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    Posted by Sean at 03:26, April 7th, 2008

    I would have bought the lime green, Janis, for the wood sprite effect when out gardening. Then, too, if you garden in earnest (and why would you not?), the mud and earth are likely to dull the color in short order.

    I wore a lime-green T-shirt to lunch with Atsushi yesterday. We went to a putatively Moroccan restaurant, which turned out to be a French bistro-ish place (including the ham that came with the asparagus salad) in just about every respect except the figurines of camels and the baskets everywhere. Anyway, the color comes into the story because we both got pea soup–chilled fresh pea soup that looked like bright-green vichyssoise. When it arrived, Atsushi looked from my plate to my shirt to the (green) cushions and said, “You’ve certainly dressed for the place.” Then the waitress came to do something with the cutlery and started giggling. “Same color,” she said in English, looking at my place setting and me.

    Unlike Janis, I can’t wear most V-necks. I’m not worried about bra straps, obviously; it’s just that when you have as much chest hair as I do, a deep V looks sleazy (in gay terms) or just plain wrong.


    Posted by Sean at 09:07, April 4th, 2008

    James Kirchik is hardly a lockstep liberal, but in this post, I think he does actually make a typical liberal mistake in typical liberal fashion. His conclusion is this:

    A top concern for voters in November will be a candidate’s ability to raise American prestige. Rest assured that McCain will do just that.

    Given its origins, the word prestige sounds like a perfect fit for McCain to me. That aside, I think Kirchik is wrong about most voters. Most Americans don’t care what people think in New York and San Francisco, for Pete’s sake, let alone in Paris and Berlin.

    Or that’s not entirely true. As one commenter puts it (nonmilagno posting Apr 2, 2008 – 4:30 pm), “It’s not necessary that Europeans like us. However, it is important that they realise we have common interests.” What worries Americans is not our lack of “prestige” but that we can’t always rely on other Western countries to go to the mat for Western values. I think that if a presidential candidate convincingly demonstrated that he or she could get governments of other democracies to see why the WOT affects them, too, voters would care. But proportion of American voters who are hoping they’ll be able to hold their heads higher among their European and Latin American friends at brunch on Sundays is small and very geographically restricted.

    Kirchik’s argument about whether people care about rebuilding our reputation abroad is wrong on its own terms, but so is his assessment of how our reputation got where it is:

    The truth is that much of contemporary anti-Americanism is a manifestation of disgust with George W. Bush as an individual and will immediately dissipate as soon as a new president — Democrat or Republican — enters the Oval Office in 2009. Yet also keep in mind that a similar degree of anti-American sentiment is inherent and may take a generation to disappear. Yet also keep in mind that a similar degree of anti-American sentiment is inherent and may take a generation to disappear. French anti-Americanism, for instance, springs from economic inferiority and a lost empire, was flaunted as far back as 50 years ago when Charles de Gaulle was president and George W. Bush was but a little boy. Much of South America’s anti-Americanism stems from 19th century American imperialism, something that no American president will be able to change.

    What the next president can do to reverse the popularity deficit is distinguish himself from the current administration’s most unpopular policies. On this score, McCain already has much to his credit. He has long stood out for his proactive stance on global warming, his opposition to coercive interrogation practices of terrorism suspects, and his support for closing the prison on Guantanamo Bay, all things which anger people and governments overseas.

    Given the hedging in that first paragraph, it’s hard to pin down how much anti-Americanism Kirchik expects to disappear magically on Inauguration Day. What proportion is attributable to anti-Bush sentiment? I’d say less than he thinks. Europeans and Asians loved the Clintons–they were lawyers with prestigious educations who talked a lot of big-government theory, which made them easy to identify with for a lot of elites there. And yet there was still plenty of bitching about America. Too prosperous, too confident militarily, too confident culturally, too friendly with Israel. They might like to see us hobble our economy with some drastic policies to combat global warming and stuff, but I don’t think the basic attitude is likely to change soon, no matter who’s president.

    So I don’t think Kirchik’s argument in favor of McCain washes. Virginia Postrel has an intriguing and more convincing analysis of Barack Obama’s glamour in The Atlantic:

    Obama’s glamour gives him a powerful political advantage. But it also poses special problems for the candidate and, if he succeeds, for the country.

    To rely on illusions is to risk disillusionment. If Obama the dream candidate becomes Obama the real president, he’ll be forced to pick sides, make compromises, and turn “hope” and “change” into policies some people like and some people don’t. Or, like the movie star governor of California, he might choose instead to preserve his glamour by letting others set the agenda. Either way, his face won’t make America’s worries disappear, and his cool, polite manner won’t eliminate political disagreements. Some of his supporters will feel disappointed, even betrayed. The result could be a backlash, heightened partisan conflict, and a failed presidency. George W. Bush ran as a uniter, and Jimmy Carter promised national renewal.

    Anne Applebaum wrote a column on a somewhat related issue last year. The headline was “What Presidents Don’t Know,” and her point was that some learning on the job is inevitable. Wonkish expertise and a ten-point plan for everything are less important than a realistic sense of what the candidate is getting into:

    In fact, there may be some sorts of experience that are actually detrimental to a potential president. I worry, for example, about Hillary Clinton’s much-vaunted travels as first lady: She came, she made carefully prepared speeches, she received polite applause. It won’t be like that if she’s president, and I hope she doesn’t think it will be.

    Other kinds of foreign connections could prove useful. Even aside from his specific beliefs, John McCain happens to be particularly good at speaking to (and arguing with) foreign audiences: The director of a German foundation recently complained to me that the U.S. presidential campaign was spoiling his transatlantic conferences because it meant McCain couldn’t attend anymore. Meanwhile, Obama, with his African relatives and Indonesian childhood, would start his presidency riding an enormous wave of international goodwill. His differences from our current president — he’s young, black, with a more complicated background — would win him a lot of points in a lot of places, whether or not he knows the name of the Pakistani president (and whether or not he would bomb that country, as he recently seemed to imply he would).

    I remember vividly when Ann Althouse linked Applebaum’s column. A lot of her commenters seemed to take the above passage as an out-and-out endorsement of Obama–which gave me pause, because I hadn’t. Applebaum seemed to me to be observing two things: that any new president will have expectations and a default way of reacting to new information, and that how other world leaders respond will be an important part of that new information. She appeared to be suggesting that Obama might be able to leverage his initial warm reception; Virginia says that his glamour won’t be enough to save him if he gets into trouble but that he may have a realistic sense of its limits.


    Posted by Sean at 06:04, April 4th, 2008

    That one was probably bigger somewhere, but it was big enough here. We should know in a few minutes.

    Raise the pressure

    Posted by Sean at 09:05, April 2nd, 2008

    On Saturday, I flew into Tokyo as a resident of Japan for the last time. Sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll step out onto my balcony and see this view once more, wish Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown their best, and leave the apartment to the cleaners. Then I’m moving back to New York.


    If you’re a Westerner living in Asia, you have, at any time, at least a half-dozen friends who are trying to decide whether they want to leave or stay. It’s just a topic that comes up a lot. Therefore, I was able to draw on a lot of advice, not all of it solicited. Most of the people whose opinions I valued echoed my Belgian architect friend (whose advice I did solicit, since he has a lot more experience with these things than I have): If you have experience working in Asia, you can always find a way to come back; but the longer you’re away from home, the harder it is to find a way to return.

    So I’m moving back. Taking a bit of a rest, staying with my old roommate in Murray Hill for a while, then getting a new job.

    “Aren’t you afraid it’ll be hard to adjust?” I’ve been asked (and asked and asked). Yeah, sure. I’ve been in Japan my whole adult life. (I don’t consider college and grad school adulthood–not when you’re being funded by Mom and Dad or the Japan Foundation.) But people move to new places all the time. And New York is somewhere I’ve lived before anyway.

    And yet…it’s been a long time since I’ve lived in the States. When I last lived in America, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still nothing more than a rather bad movie with Kristy Swanson. When the television show debuted and friends started raving about it, we saw it in Japan the way you saw American shows back then: friends sent videotapes.

    I bought a few new CDs on their day of release a week or two after arriving in Japan: Bilingual by the Pet Shop Boys and Nine Objects of Desire by Suzanne Vega.

    I don’t remember which movies I first saw in the theater after coming to Tokyo. I do remember watching Alien Resurrection here when it was released. Japanese audiences are very quiet, so when the Winona Ryder character reappeared after being shot, my spontaneous cry of, “YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD AND OUT OF THE PICTURE, YOU ANNOYING B…” could be heard echoing through the theater until my then-boyfriend clapped a hand over my mouth.

    That’s how long I’ve been away. Yes, I see my friends back home at least once a year, and I’m in constant e-mail contact. And there are loads of things that make keeping in touch easier. Everyone has e-mail. (That wasn’t true even in 1996.) You can download just about anything. (When was the last time I had to leave the house without 6000 songs stored on a device the size of a deck of cards? I don’t even remember.) You can torture people with your vacation photos without even having them printed; just create and online album and e-mail the URL to friend and foe alike. But it isn’t the same as being there.

    I’m not focusing on changes in pop culture stuff because I’m unaware that there are more important things in life. It just, when you live far from home and contact friends to find out what’s going on there, they assume you’re watching the news. If someone brings up what Obama just said at a rally the other night, it’s because they want to discuss it, not because they think they’re informing you about something happening at home that you couldn’t have heard about.

    It’s the new movies and music and restaurants and things they tell you about to help you feel caught up. (Books, too, but despite being someone who reads all the time, I generally have a hard time getting into contemporary fiction, so my friends have learned to stop recommending new novels to me.) Even if you find soap-opera-ish dramas tiresome, knowing that a lot of the people you know are watching Ally McBeal or (now) Grey’s Anatomy and gabbing about it at brunch on weekends becomes meaningful. You’re not participating in one another’s daily lives, but you can at least feel secure in the knowledge that you’re not becoming strangers.

    So. Three weeks to settle things here. Then however long it takes to get settled back in at home. I’m looking forward to the culture shock in a way. It would be a bummer if America and New York and I weren’t different after twelve years. And now that Japan seems to be cool again, maybe I can parlay my experience here into a hip, cosmopolitan demeanor that gets the men flocking to me.

    Or maybe I’ll just seem out of it.

    We’ll find out soon enough.


    Posted by Sean at 05:26, April 2nd, 2008

    The Yomiuri is trumpeting (Japanese/English) a poll it conducted in cooperation with the BBC, the results of which were as follows:

    Japan got the most positive ratings overall along with Germany, while the percentage of respondents giving Japan negative ratings was the second-lowest after Germany (18 percent).

    The survey was conducted across 34 countries from October to January, asking opinions about the influence of 13 countries and the European Union in the world in the the areas of politics, economy and security. The Yomiuri Shimbun participated as a local research partner in the survey, commissioned by the BBC.

    Fifty-two percent of respondents said the EU has a mostly positive influence, followed by Britain and France, each with 50 percent.

    The country with the most negative ratings was Iran at 54 percent, followed by Israel (52 percent) and Pakistan (50 percent).

    The BBC site has the results of the poll with bar graphs and–who’d have predicted this?–the headline ” World views US ‘more positively.'”


    On the BBC page, be sure to open the PDF file that gives a breakdown of the results and more information about the survey instrument. I was interested in how the questions were phrased; apparently, people really were just asked, “Please tell me if you think each of the following countries are having a mainly positive or mainly negative influence in the world….” You also get gems such as these:

    When asked for their views of their own country’s influence in the world, Japanese citizens are the most modest of those polled, with only 36 percent saying Japan is having a mainly positive influence. Americans come next with only 56 percent saying the US is having a positive influence. Conversely, fully 91 percent of Chinese citizens and 78 percent of Russian citizens say their country is having a positive influence.

    I’m guessing that stories about poisonous Chinese exports are deemphasized by Xinhua and other Chinese media outlets, so those surveyed who don’t go abroad a lot may not be aware of just how colorful China’s influence has sometimes been since its economy started booming.

    Since I’m American and therefore mindlessly fixated on my own homeland, I also made a beeline for the page about respondents’ views of the States. Note the stats for Canada.


    Posted by Sean at 02:40, April 1st, 2008

    Stephen Miller at IGF posts about an Advocate column responding to the murder at school of a cross-dressing fifteen-year-old who lived in a facility for troubled youth.

    Of course, it’s partially Bush’s fault. No, really. Here’s part of Neal Broverman’s Advocate piece:

    “Part of the role of a school is to teach young people how to function in a democracy,” says Kevin Jennings, a former teacher and the founder and executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, a national organization working to ensure safe schools for LGBT students. “In a democracy we protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. Where are they going to get that lesson? They’ve got to learn it in school.” [Note unassailable logic of preceding sentences–SRK]

    But they don’t. At least not in the way they did before the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted by Congress in 2002 at the Bush administration’s urging.

    “There’s been a real retrenchment of antibullying and diversity programs since No Child Left Behind,” says Jennings. “What that’s done is establish standardized testing as the only measure of good schools. In the late ’90s there was a lot of momentum around multiculturalism and diversity. That was really reversed by this imposition of standardized testing. A lot of educators are frustrated because they understand the importance of addressing some of these larger [social] efforts, but when they try to they’re told, ‘You’ve just got to get the math scores up.'”

    Is standardized testing the only measure of school performance that’s currently given weight? I’m no education expert, but my understanding is that schools are still rated according to their safety standards; it’s hard to believe that a pattern of violent bullying that goes unpunished wouldn’t be factored in there–assuming the reporting administrators are being honest. Keeping schools from finding ways to cook the numbers to make themselves look better has been a major issue since the program was first implemented. Still, that doesn’t mean the shift from trying to teach kids huggy multiculturalism to trying to teach them math is in and of itself a bad one.

    There was a violence prevention program in place at the school that attempted to teach kids how to manage their emotions and empathize with others. Would a gay-straight alliance or more explicit attention to tolerance of gay kids have helped? Possibly.

    Broverman delivers the usual coarse generalities about “violence as a solution to conflict” (bad, very bad), but he raises the common-sense point that maybe King’s elders should have taught him a bit more caution when it came to wearing heels and eye makeup and adopting a flippant, teasing persona in a school full of teenagers. Miller reports that a cadre of social welfare busybodies naturally flipped out:

    Braverman [sic–his name is Broverman according to the by-line] raised serious issues that are certainly worth discussing. But his piece provoked strong criticism from certain activist quarters, as in this Open Letter to The Advocate from “lawyers, advocates, and child welfare professionals” who declare “hiding fuels hatred” and that “We cannot keep children safe by hiding them. Succumbing to fear creates an environment in which hatred thrives. Invisibility is just another, more insidious, killer.” [A dumbfounding thing to say in connection with a child whose flamboyance just got him shot–SRK]

    That sounds a awful lot like the kind of sloganeering that is meant to stifle open discussion rather than foster it. Gay adults know that, if they choose, they can walk hand in hand down a street of a non-gay neighborhood–and they know that in a great many neighborhoods they will risk getting beaten (or worse) for it. That’s a choice adults can make.

    I think Miller shows impressive restraint. What kind of moron do you have to be to go around telling children that they can just go around expressing themselves however they like and expect the world to love them for it? Or even to expect those who do love them for it to be able to bail them out every time they land themselves in trouble? I daresay that most people go through junior high school hiding what they are to some extent; that’s how you get along. Teenagers learn through trial and error, as their personalities are gelling, how much they’re willing to hold back in order to avoid making waves and how much they’re not. This is not just a gay issue.

    In a free society, the authorities aren’t policing everywhere you go and everything you do. You can go about your business as a law-abiding citizen without being watched all the time, but the trade-off is that you can get yourself into dangerous situations when no one is in a position to help you. It only takes minutes to get beaten up, and less than that to get stabbed or shot. (In this particular case, one of the issues is how McInerney managed to get a gun onto school property undetected; but then, if he was that much bigger and stronger than King, he could probably have broken his neck or banged his head hard enough to kill him without a weapon.) Eliminating the real dangers gays face is not going to be achieved by griping that they shouldn’t exist and teaching young people to pretend they don’t.

    Added on 2 April: I originally characterized the junior high school in the story as being for troubled youth because, for some reason, I read the article that way. Thanks to Joanne Jacobs for pointing out that it appears actually to have been a regular old junior high school with some kind of anger management program. I’ve excised the two misleading sentences above, and while I hate to be told I’ve made a stupid mistake, I’m actually kind of glad to learn that particular information about the school. I was originally utterly baffled that counselors would tell a fifteen-year-old that a school for troubled kids was a good place for him to start cross-dressing. I still think they were irresponsible, but I guess I’m a bit less baffled now.


    Posted by Sean at 21:41, March 27th, 2008

    Speaking of fags making civic-minded gestures of dubitable effectiveness, one of the higher-ups in the Stonewall Democrats chapter at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has decided that the logo for a new burger joint in town is offensive (via Advice Goddess). You’ve probably narrowed the reason down to just a handful of possibilities. Read the quotation below to see whether you guessed the correct PC transgression!

    LSA senior Kolby Roberts, a member of the Stonewall Democrats who has led the effort, said he finds the logo’s message inappropriate and offensive.

    “I have a problem that you take a women riding a hamburger and you put it next to the word ‘quickie,'” he said. “It just seems like it’s not putting a good message out there for the objectification of women.”

    Please. No gay man on Earth is in any position to be complaining about others’ sexually objectifying anyone. Sorry. Just, no. You can complain that it’s inappropriate in a given context, but that would require more precise thinking. It would also require thinking about manners and the evolution of beneficial social mores and stuff, and you might end up saying something judgmental.

    Anyway, the reason this story caught my eye, besides Amy Alkon’s funny commentary, was the lameness of the complainers’ reasoning:

    Roberts said he believed the image was distasteful, regardless of the person.

    “Basically, what it has is a provocatively dressed woman straddling a hamburger, and she’s very busty and its kind of really horrible,” he said.

    “Kind of really horrible”? Good thing you’re an engineering major, darlin’, ’cause you’re not doing our famed gay skill at delivering pithy witticisms any justice.

    How things have degraded. Back in my college days, when dinosaurs and Massive Attack roamed free, the affronted leaders of feminist and gay student groups would at least have had some pseudo-philosophical hoodoo to make their pique sound deeply meaningful. Where’s the mention of the “male gaze”? Where’s the invocation of the “hostile intellectual environment”? And it’s Michigan–shouldn’t we be bringing Catharine MacKinnon into the act? What are they teaching kids these days?

    Added on 29 March: Eric is in Ann Arbor at the moment and has checked the place out.

    Trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart

    Posted by Sean at 01:25, March 27th, 2008

    The story’s a good week old, but considering what old news it is anyway, I don’t feel all that dumb linking to it now. R.E.M. has a new album out soon, and the hype-o-rator has been on full-blast for weeks. Who knows? Maybe it really is the band’s best album in over a decade, and old fans should be getting all spazzy with anticipation. (Personally, I dropped away after Automatic for the People , which to me is about as melodious and ear-pleasing as the reaction of a cat when you throw a bucket of ice water over it. I’m clearly in the minority on that one, though.)

    Anyway, there’s a usual flurry of interviews and photo shoots and magazine covers. GayNews reports that Michael Stipe has finally just cut the crap and identified himself as gay:

    This week he told Spin magazine, “I recognize that to have public figures be very open about their sexuality helps some kid somewhere out there.”

    Although Stipe has never felt the need to discuss his sexuality before, he informed the magazine that he now felt that it was important to be open and honest in order to provide understanding and hope for the younger generation.

    “It was super complicated for me in the ’80s. I was totally open with the band and my family and my friends and certainly the people I was sleeping with. I thought it was pretty obvious.”

    Stipe stated that in the past he didn’t see that being out could be so important for others. “I didn’t always see that. But I see now, of course that’s the case, of course that’s needed.”

    Considering how fervently Stipe embraced everything else on the leftist checklist, it’s kind of funny that he didn’t see coming out of the closet, of all things, as being important. But I see no reason not to take him at his word. He did, after all, make a point of being uncategorizable and enigmatic about his private life–and why not?–and he’s been open about being bisexual for years. If he’s decided he is, in fact, gay, then sure, no reason he shouldn’t be up-front about it with the public if he likes.

    I’m not sure the announcement will have the effect of “helping some kid out there,” though. Gay kids already know that it’s possible to be an open homosexual if, like Stipe, you’re constantly going to be pushing what a “transgressive” weirdo you are. Especially if you’ve also already made a pile and aren’t risking much in the way of money and career trajectory. I’m not faulting Stipe for waiting until he was ready to reveal this or that about himself; I’m only saying that it’s a bit late to be all public-spirited about it in the way he seems to want to be.

    BTW, before anyone tries to call me on it: Yes, the joke of the post title is that “Superman” was neither written by R.E.M. nor sung by Michael Stipe.


    Posted by Sean at 01:04, March 27th, 2008

    Another homicide in Japan by a mentally disturbed person in a high-traffic public place:

    Police are questioning an 18-year-old boy over the death of a stranger who was pushed in front of an approaching train at JR Okayama Station late Tuesday night.

    Kariya, a prefectural government worker from Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, fell on the tracks of the Sanyo Line and was hit by a train bound for Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture.

    Kariya died about five hours later of shock caused by blood loss.

    “I thought that if I killed somebody, I could go to prison. It didn’t matter who it was,” police quoted the boy as saying. They added that the suspect did not appear to know Kariya.

    Police initially arrested the boy on suspicion of attempted murder. They will seek murder charges now that Kariya has died.

    Police quoted the boy as saying that he had gone to the station “hoping to stab someone.”

    Investigators found a kitchen knife with a 12-centimeter blade inside a shoulder bag the boy was carrying.

    Not much more in the Japanese reports, such as this one at the Mainichi.

    There are also reports that the 24-year-old who stabbed eight people in Ibaraki Prefecture over the weekend had well-known issues with controlling his temper:

    Senior investigative officers said they gasped after seeing the word “death” written in red on the wall of his room. The door of the room, which had several fist-sized dents in it, was skewed, the officers said.

    An 18-year-old man, who was at a game center near his home, said he had seen Kanagawa play fighting video games several times and that Kanagawa would pound the game machine or kick chairs when he lost or had not done well.

    Another man said that since Kanagawa blew up over trivial matters, he was careful when he talked to him.

    According to the investigators, when Kanagawa was a high school student, he was said to have often pounded or kicked things when he was under a lot of stress.

    Earlier in the month, Kanagawa had e-mailed from his current mobile phone to an old one such messages as “What I do is what counts,” “I’m God,” and “I want to finish myself,” the officers said.

    Weekend news

    Posted by Sean at 01:40, March 25th, 2008

    We watched the blow-by-blow election coverage this weekend, but there was very little suspense: the KMT candidate started trouncing the DPP candidate very early, and his lead never let up.

    Now he’s made his opening diplomatic salvo:

    Fresh from victory as Taiwan’s new president, Ma Ying-jeou, has posed what may be a dilemma to the United States – by requesting to make a trip to Washington, which may earn the fury of China if allowed.

    US President George W. Bush was among the first to congratulate Ma [Ying-jeou], seen as [more of] a moderate on the China question than outgoing, independence-leading president Chen Shui-bian, whose rule roiled ties with both Beijing and Washington.

    But allowing the Harvard-educated lawyer Ma to visit Washington could anger Beijing even though he said he planned to come before his May 20 inauguration, said Brad Glosserman of Pacific Forum, a Hawaii-based think tank.

    “Slim and none are the chances of that (trip),” Glosserman said. “It’s very clearly an attempt by the president-elect of Taiwan to raise his political profile,” he said.

    The United States, he added, would not risk angering China, especially at a time when Beijing was grappling with a bloody revolt in Tibet.

    John Tkacik, once the chief of China analysis in the State Department’s bureau of intelligence and research, said he felt Ma’s trip would not anger China.

    “No, I really do not think so,” he said.

    “I think China is very pleased with the election of Ma and (Vice President-elect) Vincent Siew and as long as they come before the inauguration and they still have colour of ‘unofficiality,’ then I think China would put up with it,” he said.

    Ma was the candidate who, of course, advocated more of an open market with the PRC. He won handily, but not a few Taiwanese are worried about what an influx of Chinese labor and outflow of corporate management could mean for Taiwan.


    This weekend was Japan’s most recent incident with a stabby lunatic: a man in Ibaraki Prefecture knifed eight people before being detained. Luckily, only one was wounded fatally.

    The suspect, Masahiro Kanagawa, was already wanted in connection with another fatal stabbing of a stranger. The police were looking for him but failed to intercept him:

    Kanagawa was put on a nationwide wanted list Friday after his bicycle was found near Miura’s home. Police posted about 170 police officers at train stations on the Joban Line and the Tsukuba Express Line starting from the first train runs of the day Sunday.

    But they acknowledged that the patrol at Arakawaoki Station failed to catch Kanagawa before the stabbing spree.

    “We regret that (our efforts to prevent the second incident) ended in a result like this,” Takashi Ishii, a senior officer of the Ibaraki prefectural police said in a news conference at Tsuchiura Police Station on Sunday. “We did our best by taking such measures as placing police officers at train stations and Net cafes.”

    Police said the reason they didn’t spot the suspect was because their picture of him was two years old and he was wearing a knitted hat and silver-rimmed glasses when he arrived at the station.

    “It was an unlucky time for us because there were many passengers getting on and off the trains,” the officer said.

    This is the sort of case, I think, that highlights the difficulties that the detectives investigating the Lindsay Hawker murder are probably facing. Melting into a crowd on a train platform isn’t difficult at all. Neither is disguising yourself sufficiently to go unnoticed by people in shops. Kanagawa claims he had actually intended to target people at his old elementary school, the Asahi article says. That would be chilling enough anywhere, but in Japan it resonates especially because of the 2001 stabbing of two dozen children at an Osaka school.