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Japan

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Despite a bloody history, Japan and China are now cooperating in ways that shut out the United States
China is now widely seen as the coming superpower. But few even among the west’s China-watchers understand quite how fast this geopolitical freight train is approaching. Moreover, most western observers assume that China’s ambitions are being opposed by its East Asian rival, Japan. In the words of the Economist, Japan is “standing in the way”... Read More
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Why the Media's Silence on Japanese Protectionism Gives Trump Another Priceless Opening
In few places has Donald Trump’s rise caused more unease than in Tokyo. Indeed it is probably safe to say that, underneath an ostensibly imperturbable exterior, top Japanese officials are running far more scared than even Trump realizes. They have a lot to be scared about. Much of what the Washington establishment thinks it knows... Read More
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On Refugees as on Trade, It Excels in Managing Anglophone Opinion
As Third World migration increasingly dominates the headlines in the European Union and the United States, the rich nations of East Asia have been keeping heads their down. With good reason. True to their ultra-strict immigration policies, they have been admitting virtually no refugees. South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China are at one... Read More
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A $10,000 Invitation to FT Editor-in-chief Lionel Barber
Dear Lionel: I refer to your public assurances that the Financial Times’s independence will not be compromised by the Nikkei takeover. You are misinformed. Frankly, I concur with the BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston who has tweeted that this is a “desperately sad” moment. As you know, I have spent 27 years covering finance and... Read More
For years, anglophone media ignored the Japanese economy’s strengths. Now it’s time for a rethink
For decades the Financial Times has hardly had a good word to say about the Japanese economy. It is a special irony therefore that the paper’s longtime British owner, the Pearson group, has now agreed to sell it to the Tokyo-based Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) group. How come it is Nikkei that is buying the... Read More
The other day the New York Times highlighted anti-black discrimination in Japan. Focusing on the experiences of Ariana Miyamoto, a half-black/half-Japanese beauty queen who was born in Japan and enjoys full Japanese citizenship, the Timespresented a troubling and convincing account of a degree of explicit racial discrimination long unthinkable in respectable circles in the United... Read More
In this space last Sunday, I highlighted House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to address a joint session of Congress. As I pointed out, never before has a Japanese Prime Minister been accorded such an honor. Yet of all Japan’s post-1945 Prime Ministers, Abe would appear to be the least... Read More
Perhaps the highest honor the United States can confer on a foreign dignitary is to invite him or her to address both houses of Congress. Invitees join an exclusive club that has included such esteemed figures as Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Yitzhak Rabin, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, and Corazon Aquino. Now the currency is... Read More
In the spring of 1995 – twenty years ago almost to the day – I published a book about Japan entitledBlindside. Endorsed by such long-time Japan watchers as James Fallows, Sir James Goldsmith, and John Kenneth Galbraith (Galbraith had clocked considerable on-the-spot experience as a senior official of the American occupation in the late 1940s),... Read More
How much silicon is there in Silicon Valley? Not much, if we are talking super-pure monocrystalline silicon, which is the high-end material driving the digital revolution. As with countless other advanced materials these days, most of the world’s semiconductor-grade silicon comes from Japan (yes, Japan Inc has kept on trucking even if this is rarely... Read More
Even judged by the usual indiscriminate scorn heaped on the Japanese economy these days, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge seem exceptionally dismissive. In their latest book The Fourth Revolution, they contend that illegitimate entities have acquired a “frightening” chokehold on the Japanese government, and add that for decades Japan has “failed to fix its sclerotic... Read More
This story appears in the December 2014 issue of Forbes Asia. Honda and Toyota stand out as the Japanese automobile industry’s strongest players. So when in 2008 Honda launched the FCX Clarity, the world’s first plausibly commercial fuel-cell car, people wondered why Toyota was nowhere in this exciting new technology. Now the shoe is on... Read More
According to press reports this morning, the Japanese economy is now yet again in recession. Poor, poor Japan, you might think! How unlucky it has been, plagued by a bizarre series of economic accidents and miscues for nearly 25 years! Is it time we reached for our checkbooks and made a Christmas donation to the... Read More
At a welcoming banquet in Japan in the 1980s, Ford Motor chairman Philip Caldwell received a memorably double-edged compliment. “There is no secret about how we learned to do what we do, Mr. Caldwell,” said the head of Toyota Motor , Eiji Toyoda. “We learned it at the Rouge.” Toyoda was referring to Ford’s fabled... Read More
Last month I recounted how a top U.S. law firm had agreed to help shadowy Japanese interests try to portray the so-called Comfort Women – the sex slaves grotesquely abused by the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II – as no more than common prostitutes. As I pointed out, the case is totally toxic... Read More
For anyone who follows East Asia, here’s a question: what is Japan’s guiltiest secret? The “comfort women” scandal? The Nanking massacre? Official homage to war criminals at the Yasukuni shrine? No, no, and no. If by a guilty secret we mean something that Japan really, really wants to sweep under the rug, none of the... Read More
Would any self-respecting U.S. law firm represent a client who suggested the Jews deserved the Holocaust? Probably not. As a matter of honor, most law firms would run a mile, and even the least honorable would conclude that the damage to their reputation wasn’t worth it. Where imperial Japan’s atrocities are concerned, however, at least... Read More
In this space last week, I mentioned the strange story of Takeo Tamiya, who, in becoming president of the Japan Medical Association, rose to the highest pinnacle of the Japanese medical profession in the immediate aftermath of World War II. To say the least this was an undeserved triumph. With the possible exception of Nazi... Read More
The New York Times the other day suggested that Japan may revoke its apology to the so-called comfort women, the sex slaves used by the Japanese imperial army during World War II. The Times was vague about the details – probably because it has next to nothing to go on. For anyone who knows Tokyo,... Read More
Aerospace execs sell their industry to Japan­—one part at a time.
At a welcoming banquet in Japan in the 1980s, Ford Motor chairman Philip Caldwell received a memorably double-edged compliment. “There is no secret about how we learned to do what we do, Mr. Caldwell,” said the head of Toyota Motor, Eiji Toyoda. “We learned it at the Rouge.” Toyoda was referring to Ford’s fabled River... Read More
After some scarifying teething problems, the Boeing Dreamliner now seems to be becoming belatedly accepted as the wonder plane it was always cracked up to be. Though that is excellent news, it says far less about the health of the U.S. aerospace industry than Boeing executives would have you to believe. The fact is that... Read More
American newspapers have long been notorious for the credulousness of their foreign correspondents. But even by the American press’s normal standards, the Washington Post excelled itself the other day. Its Tokyo correspondent, Max Fisher, reported in all seriousness that the Japanese are not getting enough sex. He added: “This is more than a story about... Read More
The International Olympic Committee has made a safe choice in naming Tokyo the venue for the 2020 summer games. For a start no city in the world boasts a hotel industry better equipped to accommodate a sudden influx of foreigners. Indeed, contrary to Tokyo’s image as an impossibly expensive place, hotel rates are actually quite... Read More
I have been accused of being Irish. I plead guilty. Though I have spent most of my career abroad, I could hardly have had a more Irish childhood: born in remote Donegal in 1948, I was brought up in the sort of traditional Irish countryside immortalized in the John Ford movie, The Quiet Man. My... Read More
Few “facts” of modern history have become so firmly established as the idea that the Japanese economy flamed out in the early 1990s. This story has greatly discombobulated other nations’ policymaking, not least, as we will see in a moment, policymaking in the United States. Yet the “lost decades” story is not just a hoax... Read More
When New York-based corporate restructuring artist Daniel Loeb first went after the Tokyo-based electronics giant Sony some weeks ago, he looked like a butcher with a meat cleaver. Now he is behaving more like a surgeon with a scalpel. In the meantime he evidently read Japan for Dummies. At the outset his intent seemed to... Read More
Big news! The Bank ofJapan is set to double Japan’s money supply. At least that is what Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda is currently saying. I have to enter the caveat, “currently saying,” because as a veteran of 27 years of Japan-watching from a base in Tokyo, I know that the officially stated positions... Read More
A recurring theme in theWall Street Journal’s editorial pages since the 1970s has been that Japanese markets are “among the world’s most open,” and that in failing to sell in Japan theDetroit auto companies have only themselves to blame. Baloney, of course – albeit baloney that virtually no one inWashington, let alone in Tokyo, has... Read More
Is the United States finally — after fifty years of constant disappointment — on the verge of blasting open the Japanese market? The Washington Post seems to think so. Under the headline, “Japan’s economic turmoil may provide an opening for the U.S.,” the Post’s international economics commentator Howard Schneider recently suggested that Japan was being... Read More
Suppose you have a friend who is a notorious hypochondriac. Suppose too that you have just discovered you may have a life-threatening illness. Would you selflessly waste time ministering to your demanding friend’s latest sniffle – or would you first get your own health checked out? It seems like a no-brainer but if it is... Read More
Paul Krugman has taken another look at the Japanese economy and pronounces it no basket case. I am happy to second that motion. Having lived in Tokyo solidly for 27 years, I know that during the decades ofJapan’s alleged stagnation, living standards have actually improved faster in Japan than they have in the United States.... Read More
Suddenly the press is full of fears of a Chinese crash, and some of the more daring commentators are even predicting that China will follow Japan in suffering endless “lost decades.” All this is said to bode ill for such U.S. stocks with serious China exposure as Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, and Yum! Brands.... Read More
For more than two decades now I have been an outspoken Cassandra on America’s prospects. But why? It is a question that is often asked and my reply routinely draws blank stares: America’s basic problem is excessive individualism. For many Americans the idea of too much individualism is, of course, an oxymoron. But you can... Read More
Is the Washington Postracist? I ask the question in all seriousness. Yes, I know that, at a conscious level, the paper strives to do its best. And, to its credit, it has certainly been in the vanguard of efforts to make up for the terrible disabilities once visited on American minorities. But what about the... Read More
Why won’t anyone talk about Tokyo’s auto protectionism?
Mitt Romney was in his element a few years ago as the Obama administration struggled to rescue the Detroit auto industry. In an eat-your-spinach tone, he ticked off his recommendations for reform. Top management should go, executive dining rooms should be shut, and factory wages slashed. Then there were the industry’s “legacy costs”: given how... Read More
Well traveled Americans know that cellphones inJapan have long led the world in innovation. Yet Japanese handset makers have never enjoyed much success in selling their spectacular products abroad. What gives? The conventional wisdom is that the Japanese have been stymied by something called the Galapagos Syndrome: like the strange animals and plants that Darwin... Read More
Try this thought experiment: Suppose that ExxonMobil Corporation needed a new group chief executive. Rolling the dice a little, it reached into its Saudi Arabian subsidiary and tapped a tried and tested Saudi national there. No matter that he did not speak or read English. ExxonMobil’s board assured him that enough people in New York... Read More
If you think you are well informed on high technology, here’s a question: Which Japanese corporation, formerly a manufacturer of humble commodity textiles, now ranks among the top ten players in the global aerospace industry? Give up? The answer is Toray Industries. I tried this question at a gathering of U.S. executives in Tokyo recently.... Read More
TOKYO. In his blog atForeign Policymagazine, Clyde Prestowitz has reported that the Japanese economy is now being bested by South Korea. Not too surprising, you might think, given the remarkably contrasting tone of the economic news out of the two countries in recent decades. In reality in suggesting that the Koreans have the Japanese “on... Read More
Not so long ago Japan was being portrayed as the deadbeat of the world financial system. Seems there is still some life — and money — in the island empire. TOKYO. If you want to understand Japan, try watching what people do rather than listen to what they say. More even than in other parts... Read More
TOKYO. Many of us who have followed East Asia over the years identify with Sisyphus, the unfortunate king in Greek mythology who kept rolling a boulder uphill only to have it come crashing down again. The East is different and we long-time residents keep saying so — but when will anyone in the West take... Read More
Some weeks ago I published an article in the New York Times Sunday Review which has generated at least as much heat as light. It represents the distillation of 26 years of watching the Japanese economy from a base in Tokyo and as such is a useful way to start this blog about the East... Read More
Tokyo--DESPITE some small signs of optimism about the United States economy, unemployment is still high, and the country seems stalled. Time and again, Americans are told to look to Japan as a warning of what the country might become if the right path is not followed, although there is intense disagreement about what that path... Read More
How currency manipulation destroyed American manufacturing
TOKYO—In the mid 1990s, I published a book entitled Blindside: Why Japan Is Still on Track to Overtake the U.S. By the Year 2000. The prediction in the subtitle did not, as they say, pan out. But it was more soundly based than casual readers of the U.S. financial press might imagine. The book offered... Read More
The late historian Iris Chang, and now her mother, take up a generations-old fight to remember the Japanese atrocities in China
Hints don't come much less subtle than the one the late Iris Chang received in a small package in 1998. Inside the box, which has been mailed to her front door, were two bullets. Almost anyone else might, there and then, have opted for a less stressful life. Not Iris Chang. The episode is recounted... Read More
After a day of fear and disorder, the city's residents get ready for work on Monday 
TOKYO, Japan -- Your first Japanese earthquake is your most memorable. Or so I thought until, along with about 50 million other residents of northern and eastern Japan, I was transfixed by Friday's whopper. It was all such a contrast with my first, which I experienced 25 years ago as the newly arrived Tokyo bureau... Read More
TOKYO, Japan -- In this slot a few days ago I posed some historical questionsthat, judging by the email I have been receiving, have perplexed a lot of readers. Let me now fast-forward to our own time and try some questions that will probably prove almost equally perplexing. They concern the Japanese economy, that erstwhile... Read More
TOKYO, Japan -- In my post yesterday I pointed out that Westerners suffer many blindspots in their understanding of East Asia. I underlined the point by asking two quiz-style questions. It is time for some rather surprising answers. Question 1: Can you name an atrocity that happened in East Asia in the 1930s that, on... Read More
TOKYO, Japan -- For years now the American press has been full of reports of the rise of China and, to a lesser extent, of South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. But how well do you really know East Asia? If I may say so, probably not very well. After 25 years of reporting from the... Read More
The Pentagon sells out American manufacturing for Japanese bases.
TOKYO—When German executives visit Tokyo, they are often treated to a session at Bernd’s Bar, a notably authentic German pub. A bit too authentic, perhaps, given its Axis-era accoutrements. The last time I was there, one of the walls still featured a huge photograph of Willy Messerschmitt in conversation with Charles Lindbergh. It had evidently... Read More
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