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Philip Brasor
For Philip Brasor's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
CULTURE / Music
May 5, 2000
Santana keeps the flame -- with a little help from friends
Eric Clapton's appearance halfway through Carlos Santana's April 28 concert at the Budokan, the last date on his recent Japan tour, was unexpected but, in hindsight, not surprising.
JAPAN / Media / MEDIA MIX
Apr 20, 2000
Kaigo hoken throws spotlight on life in 'nursing care hell'
A few weeks ago I submitted a proposal for an April Fool's story to a local publication. The piece would have been a news report about Japanese airline companies taking advantage of "Japan's rapidly aging society" by offering "nursing care miles" to frequent flyers in order to attract middle-aged travelers. The joke was supposed to coincide with the start of the new kaigo hoken (nursing care insurance) system that, coincidentally, went into effect April 1.
JAPAN / Media / MEDIA MIX
Apr 6, 2000
Commercial success -- and cultural
In advertising, success doesn't always mean the same thing to everyone involved. For the client, it means increased sales of his product, while for the copywriter it means cultural impact, and though there's nothing that says these two successes can't coincide, there's also nothing that says they have to.
JAPAN / Media
Mar 30, 2000
Medium is the message, no matter the language
The government's recent proposal to make English Japan's official second language has generally been met with approval. The proposal takes on quixotic overtones, however, when you consider the fact that almost no one in the government itself can actually speak English.
CULTURE / Music
Mar 24, 2000
Tony Bennett: a true master of the fine art of sincerity
Hyperbole becomes Tony Bennett. His effusiveness is all-encompassing, gathering his audience, his musicians, the people who wrote the songs he sings, and even the singers who covered those songs before him into a warm, gushing embrace. Performing more than 90 minutes' worth of material at Suntory Hall March 19, the 73-year-old singing waiter from Astoria, Queens, dressed in a shiny royal blue suit and powder-blue tie, didn't always know which direction he should face. The audience was all around him, and he kept turning this way and that, nodding to sections and pointing at individuals, bowing or opening his arms after every phrase.
COMMUNITY
Mar 19, 2000
Cat's out of the bag?
For the last six months the media has been buzzing over the rumored publication of an unauthorized biography of Hello Kitty by Kitty Kelly. The rumors were confirmed yesterday when Simon & Schuster announced it would release "Cute at Any Cost: The Hello Kitty Story" in early July to take advantage of the summer vacation reading season.
JAPAN / Media
Mar 16, 2000
Mercian salutes cluelessness with New Frontier awards
Spring is in the air, and a young publicist's thoughts turn to awards ceremonies. Across the sea, we've seen the Golden Globes and the Grammys, and at the end of the month there's the Oscars.
JAPAN / Media
Mar 2, 2000
Never mind public health; insiders rule
It will be interesting to see how "The Insider" is promoted when it opens here in May. If it wins a bunch of Academy Awards, then the campaign will be easy, but if it doesn't then the PR people will have to be creative. Most Japanese ad campaigns for foreign films rely on stars, but Russell Crowe, who has already won all sorts of citations for his acting in the film, is still unknown in Japan, and Al Pacino cashed his celebrity check here years ago.
CULTURE / Music
Feb 25, 2000
Lounging in Stereolab's living room
It was very nice of Laetitia Sadier to introduce each song that Stereolab played at Shinjuku Liquid Room Feb. 16. Though normally I find the practice distracting, in this case I was grateful, since the promoter hadn't provided a set list. (Concert reviewers like to give the impression that they know an artist's repertoire backward and forward, but usually we don't.) I was reminded of the first time I saw Talking Heads in 1978 and David Byrne's anal retentive thoroughness in making clear the name of each song before he played it.
JAPAN / Media
Feb 17, 2000
Tarnished shields reflect on justice
Because the public has been conditioned not to believe anything it doesn't see on TV or read in the paper, a problem is not considered a problem until the media says it is. This realization brings up the question: What was it before?
CULTURE / Music
Feb 11, 2000
G. Love and Gomez have got them blues and got 'em new
Every 15 years or so we seem to get another blues revival. Revivals imply something dead being brought back to life, which means the blues isn't considered a living, breathing musical form, but something frozen in time, and each successive generation that revives it is further removed from the cultural and spiritual milieu that gave rise to it.
JAPAN / Media
Feb 3, 2000
The made-for-TV tragedy of Rumiko and Kenya
He: "She always said, 'I made you what you are today.' It was too much for me."
CULTURE / Music
Jan 21, 2000
How to build a career on no satisfaction
Whining, I was once told a long time ago, will get you nowhere, but in our current "culture of complaint" everybody thinks they have the right to air their grievances. That doesn't mean everybody has to listen to them, but in such an environment some people have elevated whining to an art form.
JAPAN / Media
Jan 20, 2000
Of the people, for the people: the mass appeal of konbini
Though Japan is famous for importing technology from the West and then sending it back in cheaper and better form, business practices remain homegrown. The shining exception is convenience stores, an American concept that has been so successful here that one could say it subsidized the rest of the Japanese retail industry during the recession of the '90s.
JAPAN / Media
Jan 6, 2000
New Year's TV specials -- impersonating entertainment
The suicide rate goes up at the end of the year, an increase that's usually attributed to depression in the face of what is perceived as everybody else's high holiday spirits. In Japan, there's another reason for despair. That's the prospect of being stuck in the company of relatives you hate eating food you can't stand. To that, add the unavoidable blitz of New Year's TV specials and it's enough to drive even the most well-adjusted person over the edge.
CULTURE / Music
Dec 17, 1999
Flaming Lips dampen the fire with absurdity
Though it's sad that major labels no longer have the patience to actively develop deserving artists, they at least know who's good and seem willing to allow musicians with something interesting to say to say it. How else do you explain the career of the Flaming Lips?
CULTURE / Music
Nov 26, 1999
Proyecto Uno -- viva Zapata!
Everybody knows that foreign artists can only have a hit in the States as long as they sing in English. Conversely, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony are credited with spearheading a "Latin boom" not only in America, but all over the world, by singing poppish variations of Afro-Cuban styles in English, not Spanish. Think about it, especially if, like me, you don't trust any "Latin boom" that doesn't include Los Van Van.
CULTURE / Music
Oct 22, 1999
They still want you to want them
An enduring myth about rock is that the best artists crash before they settle into a professional rut. Jazz, blues, and folk musicians are allowed the dignity of improving with age, while rock 'n' rollers descend into redundancy.
JAPAN / Media / MEDIA MIX
Oct 7, 1999
Punk of a nation in mosh pit of controversy and 'silliness'
In the middle of August, Polydor Records announced it would not release a recently finished album by veteran rock singer Kiyoshiro Imawano because it contained a punk version of "Kimigayo," Japan's newly certified national anthem. Imawano called the decision "silly," an opinion that took on extra layers of meaning last week when TV Asahi's "News Station" invited him on the show to sing the song.
JAPAN / Media / MEDIA MIX
Sep 30, 1999
Iron stomachs and chefs give it their all
Japan has produced a fair number of marathon stars. It's an achievement that probably has less to do with genetically bound physical attributes than with culturally bound psychological ones. The "gambaru" mentality that governs so many endeavors in Japan, especially in the world of sports, is central to being a good marathon runner.

Longform

Hideo Shimoju points to a possible site that his fellow neighbors may relocate to. Such relocations have happened before, but not preemptively.
In disaster-prone Japan, some communities consider major moves