Japanese News and Culture Blog Roundup: 10/15/09-10/21/09

Tokyo Times

takurazuka 10/21/09: Takarazuka in Tokyo
The Takarazuka Revue is an all-female musical theater group in Japan that puts on popular adaptations of shows like Guys and Dolls and The Sound of Music. It has appeared in the press again lately since the current first lady of Japan, Miyuku Hatoyama, was once a performing member in the 1960s. I personally heard about it lately since my host mom in Japan saw a performance last week. All male roles are also played by females, often done up like David Bowie-esque makeup. Pictured here is one of their “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney” shows. Yes, Phoenix Wright has come to stage! My host mom said the show she saw was extremely over-the-top, but still fun. For more information on this group, check out this link.

Pink Tentacle

saya_in_takashimaya 10/21/09: Video: Sick robot exhibits symptoms of H1N1
A robot that shows symptoms of H1N1 was recently displayed at an expo in Tokyo as a training aid for emergency workers. Without treatment, the patient will eventually “die” and stop breathing. Also featured this week was a female humanoid robot named Saya who worked reception at a Takashimaya department store in Tokyo. Pictures of her are slightly creepy (uncanny valley, anyone?), though she was apparently a hit with shoppers and tourists. At least her appearance isn’t as upsetting as this little guy from two years ago. CB2 will haunt my dreams forever, though all these advances in robotics are still certainly impressive!

Japan Probe

antler_ceremony_nara 10/16/09: Nara’s deer lose their antlers
I guess I should have realized this earlier, but it was still a little shocking to think of the famous deer of Nara having their antlers sawed off on a yearly basis. However, the deer have no feeling in their antlers by the time of the ceremony, and they are usually naturally shed each year after mating season anyway. The 300-year-old ceremony is performed for the safety of both the deer and the tourists who flock to Nara to feed them “shika sembei” biscuits.

The Swine Flu Continues to Spread

Although articles about school closings and the threat of the swine flu have abated in the U.S., in Japan they’re still going strong. Effects from the economic downturn have been exacerbated by the spread of the swine flu, which has scared some consumers into shopping more through the internet than at their local department stores. There have also been articles from international news sources claiming that the threat of swine flu in Japan might prompt the WHO to raise the world alert level.

The last frontier, the “West” of Japan was hit today by the Swine Flu. The big news was that the northern island of Hokkaido had its first case. The flu has already spread and affected most of Honshu, Japan’s most populous island. Each newspaper reported the incident.

Asahi: “In Hokkaido, the First Infection of the New Virus Has Been Found.” The Asahi claims that on June 4th, ten friends left to travel to the U.S. and on the 9th they came back with more than they bargained for. At about the 11th of June, a call was placed to the local authorities stating “one of my friends has become infected with the swine flu.” The friend had the typical symptoms, such as runny nose and a high fever, and he went to the local counseling center.

Currently the friend who was diagnosed is in the Sapporo hospital, in stable condition, according to the Asahi.

Yomiuri: “It Came from America” Although they do not mention this in their headline, the first sentence tells that the infected 20 year old “flew home from America.” The Yomiuri also claims that when the person phoned into the local authorities, he had added where he had been, saying “My friend who went to Hawaii with me has been infected with the Swine Flu.”

The Yomiuri closes their article by mentioning the temperature of the patient, at 99.4 degrees Fahrenheit and said “his symptoms are stabilizing” instead of the Asahi’s more optimistic “he’s in stable condition.”

Nikkei: “The WHO is investigating raising the alert level” The Nikkei reported that on the 11th, the WHO held a meeting of its top specialists in disease control to discuss the possibility of raising world-wide alert to its highest level: 6. The Nikkei claims due to the presence of the flu in the southern hemisphere, they’re looking at calling this a pandemic.

However the end of the Nikkei’s article closed on an optimistic note. They claim that the WHO recognizes that the current strand of flu has a low probability of becoming fatal. So even if the alert is raised, they’ll stop short of ordering blockades and closing borders, due to the economic and social consequences.