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Saturday, April 14, 2018

SAKURA 2018: Day 11--The Latest News from the Orient

When I take a trip to the Orient or World, I usually devote a posting to newsworthy items of the travel area, or, at least news of potential interest to some of my readers. Today is a good day, for it is raining all over Japan so I'll just hang around the Nagoya Station.

Japan is getting very old, very quickly:

  • Their population fell for the seventh straight year, by almost a quarter million just this past year.  The expectation is a drop from 125 million to 97 million by 2050.
  • Actually, it's far worse, for the resident population dropped by 372,000, made up for by temporary immigrants.
  • A world high 27.7% are at 65 or older.  A country is deemed old if 7% are at least 65.  In Japan, 14.4% are 75 or older.
  • A scary 896 cities/towns/villages will face extinction by 2040.
  • According to Tohoku University the population of Japan will dwindle to one person on 16August 3766.
  • Fertility rates are dropping.  Just about half of those between 18 and 49 said they hadn't had sex in the past month.  Why?  Poor work-life imbalances.
  • Just the city of Sapporo has almost half a million people more than the state of Hawaii.  By 2050, and probably long before, Hawaii will have more people than Sapporo.
  • Also on Hokkaido, the city of Obihiro, now with 168,000, will drop to 131,000 by 2040, of which 40% will be 65 or older.
  • I just came from the Tohoku region, where the Great Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear disaster hit. Their more than 9 million population will drop below 7 million by 2040, and further to around 5 million by 2060.
  • Not only will Aomori (1.3m to 0.93m) and Akita (1m to 0.7m) decline, but the number of women between 20-40 will drop by 48% by 2040.
  • The island of Shikoku will drop from 4 million to 3 million by 2040.
  • In 2013 a survey showed that 8.2 million of the more than 60 million homes nationwide were empty.
  • While the population of Italy will stabilize over the next decade, the number of indigenous citizens is shrinking by a quarter million annually, and this decline will accelerate.  In 60 years half of Italy's inhabitants will come from Africa and Asia.
  • The only good news is about Okinawa, where the current 1.4 million will only drop to 1.37 million by 2040.  However, in Naha, while only 18% are 65 or older, in 2040 it will be 28%.
Japan imports coffee from over 40 countries.  There is a whole host of similarities between Okinawa and Hawaii.  But there is no known coffee product from Okinawa.  Why?  Too many typhoons. 

So they have arrived at a solution.  Use greenhouses to protect the crop.  Last year almost 200 pounds of beans were harvested, sold for $7/cup on the island, and won positive reviews.  More is being grown, and beginning in April coffee beans will be sold for, by my calculation, $137/pound.  Here, Naomasa Miyazato, founder of Okinawa Coffee Producers Association.

Okinawa hopes to become a cruise liner hub, with a goal of 2 million ship tourists by 2021.  They will host 2019 Seatrade Cruise Asia Pacific.  Their road map will focus on combining public and private investments to construct a resort complex to include a cruise terminal, hotels and shops.  Hmm, why isn't Hawaii doing this?

Honolulu has something in common with Jakarta, Indonesia.  They began their Mass Rapid Transit Jakarta by breaking ground in 2013.  They will use Japanese trains for a grand opening next year.  Honolulu Rail Transit experienced first shovel in 2011 and will use an Italian (company went bankrupt, but was bought out by Hitachi) system to link East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium in 2020.  Ala Moana Center?  Maybe 2025.

Trash their lifestyle and economy, but there is something stable about North Korean leadership, for Kim Jong-un is the grandson, who replaced his father, who took over from his father, Kim Il-sung, who started it all exactly 70 years ago.

Conversely, it is truly reckless to become president of South Korea.  Of course, there is Park Geun-hye, first female president, who was impeached and just this month got sentenced to 24 years in prison.  Her father, Park Chung-hee, ruled for two decades and got assassinated.  Just prior, their first modern leader, Syngman Rhee had to flee the country and died in Hawaii in 1965.

Direct elections only came in the late 1980's, and two presidents, Chun Doo-hwan, followed by Roh Tae-woo (Roh on left), both were arrested and convicted.  Chun got the death sentence.  I actually had dinner with him and he laughed at what was to happen.  They both got later pardons, but Roh committed suicide by jumping off a cliff in 2009.

Every other president have had similar links involving family members and ties to business.   A couple of days after Lady Park's sentencing,  the person she replaced as president, Lee Myung-Bak, who served from 2008 to 2013, was charged with bribery, power abuse, embezzlement and tax evasion.  That is the nature of the presidency in South Korea.

The USA has been mostly a model of rectitude and integrity.  Sure, there was Reagan's Alzheimer's, Bush the Younger's blemishes, Clinton's affair with Monica and, now Donald Trump.  This one could get serious and more South Korean, but nothing close to anything like physical termination.  But will Trump get pardoned by Pence, as is the norm for convicted South Korean presidents?

Turns out that it never rained, so I went to Daiso and bought a new walking cane for $3.  The two items to the left cost me $8 (but you need to add three pairs of socks, which were in the process of being washed).

I should mention the advent of 100 Yen stores, where everything costs less than a buck.  Here, you can buy a bottle of wine--yes, ONE BUCK CHUCK-- for a dollar and less (the exchange rate today is 107:1, so this bottle of wine costs 93 cents, and it ain't bad).  Daiso has pretty much superseded those 100 Yen shops, but some things cost more than a buck, and the cashier warns you whenever you pick those items.

I was looking for a Subway, for the hotel had already given me a red bottle of wine and plate of assorted cheeses, which I did not want to carry to my next stop.  Finding none, on the way back to my room I went to Takashimaya (they like to be the largest department store everywhere they go, including in China, Singapore and Vietnam) and got the equivalent of a Subway sandwich with chips and beer, but paid around five times more (I now more than ever value the low cost of Subways):


My final foray at the Nagoya Marriott Concierge Lounge came in two courses:


Tomorrow, I return to Yamagata, then back to the Tokyo Westin.

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