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Kanji of the Year: “Kita” the Northern Winner for 2017This Year in Japanese

In a year of political action at home and uncertainty on the international front, the Japanese public decided that 北 (kita or hoku), meaning “north,” was the kanji best expressing what 2017 meant to them. Read on to learn why and to see the top 10 finishers in this year’s Kanji of the Year competition.

The Upstart Gangs Filling the Yakuza Power VacuumThe Yakuza Landscape Today

As tightened legislation increasingly limited yakuza activity from the 1990s, new criminal groups emerged to fill the gaps. The most notorious of these hangure gangs was Kantō Rengō, whose name resounded through Tokyo streets in the 2000s and early 2010s. One of its former bosses, Shibata Daisuke, presents an inside view.

Preserving the Hibakusha Legacy: Project in Hiroshima Aims to Keep Testimonies of Atomic Bomb Survivors AliveThe War and Its AftermathMasuda Miki

As the hibakusha population dwindles, we move closer to a time when no victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima will be alive to share their stories of loss and suffering. To keep these accounts alive, Hiroshima has begun a project to train successors to pass down the experiences of A-bomb survivors.

2017: The Winning WordsThis Year in Japanese

This year’s “Words of the Year” have been announced. Winning top honors for 2017 were insuta-bae, meaning everything that makes a photo worthy of posting to Instagram, and sontaku, the “surmising of wishes” that figured largely in the year’s political news. Below we list the 10 finalists and look at the judges’ reasons for choosing the two winners.

Timeline for November 2017Japan Timeline

President Trump comes to Japan, yokozuna Harumafuji retires, and a North Korean ICBM lands in the Japan Sea. A roundup of the top Japan-related stories of November 2017.

Moriyama Daidō: Photographer with the “Eyes of a Stray Dog”Legends: Japan’s Most Notable NamesIizawa Kōtarō

Moriyama Daidō wanders the streets like a stray dog, taking snapshots that leave vivid impressions on viewers. He is mentioned with the likes of Araki Nobuyoshi as one of Japan’s contemporary master photographers.

“Izakaya”Japan Glances

Izakaya are popular places to drop in for a drink and a bite to eat with friends or work colleagues. Shops usually have a casual atmosphere and offer a range of beverages and food.

Money Through the Ages: A Walk Through Japan’s Currency MuseumMuseums Off the Beaten PathJulian Ryall

Money—always a popular subject—is front and center at the Currency Museum, a Bank of Japan facility located near Tokyo Station. Here historically important currency samples from Japan and across East Asia are on display, along with every paper note ever issued by the Bank of Japan. Get your hands on some money with this museum’s interactive displays!

The Return of the Crested IbisRemarkable Recovery: The Modern History of Japan’s EnvironmentIshi Hiroyuki

Kin, Japan’s last crested ibis born in the wild, died in 2003. Her demise did not mean the extinction of the species, however, as researchers in China were successfully breeding other wild crested ibises that they had discovered earlier. This article explores the relationship between the Japanese people and the crested ibis, Nipponia nippon.

Outlaw Appeal: The Yakuza in Film and PrintThe Yakuza Landscape Today

Whether romanticized or realistic, yakuza films have a long history in Japan. Books and manga also help the public explore their enduring fascination with the nation’s gangs.

The Words of 2017This Year in Staff

Jiyū Kokumin Sha, a publisher of language reference texts, has released its highly anticipated nominees for Japan’s “Words of the Year.” Read on to learn the 30 terms and phrases that encapsulate 2017 for the Japanese public.

Hard-Up Yakuza Struggle to Earn a LivingThe Yakuza Landscape Today

Splits in the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s most powerful criminal organization, hint at tough economic times for the yakuza. Government crackdowns have dramatically reduced gangster income, dragging the group down from its once dominant position.

Parasites on Parade: A Tokyo Museum Showcases Our Repulsive CompanionsMuseums Off the Beaten PathJulian Ryall

The Meguro Parasitological Museum is a Tokyo institution focused on the science of parasites. It’s the place to go to learn about tiny skin-dwelling organisms, 9-meter tapeworms, and everything in between.

Timeline for October 2017Japan Timeline

The Liberal Democratic Party wins a landslide victory in the lower house election, Japanese companies reveal improper work practices, and a US military helicopter crashes in Okinawa. These are the major Japan-related stories of October 2017.

Crane on the Rubbish Heap: The Challenges of Continuing ConservationRemarkable Recovery: The Modern History of Japan’s EnvironmentIshi Hiroyuki

Hokkaidō now has the world’s largest population of red-crowned cranes, but this has also created a dilemma. While the birds are no longer endangered, they are proving a menace to farmers who complain that they are destroying their crops. Is there a way for the cranes and human beings to coexist?

Toward Safer Roads for Foreign Rental Car DriversJapan Data

The number of foreigners renting cars in Japan has surged in recent years. With the number of accidents involving foreign drivers increasing in popular tourist destinations, the Japanese government has set its sights on trying to curb car accidents.

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