Monday, August 31, 2009

Excellent TV: Bahahahahaha. They lost.

Watching a number of TV stations report the election has been quite interesting for reasons other than seeing the LDP get completely stomped. Channel 6 had Beat Takeshi on as a non-commenting commentator. He barely said anything but was seated with the reporters through out the evening. I was informed that since it was a live broadcast, that they were afraid to let him on open mic because of his tendency to say things not supposed to be said on TV. The theory must have been that his mere appearance would attract viewers.

The stations had wildly different results at times, with NHK being one of the most conservative. Channel 11 on satellite was the quickest with its predictions often having the DPJ up to 20 seats more than some other stations.

What interested me for about 5 minutes---after which I became cross-eyed---were the messages from viewers that were streamed on the upper part of the screen. They were nothing special for the most part and one could hear the same sort of thing in most democracies during an election, especially one as historic mind-boggling as this one.

Below are just a random sample with no real logic for selecting them except that they are shorter messages which I could get quickly. Should be read with the caveat that these are not only are these my "inelegant" translations, but I had to read them and try to translate and write them down as fast as I could.

This country has changed. (A 20-something person.)

Can the DPJ really do it?

I'm worried the DPJ will raise insurance fees.

I don't want the DPJ to turn into the LDP.

I want the number of kids and students to increase.

From here it will be terrible.

I worry about Japan from now. (50 year old man.)

I want Japan to become a country that is easy to live in. (A person in his/her 20s.)

To Mr. Hatoyama: Is the DPJ the same as, or different from, the LDP?

Japan can also change.

I want politics to change 180 degrees from what it has been.

I am against the elimination of highway tolls.

Toward a new Japan. (50-something man)

Because we want Japan to change, this will be the election it begins.

One I could not really be sure of was from a woman who wrote something roughly like: "Everyone says the same thing, we saw America change and now we will too."

I wonder if this will be the election in which a bit of optimism begins in Japan. If so, now it's up to the DPJ to preserve and develop it. They cannot blow this opportunity.*

* As noted in the comments, they certainly can blow the opportunity.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I don't care. I don't care. I really don't

I've been trying to avoid it. I don't really wanna watch what is likely the certainty of a DPJ victory over the LDP. I mean nothing will please me more than to see the LDP slapped silly unless it would be to see it happen several times over the next decade. I figure with the election pretty much locked up---my commie wife even voted non-commie---that I would just wait and see what the DPJ actually is able to do when in power before getting all excited. I even tried watching Chibimariko-chan and Sazae-san to keep my finger off the remote that would lead me to any news about the election results which should start in an hour or so.

I have failed, mainly because of the damned blogs I have checked when not watching cartoons. Observing Japan has an Election Day Open Thread , and Our Man in Abiko has promised live coverage from 9PM which I am sure won't be replicated elsewhere. There may be others I haven't found yet. But I don't care. Means nothing to me.

8:33pm And it's just terrible. Results so far are 207 for the opposition and 51 for the LDP and its lone ally Komeito.

Duh! Trans-Pacific Radio is also covering the election live,as is Observing Japan.

Friday, August 28, 2009

We can help

video

(Revised and reposted.)

Apologies to Billy Swan. (Oh well...soundtrack has been removed....)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Recovery is on the way sooner than expected!!

On the evening that we foreign fools at my part-time job were informed (as I had expected) that we would be losing our annual guaranteed contracts and be converted to hourly contract workers if we chose to stay and if they can find any new business using the same old ideas and tactics, it is nice to know that the DPJ victory will boost consumer optimism. On 50% less salary, it will mine.

The opposition DPJ has been running on a platform to support households by giving cash to child-rearing families and eliminating highway tolls...

“With a strong DPJ victory, households will expect a boost in income,” said Adachi, a senior economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Tokyo. “That expectation may increase confidence in the economy.” Bloomberg

All I gotta do to get that income boost is to have a kid and buy a car.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Possible shady character busted

....American tourist asked a police officer for directions to the Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

The Californian, 74, could never have imagined the officer would reply to his question with: "Do you have a knife?"...Japan Times

And then, Tokyo's finest threw the fellow in the pokey for 10 days, informing his son (who is living in Japan) only the next day. Then, the upholders of all that is right and just; the protectors of society insisted that the son speak to his father in Japanese since they had no interpreter available.

Being a foreigner may have led police to ask the question because Shinjuku is also home to the Kabukicho red light district, which attracts a plethora of shady characters, including foreigners, the two lawyers said.

Nice to see that the Japan Times followed up on the original article with more details. The koban-sitters did not answer any questions about the case, as they don't discuss individual cases if there is any possibility that they would look like what they are.

To paraphrase---and take some license with---what was written about this incident earlier: Japan, where tourists have more to fear from the police or government than from criminals*.

Wonder if they run around asking yakuza such questions? (No, probably not.)

I shan't be bringing my parents here, even if I could convince them to endure the near 24 hours of travel that it would take.

*One should not feel that criminals are not a danger here. I had to add that for fear someone might think that criminals are nice in Japan.

Forget the flu, will vaccine work on the unique Japanese?

There are folks who are worried about the potential danger of swine flu this autumn. The US is predicting a 30-50% infection rate. With the crowded subways in Japan and the likelihood of many to go to work ill regardless of the consequences, the condemned might reasonably expect more. Achuuuu...AAAACCCCCHUUUUU!!!!!

I was concerned until my Colleague from Down Under explained how it was all bull and that we should believe it only "when a movie star, politician, or other famous person dies from it." I was relieved to hear that, especially since any already delayed vaccine would be further delayed until it tested safe for the supra-human Japanese body.

The Japanese government might not be able to import vaccine to combat the new type of influenza the H1N1 virus, or swine flu -- before autumn, when an epidemic of the disease is feared will intensify, as experts want pre-import confirmation that the vaccine is safe for Japanese patients, sources familiar with the matter said. The Hour

Years ago I received an e-mail asking if I was interested in participating in a testing program to determine the effects of certain medicines in the bakagaijin body as opposed to the Japanese. I somewhat unkindly turned down that thoughtful invitation to be a guinea pig in nihonjinron studies.

I know there can be some differences between certain groups of people as far as tendencies for some illnesses. I have heard a number of times---even from a pharmacist in Japan---that the gaijin body, always being bigger and apparently less-evolved, is less sensitive to medicine than a Japanese. (How do you determine a Japanese body? Is there a special Japanese DNA?)

So I find it a bit strange that when we were in the US and my wife would visit a doctor, dentist, or pharmacist, that they did not have a special Japanese-only medicine. As far as I know they used the same medicine as they did for normal humans. Must have been the change in diet.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Benefits of a real 2-party system

and it ain't even officially here yet:

With the election-favorite Democratic Party of Japan promising an investigation into a secret Japan-U.S. nuclear weapons deal, the Foreign Ministry is somewhat easing its decades-long stance that the agreement never existed....

... Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka repeated the ministry's denial of the existence of the agreement.

But he told reporters that Japanese and U.S. officials occasionally discussed the definition of "bringing nuclear weapons into Japan," for which the United States needed to consult Japan in advance. Asahi English edition(soon to vanish)

The pressure of a DPJ victory has got some folks so nervous that they are coming close to admitting what everyone already knows. Imagine the possibilities when the DPJ does come into power.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Sunday stroll through the neighborhood

On Sundays the wife goes off to play tennis and with her friend, The Firefighter's Wife, and probably afterward to badmouth both The Firefighter and me at some izakaya. This leaves me plenty of time to do other things. One which I enjoy is picking some nearby area in Tokyo/Yokohama and walking around aimlessly. Reminds me of one of my jobs.

Today I decided to avoid anything to do with train/subway travel and stayed close to home. Although I have lived in the area for about 3 years now, I still haven't seen it all.

I had barely walked 10 minutes when I met a very kind man in "downtown" Denenchofu. I knew that he was a kind man because he stopped for me as I waited at a crosswalk. At first I didn't trust him, having had much experience in crossing streets in the area, and thought he was tricking me and would suddenly accelerate and run me down as soon as I stepped off of the curb. However, since he was not driving a city bus, or a silver Mercedes, or a dark blue BMW coupe with Shinagawa tags, I decided to risk my life. Amazingly, he waited patiently while I crossed and did not enter the crosswalk until I was out of it. Hmmm. Must not have been from around here.

As I walked toward the Tama River via a route that I had not traveled before, I began to sense from the near monopoly of JCP campaign posters that I was in a heavily Communist-occupied area.
One might assume that such an area would force even more folk to obey the rules---this being Japan and all too---and I found this to be true. Folks here obey the rules as much as or more than everywhere else in Tokyo/Kanagawa.

I waddled in true Tokyo style on down to the river and observed a lovely Sunday afternoon scene that one could see only in Japan. Folks were relaxing and having fun while being concerned with others and naturally observing all the rules and laws as this sort of thing is in Japanese DNA.

I wouldn't know since Japanese is too Japanese to be understood by non-Japanese, but I think that sign reads: Please barbecue here. It could not say that barbecuing is prohibited.

I continued my walk, enjoying the unique and well maintained nature of the river side and soon passed under Maruko Bridge. I suddenly came upon a large number of parked cars in the area near the bridge where I noticed some men changing clothes. Had I not been in Japan I would have sworn a few of these fellows were about to do a Kusanagi except for small, somewhat strategically placed towels. Now I once heard from a Japanese gal who had never been to the US, but had visited Canada, that people could walk down the street nearly naked in the States, but I could not believe that the traditionally conservative and modest Japanese would be sitting around naked in an open, crowded, public area. I was tempted to hang around in the interest of research to see if any women would join the display, but had to move on. Unfortunately, I didn't have the courage to snap a few nudie pix, but since this sort of thing doesn't happen here, I could not have taken them anyway.

Resuming my stroll I went down a newly opened walkway, dodging mamachari and their morons. Fortunately, there are rules about riding these high-tech machines where I was walking.

The signs apparently say: Please feel free to ride your clunker like some sort of drunken idiot along this path and see how many people you can run down.


Then I began to head home. I took my time as I walked through Tamagawadai Park, pausing often to listen to the cicadas. Of course I was unable to do so, because as the great intellektual, Masahiko Fujiwacko, informed us, only Japanese enjoy insect sounds or some horsepooky like that. Frustrated at my racial/ethnic/national origin inferiority, I gave up and left.


Not long afterward, I reached Denenchofu eki. (That's a real Japanese word. No need for it here, but I threw it in just to show that I am a member of an in-group. Watch this: 駅. Oooohhhh, kanji!) Denenchofu has been referred to as the Beverly Hills of Tokyo, apparently by folks who have never been to Beverly Hills. Most folks here are successful in some way, or else descendants of people who owned land in the area years ago. People do not become successful in Japan unless they obey the rules. Which rules, I don't know, but I guess they do.
I had mixed emotions as I returned to my mansion. Why can't the rest of the world be as polite, law-abiding, and rule-obeying as we are in Japan? You'd have to try really hard to find anyone other than a non-Japanese breaking rules or laws here. It's all part of the unique uniqueness of the country. I aspire to be able to do as the folks I saw today, but I haven't the guts, for I don't think the koban-sitters would understand.

WTF does blogger preview have no resemblance to the actual post? Why do I have to play around in HTML? OK, back to the old editor. It wasn't perfect, but it's better than the new and improved version.

A video for all of us



At first I thought someone had made it just for me, N-san, my Colleague from Down Under, and the management at my company. Naturally I am late in finding this, but thanks to Japan Probe here it is.

Change: We've listened.

Down with sound trucks!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The party winds down?

Monthly figures can be volatile, and can be revised, so it is risky to draw conclusions from one month’s data. (Why should we ever let that stop us?)

...Asia’s appetite for Treasury securities is not growing as fast as it once did. That means the United States will have to turn to other buyers, including American citizens, who are now saving as they did not do during the boom years, to finance the deficits...

As usual, Japan fails to surprise:

...Japan, which was replaced by China as the largest foreign holder of Treasuries last year, has been a larger buyer this year, taking up 11 percent of the new supply of Treasuries...New York Times

Perhaps that is what Yukio Hatoyama meant by "maintain its....economic independence."

In 5 years we'll look back and see if any of this turned out to be true. Otherwise, it's just an interesting fluctuation which is useful for newspaper reports and blog posts derived from them.

Gubbermint's been too busy to worry about such things

"(Government officials have been) slow to react. They say the people have become lax (about swine flu) in recent months, but they have, too." Norio Sugaya, an infectious disease expert at Keiyo Hospital in Kanagawa.

Lax? I haven't read of the government doing much of anything to prepare, except advise people to gargle, wash hands and wear masks of which Sugaya says:

"The virus is not so mild that you can prevent it just by doing those things."

The place where I work part-time has taken action by sending out a 3-sentence memo back in May which basically said if you have symptoms of flu please refrain from coming to work. I replied and asked what we should do if we encounter clients who appear to be ill with flu-like symptoms. Wrong question. No official policy on that. Gambatte.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Maintaining my sanity and healthy mind

It was not an especially good day. Yes, I (always somewhat surprisingly) survived my early morning bike ride with only one near accident with an absolute idiot, but the fact that I was even out riding would make me the 2nd absolute idiot.

Later I got on my train and it was empty enough that I could even sit. Not only could I sit, I could do so without the gal or guy next to me nodding off repeatedly on my shoulder. Nobody had their cheap, tinny-sounding, earphones listening to what sounds like a cat-fight in a garbage can on either. No one coughed or sneezed on me, and nobody got a chance to push or shove me or cut me off when I exited.

It was beginning to look like a nice day made nicer by the fact that I would not be doing this mind-numbing job tomorrow, but I had to drop by The Office. While in the lobby while waiting for the World's Slowest Elevator to go from the 2nd floor to the 3rd---for some reason, that seems to be the only place where I am never in a hurry---two the of the women who work on the mysterious Fourth Floor joined me.

The Fourth Floor is where the Big Guys work. They wear very expensive suits and have nicely styled hair. One fellow has a Koizumi-type mop, but somehow lacks Lobo's charisma. He is sorta like a combination of John Kerry and AlGore with Koizumi hair. Don't know what The Big Guys do exactly, but I do know that they retired many moons ago from the parent company and were sent down to guide us and help absorb all the extra money that would otherwise be spent on raises, bonuses, updating our OS from Windows 2000, the occasional implementation of a new idea, and other such waste.

Anyway, the gals from The Fourth Floor informed me that a foreigner on the 3rd---the peon floor---had caught the New Flu. Oh goody! Apparently he had been coughing for a few days and finally went to the hospital where they diagnosed Swine Flu. I immediately thought of Ms. U who has been coughing since January, usually from the desk across from mine, pausing only to scream into the telephone. (Ms. U does not understand the purpose of a phone. She talks loud enough on one that if she were to open a window and use the same volume, she could make an international call to the US using only her mouth.) Then I remembered that Ms. U is neither a man nor a foreigner.

When I got to the third floor I excitedly inquired about the wonderful news. No, it seems it was not a foreigner, but a Japanese guy who might have swine flu. Well, I could understand the mistake made by the gals from the Fourth Floor, 'cause you'd expect that a foreigner would be the one to infect the office, and not the other way around.

Still, the news made me a little hesitant about hanging around the contaminated office. (Using the keyboards makes you want to cut your fingertips off afterward as a sanitary measure. I once took mine apart to clean it which convinced everyone that I was even more whacked than rumored.) I decided to cut the visit short, but was unable to escape before the scheduler saw me and asked me to wait. Sure. Anything for you Ms. Y so that you don't get pissed and try to screw me yet again.

While waiting, I decided to read an article from the Christian Science Monitor that I had found earlier through a link posted at Shisaku. After reading the article I became a bit perplexed:

"How should Japan maintain its political and economic independence and protect its national interest when caught between the United States, which is fighting to retain its position as the world's dominant power, and China, which is seeking ways to become dominant? This is a question of concern not only to Japan but also to the small and medium-sized nations in Asia. They want the military power of the US to function effectively for the stability of the region but want to restrain US political and economic excesses." [Emphasis mine]

Maintain its political and economic independence? Don't you have to have something in order to maintain it? And I am quite touched to learn that the nations of Asia want the US to continue to send the less financially well off of its young men and women and its tax money to stabilize an area that either no other country/countries can or else have more sense than to try. Since Hatoyama wants an "equal relationship" with the US though, perhaps Japan will contribute 50/50 in money and military for this.

Then I remembered that it had been pointed out on the Shisaku post that Hatoyama's article had all the weight of chicken feathers or something to that effect, so I decided to just wait and see what Yukio actually does rather than worry about what he says he will do. Besides, Ms. Y had come back to happily inform me that I would get to take an all expenses paid trip to Saitama in early September.

Normal folks do not consider Saitama close to where I live, but she did. "Oh, it's only about 30 minutes from Shinjuku by the Shonan line!" Since I don't live in Shinjuku, and since she knows I don't live in Shinjuku, I knew that it was quite far away and a lot of trouble to get to. She always mentions some station other than the one which I will be departing from when the destination is very far away. She thinks it makes me think that it is closer. Or perhaps she thinks that I am too dumb to add the time from my home to Shinjuku and figure out that it ain't really 30 minutes away.

But the train home from Otemachi later in the evening proved to be about normal. I was first in line and found an empty seat (an end seat too!) and was able to slip right into it without being pushed, shoved, kicked, bit, or cut off. There was no fragrance of ripe armpits, garlic-and-sake-laced breath, no constant sniffing of the runny nose, no cough-in-the face---I was feeling pretty smug about my prize.

Of course, it was not to be. The young girl beside me had her damned cat-fight-in-the-garbage-can tunes leaking through her cheap-ass earphones. (Naturally, they couldn't have been made in Japan.) Tried to ignore. Could not. Got up and moved across the aisle into my favored protected area beside the door. I could still hear the thing. Everyone else acted like they couldn't.

A guy got on at the next stop and took the seat. I watched. Within a minute he turned and looked directly at her. He said nothing. Just a hard stare that lasted maybe two seconds. She did not look back at him, but just after he looked away, she opened her purse and turned off her noise-maker.

I have tried that. It never works for me.

Makes me wanna go there



Zen-like, a side-by-side existence of the ancient and ultra modern.

"The West not only loves Japan, but it also seems to love to love Japan, almost unconditionally and in a hyper-realistic way."

Not a rant from someone who wants to bash his head against a brick wall every time he hears some nonsense about mysterious, exotic, weird, inscrutable Japan and its people, but from Japan Exposures.

He is writing about some photos taken in Japan, in particular the way that the most mundane and stereotypical seem draw raves as long as it can be identified as "Japan," especially as the exotic Japan of the imagination.

I wonder how many new identical photos of Kyoto's Kinkokuji exist? Millions? Billions? I have a few and I nearly got trampled to death by a horde of very polite people in order to get them. Afterward, I wondered why since they were from the same spot and under the same light and conditions as thousands of others which are easily accessible---and even printable---online.

When I was in high school, I remember looking through a photography book with mostly monochrome landscapes of Japan. I don't think there were any photos of Mt. Fuji or of any other place that was recognizable as Japan. I finally gave up in disgust after looking at a photo taken near the seacoast and wondering why anyone would go to Japan just to take photos that were not much different in content than one could take anywhere else. Don't recall feeling the same way about photos taken in other countries.

Still gotta get the shot of Shibuya crossing with its huge crowds of people which is so typical of Japan. And while I am there, maybe I can get one of Hachiko too, since Richard Gere's destined-to-be-a-classic Hachiko has started playing. Oh, and a geisha...and a few more photos of Fujisan...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back to "normal"

Last September, the "greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression" began. At the time, and for months afterward, I thought that the world---at least as it pertains to the US, Japan, and China---had changed forever. You could read about it everywhere which, of course, made it true. The over-consumption of US consumers would stop now and forever; not just until the economy recovered. And the US government? It would have to start paying its own way and stop borrowing from overseas. Taxes would have to be raised.

Japan, which has relied on an export-driven economy for decades would no longer be able to do so with the reduction in consumption in the US. Without the ability to export unemployment rely on exports to the US, it would no longer be able to fund the US party.

I was so surprised (why?) by the developments of that fall and the early winter, that I actually started taking Paul Krugman seriously! (The Obama administration didn't. Points for Barack.) Fortunately, the crisis and the recession seem to be all but over now.

There have been a number of articles in the last 24 hours reporting that Japan may be* coming out of the recession and they point to...sigh...exports as driving the recovery. I guess that's no shock, what else would?

The expansion was in line with the 0.9 percent growth forecast that was the average of 10 economists surveyed last week. A 1.2 percent growth in public demand helped offset a 1.3 percent fall in demand from the private sector, the data showed. Overall domestic demand fell 0.7 percent from the previous quarter.

Recovery in these critical overseas markets whittled down inventories and released some pent-up demand, bolstering Japan’s exports of cars and electronics. Exports grew 6.3 percent from the previous quarter, while imports fell 5.1 percent. NYT

Strangely, for all of the monumental, historic changes that were said to be the likely result of the financial crisis, I can't find much about the US or Japan doing much to prepare for the new world. In the US, we can still have it both ways, government benefits and no tax increases except on some bad guys and the rest will be paid for with cuts in wasteful spending. In fact, they'll "pay for themselves." Bahahahahaha!

We've heard for at least 25 years that these sort of things can't go on forever, but then they do. Kind of makes economics seem like a social science heavily influenced or perhaps driven by political beliefs and a group of folks who---stealing a quote from here--- "think arithmetic is a substitute for reality." Oh wait...did I say seem like?

*A very iffy maybe.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

JT poll 2

So now I see what the Japan Times poll posted about below is measuring: How much people hate anyone screaming through loudspeakers in public, politician or not. Anyone having to live or work near that probably ain't gonna care too much about improving campaigns; only shutting down the noise.

A few cups of coffee at the Starbucks above Oimachi station during campaign season would make anyone understand that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Performance

In honor of Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu, the first two Japanese to finish the Tour de France. And they didn't even use mama-chari tactics:



Perhaps to really get the satire you need to be a "Serious Cyclist." Or maybe at least know a few.

A piece of an already too small mind: JT poll

The Japan Times runs "polls" about once a week where they "survey" reader opinions on various subjects. Some folks would say that these types of polls are completely meaningless since they only measure the number responses to a restricted set of pre-chosen choices---none of which may even express a person's opinion---and the fact that they measure only the responses of people who visit the Japan Times and respond to meaningless polls. Then there are the cranks who will select the most absurd response on the poll just to screw up an already screwy poll.

For the last week the Japan Times has run a poll (A piece of your mind: Campaign conditions) asking about hypothetical changes to Japan's extremely restrictive campaign laws. 1441 people have replied as of today. The most popular hypothetical revision? Limit the volume level of loud speakers with 60% support. A distant second is a cap on campaign spending (!!!) at 17%. Third is to allow politicians to update their blogs and websites during the campaign at 12%. Last is to allow door-to-door canvassing at 3%.

Just hoping the respondents are joking or else it would make one question if a large number of these 1441 people have any idea what is going on in Japan.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Priorities

Magnitude 6.5 Quake Jolts Japan, Unlikely to Affect Stocks*

Headline of a Wall Street Journal article on Google news. What a relief! The first thing people think about when an earthquake strikes is: "My god, I hope this doesn't affect the Nikkei!"


*Don't know if the link works as WSJ has not allowed any access to their site from any computer in my home---even through Google News---since I canceled my subscription 2 years ago.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The answer to all problems at last!

Forget the politicians. The way forward for Japan is to spread the use of TOEIC! It has been so effective already that using it more is almost a no brainer.

"Just imagine what it would be like if TOEIC spread to junior high and high schools all over Japan. The results would astonish people around the world. Japan would rise like a phoenix from the ashes, and Japanese women and men would begin to play more important roles on the international stage," says some fellow from the totally unbaised Institute for International Business Communication. Japan Times

DPJ's Okada comments at Reuters event

I think trying to move currency rates artificially when they are in line with
economic fundamentals would be undesirable in the long run."

If we do not change the model of relying on exports, there will be no future for
Japan's
economy.

We do not particularly want Keidanren to support us. We will firmly stress our
policies
to the voters.

[Concerning nuclear policy]if Japan thinks there is no mistake if it just follows
what the United States says, then
I think as a sovereign nation that is very pathetic."

More of his comments covering various topics at Reuters here.

It all sounds nice. Now if only his party actually makes progress on these after
it gets in power.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's like?

Okada, who would likely have a key role in the new government if the opposition party takes power, criticized what he described as Japan's obedience to Washington. Tokyo has largely followed the lead of the U.S. over the last five decades despite sharp policy changes under the 11 different U.S. presidents who have served during that time.

"It's like Japan hasn't had its own diplomacy, or its own opinions," he said at a briefing Monday for a small group of foreign journalists. CBS

The DPJ's Katsuya Okada talking about his vision of Japan when the DPJ wins the election. What does he mean by "It's like"? Ya mean Japan has had it's own diplomacy and opinions? How was anyone supposed to know that?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Sunday stroll in Edo.


It was a rare break in the rain in the theoretically over rainy season, so I decided to take a stroll through Tameikesanno and Kamiyacho.

After managing to survive the street crossing from the ATT building side of the street to the ANA hotel side---it being Sunday, there were fewer taxis playing chicken with pedestrians trying to cross---my wanderings led me up over the hill to the wooded area behind Shiroyama Hills.

It is a nice little "green" area to spend some time when in that part of town wanting escape noise and idiots. There was an old couple sitting on a bench with a similar idea as I passed by looking for a place to sit.

I soon became absorbed in the quiet, hoping for a glimpse of the birds I often see there. Within a few minutes, I heard them. Not the birds. The voices. They seemed to be shouting, perhaps in ancient Japanese. I could not make out what was being screamed, except what seemed to be singing and shouts that sounded like the phrase "moon killing" in English. I felt as though I might be hearing the voices of the spirits of long gone samurai engaged in some forgotten battle in the area. I've seen samurai movies, so I know what it would sound like. It was either that or perhaps World Series game 7 was going on nearby.

Becoming a bit uncomfortable sitting there with a bunch of noisy, fanatical spirits engaged in combat somewhere nearby, I decided to mosey on over to the Kamiyacho Tsutaya to read some books without buying any. Usually there are fewer people than usual with the same idea in that particular Tsutaya on Sundays.

On the way I got a hint. There must be a festival going on, I thought to myself, as there are all kinds of traditional lanterns hanging about. I admired them for a while, thinking how nice it was to be in a land where money and profit matters less than in other places. What could that ancient script say, I wondered. Probably some ancient wisdom, as it most certainly could not be greedy commercialism or local business names.

Then I saw it. It wasn't samurai, but a sort of samurai wannabes out practicing free speech. As I quickly pulled out my fine NTT DoCoMo cell phone and went about 373 folders deep in the menu to launch my camera just in time to get a high quality video/audio file of the last of the fine fellows as they took off to circle around yet again and ruin everyones Sunday.

video

I canceled the visit to Tsutaya.

Oops. He can't say that!

Apparently, there have been some calls for Japan to ask the US to reject pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons. On the evening NHK TV news* Aso basically rejected the idea as unrealistic, and the head of the Social Democratic Party expressed her anger that LDP was not going to press the US to do such a thing.

Then, most embarrassingly, Kazuo Shii of the JCP gave his opinion saying that it was hypocritical of Japan to talk of controlling nukes when it was under the US nuclear umbrella.

Friggin' Commie.

*I listened to the English subchannel on NHK and I am going by their translation.
video

Friday, August 07, 2009

Good Service

....Twitter relies on just one vendor to provide its link to the Internet backbone: NTT Communications, a subsidiary of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, based in Tokyo....Computer World

But we can't use Twitter on DoCoMo phones?

Trust us. We're from the gubbermint.

Anyone in Japan for the long term (i.e. borderline lunatics) might wanna take a look over at Japan Economy, News & Blog to assist in understanding the true giggle-worthiness of the promises of the major political parties. Seems the the pension fund, which ain't yet near being hit as hard as it will be, lost 10.17 trillion yen in 2008, the third straight year of losses. Methinks that both parties are orbiting Mars.

I wonder, should the country have a serious crisis when the baby boom retirees reach critical mass, will the Japanese government offer non-Japanese retirees---those who have not taken citizenship---a free ticket home in lieu of their earned pension similar to what it has done to some other inconvenient and potentially expensive immigrants recently? Or will they just not pay the promised benefits?

One could put his/her extra cash in the bank at whatever barely positive interest rate is being offered. After 20 years you might be able to use the accrued interest to make a down-payment on a Kit Kat. Or one could perhaps invest in domestic equities. I haven't paid much attention to them for a while, so I don't know what the average P/E is----maybe 9,000,000:1?

No worry though. We can trust the gubbermint. Besides, people---including immigrants---have rights here. Bet your future on it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Must be missing something

I know that it would be good for Japan for the LDP to lose, and perhaps stay out of power for a few elections until the DPJ becomes corrupt and the LDP can come back for a few terms until they forget who they represent and become corrupt and another party takes over until it becomes corrupted by power. Something like in the US, perhaps.

Although I sincerely hope the LDP gets pulled through the sewer for a while, I ain't got a nickel's worth of confidence in anything the DPJ says. The words all sound nice, and yea, they could hardly be worse than the LDP mess, I think it is mostly hot air. Look at the equine feces Kohei Otsuka excreted recently:

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan will try to contain budget spending if it wins this month’s election, even though it pledges to lower taxes and increase handouts for child care, lawmaker Kohei Ohtsuka said.

“We’ll want to step up efforts to maintain fiscal discipline in next year’s budget more than what was done with this year’s budget,” Ohtsuka, who is his party’s vice policy chairman, said in an interview in Tokyo yesterday. “We’re going to do all we can to maintain fiscal discipline.”* Bloomberg

OK, it's kinda vague and wishy-washy, but anyone who has followed US politics recognizes this garbage. You can have all the government you want and not have to pay for it---we'll reduce waste and raise taxes on the other guy. It works well there, so why not here? Seriously. Why not? We've heard economists for years claim that this can't go on forever (unless the party which they support is in power and then it's all fine and dandy), but yet it does.

You have to wonder if any either of these parties have any real plans for anything other than to get elected then try to patch something together.

In my informal "focus group"---friends, a few co-workers, acquaintances, and relatives---I have sensed a lessening of enthusiasm for "change" itself and nervousness over what it will mean to have a new party in power.

A bureaucrat acquaintance shows the most hesitation---perhaps because the DPJ has been attacking the bureaucracy. He surprised me a few weeks ago by asking who I would vote for prime minister if I could. I could not give any decent answer as I have never given it any thought. "It's very hard to chose which person is most qualified," he said, which was a change from a few months ago when he was very much leaning to the DPJ. Then he added something else: "If the party changes and we get a lot of new laws, it's gonna be a lot of work for us."

My Japanese tutor, who knows and cares little about politics---when I told her that I had seen Katsuya Okada wearing a big fake grin and waving at everyone at one of the entrances to Kawasaki Station last Saturday morning, she had no idea who he was---had a similar line of thinking as my bureaucrat buddy, "It's really difficult to decide which to vote for."

N-san, the fellow afraid to drink poisonous-to-Japanese hard water, seems to have lost any interest in politics at all. He will, with the enthusiasm of a robot, still claim support for the DPJ but with none of the emotion and anger at the LDP that he showed in the spring.

As far as relatives go, nothing has really changed. They have hated and despised the LDP for decades and would vote in a bunch of lizards in preference to that party, but show no enthusiasm for the DPJ except that it can stand-in for the group of lizards.

What does any of that mean? Not much, if anything. Just like the promises of either the LDP or the DPJ, I'll bet.

Well, history being made and all of that. Change and such. Yee-haw.

*And in a recession, too! Kill two birds with one stone---stimulate and discipline.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

No more language study

You know it's gonna happen sooner or later. Disregarding the fact that Google translation is such a joke that it it's barely worth using, sooner or later there's going to be software that can actually translate into a reasonably correct sentence/idea perhaps even equal to the level of a first semester student. Of course, it probably won't work with Japanese since that is such a mysterious language that even the simplest sentences cannot be accurately translated or understood:

"Only the Japanese can understand an implied meaning of indirect message which is quite confusing to non-Japanese, if it is translated into English."

A British woman who lived in Tokyo* for a number of years before moving to Australia, has been working on an interesting project related to an instant messenger which will theoretically allow folks who speak different languages to chat together in their native language---as long as it is not Japanese, of course.

No hours, weeks, months, and years of language study. You'll even be able to watch good movies like Yureru and grasp the very useful phrase fuzaken ja nee (ふざけんじゃねえ), which as I understand the meaning---if it is actually understandable by a non-Japanese---would be an appropriate response to Mr. De Mente (below).

*Her often hilarious Japan posts were in 2005-06.

Must have book!

For any future Japan explainer, this book seems a necessity. Haven't read it yet, and hell will likely freeze into a solid block of ice before I do, but I am sure it's a winner:

Why the Japanese are a Superior People
, by Boye Lafayette Demented De Mente

"In addition to such topics as emotions vs. reason, the “fuzzy” [holistic] thinking of the Japanese vs the linear thinking of other people, the diligence factor in Japanese behavior, and quality vs profit, De Mente identifies a long list of views and practices that distinguish the Japanese from left-brain oriented people — and are important for foreigners to know about."

Quality vs profit? Cool, without profit and market share in a non-rigged market, how can you keep quality up? Is the housing (and some other parts of the construction industry) an example of quality? Why the layoffs when profit is so far down the list? This book will explain all. (Hint for future success: Add vowels to your language.)

Gotta get in on this book-writing scam.