Random Japan

Welcome to 2009, The Year of the Ox

Are you the strong and silent type, seldom opening your mouth to speak but commanding attention when you do? Then you just might have been born in the Year of the Ox. Your stablemates share this easygoing attitude, but just like you, they can be stubborn and ill-tempered on those rare occasions. Notable Oxen include rocker Bruce Springsteen (1949), hope-monger Barack Obama (1961), actress-turned-musician Juliette Lewis (1973) and the human fish Michael Phelps (1985). In the spirit of the New Year, you might want to take up a Japanese hobby (see p. 14) and join this celebrated herd. But even if you don’t, we at Metropolis still wish you all the best in 2009.


Hot items from 2008 include…

• Valentine’s chocolates flavored with garlic and vinegar

• A medicine cabinet that alerts senior citizens when it’s time to take their pills

• The Nose Mask Pit, an earplug-like device that provides relief for hay fever sufferers

• A printer that can develop still images captured from high-definition video

• A breathalyzer-enabled cellphone for truck drivers

• An electric bicycle that can travel 150km on a single charge

• Miso paste featuring beans that have been serenaded with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach

• A washable business suit

• An air purifier that eliminates over 99 percent of airborne bird flu virus in ten minutes

• The world’s smallest walking robot

Women of the Year

(According to Vogue Nippon)

Actress: Aoi Miyazaki, 23, won acclaim for her performance in NHK’s historical drama Atsuhime and the films Kagehinata ni Saku (Flowers in the Shadows) and Yami no Kodomotachi (Children of the Dark)

Athlete: Pitcher Yukiko Ueno, 26, led Japan’s softball team to a surprise gold medal over the US in Beijing

Writer: Mieko Kawakami, 32, won the renowned Akutagawa Prize for her second novel, Chi Chi to Ran (“Breasts and Eggs”), which depicts the travails of a single mother

Tarento: Suzanne, 22, gained fame for her convincing act as a baka (airhead) tarento while debuting in a music group and appearing in several TV series and variety shows

Writer/Buddhist nun: Jakucho Setouchi, 86, crafted a modern take on the classic Tale of Genji and authored her own keitai shosetsu (cellphone novel). HF

Guns, Handcuffs, Police And Teenagers?

How about a beat down

Really Important News

Never mind  

Its Really Popular?

To bad it was all a lie

Year-end festivities not as ‘bright’ as usual

“In more ways than one,” says Shukan Bunshun (Dec 25), “this is one dark night of a Christmas season.”

It is dark in the sense of sinking hopes and rising fears as the recession deepens; dark also in the sense of the absence of light. Where are the beautiful “illumination” light shows that dazzle the eyes of evening shoppers and night-time revelers on their year-end rounds? For that matter, where are the shoppers and revelers? The lights have dimmed, and the crowds have thinned.

This year so many stores have shut down that we couldn’t raise enough money to cover the electricity costs of our usual illumination,” Shukan Bunshun hears from a Tokyo shopping center store owners’ association chairman. “So we used LED bulbs instead, which are cheaper, and also reduced the scale of the display. I don’t know if we’ll be able to do even that much next year.”

It’s the same story in Osaka. “Our best corporate clients have cut back drastically,” laments a local vendor of illumination products.

 No. of foreign visitors to Japan plunges nearly 20% in November

The number of foreigners who visited Japan in November is estimated to have totaled 553,900, registering a 19.3% drop from a year earlier and a year-on-year fall for the fourth consecutive month, the Japan National Tourist Organization said Wednesday.

The government-affiliated organization attributed the decline to the global economic downturn and a nearly 50% drop in arrivals of South Koreans who have seen their travel costs surge as their currency, the won, depreciated sharply against the yen.

A drop of four months in a row was last observed in the April-July period of 2003 when a growing number of people refrained from traveling in the wake of the SARS epidemic.


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  1. … to the Year of the Ox.

    As a Horse, it won’t be such an easy year for me, but supposedly better than the present Year of the Rat!

  2. . . . I was born in the Year of the Ox (1949), and this coming year will mark the return of the Ox in my native color.  (There are five colors in Chinese astrology, and each sign appears in each color in succession, then starts over.)  I’ve forgotten now just which color I am, but I know that the return of your own sign in your own color is supposed to mark a year of great significance.  As if turning 60 weren’t significance enough!  : )

  3. I stumbled across this very ‘random’ item from Japan earlier today, and the first thing I thought about was your series here –

    Teens who skip breakfast as middle school students tend to have sex at an earlier age than those who start the day with a proper meal, a government-backed Japanese medical researcher said on Friday.

    The survey, intended to study how to reduce unwanted pregnancies, also showed the average age of first-time sex was lower for those who found their mother annoying.

    People who said they disliked their mother had sex for the first time at the average age of 16, while the average age for those who appreciated their mother was 19, Kitamura said.


    Notable Oxen include rocker Bruce Springsteen (1949)

    And in keeping with the spirit of where we are, I feel I should also mention that Bruuuce! (I’m originally from Jersey, that’s how we spell it…) is much more than just an Ox.  He is of course also a Pony!

    Lemme look up my own…

    Ah.  1979 makes me an “Earth Sheep”.  I’m not quite sure how I feel about that yet, I’ll take some time to think on it.

    I’m not sure what’s going to upset me more in a few months – being called a sheep, or being called 30.  Heh…

  4. Brown, I’ll remember it now. For me, one cycle will be complete, and the next one begin, on July 15, 2009.

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