Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
For the crowd waiting for Prime Minister Taro Aso to show up for a campaign speech in Ome on the western edge of Tokyo, it was a bit like watching the warm-up acts before the main attraction.
Aso picked ruling party candidate Akinobu Nomura’s home district of Ome to kick off a campaign for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, the results of which are likely to affect the unpopular 68-year-old premier’s chances of keeping his own job ahead of a nationwide poll expected next month.
With the PM’s cavalcade stuck in traffic, Nomura and his other backers had to amuse the crowd for more than an hour under cloudy skies. The local man filled some of the time by inviting photographers to snap him shaking hands with his wife, who had earlier shyly delivered a speech, for what he said was the first time ever. Then he took to listing up his contributions to the local community.
Nomura also went out of his way to assure listeners that he really appreciated Aso’s personal appearance — really! He’d been flooded with calls from reporters asking if he wouldn’t have preferred that Aso stay away, he said, before enjoining the media to report his next words faithfully: “I welcome Prime Minister Aso’s coming here from the bottom of my heart.”
from Left field:
It is not very often, in the modern era of pampered sports celebrities who are coached before interviews and can smell a potentially endorsement-breaking question a mile off that you meet one you would like to go and have a drink with, not least one whose English is slightly ropey.
Italy’s multiple MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi bucked the trend in an interview this week, however, convincing me there was merit in the drawn-out process of setting up an exclusive audience rather than just having a management company wheel out a cardboard cut-out.
Japan, slightly sidelined by the U.S.-UK "special" relationship and the Franco-German alliance at the G20 summit, is keen to stress the country can offer lessons to be learned from the country's banking crisis in the 1990s.
Here's a re-cap of what happened. In 1992, then-PM Miyazawa warned of a financial crisis unless banks were recapitalised using public funds now. Yet no action was taken. Between 1995 and 1997, staggering 5 financial institutions failed, forcing the government to inject public funds into 21 banks in 1998. Then two major banks were nationalised, then the government injected additional capital into 32 banks.
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.