Black and white photograph of a pair of glasses left on a concrete block

Tuesday Dispatch #2: lucky dip flying, retro-fitting cars and the colour blue

October 19, 2021

We're gearing up for a general election at the end of the month. Political choices aside, it's certain by November Japan will have a new economic direction. Abenomics has had its day.

What this new economics will look like is anyone's guess. The incumbent LDP hasn't been entirely forthcoming on details, while opposition parties are throwing around promises like an opposition hoping it will lose.

Photograph of a wooden bench in Kob, Japan with cool bench written in wood behind it

Tuesday Dispatch #1: 6 year old hard disks, Amazon’s home robot and a skateboarding octogenarian

October 12, 2021

Japanese bank Mizuho has been in the news for multiple systems failures this year. Things got so bad the FSA (Japan's financial regulator) is now supervising their IT. If reports are to be believed, it could be 6 year old hard disks are to blame.

An expressway cut through the centre of Seoul, bringing traffic and pollution to the heart of the city. A few years ago city officials ripped the road out and replaced it with parks and walkways. Turns out it was better for everyone.

Photograph of an entrance to the temple in Myohoji

An unexpected treasure in Myohoji

October 11, 2021

Friday seems to have become my "Photo walk" day. Laptop goes away, camera comes out and off I toddle for an hour or two. It's a great way to unwind.

This week I toddled off to the old town. Bit of a surprise as there's quite a large temple. On the map it's just a symbol. Get up close and it becomes a sprawling collection of buildings, shrines and statues.

Graphic showing a comparison of 2019-21

A reminder: we’re on the path to recovery, not at the end

September 28, 2021

Regular readers may recall I keep an eye on trade between Japan and the UK. After a few rumbles about "dramatic" growth in trade, I went back to my (official) sources.

Needless to say, things were a bit weird in 2020. Japan's Covid slump was already in full flow when the UK's kicked off in the Spring of '20. The rapid growth in '21 is against that backdrop.

Photograph of a river plain with tall green grassed in the foreground, a ridge with houses in the midground and mountains looming in the background

A walk along the river plain

September 22, 2021

This is where I live. If you squint hard, you can see my house.

I’ve been looking out across the valley every morning for the past 9 months. My ambition has been to walk around along the river that winds its way from a lake up in the mountains to meet the Myohoji river. I tried it once, only to find my way blocked by Japan’s obsession with turning every riverbank into concrete.

Can Japan’s Digital Agency overcome a lacklustre start and transform a nation?

September 6, 2021

Japan's digital agency has launched to much fanfare. The agency is tasked with transforming the country's archaic bureaucracy into a streamline, fit-for-the-21st-century administration. It should make participating in society and doing business far easier than the current world of paper and hanko stamps.

The launch was less than inspiring. Digital is renowned for being bright and energetic. The press conference was a dry, dull and dreary affair. It wasn't helped by the distinct lack of digital inclusion. No fancy launch for this digital agency: the minister held up a card with a text logo, looking distinctly 20th Century in the process.

Black and white photograph of a shopping alley in Japan with bright lights and no people

Memories of Osaka

August 29, 2021

I lived in Osaka for a couple of months. We holed up in an AirBnB, a terraced house out in Tennoji. It was two rooms: one downstairs, one up.

Since we closed the door on that place back in January we've not been back. Passed through a couple of times on the way to Kyoto, but not visited.

Photograph of the cruise ship Diamond Princess taken in August 2016 at Yokohama pier

Diamond Princess: august 2016

August 24, 2021

How was I to know the subject of this holiday snap would become international news? It's August of 2016 and my wife and I are enjoying a walk around Yokohama's docks. In the distance is a cruise ship far larger than any I'd seen before. I took a couple of photos as we chatted about it and then moved on. Lunch awaited, if I remember correctly.

Roll forward to early 2020 and the "plague ship" headlines. Thousands of passengers and crew were trapped aboard a cruise ship as an outbreak of the new "Coronavirus" was reported. Passengers were confined to their cabins to contain the outbreak. Many complained about the "poor service" they received, blind to the same disease running through the crew. And as they endured, Japanese Health Officials struggled to contain the outbreak. This was before Covid-19 became a pandemic, and information about how the disease was spread and evolved was in short supply.

Graphic showing euro notes moving towards a rising sun representing foreign direct investment in Japan

Is Japan ripe for foreign investment?

August 17, 2021

While working on a commission I came across a snippet of data that caught my interest. Japan's inward foreign direct investment (FDI) is shockingly low.

The dollar amounts barely register: $10.3 billion in Covid hit 2020, $13.7bn the year before. Amongst the G20 countries the mean was $33.7bn and $45.7bn. At no point in the past decade has Japan managed to attract more than $20 billion annually in inward FDI.

Photograph of a person taking a photograph in a sea of sunflowers

Sunflower Hill Park

July 25, 2021

There are times Japan delivers beauty just for the sake of it. Take the Sunflower Hill Park - Himawari-no-oka Park – in Ono City. Located along route 175 it's a small park with a couple of facilities, fountain and play equipment for the kids. And a field full of Sunflowers.


Black and white photo of the Sailing Ship Miraie in Kobe Harbor

Miraie in Kobe

July 25, 2021

The sailing ship Miraie tied up in Harborland, Kobe.

Black and white photograph of people hunting for crabs on a beach while a bird hunts for them in the foreground

Everybody’s hunting for crabs

July 21, 2021

Crabs were everywhere. While people hunted them for pleasure, the heron was looking for lunch.

Photograph of a man working on powerlines in Kobe, Japan

Man at work on powerlines

July 14, 2021

The roar of a diesel engine brought me to the window of my office.

They were methodical and meticulous. The vehicle moved into place. A crane rose. The coupling inspected and sprayed. Down came the crane.

Photograph of two elderly people in masks and long sleeves walking in evening sun with a ferris wheel behind them

Wear a mask

July 14, 2021

It was mid-spring, twenty+ degrees and a bright evening sun. I was in T-shirt with my hoodie wrapped around my waist.

They came towards me at a gentle stroll. Buried beneath layers and wearing masks and the white gloves sold in hundred yen stores.

Photograph of abandoned white goods in Kobe, with plants growing up and around it

Fly tipping in Japan

July 4, 2021

Japan has a much-deserved reputation for being clean and tidy. Although there are few bins, little litter is seen on the streets. A walk in the local park isn't accompanied by the usual plastic bottles and bags I was used to in the UK. All of this without bins on every street corner.

We just take our rubbish home.

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