Friday, March 6, 2009

More on Japan

In yesterday's Financial Times, David Pilling wrote that many Japanese are pining for Japan's pre-industrial days, "Japan harks back to an age of innocence":

On a visit to Tokyo this week, on more than one occasion when I asked how Japan should tackle the economic crisis, my interlocutor turned with ninja-like alacrity to the topic of pre-Meiji Japan. The period before American warships forced the country open in the mid-19th century was regularly invoked as a prelapsarian idyll, a time when Japan did not have to deal with the grubby business of earning its crust in the world.

Eisuke Sakakibara, the former vice-finance minister indelibly branded Mr Yen, describes a country that was peaceful, orderly, unspoilt and friendly. “That was what pre-Meiji Japan was like. We should go back to that,” he says.

His invocation of a more innocent, pre-industrial age could easily be dismissed as idle chatter were it not for the fact that it keeps coming up.


There is now much talk of putting more emphasis on agriculture and de-emphasising the manufacturing industries on which postwar wealth was built. “Japan, having major strength in manufacturing, will probably suffer most,” says Mr Sakakibara, who argues that, even after this economic crisis subsides, the world will never return to previous levels of material consumption.

Japan’s farm industry is commonly regarded as heavily protected, but the Japanese worry that they only produce 40 per cent of their calorific requirements. Mr Sakakibara supports the DPJ’s proposals massively to increase subsidies to agriculture and to industrialise the family-run farming industry. He has been trying to persuade Toyota that cars are a dying industry and that it should turn its engineers on to farming efficiency instead. The era of just-in-time carrots could soon be upon us.


JK said...

By 2020, the largest demographic segment in Japan will be the over 65 crowd. It is the oldest country in the world, ostracized by the rest of Asia, and is hostile to immigration (any kind, not just skilled), has a stock market with little in the way of shareholder rights and a stagnant political system, so this is a country to completely avoid investing in unless there are major changes. except for maybe only the most compelling hi-tech companies as a momo play.

They also serve as a great example for decisions the US makes as a country going forward, as is noted frequently, everywhere.

DaveinHackensack said...

Japan's immigration policy is geared toward ethnic and cultural homogeneity. It has its pluses for them (e.g., an orderly and harmonious society), but it has its economic limitations as well. A quick anecdote about that: The salesman who waited on us at the flagship H.Stern* Jewelry store in Rio de Janeiro a couple of years ago was Japanese. He mentioned that he had met his Brazilian wife at a gemology school in New York, but -- even after they were married and had children together -- Japanese law wouldn't let her live in Japan with him year round (should live there for only a certain number of months at a time). So they settled in Brazil.

Incidentally, Japanese companies do recruit some immigrant labor, but they tend to focus on ethnic Japanese from overseas. So, for example, an number of ethnic Japanese Brazilians work (or used to work -- I'd bet there's been less of this in recent years) in the auto industry in Japan.

*H.Stern was of course founded by a German-Jewish immigrant to Brazil, the late Hans Stern.

JK said...

Japan's immigration policy is essentially "no immigration". The # of expatriate ethnic Japanese it is able to lure back to its homeland can't be more than a tiny blip. That Japanese law you mention for example, is outrageous.

Even Koreans who are 2nd and third generation immigrants are not allowed to be citizens and widely discriminated against, forming Japan's underclass (they are disproportionately involved in crime, get lower greades in school, etc). No wonder other Asians can't stand the Japanese (besides the war). Japan's snootiness will take its toll when all of its citizens are pushing walkers.

DaveinHackensack said...

"No wonder other Asians can't stand the Japanese (besides the war)."

Conquering and colonizing your neighbors will tend to engender some negative feelings toward you by them.

"Japan's snootiness will take its toll when all of its citizens are pushing walkers."

They've been developing some interesting technological advancements to help care for their elderly, instead of relying on immigrant laborers like we do here. E.g., a machine that can bathe a wheelchair-bound person; a robotic cat that keeps old people company and reminds them when to take their pills, etc.