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  • 2017.04.30 Sunday
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  • by スポンサードリンク

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Living in Harmony with Cats

 

  A decade ago, yearly about 300,000 dogs and cats were euthanized in Japan, Nowadays, however, the number of animal euthanasia cases are decreased by two-thirds. Still, around 100,000 dogs and cats are killed every year, and the majority are cats.      

                                                                    

  On Tashiro-Island in Miyagi prefecture, is very famous as an island of cats. Its population is only 80 people while 100 cats are living there. And, more and more tourists visit the islands every year. In the aftermath of the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, hordes of cat-lovers donated over 100 million yen (some 1 million USD) for the rebuilding of the cat island.    

                                                              

  On Tashiro-Island, since sericulture (the production of silk from silkworm) was practiced, the residents kept cats in order to keep away rats, the natural enemy of the silkworm. Fishermen fed unsold fish to cats.   

                                                            

  According to an old story, one day, fisherman was picking up rocks for weights for his fishing nets. Accidentally, a rock felled and crushed a cat to death. The fisherman’s boss felt sorry for the cat, and berried the cat. Since then, all the fishermen experienced a greater catch and no shipwrecks occurred. As a result, the cat was worshipped as a god, and residents treasure cats to day on the islands.      

                                                            

  Ogi-Islands in the Seto Inland Sea also became famous 3 years ago when a photographer introduced the island as an island of cats. Its population is about 180 while cats number around 200. Different from Tashiro-Island, the opinion among the residents is divided. Some insist on becoming an island of cats whereas others opposed to the idea. Some residents complain that visitors trespass on their property in search of cats and feed the cats, which has the effect of luring wild boars from the mountain.      

                                                              

  Omichi city in Hiroshima prefecture is famous not only for the local ramen but also as a cat town. Many tourists visit the city to taste the ramen or see the cats. Last year, its tourism association launched a tour to see the cats. On the other hand, some residents complain of excessive cat feces and uneaten cat food soiling the town.      

                                                            

  I believe that each area should decide what to do on their own. At least, however, we should not let alley cats proliferate in order to decrease the future victims of euthanasia. The Human Society advocates spading and neutering all pets as a preventative measure.      

                                                            

  In Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, a volunteer group captures alley cats and tries to find them homes. While a home is being found, veterinary clinics house and fix the cats. The ward subsidizes the medical and hospitalizing fees. Since 2011, Chiyoda ward has euthanized no cats.      

                                                            

  No euthanasia nationwide is next to impossible. And, irresponsible pet owners should be blamed. Still, in order to decrease innocent victims, we should do whatever we can.                                

 


The Right to Choose One’s Own Lifestyle

  The Abe Cabinet aims for a society where all citizens play an active role. And, feminists advocate that women should also enter the workforce and be equally promoted. I believe, however, such authoritative affirmatives are not only unrealistic but also antithetical to what most citizens want.                                                                                      In Japan, the majority of students advance to universities. There are many housewives who have graduated universities. Some people believe that they should given special support by the government to facilitate their desire to work.                                                                                       “My Voice. Com”, a research firm, conducted a survey of 1,000 housewives having university degrees from March 7th to the 10th. Over two-thirds (67.2% ) of them became housewives by their own volition. Only 32.8% unwillingly quit their jobs due to difficulties in balancing their job, housework and/or childcare. Over 70% (72.9%) of the respondents opposed the slogan “Women Activation.” 16.5% even felt it unpleasant. 7.2% felt it burdensome, and 49.2% believed it’s unrealistic. Only 15.2 % agreed with the slogan.                                                                                      Customarily, when Japanese women marry, they become housewives. And, after the Lehman Shock, their preference for housewives is on the rise.                                                                                       Many married women have to continue to work because their husbands’ income is not enough. After the Lehman Shock, companies increased contract workers. They are underpaid although they work the same as regular workers. Day care workers are also underpaid even though they are in high demand.                                                                                       Many men give up marrying because they cannot earn enough money to support a family. Many couples give up having a child because of insufficient income. It’s no wonder that the childbirth rate has declined.                                                                                       Fortunately, the Abe Cabinet has started to pay attention to the underpaid. I believe that the Abe Cabinet should deregulate labor laws so companies can fire ineffectual employees so that they can then hire better regular employees. Until then, companies will only hire contract workers as a defensive move.                                                                                       Article 13 of the Japanese Constitution guarantees the right to pursue happiness. Japanese citizens should be given the right to choose their lifestyle by themselves. Whether or not married women work should be decided by themselves.           

Cycling Becoming Trendy in Japan

  In recent years, bicycling to work is gradually catching on in Japan. It is practical as being energy-efficient, environmental, and healthy. I believe that Japan should develop its biking infrastructure and clear rules for cyclists. We should show a good example for prospering Asian countries.                                                                                                                                         In terms of the number of bicycles per capita, the Netherlands tops the world, followed by Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The top 5 are dominated by Europe. Japan is ranked 6th. The U.S. is 11th, and China is 17th.                                                                                           China used to be a bicycle mecca. During rush hour, the roads were flooded with bicycles. However, its government has since placed great emphasis on the car industry. Cars have multiplied, which has contributed to the infamous air pollution known as PM 2.5. In Beijing, lung cancer patients have increased by 60% in the last decade.                                                                                                As ASEAN countries flourish, an increasing number of citizens have cars, which results in heavy traffic congestion and air pollution.                                                                                        India is also rapidly developing. In the capital, New Deli, PM 2.5 is 3 times thicker than in China.                                                                                                Japan has not yet developed improvements in cycling infrastructure. I believe that main streets should be fully equipped with modern bike lanes.                                                                                      The laws and regulations have not been modernized either. Cyclists are allowed to wade their way on the roadway and the sidewalk. A high-school cyclist whizzed by on the sidewalk and killed an old woman.                                                                                      I don’t believe that cycling on the sidewalk should be prohibited in all cases. For example, mothers with small children in safety seats and seniors use bicycles to run errands. They should cycle on the pavement, not the road. On the sidewalk, I believe, the speed should be limited to 8 km/hour, double the speed of walking.                                                                                      Motorized bicycles are popular among seniors. Such bicycles stop motoring over 25 km/hour. However, for cycling, 25 km/h is too speedy. In my opinion, the motoring should be limited to 10 km/h.                                                                                      Whether one should be obliged to wear a helmet is debatable. It is pointed out in Europe that requiring cyclists to wear a helmet may discourage people from cycling. In fact, there are ladies in Japan who hate wearing a helmet because they don’t want messy hair. And, slow cyclists on the sidewalk don’t have to wear a helmet. Hence, for the time being, wearing a helmet should be recommended, but not required by law.                                                                                      In Japan, social expenditure has been increasing. We can expect cycling to improve public health and curb medical costs. The Japanese government should develop improvements and regulations to promote cycling.                                

Immigration vs. Automation

  As the Japanese economy has been recovering, the employment situation has been improving. Moreover, many industries, such as construction and nursing, suffer from labor shortages, and are demanding immigration to supply the needed workers. However, I’m dead set against such an easy solution because, in the not-too-distant future, a labor surplus will emerge as automation and computerization progress.                                                  In the 1980s. Japanese carmakers started deploying robots on their assembly lines. Since then, huge strides have been made in automation. There is already an android that provides customer service at the front of a hotel.                                                 The average age of Japanese farmers has already surpassed 65 years old. Agriculture is a sector that seriously needs automation. In fact, robots are now planting rice and picking strawberries. In my opinion, large corporations should be allowed to develop mass-scale farming with automation to supply farm produce at more reasonable prices to compete against cheap imported foods.                                                                                              As Japan’s population ages, robots are expected to play a crucial role in healthcare and nursing. Like it or not, robots are going to take on more tasks in various fields.                                                                                                    In 2013, researchers at Oxford University forecast that 47% of the jobs in the U.S. would be automated by 2033. The study showed that computerization would probably elbow out paralegals, administrative staff, telemarketers and a whole host of other white-collar workers.                                                                                      Robots will perform more non-routine jobs in the future. They might undertake a growing variety of tasks that require the ability to interact with humans, solve problems, and even show creativity.                                                                                We cannot stop progress. Automation increases efficiency, undertakes unpopular tasks, and improves our lives.                                                                                         I assume that, in the near future, few blue-collar workers will be employed, regular workers will be greatly reduced, and growing number of customer service positions will be replaced by robots. Japan doesn’t need immigrants for such jobs.                   

A National Referendum in Japan

  After World war 2, irresponsibility became prevalent in Japan. Most Japanese misunderstand that freedom and responsibility are intertwined.                                                                           The United Kingdom decided to leave the EU by national referendum. I presume that the U.K. will decline not only economically but also in terms of political clout. Still, I'm all for referendums. Citizens should decide important matters by themselves. The results reflect the will of people.                                      Article 96 of the Japanese Constitution requires a two-third supermajority in both the Upper House and the Lower House to hold a national referendum for a constitution revision. Hence, the referendum has never been conducted for 70 years since the constitution was enforced in 1947.                                  The ruling coalition, composed of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komei Party, won a sweeping victory in the Upper House election on July 10th. Still, the coalition could not acquire a two-third majority. However, there are other conservative parties:the Osaka Restoration Association and the Party for Japanese Kokoro. If the ruling coalition ties up with both of them, a two-third supermajority can most likely be achieved in the Upper House. And, in the Lower House, the ruling coalition already has over two-third majority. There is a reasonable chance that a national referendum will be held for the first time.                                    Changing Article 9 has been the sole controversial item for decades. However, regarding constitution revision, there are other more recent items.                                   A hot topic is same-sex marriage. Article 24 stipulates that a marriage can be formed based ONLY on an agreement of BOTH sexes. When the constitution was drafted, there wasn't such a concept as same-sex marriage. And, since then, the constitution has never revised. Thus, under the present constitution, same-sex marriage cannot be permitted in Japan.                                   Some environmentalists insist that environmental rights should be articulated in the constitution. Such a right also emerged after the constitution was enacted.                                   Some feminists demand the right of self-determination to allow abortion. And, some claim death with dignity.                                    Personally, I'm deadset against abortion because it is a kind of murder. Still, I'm not opposed to the debate itself. Article 21 guarantees freedom of speech. Even if the content of the speech is inexcusable or illegal, any opinion should be allowed to be expressed.                                     Prior to a referendum, the details on the issues and their results should be fully explained to the citizens. And, enough time should be given so that voters can come to a clear decision. In this sense, the British referendum was fast and sloppy.                                    Once a referendum is held, whatever the result should be followed. Citizens should exercise their voting rights responsibly. With freedom comes responsibility.                                

Democracy vs. Aristocracy

  18-or-19-year-old citizens are now able to vote for the Upper House elections on July 10th. In reality, however, the majority of young people are indifferent to politics. Not only in Japan but also globally, politicians are hated because of their corrupt nature. I believe this is the root of the youth’s apathy to politics.                                                                         Tokyo prefectural governor Yoichi Masuzoe, accused of using government money for personal use and other fraudulent acts, resigned on June 20th. Mr. Masuzoe is superbly smart, but he is from a poor family. It might be inevitable that he is corrupt in terms of money. I believe this is one of the reasons Donald Trump is popular. He is so wealthy that he won’t feel the impulse to misappropriate public money.                                              In ancient Greece, aristocrats volunteered to be engaged in politics for nothing. Because they were above the frey, they had no motivation for embezzlement or bribes.                                                                 On the other hand, the upper-class don’t know average people’s lives.                                           There are the Upper House and the Lower House in Japan. The Upper House stems from the House of Peers since the Meiji era. In my opinion, we should reform the Upper House to something like “House of Lords” whose members are engaged in politics for no monetary gain.                                        Mr. Miki Watanabe, the founder of major food service chain, is already acting as a Diet member. Mr. Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder of Internet giant Rakuten, seems interested in politics. Mr. Kazuo Inamori, the founder of the Kyocera Group, is respected not only in Japan but also in China. Different from politicians, there are patriotic and respectable persons in the business world. I believe that they will gladly contribute to Japan for nothing.                                                                         It is said, “ If a politician loses an election, he will be an ordinary man.” I don’ agree with it Most politicians are living on salaries from our taxes. When they lose an election, they are jobless. Such people are inevitably corrupt.                                                                    

The Upper House Election

  The Upper House election will take place on July 10th. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is aiming at securing a two-third supermajority in order to revise the Japanese Constitution. However, half of Japanese citizens currently want to maintain the present constitution. Still, the U.S. presidential election might sway public sentiment.                                      69 years have passed without any revision to the Japanese Constitution since it came into force in 1947. According to a survey conducted by Nikkei Shimbun and TV Tokyo from April 29th through May 1st, 50% of 991 respondents stated that they wanted to maintain the present constitution as it is. Last year, the number of citizens who wanted to maintain the present constitution (44%) outnumbered advocates for revision (42%) for the first time. And, this year, those who want to leave the constitution alone reached as high as 50%.                                           Based on age brackets, the majority of respondents in their thirties, forties and fifties desired to revise the constitution. On the other hand, not only those in their sixties and seventies but also those from 18 years through twenties want to maintain the present constitution as it is.                       On May 4th, the U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump expressed his opinion that Japan should pay for all the cost of the U.S. forces deployed in Japan, or the U.S. would withdraw the U.S. forces. Japan disburses yearly 190 billion yen (about 1.9 billion dollars) while the total cost allocated in 2016 is 5.5 billion dollars. Japan already pays for nearly 35% of the cost.                         I hope that the U.S. forces will gradually withdraw form Japan meanwhile Japan should reinforce its military forces. I believe that Japan should become a normal country that can defend its citizens and territory by itself.                                                For the time being, Prime minister Abe should soften his stance on the revision of the constitution. The trend might change drastically after the next U.S. president is elected.                                 

A Casino in Japan


 Japan logged a current account surplus of 8,183.5 billion
yen in the first half of the year, recovering to the
pre-3.11-quake level. Still, Japanユs public debt surpasses 200% of its GDP. Some insist that Japan should construct a casino in order to generate tax revenue. I'm definitely opposed to such an idea.

 Macao was repatriated to China in 1999. As the sole legitimate gambling locality in China, Macao is now the most lucrative gambling zone in the world. Casinos account for nearly 50% of Macao's GDP.

 Due to the influx of Chinese money, however, the housing prices soared. Obviously, the local residents objected. Over 20,000 citizens demonstrated in May 2014, even though the total population of Macao is only about 600,000,

 In addition, Chinese President Xi Jingping, adopted the anti-corruption policy, which devastated the casinos. The Chinese leader urged Macao to diversify its economy for sustainable growth.

 Other places have had problems with casinos as well. Laosユ per-capita GDP is only 1,480 USD. Its economy totally depends on China. In 2003, Beton was designated as a special economic zone for casinos and commercial enterprises. The rural village prospered with nearly 10,000 migrants from China.

 However, its public safety suddenly deteriorated. Murders were frequent. In 2011, the Laos government abolished casinos. Then, Chinese-financed hotels and businesses withdrew. The isolated village soon fell into ruin.

 On the other hand, South Koreans accept casinos despite the social problems. In 2000, South Korea constructed its sole casino for its citizens in Sabuk, Kangwon-do. Subuk had been a successful coal-mining town in the1970s. However, as the coal mines declined, its population decreased from 140,000 to 40,000. The financially strapped city promoted whatever measures it could to generate income.

 The managing company of casinos now employs 3,600 employees, most of whom are local residents. Including its ancillary businesses, the casinos generated 6,000 jobs. 6 to 8 million citizens visit the casinos every year. Reportedly, 70 to 80% of the local revenue is derived from casino visitors.

 Among several deleterious effects, the casinos incurred rampant gambling addiction. Many citizens, including doctors, teachers, and public servants, had their lives destroyed by gambling addiction. And, the atmosphere of corruption caused the local authorities to relocate an elementary school in the area. Nevertheless, the local residents accept the casinos because of jobs and tax revenue.

 I'm deadset against constructing a casino in Japan. Public safety is far more important than money. Japan already has a pachinko problem. We don't need more trouble. If gambling addiction spreads among Japanese, Japan will be ruined.



How to Raise the Birth Rate


 I believe that Japan's population should be at least cut in half. Japan has a population of 126 million. This is more than 3 times that of California (38 million) even though Japan (377,972 km2) is smaller than California (over 400,000 km2). In addition, 67% of Japan's land is covered by forests. Californians claim that California is over-crowded. Therefore, Japan's population should be less than California's, or at most around 50 million in my opinion.

 However, I can understand that many Japanese worry about the survival of the social welfare system. They are concerned about Japan's low birth rate which leads to population decline. And, they focus on increasing the number of nurseries. Japan's birth rate is 1.4. If they rally hope to raise the birth rate, Japan should follow the example of France, only whose birth rate is exceeds 2.0 among developing countries.

 France offers a monthly child benefit of 500 euros (about 542 USD) to families with 2 or more children. If the mother works part-time, they receive 350 euros. Owing to the benefit,
France's birth rate has improved since 1995. Norway, Finland, and Denmark introduced similar benefits.

 In addition, France offers a family allowance and an infant allowance. A family with 2 or more children is given 31,000 euros (about 33,583 USD) every 2 years. What is more, 80% of them (limited by their income) accept about 8,000 euros until the child becomes 3 years old. Thus, in France, mothers can stay with their children at home.

 On the contrary, Japan is preparing nurseries so that mother can work. In Tokyo, however, nurseries cost 190,000 yen (about 1,583 USD) per month per child. A maternity leave allowance is far more economical.

 And, in France, taxes are based on the household income divided by the number of family members (first 2 children are counted as 0.5 person each). Therefore, the more children they have, the less their taxes become. The Japanese government should reconsider its tax system if it plans to raise the birth rate.

 The percentage of GDP devoted to benefit for families is only 0.75%, nearly as low as the U.S.'s (0.7), while France's is 3.02%, the U.K.'s is 2.93%, and Sweeden's is 3.54%.

 Owing to Abenomics, Japan's economy has revitalized, and employment opportunities are improving. Nevertheless, the number of welfare recipients has not decreased. I hope that the Abe Cabinet reconsiders the way it uses our taxes.


The Favorable Wind for Japan's Economy


 Kyoto was chosen as the best travel destination by the American magazine 'Travel and Leisure' in 2014 and 2015 consecutively. An increasing number of travelers visit Japan, stimulating Japan's economy.

 From January to June, 9.13 million foreigners visited Japan, an increase of 46% compared to the previous period last year. Chinese travelers almost doubled to 2.17 million, Koreans increased by 43%, and Taiwanese, 29%. Japan's Department of Tourism anticipates the number will total 18 million by the end of this year, from 13.41 million in 2014. Japan's GDP is expected to get a boost of some 4 trillion yen (about 32.5 billion USD).

 Despite the China's economic recession, hordes of Chinese have been visiting Japan to shop. Expensive brand name goods are selling well. On the 22nd, a huge cruiser entered the Port of Sakaiminato in Tottori Prefecture, and its 3,200 Chinese passengers went shopping on 90 or so buses.

 The primary destination for foreign travelers in Japan used to be mainly Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, which is called a 'golden triangle', or Mt. Fuji. As visitors returned, however, their destinations diversified. Many anime fans visit the scenes of famous anime. In Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the Japanese stationmaster mascot cat 'Tama' was incredibly popular. Many foreigners visited the rural station in Wakayama Prefecture to see the celebrity cat. (Unfortunately, she passed away last month at the age of 16) A variety of foreign travelers visit various destinations in Japan.

 The weak yen not only attracts travelers from overseas but also discourages Japanese citizens from traveling abroad. In fact, the number of Japanese who traveled abroad during the first half of this year decreased by 4.9%. Japanese travelers are shifting their destinations from oversea to domestic sites. It also stimulates the Japanese economy.

 At hotels in Tokyo, the occupancy rate was 86.3%, and in Osaka, the rate was 89.8%. Generally, when the rate of occupancy surpasses 85%, the quality of service tends to deteriorate due to a labor shortage.

 I hope that this trend triggers hotels to hire more staff. The employment situation will further improve.



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