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José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesMar. 21, 2013 - 06:19AM JST
I, for once, would find it very difficult to ctitizice Mr. Shirakawa. Not only did he have to face a great international crisis in the form of the collapse of the Lehman Brothers bank in the United States, but also he had to contend with the huge crisis in the eurozone as a follow-up to the American crisis. And then just in case there were not enough problems to sort out, Japan endured the huge earthquake-tsunami in 2011 and subsequent nuclear power stations crisis...! Of course, political instability in Japan is never far away as prime ministers come and go, and everyone of them tries to meddle with the governor's work. Hopefully, the hard times may be about to turn the corner for Japan. The 'happy depression' that some say Japan is going through could come to an end in the near future if the new governor manages to achieve two per cent inflation as requested by the government of Mr. Abe. However, the japanese authorities need to keep up their promises to inject more money into the economy while the BoJ is trying to get rid of the Japanese negative inflation. The policy to pursue short term expansion of the Japanese economy may turn out to be what is required right now despite Japan's huge debt and inflation position. It is possible that the first results to all these new measures will have given some good results by summer. Otherwise, Shinzo Abe might be in for some protest votes in the summer elections. It would appear that at least the government of Japan is trying to do what some eurozone countries would have been well advised to do some time back had it been for the constraints posed by Germany. Time will tell who has been more on the right path to recovery. Regards.
Posted in: Outgoing BOJ chief Shirakawa says he failed on deflation
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesMar. 19, 2013 - 11:59PM JST
This is a most emotional piece of news. What most attracts one's attention is the sense on camaraderie and willingness to help other human beings on the part of the ones who were already suffering so much. One cannot help but think of the feelings of impotence that overwhelmed all those poor people as they faced the tragedy, no only of their own predicament, but that of others while they could not do anything to help them. As I read this item of news I recalled a book a read some time back about the aftermath of the drop of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In both cases, the Japanese people showed enormous resilience and a great sense of community to rebuild their country which I think is just remarkable and a true example to all of us. By the way, I do not have the electronic means to access these human documents on the Kindle ebook system, and wonder how I could obtain these heartfelt historical accounts. Regards.
Posted in: Otsuchi tsunami survivors share their stories
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesMar. 19, 2013 - 05:32AM JST
This is a piece of tragic news. It would appear that in other parts of the world there is more awareness of the importance of preventing this kind of accident. In countries where gas-powered boilers are the source of central heating and hot water in people's houses there is less of an occurrence of deaths from carbon monoxide as the main culprit. Amongst other preventative measures, it is important that there should be an appropriate carbon monoxide detector in good working order wherever there is a risk. I sadly remember a group of young Spanish ramblers who died in their sleep while spending the night in a country shelter as they left the embers burning in the fireplace while they slept. I would suggest anybody purchasing a charcoal brazier for the same purpose the deceased couple bought theirs be advised of the possible risks and what to do to prevent them.
Posted in: Ice fishing couple die of carbon monoxide poisoning in tent in Hokkaido
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesFeb. 15, 2013 - 06:00AM JST
I am used to writing about politics, the economy and international relations between countries, so I have found this item really interesting. Although I am Spanish I have no idea how St. Valentine's day is celebrated in my country-- I am not joking!-- because I have never had a Spanish girlfriend and have not had to give any presents either --not for St.Valentine's anyway. I quite like the idea of getting chocolate as a present so St. Valentine's day is as good an excuse as any other. I wonder whether my fellow country men and women would be amenable to the idea of the white presents for the chaps in March. I like that idea very much as well-- and white chocolate is very nice too! What I don't understand though is the extension of present-giving to other people you have no romantic liaison with. I mean, in other parts of the world for a female employee to give her boss a lover's day present could be easily misconstrued... But the Japanese are always so sweet and thoughtful, particularly if someone spotted the bigger market it would produce...! That's Japan, I suppose. Happy St. Valentine's everybody... and don't eat too much chocolate!!!
Posted in: In Japan, women, not men, throng stores to buy Valentine's chocolates
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesFeb. 05, 2013 - 10:33PM JST
Japan, like other developed economies, has a weak economy at present. Likewise, the devaluation of its currency is as essential as the damage being done to it by inflation. Unfortunately, both these issues may be confused by some commentators at times. It confuses me that they seem confused anyway. The recent weakening of the yen has proved to be good for the Japanese economy but this will not be enough without falls in its real exchange rate and not simply in its nominal ones which means a rise in inflation will reduce the benefit that they get from weaker exchange rates. Mr. Abe appears to think that a more aggressive monetary policy would create inflationary expectations by encouraging big business to invest their surplus resources at home. Bearing in mind that Japanese businesses already invest a lot in Japan Mr. Abe's wishes are most unlikely to come into fruition. Personally, it is more possible for things to go the governments' way come April when the Prime Minister will appoint a new governor of the Bank of Japan more amenable to buying foreign assets-- and both Mr. Takatoshi Ito and Mr. Kazumasa Iwata, two possible candidates for the job, seem quite keen on the idea. We'll see.
Posted in: Aso says weak yen result, not goal of anti-deflation policies
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesFeb. 04, 2013 - 06:02AM JST
I do not know much about economics. However, if one compares the information that is being published at the moment on the state of world economy it is a little bit reassuring at least to see that the economy of the United States appears to be picking up albeit very, very, very slowly. More than 150,000jobs were created in the United states last month which is a sign that the world's largest economy is on the mend somehow. Likewise, the United States Labour Department said that 127,000 more jobs were created in November and December than previously thought. I have read all the preceding comments in this forum and different people seem to be using different criteria to assess te state of the American and world economies. Having said that, a common pattern is emerging, I think. In view of the data above and although the unemployment rate in the United States rose slightly to 7.9%-- not a very significant figure-- it should be enough to give us all some reassurance the American economy is no longer heading for a recession. This fact combined with a kinder treatment of the markets towards the euro since the European Central Bank voiced a clear commitment to save its currency whatever the costs, and the euro-area manufacturers reporting an overall performance in January in nearly a year is lending itself to some hope. The United Kingdom is the most important economy outside the euro-area and its economy benefited last month-- despite the pound tanking against the euro and the dollar-- from a surge of factory output in January helping to avert a most feared triple deep recession. Of course, anything can happen between now and the end of the year, meantime we should breath with some relief as we were told things would be much gloomier by now.
Posted in: U.S. gains 157,000 jobs
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesFeb. 02, 2013 - 04:43AM JST
I am not a jurist so it would be very difficult for me to engage in any disquisitions to do with the legal pros and cons around the amendment of the Japanese constitution. Having said that, it would appear to me that when the Japanese law of laws of 1947 was passed the world was a very different place from today's. The people who drafted Japan's constitution seem to have been very worried about Japan engaging in further bellicose activity in the future. Now, I believe that most of us would agree that Japan as a nation does not have the nationalistic never mind imperialistic mentality that led to its demise as a result of its intervention in the Second World War which culminated with the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima-- granted it is possible that there may be minority groups with such feelings but they do not represent the immense majority. In my humble opinion, Japan as a nation, has got the right to defend the integrity of its territory and its people like any other country does. Ultimately, it is up to the Japanese people and its democratically elected leaders to change the course of its own history based on what they conclude would be most beneficial for the whole nation now and in years to come.
Posted in: Questions and answers on Japan's pacifist constitution
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesJan. 26, 2013 - 08:40PM JST
First, I would like to thank Gaijinfo for a good a very informative comment. Having said that, I would also like to add that I has never looked as if Mr.Sirakawa was going to be comfortable with being instructed what to do by a politician who admittedly knows less than him when it comes to managing certain aspects of the Japanese economy. It now transpires that Mr. Sirakawa has decided-- I think sensibly-- to reach a compromise with government demands and aim for a one per cent inflation rate short term. This does not make the problem of political interference go away, however. It would appear that the Bank of Japan had no intention, at least at the moment, to engage in a policy of quantitative easing that simply has momentary effects on the economy but does not necessarily encourage the average person to spend more. I said yesterday that Mr. Abe may just be right, however, if Japan's deficit begins to come down in due course once the effect of the devaluation of the yen starts having the desired effects. This is a political gamble for Mr. Abe which may just pay off. And this despite Germany's complaints about political interference in the management of the economy by not only the Japanese government but also their Hungarian counterparts as per current criticisms and counter criticisms in Davos. I predict that the number 13 in 2013 does not augur well for world economy this year. We'll see...
Posted in: BOJ governor says it will be tough to meet inflation target
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesJan. 26, 2013 - 05:08AM JST
I am not an economist and have learnt a lot by reading all the preceding comments on this piece. However, it feels to me that in principle Mr. Abe may be wrong to tell the Bank of Japan-- BOJ-- what to do at first sight. After all it is the BOJ the organization that has the responsibility for the way some aspects of the economy of the country is managed. Despite what Mr. Abe is saying now it is well documented that not long ago he was urging the BOJ to aim for a two per cent inflation rate short term as well as a devaluation of the yen to ease Japanese exports. Mr. Abe suggested that he might introduce the relevant legislation to 'relieve' the BOJ from its current rôle in the Japanese economy should it not have complied. Now Mrs. Merkel is not that happy with Mr. Abe's approach to trying to revive the slow growing Japanese economy. This is partly due to the fact that a quick upturn in Japan will mean the slowdown of the euro-zone recovery as it may hinder its exports in favour of Japan's. The other problem for Mrs. Merkel is that unlike the whole of the euro-area, she has not got any control over the parameters under which the Japanese economy should operate. Japan is still able to devalue its currency as well determine the interest rates financial institutions lend to business. It can, therefore, easily be argued that Mr. Abe is probably doing the right thing by re adjusting the economy of its country according to domestic needs. Which begs the question: Will the euro survive long term while all its members are locked in economic measures that mainly serve Germany's powerful economic needs ? It will be interesting to follow Japanese/German talks in Davos over the next few days, I think.
Posted in: Yen manipulation claims completely off the mark: Aso
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesJan. 25, 2013 - 06:36AM JST
This is a very big political gamble for Mr. Cameron. Unfortunately, it is a gamble that he has found also as difficult to avoid. Ever since the United Kingdom was taken into the then Common Market back in 1975 by Edward Heath some British politicians and, instigated by them, a section of the British public, have never felt comfortable in an organization that has evolved from its origins as a free trading area into a political and, what is more important, economic union. The current mess in the euro zone has provoked more political and economic harmonization which will have enormous consequences for everybody else-- whether they form part of the euro zone or not. If Mr. Cameron wants to stand a chance of an outright win a the next general election he has to regain voters who at the moment may cast their vote in favour of the United Kingdom Independence Party --UKIP-- as well as some indecisive voters across the political spectrum. This strategy might just work for Mr. Cameron if Germany considers the United Kingdom's ongoing membership of the European Union worth the price to pay in exchange for broader european stability of which Germany will be the main beneficiary. Time will tell.
Posted in: Cameron proposes British vote on EU exit
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesJan. 22, 2013 - 09:28PM JST
I still cannot understand how two countries like Japan and China are unable to discuss this problem. The two countries are amongst the most powerful economies in the world and the two of them have and are producing people of universal value for the benefit of humanity. And yet they cannot find a diplomatic way to tackle their dispute over this archipelago. All I hear is threat after threat from one to the other. Has either country taken their grievances to the United Nations Assembly? Further more, I seem to recall that the Japanese government bought these islands not long ago from their former Japanese private proprietor, so again, why is China still claiming the Diaoyu as theirs? Both countries are wasting valuable time they could put to better use by looking for a solution to their differences on this tricky issue. Otherwise, there is always the possibility this conflict may escalate to a full blown armed one. By the way, I disagree with some of the commentators in this forum-- and Maj Gen Peng Guangqian-- when they say that the use of any kind of warning shots are a way of provoking whom ever is being warned. Unless the infractor is looking for any excuse to engage in bellicose retaliation that is.
Posted in: Japan talk of warning shots heats up China dispute
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesJan. 21, 2013 - 01:26AM JST
I agree with most comments in this forum. I have seen bits and pieces of Mr. Armstrong's interview with Ms. Winfrey and went away with the impression that Lance Armstrong does not particularly appear to be remorseful about his misdeeds while competing as a professional cyclist. He also came across as a most cold and calculating person. It almost seems as if he went public to finally confess as part of an strategy which represents the elongation of his original sins. I did not hear him say sorry for what he did nor did I hear him apologize for cheating. In conjunction with what others have already said, we run the risk of glamourizing someone who has lied to everybody for no good reason other than his own personal interest. As Wotond says, we need now to make sure we do not waist too much time on Mr. Armstrong and refocus our attention to proper sports people like Greg Lemond or Miguel Induráin. Both of these cyclists won a number of Tours in a clean and sporty manner. These are the rôle models that young people should aspire to become. Not a cold, calculating and cynical cheat.
Posted in: Lance Armstrong biopic in the works from Paramount, J.J. Abrams
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesJan. 13, 2013 - 10:30PM JST
I am not sure whether Mr. Abe should be telling the Bank of Japan what to do, let alone threaten this Japanese institution with bringing to an end its independence from government meddling if it does not comply. The BOJ is comprised of very capable and well versed members in economic matters. They are always studying the progress of the economy of Japan in relation to evolving international markets so it should be left up to the BOJ to establish the interest rates at which money is borrowed to promote the creation of wealth. Also, Japan can-- unlike the members of the euro zone-- establish how and when to devalue the yen to ease exports by a country whose economy depends so heavily on it. Otherwise, you run the risk of taking away from the BOJ the power to take decisions based solely on economic needs against political interests which has been catastrophic to some euro zone members like Spain. The Bank of Spain has no say in the interest rates at which people borrow nor has it any power anymore to devalue its currency-- the euro-- with the dismal effects we all know. Mr. Abe: Leave the BOJ get on with it.
Posted in: Abe says BOJ must set 2% medium-term inflation goal
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesJan. 01, 2013 - 08:50PM JST
The problems that this piece highlights are common in other countries too. I agree with some of you that tolerance and a proper compliance with current legislation would help to reduce these problems enormously-- which includes the police not turning a blind eye to infringements of the law too. It is interesting to see that the Japanese authorities are thinking about training people how to ride the bicycles 'after' the riders have been caught breaking the relevant road safety laws. It would appear that bicycles are a vehicle like any other so the people 'driving' these vehicles should have to pass some basic test before they are allowed to ride their bikes. Likewise, some form of compulsory insurance may be something worth considering for when cyclists cause accidents that involve the possible infliction of injuries on pedestrians-- of course registration number plates, etc. have to form part of using bicycles. Personally, I believe that bicycles should not be ridden on the pavement which should be the exclusive natural space of pedestrians. To this effect motorists also need to be made aware of the right of cyclists to use the roads without being harassed by the drivers of heavier vehicles who think that they have an exclusive and sacrosanct right to drive on the roads. Like I said: Tolerance and a compliance with current legislation should suffice the issue. Otherwise, all we are doing as the very English saying goes is 'shutting the stable door after the horse...' Happy new year everyone.
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesDec. 25, 2012 - 04:46AM JST
I still do not understand why the Japanese public voted Mr. Abe in again. When Mr. Abe was Prime Minister first time round his cabinet was surrounded by numerous scandals. Likewise, some governmental departments proved to be very incompetent. It would appear the Prime Minister elect somehow thinks he has a sacrosanct right to his country's premiership by the sheer fact of his surname. I would also like to point out that while on the election campaign trail Mr. Abe made a lot of promises which may turn out to be most difficult to put into practice now that he is in government. For instance, for all the tough talk about Japan's diplomatic relations with both North Korea and China it is difficult to see how-- and what-- the actual policies towards these countries will be. Personally, I would have given Mr. Noda more time to accomplish his political project. Time will tell if Mr. Noda was the right choice for Japan now.
Posted in: Abe's cabinet likely to be long on loyalty, short on reform
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesDec. 05, 2012 - 08:41AM JST
Japan appears to be the same as most other countries: After the horse has bolted we lock the stable door, or something like that. The investigating team in charge of finding out what happened in the Sasago Tunnel accident is likely to find that an ageing tunnel was in need of some serious maintenance. One always wonders why no one ever thinks of the risks posed by some old buildings before a catastrophe like this strikes. I suppose one 'good' thing to come out of this tragedy is that it is a bit less likely for the same accident to occur elsewhere with all the checks that are taking place at present in Japan. Sadly, the safety measures that are being taken at the moment come too late for the poor victims of this horrendous accident. My thoughts and prayers are for the families of all the casualties.
Posted in: Tunnel disaster puts spotlight on Japan's aging infrastructure
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesNov. 27, 2012 - 02:16AM JST
I have found this article ever so interesting indeed. Mr. Hagman appeared to have had as much an interesting life out of the stage as on it. I remember watching 'Dallas' in Spain as a young lad and how much we all loved following J.R.'s 'misdemeanours' every week. While reading this piece, I have learnt how addicted Larry Hagman was to alcohol at one point in his life too. He came across as a good person regardless and part of his legacy could be a raised awareness of the great harm that excessive ingestion alcohol can do to people's health. Otherwise, when it comes to naming the great personages that have left us this year now that the end of 2012 is near I am sure Mr. Hagman will occupy a special place in everybody's heart. Larry Hagman: Thank you for leaving us so many good memories. Rest in Peace.
Posted in: 'Dallas,' 'I Dream of Jeannie' star Larry Hagman dead at 81
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesSep. 08, 2012 - 01:21AM JST
I agree with Samantha Ueno. Were it not for Simon Cowell's knowledge of the music industry this boy band would never have made it--nor would have the members of the band ever succeeded individually because they are, at the very best, mediocre. One wonders how much music talent a person needs to have nowadays to succeed or whether it all boils down to who you know in the music business. After all, look at The Spice Girls ... Regards to you all.
Posted in: British band One Direction tops MTV video awards
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesSep. 07, 2012 - 06:40PM JST
I didn't realize that we had so many things in common-- the Spanish and the Japanese. Both nations appear to enjoy games and festivals that involve some kind of endurance. Spain is very popular with the Japanese particularly because Spain enjoys sunny skies for most of the year as a main feature to the climate of most parts of the country. I am aware that there is also an amusement park in Japan called Parque España, I think. I am sure that there are other festivals in Spain that would also be as attractive to the Japanese, particularly the younger ones-- the running of the bulls in Pamplona for instance. Mind you I am sure also that some Japanese festivals, sports and traditions would be welcomed by some Spaniards although I am not sure about sumo... Perhaps drinking sake would be most interesting to both peoples. Anyway, as we say in Spain:¡Viva la fiesta! or, have fun!...have a good time everybody!
Posted in: Spain’s La Tomatina Festival coming to Tokyo this weekend
José Simón Álvarez-BenavidesAug. 09, 2012 - 08:43PM JST
I always find it very difficult to understand certain aspects of Japanese politics. For instance, I cannot understand why Japanese prime ministers do no last long in post, etc. I am very, very grateful to HIKOZAEMON for his/her outstanding summary of what is currently going on in the Japanese parliament at present. For me it was absolutely delightful to read such a well informed and well written piece of journalism. One more thing, it is really shameful to see how Japanese politicians may sometimes vote in parliament against their political views to achieve personal/political gains. Again,HIKOZAEMON, well done. Spot on!
Posted in: Noda, opposition clinch deal on tax bill, early election
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Posted in: 16-day-old girl dies after being put in trash can by parents
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