September 8, 2010

Japan's Economic Stagnation Leads 20-30 Year-Olds Balancing 2 or 3 Jobs

I read two interesting articles today.  The first deals with the increasing trend of 20 and 30 year-olds holding 2 or 3 jobs. These side jobs being necessary to help cover living expenses and provide some wiggle room in the budget for fun.
 According to figures from the National Tax Agency, average annual salaries for Japanese workers in their early 20s fell to 2.48 million yen in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, from 2.83 million yen in 1997. At the current exchange rate, that is a decrease to $29,470, from $33,63.
It is interesting, actually scary, that full-time employment at a company doesn't provide enough income by itself to support the lifestyles, even modest ones, of the younger generations.
 Data released last week by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare found that almost 56 percent of workers 15 to 34 years old needed another form of income to help pay living expenses.
Some of the people highlighted in the article have been able to parlay the experience they gained in their second job into new entrepreneurial ventures allowing them to quit their main job.  This entrepreneurship is something that Japan and its economy have traditionally lacked and if this spirit increases it could help Japan slowly claw its way out of economic stagnation and retreat.
The second article deals with the upcoming selection of a new Prime Minister by the DPJ, and highlights the revolving door of leaders that Japan has experienced over the last two decades.  The first two paragraphs sum up the effects that a lack of leadership has wrecked on Japan and its economy.
 Japan’s frequent leadership changes are dizzying and increasingly counterproductive. The country has had 14 prime ministers in the last two decades and could soon have another. That would make three in the last 12 months alone — hardly time enough to introduce new policies, much less effectively implement them.
This phenomenon would make successful governance difficult in any country. But Japan is the world’s third largest economy and a technological and regional power. It needs a prime minister who can offer robust, principled leadership over a sustained period, win support for economic policies that would help pull the world out of recession and maintain a strong alliance with the United States.
 Who will be the new prime minister, Kan or Ozawa, and how long will he last?  For more information and deeper analysis see the respective articles.  They are worth the read.
Aggccording to figures from the National Tax Agency, average annual salaries for Japanese workers in their early 20s fell to 2.48 million yen in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, from 2.83 million yen in 1997. At the current exchange rate, that is a decrease to $29,470, from $33,635.

September 1, 2010

Two Misconceptions About Japan and the Japanese

Once you come to Japan, you very quickly realize that you didn't know much about the country before you arrived.   Even the most diligent internet researcher will likely be in for a surprise or two.  This week I came across two interesting articles that shed some light on aspects of the country often over looked by western media.  The first article deals with the stark difference between Japan's high-tech image and the low-tech reality that pervades businesses and civil services where much of the work is still done on paper ala the 1960's:
Police stations without computers, 30-year-old "on hold" tapes grinding out tinny renditions of Greensleeves, ATMs that close when the bank does, suspect car engineering, and kerosene heaters but no central heating.

A dystopian vision of a nation with technology stuck in an Orwellian time warp? Not at all. These are aspects of contemporary, low-tech Japan that most visitors miss as they look around the hi-tech nation that its government, electronics industry and tourism board are keen to promote.
 The second article might provide some relief to all those just starting or thinking about study Japanese.  It highlights the fact that with the introduction of word-processors and cellphones into mainstream society people in Japan and China have steadily lost the ability to recall and handwrite even simple characters (kanji):
Like every Chinese child, Li Hanwei spent her schooldays memorising thousands of the intricate characters that make up the Chinese writing system.

Yet aged just 21 and now a university student in Hong Kong, Li already finds that when she picks up a pen to write, the characters for words as simple as "embarrassed" have slipped from her mind.

 "We rely too much on the conversion function on our phones and PCs," said Ayumi Kawamoto, 23, shopping in Tokyo's upscale Ginza district.

"I've mostly forgotten characters I learned in middle and high school and I tend to forget the characters I only occasionally use."
 Please click on the quotes to enjoy the full articles from the BBC and AFP, respectively.

August 26, 2010

Jijimi(Korean-style pancake)美味しいチヂミの作り方

A simple and delicious Jijimi recipe with a to die for sauce. All done in under 10 minutes. Great appetizer for parties or an afternoon snack.

Jijimi Ingredients:
3 eggs
4 tbs flour
sliced ham
4 stocks nira
2 tbs chilled water

Sauce ingredients:
2 tbs vinegar (apple vinegar if you have it)
2 tbs soy sauce
minced garlic
1/2 tbs sugar
red chili paste

August 16, 2010

Vintage Japanese Model Cars

A trip to a retro Japanese town from the 1950~60s yielded a treasure trove of vintage model toy cars. All you collectors should enjoy this video and the models only found in Japan.

Background Music: London [demo 2004] by The Dominant Gene. Licensed under a CC-BY license.
For more information follow the link:

August 14, 2010

Japanese Tofu and Cucumber Salad

A quick and easy tofu and cucumber side salad often accompanying meals here in Japan.

150g Tofu
1 thin cucumber
30 g carrot
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mayo
1 tablespoon ground sesame seeds
1 strip of ham
dash of Cayenne pepper (or try curry power)

August 12, 2010

Shattered Memories of Japan

A sudden minor shock or meaningless/meaningful interruption...that is a is a blip of the land of the rising sun. JAPAN!

Shot with the 7D by Nathan Miller
Edited by Matthew Brown

Music - "Empty Room Trailer Version" by Zack Hemsey

June 17, 2010

Indie Music Japan: 4 Bonjour's Parties

The third installment (1 and 2) exploring the indie music scene in Japan brings us 4 Bonjour's Parties.  A group of seven members based in Tokyo.  Their instruments range from your standard fare to wind instruments, glockenspiel, an accordion, and a sprinkling of samplers and synthesizers. 

In the above video, true to Vincent Moon fashion you can only play what you can carry.  The group roamed love hotel lined streets as they strummed their instruments and lent their intimate voices to  couples looking for an intimate time.

June 16, 2010

Indie Music Japan: Shugo Tokumaru (トクマルシューゴ)

Our second entry ( previous ) exploring indie music in Japan features  Shugo Tokumaru (トクマルシューゴ).  He is incredibly talented and has a beautiful voice.  If you think all the music in Japan is cookie-cutter J-Pop, you will be relieved to hear this his melodic voice.  Again, the filming was done by  Vincent Moon as part of the collaboration between La Blogotheque and Black XS.

June 15, 2010

Indie Music Japan: Lost and Found

I found this video on LaBlogotheque's Youtube channel, which is composed of single shot music video's of great mostly unknown (by me) groups performing out in public.  One of the guys behind this project is Vincent Moon, a Frenchman, with great sense when it comes to camera work and capturing a moment and emotion.  This particular video is part of a new series aimed at finding local groups all around the world.  The Japan section is particularly interesting to me.

Above is a video of Lost and Found, composed of one fair-voiced American man and four Japanese women, preforming two songs.  I particularly enjoyed the second one.  It was almost reminiscent of Belle & Sebastian.

February 10, 2010

Quenching Weathered Hands

Quenching Weathered Hands

A railroad line runs right through the middle of Hanoi.  You could almost walk right over it and miss it.  It is such a part of city-life and little heed is payed to the proximity in which bikes are parked to it or buildings are built to it.  Its path through the city is little wider than a small alley.  The above picture captures a moment that is as ordinary as it is extraordinary. 

February 8, 2010

Maiko & Geiko Correspondence

Originally uploaded by Onihide.

I didn't take this, but this Maiko is stunning. This blew me away when I saw it.

February 3, 2010

Children of Cambodia - Unguarded Moments

Each photo captures an unguarded moment. The first one a private moment of weariness  and the second an unreserved smile.  For children in Cambodia, these emotions are ever present in their eyes.  Their success selling souvenirs each day effects that night's dinner.  You can see the urgency in their eyes as they go from tourist to tourist and the weight on their shoulders.  However, in moments where no one is looking the immature child within bubbles through and lips curve and teeth flash.  Though only fleeting these moments reveal a self that is free of the  burdens of reality.

Kids in Cambodia - Long Day

Kids in Cambodia - Smile

February 2, 2010

On Fishermen...

The way I see it, a fisherman always has a love and a mistress. His boat is his love and the sea is his mistress. Sometimes the mistress takes him and other times she takes both him and his love. The first picture is a meditation on what happens to his love after he joins his mistress. The second one, well, lets just say they had a three-way run in and the mistress came out on top.

When a Fisherman Dies, What Happens to His Love?

Sun Drenched Reclusive Beach

February 1, 2010

Kids in Cambodia - Guarded Smile

Kids in Cambodia - Guarded Smile

This was the cutest girl I saw in Cambodia. She was only seven and had a sweet attitude. In between her performance on a toy flute she stopped so I could take her picture. You could see she still had her innocence in a country where children are forced to grow up fast for their and their family's survival.

January 31, 2010

The Garden of Tea


I am planning a charity bike ride in March that will cover approximately 300km in 3 days. My main responsiblity is the route. I have it planned out and yesterday I had the chance to actually drive the whole thing. It is a beautiful route encompassing mountains, valleys, and the northwestern coastline of the island of Kyushu. I was stunned by some of the views and pinning for the day when I get to ride the whole thing. The above picture is from route 122 which hugs the coastline. I saw a sign for a "tea road observation point" and drove up it. This was the spectacular view I saw. I had fun wandering through the bushes of tea and snapping away.


January 30, 2010

On Her Way

On Her Way

I took a lot of photos on my trip in Southeast Asia. About 1,300 clicks of the shutter to be exact. I went through them and I marked just over 500 as being worth editing. That is a lot of work and will take time--maybe even a year. The problem is that I keep taking pictures in the meantime :). It is fun however to see how I have improved and changed in my photographic style. Even since I have started using my first dSLR just over three months ago. So in a way, I am happy I have such a backlog of photos to go through.

Now the photo above. Of the photos I have edited so far, this is among my favorites. Someone else might not give it two looks when looking at a set of my Cambodian pictures, but to me it special. It is hard to quantify what keeps my thinking about and my eye exploring this photo. When I look at it, my eye follows the thin and weathered grandma and her bike out of the frame and my imagination suddenly takes over. I imagine where she is going, the countless hardships and moments of joy that have made up her life. I wonder how she got to such an old age, when I saw so few elderly people in the country. What have her eyes seen? How did she survive the Khmer Rouge? Does she tell her grandchildren stories of that time or does she hold those nightmares close knowing they are more horrifying than any ghost store they have ever heard?

This photo takes my eye and my mind on a journey that it would never have gone on, and this is why I treasure this photo.

January 29, 2010

Bayon - Tower of Faces

Faces of Bayon

Bayon is a beautifully eerie place. The temple is huge, but it's halls and rooms are constricting. Scrambling up stairways you run into huge faces 1.5 times your size staring at you. As you walk past, you look back to make sure the eyes aren't following you.

Bayon - Tower of Faces

Thinking of the time and labor required to build these temples is mind-paralyzing. The scale of them and shear number of them spotting the countryside are amazing. Why did they only teach us about the pyramids in school?

January 28, 2010

Kids in Cambodia - Free Hospital in a Land of Abundant Need

Kids in Cambodia - Free Hospital in a Land of Abundant Need

As we were on our way to Angkor Wat, we stopped at this road crossing. At first nothing was happening, but soon this baby was being wheeled across the street. It turns out we were on a road that goes right through a free children's hospital. It was a little shocking to see, but at least this one was getting cared for. The longer we were in Siem Reap the more children we saw and most of them weren't this lucky.

January 27, 2010

Kids in Cambodia - I Am More Than My Possessions

Kids in Cambodia - I Am More Than My Possessions
A kid loses her sandal and another finds her meal for the day.
Going to the 3rd world where people have few possessions causes use to look past these when judging and valuing a person. This is something we lose living in the developed world where people worry about having an iPhone that is a generation old.

January 26, 2010

Kids in Cambodia - How You Doing

Kids in Cambodia - How You Doing
This kid had a fun attitude and as the sun was setting, he was more interested in having fun then selling anything. I got two nice shots of him. You can see the other one here.

January 25, 2010

January 22, 2010

Kids in Cambodia - Offering

Kids in Cambodia - Offering
This scene was heartbreaking. While I was exploring one of the outlying temples near Angkor Wat, she came up to me. She was rail thin and only knew the words "one dollar" in English. She picked a yet to bloom flower and offered it to me. It was the last one within eyesight and all her hope has riding on it.