Week of December 7, 2015
- PM Abe’s popularity is on the rise again and stands now at 41.2%, a gradual recovery after hitting its lowest level three months ago. Disapproval rate dropped slightly (Japan Times).
- Less impressive is Japan’s reputation when it comes to the freedom of press. British journalist Jon Mitchell, based in Japan, wrote an article on the subject. Mitchell has credits: in 2015, he received the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan's Freedom of the Press lifetime achievement award for his investigations into human rights violations on Okinawa (Freedom of the Press Foundation).
- Shinzo Abe is now in India and high on the agenda are military cooperation, read: arms sale from Japan to India. And, as I read elsewhere, there will be cooperation in nuclear energy as well as a Shinkansen between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, a EUR 13 billion project (Reuters).
- Japan’s public finances are - as we all know - not too brilliant and a VAT increase is needed. The government is expected to raise the VAT at 10% per April 2017, a very unpopular move for his electorate. However, general food is to be excluded and will stay at 8%. (The Japan News / Yomiuri).
- Meanwhile, concerns over the sustainability of the Bank of Japan’s bold monetary easing measures are growing. It is projected that more than 30% of Japan Government Bonds / JGB’s will be held by the BOJ by year-end, a much higher proportion than the nearly 20% for the U.S. Federal Reserve's Treasury holdings. Because the BOJ expects its 2% inflation target to be realised around the latter half of fiscal 2016, it is highly likely that the bank will continue gobbling up JGB’s. If the BOJ maintains its pace, JGB’s may disappear from the market altogether (Nikkei).
- But, oh magic, no recession in Japan since this week as the Q3 figures were revised. Japan has not a very big reputation when it comes to the reliability of its reporting on national accounts, neither when it publishes provisional figures nor when the final figures are released (Financial Times).
- Nissan and Renault … it sometimes reminds me of “Air France and KLM”. The French state has a decisive vote in the French car maker. Nissan wanted to raise its stake and voting rights in Renault, but the French government did not give in much. Shares in Renault dropped 5%.
- Airbnb is taking off in Japan, but not without any difficulty. Nevertheless, I heard form various people that they rented for short stays apartments through Airbnb in Tokyo for reasonable rates (Japan Times).
- Japan and the art of towel making … here the story of a small towel producing company that saw it sales plunge and took the French Champagne as a bubbling example. I never had heard of “towel sommeliers”, but what a creative approach! (Financial Times)
- The Japanese yakuza or: syndicates are in the fire line of the US Treasury Department. The assets of one of its former top mobsters in the USA are frozen. Great picture with a yakuza’s hands. Great last paragraph as well: "While Mr. Goto was a notorious boss in Japan, he attracted attention in the US after it emerged that he was given a liver transplant at a California hospital in 2001 despite being reportedly on a list of people barred from entering the US. Some media have reported that Mr. Goto was allowed to enter because he was providing information to the FBI. He later donated USD 100,000 to the hospital.” (Financial Times).
- Japanese women are fighting to keep their maiden name after marriage, difficult as there is legislation on this subject from 1896. Conservatives say allowing couples to choose whether they share the same surname or not could damage family ties and threaten society. “Names are the best way to bind families,” Masaomi Takanori, a constitutional scholar, told NHK public television.“Allowing different surnames risks destroying social stability, the maintenance of public order and the basis for social welfare.” (The Guardian)
- Sad news on Japan’s involvement in ivory trade from the National Geographic. Sales of tusks were USD 2 mln in 2010 and last year USD 7 mln. Sales also through e-commerce companies (copy paste from National Geographic).