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Japan Nukes Sex Slaves and Money April 13, 2007

Posted by David in Japan.
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Observations, thoughts, rants, and opinions with a focus on Japan,  can be found at Canapan.

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Japan Increasing Security March 16, 2007

Posted by David in China, Japan, North-East Asia.
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Although it constantly states that it poses no threat to the world, China must really wonder if the message is actually getting through… Especially after Japan and Australia recently agreed to, and signed, a Security Pact set to benefit both nations.

The Pact is the second arrangement on permanent security cooperation for Japan, the first being with the USA, and will undoubtedly serve to counter China’s growing military presence in the Region. Of course, both Japan and Australia “have expressly denied the pact is intended to contain Japan’s giant neighbour” (Japan Times 14-03-2007).

Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, wants “assurances from Japan and Australia that their new bilateral security accord is not targeted at the country.” He goes on to say, “Beijing does not pose a military threat to others. We will not invade others, and not threaten others.”

At this point,  a country called Taiwan should immediately come to mind, and maybe places like the Tibet too.

In order to strengthen its security, and Japan is seeking closer ties and greater co-operation with other countries that “share common basic values of democracy, human rights and the market economy.” Australia more than fits that description, and is a very logical choice.

A BBC News article published 14-03-2007 mentions that this latest pact “reflects the fact that Japan is moving to develop a more assertive defence and foreign policy.”

“The bilateral arrangement is also a boost to Canberra’s long-term efforts to make more friends in Asia.”

“Australia wants to engage more with its neighbours in Asia for two main reasons: to pursue economic opportunity and to enhance security.”

According to the Japan Times article, “the United States will be a key component of the Tokyo-Canberra security setup.” The draft statement states, “the U.S., Japan and Australia will strengthen trilateral diplomatic and defence co-operation.”

In my opinion this latest Security Pact does indeed strengthen Japan, and will allow it to develop assertive foreign policies, and help protect its interests in the Region, more effectively.

I’ve always been in favour of these types of agreements between democratic states. Umm… Here’s a thought (not a new one though), get rid of the United Nations, and create the United Democratic Nations instead.

Japanese Officials Apologize March 15, 2007

Posted by David in Japan.
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The cherry-blossoms will bloom three days later than originally forecasted by Japan’s Meteorological Agency.

According to a 14-03-2007 story in the BBC News, “predicting when the cherry blossoms will bloom is one of the Meteorological Agency’s most closely-watched tasks and this year they got it badly wrong.”

“We have disturbed those who relied on our information,” they said, “and we apologise deeply.”

I won’t really get into the details, but one of the things I really find interesting about Japan and its culture in general are things like this fascination with the little pink flowers.

I understand “the appeal of the cherry blossom is said to be that the flowers remind people that life is short and should be enjoyed”, but I just don’t think it’s a big deal.

Maybe it’s just the Western part of me talking, but you would never see such a big fuss made by Canadians if the Maple Syrup season was ever delayed by a few days or so.

However, the article does mention the season “is also an excuse for a party. Salarymen and office ladies, as they are known here, get drunk under the trees each night until the blossoms fall.”

Okay, I guess I’m starting to understand.

A Japanese Education in Tennessee March 12, 2007

Posted by David in Japan.
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I came across a March 12, 2007 Japan Times article which mentioned the closing of a “Japan authorized” high school in Sweetwater, Tennessee. After 20 years the school is closing its doors “in the wake of a fall in the number of Japanese expatriates.”

“At its peak in mid-1990s, the co-ed boarding school (Tennessee Meiji Gakuin) had about 200 students, mainly children of employees posted in the United States by Japanese companies.”

According to The Knoxville News Sentinel (10-03-2007) “the boarding school… was housed at the 144-acre site of a former military academy.” That particular story goes on to say that enrolment “dropped after Sept. 11. when visas became harder to obtain and more Japanese parents were reluctant to send their children overseas.”

Although there is nothing extra-ordinary about this story, it serves as a reminder that it wasn’t that long ago when Japan’s economy was “on a very good high”, and Japanese businesses were popping up everywhere throughout North-America.

These days Japan’s economy isn’t like it was back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, but after a long period of stagnation it is indeed recovering. In Tennessee alone “more than 160 Japanese companies, including Nissan Motor Corp., employ about 40,000 Tennesseans.” As a matter of fact, “in January the Japanese government announced its plans to move its long-time consulate from New Orleans to cover Japanese interests in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.”

If everything keeps going well for Japan’s economy it could, one day, be flying high as it did a decade or two ago… Maybe higher.

Who knows, in a few years, there may even be a need to re-open Tennessee Meiji Gakuin.  Japanese kids could once again be getting their Japan-approved secondary school education in the state of Tennessee.

North Korea/Japan Talks Cut Short: No One is Surprised March 8, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North Korea.
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Talks aimed at normalizing relations between the two North-East Asian countries ended abruptly, and in a typical North Korean fashion Thursday March 8, 2007 after the North refused to go on further if Japan would insist on discussing the abduction issue.
The DPRK considers the matter closed, but in Japan it is anything but, and remains a very emotional topic.

According to the Asahi Shimbun (08-03-2007), “no agreement was reached on any point, nor was any decision made on when the two sides would next meet.”

Xinhua (08-03-2007) went on to print what I can only assume to be a lie from North Korea’s Song Il Ho, the DPRK chief negotiator for these talks. He claimed that Japan stated that, “even if it is proved that the victims are dead, it cannot be said the abduction issue is resolved. In a word, they said that we must return the dead to Japan as alive people. If that cannot be resolved it cannot be said the issue is resolved.”

Not only does it not make any sense, but it is also not something one would expect to hear from Japan. However, one could easily imagine North Korea saying this type of comment.

The fact that these talks would end in this manner does not surprise anyone. As a matter-of-fact it was sort of expected in some circles.

What’s next for Japan? How can they deal with such an irrational state, one that has threatened Nihon more than once?

I am quite eager to see what the next step in this dance will be.

Japan Ends War Time Compensation to China March 7, 2007

Posted by David in China, Japan.
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Okay, it was never really identified as such because “Beijing has refused outright war reparations”, but the flow of huge sums of money being given to China now and over the years, in the form of low-interest loans, is about to come to an end.

The Taipei Post (07-03-2007) reported today that “Japan has gradually been switching aid from China to other countries seen as emerging allies, such as India.” Japan “will end all loans to China by the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”

I support this move, and wish all other countries, who still provide “aid” to China, would follow Japan’s example. After-all, if China is able to hold the Olympics it should not still be considered to be in need of financial assistance… The amount of money China spends on its military is another reason why we should not be giving it any money.

Talking to The Hermit State March 7, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North Korea.
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This past Tuesday Japanese and North Korean diplomats agreed “on a timetable for two days of talks” set to begin Wednesday March 7, 2007. According to an article in today’s Japan Times,  “the first day would be spent addressing Japan’s priority issue (abduction issue) and the second on North Korea’s — how Japan should atone for its brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.”

Interestingly enough, but not surprising, after the day’s morning session of talks, “North Korea has delayed the afternoon session of talks with Japan on normalizing strained relations, raising doubts about their chances.”

In a BBC News story (March 7, 2007) it is mentioned that “the North gave no reason for pulling out, and it was not clear if talks scheduled for Thursday were affected.”

Could it be that since the first day of talks were to address Japanese issues and concerns the Hermit State is just playing games?

If the talks do resume on Thursday, as planned, I am willing to bet the North will be in attendance the entire day, and will not cause any undue disruptions. This is because the second day is all about what North Korea wants.

I’m also guessing they will claim that all of Japan’s concerns were addressed in the previous day’s morning meetings.

Even if the meetings have been disrupted for a valid reason (very unlikely), are they even worth re-scheduling?

How can any democratic/capitalist state in North-East Asia, or the world for that matter, have a normal relationship with the DPRK?

Japanese involved in American bird flu drug deals? March 6, 2007

Posted by koda7 in Japan.
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Reuters ran an article today on a major deal struck between BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Japan’s Shionogi & Co. Ltd.  In essence BioCryst is giving Shionogi the right to manufacture and sell Peramivir in Korea and Japan (U.S. flu drug maker teams up with Japan’s Shionogi, Monday, March 5, 2007).

All that is fine but I ask is this a good decision?  First of all BioCryst has a fairly bad reputation with honesty.  They once lied to 22 clinical test patients about their cancers being cured to boost stock prices, turned out to be lies ( How a cancer trial ended in betrayal, June 24, 2001).  Secondly, the animal trials for this drug were only completed in September 2006.  Thirdly, an earlier oral version of the drug proved highly ineffective.

I guess my point here is that what happen to “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.   Sure a drug that has the potential of dealing with new strands of Influenza (bird flu strains) is a good idea, but I wonder if it would not be better to take a page out of China’s book.   They announced a massive vaccination campaign, of birds: “China will vaccinate billions of domestic poultry over the next few months to guard against an outbreak of bird flu this spring…” (China launches mass bird flu vaccination campaign, Union-Tribune, March 5, 2007).   Does this not appear more realistic as an option.  Well of course it would be pretty difficult to treat a billion people with expensive American experimental drugs.  But more importantly China “will also send experts to help monitor the breeding of poultry and waterfowl, and intensify monitoring of live poultry markets…”.

Perhaps Japan’s willingness to do business with their American friends should be re-evalutated in the case of Influenza?

Renovating the Local – Ski Japan! March 1, 2007

Posted by koda7 in Japan.
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Most the World is focused on a drop in world markets and the surprising resilience of American and Chinese markets. They are without out a doubt now intertwined as the economic poles of the world.

Well i’m not… Call me simple but its Winter time in the Northern hemisphere and its time to ski!

From an article in the Mainichi Daily New, “Japan is at the top in Asia in terms of skiing.” (Japan’s powdery slopes emerge as hot new international ski magnet, March 2, 2007). But what i’m really interested is the amount of foreign investment going into the Ski industry.

I remember watching the 1998 Nagano Olympics and hearing the reporters explaining that event had to be postponed or delay due to too much snow. I don’t remember ever hearing that about an Olympic venue anywhere. I remember thinking how great the ski hills were.

The thought never crossed my mind as to how the industry was actually going. Well if it was going well locally at that time, it seems to have been rejuvenated by those Olympics. The ski industry appears to have clasped in the 90s after a huge surge in the 80s, ” with the economic slump the following decade, and is still being undermined by the country’s shrinking population.” The population issues in Japan are for another post, another time.

But what interesting is that Japan ski resorts and investors, as well as foreign investors bailed out the industry and found new clients: the west. It appears that pre-Nagano the Japanese ski industry was primarily local. After the winter games, main land Asia and Australia took notice and saw the Japanese “snowy” mountains as the preferred choice.

Think about this: Three of the world’s most famous ski resorts, Aspen Valley (USA), Whistler (CAN), and Davos (SWI) recieve 25, 30 and 35 ft of annual snowfall respectively. Japans west coast receives on average 45 ft annually. Its actually astonishing that it took so long for the investors to open their eyes.

Apparently these resorts have even addressed the biggest barrier with tourism in Japan: language. “…owns like Hirafu show that times are changing. English permeates everything from restaurant menus and bus schedules to ski classes.”

Of the 14 million skiers that ski on Japan’s mountains only 7 million are Japanese. Some one call Donald Trump… oops too late Don. “In December, a unit of U.S.-based Citigroup Inc. paid 6.2 billion yen (US$51.2 million) for 12 troubled ski resorts…” and “…Japanese property giant Hoshino Resorts said it would spend US$84 million to revamp two failed ski resorts it bailed out in 2003 and 2004. ”

With the language barriers being broken and real innovative services, such as day care for skiing, the Japanese tourism industy in ripe. So the only thing left to look at is cost… Japan’s biggest problem.

While the the average Japanese Ski pass may be less than those at a large American or European mountains, your not getting the same value. At 2/3 the cost of the foreign ski pass your getting half the mountain (in size and acreage), a 1/3 more snow, and a real expensive flight ticket.

None the less its good thinking and demonstrates excellence innovation in tourism. It will only grow further with the increase in Asian economies and the increase in Chinese affluence.

Raising Interest in Japan February 21, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North-East Asia.
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In the West, when the average person thinks of the Land of the Rising Sun, not much comes to mind except the typical stereotypes, myths, a few cultural aspects, and an extra-ordinary amount of absolute BS about the society in general (Usually from returning English Teachers or just plain idiots).

Other-than-that, not much consideration is given to Japan, its role on the international stage, and how its general welfare can have a direct effect on all types of people throughout the world.

As the world’s second largest economy, Japan plays a key role in the over-all health of the global economy. Therefore, keeping that in mind, what’s good for Japan is good for the world. Which is why, learning that “Japan’s central bank has raised interest rates to 0.5%” is welcome news. Their economy is improving day by day.

According to a 21-02-2007 BBC News article, the decision to raise the rate was made because of the “steady growth in the economy”, and the fact that “Japan’s recovery was likely to continue.”

However, although the rate hike lifted borrowing costs, it was “not enough to interrupt the huge but potentially volatile flow of cheap yen out of Japan that now helps prop up global stock and real estate markets.” (International Herald Tribune 21-02-2007).

“The flow, known as the yen carry trade, is the product of the yawning gap between Japan’s rock-bottom borrowing rates and the much higher rates in other countries.” It also serves as an example of Japan’s importance to the world economy.

Think of the mess that would be created if that trade was to suddenly stop.

There are many other examples that demonstrate how and why Japan is such an important player in the world. But to list them here would take too long.

However, I would ask you to consider the following, in another BBC News story (21-02-2007) it was reported that during US Vice-President Dick Cheney’s recent talks with Japanese leaders, Japan was praised as “one of America’s closest allies”. It was also stated that their alliance was for “Asia and for the world”.

I couldn’t agree more. Especially, when the words are coming from the biggest player around. In fact, I would go so far as to say Japan is the USA’s greatest ally.

Obviously I am not an expert on Japan (and my writing skills are limited) but I think it’s important that we get to know more about this particular country, and not just the old war stories, manga, or crazy TV shows. People like Shingen are a great source of information on all sorts of Japan-related matters, and there are tons of reading material out-there.

Go read.