Happy 50th, Shinkansen

BulletTrainPhoto
(Toshikazu Aizawa photo)

Oct. 1, 2014

Japan’s bullet trains began running 50 years ago, on Oct. 1, 1964. The trains that put Tokyo on the fast track to economic emergence are a marvel of clean, fast, and efficient travel, and an example for the rest of the world to see how investment in infrastructure pays off in the lives of everyday citizens.

The bullet trains began running with just over a week before the opening of the 1964 summer Olympics in Tokyo, and came to symbolize Japan’s transformation from wartime devastation.

Japan was the first country to build completely new and dedicated railway lines for a new high-speed train network (Shinkansen means “new trunk line”), and today bullet trains connect most parts of the country and make business and pleasure travel into Tokyo and other urban centers far easier and faster than conventional surface rail. Continue reading

For Tokyo, Olympic success in ’64 and hurdles to 2020

Sept. 30, 2014

In 2020, Tokyo will become the first Asian city to host the summer Olympics twice.

The 1964 summer Olympics in Tokyo were the first to be held in Asia, and marked a major turning point for Japan, a return to the international stage for a country still recovering from its World War II firebombing and lingering global resentments.

The 1964 Olympics were a huge success for Japan, and not only in terms of international symbolism or gold medals.

The buildup to ’64 saw the transformation of Tokyo into a sleek, modern and thriving megalopolis, complete with high-speed bullet trains symbolizing Japan’s economic emergence. Highways, expressways, and subway lines were built, and Haneda Airport was modernized. Beautifying the city and keeping its streets clean became a focus for Tokyo that still remains. Continue reading

Tokyo: The 2020 Olympic Vision

Sept. 29, 2014

The 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics: Let the games begin.

The buildup to hosting the 2020 summer games has been under way ever since Tokyo won the bid as host city last fall, beating out fellow finalist cities Istanbul and Madrid.

Now the race is on to get ready, and even with six years to plan, a host city needs to get its act together or suffer the consequences. Just ask Sochi.

As part of the unfolding Tokyo 2020 buildup, I am one of six journalists from around the world who will be spending the month of October in the Japanese capital, at the invitation of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The Dateline Tokyo fellowship program will invite a new set of journalists each year heading into 2020. Continue reading

Aerospace industry is making an Asian pivot of its own

Published by Christian Science Monitor Global Outlook, March 11, 2014.

The aerospace industry – and its supporting services, from parts and equipment manufacturers to maintenance, repair, and overhaul firms – are pivoting to Asia. The Asia-Pacific region will account for one in three new aircraft deliveries over the next two decades. Continue reading

Up, up, and away at the Singapore Airshow

Published by Singapore Business News, March 9, 2014

US firms race to meet demand in the world’s fastest growing aviation market, making an Asian pivot of their own. Innovations in aviation from the airshow. An American aerospace manufacturer takes off in Singapore.

Little India’s 50-dollar men: A new look

Published by Element Magazine, Feb. 18, 2014

By Tom Benner

Prostitution is legal in Singapore. Men looking to pay for sex with women can go to the red-light district in Geylang, or the shopping centre Orchard Towers, nicknamed the “Four Floors Of Whores”.

But male prostitution is a trickier proposition. For starters, it’s illegal for two men to have sex in Singapore – a homosexual act is punishable by up to two years in jail. There is no regulated industry, no legal sanction, for male prostitution.

It is an open secret that gay men go to Little India in the hopes of meeting other willing men, particularly young South Asian foreign workers looking for extra cash. A noted 2006 documentary by Channel NewsAsia exposed the popularity of Little India as a place to meet and pick up South Asian men.

The potential headlines made for a juicy, if sensationalised, story: “Homosexual prostitution in Singapore’s Little India” … “Migrant workers by day, male prostitutes by night” … “Going undercover with commercial boys.” Continue reading

Christie-Nixon comparisons are nothing new

Published by The Daily Record, Feb. 6, 2014

By Tom Benner

“Chris Christie, Meet Richard Nixon.”

That was the headline we put on an opinion column that appeared on Dec. 18, 1996, in the Daily Record, where I served as editorial page editor.

Richard Nixon wasn’t around to complain about the comparison, but Chris Christie sure was.

Christie was a young, aspiring politician at the time, brash and self-assertive in style, and he wasn’t shy about calling me on the phone to sell me on his way of seeing things. This time he was really miffed when he called. He insisted that such a comparison was completely unfair and off-base, and how could we allow it?
Continue reading …