Killing Commendatore: Haruki Murakami

Meh.

Were this Murakami’s first novel, it’s doubtful he’d find a publisher.

Whilst the translation is pretty good, the translator is perhaps too true to the original Japanese; words at times seem clunky, but (having a knowledge of the Japanese language) I believe that that is because the translator is faithfully translating directly from the Japanese. Unfortunately, words and phrases often used in everyday Japanese do not have the same frequency or acceptance their English versions do.

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The Diplomat’s Daughter: Karin Tanabe

I was really ready to like this book from the cover blurb.

My optimism was misplaced. The word usage is extremely pedestrian. I can almost never read a book without making a note of some interesting idea or clever word use. I made not a single notation from the entire novel.

Worst of all is the extremely unrealistic portrayal of a young Japanese woman of that social station and age and time period. Even if her parents allowed her to behave in the manner the book describes, Japanese society never would have.

As an illustration, do some quick research on the current Crown Princess of Japan, who had a similar upbringing, except she is a present-day version of Emiko, when contemporary social conventions are a little more unencumbered. Princess Masako has endured such societal pressure to bend to the social norms of her station, she has suffered extreme emotional distress, to the point where she has seldom even appeared in public since 2002.

Emiko fighting and rising above such tribulations would have been a good story. Instead, Tanabe pretends the real-world societal strictures of Japan barely existed.

Japan finally tries to fix Valentine’s Day

It’s a start….

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/13/asia/japan-valentines-day-pushback-intl/index.html

Hong Kong (CNN)Japanese women are rebelling against a decades-old Valentine’s Day tradition that obliges them to give chocolates to men.

On February 14, the nation’s female workers are expected to give “giri choco,” or obligation chocolates, to their male colleagues. Women are also expected to buy heartfelt chocolates, “honmei choco,” for their crushes or loved one.

“Valentine’s Day (in Japan) got turned upside down to become a symbol of the Japanese patriarchy,” said Jeff Kingston, a Japan expert at Temple University in Tokyo.
But this year, women are calling time on the financially draining practice.

A recent survey by a Tokyo department store found about 60% of women will instead buy chocolates for themselves on Valentine’s Day.
Only 35% planned to offer chocolates to their male colleagues.

A boon for chocolate makers

Japan began celebrating Valentine’s Day in 1958, after Japanese confectionery firm Mary Chocolate ran a campaign suggesting that women give men chocolates.
That upended the West’s version of February 14, when men typically buy their loved ones flowers and chocolates and take them out for dinner.

In the 1980s, chocolate companies attempted to redress the chocolate buying balance. White Day was introduced on March 14 as a date for men to return the favor — although Kingston says that women often ended up gifting more chocolates than they received.
Both dates turned out to be a boon for the chocolate industry.

Valentine’s Day now accounts for a quarter of Japan’s yearly chocolate sales, according to the Nagoya International Center.

And that’s a lot of chocolate. Japan consumed $5.39 billion of the sweet stuff in 2017, according to a report published by Mordor Intelligence — more than far more populous China or India.

Banning giri choco

Last Saturday, the Revolutionary Alliance of Unpopular People (RAUP) staged its 12th annual protest against “romantic capitalism” in Tokyo.
“We’re against companies exploiting events like Valentine’s Day to push excessive consumer culture and guilt-trip people who aren’t in relationships,” said Takeshi Akimoto, a member of the tiny fringe group, comprised of nine students and workers.
One of the group’s complaints is that Valentine’s Day chocolates in the workplace can make some employees feel that their value is determined by how much confectionery they receive.
RAUP gathered to shout anti-Valentine's day slogans in Tokyo, Japan.
RAUP gathered to shout anti-Valentine’s day slogans in Tokyo, Japan.
It’s a sentiment shared by others across Japan. Some companies have now banned the custom of “giri choco,” saying it causes problems if colleagues compare prices of chocolates or highlight those who don’t receive any sweets.

“If the popular men get all the chocolate, the morale of all the other workers would drop,” explains Kukhee Choo, a researcher at Sophia University in Tokyo. “That would affect a company’s atmosphere.”
From ‘giri choco’ to ‘tomo choco’
The number of people without a Valentine in Japan is also growing.
In 2015, a record 23% of men and 14% of women were unmarried by age 50, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

As a result, even the practice of giving heartfelt chocolates could take a beating. Erico Mori, a Japanese food writer based in Paris, says that consequently a new trend is emerging: that of giving friendship chocolates, or “tomo choco.”
While Choo says that this trend is in some ways positive, as it moves away from patriarchal practices, for chocolate companies it simply represents a shift in marketing.
“It’s a commercial practice that’s been repackaged so (companies) can still maintain their chocolate sales,” says Choo.

The End of an Era: Tsukuji Fish Market

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/tokyo-tsukiji-fish-market-toyosu/index.html

I used to love coming here in the morning…..

End of an era as Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market closes

Patrick St. Michel, CNN • Updated 6th October 2018
02:50
Tokyo (CNN) — Following years of delays and plenty of controversy, Tokyo’s Tsukiji wholesale fish market, one of the city’s most popular destinations for international visitors, has finally shut its doors.
The October 6 closing marks the end of an era for a structure that has been central to the metropolis since the mid-1930s and was considered the biggest fish and seafood market in the world.
The market is moving to a new facility in eastern Tokyo — the Toyosu Fish Market — and is set to start operating October 16.
The opening stands as one of the biggest developments in Tokyo in 2018, closing one chapter for the city and beginning a new one.

Why Tsukiji means so much to Tokyo

For decades, Tokyo's Tsukiji market has been the beating heart of a world-class culinary capital, supplying Michelin-starred chefs.

For decades, Tokyo’s Tsukiji market has been the beating heart of a world-class culinary capital, supplying Michelin-starred chefs.
KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The Tsukiji wholesale fish market opened in 1935, though similar venues have existed in the surrounding area since the early 1600s.
It quickly established itself as the biggest fish and seafood market in the world, and one of the largest wholesale markets, period.
According to various reports, vendors sell around five million pounds of seafood from all over the world at Tsukiji daily, which works out to about $28 million.
Besides being a vital business hub for all things aquatic, over the years Tsukiji also became a must-see Tokyo tourist destination.
Walking through the inner market — the area where vendors sell seafood to restaurants and other companies — was a sensory overload.
Most popular of all were the early morning tuna auctions, with visitors eagerly showing up daily to watch people bid on huge hunks of fish.
Just as intriguing was the outer market, an area around the main structure housing dozens of food stalls and restaurants. Visitors could enjoy some of the freshest seafood here — assuming they showed up early enough.

The move itself

Demonstrators protest against the impending move of the Tsukiji fish market to Toyosu on September 29, 2018.

Demonstrators protest against the impending move of the Tsukiji fish market to Toyosu on September 29, 2018.
KARYN NISHIMURA-POUPEE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Plans to move the fish market to Toyosu have been in motion for decades, but didn’t get serious until the early 2010s.
Why move? Reasons centered around the age of the structure itself — these buildings were constructed in 1935, after all — along with the fact the Tsukiji fish market sits on valuable real estate that could prove useful for and after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
There were hiccups along the way though.
The Toyosu market was originally supposed to open up in November of 2016, but was delayed for various reasons, including worries over contaminated soil.
The spot where the market was being constructed used to house a gas production plant, and it appeared the ground beneath had absorbed chemicals from this factory.
After a campaign to clean it up, experts declared the area safe for use this past summer. Now the setup is complete, with the new market set to open October 16.
It remains a divisive topic, however.
Many citizens of Tokyo worried a move from Tsukiji would deprive the city of a historical sight at a time when many longstanding destinations are starting to vanish.
Even more vocal were the vendors and workers at Tsukiji, who have held protests against the move at the old market in the days running up to its closure.

Toyosu: What to expect

An aerial photo of Tokyo's new Toyosu fish market.

An aerial photo of Tokyo’s new Toyosu fish market.
STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Like it or not, the Toyosu move is happening.
For visitors coming to Tokyo hoping to experience it, here’s what to know.
The closest subway station to the new Toyosu fish market is Shijo-mae Station, located on the Yurikamome Line (the station actually connects directly to the market, so don’t worry about getting lost).
It’s only two stops from Toyosu Station, which also can be accessed via the Yurakucho Line. The market is the only real draw near this station, though Toyosu has a variety of restaurants and shopping centers worth exploring, while the Yurikamonme Line leads to Odaiba, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay.
For those hoping to get to the Toyosu market before sunrise, find a hotel in Toyosu or Odaiba.

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Entry into the Toyosu market is free for all visitors, with those hoping to see the space at its liveliest advised to get there before 8 a.m.
The famous early morning tuna auctions will still be happening over at the new location, beginning at 4:30 a.m. daily.
Whereas at Tsukiji you had to get a reservation ticket, all you have to do now is show up and try to get a good spot on the special viewing platform.
All dining options are located in the structure as well now, with around 40 food stalls — most carried over from Tsukiji — set to operate.
Beyond that, visitors can also head up to the grass-carpeted roof to take in nice views of the city. Organizers also plan to move the famous Tsukiji shrine to the venue as well.
Remember — this is still a fish market thus low temperatures are the norm. Bring something warm to wear.
As for future plans, plans are reportedly underway to open a hotel and hot spring catered towards tourists at the market in the next few years.

But what about Tsukiji?

Tsukiji's outer market will continue to serve up incredible plates of sushi.

Tsukiji’s outer market will continue to serve up incredible plates of sushi.
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
All tourist-related activities at Tsukiji came to a close in late September, and the inner market shut down for good on October 6. But that doesn’t mean the area around the market is suddenly deserted.
The outer market — the one featuring all the food stalls and restaurants — will still be in operation.
Just go to Tsukiji Shijo station on the Oedo line or Tsukiji station on the Hibiya line to get there and enjoy a taste of what is now a part of Tokyo history.
You can also still join one of the many organized tours running in and around the outer market, to learn about the history of Tsukiji and see how it shaped this part of the city.
While the future has arrived with the Toyosu fish market — a venue that does away with the chaos of Tsukiji in favor of a visitor-friendly vibe — it’s still possible to enjoy a taste of the past, at least for a little while longer.