Saturday, March 23, 2019

Dystopian Migration Policy in Japan Revisited: How to Stop Migrants from Going Illegal to Escape Economic Restrictions?

This week saw a renewed fear of illegal immigration in Japan when more than 700 registered students from the Tokyo University of Social Welfare simply disappeared.  Presumably, the students, from poor countries throughout Asia, thought that becoming illegal workers to earn more money would be a better way to use their time in Japan than wasting time and money listening to lectures in school.  Opinion pieces in Japanese media justifiably sound the alarm.  Many attacked the halfhearted attempt by the Abe administration to bring in more "foreign technical staff," arguing that such measures would only lead to Japan becoming a land of illegal immigrants.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Active Engagement as the Best Way to Handle a PR Disaster

It certainly has not been a good week for Boeing.  After one of its planes was blamed for the fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, renewed allegations that the model, Boeing 737 MAX, is technically flawed resurfaced, leading to a worldwide grounding of the model.  While airlines and national governments quickly halted the use of the model, Boeing itself and American authorities were slow to react to the Ethiopian disaster, only grounding the planes after more than 60 countries made the move.  The slow reaction has led to a global backlash against the company.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Is Language Study No Longer Necessary if Machine Translations are Perfect?

Recently, "Pocketalk," a translation device with the ability to accurately interpret dozens of languages in real-time, has been all the rage.  The Japan-developed device is certainly revolutionary in its accuracy.  Just by talking into it, the user can get a sentence interpreted in seconds into the target language.  With its customized SIM card, it can be used anywhere in the world without the need to adjust the setting every time one enters a new country.  Such a device really helps people to imagine a future where the language barrier is no longer a barrier, and technology will allow people speaking different languages to communicate naturally in real time.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Trump/Kim Summits Achieved Their Aims; Time for More Posturing

The second summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in Hanoi has concluded in a rather ominous way.  Gone is the optimism that emerged from the previous summit in Singapore, when both men spoke of concrete progress toward peace, with denuclearization, ending of sanctions, and official diplomatic relations all on the future agenda.  The Hanoi summit was, in contrast, more notable for what it did not manage to achieve: the promises of further progress on denuclearization and dropping of sanctions were dashed by disagreements on defining what they are.

Friday, February 22, 2019

"Universalizing" Local Names as a First Step of Welcoming a More Global Society

One of the greatest merits of East Asian languages is that much information can be packed into short standalone phrases that are easily remembered by even the laymen without the need for detailed explanations.  The ability for information to be communicated so concisely and densely means that it is possible for the phrases to be used as new concepts themselves, without the need to create alternative shorter codes that have equivalent meanings.  The idea of densely packed phrases acting as linguistic codes is so common that people in this part of the world do not even think about it.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Commercialization of Obligation: the Story of Japanese Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day, in contemporary popular culture, is supposed to be romantic.  Couples, young and old, reserve seats for two in nice restaurants and profess their love once again in moody atmospheres appropriate for the words and occasions.  Or perhaps the singletons will gather and denounce the holiday for being pretentious and talk about the difficulties of getting hitched in foreign lands.  Either way, the keyword is "romance," a concept that is hard to escape on Valentine's Day, whether one is full of it or completely devoid of it.