Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Facade

The economy performed far worse than the government statisticians first guessed.

Imagine that.

Japan's economy contracts larger-than-expected 1.8% in Q3

HONG KONG -- Japan's economy contracted at a steeper-than-anticipated 1.8% in the July to September period, or 0.5% against the preceding quarter, confirming the government's earlier assessment that the world's second-largest economy fell into recession in the third quarter, according to revised gross domestic product data released by the Cabinet Office Tuesday...
The frightening aspect of the story is that one cannot see evidence of the collapse in Tokyo. The subways are still crowded; the stores and restaurant still enjoy custom.

The wave will hit. When I look out the window of the ramen shop at the crowds of office workers lining up to ride the elevators of the Holland Hills complex, I cannot help thinking:

"They are doing this because this is all they know. They line up to take the escalator, line up to get through the subway gate, line up to take the stairs out of the subway and then line up to ride the elevators to their floors...and one out of ten is a dead man walking, in employment terms."

Hidden still is the damage from the wave upon us...which means the outer regions must be absorbing the blow, leaving the metropole largely unscathed.

So the chihō is getting hammered and is falling ever further behind.

The Liberal Democratic Party had the benefit of the greatest burst of global economic growth since the 1960s. If there ever was a time to scrap and rebuild for the future, it was during the fat years when China could sell anything to the United States, the U.S. and its citizens could borrow against tomorrow and Japan could sell to both of them.

Fat years. The years one is supposed to use to prepare for the onset of a long, dark winter.

Now we are plunged in the worst financial crisis and economic slowdown in 80 years. The bad parts of Japan get worse and the good parts start crumbling.

The leadership, true to form, has no clue what the government should do to answer the challenges of the times...and yet it chastises those who declaim that the party has lost its way.

Why are these clowns even allowed to claim to be in charge of "the serious party"?


Ken said...

Friends who own bars and restaurants are already feeling the pain. It is far from invisible.

Maxamillian said...

Apparently hair salons are feeling it too.

I have an economist friend who's suggested that ignoring the financial crisis entirely might actually be a workable solution. He says that the panic surrounding it is at least half the problem. Is that true? Because to someone who never studied economics like me, it does sound half-plausible.

Anonymous said...

I live in Yokosuka, which is pretty much in the shutoken but which has some of the features of a rural economy/rural politics. The new recession has been very visible here-the shotengai at the main train station is half-shut most of the time, and is covered with for-let signs. The company I am supposed to send my rent to sent me a bankruptcy notice about a week ago. Every restaurant (Yokosuka has too much commerce, a legacy of the base) has about four customers who never vary-but sometimes the number goes down to zero.

Yokosuka doesn't look like Detroit, it's true. It probably won't get that way. But what's strange to me is that the bad economy is seen as the best argument for the LDP by a lot of people. When the economy is bad, you need people in high places to look out for you as a fixer, and because the base is part of the economic security of the town, nobody wants to think of alternative ways of maintaining national security. (Despite being Koizumi's hometown, Yokosuka is mostly old-LDP: for example, the Nihon Kaigi has almost no presence there compared to "liberal" places nearby like Fujisawa.)

Why doesn't anything change? Nobody really believes that a bad economy will radically change anything-it will just make the stuff that's kind of miserable about the town worse. And I can't think of what it would take to do more than that-a lot of the identity of the town has evaporated already. It'll just end up being a little bit more like some anonymous low-end bed town in saitama.

Just a thought.