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Winter 2009

Hello world!

Posted: January 10th, 2011 by Kazuko Suzuki Carlson

Welcome to UVM Blogs. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Rent-a-friend in Japan from BBC News

Posted: January 13th, 2009 by Kazuko Suzuki Carlson


Rent-a-friend in Japan

In Japan, now back in recession, the economic situation has taken a sharp turn for the worse in recent months. But the Japanese still like to use their money to have fun, as Duncan Bartlett has been finding out.

Japan’s cat cafes lay on luxury accommodation for their felines

In pictures

Lola – or Rora – to give her a slightly more Japanese pronunciation – is a beauty and she knows it.

Customers pay by the hour for her company. Usually they just want to stroke her, but as a special treat for favoured clients, she will lie back in a chair, close her eyes and pose for photographs.

Lola is a Persian cat who works at the Ja La La Cafe in Tokyo’s bustling Akihabara district. It is one of a growing number of Cat Cafes in the city which provide visitors with short but intimate encounters with professional pets.

When I called, there were 12 felines and seven customers, mostly single men.

One man, in his early 30s, was attempting to bond with an Oriental Longhair by means of a rubber mouse.

Yutsuke, who speaks with a lisp, is normally rather shy with people. He longs for a cat of his own but frequent business trips make that difficult. Besides, he lives alone, so the Ja La La is his solution to the problem.

The right pet

It costs about £8 ($10) an hour to spend time in a Cat Cafe.

Tsu-chan, a rental dog out for a walk in Tokyo (Photo: Alfie Goodrich)

Busy lives mean some people prefer to hire a dog

If felines do not appeal, other establishments will rent you a rabbit, a ferret or even a beetle.

There are more than 150 companies in Tokyo which are licensed to hire out animals of various kinds and although beetles may be cheap, dogs are much more popular.

First you pay a deposit and a hire fee. Then you are issued with a leash, some tissues and a plastic bag and given some advice on how to handle your new friend.

Kaori is a pretty waitress who regularly spends her Sunday afternoons with a Labrador. They go for a walk in the park if the weather is fine, or if it is wet they just snuggle up in front of the TV in her apartment.

“When I look into his eyes, I think he’s my dog,” Kaori told me. “But when I take him back to the shop, he runs away from me and starts wagging his tail when he sees the next customer. That’s when I know he’s only a rental dog.”

Every need considered

Of course, it is not only animals whose loyalties can be decided by money, as people who work in Japan’s vast entertainment business will testify.

A man helps a child with her homework (Photo: Alfie Goodrich)

Some single women hire men to help with their children’s homework

The industry offers an enormous variety of opportunities to exchange money for company.

Very popular at the moment is the Campus Cafe, where men go to socialise with female university students. It is cheaper than the upscale hostess clubs in which businessmen and politicians drink whisky with women in kimonos, although that is a business which is in crisis because of the recession.

Only a small proportion of the trade involves sex. Most hostesses are flatterers not prostitutes and customers come to find comfort in their words, not in their arms.

One specialist agency is known as Hagemashi Tai, which translates as I Want To Cheer Up Limited. It rents relatives.

Actors are despatched to play the part of distant relations at weddings and funerals. For an extra fee, they will even give a speech.

But the firm’s services do not stop there. It can also provide temporary husbands to single mothers who want them.

The website says the “dad” will help the children with their homework. He will sort out problems with the neighbours.

He will take the kids to a barbeque or to a park. He could also appear at the daunting interview with a nursery school head teacher which parents are required to endure in order to persuade the principal to give their child a good start in life.

Cry for help

There is a service for women who are about to wed too. Apparently, they can practise for married life with a hired husband, although whether this involves seduction or sock washing is not exactly clear.

Map of Japan showing the capital Tokyo

And if things are not working out with a real husband, a woman considering a divorce may choose to hire a “mother” in order to discuss her marital anxieties.

Mr M O from Shizuoka near Mount Fuji called upon the services of I Want To Cheer Up Ltd because he needed a father.

Mr M O has been blind since birth and had a number of concerns that he felt he could not speak to others about.

“I kept it all inside and couldn’t deal with the criticisms that had been directed at me by my parents and teachers,” he testified.

After some discussion, the company sent an older man to have dinner with him. “Usually I can’t open up when I meet someone for the first time but on that occasion, I felt I was really talking with a normal father. I’ll use the service again,” he said.

Loneliness is a problem faced by many people on these crowded islands. But the Japanese are prone to believe that, in the right circumstances, money can turn a stranger into a friend… at least for a couple of hours.

Who brought Confucianism to Japan?

Posted: January 10th, 2009 by Kazuko Suzuki Carlson

Here is an answer UCLA site, “In 402, a Chinese scholar known only as Wani brought Confucianism to Japan.”


The Cute Quotient by Zenaida Serrano

Posted: January 9th, 2009 by Kazuko Suzuki Carlson


Button nose. Floppy ears. Chubby face. There’s something about Pochacco that Toni Nishida-Chock can’t resist.

For more than 10 years, Nishida-Chock has been drawn to the Sanrio pup’s signature purple and green products, including notepads and CD cases, even nail art.

“Cuteness plays a huge role,” said Nishida-Chock, 36.

Dawn Suzuki, 28, prefers the ultra girly-girl icon and queen of all things adorable, Hello Kitty.

Aside from the feline’s stylish assortment of pastel goodies — the purses, notepads, toasters and toilet-seat covers — Suzuki calls herself a fan simply because of the feline’s irresistible face.

“Cute is the big factor,” said the Sanrio sales clerk, of Pearl City.

For Henry DeButts, 53, cute comes in the form of a Mini Cooper. He and his wife each have one, and he also has nearly a dozen remote-controlled models of the compact car.

What won over DeButts is the Mini Cooper’s sportiness, maneuverability, “and it’s also cute,” the Hawai’i Kai resident said.

Cuteness comes in all shapes and sizes — everything from pudgy puppies and charming beachfront cottages to Morning Glory’s bumbly critters, crude Ugly Dolls and stocky Volkswagen Beetles. And cuteness especially rules today, with cuddly Easter bunnies and bonnet-clad toddlers everywhere you turn.

But what exactly defines “cute” — the image that melts our hearts and makes us coo?

Cute characteristics include both physical and personality traits, said Bob Santee, dean of behavioral sciences at Chaminade University.

Physical characteristics include rounded face or head, large eyes, tiny nose and a small size in general, while personality traits include fragility, helplessness or playfulness.

“So essentially what you’re looking at are sets of characteristics of an infant,” Santee said.

This explains what draws people to cuteness, said Santee, who teaches evolutionary psychology.

“From an evolutionary perspective, the infant has those characteristics, and we have the ability to tune into them because an infant is helpless,” he said. “So we will be drawn to the infant to take care of the infant so the infant can survive.”

It’s a part of our genetic makeup, which is why even small children are wired to be attracted to the adorable, Santee said.

Objects that share such “cute” characteristics can trigger an affectionate response. That’s key to the attraction exerted by the rounded head and button nose of Hello Kitty, or the compact size of a Mini Cooper, Santee said.

“From my perspective, it’s just the evolutionary mechanism that draws us to certain (infantile) physical and personality characteristics,” he said.


The innate nurturing response to cuteness may also explain why the concept transcends cultures, Santee said. So what’s considered cute in Japan is likely considered cute in Russia, too.

“You’re going to find, whether you’re an Indian, a Swede, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian or whatever, you’re still drawn to the infant” or the infant-like qualities, Santee said.

Once the attraction of a cute object is established, cultural values affect how we act on it, of course. That’s the focus of study for Christine Yano, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa.

Yano explores what people of various cultures do with a concept like “cuteness.” She’s working on a book about the “cute culture” in Japan and Sanrio’s wildly popular Hello Kitty as a global product.

“At this point, I think that cute is becoming part of an accepted global language,” she said.

Through her research, Yano found that Hello Kitty represents different things to different groups of people. In Japan, the Sanrio goods reflect cultural values and morals, while in the Mainland Mid-West, a group of cat fanciers with no Japanese ties simply treasure Hello Kitty as an icon, Yano said.

Among many Hispanics — Sanrio’s second-largest consumer group in the Americas — Hello Kitty stands for family values. Throughout the West Coast, where Japantown and Chinatown shops are teeming with Hello Kitty products, many older Asian-Americans revere the feline for offering a sense of connection and pride, Yano said.

Like Hello Kitty, other creatures of cuteness can carry special symbolism.

For Audrey Hutton, 41, her treasured collection of hundreds of stuffed animals embodies childhood innocence.

“Stuffed animals bring you back to when you were a little kid,” said Hutton, a real-estate agent from Kane’ohe. “I think it’s just the love, cuddliness and affection.”

Cuteness can also be a form of self-expression.

Pochacco fan Nishida-Chock, a physics and physical education teacher, said many of her students who are Sanrio fans are drawn to the constantly evolving characters, color schemes and designs of the products.

The variety offers a way “they can express themselves,” said Nishida-Chock, of Pearl City.


There’s no doubt that cute has infiltrated consumer culture.

“Advertising is very much aware of what characteristics draw people’s attentions, and I certainly think that construction of a lot of those (products) do” incorporate these characteristics, Santee said.

While men may not want to admit it, the draw to cute products isn’t exclusive to women. Popular male-oriented items such as the misfit cast of Kidrobot figures and Ugly Dolls offer an undeniable mix of cute, edgy and twisted.

Kailua resident Deborah Lowry’s young sons have been fans of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, the Japanese animated action critters whose cute names and faces are deceiving. Card and video games involve the stubby creatures battling it out.

“The last thing (my sons) want to be perceived as is cute,” said Lowry, 43, a designer. ” … For boys, even if it’s a Pokemon stuffed animal they want, they don’t consider it cute because they associate it with the action game.”

Sanrio also found a following among boys — including some of Nishida-Chock’s high school students — with the company’s Bad Badtz-Maru character, a stubby penguin with attitude.

“There were some boys who didn’t want to admit it, but they had the wallets,” Nishida-Chock said.

DeButts, the owner of a Mini Cooper, understands the reluctance of many men to identify something as “cute.”

“It’s probably because of basic insecurities and the association to femininity,” he said.

But DeButts doesn’t fall into that category.

“I think ‘cute’ is something that is attractive, small, streamlined, innovative … like some cell phones,” said DeButts, a computer technician.


Cute is everywhere, experts say.

“You might call it a kind of neo-feminism, in which it’s a wider range of concepts of femininity that is being accepted these days, including the use of cuteness,” Yano said.

It’s OK for women in powerful positions, including business executives and socialites, to also display a more traditionally-coated femininity. Even cute, she said.

“And I’m always surprised at the places in which, currently, cuteness is popping up,” Yano said.

Yano’s research has unveiled cuteness in publications such as the new magazine “Pink,” “a women’s magazine geared toward pretty high-powered, high-profile career women,” Yano said.

She’s also discovered it among pockets of high-art circles. Last year, the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass., featured an exhibit titled, “Pretty Sweet: The Sentimental Image in Contemporary Art.”

“It was all about cute,” Yano said.

Locally, The Contemporary Museum last year presented an exhibit featuring the work of Japanese pop artist Yoshitomo Nara, who incorporates cute characteristics in many of his pieces.

“There’s a lot of anger in the work, and there’s a lot of anxiety in it,” said museum curator Michael Rooks, “and so the cuteness … softens that in a way to get to the psychological space that is more intense.”

Rooks credits Nara’s cutesy style for the exhibit’s popularity.

“It was really great to see a lot of young people coming up, college students and even some younger,” Rooks said. … “I think for people who are not accustomed or don’t regularly go to contemporary art exhibitions, it played a big role, because it made the work accessible for them.”

Whether it’s Nara’s intense sculptures, ever-shrinking cellular phones or Paris Hilton’s tiny Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, interpretations of cute vary.

But Hutton, the stuffed animal collector, said it boils down to this: “It’s something that as soon as you see it, it goes to your heart and it tugs on those little heart strings.”


Cuteness comes in all forms, but it isn’t always of the soft and cuddly persuasion. Here’s a sampling of the wide world of cute:

Just plain cute

• iPod shuffle — At .78 ounce and just 0.33 inch thin, this MP3 player is the baby of iPods.

• Nintendog — All the fun of an adorable puppy, minus the cleanup.

• Mini Cooper — An adorably teeny car, especially next to a monstrous Hummer.

• Winnie-the-Pooh — Even the lyrics to his theme song are cute: “Tubby little cubby, all stuffed with fluff … willy, nilly, silly ol’ bear.”Cute, but subversive

• Happy Bunny — Don’t let the image of innocence fool you. Sassy messages include, “You suck, and that’s sad,” and “You smell like butt.”

• Yoshitomo Nara — Many of this Japanese pop artist’s pieces feature cute little girls who seem to have intense psychological issues.

• Parasite Pals — Here’s a combination of cute and twisted. Little Holly Hostess’ friends include Dig Dig Head Louse, Tickles Tapeworm, Zzeezz Bed Bug and Blinky Eyelash Mite.

• Kidrobot — A misfit cast of action figures and toys include Gloomy Bear, a bloodied cub with claws, and Smorkin Labbit, a squinty-eyed and stubbled bunny with a ciggy. So ugly it’s cute

• Pug — It’s a face only a mother could love.

• Stitch — Among this scruffy-haired, razor-toothed alien’s redeeming qualities: his love for Elvis and a cute local girl named Lilo.

• Monchichi — This little monkey was popular in the 1980s. Why? We’re not quite sure.


Where have you seen Hello Kitty?

Whether you’ve spotted the fashionable feline at a posh boutique in New York City or in a market in Madrid, Christine Yano wants to hear from you.

Yano, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai’i, has been doing research and is working on a book about the Japanese “cute culture,” with a focus on Hello Kitty as a global product. Share your sightings at cryano@hawaii.edu.




Reach Zenaida Serrano at zserrano@honoluluadvertiser.com.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Kosupure – Costume Player

Posted: January 8th, 2009 by Kazuko Suzuki Carlson




Asahi Newspaper Costume Player’s photo gallery Check out the site:



Posted: January 8th, 2009 by Kazuko Suzuki Carlson

Tent villagers live in a precarious situation 2009/1/6 by Asahi Newspaper

The poignant strains of “Furusato” (Hometown) filled the wintry air, sung by a woman accompanied by an accordionist for the people at Toshikoshi Haken Mura (dispatch workers’ New Year village), the temporary shelter set up in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park to provide shelter and meals for jobless and homeless people over the year-end and New Year’s holidays.

“After I reach my goal/ I will return home someday,” the woman sang. Yet, before me stretched a long line, filled with people who have no homes to go to. They were all seeking food, shelter and warm clothing.

This landmark park in the heart of Tokyo was the perfect place to highlight the reality of the nation’s desperate poverty today. The major media organizations are all concentrated nearby. The park is surrounded by institutions that stand for everything but poverty–bank headquarters, luxury hotels, the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace and government ministries and agencies.

The tent village could not have posed a greater contrast. The nearest government office is the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare–the entity responsible for the nation’s health and employment issues.

Perhaps because they were determined not to let anyone freeze to death practically on their doorstep, officials opened the doors to an auditorium at the ministry to the “villagers.”

It was a stroke of genius by the organizers to erect their tents there, shoving the problem of poverty right in the government’s face.

But after Monday, this village will be dismantled and the auditorium doors shut. The hundreds of homeless people were asked to move to other temporary shelters. It is the government’s responsibility to protect citizens in emergencies, but these people’s constitutionally guaranteed “right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living” is precarious at best.

In his New Year’s news conference, Prime Minister Taro Aso quoted a philosopher’s words: “Pessimism comes from our passions; optimism from the will.” He said this is one of his favorite quotes. Yet, the distress felt by people who have been fired can hardly be called a product of their passions. Aso, who is supposed to steer the nation through these critical times, seems to have a limited ability to read the prevailing public mood.

The same could be said of the crucial requirement that a leader must be able to persuade the nation to use its maximum powers of recovery.

If I may be so impertinent, I will also critique Aso’s kakizome New Year’s calligraphy which comprised the kanji characters for anshin (peace of mind) and katsuryoku (vitality). The final brush stroke was weak and blurry. He should have used more ink and stronger wrist control.

The year’s political confrontations are about to begin, focusing on surviving this dismal economy. At the tent village, leaders of opposition parties vowed to end the current “political disaster.”

During Aso’s televised news conference, a tsunami warning flashed on the screen, prompting thoughts of what lies ahead in this turbulent new year.

–The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 5(IHT/Asahi: January 6,2009)




















Assignment 5 due January 8 Thursday

Posted: January 5th, 2009 by Kazuko Suzuki Carlson

Post your comments and feelings on differences between your culture and Japanese culture.

This is not a blog marathon. Share your thoughts and feelings. You can interact with others’ comments as well.

Due 11am on 1/8/09.

Assignment 4 due January 8 Thursday

Posted: January 5th, 2009 by Kazuko Suzuki Carlson

Research and post at least two Japanese table manners that others have not posted before you. Due is 11am 1/8/09.



Assignment 3 due 11am January 7 Wednesday

Posted: January 5th, 2009 by Kazuko Suzuki Carlson

Read Popular Culture and Everyday Life by Yoshio Sugimoto and post your comments by 11am Wednesday 1/7/09.

This is not a blog marathon.

Assignment 1 and 2 due 11am January 6 Tuesday

Posted: January 5th, 2009 by Kazuko Suzuki Carlson

Assigment 1: Striking Facts about Japan

Post three striking facts about Japan. Surprise me and everyone in our class!

Assignment 2: Useful/Fun Links

Post 2 useful or fun website links related to Japan and a brief description of the sites.

These are blog marathons. You can only post ideas and links that others have not posted yet.

Due is 11am on January 6th.

Please make sure to cite the source.

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