Subscribe: Sake-Drenched Postcards
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
animation  digital  festival  film  high  industry  inside  japan  japanese  new  people  tokyo  war  world  year  years 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Sake-Drenched Postcards

Sake-Drenched Postcards

Captain Japan's sometimes sober journalistic adventures in the land of the rising sun.

Last Build Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2008 07:00:00 +0200


Vanimo: Crossing the Border
At first glance, Vanimo, boasting an elevated peninsula that juts into the blue Pacific and straddling the edge of a dense rainforest, can appear to be a bucolic paradise. But it is just this pristine environment and its proximity to its neighbor that leaves this town, the administrative center of West Sepik Province and home to 10,000 people, perpetually on the brink of a crisis.

The Eccentric Dr. Nakamats
In addition to the seemingly magical properties within this liquid of lust, Nakamats, whose 3,000-plus inventions include work on the floppy disk and automatic pachinko machine, adds that the 4,000-yen item also comes with a triangle-shaped template with adhesive that assists a lady in trimming any pubic hair that might otherwise poke from the edges of her panties. "Women always want to have a beautiful body and skin," he says, his thick gray eyebrows not twitching a bit as he speaks. "This product makes them feel beautiful inside and out."

View from a Hill: Scavenging at Stung Meanchey
As the bed of each truck is slowly tipped upward the frenzy begins. The collectors (primarily men and women, but also many children) poke and smack at the descending bags before they even reach the ground. A bulldozer then sweeps in, narrowly missing a few members of the scavenging mob, all knee-deep in garbage, to push the pile to the side, where the whirlwind chaos continues.

Aneha Still Shaking Japan
With a few strokes of his drafting pencil, architect Hidetsugu Aneha has sent the Japanese government's bean counters into overdrive. In 2005, Aneha was found to have falsified the earthquake-resistance data in the designs of multiple hotels and condominiums in an effort to reduce construction costs. As a result, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism in June modified the approval process for the procurement of a building permit, a move which has stalled the world's second biggest economy.

Kyosho Jutaku: Living Large in Small Spaces
Architects like Tokyo-based Jun Ishikawa, however, are now in the process of drafting a small revolution, both literally and figuratively. Small slivers of land that in days past may have been used for an industrial or commerical purpose are now the location of unique housing structures. Ishikawa specializes in mokuzo (wood) structures. Wood affords him the opportunity to implement his signature style: narrow buildings with arched roofs that resemble a one-room schoolhouse or church.

The Wacky, Wired World of Thanko
He slips inside and moves to the rear of the store, whose entry is just across from the new 22-floor Akihabara UDX building, and picks up his company's USB Necktie Cooler (2,980 yen) a tongue-in-cheek item aimed at the "Cool Biz" campaign, a government push for office workers to dress lightly in summer. Outfitted with a USB connection (a near Thanko standard) and cable, the plastic neckwear includes a rotating fan inside its knot. "Thanko is an unusual company," admits Yamamitsu, a bespectacled 42-year-old who is continually moving his hands to mimic the motions required to operate the product he is describing.

Fest Nix Yak Pix
In days past, a film festival held within rough-and-tumble Kabukicho might be assumed to feature a sampling of the work from gangster-flick director Seijun Suzuki ("Tokyo Drifter," "Branded to Kill"), or perhaps "Yojimbo," the Akira Kurosawa classic where a samurai arrives in a village run by two groups of gambling mobsters. But with its smiley tag line, "Let's go to Kabukicho!" the Tokyo International CineCity Film Festival, which begins Nov. 23 at the Shinjuku Milano 1 theater, will be focusing on giving a more positive image of the district.

Kabukicho Comes Clean
Recent police raids on host establishments for everything from maintaining hours past 1 a.m. to ladies being gouged with extraordinarily high bills, often in the hundreds of thousands of yen, have made the industry downright jumpy, says the always jovial Aida. Though he repeatedly insists that his establishments are clean, times are tough. "This is attacking my business," says the bespectacled Aida, wearing an impeccable blue-striped suit and multiple rings studded with shimmering gems. "As a shop owner, I find the enforcement of the 1 a.m. law hard to believe."

Asia Shops Juggle U.S. Animation Jobs
For decades it has been a rewarding cycle for both sides of the Pacific: Hollywood studios have sent their animation pre-production work (the storyboards, designs and character and background layouts) to lower-wage nations in Asia for final finishing. But countries such as South Korea are not relying on lower costs as an advantage anymore, says Nikki Vanzo, prexy of Rough Draft Korea, an animation studio with 400 employees in Seoul that was founded in 1992 and has worked on such toons as "The Simpsons" and "Futurama."

Evolving Anime Films Follow New Inspirations
Toons like this year's sci-fi epic "Vexille," directed by Fumihiko Sori (producer of "Appleseed," the 2004 sci-fi based on a manga by Shirow Masamune), continue to gather press for their revolutionary 3-D CGI and dynamism. Meanwhile, "Appleseed" sequel "Appleseed: Ex Machina," which came from studio Micott & Basara for an Oct. 20 release in Japan, does not disappoint with its slick action sequences, amazingly detailed imagery and high-energy pacing.

CoFesta Unites Film, TV, Gadgets, and Games
Japanese pop culture exports -- from Gundam robots to "Godzilla" pics to Sony PlayStations -- have never been promoted as a single entity. Until now. Co-sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Japan Intl. Contents Festival (CoFesta) has brought together a series of events from such industries as manga comics, animation, broadcast programming and videogames to promote the latest in Japanese coolness to the world.

A Tribute to Cinema Legends in Ome
To step onto the platform at JR Ome station is to begin a journey back through the history of cinema. A stoic John Wayne, cowboy hat set atop his head, stares at arriving and departing passengers from a billboard for the film "Stagecoach." Waiting inside the tunnel leading to the ticket gate is Audrey Hepburn, black sunglasses dangling from her lips in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Outside, and throughout the city's streets, the fronts of many shops and the sides of buildings feature yet more ominous imagery of film legends past, each brimming with action and vibrant colors: Charlie Chaplin peers from the edge of a brick wall in "Modern Times" and Toshiro Mifune raises his sword in Akira Kurosawa's samurai flick "Yojimbo."

Three Premieres, Sci-Fi Classics to Mark Tokyo Festival
"I have tried to make this festival truly enjoyable for real cinema lovers," said Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, who is in his final year as TIFF chairman, at a press conference earlier this week. "I have wanted to position TIFF as a significant event by giving birth to new talent and nurturing new cinema people." But, he added, now is the time for TIFF to become truly international, something he feels this year's schedule exemplifies.

Government Subsidy Stripped from Naked News Program
With content originating perhaps at bath-side, where a caster will undress as she runs through the day's events and simultaneously enter the tub, or along side of a weather map, where a forecaster's clothes will be pulled off seemingly by a raging snow storm, "Nude News Station" integrated the five-minute "Nude Sign Language News" program last year. It began with a fully clothed sign-language signer making motions in a corner of the screen to supplement the main anchor, in the buff, reading the news in the center.

Toho Upgrades Theaters
Though the studio arm of Toho has made its name by bringing powerful beasts and sword-wielding samurais to the screen over its 75 years, it wasn't until recently that its exhibition division became a true industry dominator. Toho Cinemas, formerly Virgin Cinemas, merged with Toho's exhibition department to become Japan's largest exhib. But in shaping its future the company will be looking beyond simply girth.

Right-Wingers in Kudanshita
Kamijo has taken a position directly opposite a Mizuho Bank branch not far from Kudanshita subway station - about half way between Nishi Kanda Park and Yasukuni. Given that he is about ready to engage in battle, he is surprisingly calm, even leisurely taking sips on a bottled tea. "We must stop them from advancing to the shrine," he implores. As he waits, convoys of trucks descend upon Kudanshita, their presence made obvious by the waving hinomaru flags, the painted chrysanthemum crests, and of course the unmistakable military jingles blaring from the sound systems.

The Right Thing: Yasukuni on the Anniversary
On Wednesday, August 15, the anniversary of the conclusion of World War II, great debate will once again fall upon Yasukuni Shrine as embattled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decides whether to accommodate conservative pressures and follow the footsteps of his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, who during his administration repeatedly raised tensions with Japan's Asian neighbors by visiting the historic rallying point for militarism.

Meet an Intelligent Designer of the Transformers
If a robot is to save mankind, then it had better look the part. Optimus Prime, the lead robot battling evil in the film "Transformers," appeared too weak in its initial design, thought Keiji Yamaguchi, a creature developer at Industrial Light & Magic. "So I revised his face so that it looked stronger, more heroic," he says. Perhaps a minor point to the casual filmgoer, but such detail was routine in perfecting the transformation sequences in director Michael Bay's $150 million blockbuster.

Tokyo Right-Wing Spotter's Sheet
In Tokyo the trucks are hard to miss. With their sides adorned with hinomaru flags and slogans proclaiming the divinity of the emperor, these darkened fortresses on wheels might be parked in front of Shibuya's Hachiko or seen ripping down Yamate-dori through Nakameguro as anti-foreigner speeches and wartime anthems, fully brash and crackling, emanate from their mounted speakers.

Bullets over Phnom Penh
Samples of the available weapons, all well-oiled, can be seen hanging by wood pegs mounted onto a bamboo wall. A Luger pistol, an Uzi submachine gun, and an AK47 automatic rifle are but a few. Dangling strings of ammunition round out what is truly an intimidating scene. At the register young boys fill empty magazines with bullets from boxes.

Taste of Pyongyang
As far as restaurant themes go, conventional marketing might find Marxism to be an odd genre given the success of such standards as rock n' roll or 1950s doo-wop. But make no mistake - reservations are absolutely necessary at Restaurant Pyongyang in Phnom Penh. Inside this 25-table eatery of hermit kingdom blandness, slim and fair-skinned North Korean waitresses sing, dance in teams, and play violin in between serving a mix of Asian fare to customers who are afforded a zoo-like peek inside the illicit dining room of Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il.

FM 107 Comes to Port Vila
Inside the booth, where CDs are stacked in the corners and computer monitors are set next to the microphones, DJs play new tracks by the likes of pop-queen Gwen Stefani and oldies by dinosaurs Credence Clearwater Revival and Air Supply. Certainly such programming is standard in the industrialized world, but FM 107 hopes to bring vibrancy to Vanuatu, a small island nation in the Pacific.

Life during Wartime: Vanuatu in World War II
Though a young boy at the time, Wallace Andre clearly recollects that moment six decades ago when a U.S. dive bomber began to encounter trouble while paying a visit to his coastal village on the eastern edge of Vanuatu's capital island of Efate. "Something happened," Wallace remembers. "Maybe the pilot looked back at us and became distracted. Nobody was ever sure."

Bulbous Hair Gives "Brand King" a Head Start
People aligning themselves with a unique hairstyle is nothing new. But Tsutomu Morita is likely the first pitchman via pompadour. "Some people don't believe it is real," Morita says in a back room of his discount luxury-brands store, referring to the black bulbous bob that hangs over his eyes. "Others think I have something hidden inside."

Yuko Tojo: Grandfather Not a War Criminal
The granddaughter of former wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who was hanged as a war criminal following the Tokyo Tribunals, believes that modern Japan is a nation bereft of dignity, a condition she hopes to change by running in this month's House of Councillors election.

Naomi Kawase: Government Not Supporting Film Industry
"What I really desire, not only for myself but for the entire Japanese film industry," Kawase told a press luncheon last week, "is to have some kind of system in place where it is fairly easy to ensure that Japanese films are distributed abroad in a very systematic way." Though "The Mourning Forest" was aided as to production and subtitling costs by the government-run Agency for Cultural Affairs, whose annual film budget is 2.2 billion yen, Kawase would like to see more than simply money. Two weeks ago Kawase paid a visit to Akira Amari, the Minister of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to explain that an open dialogue between film-makers and bureaucrats should be established.

Hosts Set Hearts Beating in Kabukicho
Then, just as quickly as it came to life, the party freezes to allow for a cork from a Dom Perignon bottle (white) to be popped in silence. As the performers huddle around the four guests, a boisterous shout of "Kampai!" breaks the quiet. With the ladies, glasses in hand, absolutely beaming, an escalating vocal roar from the troupe signals the resumption of the pulsing music. "This is an original space," says host Ageha, 21, who is dressed in a velvet coat, curly black bow, and lip ring. "Providing a dreamlike environment, as with the champagne toast, is something special. That is the most important thing. You can't do this at an izakaya."

Classy Ads Lure Quirky Japan Audiences
"The girls in Shibuya are the ones making the scene in Japan," Rai says of the ultra-fashionable district of Tokyo in which her theater is located. "But they have a very peculiar sensibility. Rather than thinking in words, they react to music and art." Instead of using the standard promotional shot of a glum Bill Murray seated at the edge of his hotel bed, the theater splashed an alluring image of Scarlett Johansson's backside, clad in pink panties, across fliers and billboards. The approach worked. Though the film only earned $4.2 million in Japan, Cinema Rise accounted for a full one-fifth of that haul, making it the eighth-most-popular film in the theater's 21-year history.

The Canals of Edo
Japan's construction industry is renowned for its proclivity for paving over anything that does not stand still. But in terms of magnitude, today's concrete pourers were certainly rivaled by the work of their predecessors, who cut and filled what is now Ginza into a network of canals and bridges before transforming the area into the asphalt slab it is today.

Matsuzaka's Duel with Ichiro from Tokyo...
Wednesday's battle, six years later, pitted Ichiro against rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was making his second start of the season for the Boston Red Sox. The game once again left Japan's capital speechless, but for a different reason: Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez completely dominated, stealing the show with a one-hit shutout.

Asakusa Jinta March back in Time
Unless in search of a cheap, dusty souvenir for a relative, Tokyo's historic Asakusa district isn't on the radar of too many folks under the age of 70. But Asakusa Jinta, a seven-piece band that mixes elements of ska, swing, punk and chindonya (traditional street performance), is hoping to bring the area's time-honored sensibilities to the international stage.

Tokyo Midtown to Transform Hedonistic 'High Touch' Haven
As any good street tout will tell you, high foot-traffic is the key to success. Sure, he might toss out his chest, flash his best smile and smoothly sell you an explanation for the apparent contradiction between the shapely, high-class ladies he promises and the remarkably low entry price to his establishment, but even a true charmer will not be effective talking to a sidewalk of empty concrete.So it is conceivable that with the opening of Tokyo Midtown, Tokyo's newest mixed-use, high-rise complex, lucrative business opportunities will be abundant for the throng of hustlers roaming the pavement of Gaien-Higashi- dori just west of the intersection with Roppongi-dori. Or will they?

Tokyo Midtown Opens
Following its opening day on March 30th, Midtown will be poised to push aside its slightly older urban development brother, the nearby Roppongi Hills, to become Tokyo's latest monument to well-heeled excess in an area known more for being a haven of hedonism.

Trey Hillman Hopes Ham Ready for Repeat
The loss of key players during the off-season will be large stumbling blocks for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters as they attempt to repeat as champions of Nippon Pro Baseball. Number-three hitter Michihiro Ogasawara left for the Yomiuri Giants via free agency, popular and ostentatious centerfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo retired, and left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima took his miniscule 2.14 ERA to the Boston Red Sox. "We can't replace him so we won't try," Hillman said in his native Texas drawl of infielder Ogasawara, who last year led the Pacific League with 32 homers and 100 RBIs.

Honoka Takes Top Prize at Adult Broadcasting Awards
The Academy Awards finally gave Martin Scorsese his due for a job well done. Likewise, AV actress Honoka took the top prize (Best Actress) at last week's 2007 Adult Broadcasting Awards for jobs well given. Held in a theater within the love hotel area of Tokyo's Shibuya district, the annual event - titled "Eroide Onna Matsuri" (Erotic Ladies Festival) - was a mix of ceremonies and competitions for the hottest female talent from the roster of adult channels on satellite broadcasters SkyperfecTV and jSAT.

Riding the Wave of Boris
Boris is devastating on stage. The group pummels its audience with wave after wave of extreme loudness. "We try to create what we think to be an appropriate atmosphere for our sound with the audience," Atsuo says. "Cranking up the volume is a part of that. We feel that it is as important as such things as melody." To demonstrate his impression of their sound, Atsuo holds both of his hands in front of himself and flaps them in an undulating motion. The message: Come surf the wave of Boris.

The Improvised World of Shibusashirazu
At the center of the commotion is the band's shaggy-haired and hunched-over conductor, Daisuke Fuwa. Go-go dancers in sparkling cocktail dresses and fishnets enter from the sides to join the band's MC, Shinichi Watabe, as he attempts to provide a semblance of order to the carnival atmosphere by parading around in his colorful happi coat and hachimaki (headband). Off to the stage's edges, butoh performers then up the insanity to the nth degree, slinking their powder-white bodies atop isolated platforms from where they twist their almost naked frames and crinkle their faces. Certainly there is no other group like Shibusashirazu.

The Arrival Lounge on Fongafale
Tuvalu's remoteness creates the stereotypical tropical paradise: glassy wave after glassy wave splashes upon its beaches and seasoned tuna steaks are cooked to order in the restaurant inside Tuvalu's only hotel. It is this existence, however, that might prove to be its undoing - scientists claim that global warming will eventually send the Pacific pouring over this tiny Polynesian nation's narrow strips of terra firma comprised of few topographic features. But as a short time on Fongafale - the largest of the 24 islets that comprise the capital atoll of Funafuti - will attest, present complications that come with an island existence are more pressing.

Gyroball Ready for Spring Showcase...or Not
This week Boston Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, Japan's latest export to M.L.B., will be attracting more than the usual amount of cameras when he makes his first throws from a mound at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers. Not because of the twenty-six-year-old's knee-buckling curve, his devastating change-up, nor even for the Red Sox hefty investment of $103.1 million dollars (which includes the $51.1 million dollar posting fee paid to his former club, the Seibu Lions), but due to his rumored "gyroball" - a pitch that is delivered toward the plate in a spiral similar to a football.

Stake House: Telcos Place Their Bets
The pot has been raised in Japan's telecommunications poker game. Very recently, Japan's largest mobile phone company, NTT DoCoMo, took a 3% stake in Nippon Television, a play that further strengthens a relationship that began early last year with the seven-year, $83 million limited liability venture D.N. Dream Partners (DNDP). The move, which follows DoCoMo's purchase of 2.6% of Fuji Television Network shares in January 2006, is the latest gamble linking a broadcaster and a telecom giant in a bid to boost services to customers, and represents another step toward a union within the two media sectors.

Coming Soon: A Digital Theater Near You
Warner Bros. Entertainment last month continued with the digital cinema experiment "4K Pure Cinema" by transmitting a digital version of Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" from Los Angeles to Japan via fiber-optic lines. D-cinema's sharp images and multichannel digital sound combine to give theatergoers a new experience.

Staying Afloat: Tuvalu's Dot TV
For Tuvalu, a low-lying Pacific nation of nine narrow coral atolls perched precariously at the edge of perhaps rising waters, its approach in recent years for staying afloat has been more about solvency than sea levels. Once an example of dot-com excess, .tv is getting a second chance as interest in broadcasting video over the Internet has reached frenzied proportions - an opportunity that Tuvalu hopes will provide support to its isolated lands of 11,800 people facing an uncertain future.

Jail Talk
As the interview proceeds, Hinoki, his greasy mop of dark hair slicked back and his eyes peering through round glasses, randomly slaps his face and pops breath mints to sooth sudden bursts of nervousness. A handkerchief is always at the ready for when he starts sneezing uncontrollably. "Yes, yes, it happens sometimes," Hinoki assures his client, "but I'm fine. So then...?" Thus begins "Sekken" (Jail Talk), a 70-minute monologue performed by Takayasu Komiya.

The Silicone Valley of the Dolls
Orient is in the business of serving society by supplying sexy stand-ins for those in need of filling a female void. And with technological advancements improving steadily, Nakamura says, his company can accommodate any want for a lifelike lady. To step into the Tokyo showroom, which is filled with Victorian furniture and the soothing sounds of chanteuse Enya, is to literally enter the silicone valley. Ami lies on a bed rimmed in lace, her body adorned in matching panties and bra. Rie (black evening dress) and Tomoko (red yukata) recline in chairs, both displaying sizable cleavage.

MAD3 Get Lost in Tokyo
The band quickly explodes into "Jack the Violence," the title track of their debut on label Time Bomb, and the assembled pork pie hats and leather jackets surge into a roiling swarm. The pace is that of locomotive; the trio seemingly never surfacing for air. MAD3 has polished its instrumental sound since that release eleven years ago to the point of being true technicians of the genre. While their new album "Lost Tokyo" showcases more of their trademark '50s-inspired fuzz and feedback, it is also an attempt to rip apart the superficiality that envelops the metropolis and blow it back to the Meiji Period (1868-1912).

Unwinding the Mystery of the Gyroball
Daisuke Matsuzaka is 26 and sports a crown of spiky hair. He stands at 182 centimeters, weighs 85 kilograms, and throws a gyroball. American newspapers, whose stories typically compare the pitch's elusiveness to that of a ghost or the Loch Ness Monster, have approximated the degree of the pitch's break, graphically showing it making a sweeping turn as it crosses the plate - a movement so large that it exceeds even that of a curveball. Is this beast for real? Conversations with the pitch's pioneers, two very different people working in two very different worlds, make reaching some kind of concurrence on the gyroball's characteristics and Matsuzaka's connection about as easy as trying to hit a Matsuzaka pitch - any one of them.

Deep Impact Captures the Japan Cup
In trademark fashion, Deep Impact, who was disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance following his third-place finish in Paris last month, lagged the field early on only to explode over the final furlong for a dazzling two-length victory over Dream Passport.

The Guns of Betio
American and Japanese forces tore through Betio, then included in the Gilbert Islands, turning the coral and sand landscape into a charred crisp that resembled something like a lunar surface. Today this half-square-mile rock is a part of the Republic of Kiribati, a collection of 33 atolls spread over 1,300 square miles of the Pacific. Though few people living today recall the mayhem of those dark days, many war relics still linger, crumbling on its white sands.

The Bomana War Cemetery
Bomana is the final resting place for many of those Australian soldiers who prevented the Japanese from marching over the treacherous ascents and through the mud and thick forests of the trail to Port Moresby. Quiet and tranquil, Bomana offers a pleasant respite from the dusty and noise-filled streets of nearby Port Moresby. But for returning veterans, the grounds can bring back bitter memories of brutality.

The Alotau Canoe Festival
As John Kaniku tells it, the appropriate beginning to canoe construction is simple enough: you have to choose a tree of quality timber. But procedure generally gets a little complicated after that initial selection. "Then you have to remove the fairies, the good ones and the bad ones," says the chairman of this month's 3rd annual Alotau Canoe Festival. "You will do this by singing to them, asking them to go from your tree to another."

Yamada Screens Final Samurai Flick at Tokyo Festival
Taken from a short story by author Shuhei Fujisawa, the picture, which is the final installment in a series that has included the Oscar-nominated "The Twilight Samurai" and "The Hidden Blade," is the story of a blind samurai who must uphold the virtues of the warrior code and simultaneously win the love of his wife.

Japan's Digital Video Frontier
Though many have focused on the clash for the future high-def home video format between Sony's Blu-ray and Toshiba's HD DVD, digital viewing on-the-go, as in One-Seg, is not to be ignored. One-Seg transmits video and audio data through one segment of the transmitting signal of standard terrestrial digital television broadcasts to deliver content to portable devices.

Japanese Film Commissions Go to Pusan
"After 'Lost in Translation,'" says Maezawa of the 2003 film that featured two foreigners drifting through the complexities of Tokyo's concrete sprawl, "I had great hopes for increasing the number of shoots in Japan by American movie companies. However, filming such things as car-chase scenes is difficult. For 'Tokyo Drift,' the Tokyo police turned a cold shoulder to shooting in the streets."

Rumbling above, Bubbling below: Tokyo's Only Private Highway
Negishi and Tokyo Kosoku have been balancing the effects of the moving traffic above with the tenants below - neither of whom is likely aware of the other - for forty years. During this time he has developed a few pointers for going private, a move the government has partially implemented for its national highway system.

Paradise TV Raises Funds for AIDS Prevention
When adult satellite channel Paradise TV decides to broadcast a live charity event, they ensure there will be no imitations. Here stand a group of male subscribers, each ready to dine on a dish - an omelet or perhaps a bowl of pork kimchi - doused in a golden shower dispensed by one of a half-dozen topless AV (adult video) actresses.

Vanuatu Beef for the Organic Market
The animal is hoisted up and then along a steel rail. As one of the workers draws a thin, foot-long blade from his belt to slice the animal's throat, the next head arrives inside the walled enclosure. An echoing moo then begins rolling through the slaughterhouse.

From a Port Moresby Taxi
For Port Moresby cab-driver Paul Egan, the smashed and spiderwebbed upper-right section of his windshield is not a big deal. Probably, he surmises, caused by a stoning after an argument. Nor is the bullet hole just beneath the handle of the driver's side door. A car-jack attempt? He doesn't know. Sporting a collared plaid shirt and gray trousers, Egan, 46, from Papua New Guinea's mountainous Simbu Province, pulls his deep blue Mazda 323 cab from the International Terminal parking lot at Jackson Airport.

Vanuatu's Disappearing Coconut Crabs
But in recent years there has been a disappearance of one particular crab from the market's tables. Looking like a blue alien creature bound tightly in twine, the coconut crab was once as common as the grilled fish being fanned by ladies in flower dresses. The culprit: a dish of curry sauce, a couple spoonfuls of coconut milk, and a few slices of toast.

The AV Actress
The job of the actress is to bring ecstasy to the screen, to indeed sell it as authentic so as to eliminate any doubt. To do so, she plays with her mind - perhaps by even drifting off to another location (or even onto another guy) - to ensure that her audience is getting a performance they can deem satisfying.

The AV Director
The morning shoot, which will be followed by an afternoon of romping, sucking, and even a smattering of dialogue, is just a single element within a string of directorial duties necessary for providing provocative enough action to get guys off. Success requires keeping up with the latest fetishes and managing frazzled actors and actresses - tasks Tanaka has mastered during his more than two decades in the industry.

BoA Headlines Avex Showcase
BoA and six backup dancers kicked off her two-song set with "Nanairo no Ashita" (Tomorrow's Seven Colors), a poppy double-A side single released in April that reached as high as number three on the Oricon Weekly Sales chart. "BoA is a star," said Araki Takashi, CEO of Avex, of the winner of the winner of the Most Influential Artist in Asia award at 2004 MTV Asia Awards. "She has developed beyond her cute image into a mature and beautiful artist."

Holy Hostesses! A Publisher in the Shadows
Flipping through the Kanto monthly, which sells for 300 yen and could rival the New York Times Sunday edition for heft with its 600-page bulk, reveals ads showing working girls, from such legendary areas as Tokyo's Yoshiwara brothel quarter, in nearly every come-hither pose imaginable. No fetish is spared: grinning cosplay girls in nurse and maid costumes, obese ladies with clearly reported breast sizes, and blindfolded school girls in bondage represent but a few. Web pages and phone numbers make contact a snap.

Harpoons High, Consumption Low
"The Japanese public does not have a high interest in eating whale meat," she said, citing data to indicate that stockpiles of whale meat in Japan has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years, reaching 5,000 tons in 2005.

Phallus Fans Flock to Fertility Festival
The stand is one of many offering phallic fare at the Kanamara Matsuri, or metal penis festival, an annual event held in April - often colloquially referred to as the fertility festival - that is a relatively serious free-for-all to honor men's manhood.

John Swope: Letter from Japan
With his Rolleiflex 75mm, Swope walked through rubble and burned-out structures and befriended Japanese both young and old alike during his three-week tour at the end of August 1945. The resulting collection of portraits and a letter written to his wife, both now on display at the UCLA Hammer Museum, not only express the physical and emotional difficulties experienced by the soldiers while in prison but also send the message that war has tremendous impacts on individuals on both sides of the fighting.

Toei Animation Looks Back after Fifty Years
After a half-century in the cartoon business, in which it produced such television classics as "Sailor Moon" and "Dragonball Z," Toei Animation is returning to its roots. "Our television animations are currently going all around the world," says Hiroyuki Kinoshita, director of the cartoon studio's corporate strategy. "Now we are thinking back to the origin of our company, which was focused on feature films."

It's a Gas: Las Vegas Preserves Neon
"We love to collect signs from vintage hotels," she says of the museum's intentions. "When we see construction going up around a property or hear something, we'll ask if they will donate the sign." By displaying such signs in its 3-acre "boneyard" and restoring others for public display, the museum is actively preserving a piece of the ever-changing Las Vegas cityscape: the glowing glass tubes and blinking bulbs that have been pulling in gamblers and tourists for over 60 years.

Yoshimitsu Banno: Behind Hedorah
The scene unfolds during the film's final battle sequence. Hedorah, an acid-spitting, layered shapeless mass brought to earth by a meteor and nourished on industrial pollution, morphs into a flying-saucer shape and takes flight to escape Godzilla's wrath. Godzilla then tilts his head slightly downward and emits his atomic breath, initially levitating the 330-foot beast and eventually propelling him in the direction of his retreating enemy.

Talkin' Baseball with Kazuhiro Yamauchi
As a player, manager, and coach, Yamauchi has emphasized bat control and a steady eye, in addition to a keen focus, as the keys to hitting. This old-school approach might seem simple but it has earned him the reputation as one of Japan's premier hitting technicians. Every player has his own hitting theory, explains Yamauchi. But the general hitting philosophies of Japan and the big leagues are quite different.

When the Love Has Ended
Under the watch of their hawkish supervisor, it is now the team's job to restock such amenities as toothbrushes and condoms, scrub the toilet, change the sheets, and mop the floor at a pit-crew pace so that the room can be made available as soon as possible. Bumping into strangely matched couples, disposing of bodily fluids of wide variety, and retrieving discarded playthings are a challenging part of the job description.

Samurai Screams
"You are being killed. You need to scream!" booms instructor Ryuji Kikuchi of the Tate-Do school of sword-fight choreography. You hunch over clutching your stomach and once again let out another roar. Your opponent quickly returns his weapon to the sheath attached to his belt. As is the custom, you then fall to the floor once it is securely in place. You are now dead.

Tokyo Digital News: Bikinis Hit the Air
As the founder of sordid satellite network Paradise TV seven years ago, Michiyuki Matsunaga has since moved on to Tokyo Digital News, a slightly less provocative broadcasting station that transmits stories via the Internet and mobile phones in which the announcers are young girls clad in bikinis.

Bobby Valentine's Baseball World
"I haven't been offered a contract to manage anywhere for next year," said Valentine at a luncheon at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan on Tuesday. "So any talk of where I might manage would be premature." But for the skipper who brought the Lotte franchise its first Japan Series championship in 31 years wherever he goes his demands are simple. "I want to be challenged," he said. "I want to be appreciated, and I want to be comfortable in my surroundings."

Fuel Cell Vehicles at the Tokyo Motor Show
Since the industrial revolution spawned only the internal combustion engine and not a provision for a $70-a-barrel rate for oil, alternative fuel vehicles are the talk of this year's show. For Takahashi, a member of Nissan's research and development team, this is his baby. "It is difficult to design and lay out the parts so that everything fits into the car," he says of his eco-SUV, shaking his head. Take the hydrogen tank. Finding an appropriate location for a container the size of a large beach ball can be cumbersome.

Creative Funding for Japanese Films
Japan's film companies are today racking up larger production costs - well in excess of the typical $2 million to $3 million - in an effort to keep up with imports. As a result, raising cash is getting more creative and deviating from the standard multi-partner funding model that usually includes only film-related companies.

Circling beneath Tokyo
Deep beneath a boulevard in western Tokyo lies the construction site of the 11-kilometer Central Circular Shinjuku Route - the second link in the Central Circular Route transportation circle. Planners within the Metropolitan Expressway Company (the project's owner) believe that an efficient road transport system in Tokyo requires a network of expressways in which radial and circular routes work in equilibrium.

NHK's Peace Archives
"The tragedies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki must be prevented from recurring in any part of the world for years to come," said Associate Director of the Peace Archives initiative, Manabu Ihara, of the archive's goal. NHK is delivering this message of peace by making this extensive compilation of programs available for public viewing throughout Japan and the world.

NHK's Revenue Getting Slammed
Wham! The sound of slamming doors is becoming increasingly common across Japan. Nihon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), Japan's only non-commercial public radio and television broadcasting network, has recently been forced to re-evaluate its policies after a series of scandals have caused large numbers of viewers to boycott paying the subscription fee collected door-to-door.

NHK's Peace Archives
"The tragedies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki must be prevented from recurring in any part of the world for years to come," said Associate Director of the Peace Archives initiative, Manabu Ihara, of the archive's goal. NHK is delivering this message of peace by making this extensive compilation of programs available for public viewing throughout Japan and the world.

A Bar with All the Answers
Though fraud and stalker cases are common, the majority seeks help with one thing: love, as in exposing or dissolving a love affair. But unlike the gritty noir exploits of Raymond Chandler's post-World War II fictional sleuth Philip Marlow that have stereotyped the profession over the years, the cases at Answer require a much more gentle untangling, a process in which a bit of alcohol provides a comforting beginning.

Horie is Heading to Hiroshima
"I want to change the status quo of the image that politicians have," the brash 32-year old said. "I want young people to think that politicians can be cool and brilliant." Up until now the 32-year-old Horie has primarily been involved in running his Internet portal Livedoor. But he signed on for the Hiroshima District No. 6 election as an independent to challenge renegade Shizuka Kamei, formerly of Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, amid the ongoing clash over postal privatization.

The Pachinko Player
A few yards further down the alley, he steps into the front door of the parlor named Popeye. After shuffling down one aisle and making a turn to the left, he pauses and then breaks into a wide grin. He sees a hanemono, or "wing-type," machine. Nishi, 30, is a pachinko expert. His strategy for success revolves around money management and riding the wings of the hanemono. It has served him well during his years of attempting to wrestle what he can from this huge industry.

Delicious Vinyl: Japan's Plastic Food Replicas
The fish is actually made of plastic - vinyl chloride, to be exact - and the location is not an eatery of any kind but rather a tiny shop in Otsuka, Tokyo. Nagao's company, Nagao Shoken, creates the plastic food models often seen lined up on shelves in dusty glass cabinets at entrances to restaurants in Japan. Even with his work resembling food, his shop is quite different from a kitchen.

Returning to Yasukuni Shrine
They're of all ages and from many backgrounds. Braving the merciless summer sun, come they do - numbering in the thousands - on August 15th, the anniversary of the conclusion of World War II. Former soldiers, decked out in full military dress and attracting the cameras of journalists and tourists, find a shady spot to sit and swap war stories. On the surrounding streets, members of right-wing groups pour out of their large and colorful soundtrucks. Welcome to Yasukuni Shrine.

Maid Cafes Add Cool to Akihabara
To the uproarious approval of a gathering of five hundred mostly young male otaku, or extreme fanatic, female employees of Akihabara's now trendy maid cafes (a generic expression given to a variety of shops staffed by pretty young girls outfitted in alluring costumes) assisted in the performance of uchimizu - the summer ritual of tossing water on to hot pavement in an effort to create a cooling sensation.

Shochiku Adds Animation
Japanese film giants Toei and Toho probably cast nervous looks over their backs in September, when film-distribution and kabuki-theater conglomerate Shochiku established an animation division to increase its share of Japan's $18 billion annual animation market.

Daido Moriyama: Shinjuku Drifter
Moriyama sees Shinjuku as a place on the edge. Ikebukuro to the north and Shibuya to the south lack realism, he says. It is Shinjuku's "depth" that he finds appealing. "When I walk through Shinjuku taking photos," Moriyama explains, "I have a feeling of excitement and fear."

The King of Satellite Television Smut
With his black zippered jacket as sharp as his Ray-Ban glasses, the 58-year-old then faces forward and begins counting off the things that people will pay substantial sums to watch on television. "Movies," he says, folding his pinky inward in typical Japanese fashion, "gambling, sports..." He then pauses, his face forming a grin. And sex.

Journey to the Center of the Earth
At the point of final discharge (in the city of Kasukabe) massive pumps send the flood water into the Edogawa River, which in turn empties into the Pacific Ocean. Between the pump system and the channel's terminus is a massive room of smooth concrete. As long as two football fields with 59 piers reaching to a 25-meter high ceiling, the scene takes on the look of something suitable for a sci-fi movie set or an ode to ancient Greek architecture.

Paradise TV Strives for Stupidity, Sex
The breeze increases, so much so that her black skirt and white long sleeves suddenly disappear in the rush, leaving the determined newswoman clad in only lace panties and an extremely loose-fitting black bra in which to announce the rain in Sendai. Welcome to Paradise TV.

Iceland Awaits Bobby Fischer
It is the most intriguing item to emerge from Iceland since Bjork's last album, and Bobby Fischer's got it, or it at least his legal team does. It is his passport, and this time it is valid.

Donning the Robe
His daily routine always begins with a bang - or more accurately, with the striking of a small cylindrical gong - to signify the start of a prayer session. The gong sits next to a large kneeling pillow slightly offset from a butsudan, or small Buddhist memorial.

The Art of Ninjashot Photography
The pastime can be summarized as a lurid mix of lust, lenses, and stealth that is enhanced by Japan's commonly cramped environs and culture. Make no mistake, this hobby, fuelled in recent years by developments in digital photography, is generally illegal, but that factor pales in comparison to the rush.

Tokyo Underground
But this intersection in Toranomon is special in one way: No column, scaffold, concrete mixer, or other standard evidence of work ever shows itself from behind the construction site's enclosure. The reason can be found below - way below - ground level.

Approaching Infinity with Keiji Haino
Leading his two-piece band Fushitsusha, one of his many musical incarnations, Haino and his bass player generate an escalating, monstrous roar for an audience of 20 people in this matchbox-sized basement club in a western Tokyo suburb.

Toho Breaks the Rules in 'Godzilla: Final Wars'
"Because this was going to be the last Godzilla film I thought we could break all the rules," said Ryuhei Kitamura, the 35-year old director. "And I think we did so; I think we have created a type of Godzilla film that has never existed before."

The Nonsense Machines of Maywa Denki
"Planter" is one element in "Edelweiss Series," Maywa Denki's collection of machines that together tell the story of a mythic society so dominated by materialism that its females are willing to accept sterility in lieu of sacrificing the pursuit of cosmetic beauty.

Shanghai's Bund Traders
It is an evening on the riverbank promenade of the Bund - Shanghai's strip of historic art deco buildings aligned along the curve of the murky brown Huangpu River. Drink and film kiosks battle for customers busily snapping photos of the recently constructed towers and high-rises on the opposite bank. In between peddlers cruise the area in search of targets.

Where Eagles Dare: Rakuten Set to Play Hard Ball
Current ownership represents a near hall-of-fame roster of companies within industries - mainly in the transportation, retail, and newspaper sectors - that have lagged considerably since the bursting of Japan's economic bubble over a decade ago. Mikitani and his Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles club are set to change the baseball business in Japan and score a few runs in the process.

Alberto and Me: A Journalist and His Camera
Mario works as a sleuth in search of basic information on his subject. But such work is not simple. It requires patience, smarts, and instincts - all things he carries with him, in addition to his trusty camera, as he lives the life of the only Peruvian journalist covering the activities of Fujimori in Japan.