Japan

US Housing Hangover Or 20-Year Japanese Nightmare

In its schizophrenic manner, the media lamented the ugly housing-starts number. But for the market to heal, that number should be near zero. In Japan, 20 years after the housing bubble burst, land prices are still declining, and even the Yakuza, who’re heavily invested in the construction trade, are complaining.

Tokyo Tidbit: Oldest Nation Sets New Record

Today is a national holiday in Japan: “Respect for the Aged Day.” That’s why the Ministry of Health released a slew of age-related statistics. Most astounding: the huge number of centenarians. And just how healthy they still are.

Tokyo Tidbit: Still Doing That? But Not Only Japan

Many Japanese don’t understand why it’s still being done when most of the world opposes it. Yet it’s still being done: Japanese whalers caught 195 whales under a “research” program. But other countries do it, too. Yup, even us.

Don’t Try This At Home

A couple in Nagasaki, Japan, made sashimi out of a fugu he’d caught in a nearby bay. An hour after eating it, her lips and limbs got numb. He also developed symptoms. The neurotoxin in the otherwise comical fish was beginning to paralyze them.

Tokyo Tidbit: New Prime Minister Embarks on his Descent

All Japanese prime ministers since Koizumi slither down a steep slope for 8 – 15 months. When their popularity drops into the teens, they’re axed. The latest new guy is Yoshihiko Noda. His popularity during the first round of polls is still high. But oh no! His new ministers are talking.

Tokyo Tidbit: Yakuza Undergarments

The undergarment of the guys in the photo of “Yakuza: We Have to Evolve Our Business Model” (below) is a fundoshi, the traditional Japanese undergarment for men. Nowadays, it’s mainly used during festivals to show off machismo—to gird their loins for….

Yakuza: ‘We Have To Evolve Our Business Model’

“And we have to improve our image,” said Masatoshi Kumagai, one of the bosses of the Japanese yakuza, in an interview with French reporters. Yakuza are on decline, he said, and if they don’t change their business model, they might cease to exist.

Tokyo Tidbit: Disaster Specials

An earthquake struck Tokyo around noon on September 1, 1923, while people were cooking lunch over open fires: Over 100,000 people burned to death in the city “built of wood and paper.” Now, September 1 is “Disaster Prevention Day.” And it’s time to go shopping for foldable helmets.

Tokyo Tidbit: Permit Required For Deadly Pitfall

Birthday surprise for her husband: a woman and five friends dug a deep hole on a beach in Ishikawa Prefecture, put mattresses at the bottom, covered the hole with a plastic sheet, and sprinkled sand on it. Her husband would fall in and everyone would have a grand old time. The outcome was tragic. And they didn’t even have the required permit.

Downgrades Don’t Matter

… if you can print money and are in control of the credit markets. Look at Japan. That doesn’t mean the underlying problems don’t matter.