Equanimity

Holistic local sustainability; food, water, energy, money, people

Japan was the future, but it’s stuck in the past.

By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, Tokyo correspondent, BBC News, 22nd January, 2023.

This report echoes my experience in Japan. Rupert arrived the same year (1993) I did, but left 3 years earlier.

It’s a nice piece. I like it. But it’s pessimistic. “Large parts of the country could return to the wild” is a great thing! And with fewer people, they could upsize those ‘cramped restaurants’.

There are some questionable claims, such as “”Real wages haven’t grown here in 30 years.” Real wages haven’t grown here in Australia either and we’ve got one of the highest immigration rates in the world. “If you want to see what happens to a country that rejects immigration as a solution to falling fertility, Japan is a good place to start.” How about that accommodation is more affordable for young people?

There’s an assumption here that degrowth is bad for Japan. Okay, the old people in a ‘dying’ village near Tokyo (that has only one family with children) are worrying about who will look after their graves. Change isn’t always easy. But resisting degrowth is a sure-fire way to make yourself unhappy. Think of the opportunities: more agricultural land, more wild space. The buildings could be mined for materials for other purposes. The history can be preserved and the story of the village told – a tourism destination.

“A friend was recently negotiating to buy several hectares of forest. The owner wanted $20 per square metre. “I told him forest land is only worth $2 a square metre,” my friend said. “But he insisted he needed $20 a square metre, because that’s what he’d paid for it in the 1970s.” My mum bought a flat in Cairns for $175k in 1995 and I sold it last year for $180k, so it’s not just Japan where property hasn’t kept value.””A friend was recently negotiating to buy several hectares of forest. The owner wanted $20 per square metre. “I told him forest land is only worth $2 a square metre,” my friend said. “But he insisted he needed $20 a square metre, because that’s what he’d paid for it in the 1970s.” My mum bought a flat in Cairns for $175k in 1995 and I sold it last year for $180k, so it’s not just Japan where property hasn’t kept value.

“Slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe, for instance, was the son of a foreign minister, and grandson of another prime minister, Nobusuke Kishi. Grandpa Kishi was a member of the wartime junta and was arrested by the Americans as a suspected war criminal. But he escaped the hangman and in the mid-1950s helped found the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has ruled Japan ever since.” That’s a great illustration of Japanese politics.

The concrete economy is true and sad. “pork-barrel politics is one reason so much of Japan’s coastline is blighted by tetra pods, its rivers walled with grey concrete.”

There are some real surprises in it; “younger Japanese are less likely to speak a foreign language or to have studied overseas than their parents or grandparents.”!!

“Despite all this I am going to miss Japan, which inspires in me both enormous affection and the not-so-occasional bout of exasperation.” My sentiments exactly.

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2023 by .
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