Category Archives: FEATURED

Vigilance and civic responsibility critical to East Asia’s success

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike announces the three-step road map for the easing of measures against the new coronavirus at the Tokyo Metropolitan government office in Tokyo, Japan, 22 May 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO).

Authors: James Hou-fu Liu, MU, Chan-Hoong Leong, SUSS, Shu-yi Huang, NTUH, Sylvia Xiaohua Chen, HKPU, Hoon-Seok Choi, SKKU, Susumu Yamaguchi, UTokyo, I-Ching Lee, NTU and Yumi Inoue, CUHK

The COVID-19 outbreak that started in China’s central Hubei province is devastating the global economy. Yet some of China’s major trading partners — Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan — are avoiding the high levels of infection and death that plague China’s two largest trading partners in the United States and the European Union.

China has been more successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 than the United States and many EU member states. Singapore is also doing well, despite early exposure to the virus. The reasons why these diverse East Asian societies are slowing or stopping the spread of COVID-19 provide lessons for other countries. Observers suggest that their relative success is due to a cultural emphasis on collective interest and deference to authorities on matters of national interest.

In China, the spread of COVID-19 from a wet market with wild animals for sale demonstrates the continued challenges to China’s regulation of such food markets. Some local government officials suppressed early notification reports and COVID-19 was not officially announced until 31 December 2019.

This delay contributed to a major outbreak requiring the central government to take heavy-handed measures. China locked down Wuhan on 23 January 2020 and tried to prevent travel during Chinese New Year. Social distancing was imposed and the country’s resources were mobilised to fight the outbreak. These efforts flattened the infection growth curve by February and reduced new cases to a trickle by March.

Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 was exceptionally fast. Its experience of being shut out of the World Health Organization during SARS led to the creation of a …continue reading


The Empress of Tokyo Reigns Forever

Four seconds, after the counting of the ballots. That’s how long.
Four seconds in, and Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike knew she had won the Tokyo gubernatorial election for the second term. Her aides said later that it was more like two and a half seconds; a historical, landslide victory with nearly 60% of the vote in her name. The other candidates were dead in the water before they realized what hit them. Koike’s contender candidate Taro Yamamoto, an actor turned politician whose ideas for government reform made significant waves in the Lower House elections last year but who lost to Koike by over 3 million votes, told the press: “Mt. Yuriko was higher than I thought. I just couldn’t climb over it.”

If Yamamoto’s statement sounds rude or vaguely sexual, don’t worry – he probably intended it that way. Yuriko Koike was and continues to be, the first woman governor of Tokyo and her term in office has been defined by a lot of ruffled feathers in the male-dominated world of Nippon politics. Not just because she’s a woman, a fact which many older Japanese men still have trouble wrapping their minds around, but because Yuriko Koike has never ceased to remind everyone of her femininity.

It all seems a bit Marie Antoinette-ish. Let them refrain from everything. Let them stay home and Zoom their lives away while wearing face masks in the clammy Tokyo heat.

At age 67, Koike is well-preserved, perfectly coiffed and shod in a way that would earn applause from Carrie Bradshaw. She never loses her cool, raises her voice or looks harried. Her thirst for designer hand-bags is legendary, and rumor has it she keeps a room designated solely for the purpose of storing her darlings. Other rumors swirling inside the corridors of …continue reading


WISH I MAY, WISH I MIGHT: Tanabata Festival in Japan

Wishes, dreams and hopes- almost every people around the globe share this universal idea that we all have dreams to fulfill. In this sense, Japan has a festival solely for making wishes come true! Let us find out more about this lovely Summer festival.
It’s that time of the year for long, hot and humid days! Despite the scorching heat of the summer, Japan holds amazing, interesting and colorful summer festivals, but there is one that is particularly near and dear to many: Tanabata Matsuri (七夕まつり) – the Star Festival.

So, What Really is Tanabata?

Also called the Star Festival, its legend has been told throughout Japan for generations. The story dates back to more than 2,000 years ago.
According to the tale, once there was Orihime (the Weaver Princess, the star Vega) and Hikoboshi (a Cow Herder, the star Altair), who fell madly in love with one another. They played so much that they began to neglect their work which made the king very angry. As a punishment, the king separated the lovers. Orihime and Hikoboshi were place on opposite ends of the Amanogawa River aka the Milky Way. But, the king took pity on them, and allowed Orihime and Hikoboshi to see each other once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month, and only if the skies are clear and the bridge out of magpies is built across the Amanogawa River. Tanabata literally means the night of the seventh. The Japanese believe that Orihime and Hikoboshi can’t see each other if it is rainy, so prayers are sent for a good weather.

When is Tanabata?

Generally July 7th. However, since Tanabata festival used to be held based on the lunar calendar, the date varies from region to region. Nowadays Tanabata festival is held on either July 7th or around August …continue reading


10 Great Free Apps for Studying Japanese

Source: Gaijin Pot
Japanese Study Apps

Smartphones are almost a necessity in modern life and a divisive one at that. With constant notifications, we are so easily dragged out of present surroundings and into that welcoming pixelated glow. Distractions aside—and I’m speaking as a chronic social media addict—there are some very helpful apps for studying Japanese.

Best of all, these magical tools won’t cost you a single yen. This is particularly great considering how much it costs to have a smartphone in Japan. So let’s check out the options.

1. Learn From Day One: LingoDeer

For people who like to make studying fun.

LingoDeer will have you speaking Japanese and raising your fluency level from day one. It follows a fun building-block approach that feels more like a game. Each lesson applies grammar and vocabulary that you learned from the previous one using several methods of testing.

Unlike other apps that have you memorizing Japanese vocabulary and phrases without context, LingoDeer features audio from native Japanese speakers and integrates words, sentences, and culture naturally that you can use in real life. You can even slow down the speaker’s voice to be as accurate as possible in your pronunciation—indispensable to learning the language. Other awesome features include the ability to turn on furigana so you can study kanji, and learn the meaning and context of a particle with a simple tap.

While LingoDeer isn’t entirely free, you can learn all the basics such as hiragana and katakana, more than 1,000 essential Japanese phrases, and enjoy a deep dive into the first modules. Afterward, you can pay a small fee for the premium version, which includes …continue reading


Tweet of the Week #88: Shooting Star Light’s Up Tokyo Before Crashing With a Bang

Source: Gaijin Pot

Tokyoites were in for quite a scare early Thursday when a shooting star lit up the sky across the Kanto region before crashing with a very loud bank around 2:32 a.m.

We have to thank famous digital artist Kagaya Yutaka for catching this beautiful video of the meteor flying from west to east, illuminating the clouds with a blue-green light, brighter than the moon itself. Particularly fond of astronomy, his most famous artworks focus on exploring the sky and far away galaxies, so he always records the starry sky from his balcony.


— KAGAYA (@KAGAYA_11949) July 1, 2020



“On July 2, 2020, at 2:32, a very large fireball (probably a bright meteor) flew from west to east. A few minutes later, I heard a roar that could be heard indoors, which may be relevant. The video plays at the actual speed. It was taken from my balcony.”

A lot of people reported hearing a loud explosion on social media, wondering if there was thunder or possibly their neighbors. Some residents, spooked by the explosion sound which had their windows shaking, made emergency phone calls to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

One year ago, another meteor flew above Japan early in the morning and hit the Earth in a loud bang that woke up folks in Kagawa Prefecture. The fireball was spotted from Shikoku, Chugoku, and Kansai.


— 深倉かんな (@my_rcw) July 1, 2020






“One year ago, a similar event happened.




This year’s fireball, estimated to be less than one meter in diameter, is believed to have been a fragment of a larger shooting star. But Twitter peeps were quick to bring up theories of their own.


— 植物に詳しいわけでないトランクス (@miraiseinen) July 1, …continue reading