Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Little heat in election debate

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JAPAN-ELECTION/It might have been a historic moment, but Japan’s first-ever election face-off between the leaders of its two biggest political parties left many cold.

There were no knock-out punches, little soaring rhetoric and the 90 minute debate between Prime Minister Taro Aso (pictured left) and opposition Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama (right) ended awkwardly when Hatoyama approached his rival for a final farewell, only to see Aso turn his back and leave the stage.

“He’s got too much on his mind,” said political commentator Hirotaka Futatsuki, suggesting Aso may not have meant to be rude.

Opinion polls suggest Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is headed for defeat in the Aug. 30 election, ending a half-century of almost unbroken rule by the conservative party.

Nissan’s hybrid conundrum

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NISSAN/ELECTRIC CARIf Carlos Ghosn were a politician, pundits might be accusing him of flip-flopping right about now.

After spending the last few years playing up the merits of zero-emission electric vehicles and knocking down the hybrid hype, the CEO of Nissan Motor appears to be back-pedalling, ever so slightly, on that stance.

Paying the price on the high summer highway

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Bring a lot of patience if you travel by car for Japan’s summer holidays: The highway discounts are great for your budget but the traffic jams can be a real headache.

Japanese highways are notoriously clogged during obon – when people return to their hometowns to visit relatives and worship their ancestors – and even more so this year as motorists take advantage of toll discounts introduced in March and offered only on weekends and holidays.

High-flying in Tokyo

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Are you are a frequent flyer to Japan looking for a faster, more luxurious way to get to Tokyo from the airport? Hiring a Hermes helicopter may be the ticket for you.

When I travel overseas, the trip usually begins or ends with a bus ride, costing 2,900 yen ($27) to get to Narita International Airport. But for business executives flying across the world to sign multi-million dollar deals, a 75,000 yen ($720) helicopter ride may be an option worth considering.

PM ponders “graceful defeat”

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Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, his long-ruling party at risk of losing power in this month’s election,  appears to be pondering the problem of how to lose gracefully.

JAPAN-ELECTION/Speaking on the campaign trail near Tokyo this week, Aso quoted a piece of advice given to his grandfather,  Shigeru Yoshida,  by Japan’s last wartime prime minister.

Japan’s Democrats get ready to govern

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Close your eyes and it could almost be a cabinet minister speaking.

Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party is gearing up for government after the Aug. 30 election, if a talk by the party’s No.2 leader Katsuya Okada is anything to go by.

Speaking at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event in Tokyo, Okada sought to display the politician’s gravitas as he answered questions on everything from foreign policy to the environment and the economy.

Another Sunday night on the Pacific Ring of Fire

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JAPANSunday night’s strong but uneventful 6.9 magnitude earthquake reminded all in greater Tokyo that these are indeed volatile times, tectonically speaking.

It was also a reminder of the advantages of Japan’s intense preparation for if – or when — the “Big One” does indeed come. As usual, train lines immediately stopped service while media reports of the quake and its Japanese scale rating of “4″ flashed within moments of the long temblor. Email and twitter-ing would have reached that magnitude when the Richter scale numbers were broadcast overseas.

Clinton rescue casts spotlight on Japan families’ plight

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KOREA-NORTH/

The tearful homecoming of two U.S. journalists released from a North Korean jail during a lightning visit by former U.S. President Bill Clinton this week left relatives of Japanese abducted by Pyongyang’s agents dissatisfied with their own government’s efforts.

“Why is it that Japan has been taking so long to bring them back, while the United States negotiated a release that quick?” Kyodo news agency quoted Kayoko Arimoto, the mother of a missing abductee as saying this week.

from MacroScope:

SWF 2.0

The easing of the credit crisis is giving way for a new generation of sovereign wealth funds.

Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Bolivia, Nigeria, Canada are just some of the places where a public debate has begun on establishing some form of sovereign wealth fund. And even Scotland is now looking at establishing such a fund to manage oil wealth.

from MacroScope:

Vision of the future? See Japan’s past

MacroScope is pleased to post the following from guest blogger Ian Bright. Bright is senior economist at ING and winner of the 2008 Rybczynski Prize from the UK Society of Business Economists. He says here that bank lending's future can be seen in Japan's past -- and it is not good for the would-be borrower. 

"There is anger in many countries that banks are not lending money. Or more correctly, they are lending less than people want.

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