Tag Archives: Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Japan and China and the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute witnesses a quiet America

Japan and China and the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute witnesses a quiet America      

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States under President Obama is at pains to distance itself from the ongoing and never ending saga of Senkaku/Diaoyu. Japan and China continue to clash over this issue and Taiwan is also waiting in the wings because this nation also claims the same area. However, with respect to Taiwan, it is the clash between Japan and China which appears more problematic.

Japan and America already have differences over military bases in Okinawa. Also, for the indigenous people of Okinawa, then they perceive that their interests have been sidelined by both Japan and America. After all, a sizeable amount of American forces are based in Okinawa. Despite this, on the whole relations between Japan and America are positive because both governments have mutual shared interests throughout the region.

However, the issue over Senkaku/Diaoyu is clearly an unwanted problem in Washington. This reality means that the Obama administration is at pains to keep a neutral stance. Therefore, political elites in Washington are at pains to reduce the tension between Japan and China. This fact is based on history whereby many conflicts have emerged over minor issues which have been blown up by one side, or by both protagonists because of hidden motives related to issues at home.

Kenichiro Sasae, future ambassador to Washington later this month, told the Asahi Shimbun that “The U.S. government has made it clear that the islands are covered by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty…Its stance cannot be neutral if it is to respond firmly in the event of use of force or provocation.”

This statement by Kenichiro Sasae may be technically correct but not in its entire usage. If Japan was seen to be the party responsible, then clearly America will make their decision on this and other important issues. America can’t give carte blanche to any under-handed policies emanating from Tokyo. This isn’t implying that Japan is to blame for the current state of affairs between Japan and China over the disputed territory. Yet clearly America can ill afford to get involved with a limited war with China over an issue which can’t be sold back home.

Kenichiro Sasae also claims that the purchase of Senkaku/Diaoyu by the Japanese government was the best solution. He states this because Governor Shintaro Ishihara had stated that the metropolitan government of Tokyo would try to purchase the disputed area. Yet, while it is factual that Shintaro Ishihara shares nationalist tendencies, it also seems inconceivable that this couldn’t have been blocked by the legal system of Japan. In this sense, political leaders in Beijing “smell a rat” and irrespective if this is false, it does appear rather strange that such a tame excuse is being provided.

Kenichiro Sasae further comments that “It is important to recognize afresh each other’s role as allies in the changing global and Asian landscape and make a new Japan-U.S. relationship a starting point to cope with challenges together.” This comment is reasonable and applies to all partners internationally which have shared interests. However, the hands of America are tied when it comes to many international issues because no single power can dictate their respective geopolitical objectives.

America and other nations began to meddle in Afghanistan to a much larger extent from 1980 and this entailed many failed policies which initially favored Islamist terrorism and indoctrination. Over 30 years later and Afghanistan remains a failed state whereby opium continues to be sold and where terrorist attacks occur daily. Likewise, Iraq is still in crisis because of terrorism which followed the meddling of America and other nations and now Syria is being destabilized. On top of this, Libya is now a failed state and the chaos from this country is impacting on northern Mali. Maybe Kenichiro Sasae needs to focus on this reality and the growing influence of the Russian Federation, China, BRICS and other nations and organizations.

In another article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that In Japan you have nationalism within the thinking of the two local leaders in Tokyo and Osaka respectively. However, Shintaro Ishihara and Toru Hashimoto are out of step with the majority of Japanese nationals. Their political winning tickets are based on having strong personalities, being focused on business and expressing their thinking openly. Therefore, the current images of nationalists in China attacking things which are connected with Japan seem a million miles away to what is happening in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe and other leading cities in Japan.”

“The dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu is not in the interest of both nations but China’s overreaction is raising alarm bells. After all, many Japanese companies have invested in China and clearly it must be unsettling for Japanese nationals residing in this nation and doing business openly under the current conditions. Equally alarming, is that China appears to believe that it can bully Japan into submission by using “the nationalist switch” when deemed convenient.”

“Not all the blame can be put on China. After all, the status quo was not perfect but once Japan bought part of the area and nationalized Senkaku/Diaoyu by stealth; then clearly China was not going to ignore this. However, instead of going through the political channels and addressing things more appropriately, the nationalist angle created a very negative image.”

It is clear that Japan and China have made mistakes once more when it comes to this disputed area. After all, it matters not that Japan made the first error of judgment because the responses aren’t warranted by the tactics employed by political elites in Beijing. The dispute also highlights the decreasing power mechanisms of America and that the alliance between Japan and America isn’t so tight. At no point is Beijing overtly concerned about the role of America over this dispute because political leaders understand that America can ill afford another military conflict. This is based on the recent disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq following on from the distant legacies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

In this sense, America may trigger an increasing right-wing movement in Japan based on contradictory forces. One, that American bases and policies are an affront to Japan’s independence and secondly that Washington can’t protect Japan when it comes to important territorial disputes with China, the Russian Federation, South Korea and Taiwan respectively. Ironically, it is these two contradictory forces which Tokyo should be worried about and the same applies to America. After all, at the moment it does appear that Japan is on its own when it comes to the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute. Therefore, the mutual agreements between Japan and America may be “a paper tiger” when it comes to the territorial interests of Japan?


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Ari TV is the Voice of Sendai: Responding to the tragedy of the tsunami by being tenacious

Ari TV is the Voice of Sendai: Responding to the tragedy of the tsunami by being tenacious

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ari TV ( is a clear reminder about the tenacity of the Tohoku region which was badly hit by the devastating tsunami of March 11, 2011. Therefore, with the first anniversary getting nearer to March 11, 2012, it is important to highlight this media group for all the positive things that they have done.

Since the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake which unleashed the brutal tsunami, this media group dug deep in order to undercover the “real stories.” This applies to highlighting the determination of the Tohoku region and how the people of Sendai have responded.

Also, because Ari TV is based in Sendai then clearly this media group can connect with local people. More important, unlike many mass media outlets who often enter and highlight an important story which is happening in Sendai, Ari TV is their around the clock. This fact enables Ari TV to express the “real feelings” of the local community and clearly strong bonds have been developed whereby this media group is informed at all times about local events, individuals who are fantastic role models, companies who are focused on regeneration, and organizations trying to help.

Ari TV ( also understood the international concerns after the devastating tsunami. Therefore, the introduction of the Tohoku Revival Calendar which is highlighted above was a nice touch because you can read continuous updates in English and Japanese. This aspect also highlights rebirth because clearly Ari TV is developing new international links.

It is equally vital that Ari TV is supported commercially because you have so much work to do in Sendai and throughout the Tohoku region. After all, sadly, you still have thousands of missing people in early 2012 and this aspect highlights the complete devastation of March 11, 2011. This also means that the nightmare goes on for many because you have no “closure” and “special grave” to visit and connect.

Therefore, it is essential that the local government, the central government, local businesses, businesses throughout Japan, and others, support Ari TV and all the positive work they do around the clock. After all, Ari TV can reach “local people” because this media group is fully interwoven with Sendai and the Tohoku region. Also, Sendai is the main city in Tohoku with regards to population and a healthy Sendai is vital for the regional economy.

In the photo above which was published on March 2, 2012, Ari TV is highlighting the regeneration of a shopping mall. However, unlike the glitzy areas of modern day Japan the brutal reality of the tsunami is visible in this image. Yet despite the clear limitations currently available to this shopping mall and having to move into housed shopping containers; locals don’t view the same image because to them this is a sign of rebirth and the start of a long process to normality.

Takano from Ari TV comments that “The big revival shopping area “South Sanriku SanSan Mall” opened in South Sanriku town, Miyagi, on February 25th. These shops are temporarily housed in shipping containers. The name comes from the people’s desire to make a mall filled with smiles and energy (which is) bright like the shining sun.”

In an early article by Modern Tokyo Times the “Suzuki Farm Harvest” was highlighted and this applies to the tenaciousness of Mr. Suzuki (photo above). He fully understood that salt water had damaged the fields and it appeared impossible to regenerate in such a short period of time, if at all. However, Mr. Suzuki was adamant that he would overcome all the obstacles in front of him and this set of a chain reaction whereby local people gave him the support he needed.

This moving story is one of many by Ari TV and this is why this media group needs support. After all, Ari TV is part of the community that they represent and because they are based “on the ground,” then they can highlight unique events.

Please support Ari TV by watching their many programs in Japanese providing you are a Japanese speaker. Also, if you main language is English or it is your second language then please view the Tohoku Revival CalendarIrrespective of language, Ari TV can build bridges throughout the local community and wider Tohoku region and also internationally. Therefore, Ari TV is “the voice of Sendai.” Tohoku Revival Calendar – English Version Ari TV – Please contact for more information.!/re_tohoku_en – Please contact for more information Tohoku Revival Calendar – Japanese version


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Osaka power base to rise under Toru Hashimoto: anti-Osaka comments?

Osaka power base to rise under Toru Hashimoto: anti-Osaka comments?

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In an interesting but baffling article by Kevin Rafferty which was published in The Japan Times called “Political Earthquake in Osaka,” the focus was on the need to worry about Tokyo.  Rather strange because the nation of Japan is not solely based in Tokyo and it is vital that other major areas like Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Yokohama, Kobe, and so forth, focus on restructuring in order to galvanize regional economies.

In the Kansai region you have huge potential when you combine Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, and other parts of this dynamic part of Japan. This applies to finance, manufacturing, heavy industry, tourism, retail, culture, art, information technology, research and development, and many other important areas. On top of this is the enormous potential of the workforce and the vibrancy and diversity of the entire region.

Osaka is the economic powerhouse and the closeness to Kobe means that collectively you have huge potential to attract internal investments and international finance. Therefore, it is essential that major cities like Osaka “wake up” and move forward by focusing on new dynamics which will not only galvanize Osaka but the entire region.

Kevin Rafferty states that “My worry is that Tokyo, and particularly the political and bureaucratic establishment, does not comprehend the tectonic forces working underground.” However, the “my” seems rather powerful but more important why does the author want to maintain the status quo and the language appears to be based on the manipulation of language. This applies to “tectonic forces working underground.”

Toru Hashimoto and Osaka leaders have no ill intention towards Japan let alone Tokyo but new dynamics are needed in many parts of this nation. The central forces in Tokyo seem distant and are making it harder for regions to become self-controlling.

Kevin Rafferty clearly enjoys using emotional language given the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. However, maybe he isn’t aware that other prefectures were used in order to feed Tokyo and this is part of the problem with Fukushima. This applies to a distant powerbase which utilizes the resources, environment, workforce, and so forth, of smaller prefectures. Therefore, while TEPCO, which is based in Tokyo, plans to add more radiation to the sea in Fukushima little attention is being given to local fisherman and the fisheries sector in areas hit by the ongoing crisis.

Of course it isn’t only Tokyo which does this because the cold facts are that many major cities utilize smaller regions in a host of nations because smaller regions need fresh capital. However, unlike Germany, for example, Japan is heavily focused on Tokyo and political elites often ignore other parts of Japan.

Many leaders in Okinawa are fed-up with the government of Japan which is based in Tokyo because senior politicians aren’t listening to local people. Also, surely it is in the interest of Hokkaido to look into developing special economic zones with other cities outside of Japan like Vladivostok – the same applies to a special tax on the transportation of oil and gas. After all, many regional areas in Japan need to focus on restructuring because Tokyo keeps on growing at the expense of other major cities. Therefore, given the economic malaise of the past few decades and the “political magic roundabout” in Tokyo, whereby political leaders resign regularly, it is difficult to comprehend the positives of the center over the whole of Japan.

Hashimoto understands all this and he also knows the potential of the Kansai area and how regional economic initiatives could galvanize a powerful region in Japan. Also, it is positive that the traditional political establishment was defeated because it needs to wake up from its long slumber. Or maybe Kevin Rafferty prefers the Liberal Democratic Party and Democratic Party of Japan (many leading figures were members of the Liberal Democratic Party) alongside factionalism to maintain inertia?

Rafferty states that “The election was the start, not the end” and that it could “spark a dangerous squabble between the two biggest regions of Japan that could weaken Tokyo’s ascendancy and the whole country.” Again, note the need to protect Tokyo and why would the rejuvenation of Osaka and the Kansai region threaten the whole country?

This is alarmism to an extreme because Hashimoto wants to see “a new Japan” based on dynamism, economic innovation, attracting new foreign capital, utilizing mega regional zones, and creating a Japan which is focused on its geopolitical reality. At no time does Hashimoto and regional leaders desire to implement policies which are negative for Japan. On the contrary, something needs to change and major cities like Osaka and Nagoya need to find new ways to compete internally and internationally.

The rest of the article is even more confusing by Rafferty because it is tinged with negatives towards Hashimoto but understanding that he also makes sense. However, other striking negatives were given based on anti-Osaka statements or mass generalizations.

For example Rafferty comments that “Local lore has it that a cultured person goes to school in Kyoto, works in Osaka and lives in Kobe, the main city of Hyogo.” Rather than focusing on childish comments it is factual that many people work in Tokyo but reside in Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama. It is also factual that many people who work in London reside in Surrey, Kent and other counties.

Also, Rafferty then takes a jibe at Kansai International Airport by stating that “Anyone who has to use expensive, distant Kansai airport with its slow immigration and suspicious customs officials would wish instead that Itami became a second expanding Haneda.” Again, this appears rather childish and one of the co-writers of this article must have passed through this airport at least ten times and had no problems whatsoever. More important, immigration officials are individuals irrespective of what nation or city they are based in and the vast majority are positive but some maybe over-zealous in any given airport.

The fact remains that you have approximately 20 million people based in the Kansai region and it makes sense to create a powerful area which can compete internally and internationally. All politicians, like people, will have shortcomings and maybe Hashimoto is or isn’t the right person to create a new vibrant engine in Japan – only time will tell.

However, a powerful Osaka metropolis would boost the regional economy and increase the visibility of this city in the international arena. Also, at no time would this endanger “the whole country” even if it would challenge“Tokyo’s ascendancy.”

In the final paragraph Rafferty comments that “Populist politics would be a dangerous game that Hashimoto might be tempted to play if frustrated. It could unleash a tsunami of popular discontent on Japan’s political process.” Again, this seems alarmist to an extreme because the leader of Tokyo is a populist who often espouses strong comments. However, local people on the whole appear to support Shintaro Ishihara because he keeps on getting re-elected. Therefore, if Ishihara couldn’t threaten the status quo it is abundantly clear that many constraints would be put on Hashimoto.

Overall, Hashimoto and other regional leaders who support him desire to create a new vibrant mega-region which can compete openly against Tokyo and other major cities throughout the world. Therefore, the rise of Hashimoto in Osaka is based on him connecting with the majority of people in this important city. However, the next step will be the hardest and this applies to creating a dynamic Osaka metropolis and a Kansai region which works together in order to create a new powerful engine in Japan. Article by Kevin Rafferty – The Japan Times – Osaka information Invest Osaka Osaka business news


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LinkedIn is now using the Japanese language and a base in Tokyo

LinkedIn is now using the Japanese language and a base in Tokyo

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

LinkedIn Corp. is hoping to further expand in Asia and after first entering this continent in 2009 by focusing on English speaking areas, this is set to change for Japan because now the service is available in Japanese. The head person of LinkedIn’s operations in Asia is Arvind Rajan and he clearly believes that you have huge potential in Japan despite cultural barriers.

The growth rate at LinkedIn remains buoyant but this company is in no rush to enter new markets. Therefore, the decision was well thought about before deciding to move into Japan and creating a service in Japanese.

Not surprisingly, the office of LinkedIn is based in Tokyo but in all fairness Osaka is also a mega-city and the region which encompasses Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka is a huge economic powerbase.  However, Tokyo was chosen and this follows on from opening a base in Singapore earlier in the year.

In many ways while LinkedIn is hoping for a breakthrough in Japan, the company is also going to utilize the ups and downs of this new venture. Therefore, when further international expansion begins it is believed that much will be learnt from the experience in Japan.

This is debatable because the Japanese market is unique and clearly if everything goes smoothly then it won’t be a problem. However, if things don’t pan-out so well then this may be related to the business thinking, close ties between companies, how individuals feel about being more open with information and Japanese workers, on the whole, stay longer at companies.

Therefore, it will be fascinating to see how LinkedIn does in Japan. After all, Nokia and Motorola found out the hard way that the market in Japan is very complex. Indeed, Apple struggled until the advanced 3DS system turned things around.  Also, Google is still playing catch-up in Japan and it isn’t only in the land of the rising sun because in Taiwan Google is even further behind Yahoo.

Currently the membership of LinkedIn is approximately 120 million and around 20 million members are based in Asia. Obviously, LinkedIn focused on nations like Australia and India because of the English language and this is what makes the new venture so fascinating.

This applies to linguistic issues, knowledge of LinkedIn in Japan amongst internet users, marketing and a host of other factors. Also, will LinkedIn work closely with another Japanese company in a field which will enhance the profile of LinkedIn and open up new doors?  

Arvind Rajan commented that “As we think about the region as a whole, we see tremendous opportunities for growth” and “Our penetration levels in Asia, except for those English-speaking countries, are still relatively low.” He also said that “We know that if we build a successful membership in Japan, we’ll have companies, we’ll have advertisers using LinkedIn.”

This approach is very level-headed and LinkedIn isn’t focused on revenue initially because more important is building up the membership.

Obviously different cultural factors will make it difficult at first with regards to developing the membership. However, LinkedIn is certainly entering a new market with the knowledge of this complexity. Also, because of no added pressure related to generating capital then all the right attention will be focused on weak areas.


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Japan seeks greater transparency about the banking issue in Europe

Japan seeks greater transparency about the banking issue in Europe

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The government of Japan continues to be more outspoken under Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda when it comes to international relations, geopolitics, and economic issues.  Therefore, the Finance Minister Jun Azumi once more urged leaders in Europe to be transparent about the banking sector. This was in relation to the sovereign debt crisis and other issues connected with the ongoing financial situation.

After a working dinner for finance ministers from the Group of 20 the Japanese representative spoke frankly to reporters. Azumi commented that “If Europe needs worldwide support, even after doing what it can in addition to revealing sufficient information (about banks), then it might lead us (Japan) to consider.”

It is clear that Azumi is offering support to the European Union providing certain conditions are met which will enable Japan to increase its financial holdings in Europe. Capital injection and stability is needed in order to calm markets but for the last few months it is clear that every step forward was met with another step backward.

More alarming, the banking crisis in Europe appears to be spreading and nations like Greece are in crisis.  Japan, despite its own debt issue is still a nation with huge reserves and with massive financial holdings. Therefore, in recent months the government of Japan appears to be stepping up its priorities and this especially applies since Noda took office.

However, it is a continuation of the past leader of Japan, Naoto Kan, who was equally worried. Therefore, earlier in the year Japan stepped in and bought more Eurobonds but the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, meant that more urgent issues were needed to be met at home.

Recently, despite the high yen, it appears that the government of Japan is feeling more confident and Noda is clearly concerned about internal debt issues in Japan and the international financial malaise which is ongoing.

Masaaki Shirakawa, the Governor of the Bank of Japan, also weighed in and made it clear that Japan had great experience in this area because of serious problems in the late 1990s.  Shirakawa stated that “It is necessary to correctly determine assets of financial institutions and have them raise capital by themselves if they run short of it…If (the institutions) still need more capital, then it requires capital injection.”

The approach from Japan is that Europe must try to grasp the situation and galvanize the financial sector by internal mechanisms. However, providing these internal mechanisms are based on a sound footing then Japan will purchase rescue bonds which will help the Eurozone.

Under Kan Japan stepped in by buying bonds to help Ireland and Portugal in January and June. This financial support by the Kan government was considerable because the total purchase of European Financial Stability Facility bonds accounted for approximately 20 per cent. Therefore, the Democratic Party of Japan is clearly concerned about events in Europe and the new leader Noda is determined to provide support after internal mechanisms are installed by European leaders.

In a past article by the Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Japan also knows that the European market and American market are very important for Japanese companies and it appears that the government is thinking about the long-term.  Therefore, providing a feasible plan is put on the table the government of Japan will help Greece which is in dire straits at the moment.”

“Japan’s economic system is far from perfect but it somehow keeps on ticking and the reserves of the nation are a blessing.  However, while America sits on its feet and does little to ease global pressure, the government of Japan is willing to help the European Union providing plans have a firm foundation.”

Azumi also commented about this issue the week before and stated that “If there is a scheme that is based on a firm process, involves a reasonable amount of money and could provide the world and markets with a sense of security regarding a Greek bailout, I would not rule out the possibility of Japan sharing some of the burden.”

Japan is letting it be known that support will be forthcoming and that the political leadership is fully aware about the seriousness of the crisis.  


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Japan: manufacturers optimistic internally but fear external issues

Japan: manufacturers optimistic internally but fear external issues

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

If you want to study about the uniqueness of Japanese capitalism and how companies respond to enormous adverse conditions, then the Tankan survey by the Bank of Japan will make you fully aware. After all, the devastation caused by March 11 and the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant would have caused most nations to bow down to mass uncertainty.  However, welcome to corporate Japan where the response may seem slow but once the juggernaut starts, then it eats into the crisis and returns to normal.

Let us also remember that unemployment in America remains within the 9% range to just below 10% despite enormous debt borrowing and having no internal devastating consequences to face.  Also, remember, that the dollar is very weak and should be helping exporters but in Japan the opposite is happening because the yen is too strong and causing many problems.

However, unemployment in Japan is falling despite all these negatives to below 4.5% and it is Japan and not America which is trying to help the European Union and crisis hit Greece.  This applies to buying more Eurobonds and making it fully aware that Japan will step in and help Greece providing a sound economic policy is put on the table.

Also, Japan, which maintains a relatively “quietist policy” is racked by huge debt issues itself but the reserves of Japan remain to be enormous. Therefore, Japan’s unique brand of corporate capitalism can maintain low unemployment and keep on ticking despite the so-called missing decades when small growth to stagnation hindered the economy.

Would unemployment be below 5% in America, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, or in any other major developed nation, if small growth to stagnation had been part and parcel of the last twenty years? 

The recent survey by the Bank of Japan which announced the results of the Tankan findings stipulate confidence. Therefore, manufacturers are expecting the rebound to continue internally but the main worry is external issues which could endanger current optimism.

Supply chains and Japanese mechanisms have once more responded quickly to the events of March 11. In all likelihood, companies will have developed a better infrastructure because now they know how to respond to adverse conditions.

Takuji Okubo who works for Societe Generale stated positively to the BBC that “Manufacturers are planning a sizeable output expansion in the next few months, so we expect conditions to improve even further.”

It is reported that capital expenditure will be down from expected forecasts but much of this is based on external issues.  This applies to high unemployment and increasing debt issues in America, a slumbering European Union, the high value of the Yen, the Greek crisis, and other external related issues.

Hideo Kumano, Daiichi Life Research Institute, commented that “If you look carefully, you can see the heavy burden of a higher yen, and their profits are under pressure.”

All in all, it is clear that Japan is faced with enormous problems and currently it is the external factor which is causing alarm bells. Therefore, despite all the devastation of March 11 corporate Japan unblocked all the cogs and manufacturing is at similar levels before this date. 

Japan may never see the Golden Years of the 1960s and early 1970s when economic growth was staggeringly high. However, the foundations of Japan were cemented in this period and despite countless tribulations Japan keeps on ticking.


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