This week on Deep Dive, Alex K.T. Martin noticed a dip in the national caloric intake and it turns out that a graying population that is increasingly single has something to do with why Japan is gradually downsizing dinner.
On this episode:
- Downsizing dinner: Aging Japan is eating less (Alex K.T. Martin, The Japan Times)
- Inside Japan’s oldest village (Alex K.T. Martin, The Japan Times)
- Work forever: Japan’s seniors brace for life without retirement (Alex K.T. Martin, The Japan Times)
- Boom in ‘pet guardianship’ amid rise in elderly and singles (Kyodo)
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Transcript note: Deep Dive is made to be listened to, and we recommend this transcript be used as an accompaniment to the episode. This transcript has been generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcription, and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the episode.
Shaun McKenna 00:09
Welcome to Deep Dive from The Japan Times, I'm Shaun McKenna. It's not breaking news that Japan is an aging society. We've done several podcast episodes in which we talk about the graying population. What is new are some of the unforeseen angles on it. So how does an aging society affect rural towns, politics or health care, say. Today we're looking at how food consumption is being affected as the nation gets older, and my colleague Alex K.T. Martin is here to talk with us about the opportunities that businesses are jumping on to cater to this new reality — and some of the problems that Japanese society faces as a result.
First of all, apologies if you hear some congestion on my part, I'm just getting over a cold. Alex, can you tell us who Setsuko Yoshizumi is?
Alex Martin 01:02
Sure. She was a woman I spoke to recently. She's 83 years old. She loves to cook, and she lives in Yamagata Prefecture with her husband. She told me he's a bit of a picky eater, but that doesn't stop her from cooking three meals a day for the both of them.
Shaun McKenna 01:16
OK, so she's like the typical Japanese obaachan.
Alex Martin 01:19
Right. This summer. However, her husband broke his leg and he had to be hospitalized and he's still in a rehab center.
Shaun McKenna 01:25
Oh, no, sorry to hear that.
Alex Martin 01:27
He is recovering and Yoshizumi-san visits him quite often, but his absence has really disrupted her routine.
Shaun McKenna 01:34
In what way?
Alex Martin 01:35
I mean, she says she has to go out to the center to see him frequently, so she's traveling more. And, also, remember the summer it was really hot? It was actually the most hottest summer Japan has ever experienced, I think, so that's very taxing for an 83-year-old lady. All things combined, I think she sort of lost the appetite or energy to sort of cook meals for herself.
Shaun McKenna 01:55
OK, so sticking to this kind of like routine of cooking three times a day, that's out of the picture now.
Alex Martin 02:00
That's correct. She told me that she “can't eat an entire cabbage on her own.” However, she did tell me that while she's not able to cook as much as she wants to, she's also resorted to relying on these retort pouch meals you get at convenience stores and supermarkets.
Shaun McKenna 02:15
OK, so retort pouch meals, these are the things that you take when you go camping, right?
Alex Martin 02:20
Yeah, or maybe the army. They’re in these silver plastic pouches, I guess. And they contain, you know, curries, stews, maybe Chinese stir fry dishes and other ready-to-eat meals, and you put them in a pot of boiling water for five minutes or three minutes, or the microwave. And they're done. Nice and simple. She also eats pre-cut packaged vegetables, you might have seen them selling in supermarkets and convenience stores, and health-conscious bento box lunches. It's all ready-to-eat kind of stuff and servings for one.
Shaun McKenna 02:49
Actually, I always thought that Japan was abundant in these kinds of single-serving, ready-to-eat meals because people work late and you know, they can't afford to put the time into cooking.
Alex Martin 03:00
Yeah, well, they were always popular among young salarymen, for example, who maybe didn't ever learn to cook because they were spoiled by their mothers. Just joking. I think statistically, a lot of Japanese men cook now.
Shaun McKenna 03:12
The modern Japanese man is more of a cook.
Alex Martin 03:15
I think so at least.
Shaun McKenna 03:16
Anyway, the meal preparation infrastructure is there. And so I'm guessing that you know, someone like Yoshizumi-san can just take advantage of that.
Alex Martin 03:25
Right. And actually, that's created this new important demographic, older people who maybe aren't able to cook in the same way they used to relying on these ready-to-eat meals, this in the country with the world's oldest population. Along with that there are also a growing number of one-person households, so demand for nutritious single serving meals is soaring. However, Japan's overall caloric energy intake is decreasing. I'm really interested in how the older population of Japan is changing the country in many ways in many socio economic ways. And that's how I discovered that caloric intake statistic. So the overall average per capita intake of the population, this is basically the amount of calories you consume per day. This slipped slightly from 1,911 calories in 2007 to 1,907 calories in 2017. That's a small dip, right? It's like, almost non-existent. And by the way, this is from the agricultural ministry. However, what's more interesting is the ministry has this organization called the Policy Research Institute. And they believe that the figure could fall to around 1,648 calories per day by 2050. So that's a pretty significant drop. And for comparison, the average intake for countries like the United States, Canada and some countries in Europe is often above 3,000 calories per day. This also has to do with diet, but I'm more focused on the fact that Japan's intake is on the decline.
Shaun McKenna 04:54
Right. OK. So you wrote about this in a piece titled, “Downsizing dinner,” and you're saying that because of this changing demographic. So the older increasingly single, Japan as a whole is consuming less food.
Alex Martin 05:07
Right. And these demographic changes are affecting everything from businesses who are trying to offer smaller options when it comes to meals to grocery stores needing to go mobile, because a lot of these elderly shoppers are in areas that are losing population right in the countryside. And therefore supermarkets are moving out of the towns they live in. So they're, you know, they're losing access to daily necessities. And there's a lot of knock-on effects, you know, revolving around this. And older consumers in general they’re just playing a big part in the decisions that businesses are making right now. Last month, the government released a report saying that the number of people aged 80 and over, for the first time, surpassed 10% of the population,
Shaun McKenna 05:46
Right, so to put that another way, 1 in 10 people in Japan is 80 or over.
Alex Martin 05:51
Yes. And those that are 65 and older, which is how we define “elderly” in Japan, is 29.1%, and that's another record high. And I'm gonna go nuts on statistics here just for a second, just to drive home the fact that Japan has an aging nation, last year the number of newborns in Japan fell below 800,000, for the first time since record keeping began in 1899. While the number of deaths also hit a record high.
Shaun McKenna 06:15
So this aging population is a considerable reason for the decrease in food consumption.
Alex Martin 06:20
Right, and when you think about it, it's a natural phenomenon, right? I mean, if the portion of the elderly increases in your population, naturally, they're not going to be eating as much as your average 20-something. So this is a phenomenon. I mean, it's happening in Japan, but it’s happening in other countries that are seeing, you know, long-term population decline. And there's a market research firm called Intage, and they recently released a report, they phrase it like this: “As the population declines, so too will the number of stomachs to fill. People also tend to eat less as they get older, meaning we can expect the market related to food and beverages to shrink as a nation grays.”
Shaun McKenna 07:05
So Alex, you decided to look into this trend towards shrinking portions and that leads you to the most Japanese of fast food franchises: Domino's Pizza.
Alex Martin 07:16
Well, you haven't had Japanese food until you've had a potato pizza or the Hokkaido three-cheese special.
Shaun McKenna 07:22
But seriously, where does Domino's come into all this?
Alex Martin 07:24
Well, Domino's is actually Japan's largest pizza delivery chain. There are others like Pizza Hut or Pizza-la, and other smaller ones, but in terms of market share, they're the largest. And in February of this year, they introduced a small seven-inch pizza with two side dishes for a pretty reasonable price. I think it was a little bit like ¥1,000 or ¥1,200, depending on what combo you ordered. And pizza is typically the kind of meal you share among family and friends, right?
Shaun McKenna 07:51
Yeah, I associate it with parties and, like, stress eating if we're being honest.
Alex Martin 07:56
Yeah. Or in my case, maybe after a night out drinking pretty heavily, I go for like an entire pizza. Then I’ll feel really bad. But anyway, it is healthier, obviously, right? That you don't order one of those big, high-calorie pizzas, you want a smaller pizza that is focused towards a single consumer. And Domino's strategy is deliberate in that sense. I spoke to the CEO, Martin Steenks, and he told me that the single consumer is a demographic that isn't just growing in Japan, but it's growing all over the world. He also said that his team took some inspiration from the Japanese bento, you know those bento boxes because they're made for one person. So why not create a pizza bento in effect?
Shaun McKenna 08:35
That makes sense. I mean, I remember personal pan pizzas from back in Canada, but I haven't really seen them in Japan, I guess.
Alex Martin 08:42
Yeah, um, but the concept is doing quite well. I heard that more than 2 million orders have been made, have been placed as of July 15. And they're also offering pizza rice bowls and pizza sandwiches. And he's also target single consumers or more accurately, I should say consumers looking for a single-serving meal. So they've got the strategy down, they know what they're doing, and Steenks told me that now they're focused on trying to find new ways to connect with the older customer. He said that many of those who are 65 or older, they mostly come into the physical stores at lunch, so they don't use the app. So that's their next challenge.
Shaun McKenna 09:15
Right. So that's how we're seeing this graying, increasingly single demographic trend play out at one fast food joint. But we can't eat out all the time, right?
Alex Martin 09:25
No, so the change in servings is more apparently at your local supermarket, and then this is where the emphasis on health comes in. You often hear about how the Japanese are really healthy, right? They're healthy eaters, and that's down to a concept, a word called “washoku,” which literally means Japanese food. So that means these meals are high in protein and nutrients but low in sugar and calories, and the catch is that they're often pretty time consuming to prepare, they take a lot of work. I spoke to Yuji Oura, who is a professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and he's an expert on eating behaviors of consumers, and he said that the healthiest the collective Japanese diet ever was, was in 1980. That's when this thing called the PFC balance was at its most ideal.
Shaun McKenna 10:08
OK, so what does PFC stand for?
Alex Martin 10:11
Protein, fat and carbohydrates. And the ideal balance apparently is 15% protein, 25% fat and 60% carbs, Oura-san also noted that 1980 was also around the time the Japanese food became trendy overseas, there was the big Japanese food boom. And this is about the time that really started exploding.
Shaun McKenna 10:31
Yeah, that's kind of like a status symbol for like those rich yuppies who would work on Wall Street. So if you imagine the women with the big shoulder pads and the guys in suits with slicked back hair, like it's totally ’80s image.
Alex Martin 10:44
Right. I hope some of our listeners can relate to that, the younger ones, but we’ll see. Anyway, so after the asset price bubble burst in the early 1990s, the economy tanked and Japanese families started looking for cheaper and easy-to-prepare alternatives. So dinners began to rely more on meat, fried foods with less rice and veggies. And that probably had, you know, was the reason behind an uptick in calories consumed. But as those people are aging now, they're wanting to eat more nutritionally again, older says people today are more informed about what they're eating their most more health-conscious and they have less time to cook. So the kinds of ready-to-eat foods that older Japanese people like Yoshizumi-san are consuming are healthier and in line with the recommended serving sizes.
Shaun McKenna 11:27
So when you're strolling the aisles of the supermarket, I guess you're more likely to see these kinds of healthier, single-serving foods, right?
Alex Martin 11:34
Right. Well, supermarkets and convenience stores, I should say. So a Japanese supermarket's commercial sphere in urban settings — this is not in the countryside — this typically covers a 1-kilometer radius, apparently. This is according to Oura-san, the professor, so it stocks with shelves accordingly, right. So what most supermarkets are seeing as a result of this increase in single-person households is smaller packages of goods — such as meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, you know, whatever. You also see these packaged salads that I think Yoshizumi-san likes to eat, these come in small packages of sliced cabbage or some daikon, you just add some dressing on it at your home, and you have a small salad for yourself. And I think these options are more pronounced in convenience stores, if you go into them, you see these really small size, the sort of hors d'oeuvres, perhaps like, you know, sliced octopus and broccoli marinated in some sauce?
Shaun McKenna 12:28
Yeah, it's not like, yeah, it's not a traditional salad. It's more like a vegetable side.
Alex Martin 12:33
Right. They're all sort of like, you know, the very small portion. And essentially, they're for consumers who come in, maybe they buy a small salad, maybe they'll buy like, you know, a package of gyoza, maybe like a small sort of rice dish, and they can just take it back home and stick it in a microwave and they have like, a decent dinner, right?
Shaun McKenna 12:48
Yeah, I'll tend to like buy some of those when I'm in a pinch as well, especially if I've been working late on this podcast.
Alex Martin 12:55
Right. And we can discuss this later, but the catch is that, you know, these small portions aren't that cheap.
Shaun McKenna 13:00
Right, so let's put a pin in that. But you mentioned this earlier that more people in Japan are now living on their own, yeah?
Alex Martin 13:07
Yes, there's a surge in single-person households. And behind that, you know, there's various phenomena responsible for this trend. For example, the number of marriages in Japan is also falling, the number of newborns falling. So you know, once you get old, a lot of couples, one of them dies off. I think, statistically, women tend to live longer than men, and this is the same in Japan. So a lot of the cases you'll have, you know, old couples losing their partner, and they're on their own. So all combined, this is, you know, a huge phenomenon, like a single-person household phenomenon that's really all over Japan right now. And according to stats, 30% of all food expenditures by 2035 will come down to one-person households. And also the ratio of households headed by a person of the age 65 or older is also likely to top 40% by the same year.
Shaun McKenna 14:03
So there's also this recent trend towards shrinkflation. So as companies decrease the amount of, say, you buy a bag of potato chips, and the actual, you know, amount of potato chips in the bag is less, but they keep the bag at the same price — that's what inflation is. In this case, it seems like the servings are getting smaller, but to bring it back to prices, are the prices staying the same? Are they going down or?
Alex Martin 14:27
So, I'm sure you've noticed, you know, if you walk into your local supermarket or your convenience store or grocery store, whatever, that they're getting expensive, right? Individual items are getting expensive. That's because of inflation. At the same time, portions are getting smaller. So we have string inflation and inflation happening at the same time. And this probably is due for another totally different podcast, but the problem is the Japanese wage, or wages in Japan, hasn't been increasing. So what you're seeing is, you know, you're getting paid the same amount, but the prices are going up and you're getting less. So this is a major problem that I think the government is somehow trying to address. So now imagine you're over the age of 65 and on a fixed pension, that's not going to go up. You're in a pretty dire situation.
Shaun McKenna 15:18
Alex, just before the break, we were getting into this new type of approach by Domino's and likely other restaurants as well as companies in the food industry that are reacting to a shrinking aging population that is increasingly single. I think we're conveying this to our listeners largely as a possible business opportunity. But what are the challenges that are being posed? Maybe not even in terms of business, but societal issues connected to it?
Alex Martin 15:45
Well, if you're living in a city like Tokyo, Osaka, even smaller cities, you're going to have access to supermarkets and convenience stores, obviously, and convenience stores in Japan or sometimes like mini-supermarkets. But if you're living in the countryside, which many elderly people do, then you're facing the additional problem of depopulation, as younger people move to bigger cities. That means supermarkets and convenience stores will be opening fewer stores in your town or village, and so what do you do? You maybe you can drive to another town to do your shopping, ask your son or daughter to do your shopping for you. But the thing is, you know, older people, if they're living on their own, those kinds of options are limited. They're less likely to drive. A lot of folks now return their driving licenses after they reach a certain age so that they don't have accidents and things like that. So Japan has a growing issue of people who are unable to access the daily necessities that they need. And in the piece that I wrote, or we call those people shopping refugees, that's kaimono nanmin in Japanese. Professor Oura said that because of Japan's traditionally patriarchal values, many men who are older than 65, they never learn how to cook for themselves properly. And he said that he has spoken to some men who were surviving on a piece of bread or, you know, one cup ramen per day.
Shaun McKenna 17:01
Have there been any initiatives to try and address that problem?
Alex Martin 17:05
Yeah, I spoke to Noami Ogawa. She's a PR rep of Tokushimaru, which is a subsidiary of the Tokyo-based vegetable delivery service called Oisix Ra Daichi. This company Tokushimaru, they now operate over 1100 kei-trucks, kei-trucks are those smaller trucks, in all 47 prefectures of Japan, and the typical truck will serve around 150 customers by dropping by their homes maybe three times a week.
Shaun McKenna 17:31
That sounds like, kind of, many of the delivery services that sprung up during the pandemic, though, right?
Alex Martin 17:36
Yeah, but not quite. There are food services where you place an order for the week, and then someone comes and delivers it to you for sure. I've done those myself. However, some of the older people in need of the service may have forgotten to place an order for the week, or by the time they received the food, they need something different. Or you know, there are bento services, like healthy bento services, but Ogaw-san told me, you know, some old people just get bored of the same taste. So Tokushimaru is a pretty interesting business. It's a franchise model. So each the operator or the owner of each kei-truck is a franchisee. They team up with the local supermarket in their neighborhood or town or region that they want to operate in, and before they launch their business, though, they spend about two months. They go around each household in the area that they want to operate and they ask about family structures. For example, whether there's an old person in the family or if it's like a single person household, and Tokushimaru’s business model is primarily catered toward the older people.
Shaun McKenna 18:36
So they're basically doing customer research.
Alex Martin 18:39
Exactly, yeah. And they look for people who want frequent delivery services, typically three times a week, because it is a business, the owners need to make some money too obviously, and they get paid by royalties from the supermarket they team up with. So after they do that, they typically gather around 150 clients, as I mentioned before, and they make deliveries around three times a week. And it's basically, imagine like a small truck filled with maybe around 400 items from grocery or supermarket, like vegetables, fresh fruits, meat, milk, eggs, snacks, whatnot, and they come around your houses and you go shopping.
Shaun Mckenna 19:16
Right, so it's like a grocery pop up.
Alex Martin 19:19
Right. And it's important because according to Ogawa-san, the PR rep of Tokushimaru, she said that, yeah, it's so easy to order stuff now, you can almost buy anything online, right, Even fresh food and drinks and whatnot, but the actual act of buying something, that's a stimulant. It's stimulating to actually go and pick your own food and what you want to buy. And this is what they can offer. So they can just come by, right in front of your doorstep and old people can come out and they can choose for themselves what they want to buy.
Shaun McKenna 19:47
So if you feel like you know, I feel like an apple right now then you know that this truck is gonna come by and then you can kind of satisfy that craving, you don't really plan in advance.
Alex Martin 19:55
Exactly.It's more sort of a sense of freedom, I think, for the consumer, right? And interestingly, the demand isn't just limited to the residents of the countryside. This is sort of a relatively old stat, but according to the agriculture ministry in 2015, there were over 8 million people whose homes were over 500 meters away from a grocery store or a supermarket or convenience store, who didn't own or could not drive a car. But among these people 60% lived in urban areas. So Ogawa-san told me Tokushimaru actually operates in Shinjuku, which as you know, is a very densely populated area, and catering to these old folks who, let's say there's a supermarket 100 meters away from his or her apartment, they don't have the energy to actually make the trip across the street, perhaps buying things and bring it back to their home. So Tokushimaru would just ride up to their doorstep, maybe park the car by the curb, and have them come out. It's only like five meters from their entrance or something.
Shaun McKenna 20:57
OK, so I mean, Shinjuku is actually a very urban, packed like, you know, very dense neighborhood. So you're saying that, what, the cars or the trucks park outside of the buildings, and they do come down from their apartments to do the shopping?
Alex Martin 21:13
That’s correct. And, and I heard that, you know, so that's a franchise business, so I think each owner operates on their own style, right? So I hear some people are, you know, they’re kind and they would actually bring the groceries up to their clients home, if she or he or she is having a very hard time, you know, bringing them up or holding them up. And I think this is, you know, I was listening to this thing about Tokushimaru and how they're actually operating more and more in the cities, and I feel like, you know, this might be one phenomenon that we're gonna see expanding even more in the coming years. I mean, at some point, the old population demographic is going to pick out, this is going to be in the next few decades or so. But until then, the ratio is going to continue to expand, right? And even though there are supermarkets and convenience stores everywhere in the city, there are going to be people who are not even able to make that trip. So perhaps this kind of like you know, door-to-door sort of supermarket business could be something that we'll be seeing more of in the future.
Shaun McKenna 22:10
Right. I have a question. So if I'm walking down the street in Shinjuku, and I see one of these kei-trucks selling food, can I just go up to it and buy something?
Alex Martin 22:20
Yes. It's basically just a moving supermarket, and they do choose their items based on their clientele. However, you can just go up and if you want, I don't know, a carton of milk or you can buy one. However, you have to remember that it's slightly more expensive than the retail price at supermarkets. I think on average about ¥20 because they're making the extra step to deliver them in front of people's homes. So the final challenge in terms of Japanese society with this demographic is the single household element. The government put out a paper in 2018 that said around 11% of respondents were eating on their own almost every day, while another 4.3% said they were eating alone four-to-five days a week. Combined, those numbers are up about 5% from 2011.
Shaun McKenna 23:03
I'm sure the pandemic didn't help with that either, right?
Alex Martin 23:07
No, not likely. So I spoke to an associate professor at Osaka University, Ayumi Kimura, and she is looking less at the nutritional intake of the elderly in Japan and more on the frequency of eating to see if she can get a sense as to how it affects overall health and old age. She said that what people eat isn't the only factor in food health, but with whom they eat
Shaun McKenna 23:29
Right. So I'm guessing that it might be better to eat in groups?
Alex Martin 23:32
Yeah. And I think it's a no brainer. Obviously, you know, rather than staring at your TV every day and eating on your own, it's probably better to actually share a meal with someone else. But the biggest issue among the elderly in Japan is that, and it's been making use in the U.S. as well, I think recently, is social isolation and loneliness. And a number of health issues have been connected to that, including poor nutrition, cardiovascular disease, reduced cognition, poor mental health, and even Alzheimer's.
Shaun McKenna 24:01
Right. So what exactly does eating alone entail? So you had mentioned TV before? But you know, do you get some kind of benefit from that? Or could you conceivably eat with people online? Maybe?
Alex Martin 24:13
Remember, we had these Zoom drinking parties during the pandemic? And how did it feel
Shaun McKenna 24:18
I didn't like them.
Alex Martin 24:20
OK, well, I liked them for the first two or three times, then I sort of got bored. So, Kimura-san and her group, they tried an experiment, where she got around four older women who all usually eat dinner alone, and connected them on the messaging app Line. And she encouraged them to post photos of their meals to each other, and the woman would sort of all interact and send emoji hearts and compliment each other's meals and sort of, you know, have a nice sort of homey chat group.
Shaun McKenna 24:46
Right. So this is like the old posting photos of our meals thing. I mean, I like I'd really love it if social media could go back to those days, consider what we have now. But did the Line experiment work? Did the women feel less lonely?
Alex Martin 24:59
To a certain extent, yes. Kimura-san says that while the texts were able to alleviate some of the loneliness that people were feeling, she's still worried about the decline in the oral functions that may come with not being able to discuss your day over dinner. Like moving your mouth is really important. I mean, not just eating food, but the fact that we're actually having a conversation like right now, producing language, we use all sorts of muscles in the house and you know, elsewhere in our face and whatnot. I'm not an expert. I'm just sort of speculating here. But apparently having a conversation and talking to people on a regular basis, it's really important to sort of keep your oral functions intact, especially for older people.
Shaun McKenna 25:37
Right. So I guess discussing your day over dinner is the way to go. OK, that's something to chew on. Alex. Thanks for coming on. Deep Dive.
Alex Martin 25:44
Shaun McKenna 25:50
Thanks again to Alex for coming on this week's show. He's covered Japan's aging population a lot this year, so for more of his work, take a look at the links in the show notes. Elsewhere in the news, while we were away on our two-week break, Hamas launched a devastating attack on parts of Israel on Oct. 7, which led to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring war on the group and launching retaliatory strikes. According to reports on the crisis at the time of our recording, the death toll from the fighting has surpassed 4,000 people on both sides, with thousands more missing, displaced and injured. Here's what's happening on the Japan side so far. Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa told her Israeli counterpart on Oct. 12 that the “terror attacks” by Hamas cannot be justified for any reason, and that Tokyo resolutely condemns the conduct. On Friday the 13th, the respective ambassadors of Israel and Palestine to Japan held back-to-back news conferences at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, detailing a bloody week of war. Speaking on the attacks, Ambassador Gilad Cohen of Israel said, “This is for us our 9/11,” while Palestinian envoy Waleed Siam characterized the retaliation from Israel into Gaza as “a genocide of the 21st century.” A flight chartered by the Japanese government evacuating eight Japanese nationals from Israel arrived in Dubai on Saturday, while a separate South Korean military flight ferrying 51 Japanese citizens from Israel arrived in South Korea. That same day, a Japanese Self-Defense Forces aircraft was sent to its base in Djibouti to prepare for the possibility of airlifting additional Japanese nationals from the region. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Kamikawa said she had asked her Iranian counterpart to quote, “play a role in defusing the conflict,” during a phone conversation a day prior. She also told a news conference earlier in the day that Japan will provide $10 million, about ¥1.5 billion, in aid for civilians in the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip to deal with the humanitarian crisis. For more of our coverage on the Israel-Hamas war and on Japan’s response, please visit japantimes.co.jp. Deep Dive is produced by Dave Cortez. Our outgoing track is by Oscar Boyd and our theme music is by Japanese musician LLLL. I'm Shaun McKenna, podtsukaresama.