Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Calling time on Japan’s alcoholics

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When Japanese civil servant Yoshiyuki Takeuchi started to lag his colleagues at work, he joined a growing number of his countrymen looking for solace from their problems in the bottom of a glass. 

“People who started after me would go further in their careers just because they finished college. I tried to stop that sense of ‘why always me?’ by drinking,” said the 50-year-old, who quit university as his family couldn’t afford it.

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With liquor consumption growing sixfold in the last 50 years in Japan to match the country’s economic affluence, alcoholism has become an increasing — but poorly grasped — problem in a nation where booze is readily available from convenience stores, where evening television is awash with liquor ads and where bonding with workmates is typically done over a few cold ones.

Economic losses from drinking problems top 6.6 trillion yen ($73 billion) a year and some 800,000 people, or 0.6 percent of the population, are estimated to be alcoholics. The rate is smaller than the United States or Europe, but is rising as more women and elderly become addicted to drink.

A storm brewing

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I watched Japan’s election returns from the rocky Pacific, with the satellite TV reception suprisingly crisp on a ferry heading south.

 

A typhoon is headed towards mainland Japan and travel and other ways of life have been caught up in its headwinds, while the impact of the apparently changing political climate has only just begun.

Make mine a milk

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Japan’s far north, once home to pet projects of scions of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, looks set to become an even hotter bed of opposition Democratic Party success in this weekend’s Japanese election capped, if polls and analysts are correct, by a local son becoming the nation’s next prime minister.

But while the country decides whether opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama will become premier, voters in Hokkaido will also decide the fate of a certain disgraced former finance, trade and farms minister who is battling for his political life.

Fun and games keeping a finance minister awake

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Do you play games on your mobile phone, as millions of Japanese do? Here’s one for you.

A software company has launched a mobile phone game that pokes fun at former Japanese finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who resigned earlier this month after nearly dozing off at a news conference in Rome.240ss00

A Clinton jinx on ruling party?

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Japan’s ruling coalition could be forgiven for feeling nervous over U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting with the leaders of the powerful main opposition party this week.

The last time a Clinton met Japanese opposition executives, the Liberal Democratic Party lost its grip on power within weeks. That was in 1993, when then U.S. President Bill Clinton attended an embassy reception with politicians including Morihiro Hosokawa, soon to become the first non-LDP premier since 1955.

G7 drink row adds to Japan government woes

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Japan’s finance minister denies he was drunk at a G7 news conference but opposition lawmakers sense blood in the water and are demanding he be fired, adding yet more pressure on a deeply unpopular government that faces an election this year.

The story is the Internet phenomenon of the day in Japan as TV stations and newspapers issued stories calling attention to Shoichi Nakagawa’s behaviour at the news conference at the G7 gathering in Rome over the weekend.

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