Japanese women's judo coach resigns over claims he abused athletes
( The Guardian )

The coach of the Japanese women's judo team has resigned amid
accusations that he physically abused athletes in the buildup to the
London Olympics.

Ryuji Sonoda is accused of harassing and assaulting female judoka
while they were preparing for the summer games. The revelations have
rocked the Japanese martial art, coming the same week as a former
Olympic two-time gold medallist, Masato Uchishiba, was sentenced to
five years in prison for raping a female member of a university judo
club in 2011. Uchishiba, 34, won gold medals in the 66kg in Athens
and Beijing.

The abuse prompted 15 athletes to send a letter to the Japanese
Olympic Committee at the end of last year complaining about Sonoda's
conduct. They said they had been slapped and shoved by him and other
coaches, beaten with thick bamboo swords and forced to compete while

On Thursday, Sonoda admitted that the allegations were "more or less
true", adding: "I deeply regret that I have caused trouble with my
behaviour, words and actions. It will be difficult for me to continue
coaching the team."

The use of violence against Japanese athletes has been in the
spotlight since the death of a teenage sumo apprentice in 2007. The
17-year-old collapsed after being beaten by three fellow wrestlers,
one armed with a baseball bat. Their coach was sentenced to six years
in prison for ordering the assault.

The problem was highlighted again last December with the suicide of a
high school student in Osaka who had been repeatedly beaten by his
basketball coach.


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Japanese pop star shaves head in apology -- for night with boyfriend
( The Guardian )

As pop star misdemeanours go, Minami Minegishi's was tame in the
extreme -- breaking her group's strict dating ban to spend a night
with her boyfriend.

Yet hours after a magazine published photographs of her leaving his
home last month, Minegishi, a member of the wildly popular girl band
AKB48, went on to YouTube to issue a tearful apology.

"As a senior member of the group, it is my responsibility to be a
role model for younger members," she said, before ending the four-
minute mea culpa with a deep, lingering bow.

The most striking thing about her apology, however, was her
appearance. She had shaved her head, a traditional act of contrition
in Japan, but perhaps a step too far for a 20-year-old woman whose
"crime" was to have found herself a boyfriend -- 19-year-old Alan
Shirahama, a dancer in a boyband.

Her dramatic gesture underlined the strict rules to which Japan's
young pop stars must adhere to project an image of unimpeachable

Minegishi is among the original members of the band, which since it
formed in 2005 has built up a huge following among teenage girls and
salarymen who flock to concerts and publicity events for the chance
to shake hands with their idols.

Together, the AKB48 stable has more than 230 members in their teens
and early 20s, with four main bands and several offshoots. Their act
is more saccharine than sexual, but the band has courted controversy
off-stage in the past year.

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Why Japan Is Still Not Sorry Enough
( TIME )

Keen observers know that Japan’s ugly territorial disputes with its
neighbors aren’t really about fishing grounds or oil and gas
reserves or ancient historical claims. What they’re about is that
the Japanese still -- still -- won’t admit they did anything wrong
during the Second World War or during their long colonial rule in Asia.

In a new book, War, Guilt and Politics After World War II, Thomas U.
Berger says a complex web of culture, politics, geography and
shifting notions of justice have made it more difficult for the
Japanese to apologize for past transgressions than other societies.
That’s particularly true compared to Germany, whose crimes
outstripped even those of Japan, but which has largely reconciled
with former victims.

Q: What did you find out? Is Japan as unrepentant about its past as
its neighbors claim?

Yes. But it’s not as simple as that.

It’s true, Japan has not been as repentant as Germany or other
countries that have faced up to the darker sides of their past. Japan
has apologized for waging aggressive war and oppressing its
neighbors, but those apologies have fumbling and awkward, and often
been undercut by revisionist statements from senior politicians.
Japan has offered relatively little compensation to the victims. And
to this day there are no nationally sponsored museums or monuments
that acknowledge Japanese aggression or atrocities.

Q: Most other countries in Asia seemed to have moved on, haven’t
they? Why are things different China and Korea? Was it because the
occupations lasted longer, or because more people were killed there?

A lot of people died in Indonesia, Vietnam, and elsewhere, too. But
Southeast Asians have been generally willing to forgive the Japanese.
And the Japanese were in Taiwan even longer than in Korea, but anti-
Japanese attitudes there are weak or non-existent.

To my mind, the key difference is how modern nationalism was created
in those countries. Chinese and Korean nationalism is in many ways
defined itself against Japan. In contrast, the national identity of
most Southeast Asian countries was defined in opposition to their old
colonial masters. In Indonesia, the focus was the Dutch, in Malaysia
it was the British, and in the Philippines it was the United States.
Taiwan is also instructive here, since the pro-democratic movement
focused its resentment against domination by mainland China, first
under the Nationalists and more recently against the PRC.

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おなじみの政党が再び日本を統治する 心機一転の公約には期待せぬよう

A Familiar Party Returns to Rule Japan, Promising a Fresh Start.
Don’t Hold Your Breath
( TIME )

They’re back. For nearly the entire post-World War II era, the
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has ruled Japan, its blend of export-
led economics and lavish public-works spending spawning both the
nation’s economic boom and then protracted financial contraction.
Now, after a three-year interlude in which the Democratic Party of
Japan (DPJ) betrayed its mandate to breathe fresh air into the
country’s stale politics, the conservative LDP has returned to
power, with a decisive win in the Dec. 16 general elections.

The LDP captured 294 seats in the 480-seat lower house of parliament,
with its minority partner, the Buddhist-influenced New Komeito Party,
picking up another 31 seats. (Prior to the election, the LDP held
only 118 seats.) The LDP’s hawkish party leader Shinzo Abe, who
served for one year as Prime Minister before resigning because of
gastrointestinal troubles in 2007, will almost assuredly return to
the same post. He will be Japan’s seventh Prime Minister in less
than seven years.

Sunday’s election was the first since the devastating March 11,
2011, tsunami, earthquake and ensuing nuclear crisis. In the weeks
and months after the triple disaster, some Japanese predicted that
3/11 would spur the DPJ to battle the vested interests and
bureaucratic gridlock that have paralyzed the Japanese political and
economic systems. But such hopes soon fizzled. Japan’s voters duly
punished the ruling party, which suffered its worst showing since its
founding in 1998. The DPJ’s lower-house representation dropped from
230 seats to just 57. Even Abe conceded on Sunday that the LDP’s
landslide was due less to an affection for his party and more to a
protest vote against the DPJ. Less than 60% of Japanese voters
bothered to cast ballots, a further sign of their political

Earlier this month, Japan entered its fourth recession since 2000,
and it was clear that economic considerations motivated those
Japanese who voted to abandon the DPJ. But it is the LDP’s foreign
policy platform that may have the biggest global impact. The grandson
of a politician once accused of war crimes, the 58-year-old Abe has
fashioned himself into even more of a nationalist since his previous
stint in power, and he made standing up to China one of his campaign
mantras. China may be Japan’s largest trading partner, but it also
plays the role of economic usurper, having eclipsed Japan as the
world’s second largest economy in 2010.

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Can Japan Change?
( TIME )

One of the more frustrating tasks I regularly face in my job as an
economics correspondent in Asia is explaining (or attempting to
explain) what goes on in the Japanese economy. In many ways, the
place seems to simply defy logic, or the basic laws of human nature.
How can a society watch its economic fortunes deteriorate for two
decades and do almost nothing about it?

There is another reason, though, that might explain the situation
best, which I hear from my friends in South Korea. I covered the
Asian financial crisis in 1997 from Seoul, and I can tell you that
the Koreans know something about crisis management. At the time, the
economy seemed to plunge off a cliff. Koreans truly worried that
their three-decade economic miracle had come to a sudden, devastating
end. Yet in the aftermath, a stronger, healthier, more innovative
economy emerged.

Many Koreans I have spoken to believe that their country’s
postcrisis success could never have happened without the crisis
itself. The collapse showed everyone just how out-of-date and flawed
their economic model had become and washed away the opposition to
change. In fact, the reforms South Korea eventually adopted, at both
the national and corporate level, broke through many of the same
hurdles now blocking Japan’s way. South Korea, too, suffered from
cozy ties between government and business, too much bureaucratic
interference and a lack of entrepreneurship. Seoul addressed these
issues after the Asian crisis (though not completely); Japan never has.

That could be because Japan has never stared into the abyss. Sure,
recessions have come with depressing frequency, young people can’t
find the solid jobs they used to, corporate Japan is retreating from
industries like consumer electronics, which it once dominated. But
Japan’s fate has been something more like that story about boiling a
frog. If you put the poor amphibian into cold water and turn up the
heat, it doesn’t realize it’s being cooked to death. I’ve never
actually tried this with a real frog, but if it is true, it explains
the situation in Japan. While South Korea got tossed directly into
hot water, Japan has been poached slowly. If Japan faced a South
Korea-like crisis, my friends in Seoul say, that would finally force
Japan to change.

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