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News and Photos of Japan - Dive Deeper into Japan with Japan Correspondent Kjeld Duits

Japan Considers Ending Four-Decade Policy to Cut Rice Planting

Japanese Farmer Planting Rice

Japan, the world’s largest grain importer, may end a four-decade program to cut rice sowing as it plans to revive agricultural production and create jobs amid a deepening recession.

The nation may end compulsory rice planting cuts and instead provide income support for farmers who voluntarily curb output, said a government official, who declined to be identified as the plan is opposed by some ruling-party politicians.

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Bloomberg • Saturday February 28, 2009 • PoliticsAdd Comment

Masks Attack Japanese Cities

Japanese Flu Masks

These white strips of cloth obscuring your fellow commuters’ faces have long been a common way to ward off influenza and hay fever, but their popularity is soaring higher than ever this winter because of frequent reports about an outbreak of a new type of flu.

“The media have been repeatedly giving a warning of a new type of influenza outbreak, so people may have thought they should store some masks and use a mask more often,” said Yukihiro Hosoe, manager of the advertising and marketing strategy department at Kowa Co., Japan’s leading health care product company.

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The Japan Times • Friday February 27, 2009 • TrendsAdd Comment

The Gender Gap in the Japanese Labor Market

Japanese Woman Showing Peace Sign

Among the labor economists who pay careful attention to international comparisons of labor market outcomes, the gender wage gap of Japan, as well as that of Korea, is known to be the largest among OECD countries.

The hourly wage in Japan of permanent and regular female workers relative to male workers, which is not adjusted for the observed characteristics of workers, was 59.1 in 1990, while the corresponding figure for 2000 was 66.0; this indicates that there has been only a 6.9 percentage point gender wage convergence in this 10-year period. This wage convergence, however, may have been caused by the convergence of the characteristics of workers across genders. Indeed, Akira Kawaguchi reports that 60% of unadjusted wage convergence between 1990 and 2000 is explained by the convergence of the observed characteristics of workers across genders, based on a large sample from the Basic Survey of Wage Structure. He pointed out that in particular the convergence of years of job tenure explained the gender wage convergence.

With this persistent gender wage gap as a background, the Japan Labor Review, published by The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training, has published a special issue aiming to explain the mechanisms behind the gender wage gap in Japan. It contains five papers that are largely classified into two categories. In the first category are two papers that attempt to explain the gender wage gap by occupational segregation. The second category consists of three papers that examine the relationship between female employment and the performance of firms.

The link below lets you download the pdf file (1.9MB) of this special issue.

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The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training • Thursday February 26, 2009 • SocietyAdd Comment

Japan on the Brink of the Abyss?

Japanese Homeless Protesting

The economic outlook in Japan is very grim, as brief overviews indicate. Right now, Japan has the worst growth outlook in Asia. That is a surprising fact, if one recalls that this is a country presumably dusting itself off from the collapse of its own bubble nearly two decades ago.

After such a long period of economic crisis, Japan should be renovated and ready to thrive. Instead, it may be in worse shape than even the United States (though clearly not Iceland and much of Eastern Europe). Exports plunged a record 35% annually in December, while the industrial production figures for November revealed a record 8.9% month-over-month drop.

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Asia Times • Wednesday February 25, 2009 • SocietyAdd Comment

Dispatched Workers in the Manufacturing Sector

Unemployed Worker in Japan

Up until last September, we thought the U.S. financial and economic crisis was just “fire on the other side of the Pacific.” Now we know otherwise: this America originated crisis is striking Japanese corporations directly. The Japanese manufacturing sector had been leading the Japanese economy; but exports, particularly those related to autos, having played a key role, have dropped drastically and corporations are slamming the door on production. Large numbers of temporary and seasonal workers that are being fired or simply not being hired are becoming an object of grave public concern. In particular, the focus of controversy is the problem of regulating dispatched workers in the manufacturing sector. I’d like to present some ideas on how to handle the regulation of dispatched workers in the manufacturing industry.

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Hiromasa Suzuki • Wednesday February 25, 2009 • SocietyAdd Comment

Would the Japanese Administration Engage in Social Media?

National Diet Building, Tokyo

In recent days, the new US administration has started rolling out a new online strategy. The redesigned White House website gives us a first glimpse on how the Obama team is trying to implement its social network approach.

In Japan, the use of SNS by official bodies seems to predate the US somewhat. Some municipalities took a page of Mixi’s rulebook, the biggest social networking platform in Japan, and implemented social features to their website. The prime goal was often to discuss disaster prevention amongst citizens, as stressed by a successful Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ initiative in 2005-2006. Sharing local information in this earthquake-prone country is tantamount in a society shaped by communities and the feeling of belonging to a trusted group of people.

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socialevangeli.st • Tuesday February 24, 2009 • PoliticsAdd Comment

Japan’s Fearless Women Speculators

Photo of Japanese Currency (10,000 Yen)

Nakako Ishiyama sits quietly in the living room of her apartment in the old Nihonbashi quarter of Tokyo, not far from its famous stone bridge – the point from which, in Edo times, all distances in Japan were measured. The neighbourhood was once part of the city’s financial district, and Ishiyama’s flat is strolling distance from the Bank of Japan, the venerable institution that controls the amount of yen in circulation and, via the interest rate it sets, the cost of money.

Ishiyama serves green tea and autumn chestnut biscuits. She has been telling me about her investment history since around 2000 – the time, not coincidentally, when the Bank of Japan first pushed interest rates down to within a hair’s breadth of zero. Largely without the knowledge of her husband, Ishiyama began investing the couple’s money, mainly in lots of around $50,000. And didn’t stop. Each fund in which she entrusted their retirement nest egg – or toranoko, “tiger’s cub”, in Japanese – has a more elaborate name than the last. As she lists each one she invariably adds as a suffix the words nantoka nantoka – “something or other” or “thingamajig”. It is not altogether reassuring.

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Financial Times • Monday February 23, 2009 • TrendsAdd Comment