Abe's Massive Yen For Investment

In January of this year the Japanese government announced a budget of 96.3 trillion yen. If you think that sounds like a lot, you are right. According to today's exchange rate that amounts to a shade over 800 billion US Dollars. (Interesting how, when dealing in terms of government budgets, 2.6 billion dollars is a 'shade'.)

More salient than the amount, though, is the fact that this is the largest budget in Japan's history.

Waseda University Professor of Economics
Masazumi Wakatabe explains in this Forbes piece that Japan carries debt totalling 1,269.1 trillion yen. This tells me two things. One, after ten years in Japan there are still surnames I've never heard of. Wakatabe? Is that a typo? And two, Professor Wakatabe (sic), by virtue of his '1,269.1 trillion' remark, shows that he doesn't know the word 'Quadrillion'.

Professor Wakatypo goes on to state (in his only other sentence that doesn't go completely over my head) that "Japanese policymakers, economists, journalists, and the public are worrying about Japan’s fiscal situation. That is one of the major reasons why the consumption tax hike was planned and implemented."
Throngs of Japanese shoppers hit the streets, eager to do their part in the recent tax increase agenda.
So...what are the other major reasons?

Here are a few:

She has life-like skin. She can speak Japanese and Chinese. She can't answer any questions.

Sounds like a few of my former students but in this case we are talking about a robot who is waiting to greet me when I walk into Tokyo's Mitsukoshi department store the next time I go there, which will be never.

The concept of having a greeter at a department store is not new in Japan. But they are able to pull it off here with a bit more style, grace and dignity than the blue-vested specimens at Wal-Mart. When I do find myself walking into a department store in Japan - likely to use the bathroom - my knees go weak with the smiling, the bowing, the precise, sweet words of welcome from the girl standing by the entrance who seems genuinely delighted that I have come to use the bathroom.

I'll then head for the elevator for more of the same from another sweet, demure Japanese girl whose job it is to make me feel safe and comfortable as she puts a practiced, protective hand in front of the not-yet-closed elevator doors, totally pushing my buttons. Plus she will answer me when I ask her where the bathroom is.

This is what I saw today, from the top of my very short street, standing in a light drizzle, facing due east. (Why do we say 'due' east?)

The rice farmers have flooded their fields with the water that flows freely and endlessly down from the mountains. More rain is on the way as the first typhoon of the year approaches. The swaths of dark green climbing all over those mountains are forests of pine. The lighter greens are patches and stretches of deciduous, freshly-dressed in new leaves. The blue beyond the water is a grove of grape vines. They grow them by the millions all along the valley reaching into the distance right of center. Yet in places the vines have been replaced by rows of solar panels.

In August the faint but distinct smell of grapes will permeate the air, floating over rice fields that will be thick with the coming harvest. Our own garden too will perhaps be lush with the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, peas, eggplant, watermelon and pumpkin the kids planted with their mom this past weekend. But for now we wait, and fall asleep to the gutteral cries of a thousand frogs, dormant all the long cold winter, now reveling, like the rest of us, in this season of regeneration and expectation.

Enough now of the gibberish. The family's all asleep, time to knock back a cold one and hit the sack. Looks like sun tomorrow.

Nothing wrong with any of that.

Every year the Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden has itself a bit of fun by letting the general public vote on a name for the year's first new monkey. At last count there are over 1,500 monkeys running in circles, pissing on each others heads and spitting up the wasabi-flavored crackers the kids keep on feeding them. And quite frankly, the zookeepers are having an increasingly hard time coming up with new names. I believe it, I only have three monkeys and by the time the second one was born I was already out of good ideas.

According to this AP article 853 votes were cast, almost a full third of them by the monkeys themselves. Apparently there was a voting surge after the new British princess was named this past Monday, and on Wednesday, once the ballots had all been counted, it was announced that the first Takasakiyama-born monkey of 2015 would be named Charlotte.

An uproar ensued.
"Please, do something! Demand a recount! Pass a law! File a suit, anything! Just don't name me after a bloody human!"
Zoo officials (who double as monkey cage cleaners) reported that they were " flooded with angry calls and emails " about the decision. The article further states that "many critics said giving the princess' name to a monkey was disrespectful to British royals" and that, "according to zoo official Akira Asano, some said the Japanese people would feel offended if a monkey were named after Japanese princesses."

On the zoo's website the following was posted: "We deeply apologize for causing trouble to many people over the naming of the first baby. We take these opinions seriously."

So seriously, in fact, that they didn't even wait for any input from the British Royals themselves, who, we might rightfully assume, were not even aware of what was going on in the monkey house on the other side of the globe. They've got their own voting riot to contend with right now.

Zoo officials, along with unnamed (at their request) city representatives, are reportedly still discussing what to do about this monkey, now destined for a life of identity crises. Following the time-honored Japanese tradition of not being able to make a decision, "the zoo now plans to seek advice from the British Embassy before making a final decision."

That decision-inspiring piece of advice, I suspect, will go something like "For God's sake, it's a bloody monkey, name it whatever you bloody want you spineless bowing bastards!"

And with that the Japanese will be relieved. This monkey-naming stuff is hard.

*** NOTE: In the days following the initial uproar a few things were decided.
1. William and Kate did not appear to be offended by the naming of the monkey. Such was the assumption since William & Kate did not appear to know about it.
2. The British Embassy in Tokyo had no comment on the matter. Because, we will assume they didn't care about it.
3. The monkey's name will remain Charlotte. A huge relief to all Japanese as no one knew what to do about it.

Source: Just about every newspaper in the world but I'm ready for a beer after all this so here.