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Asian-American athletes to watch at the 2016 Rio Olympics

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This August, Team USA will be headed to the 2016 Rio Olympics with over 500 athletes across 42 Olympic sport disciplines. Of these athletes, over 30, competing in a variety of sports including swimming, fencing, table tennis, and volleyball, identify as Asian American. Below are 10 Asian-American athletes to watch during the Rio Olympics. Keep their names in mind, as there’s a good chance that some of them will be leaving Rio with new medals.

Alexander Massialas

Born to a Greek father and a Taiwanese mother, San Francisco native Alexander Massialas is poised to win a medal at the Rio Olympics this year. Currently ranked the number one male foil fencer in the world, Massialas was also the youngest male member of the 2012 U.S. Olympics team.

He comes from an accomplished fencing family — his father Greg was a three-time Olympic fencer and his younger sister Sabrina was the first U.S. fencer to ever win a Youth Olympic Games gold medal. Massialas is currently a student at Stanford University and majors in mechanical engineering. He can speak Mandarin and attended the Chinese American International School as a child.

Gerek Meinhardt

Like Massialas, Gerek Meindhart is also a Taiwanese-American fencer. The two are good friends since Meinhardt’s mother Jane was primary school classmates with Massialas’ mom Vivian, and it was Vivian’s suggestion to have Meinhardt join the fencing club. While both of Meinhardt’s parents were architects and not fencers, Massialas helped coach Meinhardt for competition.

In the past, Meinhardt also played basketball. His sister Katie played the sport at Boston University (BU) and still holds the BU record for most points in a game. Meinhardt recently received an MBA from Notre Dame and works as a Deloitte consultant when he isn’t competing in the games.

Lee Kiefer

Filipino-American fencer Lee Kiefer is currently ranked third in women’s foil and was the first athlete to ever win seven consecutive individual titles at the Pan American Championships. Fencing also runs in the family — she is the daughter of a former Duke University fencing captain and has a sister Alex and brother Axel who also compete.

Kiefer is currently a senior pre-med major at the University of Notre Dame. Her father Steve is a neurosurgeon, her mother Teresa is a psychiatrist, and her older sister Alex is a Harvard pre-med student.

Nathan Adrian

This three-time Olympic swimming gold medalist will be back in 2016. In this year’s Olympics, Adrian will compete in the 50 meter and 100 meter freestyle events. Adrian is in a good position to defend his Olympic gold medal in the 100m, as he finished first place in that event at the U.S. Olympic Trials. This Bremerton-born athlete is half-Chinese and was honored at the Robert Chinn Foundation‘s Asian Hall of Fame. Adrian majored in public health and graduated with honors from UC Berkeley in Spring 2012. After he retires from competitive swimming, Adrian has expressed interest in becoming a doctor.

Paige McPherson

Paige McPherson is an Olympic taekwondo competitor of Filipino and African-American descent. McPherson, who won a bronze medal in the women’s 67 kilogram taekwondo event in 2012, will return to compete in Rio. While McPherson grew up in Sturgis, South Dakota, she comes from what she likes to call a “rainbow family.” McPherson is one of five adopted kids in her family — she has a Korean brother, a St. Lucian little sister, and two Native American siblings. McPherson attended Miami-Dade College and continues to train primarily in Miami. After the 2015 Pan Am Games Team Trials, McPherson got the chance to meet her biological brother. Once the Rio Olympic Games come to a close, McPherson hopes to meet more members of her biological family.

Lia Neal

Olympic swimmer Lia Neal identifies as both African American and Chinese American. Neal celebrates all Chinese holidays, and went to a Chinese pre-school program — which is why she speaks Cantonese and has studied Mandarin for years. This Brooklyn native won a bronze medal at the London Games in the 4 by 100-meter freestyle relay with Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, and Allison Schmitt. This year, Neal came in fourth during the 4 by 100 freestyle Olympic trials, allowing her the fourth spot in the 4 by 100-meter freestyle relay team. Neal is currently a Stanford University student, and her classmate Simone Manuel also made it onto the Olympic swimming team. This makes it the first time two Black female swimmers will swim simultaneously on the U.S. Olympic team.

Jay Litherland

Jay Litherland is an Olympic swimmer majoring in business at the University of Georgia. He’s also a triplet – and has triple citizenship in the U.S., Japan, and New Zealand. He can speak Japanese and started swimming at the age of 8. At this year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials, he managed to finish second in the 400 meter individual medley. Litherland won the second of two U.S. Olympic spots in the event, eking out the defending Olympic gold medalist, Ryan Lochte, by approximately a second. This will be the first time he will be attending the Olympics. He previously competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2012.

Micah Christenson, Kawika Shoji, and Erik Shoji

These three athletes will be representing the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team at the Rio Olympics. Micah Christenson comes from a tall family – his father played basketball at the University of Hawaii-Hilo and his mother won three national volleyball championships at the same university. Anderson currently plays for Italian club team Cucine Lube Civitanova but won a gold medal with the USA team in the 2015 Men’s World Cup. Christenson graduated from the University of Southern California and will be a setter for the men’s national team. His full name is Micah Makanamaikalani Christenson, and his middle name means “gift from heaven.”

Erik and Kawika Shoji are brothers — and both will be at the Rio Olympics in the U.S. Men’s volleyball team. The Honolulu-born pair both attended Stanford University and played on the volleyball team when they were there. Their father Dave has coached women’s volleyball at the University of Hawaii for more than 40 years, while their mother Mary played basketball at the same university. Kawika is currently a member of Turkish club Arkas Izmir, while Erik Shoji plays for German club Berlin Recycling Volleys.

Tokyo 2020 official Olympic logo unveiled after plagiarism scandal

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NBC News (by

The new official emblem of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was unveiled by organizers Monday, replacing an earlier design that was dropped after a complaint alleging plagiarism.

The chosen checkered logo conveys “the message of unity in diversity,” officials announced.

It was selected from a shortlist of four published earlier this month after a public contest that attracted 14,599 entries.

The original, by art director Kenjiro Sano, was withdrawn last summer after Belgian artist Olivier Debie claimed that it echoed his work for the Theatre de Liege. Sano denied the allegation.

The new indigo blue logo, called “Harmonized checkered emblem,” was created by artist and architecture graduate Asao Tokolo, 47.

It “expresses a refined elegance and sophistication that exemplifies Japan,” Tokyo 2020 officials said in a statement.

Composed of three varieties of rectangular shapes, the design represents different countries, cultures and ways of thinking. It incorporates the message of unity in diversity.”

Image: Asao Tokolo
Designer Asao Tokolo holds his designs for the logo of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, left, and the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

The organizing committee for the Tokyo Summer Games has been plagued by fumbles. Last year, the original design for the main stadium was scrapped over mushrooming construction costs and public disapproval of the design, which had been likened to a bicycle helmet.

The winning logo was selected from these four shortlisted emblems.

 

Maia and Alex Shibutani win first U.S. Ice Dancing title

Angry Asian Man:

On Saturday at the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota, siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani won their first U.S. ice dance title, besting defending champs Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

Performing their free skate to Coldplay’s “Fix You,” the five-time medalists finally broke through and nabbed gold with a final score of 190.14. Chock and Bates finished second with 186.93.

The Shibutanis — affectionately known as the “Shib Sibs” — were U.S. silver medalists in 2011 and 2012, then took bronze in 2013 and 2014, then finished again with the silver last year. And now they’re gold medalists.

Here’s video of their rousing, gold-winning performance:

Why is Japan such an unpopular tourist destination?

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RocketNews 24:

You would think that a country like Japan, rich as it is in both traditional culture and technical innovation, as well as plenty of weird and wacky things you’ll never see elsewhere, would be a huge hit with tourists. But as it turns out, Japan is actually not such a popular destination for people traveling abroad. Join us after the jump to find out why.

Tourism from abroad brings in around 900 billion yen per year for Japan. To put it in perspective, France makes around 5 trillion, the UK 3 trillion, Germany 3.7 trillion, and America 11 trillion yen from tourism. It might look like just a matter of zeroes on paper, but that’s a significant difference.

▼Two Asian countries feature in this top 10 ranking of the most popular tourist destinations, and neither of them is Japan.

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▼Even compared to other Asian countries it doesn’t measure up well. Japan attracts fewer foreign tourists than Malaysia, South Korea, and Singapore.

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So just why is this beautiful country which has so much to offer such an unpopular holiday destination?

Publicity problems

Firstly, Japan needs more and better quality advertising. With the world now connected by the internet you can easily communicate with people half-way around the globe as though they’re right there with you in your room, and people are becoming more interested in other cultures. Japan needs to be able to self-promote, and articulate to the wider world exactly why people should come and visit.

China has size on its side, Thailand has its resorts and backpacker culture, Cambodia has its historical ruins; people visiting Asia for the first time have so much choice on where to go, so proper promotion is extremely important for a country hoping to stand out on a platter already crowded with delicacies. And right now, Japan just isn’t getting itself out there enough.

But what about cool Japan, the government drive to get more foreigners interested in Japan?

There have been attempts to come up with advertising campaigns, certainly, but they’ve fallen woefully short. Celebrities have huge star attraction here, but the PR gurus don’t seem to have caught on that using Japanese stars to advertise Japan just doesn’t work, since people outside of the country often have no clue who they are unless they already interested in Japan, hence these ads are essentially preaching to the choir. Japanese boy band Arashi’s tourism advert, a part of the government’s official Visit Japan campaign, seems more like a music video aimed at teenage girls; not exactly the demographic with the money to spend on flights, hotels and sightseeing.

Skytree-high costs:

The top reasons people from Europe and the USA don’t come to Japan is that it’s both too far and too expensive. Since the island is pretty much tethered where it is there’s not much that can be done about the former, but surely there could be some workarounds regarding the latter. Accommodation and transport are very expensive and on top of that are the costs of food, souvenirs and so on, so with a high-valued yen people are bound to look to cheaper options such as Asia, where even the poorest of student travelers can survive.

Lost in translation:

Then there’s the fact that it’s not very easy to go on holiday here without knowing the language, because of the comparatively low level of English of most native Japanese folks. Even in the midst of Tokyo you can find yourself stuck due to language issues, and once you get out of the city there are still many supposed sightseeing spots that don’t have any English signs. Japanese also isn’t like languages which use the Roman alphabet, so travellers can’t simply type a written word into their dictionary or translation app (though hopefully one day soon they’ll be able to scan them), so the average not-overly-adventurous traveler is severely limited when they find they can’t even read restaurant menus or the names written on signs at train stations. Japanese people also tend to be quite shy and reserved, even if they do have a smattering of English, unlike other countries where people will go out of their way to try to communicate with you even if they don’t speak a word of your language.

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Japanese-only convenience:

Japan is often said to be an incredibly convenient place, epitomized by the ubiquitous conbini, and this is true if you are actually living there. Unfortunately, it can still be very inconvenient for travelers and people staying short-term.

Firstly, actually getting into the city can be a bit of a pain since its busiest international airport, Narita, is located quite far out of central Tokyo. Then, when you want to pay for your train or bus ticket you might find yourself in a bit of a bind since Japan is still a mostly cash society and there are many places that do not accept credit cards. On top of that, ATMs that accept foreign cards are few and far between and are often closed outside of regular business hours; something we’ve noted before as a particular irk of living in Japan. And forget hopping online to check your route or research places to visit as, despite Japan’s reputation as a technologically advanced country, there are still very few places with wi-fi, free or otherwise. You also can’t buy cheap mobile phones with disposable SIM cards, making keeping in touch with other members of your group difficult.

All in all these factors all contribute to the reality that people aren’t going to be inclined to come and visit unless they already have an interest in Japan.

▼”I’ve been waiting for visitors for so long my legs have fallen asleep.”

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But all is not lost! 

The number of foreign visitors to Japan has been increasing recently, and during the New Year period department stores reportedly saw three times more foreigners coming to their start-of-year sales than the previous year. More places including shrines are stepping up their game and starting to provide wi-fi access, and Tokyo Metro has launched a free wi-fi service aimed at tourists across 143 of their stations. Furthermore, a bank on the road leading to the Grand Shrine at Ise has begun offering a foreign currency exchange service since many people were saying that it was inconvenient not to have any exchange services nearby. These are all signs that Japanese companies are starting to think more about catering to people visiting from overseas. The growth in tourists can also be attributed to the recent weakening of the yen brought about by Abenomics, making things cheaper for Americans and Europeans, and department stores are publicizing the fact that duty-free shopping is available for foreign visitors.

And of course with Tokyo hosting the Olympics in 2020, the country is going to experience a definite surge in foreign visitors. The questions now are whether or not Japan will be ready for them, and if the Games will have a lasting effect on the tourism industry in the future.

14-Year-Old snowboarding prodigy Chloe Kim, the next Shaun White

Chloe Kim was too young to compete in Sochi, but at 14 she’s now old enough to compete in the X Games.

Outside Magazine:

Last February, as the sports world converged on ­Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics, one of the best halfpipe snowboard­ers in the world made the trip to Pyeong­chang, South Korea, instead. Chloe Kim had just earned a silver medal at X Games Aspen—defeating eventual Olympic champion Kaitlyn Farrington—but at 13, she was too young to compete in Sochi. So she and her parents, who emigrated from South Korea before Kim was born, boarded a 13-hour flight so she could start prepping for the 2018 Games; Kim, now 14, is expected to be a heavy favorite.

FAST START: Kim threw her first backflip off a natural feature at age six and landed a rare switch McTwist (one and a half spins upside down, launched while riding backward) in the pipe five years later, leading Burton to sponsor her. Last winter she became the youngest World Snowboard Tour overall champion ever, ­evoking comparisons to another all-around super­-star: Shaun White.

Her potential is pretty much infinite,” says Elijah Teter, who coached Farrington to her gold medal last winter. “At the next Olympics, she could podium in both slopestyle and halfpipe.”

STRONG FINISH: Kim has already built a reputation as a clutch performer. (She credits her good-luck charm: fancy fingernail paint.) “Don’t be fooled by her laughing and smiling all the time,” says her coach, Ben Wisner. “When she drops in, she does it to stomp and win.”

UP NEXT: Kim will look to improve on her silver at this month’s X Games Aspen. (Last year she finished 0.67 of a point shy of four-time defending champion Kelly Clark.) She’ll likely medal again, but Kim keeps her ambitions in check. “I try not to expect too much,” she says. “I just want to land a run and not embarrass myself out there. The results will come later.”

Angelina Jolie’s WWII film “Unbroken” creates outrage in Japan 

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Audrey Magazine:

The upcoming World War II film Unbroken has not been released internationally yet, but it has already outraged many Japanese nationalists who are attempting to ban the film in Japan. Some are so outraged that they are even extending the ban to the film’s director, Angelina Jolie.

Unbroken tells the shocking and inspiring tale of real-life WWII hero and former Olympic distance runner Louis Zamperini. Inspired by his 2010 biography written by Laura Hillenbrand, the film shows how Zamperini survived 47 days in the Pacific Ocean following a plane crash, only to spend the next two years enduring brutal treatment as a Japanese prisoner of war.

Sadly, Zamperini passed away at the age of 97 on July 2, 2014, but not before creating a strong bond with his neighbor Angelina Jolie.

I imagine that for the last 10-something years, [Zamperini has] been sitting there having a coffee in the morning and wondering who’s going to make [his story into a] movie,” Jolie told Tom Brokaw on TODAY. “And I’ve been sitting in my room laying there thinking, ‘What am I supposed to be doing with my life? I wanna do something important … I need some help. I need some guidance. Where is it?’ And it was right outside my window.

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Despite the film’s good intentions, Japan is enraged with the negative portrayal of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. A particularly gruesome passage in Zamperini’s biography mentions the occurrence of cannibalism.

There was absolutely no cannibalism,” argues Mutsuhiro Takeuchi, a nationalist-leaning educator. “That is not our custom.”

Although there are many, such as Mindy Kotler of the Washington research center Asia Policy Point, who point out that there is plenty of documentation on the torture and abuse inflicted on Japanese POWs, The Review Journal explains that this is not the first time Japanese nationalists disagree:

“The release of Unbroken comes at a time [where] some in Japan are downplaying the country’s colonization of its Asian neighbors and the aggressive acts carried out by the Imperial Army during World War II.

For example, some politicians dispute the role of Japanese soldiers in the Rape of Nanjing, which began in 1937, in which an estimated 300,000 Chinese were killed. They say that is a vast over count.

Similarly, they reject historical studies that show women from several Asian countries, especially Korea, were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military. Some oppose the term “sex slave,” which the U.N. uses, preferring the euphemistic “comfort women.””

Despite the controversial reaction, Jolie is moving forward with her film. The world premiere was held in Sydney, Australia last month.

The audience seemed particularly impressed with actor Takamasa Ishihara (more commonly known as Miyavi) who plays “The Bird,” a Japanese prison guard who is especially cruel to Zamperini.

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Don’t be surprised if Miyavi looks familiar. He has been in the limelight as a popular J-pop star since 2002, but decided to put aside his lip rings and intricate hairstyles for this challenging role.

As a musician, I questioned whether I should take a break from my craft to pursue this role,” Miyavi said in a statement last October. “After meeting Angie, it became clear to me that an underlying theme to this story is forgiveness. This resonated with me because that is exactly what I want express through my music.

Unbroken will debut in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day. Check out the official trailer below.