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image copyright M. Ignatov via Flickr.

In “The Near Future of Employment in Japan” published in the March 2012 issue of Social Science Japan (Newsletter of University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Science; no. 46), professor of Labor Economics, Genda Yuji aims to provide a “blueprint” for an adjustment to Japan’s employment system that can effectively face future crises, taking into account lessons learned from the latest economic downturn. As far as blueprints go, this one is rather pale of shade and sparse of detail, but this may be due to the stage at which this  “Project for the Creation of an Employment System that Enables Lifelong Growth for All People” initiative is currently.

Nevertheless, Prof. Genda makes a number of informative observations. The major is what he calls a “market trend” of “quasi-regular employees” emerging to fill the gaps between the regular employees (I’m assuming he is thinking of 正社員) and  the dispatch/freeter class. Critics have come down too harshly on the post-Lehman expansion of hiring of part-timers/contract workers in place of the higher paid—and more difficult to fire—regular employees (temp. workers were laid off in waves during the “Lehman shock”). This is not an unproblematic trend, Genda concedes, but there are two problems with blanket criticism: first, it does not actually correlate to high unemployment, and second, these critics lump all non-regular employees together, failing to notice the emergence of the “quasi-regular employees.”

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Before:

Ishinomaki, Miyagi

After:

Ishinomaki, Miyagi

Images copyright: (Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images) and (Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images)

See more of the click-through before and after pictures at the Big Picture.

http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1905385_1898654,00.html

The above is the link to a photoessay from TIME magazine about Japan at the height of its bubble economy in 1989, and the later downfall, sometimes referred to as the Heisei Malaise. To tell the truth it is rather weak, but a worthwhile study in how to tell a story using pictures that don’t necessarily fit the narrative. Case in point picture 10. A tired man in a suit. This one is equally at home in the 1980s as in the 2000s. But note how the caption transforms the viewing and interpretation of the–mostly unremarkable–images. It is the photo-journalistic equivalent of buffalax.

Cold Fish (冷たい熱帯魚 Tsumetai nettaigyo ) 2010 – Sono Shion 園子温

*/5

I believe it was Isaac Asimov who wrote, “It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.” Getting his commercial feet wet in the 2002 bloodbath Suicide Club (自殺サークル Jisatsu sākuru lit. “Suicide circle”), Sono Shion 園子温 (b. 1961) does not evoke subtlety. Would it surprise anyone, then, that his latest creation, Cold Fish (冷たい熱帯魚 Tsumetai nettaigyo  lit. “Cold tropical fish”), retains that—Sono—luster? No, and it shouldn’t. But could I be blamed for holding out hope? I hope not.

Caveat lector: I am note opposed to violence, sex, nudity, etc., in film. That said, I am aesthetically remote from splatter flicks in general; gore does not stimulate my cinematic taste buds, neither does graphic absurdity for its own sake. In short, I do not enjoy porn of this order. If you do, feel free to ignore the rest, because you may well enjoy it; if you do not, read on. Read the rest of this entry »

Well, I’ll never forget how to say this now.

I don’t know if the accompanying hand-motions are part of some international sign-language, but if they are not, perhaps they should be. Originally produced by Fuji TV, if you can believe that.

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If they had Darwin Awards for criminals and bad-ass awards for 18-year-old girls this would take the cake:

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20100531p2a00m0na010000c.html

For a bit of levity. Check out the slideshow here from Global Post, and try to keep a straight face while reading the captions. Whoever wrote the captions had a rascally sense of humor.

Neat article in the Japan Times on aphorisms, saying, etc. Well worth a read:

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ek20100224a1.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+japantimes+%28The+Japan+Times%3A+All+Stories%29

石の上にも三年!

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.

The Blue Bird (Aoi Tori) 青い鳥  2008 – Nakanishi Kenji

****/5

Bullying has been a widely acknowledged problem in Japan, and this isn’t the first movie to explore it. But Aoi Tori, based on a novel by Shigematsu Kiyoshi, does something most other movies dealing with this issue fail to do. It explores the gray areas, between outright physical violence against and the virtuous defense of the weak, in which many instances of bullying probably occur.

Abe Hiroshi (who has a few outstanding roles in TV dramas and won the Mainichi Film Concours award for his role in this movie) plays Mr. Murauchi, a stuttering substitute teacher who comes to a school in the aftermath of bullying incidents, which the entire school wants to forget. Murauchi actively dredges up those memories, forcing the students to reassess their own responsibility in the matter they’d rather move past.

This film is worth watching and I don’t want to give anything away. Not because there are any plot twists or clever tricks the directors pulls—there aren’t any—but because watching the story gently unfold is better done without much knowledge of the relationship of each student to the incident in question. I am not a fan of heavy-handed message-driven movies, but I can say I enjoyed this one. And you probably will, too.

Notes:

The director, Nakanishi Kenji, won the special mention SIGNIS Award for this film in his directorial debut.

Do not confuse this film with a TV drama of a similar name, but an entirely different story.