Japan Today

Piglet comments

Posted in: Japan losing its manufacturing edge to South Korea See in context


South Korea gained first world country status in 2008 but Japan's GDP per capita still remains twice as large.

Are you kidding me? South Korea and Japan have roughly the same GDP (PPP) per capita, between France and Israel, based on IMF data (2011).

Standard of living in both countries is relatively similar, but SK is on ascending trend, while Japan has been on a descending trend for 20 years (and it is just the beginning unfortunately).

The point of this paper is that Japan is progressively loosing its industrial edge and becomes less relevant year after year. The question now is whether the elites will understand a paradigm change is needed for Japan to stay in a leading position: more flexibility, less government intervention (let the creative destruction process bring in more innovative companies instead of keeping afloat a largely inefficient domestic private sector), etc...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posted in: Sega seeks stream of success with 'Toylet' games See in context

Is that a joke?

In “Violent wind warning has been issued”, the player tries to blow up a virtual girl’s skirt with a digital wind, also dependent on the power of his flow.

Isn't that offensive?

0 ( +2 / -3 )

Posted in: What do you think are the good and bad points about the subway systems in Japan's cities? See in context

Subways are great. If I could change anything, I would just:

expand service beyond midnight (24/24 would be great but even until 2 or 3 am would really help).

significantly decrease the amount and the volume of announcements. It is very tiring to take trains and subways because of the incessant announcements.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Posted in: Construction company president shot in Fukuoka Pref See in context

I once read that about 90% of the construction industry in Japan was linked with Yakuza, at least through protection money and often direct control and elaborated schemes (so, yes, reader, there is a very high chance that the mob was involved in the construction of your building). According to this paper, this explained why new companies and building techniques (double glazing, window coating, insulation, alternative building materials) could not reach the market (which was described as a cartel designed for high income, low building costs, no real competition). Things are apparently starting to change but the Yakuza are not willing to be expelled from the market without a fight.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Families of 2 kindergarten kids killed by tsunami to file suit See in context

Oh, and the bus driver fled the scene, leaving the children to die on the bus. Small detail that you omitted.

Do you have a link for this?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Stress test results for nuclear power plant in Ehime released See in context

Some questions:

what are the results for reactors No.1 and 2 ?

what were the pass marks for each test?

which elements were taken from the European stress tests and which were not? Can we have a detailed list of all the elements tested? Does it include only earthquake/tsunami resistance or also risks of plane crash / terrorist attacks?

can we have a schedule for the stress tests all over Japan?

are the stress test results legally binding (ie no authorization to restart after a failed test)?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Posted in: Families of 2 kindergarten kids killed by tsunami to file suit See in context

It is estimated that a tsunami resulting from Tokai earthquake might reach Shizuoka coast in less than 5 minutes. People should evacuate immediately and not wait for rescue.

From the Shizuoka guidebook PDF:

When an earthquake occurs suddenly, large tsunami waves will come a few minutes later. There will be no time to wait for evacuation advice or instructions. Get to high ground immediately. Undergo night evacuation training beforehand, and find out your evacuation route and the time it will take. (Confirm it by actually taking a walk along the evacuation route.) (Warning) Tsunami waves repeatedly attack the shore . The first wave of a tsunami is not always the largest. Since the warning is necessary, do not go near the shore for a long period of time after an earthquake.

Therefore the orders to wait for rescue could be considered as criminal negligence.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Posted in: Families of 2 kindergarten kids killed by tsunami to file suit See in context

Poor kids, and poor parents. RIP. I cannot imagine the terror these people must have felt when the tsunami reached the coast.

I don't think these parents are over-litigious, because it is common knowledge in Japan (it is written in any official publication) that people living in coastal areas need to evacuate to higher ground immediately after an earthquake (in addition, the tsunami warnings were broadcasted immediately after the first shake). Children should have been brought immediately (within the next 2 minutes) to safe grounds (tsunami shelters or on foot to higher grounds).

In this kind of situation, some "automatic" behavior should be enforced by government employees, who shouldn't wait for official orders or outside help. I hope this will help enforcing new safety rules in the future, so that this kind of tragedy does not happen again.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Posted in: Japan fans warned to tone down cheering for N Korea clash See in context


Recently, an american guy was put on labor camp for 2 weeks before being expelled because he made a joke about Kim Jong Il and was overheard.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Posted in: Oscars show producer resigns over gay slur See in context

Now let's see when Japanese entertainers and politicians start being asked to resign when they make racist comments.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Finnair See in context

Low cost companies are not developed here because the heavy regulations do not make it easy for such companies to establish business. I heard that Air Asia has been trying for a while to penetrate the Japanese market but it has been difficult (mainly because of JAL).

Overall the transportation market is controlled by a very small number of semi-public or private conglomerates: JAL, ANA, JR, Tokyu, Tobu, etc... There is no competition on high-speed lines (shinkansen is only offered by JR), so they don't have any incentive to provide flexible prices on JR (even in France, one of the most socialist country among Western nations, the national carrier SNCF has flexible pricing like airplanes).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Japanese viewers tuning out, turning off their TVs See in context

1) 100% of the food shows are actually paid by the restaurants / shops they visit, and therefore should be considered as advertising and not real programming (this is the reason why guest cannot express a real opinion).

2) News on free channels are less and less investigative, most of the news are simply coming from news agencies (I wish there were more reporters sent for investigation). They are replacing news segments with "newstertainment"

3) Visual quality is very bad on free channels (surpassingly better on cable channels) : a very bad use of colors, special effects and sounds makes it very tiring to watch after a while. It looks like the graphic designers on most TV channels are a bunch of 8 years-old. A what with the use of printed boards (haven't they heard of computer graphics) ?

4) There are so many commercials that it is impossible to follow a program properly.

5) Many "educational" entertainment programs (quizz, etc) reinforce stereotypes and a conservative vision of the society.

6) Talento are characterized by their usual lack of talent.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Posted in: Japanese viewers tuning out, turning off their TVs See in context

With the rise of free replay services and on demand systems linked with your internet subscription (without talking about internet where you can find any TV program or movie you want for free), who would like to watch live TV anymore? The only live TV I watch is BBC news with Hikari TV, and only for some live events. Internet is good enough for most of our needs: TV shows (using streaming websites), news, kids programs, etc... With the HDD, I also record some TV shows, but at least we can get rid of the commercials this way.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Posted in: Japan to make decision on TPP next week See in context

There is an unhealthy focus on farmers (especially rice farmers), while the TPP is a global agreement that would benefit the economy as a whole (easier exports for Japanese industries). Concerning agricultural products, the TPP, combined with the abolishment of JA monopolies and price control, while bring the Japanese agriculture to the modern world through healthy competition. Farmers will have to consolidate their farms by freely associating with their peers (as it has been done in developed countries in the 50's but has never been done in Japan). Not only Japanese agriculture will survive (at least those who adapt), but it will be more armed to compete on a global scale. Knowing that Japanese products are increasingly popular in China (and the price is not a problem for the rich Chinese) and other countries (except for Fukushima products, of course), there are some potential new markets opening to the intelligent Japanese farmers. It will also benefit the average Japanese families, who would definitely appreciate a sharp decrease in food products, especially rice (domestic rice might be 40 to 50% cheaper if price control is removed, foreign rice might be sold 80 to 90% cheaper than current price).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Quake recovery funds bring boom to Sendai See in context

It is a good news that people start going out again and economic activity is recovering.

However, it is suggested that recovery funds given to companies are funneled into hostess bars and various entertainment costs. It is one thing for a company to allow such use of corporate funds (it just shows a lack of proper corporate management), it is another thing to use emergency recovery money for such use.

Public money (which means our taxpayers money) is used not to reconstruct infrastructure and provide some emergency relief funding to refugees, but to pay for hostess bars and Don Perignon bottles.

Another proof that a real recovery (based on solid economic foundations) will not result from unlimited public money (which will create bubbles and artificial short-term activity) but from private investment and sustainable economic activity.

If I was in charge, I would severely limit recovery funds to emergency measures (refugees, roads and basic infrastructure) and work to provide attractive conditions for businesses to come to the area:

creation of Special Economic Areas (tax free, free trade zone, etc...) in disaster-struck prefectures

no red-tape, no tax for these areas

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Panel releases report stating it will take 30 years to safely close Fukushima plant See in context

Some nuclear specialists estimated in April that it might take 40 to 50 years to fully decommission the Fukushima plant. The new estimation from this Japanese panel is now more in line with these estimations (TEPCO was initially talking about a 10 to 20 years time frame).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Posted in: Japan's public debt to hit record Y1,024 trillion See in context

(when I write "serious trouble", I mean an scenario a la Argentina in the 90's or the current Greek debacle)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Japan's public debt to hit record Y1,024 trillion See in context

The current debt can be sustained only if:

people accept to receive no interest on their savings (for whatever reason)

people don't start cashing in on their savings

debt service doesn't get significantly higher, reaching or exceeding available income (this requires keeping extremely low interest rates for ever)

Unfortunately, savings rate has dramatically decreased over the last two decades in Japan, because the increasing number of old people need to use their savings and families cannot afford anymore to save as much as their elders did in light of the struggling economy.

If tax revenues decrease (due to decreasing of working population resulting from aging population, no immigration and low female participation in the economy), then debt service will represent an even higher percentage of available income.

Mathematically, Japan will be in serious trouble within 20 years if there is no paradigm change : significantly increased immigration and female participation, lower governmental spending, balanced budget, free trade agreements, increased efficiency of the antiquated portions of the domestic sector, etc...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Posted in: Yakuza pundit: New laws unlikely to eradicate gangs See in context


Yakuza activity goes much further than pachinko and massage parlors:

extortion through "protection" money, one of their main source of income (in some areas, most of the businesses pay money to them).

large scale extortion of big companies (through investments in banks and publicly traded companies) (for example, it was estimated than 1 trillion of debt in Japanese banks is owned by yakuza-related companies)


human trafficking (hidden prostitution rings using kidnapped girls)

drug trafficking

weapons smuggling

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Posted in: If you found a bag with a huge amount of cash, say 10 million yen, would you hand it in to the authorities or keep it? See in context

oh I read too fast... again my apologies. Obviously, the effective tax rate is much lower than I wrote above.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Posted in: If you found a bag with a huge amount of cash, say 10 million yen, would you hand it in to the authorities or keep it? See in context


It still means the government will loot some money from you (almost 50% in case of 10 million yen).

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Posted in: If you found a bag with a huge amount of cash, say 10 million yen, would you hand it in to the authorities or keep it? See in context

thanks cleo for the practical information. My mistake.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Posted in: If you found a bag with a huge amount of cash, say 10 million yen, would you hand it in to the authorities or keep it? See in context

It is absolutely impossible to prove who is the legitimate owner of paper money, so if you hand the money over to the police, it is most than likely than you will get part of it after 3 months (after government looting through inheritance taxes).

On the other end, such amounts of money in cash most likely comes from illegal or criminal activities. Nobody stores such big amounts as savings from legit activity (salaries are never paid cash except in shaddy businesses). I wouldn't have any moral problem keeping the cash knowing that I would do better use of it than criminals, but I would probably be scared to do so (by fear of being caught), so I would probably give it to the police. Also, there is a chance this money would be counterfeit, so it is safer to give it to the police (even though the government does not deserve getting its share of it through taxes).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posted in: Japan's population growth slowest on record in 2010 See in context


The problem is the population is aging at unprecedented speed and it is increasingly difficult to finance retirement and social systems. Domestic companies will more and more face labor shortage as the working population shrinks (even faster than the general population). Domestic markets will have to adapt to the new situation, but in order to finance the huge debt (200%) and the public spending, Japan will need to stabilize the working population (immigration, higher birth rate, increased participation of women).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Adopting English as workplace language in Japan has its downside See in context

In addition to my previous post, I would like to add that global companies tend to require English proficiency as they like to move employees between countries as they suit. Some of the employees of the Japan office might be asked to work at some other Asian of foreign headquarters, so it makes sense to require that all the employees speak English.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Posted in: Adopting English as workplace language in Japan has its downside See in context

We have had quite the same kind of discussions in France, which used to be strongly and proudly monolingual. Increasingly, French companies require English for any kind of jobs. For example, in Paris area, many companies require English proficiency even for basic jobs (cashier, waiter, office, etc...). Of course, France (at least Paris and a few cities) being much more open than Japan, many people need to use English or other languages (Arabic, Chinese) regularly (for interacting with tourists, foreign residents, etc...). In the hotel industry (which I know a little bit), at least in big groups (Accor, etc...), many jobs require at least three spoken languages (including French).

Japanese companies being increasingly oriented towards global markets (thanks to the shrinking domestic market), it makes sense to put more emphasis on foreign languages (especially English, which is the lingua franca for business all over the world). It would also make sense to require hospitality industry workers to speak fluent English (and maybe Chinese or another foreign language).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Posted in: Japan's population growth slowest on record in 2010 See in context

Why separating Japanese nationals from non-Japanese nationals? It doesn't make any sense in economic terms. Both populations pay taxes and use social services. Therefore any economic analysis should include non-Japanese nationals for economic predictions.

Also, as noticed above, the maths do not add up: a drop of 371,000 Japanese nationals and an increase of 93,000 other nationals should mean that anyway the population decreased overall.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Rallies for and against TPP held in Tokyo See in context


I bet you won't find any taste difference between domestic Japanese rice and Japanica rice produced in California (as consumer group surveys have shown).

Right now, the agricultural system is a cartel controlled by JA. Price are regulated and there is no real competition. A Japanese farmer who would want to sell his rice at lower prices (because of better business organization, bigger cultivated surface, more modern harvesting techniques, etc...) would not be allowed to do so because of price control by JA (there is a minimum price).

This kind of behavior by the government, JA and the farmers, restricts free market mechanisms and does not allow for competition-driven business improvement. Therefore Japanese farmers are the less competitive of the developed world. Instead of focusing with foreign prices, Japanese farmers should focus on find ways to improve their businesses, find ways to be profitable and win market shares domestically and abroad.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Posted in: Japan's coffee culture See in context

Coming from France, a country with a very strong coffee culture (like Italy and the Middle-East), coffee in Japan is pretty much americanized to me. I like going to Starbuck (non-smoking, relaxing, "fun" and seasonal drinks) but I wouldn't compare it to a French or Italian coffee shop serving espressos (and not the diluted coffee-flavored tea American and Japanese call coffee).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Posted in: Radiation hotspot in Chiba linked to Fukushima: officials See in context

I am a bit surprised at the level observed in one hotspot. 55 µSv/h represents an exposure of 503 mSv/year, which is well above the 100 mSv limit from which you can start observing a statistical increase in radiation-induced cancer. Of course, this is a very limited area and nobody stays on top of it the whole time, but it is nevertheless surprising that one could observe such high values so far from the epicenter. Such values in a larger area would definitely require a mandatory evacuation (well above the 50 mSv limit for defining the evacuation zone around Fukushima).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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