Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt Riots and Made in USA... Will Japan Explode Someday Too?

I don't really want to write about what's going on in Egypt as this is a blog about Japan and Marketing... But I do feel that I need to comment as I believe that these events will have serious repercussions in Japan too:

1) I think that what is going in in Egypt and the people power demonstrations and revolutions going on all over the world (especially now all over the Middle East) will have a profound effect on the Japanese people and economy. I think these events point to what I have been saying all along: 2011 is the pivotal year for Japan. Either we default on our debts or we get hit with massive inflation - or both. 

2) The other thing I want to say is that Japan definitely needs to get away from the USA and the American Empire. America is just, as Clint Eastwood would say, "A clusterf*ck, sir." Sticking with the USA, through thick and through thin, is a bad idea. Especially since the government of the USA is stark raving mad. Japan needs independence; unfortunately Japan needs to remilitarize and needs to rejoin her Asian brotherhood as an equal partner. Japan can never do that as America's weak little sister.

The riots in Egypt show us just how messed up US policy is and just how foolish it is for Japan to stick with it... 

The government doesn't allow peaceful assembly in public places so that means that the only alternative for the people is violent demonstrations. Here's what happens when the authorities start to kill:

This will on serve to inflame the people.

The demonstrations are now taking over Europe and the Middle East. The government's response to demonstrations that start out peacefully is violence... In Egypt's case, siding with the USA is a sure loser too. Why? Because while the Egyptian authorities shoot and kill civilians... They also shoot them with tear gas and other weapons... Many of these weapons have "Made in USA" written on them.

Think that makes the Egyptian people the friend of the USA? 

Proof that gas canisters in Egypt have "Made in USA" written on them:

The people are rising up and revolting all over the world. The government's are bankrupting the people and taking our money and giving it the big bankers. Somethings got to give. 

(Read: Former Managing Director of Goldman Sachs: Egyptians, Greeks, Tunisians and British Are All Protesting Against Pillaging of Their Economies)

Egypt today

Narita Japan 1971

People think the Japanese are docile and do not revolt. It has happened before... As they say, history repeats:

Once again, I am reminded of an ancient Chinese curse; "May you live in interesting times."

My friends, we are living in very interesting times.

Thanks to Daily Bail and What Really Happened 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Korean Artists Really ARE Getting Popular in Japan and It's a Good Thing!

I have been saying for years that one has to be careful with what they hear or see on TV or radio as most of it is fake. I think Ninety percent of everything on TV is a lie or fake. The rest is advertising.

Actually, both TV and radio are 24/7 ads. The so-called "programming" is always made with consideration towards sponsors and the rest of TV is made to fit around advertising time.

You never know if anything is real.

Over these last few years, there has been a "Korean Boom" in Japan. Is it real or fake?

I remember many years ago, I was a regular on a TV program for kids, and they had a Yo-Yo company come on the show and tell us that there was a "Yo-yo boom happening in Japan." 

I thought that was absolute poppy-cock. I had two daughters in elementary school and asked them about this so-called Yo-yo boom. They didn't know anything about it.

It figured. This boom was manufactured by the toy company sponsor who made Yo-yo's and wanted the TV station to help them sell product. The toy company bought advertising on the TV station, they got together to figure out how to sell more product, and, Boom! Er, I mean, Whammo! A Yo-yo  "boom" was born. 

Yes, it was a boom. A manufactured boom, but a boom nonetheless. These types of booms are repeated over and over on the mass media. That's why you can't believe anything you see/hear.

People are lead by the nose by the mass media and people, for the most part, are not educated enough to know that they are being brainwashed.

Now, in Japan, we have a Korean Pop star boom.

As Metropolis magazine reports:

"..the past couple of years have seen Korean pop culture make inroads into demographics that Yon-sama could never reach. Although TV dramas still enjoy a strong following here, it’s now pop music that’s leading the charge, and winning over hordes of younger female fans in the process."

Big Bang

I used to think this was totally BS, but now, have softened my thinking. I know that the media helped create and report this boom. I know  that they - as the media is wont to do - sensationalized it. 

Of course, if this wasn't a big business proposition between Korean and Japanese companies and cooperation, then this boom would have would never happened in Japan. If this wasn't big business with massive amounts of money changing hands, then this boom would have never happened.

But just because this came about through massive spending and promotion, does that mean it is bad? In this case, I don't think so.  

My opinion on this Korean boom became more sympathetic when I took my 16-year-old daughter to a beautiful shrine in Narita (see photos here). Near the shrine, there was a small booth that sold merchandise that featured famous pop stars and singing idols. My daughter yelled, "Stop Daddy! I want to look!" when she saw a photo of her favorite new stars. They are a group named "Big Bang."

The mere fact that there was a booth near a Japanese shrine out in the country selling these types of goods, shows me their mass audience appeal.

I'd never heard of Big Bang. My daughter loved them. She started telling me all about them. I figured they were the newest Japanese boy group, but no! They were a new Korean boy group! I was so surprised that my daughter was such a big fan of Korean pop stars. I inquired and she told me that all her friends at school loved this group.

I asked her if they sang in Japanese or Korean and she said, "Japanese!" I also asked her if their pronunciation was funny and she replied, "A little bit. But that is what makes them so cute!"

Wow! OK. If my 16-year-old daughter - who goes to regular Japanese public school - and likes this Korean pop group - and all her Japanese friends do too, then there is something special there - even if it is a mass media manufactured boom. 

I had always skeptically thought that this Korean boom was a big-business manufactured boom. Now, I am convinced it is. But, in this case, for once, I am not skeptical. For once, I give my total and complete blessing and think this is a good thing.

Why? Japan and Korea has had enough trouble through their long histories and there are many older Japanese who hate Koreans and vice versa. There's probably no way to make these people friends.

But music is a special thing. Music brings people together. Young people don't remember the wars. Young people like music.

Imperial Japanese troops in 1900..
Replace the above with...
(Korean Girl Pop "Kara" in front of Japanese fans)

If we can use music to make the young Japanese and the young Koreans to become friendly to each other, to create harmony, understanding and to eliminate hate, then I'm all for it....

It's OK that someone makes a ton of money doing this. It is the best way. The free market is showing us a better way and if someone can foster peace and better understanding amongst people, while making a good living doing it, then I'm all for it.

Heck, I wish I managed a Korean pop group.

It is a great thing that the free market can bring peace and understanding and people together... 100's of years of hate, war and death show us what the government's efforts have brought us over the years.

Cheers for the Korean pop boom in Japan. Cheers for the free market.

I wonder if it's too late for a Frank Sinatra-type crooner (me) in Korea?

CNN Chimes In: Japan Downgrade Beginning of the End?

Well, it might take ten minutes, but even a dinosaur - with a brain the size of a peanut - will notice it sooner or later when he gets hit in the head with a rock.

Don't be a dinosaur. Japan's debt explosion is now coming at a torrid pace and there's nothing to stop it. The recent downgrade of Japan's credit status just added - magically with the stroke of a pen - tens of millions of dollars to Japan's debt burden. The situation is past critical.

These warnings have been coming for a while now. Recently they have been coming at a faster and faster pace. Do not get caught off guard.

Shinjuku Skyline

I blogged before that this year, 2011, is going to be a crucial year for the world's economies and a very critical year for Japan. Read about the debt bomb that is about to explode here; See information as to how Japan's gross debt is over 230% of GDP here; Read a comparison as to which is worse off, the USA or Japan here; and Read about how 2011 is the year Japan either defaults or gets high inflation here.

There are many more like articles if you just go to this blog's search engine and search "debt."

Now, like I said, even a dinosaur news service like CNN is starting to ask questions:

The timing of the downgrade of Japan's sovereign bonds by Standard & Poor's on Thursday came as a bit of a surprise to some. 

If you have been reading this blog then this downgrade wouldn't have surprised you a bit.

The article continues:

The timing of the downgrade of Japan's sovereign bonds by Standard & Poor's on Thursday came as a bit of a surprise to some. After all, Japanese government bond yields have been relatively stable recently, the yen fairly strong, and, as Citigroup points out, the government has vowed to address its sky-high debt load this year. But S&P isn't convinced that's going to happen. "The downgrade reflects our appraisal that Japan's government debt ratios--already among the highest for rated sovereigns--will continue to rise further than we envisaged before the global economic recession hit the country and will peak only in the mid-2020s."

Living in Japan? Are you prepared with food and water? Do you own gold or silver?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

McDonald's McDelivery Service Starts in McTokyo w/McPhotos

Hey! Lucky you! You are going to get to see something today that few people have ever seen before! You are going to see what McDonald's delivery motorcycles look like in Japan.

Well, I think it sounds like a bad McIdea, but they've really started; McDonald's really has started home delivery service in Tokyo.

McDelivery McLogo

I think this is a bad idea because if you've ever tasted McDonald's french fries when they were a bit cold, then you know what I mean; McAwful.

I can understand delivery pizza as pizza is still OK if it's not piping hot. Heck, pizza is good cold. I eat it sometimes straight out of the refrigerator. But cold McDonald's? Hmmm?

And, another question, if my pizza is more than 30 minutes late, Domino's gives me ¥500 (about $6 USD) off my next order. If my McDonald's order is more than 30 minutes late it must surely be cold and the fries will taste like plastic. Will they give me a discount for my next order? 

A pizza delivery costs at least ¥2500 (about $30 USD)... Does McDonald's deliver on a ¥550 (about $6 USD) Big Mac set? 

If my order is late, do I get discount coupons on my next order? How can they make money on a $5 ~ $6 order? What's up with that?

McDelivery McBike with McBad McDesign 
(I McThink the McBikes should have been McWhite, McRed, & McYellow.
This looks like a Pizza Hut delivery bike!)   

Also, when I order delivery pizza, I don't usually order drinks... But McDonald's? What are they going to do in the summer with milk shakes and stuff?

Anyway, I can't imagine that this is going to go well. As I blogged before, hamburgers are supposed to be quick convenience food. I think it defeats the purpose if I have to wait 30 minutes for a delivery.

Front of McBike with McLogo... Looks like Batman's motorcycle

I think this service will not be successful... But what do I know? There's lots of people out there who haven't seen "Super-Size Me" so maybe this will take off in Japan.

Only time will tell.  

Cut Your Grocery Bill by 5% ~ 20% or More

All over the world, groceries are getting really expensive. If you are living in Tokyo, then you know just how expensive groceries are and always have been! Well, right now, whether you live in Tokyo or not, I am going to show you how you can cut your grocery bill by 5% ~ 10% - or more - quite simply merely by being more efficient with the use of your time.

There is an OK Store nearby my house. OK Store is a large grocery supermarket chain store in the Tokyo area. It is my favorite place to shop. I first wrote about OK Store in a photo blog that appeared on Lew Rockwell in 2004. There are several huge stores that I have seen like OK Store. They remind me of a typical American-style grocery store. 

But OK Store is the best for quality and price. That's why is is packed most of the time.

If you go to OK Store at the times most people who go there do, you will encounter huge crowds and wait in a line of cars to get a parking space. I think some people must wait for more than an hour in their cars waiting just to get a parking space.

I think it is madness to go to OK Store after 9:00 am on a weekend. The cars are lined up for a half kilometer - sometimes more - just to get into the parking lot!

Once inside the store, if you go on a weekend or in the evenings, you can bet that the store is packed and there are people lined up ten deep or more waiting to get to a cash register. Go at that time and be sure that it's going to cost you an hour of time just to buy a few basics.

With leisure time at a premium, you really have to wonder what people are thinking when they willingly spend 2 to 4 hours a weekend - every weekend - just to buy groceries.

I never do that. Time is money. I never wait to get into OK Store and I always get my groceries at 5% discount or more. I figure I cut my grocery bill by 10% a month by following the plan I am going to tell you about today.

How do I do this? I go to the store right at opening time during the week. I never wait in line to park and I never wait in line to check out. I can fill up my shopping cart full and be in and out of that store in 20 minutes. Of course, I know where everything is too.

I have been to that store during rush time in the past. Never again. People were lined up 25 carts deep waiting for the cashiers. It was a madhouse. I wound up walking out without buying anything. 

OK Store opens at 8:30 am. I show up at 8:25 and walk right in. I get the pick of the discounted goods and no hassles. 

If you live in Tokyo then I recommend that you be smart too. Remember that time is money. Find out when your favorite store opens up in the morning and be one of the first ones in the door. You'll save time and money.

This also works in the west if your store is not open 24 hours a day. If your store is like OK Store (open 8:30 am ~ 10 pm or so), then they will stock the shelves early in the morning with the items that didn't sell out the previous day and discount them heavily as they must sell them quickly. This is the time to shop. 

At opening time, the good that weren't sold the day before are out on the shelves first and discounted to go quickly. And quickly they go! By 9:00 ~ 9:30 in the morning, all this heavily discounted stuff is already sold out. They have been bought by restaurant owners and by other smart shoppers who have figured out that shopping early saves time and money.

I always see the same smart people who shop early. They are the ones who get the best produce and groceries at the best price - just like I do. 

Just to show you how much things are discounted every morning, I took these photos of OK Store yesterday morning. I was probably only one of twenty or so other customers in the entire store. It's always like that when I go there. Of course there were many more items that were discounted. I didn't bother to take their photos.

But don't believe just my word for it. They say a picture speaks a thousand words. Here's photographic proof of how much you can save by being early (and OK Store is the cheapest store around even before these discounts!):

Racks of beef all at 5% off

5% ~ 10% off on bread 

30% off broccoli and alfalfa sprouts (I always buy 3 or 4 of these)

Whole fryers at 5% off

Cod at 20% off

More Cod sliced at 3% off and more

Six Pack Eggs 3% off

Ten pack Eggs 5% off

Halibut 10% off

Saury 20% off

Mango and Papaya at 10% off

Milk 3% off

30% off on sliced pineapple

Like I said, meats on sale in the morning; 5% ~ 30% off... All gone by 9:30 am

Breaded fish ready-to-cook 20% off

Salmon 3% off

Pond Smelt 20% off

Scallops 3% off

Smoked Salmon 3% off

Steak 30% off 

Cod 3% off

And my favorite Yellow Tail 30% off

Seriously folks, do yourself a favor and show up at your supermarket right at opening time. You'll save time and money and be back at home relaxing before 10 am.

Why fight the crowds? Time is money. Save it and relax!

Friday, January 28, 2011

More on Japan's Debt Bomb

In a follow up to my last post, about Japan's debt and S&P cutting Japan's credit rating, my good friend Ira Hata, sent this to me:
Here are comments on the Euro, Yen and potential bullish consequences for the US equity markets for the first half of 2011.

While there is serious resistance near 138 & then 140 – 142, the Euro according to the chart below could be ready for more upside in 2011 which should be supportive to US stock market 1st half 2011

As things now stand a rising WLI, growing M2 money supply growth rate, QE2 in full force, and fiscal spending from past packages kicking in, all suggest staying with the trend and buying any market dips. To be a bear right here you would have to be fighting both the Fed and Uncle Sam (fiscal and monetary stimulus) and completely ignoring the message of the markets  … the bull case for the next few months could strengthen even further with another development, subsiding of the euro debt crisis

Thus, if this exchange rate breaks out the bears will have to take a back seat, AGAIN!

What’s changed in Europe?

In reality, there are still clear sovereign debt issues to worry about in Europe, however, a global coalition is moving to support European debt that is lifting their credit markets. Things first began to turn when China and Japan decided to step in the ring and buy European debt, but momentum is building as other Asian countries are looking to do the same. This mutually beneficial decision helps Asian markets particularly by cheapening their currencies and bidding up the Euro to help their export-driven economies.
Euro could stay strong and or Yen could weaken… 
From Bloomberg:
Japan's Credit Rating Cut to AA- by S&P on Debt Load
The yen and bond futures fell on concern the downgrade will push up the cost of borrowing for Japan, where public debt is about twice the size of gross domestic product. Vice Finance Minister Fumihiko Igarashi this week said the government must fix its finances to avoid a debt crisis that could trigger a “global depression.”  …  economist at BNP Paribas in Tokyo. “Once bond yields spike and the fire is lit, the amount needed to finance Japan’s borrowing needs is going to jump and it’s going to be too late.” …  Japan joins developed economies including Portugal and Spainin being downgraded.    Debt to GDP: Japan’s burden exceeds 200 percent … (estimated that China’s ratio of debt to GDP would be 20 percent in 2010)
AA-  is the third-highest grade

Some people have asked why this is so important now as Japan has been getting away with kicking the can down the road for the last twenty year. For a very interesting explanation on that, watch the video below. This video was created originally to promote AGW, but It explains the concept of exponential growth in a very simple and easy to understand way. If you can understand this concept - and the Rule of 70 - then you will understand why Japan's credit rating getting worse and a few points increase in borrowing is a very big deal for Japan.

Thanks to Mish Shedlock for the video

Japan's Debt Bomb Explosion! Fuse is Getting VERY Short!

I warned you about this in a post just a few weeks ago and now it has happened! Read here, here, here and here. Actually, even I didn't expect this to happen so son, but here we are! Japan's Credit Rating has been cut for the first time in 9 years! 

As Bloomberg reports:

Japan’s credit rating was cut for the first time in nine years by Standard & Poor’s as persistent deflation and political gridlock undermine efforts to reduce a 943 trillion yen ($11 trillion) debt burden.

The world’s most indebted nation is now ranked at AA-, the fourth-highest level, putting the country on a par with China, which likely passed Japan last year to become the second-largest economy. The government lacks a “coherent strategy” to address the nation’s debt, the rating company said in a statement. The outlook for the rating is stable, S&P said.

The yen and bond futures fell on concern the downgrade will push up the cost of borrowing for Japan, where public debt is about twice the size of gross domestic product. Vice Finance Minister Fumihiko Igarashi this week said the government must fix its finances to avoid a debt crisis that could trigger a “global depression.”

“I hope this serves as a warning for the government, they have absolutely no sense of crisis,” said Azusa Kato, an economist at BNP Paribas in Tokyo. “Once bond yields spike and the fire is lit, the amount needed to finance Japan’s borrowing needs is going to jump and it’s going to be too late.”

It is possible for companies to have higher ratings than the local or foreign currency ratings of their home country, S&P said in a May 2009 report. The best candidates have a robust export base, little reliance on the public sector and sell products with “relatively inelastic” demand. The S&P report said businesses with sales mainly in local currency, subject to regulation and heavily dependent on imports probably won’t pass stress tests without “heavy overcollateralization or reserves.”

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Jan. 24 the debt burden has risen to a point where Japan can’t rely on bond sales to cover revenue shortfalls. Economy Minister Yosano warned the same day that such a reliance on such sales could lead to a jump in borrowing costs.

“If we continue relying on bond sales to make up for spending that exceeds revenue, we could see long-term interest rates increase or a deterioration in our debt ratio, causing Japan to lose credibility globally,” Yosano told parliament.

Japan’s borrowing costs are among the lowest in the industrialized world, helping it fund its debt load. The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond slipped 1 basis point to 1.23 percent as of 10:47 p.m. in Tokyo. It touched 1.26 percent in Jan. 19, the highest since Dec. 16.

With this news, interest rates on Japanese debt start creeping up again. 2011 ~ 2012 the year's Japan finally goes bankrupt? We've been avoiding the bullet for so long. But, it is well known that things that cannot continue will stop. 

Gold and silver has been dropping a bit recently, now is the time to start protecting yourselves and your families finances. 

Thanks to Mish Shedlock

Volcano Erupts in Japan! Awesome Video!

Wow! Now that's what I call some explosive promotion!

Our Amazing Planet Reports:

As Mount Kirishima, a volcano on the southern island of Kyushu, began erupting on Jan. 26. A giant ash cloud poured from the volcano, prompting the Tokyo VAAC to issue an ash warning for places above 25,000 feet (7.6 kilometers).

Mount Kirishima at sleep

Volcanic material shot from the crater, triggering pyroclastic flows, according to the blog Big Think.
Kirishima ejected volcanic bombs — lava fragments that are rounded as they fly through the air — more than a mile (2 kilometers) high from its vent, according to news reports. Images of the eruption show plumes of glowing material shooting a few hundred feet in the air. A volcanic vent is a gap in the Earth's crust through which lava and volcanic gases can escape.

Now, if I could just bottle that and use it for promotion or get it to erupt on cue, I'd be rich!

See the ongoing eruption on the Kirishima webcam. (NOTE: Next video frame may take as long as 60 seconds to update)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Japan? A Parable & Lesson From the Wizard of Oz

Want to do business in Japan? Oh young grasshopper... You have come to the right place..... 

Join the circle at the feet of the master.... Oh ummm.... Oh ummmmmm....... Oh ummm......

There is a famous quote from Buddha that goes something like this;

"Those who don't know say they do. Those who do know say they don't."

It's true. These are such wise words that are especially useful to remember when doing business in Japan. Sometimes, well, often, it is best in Japan to say as little as possible. This is one of my big challenges as I far too often talk too much and run my mouth.

I need to be more diligent when it comes to remaining silent.

And now a parable about Buddha, Japan, and the Wizard of Oz...

The other night, my son and I were reading L. Frank Baum's the Wizard of Oz together. We came to the part where Dorothy meets the Scarecrow and the Scarecrow tells her that he hasn't a brain.

When we read that, my son stopped and said to me, "Daddy! If he doesn't have a brain, then how does he talk?"

Sometimes little kids say the darndest (and smartest) things. I didn't expect that a seven-year-old would ask that question. I thought he would be so involved with the story, he wouldn't ask that.... But he did.

Yes. It's totally illogical. I didn't know what to say so I could only reply, "Don't worry about it. Keep reading the story."

The next day we finished the book and my son loved it. I was happy because I wanted him to start reading more classics rather than these modern day "educational series" that the school has. He found the Wizard of Oz just as fascinating and satisfying as Harry Potter.

Since my son loved the book so much, my wife went online and bought him the 1939 classic version of the movie starring Judy Garland  so that we could watch together. I usually do not allow my son to watch things on screens but felt this was a good opportunity to teach him the difference between the book and a screen adaptation of a book.

The Wizard of Oz book is a classic adventure fairy tale; the movie is a classic musical. Some of the important points are the same, but they are  totally different. If you've only seen the movie yet never read the book, you'd be so surprised at the difference. Entire sections of the book are missing from the movie.

Even minor details are different. For example, in the book, Dorothy's slippers are silver. In the movie, they are ruby red.

As in the book, in the movie, when Dorothy met the Scarecrow, the Scarecrow told her he didn't have a brain... Once again, my son, looked at me smiling. My son said, "See!?" 

But, different from the book, in the movie, when Dorothy said to the Scarecrow, "How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?" 

The Scarecrow replied, "I don't know. But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking. Don't they?"

To which Dorothy responded, "Yes. I guess you're right."

If you want to do good business in Japan, then let's us now meditate on this parable.... Oh ummm.... Oh ummmmmm....... Oh ummm......

This article was inspired by David Galland of Casey's Daily Dispatch, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and my son, Wray.