How Much Japanese People Sleep?

According to data from an OCDE study, Japan and Korea are the countries in the world that sleep the least hours, 469 and 470 minutes per day respectively, around 7 hours and 50 minutes. The French are the ones that enjoy more sleep time (8 hours and 50 minutes), while Americans get to sleep also quite well (8 hours and 38 minutes). My home country Spain ranks 3rd in the world enjoying 8 hours and 34 minutes sleep on average every day. Maybe this data is one of the reasons why when you come to Japan you can see so many people sleeping in trains or on the streets.

How many hours do you sleep on average every day? My average, calculated during the last 3 years using the Sleep Cycle app on my iPhone is 7 hours and 56 minutes.

Japanese people sleeping average

Source: Govexec

The Controversy of the Letter to the Emperor

Last Thursday, Taro Yamamoto, a member of the House of Councillors of the Japanese government, handed a handwritten letter directly to the Emperor. In the letter he expressed his concerns about what is currently happening in Fukushima and the complications that are arising while dismantling the reactors.

A great debate has raged on TV programs and Internet forums. Some have asked for Taro Yamamoto to apologize while others have asked him to resign for giving the letter to the Emperor. This doesn’t mean that they are not worried about the situation in Fukushima, however it turns out that the Japanese constitution says that the Emperor can’t meddle in political issues.

Emperor of Japan
The moment when Yamamoto handed the letter to the Emperor.

It happened during a party organized by the Imperial Household Agency in the Akasaka Imperial Gardens. When the guests arrived to the party they received a map of the gardens and a number of rules to follow like for example “Do not take photos of the Imperial family”. An official of the Imperial Household Agency declared afterwards that they didn’t bother to mention that it’s not allowed to hand objects to the members of the Imperial family in the instructions for the party because it’s common sense. (Source: Asahi Shinbun).

It seems that Yamamoto didn’t know the protocol and he was not fully aware that when handing the letter to the Emperor he was trying to use him for political purposes. He has apologized but he says that he is not going to step down unless somebody else forces him to do so.

The Three Arrows, The Miniskirt And The Bras of Abenomics

Since the end of 2012, the prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and his finance minister Taro Aso have started a new aggressive economic policy with the main objectives of ending the vicious circle of deflation in which Japan has been mired during the last 20 years, and achieving an inflation of 2%.

Bra
The models of the lingery company Triumph during the launch of their bra to help the Japanese people achieve a target inflation of 2%. They call it “Branomics” = “Bra” + “Economics”

This economic policy is popularly known as Abenomics = “Abe + Economics” and is composed of three arrows “3本の矢”. There is a Japanese proverb that says “three arrows can’t be broken” 三本の矢なら折れない.

The three arrows of Abenomics:

  • 1.- Quantitative Easing (量的金融緩和): the BOJ (Bank of Japan) leaves the interest rates near 0% and makes the money flow to commercial banks to create excess liquidity with the objective of promoting lending. With this objective, the BOJ is buying government bonds and Asset Backed Securities. The objective over the next years is to double the amount of money in circulation and as a consequence reach a 2% inflation target. Another consequence is that the yen has been depreciating fast against other currencies since the Abenomics measures started to be implemented.
  • 2.- Fiscal policies to stimulate demand: investment in public works and renovation of infrastructure which is older than 50 years (built shortly after the Second World War) and fiscal deductions to companies that invest in R&D, that hire more employees, that pay higher salaries, that buy new equipment, etc. These measures aim to achieve an increase of investments, create jobs and increase salaries.
  • 3.- Deregulations and creation of sustainable growth: of the three Abenomics arrows, this one is the arrow that is least concrete. As of now, there is a group of experts (mainly CEOs of large, medium and small companies) that will propose measures to the government over the next few years. This arrow includes plans to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new free-trade agreement between countries in the Asia-Pacific region that would help Japanese companies export more.

Bra
The Triumph ladies wearing “Branomics”, holding two bows and with three abenomics arrows stuck to their stomachs.

The three Abenomics arrows follow ideas started by Keynes and whose most famous exponent nowadays is Paul Krugman. Some people say that it will work, but others say that it will end in a catastrophe because the future Japanese population will not be able to withstand an even higher debt although they can finance themselves emitting bonds in their own currency. As of now the negative consequences of Abenomics are an increase of the debt, a VAT increase from 5% to 10% (in 2015) and the depreciation of the yen (positive for exports). Another possible negative consequence is that inequalities in wealth distribution may increase.

For the moment it seems like prices in supermarkets are stable (we still haven’t noticed signs of inflation) but the Nikkei 225 index has started to notice the effects of Abenomics after several years of stagnation and it has risen more than 40% in 2013:

Nikkei index

The good news for all those of you who plan to visit Japan this Summer is that according to a popular theory when the economy is going well the skirts length decreases (Skirt length theory). On the other hand when things go sour the economic situation affects women’s moods which decide to wear longer skirts. This theory is better explained in this CNN video:


“When the Nikkei is below 9,000 we wear long skirts, when it’s between 10,000 and 11,000 we wear knee-length skirts and when it is above 11,000 we wear miniskirts”

Japanese Bra


Video of the branomics presentation.

Bra

Sources: Mof Taro Aso Speech, more about skirts and the economy.