Gurray Miles' "Breaking Into Japanese Literature" offers a whole bunch of free MP3 audio files on their site. The material is a set of classic stories, in the original language, without translation, but with progression from easy to advanced material. Unlike the Pimsleur Method, this is one-time-through material. Fortunately each segment is short enough (ten minutes?) that you can repeat, and repeat, and gradually soak it in.
The book really helps here. It contains the Japanese text, an English translation, and extensive vocabulary list, all on the same set of two facing pages. You can download these audio files for free, but you'll get a better return on your time if you compensate the author by buying the book, too.
WIRED carries a piece on a walking-tour guide from Patrick Macias on Tokyo subcultures. It's available on Amazon (but I won't boost that catalog's pagerank with a link here)... the publisher doesn't seem to have it on their website yet.
CNET has a whole series on business in Japan right now... this article contains a startling stat: "Nearly 70 percent of Japanese contracts were given to related corporate
subsidiaries in the keiretsu network five years ago. Today, it's about
20 percent, according to Naoyuki Haraoka, chief executive director of
JETRO San Francisco."
Lengthy catalog of the meaning of various days in Japan, by John Cochrane and Tex Texin. Part of it is about meanings assigned to the western calendar (as in China, "8" is lucky, while "4" has connotations with death), and part of it is about the older 6-day Japanese week and the meanings it carries through to the current time. There's also a bit about the longer 12-year cycle, particularly when that is multiplied by the 5 elements for a 60-year cycle.
In USA Today says that Japan has welfare problems similar to France: "Japan now has about four working-age people to contribute to pension plans to support one of today's retirees. By the middle of the century, there will be just two workers for each retiree." The problem isn't the birthrate so much as the Ponzi scheme which was built off of one curve of that birthrate. France has used a high immigration rate (which introduces its own problems) and attempted EU overlordship to compensate, but still has to face options such as freeing the workweek to find its own level. Japan can't exploit neighbors or take in low-price labor the way France can... I'm not sure how that dynamic will play out over the next twenty years.
Graeme Bull notes differences with technical blogging in Japan... the overall volume seems down compared to other developed areas, and there's a higher proportion of blogs about daily personal issues than as a learning/sharing device. I haven't seen any firm numbers on the blog search or hosting engines, but it seems plausible to not be the nail that sticks out.