All things about the media, marketing, business, Japan and other musings by Mike in Tokyo Rogers.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
R.I.P. Abenomics: Record Trade Deficit Now 15 Months in Row
The situation is laughable... Well, it would be if it weren't true: Abenomics is a dismal failure. Now, a record trade deficit of Japan for another record 15 months in a row!
From Zerohedge - Abenomics Humiliated Again As Japan Posts 15th Consecutive (And Record) Trade Deficit:
Overnight Japan posted its latest, September, trade numbers which were absolutely abysmal, as the trade deficit rose to a fresh record high of 932 billion yen ($9.5 billion), the 15th consecutive monthly shortfall. The deficit for April-September rose to nearly 5 trillion yen ($51 billion), also a record for the first half of the fiscal year.
Why is this? Well, like I wrote in December of 2012 (I just love to brag that I was right and also see major news sites falling in line): Here's Why A Weak Yen Will Destroy Japan:
...what will a weak yen certainly buy for Japan? Answer: How about a 10% increase across the board on energy imports?
From Forbes Magazines, please refer to: Japan's Energy Dependence
Data from the Energy Data and Modeling Center (EDMC), Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, for 2008 published in the APEC Energy Overview (2010), paint a stark picture of Japan’s energy vulnerability:
– Of total primary energy supply (508,327 kiloton of oil equivalent (ktoe)), 85 percent (433,725 ktoe) was imported. The breakdown of primary energy was coal 23 percent, oil 44 percent, gas 17 percent, and other 17 percent.
–For final energy consumption in ktoe, the industrial sector took 45 percent; the transport sector 24 percent; and other sectors 31 percent. By type of energy: coal 11 percent, oil 53 percent, gas 9 percent, and electricity and other 28 percent.
Don't forget that these are 2008 figures - three years before the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster. Things have gotten much worse since then. Now take all that imported oil and natural gas (and coal) and jack up the price 10%... What do you get?
Couple that sum with the 2% inflation rate targeted by the new government of Shinzo Abe and you get a collapse of the Japanese economy.
Hell, while I (sadly) chuckle over this news (as I've said a hundred times: "Math is a bitch" and "Data doesn't lie") I'll let my friends at Zerohedge kick the Abenomics fans a bit more... (Haven't I done that enough?!?!)
The worst news: Abenomics is now impacting the country so adversely, the boost in GDP as a result of consumption is now over thanks to a detraction from the net trade deficit: "As a result, the net export contribution to growth is likely to be weaker than we had expected, and it may be around zero in Q3, after 0.5ppt in Q1 and 0.3ppt in Q2." Make that negative...
...In short: with every passing month Abenomics does merely more of what it was meant to do - cripple the economy, destroy the workers and hurt end consumers, while the soaring stock market helps just the ultra wealthiest. Good job Goldman Sachs advisors to the BOJ.
Goldman adds more data:
Another significant trade deficit in September on higher imports: The trade balance continued to show significant deficit at ¥932.1 bn, following the deficit of ¥962.8 bn in August. Export values came in at +11.5% yoy, slowing down from +14.6% yoy in August...
...Exports to Asia and Europe slow down, imports from China surge: Looking at exports by region, exports to the US remained buoyant in September in value terms, rising 18.8% yoy (+20.6% yoy in August) while there was a slowdown in exports to Europe (September: +14.3%, August: +18.1%) and Asia (+8.2%; +13.4%), exports to China also declined (+11.4%; +15.8%). Meanwhile, imports from China grew 30.9% yoy (+17.6% yoy in August), contributing to the growth of Japan’s overall import value by 6.7% points. Imports of electric machinery from China, telecom equipment in particular, are growing rapidly, with the September figure coming in at +55.8% yoy (+23.2% in August).
This is basically what was predicted... This should come to no surprise to anyone who:
1) Understands 3rd grade mathematics
2) Has a lick of common sense
3) Understands Japan's economic problems since the late 80s and how Japan has tried to deal with them.
We are watching a slow-motion train wreck...
... Can't wait to see how a Sales Tax increase magically makes things all better or how adding over $60 billion dollars to the deficit will help for the 2020 Olympics.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Destroy All Japanese Mascots - But I Wouldn't Kick Her Out of My Futon for Eating French Fries
Japan loves cute shit. It's everywhere here. I can't stand it. I think it might have been Hello Kitty who really broke this cute shit out into the open... (But that's just my personal opinion and obsessive dislike and life-long vendetta against everything and all things Hello Kitty...)
This shitty mascot crap just drives a man to drinking...
Of course everyone has heard by now about how Fukushima Industries made their new mascot and actually made a great one. It's named "Fukuppy." Seriously. You can't make this stuff up... Er, I mean, you can't make this stuff, "uppy."
"I'm Fukuppy. Nice to meet you. I think I'm kind with a strong sense of justice but people say I'm a little bit scatterbrained." The company also says the name comes from Fukushima Industries and Happy.
Fukushima + Happy = Fukuppy! Perfect!
Like I said, Japan has always had these stupid-assed cute characters. This country drowns in cute. Here's some photos so that you guys get the idea of what kind of dumb crap passes as promotion in this country... As you can see, they all have a similar trait: weird-assed looking and supposedly cute as hell (as if some kid would find Fukuppy cute! Yeah, about as cute as drinking a canister full of soft drink laced with cesium 124 and cyanide....)
Who is this clown? I don't know. What difference does it make? A mascot for something or another...I think it's supposed to be a baby dear... Maybe a fishing company that clubs baby seals to death... Or maybe a Bio-tech company that performs bizarre animal reconstruction experiments like this on this poor GMO-fed rabbit-dear cross breed who has no real mother.
I think this one must be the mascot for some company that's into produce, like selling tangerines or something like that. I figure it's a dumb dog that likes oranges... Go figure...
Let me guess... The sun, the clouds, music... A hydro-electric power company that dumps particularly malignant cancerous industrial waste into the rivers and drinking water!... Having a cute mascot makes that all OK!
I know this one. It's the mascot for the police. This makes it cute when the fucking police hide behind trees and give you traffic tickets because you didn't come to a COMPLETE STOP at that stop sign even though there wasn't another car or pedestrian around for miles! Assholes!... I know that if you or I ran around without any pants on they'd throw our asses in jail... A cop mascot running around bare-assed naked?... Cute!
Move along, nothing to see here, folks....
Oh, how cute! Some part-timer in a monkey suit is acting like they are happy because some idiots actually spent money on a concrete statue of themselves... Probably the ONLY tourist who'd want their photo taken along that eye-sore statue. FAIL!
Woah! Wow! I love this mascot! I wouldn't kick her out of my futon for eating beef in a sesame bun! For some reason, I think I just got a Big Mac!
....Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah... Dumb Japanese mascots...
The other day, the clowns who run the local government decided they'd waste tax money on making our own local mascot to stop people from speeding around on the neighborhood streets. Einsteins actually thought they'd get more promotion for this campaign by asking the locals in my neighborhood for submissions to the contest. Only people who live in the immediate two neighborhoods got to participate in this contest.
Well, I got a submission form in my mailbox too. At first, it irritated me. But then my wife talked me into making a submission. She told me that they said they'd pick the 3 best submissions then have a contest at the local department store and the visitors could all vote for their favorite mascot... She mentioned that, since I have a radio show, with a bunch of twisted fans who like to listen to punk rock and loud music in the mornings, that if I got into the final three, I could say it on the radio and get lots of fans to come down and stuff the ballot boxes...
My devil horns started to appear out of the sides of my head...
So here is my submission to stop people from speeding down the local neighborhood streets. Her name is "Lorrie" (as in the British vernacular for "truck")... Lorrie had the misfortune of walking down one of the neighborhood streets when some asshole smoking Hi-Lite cigarettes and a Kamikaze towel wrapped around his forehead - who thinks a school zone is actually a freeway entrance - ran over poor Lorrie in a two-ton truck and squished her like a grape.
Lorrie is cuddly brown with X's for eyes and a cute bunch of tire tracks along her back. Her cute red tongue sticking out could be turned into a key chain or something (always gotta think about merchandising, right?)
Seriously, I did submit this to the contest organizers... Jerks, they didn't even have the courtesy to send me a "thank you" note.
I think that Lorrie more clearly represents the dangers of driving stupid than some cute assed mascot like Fukuppy (But Fukuppy's name is clearly a winner!)
Of course, those assholes running the contest won't choose dear Lorrie... I guess black humor doesn't get it here in Japan.... But, really, if you saw a sign with my mascot on it, you'd know EXACTLY what that meant, right?
I figure that, by some act of god, if I do win, Lorrie can get better and we'll put that cute McDonald's girl inside the mascot suit... The tire tracks along her back will be probably most indicative of the life of the girl inside: laid all over the country as she's run over.
Ah, but the contest organizers will fuck it up and pick some dumb-assed character like that naked flasher police mascot pervert.
I need a drink...
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Fear of a Spam Planet
On yesterday morning's radio show, I spoke about convenience store Spam rice balls I found the other day at my local convenience store... Which I was surprised about because you usually only see these things in places like Hawaii or Saipan... Now they sell them in Tokyo?
Do people actually buy these things?
"Imported" from Okinawa...
Then a few days after finding the spam rice ball, I find a news story about new Spam flavored Macadamia nuts that recently went on sale in Hawaii.
The LA Times had the story entitled: Spam-flavored nuts exist, people!:
When you think of Spam, a satisfying crunch isn't exactly the sensation that comes to mind. It's more of a soft, squishy bite, unless you're talking about Spam-flavored macadamia nuts. But if you're imagining little pink nuts covered in some sort of Spam meat dust, you should be warned that there is no actual Spam in, on, or around the nuts.
The nuts are made by the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Co. in Hawaii. According to President and Co-Owner Richard Schnitzler, the nuts get their Spam flavor from a special Hormel seasoning blend.
"Spam has a cult following in Hawaii and so it seemed like a good idea," Schnitzler said.
The company developed the meat-free flavoring with Hormel. The nuts were tested at a show in New York about three years ago, and according to Schnitzler, the sales have been solid ever since.
Spam flavored Macademia nuts? Yuck!
Well ,like I said, I spoke about these things as a big joke on my show, but maybe the joke is on me... Because, the same night as the radio show, I was at our favorite sushi restaurant and there, lo and behold, they had Spam sushi on the menu!!!!
You kidding me? I, of course, just had to order one even though I hate Spam.
Makes for a funny photo...
But, anyway, as on my radio show yesterday and this blog right now, I am your humble reporter just reporting the facts.
.... It's a worldwide 'Spam Boom!' Fear. People. Fear.
And you heard it here first....See? I told you! That just shows how much of a fashion and trend leader I am!!!!
Yes. It does look terrible... There's a reason for that!
Do you like Spam, Sam?
No I do not like Spam, Sam I am!
Oh, sorry in Okinawa it's not called Spam... It's called "Canned pork"
"Canned pork"? Mmmmm.... That sounds even better!
If you want to order Spam Flavored Macadamia Nuts, here they are on Amazon! http://www.amazon.com/Spam-Macadamia-Nuts-4-5-Oz/dp/B004N9RTRQ
Thursday, October 10, 2013
BCC Mass Mailing is Grossly Misused and Often Counter-Productive
Just a quick post about a recent pet peeve of mine... BCC mailings...
I received two mails today that were sent to me by BCC. They both went immediately into the trash.
Why? Well, I think that if I am being sent a BCC mass mailing then the message must not be important.
There's a difference in receiving a BCC mass mailing announcement of some sort of event or announcement and receiving a BCC for being privy to an inside private letter concerning some business details.
Getting a BCC that only goes to a few people about some private message between two (possibly feuding) people concerning work-related issues is OK. I think, in that case, BCC can be useful.
For example, I am having a discussion with someone at work over policy issues; I need political support from people in different departments. I might send a few trusted people BCC copies of the emails; I might need them to know the content of the discussion.
Oh, sure, in the perfect world, some might say that "All communication should be totally open and honest." Yes, and I'd agree. The problem is that in the real world (corporate world) things often aren't that way at all; there's all sorts of skulduggery going on at some companies. Inter-company politics often make totally open discussion impossible; especially in a society like Japan where people rarely will say their opinion in a direct fashion.
The two mails I received by BCC mass mailing announcements were for concerts by artists this weekend. Like I said, I didn't even open them.
I figure if the promoters really wanted me to come to their shows, they write to me directly and not "To Whom it May Concern" or "Dear Occupant."
I also received another mail, directly sent to me by another promoter, that announced a third show.
I might go to that one. That promoter actually took the time (one minute?) to write my name in the email and send it to me directly.
Personalized emails? What a quaint notion.
Anyway, the point is that I think, today, BCC is completely overused and is a lazy way to do business. I also think that this is a crutch for far too many people and companies and BCC has gotten to the point where it can be counter-productive.
If you want people to pay attention to your announcements then spending 45 seconds to send out a mass BCC mailing is a waste of your time and everyone else's. I asked several friends if they even bother to read BCC announcements and they all said, "No!"
I ask you, dear reader, do you read them?
If the receivers are worthy of your attention, then I think you should take the time to send them a personalized direct invitation...
BCC means today, "Badly Conceived Communications."
BCC is suitable only for when a communication is between a few people and a third party needs to be informed....
Should be called, FYEO: For Your Eyes Only.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Japanese Consumer Confidence WAY Down & New Leak at Fukushima! It's All Good News!
Well, as I have been saying for a long time, in spite of my foreign-born detractors, who live in Japan but seem to be out of touch with what the average Japanese on the street is thinking, average Joe Tanaka is not happy at all about Abenomics. And there's now data to back me up on that point; not just anecdotal evidence.
Happy as hell! See?
There's no way to paint this is a positive note: Consumer Confidence in Japan is downright miserable. Before I get to the proof, here's some background:
In The Facts: Data Doesn't Lie and "Positive" Writing, I wrote:
Look, there's responsible fiscal policy and then there's what the Japanese government (and US government, EU, etc.) are doing: irresponsible deficit spending. Japan has been doing what Abe is doing for over 20 years. The only difference is that Abe has put the deficit spending into hyper-drive.
Over twenty year of deficit spending and infrastructure projects? Look where it has gotten Japan today.
Folks, you couldn't deficit spend like this on your own home and personal finances; you'd go bankrupt. This isn't rocket science. No matter what the government says or how they try to spin things, this is simple math. Mathematics are a bitch and they are consistent as hell. Two plus two will always equal four. It doesn't change.
Japan's low interest rates and easy money policies on steroids will not yield any different results than they already have.....
A few days later, I added in Cheerleaders for Abenomics Extremely Quiet: Inflation on Energy, Gas and Food Up - Wages Down
....The average consumer confidence drops for three months in a row, amongst all the Abenomics recent good news? (polite laughter and applause here, please!) And amongst merchants, it drops for 5 months in a row, and people say I'm negative? Yes, OK. Fair enough. I may be negative on Abenomics, but I work amongst the Japanese and hear what they say and talk about. I'm no more negative than they are.
I just report the facts. Just the facts, ma'am!
Like I said, I work closely with the average Japanese person; at both my jobs: one is with business people and the other at the radio station brings me closely in contact with the average Japanese who commutes to work (how much more "average" can you get than commuters going to work in trains and cars to white and blue collar jobs who listen to regular old FM radio?)
Well, well, well, lookie what we have today! The Bank of Japan has just released a poll: BOJ Poll: Japan Consumer Confidence Slips on Lower Income.
In that poll the consumer confidence index actually crashed from a year before - when people were fooled into voting for Shinzo Abe - and the index actually stands today at a -8.3 (I'm not too sure about how badly a minus confidence point is calculated, but it was only -4.8 last year).
Here's a few tidbits from that report by BOJ:
The government data showed that Japan's core consumer price index (excluding perishables but including energy) rose 0.8% on year in August, the third straight y/y rise after +0.7% in July and +0.4% in June, which was the first rise in 14 months. It remains the largest gain since +1.0% in November 2008.
The average household spending fell a real 1.6% on year in August, marking the first y/y drop in two months after a 0.1% gain in July. The average real income of salaried workers' households fell a real 0.9% on year in August, the first fall in six months while their disposable income also posted the first drop in six months, down 1.4%.
Wolf Richter over at the Testoserone Pit slices and dices this data into much easier form than I ever could. He writes in: Japanese Consumers, Hammered By Abenomics, Get Gloomier:
In the prior survey, undertaken in June, the index had jumped 17.8 points to a still low -4.8. Consumers at the time were less disillusioned about the promise of Abenomics that something good would trickle down to them, from the trillions of yen that the Bank of Japan was handing to megabanks on a monthly basis. But now consumers have opened their eyes, looked at price tags and glanced at their paychecks, and the index fell to -8.3.
One of the stated policies of Abenomics and the Bank of Japan is to stir up inflation. It has worked wonderfully, with year over year inflation rising. Goods inflation has hit 1.8%. Alas, consumers reported that rising costs of essentials, such as utilities and food, were cutting into what they could spend on other things. At the same time, more people reported that their incomes actually dropped from a year ago.
Great! And, uh, this money printing by the Bank of Japan was supposed to be hand in hand with an increase in wages... Didn't happen; nor will it.
Wolf Richter continues:
This isn’t just an idle impression of benighted consumers who don’t get Abenomics: Average household spending adjusted for inflation fell 1.6% year over year in August, more than wiping out the minuscule rise of 0.1% in July. Not a surprise: the average inflation-adjusted income of households of salaried workers, after six months of small improvements, dropped 0.9% year over year in August, and their disposable income dropped 1.4%.
This combination of inflation without wage increases – or worse, with wage declines – amounted to inflation without compensation. And consumers don’t expect it to end anytime soon: 83% of the respondents expected prices to continue to rise over the next twelve months, up from 80.2% in June.
So only a minuscule 16.2% saw the economy improving over the next twelve months, down in a big way from the already low 24.3% in June. Even more people expected their income to fall over that period.
Throw in the increase in Sales Tax and what do you have? A disaster in the making.
Folks, I love Abenomics as much as the next Japanese guy (Someone go out and find that next Japanese guy, I can't find him anywhere!) but this is simple mathematics...
People's spending is already down, along with consumer confidence before the Sales Tax increase is implemented...
It's not rocket science what's going to happen here in Japan...
This isn't being negative; the data backs up what I'm writing here... Like I said, not negative, just realistic.
No amount of happy talk is going to fix this problem....
....Or what's going on at Fukushima!
Kyodo News, October 3, 2013:
New leak of stored toxic water found at Fukushima plant: TEPCO [...] Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it has found that highly toxic water has leaked from another storage tank at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex. [...] TEPCO, which operates the Fukushima plant, said it detected high levels of radioactive materials in water accumulated within barriers around a group of storage tanks including the leaky one.
Abe assured the Olympic committee all leaks we secured... But, as usual, he didn't know what the hell he was talking about... I wonder if my friends will complain that I don't report this in a positive light?
NOTE: This is the BIG NEWS in Japan today. Watch a NHK (English) news report here:
Now, I'm not talking about how dangerous these leaks are or are not. My point is credibility of the government. Now, think about this: If people can't believe what the government leaders say, then how can they have any confidence?
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