Japan Today

Phoenixikki comments

Posted in: Japan's birthrate falls to record low as number of marriages also drops See in context

A famous mathematician from where I come from, who's been examining Japan as a case study for years, claims that the population drop problem is exaggerated in the sense that nothing dramatic will happen as Japanese continue to shrink. His idea is that the 127-million was a one-time peak rather than a historical tendency and once the population drops to about 100 million things will be balanced and equalized. His view is that about 100 million is the right sustainable number for Japan.

So, let's first hear alternative opinions and perspectives before blindly believing the media fast food, or did 2020-2023 not teach us anything at all?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Posted in: Japan's COVID-19 foreign entry ban spurs demonstrations in several countries See in context

The bigger problem is that in Japanese society there's a strong expectation that the coronavirus situation will "finish" in a clear and definite way. The narrative uses words like "shuusoku", "post-corona" all the time. Even among the comments here there are a handful of Japanese (and some misinformed expats) who assure us that "now we're scared", but in the future "we'll accept foreigners again after XYZ". After what? In Western media the common sense narrative now is about covid becoming endemic, seasonal, etc. In Japan "after" is "after it all finishes (shuusoku)", aka essentially a Zero Covid mentality. On a domestic internal level Japan never followed the Zero Covid policy, but on a global and psychological level they do. There's no discussion about what we will do if covid remains, how we will view international traffic if anyone can bring covid just like they can bring the flu. Sure, Japan isn't alone in this, there are other Zero Covid mentality countries like NZ, China, but that doesn't make any of them right.

The problem with borders is closely related to this flawed expectation that one day the virus will disappear in the entire world like magic. Rather than petitioning for international exchange, there should be more efforts to enlighten the misinformed local people. Sadly, the media in Japan are beyond hopeless.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Posted in: Japan's COVID-19 foreign entry ban spurs demonstrations in several countries See in context

Japanese people have a different relationship with time. 2 years might feel long for foreigners but to Japanese it's still foreplay.

This. Just ask your Japanese friends, family, colleagues a simple question: "When do you think the borders will reopen for foreigners?". I've asked many times, the answer is always "Hmm, maybe a few more years...".

Recently a very indicative sign was the closing of Yokoso Japan Tour, a major tour provider for foreign tourists. Not just another small company, but a major one, serving hundreds of bus tours every day, their daily Mt Fuji tours were the most popular among tourists. In their official statement they say they close the site because "international travel is not expected to resume". A major company doesn't do that unless they have strong indications that this is a long-term situation (if it was just a few more months or a year, they wouldn't have closed such a popular service).


Please. Stop the nonsense. Once the booster is all administered, the 2nd booster will come, then the brand new Omicron vaccine with its boosters, and it's all over again. It's amazing how in Japan no one gets that, in the West more and more people are waking up.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Posted in: Japan extends entry ban on non-resident foreigners until end of February: Kishida See in context


This is nonsense, however. Omicron has proven that it's going to infect everyone, albeit mildly and just for a short time, and the only way out of this is to go through it. In South Africa the wave is over, in UK and Australia it will be over by the end of January. In Japan they're doing everything possibly to drag this out as long as possible, and it will be a slow and exhausting battle that they're still going to lose anyway. It is not proven but scientifically possible that after Omicron the Western countries spend the next months to come with almost no cases, while Japan keeps going through a series of waves or a mid-scale long-lasting plateau. In China they're dragging it even more, and by that rate it might take them a few hundreds of years to get over.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Posted in: 12,000 sign petition to ease Japan's tight entry rules over Omicron See in context

New Zealand and Taiwan have similarly strict border rules, until recently Australia did as well, and all the Pacific island countries do. What's common with Japan? These are all islands, it's an island mentality and a typical island policy. Hard for someone from Europe to understand, but it makes sense to people from island countries. The Japanese around me all think that this border state will continue for at least several more years.

@Mike Tang

No, tourists will not be allowed this year at least. Just yesterday Go To Travel was postponed for after Omicron. They'll surely let in students and factory workers, in the long term they might continue the halted plan for organizing strictly monitored group tours with a set itinerary (where the group is only allowed to enter hotels and facilities designed in advance permission), but freely moving individual tourists will not be allowed for quite a long time. Unless Covid magically disappears, which it is obviously not. Vaccinations don't really matter, because they can't stop the waves. After the 6th wave, they'll start preparing for the 7th and so on.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Posted in: Japan's daily COVID-19 cases reach new high since Omicron spread See in context

Several people here comment that Japanese support the closed borders because they can't expect the same level of measures from foreigners. I think this is a sign of a massive inter-cultural communication problem that's arising for the future. Even after the virus becomes only endemic, Japanese will keep on the masks and most other cautious measures. Then how are they ever going to tolerate foreign travelers who don't wear masks and don't follow a lot of silly measures like talking over partitions on restaurant tables? Will the world-famous Japanese hospitality suddenly turn into a daily display of hostility and intolerence to everyone who has a different hygiene culture? Or will they have to keep the borders shut forever so that they don't have to deal with all of that? I think the pandemic and the isolation triggered those very serious issues, and Japan has to seriously consider how they will be communicating and interacting with other cultures from now on.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Posted in: Japan finds 15 clusters of coronavirus-infected people See in context

I have the same story as JJ Jetplane, the entire family got sick one after another with the symptoms he mentioned. Although to be honest the fever lasted shorter than 4 days. But at work some of the folks had fever for 4 days and even though they tried calling the special line, they never got through. Would be nice to think I've already had it, however you can catch it again and again, it seems, so it doesn't really matter.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Posted in: Abe says gov't will announce more measures on March 10 to counter virus See in context

Precisely, they're supressing the numbers intentionally due to their enormous fear of losing the Olympics (it's not even the economic impact or the tourism loss at this point, it's all about the Olympics). Although I'm in two minds about this, because if they announce same numbers as in Korea/Italy and get IOC to cancel the Olympics this very week, what will then happen come summer when it turns out the virus has perished like flu in the beginning of spring? Then we risk having no virus and no Olympics at the same time, and this can't be reversed. Sadly, IOC wouldn't wait until it gets to warm to "see how things will go like", so as long as their menace is over Abe's head, he's unlikely to proceed with mass testings.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Posted in: Japanese gov't, prosecutors condemn Ghosn's remarks in Lebanon See in context

I watched the press-conference and followed the Japanese reactions in Twitter. Here I need to say that there is no good one at all in this entire story; both sides did wrongdoings and likely breached the laws.

Watching Ghosn explain himself was a sad view. He sounded and felt like a newbie English teacher who has realized after 6 months in Japan that reality is not like in their favorite anime and leaves in a fit of indignation. To watch an grown up person who supposedly worked 17 years in Japan go like this was embarrassing. Clearly the most obvious message was that Ghosn had never ever tried to understand Japan.

Reading the Japanese reactions on Twitter was sad too. Clearly the local people have not even tried to understand what his point is or why he feels the way he does. It's hardly surprising for a science-mentality country with almost no education in humanities that they are unable to do the most important thing that humanities teach you - to question and doubt. Noteworthy was that the most common accusation on Twitter last night was that Ghosn is "egoist", "thinking only of himself", etc. In a community-based society that is way more of a sin than embezzling.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

Posted in: Japan gov't eyes new law to draw more tourists to museums See in context

@Bob Slefty,

I need to find again my source about the London comparison, I'm pretty sure there was something from there, the others were famous museums in Europe. There was even a table showing the prices of facilities in the West on the left side, and prices of facilities in Japan on the right side. If you're a "specialist in Japan travel", you should know who I'm referring to and where to find it. ;)

Certainly the comparison they're making is not to free places.

I disagree with you about the museum promotion initiative. There are plenty of facilities worth visiting in the countryside (both private and public), and since you're in the industry you've surely visited them, I can list just a few which I personally found worth visiting: Towada Art Museum, Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Rias Ark Museum, Kubota Itchiku Museum, Okinawa Peace Museum, Toto museum in Kitakyushu, etc, etc, etc. So many.

As for the local tourism boards, things have changed since the appearance of DMOs. My experience is rather the opposite, that they're trying too hard to sell to the luxury market, failing to realize that if someone spends 250 000 JPY on 2 days in Shimane, they're likely not going or doing anything else. Sustainable growth comes neither from the low budget Chinese groups, nor from the occasional VIP, but from the middle-class regular travelers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Japan gov't eyes new law to draw more tourists to museums See in context

Unfortunately the JT readers are not the best crowd to discuss inbound policies with. Some opinions are a good feedback, but in general there's some fundamental lack of understanding of the strategies and aims regarding tourism.

First of all, this article doesn't give good examples of what Bunkacho will provide funding for. By the way, these type of improvements are standard for Bunkacho's existence and budget, and like it or not, the ideas are all good. There are some quite good museums in the countryside which lack multilingual support, modern presentation, WiFi, accessibility, and in general look too Showa. Bunkacho wants to modernize the museums so that visitors can discover something more than just Cup Noodle Museum or Ghibli Museum in Japan. The government has an obligation to preserve and promote its cultural heritage.

Second, the suggestion to make entrance fees free is actually contrary to where the government is heading. Due to some advices from foreign consultants, the future will be towards increasing significantly the entrance fees (and not only for museums, but also for Kyoto temples, for example). This is because the consultants have pointed out at the prices of museums in London, Paris, Madrid, Vienna and compared to that, Japan's entrance fees are indeed low. Recently there has been a lot of work for comparing the touristic assets of Japan to those abroad and trying to raise the value (again, not only for facilities; for example, they're also actively trying to compare their national parks to those in USA). The average spending per tourist in Japan has been stuck on 150 000 JPY for quite some years, and the government wants to raise it. Normally, any country would want. Personally, I have serious objections against comparing museums in Japan to those in London and Paris and raising the fees based on a sole comparison, but the government listens to other consultants.

Thirdly, I don't agree with the opinions in the story above from Yamaguchi. The majority of visitors from Asia are repeaters and yes, they go to Yamaguchi, and Shimane, and even more out-of-the-way places, and such packages are perfect for them (well, the price is a bit too high, but I have to see the house). In Okayama some renovated old houses have become role models for inbound tourism with a great success among Asian travelers. Western travelers also like rural places; it all depends on how the local place is marketed and incorporated in the larger itinerary. But I can list numerous occasions of such rural facilities offering rural experiences with success - some of them are even owned by foreigners. With the lack of hotels in many countryside places, this is the right way to go.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Posted in: Virgin territory: Study shows heterosexual inexperience rising in Japan See in context

It's just the lifestyle. Okinawa, in contrast, has a steadily growing birth rate and increasing population. Anyone who's been there for a couple of days, especially on the remote islands, knows the difference in lifestyle.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Posted in: Japan introduces legal cap on long working hours under labor reform law See in context

Just 2 days ago Monbusho released the results of a survey among all public schools, pointing out that the vast majority of them exceed the recommended annual lesson quota. At elementary school 1st grade, the students have about 70 hours over per year, by junior high school 2-3rd grade this goes up to 100 hours over. In short, the overtime culture is nurtured already at elementary school level.

And yes, it's common for workers, especially in more forward-thinking companies who allow their employees to work remotely on a laptop, to work late night at home or at their hotel during a business trip.

There are many complaints and lots of criticism every time this topic is brought up here, but there's also a lack of in-depth discussion about the roots of the problem. Indeed, it's cultural to a high extent, and young employees do it exactly as their old senpai did it in the 80s, but in my experience and observation so far, the direct reason is an enormous load of work that must be finished in very short deadlines, with all the typically Japanese maximalistic perfection and excessive attention to the smallest details. In my opinion, foreign workers would have to do just the same in order to complete the tasks properly under the same conditions.

The above conditions of performing tasks which companies readily accept, plus their unwillingness to hire 10 times more people (so that you'll have 1 worker do one task with a deadline tomorrow, not 10 tasks), is deeply rooted in the highly capitalistic mind of Japanese business. Sorry to bring the political views in, but I think the managers are just doing what a business running in a capitalistic environment is supposed to do - maximize the profits (accept and run 10 projects at the same time instead of 1) and minimize the costs (have 1 worker do the 10 projects instead of hiring 10 workers).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Abe explains choice of Reiwa for next era name See in context

It's admirable to discover little used and obscure meanings in otherwise commonly used words/kanji, but the era name isn't supposed to be a Kanji test for the advanced. Nor should people be expected to make immediate associations with classic Japanese language and its use of old forms like 令む. I feel many here are missing the point.

If the intention was to say "beautiful", there are several other, better and most importantly straightforward choices. For the common folks 令 is a stiff and restricting kanji, hence the reactions.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Posted in: New station on Tokyo's Yamanote line to be named Takanawa Gateway See in context

Gateway is wrong simply because this station is going to be no transportation hub. Being close to Haneda and Shinagawa means nothing - so is Tamachi and it's not a "gateway". As far as I know, this new station won't be connected to any other line which ranks it in the line of other famous gateway hubs such as Uguisudani, Shin-Okubo and Mejiro.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Abe vows further efforts to attract 40 mil foreign visitors by 2020 See in context

kohakuebisu: Well said, thank you. Just wanted to add that group package trips are rapidly becoming a thing of the past even for Asian visitors. The latest data shows that individual travelers are exceeding the 50% barrier for countries and areas like Taiwan and Hong Kong. This is particularly true for younger visitors.

Spot on about rental cars as well. Surprisingly, Western visitors prefer to use trains and buses, although many of them come with an international driving permit to do the Mario karts. Rental cars are mostly used by Hong Kong and Taiwanese, and to a certain degree by American visitors in Okinawa. Personally I don't get this. It's so much easier and more convenient, especially tourists from Australia and UK who are used to left-side driving should totally rent cars all the time.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Posted in: Abe vows further efforts to attract 40 mil foreign visitors by 2020 See in context


Almost every countryside airport in Japan has direct international flights to Taiwan, China or Korea (some have flights also to Indonesia, Thailand, etc). In contrast, the only entrance gates to Japan for Westerners are Narita, Haneda and Kansai Airports. You use the excellent railway network to travel from Narita to Sendai or Hanamaki, while the Taiwanese arrive directly at those airports. It's immensely more convenient. This is why places like Kyushu and Shikoku get few Western visitors but a lot of Asian ones. Actually, many regions in Japan would have had no visitors if it weren't for those direct flights to Asia. The average travel duration for Asians is about 3-4 nights actually. They spend more but for shopping. If you look at the data per country, Asians spend their money mostly for shopping and very little on transportation (since they don't need to travel long distances within Japan and don't stay long), while Westerners spend mainly on accommodation, transportation and activities.

Do the hustle:

Almost none of this is true. Foreigners absolutely don't go to Saizeriya and Gusto, mainly because these places don't offer Japanese-style food. Westerners aren't here to eat pizza or pasta. If you actually go often to Saizeriya and Gusto you'll see how few foreigners eat there compared to any crappy kaiten sushi. Also, there is a huge demand for Michelin-starred restaurants and other high-quality (and expensive) Japanese restaurants. Lack of English menus has never been a problem at those places, because you're usually served a course rather than choose from a menu. Believe me, tourists are not missing out on Japanese cuisine. :)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Posted in: Abe vows further efforts to attract 40 mil foreign visitors by 2020 See in context

As someone who's also working in the industry I can tell you that there are a lot of misinformed opinions here. And lots of false assumptions.

The government is actually aware of over capacity issues. That's why in the last few years the focus of promotion has been predominantly the countryside. This is bringing good results and the numbers are increasing (Shimane got 79% more overnight stays than last year, Kochi had over 200% more at one point). The reasons are several: 1) better promotion of the countryside; 2) more repeaters who don't want to visit Tokyo or Kyoto; 3) direct international flights to Asia from all countryside airports as well as cruises.

Tokyo is NOT just promoting its central stuff; on the contrary, its main focus now is "Tama-Shima", aka the Tama area and the Tokyo islands. Kyoto is promoting its sea and mountain areas (Amanohashidate, Miyama, etc). Just because you don't feel the above it doesn't mean it's not true.

The bigger problem is that unlike the Asians, the foreign travelers from the Western countries have no direct access to the countryside and few of them are repeaters. This results in very very few numbers of Western visitors in places like Tohoku, Shikoku, Kyushu, Sanin. I just spent 8 days in Kyushu, visiting all prefectures and all major spots, and for 8 days I saw a grand total of 6 Western travelers. Luckily, the government finally got aware of this around last year and have started targeting Western customers (particularly "luxury travelers", but their definition of luxury is hilarious and basically any traveler from the West fits). It's a well known fact that Westerners spend more.

Also, don't judge the level of services from a Western perspective. The vast majority of Asian tourists have absolutely no problem queuing up 3 hours for Universal Studios or a famous ramen shop.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Posted in: Medical school exam scandal exposes bias against female doctors in Japan See in context


You misunderstood me completely. I was referring to the fact that it's a waste if you decide to dump so many years of hard work and never return to your job after investing so much into it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Medical school exam scandal exposes bias against female doctors in Japan See in context


I'm just assuming based on the motives suggested by the medical school. Probably many of the ladies return to work, although I keep hearing conflicting opinions about whether the institution of sengyo-shufu is dying out in Japan or not.


Fair point, but somehow in Japan I can't imagine many independent doctors on stand by waiting to be called as a replacement whenever needed. Most of them don't have enough time even for their own small clinics.

Takeshi Hasegawa

You say "to eliminate the super crazy work custom", but how do you suggest to do that? Anyone who works in a company in Japan knows the flow is very congested and busy. Japanese companies are too big and constantly need to run a million projects and deals at the same time. If I suggest to my management "let's run fewer projects so that we're not so busy", the company will simply start earning less. It's pure capitalism at its purest form, and in my opinion that's the essence of the problem.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Posted in: Medical school exam scandal exposes bias against female doctors in Japan See in context

"As often mentioned on these forums, dealing with absences is what staff management is supposed to do."

I would like to deepen the discussion on this point if possible. I'm in no way endorsing the practice of discrimination, which is fundamentally unfair (however, let's not forget that a private university can set its own admission rules, by deciding the quota for men and women, accepting only those they want, etc). I feel sorry for all the girls who were snubbed due to the bias (on the other hand, I personally think it's pointless to devote so many years and efforts into such a demanding and high-level profession only to decide to become a full-time sengyo-shufu for the rest of your life a couple of years later... but this is just my opinion).

However, I'm trying to see the situation from their eyes and understand the underlying motives behind the discriminatory selection. I don't believe the explanation is as simple as sexism and disregarding the skills of women. Some of the best doctors I've met in Japan were all women. I actually think the hospitals are indeed worried over highly likely resignations or long-term maternity leaves that will render them understaffed. Probably more of a worry in the countryside than Tokyo, but still a valid worry.

My question is how is this type of situation solved in other countries? Maybe I've lived in Japan for too long, but I can somehow relate to why many employees are hesitant to take long time off work. In my work, for example, if I go away, there's literally no one else to substitute me and take over my tasks - either because my co-workers have no idea or expertise on what I'm doing, or because they physically cannot take double load. I schedule my vacation time half a year in advance to make sure everyone is prepared. But if something unexpected happens and I have to take time off suddenly, I really don't see how my management would cope with it. Probably will be forced to tell our clients and partners that we can't complete the projects in time - something unacceptable in Japan. So how do managers in other countries solve this? By hiring more people than necessary?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posted in: LDP gearing up for leader's race; Abe eyes constitutional revision See in context

Japan doesn't hold its own independence the way people imagine it. As a semi-occupied country, its politics will always be decided by the US. Parties which propose improving relations with China or cutting on the number of US bases have obviously no chance. I don't think it's fair to lament the inertness of the locals for something they have little say about. Abe and the LDP are like the appointed governor of this territory, they're not going to change in foreseeable future, and I must admit Abe was very smart to be the first one to go and flatter Trump after the US elections. This literally guaranteed his seat.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Posted in: Diet OKs law to allow up to 3 casino resorts See in context

"Friends and relatives of the LDP" is a mild way to say it. There is one particular person who is behind this and many other government decisions, especially those concerned with large infrastructural projects targeted at "increasing the number of foreigners". He is not Japanese, he is very close to the LDP and he is extremely influential. Practically, most of his wishes become government strategies.

In regards to the above, one of the casino resorts will be in Hokkaido, but not in Sapporo. It will be in the east, within a national park purposely selected as one of the national parks that will be developed to reach international recognition and attract high-end foreign visitors. Everything is linked together and nothing is a coincidence.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Fruit picking grows in popularity among foreign visitors to Japan See in context

I don't quite agree with the opinions here. Fruits picking is a great experience and much more delicious than buying crappy-tasting fruits in central Tokyo. Nothing in the stores can really compare to an all-you-can-eat grapes in Yamanashi or strawberries in Tochigi. Surely, you pay around 1500-2000 JPY, but 30 minutes is enough to stuff yourself with lots of fruits. Problem is, Japanese don't really understand the concept of all-you-can-eat; they spend the time taking photos, posing with cherries and not really eating much, so for them this experience is indeed a rip-off. When I got into a strawberry greenhouse, it doesn't have much left after 30 minutes. After all, that's the point of driving all the way to the farm, isn't it?

As for the foreign travelers, the data is quite skewed. Fruits picking appeals only to some particular countries, namely Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, a bit from Taiwan, but virtually no one from the Western countries and very few from Korea/China go for fruits picking. It's a specific-target activity. Plus, the accessibility problems make it difficult to reach the farms without a rental car.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Posted in: ‘Jisa Biz’ campaign to ease overcrowding on Tokyo trains starts Monday See in context

I'm not convinced countryside trains are as empty as portrayed here. Here is a list of train routes on which I've had the discomfort of standing for long in a crowded car:

Fukuoka to Saga

Kanazawa to Fukui

Kurashiki to Okayama

Matsusaka to Nagoya

Chitose to Sapporo practically every time

In central Tokyo you are still with a good chance of getting a seat within 10-15 minutes after everyone gets off at Shinjuku or another major station. But on those countryside routes especially at commute times you stand for an hour or so as there is no major station along the way.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: ‘Jisa Biz’ campaign to ease overcrowding on Tokyo trains starts Monday See in context

Reading the comments here makes me wonder how exactly is everyone integrated in the Japanese society. So many opinions, remarks and conclusions about "the companies", "the employees", "commuters", as if no one is part of the system. If you're not, it would be great to share interesting insight about how you managed not to be among "the employees" of "the companies"; if you are, then please tell us how you've dealt with the issue described in the article and whether you have suggested any of the solutions to your management. Personally, I'm more amazed at how foreigners adopt far too quickly and far too earnestly all the well-known criticized habits of the Japanese work culture. I've seen a good number of foreign employees (and I don't speak about Chinese low-skilled workers at all) who master the defects of the work-life balance without a hint of disappointment. We may criticize the Japanese work system all we want, but as long as foreigners come and eagerly adopt the practices instead of bringing fresh air of change, things will indeed remain the same.

As for the crowded trains, in Tokyo this is more of a morning rush hour issue. In the evenings it's not really that bad as everyone leaves office at a different time depending on how much zangyo they do. The company I work at starts at 10 am, and around 9:30 am the Yamanote Line is already not so crowded. I usually ride the last car and most of the time find a seat. In my opinion, it's a better idea to introduce later starting time rather than earlier - another reason being that earlier hours are bound to have more employees or travelers going for the Shinkansen/airport with suitcases that occupy space in the trains.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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