Japan

Update on Japan’s geriatric crime wave

A little over 4 years ago we wrote a piece on the geriatric crimewave in Japan. Recidivist pensioners were committing petty crimes to break into prison to offset a life of poverty.

Our full report can be found here.

Here are some excerpts from Gendai Business magazine which updates the worsening crisis facing the elderly and prison:

The number of “elderly inmates”above the age of 70 was 1,884 (2.65% of the total number of inmates in 2007) but in 2017 that number had surged to 2,278 people (4.81% of the total)…

…Their crimes? 54.2% of those 70yo+ were jailed for theft, far higher than convictions for possession of methamphetamines (9.4%). 90% of those thefts involved shoplifting or stealing bicycles…

…a 2017 police white paper noted that those over 65yo are 3.45x more likely to steal than minors (14-19yo)...

…Considering that the number of elderly inmates continues to increase, it is not difficult to imagine that the number of inmates requiring nursing care for dementia is rising with it. It can be said that some prisons are already becoming “nursing homes” in effect. If left as it is, the prison will soon be unable to stand...

Behind this is the problem of poverty. The aging rate in 2019 is 28.4%, the poverty rate of elderly households is 27%, and there are old people everywhere who are in need of support…

The last resort to reach an elderly person who has no family or job and cannot rely on anyone, and who cannot live their lives, is a safe prison life that guarantees “food, medicine and shelter”. In recent years, the number of elderly people who are recidivists for the purpose of “going into jail” is increasing.

All of these problems we noted in our 2016 report. Our suggestion was to build huge retirement villages in remote areas in Japan where the elderly could elect to sacrifice a portion of their pension to live without the indignity of living behind bars. As it stands, prison guards will increasingly become nurses, including changing diapers for the elderly.

L’Oreal whitewashes 1,300 years of Japanese culture

L’Oreal is the latest company to fold to the cancel culture by removing removing the words white/whitening, fair/fairness, light/lightening from all its skin evening products. The cosmetics brand will still sell the creams which is basically as hypocritical as it gets.

If L’Oreal truly wanted to take a stand and put an end to systemic racism, it would dictate to its core customers that they need to check their bigotry and ban the creams as the tool to enforce correct behaviours.

The irony of skin whitening creams is that whites make up a tiny slice of users. Indeed Asian women make up the bulk of the buyers.

Did L’Oreal realize that during the Nara Period (710–94), Japanese women painted their face with a white powder called oshiroi? This was also documented in texts during the Heian Period (794–1185). White facial colour stood as a symbol of beauty then as it does today.

So that is to say the Japanese self-determined their own views on beauty over 1,300 years ago, before the country ever encountered “gaijin”, a name that came 500 years later when Kublai Khan tried to invade in the 13th Century.

You can learn more about the skin whitening cream market here. Note it also includes the wonderful success story of a black woman, Rachel Roff, who filled a gap in the market by targeting people of colour with products the racist (?) product developers at J&J never bothered to cater to because they deemed it uncommercial.

Never mind, you’ve been told by L’Oreal.

#BlackSkinMatters. J&J caves to the cancel culture mob

Now J&J is dumping hand whitening cream after social pressure surrounding racial inequality.

Perhaps sunscreen and tanning lotions should be banned by the company too? After all, those who want a darker complexion must be just as guilty of dermatological appropriation.

Or is J&J’s move really just a cynical attempt by the legal and PR departments to appear as a good corporate citizen amidst a criminal probe into whether the pharma giant lied to the public about the possible cancer risks of its talcum powder?

Also, did J&J ever think of the demand from similar products for coloured women?

Urban Rx deliberately targeted this space because of an absence of products tailored to their needs. Perhaps J&J should self-flagellate for not catering this area and apologize for racially insensitive product developers. Publicly sack them to appease the mob. Black Skin Matters.

Forbes says sales for UrbanRx are booming.

Urban Rx Founder Rachel Roff opened a spa in Charlotte, North Carolina 12 years ago and found that although 50% of the women in the south are African-American, Roff could not find products that provided adequate skin care for women with darker skin. Over time she developed a skincare technology she calls Cleartone Advanced Technology…Although she still operates the spa, that business is dwarfed by the skincare business, which continues to grow very rapidly.

See a need. Fill a need. We hope Roff continues to do well. After all, if coloured women care about removing blemishes surely they have exactly the same requirements as women of other skin tones. It isn’t racist. It is a choice.

Skin whitening products are extremely popular in Asian and Middle Eastern markets. Perhaps J&J should launch a targeted ad campaign shaming c.70% of the world’s female population for their dermatological privilege.

According to Grandview Research , the global skin lightening products market size was valued at US$ 8.3 billion in 2018 and a CAGR of 7.8%pa.

Didn’t J&J’s PR department study what happened to P&G when it targeted ‘toxic masculinity’ via the Gillette brand which wiped $8 billion in value?

From our perspective, J&J products are off our list. We never ask anyone to boycott companies but we are sick of being lectured to by sanctimonious businesses who want to morally preen.

These brands are totally within their rights to make commercial decisions about product lines.

However they don’t have an obligation to tell customers that their personal preferences with respect to hygiene, skincare or anything else are not in step with the times, especially in cultures that hold different views about beauty which are often centuries old.

Japanese skin whitening giants Shiseido and KOSÉ will be loving such corporate harakiri by J&J. J&J shareholders won’t.

Get woke, go broke.

We pray the Gov’t makes more $60bn mistakes!

Can the media and shadow politicians get a grip? Since when should taxpayers complain when the government makes a huge error in our favour? We can pretty much stake our lives on the fact that 99% of government programs end up way more expensive than initially budgeted for. French Submarines anyone? NBN? We should be looking at the JobKeeper revision as a massive positive.

The federal government estimated that the JobKeeper program would initially cost $130 billion. Now it appears they overestimated it by $60 billion. That was driven by the idiosyncrasies of who would be eligible at the employer end – from the self-employed to big business and everything in between.

Given the limited time window, forgive the Treasury and Tax Office for not landing estimates on target. It is ridiculous to expect they could estimate such a fluid piece of legislation.

The unwelcome arrival of COVID19 and the sudden stay-at-home orders that ensued hardly gave a generous window of opportunity to apply Japanese level precision engineering to the process.

Our only criticism lies with the drip feed approach to restarting the hibernating economy. As we mentioned yesterday with respect to the 50 US states, so many appear to be copying each other rather than making bold data driven decisions based on facts not consensus.

The reality is that the Treasury will need to make many more multi billion dollar mistakes in the spirit of JobKeeper to help mitigate the damage caused by the looking trillion dollar deficits.

Perhaps the $60 billion saving can be redeployed to building a bullet train from Sydney to Melbourne. A 20-yr project that is just the type of infrastructure spending which ticks so many boxes – relieving pressure on the state capitol cities, housing, assist a growing population and provide lots of jobs.

China’s bullying is a blessing in disguise

We should view China’s recent bullying as a blessing in disguise. Our government should resist quickly bending to its will for we would only embolden Beijing by such a rapid display of weakness.

China’s true colours are on display. Barley tariffs, meat bans and now minerals are up for debate. All because we wish to have an inquiry into the beginnings of the virus.

We are not blameless. Our universities squeezed the Chinese student lemon until the pips squeaked. These educational institutions never built in contingencies. They are culpable for such pathetic risk management processes. Our property market has benefited from Chinese investment. Our primary industries rode the back of this panda and now fear they could end up inside.

However China is welcome to source its coal from Indonesia if it so chooses. We have globally competitive cost curves which would be welcomed in other nations.

Of course there will be short term disruptions but the entire global supply chain is being rewritten. That can only be in our favour. We aren’t playing aggressor while covering up a pandemic. This isn’t lost on most of the world, even if governments might tiptoe around the subject.

We should be revitalizing our relationship with Japan. At least we know when we sign a contract, the Japanese will stick to it rather than the Chinese style of starting negotiations after a deal is inked.

Why would we move away from our relationship with America? Much more opportunities in partnering with the US and India as well.

Chinese military aggression is self evident. Its investment in defence and space is exponential. While a fraction of US military spending the Chinese power projections in the South China Sea as well as the Paracels, Spratly and Senkaku Islands should raise concerns. Man made military island bases in the Pacific as well as ‘trading’ ports around the world which would welcome Chinese naval vessels.

Don’t take our word for it. Japan revealed in its 2019 Defense White Paper just how much China has been toying with it. Look at the trend of Japanese Air Self Defense Force jet scrambles to intercept Chinese military aircraft approaching its shores. Less than 100 a decade ago to over 600 in 2018.

The map at the top of this post shows how many times PLA Navy ships have sailed through Japanese territorial waters in what would be our equivalent of the Indonesian Navy sailing through the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania without warning.

China’s true colours should make the rest of the world sit up and take notice. While China has trapped many countries in debt turning them into financial colonies, this pandemic will create a world that wants to rely less on China. The Middle Kingdom might be a formidable trading bloc but its domestic economy is challenged and the louder the external rhetoric, the more we know how much it is hurting inside.

We needn’t fold at the prospect of threats. Best forge new all weather friendships. China will quickly learn how fast the world that is not in debt slavery to it will ignore the Forbidden City. We can forget pandering to the Paris Accord which China ignores while we are at it.

Osaka Mayor says men should food shop as women are too indecisive. We disagree

Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui said that men should do the food shopping during coronavirus as women are indecisive and take too long.

We would disagree with Mayor Matsui on the subject of food shopping.

There is literally nothing more terrifying for a husband than being sent into battle with a list from the wife, especially when the receipt will be scrutinized for the cost and quality of selected items. Hours can be lost in a supermarket trying to limit the number of offences that will come from the inquisition that will inevitably follow upon his return.

False advertising or medicinal chocolate?

Japanese confectioner Ezaki Glico has made a chocolate to assist with one’s sleep.

Now that millions of overworked salarymen and office ladies can no longer catch a nap on the subway, ‘GABA for Sleep‘ claims it can restore mental balance.

It seems like just a fancy marketing term for comfort food. Or is it? The science actually says,

GABA-enriched chocolate contains 28 milligrams of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in 10 grams of chocolate.

GABA is a neurotransmitter naturally in the human brain and plays a key role in reducing stress. It also has a tranquilizing effect that assists with sleeplessness and depression. A study has shown that 100 grams of cacao contain 52 mg of GABA.

Ahhh but there is a disclaimer! The scientists from Ezaki Glico revealed that the stress-reducing effect of GABA in chocolate may not always occur because there is less GABA in the product.

We are confident that beta testing will continue in any event.

The one fatal flaw experts forget when seeking to mimic #Abenomics style endurance

Pain

Over three decades ago, the Japanese introduced a TV programme titled, ‘Za Gaman‘ which stood for ‘endurance‘. It gathered a whole bunch of male university students who were challenged with barbaric events which tested their ability to endure pain because the producer thought these kids were too soft and self-entitled. Games included being chained to a truck and dragged along a gravel road with only one’s bare buttocks. Another was to be suspended upside down in an Egyptian desert where men with magnifying glasses trained the sun’s beam on their nipples while burning hot sand was tossed on them. The winner was the one who could last the longest.

Since the Japanese bubble collapsed in the early 1990s, a plethora of think tanks and central banks have run scenario analyses on how to avoid the pitfalls of a protracted period of deflation and low growth that plagued Japan’s lost decades. They think they could do far better. We disagree.

There is one absolutely fatal flaw with all arguments made by the West. The Japanese are conditioned in shared suffering. Of course, it comes with a large slice of reluctance but when presented with the alternatives the government knew ‘gaman’ would be accepted by the nation. It was right.

We like to think of Japan, not as capitalism with warts but socialism with beauty spots. Having lived there for twenty years we have to commend such commitment to social adhesion. It is a large part of the fabric of Japanese culture which is steeped in mutual respect. If the West had one lesson to learn from Japan it would be this. Unfortunately, greed, individualism and self-entitlement will be our Achilles’ heels.

It is worth noting that even Japan has its limits. At a grassroots level, we are witnessing the accelerated fraying of that social kimono. Here are 10 facts taken from our ‘Crime in Japan‘ series – ‘Geriatric Jailbirds‘, ‘Breakup of the Nuclear Family‘ and the ‘Fraud, Drugs, Murders, Yakuza and the Police‘ which point to that old adage that ‘all is not what it seems!

  1. Those aged over 65yo comprise 40% of all shoplifting in Japan and represent the highest cohort in Japanese prisons.
  2. 40% of the elderly in prison have committed the same crime 6x or more. They are breaking into prison to get adequate shelter, food and healthcare.
  3. Such has been the influx in elderly felons that the Ministry of Justice has expanded prison capacity 50% and directed more healthcare resources to cope with the surge in ageing inmates.
  4. To make way for more elderly inmates more yakuza gangsters have been released early.
  5. 25% of all weddings in Japan are shotgun.
  6. Child abuse cases in Japan have skyrocketed 25x in the last 20 years.
  7. Single-parent households comprise 25% of the total up from 15% in 1990.
  8. Domestic violence claims have quadrupled since 2005. The police have had to introduce a new category of DV that is for divorced couples living under the same roof (due to economic circumstances).
  9. The tenet of lifetime employment is breaking down leading to a trebling of labour disputes being recorded as bullying or harassment.
  10. In 2007, the government changed the law entitling wives to up to half of their husband’s pension leading to a surge in divorces.

These pressures were occurring well before the introduction of Abenomics – the three arrow strategy of PM Shinzo Abe – 1) aggressive monetary policy, 2) fiscal consolidation and 3) structural reform.

Since 2013, Abenomics seemed to be working. Economic growth picked up nicely and even inflation seemed like it might hit a sustainable trajectory. Luckily, Japan had the benefit of a debt-fueled global economy to tow it along. This is something the West and Japan will not have the luxury of when the coronavirus economic shutdown ends.

However, Japan’s ageing society is having an impact on the social contract, especially in the regional areas. We wrote a piece in February 2017, titled ‘Make Japan Great Again‘ where we analysed the mass exodus from the regions to the big cities in order to escape the rapidly deteriorating economic prospects in the countryside.

Almost 25 years ago, the Japanese government embarked on a program known as
‘shichosongappei’ (市町村合併)which loosely translates as mergers of cities and towns. The total number of towns halved in that period so local governments could consolidate services, schools and local hospitals. Not dissimilar to a business downsizing during a recession.

While the population growth of some Western economies might look promising versus Japan, we are kidding ourselves to think we can copy and paste what Nippon accomplished when we have relatively little social cohesion. What worked for them won’t necessarily apply with our more mercenary approach to economic systems, financial risk and social values.

Sure, we can embark on a path that racks up huge debts. We can buy up distressed debt and repackage it as investment grade but there is a terminal velocity with this approach.

The Bank of Japan is a canary in the coalmine. It has bought 58% of all ETFs outstanding which makes up 25% of the market. This is unsustainable. The BoJ is now a top 10 shareholder of over half of all listed stocks on the index. At what point will investors be able to adequately price risk when the BoJ sits like a lead balloon on the shareholder registry of Mitsui Bussan or Panasonic?

Will Boeing investors start to question their investment when the US Fed (we think it eventually gets approval to buy stocks) becomes the largest shareholder via the back door? Is the cradle of capitalism prepared to accept quasi state-owned enterprises? Are we to blindly sit back and just accept this fate despite this reduction in liquidity?

This is what 7 years of Abenomics has brought us. The BoJ already has in excess of 100% of GDP in assets on its balance sheet, up from c.20% when the first arrow was fired. We shouldn’t forget that there have been discussions to buy all ¥1,000 trillion of outstanding Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) and convert them into zero-coupon perpetual bonds with a mild administration fee to legitimise the asset. Will global markets take nicely to erasing 2 years worth of GDP with a printing press?

Who will determine the value of those assets when the BoJ or any other central bank for that matter is both the buyer and seller. If the private sector was caught in this scale of market manipulation they’d be fined billions and the perpetrators would end up serving long jail sentences.

Can we honestly accept continual debt financing of our own budget deficit? Japan has a ¥100 trillion national budget. ¥60 trillion is funded by taxes. The remainder of ¥40 trillion (US$400 billion) is debt-financed every single year. Can we accept the RBA printing off whatever we need every year to close the deficit for decade upon decade?

In a nutshell, we can be assured that central banks and treasuries around the world will be dusting off the old reports of how to escape the malaise we are in. Our view is that they will fail.

What will start off as a promising execution of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), rational economics will dictate that the gap between the haves and the have nots will grow even wider. Someone will miss out. Governments will act like novice plate spinners with all of the expected consequences.

In our opinion, the world will change in ways most are not prepared for. We think the power of populism has only started. National interests will be all that matters. Political correctness will cease. Identity politics will die. All the average punter will care about is whether they can feed their family. Nothing else will matter. Climate change will be a footnote in history as evidenced by the apparition that was Greta Thunberg who had to tell the world she caught COVID19 even though she was never tested.

Moving forward, our political class will no longer be able to duck and weave. Only those that are prepared to tell it like it is will survive going forward. The constituents won’t settle for anything else. Treat them as mugs and face the consequences, just like we saw with Boris Johnson’s landslide to push through Brexit.

The upcoming 2020 presidential election will shake America to its foundations. Do voters want to go back to the safety of a known quantity that didn’t deliver for decades under previous administrations and elect Biden or still chance Project Molotov Cocktail with Trump?

What we know for sure is that Trump would never have seen the light of day had decades of previous administrations competently managed the economy. COVID19 may ultimately work in Trump’s favour because his record, as we fact-checked at the time of SOTU, was making a considerable difference.

Whatever the result, prepare to gaman!

 

Colonialism and Comcars

Image result for robert menzies car

Senator Mattias Cormann has admitted he was behind the decision to change the colour of our government Comcars – which ferry politicians around – from white to dark grey in order to remove any remnants of our colonial past, which in his words were “a better reflection of a modern, forward-looking Australia.” Forget the fact that most government cars were painted black, including Sir Robert Menzies’ Bentley (above). Might have been better to channel the founder of the Liberal Party as inspiration instead some woke nonsense. Or just let the drivers, who need to clean and maintain the vehicles, choose. 

Seriously though, what % of Australians have ever thought that our white Comcars harked to a colonial past? Best put it to a plebiscite and waste more time. 

Dark Grey? Isn’t that a gloomy hue? Should Aussies prepare for dark days ahead? Truth be told the colour is probably quite representative of where our economy is heading, even without coronavirus.

Interestingly, according to car insurer youi,

Our accident frequency research reveals that dark coloured cars are more likely to be in an accident than lighter coloured cars, likely because they are less visible to other drivers on the road. Grey coloured cars topped the list, followed by black and charcoal.

Who says that politicians don’t make sacrifices for us?

If we study where the proportion of cars coloured in colonial white is highest, perhaps parliament should be spending up big on a reeducation program in Tasmania for their unconscious colonialism. youi claimed,

Tasmania has the highest percentage of white cars at 33.80% versus the national average of 30.45% (silver 19.4%, blue 11.29%)

White cars seem to be connected to toxic masculinity too. Best run a campaign on unconscious sexism if youi is to be believed.

Compared to females, white is more popular for males relative to other colours (34.34% for males, 26.46% for females)

Take it a step further and question how much more Cormann could have done to reduce the racist footprints of colonialism.

Why are we buying cars from a maker that powered the Nazi Luftwaffe, SS and Wehrmacht, based in a nation that at the time was hell-bent on world domination and genocide? If we went for Lexus or Toyota we’d be buying cars built by a country that was also determined to colonize The Pacific. Jaguars or Range Rovers would be off the list, even though the Indians now own the brands. Rolls-Royce & Bentley are German-owned. Italians were colonialists. Maserati, Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo banned. The French? Colonialists. Renault and Peugeot-Citroen are out. The Spanish? Colonialists. No SEATs, although that is owned by the Germans. America? Someone is bound to raise an issue with their CIA operative endorsed post-war military hegemony. So no Caddies, Fords or GM cars, especially after the axing of the Holden brand. China? Buying Haval or Great Wall cars would at the very least cut down on the overall cost of Comcars, especially with the generous 10-yr unlimited kilometre extended warranty.  That is how we cut the budget deficit. 

Maybe we should just buy Volvos. Maybe that way we could appeal to be supporting the home team of climate activist, Greta Thunberg to shore up the youth vote while acknowledging that the Viking hordes of 1000 years ago was far back enough in history to upset anyone today. If we’re lucky, the Swedish Riksbank may consider buying our sovereign debt again

Seriously, haven’t our pollies got anything better to do than conjure up such illogical nonsense like this? Given we’re at this level of discourse, perhaps walking, cycling or public transport would be a better bet for our lawmakers. At the very least it would put them in touch with how commoners live.

HK Int’l Airport traffic for Jan 2020 – Inbound Asia -43%

HKIA just published figures for January air traffic. It notes,

Traffic figures at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) saw decreases in January 2020. During the month, HKIA handled 5.7 million passengers and 33,210 flight movements, representing year-on-year decreases of 11.7% and 9.1%, respectively. Cargo throughput dropped 10.4% compared to the same month last year, to 359,000 tonnes.

Overall passenger traffic to/from Mainland China, South Korea and Southeast Asia recorded the most significant decreases in January. Visitor traffic remained weak, showing a year-on-year decrease of 43%. However, travel by Hong Kong residents saw a surge during the Chinese New Year holidays, amounting to a monthly growth of 25% year-on-year.

Cargo throughput declined due to closure of factories and businesses in Mainland China during the Chinese New Year holidays. The decrease in cargo was mainly attributed to the 15% and 10% drops in imports and transshipments, respectively. Exports decreased by 9% compared to the same month last year. Amongst key trading regions, traffic to/from Southeast Asia and North America decreased most significantly in the month.”

That’s got to hurt. It is strange how markets are behaving so positively to the impacts here. Depending on the length of such a slowdown, how long can company cash flow last and when do we see the first bankruptcy of a travel/cargo company- land, air or sea as a result of coronavirus.

Expect that cruise companies report mass cancellations after the horrendous optics of passengers being confined to their quarters for weeks on end.