Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Japan’s bulging debt


How much is too much?

When it comes to Japan’s bulging public debt, no one quite knows, but at about $75,640 for each of the country’s 127 million people, the burden is starting to worry both voters and investors. You can even see it climb in front of your eyes on an unofficial Website.

That’s why some pundits say it’s time for new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to make some tough decisions about delaying costly spending programmes promised in the August election that vaulted
his Democratic Party to power.FINANCIAL/JAPAN-BOJ

But with the economy fragile and an election for parliament’s less powerful upper house less than a year away, many wonder if he will.

Support for Hatoyama’s cabinet slipped eight points to 63 percent in a Yomiuri newspaper poll this week, while 85 percent said they’d rather see some campaign pledges broken than a rise in a public debt, already headed for more than 200 percent of GDP this year.

Cheap treat keeps Japan sweet


JAPAN-SNACK/What is sticky, shaped like a fish and helps Japanese people shrug off the lingering effects of the country’s worst recession since World War Two?

The economy is struggling but sales of a traditional, fish-shaped sweet snack are going along swimmingly, thanks to its low price and auspicious name.

Clubs defy credit crunch


If Japan is struggling to shake off a recession, then clearly nobody has told Tokyo’s party people as dance floors heave and thud to techno-house raves at the city’s clubs.

club-1With summer gone and the nights drawing in, DJ events continue to pack in club-goers, like those of events organiser Phonika, which hosts outdoor parties around a rooftop pool in Tokyo.

Pet love, vanity help firms survive recession


Japanese consumers are getting more penny-pinching by the day, and they’re probably not going to be splashing out more freely anytime soon after wage earners’ take-home pay logged the biggest drop on record in the year to June and people’s summer bonuses took a hefty cut.

But no matter how bleak things get, there will always be some companies that shoppers — however closely they’re guarding their wallets — don’t hesitate to throw precious money at. 

Japan’s long, hot political summer


A campaign that began with apologies and tears by the prime minister may end the same way if, as surveys suggest, Japan’s conservative ruling party suffers a historic defeat in 40 days.

Prime Minister Taro Aso dissolved parliament’s powerful lower house Tuesday for an Aug. 30 election that could well see his Liberal Democratic Party ousted for only the second time since its founding more than half a century ago.  

OT beats date QT


MARKETS-FOREX/The vast majority of newly hired Japanese say overtime is now more important than dating if given a choice, reflecting growing job anxiety in the world’s No.2 economy.

A survey by the Japan Productivity Centre, a private think tank, showed over 80 percent of new recruits picking working late over having a date.

Spring blossoms or just a break from winter?


It’s official: Japan’s economy shrivelled at a record pace in the first quarter.

Needless to say the 4.0 percent contraction in GDP (an annual rate of 15.2 percent, if you speak American) from January to March was not pretty — especially when you see that the pain has spread from Japan’s big autos and tech factories to the broader economy.JAPAN-ECONOMY/

Real men make lunch


It seems that in Japan, when the economy get’s tough, the men go cooking, and the result is a marketer’s dream in a recession.

Men are turning to the traditional art of making boxed lunches, or bento – compartmentalised boxes with a mix of rice, vegetables and meat dishes.JAPAN-LUNCH/

Government stock rescue?


Japanese stocks are sinking towards levels unseen since 1982, sending alarmed government officials scurrying to come up with some way of propping them up.

MARKETS-JAPAN-STOCKS Officials are looking at steps to support stocks after the plunge, which has taken the benchmark Nikkei to within sight of a 26-year low hit last October.

Plum blossoms herald spring in chilly Japan



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.