Category Archives: Trends

Donald Trump Becomes the Unofficial Official GOP Presidential Nominee

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Donald Trump has all but officially secured the Republican nomination for president, and it has surprised just about everyone who follows politics.
Sen. Ted Cruz proved to be a stiff challenger to Trump’s campaign, and despite winning many previous contests, suddenly dropped out of the race following his loss to Trump in the Indiana primary.

Gov. John Kasich, the more moderate-sounding governor of Ohio, remained in the race just a little bit longer than Cruz.
But given that he has only won his home state so far in the primaries, Kasich made the predictable decision to bow out of the presidential race, as well.
That leaves Trump as the last man standing, with no challengers to his nomination.

This would seem to remove any doubt about the inevitability of Trump’s nomination.
A lot of talk in the political world focused on brokered convention, and many bigwigs in the GOP hoped that a Paul Ryan, a Mitt Romney, or some other white knight would come from nowhere and secure the nomination on the second ballot (after no candidate could garner a majority of delegates on the first ballot).
That scenario now seems like a complete fantasy, if it ever had any real-world possibility in the first place.

On the Democratic side, the primary race will continue in earnest, with Sen. Bernie Sanders refusing to drop out, even though reality tells him that he should.
Cruz had much more of a realistic shot at securing his party’s nomination, but even he saw the writing on the wall and decided not to fight on.
Sanders has so far declined to do the same.
This will no doubt make it more difficult for Secretary Clinton to focus on her opponent in the fall.
How that will affect the contest in November remains to be seen.

One thing’s for sure: This race will be enormously entertaining. It already has been.

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I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Jam Sessions in Tokyo –

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One of the reasons I decided to settle in Japan rather than Vancouver (my hometown), was because of the music scene in Tokyo.
I didn’t know any Japanese musicians personally.
But surely, I thought, in a city with more than 12 million people (which is around 1/3 the entire population of Canada), there must be a lot of opportunities for musicians.

Eager to connect with local players but having no idea where to start, I turned to good ol’ Internet.
I looked up websites for jam sessions and made a list of places to visit.
The first thing that I realized was that, compared to what I was used to, many of the jam sessions were on the pricey side.
Of course the meaning of “expensive” just depends on what the local norm is, but I was used to going to jam sessions for free.
But some of the more well-known jams in Tokyo charge anywhere between 1000-3000 yen for entry.

I haven’t been to jam sessions in cities other than Vancouver and Tokyo/Yokohama, so I can’t really compare either of these places to what’s typical around the world. There probably isn’t one standard business model anyway.
But comparing Vancouver and Tokyo jams, the one clear difference is the target audience.

In Vancouver, it was good for the venues to get musicians who were willing to play for free (even students) because that meant these places could draw in customers who just enjoyed having a meal with live background music.
I remember a jam session that even served a free plate of fries or pint of beer to all the players.
For the players, it was a good chance to meet others and to play in a stress-free environment.

In Tokyo/Yokohama, jam sessions are typically where amateur musicians go to practice music with others and improve.
Depending on the jam, you might see a lot of beginners or players with a lot of experiences.
I think one of the reasons why people go to these jams is because for many, practicing at home isn’t really an option (although the biggest upside, of course, is to mingle with other regulars).
Naturally, the players are the main customers of these jams, and there’s often a cover charge in addition to minimum order.
I feel that regular restaurants (as opposed to dedicated jam spaces) could benefit from hosting jams, but I haven’t found one yet.

Anyway, it’s been really great meeting people at these jams over the years.
They came from all sorts of different backgrounds and some of them became close friends.
I hope to continue finding more good jams in the future…!
In the meantime, if you know a good place, please feel free to leave a comment…

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Yokohama –

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Today, I want to talk about my city of residence: Yokohama.

Why? Because I feel like it’s sometimes overshadowed by its neighboring city, Tokyo, despite its many offerings in terms of cultural sites and modern shopping districts.
Although Tokyo is the most popular city by far with foreign tourists, Yokohama remains an alluring attraction for domestic travelers.

I’ll start with the most central area of the city, Minatomirai.
Minatomirai is the central shopping district in Yokohama, and overlooks the iconic Ferris wheel.
From the station exits (either Minatomirai Station on Minatomirai Line or Sakuragicho Station on JR Negishi Line), there are a number of well-known tourist attractions within fairly short walking distance.

Yamashita-koen is a park that stretches along the waterfront by the port and leads to Osanbashi pier, the place of embarkation for luxury cruise ships such as Queen Elizabeth 2.
It’s a structure that manages to blend the old shipbuilding tradition of wooden planks and a sleek, modern design.
It’s a popular spot for romantic walks for couples and on clear days, you can see Mt. Fuji from the pier.

Close to Yamashita-koen is the historical Red Brick Warehouse building.
Having served as a storage facility during the wartime, it’s now a busy shopping & dining area.
There’s a shop that specializes in curry-filled buns, and I usually stop by for one if I’m in the area.
You’ll also find a jazz bar/restaurant Motion Blue on the second floor.
It’s a sister establishment of Blue Note Tokyo, and regularly features some of the most highly regarded musicians and artists in Tokyo area.

Another location that’s constantly bustling with visitors from outside of Yokohama is Chinatown.
Meat buns are popular there, and you’ll see people lining up to get some from the popular shops.

If you’re visiting Japan, you might also be thinking of trying some ramen.
What you may not have known though, is that there are many different types (the chief ones being pork, salt, and soy sauce) in addition to regional variations of each.
And unless you’ve tried a bunch of different restaurants for comparison, it’s not really possible to fully appreciate this popular Japanese dish.

Well, if you’re in Yokohama area, you’re in luck because close to Shin-Yokohama Station (about 10 minutes by train from Yokohama Station on Yokohama Line), you’ll find Ramen Museum.
Its interior is decorated like post-war Tokyo, and conveys kind of a busy, chaotic atmosphere.
While it’s obvious that the creators of the museum paid a lot of attention to historical details, the main attraction isn’t what’s preserved from the past but rather the current snapshot of the famous ramen makers from all over Japan.

Ramen Museum features eight famous ramen houses from around the country, each representing its region and distinctive style.
You can also order half portions from the vendors, which is nice because that makes it easier for you to try at least a few different restaurants.

I’m going to stop here for now, but some of the other notable places around Yokohama include Kamakura (famous for its shrines, kind of reminiscent of Kyoto in terms of historical vibe but smaller), Enoshima (a seaside town close to Kamakura), and Sankei-en (traditional Japanese garden).

If you ever come to Tokyo, then by all means, enjoy what the city has to offer. But don’t forget that Yokohama is an amazing city in its own right…!

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! Constitutional change is coming, but are the voters ready?

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Japan is poised to change the interpretation of its constitution, allowing it to step up its military involvement in conflicts that have nothing to do with the nation’s self-defense. This radical departure from decades of constitutional interpretation has met with justifiable protests, but all opposition seems too little, too late.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has enjoyed more strength and influence (not to mention time in office) than any other prime minister in recent years. Despite enacting a slew of questionable new policies (such as so-called “Abenomics,” which has yet to result in the sort of economic recovery promised to Japanese voters), Mr. Abe has remained mostly popular with the electorate, and his LDP seems to have a lock on the government for the foreseeable future.

The new interpretation of the constitution, however, might turn the tide of popular opinion. Mr. Abe’s poll numbers have begun to slide, but it remains to be seen how far the damage might go. Moreover, the LDP’s dominance in the Diet is so overwhelming that it would take nothing short of a political miracle for the party to lose its advantage. As unpopular as the change may be, it seems that the LDP will face little consequence from the electorate.

In spite of having multiple political parties available to the voters, Japan for all intents and purposes has only one real party from which to choose. And this political reality is a major cause of the problem. In order for the voters to hold some sway over the politicians (for whom they presumably work), there must be a viable alternative in the Diet for the electorate to choose. Otherwise, the ruling party can run roughshod over everything and everyone, and face no consequences whatsoever. For all the faults of America’s two-party system (and they are many), it certainly beats having a one-party system.

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! Japan-Anime!

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Today I would like to talk about something that seems to ubiquitous throughout Japan- Anime.

‘Anime’ is a specific type of hand-drawn and/or computer generated animation made in Japan.
Also, economically it brings in an amazing amount of revenue to Japan through its domestic and international sales.
On a personal note, I enjoy anime shows and films, but all do not view the art in the same way that I do.

In America most people know of the concept of anime, but it is often grouped with cartoons, which are largely aimed towards children in the United States.
This is due to its characteristic of being computer generated.
This is unfortunate because many anime shows and films, as it is recognized in Japan, are aimed at adults- and with large success at that.

Anyone that knows anything about anime will know the name Hayao Miyazaki, and probably his latest (and supposedly his last film) The Wind Rises.
This tale about a Japanese plane designer set during WWII earned itself the title of highest grossing anime of 2013 at an estimated 12 Billion Yen, or 120 Million Dollars.

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There is a small portion of younger Americans who take an interest in Japanese culture and no doubt waited religiously for this film to be subtitled into English and put up on the web for their viewing pleasure.
However, many of them hide the fact that they enjoy watching anime because of how they think their friends and others would react.
Due to the stigma that computer generated media has in America, many people think that watching an anime is similar to watching a children’s show such as Tellitubies.
But as anyone who is well versed in anime knows, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

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In Japan, anime is seen as something that can be watched by anyone.
I wish that the way that American society views anime could change and that people could realize this.
But before anime became popular internationally, the only computer generated shows and films in America were for children.
For this reason, the notion that these computer-made programs are all for kids is still prevalent.
In the future though, I predict that this notion will die out and people will realize that anime can be for adults and children alike.

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! オバマ夫人来日中

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US First Lady Michelle Obama is on her first visit to Japan. She arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday to push U.S. efforts to give more adolescent girls in developing countries access to school and finish their education through an initiative called “Let Girls Learn”. Mrs. Obama is visiting Japan and then Cambodia, which are among Asia’s richest and poorest nations respectively.

アメリカのオバマ大統領夫人、ミシェルさんが初来日中です。18日に東京に到着し、途上国の女子教育を支援していく構想「少女たちに教育を!」をアピールしました。オバマ夫人はアジアで最も豊かな国である日本、それから最も貧しい国の1つであるカンボジアを訪問する予定になっています。
In Tokyo, she announced, along with her Japanese counterpart Akie Abe, a partnership supporting girls’ education.  She also had separate meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

東京ではオバマ大統領夫人は安部昭恵夫人と共に、女子教育について日本との協力強化を宣言しました。また、天皇皇后両陛下や安部首相とも面会しました。

On Friday she is on her way to Kyoto, before traveling to Cambodia.
ミッシェルさんは、20日には京都を訪れ、その後カンボジアに向かいます。

White House staff said the program also reflects a U.S. commitment to be more involved in the Asia-Pacific region.
ホワイトハウスによると、今回の訪問はアメリカのアジア太平洋地域へのコミットメントを更に強化するものだとしています。