2009年6月28日 星期日

Tokyo Mourns Jackson's Death

Big In Japan: Tokyo Mourns Jackson's Death

The 'Jackson 5' holds a press conference before their concert on May 7, 1973 in Tokyo
The 'Jackson 5' holds a press conference before their concert on May 7, 1973 in Tokyo
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

In Tokyo's bustling Shibuya district, a woman makes a beeline for the Michael Jackson display on the second floor of the HMV music store. Crying under her green knit cap, she reaches for "Visionary," a black box of video singles from the King of Pop and a few of the Michael Jackson boxed figurines on display. Sho-ma — a dancer whose first exposure to Jackson was the album "Off the Wall" when she was in the third grade — said she first heard the news of Michael Jackson's death at 8 a.m. at her home in Tokyo. Another fan in the shop, 23-year-old Toshiki Nakamura, pulls out his iPhone and scrolls through a long list of Jackson albums. "I was so shocked when I heard," he says. (See pictures of people around the world mourning Michael Jackson.)

As the news of Michael Jackson's sudden death dominated Friday morning television programs in Japan, Tokyo music stores didn't miss a beat. The singer's death has already spurred album sales worldwide. The HMV display was hastily set up in the Summer Sale section with more than ten of Jackson Five and Michael Jackson solo albums. A sign read: "MICHAEL IS FOREVER. R.I.P. JACKO." (See Michael Jackson's top 10 songs.)

Around the corner Tower Records blasted music outside from "Bad," Jackson's seventh album, and had also set up three displays devoted to the his music inside. Fans started trickling in when Tower opened at 10 a.m.; a die-hard fan dressed like Jackson in his "Billie Jean" video even entered the store and flipped through the albums. Tower's clerks said they had been fielding calls all morning asking about Jackson's albums in stock, and expected more as the news spread. Masayuki Ikeya, 30, says he first saw and heard Michael Jackson when his parents showed him a videotape of Moonwalker. "I was really young and when I saw him, I knew he wasn't Japanese," he says. "But by the way he danced, I didn't think he was human — he was unbelievable."

Jackson's fan base in Japan started to grow after the Jackson Five's first tour here in 1973. Sales of "Off the Wall" (1979) reached 500,000, followed by 2.5 million copies sold of "Thriller", which sold an estimated 105 million copies worldwide. The star did a scooter commercial for Suzuki Motors in 1982 — the year "Thriller" came out — in which he says "Love is my message" and winks. (See TIME's 1984 cover on Michael Jackson.)

And unlike some corners of the globe, where tabloid infamy and legal troubles started to make inroads on his ticket sales, Japan proved to be a more forgiving audience for Jacko. In 1996, two years after he paid some $22 million to the family of a child he was accused of molesting, he performed eight sold out concerts at Tokyo Dome. In 2007, Jackson hosted about 300 of his loyal fans who each paid more than $3,500 for a buffet dinner and concert by Japanese Jackson impersonators — with the main attraction being a 30-second private meeting with Jackson. Jackson seemed to reciprocate the love of his Japanese fans. Before that trip, he had said, "I love Japan...It is one of my favorite places in the entire world." Footage taken during the visit shows Jackson referring to it as a "second home."

On Friday, even Japanese government officials were saddened by the news of Jackson's death. Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Tsutomu Sato told reporters, "I feel sad as I had watched him since he was a member of Jackson Five." And Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada has credited him with building a generation with his music. Back at HMV, using her scarf to dab her eyes now and again, Sho-ma says that she wasn't completely saddened when she heard the news. "I felt relieved for him," she says. "I think he was kind of a true angel."

Watch TIME's video "Appreciating Michael Jackson, the Musician."

See TIME's top 10 Michael Jackson moments.

See CNN's special report on Michael Jackson's life and death.

2009年6月27日 星期六

Price-cutting in Japan points to repeat of deflation misery

《中英對照讀新聞》Tokyo fights burglars with flower power 東京動用花兒力量打擊盜賊


A Tokyo district plagued with burglaries has turned to planting flowers to beautify its streets and help stamp out crime.


"’Operation Flower’ began about three years ago. By planting flowers facing the street, more people will be keeping an eye out while taking care of the flowers or watering them," said Kiyotaka Ohyagi, a Suginami City official. "The best way to prevent crime is to have more people on the lookout."


Suginami, with a population of 528,800, saw a record 1,710 break-ins in 2002.


When a neighbourhood watch group found that there were fewer burglaries in buildings on flower-lined streets, Suginami decided to kick off Operation Flower and asked volunteers to plant seeds on side streets and in front of their homes.


The flowers are part of a wider crime prevention campaign. The district also has 9,600 volunteer patrollers and 200 security cameras set up in areas where there are frequent break-ins. It also emails crime information daily to residents.


Suginami says its efforts have paid off, with the number of burglaries falling to 390 in 2008, down almost 80 percent from 2002.



flower power:花兒力量,指一九六○、七○年代美國嬉皮運動人士所主張一種以愛與和平改革社會的非暴力信仰。

on the lookout:片語,指保持警戒狀態,或指尋找某人或某事,如Be on the lookout for signs of a storm.(留心暴風雨即將到來的徵兆),或I’m always on the lookout for interesting new recipes.(我一直在尋找有趣的新食譜。)

pay off:動詞片語,指成功、奏效,如All her hard work paid off in the end, and she finally passed the exam.(她先前的努力果然有效,她終於通過了考試。)

Price-cutting in Japan points to repeat of deflation misery

12:30 AM, June 26, 2009

Japan, which showed the world how awful a sustained bout of deflation can be, may be heading back into that vortex.

The country’s main index of consumer prices dropped 1.1% in May from a year earlier, the biggest decline since 2002, the government said Friday.

Oil is part of the explanation here: Because crude prices have fallen so far from their peaks a year ago, they’re exerting unusual downward pressure on inflation rates. In the U.S. the consumer price index, including food and energy costs, was down 1.3% in May from a year earlier, the biggest drop since 1950.

Japanretail But excluding food and energy the U.S. CPI was up 1.8% in May from a year earlier. In Japan, by contrast, the CPI ex-food and energy was down 0.5% in the same period, signaling more widespread price cutting.

Japan is much more sensitive to the risk of true deflation, which is a broad-based decline in prices that can feed on itself and have a severe debilitating effect on an economy.

From Bloomberg in Tokyo:

"Profits fall, then wages come down, then consumers stop shopping," said Junko Nishioka, chief Japan economist at RBS Securities Japan Ltd. in Tokyo. "And because people aren’t shopping, companies lower prices. That’s the process that we’re starting to see. It isn’t easy to break out of."

Consumers, whose spending accounts for more than half of the economy, may delay purchases if they expect goods to get cheaper. That would erode profits and force companies to cut wages, which have already slid for 11 months.

Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano said an "extreme" slump in demand and production are causing the drop. "We continue to monitor developments in prices and need to carefully manage the economy to avoid a deflationary spiral," he said.

As Japan struggled in the aftermath of its real estate and banking system crashes of the early 1990s, the economy stagnated in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

That brought on deflation: Japan’s consumer price index fell every year from 1998 to 2002, was unchanged in 2003, then declined again in 2004. The index began to move modestly higher in 2005.

The policy responses of the Obama administration and Federal Reserve to last year’s economic and credit catastrophes have in large part been aimed at keeping the U.S. from falling into a similar deflationary cycle.

The Fed wants to believe it’s winning the battle, as I noted in this post on Wednesday. But many economists say the risk of sustained Japan-style deflation in the U.S. remains high.

-- Tom Petruno

Photo: Shopping in Tokyo. Credit: Toshiyuki Aizawa / Bloomberg News

2009年6月19日 星期五

Postal system's founder would expect better

Postal system's founder would expect better

Mailboxes installed on street corners in Tokyo and Yokohama during the early Meiji Era (1868-1912) were painted black. Back then, the word yubin (post or mail) had only recently been coined.

There's a story that a man who misread the kanji characters for yubin as tareben (relieving oneself) urinated on a mailbox because the characters are similar. Although I don't know if the story is accurate, it dates from 138 years ago when the modern postal service system took off.

Maejima Hisoka (1835-1919), who founded the system, is said to have been a selfless man. Shortly before he was due to leave government service after having seen his brainchild get off the ground, his acquaintances tried to stop him, saying, "If you stay a little longer, you will be entitled to receive a pension." But Maejima took his leave with a smile. His philosophical attitude is apparent from "Yubin Sogyo-dan" (Episodes about the establishment of the postal system), a posthumous collection of Maejima's writings.

The man known for his rectitude would turn over in his grave if he knew about the abuse of the postage discount system for groups supporting people with disabilities.

The scandal led to the arrest of a bureau chief at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare over the weekend. The high-ranking official is suspected of having issued a falsified "seal of approval" to an organization claiming to be a disability support group, even though it was not involved in such activities.

The phrase yoto-kuniku literally means offering the head of a sheep on a signboard to sell dog meat. It refers to false advertising. The irregularity is tantamount to giving a sheep's head to a shady organization to hide what it is actually doing.

The bureau chief is said to be denying the allegations. If she is telling the truth, whose will and acts led to the wrongdoing?

We are hearing the phrase seiji anken (political matter) once again. It is bureaucratic jargon for favors supported by politicians. It would be most worrisome if the certificate was forged with no criminal intent on the part of anyone involved in the case. If so, it means the irregularity is a product of government bureaucrats who maintain cozy relationships with politicians.

Referring to the bureau chief, Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Yoichi Masuzoe said, "She was a rising star for working women."

Regrettably, Masuzoe used the past tense. If the situation continues, the bureau chief, unlike Maejima, will end up failing in mid-career on a sour note.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 16(IHT/Asahi: June 17,2009)

2009年6月14日 星期日

Japan incentives boost sales of green cars, TVs

Japan incentives boost sales of green cars, TVs

Japanese are snatching up hybrid cars, solar panels and energy-efficient TVs, wooed by government incentives designed to battle a recession while conserving energy.

Tax breaks and rebates on green cars have helped two hybrid vehicles, Toyota's Prius and Honda Motor Co.'s Insight, become the best-selling models in Japan the last two months. Likewise, consumers are buying up ecological electronics products to earn "eco-points" that the government has promised can be later converted into products or other deals that have yet to be announced.

The renewed consumption is giving Japan's struggling corporations and sagging economy a much-needed jolt -- although some economists wonder if the demand created by the incentives will run out of steam.

Car dealership owner Hiromi Inoue can barely contain his glee over the thousands of Prius orders coming into his Toyota showrooms in Tokyo, now making up more than half their sales.

"What we're seeing is extraordinary," he said.

Japan's automakers could use some help: vehicle sales here dropped to their lowest level in three decades last year, and Toyota Motor Corp. sank into its worst annual loss since its 1937 founding.

Under a new government program, hybrids are now tax-free, delivering savings of about 150,000 yen ($1,500) for a Prius buyer. Other fuel-efficient models qualify for lower savings.

Also helping is a "cash-for-clunkers" program similar to the plan initiated by President Barack Obama, which offers vouchers worth up to $4,500 for a gas-guzzler turned in for a new car in the U.S.

In Japan, people who trade in a car 13 years or older get a 250,000 yen ($2,500) rebate for buying an ecological model. Those without a trade-in get 100,000 yen ($1,000).

Koji Endo, auto analyst with Credit Suisse, expects green incentives to lift annual Japanese vehicle sales by 100,000 vehicles or more.

The green boom has also caught on in electronics.

People who buy certain types of energy-saving TVs, refrigerators and air conditioners earn "eco-points" that they hope to exchange for other products later.

"Everyone -- families, old people, young people -- are coming to buy TVs," said Junichi Yajima, sales clerk at Bic Camera retail chain. "Some people don't understand 'eco-points,' but they've heard about it and see it as a good opportunity."

Yajima says each "eco-point" will likely be worth about 1 yen, and the points range from 7,000 points for a flat TV that's 26-inch or smaller to 36,000 points for one that's 46-inch or larger.

Electronics sales shot up 50 percent on year during the mid-May week after eco-points started, according to the trade ministry. Researcher Gfk Marketing Services Japan says sales of flat-panel TVs were up 60 percent from a year earlier.

"We don't know what 'eco-points' are yet, so we're also looking at features and prices," said 40-year-old housewife Kaori Kawabata, shopping for a flat-panel TV with her husband at a bustling Bic Camera.

Government incentives like "eco-points" highlight this export-reliant nation's efforts to lift domestic consumer spending.

Japan's top electronics makers, including Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp., rake in much of their profits from overseas sales, which have been hammered by the global slump.

Household spending has been lagging for months, as the unemployment rate surged to a six-year high of 5 percent and companies slash summer bonuses.

Another area the government hopes to nurture is solar energy. Japan is home to leading solar panel makers, such as Sharp Corp., Kyocera Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co.

The government wants to lift world market share of Japanese makers to a third by 2020 from a quarter today, with hopes of adding 110,000 jobs and growth worth 10 trillion yen ($100 billion) to the economy.

Since January, the government has been offering 70,000 yen ($700) per kilowatt, which delivers about a 10 percent savings for panel installment costs. Some 33,700 homes have applied for the solar subsidies.

Separately, Parliament is hammering out a law to give more money to households for buying back electricity from solar-powered homes.

Hiroshi Watanabe, economist at Daiwa Institute of Research, says such incentives help keep some spending going in a troubled economy, but they may not have a lasting impact. As long as incomes don't improve, they aren't real fixes.

"Whenever there is a major rise in demand like this, there is sure to be a backlash in plunging demand later on because demand was just moved up in time," he said.

Watanabe also says the frantic bargain-hunting merely shows people are pinching pennies because they're worried about the economy.

Sadami Nakamura, 64, who works for an insurer, was standing in a long line at city hall to get rebate coupons, part of a new regional government program to stimulate spending, which will give her a 10 percent discount at some stores.

"I don't agree with this kind of program," she said, dismissing it as "a handout." "But since they're offering it, I'm going to take it."

2009年6月12日 星期五



By Mure Dickie in Tokyo 2009-06-11

Japan has clashed with China over its efforts to combat global warming, with Beijing condemning as inadequate promised cuts in emissions of polluting greenhouse gases that were unveiled by Tokyo yesterday.

Taro Aso, Japanese prime minister, told the Financial Times that his country's targeted reduction of 15 per cent in emissions from 2005 levels by 2020 was “ambitious” and made Japan the world leader in the fight against climate change.

But the proposed cut in emissions by the world's second largest economy drew a sharp response from China's top climate envoy as well as from campaigners. The clash underscored the differences that the world's most industrialised nations must overcome if they are to agree a new climate change deal by the end of the year.

“I do not believe it is a number that is close to what Japan needs to do, should do,” Chinese climate envoy Yu Qingtai was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying in Bonn. Japan's pledge amounts to an 8 per cent reduction in its emissions from 1990 levels, far less than the 20 per cent cut promised by the European Union.

Mr Aso said in an FT interview that it would be “very irresponsible” to aim for greater cuts in emissions without considering the impact on the public and industry, especially since Japan's economy already led the world in energy efficiency. “We believe that the target we are setting is ambitious and will allow us to continue to take the leadership [role)] in the world community,” Mr Aso said.

The prime minister also stressed that Japan's 2020 target, unlike that of the EU, did not include any purchase of foreign “carbon credits” or the planting of forests to offset emissions.

The new target for Japan, which is the world's fifth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, was announced alongside talks in Bonn intended to pave the way for agreement on an international treaty on global warming in December to replace the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.

However, the Japanese pledge only highlighted the gulf between rich and poor nations on how to curb carbon dioxide and other gases that have been blamed for global warming. China last month demanded that developed nations cut greenhouse emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 compared with 1990. Yesterday, it ended three days of talks with the US without measurable progress.

Though Japan has pledged to cut emissions by 60-80 per cent by 2050, the setting of the 2020 target has been long delayed by fierce disagreement between politicians, officials, business leaders and campaigners.


日本首相麻生太郎(Taro Aso)向英国《金融时报》表示,日本的目标是到2020年将排放量较2005年水平降低15%,该目标是“雄心勃勃”的,使日本在遏制气候变化方面成为世界领先者。









support Bobby V

Japan fans to submit petition to support Bobby V

CHIBA, Japan (AP) — Fans supporting Bobby Valentine have gathered 100,000 signatures on a petition seeking to keep the American as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines beyond the 2009 Japanese baseball season.

The group said in a press release Friday it will submit the petition at the head offices of the Marines on Monday.

The signatures were gathered outside Lotte's home stadium in Chiba where Marines fans have been holding demonstrations in support of the popular former New York Mets manager.

Valentine, in his seventh season as manager, had been told his contract will not be renewed at the end of the season.

Fans in the right field seats at Chiba Marine Stadium wear T-shirts saying "Bobby 2010" and wave huge signs with slogans like "No Bobby, No Marines," and "Always Behind Bobby."

Team president Ryuzo Setoyama announced in the offseason that the team couldn't afford Valentine after this season.

Valentine, 59, led the team to the Japan Series championship in 2005 and has been a fan favorite since.

2009年6月8日 星期一

Japan pearls in peril

Japan pearls in peril amid recession, competition

Mon Jun 8, 2009 6:29am EDT

By Mariko Katsumura

MIE, Japan (Reuters) - Japan's akoya pearl industry, which began in the 1890s when Kokichi Mikimoto created the world's first cultured pearls, is facing collapse due to plunging sales and stiff competition from China.

In the small fishing town of Wagu on central Japan's Ago bay, about half of the 45 growers are about to close down their pearl beds after prices halved this year, sending them even deeper into the red.

"It's the end if you lose your passion for the work you do -- and I'm losing it," said Akihiro Takeuchi, 43, one cultivator of Japan's renowned akoya cultured pearls.

"We can't live like this. It's really unprofitable ... Akoya may die out completely in this town in a few years."

Saltwater akoya oyster pearls have long been a benchmark of quality in the industry, with domestic production peaking at 88.5 billion yen ($900 million) in 1990.

But by 2008, output had fallen to one-fifth of that.

First, a "red tide" of deadly phytoplankton washed in each year in the mid-1990s, killing two-thirds of the country's akoya oysters. Then the market was flooded with less expensive Chinese freshwater pearls.

At the same time, young people's tastes have shifted to more casual accessories.

The current recession -- the country's deepest in decades -- could be the last straw. Loss-making jeweler Tasaki Pearl (7968.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) has closed seven of its eight pearl farms in Japan this year, and U.S. upscale retailer Tiffany & Co (TIF.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) has announced plans to end its pearl-only store outlets.

In Wagu, young growers have already drifted away, while their elders see little hope of survival after this year's open tender, which was delayed by a month, resulted in a 50 percent drop in prices.

"Those who can quit are lucky, but many can't because they've got bank debts from the past," said Makoto Yamamoto, president of the Pearl Cultivation Fishery Union in Mie, where one-third of Japanese akoya pearls are produced.

"I was always optimistic in the past, even when we had the red tide, but this time I've got no ideas," the 74-year-old veteran said in an interview for the Reuters Luxury Summit.


Chinese growers have succeeded in cultivating freshwater pearls as big and round as akoya and have been exporting them since the 1990s. Unlike akoya oysters, which can yield a few pearls, a single freshwater mussel can produce as many as 40.

China now has 50 times Japan's pearl production capacity and the pearls are much more price-competitive, according to Mikimoto director Takashi Shimokura.

There is also more competition now from South Sea and Tahitian pearls which are often bigger than akoya, attracting consumers especially in many western countries.

Japan's global exports of cultured pearls have tumbled 60 percent over the last 25 years, and the country currently imports more than double the amount of pearls it exports.

Since last autumn, the country's retailers have seen falls in sales of up to 40 percent at home and 70 percent overseas, a document they submitted when seeking government support showed.

The Japanese government unveiled in late May a 120 billion yen emergency package for small fishery companies as part of a supplementary budget.

But that alone won't help, said lower house member Norio Mitsuya, who also sits on parliament's Pearl Promotionary Group.

"They (pearl industry) must come up with more innovative ideas. Whining about competition won't change the situation because we can't stop the imports," said Mitsuya.

"For survival, the industry as a whole must seriously consider to whom they want to sell and how," he added.

Akoya pearl producers and retailers agree that they need to raise public awareness about the quality of their products.

"Not many people know the difference between saltwater and freshwater pearls and that the chance of cultivating a top-class akoya pearl is so small -- less than 1 percent," said Yoshimasa Ohata, president of Ohata Pearl Industry, a pearl processor that also owns oyster beds in Ago Bay.

Ohata said an increasing number of pearl stores, especially those on the Internet, are selling freshwater pearls without clear explanations of their origin as they can be sold at lower prices.

In an ominous sign, even the company that first gave the world the akoya pearl now appears ambiguous about its future.

"As the originator of akoya pearls, we do feel responsible for akoya, but there are also high-quality South Sea pearls," Mikimoto and Co's Shimokura said.

"We want to keep providing customers with high-quality jewelry, whether it's akoya, South Sea pearls or diamonds."

(For summit blog: blogs.reuters.com/summits/)

(Reporting by Mariko Katsumura; Editing by Hugh Lawson)