Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
from Summit Notebook:
After falling off a cliff at the start of this year as the global financial crisis gripped, mergers and acquisitions by Japanese companies overseas are likely to pick up again in the second half of this year, according to boutique Japanese M&A advisory firm Recof Corp.
There won't be a flood of deals, Recof President Hikari Imai says, but the ones there are, are likely to be chunky as Japanese companies expand their frontiers beyond domestic markets where growth prospects are limited.
Geographically the focus is likely to be Asia -- China, India in particular and possibly the Philippines or Australia. And the types of companies looking abroad will broaden as well, Imai told the Reuters Japan Investment Summit.
Recof expects Japanese power utilities, paper, food and beverage and retailing firms to look abroad at markets where they can put their advanced technology and inventory control systems to use.
Pope Benedict has been criticised for his handling of relationships with the world's other religions. On Monday Tuesday, he is due to receive at the Vatican Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso, who has little difficulty with mixing and matching various faiths.
Though an avowed member of Japan's tiny Roman Catholic minority, Aso regularly pays respects and offers gifts at Shinto shrines. Japan's indigenous religion of Shinto is polytheistic -- its doctrine says the world is crowded with divinities, mostly in natural phenomena such as the sun, moon, wind and mountains. Combining this with Christianity's monotheism may sound like a contradiction, but it is something many Japanese Catholics take in their stride.
North Korea hasn’t yet rejoined the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, but weekend comments from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the nation was mulling the possibility were replayed by Japanese media with the same gusto they gave reports on Japan qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
Pyongyang, an initial member of President George Bush’s “axis of evil” in 2002, was removed from the U.S. blacklist last October, after agreeing to a series of nuclear site verification measures.
Japan, perhaps the most nervous neighbor of unpredictable North Korea, is also the least able to overtly make its fears felt, after this week’s nuclear test.
Analysts point out the combination of Tokyo’s history of antagonism with the North and the fact that Pyongyang boasts missiles that could hit almost anywhere in Japan pose particular risks for the world’s second largest economy.
Captain Takuha Shimoishi is a member of a crack squadron of fighter pilots at the front line of some of Japan’s most sensitive territorial disputes, ready to scramble to check out incursions into the country’s airspace at any moment.
But however fast the slender 35-year-old leaps into his F-15 fighter, he is sometimes forced to wait in line behind planeloads of holidaymakers before taking off, he told me during a tour of the Naha military base on the southern island of Okinawa this week.
Sports rivalries are bred by proximity, culture and history, and few match ups in Asia have more baggage or bragging rights at stake than baseball games between Japan and South Korea, the respective World Baseball Classic and Olympic titleholders.
Both crowns were sources of national pride, but Japan’s came in 2006 after losing twice to Korea before a semifinal victory over the Seoul side, which wasn’t enthused that a team it had beaten more than once could become tournament champions.
In a note, the firm says that even though the group is being hit differently by the global slowdown -- Russia suffering most, India least -- a uniform drive from the four will return as soon as the cycle starts to turn.
For many, the cherry blossom is the quintessential Japanese flower, its fragile pink petals symbolising the transience of life and its advent in spring an excuse for “hanami” picnics beneath the boughs, where sake and song flow in equal measure.
But some, myself included, confess to a deeper affection for the more modest plum, whose five-petalled white and pink flowers bloom in February, heralding spring despite a winter chill.