Perfection is unattainable: Learning English as a lingua franca (ELF) involves approaching the language as a tongue shared by non-native speakers around the world rather than as a lingo that must be mastered to native-speaker level. Letting go of the idea of speaking 'perfect English' could do wonders for Japanese students' confidence.

Instead, for most of the postwar period, criminal trials have been decided by professional judges, who are notorious for convicting over 99 percent of defendants. By contrast, the prewar jury system acquitted in about 17 percent of cases (though judges could order a new jury trial if they considered a verdict inappropriate). This stark discrepancy is one of the reasons why a small but dedicated group of activists such as Isa wants to revive the jury system.

To Isa, the system of lay judges that started hearing trials in 2009 is nothing like a jury. Under this system, randomly selected citizens with no legal expertise (“lay judges”) and professional judges hear and make decisions about culpability and punishment in trials involving serious offenses such as murder. This may sound a lot like what a jury does, but there is a huge difference between a system in which judges and laypeople decide a case together and one in which the laypeople act alone.

Kushiage, also known as kushikatsu, is a cuisine comprising skewers of vegetables (all right, and meat too) that are breaded and deep-fried, and served with a thin dip based on Worcestershire sauce. The establishments that serve it tend to be charmingly rustic and boisterous places, and I’m no stranger to them, especially in the summer months.

Now, when a traveler arrives at a Japanese airport, they can present their passport and register for a Wi-Fi card that offers free Wi-Fi coverage via 45,000 hot spots in the eastern Japan area including Tokyo, Hakone, Mt. Fuji, Yokohama, Nagano, Nikko, Kusatsu, Tohoku, Hokkaido and Fukushima.

But after living in Japan on and off for a quite a few years, I think I've identified a general feature of Japanese culture that does lend itself more or less to blanket statements. And - even more surprisingly - it's one that I suspect may be holding Japan's economy and society back in significant ways.

Basically, Japanese culture is too averse to argument.

To see what I mean, try to start an intellectual debate with a Japanese person at a house party, bar, or coffee shop. Chances are that the reaction will be immediate discomfort - looking away, changing the subject, or just not saying anything. Often, Japanese people react to attempts at argument as if they expect you to physically assault them any moment. Many times I've tried cheerfully to debate some assertion a Japanese friend made (just as I would have done in my college dorm), only to have them ask: "Why are you upset?"

Click on the parts that are in the kanji you are looking for. You can click on them again to de-select them.

Inevitably, perhaps, debate on the new law has been viewed through the prism of the Fukushima crisis, which revealed disastrous collusion between bureaucrats and the nuclear industry. Critics say journalists attempting to expose such collusion today could fall foul of the new law, which creates three new categories of “special secrets”: diplomacy, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage, in addition to defence.

These water issues are clearly major problems that will take decades, new technologies and billions of yen to resolve, but they are a completely different beast from the problems of the accident’s early days. Fukushima’s problems are fodder for debates on broader issues, making it crucial that these latest concerns about leaks and groundwater contamination be neither overblown nor understated. Our goal here is to try to draw a clear and evenhanded picture of the situation at Fukushima Daiichi today and the risks it poses. § [An MSM article refreshingly free of both alarmism and "everything is fine" rhetoric. Only discusses water, though, and not, for example, structural integrity of buildings.]

Who needs a bar with a view when you’ve got a bar with a diorama? At Ginza Panorama, you can sip cocktails while gazing at an N scale model train wending its way around a miniature Shibuya, complete with 109 department store.

TEPCO has become a symbol of everything that is wrong with the nation of Japan: cronyism, collusion, gentrification, corruption, weak regulation, and entropy. Despite being in the spotlight for the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, TEPCO continues to engage in questionable labor practices, and has escaped bankruptcy in closed-door meetings with politicians, and through denying culpability has shifted part of the reparations burden onto taxpayers – deeds which testify to the extent to which TEPCO still has plenty of political power, if not as much nuclear power.

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