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http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/showcase-101/

Shiho Fukada is an amazing photojournalist. I highly recommend her work. In this particular spot from the NYT, she focuses her lens on Kamagasaki, an area in Osaka that used to be known as “labor town,” but has recently been dubbed “welfare town.” The economic downturn put a stop to much of construction work in Japan, rendering most of these day laborers unemployed. Please see the slide show and story on the NYT Lens Blog or on Fukada’s personal website.

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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.

Tokyo is back as the #1 most expensive city for foreigners to live in. Osaka took #2 honors. (I can vouch for this as I almost went broke during my visit to Japan this summer).  Moscow (held the #1 spot since 2006) dropped to #3.

A man in a medical mask passes in front of an arcade in Osaka, Japan, at the height of the Kansai A/H1N1 Influenza scare, May 2009.

A man in a medical mask passes in front of an arcade in Osaka, Japan, at the height of the A/H1N1 Influenza scare, May 2009.

I’ve always suspected that timing was my forte, and this summer trip to Japan didn’t do much to disprove that tentative hypothesis. I arrived at the Kansai airport just as the illness formerly known as “swine flu” was sweeping the nation. Specifically, the western (Kansai) part of the nation, and specifically called 新型インフルエンザ (new-type influenza). Personal health questionnaires were handed out. Haphazard hazmat-suited officials took the questionnaires along with our temperatures. All this took about 30 minutes and wasted about a half-an-hour of my day. I assumed it was common knowledge that one is contagious days before one shows flu-like symptoms. These inspections were canceled a week after I arrived. See? Timing.

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So I ran across this band on YouTube. I think they’re from Osaka. Haven’t made it big by the looks of it either. They call themselves 3 Bearded Monkeys. Check out the video below. That bassist is nuts!