Archive for the ‘japan’ tag
An interesting view into the real but hard-to-quantify spirituality of Japan:
It took a catastrophe for me to understand how misleading this self-assessment is. It is true that the organised religions, Buddhism and Shinto, have little influence on private or national life. But over the centuries both have been pressed into the service of the true faith of Japan: the cult of the ancestors.
A rather compelling read.
An interesting idea: one of the reasons that the Japanese nuclear disaster has been so bad is that early industry and regulatory adoption of inferior light-water reactors means that the worldwide nuclear industry is quite nearly forced to use a design that is less disaster-resistant than most other known options.
Also of note on the nuclear issue, Jeremy Bernstein’s point that radioactive iodine is a relatively good problem to have.
Reading Lisa Katayama’s story, I was struck by the similarities to Lars and the Real Girl. It seems likely that otaku and “2-D lovers” inspired the movie, but I managed to miss that idea at the time.
These 2-D lovers, as they are called, are a subset of otaku culture— the obsessive fandom that has surrounded anime, manga and video games in Japan in the last decade. It’s impossible to say exactly what portion of otaku are 2-D lovers, because the distinction between the two can be blurry. Like most otaku, the majority of 2-D lovers go to work, pay rent, hang out with friends (some are even married). Unlike most otaku, though, they have real romantic feelings for their toys.
Tyler Cowen’s been evaluating the environmental impact of flying (first here, second in title). Though he’s far from a conclusive answer, intriguing facts have emerged. For example:
Cargo has to come into play, too. Regardless of what you pay and what fare class you’re booking in, your travel on United between San Francisco and Nagoya, Japan is going to have almost no effect whatsoever on United’s decision-making. They’ve got a very large contract with Toyota and they fill up their 747 with cargo and the flight goes out with very low load factors yet is still profitable for them to operate.
Jake Adelstein has a fascinating Op-Ed in today’s Washington Post about his time covering the impotent policing of organized crime in Japan. A snippet:
Most Americans think of Japan as a law-abiding and peaceful place, as well as our staunch ally, but reporting on the underworld gave me a different perspective. Mobs are legal entities here. Their fan magazines and comic books are sold in convenience stores, and bosses socialize with prime ministers and politicians. And as far as the United States is concerned, Japan may be refueling U.S. warships at sea, but it’s not helping us fight our own battles against organized crime — a realization that led to my biggest scoop.
Why are people more group-oriented in a place like Japan and more individualistic in the United States? One intriguing theory:
disease-causing microbes. Societies that evolved in places with an abundance of pathogens, they argue, had to adopt behaviors that add up to collectivism, for reasons of sheer preservation. Societies that arose in places with fewer pathogens had the luxury of individualism, which is less effective at limiting the spread of disease but brings with it other social benefits, such as innovation.
Just a small chart to scare the pants off of those who recently found out that the “BRIC” countries are serious about growing. And that the United States is, well, not growing as fast as them. More embarrassingly, because the recession the US is also forecast to grow slower than Japan or the Euro area.
I love titles that write themselves. The substance:
Japanese television used to broadcast domestic games almost every day, and high-school tournaments still fixate the nation. But in recent years the Americans have lured Japan’s best players with fat salaries; 17 now play in MLB, including two pitchers for the Red Sox. American games attract huge television audiences, pushing aside domestic teams. Sales of merchandise jump when American clubs sign Japanese players. MLB’s revenue in Japan, $100m last year, now accounts for 60% of its income outside America. Japan risks becoming a mere farm-team and fan base for America, frets Masaru Ikei, a professor at Keio University and author of “Baseball and the Japanese People”.
This week’s Economist makes the argument that total GDP, which is usually used for measures of growth from country to country doesn’t work very well. Because it ignores the direction of population size, it distorts the picture in favor of growing countries — and misses the fact that the US is already in a recession.
Once you accept that growth in GDP per head is the best way to measure economic performance, the standard definition of a recession—a decline in real GDP over some period (eg, two consecutive quarters or year on year)—also seems flawed. For example, zero GDP growth in Japan, where the population is declining, would still leave the average citizen better off. But in America, the average person would be worse off. A better definition of recession, surely, is a fall in average income per person. On this basis, America has been in recession since the fourth quarter of last year when its GDP rose by an annualised 0.6%, implying that real income per head fell by 0.4%.