Tag Archives: Japan

Japan has so many centenarians that the gov’t can’t afford to give them gifts.

From the department of cutting back.

Japan’s government will no longer reward its centenarian citizens with a silver sake dish worth ¥8,000 ($64), saying the growing number of long-lived Japanese are putting a strain on the country’s budget.

The Japan Times reports that the government will find a more frugal gift in time for the country’s annual celebration of the elderly on Sept. 15. Last year, the government spent ¥260 million ($2 million) on the program, which provided dishes for more than 29,000 centenarians. Japan expects as many as 38,000 more people to celebrate their 100th birthday in 2018.

To  be honest, with Japan’s demographic time bomb ticking away, this could be the least of their worries.

Japan earthquake has raised pressure below Mount Fuji, says new study

Geological disturbances caused by 2011 tremors mean active volcano is in a ‘critical state’, say scientific researchers

So should Japan be on red alert? “We cannot establish a direct relation of cause and effect between quakes and volcanic eruptions, even if statistically the former lead to an increase in the latter,” Brenguier says. “All we can say is that Mount Fuji is now in a state of pressure, which means it displays a high potential for eruption. The risk is clearly higher.”

Science, however, has no way of predicting when this might happen. But there is a precedent. The last eruption of Mount Fuji occurred in 1707. It projected almost a billion cubic metres of ash and debris into the atmosphere, some of which reached Tokyo (then called Edo) 100km away. It was preceded, 49 days earlier, by a magnitude 8.7 quake to the south of Japan that, in conjunction with the tidal wave it raised, claimed more than 5,000 lives. This time, more than three years have already passed since the Tohoku quake. But that does not mean that Mount Fuji, under the constant supervision of Japanese geologists, is slumbering.

Come what may, the method developed by the Franco-Japanese team for investigating volcanic areas should improve the accuracy of efforts all over the world to assess the risk of major volcanic eruptions.

Why a Pacific War is Possible: Japan and China’s hatred for each other

As Time explains

From the long-distance perspective of an American, Asia looks like one of the world’s most peaceful places. And it is — for the moment. But when Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Tokyo on Monday, he stepped into what has suddenly become a dangerous diplomatic crisis between China and Japan. On the surface, it’s a dull dispute over a string of uninhabited Pacific islands. Underneath, as I realized on a recent visit to China, it’s a story reaching back some 75 years that involves war, brutality, rape and historical reckoning. And now threatens to drag in the U.S.
The immediate cause of the crisis is Beijing’s recent declaration of an air-defense zone over the disputed islands, a string of rocks about 200 miles southeast of China’s coast, not far from Taiwan. No one will ever vacation on the islands, but there’s a good incentive to claim them, given that they sit in an area of the Pacific that may contain enough oil to fuel China for 45 years.

Far more than a story about energy, however, this is a story about national pride and historical grievance. The showdown over the islands — whose very name the two countries disagree about: China calls them the Diaoyu and Japan the Senkaku — touches one of the most sensitive nerves in Chinese culture: the Japanese occupation of China from 1937 to ’45.

“It may be hard for you to understand,” an expert at Beijing’s Academy of Military Science told me in October, echoing several others to whom I spoke. “The nationalist feeling, the emotion toward Japan, is very strong.”

Japan doesn’t seem to like China either

Japan’s recent militarization is driven, in part, because the feeling is mutual: polling shows that the animus in Japan toward China runs about as high as it does on the other side of the East China Sea. The “unfavorable feelings” of each side toward the other runs poisonously above 90%. It’s certainly hard to argue that China has done anything to Japan comparable to the 1937–45 occupation. But one scholar on Sino-Japanese relations argues the animus is about envy and anxiety toward the roaring Chinese dragon.

Down with Pete and Ichiro on the schoolyard

Joe Posnanski talks about Pete Rose, Ichiro and 4000 professional hits

You can change the numbers any way you like. I honestly do not see how a healthy Ichiro Suzuki, drafted as an 18-year-old in the U.S., does not have MORE than 4,000 hits right now in the Major Leagues.

Rose could have said that, of course. I like when Pete Rose acts generous. Maybe he doesn’t always mean it, but generosity suits him. He’s at his best when he’s talking about how great a player Johnny Bench was, what a joy it was to be teammates with Joe Morgan, how much he admires Derek Jeter, how much he loved playing in New York when the fans booed him, the kick he gets out of watching Bryce Harper play the game (Harper has met Rose and, in some ways, patterned his all-out style on Rose). I like the Pete Rose who is brash but openhanded enough to say, “Hey, man, I don’t know if he would have stayed healthy, but if Ichiro starts here, whew, I’m sweating.”

He has nothing to lose by saying that. It’s a free shot at generosity. Rose’s hit record is completely safe. Nobody is contemplating a change in the record books to allow Ichiro’s Japanese hits to count. How much better does it make him look if he simply says, “What an achievement. As someone who knows how hard it is to get hits whether you are, I can tell you that getting 4,000 hits around the world is absolutely fabulous and I applaud him?”

Pete Rose was a marvelous baseball player. He lined singles and doubles all over the park, he scored runs like nobody of his time, he played just about every position, he inflamed the imaginations of millions of baseball fans with the way he played, he was the MVP of perhaps the greatest World Series ever played.

Ichiro Suziuki is a marvelous player. He slashed and blooped and beat out singles all over the park, he stole a lot of bases, he unleashed jaw-dropping throws, he inflamed the imaginations of millions of baseball fans with the way he played and, more than that, opened their minds to the idea of just how good a Japanese baseball player can be.

Rose could have paid tribute to Ichiro without reminding people of his own greatness. But, I guess there’s a part of Pete that is always defending his turf. It might not be the best part of him. But it is certainly a part of him.

Japan’s PM kind of denies invading China and Korea

I don’t know how you hold this view and be considered credible anywhere.

“The definition of what constitutes aggression has yet to be established in academia or in the international community,” Mr. Abe said on Tuesday, according to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper. “Things that happened between nations will look differently depending on which side you view them from.”

In some translations, the hawkish Mr. Abe was quoted wondering about “what constitutes invasion.” Japanese language experts said “invasion” and “aggression” were both valid translations of what Mr. Abe said.

Mr. Abe, whose right-wing Liberal Democratic Party won a landslide election in December, also questioned his country’s pacifist post-war constitution, saying it had been drafted by “occupying forces.” Japan was under U.S. administration in 1947 when two American military officers drafted the constitution, which prohibits acts of war and limits the scope of the Japanese military.

“It’s like saying Hitler’s invasion of Poland wasn’t really an invasion. If a German chancellor had said the same thing, he or she would have had to resign,” South Korean political scientist Ko Sang-tu told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

An estimated 20 million people were killed in China between the outbreak of war in 1937 and Japan’s surrender to Allied forces in 1945. In Korea, which was first annexed by Japan in 1910, hundreds of thousands of men were used by Japanese troops as slave labourers during the Second World War, while hundreds of thousands of women were forced to become “comfort women” for the Japanese army.

Mr. Abe made his remarks in response to a question in parliament about his government’s position toward a 1995 apology issued by Japan’s then-prime minister, Tomiichi Murayama, for Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” in Korea.

Mr. Abe isn’t alone in his revisionism. He spoke the same day that a record 168 Japanese lawmakers visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine – where 14 Class A war criminals are among the honoured soldiers – drawing howls of protest from Beijing and Seoul, where visits to Yasukuni are seen as symbolic of Japan’s refusal to atone for its crimes against its neighbours. Former prime minister Taro Aso, now Mr. Abe’s Deputy Prime Minister, visited, while Mr. Abe – who visited last year while opposition leader – sent a ritual offering.

Japanese students are taught almost nothing about WWII

Japan like a lot of country’s with a dark past, struggle with educating their students about subjects like WWII.

There was one page on what is known as the Mukden incident, when Japanese soldiers blew up a railway in Manchuria in China in 1931.

There was one page on other events leading up to the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 – including one line, in a footnote, about the massacre that took place when Japanese forces invaded Nanjing – the Nanjing Massacre, or Rape of Nanjing.

There was another sentence on the Koreans and the Chinese who were brought to Japan as miners during the war, and one line, again in a footnote, on “comfort women” – a prostitution corps created by the Imperial Army of Japan.

There was also just one sentence on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Lost Generation

America’s lost generation

The world has seen a number of lost generations in the past century. Gertrude Stein first coined the term in 1920s in reference to the Europeans who grew up during World War I, but it’s most recently referred to Japanese youth who grew up during that country’s recession in the 1990s. In Japan, the lost youth are referred to as the hikikomori, and the decade of widespread unemployment meant that many of them never had the chance to start careers. In the 10 years of recession in Japan the number of young people working temporary or contract jobs doubled, and the collective hopelessness lead to a sky-rocketing suicide rate. Michael Zielenziger described the generation in his 2006 book Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation:

Across Japan, more than one million men and boys like Jun and Hiro and Kenji have chosen to withdraw completely from society. These recluses hide in their homes for months or years at a time, refusing to leave the protective walls of their bedrooms. They are as frightened as small children abandoned in a dark forest. Some spend their days playing video games. A few–an estimated 10 percent–surf the Internet. Many just pace, read books, or drink beer and shochu, a Japanese form of vodka. Others do nothing for weeks at a time.

Obviously, the Japanese and American cultures are incredibly different, and it’s impossible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of the two young generations. However, the new census data reads like a warning sign that American youth are increasingly challenged by listlessness, and it will likely lead to future consequences. "Many young adults are essentially postponing adulthood and all of the family responsibilities and extra costs that go along with it," assistant vice president of the Population Research Bureau told the AP. "Some of these changes started before the recession but now they are accelerating, with effects on families that could be long term."

Defense Spending by GDP

The Economist has an interesting article on defense spending by GDP.

Biggest military spenders by GDP ON JUNE 8th China’s top military brass confirmed that the country’s first aircraft carrier, a refurbishment of an old Russian carrier, will be ready shortly. Only a handful of nations operate carriers, which are costly to build and maintain. Indeed, Britain has recently decommissioned its sole carrier because of budget pressures. China’s defence spending has risen by nearly 200% since 2001 to reach an estimated $119 billion in 2010—though it has remained fairly constant in terms of its share of GDP. America’s own budget crisis is prompting tough discussions about its defence spending, which, at nearly $700 billion, is bigger than that of the next 17 countries combined.

It’s not totally accurate as the Illustrious is being converted to a helicopter carrier and England is building the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers and the reality is that the Invincible class of aircraft carriers was at the end of it’s life expectancy. 

It is interesting that despite the outrage of how much Canada has been spending on defense lately, we still spend less than Australia, Brazil, and Italy among the largest military spenders.  I was also surprised to see Turkey so high on the list and not not see Pakistan considering how much India spends.

2012

Greg Ip in the Washington Post

Let me take a stab at what the next crisis will be. Our deficit, as a share of GDP, is at a peacetime record, and the debt is climbing toward a post-World War II record. Thoughtful economists agree on the response: Combine stimulus for our fragile economy now with a plan to slash the deficit and stabilize the debt when the recovery is more entrenched.

Yet the approaching November midterms have made it impossible to advance a serious proposal for doing that. Congress has been unable to pass a budget, and the government is operating on a short-term "continuing resolution." President Obama’s plan for reining in the national debt consists of appointing a bipartisan commission that won’t report until after the midterms. Even if the commission can agree on a realistic plan to chop the deficit, the polarized state of Congress suggests slim odds of adoption.

With neither party able to muster the support to get serious about reducing the deficit, both may prefer to kick the problem down the road to after 2012, in hopes that the election hands one of them a clear mandate.

For now, there’s enough risk of Japanese-style stagnation and deflation that U.S. interest rates could remain very low for a while yet. But if that risk fades, investors in U.S. Treasury bonds will want to know how we’ll get our deficits and debt under control — and could demand higher interest rates to compensate for the uncertainty. By then, though, the 2012 campaign may be upon us. The Republican nominee will assail Obama’s fiscal record and promise a determined assault on the debt. Obama will respond by blaming George W. Bush and promising to unveil his own plan once he’s reelected. Neither will commit political suicide by specifying which taxes they’ll raise or which entitlements they’ll cut.

Will investors trust them, or will they start to worry that the endgame is either inflation or default, two tried-and-true ways other countries have escaped their debts? If it’s the latter, we’ll face a vicious circle of rising interest rates and budget deficits, squeezing the economy and potentially forcing abrupt and painful austerity measures.

And if, instead, the markets continue to give us the benefit of the doubt, relieving our politicians of the need to act: Circle 2016 on your calendar.

Stimulus Packages From Around the World

Since all our countries (sans Germany) are offering stimulus packages these days, I thought I would see how they stack up against each other.  The American one is by far the biggesest while Iceland’s economy took the hardest hit.  Many economists believe a lot of the figures being announced involved a mixture of truly new money and recycling of existing commitments, so it remains hard to evaluate the impact.

Japan :: The Finance Ministry’s draft budget suggested a spending increase of 6.6 percent to 88.5 trillion yen ($990.9 billion) for the next fiscal year — the biggest ever figure in an initial proposal.  The world’s second-largest economy fell into a recession in the third quarter, and the signs since then point toward more misery ahead. The latest outlook by the Cabinet Office projects Japan’s economy to shrink this fiscal year and manage only flat growth the following year.  The budget proposal said general spending will rise to 51.7 trillion yen ($578.9 billion) in the year starting April, even though tax revenue is projected to fall 13.9 percent to 46.1 trillion yen ($516.2 billion).  As a result, Japan will see its primary budget deficit jump to more than 13 trillion yen ($145.6 billion) from 5 trillion yen ($56 billion) this year, and will boost bond issuances by 31.3 percent to cover the revenue shortfall. – Source: IHT

USA :: Well, according to some sources, to put the bailout dollar amounts into proper historical perspective.   The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history. Crunching the inflation adjusted numbers, we find the bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

Bailout Cost: $4.6165 trillion dollars.  Of that $4.6 trillion dollars, $1.6 billion went to U.S. bank executive bonuses.

Plus, many economists are predicting another $400 billion in stimulus money once Barack Obama comes to office in January.

Source: BoingBoing

European Union :: In comparison to the American bailout, it is pretty small at $260 billion (1.5% of GDP) but this is on top of IMF interventions in some nations and on top of national efforts as well.   The British government earlier this week announced it would provide a 20 billion pound ($30 billion) fiscal stimulus, centered on a 13-month reduction in the value-added tax charged on most goods and services to 15% from 17.5%.   Germany has announced a package it says will spur investments worth as much as 50 billion euros. France is also mulling measures.  – Source: Marketwatch  For what it is worth, the IMF doesn’t think $200 billion is enough money.

Iceland :: The good news is the small Icelandic economy which was devastated by the credit crunch is recovering according to the IMF.  The economy is still a mess with a $1 billion deficit and Iceland’s key interest rate is currently at 18 percent, the highest in Europe.  The IMF has already paid out some 827 million dollars to Reykjavik, and the rest will be paid out in eight intervals of 155 million dollars provided Iceland meets its quarterly IMF reviews. The government has meanwhile forecast that the public debt would increase from 29 percent of GDP at the end of 2007 to just over 100 percent of GDP at the end of 2009. The IMF said at the end of October it expected the island’s economy to contract by a massive 10 percent next year.  Check out the Financial Times for more indepth news on Iceland’s economy.

Canada :: $30 billion over the next four years.  The Prime Minister doesn’t want to spend that money but the political reality may force him.  While the Canadian banks are doing well, they are hoarding cash right now and not making loans to businesses who need them.  There is also some debate over on how to create the stimulus.

Russia :: The financial crisis is presenting Russia’s ruling elite with the most serious challenge to its power in a decade. The Kremlin has responded by offering a bailout package and economic stimulus measures between them worth over $200 billion.  Russia’s sovereign debt was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s for the first time in 10 years on Dec. 8, stocks have lost about 70 percent of their value since May, and the central bank has spent $160.3 billion in a bid to support the rouble. – Source: Reuters

China :: A stimulus package estimated at 4 trillion yuan (about 570 billion U.S. dollars) will be spent over the next two years to finance programs in 10 major areas, such as low-income housing, rural infrastructure and transportation. Source: Xinhua

Argentina :: $3.8 in stimulus plus government intervention in pension funds and a $21 billion public works program – Source: New York Times

Australia :: 1% of GDP or $10 billion Source: Scoop

Can we not give you credit?

I was just contacted by a media company representing a Japanese band asking me if they can use a photo I took in a video they are creating.  They also asked if they could not give me credit for using it.  I have had my works ripped off before but no one has ever asked in advance to do it.  I am going to say yes just because I think it is cool they asked me first and because I want one of those shirts that say “I’m huge in Japan” and I want to wear it with some integrity 🙂