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The model Kyoto Eco-Action Points program started in October 2008. As part of this project, Kyoto Carbon Dioxide Reduction Bank (committee for environmentally friendly activities in Kyoto) issues Eco-Action Points based on the amount of CO2 reduced in the central elements of domestic energy consumption, such as the use of electricity and gas. These points can be used as shopping credits at participating stores. This is the first such system in Japan, and it aims to drastically reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the domestic sector.
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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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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The past few years, Japan has embarked on a nostalgic trip back to the Showa Era (1926-1989). People conveniently forget the terrors and destruction of war, debilitating poverty, discrimination of minorities and the high crime rates of this period, and instead focus on an imagined utopia. Most of the nostalgia has expressed itself in books and movies, but toys are increasingly traveling back in time as well.
Since the custom of giving chocolate on Valentine’s Day was first promoted in Japan in the 1960s, it has always been the women who have been doing the giving. Usually to men they are clearly not in love with, like a boss or a male colleague. Men get their chance to return the favor on the later invented White Day, held on March 14th. Now confectionery giant Morinaga believes that men are ready to initiate the gift exchange.
It is frightfully quiet in the former elementary school in the historical town of Kyoto. Yet the corridors and former classrooms are crowded with people. Some one hundred men and women from young to old, sit, stand and lay reading manga. This is the Kyoto International Manga Museum and it is incredibly popular. Only two years old, the museum has already welcomed half a million visitors.