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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Americans becoming fatter, sicker, poorer / Usain Bolt, looking for love, wants girlfriend / Historic Kyoto temple first in Japan to offer gay weddings

Americans becoming fatter, sicker, poorer

by Noah smith - Bloomberg

I submit that the greatest crisis that the United States faces is its epidemic of fat.
Obesity is enormously costly because it leads to health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. More than a third of Americans are obese, and the health costs reach into the hundreds of billions. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 100,000 Americans developed cancer in 2012 due to obesity. Also, obesity is associated with an even more insidious scourge: depression.
It isn’t just the nation’s pocketbook that is suffering. In a recent article, Vanessa Wong of Bloomberg Businessweek reported that obesity is damaging the U.S.’ military preparedness:
The No. 1 reason people can’t join the military is that they’re overweight or obese, says a group of retired military leaders who are fighting for improved childhood nutrition. Under the name Mission: Readiness, they estimate that more than one in five young Americans is too heavy to enlist in the armed services.

Mission: Readiness representatives and Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed how efforts to excuse schools from meeting USDA school food nutrition standards by special interest groups and some members of Congress affect the military. The group has been advocating the removal of junk foods from schools and the imposition of better nutritional standards in school lunches.
Special interest groups, in this context, refers to food companies — especially the beverage makers that pack America’s soft drinks with huge amounts of sugar. Relentless lobbying by these companies has been hugely successful, blocking every attempt to steer children toward healthier food and obfuscating the link between sugar and health problems.
Big business isn’t solely to blame for the obesity epidemic. Remember former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s modest attempt to limit sales of large-sized sugary soft drinks and the outraged howls from libertarians that followed?
Some liberals have turned toward “fat acceptance” as the next civil-rights movement, despite the fact that accepting a deadly health condition doesn’t seem like the kind of modern, healthy society liberals should want to build.
Beyond these cultural issues, the U.S. is just set up to be uniquely vulnerable to fat. Our sprawling cities depend on cars and don’t offer many opportunities for walking, leading to a highly sedentary lifestyle. Our locally managed public schools are unlikely to coordinate on a curriculum for teaching kids healthy eating, much less enforce healthy school-lunch menus or ban soft-drink machines. And our huge corn industry is the natural producer of high fructose corn syrup, one of the most dangerous kinds of sugar.
Add this all up and it means America is fat-land. Go to any store and look at the “low-fat” products on the shelves. They will be full of added sugar. Products labeled “sugarless” will be chock-full of fat. Many of the foods that health-food enthusiasts love to eat — such as yogurt and granola — are packed with sugar.
So, a majority of Americans spend their entire adult lives in a desperate, losing struggle against fat. We spend billions of dollars on diet products. We starve ourselves with Paleo and other diet fads, only to see the pounds creep back on as soon as the diet ends. We buy gym memberships and castigate ourselves for never using them. It’s time to wake up and recognize the seriousness of the problem.


Still searching: Usain Bolt, looking for love, wants girlfriend

by Jamaica takeout

Six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt is looking for love.
The fastest man alive has conquered the sport and has earned tens of millions of dollars for his exploits. But as he begins the final cycle in his successful career, Bolt feels it’s time to start a family.
“You do get a lot of offers for sure; it’s one of the perks,” Bolt told Page Sixwhile in Miami for the launch of Hublot’s latest boutique. He was speaking about the fact that he needs to find someone to settle down with and have children.
“You try to stay quiet, but I love women, and you try not to take advantage, but it’s hard,” Bolt said.
“I am trying to find a girlfriend now, I think I am getting to that age right now, 28, where I need to find somebody and I want to have a child,” he continued. “It’s that time, I am trying to focus on having a family. I’d like three or four kids maybe, it’s always good to have brothers and sisters to look out for you.”
Bolt, an eight-time world champion and the world record holder in the 100 and 200 metres, also harbours ambitions of playing football professionally after he retires from track in 2017.



Historic Kyoto temple first in Japan to offer gay weddings

by Jessica Kozuka - Japan Today

Gay marriage is still not legal in Japan, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options for LGBT couples dreaming of tying the knot in Nippon. Joining big venues like Tokyo Disneyland, an ancient Zen temple in the picturesque city of Kyoto is offering gay weddings in traditional Japanese style.
Established in 1590, Shunkoin Temple follows Zen Buddhism and is an important site for a 20th-century school of thought that blends Zen and Western philosophy. They also take a strong stand on human rights, with their website proudly declaring, “Shunkoin Temple is against any forms of ‘Human Rights Violations’ in the world. No religion teaches how to hate others. Religion teaches how to love and respect others.”
Not only talking the talk, but walking the walk, priest Takafumi Kawakami says of their wedding services, “We welcome every couple regardless of their faith or sexual orientation.”
In fact, the temple officially began providing gay weddings in 2011, but given the conservative nature of Japan, the service hasn’t been widely publicized or recognized here, but the temple is working hard to attract overseas couples both through their English website and through a new partnership with hotel Granvia Kyoto and tour operator Out Travel Asia to offer a 10-day wedding package tour.
By the way, if you happen to be in Kyoto, Shunkoin offers Zen meditation classes in English and has temple-style accommodations, so even if you aren’t looking for a venue for your gay wedding, you can throw a little love to this awesome LGBT ally and have a great cultural experience at the same time.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Recent Happenings in My New Toyama Life :My Reggae Party, Snowy Mountains, My Music Video Coming Soon .....

Day 2432 ( My First Hosting of a Reggae Party )
Saturday, November 15, 2014

I was getting really bored and depressed in Toyama. Luckily I made a few friends here and there by going random places in town. so while I'm bored out of my wits, the good thing is lots and lots of ideas flow through my mind. One such is this reggae party......

It started off slow but eventually people started coming in. By every indication, it seem like people enjoyed it.



Day 2439 ( On the Snowy Mountains of Tateyama )
Saturday, November 22, 2014

Been in Toyama now since May. That makes it exactly 7 months today....wow. 3 more months to go in order to find out if I'll continue here or head back to the city. Anyway, went up some snowy mountains, just for the sake of going there. I hope to go there again some other time when the wall of snow can be seen.



Day 2446 ( Thanksgiving Party )
Saturday, November 29, 2014

A recent friend of mine who runs a capoeira  school, had a Thanksgiving party today. Loads of kids and parents came. I had no clue what capoeira was until I saw it. It's some kind of Brazilian style dance and fighting combined kinda thing.

Ok that wasn't the Thanksgiving party, this was......

Day 2447 ( The Making of My 1st Music Video )
Sunday, November 30, 2014

Again because of my boredom, I got the idea to make a music video here in Toyama. Actually, I had this idea for a while now in the back of my head, but its the boredom that got me moving. Luckily I have some video shooting and picture taking friends in the area. Plus some beautiful ladies who were willing to participate in creating the video. As soon as it is out you will definitely see it .... Here are the models I used :

Sunday, December 7, 2014

News in Japan: What do Japanese college students think about U.S.? / Japanese wives in int'l marriages share what they hate about Christmas overseas

What do Japanese college students think about U.S.?

By KK Miller - Japan Today

World opinion of the United States goes up and down like a giant see-saw. Sometimes the U.S. is seen as a world leader in economics, science and technology; yet there is no denying the fact that around the globe, there are some groups that harbor negative feelings towards Americans.
Post WWII, there has been an incredibly strong bond between the U.S. and Japan, but has public opinion been swayed in recent years? If this small sampling of college students is representative of how the youth of Japan feel about the U.S., relations between the two countries will continue to be solid.
A husband and wife team of YouTubers (Rachel & Jun) are beginning a series of “What Japanese think of (insert country)” and they’ve started with the good ‘ol US of A. Seems like a logical place to start, most Japanese people are familiar with America in some way, and America (the country) always wants to know what other people think about it.
Here’s what the students had to say:
1. What comes to mind when you think about America?
“Big!” “Freedom!” “Dunkin’ Donuts!”
The most common answer to this question though was, “There are many people from many different countries that live in America.” Due to this diversity, the Japanese students thought Americans were generally more cheerful and friendly, not shy like they usually are.
Some people also remarked on the size of portions in the U.S. (this will come up again later), and apparently the only thing that Americans eat are hamburgers.
2. What are the good and bad stereotypes that Japanese have of Americans?
Almost everyone said that Americans are “open and friendly”, that they are “sociable and not shy”. Some mentioned how Americans are very accepting, perhaps because there are many people from different countries who live in the U.S.
While many mentioned other “good stereotypes,” there were some major “bad stereotypes” that they brought up as well, particularly weight and gun crimes. The overweight stereotype is no surprise since if food portions are bigger, there will be more calories. Gun crime seems like an obvious one as well, as all anyone needs to do is turn on the news to hear about the latest gun-related death in America.
3. Would you like to go to America? (Specifically, where?)
Perhaps it’s a sign of the changing times for the Japanese, but most of these college students have already visited the United States at least once. Their trip was memorable enough that many of them want to go back soon. Common places they wanted to visit were New York, California, Boston and of course, Disneyland.
4. Pop quiz!
The final segment asked some general knowledge questions about the U.S. With the United States being such a huge world player and the fact that Japan can receive U.S. television channels via satellite, even college students in Japan can answer questions like:
“Name a famous person from America.”
“Who is the leader of America?”
“What is the capital of America?”
Each person was able to correctly answer the questions without much trouble. Maybe the only amusing moments were how many people seemed awkwardly stumped by the second question after they already said “Barack Obama” for the first question.
What started as a potentially embarrassing video for either the United States or Japan, turned out to be a nice sit down love-fest. We’d would love to see this kind of video done in reverse: What do Americans think about Japan? "




Japanese wives in int'l marriages share what they hate about Christmas overseas

By Casey Baseel - Japan Today

Christmas. Depending on who you are, it can be a time for getting together with family and friends, attending religious services, or maybe just drinking a lot of egg nog. But while all of those are activities of profound cultural and spiritual importance, not everyone has a song in their heart at this time of year.
For a certain set of Japanese women in international marriages and living overseas, ‘tis the season for venting about how Americans and Europeans spend Christmas, and here’s their list of grievances.
The collection of complaints comes by way of blogging internationalist, and overseas Japanese wife herself, Madame Riri. In contrast to the myriad delights of the “12 Days of Christmas” (with the exception of those weird leaping lords), Madame Riri identified six problem areas while sifting through online comments from Japanese expats.
1. Christmas dinner issues
Japan tends to eat smaller portions than the West to begin with, and that difference gets multiplied when it comes to celebrations. “I don’t like meat very much,” begins one woman, “but my American husband, his British mom, and his American dad all love it. But I can’t tell them ‘I don’t want any turkey,’ so I force myself to eat it.”
Honestly, this woman would probably have a similar problem in Japan, where the traditional Christmas dinner is the even heavier fried chicken.
Even some more carnivorous women find the holiday menu doesn’t suit their tastes. “It’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” exclaimed one exasperated woman. “The amount of cream, cheese, and sauce in the recipes! I love Asian cooking, so it’s exhausting for me to make them.”
Speaking as a guy who thinks the two best places for cheese are on top of a pizza and absolutely nowhere else, I can sympathize. Still, it’s just one meal a year, and if she’s really that loath to give up the foods she loves, why not incorporate them into the meal, like many American families do with dishes from their ethnic backgrounds?
2. Choosing presents is a pain
Many women have a bone to pick with picking out presents. In Japan, young couples typically exchange Christmas gifts, and Santa usually brings something to the homes of small children. Extended family members generally don’t give each other anything for the holiday, though.
Instead, relatives often send mid-year (“ochugen”) and end of the year (“oseibo”) gifts to each other. These are often practical things, though, like detergent or rice.
So it can be kind of a high hurdle for Japanese wives to suddenly have to think about what to get for each and every one of their spouse’s aunts, uncles, and cousins, especially since in some countries consumables aren’t quite as accepted as proper presents as they are in Japan.
3. Pushy present requests
Sometimes, though, the problem is knowing all too well what someone wants. “My brother-in-law’s ex-wife used to send emails with a list of options to choose from for gifts for her and their kids,” remembered one woman. “And she’d always add, ‘Oh, and don’t forget the gift receipt!’”
Umm…I hate to spoil anyone’s cross-cultural epiphany, but that’s not exactly most Westerners’ idea of particularly polite behavior either, and plenty of non-Japanese people would be just as irked by it.
As long as the prices are in line with what the family tends to use as its gift-giving budget, though, it doesn’t seem like there’s that much to get worked up about here. Actually, since this is something the brother-in-law’s ex-wife did, there doesn’t seem to be anything worth still getting worked up over at all.

4. Wrapping gifts is a hassle
We’ll start with the head-scratcher here. One woman said, “Because Japanese people have an allergic reaction to wastefulness, no matter how many years I spend overseas, using wrapping paper still doesn’t sit right with me.”
The complaint about the trash generated by wrapping is a valid one, but it’s a little hard to swallow that Japan has an “allergic reaction” to excessive packaging, as anyone who’s torn into a bag of two-dozen cookies each with their own individual plastic wrapper can tell you.
A more legitimate cultural difference is the other complaint Japanese wives had: having to do the wrapping themselves. After all, in Japan, where retailers take customer service very seriously, you can get just about anything wrapped for you by the store clerk. Overseas, though, when they’re buying stuff for everyone in the family and wrapping it themselves, that’s a lot of time spent folding and taping paper, no matter how festive the pattern on it may be.
5. Getting stuck with presents you don’t like
Again, this really isn’t something that’s exclusive to international relationships, as even when both parties are Japanese, some people’s gift-selecting skills are far from world-class. Still, the above-mentioned gift exchanges between extended family members, who might not see each other that often during the rest of the year, can make for an increased chance of miscues. “Every year, my mother-in-law sends me so many clothes, cosmetics, and decorations, but they’re not really my style…I can’t bring myself to throw them out right away, but after they sit around in my closet for two or three years, I toss them.”
6. Exchanging and returning gifts
After all the effort that they put into choosing a present, some women were miffed at the ease with which they could be returned or exchanged, giving special mention to the ubiquitous of gift receipts. “I work part-time at a retailer in Europe,” shared one woman, “and every day we get one or two customers coming in to exchange a Christmas gift they don’t like. It’s usually wives with things they got from their husbands.”
Part of the reason Japan doesn’t have as much of a culture of returning gifts is because, like we talked about above, gifts between people that aren’t especially close are often consumables. Even if the dish soap your relative sent you isn’t your regular brand, you’ll still use up the bottles, right? Ditto for cans of booze.
It’s also worth noting that Japan tends to be a bit less fragmented than many other countries in terms of pop culture and fashion. Combine some fairly uniform clothing tastes and trends with the fact that a huge portion of the population is of similarly slender build, and you’ve got a much higher chance of picking something the recipient will like, and that will fit, in Japan than elsewhere.
It’s also hard not to feel like complaint #6, gift returns, and complaint #5, getting things you don’t want, kind of cancel each other out. Ditto for numbers two and three, not knowing what to buy and people telling you what they want.
International marriage is all about adapting to each other and mixing your traditions. Picking which side of the two lines above you feel more comfortable on immediately cuts the list of problems down from six to four, with one of those being as simple as putting up with a single dinner you’re not crazy about. When you stop and look at the big picture, that doesn’t seem like enough to outweigh the positives of the holiday season, and besides, after Christmas, these Japanese wives can have their husbands return the favor with a traditional Japanese “oshogatsu” New Year’s celebration.



Man attacks schoolgirl, cuts her hair

Japan Today

Police in Izumiotsu City, Osaka Prefecture, said Friday they are looking for a man who attacked a junior high schoolgirl and cut off her ponytail.
Police said the incident occurred as the girl was walking to school at around 6:30 a.m. on Thursday.
TV Asahi reported that the girl told police the man, whom she did not know, called out to her from behind to wait a minute. The man grabbed her and cut about 20 cm of her ponytail before running away with the stolen locks.
The man is said to be in his 30s, approximately 180 cm tall, has a round plump face, and was wearing a black knitted cap and white face mask at the time of the assault.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Ad To Show Japan in all it's Glory... Really??? / Aging Japan struggles to make immigrants feel at home / Parents arrested for starving 3-year-old daughter to death

New ad campaign features Japan in all its stunning glory

Call me strange but I don't understand the idea behind a blonde in an ad about Japan.

By Oona McGee - Japan Today

If you’ve ever visited Japan and fallen in love with its beauty and culture, prepare to be swept off your feet again with the latest ad campaign from Guess.

Shot by famed Chinese photographer Chen Man, the photos (see below) take us on a journey through cherry blossoms and tea houses, featuring girls with samurai swords and parasols.

From Tokyo to Mount Fuji, the series features Japan’s wild and peaceful landscapes, while paying homage to the country’s traditional roots and modern lifestyle at the same time. The result is two models who come off looking both elegant and bad-ass.

One thought-provoking image stands out for its allusion to gender stereotypes and femininity. When a girl puts down a pole flying pink koinobori carp, traditionally used as a symbol of strength for the Boys’ Day national holiday (now known as Childrens’ Day), you know she’s heralding a new dawn for gender stereotypes.
Another photo featuring dramatic red and black looks, styled by Satoshi Hirata, pays homage to Japan’s long rickshaw tradition, which is still going strong today. The black, shiny rickshaws can be seen at tourist spots with passengers draped in bright red blankets to shield themselves from the cold.

Then there is a hanami picnic under the cherry blossoms. The model’s adoring gaze up into the cherry blossom tree makes the viewer feel like a pretty little bird.
How about the shinkansen bullet train meets samurai steam punk as it passes through rice fields beside Mount Fuji on its way up to Tokyo.



Aging Japan struggles to make immigrants feel at home

The first word Mr En learned when he started work on a construction site in Japan after moving from China was “baka”—“idiot”.
The 31-year-old farmer is one of 50,000 Chinese who signed up for a scheme run by the Japanese government that promises to allow foreigners to earn money while they train on the job.
Like many of his compatriots, he hoped to leave Japan with cash in his pocket and a new set of skills that would give him greater chance of getting work at home.
“My Japanese colleagues would always say ‘baka’ to me,” said En, who spoke to AFP on condition that his full name was not revealed. “I am exhausted physically and mentally.”

His problem is not the bullying by Japanese colleagues, nor the two-hour each-way commute or the mind-numbing work that largely consists of breaking apart bits of old buildings.
It is the one million yen he borrowed to take part in the program, apparently to cover traveling expenses and other “fees” charged by middlemen—which has left him a virtual slave to Japan’s labor-hungry construction industry.
“I cannot go back before I make enough money to repay the debt,” he said.
Rapidly-aging Japan is desperately short of workers to pay the taxes to fund pensions and healthcare for its growing gray population, but it is almost constitutionally allergic to immigration.
Less than two percent of the population is classed as “non-Japanese”, the government says. By comparison, around 13% of UK residents are foreign born.
The result for Japan, say critics, is ranks of poorly-protected employees brought in through the national back door, ripe for abuse and exploitation.
“This trainee program is a system of slave labor,” says Ippei Torii, director of the Solidarity Network With Migrants Japan, a non-governmental group supporting foreign workers.
“You cannot just quit and leave,” he said. “It’s a system of human trafficking, forced labor.”
Around a quarter of Japan’s 127-million population is aged 65 or over, according to recent government figures. This proportion is expected to rise to 40% over the coming decades.
The already-heavily indebted government—which owes creditors more than twice what the economy is worth every year—is scrabbling to find the money to pay for the burgeoning ranks of elderly, who contribute little in tax but cost a lot in welfare and health.
A far-below-replacement birthrate of around 1.4 children per woman is heaping further pressure on the population.
In most developed nations, this kind of shortfall is plugged by immigration, but Japan allows no unskilled workers into the country, amid fears they would threaten the culture of consensus.
But in 1993 as the economy was on the way down from its bubbly 1980s highs, the government began the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program (TTIP).
The scheme allows tens of thousands of foreigners, mostly from China, Vietnam and Indonesia to come to Japan, supplying labor for industries including textiles, construction, farming and manufacturing.
However, it has been singled out by chief ally the United States, whose State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report has for years criticised “deceptive recruitment practices”.
“The government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TTIP,” it said in 2014.
Past allegations include unpaid overtime work, “karoshi” (death due to overwork), and all sorts of harassment, such as a company manager restricting the use of toilets or demanding sexual services.
The Japanese government rejects claims the TTIP is abusive, but acknowledges there have been some upstream problems.
“It is not a system of slave labor,” an immigration official told AFP. “It is true that some involved in the system have exploited it, but the government has acted against that.”
He insisted it was not in Japanese authorities’ power to control the behavior of middlemen but insisted such organizations were not allowed to charge deposit fees.
“It is also banned for employers to take away trainees’ passports,” he added.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a plan to expand the TTIP to allow workers to stay five years instead of three, and says foreign labor will increasingly be needed, particularly in the booming construction industry ahead of the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
He also knows healthcare must look abroad to plug its shortfall.
“It has been said that we will need one million caregivers for the elderly by 2025, which would be impossible to handle only with the Japanese population,” said Tatsumi Kenmochi, a manager at a care home near Tokyo that employs Indonesian nurses.
For her, foreign staff are a precious commodity and the business has to do as much as it can to make them feel welcome.
“It must be hard to leave home and work overseas. We make sure that they don’t get homesick, listening to them and sometimes going out to have a warm bowl of noodles, with them.”
For Solidarity Network’s Torii, this is the kind of attitude Japan needs.
“The issue is not whether we accept immigrants or not,” he said. “They are already here, playing a vital role in our society.”




Parents arrested for starving 3-year-old daughter to death

Police in Ibaraki City, Osaka, have arrested a 22-year-old man and his 19-year-old wife for allegedly starving their 3-year-old daughter to death earlier this year.
Police said Yuki Kishimoto and his wife, who cannot be named because she is a minor, have denied the charge.
NTV reported that the couple began depriving their daughter Sayane of food in February, leaving her severely malnourished. Kishimoto called 119 on June 15 and said that Sayane had lost consciousness. She was taken to hospital where she died later.
An autopsy revealed bits of candle wax, aluminium foil and onion skin in the girl’s stomach. Doctors said she weighed only 8 kilograms, about half the weight of a normal child her age.
Police quoted the Kishimotos as saying they had not abused their child and that she had suddenly become very frail only days before her death. They also said Sayane suffered from a muscular disorder, congenital myopathy, since she was born, which they believe caused her death.
However, police said that while the hospital confirmed Sayane had the muscular disorder, the autopsy revealed malnutrition as the cause of death, NTV reported.
Media also reported that the medical examiner found numerous bruises and other marks indicating physical abuse on the Sayane’s body.
The couple also has a son but police said there were no signs that he had been abused.