Late last week, I attended one of the most interesting, scholarly events that highlighted a region and a country that has been in the news lately. No, I am not talking about Egypt or Syria, but Japan. The event was held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think-tank facility located in DuPont Circle in Washington D.C. It was an all day symposium called, “Japan in 2014: A Look at the Year Ahead.” It featured two main keynote speakers and two distinctive panels. This is very significant because, Japan is heading into a different direction, compared to about a decade ago. There are many reasons why this may be occurring; PM Shinzo Abe working aggressively to recover from hyperinflation and the increase in tourism and businesses relocating to the land of the rising sun. This year, the Japanese Legislature as known as, the National Diet, has one busy schedule. The agenda mentioned at the event was quite remarkable compared to what the U.S. Congress wants to do in one year. I am going to highlight a few issues on the agenda which Japan wants solved by the end of 2014. Furthermore, I will discuss why these issues matter a great deal to the people of Japan and why you should be concerned.
The summer Olympics in 2020 will showcase Japan; meaning more business for Japan in terms of tourism, hospitality, and food. Japan wants to show the world that they mean business and the Diet is creating ways to get rid of the high taxes imposed on businesses that relocate to Japan. Also, the PM wants to create more competition by bringing more aggressive business’s to Japan and alienating the weaker ones. He basically wants to eliminate excess capacity to bring new industries into Japan. This is in relation of what is an upcoming debate about the tax rates.
The tax reform debate is huge in Japan, especially in 2014, since Abe and the Diet are proposing to have an increase in the consumption tax from 5% to 8% in April. In 2015, the rate will increase from 8% to 10%. Sure, this creates money for the government, but will the public support this or will more opposition parties and citizens protest in defiance of this new plan? This tax plan can effect even how the household operates and will further drive how Japan operates by overworking people and into human “machines.” One lady I interacted from the Narita airport when I visited the nation said that, “Japanese people are overworked and prices are too high, that is why many young Japanese are leaving.”
Men may be the foundation of the house, but women operate the household. PM Abe wants women to be influential in the Japanese workplace. He is proposing by the year 2020 for 30% of the leadership positions and 1/3 of the government officials to be held by women. Only problem is the culture of Japan is quite different than the United States. In the U.S. women can take a maternity leave and would still be employed by the company and her position would not be lost. In Japan, there is a THREE year maternity leave and if a woman is working before pregnancy and wants to return after her baby is born, her position is more likely already filled and she is left unemployed. Instead, they would put her at another position that may be significantly lower. Keep in mind, the culture of Japan is a male dominated society and most women work in the advertising industry or jobs that are labeled as unskilled labor. Another factor is the long working hours. In Japan, men typically work about 14-16 hours per day. In return, they are exhausted when they get home and have very limited time to spend time with their children or family. That is why honor is so important to the family. Therefore, the job to raise the child and take care of the house lies with the Japanese woman. Therefore, how can a Japanese woman work and also have to take care of the child? That leads women to stay at home while men work 14 to 16 hours a day. I am not making this up or over exaggerating these working hours. I had several Japanese professionals tell me they are over worked and cannot spend any time with their family. According to Fiji Networks, more than 60% of women quit their job or never return after the first baby, even after graduating from the university. These are heartbreaking numbers, but they are not made up.
All in all, Abenonimcs according to many analysts is working for Japan, but only time will tell and also it depends on whose point of view you are referring to.
2. Military and self defense– Let’s face it, the Japanese military is getting stronger and China does not like this. Refer to my previous blog post on a more detailed analysis on this topic. I will say that PM Abe wants to reform the self defense act. However, if Japan were to have a right to self defense, (I believe countries do have a right to self defense if the means are justified), then what stops Japan from attacking China, even from a small intrusion? Fortunately, PM Abe did promise the U.S. government that the Japanese military will not attack and PM Abe would keep a cool head. Instead, he wants to handle China in a non-hostile way. However, actions speak louder than words, and in my opinion, PM Abe has made tensions worse by provoking China, but so has China by creating an ADIZ too close for Japan’s comfort.
Therefore, the topic of self defense is very important, since it was last updated in 1997. The U.S. wants Japan to work more with them and with the passage of the controversial Secrets Protection Act this dream of working together is becoming a reality. Many Japanese citizens do not like this, since it gives Japan the right to take intelligence information the Japanese government collects and easily share it with the U.S. I see this as very reckless for Japan to decide to share information so easily. The Japanese government could easily justify what information to give out and what it wants to keep secret. It is surprising to decide this even after the whole Edward Snowden breach when he has told the world what the NSA in the U.S. is doing to American citizens and how they are spying. There is nothing controlling what the U.S. wants to do with all this intelligence. Furthermore, there was the creation of the National Security Council in Japan, which allows more joint meetings and military exercises. Also Japan is getting new military capabilities including, but not limited to, missiles and radar systems. This could easily make China and South Korea uneasy, but Japan wants them to have uneasy feelings.
3. China and South Korea relationship- Japan, South Korea, and China may be close in proximity, but they do not all get along. In fact, PM Abe said in his first term as PM that he would not visit the Yasukuni shrine that has a memorial for all the Japanese war heroes (or criminals, depending where you are from). Recently, PM Abe did visit the shrine to pay tribute to many of the other people that were involved in Japanese wars, not the controversial figures like people assume he was paying tributes to. The Sino war is still on the regions mind; even though Japan has repeadtly apologized for its actions towards South Korea and China. This visit has affected South Korea in such a negative way; meetings with officials from both sides are cancelled and will not be held anytime soon.
What do I think? I think eventually relations with China will not get better for a longer time compared to South Korea. The reason why is say this is because of the elephant in the room; North Korea. If North Korea does something in defiance to show their military strength, South Korea and Japan may work together in isolating North Korea, which could makes both countries have improved ties. Remember, North Korea has tested nuclear missiles over Japan and this makes Japan uneasy. Even last year, North Korea purposely tested missiles over Tokyo, creating a radiation cloud over the whole city for its citizens to be exposed to radiation.
There is much more Japan wants to accomplish this year. However, these are the main topics that will be discussed this year in Japan and not only affect Japan, but the rest of the world too. Only time could tell if Japan will become a better country out of all this, or go back to what it used to be; a country that is in rebuilding mode in the post war era and struggling to keep people from leaving this great nation. With a low birthrate and economy still in stagflation, it has a long ways to go.
Single? Married? Which is better? Is the grass really greener on the other side? Can contentment be found in any circumstance? Pastor Bob puts it all into biblical perspective in this fabulous study.
China and Japan, two great countries with rich history, but yet hard to get along. Here is just one example why; the recent ADIZ airzone announced by China that changes the airspace in the region for both military and commercial aircrafts.
China and Japan are two amazing countries in the Asian continent. China and Japan are both big economies and are only growing. The ongoing trouble with China in the Asian region continues. No, it’s not an economic war with the United States, or about more workers from Foxconn committing suicide. Instead, this is about China trying to be the major player in the Asian region by creating an air zone for all types of aircrafts to request special approval from China in order to enter this zone. In defiance, the U.S. shortly after this zone was announced flew two B-52’s in this zone unannounced. Besides the United States being concerned about this special air zone, China is initiating a tit-for-tat like situation directly which effects the island nation of Japan. Ironic thing, Japan and China have always not been on the best of terms; they are like neighbors that can never seem to get along in various ways. The Sino- Japan war with China is a whole history lesson in itself.
China later this year as introduced what is called the China Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Many of you know I imagine have heard about this zone and this zone is only making problems in the region. However, what is an ADIZ? Does it matter and why are the United States and other countries making such a big deal out of it, especially Japan? I am not going to discuss about the Sino War between Japan and China, rather I am going to discus in brief why this at all matters.
First, according to Foreign Affairs an ADIZ is a publicly defined area which extends beyond the national territory of that country which is setting it up. This is where an unidentified aircrafts which are flying in this zone are to be interrogated and may be intercepted to identify them before crossing in this so called “sovereign airspace.” There are many countries- Japan, Norway, Pakistan, S. Korea, UK, and Taiwan- that have ADIZ’s so it is not a new concept. For example, I know that Lake Michigan has certain areas which are deemed no fly zones due to military operations. Sure, you can say there may be benefits to these zones, i.e. transparency, but on the flip side it can create unnecessary tension, even though the Foreign Affairs article states that these zones are not about politics or law. ADIZ zones extend out to international airspace, even by countries maintaining these zones, but it gives that country no rights to control these regions, since this is technically international waters. Yet, in my opinion if one ADIZ zone that extends 400 miles out from the California coast is not respected, you think the U.S. is not going to do anything about it and say it will not partake in protecting the U.S. and the zone? I do not think so; the U.S. will say they have rights to defend this zone. Therefore, having the same basis for argument, China then has a right to set this zone up right? Yes, they do and no they do not.
China is a sovereign country, they have rights too. They are not some country like North Korea that is closed off or a huge threat to the U.S. and the world. Well maybe in economic terms, they could be a threat, but I am going to just stick to one topic. China did not create this zone just for security for their country, but to have greater control in the region. Think for a second, Japan has much closer ties with the U.S. than does China. Japan is a country that holds elections, have more freedoms of the press, and freedom of speech; China is communist controlled nation, limited free press and even free speech minus the Hong Kong region and some reforms the Chinese government is starting. When it comes down to it, U.S. will bail out Japan first before they do China, even though China owns the U.S. in economic terms, i.e. funding wars.
Japan has a reason to be concerned. Just look at the image below, this no fly region can effect commerce between other nations in the region and also where would Japanese citizens safely fish and also send in ships? Sure this is an air defense zone, but do you really think China is also not going to control the waterway with Chinese naval ships? Japan has a right to be concerned also concerning its commercial aviation flight paths that have daily flights to many countries in the region including Hong Kong, South Korea, and yes even China. There has also been a lot of tension when China has flown their military jets very close to southern Japanese islands, scaring its citizens. You can see that there is a lot of concern.
Both China and Japan are increasing their defense budgets. For example, Japan has a one of the most advanced and technological Navy’s besides the U.S. This year alone, Japanese spent more than 4.9 trillion Yen in its military, while China spent close to its “undisclosed” $200 billion. Not only is China catching up to Japan’s technology and military, Japan is also doing joint training with the U.S. Marines and trying to introduce some sort of “defense planners” to protect its outlaying islands of the North and South, which China keeps flying closely to and also performing military maneuvers. Japan even did special surveillance on Chinese forces to make sure they were not in too close proximity of their territories. According to war and intelligence analysts, even if both sides showed restraint, there still will be an invisible conflict present. I for one agree with this assessment.
In my studies of Conflict Resolution, both sides with a neutral party, not the U.S., need to start diplomatic means even if they are indirect talks initially. Yes, the Sino War happened, and other bad things happened on both sides that affected the great citizens of these respected countries, but this is the past. Both sides are not showing restraint. Here is a direct quote from PM Shinzo Abe, “We will express our intention as a state not to tolerate a change in the status quo by force.” This is an example of Japan being forceful through words. China is doing something similar by its new president by increasing its spending in its military and announcing this ADIZ. This will create parities in and out of the region, including the U.S. to be involved in this conflict between China and Japan. In a sense, the U.S. has an extreme interest to be involved in this region and conflict. Yet, the U.S. creates a balance between both sides and its diplomatic ties. In another sense, the U.S. has to be involved because dating back after World War II, the U.S. controls Japan’s military. On the flip side, in terms of economics, China has allowed the U.S. to borrow billions of dollars to fund wars and other means. This allows China to have some control over the U.S. and its actions. If and once these talks happen, it may alleviate some stress and conflict in the region. If no diplomatic talks happen soon, both countries will continue to play this tit-for-tat game for who knows how long. If one side reads the other side wrong, this can exacerbate the conflict. Hopefully, no real conflict will happen, but both countries will continue to make their respective military’s bigger and want to dominate the region through flexing its military power.
Beautiful light show with traditional Christmas carols near Quincy market in downtown Boston. This is the season to be merry – and this show was very awesome and exciting to watch. Big props to Boston for putting it together in such a great area as well to celebrate Christmas in 2013 with the city.
Are monkeys creative?
Imagine a frustrated monkey. It sits and looks at a bowl of colorful fruit just outside its cage. It groans, jumps and makes all sorts of sounds expressing extreme frustration, but to no avail. The door is closed. And that highly desired, colorful bowl of fruit is just beyond its reach.
The monkey remembers that the last time it threw a temper tantrum, the lab assistant came. This is worth trying…
Suddenly, though, the monkey notices one new thing the worker left for it to play with: a simple stick. Kind of boring. But –
Kaboom! What if the stick could help move the bowl closer?
Of course it worked and in no time the monkey was munching on its hard-earned fruit. The monkey’s name was Nueva, and she was a part of an experiment launched back in 1914 by Wolfgang Kohler, German psychologist, aimed at studying chimpanzees for his book Mentality of Apes.
The monkey used a key creativity template, which is called using objects close by to solve problems, argue Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg, the authors of Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results.
The authors demonstrate that we can produce sparks of creativity simply by placing ourselves in a “mental cage.” Once we acquire a useful tool or pattern to solve a problem, we make sure that we memorize it for future re-use.
If we look back at some very successful writers, for example, they use these patterns to make their most successful poems or novels. Remember Shakespeare and his sonnets, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes, to name a few? These patterns helped these authors create something beyond trivial – they set the fire.
Strangely enough, most creative people don’t realize that they’re using templates.
Boyd and Goldenberg share an innovative method to solve problems, which goes from solution to the problem. The method, first discovered by psychologists Ronald Finke, Thomas Ward and Steven Smith, declares that “function follows form.” These psychologists found that people are “better at searching for benefits for given configurations than they are at finding the best configuration for a given benefit.”
Based on this principle, Boyd and Goldenberg argue that one becomes more creative by focusing on “internal aspects of a situation or a problem – and when you constrain your options rather than broadening them.” Thus The Closed World principle “propels you toward the virgin territory of truly creative ideas – ideas that are both original and useful.”
Roni Horowitz, who first published this idea in 2000, spent many years analyzing data on some highly inventive solutions to engineering problems. During his research Horowitz found that these ideas all met the following two criteria:
Is creativity a chaotic nexus of ideas, replications and drive? Do you really need to think outside of the box?
By eliminating resources and going back to basic elements, you are discovering new solutions. Boyd and Goldenberg share multiple cases of creativity from within, from Royal Philips Electronics’ invention of the DVD player to the “Fosbury Flop,” an innovative style of high jumping, and state that the best innovative breakthroughs and creative ideas spark your mind when you are constrained by circumstances, and are forced to use the resources you have in hand.
The authors introduce the method called Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT), which is now widely used by world’s largest corporations.
They believe that by using specific templates you can reach your goals within your box. The technique is based on five templates, including subtraction, division, multiplication, task unification and attribute dependency.
Let’s look at each of them separately:
Subtraction – If you remove an essential part of the existing bestselling product, and begin thinking how you could make it work better, you have your subtraction. This could be iTouch (iPhone minus its calling function), or “ear buds” replacing traditional headphones.
Division – If you divide a particular component from a product and use it separately in a way not initially planned, you will have a successful division technique. For example, exercise dumbbells serve us well.
Multiplication – In this case you will have a component that is modified or copied in a way seems unnecessary. Remember those little wheels on children’s bicycles?
Task Unification – Unify certain tasks previously seen unrelated within one product and you will receive a new, more useful product. How about facial moisturizers with sunscreen?
Attribute Dependency – When two or more attributes previously seen unrelated become correlated with one another. For example, smartphones provide various location-based services. Starbucks nearby, check your Galaxy.
How can you use these templates in your non-profit or business?
Let’s see how we could use these techniques in your work project tomorrow. For every template, you will need to begin with a list. This will be your first step to help assess your product or service’sinternal components. Just like putting pebbles on the sand, you will be able to observe every angle of your product.
The next step is to apply the SIT techniques, by subtracting, dividing, multiplying, unifying tasks, and figuring out mutual dependencies of your product or service.
The final stages for each technique include visualizing a new variant, and asking questions related to product feasibility and market potential for such service.
Below is the essence of each technique, as suggested by Boyd and Goldenberg:
Select an essential component and imagine removing it. There are two ways:
a) full subtraction – the entire component is removed
b) partial subtraction – take one of the features or functions of the component away or diminish it in some way
Divide the product or service in one of three ways:
a) functional (take a component and rearrange its location).
b) physical (cut the product or one of its components along any physical line and rearrange it).
c) preserving (divide the product or service into smaller pieces, with each piece still possessing all the characteristics as a whole).
Select a component and make copies of it.
a) for that component, make a list of its attributes (characteristics that can change).
b) change one of the essential attributes of the copies, but be sure to change it in a non-obvious, counterintuitive way.
Task Unification Technique:
Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:
a) choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already.
b) choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra.
c) choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively stealing the external component’s function.
Attribute Dependency Technique:
1. Make a list of variables.
2. Assign variables to columns and rows. Create a table.
3. Fill in the table based on current market dynamics.
4. Fill in the table based on possible dependencies. Do a reality check: can these dependencies actually exist in the real world?
5. Visualize the new dependency
Now is the most difficult part. You will need to try out these new ideas in your organization. Every time you scream “eureka!” don’t forget to thank the authors of this terrific book.
Ever wonder if the U.S. or Asia has the best railway/ public transportation systems. I will focus on the country of Japan and its rail system.
They say the world goes round. Of course, this is obvious, but literally people travel everyday by different means of transportation. Since 2008 and the election of U.S. President Barack Obama, one topic he has always mentioned in his State of the Union to Congress is the means of spending more money in infrastructure, which includes high speed rail and public transportation. Most major cities in the U.S. have some form of public transportation; bus, rail, subway, and etc. While I have traveled to many cities in the U.S. that have a rail system, the D.C. Metro transit lines are probably the most embarrassing public transportation’s in America today. First, this is the capital of the free world, the richest country in the world, yet they have a rail system that are plagued with delays, out dated train cars, and track that does not connect two major international airports: Washington Dulles and Thurgood Marshall Baltimore International airport. I am going to have a couple posts on public transportation, specifically rail in Asian countries. Today, I will focus on Japan. All of these countries I pick, I will do a comparison on my experiences and also reading I have done. After my analysis on travel by rail in Asia, I will compare it in a later post with another major American cities such as New York, Boston, Seattle, and of course Washington D.C.
When I traveled to Asia, I was amazed of the rail systems; specifically Japan. The country Japan has one of the major companies that serve the whole island nation; JR (Japanese Rail Corporation). JR rail as of 2013 operates 70 railway lines, 1,688 railway stations, and over 7,000 km of rail line it maintains (http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/snapshot/snapshot.asp?ticker=9020:JP). Although, according to Wikipedia and other sources, there are plenty of other companies that serve all of Japan. The JR Company has invested millions dollars, in fact it just won a bid in November 2013 to invest in Bangkok, Thailand. Yes, the JR Company is investing in other countries to improve Thailand’s rail system. Here is the news below:
Marubeni Corp, Toshiba Corp, and East Japan Railway Co Wins $405 Million Railway Project in Bangkok Tokyo
Nov 6 13
Marubeni Corp, Toshiba Corp, and East Japan Railway Co wins $405 million railway project in Bangkok Tokyo. Three Japanese companies announced that they had won a project to install a new passenger railway line in Bangkok, and maintain it for 10 years. Marubeni Corp, Toshiba Corp, and East Japan Railway Co will work togeher on the Purple Line urban railway, a 23-kilometre overhead line connecting Bang Yai, north-west of Bangkok, and Bang Sue, north of the centre. The ¥40 billion ($405 million) project covers 63 railroad cars, supply of equipment for the line and 10 years of maintenance services. The project will be paid for with a yen loan worth ¥79 billion, provided by the Japanese government. Trains are expected to start carrying passengers on the line in 2016. http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/snapshot/snapshot.asp?ticker=9020:JP
However, I have to say to ride JR is a hefty price. To ride any JR rail line you need a Scica card (cute little penguin on the card) which costs you a whopping 2,000 Yen or $20 USD. The actual cost of the card is only 500 Yen, but has 1,500 Yen you can use to travel. Basically, it’s a prepaid card. Traveling on trains in Japan is different too. There are reserved seats or cars you can purchase for an additional cost plus the base fare. There are also cars that Japanese ride after work to do business on. They sometimes set up business meetings or arrange an appointment with an insurance agent. Most Japanese I have witnessed have just rode the standard cars which come with heated seats, clean floors, advertisements everywhere, and people that don’t litter the trains. Also talking on the phone is banned, which surprisingly, people follow these rules. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the U.S. where people constantly talk on the phone on the train, even if they know the call will drop in like 2 seconds of going into a tunnel. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe at the beginning of 2013 has pledged for his country to spend over $100 billion in infrastructure in 15 months. This is very unrealistic, but sounds very like Japan. I say this because the culture of Japan runs how the government of Japan runs, “BUY IN JAPAN, INVEST IN JAPAN, SPEND IN JAPAN.” However, this article from Reuters explains this troubling investment; an ageing population, low birthrate, and unnecessary spending. When I went to Japan, I have to say they have one of the most amazing road systems, but yet have not been upgraded since the post- World War II era. Japan states it wants to improve these roads due to safety concerns such as earthquakes and tsunami’s (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/21/us-japan-construction-idUSBRE91K1BM20130221).
Earthquakes are a daily occurrence in Japan, rather they would be small tremors or large ones, these roads still have with-standed a lot of movement from below the ground. Going back to the original topic of railways in Japan, it is vastly different how trains operate in the Tokyo prefecture area compared to an area that is away from the city, i.e. Mount Fuji. My experience taking the train to Mt. Fuji was an expensive one. Initially, I had to ride the JR rail south of Tokyo for about an hour and a half. Then I had to switch trains to another railway not owned by JR that did not use the Scica cards, but tickets you had to purchase by cash only. Shortly after, I realized there was only one line that goes to and from Mt. Fuji. Where the city limits of Tokyo, each station has at least 5 lines, including a cargo line. Barely, do the trains in the city become delayed, instead JR lines enjoys more than 90% on time arrivals and departures, very high-tech monitors that show when trains arrive and depart, and a safety system that I have not seen like any other city. JR hires employees to stand on the train platform to make sure no one is running before the doors are closing, nothing is caught like bags people before the doors are closed, and during rush hour to pack the trains as much as possible. This is vastly different than the Washington Metro line where you have people running before the doors closed and sometimes get hurt, arguments and fights on the trains, and monitors that are outdated. Washington DC Metro has a lot to learn from Japan, but also PM Abe has to realize Japan is already in a very good position in the world.
My recommendation to PM Abe; this money you want to spend is not foreseeable. It is unrealistic and plainly a waste of money that the Japanese people have to be burden with. However, pouring money into the economy to fix the areas outside the city to upgrade rail lines should be with the standards of the city. People in these villages need to be connected to the globalized world. Sure, it’s fine to live outside the city and be in open spaces and quite spaces, but have limited to access to trains is not the way these Japanese should live. Remember, Japan is the world’s third biggest economy. The economy is still in shambles, but the country is thriving in a sense. The people that are investing in Japan will see a bright and foreseeable future. Name a Japanese company that has failed recently. Japan is enjoying a low unemployment rate, around 4.5%, since it even hires people the sanitize escalators all day. It is a wonderful country, but it cannot survive on its own resources. PM Abe is a different leader for Japan, a leader that some believe is living in a fairy tale world. Spending money and investing in your own country is important, but how about fixing the unfair treatment of women in the workplace, the unusually high rate of inflation, and especially the nuclear issue that is still affecting North Japan. Time will tell if Japan becomes an even better place to live, or just another country that will have a more drastically low birth rate and a high rate of people migrating out of Japan. Then if this happens, the future of Japan looks dim.
Vladimir Putin answers questions about Ukraine, oil prices, Russian economy, Crimea and much more during the annual press conference held in Moscow, Russia
H.Res.758 Looks To Confront Russia by giving the US the capability to go to war by invoking article 5 of a NATO collective security agreement.