Noriko Hama
For Noriko Hama's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Feb 22, 2014
Return of shunto is hollow triumph for unions
Shunto is in full swing. Or so it should be. Or so they say. Shunto is the Japanese word for the annual spring round of wage negotiations conducted between big business and trade unions. This "spring offensive" used to feature large in the annual economic calendar. As the deflationary 1990s and beyond set in, this offensive became an offensive no more. Faced with the prospect of corporate bankruptcies and accompanying job losses, labor unions rapidly lost their teeth.
Jan 25, 2014
In Davos, gripping kabuki with little substance
Afriend asks via email: "Did you see the video of Abe in Davos?"
Dec 21, 2013
It's business as usual 'back in the USSR'
Paul McCartney was in Japan some weeks ago. Having spent a totally Beatlemaniac four years of my pre-teen existence in the U.K., it was nice to see the erstwhile Beatle in such good form.
Nov 30, 2013
The secret of keeping official secrets secret
"He that would keep a secret must keep it secret that he hath a secret to keep," says Sir Humphrey Appleby, permanent secretary to the Department of Administrative Affairs, a fictitious branch of the British government. He is one of the main characters in the highly acclaimed 1980s BBC television series "Yes Minister" and its equally phenomenal sequel, "Yes Prime Minister." Sir Humphrey's axiom would surely be readily shared by current real-life Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he bulldozes his bill for the protection of special official secrets through parliament.
Oct 6, 2013
Abe should consult father of economics for sage advice on sales tax
Three guesses on who said the following.
Sep 1, 2013
Pax No Man's Land needs more than Fed's tapering to smooth things over
U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke hints at policy change. He is looking for an exit from quantitative easing whereby he has been buying financial assets to the order of $85 billion per month since the end of last year. He has emphasized the exit shall be a "tapering" procedure — no abrupt moves, no jumping on the brakes. Everything will be nice and gradual. Believe me. You really won't see me go. I shall just fade away.
Japan Times
Jul 21, 2013
Beware your heroes and heed the lesson of stargazer Galileo Galilei
A scene from "The Life of Galilei" seems to encapsulate the dilemma Japan faces as it gropes for new leadership.
Japan Times
Jun 24, 2013
Abe's rhetoric reveals a growth strategy aimed at global conquest
The greatly hyped "third arrow" of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic plans has fallen spectacularly by the wayside. The stock prices on which Abe & Co. had staked their all began falling even as he was explaining his economic strategy in a speech.
May 20, 2013
Utility, ubiquity playing key roles in corrupting policymakers' thinking
Two mind-sets seem to be catching on in Japan these days. They worry me. One is the notion that something has to be useful to be of value. The other is that anything is justifiable on the grounds that everybody else is doing it.
Japan Times
Apr 8, 2013
Team Abe's grand plan leaves ghosts in charge of a haunted house
As I observe Team Abe in action at the helm of the Bank of Japan and elsewhere, a rather terrifying passage from a poem by William Hughes Mearns comes to mind:
Mar 18, 2013
Sir Norman's hat and the baldfaced policies of the Bank of Japan
A new executive team is about to take office at the Bank of Japan, but at least two of the incoming members will be wearing hats somewhat different than those doffed by employees of the central bank: The initials on their head gear will spell ABE instead of BOJ.
Feb 4, 2013
Abe's 15-month reversal budget fudges cost of swapping people and butter for concrete and guns
The government of Shinzo Abe has just unveiled its budget for fiscal 2013 starting in April. Abe's stated intention was to “radically reset” spending priorities.
Dec 24, 2012
Rip van Winkle returns to government with trade war on his mind
Japan is about to get a new government and it's just like old times. Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe, who is set to become prime minister, again sounds as if he has been spending his time out of office back in the 1960s.
Oct 22, 2012
No nation can afford to act like an island in Asia's globalized age
Japan is having trouble keeping up a cordial relationship with its next door neighbors. Long dormant territorial disputes have suddenly come to the fore. Who owns what from when and why? Who can claim legal ownership? Who is in actual control? Arcane issues have suddenly become hot topics of the moment between Japan and China as well as South Korea over tiny bits of land mass in the seas.
Japan Times
Oct 12, 2012
A pair in dire need of a reality check
Japan is hosting an annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for the first time since 1964. A lot has happened in the intervening very nearly half a century — to both Japan and the IMF. Yet both Japan and the IMF do not quite seem to realize just how much has happened to them over those years.
May 14, 2012
Atomic exit deserves warm welcome in land of nuclear apprentices
As of May 6, Japan became a nuclear power-free zone. All of the nuclear plants throughout the country are offline, either as a result of last year's Fukushima disaster or routine maintenance. The government and electric power companies are hoping to see them back in action soon, but public sentiment remains strongly skeptical.
Apr 23, 2012
Consumption tax fiasco magnified by absence of financial fundamentals
To paraphrase Winston Churchill's all too famous words at the time of the Battle of Britain: "Never in the field of economic policy has so little been achieved by so many hours wasted by so many lawmakers." The outcome of the debate over Japan's consumption tax would surely extract a quote to surpass all Churchillian quotes in its acerbity were he here to witness it.
Mar 26, 2012
Diversity, inclusiveness should be the key words for Japan after March 11
March will forever be a month to remember in Japan. Already a year has gone by since that awful 11th of March when the world erupted in all sorts of ways around us. Given all the terrible things that happened then and continue to haunt us now, what are the values that we need to hold most dear? What kind of mindset do we need to maintain so that we do not return unquestioningly back to the old ways of doing things — the same ways that lie under some of the crucial man-made problems that followed the natural disasters that hit us just over a year ago.
Feb 27, 2012
Fiscally hobbled Japan nears multiple-currency era: Is yen's demise nigh?
For a single-currency area to be sustainable, one of two conditions needs to be met. One, sufficient economic convergence throughout the area in question. Two, a transfer mechanism to offset whatever economic divergences exist in the area. The eurozone currently meets neither of these conditions. Thus the eurozone's days look numbered. Couldn't be simpler. End of story.
Dec 26, 2011
Brace for the year of the dragon, when all shall be revealed
In the Sino-Japanese cycle of annual zodiac signs, the year 2012 will be the year of the dragon. 2011 was the year of the hare. How quickly it is jumping away.


Later this month, author Shogo Imamura will open Honmaru, a bookstore that allows other businesses to rent its shelves. It's part of a wave of ideas Japanese booksellers are trying to compete with online spaces.
The story isn't over for Japan's bookstores