politics

Japanese constitution nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Japanese constitution nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize has an unprecedented nomination: the Ninth Article of the Japanese constitution. The Ninth Article renounces the right to engage in war or to maintain a military. The group advocating the nomination, the “Constitution’s Ninth Article for the Nobel Peace Prize,” is based in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Housewife Naomi Takusu (37) came up with the idea. She started an online petition last May and garnered 1,500 signatures in just five days. She contacted the Nobel Committee, from whose response she learned that candidates can only be nominated through certain channels and must be individuals or groups. She changed her strategy and tried again for 2014.

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North Korean media sinks even lower, calls South Korean leader a “repulsive wench”

North Korean media sinks even lower, calls South Korean leader a “repulsive wench”

Barely a week after branding her a “blabbering peasant woman,” North Korea has labelled South Korean leader Park Geun-hye a “repulsive wench” via its state-run media. Not only that, but the same quoted source also alluded to the fact that the president has no children of her own, and said that she “makes a mockery of sacred motherhood.”

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Prominent political figures like you’ve never seen them before… FABULOUS!

Prominent political figures like you’ve never seen them before… FABULOUS!

Saint Hoax is a Middle Eastern artist who recently set up a website which combines the kitsch of pop art with cynical political commentary. In their post, Saint Hoax muses on the similarities between drag queens and world figureheads. Thinking that they share unique fashions and stand-out personalities, the only real difference between a drag queen and a king boils down to flashier colors and a whole lot of money.

So Saint Hoax took nine political and religious figures and applied some sequins and foundation – a lot of foundation – to make them queen for a day.  They certainly work – sashay, shantay – but if you happen to have strong political or religious leanings in one direction or another, you’ll probably find yourself offended by these images.

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Japan ratifies child abduction treaty, but some parents may still be left behind

Japan ratifies child abduction treaty, but some parents may still be left behind

This week, Japan became the 91st signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides protection for children under 16 from being taken from their country of residence by one parent against the wishes of the other. However, the convention does not work retroactively, so parents whose children have already been taken are urging the Japanese government to stand by provisions of the treaty in their cases as well.

A group of left-behind parents organized a march in Washington, D.C., on Monday to hand-deliver 28 applications for assistance reuniting with their children to the U.S. Department of State and to submit a petition for the return of abducted children to the Japanese embassy.

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Wait, did North Korea really just call South Korea’s president a “blabbering peasant woman”?

Wait, did North Korea really just call South Korea’s president a “blabbering peasant woman”?

Yes. Yes, it did.

Relations between North and South Korea took a turn for the childish today as a spokesman for the notorious hermit nation labelled South Korea’s President Park Geun-Hye a “peasant” and remarked that she ought to stop “blabbering” if she ever wants to see relations between the two countries improve.

Me, and indeed, ow.

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Crimean attorney general responds to the Internet’s attempts to turn her into an anime character

Crimean attorney general responds to the Internet’s attempts to turn her into an anime character

Japan’s infatuation with Natalia Poklonskaya, Crimea’s newly appointed and unusually photogenic attorney general, is still going strong. In the week since we first reported on it, fan art based on Eastern Europe’s comeliest stateswoman has continued to proliferate.

But how do Poklonskaya, and for that matter her anime-loving daughter, feel about the unique sort of attention she’s been getting?

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Admirers express their love for Crimean attorney general in the purest way they can: cute fan art

Admirers express their love for Crimean attorney general in the purest way they can: cute fan art

So there seems to be just a teeny bit of political turmoil in Eastern Europe these days, what with almost every voter in formerly-Soviet Crimea saying they’re happy to cut ties with Ukraine and have the region annexed by Russia. It’s a thorny opening act for the newly-appointed Crimean attorney general, but Natalia Poklonskaya can at least count on the moral support of thousands of Japanese men. Not because they necessarily agree with her political views, though, but because the 33-year-old Poklonskaya looks more like she came from Central Casting than the judicial branch of government.

Of course, where there’s love-struck Japanese men pondering the ideal forms of female beauty, anime artwork can’t be far behind, and there’s a growing batch of Poklonskaya fan art making the rounds on the Internet.

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PM Abe calls on Japanese businesses to learn from Nintendo, netizens skeptical

PM Abe calls on Japanese businesses to learn from Nintendo, netizens skeptical

At a recent budget meeting in the Japanese Diet, a member asked Prime Minister Abe to explain his growth strategy. As you probably know, the prime minister has been focused on improving the Japanese economy, though he’s not having the greatest of luck. As Abenomics–the cheeky name given to Abe’s economic policies–fluctuates in and out of favor, many are wondering if it’s working at all. We’re not sure the Prime Minister’s response is going to assuage anyone’s fears…

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North Korea launches missiles into Japan Sea because it’s just that time again

North Korea launches missiles into Japan Sea because it’s just that time again

We’re used to seeing a lot of unbelievable-sounding coverage concerning the Cobra-style antics of North Korea’s totalitarian dictatorship. But the country’s tightly-closed borders make many reports difficult to verify, so a lot of patently false stories end up circulating through legitimate outlets. This means that, sadly, what you’ve read about North Korea putting a man on the sun and finding a unicorn lair are less than legit.

Some stories, however, are frighteningly real: Like the one about Pyongyang launching a series of Scud missiles over the Japan Sea recently as a show of military might.

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How to get free healthcare in Japan without insurance

How to get free healthcare in Japan without insurance

Brace yourselves, Republicans and Libertarians: it turns out Japan’s social safety net provides free healthcare to people that need medical attention but have no money or insurance. It’s like Obamacare’s angry, ‘roided-up samurai cousin.

That’s because there’s a somewhat vaguely-worded provision in Japanese law that states the government is obligated to provide care for those with “troubled livelihoods,” at low or no cost, regardless of insurance coverage. “Troubled livelihood” is kind of a broad definition, which ensures that those without the means to pay for medical treatment - even if they aren’t necessarily poor, homeless or unable to work - can still see a doctor.

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“Sexist” pro-nuclear politician elected as Tokyo’s newest governor

“Sexist” pro-nuclear politician elected as Tokyo’s newest governor

Yoichi Masuzoe, the politician who once publicly stated that women “are not normal” during their period and “couldn’t possibly” be relied upon to run the country because of it, has been elected as governor of Tokyo, it has been announced.

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Expert weighs in with his ideas on what defines the Japanese character

Expert weighs in with his ideas on what defines the Japanese character

For most of its history, Japan was separated from the rest of the world by the surrounding seas and an isolationist policy strictly enforced by its feudal period government. These centuries of isolation led to a unique culture, and it’s long been a favorite challenge for researchers and commentators to try to pin down just what defines the Japanese character.

Chinese news portal BW Chinese recently published a list of characteristics of the Japanese psyche, as originally put forth by Australian Gregory Clark, whose educational and professional career dealing with Japanese sociology, education, and economics has spanned more than five decades.

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Word wars: Koreans take the Chinese out of Chinese cabbage

Word wars: Koreans take the Chinese out of Chinese cabbage

America throws the best linguistic hissy fits when political relationships sour. Remember when Congress tried to change French fries to “freedom fries” because France didn’t want to come along on the Iraq invasion? Or how about when sauerkraut became so unpopular during World War I that makers suggested changing the name to the less Germanic “liberty cabbage”? Good times.

Well, it may be that the Yanks aren’t the only ones who want suitably patriotic cabbage. In Korea, it looks like Chinese cabbage, the vegetable used to make the most common variety of kimchi, is now being referred to as “kimchi cabbage” or just “cabbage”.

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Japanese netizens irate after bureaucrat blogs that “The elderly should hurry up and die”

Japanese netizens irate after bureaucrat blogs that “The elderly should hurry up and die”

Much to the  joy of political comedians, recent years have seen a sharp increase in international political gaffs thanks to the Internet and the ease with which stupid comments can go viral. And Japan is no stranger to this trend, with numerous politicians having resigned after letting inappropriate jokes slip to the wrong reporter.

Now one Japanese career bureaucrat in his 50s is in hot water for his inflammatory, supposedly anonymous blog posts. But many Japanese netizens feel his punishment is far too light.

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PM Shinzo Abe faces allegations of being a “poser” after mentioning Metallica in speech

PM Shinzo Abe faces allegations of being a “poser” after mentioning Metallica in speech

On 25 September, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a speech and rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. His aim was to promote US investment as a part of his economic reform plans known as “Abenomics.”

However, the highlight of the speech came towards the end when he mentioned the heavy metal band Metallica and their hit song Enter Sandman while discussing Japan’s future and the Tokyo Olympics. While this may have seemed perfectly innocent at first, this name-drop may have hurt the PM’s standing in the metal community with previous supporters now wondering if Abe is, in fact, a “poser” – someone who only acts like they know about metal.

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Were Syria’s use of chemical weapons and the dropping of the A-bomb the same violation of international law?

Were Syria’s use of chemical weapons and the dropping of the A-bomb the same violation of international law?

On August 21, it was confirmed that chemical weapons were used on civilians in Syria, and it is speculated that the country’s own president, Bashar al Assad, is behind the attacks. The news has sent shockwaves around the world, with US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf commenting, “I think that it’s clear that Syria violated international law here. They used chemical weapons in an indiscriminate manner with respect to civilians.”

Many agree with Ms. Harf’s words, but it is a question that was posed by a Reuters journalist, likening Syria’s actions to that of the United States’ use of atomic weapons during WWII, that has many people in Japan talking.

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Yasukuni Shrine for Dummies, feat. Ian Ziering, Hitler’s corpse, and Anpanman

Yasukuni Shrine for Dummies, feat. Ian Ziering, Hitler’s corpse, and Anpanman

Ah Shinto, you’re the stoner roommate of world religions. People pride you on your laid-back “everything is god” and “it’s okay to have other religions” policies. Often times they wish they could be just like you. However, when you forget to pay the internet bill for the fourth time that way of thinking gets old real quick.

In Shinto’s case, that ISP’s final warning came in the form of Yasukuni Shrine, a shrine which serves to hold the souls of those who died in the Japanese armed forces. When it came time to include some convicted war criminals among those souls, Shinto coughed and said, “Sure man, they probably did something good along the way.”

And so, Yasukuni Shrine has become a political lightning rod inspiring right-wing nationalists in Japan and spurning the nation’s neighbors. Thankfully, this Obon season, when Japanese people habitually visit shrines to honor those who have gone before us, bread-headed children’s superhero, Anpanman, flew into Yasukuni and lent some sanity to an otherwise volatile situation.

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Getting free ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s just became every Japanese citizen’s civic duty

Getting free ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s just became every Japanese citizen’s civic duty

Japan loves ice cream, so when Ben and Jerry’s started opening locations here in 2012, it was welcomed with open arms.

But the Vermont-based company didn’t just bring its assortment of tasty flavors with untranslatable pun-based names. It also brought its well-known commitment to social activism with it. In keeping with those values, Ben & Jerry’s Japan is offering free ice cream to encourage people to vote in the country’s upcoming election.

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LDP still promises to ‘re-examine’ historical textbooks, possibly replace sensitive words

LDP still promises to ‘re-examine’ historical textbooks, possibly replace sensitive words

Less than a year following the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Japan’s victory in the House of Representatives (Lower House) election which allowed it to take power in the country, Japan is now facing the House of Councilors election next month.

Now, with a few months of consecutive leadership under their belts, the LDP have made some adjustments to their campaign promises from the previous elections but remain firm on their promise to re-evaluate Article 9, which prohibits Japan from having an army for offensive purposes.

They also will still look into the “Neighboring Countries Clause” which deals with how historical events are dealt with in education in order to foster good relations with other Asian countries. Some fear that such a review could lead to a whitewashing of certain events such as the Nanjing Massacre.

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Vietnam mulling moniker modification as part of constitutional revisions

Vietnam mulling moniker modification as part of constitutional revisions

Changes are expected to be made to the Vietnamese constitution this October during sessions of the country’s National Assembly. The current constitution was ratified in 1992 as part of the doimoi political movement that relaxed many of the government’s economic controls, and was a major departure from its previous incarnation.

Although minor revisions were made to the constitution in 2001, far more extensive alterations are expected in the next round. Among the many points to be discussed is the possibility of altering the country’s official name.

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