Tag Archives: Japan

The great Haruo Nakajima

22 Mar

You may not have not heard the name Haruo Nakajima, but you have undoubtedly seen his acting. Nakajima played the monster Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese) in many movies. It is true that there have been many bad Godzilla movie, but the first one is a significant film. The American release with its terrible dubbing and the added presence of Raymond Burr gave viewers the wrong impression. You must see the original film as it was intended for Japanese audiences. It is a deep metaphor for the position of post war Japan and the meaning of nuclear weapons.

(hat tip to BoingBoing)

Here is the trailer for the original movie:

And, just for comparison, is the trailer for the film as it was released in the United States:

Another Sapir-Whorf claim

27 Feb

As I have mentioned before, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis  claims that specific languages affect how speakers view the world. Recently, I came across this article about a Japanese company that is making its employees (in Japan) speak English:

Japan continues to work inside a linguistic bubble – not least because many firms in Japan are oriented towards the domestic market and pay little heed to global trends. But this approach is becoming increasingly difficult to justify. Switching to English makes Japanese firms more competitive, while opening employees’ eyes to the outside world.

There is another benefit to using English in business: The language has few power markers. Its use can therefore help to break down the hierarchical, bureaucratic barriers that are entrenched in Japanese society and reflected in Japanese conversation, which could boost efficiency.

What were the effects of this change?

Of course, the Englishisation of companies is not easy. The internal shake-up is profound. Staff who speak English well suddenly acquire a higher status: those who do not fear for their careers.

Today, more than 90 per cent of our employees have achieved the required level of English. This has helped to make our operations more efficient than ever. An employee anywhere in the world can pick up a phone and get an immediate answer, instead of working through a translator.

The impact can also be felt on an individual level. One manager, who initially feared that he would have to leave the company, changed his tune after attending an intensive English-language school in the Philippines, where he met students from South Korea and China who were committed to mastering the language. His English improved quickly, and so did his standing in the company. More importantly, he gained a much-needed global perspective.

Balance as a predictor of cognitive decline

23 Mar

The journal Stroke has published a paper titled: “Association of Postural Instability With Asymptomatic Cerebrovascular Damage and Cognitive Decline: The Japan Shimanami Health Promoting Program Study.”

The paper’s main conclusion:

“Postural instability was found to be associated with early pathological changes in the brain and functional decline, even in apparently healthy subjects.”

You can read the whole abstract here. And here is a popular account published by the AARP.


Western diet linked to Alzheimer’s disease in Japan

7 Oct

A study, published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, reports evidence that the adoption of a Western diet by many Japaneses is correlated with an increase in Alzheimer’s disease.

Here is the abstract:

“Background: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) rates in Japan and developing countries have risen rapidly in recent years. Researchers have associated factors such as the Western diet, obesity, alcohol consumption, and smoking with risk of AD. Objective: This paper evaluates whether the dietary transition might explain the rising trend of AD prevalence in Japan and in developing countries, evaluating other factors when possible.

Methods: This study used two approaches to see whether dietary or other changes could explain AD trends in Japan and developing countries. One approach involved comparing trends of AD in Japan with changes in national dietary supply factors, alcohol consumption, and lung cancer mortality rates from zero to 25 years before the prevalence data. The second compared AD prevalence values for eight developing countries with dietary supply factors from zero to 25 years before the prevalence data. Results: For Japan, alcohol consumption, animal product, meat and rice supply, and lung cancer rates correlated highly with AD prevalence data, with the strongest correlation for a lag of 15–25 years. In the eight-country study, total energy and animal fat correlated highly with AD prevalence data, with a lag of 15–20 years. Mechanisms to explain the findings include increased obesity for the eight countries, and increases in cholesterol, saturated fat, and iron from increases in animal products and meat supply for Japan.

Conclusion: Evidently AD rates will continue rising in non-Western countries for some time unless we address major risk factors involving diet, obesity, and smoking.”

Cleveland Japanese Language Meetup

17 Sep

Last night I attended my first meeting of the Cleveland Japanese Language Meetup, held in the basement of MacBacks bookstore in the Coventry neighborhood in Cleveland Heights.



The meeting was great fun. We split up into two groups, beginners and more advanced. Naturally, I was in the beginners group where we learned about the Hiragana script.

We were given the goal of learning Hiragana by the next meeting in October. To accomplish this I will try using the same strategy I used to learn the Indian Devanagari script. In addition, I will check out and see what is available in Memorise and Anki, for spaced repetition learning.

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