Week of September 21, 2015
- Did you know that there is no peace treaty between Japan and Russia? Main reason: the Soviet Union’s (and now Russia’s) occupation of some small islands north of Hokkaido. So any rapprochement between Japan and Russia is cautious and subject to guessing what the chess player at the other side of the table is up to. Last week’s meeting between foreign ministers Kishida and Lavrov was a good example (Nikkei).
- After last Saturday’s approval of his security bills in the Japanese Upper House, PM Abe is now refocusing on the economy. Two days ago Abe outlined a grand vision of achieving Japan's "biggest economy" and "most affluent way of life" in the postwar era. He set a goal of reaching 600 trillion yen ($5 trillion) in gross domestic product. This figure appears in a scenario issued by the government in the context of improving fiscal health. The Cabinet Office projects GDP reaching 594 trillion yen in fiscal 2020 and 616 trillion yen the following year, assuming a real economic growth rate of at least 2% (Nikkei).
- “All of Japan’s 86 national universities should abolish their faculties of liberal arts or switch them to something more socially useful”, ordered the Minister of Education last week. That caused protests from various interests groups. Even the conservative Keidanren business group (the employers association), usually the first to demand more sciences, weighed in to defend the value of languages and a broad education. “This order seems to reflect a business desire for ‘battle-ready’ staff,” it said, “but what business wants is the complete opposite.” It was a misunderstanding", said a parliamentarian advising the ministry, but there is concern about the nature and the level of Japanese academic studies. Only two Japanese universities make it into the top-100 and with decreasing numbers of students due to an ageing population, there is re-thinking on the way public funding of universities can be made more efficient (Financial Times).
- Inflation has been the key-target by PM Abe and governor of the bank of Japan Kuroda and the promise two years ago was to reach 2% inflation. Nothing of that kind: for the first time since April 2013 the country fell back into deflation. However, core prices excluding food and energy were up by 0.8 per cent on a year ago, a level seldom seen since the 1990s. That suggests the domestic economy is running out of spare capacity, creating pressure for higher prices - and so: inflation (Nikkei).
- Have a look to this video on the status quo of the so-called Abenomics by Bloomberg TV: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2015-09-24/japan-s-economic-growth-in-the-time-of-abenomics-
- Do the Japanese like rice? Less and less, and they consume less sake as well, so the rice demand has decreased dramatically. This FT long-read tells you about the public funding of Japanese rice farmers and what this government is trying to change.
- The IPO of Japan Post is scheduled for November 4, but despite a long preparation time, doubts remain on the issue price and if this IPO will be successful on the long run. 3 units of Japan Post will be listed: Japan Post Holdings, Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance. Apr. EUR 10.2 bln is to be raised. Around 80 percent of the three firm's IPO allocation will go to domestic investors. A finance ministry official said earlier this month that 95 percent of the domestic offering will be sold to individuals while all of the overseas portion will go to institutional investors (Reuters).
- Japan Tobacco Inc. is in talks to buy cigarette assets from Reynolds American Inc. as the company seeks to expand outside of its shrinking home market (Bloomberg).
- The nuclear industry is suffering world wide and this is also true for the French reactor division of Areva. So Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is asked to join - while the French government controlled Areva Nuclear Power is also in discussion with Chinese companies (Nikkei).
- Interested in the origins and activities of the Yakuza, the Japanese version of the mafia? Vice Media reported on the structure of the Japanese underworld and the looming battle between various gangs now that the main syndicate Yamaguchi Gumi has split up in various fractions.
- It’s no secret that Japanese people tend to avoid talking freely about their opinion, according to Chicago born Kyle von Lanken in Gaijinpot, but as he discovered that has also to do with the indirectness of the Japanese language. “When speaking Japanese, you almost always have to wait until the very end of someone’s sentence before you know exactly what they’re talking about” tells an old Japanese farmer. "Very true, I thought to myself. I’ve known for quite a while that Japanese is subject, object and verb and English is subject, verb and then object.” Truly interesting if you want to understand why your discussions with Japanese are so … slow? Uneasy? Troublesome (fill in yourself).
- Life above 70 in Japan, the Silver Years… Herewith a reflection by FT columnist Tyler Brûlée on getting old in Japan. Also for him it is difficult to determine a Japanese person’s age.