Monday, August 30, 2010

Meaningless policy changes

“There seems to be a sense of fatalism. The B.O.J. continues to play the same old game of making incremental, but ultimately meaningless, policy changes in response to political pressure,” said Richard Jerram, economist for Japan at the global investment bank, Macquarie.

“The government talks of the need for fiscal reconstruction, but then tries to construct an economic stimulus package with tiny fiscal measures and minor, uncoordinated structural reforms,” Mr. Jerram said. Intervention in the currency markets “looks necessary, but is absent,” he said. NYT

Why not? The country is run about the same as some of the domestic-only countries. A new or different idea could cause confusion and may require someone in a high position to admit that they haven't now, nor have they ever had, a clue of what they are doing.

What's up with the BOJs latest plan for easing its easy monetary policy? If nobody wants to borrow what good does more money to lend do? Didn't Einstein define insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Or does anyone really expect different results?

When reading about the economy in the US and that in Japan one runs a serious risk of depression other than economic.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Another perspective on Ozawa's rationale

Somewhere I read that Ozawa just might have decided to run against Kan because Kan had damaged the party with his curious idea to suggest a doubling of the consumption tax which cost the DPJ the July election. A possibility, but one which would not explain why Ozawa would risk doing even more damage to the party.

There's a more interesting explanation of Kan (and Hatoyama's) possible motives at Dispatch Japan.

Despite his flaws, Ozawa hardly resembles the money-hungry, power-grabbing, political opportunist he is so often made out to be. In person he is charming, genuinely warm, and very loyal to friends. Quaint or not, he lives by the samurai ethic of service to the nation while expecting from those he deals with the respect accorded a person of influence and power...

...Far from a political opportunist, Ozawa has been unusually consistent with his policy prescriptions.
..Dispatch Japan, Peter Ennis

Ennis explains Loopy Hatoyama's flip-flop as due to Kan's refusal to allow Ozawa more influence in the party, although Hatoyama will still try to work out a deal between the two.

And Ozawa is still not anti-American. Don't have any info about his feelings for the British...

Friday, August 27, 2010

And speaking of Twitter: Saoshi Kon's

final words in English, here. Satoshi Kon, the anime directer who died at 46 of pancreatic cancer yesterday. Quite poignant for lack of a better word...well worth the read.

18:33: OK, a somewhat better word---unforgettable.

Show Ozawa n' Loopy how you feel

When I first saw this on suddenly addictive Twitter by a Japanese reporter, I thought that it was a joke, but I guess not:

The Sept. 14 election, the DPJ's first major presidential race since 2002, will be open not only to Diet lawmakers but also to regional assembly members and the estimated 350,000 registered party members across the nation.

DPJ regulations allow anyone who is 18 or older to become a member of the party,....
....[including] foreigners living in Japan. Japan Times.

There is, according to the article, some question about the legality.

I doubt votes by foreigners would be sufficient to have any effect, but it might make one feel better.


Really. I've given up.* The One-with-Whom-I-Share-a-Mansion, a woman with a US university degree who has spent the last 15 years dealing with derivatives in a large US firm that was bailed out by US taxpayers, has basically agreed with Ozawa on one thing---Americans are simple-minded. She is specifically referring to the understanding of Japanese politics. And most specifically, to me.

Not that her opinion is above suspicion as she has supported the commies in spite of the fact that she is in no way a commie. She often votes commie because they are the "opposite" of the LDP. "How about Ozawa?," I asked over a decade ago after being impressed with his English language book (A Normal Country? I forget. See Google search). "Baka! He's the same! Sneaky and cares only about himself." Koizumi? The same. Maybe worse. However, the fact that she has a US university education may have simple-minded her to the extent that she doesn't understand.

A few weeks ago, Gerald Curtis stated that we are in a "period of creative destruction and the destructive phase is not yet over." Boy was he correct. Whereas this destructive phase may be interesting and fun to study for academic purposes, when one is living here and will probably continue to do so for quite a number of years (good lord, why?) it ain't academic. These clowns and their stunts will have a significant impact on people's lives, and that impact does not look positive.

Just over a year ago, when the DPJ's chance for victory began to become realistic and enthusiasm was palpable---especially among the younger (say 45 and below)---I was working at an architectural office in Akasaka-mitsuke. This office was filled with sharp, relatively young people, most with overseas experience and education. It was run by a U.S. educated woman who was the opposite of the stereotypical Japanese woman. Not a fool there, except for me.

In the spring of that year, I was chatting with one especially bright young fellow and smugly giving my brilliant opinions on Japanese (and US) politics. Then he asked me a simple question for which I had no sensible answer. Talking about the LDP, he asked, "How do we get them out?"*** The easy reply would have been to say, "Vote them out," but I could not say that. It seemed childishly simple-minded---like me---and actually meaningless.

Ultimately, the LDP was voted out. But what the hell have we got in its place?

Apologies for the gratuitous use of Japanese in the header, something I have tended to do more of recently. I plead, and can prove, insanity.

*For the duration of this post.

**Which she refers to as "gambling" and sneers at the idea of supposed sophisticated investors who really understand them.

***The LDP still had a myth of near invincibility.

1455 edited for the normal spelling/grammar errors,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ozawa to the rescue

NHK just reported that Ozawa will run against PM Kan for the head of the DPJ. The good news never ends.

12:10: Tell me it ain't so, Yukio. (in Japanese)

2PM: I must be the last to learn everything, even the NYT has the Ozawa story, the Japan Times recently added a report that included Loopy's involvment, and Some Fellow up in Abiko knew about it 5 hours ago. Need to pay more attention to Twitter.

2:55 Japan Real Time on Loopy Hatoyama's Latest Waffle. Obviously all this maneuvering has confused simple-minded Americans, even here.

Ever notice how bad the NYT's search is? It cannot even locate it's own stories unless you go into advanced search. I understand the NYT will start charging for its online news soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010


The ex-Yakuza fellow turned Buddhist-with-a-U.S.-liver, and main subject of the book, Tokyo Vice, has written his own book. Tokyo Subculture has just posted an interview of the kindly old man. As is not unusual for the possibly right-leaning (certainly not left) fellows of his type, he is also somewhat concerned with the lack of patriotism and national pride among Japan's young.

I was pleased to see that he admired Shigeru Yoshida and Nobusuke Kishi for hanging tough when thousands opposed the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. I believe that there were some folks of his profession who assisted with crowd control during those troubled times. Unfortunately, despite everyone's best efforts, "I like Ike" was not an especially popular slogan among the trouble-making demonstrators, and then-President Eisenhower's trip to Japan was canceled. The treaty is still around though.

I was even happier to see that not only has Mr. Goto found religion and written a book, but that he also shown a taste for fine literature by mentioning the classic by Masahiko Fujiwara, The Dignity of the Nation.

August 25: Thanks to Durf for pointing me toward The Dignity of the British Nation. I somehow missed it back when Fujiwara's tome came out, but it seems that Britain is in many ways similar to Fujiwara's Japan. Masahiko even hinted at that in his book.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I think anyone who is interested in Japan would be interested in following the posts at the National Bureau of Asian Research' NBR Forums. It is a moderated forum with many well-known participants of various nationalities. Over the last week or so, Hiroshima has been a major topic (temporarily) displacing the still unbelievable Futenma mess.

It ain't your normal Japan forum about how to increase charisma for the "J-babes." Or, I suppose, "J-hunks."

(The one-with-whom-I-share-a-mansion does not allow me to use the term "J-babe." Unfortunately, I was hitched long before I got here and did not get to take full advantage of charisma-man benefits.)
Back about 20 years ago (good lord I must be getting old, but no problem as I am still a spring chicken in Japan) James Fallows wrote in one of his books something along the lines of "Every white person in the US should spend some time in Japan to learn what it is like to be discriminated against."

The esteemed Dr. Laura, who is very familiar with the need for a sense of humor since someone with one awarded her a doctorate, has announced that she is quitting her radio show. She announced that just a short while after getting in trouble (and later sincerely---I'm sure---apologizing) for using the N-word repeatedly on her program. After listening to her broadcast, one could be forgiven for thinking that her use of the N-word is not the most troubling part of her bizarre, illogical rant.

I would not say that living in Japan as a non-Japanese---especially a white non-Japanese---is equal in the extent and history of discrimination that African-Americans face in the US, but maybe Dr. Laura should spend a little (a lot) of time living here not as a monied expat in a gaijin ghetto, but living among the hoi polloi. Maybe then the psycho psychologist would have some clue of what her caller felt. Of course had the trained expert actually listened to the caller, she might have had a clue without moving here.

Aug 23: As for the euphemism itself, the Washington Post has some thoughts.

Goggle/blogger spell-check does not recognize either hoi polloi or monied as words.

Friday, August 20, 2010

WSJ, Reason, and Nobel Paul dissed

The notion that the U.S. recession will turn us into Japan emerged immediately after the September 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, and has proved to be one stubborn meme. You might think that the actual growth of the U.S. economy over the last four quarters would dampen the Japan talk, but you would be wrong*....

...These days, how you use the Japan argument is really a proxy for what you believe about fiscal stimulus... Slate Moneybox

Oh thank you James Ledbetter. Of course his article will prove futile...

Disappoints me about Reason, though, as I used to read that magazine back in my Ayn Rand days. WSJ too, but their position is knee-jerk predictable.

*The link to Seeking Alpha is from the original article.

Dissed must be passe now that I have used it.

Barely concealed contempt*

Ian Buruma's recent Yomiuri op-ed, Japan's Unfinished Reformation, about how the Obama administration "has barely concealed its contempt for the DPJ" is now on line.

Revolutions, it is often claimed, do not happen when people are desperate. They occur in times of rising expectations. Perhaps this is why they so often end in disappointment. Expectations, usually set too high to begin with, fail to be met, resulting in anger, disillusion, and often in acts of terrifying violence.

And, as he notes, disillusionment has already set in.

The Nobel Prize in Peace 2009 was awarded to Barack H. Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples".

*It was certainly "barely" concealed for PM Hatoyama.

3:30PM: Edited to correct the incorrect spelling of Buruma as pointed out politely in the comments. I cannot spell, but neither can Google spell check.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What would Tyler Brule do?

It was so hot today that I actually canceled even a one-hour cycling workout along the Tamagawa in spite of having the time. Naturally, canceling a ride or any type of workout for any reason is cause for near depression, fears of gaining 5-15 pounds, and losing months of physical conditioning by the next morning. In such an emergency, I often find myself wondering what Tyler Brule would do. Luckily for me and the rest of the world, I found the answer.

Tyler, the continent hopping dilettante and apparent gazillionaire, graciously provided "The Fast Lane Guide to Doing Business Without Breaking a Sweat” in his Financial Times column. Although he did not mention wearing a blazer with short pants to a meeting in Tokyo like he did a few years ago, he suggests "showing a bit of leg," Gatsby Ice Type facial wipes, a folding fan, and something known as a "Tokyo hat" which has additional benefits "if worn at the right angle." "Cold thoughts of swimming in the Baltic" may help too.

What has me concerned is that I already do some of those things.

I do not know how to make the diacritical marks (with a Mac) that Brule uses on his last name. I suppose I should learn, but for now I will be satisfied with the fact that I have learned that the correct name for those are "diacritical marks."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Japan has bowed to global pressure to end the parental abductions of children from broken international marriages, a report said Saturday...

...Tokyo has decided to ratify the treaty, the Kyodo news agency said, but will not sign up immediately as it needs time to bring its domestic laws in line with those of other signatory nations. Times of India Dead Link. Try the Japan Times here.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the original Kyodo report yet. The question now, assuming the report is correct, is how much time it will take to bring Japanese laws in line with the rest.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The LDP shows who and what it (still) represents

...On the recent decision of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and all of his Cabinet members not to visit the shrine out of consideration for Asian victims of Japan's past militarism, Tanigaki said, "Each party has its own view." Japan Times

LDP chief Tanigaki will, of course, visit.

PM Kan's recent apology to South Korea for its colonial rule of the country further inflamed some of the right wing of the LDP:

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the LDP criticized the government's decision, describing Kan and Sengoku as "foolish" and "ignorant" about dealing with historical issues. Japan Times

One may disagree with ol' I-quit-'cause-I-gotta-sh*t Abe, the fellow with a long history of denying that the Japanese Imperial Army recruited women to serve as sex slaves during the war and who got into hot water for boldly stating same as PM, but one can not question his expertise on being "foolish and ignorant about dealing with historical issues."

Since Abe's attempt to lead Japan toward a Fujiwara Masahiko influenced Beautiful Country got nowhere, the LDP will now boldly try the same thing over and over. This is a brilliant strategy as sooner or later people will quite worrying about the 2010 economy and their future and focus on reliving the 1900s.

Edited to add: The DPJ could be accused of coming up with this because they seem to have little in the way of (visible) success for improving the economy and the future, but we will look at this as a positive for the party and not a cynical political move as the DPJ is concerned about improving Japan's relations in the region. Unlike the party of Tanigaki/Abe/Mori retrogrouches. Now, about the future...
Sorry I am late in posting comments. Blogger does not notify me by email that comments are awaiting approval for some reason unless I check this blog directly. Since it's Obon and I am off, I haven't been checking frequently.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Japan’s moral high ground: Hiroshima & Nagasaki

Yesterday, US Ambassador Roos attended the Peace Ceremony in Hiroshima, reportedly to further Obama’s future vision of eliminating nuclear weapons*. Roos’ appearance was not enough for many, something understandable for those (civilians) who were affected by the bomb. Some other folks may have been disappointed that the country which for no good reason repeatedly attacked Japan while it was trying to free subjugated Asians from Western domination in order to place them under Japanese domination did not apologize for Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and causing Japan to attack Pearl Harbor.

We are fortunate that there are now peace education programs available to many to clear up any lack of knowledge of what happened in WW2. For example, in Okinawa, there is such a program for “Ameriasians” which will allow participants to take a hard look at the war. No longer will graduates of the program consider Japan as just a victim because they get to learn of the experiences of a Japanese-American veteran of the Okinawa campaign, Takejiro Higa:

"I know I have responsibilities as an American citizen, but why do we have to invade the land of my ancestors?"

The sad memory will never fade for the Japanese-American, who was forced to fight in his own home. Mainichi

Well, perhaps Mainichi left a little out of the story. Or else the peace education program left a little out of the war, such as the reason for Mr. Higa having to invade his ancestors' homeland.

But that’s all unimportant trivia.

I hadn't read the magazine Japan Echo for years, in fact, I had forgotten about it until it began publishing articles on-line recently. I won't be forgetting about it again.

In one interview, Japan's Disappearing Act, Professor Satoshi Ikeuchi covered a number of topics, but the most interesting is his take on the use of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as Japan’s “trump cards” in regaining it’s dwindling relevance in the world:

NHK Director and Interviewer: (After noting that Osama Bin Laden often refers to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in speeches and the fact that radical Muslims often tell the interviewer of their admiration for Japan standing up to the U.S. and wondering why Japan does not take revenge for the atomic bombings) ...I think Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be taken seriously as resources we can use in terms of getting our message across to the outside world...

Ikeuchi: I think if Japan were able to communicate its own version of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki more effectively, it could become a winning card against the United States...

The learned professor suggests a different approach to apologizing for WW2 (though a rare few may quibble with the idea that the Japanese government has done much clear, unequivocal apologizing) and “and strike out ideologically by showing how high our moral position really is.”

Then Ikeuchi suggests a vision for the future that does not as directly rely on reliving a version of the past. Stating that Asia needs somewhat different standards than the West:

...the best thing Japan can do in terms of communicating its message to the world would be to establish in itself in a position from which it can say, “When Western standards are not suitable for Asia, we will translate them for you.”

Not sure if this will slow Japan's international disappearing act, but it might be useful. A declining Japan leading a surging Asia while not really being part of Asia could work as long as Asia thinks it needs Japan's leadership in translating Western standards. (Is China part of Asia?)

The interviewer expressed what he sees as a problem with Ikeuchi’s ideas:

Included among the Western values is an acknowledgment that World War II was a just war in which the Allies, united by a shared belief in democracy and human rights, defeated the Axis powers, which were contemptuous of these values. Does Japan have the magnanimity to accept this view of history? The second question would whether Japan truly holds these values in the first place.

Ikeuchi was also critical of the full-page ad that rightists ran in the Washington Post a few years ago to support former PM Abe's claim that the Japanese Imperial Army did not force women in occupied countries into sexual slavery during WW2. Ikeuchi seems to believe that its credibility was undermined because it was a paid ad, not because of the contents.

They would have done better to have written in via the letters page, exposing the contradictions in their opponents’ arguments, and putting their case in a way that would have struck American readers as reasonable and logical.

Perhaps so, but getting informed Americans (or anyone else) to believe Abe and the rightists' case of no Japanese Army involvement in recruiting/forcing women into sexual slavery might be a little difficult to do reasonably and logically.

Now why is it again that the world has so much trouble believing Japan's sincerity despite Ikeuchi's claim that: " country in the world that has issued as many apologies as Japan just for fighting a war."

"Just for fighting a war"???????!!!!!

Early in the interview Ikeuchi took the US to task for (supposedly) focusing on Japan as an economic interest instead of looking at it from a political perspective and asking questions such as:

“Is this country [Japan] likely to be a long-term partner?”

I am not sure that Professor Ikeuchi provided any confidence-building answers to that question.

*Professor Ikeuchi considers Obama's goal as a "PR strategy based on cool calculations in the face of a genuine threat from nuclear terrorism."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Westerners tend to link Japan's workaholic society today to "typically Japanese" traits such as deference to authority and respect for hierarchy, but Kawahito believes this is not the root cause of the problem.

"Japan's current work system is not part of traditional Japanese culture, but a modern phenomenon which developed in order to catch up with Europe and the U.S.," he said. Dying to work: Japan Inc's foreign trainees. Japan Times

Scratch "Westerners" as many Japanese (and other non-westerners) believe this myth too. Substitute "The ignorant."

Thanks to labor lawyer Hiroshi Kawahito and the Lawyer's Network for Trainees for their work in getting the government to actually start to do something in this area.