Shingetsu Michael Penn

Michael Penn (b. 1970) is an American journalist and scholar covering Japanese politics, economics, and society.

Media created

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Tokyo Residents React to Earthquake a...
By Michael Penn
11 Mar 2011

Footage of the March 11, 2011, earthquake as experienced in central Tokyo and footage from about a week later in the tsunami devastation zone of Natori City.

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Lawrence Repeta on Japan’s New Secrec...
Tokyo, Japan
By Michael Penn
03 Sep 2014

Up to ten years in prison for leakers? Up to five years in prison for investigative journalists? No protection for whistleblowers? No clear standards for prosecution? This is not some dark Orwellian fantasy, but rather a law that was passed by the Shinzo Abe administration in December 2013. The law is slated to come into effect in December of 2014. Professor Lawrence Repeta of Meiji University gives a lucid and revealing account of the Japanese government’s war against transparency and political accountability.

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Shibuya: An Icon of Japanese Modernity
By Michael Penn
27 Sep 2014

Shibuya Station and its surrounding neighbourhoods is undoubtedly one of the most famous areas in Tokyo, known especially as a centre for fashion and youth culture. The crowds traversing Shibuya Crossing, right in front of the train station, is an iconic image of modern Japan, often used to represent the nation’s transformation from the ashes of defeat in 1945 to the economic superpower of the 1980s.

Indeed, you can find all kinds of people here in Shibuya. Equally well known is the statue of the loyal dog Hachiko, who waited in vain for his dead master for many years at this very spot, tugging at the heartstrings of a nation. Nowadays, the area around the statue is Japan’s most appropriate location to await ones friends before going shopping or eating or whatever in Shibuya’s extensive commercial district.

While there are very few parts of Japan that are active 24 hours a day, Shibuya Crossing comes pretty close. As impressive as it is by day, the night view can be even more spectacular. At different seasons and at different times, it is a district of change. Even many of the shops along its streets go out business, face renewal, or introduce the completely original.

Center Gai is at the heart of the shopping district, and is thankfully a pedestrian zone. This a place where people — mostly young people — buy clothes, jewelry, or else go for entertainment or a bite to eat. Here it runs from highbrow to lowbrow… there’s just no telling what you might discover.

Nearby is Supein Zaka, which is supposedly similar in appearance to a traditional Spanish street.

Behind the trendy Shibuya Ichi Maru Kyu shopping complex is a zone that probably could exist in few places other than Japan. This is Love Hotel Hill where couples go for rooms available for two or three hour periods. There is not much of a “rest” happening in these hotel rooms.

Although the word “Shibuya” is most closely associated with the Shibuya Station area and its surrounding commercial district, it is also part of a larger Shibuya City, which is one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, making up the core of this megacity. Shibuya City has a resident population of over 210,000 people, and its own city government and its own flag. Harajuku, Yoyogi, Ebisu, and Hiroo are neighbourhoods well known in their own right that also belong to Shibuya City. On its northern border, Shibuya City runs right up to Shinjuku Station, meaning that such a major shopping complexes as Takashimaya Times Square is actually part of Shibuya City, not Shinjuku City as one might naturally assume.

But be that as it may, for most visitors to Japan — as for most Japanese themselves — Shibuya is that youthful, ever-changing zone where the crowds spill out at the change of a signal and where the faithful dog Hachiko watches over his waiting friends.