” in mind, but I also think at his age, he should have understood that his actions bring consequences.

From one of the comments on Yahoo News Japan