Michael Schauerte
  • Michael Schauerte 
  • By this author: 11 Latest posted: 2014.02.21
Translator and editor (and occasional writer), Nippon.com. Graduated from Kenyon College in 1991 with a degree in French literature. Has lived in Japan since arriving in 1995 on the JET Program. Received a master’s degree in social science from Hitotsubashi University in 2001. After stints at the Society for Testing English Proficiency (EIKEN) and a translation agency, joined Japan Echo Inc. in 2010.
National Teams Nickname Their Way to Fame2014.02.21

“Smile Japan.” No, it’s not the latest slogan by the Japan National Tourism Organization or the successor to the “Cool Japan” campaign; nor is it the arrow of last resort in the Abenomics quiver (as in: “Get happy and buy stuff, folks!”). “Smile Japan,” it turns out, is the nickname of the Japan’s women’s hockey team that competed at the Winter Olympics at Sochi. The name apparently fits, at leas…

“Naporitan” and Other “Yōshoku” Cuisine2014.01.24

UNESCO’s recent decision to designate traditional Japanese cuisine, or washoku, an Intangible Cultural Heritage, has focused new attention on Japan’s “indigenous” food culture. But washoku is only half the story of culinary life in Japan; there’s also its counterpart, yōshoku, which could be defined as Japanese-style Western food. Some of Japan’s best-loved dishes, including much of its “comfort …

2013 Kanji of the Year: “Rin” Takes the Ring2013.12.12

A little while back we took a look at the key words of 2013. But there is another lexical popularity contest that takes place at the end of the year—the annual Kanji of the Year award, sponsored by the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society, the organization that puts out the Kanji Kentei examinations. The results were announced on December 12 at Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple (and UNESCO World H…

Caroline Kennedy Horses Around Tokyo2013.11.19

This afternoon Caroline Kennedy, the new US ambassador to Japan, took a short trip in a horse-drawn carriage to meet Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace and present her credentials from Washington. The short afternoon parade was held not far the Nippon.com office, so I walked over to have a look. The ceremony to present her credentials took place in the State Room (Matsu-no-ma), described as t…

“Undōkai”: The Day for Sports in Japan2013.11.08

Once a year, quite often in October, Japanese elementary schools hold an event called undōkai, or “sports day.” This year was the fifth time for me to get up early on a Saturday to attend the undōkai at my daughters’ elementary school. The event is sort of a big deal in Japan. In fact, the yearly undōkai is the main reason I own an expensive camera equipped with hundreds of (largely unused) fun…

Ya Gotta Hand It to the Otaku2013.10.22

Taking something that is already weird and using the latest technology to make it even weirder—this seems to be a hallmark of Japan’s otaku culture. The akushu-kai (handshake event), for instance, might seem weird enough. This is a simple arrangement designed to coax cash from the wallets of the (otaku-skewing) fans of “idol” groups like AKB48 into the coffers of the music industry. Fans who pur…

Bikes to Get a Bigger Share of Tokyo?2013.10.11

Last month I was in Chicago for a short vacation to visit my parents. During my week there, I couldn’t help drawing comparisons between Chicago and my new hometown, Tokyo. Each has its charms, of course. The abundance of trees, impressive architecture, ample elbow room, and plenty of stores stocking size-12 shoes and 34-inch-long pants were among the joys that Chicago had to offer me. A bit less…

Abe Green-lights Consumption Tax Hike2013.10.01

Prime Minister Abe Shinzō ended months of speculation today with his announcement that Japan’s nationwide consumption tax will be raised from 5% to 8% on April 1, 2014. In making his decision, the prime minister looked to recent economic figures as a sign that Japan’s economic recovery was robust enough to weather the tax hike. He was encouraged by the September 9 announcement that the country’s …

Tight Race for the 2020 Olympics Nears Its End2013.09.05

The International Olympic Committee will vote on September 7 in Buenos Aires to decide whether Istanbul, Madrid, or Tokyo will host 2020 Olympic Games. Tokyo is no stranger to the voting process, having come up short in the battle to host the 2016 games. But this time around Tokyo is entering the final stretch as the odds-on favorite. Tokyo has pitched itself as the safe option, with plenty of mon…

Fluffy Mascots on the Loose in Saitama2012.12.11

Japan is home to an astounding number of promotional mascots, or yuru kyara. In late November a “summit” held in Hanyū, Saitama Prefecture, brought together over 200 mascots, tens of thousands of fans, and one puzzled American trying to make sense of it all.

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