Japan Is Losing Its Ultimate Resource — Japanese government crushed in election rout — A new sun rises for Japan Inc — Japan’s economy in valley of tears with record public debt heading for 300% of GDP — Is Japan’s sun rising or setting? — I have been abducted by aliens, says Japan’s first lady


“Everything starts now!”

“This election has been all about changing the government!”


Japan Is Losing Its Ultimate Resource

Real Clear Markets, By Steven Malanga September 2, 2009

The historic vote in Japan’s recent national election, in which the Liberal Democratic Party which ruled nearly continuously for more than six decades has lost control of the government, is testament to deep undercurrents of discontent in a country whose economy is no bigger today than it was in 1996. The victorious Democratic Party, which touts Keynesian stimulus and more protections for Japanese firms, didn’t inspire confidence among voters, according to polls, but the party carried the day anyway with an electorate hungry for change.

But change will come slowly for Japan because the roots of its economic problems are deep and not always well understood. Yes, the country is struggling under a mountain of debt accumulated during a decade of public works spending that didn’t do much to boost the economy. And government policies and regulations still protect large segments of the economy.


But the source of Japan’s economic malaise is partly cultural in nature and not easily solved by policy tweaks. The country has been at the forefront of a trend that is spreading rapidly among nations, a steep drop in birthrates that has resulted in a rapidly aging population and workforce. In the process Japan is losing what the economist Julian Simon once called the ultimate resource–that is, people, especially a vibrant, entrepreneurial, risk-taking young population.

Getting the entrepreneurial edge back won’t be easy, but it’s vital. As Simon argued for much of his professional life, population growth drives prosperity because it challenges society to come up with daring, inventive ways to serve people’s needs, and for much of its history humanity has responded to the challenge. “The standard of living has risen along with the size of the world’s population since the beginning of recorded time,” Simon wrote in The Ultimate Resource. “The most important benefit of population … growth is the increase it brings to the stock of useful knowledge. Minds matter economically as much as, or more than, hands or mouths.”

This is not, of course, the standard line in the popular media these days. Instead, some 211 years after Malthus argued that human population growth strains the earth’s ability to provide for us (“The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”), one of the abiding messages of the environmental movement, now widely accepted by ordinary folks, is that the earth is overcrowded and will soon be running short of resources…

The long-term trends, however, suggest exactly the opposite problem. Birthrates have been falling in the industrialized world for more than a century now and worldwide since the 1970s. They are now predicted to drop below what’s known as replacement levels somewhere 2040 and 2050. Shortly thereafter the world’s population itself will peak and begin declining, unless something momentous changes.

The declines are not confined to a few developing nations, but are occurring nearly everywhere. In his excellent book The Empty Cradle, Phillip Longman, a scholar at the New America Foundation, points out that birthrates fell in every Middle Eastern country during the 1990s. Mexico’s birthrate has plummeted from about six births per woman to just above two per woman since the 1970s–meaning that the country’s rate is already below population replacement level. Similar declines are occurring all over Latin America and Asia, and have already occurred in Europe. Here in the United States birthrates have also been falling, although they remain above replacement levels thanks to births among recent immigrants and among members of religious groups that tend to encourage larger families.

Japan is already arriving at the place where the rest of the world is going. The country’s birthrate has plummeted since the 1950s and has been below replacement level (2.1 births per woman in developed countries) for decades. Today it is at a mere 1.2 births. As a result, Japan now has the highest proportion of residents over the age of 65 (20 percent) in the world, and the health ministry estimates the country’s population will decline by 25 percent by 2050 despite long-life spans among the Japanese. At that point, 40 percent of the population would be over 65.

While some population experts believe that a falling birthrate initially provides a “demographic dividend” to an economy as the resources that might go into child rearing get diverted elsewhere, the long-term consequences are anything but a bonus. The first and obvious problem is the strain on the country’s pension system as fewer workers support more retirees.

Next, Japan and other countries with rates well below replacement level (Italy, Germany and Spain, for instance), are likely to start experiencing labor shortages–a far cry from today’s worry about rising unemployment. Over the next 20 years, in fact, Japan’s workforce may shrink by an astonishing one-fifth. That means that the average Japanese worker will have to become that much more productive just to support current levels of spending on pensioners and other demands. Incremental growth in the economy will require even bigger productivity gains from workers…

“There is… plenty of evidence to suggest that population aging itself works to depress the rate of technological and organizational innovation,” Longman writes. “Cross-country comparisons imply, for example, that after the proportion of elders increases in a society beyond a certain point, the level of entrepreneurship and inventiveness begins to drop.” Not only are older workers likely to be more conservative and less risk-taking by nature, but when a growing share of a country’s gross domestic product must go to support retirees, that crowds out investment in new ventures.

But dry talk of economics belies the larger cultural issues that declining birthrates portend. In places like Japan and Italy we are seeing the environmentalist’s paradise. The result: children are rapidly disappearing from much of society, schools closing, playgrounds are empty, and emergency services crews are overburdened by calls to serve an aging population without much of an extended family to help them in their declining years. In these places, the term “extended family” will soon come to mean three or for people, at most. This is uncharted territory for modern humanity. The implications are not clear but will certainly be profound.

So far the response to this problem has been tepid in Japan and in Europe, though some European policy makers who now see the consequences are starting to rue that they didn’t begin addressing the issue of falling birthrates decades ago. Japan’s new government has proposed one policy innovation–giving families cash handouts of roughly $270 a month per child.

This is based on the widely held notion that falling birthrates are at least in part due to the changing economics of raising children spurred on by urbanization: When families began moving in great numbers off farms and into cities children became a net cost rather than a net contributor to the family economy. Still, in a modern society where the cost of raising a child can amount to several hundred thousand dollars, the Japanese proposal will be a small incentive, at best.

The Japanese have resisted other proposals to boost population, including opening up their doors to more immigrants. Indeed, as unemployment has risen in the current downturn the Japanese have done the opposite, which is to send some foreign workers home. Now, Japan’s population problems are already so acute that it would take a massive influx of foreign workers to make a difference, and that’s unlikely…


Japanese government crushed in election rout

From The Times, Richard Lloyd-Parry in Tokyo – August 31, 2009

Japan was struck by a political tsunami yesterday as the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was swept aside after 54 years of virtually unbroken conservative rule.

Several generations of political careers, including those of at least one former Prime Minister, were brought to a humiliating end as the centrist Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won a crushing victory.

It was the country’s most decisive election result, and the DPJ’s victory puts Japan in the hands of a party in which the young, women, and trades unions have greater power than at any time before.

“I believe that everyone felt great rage towards the Government,” said Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ’s leader, who is now certain to become the next Prime Minister. “Everyone was convinced that there had to be a change. The DPJ will form the Government but we will not be arrogant and we will lead according to the will of the people.”

By the early hours of this morning the DPJ was heading towards a total representation of about 310 seats in the lower house of the Diet, compared with about 120 for the LDP. The result will allow the Democrats to dominate the new parliament and to push through their agenda of increased welfare spending, reduced public works, friendlier relations with China and a more detached and independent relationship with the United States.


The vote has also eviscerated the LDP, one of the world’s longest-reigning democratic political parties, and the institution that claims credit for Japan’s recovery from a defeated nation after the war to an economic superpower. “It is very severe but it is the judgment of the people,” said Taro Aso, the outgoing Prime Minister, who announced that he will resign as the party’s leader.

“From the beginning we knew this would be a difficult election but we must reflect [on this result] sincerely.”

Some of Japan’s most powerful and experienced LDP politicians lost their seats, often to DPJ candidates with little experience who were decades their junior. They included Toshiki Kaifu, 78, the former Prime Minister, and Shoichi Nakagawa, a former Finance Minister, who disgraced himself last February after appearing drunk at a press conference in Rome.His successor as Finance Minister, Kaoru Yosano, lost his Tokyo seat to his DPJ opponent.

Fumio Kyuma, 68, a former Defence Minister, was defeated in his Nagasaki constituency by Eriko Fukuda, a 28-year-old woman who came to prominence after accidentally contracting hepatitis C from a blood transfusion. Those who lost their constituencies, however, may be given some of the 180 seats in the Diet that are allocated by proportional representation.

Opinion polls had predicted an overwhelming victory for the DPJ but it was still a day of high excitement as the political tables were turned for the first time since the LDP’s foundation in 1955.

The party briefly lost power in 1993 but the coalition of smaller opposition parties who governed in its stead for less than a year never enjoyed a mandate as powerful as the one handed yesterday to the DPJ.

As the extent of the rout became evident, Japanese television broadcast live from the election headquarters of DPJ candidates, who celebrated their victories with the traditional raised arm salutes and cries of “Banzai!” (may you live 10,000 years).

Yesterday’s result was as much an expression of disgust with the weak leadership and complacency of the LDP as a positive vote for the DPJ. But in contrast to previous elections Mr Hatoyama and his party have succeeded in articulating a distinctive platform, which, if it can be put into effect, will mark a clear break from the politics of the postwar era.

The DPJ promises free secondary education, free treatment and delivery for expectant mothers, and an annual allowance of 312,000 yen (£2,000) to all children until they leave junior school.

Mr Hatoyama proposes to cover the cost of this vast spending — Y16.8 trillion in 2013 — without immediately raising taxes. He will cut spending on dams, roads and public projects such as a museum of popular culture, the personal project of Mr Aso.

Once in power the DPJ promises to put more MPs into junior jobs in ministries and to establish a national strategy bureau — something like the No 10 Policy Unit — to curb the power of the bureaucracy.

There will be a crackdown on the practice known as amakudari — “descent from the heavens” — whereby retiring civil servants secure jobs in the industries that they formerly supervised. To the alarm of some US commentators Mr Hatoyama has taken an outspoken stand against unfettered international capitalism, promising to abandon the country’s “worship” of the US and to break away from decades of unquestioning support for American foreign policy.

“Japan now needs to make a clear shift from diplomacy that follows the US lead, to diplomacy based on multilateral co-operation,” he said earlier this year. “We must view the AsiaPacific region, where we have increasingly close ties with other countries, as the place where Japan will live as a nation.”

The LDP’s appeal to voters was based principally on apologising for its own mistakes and scaremongering about the inexperience and brittleness of its opponents. In the past the DPJ has, indeed, appeared divided and Mr Hatoyama’s first task will be to announce a Cabinet that balances its various interest groups — including conservative former LDP members, trades union-backed ex-socialists and Ichiro Ozawa, the party’s most experienced and feared politician who commands his own powerful faction.


The Black Ships (黒船, kurofune)

泰平の Taihei no

眠りを覚ます Nemuri o samasu

上喜撰 Jōkisen

たった四杯で Tatta shihai de

夜も眠れず Yoru mo nemurezu

A new sun rises for Japan Inc

The trading house titans are being outrun by brighter and nimbler firms

From The Sunday Times August 23, 2009

There are queues at expensive oyster restaurants and the housewives are once again trading foreign exchange — signs that Japan’s return to economic growth has restored its confidence.

The world’s second-largest economy is expected to grow 1% next year after contracting 3%. The recession has led to Japanese firms shedding 100,000 jobs since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, pushing unemployment up to 5.4%.

Now the apocryphal “Mrs Watanabe” and her fellow traders have ventured back to the Tokyo Financial Exchange, according to brokers who report that transactions are up by more than half on a year ago.

Analysts say near-zero interest rates on deposits and a stagnant outlook for shares have lured them back. They also say Japanese small investors are trading such volumes of money that they have once again become global players in the foreignexchange market…

The great export houses — Sony, Canon, Toyota, Honda and their peers — have battled to maintain sales and some have made losses for the first time since the war.

At Sony, several years of a turnround effort under Sir Howard Stringer, the ebullient Welsh chief executive, do not seem to have yielded results. The electronics giant made an operating loss in the 2008 fiscal year and expects to lose money this year.

“Since last autumn Sony shares have been languishing at prices that put the company’s price-to-book value ratio below 1, the liquidation threshold,” wrote Soichi Inai, who follows the company for the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. In other words, shareholders could get better value by closing down the business.

Yet both domestic and foreign investors are realising that decline is not inevitable for Japan Inc. Foreigners have been net buyers of shares for most of this year, said Masami Hamaguchi, senior strategist at Daiwa Institute of Research. “Corporate earnings in the last quarter were better than expected. Cost-cutting has had an effect,” he said.

Hamaguchi added that share prices have got ahead of the recovery — the Nikkei-225 index trades on a price/earnings ratio of 40 — but ultra-low interest rates of 0.01% will underpin a steady improvement. “The index will remain on a plateau for some time but its next move will be up,” he said.

The Daiwa 300, a snapshot across all sectors, shows some smaller companies are doing much better than the export titans. The poster child for the optimists is Fast Retailing, whose Uniqlo subsidiary marries cool Japanese style with low-cost clothing in a successful blend that has allowed it to open more than 700 outlets in Japan and about 90 overseas, 14 in Britain. The company reported year-on-year sales up 26% and net income up 23%…

Far from conceding the industrial and commercial future to China, the Japanese intend to innovate and compete as fiercely as they did in the 1950s and 1960s. In a panel discussion hosted by the Bungei Shunju, an influential magazine, Kazuo Mizuno, chief economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities, suggested Japan could surprise rivals by competing on inexpensive quality goods. “Newly emerging nations’ per-capita GDP is $1,000-$2,000 — those people cannot buy expensive products,” he said. “But Japan does not have to lower its levels of production technology. All we should do is stop offering a multitude of product functions and lower the price range.”

It sounds like the Uniqlo formula. Other contributors pointed out that Japan was also good at adding value to realise high profits. “Both South Korea and China badly need technology, especially the technology developed by smaller Japanese companies,” said Hideo Tamura, a business writer.

Critics say, however, that the big Japanese car manufacturers, for example, still try to do too much by developing entire technologies, such as environmental cars, themselves. Hiroyuki Ozaki, a professor at Tokyo University of Technology, has pointed out that the large companies seem unable to carry out innovation that seems to contradict past technological achievements. He prescribes more deals with venture capitalists to spur change.


The Japanese are talking as if recent events are on a scale with the arrival off Tokyo Bay in 1853 of the “black ships” of the American commodore Matthew Perry, an event that led to the downfall of feudalism and the emergence of Japan as a modern industrial state.

“It has been said that Japan cannot change unless ‘black ships’ arrive,” said Isao Endo, director of Waseda Business School. “The current economic crisis is nothing but a huge ‘black ship’.”

The steam-powered ships
break the halcyon slumber
of the Pacific;
a mere four boats are enough
to make us lose sleep at night.


Japan’s economy in valley of tears with record public debt heading for 300% of GDP

By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts

Aug 20, 2009

Deutsche Bank Research, a unit of Germany’s biggest bank, says in a paper published on Wednesday, that Japan’s economy is in a valley of tears with record public debt heading for 300% of GDP (gross domestic product).

A ageing society, rising public debt and growing imports from low-wage China, are among the challenges, which will face the new government that will follow the general election on August 30th…

Deutsche Bank Research says at the end of the 1990s four 20-64 year-olds financed the pension of one person aged 65 and over. If this ratio continues to shrink as in the last two decades, by 2020 the ratio of 20-64 year-olds to people of at least 65 will have fallen to two. And with birth rates heading steadily down, no relief for government finances is to be expected from younger generations in this respect either. Japan’s current birth rate of only 1.2 children per woman remains one of the lowest in the world. Traditionally, burden sharing through immigration is not a solution for Japan.

Currently, most of Japan’s public debt is financed domestically and interest rates have been at or close to zero for years but this scenario may also change in coming years.

A series of public stimulus programs in the past two decades coupled with the strong links between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has only been out of power for nine months since 1955, and the construction industry, has given Japan the best public infrastructure in the developed world, but at a huge cost.

Deutsche Bank Research says that even before the spurt in growth resulting from the acceleration of world trade since 2002, Japan’s export industry expanded rapidly between 1993 and 2008 relative to domestic demand. Shipments to its neighbours South Korea (1993 – 2008: 8.0% p.a.), China (14.2%) and Russia (17.4%) multiplied during that period, whereas deliveries to the industrialised countries USA, Germany and the UK registered only moderate growth averaging roughly 2% p.a.


In the early 1990s trade with China accounted for a scant 6-7% of Japan‟s total foreign trade. Today, about 20% of total imports and exports stem from trade with the People‟s Republic. Taken together, shipments to mainland China and Hong Kong now exceed aggregate deliveries to the United States.

DBR economist Jochen Möbert says that low transport costs and the consumer demand potential as purchasing power rises in China are making the Middle Kingdom an increasingly important sales market for Japanese products. But China will also use its low wages, growing working population and abundance of raw materials to deliver more goods to Japan in future. Imports from China are already posting similarly dynamic rates of growth to exports.

China has now taken over from America as Japan‟s major supplier. Imports from China such as iron and steel, for example, tend not to feature such a vertical range of manufacture or such quality as exports to China, like electronic systems.

Möbert says that since the bursting of the heisei property bubble in the early 1990’s and the “balance sheet recession” that this triggered, the Japanese government has passed a string of economic stimulus packages. Before the present crisis gross government debt in Japan stood at 172% of GDP, but net government debt was considerably lower, at 87.8%, owing to the financial assets held by the public pension system.

However, since these assets are automatically counterbalanced by spending commitments, DB consider the gross amount. He says long before the current crisis and the bursting of the heisei bubble, governments in Japan had switched to a lax fiscal policy. The Tanaka Kakuei doctrine of 1972, conceived by a man subsequently to become prime minister, is often cited as the political rationale behind increasing government debt. The doctrine advocated freedom from the idea of annually balanced budgets, with a focus on balanced public finance over the long run.

See Complete DBR Report (PDF)


Is Japan’s sun rising or setting?

While Europe and China seem complacent, America has reflected unease over Japan’s election result

guardian.co.uk, Simon Tisdall, 1  September 2009

It’s tempting to dismiss the weekend election landslide victory of Japan’s opposition Democratic party (DPJ) as reflecting no more than a bad-tempered “throw the bums out” mood among recession-hit voters. European commentators transfixed by China’s rise have jumped two-footed into this trap. They play down the result’s wider significance for a country they view as a declining power while predicting that little will change in practice.

A slightly smug response is evident in Beijing, too. There is quiet satisfaction there at the decimation, after half a century in power, of the Liberal Democratic party of the nationalist former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, a hate figure for many Chinese. Pledges by the DPJ’s incoming prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, to eschew visits to the Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo and pursue closer Asian co-operation are seen as tacit acknowledgement of Tokyo’s past mistakes.

American reactions have been notably less complacent, reflecting real unease about where the DPJ’s untested, vaguely anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation stance and its vow to forge a “more equal” relationship with the US may lead. The Obama administration said it was ready to work together “to further cement this indispensable alliance”. But it quickly stressed Washington had “no intention” of re-opening negotiations on American bases and troop re-deployments in Japan, as urged by DPJ leaders.

Although Hatoyama backpedalled recently, saying the US-Japan alliance will “continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy”, the presence of 47,000 American military personnel, occupying 134 bases covering over 100,000 hectares of prime real estate, is one of several weak points in the edifice.

“The vast tracts of land set aside for US forces in Japan impede community development and have a major impact on the lives of our citizens,” said Matsuzawa Shigefumi, governor of Kanagawa prefecture, abutting Tokyo. Crime and environmental damage associated with the bases were of especial concern, he said. The 1960 Status of Forces agreement between the two countries should be reviewed or, failing that, specific Japanese laws should be applicable to US bases and personnel.

Hatoyama says the new government will not renew the mandate for Japanese refuelling ships in the Indian Ocean, tasked with supporting US military activities in Afghanistan, when it expires in January. He also wants a US pledge not to bring nuclear-armed vessels or aircraft into Japanese ports and airports. At the same time, the prime minister-elect favours the establishment of an East Asian regional community, not dissimilar to early forms of the EU, with Japan and China (like France and Germany) at its heart.

Indeed, some have compared Hatoyama to Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s mould-breaking bid to loosen Washington’s stifling postwar embrace. These unsettling ideas, plus his guiding political mantra of yuai (friendship and love), will add spice to his first meeting with Barack Obama around the G20 summit in Pittsburgh later this month.

Contradicting the suggestions that the wrinkles will be ironed out given time, rightwing American commentators sense a real threat to US interests. “Hatoyama dreams of an Asian union, a utopia free of rapacious American capitalism, a region bound together by fraternity and a common currency,” wrote Tim Kelly in Forbes magazine. “He describes his country as being ‘buffeted by the winds of market fundamentalism’.” His dangerous vision was of Japan and China marching hand-in-hand as American economic and military power waned. Hatoyama, Kelly concluded, was living on “fantasy island”.

Mary Kissel of the Wall Street Journal was scarcely less scathing. “Hatoyama is scoring populist points by talking about distancing Japan from [the US] alliance,” she said. And his domestic policies were just as damaging. “He stands for agricultural protectionism, higher minimum wages, higher taxes in the name of environmental responsibility, and more [state] handouts … Hatoyama’s Keynsian worship may spell another lost decade for the world’s second-largest economy.”

Veteran Asia commentator Philip Bowring is less alarmist; he rules out any significant change in Japan’s foreign policies, the main reason being China. In this regard, he suggested, Hatoyama and the DPJ were behind the curve and faced a sharp reality check.

“In some [Asian] countries rising fears of China’s goals are now cancelling out criticism of the US-led invasion of Iraq and the ‘war on terror’. Worries about the impact of reduced US demand is offsetting resentment of Wall Street-style capitalism,” Bowring said. In other words, Japan could become more dependent on Washington, not less.

“The [DPJ] assumes that Japan and China can share leadership of an East Asian community. But the prevailing view in China appears to be that ‘there cannot be two suns in the sky’. For Beijing, the Japanese sun is setting as the Chinese one rises.”


I have been abducted by aliens, says Japan’s first lady

(Oh, and she also knew Tom Cruise in a previous life) By Peter Popham – Thursday, 3 September 2009

Move over Michelle, watch your backs, Carla and Sarah.

There’s a new kid on the first lady block, and she looks like upstaging the lot of you.

Miyuki Hatoyama, wife of Japan’s Prime Minister-elect, Yukio Hatoyama, is a lifestyle guru, a macrobiotics enthusiast, an author of cookery books, a retired actress, a divorcee, and a fearless clothes horse for garments of her own creation, including a skirt made from Hawaiian coffee sacks. But there is more, much more. She has travelled to the planet Venus. And she was once abducted by aliens.

The 62-year-old also knew Tom Cruise in a former incarnation – when he was Japanese – and is now looking forward to making a Hollywood movie with him. “I believe he’d get it if I said to him, ‘Long time no see’, when we meet,” she said in a recent interview. But it is her claim in a book entitled “Very Strange Things I’ve Encountered” that she was abducted by aliens while she slept one night 20 years ago, that has suddenly drawn attention following last Sunday’s poll.

“While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus,” she explains in the tome she published last year. “It was a very beautiful place, and it was very green.”

When the new Japanese first lady related her adventures to her then husband, he told her flatteningly that it was probably just a dream. But she is confident that Yukio, the man now entrusted with the task of hauling Japan out of its deepest recession, would have reacted very differently. “My current husband has a different way of thinking. He would surely say, ‘Oh, that’s great’,” she wrote. Mrs Hatoyama’s self-confidence in projecting her personality, and shattering the traditional expectations of a political wife, probably derives from her early years as a dancer in Japan’s legendary all-female Takarazuka theatrical troupe.

Founded in 1913, Takarazuka has long enjoyed cult status in Japan. The star players in its glitzy, saccharine, ferociously camp productions of US classics like Gone with the Wind enjoy superstar status among the armies of women that flock to the shows. Takarazuka’s actresses are picked from thousands of teenage hopefuls in a stringent selection process and subjected to a quasi-monastic training regimen. While a handful become household names, the great majority, like Mrs Hatoyama, retire after a few years. But the aura of belonging to this exclusive sorority clings to them for ever.

After six years Mrs Hatoyama quit the troupe and went to the United States. It was there, while working in a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco, that she met Yukio, then a graduate student at Stanford University. Miyuki was still married to her first husband. “The average man chooses his mate from among unmarried women,” Mr Hatoyama boasted years later. “I chose mine from among all women.”

Rejecting the reticence that is customary in Japan, Mr Hatoyama makes no secret of his devotion to his multi-talented wife. His website has a photo of the pair of them in an affectionate pose, and he admits happily to being what the Japanese call a “my-home-papa”. “I feel relieved when I get home,” he says. “She is like an energy refuelling base.”

Though Mr Hatoyama is a multi-millionaire and the fourth generation of his family to rise to the top of the Japanese political world, his appearance is unconventional by rigid Japanese standards: his hair is unruly and he rejects the navy uniform of the political world in favour of suits of brown and moss green.

It is this refusal to bow to convention, as well as his tendency to drop conversation-stopping remarks – like his call, during the election campaign, for a “politics full of love” – that long ago led other Japanese politicians to dismiss him as an uchujin, an alien. Though not, presumably, the one who took Miyuki to Venus.


Related Links:

WSJ: Japan’s Cheap Debt Reassures Treasury Bulls

Hot Air: NPR: Hey, what happened to the change?

Forbes: Japan’s Obama Moment

Asia Policy: Prosperity’s Children: Generational Change and Japan’s Future Leadership (PDF)

Aso Speech: Japan’s Future Development Strategy and Growth Initiative towards Doubling the Size of Asia’s Economy, Apr 09

Reason OnLine: Turning Japanese

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