2010年2月20日 星期六

Japan Plans to Ignore Any Ban on Bluefin Tuna

Japan Plans to Ignore Any Ban on Bluefin Tuna

Published: February 19, 2010

PARIS — Japan will not join in any agreement to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna under the United Nations treaty on endangered species, the country’s top fisheries negotiator said.

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Christophe Ena/Associated Press

A French retailer checked bluefin tuna. Japan objected to conservation and management of the fish by the United Nations.

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The negotiator, Masanori Miyahara, said in a telephone interview this week that Japan “would have no choice but to take a reservation” — in effect, to ignore the ban and leave its market open to continued imports — if the bluefin tuna were granted most-endangered species status.

“It’s a pity,” he said, “but it’s a matter of principle.”

Mr. Miyahara, Japan’s top delegate to the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, referred to as Cites, said the convention was the wrong forum for managing the fishing of the bluefin tuna.

A formal proposal for a ban — which requires the approval of two-thirds of its 175 member countries — is scheduled to be presented at a Cites meeting next month in Doha, Qatar.

The position of Japan, which consumes about 80 percent of the bluefin tuna caught in the Mediterranean, “is very simple,” Mr. Miyahara said. He said Japan believed that a different organization, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, known as Iccat, should manage bluefin tuna catches and protection.

Mr. Miyahara said Japan acknowledged that the bluefin tuna needed protection, but the endangered-species convention was “quite inflexible,” he said.

Historically, he said, almost no species added to the Cites endangered species list had ever been removed. “We don’t believe the bluefin tuna is endangered to that extent,” he said.

Meanwhile, Europe appeared to be moving to a compromise.

France, home of the largest Mediterranean bluefin fleet, said on Feb. 3 that it was prepared to back an international trade ban at the Cites meeting, to take effect after 18 months. But a person with knowledge of the European Commission’s thinking who asked not to be identified because the commission had not formally adopted the position, said on Friday that officials were planning to propose that Iccat be given a last chance to give depleted stocks of the tuna a chance to recover by temporarily banning all commercial trade in the fish.

highlighting Japan


 Toward an East Asian Community
In November Prime Minister Hatoyama outlined his vision for an East Asian Community wherein countries cooperate to establish a multilayered network of functional communities.

 Supporting Mekong Region Development — Keiichi Ono
The Mekong region occupies a crucial geopolitical location, and Japan has provided assistance to develop economic corridors there that will play an important role in the achievement of an East Asian Community.

 Regional Frameworks to Combat Natural Disasters — Atsushi Koresawa, Susumu Yamakage
The countries of East Asia face a variety of challenges to human security like natural disasters, and there exists a need for a cooperative regional framework to respond to such challenges.

 Achieving East Asian Economic Integration — Eiji Ogawa
What steps are being taken to encourage greater economic integration in the East Asian region, and what will be necessary to ensure continued growth?

 Asia's Role in the World — Peter Drysdale
As host of APEC's Economic Leaders' Meeting in 2010, Japan is in an important position to advance closer East Asian integration.

 Open Regional Cooperation — Takashi Shiraishi
Key considerations in achieving Prime Minister Hatoyama's vision for an East Asian Community will be relations with the United States and pulling China into the integration process.


 The Riches of Simplicity — Jeffrey Irish
There is a tiny mountain farming village of just 20 households in southern Kyushu where the richness of life in rural Japan still endures.

 Creating Communities of Opportunity
Communities around Japan confront a number of serious challenges, but there are locally led initiatives that are successfully addressing these concerns.

 New Initiatives in Community Revitalization — Kosuke Motani
There is a growing movement among residents in locations throughout Japan to revitalize community life and address local, everyday issues.


 Grassroots Friendship — Taizo Watanabe
The origins of a two-decade-old program of international friendship go back to an incident in the mid-1800s of a US vessel rescuing a shipwrecked Japanese fisherman.


 Vintage Vinegars — Tony McNicol
In Japan, vinegar is much more than just a cooking ingredient or condiment.


 The Fabric of Success
By competing on quality and value rather than price, innovative companies in Japan's textile industry have overcome challenges to achieve success.

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Public Relations Office, Government of Japan

Japanese Government Internet TV

2010年2月13日 星期六


印象最深刻的是1980年代的 銀座歩行者天国

Pedestrian zones in Japan are called hokosha tengoku (歩行者天国, literally "pedestrian heaven"). Clis Road, in Sendai, Japan, is a covered pedestrian mall. Several major streets in Tokyo are closed to vehicles during weekends. One particular temporary hokosha tengoku in Akihabara was cancelled after the Akihabara massacre in which a man rammed a truck into the pedestrian traffic and subsequently stabbed more than 12 people.

アキバ歩行者天国、再開申し入れへ 早ければ大型連休前




 地元町会や区、警察、電気街・商店街の関係者らによるまちづくりの検討会はこれらの安全対策を踏まえ、「(歩行者天国再開の前提となる)安全・安心の環 境は整った」として、再開に向けた議論を始めるという。一部に慎重な意見もあるが、3月末の検討会で結論がまとまり次第、区が都公安委員会に申し入れる見 通しだ。



JAL reports drop in passengers

JAL reports drop in passengers



Japan Airlines Corp. on Friday reported a 10-percent year-on-year decline in passenger numbers on its domestic routes and a 3.2-percent drop on its international routes for December.

JAL carried 2.77 million passengers on domestic flights and 872,000 on international flights that month. Both figures were the lowest levels for December since the company's integration with Japan Air System Co. in 2002.

JAL attributed the decline on domestic flights to the recession, as well as some "outflow of passengers" to other airlines because of JAL's much-publicized financial difficulties.

The struggling airline filed for court protection under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law last month.

The airline's seat occupancy rate on domestic flights was 52.4 percent in December, down from 55.8 percent a year before. On 86 of JAL's 147 domestic routes, the rate was below 50 percent, according to JAL.

On the other hand, due to the airline's review of aircraft and routes for international flights, the seat occupancy rate rose to 71.9 percent, from 60.2 percent in December 2008.

Low-cal kisses for apple lovers THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

photoStaff of Caloria Japan Co. pack apples bearing messages of low-calorie love (some of which offer a new way of spelling the holiday's name) into boxes prior to Valentine's Day. (MASARU KOMIYAJI/ THE ASAHI SHIMBUN)

AOMORI--Apples imprinted with a message of love are finding favor with folks hoping to woo diet-conscious romantics, according to Caloria Japan Co. in Towada, Aomori Prefecture.

Men especially are buying the locally grown Valentine's Day treats for their sweethearts.

Nationwide sales through the company's website have spiked ahead of Sunday.

In Japan on Valentine's Day, women generally give gifts of chocolate to men, while both sexes exchange gifts in other countries.

This year, one man custom-ordered an apple imprinted with the words, "Marry me," a Caloria official said. The company takes orders by phone or online for its apples, which can bear any message desired, even advertisements.

On March 14, called White Day in Japan, men are expected to repay those admirer

2010年2月11日 星期四

Cult of the Living Doll in Tokyo

Cult of the Living Doll in Tokyo

TOKYO — In the West, a somewhat condescending verdict on Japanese women has long been that they are too submissive and doll-like. For close to a decade, the Japanese media have exhorted women to fight against this image by toughening up and coming into their own.

In the past year, however, that kind of talk has been increasingly fallen on deaf ears among some young women who actually aspire to look like dolls.

They are divided into two distinct genres: the increasingly popular “Mori,” or forest, girls, and the “Ageha,” or swallowtail butterfly, girls. The forest girls wear layers of thin cottony dresses, thick tights and boots, unpretentious makeup and cloth tote bags, the intention being to resemble a handmade doll from some romantic, Black Forest setting.

Forest girls unobtrusively made their debut in the Tokyo pop culture scene last spring, although at first it was hard to distinguish them from the similarly clad eco girls. But as the months went by the differences became clearer. Forest girls want to be discreet and to obliterate sexuality altogether, while eco girls are natural, sporty types who back solid environmental policies and a healthy dose of sensuality.

Midori Yokokawa, an editor at the fashion magazine Forest Girl, which was launched in October to cater to this new phenomenon, said: “Forest girls are wary of all forms of aggression or self-assertiveness. They’re just too fragile, or they would like to be that way.

“They don't want to live so much as to exist, preferably on a metaphysical level.”

The Ageha, or swallowtail butterfly, girls, began to appear in 2008 and show a similar mistrust of the real world. Their aim is to look as much as possible like the blow-up figurines men buy online, only with flamboyant makeup.

Naoko Kamijyo, 19, who lives to buy cosmetics, clothes and hairpieces, says: “I’m no great beauty, but I love to be made up. I want to change myself, to be unrecognizable. Who wants to go through life just being themselves?”

Her parents first begged her to “go back to normal,” but now they leave her alone to pursue her Barbie doll dreams.

“I get bored if I'm not made up,” said Naoko. She gets up at 5 a.m. and spends at least two hours applying false eyelashes, false hair extensions, layers of foundation and other complicated makeup procedures.

Like most Japanese women, doll impersonators stop short of cosmetic surgery.

According to the cosmetics and beauty journalist Yuko Ito: “The Japanese woman has a thing about going under the knife. They think it’s a sin against their parents. This is why they would rather opt for cosmetics and dramatic clothing. It’s also the reason behind the astonishing range of cosmetics available in this country.”

Ms. Ito has a point. The cosmetics giant Kanebo came out with a high-tech mascara that actually makes eyelashes grow longer (if only for a couple of hours), and Shiseido has long sold products to whiten Japanese skin to the palest possible shade of ivory.

“The Japanese woman isn’t interested in just any makeup product,” said Ms. Ito. “These must enhance her looks while at the same time treat and whiten her skin, elongate eyelashes, puff up lips, etc.”

But it’s not just the cosmetics that make the look. The clothes matter too.

“I like it when everything about me feels artificial,” said Kiyomi, 23, who likes to buy her clothes at Jesus Diamante, a boutique specializing in the Ageha look.

Kiyomi claimed she never leaves home unless she is wearing mules decorated with rose buds, her yellow-dyed hair in rococo coils framing her face and her chest enhanced by thick gel pads stashed inside her bra.

For all that, however, Kiyomi doesn’t have a boyfriend and spends her free evenings swapping fashion info with a circle of Ageha friends.

“I’d love to date, but I rarely get the opportunity,” she sighed. “The sad thing about being an Ageha is that most men prefer more natural-looking girls and we’re not into that at all.”

This seems to be the downside for wannabe dolls: Few men are actually willing to knock on their doors. Both Moris and Agehas remain minorities, too cultish for the layman to understand and too technically difficult to easily emulate. Consequently they have about them the whiff of a secret society.

At Jesus Diamante, where lacey lingerie is laid out atop a pink bed, photo-taking of anything, including the extravagantly made-up sales staff, is taboo.

“It makes sense,” said Kiyomi. “Dolls shouldn’t need to talk, much less explain anything.”

2010年2月4日 星期四


小澤獲不起訴 鳩山內閣鬆口氣


曾 負責處理小澤政治資金管理團體「陸山會」會計事務的小澤前秘書、同時也是現任眾議員石川知裕,以及另外兩名小澤前秘書,都因涉嫌違反「政治資金規正法」被 捕。石川被捕後供稱,「當年曾事先向小澤報告,不會將四億購地資金登記於『政治資金報告書』中,並獲小澤同意。購地後又向銀行申請貸款,也是為了隱瞞團體 曾有這筆(四億)資金」。檢方調查後懷疑,該筆來源不明的購地金可能包含建設公司為酬謝小澤助其取得工程標案的「後謝」。



2010年2月2日 星期二

Beef Bowl Economics

Beef Bowl Economics

Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

A beef bowl at Yoshinoya.

Published: January 29, 2010

TOKYO — The broiled meat is tender and the rice is silky-smooth. But as Japan’s economic recovery falters, beef bowls have come to symbolize one of its most pressing woes: deflation.

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Times Topics: Deflation (Economics)

Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

Shokuan, which has vending machines but no table service, is an inexpensive place to eat.

Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

Banners at Yoshinoya advertise an anniversary sale on beef bowls.

Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

Matsuya is one of large beef bowl chains in Tokyo.

Japan’s big three beef bowl restaurant chains, the country’s answer to hamburger giants like McDonald’s, are in a price war. It is a sign, many people say, of the dire state of Japan’s economy that even dirt-cheap beef bowl restaurants must slash their already low prices to keep customers.

The battle has also come to epitomize a destructive pattern repeated across Japan’s economy. By cutting prices hastily and aggressively to attract consumers, critics say, restaurants decimate profits, squeeze workers’ pay and drive the weak out of business — a deflationary cycle that threatens the nation’s economy.

“These cutthroat price wars could usher in another recessionary hell,” the influential economist Noriko Hama wrote in a magazine article that has won much attention. “If we all got used to spending just 250 yen for every meal, then meals priced respectably will soon become too expensive,” she said. “When you buy something cheap, you lower the value of your own life.”

Deflation — defined as a decline in the prices of goods and services — is back in Japan as it struggles to shake off the effects of its worst recession since World War II.

While prices have fallen elsewhere during the global economic crisis, deflation has been the most persistent here: consumer prices among industrialized economies rose by a robust 1.3 percent in the year to November, but fell 1.9 percent in Japan.

In the decline, companies that undercut rivals too aggressively are being chastised as reckless at best, or as traitors undermining the country’s recovery at worst. Every markdown of beef bowl prices by the big three restaurants — Sukiya, Yoshinoya and Matsuya — has been promptly broadcast by the national news media here.

Japan has reason to be worried. Deflation hampered Japan from the mid-1990s, after the collapse of its bubble economy, to at least 2005. Households held back spending on big-ticket goods, knowing they would only get cheaper. Companies were unsure of how much to invest. At the time, the three beef bowl chains were in a similar price war.

Still, government officials back then emphasized the supposed benefits of deflation; falling prices were good for households, they said. Others said deflation would help restructure the economy by weeding out weak companies.

But the drawn-out deflationary cycle weighed heavily on Japan’s recovery. Apart from putting a damper on consumption and investment, asset deflation ravaged the country’s banks and shut out new businesses from credit.

Now that deflation is back, Japan is wary. Unemployment remains near record highs, and wages are falling. Mounting public debt is also a problem, causing Standard & Poor’s on Tuesday to cut its outlook for Japan’s sovereign rating for the first time since 2002. Japan must do more to lift its economy out of deflation and bolster long-term growth, S.& P. said.

Moreover, the population is shrinking, making demand inherently weak. Economists say Japan’s economy is saddled with a 35 trillion yen, or $388 billion, “demand gap,” or almost 7 percent of the country’s economic output.

“With supply continuing to exceed demand by a massive margin, deflationary expectations are proving very difficult to shake,” said Ryutaro Kono, an economist at BNP Paribas in Tokyo. “Households have been tightening their purse strings as the income outlook looks increasingly bleak, and we believe firms will continue to respond by lowering prices.”

Matsuya, the smallest of the three chains, set off the price war by cutting the price of its standard beef bowl to 320 yen, or $3.55, from 380 yen in early December. The market leader, Sukiya, followed suit that month, lowering its price to 280 yen, from 330 yen.

This month, the No. 2 beef bowl chain, Yoshinoya, lowered the price of its beef bowl to 300 yen, from 380 yen, though it says the cut is temporary. A smaller chain, Nakau, has also lowered prices.

The restaurant chains insist they have not downsized their portions, and will make up for cheaper prices by raising efficiency.

“We don’t consider this a price cut. We’ve simply set a new price,” said Naoki Fujita at Zensho, which runs the Sukiya chain. “With incomes falling, we needed to figure out what would be a reasonable price,” he said. “We hope customers who came every week will now come twice a week.”

In a sense, the beef bowl has always been about low prices. Yoshinoya, the beef bowl pioneer with about 1,560 stores in Japan and overseas, helped bring beef to the Japanese working class with its first restaurant in the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo in 1899.

Though beef was a delicacy at the time, Eikichi Matsuda, the Yoshinoya founder, kept prices cheap by buying in bulk, and serving as many customers as possible from his tiny stall. Speed and efficiency reigned, with workers trained to start preparing a bowl even before a customer sat down.

The same principles still apply at Yoshinoya. At a branch in central Tokyo, servers rarely take more than a minute to fill an order. The average customer spends just 7.5 minutes on a meal, and a small restaurant can serve more than 3,000 customers a day.

But forced to sell at ever-lower prices — and hurt by lower-priced competitors — making a profit has been increasingly difficult. The company suffered a 2.3 billion yen net loss in the nine months to November, and the next month, before Yoshinoya slashed prices, its sales slumped 22.2 percent. In contrast, sales at Sukiya, which serves up the cheapest beef bowl, surged 15.9 percent that month from the previous year.

Yoshinoya is not considering further price cuts. Squeezing out more savings is “like wringing a dry towel,” said a spokesman, Haruhiko Kizu.

Meanwhile, labor disputes at Sukiya show how falling prices and revenue can quickly hurt workers. A string of former workers have sued the chain over withholding overtime pay. Sukiya denies the accusations.

Other companies have been harshly criticized for slashing prices. Fast Retailing, the company behind the fast-growing Uniqlo brand, has garnered as much disapproval as awe for selling jeans as low as 990 yen. McDonald’s, on the other hand, has won kudos for resisting bargain basement prices by introducing a series of big “American-style” burgers for more than 400 yen, considered expensive in today’s Japan.

“Some Japanese companies are waging such reckless price wars, they’re wringing their own necks,” said Masamitsu Sakurai, who heads the influential business lobby Keizai Doyukai. “Companies need to be more creative. They should come up with products that add value.”

Economists say it is absurd to blame individual companies for Japan’s deflation. “For prices to fall during an economic downturn is natural. That stimulates demand and facilitates an eventual recovery,” said Takuji Aida, chief economist for UBS in Tokyo. “But this mechanism doesn’t work when there is such a big demand shortfall.”

“When prices fall because of an increase in productivity at a company, it’s good for the economy,” said Sean Yokota, an economist for UBS based in Tokyo. “It’s the demand gap that’s damaging.”

The government has vowed to lift household incomes through a series of subsidies, including new cash payments to families with small children. But the scale of government payments — 2.3 trillion yen in the case of the child subsidies — is hardly enough to fill the nation’s huge demand shortfall. With interest rates close to zero, Japan also has few options left in monetary policy.

In the meantime, cutthroat price battles are already driving laggards out of business. Wendy’s, the American burger chain, left Japan on Dec. 31.

It is not surprising, considering the competition. A mere stone’s throw from Tokyo’s celebrated Ginza district is Shokuan, the kind of restaurant that is undercutting everyone.

Shokuan, which has no chairs nor table service, is a cluster of beer vending machines huddled under the train tracks. A man behind a tiny counter sells dirt-cheap morsels: fish sausages for 50 yen, prawn crackers for 60 yen, canned yakitori for 160 yen. Many days of the week, Shokuan is spilling over with customers.

“I don’t think there’s anything around here cheaper than this. That’s why I started to come,” said Yasunori Miura, a manufacturing company employee and a recent regular. “This here,” he said, pointing to his fish sausage, “is deflation.”

Makiko Inoue contributed reporting.