Tom comments

Posted in: Japanese universities climb rankings in Times global survey See in context

It's a curiosity of the Japanese system that the entrance exam to get into university is in effect more important than the academic work you do once you're there. Once there, many students do no sort of proper thesis/dissertation — the end result is just a 'Pass' rather than a score that means something. Simply changing the system so that the final year means something could have a big effect.

Added to that, the inability to attract Western or even central Asian students. Since the 1960s it's been another one of those things that seems just like an "Oh well", but moving on into the 2030s this will do real damage to the economy (or, at least, it'll be another missed lifeboat).

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Posted in: Japanese economic growth for April-June smashes expectations See in context

Contrast this to the UK where inflation is sky high and the economy is barely growing.

We are seeing the consequence of austerity measures, on the one hand, versus radical borrowing and stimulus, on the other. Interesting how both countries are run by conservatives yet they are completely polar in their attitude.

Nevertheless, the UK is at least reasonably fiscally responsible - Germany much more so. UK wages are higher and the population is projected to grow. The point I would always argue is debt is so stratospheric in Japan's case that occasional growth - even decades of stagnation - is all a bit of an illusion.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Over 80% of Japan firms forecast economic growth as COVID curbs removed See in context

Quarterly or even annual reports of growth always have to be taken with a pinch of salt in Japan's case. How do you measure growth when the government is so cannabilistically indebted.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Posted in: Japanese curry chain highly recommended by foreigners on Reddit, but is it any good? See in context

Japanese curry seems to serve the job of a gravy dinner - in fact, it's made in pretty much the same way as instant gravy granules. Wholesome, hearty, can't say I don't enjoy it, but honestly the quality of Indian food in London/Birmingham/Manchester is just off the charts compared to Tokyo/Osaka.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Kishida heads to NATO summit to warn of East Asia risks See in context

Depopulation and debt has served to nullify Japan's influence on the world stage; the same will happen to China, given another couple of decades. In spite of all the social issues immigration brings, pluralism and transparency will see the West on top in 2050s. The US will still be growing.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Posted in: UK report: Black kids 6 times likelier to be strip-searched in England, Wales See in context

What on earth has this got to with Japan? It might be time to do one's own social research, if data isn't there to be plucked from Japanese sources.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

Posted in: Gov't plans ¥50,000 handouts for each low-income household to fight inflation See in context

Bemusing, this talk of tax increases, when the modest tax hikes over the last 20 years have actually been nowhere near - absolutely nowhere near - the level necessary to repay the nation’s debt. This is the fundamental difference between Japan and the respective conservative governments of Britain, France, Germany. Debt is not a moral issue. There is nobody holding the government accountable. Hell, it’s hardly even a conversation to be had.

Japan would be the most expensive country in the developed world by some distance - were VAT and income tax to reflect its true fiscal health.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Turning Japanese convenience store ingredients into gourmet sandwiches with a sandwich press See in context

Honestly, the sandwiches in convenience stores are staggeringly processed and using the most morally-unconcerned factory farmed meat imaginable. But yes, the underbaked milky bread is better when toasted.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Posted in: Britain on course for hottest day on record See in context

The UK has been one of the primary leaders and success stories in renewable energy transition over the last decade. Room for improvement but there's no denying that.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Posted in: Tokyo falls to 9th most expensive city for expats due to weak yen See in context

People in Tokyo often comment that London and Paris are more expensive. For the central bits that's true, but it's a bit like judging Tokyo only on Minato-ku. Certainly, there is a culture in Japan of cheap lunch sets and 100 yen shops and cheap public transport - sure, visiting as a tourist you don't feel ripped off - but beyond that, considering all criteria, I'd argue Tokyo is just as expensive.

Notably, healthcare is paid direct in Japan rather than from VAT etc (imagine manually paying €120 each month), while city tax is per person rather than per household. What a couple would pay together will likely be higher, in spite of the 10% consumption tax.

Foor food, many non-Japanese items are either hellishly expensive or of lower quality if they aren't (think Kraft Parmesan...) And vegetables! Yes, you can sit down to eat for 700 yen, but it's likely to be all factory grade meat and processed carbs. It's a very expensive country in which to be a vegetarian. Or eat wholegrain carbs.

While rent is expensive in major European cities, you only need casually peruse estate agents' windows to see how fairly average €1500 a month apts often come out looking like something that would be consideree super luxury in Tokyo. Then there's the "key money" ... and your pension payments.

4 ( +23 / -19 )

Posted in: Kishida vows to push for Constitution reform, build on Abe's legacy See in context

Japan has the right to amend its constitution if it so wishes, and I certainly welcome further alignment with NATO. The issue is that an increase in military expenditure is a luxury the government absolutely cannot afford. Given the choice between, say, purchasing F-35 jets or paying pensions... So-called "hawkish" memebers of the LDP in their 60s (and still apparently living in the 1980s) may go on kidding themselves for the time being but in the 2030s the choice will be much starker.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Posted in: LDP scores big victory in upper house election See in context

The LDP has had nothing but quantitative easing as a get out of jail free card for over 20 years, and they're very fortunate -- at least for the time being -- that 90% of the public are to some degree either apathetic or totally ignorant of this fact.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Posted in: Japan's perilously low birthrate a forgotten election issue See in context

Any society that prioritizes work, economic growth and materialism 

Don't forget protectionism, monoculturalism, and cultural exceptionalism...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Posted in: Japan's perilously low birthrate a forgotten election issue See in context

I sort of agree with the spirit of the article, but it's immigration that is the elephant in the room, not birth rates. Because immigration is something politicians can actually affect. There's no example in history of a government ever successfully managing fertility rates (not upwards, anyway). Leaving 12 trillion dollars of debt to the few children you have is apparently preferable to increasing the number of foreign workers by a couple of percent.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Posted in: Kishida seeks major upgrade of NATO partnership See in context

Britain's debt at the end of the Napoleonic wars rose to 200% of GDP, fell as low as 30% around the turn of the 20th century, then rose to over 200% again by the end of WWII - with that debt largely to the US. Japan's debt is rapidly approaching 300% of GDP after 80 years of peace time. Just a thought.

The nation does have a strong military today, but it really couldn't succeed without very substantial bankrolling from allies. The idea of military expansion in the 2020s is a luxury it cannot really afford and in the 2030s the choice (between buying fighter jets vs., paying pensions) will become starker.

Still - that's not to say I'm not in support of Japan and NATO. There's a sad minority of misfiring iconoclasts (or Russkis...) floating about. Russia is clearly the aggressor and Putin is a tyrant, dragging the country in the wrong direction to such an extent that it will be struggling to keep ahead of Mexico and Indonesia in the coming years, let alone Western Europe. NATO is a defence organisation and the greatest trick Putin has pulled is to get even Westerners repeating this line that NATO is threat to Russia's national security. Nobody's interested in invading Russia.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Posted in: High raw material costs plus weak yen threaten Japan's recovery from COVID See in context

The last 30 years has been like boiling a frog from cold water; everything has come on so slowly, so incrementally that the creature remains oblivious. Certainly, it has never become the global evening news headline. Compare that with Brexit. By contrast, I'd argue the problems facing Japan in the 2020s and 2030s make Brexit look like a picnic. Nothing would jolt Japan into the headlines unless accompanied by an earthquake (and even then, the disaster would the scapegoat to explain the economic woe, not Japan's government or lack of dynanism)

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Posted in: Japan plans ¥360 bil domestic relief package as oil prices surge See in context

Many complain the gov is heaping more burden on the tax payer. The scary thing is: it isn't. If Japan were actually in any sense fiscally responsible (and saw debt as a moral issue as Germany does) taxes would be so much higher than they currently are. BOJ bonds have been the LDP's solution to everything for over 20 years. Yes, the taxpayers will suffer the burden, but for the time being the grey old men at the LDP are content to delay the inevitable just long enough to hand the problem over to the kids.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Posted in: Kishida says Japan will ease border controls; daily entry cap to be raised to 5,000 See in context

So conservative in these respects, while absolutely blasé and gung ho regarding public debt spending.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Posted in: Japanese snack maker apologizes for commotion caused by 2-yen price increase See in context

To have any chance of paying back the public debt the IMF recommends consumption tax rise to 15%. Which could not be considered 'high' - except for the fact public health bills are paid additionally, separately. Japan could likely succeed in VAT rises with an adequate influx of tourists, more talented expats, more international students (but....)

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

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