Thursday, June 30, 2011

Can we beat the heat without relying on as much electricity as we did ?

Since the 3/11 earthquake, all the people in eastern Japan have been required to cut electricity consumption because not only the Fukushima plant but also other power plants have been seriously damaged and many of them haven't fully recovered yet. Because of this, we hoped that this summer wouldn't be very hot. We don't want to imagine that this summer will be as hot as last summer. As far as I remember, I felt that 33℃ wasn't hot during last summer. Temperatures in a lot of places throughout Japan often trumped tropical countries.

Contrary to our hope, heat waves have unexpectedly come to Japan despite it being June. It's been reported that in June, more people than usual have been taken by ambulance to the hospital because of heat stroke. It seems that both great efforts to cut electricity consumption and the sudden surge in temperatures have caused the increase in heat stroke patients. Given this situation, I'm wondering how we can beat the heat without relying on as much electricity as we did.

Companies located in Tokyo and some prefectures where TEPCO supplies electricity have been struggling to find ways to cut electricity consumption since they are officially required to reduce the consumption by 15% at least. If they fail to meet the requirement, they will have to pay a fine. To maintain competitive power in the global market, some drastic changes will be necessary. To make matters worse, there will be a shortage of electricity in a large part of Japan if the government and electricity companies can't persuade local people and governments involved to agree with resuming the operation of nuclear power reactors which were shut down for annual regular maintenance required by the law.

Under these circumstances, all the people are required to seriously think about their lifestyles. On top of that, a doctor says that now is a good opportunity to strengthen your weak body functions. According to him, since people usually live in a comfortable environment, not only grown-ups but also children have fewer opportunities to sweat than years ago, which has weaken perspiration function which is important in preventing heat stroke.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

There are old ways which we shouldn't have forgotten or shouldn't forget.

When I was a child, more than three decades ago, my grandparents' house in Osaka had things that are no longer seen in Japan. At the time, Osaka was already a large city, and old, traditional things were disappearing from many houses there. However, they existed in my grandparents' house and gave me thrilling experiences and a glimpse of the old times.

Going to the toilet in their house was a big deal for me. I was scared to use the traditional Japanese style non-flush toilet (Please see the attached picture. It's similar to the toilet in their house). I first had to open the lid of the toilet stool and put it aside. Then I stood over the toilet stool. Although I was very familiar with Japanese-style toilets since almost all the toilets were Japanese-style ones at the time, I wasn't very used to traditional non-flush toilets. I was vigilant not to drop my large slippers which I had on my feet (At the time, a pair of slippers exclusive for the toilet room is provided. They were usually for adults, so they were too large for children). On top of that, I was sometimes forced to struggle with the foul smell when I opened the lid. I still clearly remember when a vacuum truck was removing human waste from their house because the trucks had never come to my house.

Whenever I was at my grandparents' house, my grandfather would call me at dusk. He would tell me that I needed to collect all the trash baskets there and bring them to the backyard. Can you guess why? To prepare a bath for his family, he would build a fire with paper waste, wood waste, twigs and things like that. Although they had electricity and gas in their home, they still used a traditional bathroom with a traditional cast-iron bathtub. Under the bathtub, there was a space to burn things. You could throw things from the surrounding area into the space (Please see the the 9th and 10th pictures in Link #1 below). I still remember that my grandfather would ask me from the backyard how the bath water was. I loved taking a bath there, but I was nervous about whether I could go into the bathtub because I had to get on a round board which was floating on the bath water (Please see the last picture in Link #1 below). Since the bottom of the bathtub was hot, I needed to get on the board and put it on the bottom. However, I was so light that it was not easy for me.

Anyway, when I read the article in link #2 below, about a month after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, somehow I remembered the aforementioned memories. In the disaster-stuck areas, the old ways are inevitably necessary. Even in Tokyo, since the earthquake, we have been forced to be pay more attention to some of the old ways to cut electricity consumption and beat the heat. I feel like the disaster has warned us to not forget old ways and to learn from the past.

Link #1

Link #2

Friday, June 24, 2011

Can Japanese people transform the disaster into an opportunity to change?

Miyagi and Iwate prefectures were the most seriously damaged by the massive tsunamis on the 11th of March because the epicenter of the 3/11 earthquake was near to these prefectures. Since the ocean area around the epicenter is one of the three largest fishing grounds in the world, there were many major fishing ports in these prefectures. Sadly, almost all of them were completely washed away. When this serious situation in the tsunami-struck areas was revealed, I would often heard on TV that some fishermen were saying that they expected the fishing industry to take advantage of the disaster by using this time and to reform itself. They also said that they wanted to change things that they had never changed despite the realization that they had to. They expected both the central and local governments to take leadership in reforming the fishing industry based on a blueprint for it. I don't know much about the fishing industry. Still, I can see the necessity of the reform because it's been said that the primary industries of Japan need to be reformed, otherwise they won't have a future.

About a week ago, it was reported that a project was controversial. The project was launched by the governor of Miyagi prefecture to reform the fishing industry and rebuild major fishing ports in Miyagi. Although I don't intend to elaborate on it, the new plan seems to introduce some new ideas and could be damaging the interests of those who prefer to or want to stick to traditional systems. I don't know if the new ideas will help the fishing industry in the area come back and flourish. Still, I want the governor to introduce something new because changing things in itself is meaningful.

The need to be reformed is not particular to the fishing industry. As you may know, Japan has been struggling to get out of its sluggish economy for two decades. A lot of business leaders and big names in politics have reiterated that Japan needs to change its social structure and establish new business models to meet social demands. Despite their realization, many of them weren't able to take leadership in doing so. On the contrary, some intended to block or blocked attempts to develop new business models or to start new things. It seems to me that they didn't try to understand the attempts partly because the new ideas were far from their business tradition and culture, and partly because they don't like those who are still young but are willing to challenge vested interests.

I think that many Japanese people, especially younger generations, really want to change things that nobody was able to change because of the disaster. In my opinion, every single person is required to seriously think about what Japan should be like and to change themselves.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It's been three months since the 3/11 earthquake---Part 4: Radioactive contamination

A majority of Japanese people think that if the Fukushima disaster hadn't happened, Japan could recover much faster. Needless to say, the disaster has complicated the situation. Despite a large number of people working very hard under extremely dangerous circumstances, there is still no sign that the plant is getting back under control. Recently, it turned out that eight workers have already been exposed to over 250mSv of radiation, including internal exposure (The figure is the temporary radiation dose limit per year only for workers at this plant in response to the immediate crisis). Since there are so many workers from various industries at the plant that the capacity of measuring internal exposure doses cannot meet the demand. It's been said that for the workers, the radiation exposure control is very important because if the control isn't good enough to protect their health, it will end up spelling trouble for overcoming the crisis.

As time goes by, thanks to great efforts made by some specialists from various fields, NPOs and citizens' groups, the issue of which areas have been contaminated by radioactive materials is becoming clear. On top of that, local governments relatively far from Fukushima prefecture recently bowed to public pressure and finally started more detailed investigations on radiation levels. So far, it's been said that a large amount of radioactive materials which were emitted by hydrogen explosions on the 12th and 14th of March have caused a wide range of contamination. The contamination was mostly caused by the direction of the wind on those two days, and the rain on the 21st and 22nd. Because of this, the soil radiation levels aren't directly related to the distance from the Fukushima plant. On top of that, it has turned out that recent air radiation levels are almost proportional to soil radiation levels. It seems that at half a meter above ground the air radiation level is slightly higher than the air higher up. This shows that current radiation comes mainly from radioactive fallout of the soil.

Actually, what is bothering people the most is not knowing how to understand the radiation levels. Our government has ordered residences in some areas to evacuate and set the guidelines for protection from radiation, but some of the guidelines have been controversial since they was announced. Some specialists have been insisting that some guidelines are not safe enough to protect people, especially children. A lot of people are skeptical of the guidelines, assuming that the government must have set them not only from the viewpoint of safeguarding the health and safety of all the people but also from the viewpoint of various social impacts. On the other hand, some people don't pay enough attention to the guidelines. Given that health effects of low-level radiation exposure have been controversial even among specialists in the field because there isn't enough data on them, I think that people have no choice but to protect themselves and to figure out what to do by themselves based on various reliable information. However, some people don't seem to like to decide what to do by themselves. Some are at a loss as to what to believe and what to do. On the other hand, some people seem to be annoyed that they are being told what to do.

I hope that another strong aftershock won't hit the plant.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's been three months since the 3/11 earthquake--Part 3: The disaster happened at the worst time

The 3/11 earthquake hit Japan when there was were a signs that the Japanese economy was finally turning up. Upon looking at the world situation, I would say that the disaster happened at the worst time. About two weeks ago, US president Obama officially stated that the 3/11 catastrophe in Japan posed economic risks and had partly aggravated a domestic recovery that was showing signs of slowing down. Some countries in the Middle east and Africa have been unstable due to revolutions and riots, which has been affecting the crude oil price. Europe has destabilizing factors like Greece's financial crisis. In Athens, there was a massive demonstration against new fiscal austerity measures a few days ago, and the protest became violent. In China, which has been recently playing a leading role in the economy, the government has been having difficulty dealing with a surge in inflation. It seems that a lot of ordinary people are frustrated to the point where it is becoming a destabilizing factor.

Anyway, a few days ago, it was announced that in March, the number of people on welfare in Japan had reached two millions for the first time in the past half century. Although the number includes some victims who lost their jobs due to the 3/11 disaster, this is mainly because a lot of temporary workers were fired due to the so-called Lehman shock and many of them haven't found a job yet. It's been pointed out that since some of them had difficulty finding a stable job, they have stopped looking for work despite still being young , and then they ended up relying on welfare. As for the victims, it's been projected that many others have already applied for welfare benefits in the past few months, and those who are currently living on unemployment insurance benefits will apply for welfare benefits in autumn if they can't get a job before the insurance benefits are over. Some companies in disaster-struck areas have been making great efforts to get their businesses back to normal as soon as possible without firing or laying off their employees, but they are facing a harsh reality.

Other than that, Japan is under pressure from IMF to increase in tax in order to avert a financial crisis. Today, the tax reform bill was announced as if our government responds to the IMF requirement. If the bill passes Parliament, taxes on consumption, income and inheritance will be raised. Moreover, I often hear that since the catastrophe has economically affected many other countries, they really hope that Japan will recover as soon as possible. In a major high-tech electronics factory whose products occupy a high global market share, a lot of engineers from other companies worldwide have been working hard to help the factory get back to normal as soon as possible.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More Japanese people are trying to learn from Chinese people how to protect themselves!?

Have you heard of the Japanese phrase "平和ボケ/Heiwa-boke"? 平和/Heiwa means peace. ボケ/Boke describes a situation where the brain doesn't work well or as well as usual. Actually, the meaning of Boke is so ambiguous that it's very difficult for me to define it. It depends on the context. Boke is also used when your response lacks focus, like if you don't understand the point of the situation or the point the speaker is trying to make. Anyway, 平和ボケ/Heiwa-boke means that you have become less capable of seeing danger and risks since you are living in a peaceful environment.

As I talked about in my previous post, it's been said that Japanese people always have their guard down, although I wonder how many of them realized it. Many of them have little interest in protecting themselves, their families and their property since they aren't aware that things far beyond their expectations could happen. However, after the 3/11 disaster, even that kind of Japanese people started thinking more about how to protect themselves and their families. Under these circumstances, I've heard that people are paying more attention to the way Chinese protect themselves, although most of them didn't try to understand their ways before the 3/11 disaster.

It's been said that Chinese people basically don't trust their government, although those who were born after 1980 are referred to as "ba ling hou/八零后" and have a distinct character. On top of that, a large number of ordinary people have been forced to struggle and compete for their survival since they were born. Because of this, inevitably, they always think about how to protect themselves and their families by themselves. They try to study outside China and look for immigration opportunities there in order to build bases worldwide. If something critical happens in China, they will escape to the countries where their family members or relatives live. Some of my Chinese friends are interested in obtaining foreign citizenship. They insist that they don't mind losing their Chinese citizenship and it doesn't affect their identity. Changing their nationality doesn't seem to be a big deal for them. Whether or not Japanese people like these ways, there are things that they can learn from the Chinese people.

Right after the 3/11 disaster, I saw some people insisting on Twitter that Japanese people should improve their English and learn at least one more foreign language to be able to survive outside Japan. I hope that the disaster will inspire young people to go study or work abroad. Right now they have so little interest in studying and working abroad that it is becoming a serious problem.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's been three months since the 3/11 earthquake---Part 2: The terrible smell is becoming a big problem

Needles to say, the Fukushima disaster has complicated the situation. As you may know, the disaster is still going on and there is still no sign that the plant is getting back under control. In this post, I'll talk about disaster-struck areas in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures which were the most seriously damaged by the 3/11earthquake and tsunami. Some towns there were completely washed away by the massive tsunami.

According to the news, mountains of rubble are here and there. Although local governments involved have been struggling to find sites for temporary moving them out of sight, the victims are forced to live near piles of rubble. The locale governments have announced that they will do their best to remove them from sight in the next few months. On the other hand, it's been projected that it will take about three years until the rubble removal activity is done and it will take another two years until all the removed rubble is disposed of.
As summer is approaching, the terrible smell is becoming a big problem. The rubble is giving off various kinds of odors. Specifically, the foul smell of rotten fish is afflicting people in the disaster-struck areas. Since the ocean area around the epicenter of the 3/11 earthquake is one of the three largest fishing grounds in the world, there are many major fishing ports in Miyagi and Iwate. Sadly, almost all of them were devastated, and a large amount of fish which were stored in refrigerated warehouses were scattered all over the tsunami-struck areas. So, it's not easy to get rid of them. Many of them have been inevitably left behind. Some agencies are doing pest control for epidemic prevention.

There are still many missing people. Their families have been struggling to find a way to move on. Some of them are trying to give up finding their loved ones' body/bodies and try to accept their death because it's been three months since that day. Rescue workers collected mementos, like albums, while rummaging amid piles of rubble for bodies. After they drew off, volunteers and local people continuously collect them. For the victims whose personal belongings were totally washed away, finding things which remind them of their lost common but happy lives is an important step to move on. Piles of rubble are being removed with the greatest care.

Some victims have already moved on and want to rebuild their businesses as soon as possible. Some are still struggling to find a way to move on. This difference seems to complicate matters, as well.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The words illustrate how the characteristics of Japanese people in their 20s have changed for the past few decades.

In a previous post, I described how Japanese society has changed for the past 25 years by means of making a comparison of a welcome ceremony for new employees held by Japan Airline in 1986 to one in 2010. Today, I read a Nikkei article which cites an interesting survey on what words said by others make people in their 20s happy. The survey asks 300 people in their 20s and 300 people between their 30s and 50s. As for the latter ones, the survey asks them what words said by others made them happy when they were in their 20s. I think that the result illustrates well how the characteristics of Japanese people in their 20s have changed for the past few decades. I'll translate the words listed in the survey into English, although some of them are difficult to translate since the meanings are ambiguous and partly dependent on people and situations.

Category 1

親しみがある:You are familiar or congenial or approachable.
つきあいやすい:You are companionable or easy to hang out with.
ノリがいい:You can read the situation, adjust yourself to the situation and try to lift the people there.
マイペース:You go your own way.
面白い:You are funny.
優秀:You are excellent.
いい子:You are good, well behaved and do things as expected.
家庭的:You pay more attention to your family.
素直:You are honest or obedient.

Category 2

主張のある:You are assertive in good meaning.
正義感の強い:You have a strong sense of justice.
反骨精神あふれる:You are fiercely struggling with power or the times.
個性的:You have individuality or unique character.
バイタリティーがある:You have the vitality to do things.
向上心のある:You are ambitious or always try to improve yourself.
上昇志向の:You are career-conscious or try to climb the ladder.

Can you guess to which category words listed by people in their 20s belong? The answer is Category 1. The survey has reached a conclusion that people in their 20s like words which describe amiability while people between their 30s and 50s liked words which describe strength or hardiness when they were in their 20s. The result is convincing to me. What do you think about it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's been three months since the 3/11 earthquake---Part 1: We face more critical situations than ever.

I have experienced being involved in an urban town project that includes urban land readjustment. Can you imagine the project? For example, there are many small houses and shops in an urban area in front of a major train station. All the streets there are narrow, and it often causes traffic jams. When the area needs to be redeveloped to meet social demands, the project is promoted. Generally, it takes a long time like a decade to accomplish the project since it takes some time for the local government to negotiate relocation, compensation, equivalent exchange and what have you with residences, landlords and other stakeholders.

Anyway, right after the 3/11 earthquake,  it was reported that the Kobe local government had finally accomplished urban town projects related to another massive earthquake which hit mainly Kobe in 1995. The earthquake devastated some old towns. To rebuild better towns, Kobe launched the urban towns projects. Since at the time, the Kobe local government was known for having a lot more flexibility to negotiate than other local governments, I expected that it wouldn't take ten years for Kobe to accomplish the projects (When I worked with Kobe, I was surprised to see that Kobe wasn't like a local government).

Although the 1995 massive earthquake hit urban areas, devastated some of them and killed a lot of people, the disaster-struck areas weren't very large and were located near the helpful, fully functioning large city of Osaka, which was hardly damaged by the earthquake. Three months after the 1995 earthquake, all the infrastructure was already restored, almost all the bodies were discovered, and many of the victims were able to move on to the new stage "reconstruction".

It's been three months since the 3/11 disaster happened. We face more critical situations than ever. Many people are at a loss as to what to do.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

This describes the current Japanese society.

First of all, could you see the attached picture?

This is an article of a major Japanese newspaper. The article compares a welcome ceremony for its new employees held by Japan Airline (JAL) in 2010 with the same kind of ceremony held by the same company in 1986. The first color photo is the 2010's one in the article, and the second black and white photo is the 1986'sone. What do you think about them?

All the fresh women wearing black suits in the first photo look the same, don't they? According to the article, they aren't required to wear black suits and white shirts. It's reported that before they attended the ceremony, they checked out the information about welcome ceremonies for new employees to make sure which outfit was the most suitable and common. It's been said that this is because they, young people, don't want to stick out. As a result, they inevitably chose the similar outfits and hairstyles, and ended up looking the same.

On the other hand, in the second photo, fresh women are wearing various kinds of suits. They don't look the same, and look relaxed. Speaking of 1986 when the second photo was taken, the Japanese economy was good, and a lot of companies tried to hire people who had individuality or had unique character. When I was working for the first company immediately after graduation, although the economy wasn't that good, I still felt that I was always required to think of unique ideas and change traditional things. In fact, when I was assigned to a male-dominated division, I was told that I was expected to change things by means of unique ideas from "a young woman". As for outfits, I would try to wear something different to impress myself to my clients and so on.

With the globalization of business, Japanese people should pay more attention to developing their individuality and expressing themselves. Despite that, as many companies have reduced new hires due to the sluggish economy, the companies ended up paying less attention to individuality. Incidentally, it's been said that companies, which have already adopted some Western management styles and business culture while keeping the advantage of Japanese traditional ones like group harmony, have been growing.

On top of that, in the past few years, there has been a tendency that people, especially young ones, place weight on reading the situation. This in itself is good. However, since they place too much weight on it, it seems to me that young people often eliminate different things from the majority although they don't intend to do that.

Anyway, to be honest, I've been wondering why a lot of young business women wear similar black suits. I know that these suits are not expensive since many shops offer them. Still, I don't understand why.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Harmony or assertiveness / individuality? We can learn something from AKB48.

The day before yesterday, the so-called general election of AKB48 was held. Surprisingly, the result appeared in not only tabloids but also major general newspapers. As you may know, AKB48 is a Japanese idol girls group. The group is very popular to the point where it's been said that it has been contributing to the Japanese economy. The members' stage positions, the issue of who always can appear on TV shows as the representatives of AKB 48, and other important issues completely depend on how many votes are cast by their fans in the general election. You can get one vote for each CD you buy, although I've heard that there are other ways to obtain votes, as well. Some fans who really want to get their favorite members to become popular try to buy as many CDs as possible. The members, on the other hand, are required to improve their skill and appeal to their fans to obtain their votes. In other words, all the members are required to cooperate and work closely together to maintain the popularity of AKB 48 while they are competing against one another for surviving in AKB 48. Although the system has been controversial, I think that there are things we can learn from the system ( I don't know about AKB 48 well, but I've been paying attention to it as a sort of business model).

After the massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on the 11st of March, a lot of people worldwide seemed to be impressed by the typical Japanese people's behavior, cooperation and perseverance. I think that we may be proud of these things. On the other hand, some people, especially Japanese people who are living outside Japan, were taking it with mixed feelings.

Culturally, Japanese people are group conscious. They often put a higher priority on harmony, fairness and equality than individual interests and things like this. I think that it has to do with the fact that Japan was a closed-off agricultural village society. Because of this, keeping order, banding together and working cooperatively aren't difficult in Japan. However, it's difficult for you to insist on different opinions from the majority of people since even today, people still tend not to listen to different or minority opinions no respect different decisions made by others. 

With the globalization of business, it's been said that you should pay more attention to developing your individuality, expressing yourself and accepting different things. However, people haven't yet gotten used to it yet. On the contrary, some people are confusing selfishness with assertiveness since they feel like they are allowed to do anything they want. To make matters worse, people tend to avoid competition, especially at school. Because of this, I often feel that more attention is being paid to harmony, fairness and equality now than a few decades ago. 

When I see the government and people struggling with the immediate crisis, I can't help but feel that we have to accept more assertiveness, individuality and competition. If we can strike a balance between the conflicting elements--working cooperatively and keeping group harmony while competing against one another by expressing yourself and respecting different opinions--, it'll be the best. In this sense, I think that we can learn something from AKB48.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hot spring water suddenly comes out in a residential area in Japan.

Since massive earthquakes hit Japan in March, it has been reported that unusual things are going on. In some well-know hot-spring areas which are far from the epicenter of the 3/11 main shock, hot-spring water suddenly ran dry immediately after the 3/11 earthquake occurred. On the other hand, in some areas, more hot-spring water is coming out. Other than this, the quality and temperature of hot-spring water have changed in some areas. 

It's been reported that a large amount of hot-spring water started coming out of a big vent hole in a residential area in Iwaki, Fukushima after a massive aftershock hit the area in April, and there is still no sign that the water will stop coming (Fukushima is the third largest prefecture in area. The largest one is Hokkaido and the second one is Iwate). The vent hole was used for colliery ventilation before, but now it isn't used. The water temperature is over 50 degrees. People in the area have been suffering from exposure to the sulfur odor. Since there is no way to stop the hot-spring water, the water is reluctantly being run into a creek to prevent houses from being swamped by the water. Despite that, some of the water is running under some houses. Many trees around the creek are dying.

I've heard that we can strike hot springs anywhere in Japan, so there would be no surprise if water were to come out near my house someday. The earthquake was so massive that we can find something unusual anywhere throughout Japan.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Miffy VS Cathy. The solution is a donation for the 3/11 earthquake!

According to a news which was release the day before yesterday from Sanrio (which is a Japanese company and well known for creating many popular characters like Hello Kitty), the company has reached a settlement in a copyright suit launched by Mercis BV of the Netherlands (which is managing the copyright for Miffy’s creator DickBruna). Both of these two companies have agreed to jointly donate 150,000 euros for the 3/11 earthquake since they have reached the conclusion that they are with Japanese people and want to express their heartfelt condolence for the victims, so what they can do is that they will donate the estimated costs for the dispute to help Japan rebuilt and reconstruct the disaster-struct areas.

According to the news release and newspapers, the Dutch company claimed that Sanrio's rabbit character "Cathy" (which was created as a friend of Hello Kitty) appears too much like Dutch rabbit character Miffy (Please see the links below). In November, 2010, a court in Amsterdam upheld most of Mercis' claims, ordering Sanrio to halt production of goods related to Cathy on the grounds that Cathy infringes the copyright and trademark right of Miffy. In response to the order, Sanrio raised an objection to it. Then, Mercis launched a suit for cancellation of the trademark registration. The case was on trial until the two recently reached the settlement.

Although I didn't know about the dispute, since articles on the settlement drew attention, the news reached me.

Hi Japanese politicians. What do you think about the settlement? How long more will we have to wait ? When will you start working closely together? As you really know, if the special government bond bill doesn't pass Parliament in June, Japan will be likely to face a revenue shortfall. I've heard that it will pose problems for the reconstruction of the disaster-struck areas. I beg you. Please work out the solution immediately.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Various things could have been detrimental to my health !?

In the past few weeks, a massive toxic food scandal in Taiwan has been rocking not only Taiwan but also other Asian countries like Malaysia, China and Hong Kong. Although the scandal isn't widely reported in Japan, a lot of people in these other countries have been paying considerable attention to it since they are very familiar with imported Taiwanese foodstuff. According to the news, it was first discovered that a well known major beverage company used a toxic-additive (DEHP) in their productions for more than 20 years. Then, it turned out that more than 200 food manufacturers in Taiwan were using the toxic-additive. A Taiwanese friend expressed despair in his recent blog, muttering that, unlike Japan and America, there are no laws to severely punish these manufactures in Taiwan and China.

When I heard of the news, I was sure that the toxic-additive was stored in my body since I lived in Malaysia, Hong Kong and China for seven years in total. However, I think that it's not a big matter since I suppose that my health has been damaged by various additives, pesticides, pollution and things like this. Actually, when I was a child, economic growth was the first priority in Japan. In some areas, the air was highly polluted. I don't think that the issue of whether or not food additives, chemicals and pesticides are detrimental to your health was given as much attention as now. While I lived In the aforementioned three Asian countries, many things would make me realize that I was living surrounded by things which could harm my health. These days, in discount shops in Japan, I often sense that cheap imported products are emitting a certain kind of chemical odor which I was very familiar with when I was in China. As cheap bentos have increased due to the sluggish economy, I've been wondering if enough attention is being paid to the safety of food. On top of that, we inevitably have to pay attention to radioactive substances released from the Fukushima plant.

Anyway, I sometimes wonder why my great grandparents were able to live until 100 something years old despite living during the turbulent times. They never suffered from serious disease and died of old age. It's been said that people who lived through wars and a hard time after World War Ⅱ are very tough both physically and mentally. I'm sure that this is a reason. Other than this, I think that I can find another reason in their living environment. I'm wondering how many people between their 30s and 50s can live long without being assisted by advanced medical technology.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A German magazine is confused about who Japanese Prime Minster is

Our Prime Minister Naoto Kan survived a no-confidence vote yesterday. Three hours before the vote was held in the parliament's lower house, it was expected that he wouldn't be able to survive the vote because many members of his own party had said that they would throw their support against the no-confidence motion. Surprisingly, two hours later, PM Kan announced that he would pass on various responsibilities to the younger generation once he was sure that the bulk of quake recovery work was done. Responding to the announcement, the members who intended to rebel against PM Kan shifted in supporting him. As a result, he survived the no-confidence vote with significant backing from his own party. However, the issue of when he will step down became controversial immediately after he survived the vote. There is still no sign that political battles will be over. Needless to say, the infighting and the no-confidence motion submitted by opposition parties aroused the resentment of people, especially those who are staying at shelters in disaster-struck areas.

Anyway, a few hours ago, I happened to read an article in a newspaper (Please see the link below). The article says that the German magazine ”Die Zeit”created the illustrations of G8 members in France which was held a few days ago, but PM Kan isn't there, and former PM Aso is there instead. It's reported that the magazine carelessly created the illustration of Japanese PM based on an old picture. It shows how frequently Japanese Prime Minister changes. Actually, even for Japanese people, it's not easy to list past prime ministers of Japan in order. Kan, Hatoyama, Aso, Fukuda, Abe, Koizumi......... I can't help but give out a big sigh.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

No more political battles. What is the ulterior motive of the non-confidence motion?

Yesterday, the LDP (the Liberal Democratic Party, which held power for 54 years until September, 2009) and two other opposition parties submitted a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Due to the DPJ's (the Democratic Party of Japan, which is the ruling party) stable majority in parliament's lower house, if all the members of the DPJ support PM Kan, the motion will be unlikely to pass. According to the news, many members of the DPJ, including former PM Hotoyama and the power broker Ozawa, intend to throw their support behind the opposition's no-confidence motion. Since the issue of whether or not the motion will pass today depends on how many members of the DPJ will throw their support behind the motion, right now, the political wrangling is growing intense. Needless to say, a lot of ordinary people say that there is no time for political wrangling.

Every time I hear politicians criticizing PM Kan, I can't but wonder. Why does nobody explain why PM Kan isn't capable? Why does everybody just criticize him, saying that he won't be able to overcome the immediate crisis? Why does nobody say who would be the next PM if PM Kan were forced to step down? Why does nobody offer alternative policies? Since nobody touches the important parts, I suspect what the ulterior motive of the non-confidence motion is. Since the LDP held power for 54 years until September, 2009, big names in the LDP still have strong connections to business leaders. Mr. Ozawa also has strong connections to them. Does it have to do with the motion?

Anyway, many people including myself consider the immediate crisis an opportunity to change Japan. I think that if Japan cannot change, Japan won't be able to overcome the crisis nor have a future. As you may know, Japan has been struggling to get out of the prolonged economic stagnation for the past two decades. Although both the government and the public already realized that they had to change some outdated and traditional systems, they weren't able to make it happen. So, now is the right time to make it happen.

I really hope that the political battle won't mess up the chance of Japan changing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Two cute children have beaten AKB 48 !?

As I mentioned in my previous entry, unless every single person prepares himself for the struggle to overcome the immediate crisis which Japan is facing, Japan won't have a future. However, every time I seriously talk about how to deal with the crisis with my friends, although we've realized the seriousness of it, we end up being at a loss about what to do. Then, we conclude that all we can do is to do anything we can do while trying to enjoy our lives. Japan's current situation is so critical that I sometimes honestly want to run away from Japan, although I know from my experience that wherever I am, I have to struggle to survive.

Speaking of the seriousness of the crisis, Moody's Investors Service just announced that it may downgrade Japan's sovereign debt ratings due to heightened concerns about faltering growth prospects and a weak policy response to the country's mounting public debt. However, according to the Global Peace Index 2011 which was announced a few days ago, Japan is still peaceful (Please see the link below).

Anyway, under these circumstances, two cute six-year-old children are cheering up people regardless of age and gender. The kids have been attracting a lot of people through their outstanding performances on TV shows (Actually, in the past few years, there has been a tendency for TV shows to use child actors/actresses and have them play major roles in order to increase viewer ratings). They sing the theme song of the TV show while dancing. The song has been selling well since it was released about a month ago. Today, the song has stormed to the top of the hit chart.