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Adorably Ugly Cats Take Over Tokyo Train

"Ultimate Relaxation," the winner of

“Ultimate Relaxation,” the grand prize winner of Japan's recent busukawa neko “adorably ugly cat” contest. Image source: Canon Japan

The winners of a popular contest to find Japan's most “adorably ugly” cats (busukawa neko) have taken over select trains on Tokyo's Yamanote Line. 

The Yamanote Line is full of “adorably ugly” (busukawa) cats!

Many train lines in Japan are already plastered with print advertising. Now, for two weeks in November and early December, the Yamonote Line, the loop line that travels around central Tokyo, is decked out in photos of the winning cats. A YouTube video titled “Canon's Adorably Ugly Cat Campaign Hijacks Tokyo Trains to Promote New PIXUS Printer” offers a glimpse:

The campaign is sponsored by PIXUS, a line of Canon desktop printers, and offers a grand prize of 100,000 yen (US$10,000). Out of nearly 6,000 submissions, 288 finalists and prizewinners ended up displayed on the train.

One lucky cat won the top prize:

And here is the grand prize winner! The photo's title: “Ultimate Relaxation.”

 There were a variety of runners-up. This cat won second place in the contest:

And here is the second-place prize. The title: “No f-ing way, man.” The golden color of this cat's coat perfectly balances the fine silver fur of our grand prize winner.

As the purpose of the contest was to promote Canon's new printer, many of the cats were awarded prizes according to how well their ugly mugs might accessorize a variety of personal belongings.

And the winner for “would look best printed on a handbag” is “May I eat a sticky bun?”

Here is the winner of “would look best printed on a T-shirt”!!! This cat has tickled the fancy of T-shirt designers everywhere!

The cacophony of ugly cat images has become quite popular with Japanese commuters, who have posted photos of the decked-out trains on social media.

This is so cute!  #スマフォトレイン (smartphone photo train) #山手線 (Yamanote Line) #ブサかわ猫ちゃんグランプリ (Adorably Ugly Grand Prix)

The Yamonote Line is CRAZY! It's turned into a total advertisement for PIXUS. The carriage is absolutely plastered with adorably ugly cat pictures. Now I totally want to make a calendar! \(^o^)/

The full list of adorably ugly cat contest finalists can be seen here. To keep on top of Japan's adorably ugly cats, follow @busakawaleon

Blogger Argues Corporate Sponsorship Cheapening Bangaldeshi Folk Culture

Devotees of Fakir Lalon Shah, also known as Lalon Shah (c.1774–1890), a Bengali philosopher poet, come to pay their respects on the anniversary of his death. Kustia, Bangladesh, 18/10/2009. Image by Suvra Kanti Das. Copyright Demotix

Devotees of Fakir Lalon Shah, a Bengali philosopher poet, come to pay their respects on the anniversary of his death. Cheuria, Kustia, Bangladesh, 18/10/2009. Image by Suvra Kanti Das. Copyright Demotix

If we look back the history of Bangladesh, we see examples of ancient kings and land lords who sponsored cultural activities, making literature, music and art flourish in the region. In the present era, we see affluent corporations, mostly telecom companies in Bangladesh, taking their place.

They have been going the extra mile to sponsor a wide variety of cultural pursuits, including a rural festival celebrating Fakir Lalon Shah (c. 1774–1890), a popular Bengali baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker, but not always with positive reception.

Zahid Islam at the blog Alal O Dulal explains how corporations are selling the Lalon culture:

In 2007 for the first time in history, Lalon Phokir’s Dol Uthshob (Lalon's Dol Festival) was held under sponsorship, with promotion campaigns so aggressive and ill designed it disgusts me to even remember it. Since then Grameenphone and Banglalink (telecom brands) took turns in sponsoring the festivals.

He also mentions that Lalon festival is getting a modern shape under corporate banner:

The first time around, those of us who had been visiting Cheuria for many years, were shocked to find the sponsorship junks.

And the need to protect their sanctity:

There are many people and organisations, home and abroad, that feel we need to “protect” the baul way of life. I do not necessarily agree with this notion. Rather I feel our intervention is what creates most of the “problems.”

Fashion Week Turns World's Gaze on Tokyo

The six-day Mercedes Fashion Week kicked off in Tokyo on October 13 and culminated on October 19. Fashion Week is all about launching hot new 2015 fashions from the planet's biggest brands, with daily runway events and fashion exhibitions.

For nearly 20 years Mercedes Benz has sponsored “fashion weeks” all over the world in fashion centers such as New York, Paris and Milan. The Tokyo show marks the start of a series of events all over the world this fall taking place in 20 cities all over the world.

As one of the “top 5 cities,” Tokyo was for one week the center of attention in the global fashion scene.

It's a party atmosphere filled with celebrities, events, and plenty of high fashion.

Kicking off the festival on October 13th was “MORI HANAE designed by Yu Amatsu”, an exhibit showcasing a new collection by Hanae Mori, a young designer with a bright future, while introducing a new brand by Mori Hanae.

Fashion journalist, stylist, and blogger Misha Janette writes in Japanese and English about her impressions as a newcomer to Tokyo Fashion week:

*時間厳守。海外では”ショーのスタート時間にホテルを出ても余裕で間に合う”よね?でもここは東京。数分の遅れでも車掌さんが丁寧に謝罪してくるような街。ちょっと早めに到着するべし。せめてスタート時間には着いてないと見逃すよ!

*…電車を活用すべし!東京の交通網は他のファッションシティとは比べ物にならないくらい優秀。[…] それに、タクシーに乗るのも他の国より簡単。でも[…]電車がおすすめ。だって、東京のタクシーは高い!!!初乗り2キロで710円って。。[…]電車に乗るのってちょっとした冒険みたいでいいじゃない?

*指定席ではないよ!基本的には早い者勝ち。優先順位はちょっと海外より難しいかも。第一優先:ビジネスパートナーと古くからの友人。第二:ブランドを取り上げてくれるメディア(年功序列)。第三:ニューフェイスのメディア。…バイヤーはあまり大切に扱われないハプニングが多いという噂だが…汗。

* BE. ON. TIME. I cannot iterate this enough. I know that the rule of thumb for overseas shows is “Leave your hotel the same time the show is scheduled to start and still be on time.” But this is Tokyo, where train conductors will get on hands and knees to apologize for being a minute late. Get to the show a few minutes early, or at least *right* on time, or you WILL miss it.

* ….take the train. It’s true that traffic in Tokyo is not nearly as terrible as it is in every other fashion city (um, an HOUR to get from SOHO to midtown?? And in Paris I had to run from the taxi to the metro or I would have missed the Chanel show). And yes, it’s easier to get a cab than any other city, too. But most shows are conveniently held at the Hikarie shopping complex connected to Shibuya station and taking the train is not seen as so bourgeois as it is in other world cities. Taxis in Tokyo are some of the most expensive in the world (starting 710yen=USD$7 for 2km) so honestly, if you’re taking cabs every where you’re just being stupid and unadventurous.

* Seats don’t have name reservations. Seats come on a first come first serve-ish basis, and the heirarchy is a bit different than overseas. TOP: Business partners, long-time friends. NEXT: Media, in age from oldest people to youngest, despite who they write for. LAST: Media, who are new to the brand, despite who they write for. NOSEBLEED: Buyers.

To keep on top of events at Tokyo Fashion Week, follow the Facebook page.

African Animators Defying All Odds

Njeri Wangari highlights 9 amazing animation videos for African children:

1. Jungle Beat
Jungle Beat is a fun, family friendly series of CGI animated self-contained, dialogue-free, 5 minute episodes focusing on different animals and the bizarre situations they encounter in nature. From the firefly who is afraid of the dark to the giraffe with a stiff neck, this wholesome series aims to entertain, inspire and ignite children’s curiosity!

2. Kirikou and The Sorceress
In a little village somewhere in Africa, a boy named Kirikou is born. But he’s not a normal boy, because he knows what he wants very well. Also he already can speak and walk. His mother tells him how an evil sorceress has dried up their spring and devoured all males of the village except of one. Hence little Kirikou decides, he will accompany the last warrior to the sorceress. Due to his intrepidity he may be the last hope of the village. Kirikou et la Sorcière or Kirikou and the Sorceress is a french animated film based on Western African folklore directed by Michel Ocelot.
The story has been translated to English and into Kiswahili.

Art & Education in Suriname

Referring to English art critic Sir Herbert Read‘s book Education Through Art, Carmen Dragman, via Srananart's Blog, looks at the value of art in education, suggesting that the current Caribbean model is shortchanging students by not recognising the power of art as a creative outlet and learning tool:

Teachers and policy makers often actually know that art education is important for each individual, but don’t actually realize as yet how important the subject is. These lessons are mostly seen as ‘means of relaxation’ but not as means of support. Surely not before tests and examinations…

Dragman believes in learning through doing – movement, games, modeling, play – and gives several examples from her own teaching experience that are testaments to the success of this approach. She explains:

If expressive education is given correctly, the cognitive, socio-emotional, sensitive, motoric, affective and creative development of the child will be stimulated. It is therefore very important that this subject be not only presented as an isolated subject, but be also integrated in the other school subjects.

Poetry Project Bridges Language and Cultural Barriers between Arabic and Hebrew Speakers in Israel

The Two Project promotes Arabic and Hebrew arts and culture through the language of poetry.

The Two Project promotes Arabic and Hebrew arts and culture through the language of poetry.

The Two Project has just launched, a collaboration between Israeli Jews and Arabs to connect their cultures through the language of poetry. Hebrew and Arabic are both official languages of Israel. Six years in the making, the project is an offshoot of a recently published book, Two: A Bilingual Anthology (link is in Hebrew).

On their website, the Two Project's creators Almog Behar, Tamer Massalha, and Tamar Weiss write [Heb/Ar]:

This site is a part of the Two Project: a bilingual cultural project focusing on the literature and poetry of youth. Its aim is to create a convergence of dialogue between the two vibrant cultures of Israel, in Arabic and Hebrew. [The project presents] a new generation of writers and readers, who because of language barriers, culture, politics, and physical boundaries are not familiar with what goes on in the modern literary scene of their neighbors.

Anat Niv, editor-in-chief of Keter Publishing, who is responsible for the anthology, remarks:

The very fact that you are holding a book and reading it in Hebrew, with a text in Arabic script on the facing page, or vice versa, is a very powerful experience. Even if you don’t read Arabic, when reading this book you can no longer remain oblivious to the fact that this is a place where people live and create in two languages.

Follow the project on their website or on Facebook in Hebrew and Arabic. Two new authors, an Israeli Arab and an Israeli Jew, will be featured monthly.

5 Muslim Countries Where Gays Are Not Prosecuted by the Law

The LGBT Muslims blog identified 5 Muslim nations where the legal system does not outlaw homosexuality. The 5 countries are : Mali, Jordan, Indonesia, Turkey and Albania. While the law in these countries does not criminalize gay lifestyles, the LGBT Muslims blog points out that LGBT communities still suffer from discrimination and non-negligible pressure to remain discreet regarding their lifestyles. Still, the main take away lesson is that gay rights may be more advanced than most would believe in the aforementioned countries. 

One Vibe Africa Launches Africa From the Skies

One Vibe Africa uses music and art to inspire Kenyan youths to appreciate culture and tradition and to develop their own creative potential. Their latest initiative #Africafromtheskies needs your support. Africa From the Skies is an expedition to create empowering films and media, capture culture and facilitate workshops.

Telling Puerto Rican Stories on the Web

Esta Vida Boricua [This Boricua Life] is a digital storytelling project which explores the past and present of Puerto Rico through the collection of experiences of people from all walks of life and all ages. At its most basic level, it is “a place to share stories,” as explained in their “About” section. Elaborating on that thought, they write:

Thus, the stories herein are a journey. They offer splashes of color and texture, shades of shadow and light as well as fragments of shape and depth to the existing Puerto Rican mosaic. They unravel the stereotypes and biased images of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican culture presented in the media and beyond. They speak of a generation of young people struggling under the uncertainty of colonialism —and a backlash from the slow cultural genocide that has taken place since US occupation after the Spanish-American War and the advent of modernism.

The content, which can take the form of writing (in either Spanish or English), video or audio recordings, is entirely produced by volunteers, most of whom are students from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, on the western coast of the main island. Poets, musicians and writers are also welcome to contribute original content.

The Curious Case Of Marrying Out Of Caste in India

Protest March in UK demanding to eradicate the centuries-old caste system that exists on the Indian sub continent and amongst expatriate communities. Image by Paul Davey. Copyright Demotix (19/10/2013)

Protest March in UK demanding to eradicate the centuries-old caste system that exists on the Indian sub continent and amongst expatriate communities. Image by Paul Davey. Copyright Demotix (19/10/2013)

Karthik Shashidhar, a freelance management consultant and data scientist, shares interesting statistics from the National Family Health Survey. Shashidhar discusses the percentage of women in India who are married to someone of their own caste. The caste system in India is based on an order of (predominantly) endogamous groups rendering marriage out of caste deplored by the society. Most of the marriage out of caste is out of love and defying the socio-cultural norms.

The survey, which was carried out in all states in India, asked “ever-married” women whether they were married to someone from the same caste, or to someone from a higher caste, or to someone from a lower caste. The result shows that the national average for the percentage of women who are married to someone of their own caste is 89%.