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AFP reports that Japan is out of the worldwide recession by virtue of a 0.9% growth in GDP in the 2nd Quarter of 2009 (April-June). Although the number looks slim, it is viewed as a ray of hope considering that the previous saw negative growth above 3%, making it a 3.7% growth, if annualized. This development may raise the question: If Japan’s economy experiences a more significant upward trend by the end of the month, will this play a significant role in the upcoming Aug. 30 elections? Surely the LDP will attempt to spin this as reflective of their responsible stewardship of the reigns of governance, but it be too little too late? Will the voters buy it? Will this ray of economic hope become a ray of political hope for the LDP?

Recently more and more attention has been paid to Japanese elections, since PM Aso announced the dissolution of the Diet and called for a snap election to take place on August 30. Many are considering this the first time the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has a real chance to unseat the hitherto ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

For those who are curious about how campaigns are done in Japan, POV ran a fantastic documentary about a year ago on a–essentially a political nobody, (but an LDP-backed nobody)–candidate for a suburban city council seat. Well worth the time. Things haven’t changed all that much, I suspect. With the exception of the unquestioned LDP dominance, but the jury is still out on that one until Aug. 30.

Watch the full documentary, called simply Campaign, on the PBS website.

64 years ago “Enola Gay” dropped 8,900 lbs of uranium on Hiroshima, marking a watershed moment in history.  64 years later opinions have shuffled around in two major camps; the first feels using the atom bomb was fully justified and the second condemns the action. Those that justify the destruction of Hiroshima and, three days later, Nagasaki defend Truman’s decision citing Japan’s role as the aggressor and express the utilitarian belief that “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” saved more lives than they ended, but to be accurate, the argument goes that they saved American lives, and are thereby justified. Those that oppose martial use of nuclear power are convinced that particular American action represents a crime against humanity, citing the massive civilian casualties and the instantaneous, wholesale destruction of two cities.  These people are inclined to consider the firebombing of Tokyo—that resulted in many more civilian casualties—repulsive as well, however the tremendous destructive power of nuclear weapons render their use immoral.

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Just ran across this short documentary (about 45 min.) about Japanese high school baseball (高校野球). Interesting stuff. These kids are not messing around. Filmed in 2003, so not the most up to date, but still worth watching. Check it out on HULU. And read up on it on the PBS’s POV page here.

Kaiko Takeshi (開高 健), also known as Kaiko Ken, writes particular stories, propelled by self-loathing, nameless narrators whose intense gazing into their navels results in seeing much of themselves in the mass stored in their lower intestines. They are repulsive individuals, at times, but Kaiko writes them earnestly and honestly. That sincerity keeps the reader from tossing the book in disgust, keeps the reader engaged long enough to appreciate the haunted narrators. In the 1972 novel Darkness in Summer (夏の闇), Kaiko returns to a narrator familiar to the readers of his 1968 masterpiece Into a Black Sun (輝ける闇), both available in very readable translation by Dr. Cecilia Segawa Seigle.

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