Saturday, September 12, 2015

Very Kind Of Her #62

Elaine Kurtenbach and I recently had a conversation about the Olympic logo and stadium belly flops. As a much appreciated courtesy, she inserted a snippet from our talk in her eventual article. (Link)

However, I take exception to the thesis announced in the title, that the succession of egg-on-the-face embarrassments is the result of a particular Japanese mode of behavior or set of behaviors.


Indifference, laziness, buck-passing, box checking and blunt ignorance are not Japanese traits, nor are they the traits of Japanese bureaucracy and the Liberal Democratic Party. An insinuation that something essential about Japan has been exposed by this farce is poppycock.

Tokyo 2020 shows the world the weaknesses of one person: Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Effective recruitment and deployment of talented advisors and officers are the prerequisites of good administration. In naming the persons he did to the chairmanship and vice chairmanship of the organizing committee, Abe guaranteed the committee's inability to function.

What we are left to speculate upon is whether failure -- albeit failure down the line, not right at the git-go -- may indeed may have been Abe's intent.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Ooops, I...

...have taken another major project that will keep me from posting regularly.

This time I will be hardly in evidence for just over a month. Inshallah.

Too bad, really. With the end of the longest Diet extended session ever; Abe's reelection as president of the Liberal Democratic Party; new parties emerging out of yet another Hashimoto Toru's ego-driven pile up; an emerging knot of schooled protest cadres taking on the security legislation and ultra-right wing harassment; and the likelihood of a Cabinet Reshuffle in October, the tightly-wound world of Japanese politics is about to a little looser.

Meanwhile, I do not think I ever acknowledged Dr. Jeffrey Lewis publishing an excerpt from an email I wrote (publishing it without checking with me first -- which is OK with me, but only because he is the one who did it) in one of his astonishingly intelligent contributions to Foreign Policy. (Link)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Tokyo On File* - The Latest On Apologies (For Your Listening Pleasure)

As is our wont, Timothy Langley and I sat down and talked about a hot topic in Japanese politics. Last week we reviewed the Cabinet Statement on the 70th Anniversary.

The video is hard for me to look at due to my necktie's being askew. So I cannot recommend a viewing. However, the conversation is decidedly listenable, except for when I call Chairman of the National Safety Commission Yamatani Eriko "Minister Nakatani." Nakatani Gen is this blessed land's Defense Minister.

For those wanting to read about the Statement, I cannot recommend any analysis more highly than Kent Calder's essay reproduced in The Japan Times. He homes in on the most important failure: the Statement's lack of agency (Link). Interestingly this week Kitaoka Shin'ichi, the second-in-command of the 21st Century Commission that provided the prime minister with a framework for the Statement, complained that he wanted the Statement to be in the first person rather than in the passive voice. (Link - J)

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Edifice Complex Time

Is this for real?

Mitsubishi Real Estate has announced plans to construct a new office tower north of Tokyo Station. It will be the tallest building in Japan, surpassing the current record holder, the Abeno Harukas of Osaka, by a whopping 90 meters. The building will also be way, way taller than the longtime standard measure of bigness, Tokyo Tower.

And yet only 61 floors. Kind of...a waste. (Link)

Two items of note:

1) The artist's rendition has the Shuto Expressway de-elevated -- brought down to street level -- and Nihombashi, the central measuring point of Edo Japan, standing in the sunshine for the first time since 1963 (arrow in the above).

If this change is for real and not just wishful thinking by the artist the project, despite its gargantuan proportions, will draw cheers. Getting rid of the elevated Shuto Expressway, built out over the river in order to avoid property acquisition issues, has been an essential dream of preservationists and urban specialists, not to mention Bank of Japan officials who have resented the Expressway's ruining of their neighborhood.

Of course the shade provided by the expressway has kept water temperatures in the river cooler, not a bad thing in a time of climate change, warm water discharge from domestic use and urban heat island effects...

2) As a markets indicator, the announcement is a real downer. The near completion of giant buildings traditionally presages a crash in stock and real estate markets.

The developer hopes to start construction of the building in 2023 with completion in fiscal year 2027.

So mark your calendars. And watch your wallets.

Image courtesy: Yomiuri Shimbun