A Geek in Japan | 2010 February
Adventures of a geek living in Japan
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Walking the dog near Mount Fuji

I found this video and pictures very relaxing. The dog is a welsh corgi walking on the frozen waters of lake Yamanaka, near Mount Fuji, some weeks ago. The video makes you wish you were there running or skating next to the cute little dog!

Walking the dog in Japan

Walking the dog in Japan

Source: Siro Wan.

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Sony Computer Entertainment Inc

I took these photos in Aoyama in one of the main offices of SCE (Sony Computer Entertainment), the biggest subsidiary of Sony Corporation. After not such a good start the PlayStation 3 looks like is gaining momentum and sales are going up slowly; however, in my opinion, it is still a little bit too expensive because the production costs are still to high compared to the Wii and the Xbox 360. In the Japanese market the PS3 is lately catching up thanks to RPGs (very popular among Japanese men and women) like Final Fantasy XIII, and games like Resident Evil 5.

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc

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The Borrower Arrietty – New Studio Ghibli movie

The next Studio Ghibli movie is based on the novel The Borrowers and is being directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who until now had been an animator. The Borrower Arrietty is his first movie as a director. The funny thing is that even though it is based on the novel by Mary Norton, the action of the movie takes places in Koganei, a neighborhood in the western part of Tokyo, where the headquarters of Studio Ghibli are located. I usually ride my bike around the area on weekends.

The Borrower Arrietty

More information at Ghibli World.

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Funny Signs

I recently bought a book of photos of kawaii mascots. These are some of the pictures on the book in which mascots appear on signs. The one that I liked the most is the one with the Godzilla statue smiling and holding a sign with a picture of the Keishicho mascot (Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department) with his claws.

Shelter are for children
“Shelter area for children”

Do not enter!
Do not enter!

underground telephone cables
Watch out! There are underground telephone cables.

Strong waves
If there are strong waves, it’s better you don’t fool around the seashore.

Kawaii book cover
The book cover.

Part of the book is available at Google Docs.

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Using a fisheye lens in Thailand

One of the advantages of traveling with a friend who has a camera with the same lens mount as you is that you can share lenses. During my visit to Thailand last Xmas I had the opportunity to try the Nikon Fisheye 10.5mm lens of Ignacio. My experimentation produced some pretty nice photos:

Ko Pha Ngan fisheye

Ko Pha Ngan fisheye

Ko Pha Ngan fisheye

Thailand fisheye

Thailand fisheye

Thailand crystalline waters
Thailand beaches have awesome crystalline waters.

Thailand

Thailand boat beach

Ko Pha Ngan beach
A lovely beach in Ko Pha Ngan

Self-photographing fisheye
Self-photographing with a fisheye is fun!

Coconut drinking in Thailand
Ignacio drinking a coconut.

Coconuts and beers
My brother loving coconuts and beers.

Loving coconuts in Thailand
I also love coconuts!

Fisheye lens
My brother experimenting with the possibilities of a fisheye lens.

Pau Gasol in Thailand
That’s not Pau Gasol, it’s my brother!

Ko Pha Ngan

Ko Pha Ngan

Ko Pha Ngan bungalow
My brother’s fisheyed bungalow.

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The lost decades of Japan and United States

I’m not an expert on economic matters, so please excuse any inaccuracies in this post.
The 90s decade in Japan went down in history as “The Lost Decade”, referring to the practically non-existent economic growth during those years. United States has just come out from a very similar decade (from 2000 to 2009) to “The Lost Decade” of Japan. The Dow Jones stock market index entered the year 2000 at 11,522 points and has finished the decade at 10,428; it didn’t grow even taking into account the inflation. It is very difficult to find any parallelisms between Japan in the 90s and United States in the 2000s, but I was curious about finding the similarities between the lost decades of the two biggest economies in the world (until China surpasses Japan during this year) and present them in a table. I know that comparisons are odious and if you try hard you can find similarities between almost anything you are comparing; however it’s still interesting to see.

Japan 1990 ~ 2000 United States 2000 ~ 2010
Stock Market Nikkei, negative growth around -56% Dow Jones , growth around 0%
Bubbles Japanese bubble at the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s dot-com bubble and housing bubble
Terrorist attacks and natural disasters Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway
and Hanshin earthquake in Kobe
9/11 and Hurricane Katrina
GDP Absolute Growth of 24.7% Absolute Growth of 27.2%
Remarcable bankruptcies The Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan Lehman Brothers
Job creation Unemployment growth Unemployment growth

Although there are some similarities, the outlooks are totally different. In United States, the Federal Reserve took a lot of extreme measures trying to use the lessons learned from the Japanese crisis of the 90s. The poor Japanese have learned through trial and error. In the Western world we can see what happened in Japan and somehow act consequently. In United States they have been more agile trying to prop up the liquidity of banks through fiscal stimulus to combat the collapse of the demand of the private sector. They were also faster than the Bank of Japan at lowering the interest rates as much as possible so the credit keeps flowing into the system. Japan was more strict and they let many more companies and banks go under. On one hand, this is good up until we have been able to see at the moment, while on the other hand the future looks kind of grim because we are in a unique situation in history where the amount of money flowing in the world has grown at the fastest rate ever. The Western world finds itself in a totally unknown terrain,this is a situation that Japan didn’t have to go through.

Japan didn’t know how to deal with the continuous crisis and some people are already talking about “The Two Lost Decades”. In December 29th of 1989 the Nikkei stock exchange index peaked at its maximum historic level of 38,916 points, last Friday the Nikkei index closed at 10,123 points (a 73% fall in 20 years!) The GDP is right at the same levels of 1992. In 20 years, the unemployment has grown to reach 5% (practically unseen levels in Japan), today is not easy to find a job in Japan when in the past there were plenty of job opportunities. 80% of job contracts in the 90s were indefinite, in 2009 they represent only 61%. A beer in a bar in Tokyo used to be 500 yen in 1989, nowadays it still costs 500 yen and in some places even cheaper. The Japanese debt is approaching the 200% of the GDP. Land prices in urban areas have fallen 66%. We are talking about two lost decades, the Japanese people have lost all their confidence in themselves; before they saw themselves as a very strong country in the international context, now they don’t have many expectations about the future of Japan, they are quite pessimistic. However, on the other hand, the internal consumption is quite healthy in spite of the crisis and in fact, if you ask around, most of the Japanese people have never felt that “they were on a crisis”. Moreover, Japan is still a production, exportation and innovation monster. While at the same time has a lot of money saved. Not everything is bad.

In Japan, the money flow was stopped too early (in response to false recovery signs) before the demand was strong enough to keep a sustainable recovery, that’s why we have gone through 20 years of deflation and continuous crisis. That is maybe the best lesson about Japan that the Western world can take into account nowadays: don’t stop the money flow too soon and help the economy recover until demand and consumption catch up and go back to normality. Will the United States have two lost decades? I hope not, and I hope they are more agile than Japan in putting the economy back on track.

Other posts about the Japanese economy:

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Ghibli Car

When we were on our way to the abandoned hospital we bumped into this strange car. It reminded me of the Studio Ghibli artworks. The car design looks like it has just come out from a Hayao Miyazaki movie. The readers of my Spanish blog found out that it is a Nissan S-Cargo and only 12,000 units were produced between 1989 and 1992.

Ghibli car

Next to the car we met this charismatic Japanese man guarding a construction site with a lightsaber. We started talking and he told us that he had lived ten years in France and he had published two books about the study of languages.

Ghibli car

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Big Sushi

The other day I was in a sushi restaurant where they had this picture at the entrance:

Big Sushi

Unfortunately that big sushi was not on the menu! However the sushi that we got was excellent. If you want to try some really good sushi, you can find the restaurant near Shinjuku 3-Chome.

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