May 15

JET alum journalist Tom Baker presents Yomiuri Shimbun’s “Japan News” videos

Tom Baker (Chiba-ken, 1989-91) spent many years on the staff of The Daily Yomiuri. On April 1 this year, The Daily Yomiuri became The Japan News. The paper’s website includes a daily video introducing a few sample headlines from each day’s paper, and Tom is one of the presenters. His latest video appears below, and you can see more at or The Japan News’ YouTube page.

Jun 7

Tom Baker reviews two books on the game industry

Tom Baker (Chiba-ken, 1989-91) is a staff writer for He usually writes for DYWeekend, the paper’s arts and leisure section. You can follow Tom’s blog at

Recently he rerviewed two books on the video game business, “Fun Inc” and “Nintendo Magic.” Here’s an excerpt:

Even if you aren’t into video games, you may already be into video games. A major theme of two new books on the subject is that game technology is now so omnipresent that even people who don’t consider themselves gamers are using it.

“Games have long been one of the world’s most important engines for computing innovation–along with, more recently, the mobile phone,” writes British journalist Tom Chatfield in Fun Inc.

“It’s largely thanks to the ever-evolving ambitions of game designers that modern computers have a DVD drive, a graphics card, decent sound capability, a staggering amount of RAM, a large colour monitor, and so on.”

User interface is one area in which game developers are especially driven to improve. People may put up with hard-to-use accounting software because they need it for work, but no one has to play a video game.

“For a long time, we’ve made things that are fundamentally useless,” Nintendo President Satoru Iwata is quoted as saying in Nintendo Magic, by Japanese journalist Osamu Inoue. “People won’t endure inconvenience that they don’t have to endure. They won’t read your instruction manual. If something is hard to understand, it’s entirely the maker’s fault. If they can’t figure out a videogame in five minutes…that’s the end of it.”

Read the rest of the review here.

Apr 22

Tom Baker reviews “Moon,” “Shutter Island” and “The Wolfman”

Tom Baker (Chiba-ken, 1989-91) is a staff writer for The Daily Yomiuri. He usually writes for DYWeekend, the paper’s arts and leisure section. You can follow Tom’s blog at

His two latest articles are movie reviews, one of “The Wolfman,” and one that discusses “Moon” and “Shutter Island” together. Here are some excerpts:


In most werewolf movies nowadays, it is standard to show a person’s nose and jaw elongating into a snaggletoothed lupine muzzle when they transform from human to wolf. [Makeup artist Rick] Baker has done that before, but in this film he pays homage to Lon Chaney Jr.’s furry but still humanoid look in the 1941 film The Wolf Man, on which the new film is based. Then and now, the title monster has modest fangs, a woolly forehead, a beard that goes up to his eyes and a nose that darkens at the tip.

Our first glimpse of Baker’s version of this classic face is literally over in a flash, as we see it illuminated by a pistol shot during a nocturnal battle. (In case you missed it the first time, the scene repeats a moment later, with a larger gun.) Later scenes reveal the monster’s face at greater length.

Read the full review here.


Teddy Daniels and Sam Bell are men who love their wives. They are also the respective protagonists of two new movies, Shutter Island and Moon, that take us far enough inside the characters’ heads to see each man passionately embracing his wife in a dream.

But when Teddy awakes, he finds himself trapped on his movie’s titular island, unhappily remembering that his wife has been dead for years. And when Sam awakes, he finds himself trapped on his movie’s titular heavenly body, unhappily remembering that his wife is on Earth, and he has not seen her for many months.

Teddy (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a U.S. marshall investigating the disappearance of an inmate from a prison hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island, Mass., in the 1950s. Sam (Sam Rockwell) is the solitary human staffer of a mining facility on the dark side of the moon, possibly in the 2050s.

The settings are very different, but both are ominous, isolated places in which intense psychological drama will unfold. In both movies, the protagonists have high-stakes confrontations with themselves, and with the powers that be.

Read the rest of the review here. The review is deliberately spoiler-free, but you can read Tom’s further comments about the endings of “Moon” here and “Shutter Island” here.

Mar 1

Tom Baker (Chiba-ken, 1989-91) is a staff writer for The Daily Yomiuri. A big part of his beat is the Pop Culture page, which covers manga, anime and video games.  You can follow Tom’s blog at

He also writes about food. Here is a recent article about a food science exhibition currently running at Tokyo’s Miraikan museum. The latter half of the story focuses in on the scientific-culinary concept of umami, often called the“fifth taste”:

How many calories are there in a 500-milliliter bottle of a zero-calorie soft drink? If you guessed zero, you might be right. But the correct answer could be as high as 24. This is one of the many fun facts visitors can learn at “It’s a Tasty World–Food Science Now,” an exhibition running through March 22 at the Miraikan science museum in Odaiba, Tokyo. Under Japanese law, according to a display debunking food myths at the show, a drink is “zero calorie” as long as it has less than five calories per 100 milliliters. (A note on vocabulary: A “calorie” and a “kilocalorie” are the same thing.)

Other displays include sniffable containers of food scents, which you can mix to create new aromas; videos of food processing factories, where plump onions comically pirouette on industrial peelers; and a glowing green tank of euglena, a photosynthetic microorganism seen as a promising future food source. Too bad its Japanese name, midori mushi–green bug–isn’t exactly appetizing….

Read the rest of the article here.

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