Saturday, September 16, 2006

Random Japan News

As long as I'm riffing on Japan, Shoko Asahara, the founder of Aum Shinri Kyo, which perpetrated the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, has been declared sane and exhausted his appeals, and will be executed. Inpex, which is tied to the Japanese government, is still in negotiations to develop an Iranian oil field, but the current nuclear crisis is muddying the waters. Amid rising privacy concerns, the government will scrap its public list of the 100 oldest people in the country, although there is also news that there are now 28,395 people over the age of 100 in the country, up more than 2,800 from a year ago.

As in America, so in Japan; critics lament the dearth of real news on TV, in favor of infotainment. The critic mentions one piece of actual information from a show about Japan's rising gap between the top and bottom of the economic ladder: in the 1980s, the top quintile made ten times what the bottom quintile did; by 2000, the gap was 168 times. Personally, I'm a little suspicious; perhaps the stats have been revised. If the bottom quintile makes an average of even just half a million yen (nearly five thousand dollars), that would mean the top quintile averaged about three quarters of a million dollars a year. Japan has fewer people making Internet bubble-like insane stock options, and I don't think the high-end top percent or two is enough to pull up the rest of the top quintile that high. Hmm, perhaps there's a missing decimal point, and it's supposed to be 16.8 times? Maybe the bottom quintile is unemployed and has a near-zero income, and those people didn't used to be included in the stats? I'll have to investigate...

Shinzo Abe isset to become the next prime minister with limited input from the people (as an American, I find parliamentary politics strange, and Japan has its own unique brand). Oh, and the fall sumo tournament is wide open, heading into the first weekend, with all of the top wrestlers with at least one loss.

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