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    Thanks to those who have mailed to ask whether I’m dead. NB*: It is not charming to append “Oh, and, uh, on the off chance that you are, can I totally have the Riedel glasses? I mean, Atsushi doesn’t drink, anyway.” Yes, I’m fine. No, I’m not abandoning the blog. Like a lot of people whose blogging drops off, I’ve been busy. When I get home and pour a Scotch, the thought that comes to mind isn’t exactly, Hmm…now how can I spend some more time today (1) communicating with people and (2) parked in front of a computer. You know what I mean? I’ve been keeping up with the news, but the few tentative posts I’ve started have diffused on me midway, so I’ve iced them and figured I’ll come back to writing regularly when there are more interesting things happening and more interesting things to say about them.

    Part of the problem is that the Murakami Fund scandal has become the News Story that Ate Japan, and while it’s obviously important (latest development in English here), the script being followed in covering it is so predictable, it’s kind of hard to stay awake through. The guy probably is as arrogant a jerk as he’s made out to be. Note the social-democrat nightmare headline–really sets the tone:

    After becoming a bureaucrat at the former International Trade and Industry Ministry (now the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry), he became known as an argumentative type who was not afraid to speak frankly with his superiors, presaging his subsequent persona as an outspoken shareholder.

    In July 1999–shortly before his 40th birthday–he quit the ministry saying he wanted to set up his own business. Around that time, he started MAC Asset Management, which became the core of other funds that went on to be called the Murakami Fund. Executives of MAC, which ceased operation in May, included high school or university classmates who had worked at major securities firms or the National Police Agency.

    In 2002, Murakami became the top shareholder of major clothing company Tokyo Style Co. and demanded it increase dividends and bring in outside board members. His proposals were all rejected at a shareholders meeting, but he did not change his aggressive ways, saying, “As a major shareholder, I intend to continue to push [for improved business performance by the company].”

    Murakami has made various demands of firms in which he has invested. The demands included the disposal of bad loans.

    However, he has been the subject of criticism that what he was doing was only making profit for himself and not benefiting the companies in which he invested.

    Getting a plum job at MITI…and then repaying his benefactors by sassing back to them rather than discreetly riding the escalator right up to the revolving door! Forsaking government service for the private sector! Demanding profitability for investors! It all sounds so…foreign. I’m not familiar enough with the specific takeovers Murakami has been involved in to know whether he was making tough but necessary decisions to increase efficiency at bloated organizations or just trying to pump up profits long enough for him and his friends to get a good take. Either is certainly a possibility.

    At the same time, it’s necessary to bear in mind that the leftover Japan Inc. system makes it as easy for parasites as capitalism does. They just happen to be different parasites. Mouthy individual fund managers such as Murakami attract attention in ways that scores of quiet bureaucrats engaged in cronyism and bid-rigging don’t, but who’s causing more harm or being more selfish strikes me as an open question.

    * “Nota, bitch,” for those who have forgotten their Latin.

    4 Responses to “Stuff”

    1. Portia says:

      Okay, okay — first, I didn’t ask if you were dead… though yeah, I kind of wanted to know.

      Second, I thought Atsushi drank chocolate liquor — which is just about only alcoholic thing my own husband will drink. Who knows what glasses he uses for it?

      Third — do you know how the lack of Sean is mostly felt? I don’t get really weird lyrics stuck in my head. And I don’t end up singing stuff out of turn and scaring people. It’s sad and silent in Portia land. :)

      Seriously — Completely understand your taking vacation from posting, but your view on things is missed. Oh, and the weird lyrics…


    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      No, my dear lady. You were very sweet about it. A model for us all. Thanks for the compliment–in addition to the busy-ness, I’ve kind of needed a break from the blog atmosphere of snarky contentiousness, which I won’t be so hypocritical as to pretend not to contribute to but which wears on even me after a while.

      And Atsushi does drink very, very occasionally, but nothing that would need my wine glasses after I expired, my friends seem to presume. (Has no one ever heard of a water goblet? VOSS doesn’t like to be treated tipped out of its little cylinder into Mason jars, you know.)

      Whether the lyrics I like to quote are really weird is not for me to judge. I did have someone say I seemed to have an Oz hang-up, since I quote the Church and Kylie and–heaven help us–Olivia frequently. If not scaring people is a positive development in your world, I’m glad to have contributed.

    3. John Mahoney says:


      As long as you know that there are people, all over the world, awaiting your latest post.

      We miss you….


    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      Thanks, honey. I somehow doubt the “all over the world” part really applies, but it shows dramatic flair–and really, what’s more important than that?

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