AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

About

Think the world is becoming a smaller place?

You may be right, but why is Japan for most people just as remote and inscrutable as it’s always been?

Japan has twice the population of either France or Great Britain, roughly 50% more people than Germany, and nearly as many people as Russia.

It boasts the world’s second-largest economy and a GDP almost double that of third-ranked China with one-tenth the population.

Its cultural traditions have fascinated, delighted, and puzzled the rest of the world for centuries.

Yet Japan is not accorded the baseline respect received by these countries. The Japan presented by most of the world’s mass media bears little or no resemblance to the country I see with my own eyes every day. They portray a place that seems to exist only in the minds of reporters who seldom know the language, live for short periods in the foreigners’ enclaves of Tokyo—if they live here at all—and patronize with an offhand smugness a country and a culture that for them is still lost in translation.

In the English-speaking world, blogs often arbitrage this discrepancy between agenda and reality, but the authors of most English-language blogs about Japan seem to enjoy indulging themselves in a comic book vision of the country that depicts Nippon as the Goofball Kingdom of East Asia.

I have a different objective for this website. I have lived in Japan since 1984 and have been a self-employed Japanese-to-English translator and interpreter since 1990. I present a picture of Japan sono mama—as it is. As in any country, the people and their customs range from the sublime to the silly, but this site will not be informed by the fashionable irony and ill-concealed sense of superiority that too frequently infects the foreigner’s view of Japan.

This is Japan from the inside out. I hope you enjoy reading about the country and its East Asian neighborhood as much as I enjoy writing about them.

- Ampontan (AKA Bill Sakovich)

83 Responses to “About”

  1. Alan Zulch said

    Dear Ampontan,
    Congratulations on creating such an interesting, and fair, portrayal of Japan. Finally! A web presence that isn’t fixated on the negative. I, too, am tired of seeing so many English-language blogs about Japan showcase only the odd or unusual or problematic, as if the bloggers are forever needing to reinforce their sense of superiority.

    Instead, yours is an eloquent celebration of Japan ‘as it is’, and that is truly appreciated. As someone who comes to visit my wife’s family in Kagoshima every year for the last fifteen, and who lived in Kagoshima in 2005, and traveled quite a bit in the country, I have a deep respect for Japan: its people, its rich history and its culture. Yes, like any country, it has its shadow side that isn’t exactly hidden, but I’d assert that focusing solely on the negative does indeed provide a warped view that is unjustified and, frankly, unfair.

    Kudos to you!

  2. ampontan said

    Thanks for the kind words and the visit, Alan. I hope I can continue to make it worth your time in the future.

  3. GI Korea said

    I like the topics you have been posting on and look forward reading more great postings in the future.

  4. ampontan said

    GIK:

    Thanks for the kind words. I hope to keep you interested!

  5. Jason Gray said

    Excellent site. I’m surprised to see that it was only set up this year. It’s obviously been decades in the making, though…

  6. ampontan said

    Jason: Thanks for the kudos. Only a couple of months, not decades…

  7. Jason Gray said

    You’re welcome. I meant that according to your blog you’ve been in Japan since the early 80s, which is why it runs deep despite being only 2 months old.

  8. James A said

    I’ve been checking out this site ever since seeing Marmot advertise it. You’re doing a great job so far. We need more Japan blogs like this.

  9. ampontan said

    Thank you, James A. I hope to continue in the future.

  10. Paul said

    Thanks for interesting and thoughtful materials. However, you seem to be facinated by Japan by heart that may make you hard to be objective about Japanese media or Japan as well.

    Often, I found Japanese media is very much subjective like anyone else, and its group-centered (non-individualistic) culture makes hard to reveal second opinions..

    Judging from western point of view (that lacks understanding many times like you said) is bad for sure. However,

    Sometimes, you need to look from the outside as well to see the whole pictures of unfiltered views.. Being objective is quite tough when you have love or passion on one thing..

    Thanks.

  11. I saw this topic that said that Koreans treated Westerners like craps, but I think it is not that true. Well, I won’t say that every Koreans like Westerners, but let me tell you. Some Korean like Westerners and some don’t. If you are writing a paragraph like this, think first how Japanese treated Koreans. They treated them like an animal no worse than animal when they took over Korea.

  12. looking for books that give a balanced view on the causes of WWII in the pacific.

  13. At last a knowledgeable, thoughtful, thoroughly-researched and deeply-involved site about Japan! I say ‘at last’ because I have only just discovered your marvelous site. Wish I had known it before. Your exposure of the NY Times’ deliberate mis-quotation of Prime Minister Abe’s remarks on the gratuitously revived WWII comfort-women / sex-slave issue was right on point. It’s hard, as you note, to find a rational motive for this and for the U.S. Congressional resolution on the issue. Perhaps there are those who wish to distract diplomatic attention from bringing the North Korean regime to account for their belligerent nuclear threats and for the continued holding of kidnapped Japanese captive, by suggesting some sort of equivalence between those issues. For the U.S. Congress to engage in this sort of mindless posturing at the expense of a vitally close ally (Japan) is sheer lunacy.

    Your site has numerous other very fine resources, which I will explore. Please keep up the good work.

  14. David said

    Finaly not just another Japan-bashing blog, authored by a brain-less 20-something English teacher from the West.

    I’m glad I found this site.

    Regards,

  15. ampontan said

    Thank you David!

  16. danny bloom said

    love the blog, bill

  17. Jamie said

    Mr. Sakovich,

    I’m doing an article on blogs in Japan for Asahi Weekly, and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions. Can you contact me at this address? (It’s a bit of a rush job.)

    Thanks,

    James Watt

  18. Nathan said

    Just found you site, looking forward to reading your stuff…
    Wow, you have been in Japan for a while!

  19. ampontan said

    Hi, Nathan. Hope you like it!

  20. Overthinker said

    Another recent reader, though have seen the site mentioned increasingly often at for eg Japan Probe. Wonder how much this site takes of your time….

    This is interesting, and probably should be in the About section:
    あんぽんたんは、「阿呆」と愚か者の意味の「だらすけ」が複合された、「あほだら」「あほんだら」が、転じた言葉である。
    「阿呆」は「あっぽ」とも言われ、「陀羅助(だらすけ)」という薬(「陀羅尼助」の略)もあったため、「反魂丹(はんごんたん)」や「萬金丹(まんきんたん)」という薬の名から、「安本丹」ともじられた。
    あんぽんたんは、近世に上方で生まれた言葉で、宝暦末年(1764年)頃には、江戸でも流行したことが、江戸時代の随筆に残されている。
    (A word from Kyoto that gained popularity in Edo in the late Houreki period, meaning ‘dope’ or ‘fool’….)

  21. ampontan said

    Hi, Overthinker, I’ve been reading your comments here with interest.

    Some of these posts do take time, and I’m still trying to figure out how to work this into my schedule without staying up until 3 AM every night. Translation work has cut into my writing time quite a bit lately.

    That’s an interesting definition of Ampontan. I didn’t know about the possible medicinal origins. Where is that definition from?

    Years ago, when I first came to Japan as an English teacher, I flipped the Disney cards teaching vocabulary to primary school students. Whenever the boys saw one with Goofy on it, they used to say, “Ampontan!” If the shoe fits…

  22. Overthinker said

    Got that definition from http://gogen-allguide.com/a/anpontan.html, as a chance comment by Aceface made me wonder if there was more to the name than some obscure Kyushu dialect, which is what I assumed it was before.

    A minor point about the blog style: it’s a very serious and academic blog (which is good – there are other places to go to if I want a giggle about Japanese-English on t-shirts or the latest bizarre Hello Kitty outrage against taste), but given that, I am rather surprised to see you use the first-name surname method of giving Japanese names. I could understand an entry-level blog, so to speak, doing that, but these entries are generally far more deeper than someone with just a casual interest in the country would need – that is, it seems to me that anyone with enough interest to read a long article on, say, the Northern Territories issue, is going to know the difference between Abe Shinzo and Shinzo Abe. Obviously it’s your blog and you can write names how you like – it just strikes me as somewhat odd.

  23. ampontan said

    I’ve thought about that, Overthinker. Perhaps one reason I don’t is that I’m used to the conventions of the translation business. That’s just standard practice in the industry. Another is that I try to make it comfortable for everyone to read, including those whose interest in Japan may be only casual. I’ve lost that perspective for myself, and wonder if the normal Japanese order would look contrived to that audience. Still, it does lack consistency, as I keep the family name first order for Chinese and Japanese names.

    And hey, I’ve even done a Hello Kitty post myself! See what you think:

    http://ampontan.wordpress.com/2007/01/21/hello-kitty-the-japanese-kris-kringle/

  24. Hello!

    My name is Meenakshi Ravi. I work with a team based in London which produces a weekly global media watch show called the Listening Post for Al-Jazeera English. Our broadcast takes critical and irreverent looks at global news coverage – of events and non-events. We also track developments in the use of media.

    A story we are planning for our upcoming broadcast has to do with the Japanese media and its role in the current political tumult in the country. Through our story we’d like to be able to reflect on the state of the media in Japan and its relationship with the Japanese government and political parties. Some of the questions we are hoping to answer are:

    - How free is the media in Japan? Is media freedom there conditional upon certain norms (written and/or unwritten)?
    - How does Japanese news media handle the government? Are they reverential towards it? Or is there a sense of critical assessment?
    - Do Japanese politicians feel a need to ‘play’ the media? Manipulate it?
    - How crucial a role is the media playing in the current unsettled Japanese political situation?

    A section of our show is called Global Village Voices. We ask for people’s opinions on the week’s stories via webcam.

    I read your blog and it’s clear that you are interested in issues involving the Japan. It would be great to hear your response to some of the questions up there.

    Just in case you are able to do this, I have attached our list of hints and tips for video blogging. We would like to get your video file by Sunday if possible. The file will need to be uploaded, and I have attached instructions on how to do it below. You need not answer all the questions I have put up there. They are just for you to get an idea of what we are looking for. Feel free to pick just one and give us your reply. You could even break the mould completely and give us an opinion about Japanese media that’s all your own.

    Here are those tips:

    - Install any software that comes with your webcam – unless you already have it.
    - Plug in your webcam.
    - Find a quiet place to record your comment, so that background noise doesn’t cause a problem.
    - Think about what is behind you in the picture. A plain backdrop is usually the best.
    - Secure the camera on an even surface so that it doesn’t wobble or shake.
    - Frame the picture so that you have your head an shoulders in frame with about a quarter of the frame left empty at the top, for head space (the more of your face we can see the better!)
    - Make sure that your microphone (often part of the webcam) is directed towards your face (if possible!)
    - Think about what you want to say before hand, but don’t worry about getting it all word for word, it’s good to be as natural as possible.
    - Don’t worry about getting it right first time you can always re-record as many times as you like.
    - If you find it difficult to look into the lens of the camera and talk, find a spot to focus on just above the camera and talk to that.
    - Record on your webcam software OR quicktime (.mov)
    - Once you start to record count 5 seconds in your head while looking at your spot, before you start to talk, and when you have finished count 5 seconds before stopping the recording. This will give us clean in and outs for edit.
    - Start your piece by saying your NAME, PROFESSION and LOCATION
    - Speak clearly and not too quickly.
    - Around a minute is the optimum length.
    - Once you are happy with your piece, save it and upload it to http://www.yousendit.com (you may need to register for free first). Direct the file to listeningpost@aljazeera.net.

    Would love to hear from you!

    Thanks,
    Meenakshi

  25. y.fujii said

    日本人の私も、とても興味と好奇心と感心を持って,字引片手に拝読。
    健闘と継続を期待しています。73歳、女性。      

  26. ampontan said

    Ms. Fujii,

    Thank you very much. Your note is one of the best I’ve ever gotten.

  27. Kurt said

    Very impressed by your website and comments – it’s refreshing to see someone actually speak out against the tide of PC rubbish (or should I say garbage?) which sadly seems to be washing up on Japan’s coast all too often too lately.
    Keep up the good work!

  28. ampontan said

    Thanks Kurt!

  29. Giovanni said

    This is damn good stuff!
    Bravo!

  30. ampontan said

    Thanks Mr. G!

  31. Mike G. said

    Very refreshing to see one of the few Japan-based blogs that doesn’t parrot the negativity (meaning the worst possible interpretation of anything Japanese) that infect so many other Japan-oriented sites. Thank goodness there are others that see complexity behind J-issues that self-proclaimed progressives have elsewhere reduced to soundbites of orthodoxy and mindless regurgitation of the tired old mantras so common to non-Japanese media. Good work!

  32. ampontan said

    Mike G: We see eye-to-eye!

  33. Matt R said

    Great site. Ever think of installing rss feeds so readers can keep abreast of new comments as they’re posted?

  34. ampontan said

    Thanks Matt, I just did it as you can see. I thought that RSS was here automatically, but I just checked with WordPress and I was wrong. People with aggregators could have subscribed, however.

  35. Ben said

    Your site is great but it’d be better if the pics weren’t so heavily pixilated. Please try to improve the image quality. Other than that, thanks for the interesting site.

  36. ampontan said

    Ben: Thanks for the comments. The problem is that none of the photos on my end are pixilated at all. Also, I’ve seen the site on about three different computers in other places, and they’re not pixilated there, either.

    People told me about this a few months ago, and I’ve been doing something differently since then. I thought that took care of the problem, but apparently not.

    I’m not really sure what I can do…

  37. Koiyuki said

    As someone who’s work often involve Japanese culture I do my best to try and explore as many of it’s facets as possible. In my search for knowledge, however, there hasn’t been much of an even hand when it comes to the more political and seedy side of the country(if anything shows up). I’m glad to see there are blogs like this to help illustrate another side of Japan many can’t(or possibly won’t) see.

  38. Ken said

    The images have always been badly pixelated on any computers I’ve seen the site from. The problem seems to be that the size of the actual picture (right click the pic, open it in a new window and then click properties to see the size) is not being declared properly (or at all) in the HTML source code. If style=”hieght:YYpx;width:ZZpx;” is set to the correct size and stuck in the img tag, it should be all good.

  39. ampontan said

    OK, I’ve just reworked all the photos on the top page. The definition has clearly improved. Let me know if there are any problems. The Matsuri post #88 might be a good test.

  40. Ben said

    The pics look great now! Thanks!

  41. ampontan said

    Ben: Thanks for letting me know. I’m glad that problem got fixed.

    I’ll be going back and redoing the photos on the posts a few at a time, starting with the festival posts. Hit the Festival category link on the left sidebar to see what you’ve been missing all this time!

  42. Ken said

    Bill,

    My post about English web-site which had been introducing abnormal aspects of Japan was deleted, wasn’t it?
    Though there seem gathering lots of objections to the closure out of Japan as follows.

    http://www9.atwiki.jp/mainichiwaiwai/pages/163.html

  43. ampontan said

    Ken:
    No, I didn’t delete it. In fact, I just looked to see if it got caught by the spamcatcher, and it didn’t. I don’t know what happened to it. If you still have it, send it again.

    The only things I delete are spam, trolls looking for a fight, and insults of other posters.

  44. Ken said

    Bill,

    Next Youtube which was included in the first post might have been rejected.
    http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=mm-GLGtvxFED
    If you watch the content, please delete the last D because ‘as is’ address was supposed rejected.
    I am curious about how much the web-site had been believed( but I go on a trip for a week).

  45. Nicolas Cueto said

    In part, this is a thank you note. I always look forward to the next ampontan post.

    But it is moreso a suggestion. Seeing how your recent workload has effected the frequency of your posts, have you thought about charging for ampontan? Perhaps a monthly subscription service? I guess it’d be difficult to set up, but…

    Again, thank you.

  46. ampontan said

    Thanks, Nicolas. It’s great to read notes like yours.

    I’m still thinking about the best way to get some money out of all this, but I’m not sure yet how to go about doing it. I don’t know that I’d charge for this website–I’d rather use it as a calling card for other remunative efforts.

    We’ll see if I can figure anything out!

  47. Dorian said

    Are you still in Japan? If so, please leave. As much as you’ve deluded yourself into thinking you’re giving us Japan “as it is”, you really aren’t, and the last thing we need is another self-righteous Japanophile itching to rant distortions and antagonize other countries on some insignificant blog.

    At the very least don’t bother pretending you don’t have your own spin, because it’s so damn obvious.

  48. Aceface said

    How come all these Sinophiles always come to J-blogs and leave these redguard-ish comments?
    Wonder how these guys reacts when”self-righteous Sinophile itching to rant distortions and antagonize other country(read Japan) on some insignificant blog.

  49. bender said

    At the very least don’t bother pretending you don’t have your own spin, because it’s so damn obvious.

    Looks like this guy has never seen discussions between Bill and I. The usual conservative/liberal stuff.

  50. TomB said

    Have I missed it, but why haven’t you said anything about General Toshio Tamogami’s comments and the subsequent news?? I came on here thinking to find something…

  51. ampontan said

    TomB:

    Perhaps I should put it in a more convenient location, but if you ever think you might have missed something, there’s a site-specific search engine you can use on the left sidebar.

    I didn’t say anything about it because I didn’t think it was a particularly important story. I thought the only important part was that the general was immediately relieved of his duties when his essay became widely known and an enormous number of people jumped on him. People of all political persuasions went out of their way to make sure he went down very quickly. That is indicative of both the general discourse and attitudes in contemporary Japanese society. His dismissal wasn’t at all surprising.

    Not that many people in Japan share any of the general’s ideas, much less all of them, and the number of people who do continue to dwindle. Those ideas have little or no influence on Japanese governmental policy now, regardless of the heavy breathing elsewhere on the Internet, and are extremely unlikely to be revived in the future.

    Imperial Japan had a stake driven through its heart. The people still with us who were alive in those days invariably discuss those times by using the phrase, “I know it’s hard to believe now, but that’s how people thought back then…” For most Japanese, it is literally in-credible.

    There are those people who are predisposed to see a boogeyman behind every bush. They love to shout “Aha! I told you so!” whenever they see one. But just because one pops out once in a blue moon doesn’t mean the bushes are full of them.

    Still, there are a few extremists of all stripes in every country of the world, and there’s no reason why Japan should be an exception. But the only places I can think of off the top of my head where they have any influence in government are Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea.

    Consider the overall Japanese reaction to the general, and what happened to him immediately.

    In view of that, the people who think those ideas are a serious problem in today’s Japan could be sincerely misguided, lack a basic understanding of or interest in the country, be enthralled by a figment of their imaginations (a lot in this category), or know better but ignore the truth due to their ulterior motives. Many of the people in the last category are foreigners from other countries in East Asia.

    Then there are those people who like to discuss or write about stories such as those because it gives them an excuse for self-congratulation and to parade their wonderfulness in front of an audience. (An enormous number in this category.)

    The country that is least likely—by far—to have a negative impact on regional peace and stability is Japan. That is unlikely to change anytime soon.

    PS: I think the Mainichi Waiwai story is a big waste of time, too.

  52. TomB said

    Ampontan,

    Thanks for your reply – fair enough.

    Is a shame though. In the past few weeks it’s been really interesting chatting to Japanese people about it as the story seemed to make them “come out of their shells”. I’ve had a few chats with both the young and old, and they certainly seemed to be less shy about the subject. I wouldn’t describe the story as “a big waste of time”.

    I think a lot of people in Japan regret being unable to debate history at school etc., something which we in the UK don’t realise we have the luxury of doing (albeit through tainted glasses…).

    Anyway, I often come to your blog – can’t say I agree with a lot of what you say, but it’s certainly comprehensive and an interesting read.

  53. ampontan said

    Thanks, TomB

    I think a lot of people in Japan regret being unable to debate history at school etc.

    Perhaps they didn’t debate it at school, but they certainly have availed themselves of other opportunities to discuss it. I’ve heard plenty of people discussing it in private situations, ranging from people who agree with the general to people who think the Emperor should have been stood up against the wall and shot–all at the same party.

    And enough books and articles have been written on every angle this subject in the last 60 years to fill a small library. Most people outside of Japan don’t know about it because it’s all in Japanese. For example, a major magazine published an article comparing the morality of the kamikazes and the atomic bomb, which concluded that the a-bomb was the more moral option.

    And that was published in October 1945!

    I leave to your own imagination speculation about why people without a knowledge of the Japanese language aren’t aware of that large body of debate. (For example, I’m convinced there is a livelier and wider debate about what actually happened at Nanking in Japan than in any other country in the world. You just have to know where to go to find it.)

    And then there is the one eternal aspect about this issue that is a fact in every society. For most people, that period is in the rapidly fading past. Most American university students today don’t know the difference between Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, for example, or even who was president during the Vietnam War. I’m sure there are equivalent examples in Britain. Japan is no different in that regard, nor is there any reason it should be.

    Why? Because most people think life is too short to spend too much time on something that happened before their parents were born.

  54. commonsensetalks said

    Ampontan, you are right about “life is too short to spend too much time on something that happened before their parents were born”, however, why took the time and effort to write “Did the chinese back down from Nanjing massacre claims?” Is it because it is quite self-serving when it is convenient to sweep it under the carpet, “life is too short to spend too much time on something that happened before their parents were born”, and when a slightest inaccuracy was found with the Chinese account of the event, back again with statements like “what ACTUALLY happened in Nanjing”??? There is NO question what “actually” happened: the Japanese tortured and slaughtered the Chinese in ways that were never thought of by any others; the Japanese soldiers took pride and joy in inventing new ways of torture and RAPE… So anyone who wants to talk about “what ACTUALLY happened in Nanjing” should turn on their computer and many photographs and articles would come up to elucidate what “actually” happened in Nanjing.

    And for those are so fascinated with the Japanese culture, can you please enlighten me on how much originality there is in the Japanese culture??? Let’s start with language, as it being a major component of “culture”, what proportion of the language was “borrowed” from the Chinese? Now to music, how much of today’s Japanese music is “borrowed” from the American pop and hip hop culture? And now to fashion, how much of the Japanese fashion is “borrowed” from the European culture??? Now let’s re-examine the concept of Japanese culture.

  55. Zee said

    Thank you very much for your site. I like your write ups on the various festivals. Your pictures are spectacular! When I lived in Wakayama, I personally went to the Yata Fire Festival in Tanabe (Hongu)and thoroughly enjoyed the dances. I am on a search for the “Dance of the Three-Legged Crow” music and home video. I’d love to learn it and perform it sometime. Anyway, keep up the great work!

  56. ampontan said

    Mr. Zee: Thank you!

  57. waynenet said

    What a cool blog you have…I’m a big Asia nut and look forward to future posts plus reading what you already have here.

  58. harumi said

    Hi Bill:
    I was reading over your entries on Foreigners in Japan.
    Can you email me please.
    Thanks.

  59. Ross said

    i must say, this is a very appealing blog to people who have been in japan for two months or less.

  60. david nakamura said

    Hi Bill — I’m a Washington Post reporter who arrived last week (May 12, 2009) in Tokyo for a year-long fellowship. I happened across your blog and was very impressed. I would love to chat with you. Would you please email me at davidnakamura2009@yahoo.com with your contact information?

    Thanks

  61. david nakamura said

    sorry, that should be davidnakamura2009@gmail.com .. just changed my account. thanks

  62. Ian Beattie said

    I want to thank you for the time and effort (and thought) that you put into your blog.

    It is a great source of information for me, a foreigner who can’t read or understand enough Japanese to keep up with the many important things in Japan.

    Reading your blog is rather like sitting down and enjoying a nice glass of atsukan after work on a cold winter day.

    Words fail me when I consider the “other” English blog in Japan. He seems to write for himself, you write for the reader. A big difference!

    Please keep it up.

  63. Majid Faiman said

    I stumbled upon your blog and couldn’t look back. I’m addicted! I do not know much about Japan so your blog actually compels me to find out more. I don’t care much about others who insist that ‘there’s nothing to write about Japan’ but only Anime,AV and WW2 atrocities.(not in any particular order)Why can’t she be looked upon as a nation of an amazingly hardworking and cohesive people,an oh-so-terribly-polite people(rudeness is criminal there), an always perfecting-but-not-so-often-inventing people(you don’t drive a car – you either drive a Honda or Toyota)and a definitely beautiful country(not Tokyo). Anyway the naysayers can’t say whatever they want – I’m taking Kyoto in December and perhaps rent-a-friend to boot?
    ——-
    Thanks Majid, I’m glad you enjoy stopping by.

    Actually, there’s more scientific development going on here than people realize, if not actual inventions, particularly in fields such as medicine and agriculture. Probably telecommunications and computers too, though I don’t know so much about those. Perhaps I should mention more of those stories here.
    - A.

  64. Jason said

    Dorian,
    Actually, I don’t think Bill is saying that he’s showing Japan “as it is”…but rather a certain side of Japan. As much as some of the blogs and comments by his “friends” or followers on this site are blatantly racist or neo-right wing Japanese, it IS a part of Japan. It’s just a part of Japan not everybody sees. We all know that Japanese culture encourages courtesy towards strangers and foreigners, so many of us don’t always get a chance to see some of the hidden agendas and conservative views they hold back from others. This blog site does just that though by exposing some of those views (just some of those views). I personally don’t agree with most of the Korea or China-bashing from some of the bloggers on here, but again, it IS still interesting to see that it exists and is alive and well among the Japanese.

  65. ampontan said

    Jason:

    You are cordially invited to look at the Categories on the left sideboard and click on the one titled, “Japanese-Korean Amity” and examine all those posts.

    Note that all the behavior described in those posts is “Japan as it is”.

    You might also scroll through the South Korea category for the many positive posts about Korean cultural traditions.

    You might then consider how to reconcile your preconceived notions based on superficial impressions with the reality of three years of a body of work in plain view of the public.

    You could also direct us to any Korean site, in any language, whether mass-media related, blog, or government-supported (such as VANK) that has as many positive things to say about Japan as I regularly do about Korea.

    Then, consider this: Younger Japanese have been very interested in South Korea in recent years, and naturally read the Japanese-language websites of the South Korean press. It should be no surprise that they were shocked and angered at the egregious omnipresent Japan bashing that appears in articles every day in the SK media.

    Apart from the shock of seeing “Korea as it is”, and also having nothing to do themselves with what went on three, four, and more generations ago, another reason for their reaction was that there is no Korea-bashing in the Japanese language press.

    In fact, I issue the Ampontan challenge–find any equivalent Korean bashing in the daily Japanese-language press. I’d bet money you’ll come up empty.

    If you’ve still got the energy, you could then try and tell us why legitimate criticism of Korean government policies and citizen behavior by anyone is “racist”.

    I would also love to know the definition of the term “neo-right wing”. “I know it when I see it” doesn’t count.

    In short, Jason, there are more things in Japan than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But be careful. Fantasy always gets bruised in the encounter with empiricism.

  66. Jason said

    Bill,
    It’s interesting that you very often mention the “brutality” of the SKorean media towards the Japanese. Are you referring to mainstream Korean media or independent media? Coming from somebody who doesn’t even read Korean, I’d be interested to see what you’re referring to.
    My “preconceived notions” of your site are based on the blogs I have read on here that constantly try to attack ANY point of view that comes from a Korean or a Korean-supporter. Case and point: didn’t you ban Steve Barber after he was trying to present his arguments on the Dokdo-Takeshima issue? Also, just take a look at any of your other blogs where your friends constantly tag on links that show sites that try to defame the characters of Koreans as well as some very well misinformed articles they posted. Many times these have NOTHING to do with the topic at hand, yet, they are allowed to be posted. This is how I derived my “preconceived” notions. Now, I DO NOT agree with some of the angry and negative Korean media outlets out there that are geared towards the Japanese. I am NOT a Japan hater. I have lived in Japan for several years and I miss it dearly and respect the culture. However, I have been posting on your blog only in response to some very incendiary comments made towards Koreans. It is plain and simple that you and some of your followers here have strong anti-Korean sentiments. By the way, I have no idea what you’re referring to in your last sentence. There are more things in Japan that are dreamt of in MY philosophy? What philosophy are you referring to?

    ————–

    Are you referring to mainstream Korean media or independent media?

    http://ampontan.wordpress.com/2008/07/25/a-comparison-of-japanese-and-south-korean-editorials-on-takeshima/

    Had you read the above note more carefully, you would have seen that I mentioned “Korean language press”. “Press” does not refer to independent media.

    didn’t you ban Steve Barber after he was trying to present his arguments on the Dokdo-Takeshima issue?

    No. Steve Barber presented his arguments here in more than 25 notes that were over 1,000 words each. He stopped presenting arguments, ignored legitimate rebuttals, and started acting like he owned the place.

    Therefore, I just gave him the same level of access to this site that he gives to other commenters at his site.

    Speaking of ignoring rebuttals, you seem not to have read the Japan-Korean amity category (or else you wouldn’t have used the word “hate” in another note). You also are offering no Korean websites with a positive view of Japan, and certainly none at this level of positivity.

    I’m beginning to think none exist. Prove me wrong.

    Oh, and we’re still waiting for a definition of “neo right-wing”.

    I’m beginning to think it’s nothing more than “people who disagree with me”.

  67. Aceface said

    “It’s interesting that you very often mention the “brutality” of the SKorean media towards the Japanese. Are you referring to mainstream Korean media or independent media? Coming from somebody who doesn’t even read Korean, I’d be interested to see what you’re referring to.”

    For some reason I don’t understand but major Korean media outlets(Chosun,Joongang,Donga,KBS,Yonhap)have Japanese language site.Add to that,you can read Hankyoreh and Korea Herald and Korea Times in English.
    If there is any Korean media that has relatively objective coverage on Japan,I’m very much interested to find out,Jason.

  68. Majid Faiman said

    Dear Ampontan – I always get a tinge of excitement each time I read your blog. Please continue with the excellent work!

  69. ike said

    as a fellow translator yourself,

    what do you think about the view espoused by this guy on translation?


    (E.B there’re 5 parts)
    ——
    Thanks for sending it in. The first two parts were enough for me.

    He’s right, of course, but instead of using the two words at the end of part two that the creator used, I’d say “juvenile” and “amateurish”.

    To be honest, however, I understand where the amateurs are coming from. I had similar desires (as well as the desire to show off) starting about the second half of second-year Japanese at the university level.

    Most people grow out of it.

    I also have my own quirks on this site. I now keep original Japanese name order, though for the first year, I reversed names to Western style.

    I use Japanese phrases too, but I explain them. It’s easier in this medium. Time is at a premium for film subtitles, however. The reason I use them is a) I think they’re more appropriate (like tenno), or b) those with a classical education traditionally used Greek or Latin phrases to enhance their non-fiction writing. The Japanese tradition is just as rich.

    This is just another one of the drawbacks to living in Wiki-world.

    - A.

  70. Dana said

    Hello,

    This is a great blog! I’m only sad that I didn’t find it sooner. You mentioned in a recent post that you read dozens of Japanese newspapers and blogs, and blog aggregates online regularly. I LOVE your links in the sidebar, and I plan to scour through them at some point, but it would be great if you also had a blog roll.

    I, and probably many of your readers, do read Japanese but I don’t know where to start when it comes to good news reporting and (to a much greater extent) commentary online. If you did a blog roll of your favorites, or maybe two, one for Japanese, one for English, I would probably visit all of those sites and subscribe to a lot of them.

    If nothing else, it would benefit your popularity as a blogger by having all those click-throughs, no?
    ————-
    Dana: Thanks for the note. I’m glad you found the site, and I’m glad you like it.

    I’m writing another post now, and also am dealing with paying work, so I’ll talk about your idea and give you a few suggestions in the next Letter Bomb, which should follow the next post.

    I don’t know if you’re in Japan or not, so this might not help, but I probably do as much, if not more, reading in Japanese in hard copy material that isn’t on line. If you’re here, some of it you can do in a tachiyomi, but others I actually buy. I don’t mind–I use the content after all, and I don’t spend a lot of money in bars. Libraries in Japan usually have a couple of monthly magazines, and they even let you copy the articles if it isn’t the current newstand issue.

    Yoroshiku!

    - A.

  71. Dana said

    Thanks for the speedy reply! I look forward to the next post. I do live in Japan, so I’ll take your advice and head to my library. I’m a bit of a slow, laborious reader at this stage so purchasing, or photocopying, is probably the way to go for me. I do spend a lot of time in front of a computer though, so having some blogs or decent news sites to add to my RSS feed will be great reading practice for me.

    Dana

  72. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    Kudos to this blog, and kudos to the post #1 by Alan.

  73. Roual Deetlefs said

    Ampontan.

    I found this blog from a list of top J-Blogs. This one really was different from all them teacher-blogs. And yes, I got fascinated with Japan, due to the Anime my brother showed me. Does that make me an “otaku” ?

    Oh well.

    Anyway Ampontan, I wish South Africa had a version of you …
    ———
    RD: Thanks again.

    You’re not an otaku unless you’re a trainspotter!

    - A.

  74. Celeste Heiter said

    I love your blog, and am contacting you regarding research for a new book I’m writing for ThingsAsian Press. I am looking for insights and quotable comments from individuals who have worked in Japan. I’m gathering information on a variety of fields, such as teaching, technology, office-based business, consultant services, visual arts, music, culinary arts, martial arts, entertainment, fashion, volunteer work, etc.

    If you are interested in participating in this project, please respond and I will send you a questionnaire. The reward for your efforts will include writer’s credits and bio, plus six copies of the published book.

    Looking forward to your reply….Celeste

  75. Aoumigamera said

    Hello. I’ve been reading your blog on and off for about half a year now. The entry on February 10 was especially entertaining, so I decided to say thank you at least once.

    Since I’m Japanese, I’m probably not included in your target audience and I’m aware of almost 80-90% of what you write about. Still, I can’t resist not to read your blog because of your compelling and at times humorous narrative.

    Although I do not always agree to your opinions, it’s refreshing to read Japan related articles which are written from a conservative viewpoint. I’ve gotten tired of reading a little biased English language reports, such as NYT and BBC. Keep up the good work.
    ———
    A:

    Thanks for the note. I’m glad you enjoy reading. In the past, I’ve written more about cultural subjects, such as festivals (look at the left sidbar category), and several Japanese have said they enjoyed those posts. I want to start doing more of them again, but I’ve been interested in politics lately.

    As for not always agreeing with me, that’s fine. Everyone has a point of view. However, rather than being 保守派, it would be more accurate to say I’m 自由派. Some people call that “neo-liberal”, but classic 19th century liberal works too. It’s part libertarian, too, but people often have their own ideas about what that means, and some libertarians want to privatize *everything* (including the police force), which I don’t.

    And if you thought this one was good, wait till you see the next one!

    Yoroshiku!

    - A.

  76. Hello! This is such a great foundation on what people should know about Japan.Im Japanese but also lived most of my life in the US(now based in China as a photographer). Hopefullly I can join in the continued conversation and debate!

    Just wanted to say thank you. I think this blog should actually be seen by Japanese people as well since a good number of Japanese people don’t even know what’s going on in their own neighborhood, nontheless their own country.

    Best,

    Go Katayama
    —————
    GK: Thanks for the note and the kind words. Actually, there are quite a few Japanese readers. The guy who sent the link for the Factia article is one.

    Wait’ll you see what’s coming next!

    - A.

  77. My (full)name is Sakaguchi Benjamin Akeala Belew.(坂口ベンジャミン明ベルー)
    I am a half Japanese, half-American composer and artist that resides in Indiana. After hearing the devastated news of the earth quake, flood, nuclear radiation etc. I created a video with my composition “Aria” to send hope to my home land and the people.


    Please take a look. And if you do, thank you for your time in doing so.
    Sakaguchi Benjamin Akeala Belew

  78. Hello Bill,

    My name is Peter Dyloco. I’m a Hong Kong born, 17 year old student who has been living in Toronto for the last 8 years of my life.

    My life goal is not only to move to Japan, but reform it from the inside out. Simply said: I want to become a Japanese politician. Too often have I read news articles about the aging Japanese population, the oh so fragile economy and the ballooning public debt. The political inaction doesn’t help. It pains me to see Japan falter in such ways, especially knowing that Japan can certainly do better.

    I’ve begun my mission through my blog, http://savingjapan.net, a blog dedicated to suggesting solutions to the problems facing Japanese society. Would it be possible to exchange links for our sites? That would be very much appreciated.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    Sincerely,
    Peter Dyloco

  79. Andrew in Ezo said

    Peter, why don’t you become a politician in Canada? That seems a more realistic goal. The Japanese can take care of themselves.

  80. Wimal said

    It took me so long! But at last I’ve found something worth reading ‘about Japan’ something sono mama! Keep writing please!
    ————
    W: Thanks for the note. Keep reading, please!

    - A.

  81. Carl Scott said

    My praise of Ampontan:

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/postmodernconservative/2012/03/05/ampontan-a-great-blog/
    ————
    CS: Thanks for everything. The check is in the mail!

    - A.

  82. Aceface said

    Just in case you didn’t hear the news that you were mentioned on the new blog.
    http://japologism.com/japologisms-manifesto/8
    ———–
    Ace! Been wondering what you’ve been up to. Thanks for the heads up and taking my back.

    -A.

  83. TB said

    Ampontan, really enjoy reading your website and articles. One of the few that actually is balanced in showing Japan’s side of things, while the majority of the world’s media do the complete opposite.

    Thought I would share this link with you, as it exactly shows the kinds of misinformation continually being spread about Japan:

    http://www.cracked.com/article_20118_5-things-nobody-tells-you-about-living-in-japan.html

    Of course the author doesn’t fail to mention the ‘racist/xenophobic’ angle, with the usual examples of ethnic Koreans in Japan.

    The frightening thing is, when some of the ignorant comments in regards to this are addressed, none of them care to acknowledge the true facts. Instead, they continue to spout off the usual negative stereotypes about how “racist” Japan is and how they treat others like ethnic Koreans. That is some unbelievable audacity there, just outright ignore the truth shown to them.

    Keep up the great work.
    ———
    TB: Thanks. Keep up the great notes!

    -A.

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