kchoze comments

Posted in: 400-year-old garden in Okayama to be replaced with condominium complex See in context

Have you ever lived in Japan? If so, you know that there, as in mixed (SFR and multi-unit) urban neighborhoods the world over, no one is going to object to a corner store (especially not the better Japanese conbini), dry cleaners or izakaya - businesses that serve the neighborhood. (Schools don't come into the equation any longer as enrollment is dropping throughout most of the nation, nor does transit really as most cities are pretty well saturated with subways and rail lines.) But that's not only what you will find (or not find) in urban neighborhoods in Japan. There will be a dearth of open and/or green space and you will find light industry cheek-by-jowl with residential structures. Both are zoning and planning failures pure and simple

Yes, there are mixed used neighborhoods all around the world, almost all of them predating zoning. Once zoning got in, in the beginning of the 20th century, mixed used neighborhoods just stopped being built, all the ones that exist have been grandfathered in. People do object to corner stores, groceries, even elementary schools! I know of at least one case where authorities wanted to build a school in the middle of a new development, they even had the land for it, but a few people objected to it and forced them to build it in the middle of nowhere, forcing every single kid to be bused to school at high cost to the parents . In many places, just replacing a house by a duplex would almost lead to riots.

The presence of light industry around residential areas isn't a bad thing, as it lets workers get there easily on foot or by bike. Much light industry doesn't create too much noise or pollution locally.

As to the lack of green space, I don't think that's necessarily a planning failure. Sure, they could do with more parks, but that's not related to zoning. Cities don't need to zone for parks, they could just buy the land themselves and make it into a park, regardless of zoning. Much of the green space observed in North American cities is just useless lawns which are nothing but wastes of space. Japanese zoning is lax, which results in cities that are economically efficient and that just plain work better, because inefficient uses of space get weeded out. It's not perfect, but it's much better than the extreme micromanagement of standard western zoning practices.

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Posted in: 400-year-old garden in Okayama to be replaced with condominium complex See in context

Which is the same thing, essentially, as saying that there are no meaningful zoning laws in Japan. Everything you wrote after was merely explanatory and in no way demonstrated how a lack of strict zoning was superior.

Actually, he wrote nothing, he just copy-pasted two paragraphs from my blog post on Japanese zoning.

FTR, I think Japanese zoning is superior because it is more flexible and doesn't micromanage everything. So if apartments are needed, apartments are built, if a neighborhood lacks a corner store, a corner store can be built. If they need to build a new school, they can build it wherever they find the land, all without facing NIMBY opposition and losing untold amount of money and time to defend their projects in front of planning committees. The result is that Japanese cities are much more organic than strictly planned cities and they can evolve quickly to provide for their residents' needs. For instance, if there's a new transit station in a place, in Japan, high-density housing, stores and even malls will often quickly replace the earlier low-density housing. In North America, a transit station built in a low-density area may see 10-20 years pass before any densification occurs, because the strict zoning forbids it and the zoning changes are stuck due to local opposition.

Cities with strict zoning tend to quickly turn into outdoor museums fixed in time, where the human presence is often seen as a nuisance ruining the master plan rather than as the purpose for which the city exists.

However, Japanese authorities often lack the initiative to provide public places like parks, which has little to do with zoning, but probably much more to do with the strong respect for property rights in Japan. In this case, the park was a private property, so if the owner decides to sell it and the new owner wants to replace it with something else, that is his property, not the community's and it is his right to do so. Japan's public authorities maybe ought to get more proactive.

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Posted in: 400-year-old garden in Okayama to be replaced with condominium complex See in context

Rather than tearing up a park, why not do what they did more than century ago in NYC (Gramercy) and various London neighborhoods - build the development around the park maintaining it for the residents.

OK, I need to underline to people here that this park is a mere 700-square-meter big. That is essentially the size of an average suburban house lot in North America. It's simply not all that big. Gramercy park that you mention is 8 000-square-meter big. Most house lots in Japan tend to be maybe 200-square-meter big. So let's remember the scale of this park here. You cannot build houses around the park without destroying a significant portion of it.

What would be best I think would be for the city to buy the land and make it into a public park for residents to enjoy, especially as Japan cities tend to lack in terms of small neighborhood parks.

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Posted in: 3-year-old girl hit and killed by car in Osaka; driver arrested See in context

I don't know why the cops feel they have to arrest every driver who hits someone here. Accidents happen and it would seem that this is all it was. Her profession as a Child care giver should go to helping her testimony. A few unanswered questions need to be asked

I think it's a good way of doing things myself. Treat every accident as being the fault of reckless driving until an investigation reveals the opposite. Much better than the New York way where a cabbie rammed into a cyclist that annoyed him, jumped the curb and landed on a pedestrian, severing her leg. He wasn't arrested on the spot nor charged.

This situation is terrible, but a driver should know enough to slow down to a crawl when passing a stopped car on a very narrow street. At what speed was the driver going?

And even if I'm in favor of letting kids roam more, a 3-year-old shouldn't be left without supervision on the street, especially near a stopped car where visibility is low.

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Posted in: Do you support Israel’s action in Gaza? See in context

If the Israeli leadership wanted peace, they could have it. They have been illegally occupying and oppressing another people for decades, progressively stealing their lands by settling religious fanatics in their place, forcing them to submit to degrading military controls just to go to the next village over. This constant oppression and humiliation is why many Palestinians turn to radicals of their own who lash out at Israel.

What is the status of the occupied territories? If the land is Israel's, then all residents are, in fact, Israeli citizens who have been denied their citizenship and treated worse than blacks under Apartheid in South Africa. If the occupied territories are part of another country, then Israel has been illegally occupying another country and annexing its lands for decades. Either way, Israel's treatment of Palestine is completely morally and legally indefensible.

The current Israeli strikes are just part of the strategy of the hard right israeli leadership to keep the state of war intact by inciting Palestinian attacks through humilation, oppression and expropriation. That is why they cannot be justified, because they have the power to make this circle of violence stop, not Palestinians, and continually refuse to do so.

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Posted in: Man’s image of ideal female body is shockingly skinny even by Japanese standards See in context

I was tempted to say at first that the headline is very misleading. The survey reveals that men largely like average women, with slightly above average busy size (even then, it's not that much higher). Then I noticed that the headline isn't actually wrong... They didn't say. "Men's image... ", but "MAN's image... ". Note the use of the singular, not the plural.

So okay, the headline is actually accurate, but the story is irrelevant. Focusing on one reply on a survey? Come on now. The guy could have made a mistake on his firm, or could have been joking, or simply doesn't know exactly how thin that was.

What would have been really interesting was to ask the same questions to women about what they think the ideal female body should look like. Are women harsher than men on themselves? That would have been an interesting comparison.

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Posted in: Power-saving campaign begins for 3 months See in context

Germany shut down all her nuclear power stations and actually exports power to neighbouring countries.

Incorrect. Germany has shut down only pre-1981 nuclear reactors, 9 out of 17 reactors are still active and providing as much electricity as all renewables. Meanwhile, Germany is building new coal power plants and increasing thermal electricity production, which is way worse than nuclear.

Note that Germany's electricity is 80% more expensive than France's, which is the country that relies the most on nuclear power, and that exports massive quantities of electricity. And Germany's recent solar power installations generate electricity at a cost nearly 5 times higher than the new Finnish nuclear power reactor.

Japan with all its natural renewable resources is being hampered by its crony government - why aren't there solar panels on the roofs of apartment buildings,public buildings or on the mountains (national parks) ? No money in providing cheap power to people is there.........

There is nothing cheap about solar power. Solar power is barely competitive in the most favorable conditions, which are very rare. In most places, solar power is at least twice, if not thrice, as expensive as alternatives. Solar panels are expensive, require maintenance and have limited lifespans.

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Posted in: Car crash claims 3 lives in Asahikawa See in context

"Glad you can admit the priority. Heaven forbid those pedestrians block your car!"

I don't understand your point, is this a jab at me? Trust me, I'm no hardened car driver, I can go 1 or 2 months without driving, I much prefer walking and biking. I just don't think sidewalks are essential everywhere, I feel safer walking on narrow Japanese residential streets where I walk in the path of cars than on sidewalks on the side of wide, fast streets in Canada.

As to the kid that died on his bike, it's really a tragedy, but one I fail to see how it could have been avoided by road design, considering how one car went off the road so fast and wrapped itself around a traffic light pole. No matter how large the sidewalk or the presence of cycle paths, a fast moving car going off the street is going to kill anyone in its way.

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Posted in: Car crash claims 3 lives in Asahikawa See in context

smithinjapan, the streets I've seen in Japan tend to fall under two categories:

Residential streets which have generally no sidewalk at all, just a painted line, if that. From what I have seen, pedestrians and cyclists disregard that line frequently and assume the entire street is theirs (as it should be), and since traffic is low and extremely slow, they feel safe everywhere on it. If you keep to the painted line... stop thinking the street is lava, seriously, the line is a guideline, not an impassible barrier. And it's good that these narrow streets are 2-ways, it forces car drivers to be wary not only of pedestrians and cyclists, but of cars coming the opposite way. This friction forces them to slow down and be careful. Drivers on wide streets drive fast and are not careful, which is why people are much more likely to die on American wide streets than Japanese narrow streets.

Arterial streets which have huge sidewalks, with poles, trees and fences located only at the extreme border between the road and the sidewalk, leaving a good 2,5 to 3 meters of uncluttered sidewalk.

What I've realized over time is that sidewalks are often not used to offer safety for pedestrians, but to get pedestrians out of the way of cars. When pedestrians and cars share the same narrow roadway, cars are forced to slow down and respect pedestrians, and the street is just as safe, if not safer, than if both had their separate roadways. This is true in Japan and everywhere else in the world.

Anyway, as to the accident itself, I've seen images of the crash, 3RENSHO's comment is accurate. The car was a Skyline and the driver's seat was replaced with a racer's seat. We don't know if the Skyline's driver was speeding or if the old driver turned on a red, but seeing the wreck, the Skyline seemed to be traveling at high speed and seems to have just clipped the lady's SUV then ended up on an utility pole. The investigation should reveal at least at what speed everyone was driving. In any case, the student biking on the side of the road was killed in a freak accident on which he had no control.

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Posted in: Car crash claims 3 lives in Asahikawa See in context

yokohamarides, I agree that the unquestioning love affair with cars need to end, but Japan isn't horrible in that regard, it's one of the places in the world that favor the least cars, giving them just the minimum space they need and no more. On arterials, often sidewalks are as large or larger than lanes for cars. As a result, Japanese use cars less than residents of most other developed countries and Japan roads and streets are some of the safest in the world.

In North America, your criticism would be more appropriate.

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Posted in: Tokyo rated No. 1 city in the world in Trip Advisor survey See in context

I've just ended my third trip to Japan, it is always heart-wrenching to leave. Nothing in the survey shocked me, it's all true: the cleanliness, the friendliness, the excellent public service, the abundant things to do and see. I can understand somewhat the lesser results in culture... it's not that the culture isn't there, but the Japanese, in Tokyo in particular, don't seem to particularly care about preserving neighborhoods like outdoor museums, so a lot of the architecture is modern and functional rather than historical. Compare to Paris, which is essentially a museum-city with most buildings over 200 years old (but they pay for it elsewhere, with subpar, very expensive housing, Tokyo is cheap in comparison).

I've got to point out why I like Tokyo so much, it's a city built for people, not for cars. Just walking the city is a pleasure.

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Posted in: Is pouring more financial aid into Africa the best way to help that continent develop? See in context

The problem I see with Africa is that global trade for a few resources means that there is an influx of money to a small minority in power, corrupting them while getting rid of the pressure to develop their local economy. African countries need to stop being focused on exports and to develop their economies foremost for their own internal needs.

Building roads, rails, houses, reliable electric grids and the like necessitates a minimal input of imported goods but great amounts of labor, which they have. They also need to rationalize their agricultural sector from the ground up. Having small families cultivating small plots is an economical waste, if productivity increases, you just have a lot of idle labor still tied to the plot of land. You need less farmers with more land per farmer... however, just using huge multinational companies to do so is a disaster, because then all the profits gained from this flee the country. They must build local middle classes to keep profits inside the country and help feed the local economy.

We often talk about the balance of trade, but it's only half the picture. The balance of trade is only about the movement of goods, but the movement of capital (money) is just as important, the sum of the two is the current accounts balance and represents whether a country gets richer or poorer from global trade. And the reality is that though most African countries have huge trade surpluses, these are balanced by massive capital flight, and their current accounts balance is often a small surplus if not a huge deficit.

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Posted in: The Japanese government remains cautious about addressing the population decline and labor shortage by accepting immigrants. What do you think are the pros and cons of Japan accepting more immigrants? See in context

How does "accepting more immigrants" turn into "opening wide the doors" to immigration?

The question asked here was about using immigration to make up labor shortages and reverse the population decline. To do so, you would have to accept more than just a few immigrants, but a whole lot more.

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Posted in: The Japanese government remains cautious about addressing the population decline and labor shortage by accepting immigrants. What do you think are the pros and cons of Japan accepting more immigrants? See in context

The 'pros and cons' depend on immigration creating the necessary multicultural integration...

I largely agree with what you say, except I think that the term "multicultural integration" is an oxymoron. Multiculturalism is the opposite of integration, it means that immigrants create minority cultures inside a society and do not integrate the culture of the majority.

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Posted in: The Japanese government remains cautious about addressing the population decline and labor shortage by accepting immigrants. What do you think are the pros and cons of Japan accepting more immigrants? See in context

The main problem with opening wide the doors to immigration is that if immigrants are too many, what they may do is regroup themselves in certain areas where they create an enclave of their former country, making it hard to integrate them into the larger society. Just a trip to Toronto, supposedly a multicultural paradise, should convince anyone of that: Asians are with Asians, Whites with Whites, Blacks with Blacks, Indians with Indians, with very little mixing except on the job or other situations where people cannot choose who are besides them. What happens in the end is a fragmentation of society because everyone talks to their community instead of participating in a larger society.

It's better to have less immigration and be welcoming of the immigrants, to integrate them into society. But you must be wary of society's integration capacity.

Personally, I see mass immigration as merely a symptom of global inequality and am not in favor of it. If people had the same opportunities in their native country as in any other, very, very few people would actually migrate.

To reverse the population decline, it is better to put measures to favor fertility, for example by supporting parents with young kids and isolating factors about why people don't have kids, which in Japan I think starts with the insane overtime work habits, leaving little time for parents to spend time with each other and with their kids. Then you have to make sure even childcare facilities are available and also find a way to have housing fit for more than 2 children be affordable to people.

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Posted in: Up-and-coming band combines traditional Japanese instruments with pop metal See in context

The common term for bands like this, incorporating traditional instruments and melodies into metal music is "folk metal". There are a few of the around in Europe like Cruachan, Eluveitie and Korpiklaani. It's the first band I've heard of that combined Asian folk instruments with metal though.

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Posted in: Everything you ever wanted to know about Tokyo's toll road system See in context

I've often wondered why they're called "Expressways" ? It is extremely rare that I can drive at the speed limit - which means I won't get caught fro "speeding" however, when one is in a hurry, it would be nice to at least go at a "decent" speed.

"Expressway" means a road that has no at-grade intersection (stop signs, traffic lights, etc...) but rather entry and exit ramps, so that cars never have to stop to let conflicting movements through, barring congestion of course. It doesn't refer to the maximum speed allowed.

The presence of traffic lights and stops can easily reduce the average speed of cars by half compared to the maximum speed. For instance, if you have streets with a speed limit of 50 km/h, on average in a city you can expect to actually go at an average speed of about 30 km/h without congestion. Because you will have to stop at stops and traffic lights, and be slowed by vehicles turning left or right in front of you.

Anyway, you don't need to go at 70 to 100 km/h in a city. Allowing people to drive faster just results in more sprawl, and longer distances to travel, thus resulting in no reduction in travel times in the long run. Many European cities don't even have expressways inside them, including most German cities, they do fine. And Seoul in South Korea has been tearing down expressways one after the other for 10 years, and the city is no worse for wear.

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Posted in: Japan approves energy plan reinstating nuclear power See in context

There's nothing "realistic" about nuclear, when we haven't even figured out what to do with the nuclear waste yet.

And nuclear costs more money in the end.

Wrong and wrong.

We do know what to do with nuclear waste, bury them in secure sites in secure barrels and leave them there. After all, the Earth is full of radioactive elements, and we seem to be quite safe from exposure to them. Just because there is no quick way to destroy this waste doesn't mean that we don't know what to do with them. After all, there is a lot of trash that is toxic and/or dangerous that we just bury in landfills and are content with it and consider them dealt with.

However, we don't know what to do with the carbon emissions resulting from burning oil or other fuels. It just ends up in the air and messes with our environment.

Nuclear costs are very affordable actually. This can be easily demonstrated by looking at France's electricity costs versus Denmark's. France relies mostly on nuclear, Denmark tried to go with as much wind power as possible. Result: France's average electricity price is about 0,14 euro per kWh, in Denmark, it's around 0,30 euro per kWh, that's more than twice as expensive. France's electricity price is also lower than the average for Europe (around 0,19 euro per kWh).

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Posted in: Unions demand wage hikes but strikes unlikely See in context

Actually, I've seen comparisons that show that Japanese housing is now one of the most affordable in the developed world. Houses are smaller but are still affordable, as are apartments.

What helps a lot with the Japanese is that transport is much cheaper. Since Japanese cities are much denser and rapid transit networks are well-developed, cars are mainly optional. So even if gas is more expensive, highways have tolls and transit companies are mostly profitable (higher fares), the typical Japanese household spends about 9-10% of its income on transport, versus 18-20% in North America, where in many cities, households NEED one car per adult just to function (call it the "sprawl tax"). That is quite a massive chunk in the cost of living that Japanese cities and transport system reduce.

About unions and striking, I think that what helps avoid them nowadays is the Japanese communitarian spirit. The employees are loyal to the company and the company is loyal to its employees in a way it isn't in much of the developed world. This exchange of loyalty helps keep the peace.

Just look at this telling quote: "Employees need a safety net to make sure that they’re not left out in the street, because they’ve made commitments to the companies and certainly deserve to be part of that safety net.”

In much of the rest of the world, that quote would be normal coming from a left-wing politician or an union boss... but it came from SONY's boss! I don't remember any European or North American boss saying something close to that in recent years! All North American CEOs care about are the stockholders (who are mainly other CEOs). The idea of a CEO actually saying that employees who have loyally served a company deserve a safety net so they're not left out of the cold would truly be shocking today in the North American corporate world. It would go against the dominant idea that the only responsibility a company has is to its shareholders.

But this relationship of mutual loyalty and respect may come crashing down if companies start doing better and do not cut a piece of the pie for their employees.

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Posted in: Dylan Farrow breaks silence on Woody Allen abuse allegation See in context

The issue here is that the allegations surfaced during a divorce, which is strange to start with. Plus, we know that young children can easily be influenced into developing false memories. In the 80s, there was an entire phase where psychologists would question kids over potential serial as abuse constantly, and then they would come out with insane allegations (see the Amiraut's case for examples). It was the satanic sex abuse child care craze.

Turns out that kids want an adult's approval, so if you keep asking about sexual abuse again and again when they say it didn't happen, at one point, the kids will think "saying no doesn't seem to be the right answer, he keeps asking me the same questions, maybe yes is the right answer". Then kids will start saying yes, to see if that's what the questioner wants to hear, and they may come up with elaborate stories to support this. No one remembers well their childhood, so being forced to repeat it again and again may lead to false memories, where the children, now adults, start believing that all of this really happened.

That really can make it hard for people to differentiate real cases from false cases that emerge from the methods used to question young possible victims. In addition, such manufactured abuse can be just as traumatic as real abuse.

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Posted in: Japan ranks 26th of 60 countries in global English proficiency See in context

"Despite being a far wealthier and more developed country, Japan is struggling to teach its students English for use in a competitive global economy."

Actually, it's because Japan is a far wealthier and developed country that Japanese students don't feel the need to learn English. Unlike poorer countries, most employers in the country are Japanese companies and the country is big enough and wealthy enough not to depend mostly on America for its entertainment and movies. So the simple truth of the matter is, even in this globalized economy, the vast majority of Japanese do not "need" to learn English, and neither should they need to. Only a minority of jobs actually require knowledge of English, and when it is required, the people who want to do these jobs will learn proper English.

There is absolutely no need to ensure that all Japanese people speak fluent English. I can't escape the impression that many people want them to do so not for Japan's sake, but for their own. English-speaking tourists or people on visas who are annoyed that they have to learn some Japanese to get by because they can't randomly talk to people in the street in English and have them reply back promptly.

My own personal background may taint my views on that, as a French-speaking Québécois, my society is stuck between conflicting goals: increase English knowledge in the population for economic reasons as we are but 8 millions in a sea of nearly 350 million English-speakers but at the same time maintaining our language and culture by resisting attempts to "anglicize" society. I believe in a world of strong local cultures, not one globalized grey world with one language.

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Posted in: The fight for Thailand See in context

I am not well versed in Thai politics. That being said, an opposition party that calls for an elected government to step down, which it does, but then chooses to boycott elections without any sign of vote manipulation and, worse, pushes forward an unelected and ironically named "people's council" full of their own members to get despotic power gets no sympathy from me.

Thaksin may well have been corrupt, but if the Thai people keep reelecting him or his proxies despite him being ejected from power in a coup and his opponents controlling the government, he must have been doing something right.

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Posted in: Tokyo can't handle heavy snowfall See in context

I live in an area of Japan where the temperature has been below -4 for the last day or so . My toilet is fine, my pipes are not frozen. The author's claim is untrue. I've heard of this happening in places in the far north of Japan where the temperature stays below -10 or so for days, but not where I live. The solution is so simple that it is ridiculous, just run the water a trickle and it never freezes.

This isn't only dependent on weather, it's dependent on how deep the pipes are buried. In general, they are buried at a distance considered "safe", below the penetration level of freezing temperatures. Where I'm from, Québec, we sometimes get -10 or -20 cold waves in winter and water pipes tend to resist, because they're really buried deep in the ground, and our homes tend to be well insulated with good central heating. Still, I had an uncle who let the faucet run in really cold waves to avoid having water freeze in the pipes.

But if Tokyo's water pipes aren't built to deal with cold temperatures and are too close to the surface, then they can break even at -4 like the author says.

The author seriously believes that a couple of kgs of snow sitting on the towers will cause them to collapse? Either the Tokyo power towers are INCREDIBLY badly constructed (in which case a strong wind would collapse them) or this is utter nonsense.

Power line towers are built to support a certain weight, essentially their own weight and the weight of cables, with maybe a little snow added to them (and wind). If there is more snow than expected, then towers might collapse. Again, in Québec, we had an ice storm in 1998, with up to 70 mm of freeing rain resulting in nearly 2-3 inches of ice buildup on everything. Towers did collapse at that time, it's one of the lasting images of the disaster, rows of power lines crumbled under the weight of ice. Just Google it.

Power line towers are built according to local climate predictions, but if the predictions say that the 1 in a century event has 10 cm of snow falling, but there falls 40 m of them, then towers may well fall, because the weight they have to support is beyond the specifications for which they were designed.

Why not design them to be tougher? Cost, essentially. Overdesigning structures costs a lot of money.

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Posted in: Worst train-related pick-up experiences See in context

Good for the Japanese. The great use of train travel provides a shared public space where people can meet, if they are so inclined. Though it may be a bit awkward, it is also a very safe place for it, as there are a lot of people around and ways to quickly call authorities if need be. Some of these attempts are pretty hilariously bad (hey, Sudoku master, it's about the journey, not the destination, solving people's Sudokus for them isn't attractive, it's annoying), but they still leave memories people can talk with their friends about.

In the modern western world, often we have separated uses so that people who want to meet other people need to go to specific places like bars to meet people. Though arguments can be made in favor of this ability to control one's interactions to others, I can't help but feel that it also involves a lack of spontaneity and precludes chance meeting that hurts attempts to build communities.

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Posted in: Gov't promises equality, but women find few jobs See in context

Jean ValJean, except that this is largely the result of cultural attitudes and public policies that do not encourage working women to return to work after their first child is born.

I come from the Canadian province of Québec and we have taken a lot of steps towards making it easier for women to return to work after having kids. We have a provincial system of generous maternal and paternal leave which preserves new parents' links with their jobs even as they take time off to take care of their baby and we have a subsidized, affordable and good quality childcare system, costing 7$ a day only to the parents. Since these measures have been put in place, women's employment rate has increased, and so has the birth rate. It also means higher taxes, but I think it's an investment, a society needs to provide incentives and support those who make the sacrifices to raise the next generation that the society will depend on.

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Posted in: Colorado has legalized marijuana sales. Would you like to see Japan try something similar? See in context

Funny car, if people think they need drugs to socialize, that is a major problem. I'd say that drugs are more an impediment to real socialization than anything else. You don't need to be high to enjoy the company of friends, and I pity those who think so, for they have truly succumbed to the decadent drug mindset which affects so many in the western world. That mindset which says drugs are the answer to everything, all the time. And I include the abused of legal prescription drugs in there. How many promising celebrities have died from overdosing on a cocktail of various legal drugs in recent years? They felt tired, they took one drug, they felt sad, they took another drug, but then they couldn't sleep, so they take another drug to go to sleep, then they want to feel good and party so they take other (likely illegal) drugs.

It's all the same mentality: got a problem? Want to feel good? Take a drug.

From what I can see, Japan is largely exempt from this dangerous trend, and I would prefer it continue to avoid this pitfall of modern life. They have other problems, but not this one, and that is a good thing.

Where you and me shall agree is the absurdity of sending people to jail for using or owning marijuana. Nothing good comes out of this kind of prohibition and criminalization. At most, having the marijuana seized and getting a small fine should be all that marijuana users should be exposed to, if that.

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Posted in: Colorado has legalized marijuana sales. Would you like to see Japan try something similar? See in context

Without commenting on what Colorado did, I am happy for Japan that is not stuck with the insane drug culture that infects the west. I'd rather they not go down that road. Even building plastic figures or collecting idol stuff is a more worthwhile use of people's time than taking recreational drugs. Recreational drugs, even if harmless, is something that should be highly discouraged, when people take drugs to feel good instead of doing things to feel better in their own lives, it's a major issue.

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Posted in: Gov't promises equality, but women find few jobs See in context

One big factor has been omitted in the article: the Japanese expectation of overtime. Many women, especially mothers, have responsibilities in their home or for their children, they just cannot do the standard overtime that Japanese firms expect them to do. Firms know that and favor men instead, who are less likely to have those responsibilities because of the standard gender division of labor.

The common idea that the regular work day should include hours of overtime is the primary disease that affects the Japanese workplace. Overtime should be exceptional, not usual. Not only does it wreak havoc with people's social lives and hurts working mothers, but it's not even efficient. It has been known for decades that the more hours you normally ask people to work, the less productive they will actually be. If someone gives his 100% over a typical 8-hour day, you can increase his output a bit by asking for overtime once in a while, but if you always extend his workday to 10 hours, then the employee will become less productive, maybe even giving only 80% of his previous hourly productivity, so that his output is the same, just spread on more hours.

And this reality is evident in hourly productivity comparisons. Japan's hourly productivity is mediocre at best for a modern advanced economy, but France's hourly productivity is amongst the highest in the world, so is Germany's, and both are known for employees who do not work one minute more than according to their contract unless they're handsomely paid for it, and for the amount of vacation time they have. In fact, French and German workers are amongst the ones who work the least amount of hours every year on average (and Greece amongst the highest).

Will Abe have the guts to question the overtime practices of Japanese firms? Or will criticism of it remain taboo?

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Posted in: Yoko Ono recounts own hunger during war in Japan See in context

Economic Illiteracy at it's finest.

Self sufficiency = more expensive and less food. (precisely why war torn countries are so hungry, they can't buy anything from other countries they are fighting against)

Free Trade = cheaper and more abundant food

That's maybe true for developed countries, but not necessarily for developing countries, where what matters isn't just how cheap or expensive the food actually is, but whether or not people can afford it. In third world countries where large swaths of the population are farmers or depend on their revenues (like shopkeepers in rural villages and the like), cheap foreign food actually reduces people's revenues, pushes them to bankruptcy and makes them unable to actually buy the food. In fact, quite a few famines started because of that, cheap foreign food and bountiful harvests made the price of food fall below the production cost, and pushed many farmers to bankruptcy, so the next year, when the harvest was bad and a lot of farmers didn't have the money to buy the seeds, the country started starving.

Depending on foreign food sources also exposes a country to a lot of risks. If gas prices and transport costs increase, food that used to be cheap may no longer be. Imported food also transits on financial markets, which makes food prices vulnerable to speculation on futures markets, which results in disaster in poor countries (not so much in rich ones, because the cost of food there is mostly labor since labor is so expensive). Finally, currency exchange rates may fluctuate and make food alternatively cheap and expensive.

So it's better for poorer countries to strive for self-sufficiency, this way the price of food can be kept more constant, protected from currency or international market fluctuations, and keeping money in the country by paying local farmers and corporations instead of foreign multinationals, helping the economy.

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Posted in: Japan to spend Y1 tril on public works for stimulus See in context

Apart from the community centres, youth sports leagues, spacious parks, BMX-skateboard parks, Scouting/camping groups, ice rinks, summer waterparks, shopping mall game arcades, open fields, watershed reserves. Well, at least that's where my young nephews and nieces living in suburbia spend their off time. I also had a ball in such places as a kid.

All of these not within walking distance and not accessible by transit, and therefore unaccessible for kids unless their parents chauffeur them around. Parents who care a lot and have the time to do it can do so, having their kids in a lot of activities they choose, but the trend is towards western kids living more and more indoors and less outdoors, with the obesity epidemic showcasing just how much this is true. And this also leads to a generation of kids who have little independence because they have spent the first 16 or 18 years of their lives ruled entirely by their parents as they needed their approval (and car) to go anywhere.

As a suburb-raised Canadian, I see this all around me.

Oh, yes they do. Especially compared to a Japanese-style danchi or planned complexes, which are surrounded in concrete. No wonder Japan's suicide rate is among the world's highest.

I agree the danchis aren't the way to go, they're typically the "towers in the park" idea that has utterly failed at creating places where people want to live. But they're not typical, most Japanese families live in single-family houses. But houses built generally in walkable areas with decent transit, with many things within walking distance.

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