My Mother is a Tractor - Japan News Log

The best of Japanese news, oddities and humour + sometimes the controversial...

japan ski Learn Japanese on your iPod or add a phrasebook

Ganbatte Mr. Yamagata! - 01/2/09

Just some of the new president's influences...

As you can see I can hardly be bothered keeping up with the blog these days and generally just post links on the forum. However, this little gem landed in my inbox today and made me laugh so much I just had to post it!

During the recent inauguration for Barack Obama, he not only gave a seminal speech and statement of change from the Bush years but followed it by several remarks and off-the-cuff comments to the crowd or those nearby. Just before he left the podium, however, he muttered an barely audible and enigmatic remark, "Ganbatte, Mr. Yamagata." Those nearby probably instantly dismissed it as a casual remark concerning some former friend or rival. However, upon an initial check, there appeared to be no Yamagata in his background. Only one reporter questioned aides to the new president as to what the "Ganbatte, Mr. Yamagata" statement meant but they professed only ignorance, feigned or otherwise. One understood 'ganbatte' as meaning 'good luck' in Japanese, but that was it.

However upon hearing about the remark, a childhood friend, Andrew Donegan, from his days in Hawaii has stepped forward to tell the tale. When they were kids, they were playing baseball early one Saturday morning with another friend in the backyard. Their friend hit a fly ball which landed in Obama's neighbor's yard. His neighbors were Mr. & Mrs. Yamagata - Hawaiian residents of Japanese descent. Donegan and Obama jumped the fence and went to retrieve the ball which was near the bedroom windows. As they leaned down to pick up the ball, they heard Mrs. Yamagata shouting at her husband, "Oral sex! You want oral sex?! You'll get oral sex when the black kid next door becomes president!" Unfortunately for Vernon Yamagata, probably unbeknown to Obama, he died in 1994 and his wife Ruby in 2001.

True story supposedly.

Lock up your hubcaps and grave markers - 08/3/08

Metal thieves steal kids' slides, toilet roof

The ABC (via Reuters) reports that children's slides, incense holders from cemeteries have disappeared in a spate of metal robberies in Japan prompted by surging steel and copper prices. Even the roof of a public toilet has gone missing - but you could most likely blame that on one of Japan's infamous variety shows. Following a world wide trend, there were about 5,700 such robberies in Japan last year causing damages worth some 2 billion yen and the number of cases is rising, media reports say, citing the National Police Agency.

There were four incidents of metals robberies on Sunday alone, including the theft of 550 kilograms of copper wire worth some 330,000 yen in Gifu prefecture, central Japan, media say. Last month, thieves stole two stainless steel slides from parks in Saitama prefecture neighbouring Tokyo. "There were bolts scattered around the area, and the steps for the slides were left behind," one particulary alert town official reported.

They were volunteers! They did it for the money! - 05/3/08

A reborn hawkish Abe won't apologise for Japan's own 'inconvenient truth'

In an apparent move back toward his previously disavowed conservative tendencies Japan's Prime Minister says his country will not be apologising for the wartime recruitment of "sex slaves", even if called on to do so by the United States Congress. A resolution is before the US House of Representatives, calling on Japan to apologise for the use of so-called comfort women as prostitutes in military brothels during World War II. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his country will not be apologising, even if the resolution is passed.

However, Mr Abe has recommitted Japan to a 1993 statement, in which it accepted that the military had played a part in the setting up and management of wartime brothels. Last week Mr Abe sparked condemnation from South Korea when he was quoted saying there was no evidence to back claims of coercion of comfort women. China, quite surprisingly, has played down the row and said it wishes to concentrate on improving ties with Japan - until it was convenient to hold another set of rabid protests.

F*** Japan - 18/2/08

A bit of old blogging news that I recently stumbled upon.

After a 2005 flare-up regarding a long running dispute over islands in the Japan Sea these kindergarten posters appeared in a subway display many with violent imagery and crude language. I realise there's a whole bigger agenda here - but is it little wonder that Koreans grow up not getting on with the Japanese when adults actively encourage such attitudes?

Princess Masako Update - 17/2/08

It has been report that Bastards Inc. (a.k.a. Kodansha) has cancelled a plan to print Ben Hill's book on the life of Crown Princess Masako. BI says it has scrapped the plan for the Japanese edition following Mr Hill's refusal to apologise for his "errors" and that it "...cannot tolerate the attitude the author has shown towards obvious errors in the original book", which led to the Japanese Government's protest.

Princess Masako

More links: The Empire Strikes Back // An open letter from the Royal Court // An open letter regarding misquotes

'Shocking Foreigner' comic withdrawn - 15/2/08

Earlier this month embarrassed Japanese retailers started removing a comic book "GAIJIN HANZAI" from their shelves that highlights crimes committed by foreigners. The nationwide convenience store FamilyMart announced it would pull from its shelves the comic-magazine titled "Shocking Foreigner Crime" after complaints of racism and offensive language.

The publication details recent crimes in Japan involving foreigners, asking whether they should be allowed to devastate Japan. The company that published the magazine has denied it is racist, and says it wanted to broaden a debate about crime.

Shigeki Saka of Tokyo-based publishers Eichi was quoted as saying "This is not a racist book, because it is based on established fact," Saka said. "If we wanted to be racist, we could write it in a much more racist way," he added, saying that the word ‘nigger’ was not considered offensive in Japan.

In the last few days reports state that the publisher is now "out of stock".

Shocking foreigner

Another Aussie offends - 14/02/08

After the recent hooha over little Johnny Howard and his 'Obama and the Democrats are psedo-terrorists' remark, another Aussie, journo Ben Hills, has ruffled a few feathers at the royal Japanese court with his recent book on Princess Masako.

Although released some time last year it has largely been ignored until news emerged this week that a version will shortly be released in Japanese by Kodansha. Let it be noted that these are the same bastards that sat on my manuscript for more than twelve months then dismissed it with a simple two sentence email.

For those unfamiliar with her story Masako was an "...independent, cosmopolitan young woman, educated at Harvard and Oxford, proficient in six languages who gave up her career, her freedom and even her identity to marry the crown prince of Japan and enter the sequestered halls of a 2,600-year-old monarchy." Her husband sought to modernise the Japanese royalty but the traditional servers of the court were having nothing of that.

For his part Hills says that he has nothing to apologise for, apart from obviously that this is a badly written book. However he did also state, and I would agree with him, that, "It's the Emperor Household Agency that should be apologising to Princess Masako for destroying her health. It's absolutely appalling what they have done."

It must be said that, before this emerging kerfuffle, I had read some reviews and found them so underwhelming I decided not to include the tome on my Japan book page.

What? Short skirts in Japan! - 12/2/08

This is an old article that I re-discovered in a link from a friend. Apparently in a bid to distinguish itself (apart from rice, snow, water and an elderly population with an average age of 93), Niigata now boasts that it's schoolgirls have the shortest skirts in the country and afforts have been made to get girls to wear them longer.

japanese schoolgirls

However my old mate Todd (of climbing Mt. Fuji fame) claims, "Too bad the faces they're connected to aren't the best."

Do you realise how hard it was to find a a G-Rated picture? Try typing "Japan schoolgirls" into Google Image and see if you can find anything that's not porn - even with safe search! Also check out the hotdogging schoolgirl snowboarders in short skirts on the video blog

Japanese women

Japanese women called child machines - 9/2/08

It doesn't take an Alexsey Vayner to work out that Japanese children are fewer and further between. The honourable Senator Joseph Biden has some less than esteemed company — it turns out serious political gaffes aren't just for bumbling American presidential candidates. In an erstwhile bid to correct the falling population of ye old Nippon it's health minister, Hakuo Yanagisawa, has referred to women as "birth-giving machines" in a speech to a local political meeting. In a poor turn of phrase he askes Japanese women patriotically, " do their best per head"

The current Japanese cabinet seems a lot like the government members we were all used to before the charismatic Koizumi took over. Only last month new PM Abe had to rein in his defense minister twice after Fumio Kyuma first called the American invasion of Iraq a mistake, then later told Japanese reporters that Washington should not be so "bossy" over a planned relocation of a U.S. military base on Japan's Okinawa island. For his part, Abe has warned his cabinet colleagues to "watch your mouths"


japan ski Learn Japanese on your iPod or add a phrasebook

Tags: Japan News, Oddities, Humour, Barack Obama, John Howard, Princess Masako, Ben Hills, Japanese schoolgirls, Alexsey Vayner, Dokdo, Takeshima, Comfort women, Metal thieves, , Good Luck / Ganbatte Mr. Yamagata!, Obama