Today (10/17) was the day for "Kan-name sai," meaning Autumn Festival Day, when first rice crops are presented to Ise Shrine before WWII. And it was a national holidy. After the war, it was turned to "Savings Day," when money, rather than rice, should be saved, not consumed, presumably presented to the "economy."
It is reported in today's LA Times (see the link above) that the University of California has decided to grant honorary degrees to all Japanese Americans who were students at the University, but forced to quit for internment during the war. No doubt this is a great decision and certainly an exceptional one on the part of the University of California, which always tries to be careful about their political or racial consideration.
According to the Mainichi.jp article linked above, Nobuyuki Tsujii, a visually challenged pianist, released his debut album titled "debut," which became a best-selling CD, taking second place in Oricon's CD weekly sales ranking. This is literally "the best-selling" CD by a pianist in the Orion history, and tied Seiji Ozawa's CD "New Year Concert 2002." Hopefully, this is not going to be a temporary phenomenon, fueled by the mass media's intenstive coverage.
下にリンクされた「Mainichi.jp」の記事にあるように、最近発表された電通のランキングによれば、今年最初の5カ月間で、もっとも話題に上り、ひっぱりだこになった商品として、マスクがトップとなり、ハイブリッド車以上だったとのことである。 もちろん、これは日本での新型インフルエンザ・パニックの結果であるが、マスコミのニュースにこれほど極端に影響される日本の消費者の特殊性を如実に示しているものといえよう。 参考：Reference: Mainichi.jp (6/10): "Masks top list of most popular items this year" http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20090610p2a00m0na014000c.html
Masks surpassed hybrid cars and other hit items as most popular and most talked-about goods for the first five months this year, according to the well-known Dentsu ranking just announced, as reported in the Mainichi.jp article linked above. Needless to say, this is due to the swine flu panic in Japan, showing the peculiar nature of the Japanese consumer who is so drastically influenced by the mass media's new reporting.
Finally, the 2 trilion yen cash handout program has passed the Diet and is moving forward after a series of trouble along the way. This is literally too little too late, as a similar program has already been implemented in Taiwan, and a much bigger tax cut program, up to 7 trillion yen, will be adopted in China soon.
本日夕方に本田敬吉氏が主催する定例会が忘年会を兼ねて行われた。いつもの顔ぶれに何人かの新しいメンバーも加わり20人ほどのメンバーが集まって、特に現下の金融危機に関する問題および個々人の健康問題に話題が集中した。 まず本田氏は、米住宅市場が底打ちする時期を2009年末か（もし下方に行き過ぎるならば）それ以降になると予想。その上で何が現下の金融危機をもたらしたか、また日本よりも米国のほうが悪影響を受ける理由を説明し、過剰流動性と投資銀行による野放しの外部借入（レバリッジ）などが元凶であることを強調した。 さらに五十嵐雅郎氏が本田氏の議論をフローするとともに、日本版の「サブプライム問題」が今後の日本の景気を左右するほど深刻になる可能性を指摘した。 また宮尾は現下の金融危機の入門的な説明を提供し、沈み行く世界経済を「タイタニック」に例えて説明を行った。また最後に、オバマ次期米大統領に関する日本人の受け取り方の問題も取り上げた。 参考： オバマ・キャンペーン・ソング「Yes We Can」： http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=Lty0y_RGnxM 4月会合（4/16）April Meeting: 「日米経済の見通し：Prospects for US & Japan' Economy」 http://glocom.blog59.fc2.com/blog-date-20080416.html
This evening there was a regular bi-monthly meeting, organized by Mr. Keikichi Honda, and joined by regular members with a couple of new participants. The discussions centered on the current financial crisis as well as personal health problems. First, Mr. Honda gave his own prediction as to when the US housing market is likely to bottom out, that is probably toward the end of 2009 or a little later (if the market overshoots downward). He also explained what caused the current crisis and why the US economy might well be more severely affected by the current crisis than Japan, where his emphasis was placed on excessive liquidity and unregulated leverage of investment banks, among other things, as main culprits for the financial crisis. Mr. Masao Igarashi followed up Mr. Honda's argument by referring to the Japanese version of "subprime loans," which would likely affect Japan's future prospects. Takahiro Miyao offered an introductory explanation of the current financial crisis by mentioning the Titanic incident, which may be somewhat analogous to the declining global economy. Finally, he took up the Japanese perceptions of US President-elect Obama.
カラオケの進化はとどまるところを知らない。 下にリンクした「Asahi.com」の記事によると、この度発売された新しいカラオケシステムは、客の歌の選択を記憶するだけでなく、飲み物のオーダーなど客の他の選択も記憶できるという。 最近このようなシステムが必要なのは、バーやナイトクラブでパートの従業員が客をよく知らずに接客することが増えているためで、これがあれば客を知らなくてもある程度満足のゆくサービスが可能になるのかもしれない。 しかし問題は、最近日本ではカラオケで歌うことに興味を示す人があまりいなくなっていることで、したがって、日本よりも海外でこのシステムをマーケットしたほうがよいのではないだろうか。 参考：Reference: Asahi.com (9/24): "New song system for karaoke lovers" http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200809240061.html
The karaoke system never stops evolving in the IT age. This time, a new version can store various data about customers' orders, not just their song selections, but also drink choices and other orders, according to the Asahi.com article linked above. These days this kind of system is needed at bars and night clubs, where even part-time employees can serve their customers satisfactorily even though they don't know much about the customers. The problem may be the fact that not many people are interested in karaoke in Japan anymore. So, this kind of system should mainly be marketed outside Japan.
Irish Dinner September Meeting Mr. Rene Duignan organized and hosted a dinner meeting on behalf of IJCC (Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce) on September 4. The purpose of this event is to offer a regular meeting place for representative people from Ireland, Japan and the rest of the world, who are interested in Irish affairs, especially business relations between Ireland and Japan. Mr. Duignan also announced that he, representing IJCC, will soon offer a series of seminars on Ireland to be held at Temple University Japan in cooperation with the Japanese Institute of Global Communications-IUJ. This has turned out to be a very exciting and stimulating meeting for every participant, wherever he or she comes from. Reference: Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce: http://www.ijcc.jp/
There was an interesting panel discussion on standard jazz music by four well-known singers (see the photo above), as part of this year's big band jazz festival held at LAX Four Points Sheraton on May 24. They took up a wide variey of topics, ranging from how to swing to how to expose young people to good jazz music. Interestingly, Japan was mentioned a few times in the course of the discussion, as all of them, including moderator Bill Reed, are very popular among Japanese jazz fans. A number of good points were made, such as Tierney Sutton's argument that if we provide school kids with a chance to listen to good jazz music, they love it. Then the question remains as to how to make them listen to it in the first place. It was suggested by quite a few participants in the Q&A session that we can and should make use of good jazz content available on the net, such as YouTube and internet radio jazz programs (see the references above), which are free and easily listened to by anyone including young people. The session was really enjoyable, not only for these good points, but also for the good sense of humor possessed by all the panelists. Reference: LA Jazz Institute: http://www.lajazzinstitute.org/
本日の「International Herald Tribune」の記事（下のリンク参照）によると、白川方明日銀副総裁が政治の提案する3人目の総裁候補として両院で所信聴取を受けて、いよいよ総裁に決まるようである。これで政治的理由による総裁空白の問題は解決に向かう。しかしながら大蔵省出身の渡辺博史氏の副総裁就任については、民主党が反対する可能性が高い。 誰がなるにせよ、日銀総裁が決まることは、空白のままでいるよりはましに決まっている。特に世界経済が金融の混乱で動揺している現在、日本が果たすべき役割は大きく、そのために日銀総裁のイニシアティブが重要となる。その意味で、総裁が決まることは望ましい動きといえるであろう。 しかし、忘れてならないのは、日銀の歴史を見ると、日銀出身の総裁は景気刺激策よりはインフレ抑制策を重視する傾向があるのに対して、大蔵出身の総裁は金融引き締めよりも景気刺激策を取る場合が多かったということである。そのために、バランスという意味で、総裁は日銀出身者と大蔵出身者が交代に就任jしていたとも解釈できる。その意味で日銀生え抜きの白川総裁の就任は、今後金融引き締め策が採用される予兆とも取れる。日本経済が米国経済の影響で減速している中で、金融引き締め策が採用されるとすれば、それは決して望ましい動きとはいえないであろう。 Article: "Nominee for Japan Central Bank Chief to Stand Confirmation Hearing at Parliament" International Herald Tribune (4/8/2008) http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/04/08/business/AS-FIN-Japan-Central-Bank.php
It is reported in the IHT news article linked above that Masaaki Shirakawa, who is a former BOJ (Bank of Japan) executive director and the government's third nominee for the head of Japan's central bank, was to stand his confirmation hearings in both houses of parliament, a move to end the political vacuum for the bank's top position. However, the problem will remain regarding the appointment of a deputy governor, since the government's nominee for that position used be a finance ministry official, a fact that the opposition parties are likely to denounce. Whoever he might be, it is much better to fill the BOJ's top position than leaving it vacant at the time of financial turmoil in the global economy, where Japan should play a more active role in stabilizing the situation through international cooperation and policy coordination. Here, the initiative of the Bank of Japan's head seems crucially important. In this sense, the appointment of Mr. Shirakawa as the BOJ governor would be a welcome development. However, one should keep in mind that in the history of the Bank of Japan, those governors who are originally from the BOJ tended to be conservative in monetary policy with more emphasis on curbing inflation than stimulating the economy, whereas those who came from the Finance Ministry have more often adopted stimulus measures rather than restrictive monetary policies. That may have been one of the reasons why the BOJ governorship has alternated between the BOJ and the Finance Ministry officials, namely for balancing purposes. In this context, appointment of Mr. Shirakawa originally from the BOJ as the bank's governor should be regarded as a possible sign of restrictive monetary policy in the near future, and that might not be a welcome development when the Japanese economy seems to be slowing down along with the U.S. economy.
"Japan in Context" January Meeting (1/29) A highlight of the JIC January Meeting was fascinating poetry reading by Professor Peter McMillan, who has just published a book, in which he translates "ｗaka" (traditional Japanese poems) into English in a very artistic way. Peter McMillan says that "waka" poems are the most natural way of expressing Japanese minds and feelings, even more so than popular "haiku," which was orginally part of "waka." It is really nice to get to know all kinds of people with diverse expertise and knowledge at JIC, and meeting the "waka" professor is one of the most exciting experiences that I have recently had. References: "Japan in Context" October Meeting: http://glocom.blog59.fc2.com/blog-date-20071031.html "Japan in Context" September Meeting: http://glocom.blog59.fc2.com/blog-date-20070926.html "Japan in Context" July Meeting: http://glocom.blog59.fc2.com/blog-date-20070731.html
Coordinator Rene Duignan introducing newcomers to JIC
本日の「Mainichi Daily」の記事（下のリンク参照）にあるように、昨年日本のゲーム機器とゲームソフトの合計売上額は史上最高を記録し、最近の売上減少傾向を逆転させたとのことである。 この逆転は主に任天堂のWiiとDSゲームのブームによってもたらされたといってよく、これまでのゲーム世代だけでなく、高齢者や女性など新しい層をゲームに引き込んだことによっている。 とりわけ、脳や刺激したり身体の運動になるようなソフトが新しい層に受けたのが大きい。これは今後とも魅力的なソフトのコンテンツ開発と使いやすいハードを組み合わせることが重要となり、その面での競争が激化することを意味するであろう。 参考：Reference Mainichi Daily (1/9): “Japanese Video Game Sales Hit Record Hight in 2007” http://mdn.mainichi.jp/business/news/20080109p2g00m0bu003000c.html
It is reported in today’s Mainichi Daily (see the link above) that the total sales of game machines and game software combined hit a record high in Japan last year, reversing the trend of gradual decline in Japan’s game industry in recent years. This reversal is largely due to the boom of Nintendo’s Wii and DS games, which are appealing to not only typical game lovers but also newcomers, especially the elderly and women. In particular, new soft contents such as brain and physical exercises have turned out to be a great success in attracting those newcomers. This means that there will be more and more competition in developing attractive contents combined with user-friendly hardware in the future.