The Week’s Links: Jan. 19-25, 2015

The two Japanese hostages, Kenji Goto, and Haruna Yukawa, reportedly being held by Islamic State militants.

The week got off to a shocking start as the Islamic State (IS) released a video threatening to execute two Japanese citizens unless the government of Japan pays a $200 million ransom, citing Japan’s monetary support for Western efforts against the IS in the region.

Later, the authenticity of the IS hostage video is called into question as the clock was ticking for the two Japanese citizens being held hostage. IS claimed it doesn’t need the money, and Prime Minister Abe demanded the release of the hostages.

A new video was released on Saturday showing a still photo of hostage Kenji Goto holding an image of what appears to be the slain body of the other hostage, Haruna Yukawa. In the video, the captors revised their demands stating now that they no longer want any money, only a prisoner swap; Goto’s life for the sister of one of their members who was captured after a terrorist attack in Jordan in 2005. The authenticity of the video is in question.

A BBC report on the United States’ solidarity with Japan in this issue includes an insightful analysis of the general reaction of the Japanese public to the crisis , saying that public sympathy for the men has been “muted,” and that, “Of course, most Japanese people feel horror at the death of Mr. Yukawa and sympathy for the terrifying situation Mr. Goto is now in. But there is also irritation that [the two] have dragged Japan in to this almost impossible situation.”

In other news, the Economist reports (video) on the rapidly aging population of South Korea, a situation that is very similar to and, according to this video, even more acute than in Japan.

And speaking of the rapidly aging population in Japan, more bad news as a survey by the Japan Family Planning Association reports that almost 50% of respondents claim that they are not having any sex. That’s not only bad for the fertility rate, but in this author’s opinion, for the human spirit as well. Come on, folks! Do a little dance, make a little love!

Finally, and to lighten the mood a little, RocketNews24 shares Canadian expat’s nicely done video of his adventures in Japan. I keep seeing videos like this one pop up every once in a while, but it never gets old. Give it a watch, and wish you were there.

The week’s links: Jan. 11-18, 2015

Greetings all. Here is a selection of links that I came across this week. Enjoy.

The blog, GaijinPot, dishes out some Japan travel tips with their list of the top 5 must see places in Japan for 2015.

China’s new and very popular television drama, The Empress of China, has been the object of censorship due to the overwhelming amount of cleavage in the show. The period drama was taken off the air temporarily, only to reappear with all of the cleavage cropped out of the shots. The move has drawn widespread ridicule on the Chinese web. The BBC reports.

The New York Times reports on the efforts being made across China to restore many of its ancient relics which are threatened by widespread industrial pollution. Cleanup efforts are underway to restore the colossal Buddhist sculptures at the Yungang and Longmen Grottoes which have been covered in a thick layer of coal dust, and ancient Ming Dynasty structures may be being eroded by acid rain.

The infamous Yakuza crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, turns 100 years old, and it’s history is being recounted in serials by popular Yakuza-centered fanzines according to the Japan Times.