Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Japanese Shitamachi as a Case of "Necessary Slums"

In the modern Japanese context, the concept of "shitamachi" often evokes a sense of longing, traditoon, history,and community.  Roughly translated as "lower neighborhoods," the shitamachi is often credited as the repository of Japanese urban history, where traditional crafts and businesses thrived, and a sense of "togetherness," long lost in the faceless confines of modern apartment and office blocks, can still be found.  Simply put, they represent a supposedly more wholesome Japan, where pressures of modern corporate world has yet to disturb the social fabric created by centuries of traditional communal life.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Japan is a Religious-Atheist Country, and That's a Good Thing

The Spaniards have a saying, "in Spain, even the atheists are Catholics."  No only do churches dominate townscapes, social norms derived from religious practices are inescapable in daily life of any person in Spain.  Hence, even those who do not believe in God follow social norms designed by those that do believe in Him.  The pervasiveness of subtle religious identity is simply subconsciously absorbed to such a degree that no one even really think about the religious origins of common everyday practices.  And the Spanish  carried their religiously embedded social practices to far-flung corners of the world like the Philippines.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What is the Role of a Public Library in the Age of Internet?

In the quiet residential neighborhood of Fukagawa in Tokyo's eastern suburbs is a leafy children's playground.  Amidst the tall trees, slides, and swings favored by local children and parents is a building that looks oddly out of place.  A three-story tall stone building, built in the modernist Western style so favored in early 20th century Japan, greet park visitors.  The neoclassical facade of the building is imposing enough to be a centerpiece for a major history museum, yet, located in the little neighborhood park, it has to settle for a much mundane role: the neighborhood public library.

Friday, May 11, 2018

What's the Point of Negotiating When Agreements Can Just be Ripped up Later?

One summer of 2008, the author found himself on a bus from South Korea, crossing straight across the DMZ north into the North Korean city of Kaesong.  It was a different time, when hopes of reconciliation between the two Koreas was high.  Hyundai Asan, a subsidiary of the giant South Korean conglomerate ran the tour, and the bus passed through Kaesong Industrial Complex, the symbol of economic cooperation between the two sides.  While tourists are monitored per usual protocol, there were talks of a better future among the South Koreans used to living under liberal administrations.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

An Ode to Japan's Dashi Culture

Indians are justifiably proud of their cooking.  Scrumptious curries result from ingenious combinations of dozens of spices, discovered through centuries of trials and errors.  The delicious results are admired and adopted throughout the world.  The West, especially, has greatly supplemented its simplistic condiments of the past with the riches of Indian curries, resulting in what some Indians would refer to as an "upgrade" of "tasteless" Western cuisines.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Nationalistic Politicians Need to Heed the Intricacies of Global Supply Chains

The hot topic in international diplomacy is "trade wars."  The idea that a major economic power, by blockading access to certain economic resources to foreign firms, can somehow hurt foreign economic interests to such a degree that the foreign country in question has no choice but to make economic concessions.  The idea is rooted in a "zero-sum" mentality, whereby economic victory and resulting benefits of one country and its firms is correlated with economic defeat and economic costs of another country and their companies.