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Despite these nuggets, which are themselve worth the price of the book, as you read, you quickly begin to wish that Kerr had either written the book more quickly he started it in but it wasn't published until or that his publisher had provided a better editor. Because neither of these happened the book suffers from two annoying flaws: 1 every chapter reads like the first chapter as if it were immediately typeset without having been read by the publisher or reread by the author and 2 substantial portions of the book were outdated by the time it was published.

It comes from a legendary story in which an artist was asked if it was easier to draw a dog or a demon. The artist said that dogs i. The aforementioned small creek is mentioned three times in the first two chapters.

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To make matters worse, Kerr also drifts off into other metaphors. For example, Japan is sometimes described as a runaway tank and sometimes, quite effectively, Japan is compared to descriptions of ancient Sparta. Also, much of the book is an unecessary rant against modern Japanese architecture. The point is not that Japanese architects prefer a 's science fiction movie style, what's important is the hidden costs. His analysis of how a small town took government money to build a meeting hall and ended up with a gargantuan concert hall requiring over a million dollars US a year to maintain is more important than the fact that Kerr doesn't like the building's design.

He manages to complain about all concrete buildings while at the same time complaining about the endless stands of industrial cedar used to make houses. The book deteriorates even farther when Kerr branches off into Japanese film and education. On education he recites mere cliches and manages to avoid mentioning the entire Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, which is an unusual effort by three ministries to fix one of his main complaints: Japan's lack of connection to the rest of the world. Regarding films, he complains that Japanese movie studios have deteriorated to the point where all they are doing is putting out copies of old films the 48 movies in the Tora-san series, endless Godzilla sequels, etc without seeming to notice that Hollywood is not only producing third and fourth sequels of movies, but is also remaking classics like Psycho and Dawn of the Dead.

He also tries to make a case that Japan is a more immature society than the west because the best selling Japanese film of all time was the animated film Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi Spirited Away. He apparently doesn't seem to know that the target market for most films in the USA is boys aged , hence the comic book antics of films like Scooby Doo and any film by Adam Sandler. Even the Lord of the Rings books are, at their hearts, children's books, as is the series currently most popular among children and adults, the Harry Potter books. As Dogs and Demons was being published, Nagano prefecture elected Yasuo Tanaka as governor and he subsequently killed every dam project in Nagano.

A reform committee, despite a tumultuous existence, recently brought the price of new highway projects down. Therefore his claim that Japanese don't notice or complain about what is going on is quickly becoming outdated. Also, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's efforts to reform and privatise the post office are a quixotic effort to limit its role funding public works projects.

Despite these flaws, your humble editor grudgingly recommends this book. The analysis of how the Japanese bureaucracy functions is terrific and a must read for those pondering a move to Japan, or those living here who don't understand why even short rivers in Japan have two or three dams. During the US occupation of Japan, Zappetti found himself a part of the burgeoning black market, using his military connections to get supplies and contraband into and out of Japan. After several rags to riches to rags to riches schemes, he used some of his proceeds to buy property in the then undeveloped area of Roppongi.

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He quickly opened a pizza restaurant called Nicola's that became the hangout for different gangs of yakuza and countless Japanese and foreign celebrities. Even the current emperor and empress used to dine there when they were courting. As Zappetti grows richer and richer, his penchant for risky, often foolish schemes grows stronger. He ventures into everything from pig farming to property to forgery. That, combined with an inability to take advice, especially from his various Japanese wives, eventually leads him from within one signature's breadth of becoming a billionaire to his inevitable, rather tragic downfall.

Along the way the yakuza's connections to everything from professional wrestling and prostitution to construction and newspaper delivery are examined in wonderful detail. We also see Japan grow in confidence and watch the Japanese become less enamored of everything western, causing changes in everything from fashion to pizza. A terrific book all around. Even the endnotes should be considered a must-read as they flesh out several events. This is an excellent and insightful book that should be high on the reading list of those brave and crazy few pondering working in Japan.

For those entering the JET Program or hoping to teach in schools, this should be considered required reading. In , three Japanese Government ministries came together, each bringing its own agenda and biases, to form the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, arguably the largest education program in the world. The plan was to bring large groups of Westerners, all under the age of 35, to Japan as English teachers in public and private schools.

The birth was surprisingly smooth, until the Westerners arrived. He argues that never before has a government attempted such an ambitious top-down project to change the very nature of its own people by importing large groups of foreigners. Along the way, he gives us brilliant insights into the nature of Japanese education, the Japanese government, and the Japanese people themselves. Through interviews with former and current JET's, and impressive access to government ministries and the bureaucrats who helped create JET, McConnell deftly walks us through the growing pains for both the Westerners and the Japanese and carefully analyzes the motives of each government ministry for creating JET in the first place.

His analysis of the first few years of JET is brilliant and helps us understand how a program that was supposed to improve Japan's image around the world, came dangerously close to creating a group of young enemies. Kaplan and Andrew Marshall. A fascinating and harrowing book that details the rise of Aum Shinrikyo, the doomsday cult responsible for the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

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It begins by focusing on Shoko Asahara, the cult's leader, and how he rose from ordinary con man to the leader of an international cult that managed to attract many of Japan's best and brightest young scientists. Most harrowing, though, is the apathy of the Japanese police, who watched while Aum built a large walled complex near Mount Fuji and ignored neighbors complaints that something was going on.

The fact that all the grass and trees in and around the complex had died didn't seem to bother the police. When the complex was finally raided, police were amazed to find modern laboratories capable of producing a wide range of chemical and biological weapons--although not with the efficiency and consistency Asahara had hoped for--and a small factory capable of producing AK rifles.

Along the way, Aum kills dozens of people--their own included--and disposes of many of the bodies with giant microwave ovens. They attempt on numerous occasions to release airborne botulism near government buildings. When Aum launches its first gas attack in the city of Matsumoto in Nagano prefecture, an innocent man receives the blame.

He apparently was a photographer and had photographic chemicals, as well as gardening chemicals on his property. Kaplan and Marshall have amassed an impressive amount of evidence via interviews and news reports and have managed to arrange it all in an impressive and very readable book that tells us as much about Japanese society as it does about Aum.

  1. Closing the shop : information cartels and Japan's mass media, Laurie Anne Freeman.
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The sequence describing what happened during the gas attack is marvellous and, after reading it, you will flinch everytime someone on a train sniffles or sneezes. Aum still exists by the way, although they now call themselves Aleph. Shoko Asahara's only recently ended after almost 8 years of hearings. He was sentenced to death.

Whiting takes us on a tour of Japanese baseball from its unusual origins to its unusual present condition. Along the way we read about foreign players and the problems they had and caused; the "Sandwich Man" caught between foreign players and their Japanese managers; 1, groundball drills; and why High School baseball is more popular than professional. Whether you love baseball or hate it, this is a terrific read, if not for the sports, then for its insights into Japan's character. A disturbing, often enfuriating look at the states of Japanese Higher Education, law and media and their systematic exclusion of foreigners.

In the early 's, The Ministry of Education directed all public universities to eliminate their senior foreign faculty members without regard to their tenure status. Although often defended as a cost-cutting measure, Hall's book analyzes the more sinister and isolationist motives behind the move. These motives, he argues, and the heirarchies which hold and enforce them have even caused some Japanese professors to go overseas in order to do research.

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Download all figures. She also shows how the web of interrelations extends into, and is reinforced by, media industry associations and business groups keiretsu. Political news and information are conveyed to the public in Japan, but because of institutional constraints, they are conveyed in a highly delimited fashion that narrows the range of societal inquiry into the political process.

Closing the Shop shows us how the press system in Japan serves as neither a watchdog nor a lapdog. Nor does the state directly control the press in ways Westerners might think of as censorship.