April 1 marks a new beginning in Japan and coincides roughly with the arrival of cherry blossoms. The first ethereal pink was sighted last week in Kochi. Now blossoms have appeared in Tokyo. Full bloom is expected by Friday. Last year, after the horrific earthquake and tsunami that took over 18,000 lives, cherry-blossom events had been canceled. But this year, it’s different. And there is even an uptick in the numbers.
Japan, May 1996. The joys of eating cement us together, and the harmony between us emboldens me. We finish the fifth course, sautéed almond trout, and as I’m pouring the remainder of our bottle of wine, I broach the subject that has been on my mind for weeks and that I’ve broached in subtle ways before without getting a response. Now I want to violate yarikata. I want to communicate with her clearly and directly, with personal pronouns and all.
Economic reforms are tough. While they’re supposed to open opportunities, put budgets on sounder footing, or make the country more competitive, they invariably cut into the flesh of some groups, who then react with demonstrations and strikes to put pressure on the reformers to preserve the status quo. But in Italy, pharmacists have come up with an ingenious and tongue-in-cheek strike aimed straight at the reformers personally.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, while in Japan, summarized it eloquently when he said, “The financial aspect of the crisis is over.” The ECB, despite apparently fake German reservations, has jumped with both feet on the money printing bandwagon where it happily joins the Fed, the Bank of Japan, and other central banks. The endless flow of money has started in the Eurozone, and Greek politicians have figured this out.
At 2 p.m on Thursday, the final day of the annual wage negotiations that were going nowhere, Bruno Ferrec, the man in charge of the nine Fnac stores in Paris, was “retained” by 120 of his employees at a conference room at the Hotel Ibis in Paris. “For now, we do not know when we will let him go,” said the representative of the CGT, one of the unions involved in the negotiations. And the police did nothing.
I love beer. Particularly craft beer. I’m a sucker for a good IPA, or an amber, or a pale ale. For special occasions, there’s the expensive stuff. If I’m traveling, I try to discover local brews. And the first swig is one of the simplest great pleasures in life. But I’ll stick to the numbers. And they’re morose for the US beer industry. Yet there is an astonishing winner.
Huawei is a prime example of Chinese companies scaling the value chain through innovation and technology transfer—top priorities in China’s five-year plan. But its efforts to become a major player in the US give the US government, and anyone concerned about national security, the willies. And now, these concerns dissolved another deal, yet the root problem remains.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, practically written-off in the French presidential election, is grasping at straws, and in the process, during an interview on France Info, he created a new classification of people in France, and maybe even in the whole entire world: Muslim by appearance.
When the world’s major central bankers get together, as they did at the Fed conference in Washington this weekend, ironies abound. Off to the side, Turkey had just floated a plan to get its people to turn in their physical gold in exchange for “certificates,” a first if still voluntary step in what may become a process of gold confiscation. In the background: the Fed, which had promised to keep interest rates at record lows through 2014, come hell or high water, after having purchased $2.3 trillion in bonds. In the foreground: the money printers of Japan and Europe.
Tokyo, May 1996. At the immigration office in Otemachi, I’m asked to write my request in English on a piece of paper and submit it. After a wait, I’m directed to an office. A middle-aged white woman with puffy cheeks and a gray-blond perm thrones behind a desk.
“So, you want to stay in Japan longer,” she says with an icy British accent.