The Crazy Japan Times

A Catastrophic Success

Gold Prize | Silver Prize | Bronze Prize | Honorable Mention | Ishihara Award | Glass Houses | Non Sequitor | Catch Phrases

I couldn't see much affection in her longing stares, but I could definitely see the yen signs.

--Takafumi Horie, billionaire and CEO of internet company livedoor, talking about his recent break up with ubiquitous perky-model Tamao Sato. They were introduced on a now defunct show called "Do-Naito! Only For The Rich Man" (its real title) which was Japan's incredibly tacky version of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". Each week, a random model, accompanied by a remarkably unfunny comedian, would pay a visit to some of Japan's nouveau riche who would impress everyone by using their American Express Black Cards 1) to buy 200,000 dollar Patek Philippe watches or 2) to buy a matching pair of Aston Martin Vanquishes at the Tokyo Motor Show or 3) in the case of Horie, to buy a clean t-shirt and woo Tamao Sato. In a quiet, awkward moment right before cameras stopped rolling, they were enjoying coffee after dinner and you could clearly see the gold lust in her eyes (Horie had just become a billionaire thanks to a sudden, stunning rise in livedoor's stock) and a more traditional kind of lust in his eyes. They then started dating, but the relationship only lasted a few months leading to this great public put down. (NB for a side-by-side comparison of the two please visit this page.)
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If Japanese hadn't fought the white people, we would still be slaves of the white people. It would be colonization. We changed that.

--Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara getting history conveniently backwards. (NB. Normally, your humble editor refrains from giving Ishihara one of the top three awards as he is an award category all to himself. However, it was a slow year.)
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That�s rude. Players should know their place. They are just players.

--Tsuneo Watanabe-Owner, former CEO of the King of All Media Yomiuri Group and owner of the Tokyo Giants, reacting to a threatened baseball strike. Watanabe was notorious for his, ahem, lack of diplomatic skills, but this one came back to haunt him when he was finally forced to step down.
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There is data that shows Japanese are genetically vulnerable to BSE.

--Junko Koya, BSE Citizens Network, encouraging a longer ban on imported beef from the USA, by citing a mysterious study no one else had ever heard of while simultaneously turning BSE into a matter of national pride. She also seems to forget that Japanese cows are, perhaps, genetically vulnerable to BSE as well as Japan has found over a dozen cases of BSE while the USA still has found only a couple.
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If we keep telling North Korea to come up with [Megumi]Yokota's real remains, there is a danger they could kill her even though she may be alive now, or present bones from severing her fingers.

It is only natural for a person who is brought up in Japan to have love for the country, so why can't we write it into law? We cannot undermine the fundamental policy on this matter.

It is only natural for the country's leader to visit Yasukuni to console those who died for the country. It is nonsense to argue whether the premier's visit is an official one or not. The prime minister should visit Yasukuni.
--Shinzo Abe, Acting LDP Secretary General

Abe, whom some magazines and papers have compared to a droopy-eyed Gary Cooper (in terms of his fashion sense), is clearly campaigning to be Japan's next Prime Minister. The first quote may be the greatest circular paranoia quote you're humble editor's ever read as it basically guarantees that if Megumi Yokota is actually dead, Japan never has to accept it. It also conjures up images of the fragile young junior high school girl she will always be in Japanese eyes losing her fingers. (No one uses the more recent pictures provided by North Korea in the news or on posters, except for one taken right after her abduction when she was still a junior high school girl.) This quote, it should be mentioned, was uttered following the �discovery� that a batch of ashes North Korea said belonged to Megumi Yokota actually belonged to three other people. What's suspicious about all this is that the government laboratory handling the analysis of the remains went from �it will impossible to determine anything from these remains,� to �it will be difficult to determine anything from these remains� to �Those damned lying commies are trying to scam us with these remains� all in about two weeks.

The second quote is in response to a Ministry of Education plan to introduce �patriotism� as part of a revision of the Fundamental Law of Education. Abe continued with a couple other choice quotes: "The current law does not have the effect of Japan's original education clause. It is rather cosmopolitan," and "The fact that we have held on so lovingly to the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education, which were created when we were under the occupation of Allied forces and before we became independent, only proves that we are still under the mind control of the occupation forces." Your humble editor especially loves the phrase �mind control� in the latter quote. Since loving your parents is also only natural, your humble editor can't help but wonder if that should be written in to law as well.

The third quote is offered to show Abe's love affair with �It is only natural� and to show how clearly he's pandering to the right wing in order to become prime minister by conveniently forgetting WHY many of those interred at Yasakuni died for their country. For the record, you humble editor gives Abe credit for honesty and has always found Prime Minister Koizumi's obfuscatory explanations of how he is not prime minister when he is himself to be a bit silly.
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How could they hire such a person?
--Yasuo Fukuda, former Chief Cabinet Secretary smirking about Esumi Makiko, the �Pay Your Pension Payments� spokesperson, after it was discovered she hadn�t paid her pension payments.

Three non-paying stooges.
--Naoto Kan, former head of the Democratic party, describing three LDP members caught up in the Pension Non-Payment Scandal.

The irony is that both of them ended up resigning when it was discovered that they, too, were in arrears on their pension payments.
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It seems to show that assertive women are increasing. It must be the first case involving a girl.


The gap between men and women appears to have been narrowing recently.

--Disaster Management Minister Kiichi Inoue remarking on a recent elementary school murder in Sasebo where an 11-year old girl killed a 12-year old girl with a box cutter. This incident shocked Japan and produced many classic quotes, including a feeble attempt at defense by Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki who said that Inoue must have meant that society had changed: "Arson was the sort of crime women engaged in when I was young. Men did things such as cutting with knives.� This led Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda to encourage ministers and politicians to weigh their words carefully lest they be misunderstood. He especially encouraged Inoue to clarify his remarks �as the comments are of a kind apt to be misunderstood� which may get the award for diplomatic understatement of the year.
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The official catch phrases of the year were pretty ho-hum and seemed to be the result of an effort to find phrases attached to something positive.

First was cho-kimochi, (Feels Great!) uttered by swimmer Kosuke Kitajima after winning a gold medal in Athens. As your humble editor has only ever heard Kitajima say the phrase, and that only once, he thinks this shouldn't count as a catch phrase

Next was kiai-da! (Let's get fired up!) uttered by Animal Hamaguchi (his official name) a stocky, muscular former professional wrestler whose daughter Kyoko was competing for a medal in women's wrestling. Animal was an entertaining sideshow at Athens and seemed to go out of his way to embarrass his daughter, who was often seen rolling her eyes as her dad shouted kiai-da! ten times in a row at the top of his lungs. Animal had to be restrained by two guards when a scoring error may have cost his daughter a chance at the gold medal. (She thought the score was tied and wrestled conservatively when actually she was a point behind.) Kyoko Hamaguchi eventually won a bronze and dad was nearly in tears after celebrating by nearly ripping the heads off the two spectators on either side of him.

Finally there was fuyusona (short for Fuyu no Sonata or "Winter Sonata") an unmercifully popular South Korean drama involving half brothers, implied incest and tears, that has triggered the hanryu (Korea Boom) a phrase your humble editor thinks more worthy an official award. The hanryu has been accompanied by a deluge of Korean dramas and pop music. The music is generally, well, pop music, and the dramas are rather tacky and melodramatic. One statistic from Winter Sonata showed that the lead actor cried in every other episode and the lead actress cried more than once each episode.

Besides hanryu, your humble editor also likes Yonsama (Yon Our God) which refers to Bae-Yongjun, the Korean actor who cried every other episode in "Winter Sonata". Yonsama is a rather effeminate looking metro-sexual with shaggy gold hair, thin glasses and Marie Osmond's teeth. During the show he always had a scarf around his neck, even during indoor scenes, leading your humble editor to suspect he might actually be a woman (he's not) and that image has carried over into his countless commercials here in Japan. Yonsama is so popular that the first time he came to Japan he was met by almost a thousand screaming middle-aged female fans and seemed genuinely surprised by the attention. When he came the second time he seemed scared. There were 3,500 middle-aged women who had to be restrained by 400 regular police officers and 70 members of Tokyo's elite Riot Squad. During the visit, two women were trampled and hospitalized, prompting a teary-eyed press conference from Yonsama who encouraged his fans to get a life and stop trying to kill each other. (Something like that.)

The hanryu has also been a boon to South Korea's tourist industry as the aforementioned middle-aged women drag their husbands around South Korea to all the sights in the drama. In some cases they've asked their husband to recreate a famous kiss only to tell him he's not up to Yonsama's standards. (Think back to the Bridges of Madison scourge a few years back and you'll get the idea.)

Finally, your humble editor thought �strike,� in honor of the one day baseball strike, would also be worthy of an award, but he took consolation in the fact that the official kanji of the year was sai or �disaster� which features the particle for river over the particle for fire. This seems a more apt description of a year involving three different natural disasters (typhoon induced floods, earthquakes and volcanoes) than the feeble attempts to accentuate the positive clearly intended by the official catch phrases.
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Created January 2005
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