• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post

    Japanese headlines

    Some updates on news items I usually post about when there are new developments.

    First, yet another of the world’s inexhaustible supply of expert panels making contributions to the obvious has…well, made a contribution to the obvious: namely, if a major earthquake hit Tokyo, there could be catastrophic damage. This particular shocker was dispensed to us through an NHK special last night that was nowhere near as cool as the one they broadcast a few years ago. As always, the predictions are carefully qualified because the amount of damage would depend not just on the Richter scale magnitude (total energy release) but also on how deep underground the focus is, which affects how bad the shaking is at the surface. The special this time around featured man-on-the-street interviews of people explaining what most frightened them about a potential earthquake. Is it the possibility of being trapped on the subway? Being trampled by panicky mobs of citizens? Being tossed around like clothes in a Speed Queen if you’re on one of the upper floors of a skyscraper? It was, in a strange way, comfortingly ghoulish.


    The draft of the proposed constitutional amendment, designed to allow Japan to participate with allies in collective self-defense operations, has been completed by the ruling coalition’s committee. It explicitly renounces nuclear arming (not a few people think Japan has quietly developed nukes already). That’s actually not the only amendment up for debate. There’s to be change in the way the Emperor’s position is to be articulated, and there are a few individual rights made explicit. Japanese accounts don’t seem to have good quotations from the proposal, but FWIW, the Nikkei’s most recent report is here.

    And for those of us who came of age in the ’80’s, former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone has endorsed the idea of a revision–he was a friend of Reagan at the end of the Cold War, so this is not a surprise–and has his own, slightly different proposal from the committee’s.


    The Koizumi administration has gotten some hold-outs among the ministries on board for its subsidy-reduction plan. Education and welfare seem to be the remaining major points of contention.


    Oh, and I can’t believe I neglected to say anything about this Monday–Atsushi e-mailed me about it the moment he saw the news report: Japan’s ranking eligible bachelorette is engaged. Princess Sayako, daughter of the current emperor and empress, and sister of the crown prince, is 35. The media have been trying to put a polite mask over everyone’s complete and utter disbelief, but it’s not working too well.

    5 Responses to “Japanese headlines”

    1. John says:

      I never followed the royals. Why the disbelief? Is it that she’s marrying a commoner? There can’t be that many eligible aristocrats left from which to choose, can there?
      I guess if all former Samurai families are eligible, the pool grows somewhat. I was always amused by the Japanese farce that everyone is middle class, and managers make only a few multiples of the lowliest employee. Who needs salary when your family has wealth? Looking at salaries and housing prices, if the middle class myth were true, the high class depato (ie almost all of them) would long ago have become Ito Yokados. One family I knew of was a minor Samurai clan with about 40 acres in Edo when Meiji came to power. Those 40 acres are now smack in the middle of Meguro-ku. They have a bank, a dentist, and a conbini on their land locked into 25 year leases, and I think the family takes in over $5 million / year in rent from those three alone. Would that family be considered “aristocratic” in Japan, or does the clan have to be of certain Samurai rank before qualifying?

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      The disbelief is predicated on the fact that, at 35, the princess is (to put it as gallantly as possible) VERY eligible. She also has a personality that’s considered pretty out there for the royal family. You know, she actually goes out and researches wading birds, as opposed to establishing departments of zoology at universities and just showing up to cut the ribbons.

    3. Sean Kinsell says:

      I haven’t heard in detail either way. But, of course, studiousness in a prince is studiousness; studiousness in a princess is a liability that keeps her from finding a good man of her class to take care of her.

    4. John says:

      True enough. It’s not like a princess has the option of finding a husband via the OL route, though.

    5. John says:

      Didn’t Hirohito spend a lot of time staring down a microscope? Or were those minor articles he wrote actually penned by a real scientist?