Japan

Japanese Ministry of Finance To Bondholders: You’re Screwed!

This has got to be the icing on the Japanese cake. The website of the Japanese Ministry of Finance, more specifically the FAQ page on government bonds, has been catapulted to stardom on Facebook and Twitter. Not in a good way. It asks the question: “In case Japan becomes insolvent, what will happen to government bonds?” And then, incredibly, it answers with a terse action plan for when the Big S hits the fan.

“Forceful And Timely Action” To Nowhere

“Japan’s experience is a sobering real-world reminder of why forceful and timely action is appropriate,” said the Fed’s Eric Rosengren in his desperation to rationalize QE3. It would be a flood of money, not the “muted” response from Japan to two decades of stagnation. “Appropriate fiscal policies”—even larger deficits—should be used to battle Japanese-style stagnation. Alas, no developed country has done that for longer and to a greater extent than … Japan. And no developed country is in deeper trouble.

Japan’s Slow-Motion Tsunami

What got lost in the escalating Japan-China scuffle was an unassuming national holiday in Japan on Monday that symbolizes in the most respectful manner the slow-motion economic tsunami rolling over the country: “Respect for the Aged Day.” And this time, the young generations are paying the price.

Beer, A Reflection Of The World Economy?

As a kid in Germany, I engaged in underage beer drinking. I was too young to drive, so it didn’t bother anyone, except me the next day. It was when German beer consumption peaked at 151 liters per capita, the highest in the world. But then I went to America … and German beer consumption took a multi-decade dive. In the US and other Western countries, the beer industry is now morose as well, but it’s booming elsewhere.

HumanERROR: By FRYING DUTCHMAN

An awesome, powerful, lyrical appeal (with superb English subtitles) by the Japanese band FRYING DUTCHMAN (a play on the Japanese habit of interchanging Ls and Rs) to the people of Japan to open their eyes and minds: It slams the nuclear industry, the mainstream media, government bureaucrats, and politicians of all stripes.   For my…

Whitewash versus Reality: “Disaster Made in Japan”

Today Japan brought its first nuclear reactor back on line, after having been nuclear-power free for two months. The government had stress-tested the reactor and had declared it safe—despite strong evidence to the contrary. Ironically, on the day that the reactor started generating electricity again, the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission released its report on the Fukushima disaster—and it’s a doozy.

“Nuclear-free Japan:” Figment of the Imagination

Nuclear power is galvanizing Japan, stirring up public discussions and outright dissent with demonstrations and all, a rare occurrence in Japan. It has divided the country in two: those who want nuclear power generation to resume so that a stranglehold can be lifted from the economy, and those who want a “nuclear-free” Japan. But there is no quick way out, even if everyone wanted it.

The Japanese Are Dumping Their Gold

In Japan, people who are old enough to have lived it as adults still reminisce about the bubble that blew up in 1989 when the Nikkei almost hit 40,000 (now 9,045) and when the sky-high prices of real estate could only go up further. The slide from top to reality has been brutal, and a lot of people lost their shirts. But there has been one investment that has worked out phenomenally well for the otherwise hapless Japanese investor: Gold.

Japan’s Sanctimonious Finance Minister

There are certainly some topics that Japan can lecture France on, for example standing in line. In Japan, a line is a display of communal discipline. In France, a line is something to be worked actively. Japan can also lecture France on designing and making cars and electronics. But the topic that Japan—fiscally the most undisciplined country in the developed world—can’t include in its sermon to France is fiscal discipline. And yet….

The Real Reason For Deflation in Japan

Japan was a shockingly expensive country twenty years ago. Back then, the US government pushed Japan to open up its markets, and it is still pushing, in some sectors with little success. But over the years, Japan has become less restrictive to imports. The result: more competition and lower prices—but surprising barriers remain, and some prices are still astoundingly high.