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Kozo's Thoughts
Random, Weird, and 100% 石黒光司
What I Read About When I Read About Japan & A Super Short Life Update 
Saturday August 15th, 2009 15:24
Ohta Kouzou
Big props if you can get the title reference. It's been one week since I returned from Kyushu. Instead of recovering from camp life, partying in Saga, and a 15 hour bus ride back to Tokyo, I went out, without rest, with Marc for his farewell night in Tokyo. That adventure took us from his hotel in Shinagawa, to Odaiba to see the life-sized Gundam (which coincided with the Odaiba fireworks), and finally a dance-'til-morning session in Roppongi. Needless to say accumulated fatigue and alcohol did not lead to the most pleasant of results for me. I've spent the last week, with the Obon holidays as my cover, recovering and doing very little in the way of anything truly productive.

One thing my lack of productivity has lead to is the lack of updates on this blog, and perhaps more importantly the not writing of a post I promised Michael as I left Saga. The post might be a bit late, but I'll write it out anyway, in order to fulfil my promise and to perhaps inform someone else of my blog reading habits. This post will give a quick rundown of all the Japan-related blogs that appear on the links sidebar of this blog. I've also subscribed to most of these blogs through LJ, so you can get a decent rundown of recent content by taking a quick look at my LJ Friends' page. So, off we go...

1) Debito.org: The grand daddy of all English language Japan blogs. I think most foreigners in Japan have found their way to this site at least once, and it's the site that I've been following the longest. The site is chock full or interesting articles by Debito and his meticulous recountings of his various life experiences, and his archiving of all sorts things makes the site a very valuable resource. As a blog however, Debito.org does not rank very high on my list of recommendations. The blog will keep you informed of social justice issues and events going on in Japan, and you will often find repostings of news stories highlighting injustice in Japan. Unfortunately given the general theme of these postings, the comments' sections of each story yields very little in the way of interesting discussion, which is not helped by Debito's notoriety that attracts many trolls. These days i find myself questioning Debito's overall tone and his story selection which at times seems forced. Debito.org is definitely important enough to follow, but it's probably not necessary to subscribe to it to be up on every new post as it gets upped.

2) Mutant Frog Travelogue: I've pimped Mutantfrog before, most recently when I translated the article that lead me to their website in the first place. MFT currently has 4 active contributers that post all sorts of things. I had occasion to meet Adamu and Curzon at a Tokyo Bloggers Meetup. I believe all 4 contributers currently live and work in Japan, so the blog has a much stronger Japan slant than it had in the past, but the blog is by no means exclusive to Japan issues. Basically the contributers post what interests them, and the posts range from long researched and analyzed posts on obscure and not-so obscure topics, and 2 line look-what-I-found posts. The varied and quality posts leads to interesting discussions in the comments' section. MFT is a great blog that mixes intellectual betterment and entertainment.

3) Trans-Pacific Radio: As the name implies, TPR is more a series of podcasts than a blog, but it deserves a spot in my links as a very good source of Japanese political analysis. TPR features a number of podcasts that cover topics likes Japanese politics, Japanese business news, and some Tokyo Yakult Swallows-centric baseball coverage. TPR's flagship podcast (i.e. the one that is most often updated) is it's Japanese politics program Seijigiri. In Seijigiri, political issues facing Japan are discussed by Garrett DeOrio and Ken Worsley (whom I met at the aforementioned blogger meetup), two Tokyo based professionals. The two of them discuss issues in a very laid back and relaxed manner, giving each other the opportunity to use each other as a sounding board to further explore their own (obviously) well informed thoughts. A very entertaining and informative listen. As far as I can tell Seijigiri is the only podcast in either Japanese or English that provides a high level of analysis with a laid back tone.

4) Observing Japan: This blog is the work of Tobias Harris, a self-described fledgling Japan/East Asia specialist. He's not that much older than myself, has studied and worked in Japan, and is currently doing his PhD studies at MIT. I had a chance to meet Tobias at the Tokyo blogger meetup and was struck by his charismatic personality and the depth of his knowledge. He is currently updating like a madman, writing great pieces about the upcoming election. Observing Japan offers a much denser analysis of Japanese politics than TPR, but if that kind of thing rocks your boat it's a must read.

5) néojaponisme: I'm not entirely sure how to describe néojaponisme. I think néojaponisme may be best described, not as a blog, but as a cultural project. A read through the néojaponisme manifesto may give you an idea of what this site is all about. néojaponisme posts cover all sorts of topics related to Japanese culture, including literature, music, typography, the internet, pop culture, and a lot more. I'll be perfectly honest, a good portion of néojaponisme goes right over my head, but the articles that do interest me are extremely well researched and written and are on topics not covered elsewhere. néojaponisme also has podcasts that collect and explore Japanese indie music. More recently, a number of podcasts have been posted which are recordings of néojaponisme founder and chief-editor W. David Marx (a.k.a. Marxy) talking about things in Japan with other knowledgeable people. The most recent podcast features the Marxy and the previously mentioned Tobias Harris talking at a Hanbey, and includes great discussion all within a backdrop of busy Izakaya sounds. From these podcasts, and his writings, it's quite clear that Marxy is a very smart guy, which leads us to the last blog on this list...

6) clast: clast is a "consumer and media insight blog" available in both Japanese and English run by the Diamond Agency. The blog entries which are seldom updated are written by Marxy and Jeff Lippold. While the entries are few and far between, what is written is great insight into Japanese consumer culture and the media. clast will give you insight in the why Japanese products are the way they are, and gives greater context than those dime-a-dozen "look at this crazy shit from Japan!" blogs. Great stuff, clast would probably be my favorite blog if it was updated more often.

If you read through the archives of the above blogs, you will quickly realize that there is a fair amount of cross-pollination between these blogs, and that many of these blogs will lead you to other blogs and news sources. I do read many other things beyond these blogs, but these blogs are probably a decent starting point in building a more nuanced and sophisticated view of Japan. If anyone has other suggestions please don't hesitate to drop me a line.
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