哀哉 日本的e-book readers
英国メディアは、ヨーロッパ戦勝記念日（５月８日）と対 日戦勝記念日（８月１５日）の報道姿勢が異なっている。前者には回顧、和解、郷愁、祝賀の四つがあり、後者にはそれが薄い。戦勝記念日５０年の１９９５年 と６０年の２００５年を比べると、それでも次第に対日戦勝記念日にも、この四つが見えてくるようになったという。憎悪や敵対感情を持つ層が減ったのだ。
本書は日英和解史を専門とする研究者、小菅信子氏の意欲と熱意で生まれた書だとわかるが、世代の異なる１２人の日英の研究者がそれぞれの分野を通して戦争 の和解がどのような歴史的推移を辿（たど）っているか、あるいは英国人の怒りをかきたてている捕虜虐待の事実の検証や、その背景などを丁寧に解説してい る。論者の一人が指摘するように、和解にはモデルがなく、ゆっくりと時間をかけて進める以外にないとの思いが共通点だ。日本側の論者が、なぜあのような虐 待（例えば泰緬鉄道建設事件）が起こったかを軍事組織にメスを入れる一方で、当時英国が自国捕虜への残虐行為をアジア人への残虐行為の歴史を持っているが ゆえに、表だって批判できなかったとの論点も示されている。
本書は英国でも刊行されているが、とにかく未（いま）だなお双方には心底からのコミュニケーションが不足しているというのが結論になる。英国側論者が、日 英両国とも日米や英米のような関係を決して作れないのを前提に、しかし日英が共有できる価値観は数多くあり、それを深化させていくことが重要との論が最も 説得力をもっている。お互いに自己満足と独善を避けたいとの編者の提言がみずみずしい。
法政大学出版局・５４６０円／こすげ・のぶこ 山梨学院大教授。Ｈｕｇｏ Ｄｏｂｓｏｎ 英・シェフィールド大教授。
BY YASUKAZU AKADA STAFF WRITER
Takashi Murakami's "Time Bokan-Fatman Gold," one of the two works that were auctioned for 2.4 million yen on Sept. 9 (Provided by Takashi Murakami/ Kaikai Kiki)Takashi Murakami (Asahi Shimbun file photo)Murakami's works were displayed inside the Versailles in October 2010. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Artist Takashi Murakami stunned the art world by inflating giant balloons shaped like anime characters and creating nymphet-like figurines for display at various events and venues, including the Versailles.
Now, the contemporary artist has challenged the norm in Japan's art world by arranging to receive royalties on his works that are resold.
The internationally acclaimed Murakami signed a contract with Est-Ouest Auctions Co., a Japanese auction company, under which he will receive 1 percent of the resale prices of his work. Murakami's works have fetched prices exceeding 100 million yen ($1.3 million).
Artists in Japan do not receive any royalty payments even if their works are sold at higher prices, unlike their counterparts in France and Germany, where copyright laws entitle artists to receive a resale royalty every time their work is sold.
Auction houses in Japan are not legally responsible to pay royalties to the author of a work in the same way that writers do not receive any money from sales of their books at used bookstores.
Murakami asked Est-Ouest Auctions to pay him 1 percent of the contract price for publishing the image of his work in an auction catalog as a "fee for granting the right to print the image."
The company, however, does not have to pay the fee when the printed work is not auctioned off. Thus, Murakami receives money depending on the contract price, meaning he is paid a portion of the sales gain.
Under the agreement, Murakami and artists belonging to his company, Kai Kai Kiki Co., will receive 1 percent of the contract price when their works are auctioned off. They will receive royalties for works sold for at least 450,000 yen. The maximum amount they can receive as resale royalties is 1.5 million yen.
Twelve works of Murakami, including prints, were auctioned on Sept. 9, the first since the agreement was signed. Only a pair of prints fetched more than 450,000 yen, at 2.4 million yen in total.
Murakami was motivated to reach an agreement due to a 2008 lawsuit, in which four artists of his company sued Est-Ouest Auctions over copyright infringement.
A settlement was reached in March, and the agreement was signed.
The timber of pines from the famous Takata Matsubara forest is burned at the Naritasan-Shinshoji temple in Chiba Prefecture on Sept. 25. (Kengo Hiyoshi)
The wood of pine trees from the celebrated Takata Matsubara forest was burned at the Naritasan-Shinshoji temple in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, as part of a service for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Tens of thousands pines lining the seaside at Takata Matsubara in Iwate Prefecture were uprooted by the March 11 tsunami. Now, only one tree remains of the famous forest.
At a ceremony on Sept. 25 at Narita-Shinshoji, 30 square logs from fallen trees, inscribed with the message "For recovery from the devastation of the Great East Japan Earthquake," were thrown on a ritual fire along with holy "Gomagi" wooden staves. Prayers were said for the souls of the dead and for a quick return to normality in the disaster-hit areas.
All of the money collected at the ritual will go to the city of Rikuzentakata, which includes the Takata Matsubara area.
Shoju Watanabe, a monk at the temple, said: "We hope the ritual will help victims' souls rest in peace and will support the rebuilding efforts in the Tohoku region."
The temple had initially been reported to be planning to place the logs on an altar rather than burning them if they had been found to be contaminated with radioactive materials from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Wood burning is an important feature of many Japanese Buddhist rituals and the plan to avoid it prompted more than 100 calls of protest. Burning went ahead because no radiation was found on the wood.
量刑は、石川議員が禁錮２年執行猶予３年（求刑・禁錮２年）▽後任の元事務担当秘書・池田光智被告（３４）が禁錮１年執行猶予３年（求刑・禁錮１年）▽ 元会計責任者で、西松建設による違法献金事件でも起訴された元秘書・大久保隆規被告（５０）については、土地取引事件の一部は無罪としたうえで、禁錮３年 執行猶予５年（求刑・禁錮３年６カ月）――とした。
BY LOUIS TEMPLADO STAFF WRITER
Street dancers learn the moves they've been assigned to perform for the exam. (Louis Templado)Yoshihito Aoki (Louis Templado)Haruki Uchiyama dances before the camera during his exam. (Louis Templado)
You see them everywhere, working on their dance moves in front of mirrored office windows and at train stations in the early morning hours. Shouldn't these kids be at home studying? Actually, they might be doing just that--hoping to earn a license to chill.
Japan likes to do things its own way, even when it comes to hip-hop dance. From Sept. 23 through 25, more than 2,000 young dancers have been putting their skills to the test at nationwide exams administered by the Japan Street Dance Association.
"The purpose of the test is to give dancers an objective measure of their own skill. Instead of just dancing for fun, it also gives them a goal to strive for," says Yoshihito Aoki, president of Avex Planning and Development Inc. The company, part of music industry giant Avex Group Holdings, held its first set of tests last year. On its roster are nearly 120,000 students--more than 70 percent of whom are elementary school age--in more than 120 affiliated schools and studios nationwide.
The idea behind the five-tiered qualification system isn't just to test the mettle of children dreaming of dancing behind the likes of Lady Gaga. The company foresees a demand for professional dancers and instructors here in Japan and, if things work out, throughout Asia.
Street dance, for example, has just joined the curriculum at Japan's 40,000 public schools, beginning this year with the first and second years of elementary school. It will reach high schools by 2013, when the subject "contemporary rhythm dance" becomes an elective.
Just as recorded music sales are tumbling, live tours are on the rise, giving dancers more chances to perform and pursue a career. Japanese hip-hop dancers have performed behind Beyonce, and some were set to join Michael Jackson's comeback tour before the King of Pop's unexpected death in June 2009.
Japanese dancers' top-notch skills easily overcome any expressive difficulties, Aoki says. Like Japan's animation and culinary schools before them, dance academies might eventually pull in students from nearby Asian countries.
Hip-hop hasn't always had a wholesome image in Japan--the point of the music and the dance, after all, is to strike an outlaw pose. Yet its reputation has changed over the past 15 years or so, with no small role played by artists in the Avex Trax stable such as Namie Amuro, Ayumi Hamazaki and TRF, with their dance-heavy routines.
"It's a generational coming-of-age," Aoki says. "The parents of today's students grew up with street dance. For them, it's familiar, not threatening, and they're happy to have their children do it."
Nearly all the dancers taking the exam, to judge by the attendance at the Avex Artist Academy in Harajuku on Sept. 23, are girls or young women. Mothers wait outside. The test itself is organized like a game of Dance Dance Revolution, with the added feel of a NASA physical.
First, in one studio, an increasingly complex set of steps are shown on a video screen, followed by timed periods for students to memorize.
Next, the students are moved in groups of six to another studio, where they take turns performing the routine they've just learned--to a bank of video cameras.
Students danced before live judges last year, according to Aoki, who adds that the switch to via-video judging is an attempt to make the exam more equal.
Live judge or video made little difference to 12-year-old Haruki Uchiyama, who rated his own performance a disappointing 58 percent.
"I was too nervous and couldn't find my groove," he says. "But I felt that the test-stress was a good thing, and it was a good experience to dance in front of a camera, because that's how it will be in real life."
His dream, he says, is to bring his hip-hop to the United States.
Observers follow proceedings of a meeting of a panel tasked with setting guidelines for compensation to the Fukushima nuclear accident on Aug. 5. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
The integrity of a government panel setting the compensation guidelines for damage from the Fukushima nuclear accident is being questioned amid revelations two members accepted monthly payments from a research institute with close ties to the electric power industry.
The payments amounted to 200,000 yen ($2,600) each time.
The government screening panel on disputes over compensation for nuclear accidents has been compiling guidelines for the compensation to be paid by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The whiff of scandal will cast doubt on whether the panel can remain neutral as it seeks to resolve compensation disputes that arise between TEPCO and disaster victims.
The nine-member panel was established on April 11 and is overseen by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
Toyohiro Nomura, 68, a law professor at Gakushuin University, and Tadashi Otsuka, 52, a Waseda University law professor, accepted monthly payments from the Japan Energy Law Institute (JELI) based in Tokyo's Minato Ward.
Since becoming a director and head of the institute in April, Nomura has received about 200,000 yen a month in salary. Otsuka served as head of the research department from before April and received the same monthly amount.
Otsuka resigned as head of the research department at the end of June and returned his monthly salary for the period from April to June after colleagues spoke to him.
The institute has annual operating expenses of about 100 million yen, almost all of which comes through research commissioned by the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI), based in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward.
CRIEPI has an annual operating budget of 33.9 billion yen for the current fiscal year. Of that amount, close to 30 billion yen is provided by electric power companies, with TEPCO shouldering about 9 billion yen.
JELI has about 20 executives and employees. While all six directors, including the chairman, are law professors, the researchers are all company employees dispatched from nine electric power companies.
The heads of the administrative department and section have traditionally all come from TEPCO.
In response to this latest scandal, a science ministry official said, "We may face criticism for being lax in our dealings with JELI."
However, the official said the ministry would take appropriate steps on the basis of what suspicions arise in the future.
Another panel member also served as part of a JELI study group, but quit that post before becoming a panel member for fear of conflict of interest.
Another panel member quit in June after being offered the position of vice president of Fukushima Medical University. The individual also cited a possible conflict in interest.
(This article was written by Hiroaki Kimura and Tomoyoshi Otsu.)
BY SOPHIE KNIGHT STAFF WRITER
The foyer of the capsule hotel 9 hours in Kyoto (Sophie Knight)A capsule pod at the 9 hours hotel (Provided by 9 hours)Pictograms provide easy-to-understand directions to the elevators. (Provided 9 hours)
A grid of glowing pods filled with sleeping bodies could be a scene from "The Matrix."
Yet this futuristic vision has been a common sight in Japan since 1979, when the first capsule hotel appeared in Osaka. Soon, capsule hotels were mushrooming in cities across Japan and as far away as Shanghai and Warsaw.
Japan, though, still operates more of them than any other country.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, capsule hotels offer sleeping space that redefines the word "tiny."
Many were erected during the late-1980s asset-inflated economy and are now showing wear and tear. Far from beckoning a futuristic vision, their grubby facades mark them as relics of the past.
But 9 hours, a designer hotel in Kyoto, is putting its own spin on the capsule concept in the hope of enticing a new generation of guests.
Located in the Teramachi district, the heart of the ancient capital, the hotel boasts a dazzlingly bright foyer. Guests could be forgiven for thinking they've just boarded a spaceship.
The gleaming white walls are bare but for simple, colorful pictograms that guide guests to the elevators, up to a sleek bathroom to shower and change, and finally to a hushed room full of dimly-lit pods.
Rather than simply providing a late-night pit stop for those too drunk or overworked to get the last train home, 9 hours aims to rejuvenate and revitalize visitors.
"There are no TVs or computers to distract people, so they sleep better," says manager Masashi Takenaka. "The lights inside the pod slowly dim to allow people to drift off gently, and gradually grow brighter in the morning until it's as bright as sunlight. We don't use alarm clocks. We want people to leave feeling rested."
The atmosphere outside the pods is equally soothing.
The pictograms negate the need for text explanations, which could be intimidating to non-Japanese speakers, while clean lines and subtle lighting of the rooms marry traditional Japanese minimalism with contemporary luxury.
Female guests are given peace of mind with the designation of different floors for men and women, with an alarm installed between floors to alert staff to anyone who tries to trespass.
Moreover, while many single-sex changing rooms in Japan are communal, each individual shower booth has room to undress and change, making it more discreet. All necessities are provided―pajamas, toothbrush, etc. But all personal possessions must be left in a locker. With no distractions, the quiet, cozy pod is the perfect place to drift into a deep, restorative sleep.
These features made the hotel a hit with foreign tourists, who accounted for over 30 percent of guests before the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11 led to 90-percent cancellation rate in reservations made from overseas.
While tourist numbers have dipped, the hotel gained some unusually loyal regulars in their place: around 20 people from Tohoku who lost their homes in the tsunami.
"They came here to start new lives," says Takenaka. "One guest found an apartment around the corner and a new job just the other day."
Inexpensive and accessible, capsule hotels have cornered a niche market by answering needs that business hotels or other establishments cannot. Often clustered around train stations to attract late-night stragglers who have missed the last train, they have even become a stopgap for so-called Net cafe refugees.
Although many end up staying overnight in an Internet cafe booth or a capsule hotel because they are unable to afford rent, some stay in capsule hotels on a long-term basis because they offer a cheap refuge from social interactions.
However, according to Takenaka, there have been no such customers at 9 hours.
"I think it's too bright and cheery here for them," he says. "This isn't the kind of place you can hide away."
With its focus on rejuvenation, the hotel offers a place to rest round the clock. For 1,500 yen ($19.50), tired office workers can get 40 winks between 1 p.m. to 3. p.m. The truly exhausted are permitted to stay for up to 17 hours, while the time-pinched can spend just four.
A nine-hour stay comes to an affordable 4,500 yen.
In general, however, 7 hours of sleep with one hour of showering and "preparation" either side is recommended.
Those feeling frazzled by information overload or the distractions of modern life could do worse than getting a good night's rest at 9 hours. After that, they'll be ready to face not only the next day, but the future.
SPECIAL TO THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Genichiro Takahashi (Photo by Atsushi Takanami)
I had my eureka moment the other day when I saw the cover of the August issue of "Neppu" (Hot wind), a booklet published by Studio Ghibli, an animation film studio co-founded by director Hayao Miyazaki.
The cover showed Miyazaki doing a one-man street demonstration near his studio in the western Tokyo suburb of Higashi Koganei. He is wearing an apron, and a signboard hangs from his neck. The signboard says, "NO! Genpatsu (nuclear power generation)."
I just said a one-man demonstration, but actually he's not alone. Walking behind him are a woman and a man, the former carrying an umbrella and the latter accompanied by a dog on a leash and his right hand holding a signboard that says, "Stop."
Except for the signboards, the trio (plus the dog) could just as well be enjoying a leisurely stroll in the neighborhood.
The scene somehow reminded me of the popular "Mito Komon" TV samurai drama series, in which the protagonist, Komon-sama, is always accompanied by his two loyal sidekicks, Suke-san and Kaku-san.
Just ahead of the trio is a man on a bicycle coming their way. The expression on his face seems to say, "Huh? This goofball is the Hayao Miyazaki?! Well, I never."
The picture was so funny, and I loved it. And it made me think.
It was funny and yet profoundly thought-provoking because of its "softness." By "softness" here, I mean you can read just about anything into this picture and react to it in any number of ways. For instance, you might be simply impressed by Miyazaki's determination to oppose nuclear power generation. Or, you might sense the loneliness of someone who has chosen to crusade for a cause, and remind yourself that no crusade should be divorced from your day-to-day life. You might also realize, with a sigh, that there is something sadly comical about someone who wears his social conscience on his sleeve.
What made Miyazaki take to the streets? The reason must be that he had something he felt he had to tell people. But you've got to bear in mind that just saying what you think won't get you anywhere. It's vital that you give your audience "space" to thoroughly ponder your message. And that "space" is what makes the message "soft."
I was still feeling the impact of the "Neppu" cover picture when I picked up the September issue of Bungei Shunju magazine and read the policies of three candidates for president of the Democratic Party of Japan--Yoshihiko Noda, Sumio Mabuchi and Banri Kaieda who went misty-eyed over a disagreement he had with then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
I was totally disappointed with their writings. They bored me to tears. Each man had his own way of saying things, but what they said was all the same.
On the government's nuclear policy, for instance, they said it was going to be difficult to keep promoting nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster, but various economic considerations rendered any hasty decommissioning of existing nuclear reactors impossible. As for tax hikes, they are necessary given the current fiscal plight, they argued, but this is still not the right time to increase taxes.
Simply put, all three candidates were being "pragmatic." But their "pragmatism" was obviously predicated on maintaining the status quo.
Haven't they learned anything from what our country has experienced over the last six months? Or perhaps they don't really have any message they want to communicate to the public. If they did, they would have at least tried to do a better job of it, wouldn't they?
By the way, I've always wondered if it's a requirement for prime ministerial hopefuls to contribute policy commentaries to Bungei Shunju. I don't know how this custom came to be, but I can sort of understand this must be the "pragmatic" thing to do.
And in the same issue that featured the three prime ministerial candidates' commentaries, the magazine also ran the article about the Akutagawa literature prize sponsored by the magazine. As a writer, I couldn't help rolling my eyes. It was like being told, "See, this is what being an 'Establishment' insider is all about."
A recent issue of Kanagawa Daigaku Hyoron, an academic magazine published by Kanagawa University, introduced three poems as part of its "Jasmine Revolution" special. The poems and their bibliographical notes gave me a lot to think about. Each poem should be called "a poem from Tahrir Square" for providing a first-hand account of what transpired at this iconic revolutionary landmark. What surprised me was all these poems were first introduced on television, and then went viral on YouTube and blogs.
Not only in the Arab world but also around the globe, poetry was losing its centuries-old social function, but the revolution revived the value of verse. According to Kaoru Yamamoto, who translated the poems and compiled their bibliographical notes, the poems captured the hearts of people "in Egypt where rampant corruption and hypocrisy in all segments of society had eroded the credibility of words, and people were starving for words they could believe." If that is the case in Egypt, I cannot but worry about our country as well.
Ryoichi Wago, a poet living in Fukushima Prefecture, recently tweeted a poem about the March 11 disaster and created quite a sensation. Novelist Hiromi Kawakami rewrote her earlier work to depict the horror of the Fukushima disaster and published it in Gunzo magazine. Cartoonists Moto Hagio and Kotobuki Shiriagari pulled no punches in their starkly graphic portrayal of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
What is common to their works is that none of the creators even bothered to seek perfection in their writings and drawings. They all had a message they felt compelled to communicate, and for that they were forced to go against the "established" rules in their respective fields--or at least that was how I saw it. And what these four people had to face couldn't be unique to "creative" fields of work alone.
Lastly, I would like to touch on a column by Kiichi Fujiwara about the Japanese insensitivity to the Chinese train disaster in July. "The Japanese were visibly satisfied, saying that this sort of accident couldn't happen in Japan," Fujiwara wrote. "But few Japanese mourned the Chinese dead--victims of a railway service that takes human lives lightly. Few Japanese felt the pain of this tragedy as their own." Underlying this insensitivity is the deep-seated Japanese prejudice and hostility against China (and other countries). I would like to address this ugly aspect of our society at a later date.
* * *
Genichiro Takahashi is a professor of contemporary literature at Meiji Gakuin University. He plans to publish "Koisuru Genpatsu" (Nuclear power station in love), his most recent novel that deals with nuclear power generation. Takahashi collaborated with Tatsuru Uchida in selecting stories that were published recently as "Uso Mitai na Honto no Hanashi" (Unbelievable true stories).
和歌山・三重県境の熊野川に浮かぶ「御船（みふね）島」（約２６００平方メートル）は台風１２号の大雨で濁流にのみ込まれ、無残な姿となっている。被災 前、木々は青々と茂っていた。被災後はなぎ倒されて褐色に変じ、所どころ地肌がむき出しになっている。島は世界遺産・熊野三山の一つ、熊野速玉（はやた ま）大社（和歌山県新宮市）の境内にある。氏子らが舟で周回する１０月の例大祭「御船祭（まつり）」は「こういうときこそ、地域を勇気づけたい」と、例年 通りの開催をめざす。（宮崎園子）
從前在日本，每逢夏天很多家庭都種了牽牛花。小學一年級的暑假裡養牽牛花，把每天的成長過程寫畫在觀察日記，到了九月一日開學交給老師，乃許多人共同的兒 時回憶。紅色、紫色、天藍色喇叭花盛開的樣子，可說曾代表日本夏天的風景，一提起就令人懷念風鈴的聲音，西瓜的味道，晚上在院子裡玩的煙火。牽牛花也會爬 的，於是有著名的俳句道：給牽牛花奪了吊桶，非去鄰家借水井。那是十八世紀的女詩人加賀千代女的作品。
這些年，恐怕是溫室效果所致吧，日本夏天越來越熱，使得園藝愛好者開始養亞熱帶植物來了。其中最受歡迎的是苦瓜，因為容易養而且可以吃。今年夏天，尤其為 了製造「綠色窗簾」，日本全國許多家庭都種了苦瓜。我家也不甘寂寞。小學四年級的女兒在學校花壇裡收穫帶回家的苦瓜，當晚餐消費以後，把留下來的種子埋在 花盆裡澆水，過幾天果然冒出來幾個芽，再過幾天就伸出葉子來，轉眼之間開始爬上周圍的柵欄了。
日本人是最近十多年才開始吃苦瓜的。最初從沖繩船運過來，吃法也跟沖繩人學了。把苦瓜切成片以後，和肉片、洋蔥、豆腐、雞蛋等一起炒的菜式，用沖繩語叫做 「goya campur」。「goya」是苦瓜，「campur」則是馬來語「混合」的意思。至於為何沖繩菜有馬來語名稱，恐怕是早年去南洋回來的移民傳播的。
其實，本州居民開始種苦瓜之前，曾經也有夏天在院子裡種瓜的習慣。那是另一種蔓爬植物：絲瓜。然而，日本人從來沒學會絲瓜的吃法，至今不知道可以當蔬菜吃 的。所以，夏末成熟的絲瓜，除了洗澡時用瓤子擦身體以外，也只有從蔓兒滴答下來的液體收集後自製化妝水。當合成海綿普及以後，用絲瓜瓤洗刷身體的人變少 了，今天的小姐太太們也不再把絲瓜水塗在臉上。結果，如今的日本幾乎沒人種絲瓜了，完全被苦瓜風壓倒。
日本傳統詩歌俳句，一定得用代表季節的詞語。苦瓜普及以後，亦被承認為季語了。不過，畢竟歷史短，仍有舶來品的印象。相比之下，歷史悠久的季語還是有穩定 感。八月舉辦的全國高中俳句錦標賽，有七十六所學校，一百廿四隊參加，一隊由五個同學組成。可見，雖然規模上無法跟高中棒球大會（於甲子園球場）相比，但 是認真練俳句的學生也可不少，果然比賽的外號叫做「俳句甲子園」。
THE Japanese spend half as much on health care as do Americans, but still they live longer. Many give credit to their cheap and universal health insurance system, called kaihoken, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Its virtues are legion. Japanese people see doctors twice as often as Europeans and take more life-prolonging and life-enhancing drugs. Rather than being pushed roughly out of hospital beds, they stay three times as long as the rich-world average. Life expectancy has risen from 52 in 1945 to 83 today. The country boasts one of the lowest infant-mortality rates in the world. Yet Japanese health-care costs are a mere 8.5% of GDP.
Even so, the country's medical system is embattled. Although it needs a growing workforce to pay the bills, Japan is ageing and its population is shrinking. Since kaihoken was established in 1961, the proportion of people over 65 has quadrupled, to 23%; by 2050 it will be two-fifths of a population that will have fallen by 30m, to under 100m. "The Japanese health system that had worked in the past has begun to fail," Kenji Shibuya of the University of Tokyo and other experts write in a new issue of the Lancet, a British medical journal, devoted to kaihoken. "The system's inefficiencies could be tolerated in a period of high growth, but not in today's climate of economic stagnation."
By 2035 health care's share of GDP will roughly double, according to McKinsey, a consultancy. The burden falls on the state, which foots two-thirds of the bills. Politicians are unwilling to raise taxes, so they squeeze suppliers instead: more than three-quarters of public hospitals operate at a loss.
Like other service industries in Japan, there are cumbersome rules, too many small players and few incentives to improve. Doctors are too few—one-third less than the rich-world average, relative to the population—because of state quotas. Shortages of doctors are severe in rural areas and in certain specialities, such as surgery, paediatrics and obstetrics. The latter two shortages are blamed on the country's low birth rate, but practitioners say that they really arise because income is partly determined by numbers of tests and drugs prescribed, and there are fewer of these for children and pregnant women. Doctors are worked to the bone for relatively low pay (around $125,000 a year at mid-career). One doctor in his 30s says he works more than 100 hours a week. "How can I find time to do research? Write an article? Check back on patients?" he asks.
On the positive side, patients can nearly always see a doctor within a day. But they must often wait hours for a three-minute consultation. Complicated cases get too little attention. The Japanese are only a quarter as likely as the Americans or French to suffer a heart attack, but twice as likely to die if they do.
Some doctors see as many as 100 patients a day. Because their salaries are low, they tend to overprescribe tests and drugs. (Clinics often own their own pharmacies.) They also earn money, hotel-like, by keeping patients in bed. Simple surgery that in the West would involve no overnight stay, such as a hernia operation, entails a five-day hospital stay in Japan.
Emergency care is often poor. In lesser cities it is not uncommon for ambulances to cruise the streets calling a succession of emergency rooms to find one that can cram in a patient. In a few cases people have died because of this. One reason for a shortage of emergency care is an abundance of small clinics instead of big hospitals. Doctors prefer them because they can work less and earn more.
The system is slow to adopt cutting-edge (and therefore costly) treatments. New drugs are approved faster in Indonesia or Turkey, according to the OECD. Few data are collected on how patients respond to treatments. As the Lancet says, prices are heavily regulated but quality is not. This will make it hard for Japan to make medical tourism a pillar of future economic growth, as the government plans.
The Japanese are justly proud of their health-care system. People get good basic care and are never bankrupted by medical bills. But kaihoken cannot take all the credit for the longevity of a people who eat less and stay trimmer than the citizens of any other rich country. And without deep cost-cutting and reform, the system will struggle to cope with the coming incredible shrinking of Japan.
©The Economist Newspaper Limited 2011
日本人的醫療支出是美國人的一半，但還是活得比較久；許多人將此歸功於日本的全民健保系統。日本人看病的次數是歐洲人的二倍，吃的 藥比較多，在病床上待的時間也是富有世界平均的三倍。平均壽命至1945年的52歲增至目前的83歲，新生兒死亡率極低，但日本的醫療支出僅佔GDP的 8.5%。
即使如此，日本的醫療系統仍如臨大敵。日本人口呈現老化與衰退，預估到2050年，65歲以上的老人將佔人口的2/5，總人口則會下 滑至1億以下。研究公司預估，醫療支出佔GDP的比重將於2035年翻倍，此重擔將落至政府肩上。政治人物不願加稅，只好從供給者身上想辦法；超過3/4 的公立醫院呈現虧損。
日本的醫生佔人口比例較富有國家的平均少1/3，鄉村和特定領域的醫生嚴重缺乏。病人通常一天內就能看到醫生，但常得 等上數小時才能看診三分鐘；複雜病例缺乏關照，日本心臟病發生率是美國的1/4，但死亡機會卻是二倍。有些醫生一天得診療100位病人，由於薪水偏低，他 們通常會開太多藥、進行太多檢查，也會拉長病人的住院時間。
Japan's new trade minister has quit after calling the area around the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant a "town of death", media reports say.
Yoshio Hachiro is also reported to have rubbed his jacket against a reporter, saying "I will give you radiation" after visiting the plant on Thursday.
Mr Hachiro's comments were widely seen as insensitive and prompted calls by opposition parties for him to resign.
PM Yoshihiko Noda, who appointed him, later said they were inappropriate.
"Sad to say, the centres of cities, towns and villages around it are a town of death without a soul in sight," Mr Hachiro said at a news conference on Thursday.
On Friday, Mr Noda said the remarks were inappropriate and that he wanted Mr Hachiro, who was appointed on 2 September, to apologise, which Mr Hachiro did.
Tadamori Oshima, vice-president of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, condemned Mr Hachiro, saying: "It is a remark that deprives disaster-affected people of hope and is worthy of disqualifying him as a minister."Embarrassment
In a news conference late on Saturday, Mr Hachiro said Mr Noda had accepted his resignation, with Mr Hachiro apologising again several times.
He said with his remarks he had been trying to convey the seriousness of the situation.
His departure is viewed as a major embarrassment for Mr Noda, who only took office last week and was due to tackle the recovery effort from the disaster, correspondents say.
Mr Noda is Japan's sixth prime minister in five years after his predecessor, Naoto Kan, resigned.
It is almost exactly six months since the devastating tsunami and earthquake hit Tokyo and north-eastern Japan, killing some 20,000 people and triggering the nuclear crisis at Fukushima.
展示されるのは、藤ノ木古墳（同県斑鳩町）の装飾用馬具や耳飾りなど国宝４件、「卑弥呼の鏡」との説がある黒塚古墳（同県天理市）の三角縁神獣鏡など重 要文化財１１件を含む８４件、計２４３点。東大寺や法隆寺、吉野山など同県の神社仏閣や自然の写真も紹介され、日中の専門家による記念シンポジウムも開か れる。