Optimism in Japan?

The Washington Post carried a post this weekend suggesting the “last optimists” in Japan were finally abandoning ship. You can read the piece here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/a-declining-japan-loses-its-once-hopeful-champions/2012/10/27/f2d90b2e-1cea-11e2-9cd5-b55c38388962_story.html

Alas, the key “cog” in this piece is Jesper Koll, a long-term resident of Tokyo who says: “If you speak optimistically about Japan, nobody even believes it. They say, ‘Oh, in 600 years there will be 480 Japanese people left. The Japanese are dying out and debt is piling up for future generations.’ Japan is an easy whipping boy.”

Alas, what the Post doesn’t point out is that Koll and other “professional” foreigners who live in Japan and work in the financial sector are PAID to be optimistic about Japan. There is no equity market for foreign investors in Japan unless someone makes a “bull” case. Koll and Kathy Matsui, for many years the chief “gaijin handler” for Goldman Sachs,  could make predictably optimistic (and flawed) assumptions about Japan for years and years without ever being “called to account.”

My favorite of these constructions is that “Japan is turning the corner.” That being the longest corner ever recorded…!

The reality –as the Post is finally learning to accept — is quite a bit more downbeat. But we covered that in our book. The Post reviewed the book when it was published. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/18/AR2006091801192.html

Maybe writers assigned to Japan should read it, too.

2 thoughts on “Optimism in Japan?

  1. Mr. Zielenziger,
    I met and talked to you briefly this past April during the GBN seminar on scenarios.
    I’ve been asked to help one of our course directors here at the National War College compile possible course material covering global-regional contextual issues.
    I’ve recommended your book, and I’m struck by the lack of recent academic journal articles on Japan. I believe the reason we have found little on Japan is because not much has changed and no one in Japan is willing to change much of anything. …And Commodore Perry is not going to sail into Tokyo Bay and pull them out of their funk. Spin over the futility of politics and the Fukushima disaster dominate the discussion.
    Do you have any journal articles, other publications or blogs you could recommend to us?

    Best Regards,
    David Mayo

    • Yes David, you’re right. The Japanese talk about “Japan bashing” turning to “Japan passing” to “Japan nothing.” Though it remains the world’s third largest economy, Japan is slowly passing into intellectual irrelevance. I myself am surprised that even though my book was published in 2006, not so much about Japan has changed…

      I will attempt to post here interesting comments about Japan as they appear.

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