Saturday, September 20, 2008

Topsy-turvy Japan

... Japan is a captive of its investment in the United States economy and its central bank has no real alternative other than to hold on to the massive amounts of U.S. Treasury bonds it owns and work hard to help clean up the mess on Wall Street, Hidehiko Sogano, an associate finance director at the Bank of Japan, said Friday.

"The reason why we stress the importance of stability is that the amount which we have in U.S. assets is so enormous," said Sogano....Washington Post Foreign Service.


TOKYO — Wall Street may be suffering the worst financial storm since the Great Depression, but Japan has felt like an island of Zen-like calm.

Trading data posted in Tokyo on Friday. “The financial crisis looks like fire on a distant shore,” a Japanese economist said.
The world’s second-largest economy has often seemed to be marching to its own drummer, sometimes to Japan’s own disadvantage. But rarely has the disconnect been as stark as during the current financial crisis...

...“It [Japan] doesn’t need money”...

...This blessing has also been a curse to investors, say economists. Its wealth shields Japan from pressures to meet global standards of growth or corporate profitability. This is what allowed the nation to accept near zero growth rates in the 1990s and what permits the survival of Japanese corporate practices like valuing employees and clients over shareholders...Martin Fackler article in the NYT. (Reading the full article is necessary to truly appreciate it.)

Well Zen always explains it. Comedian/actor/director Beat Takashi has said that foreign journalists etc always ask him about Zen influence on his movies, so he will often claim some influence even though there is none. I always assume that whenever someone starts the Zen nonsense that everything to follow is suspect too.

I was a bit surprised to see how nonchalantly Japanese whom I have spoken with (other than those directly affected) have taken the crisis. Had it worsened, the effect on Japan would not be small. But Martin Fackler has discovered otherwise in our mysterious, inscrutable Orient.

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