What the west can learn from Japan’s “lost decades”

What the west can learn from Japan’s “lost decades”.

[excerpts]:

“I travel back and forth between Japan and the United States, mostly Tokyo and New York and a few other American cities, several times a year. The contrast is jarring. Arriving in the US can feel like…returning to a time when information was scarce, infrastructure was creaky and basic services such as ground transportation were chaotic and unreliable.

Landing in Tokyo, though, is a breeze.  All the travelators and escalators glide silently; the wall-mounted clocks, digital and analogue, tell the right time. When I reach the baggage carousel, my suitcase is already circling. Trains and buses depart punctually. I don’t have to pre-book because they’re scheduled minutes apart.

But that’s not what the papers say…

Intuitively, you might think that this shrinking, even disappearing Japan should not look and feel as good as it does. To visitors, expats and residents alike, Japan is still one of the richest, most civilised and convenient countries in the world. There should be potholes in its streets and pickpockets in its alleys. Shops, restaurants, bars and factories should be darkened and idle. Trains should be late and the passengers poorly dressed and busking for change.

The 2015 Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual ranking of the safest major cities in the world put Tokyo on top, with Japan’s second city, Osaka, at number three.

In his 2014 book , Pilling grapples with the cognitive dissonance at the heart of 21st-century Japan: is it a harbinger of global stagnation? Or is it a model of global sustainability? In the book’s most-quoted passage, a British MP, on arriving in Tokyo in the early 2000s and surveying its lively environs, is reported to have said: “If this is a recession, I want one.”

“Do rich societies really need to get richer and richer indefinitely?” he asks. “A lot of improvements in standard of living come not through what we normally consider as growth but through technological improvements.”

Pilling considers Japan’s stagnant years as a time of remarkable domestic growth, if not the kind associated with standard economic measurements such as GDP. “Many would agree that the standard of living, particularly in big cities like Tokyo, has improved significantly in the so-called lost decades

Japan’s stagnation, pilloried by economists and analysts in the west, may turn out to be the catalyst for its greatest strengths: resilience, reinvention and quiet endurance.

Mariko Furukawa, a researcher for the Japanese advertising firm Hakuhodo, thinks that the “think small” mentality of young Japanese is turning stagnancy into sustainability. ..

..city planners and urban designers are talking about downsizing the cities, wrapping up into smaller furoshikis [rucksacks], so to speak, the awareness is there; they know what needs to be done. In this sense, we may be at the forefront of developed economies.”

Furukawa notes that many European nations facing similar dilemmas don’t have the same tools to address them. “Europe has been suffering from low growth. But I don’t know if they are that innovative at new ways of living.”

…Today, the country is more about quality of life than quantities of stuff. In its combination of restraint, frugality and civility, Japan may serve as one of our best societal models of sustenance for the future.

…“Can we really only conceive of a successful economy as one where the population increases year after year? By this measure, Pakistan and many African countries should be screaming success stories. They’re not.”…

 

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Japan to relax arms export ban

Japan to relax arms export ban http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-26830504

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China accuses Japan of increased militarization..uh, what are they find in South China Sea ?! ..takes one to be paranoid about others. Yes, I think Japan, and lithe countries need to increase defenses against China’s renewed aggression, and military claims.

Sounds like Japan has good sense of controls in place for their new policy. Sounds like Alf Peyton, while keeping core values of former restrictions in place.
Of course, over time, ya never know.. small change eventually begets bigger change, corrupt people will always (try to) find a way to open doors that weren’t intended.