Re: A news item and subject which I just want to check out (123) February 2, 2024

It has been already one month since a big earthquake occurred in Noto district early on New Year’s Day. In addition to 240 casualties and 15 missing persons, it caused collapse of houses, severe damage to infrastructure such as roads and harbors, and once again the power of nature was shown. I would like to express my sincere sympathy to nearly 15,000 people who are still forced to live in inconvenient evacuation, and I sincerely hope for the speedy recovery and reconstruction.

By the way, there were three things that I felt “Good Job!” in English, if translating into Japanese “Appare!”.
Firstly, Yokozuna Terunofuji won the championship for the ninth time in four tournaments at the January Grand Sumo Tournament. After he had promoted to Ozeki, he experienced the humiliation of falling to Jonidan the second-lowest rank with Makuuchi being the highest rank because of injury and disease, and came back to Yokozuna by hard work and dedication. I admire his indomitable sprit and his pride and sense of responsibility as Yokozuna.
Secondly, Honami Maeda broke national record held by Mizuki Noguchi for the first time in 19 years at Osaka Women’s Marathon on January 28. The number of athletes that can represent Japan in Paris Olympics are 3 and 2 athletes (Yuuka Suzuki and Mao Ichiyama) have been already decided and this time, it was a competition for the remaining one spot. Now, she is listed as the favorite.
Thirdly, a small lunar exploration and landing vehicle, SLIM, of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, succeeded the fifth moon landing in the world in the early hours on January 20. And it is said that a solar cell where problem occurred when landing was repaired and the communication between ground and the probe has been established.

On the other hand, there were several things that I thought “that’s enough”. One of them was that there were a series of scandals at large companies representing Japan. Whenever that happens, the top management bowed deeply and I have heard many times that “to make sure not to let something like this happen again”. The other thing was the words overused by politicians, “firmly” and “properly”. And they always put their strength into it only at this time.
There is a proverb that “a hundred thoughts fit into a single action”, but in this case, I want to say that “a hundred words fit into a single action” or “walk the walk and talk the talk”. What do you think?

■■February started yesterday. There are various events in Japan, Asia and Western countries this month. I list some of them:
■This year’s “Setsubun” is Saturday on February 3:
In Japan, speaking of Setsubun, it involves “throwing beans”, but recently, the letters “how about Ehomaki?” are very eye-catching in the newspaper inserts and the storefront of the supermarket. Setsubun is the culture that originated in China, and a word that refers to the day before the beginning of spring, the beginning of summer, the beginning of autumn, and the beginning of winter visiting four times a year. But I don’t know why but only the day before “the beginning of spring” is called as Setsubun. The beginning of spring this year is February 4. By the way, the beginning of spring varies from year to year due to existence of “leap year”. For instance, in 2021 it is February 3, in 2022~2024 it is February 4 and in 2025 it is February 3.

■What I think about Chinese New Year and China these days:
In China, Greater China and Asian countries where a lot of overseas Chinese live, Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, this year is February 10 and it will be 8 consecutive holidays. During this period, economic activity in the region almost stops. It can be said that the existence of overseas Chinese in society and economic world in this region is big.
In China, for the recessionary and thrifty-minded, railway and airplane users are expected to be about 1.8 billion decreased by 14 % compared to the previous year. Total number of travelers in Japan from the end of last year to the beginning of the year was 25.88 million increased by 5 % compared to the previous year, and it is about 70 times and I feel tremendous being in a different class. Incidentally, the declining birthrate and aging population are also progressing rapidly in China and its population has been starting to decline. Its population at the end of last year was 1.40967 billion deceased by 2.08 million compared to the previous year, and the number of births was 9.02 million deceased by 0.54 million compared to the previous year. These are respectively about 11.4 times and 12.4 times that of Japan. Under such circumstances, China is a highly competitive society, and according to the official announcement, the unemployment rate in urban areas in December last year was 5.1 % and its rate from 16 to 24 years old was 14.9 %. But the reality seems to be much more serious. Incidentally, average unemployment rate in Japan last year was 2.6 % in all and its rate of the same generation was 7~10 %. And jobs-to-applicants ratio in Japan last year was 1.31 in all, and there is a constant labor shortage. The high youth unemployment rate can be attributed to various reasons.
By the way, 35 years ago from now the year before the Tiananmen Square Incident, I joined visit to China mission of Association for the Promotion of International Trade, and had an audience with the late President Deng Xiaoping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. At that time, he referred to the remarkable development in China and told that “there are only 60 million people that have trouble eating right now in China”. What popped into my head was that “about half of population in Japan was starving”. But it was 5 % of the whole, in other words 1 in 20, because Chinese population at that time was 1.2 billion. Thinking from the social situation in China at that time, this was a convincing number.
Chinese people say “the Great Wall of China” or “gray hair 3,000 length”, but it is necessary to recognize that “the yardstick is different” between China and Japan. The real world is that it is only about 3 hours by a flight away from such country. However, according to an opinion survey targeted 3,000 people aged 18 and over conducted by the Cabinet Office from September to October last year, Japanese people who “don’t feel close to China” if including “Relatively speaking” were 86.7 %, the highest level since the start of the survey in 1978. On the contrary, Chinese people who “don’t feel close to Japan” reach 70 %. But we can’t choose neighboring countries. We have no choice but to come to terms with it.
On the other hand, together with the decline of Japanese economic strength, Asian countries have been drawn to huge market in China, and the presence of Japan has been fading in the region. For instance, in Thailand, according to a survey by the government, the ratings for second foreign languages chosen at university entrance exam in 2022 were Chinese 34.8 %, Korean 17.6 % and Japanese 17.2 %. It seems to me that it is reflecting the unforgiving reality of international community called “the relationship ends when the money runs out”. I remembered the encouragement called “Hey, Japanese people. Get it together” by the late president Chang Yung-fa, the founder of Evergreen which is the world’s leading international shipping container company and EVA Airways which is international carrier, who knew ancient Japan very well and was a great pro-Japanese.

■February 14 is Valentine’s Day:
Valentine’s Day is originally Christian festival, but Japan is in a combination of Japanese and Western-styles. Whether it is Halloween or Christmas, Japan likes to arrange things on its own way, regardless of religion, and use them for business. I feel Japan has “a strong commercial sprit”. However, looking at from another perspective, it represents the characteristics of Japanese company called “creativity, the power to create new things like AI, is weak”, even though “it is good to take it from elsewhere and make it to Japan specifications”. Incidentally, “side-by-side consciousness and reliance on precedent” are also obstacles to social system in Japan and corporate innovation.
By the way, when I was young, I received a lot of chocolates from my favorite store, but recently, as I visited less often, chocolates were almost zero. And one month later March 14 is White Day when men give reciprocal gifts to those who gave them gifts on February 14. When I worked at a previous company, watching good old men thought hard about gifts in return for “obligatory chocolates”, there was a time when it was “prohibited within the company”. If I think about it now, I am sorry that I took away a little fun.

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