Japan is in the details

Those who have already been here will want to skip over this post for something more informative—for example Noah Smith.  But I thought I’d make a few comments about my first trip to Japan, which is 60% over.  Consider these to be non-authoritative impressions.

1.  Just say Noh:  After arriving at 4am very jet-lagged, I stayed up all day and attended a performance of Noh theatre at the Yasukuni Shrine.  (Yes, that Yasukuni Shrine.)  Despite the jet lag and the tiny uncomfortable chairs, I sort of enjoyed the event.  Perhaps it helped that I had previously read William Vollmann’s Kissing the Mask, although it had been awhile and I still didn’t really understand what I was watching. In any case, I recommend a performance of Noh, at least for those with patience. (I’d like to thank my friend and his wife for bringing me to this show, and helping my wife and I adjust to Japan.)

2.  The “wouldn’t it be neat if” country: Japan seems like a land of contrasts (how’s that for a cliche!)  From the understated subtlety of Noh we transitioned to the sensory bombardment of Robot Restaurant, which makes Las Vegas seem refined and tasteful by comparison.  If you like young Japanese ladies in skimpy comic book outfits using whips to mercilessly attack men dressed up as awful monsters, all to the sound of deafening rock music (and who doesn’t?) then be sure not to miss this show.  I saw roughly zero Japanese there, which must mean something.  Later that day we saw a group of western tourists driving go-carts through Shibuya, all dressed up in bizarre costumes.  I like the fact that the Japanese seem rather uninhibited in terms of coming up with offbeat ways of having fun.  In many cases, it’s just a matter of tweaking some familiar product to make it more convenient.  Which brings me to my next observation:

3.  Japan is in the details:

One of the pleasures of traveling in Japan is that you notice all sorts of interesting little details.  The Japanese are good at perfecting products or processes that are widely used elsewhere.  In the basement of a Tokyo department store I saw the most astounding collection of baked goods that I’ve ever come across.  This place is paradise for people with a sweet tooth. There are lots of innovations in travel, such as taxi doors that open automatically, and a train system that runs with such perfect precision that you’ll almost burst out laughing.  When I watched thousands of commuters pour through a Tokyo train station in the morning their movements were so precise and efficient and synchronized that it almost seemed staged, like as scene in a Hollywood film.  I dared not cross this river of people, fearing it would throw the clockwork precision out of whack.

Detail of a door in Nara:

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 10.31.53 PM

4.  Libertarian Japan:

I read that the drinking and smoking age in Japan is 20, but the age limits are not enforced.  There are lots of vending machines selling cigarettes, and I’m told there are also a few machines selling alcohol.  In an Osaka restaurant I saw an ash tray with a couple cigarette butts.  What a thrill that was!  To paraphrase Colonel Kilgore, cigarette smoke smells like . . . freedom.  Japan still has phone booths, so you can get by without a cell phone.  (My model 6s iPhone broke on the first day of my trip; I borrowed my wife’s for the Nara picture.)  Most businesses I’ve frequented don’t take credit cards—another big plus in my view.

5.  Visual Japan

I’m a very visually oriented person, so it’s visual images, not food, that motivates me to travel.  Japan has the sort of visual aesthetic that I like best, especially in art, film, architecture and design.  And yet much (perhaps most) of the architecture is pretty bland, even ugly–especially buildings from 20 to 60 years old.  Lots of mediocre stuff was thrown up during the post-war boom.  I’m interested in the very old and very new stuff.  Newer Japanese houses are often very attractive, as are some of the modernist commercial buildings or museums.

The older temples and gardens in places like Kyoto are even better than I imagined.  If you are in one of the better Kyoto gardens on a nice spring day, you’d see some of the most astoundingly beautiful scenery that you’ll ever experience.  At a smaller scale, they are very good at things like pottery design, and also the presentation of food items, in stores or restaurants.  BTW, I’m not a foodie, but the food here seems excellent, and relatively inexpensive.  I recall one lunch in Tokyo that was 700 yen (includes tax and there is no tipping), which is $6.50.  The meal would have easily been over $10 in the US, especially including tax and tip.

Japanese cities often look better at night, with parts of Osaka looking like Times Square.

6.  The barbarians are coming

When you see a mix of foreign tourists and locals in a place like Tokyo, the locals look better.  The tourists (mostly Westerners and East/Southeast Asians) seem louder, less well-mannered, less attractively dressed, fatter, etc.  In affluent parts of Tokyo the men wear suits and the women dress more elegantly than in the West.  The younger women often look very  . . .  demure, if that’s the right word.  Unless they look totally crazy.  Whatever the look, there are no halfway measures in Japan.

Locals in Kyoto are a bit dismayed by the sudden influx of tourists.  I read that tourism in Japan has soared from 5 million in 2005 to 24 million in 2016, and is expected to soon reach 40 million.  Tourists don’t know all the complicated rules that make Japanese society work well despite the high population density.  (The alt-right would have a much stronger argument against immigration in Japan than in the (mongrel) US.)  I feel oversized and clumsy here, always bumping my head on something, or my knees against a table.

Before the trip I read The Three Body Problem trilogy.  In the future, the people were more attractive, softer, less rugged.  The cities were full of video screens.  Tokyo sort of reminds me of that imagined future society.

BTW, it’s hard to tell Chinese and Japanese apart at the individual level (until they speak), but easy at the group level.  Sort of like Germans and Italians.  That reminds me of the “race is a social construct . . . no it’s not” debate. To my eye, the Japanese look slightly more Western.

7.  Surprises

I recall reading about an island off the north coast of Australia where the natives have no concept of left and right.  Everything is described in terms of compass directions, such as north or east.  They’d say “John was sitting to the west of Max.”  Tokyo seems the opposite.  When I spoke of a neighborhood lying to the north of where we were staying, my host said that almost nobody in Tokyo thinks in terms of compass directions.  The numerous maps on the street confused me at first, as they are often upside down, with south pointing up.

There is often surprisingly light traffic in Tokyo–it’s not hard to get around.  I’m told that’s because there are few places to park, so people take public transport.

Subway cars are sometimes “women only”, I believe to prevent groping.  So the “Me too” movement is also making some progress in Japan.

Why are the Japanese so slim and healthy?  The secret seems to be a diet rich in sugar, carbs and fat, and light on fruits and vegetables.  Oh, and lots of smoking.  Try finding a Diet Coke, or sugar-free sweetener for your coffee.

When I watched animated films by Miyazaki I used to think the trees were drawn in a very interesting way.  Now I know why.  Many Japanese trees actually do look like large green cumulus clouds of foliage.

At dinner last night, in a traditional Japanese onsen near Mt. Fuji (recommended), the clams served were still moving around quite vigorously, right at our table. Memories of Oldboy. Many Americans would be disturbed by this sight.

Many of the waitresses speak with a soft child-like voice.  (Maybe they are children, I’m not good at judging ages.)

Mt. Fuji is more impressive than I imagined.

8. The economy:

It’s really hard to compare Japan to the US, because the countries are so different.  I visited the home of a professional couple in Kyoto, and the living standards seemed closer to what you’s see in a lower middle class house in America.  I suspect that Japanese consumption is more equal than in the US, and that the upper 50% of Americans consume at far higher levels than in Japan, while the bottom 50% are closer to Japanese levels.  Japan does have some advantages, like excellent services and low crime rates. The high level of service is labor intensive, and may reduce measured labor productivity.  Productivity is probably hurt someone what by the high population density (it’s hard to find room to build Walmarts) as well as burdensome regulations, which partly reflect a culture with strict rules.  But this is just guesswork on my part.  There seems to be a tight labor market, with many foreigners brought in to do routine work.

9. Random impressions:

I recall Donald Richie saying that Japan was a great place to live, as long as you were not Japanese.  A Westerner visiting Japan benefits from all the attractive aspects of Japanese society, without being expected to adhere to all the rules, which can seem stultifying to an outsider.  I very much enjoy being here as an outsider, and wish I could live a year in Kyoto, as Pico Iyer did.

When I lived in London back in 1986, I wanted to blot out all of modern London, and imagine I was in the city described by Stevenson and Chesterton.  That’s less true of Tokyo, for which futurism is part of the appeal.  Even so, the Japan described in earlier accounts has some appealing features that have been lost.  On the plus side, Japan seems less influenced by the world’s major religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.) than most other places.

Japan gives me a powerful sense of nostalgia, for reasons that are not entirely clear.  I don’t believe in reincarnation, but even the red and white electrical pylons and the trains running on elevated tracks seem oddly familiar.  Perhaps the sense of deja-vu comes from seeing so many Japanese films, and having the images burrow deeply into my subconscious.  (BTW, when you come here it’s immediately clear that Ozu and Naruse are more “Japanese” directors than Kurosawa.)  Or maybe it has to do with spending so many hours looking at woodblock prints, and then finally seeing the actual places they depicted.  Or maybe my personality is more Japanese than American.  I like polite people. (Don’t judge me by my nasty internet persona.)

When you are young you should visit China and SE Asia, and then late in life come to Japan, to rediscover your (imagined) past.

PS.  Because of my injured foot, and because I’ve had a bad cold for the past 11 days, and because I’m twice as old as when I lived in London, I saw much less than I hoped to (and much less than my (younger) wife saw.)  The fact that I’m nonetheless enjoying the trip speaks volumes about Japan.  My only recommendation for Kyoto is to see the popular places in the early morning or near closing time, and the quieter places at midday.  If you go to Arashiyama, don’t miss this house:

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 10.52.47 PMPPS.  I positively HATE the way email and Facetime are destroying the romance of travel.


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37 Responses to “Japan is in the details”

  1. Gravatar of H_WASSHOI H_WASSHOI
    17. April 2018 at 19:16

    (memorial comment)

  2. Gravatar of Mycroft Canner Mycroft Canner
    18. April 2018 at 01:57

    Definitely go to China when you’re young and make sure you enter and leave by Hong Kong so that you marvel both at its Chinese nature when arriving and its Western nature when leaving.

  3. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    18. April 2018 at 05:48

    Very interesting. I’m curious if your average Tokyo resident lives as well as the average New Yorker.

  4. Gravatar of B Cole B Cole
    18. April 2018 at 06:13

    Ozu’s Tokyo Story now being rated very highly by people who rate movies.

    I wish I had been Japanese.

  5. Gravatar of Heskey Heskey
    18. April 2018 at 06:19

    Regarding Japanese people being slim. From visiting it’s hard to imagine how it’s possible, most foods seem highly calorific and fast food is not exactly limited. I’d say it’s mostly because of the contrast between food eaten at home and in restaurants, with the former being more traditional with fish/vegetables. Not to mention portion sizes are half that of the United States, flavour is more subtle and less salty. Exercise also helps, taking public transport burns more calories than using your car.

  6. Gravatar of Samsondale Samsondale
    18. April 2018 at 07:42

    I’ve been going to Japan annually for the past 24 years (my in-laws live in Kobe) and your impressions are generally aligned with mine. It is a unique, amazing country that I wish wasn’t so high on the radar of other travelers. I would note that the Donald Richie observation that you reference is not entirely accurate, in my experience. My kids have been going to Japanese school for many years and we have lots of Japanese friends who are in the US temporarily. They almost uniformly look forward to returning to Japan. They tend to like it there. That said, I would love to live in Japan but would not want to work there (and my extremely Japanophile daughter has come to the same conclusion (probably based on tales of woe from her friends who have returned and much prefer American schools)). And, by the way, their ‘me too’ subway cars have been around for way longer than the ‘me too’ thing in the US.

  7. Gravatar of Samsondale Samsondale
    18. April 2018 at 07:54

    Further to my previous comment regarding ambivalence about the popularity of Japan to tourists, one year we visited a part of Gunma that was on the edges of the Japan Alps. The region was beautiful, the onsen were gorgeous, the white water rafting was great fun and the canyoning was pretty unusual. The town, however, was hideous – old, decaying concrete hotels showing their uglier side to the river. I told my wife that if they spruced the town up with Alpine architecture, it would be a very popular world tourist site. She said she figured they preferred it to be less popular.

  8. Gravatar of Hoosier Hoosier
    18. April 2018 at 08:20

    Having lived in Japan previously for an extended period tour observations completely jive with my experience, especially the parts about the robot restaurant and gaijin tourism, the economy, libertarianism and that Donald Richie quote. You chose wisely in your reading choices too!

  9. Gravatar of Hoosier Hoosier
    18. April 2018 at 08:24

    I lost a lot of weight after moving to Japan mainly due to the small portion sizes. At first I was constantly hungry but it felt too gluttonous to order 2 meals when out with friends. I soon got used to it and the weight dropped. Then when I went back to the states I could only eat about half the portions given to me at a meal. Why do Americans eat so much? It’s a real shame that we have to grow up in that kind of environment. It isn’t healthy obviously.

  10. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    18. April 2018 at 09:00

    I’m glad your enjoying your trip in Japan.

    1)”Oh, and lots of smoking.

    “18% of Japanese smoke – the same as the U.S. A major difference is that 30% of Japanese men smoke and around 10% of women smoke while in the U.S., it is almost even.

    2) 3% of Japanese women are obese and somewhat higher for men. Japanese in general eat better and almost always smaller servings. They also walk far more than most Americans. I also read that Americans drink 10 times more soda than Japanese as do Koreans.

    3) “Subway cars are sometimes “women only”, I believe to prevent groping. So the “Me too” movement is also making some progress in Japan.”

    Women Only cars have been around for 25 years. What has changed is cracking down on gropers since around 2000. This isn’t related to the ‘Me Too’ movement which so far is not in Japan – that is, public accusations. There has been a sea change in sexual harrassment law suits that began in the late 1990s after the first suit was filed.

  11. Gravatar of Nate Nate
    18. April 2018 at 09:24

    Can you expand on your postscript? Do you feel more tethered to home than the pre email/facetime days or what?

  12. Gravatar of AbsoluteZero AbsoluteZero
    18. April 2018 at 09:25

    Really glad you’re enjoying Japan.

    Noh.
    Most Japanese people don’t understand it either. They actually give you material which translates the ancient Japanese to modern Japanese.

    The Robot Restaurant.
    As you said, zero locals. It’s a completely made up thing for foreign tourists.

    “This place is paradise for people with a sweet tooth.”
    Yes! This is true both in terms of traditional Japanese desserts and Western ones. In fact, they routinely win international competitions in the latter.

    “… taxi doors that open automatically, …”
    This is not just Japan, it’s common in a few places in East Asia. They were like that in Hong Kong back in the 1970s.

    Smoking.
    They passed a law so now you cannot walk and smoke on the streets. Before, Tokyo was completely littered with cigarette butts, and I do mean everywhere. Again, it was exactly the same in Hong Kong in the 1970s. But Hong Kong passed a similar law much earlier.

    “Subway cars are sometimes “women only”, I believe to prevent groping. So the “Me too” movement is also making some progress in Japan.”
    This predates the “Me too” movement by at least two decades, as Todd Kreider said.

    “Why are the Japanese so slim and healthy? The secret seems to be a diet rich in sugar, carbs and fat, and light on fruits and vegetables. Oh, and lots of smoking. Try finding a Diet Coke, or sugar-free sweetener for your coffee.”
    Two things. First, what Heskey said, people don’t eat like that at home. Second, what Hoosier said, portion size.

    “Many of the waitresses speak with a soft child-like voice. (Maybe they are children, I’m not good at judging ages.)”
    They are not children. This is deliberate. You get this in many contexts. For example, often narrators in TV documentaries would do this.

    “Mt. Fuji is more impressive than I imagined.”
    Yes. Do you know what Kage-Fuji, or Shadow Fuji, is? Ask or look it up.

    “On the plus side, Japan seems less influenced by the world’s major religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.) than most other places.”
    Yes! And this is definitely a feature, not a bug.

    “A Westerner visiting Japan benefits from all the attractive aspects of Japanese society, without being expected to adhere to all the rules, …”
    This is true. But, you also miss many things. If you look East Asian, and can speak Japanese at least somewhat well, but also can speak English well, you can be both, up to a point …

    “Tokyo sort of reminds me of that imagined future society.”
    Yes, as William Gibson has said for a long time.

    OT. The Three Body Problem. You read this? Great. What do you think?

  13. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    18. April 2018 at 09:27

    Thanks Scott, enjoyed it.

  14. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    18. April 2018 at 09:35

    Corrections:

    1) “I’m glad you’re enjoying…”

    2) “I also read that Americans drink 10 times more soda than Japanese and Koreans. (That was an actual statistic.)

  15. Gravatar of Wednesday assorted links – Marginal REVOLUTION Wednesday assorted links - Marginal REVOLUTION
    18. April 2018 at 09:46

    […] 7. Scott Sumner visits Japan. […]

  16. Gravatar of AbsoluteZero AbsoluteZero
    18. April 2018 at 09:51

    Scott, one thing I forgot to mention. Try and watch some TV while you’re still in Japan. Doesn’t matter what it is. Watch the commercials. I’ve found that they’re a great way to learn about a culture and a people.

  17. Gravatar of Rimbaud Rimbaud
    18. April 2018 at 09:51

    It’s “helping my wife and me”, not “helping my wife and I”.

  18. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    18. April 2018 at 11:44

    “Many of the waitresses speak with a soft child-like voice. (Maybe they are children, I’m not good at judging ages.)”

    Bilingual Japanese-English speaking women (and Chinese-English and Korean-English) speak at a much higher pitch in the East Asian language than in English, something well established in a number of papers. (Some papers do claim that it happens equally with both sexes: http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/phonlab/documents/2013/f0rangeCRG.pdf)

    It also appears to occur with Korean-English bilingual speakers, and to a lesser extent with Mandarin-English (https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/media/users/drv1/2017_The_bilingual_voice_Vocal_characteristics_when_speaking_two_lang_SLH.pdf)

  19. Gravatar of AbsoluteZero AbsoluteZero
    18. April 2018 at 12:34

    John Thacker,

    Thanks. Didn’t know that. (Wonder if many of my friends and I do this. We probably all do without knowing.)

    But no, I don’t think that’s what Scott was talking about. Most of these people are not really bilingual. And, notably, they do not talk like this outside of their jobs, at home, with their friends, and so on. It’s deliberate. You hear this in restaurants, hotels, and on TV, in narration, and so on. And note he said “soft” in addition to child-like. That’s exactly right. It’s a very distinct thing you commonly hear from service people and narrators.

  20. Gravatar of IVV IVV
    18. April 2018 at 12:34

    “BTW, I’m not a foodie, but the food here seems excellent, and relatively inexpensive.”

    Honestly, American food is expensive. Sure, compared to Swiss restaurants or Scandinavian beer, it’s not, but shop in the markets pretty much anywhere and realize… Americans pay a lot for their food. And outside some places near the farms, it’s not particularly high quality. Especially in New York City.

  21. Gravatar of jack jack
    18. April 2018 at 12:46

    My comments having been in Japan a couple of weeks ago:

    1. I doubt watching incomprehensible Noh theater is a good use of limited time — unless you like the idea of yourself watching incomprehensible Noh theater and then telling others that you have done so;

    2. No one in Tokyo seemed to observe the women only car rule;

    3. Restaurant meals in Japan cost about the same as in NYC for example but the quality is a lot higher for what you pay. So Japanese low budget food at 900 yen is way better than NYC low budget at $9

  22. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    18. April 2018 at 12:51

    Sumner links Noah Smith as an authority on Japan and specifically the immigration issue. Noah Smith’s characterization of the immigration issue in Japan doesn’t line up with all other media coverage. I’m not going by highly partisan sites like Breitbart. Doing a simple Google News search on “japan immigration”, I see stories like:

    https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/its-population-ages-japan-quietly-turns-immigration
    https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Japan-s-plunging-population-adds-urgency-to-immigration-talk
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japan-immigration-shinzo-abe-refuse-relax-rules-prime-minister-policy-shrinking-population-foreign-a8065281.htm
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/13/world/asia/japan-african-university-president-sacko.html
    http://hpr2.org/post/asia-minute-record-number-foreigners-living-japan

    From this past week:
    http://www.businessinsider.com/why-japan-accepts-so-few-refugees-2018-4
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43794909

    Compare to Noah Smith’s full article: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-11-30/japan-wants-immigrants-the-feeling-isn-t-mutual

    Noah Smith: “the place is jam-packed with non-Japanese people”
    The Independent: “Less than 2 per cent of the population are foreign born” “That compares with more than 20 per cent in the UK.”

    Noah Smith: “A lot of people think of Japan as an insular country, but that isn’t actually true.”
    Business Insider: “Japan has one of the world’s toughest asylum policies. Despite having the third-largest economy, last year the nation accepted only 20 refugees.”
    and “the raw numbers tell a hard truth: Japan is one of the world’s least-welcoming countries for refugees.”
    and “Though the experts who spoke with Business Insider were divided on how open citizens are to refugees — as are various polls — they all agreed that Japan is a homogeneous country and, generally, people would like for it to stay that way.”. “When it comes to the government stance, I think they’ve been excessively obsessed with the preservation of this homogeneous society,”

    Noah Smith: “Even as the Donald Trump administration tries to think up ways to keep talented foreigners out of the U.S., Japan is trying to lure them in.” “In order to attract global talent, Japan’s government has followed the example of countries such as Canada, and introduced a points-based immigration system.”

    Trump has loudly and repeatedly advocated exactly this type of points system. That’s considered outrageous. The immigration debate in the US and Europe isn’t over allowing immigration of foreigners expected to be valuable assets, but whether the US or the nations of Europe have any right to limit immigration at all for their own interests. The migrant caravan of Honduras coming to the US wasn’t really chosen based on some expectation of high skill and economic value, it is people from Honduras who want the benefit of permanent residency in the US and are willing to challenge restrictions saying that they can’t. There was a recent supreme court decision saying that an illegal immigrant with repeat felony burglary convictions couldn’t be deported. In Japan, immigrants who haven’t committed crimes aside from entering the country without invitation and imprisoned in detention centers. These are very different debates.

    Japan has opened up somewhat to immigration. That’s true: “The biggest number are Chinese—more than 750,000. Second are South Koreans—about 450,000. The third biggest source of foreigners in Japan is Vietnam—more than 260,000.” I’d note that the Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese immigrants in US and Europe are generally not at all contentious or the source of conflicts or issues. If the US or Europe limited immigration like this to just very highly desirable immigrants, there wouldn’t be a problem. No one in the US is outraged that someone like Giselle Bundchen immigrates from Brazil either.

  23. Gravatar of sd0000 sd0000
    18. April 2018 at 13:11

    @Heskey – Japanese food less salty? That’s funny; Japanese food is notoriously salty, especially for the region (try staying in Korea for a few weeks then going to Japan; its shock therapy for the palette). The average Japanese person consumes significantly more salt than the average American (not sure about the policy on linking here but a simple Google search will bring you countless hits).

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    18. April 2018 at 14:41

    Everyone, Thanks for the great comments, I’ll respond when I have time.

    (sd0000 is correct about salt.)

  25. Gravatar of wd40 wd40
    18. April 2018 at 15:44

    I too thought that Mount Fuji was overrated, but as I sit in Hakone looking at Fuji while reading your post, I agree that it is quite thrilling see.

  26. Gravatar of Arilando Arilando
    18. April 2018 at 17:15

    >Those who have already been here will want to skip over this post for something more informative—for example Noah Smith.

    I can’t because i’m blocked.

  27. Gravatar of Heskey Heskey
    19. April 2018 at 01:36

    sd0000

    You’re right, that’s interesting. I always felt as if American food was a lot more saltier, although i guess soya sauce is very salty. Upon inspection Korea has a higher intake than Japan, so looks (taste) can be decieving. New hypothesis! Saltier foods mean less consumption and therefore less calories, haha.

  28. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    19. April 2018 at 04:05

    Nate, There are several problems. I preferred the 1980s, when travel meant no contact with home for long periods of time. Now you get work emails, health insurance problem emails, and a variety of other issues to deal with.

    Email and the internet also make the world seem smaller–you no longer feel you are at an exotic location far from home. It’s a global village now.

    Of course travelers in the 1980s longed for the 1920s.

    Absolutezero, I almost gave up after the first volume of TTBP. But the next two were quite good. (And I’m not a fan of Sci-fi.)

    This is unusual, as in a trilogy the first volume is usually the best.

    As far as TV, my wife and I watched all of “Midnight Diner” before coming to Japan. I have no time to watch TV here. I’ve watched a lot of Japanese cinema, BTW.

    Massimo, You said:

    “Trump has loudly and repeatedly advocated exactly this type of points system.”

    Trump has loudly and consistently been on both sides of every political issue in America, including DACA, TPP, North Korea, Syria, and 1000 other issues. It’s laughable that anyone takes anything he says seriously.

    Jack, If someone is that shallow, I’d suggest they simply lie.

    Rimbaud, I’m setting a new trend in language, like the replacement of “whom” with “who”. Or “impact” as a verb.

    IVV, Disagree about American food being expensive. But quality is certainly uneven–mediocre at most stores, good at a few. I was talking about restaurant prices.

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    19. April 2018 at 04:07

    wd40, And I’m in Fujiyoshida, with an even better view of Fuji. :)

  30. Gravatar of Garrett Garrett
    19. April 2018 at 10:12

    For my 20th birthday I visited Japan. I was excited to finally be able to buy alcohol legally, but I was actually a bit disappointed when I got to the grocery store checkout line with a bottle of wine and wasn’t ID’d.

  31. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    19. April 2018 at 13:55

    Garrett, I could legally drink in America at 18, but in those days (1973) even 16 year olds were rarely carded.

  32. Gravatar of Viking Viking
    19. April 2018 at 15:17

    “Garrett, I could legally drink in America at 18, but in those days (1973) even 16 year olds were rarely carded.”

    My local Fred Meyer (Kroger) store interrupted my self checkout because the bbq grill lighter was an age restricted item, 21 if I remember. While being able to die for your country, but not be able to buy a beer is highly insulting, the lighter restriction is ridiculous, and in onion.com territory.

    Lastly, regarding Japan, since the Marlboro Man was not outlawed there, I considered it more American than USA in the late nineties.

  33. Gravatar of Alec Fahrin Alec Fahrin
    20. April 2018 at 15:37

    I hope to visit all of East Asia one day. Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Incheon, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Hong Kong.

    But hey, work pays the bills. My grandparents had no money to travel. My parents only a little. Maybe I’ll travel some more, and my kids a lot.

    Hopefully one day people can teleport around and stop the clock, but not yet it seems. Cannot have too many people traveling or else then no one works.

  34. Gravatar of Jerry Brown Jerry Brown
    21. April 2018 at 19:21

    Thanks for the informative post!

  35. Gravatar of Wonks Anonymous Wonks Anonymous
    23. April 2018 at 07:10

    When I read you it seems like market monetarism is on the ascendancy and the rest of macro is just gradually catching up, but Sri Thiruvadanthai is saying recent evidence has indicated that fiscal policy is effective and monetary policy is not close to providing a fiscal offset (and only “a few unreconstructed market monetarists” haven’t come around):
    http://teasri.blogspot.com/2018/02/thinking-about-rethinking-macro.html

  36. Gravatar of Randomized Randomized
    26. April 2018 at 10:34

    Romance be damned, my wife and I love getting to Skype with our toddler when we travel.

    Thanks for the post :)

  37. Gravatar of TallDave TallDave
    27. April 2018 at 09:11

    Still seeing a lot about their “radical easing,” haha. Venezuela has radical easing, Japan is debating whether 2% is even achievable.

    Imagine, BOJ returns on national debt might provide >10% of the national budget before markets started to see too much yen in their future. And if you run out of gov’t debt, great, start buying the broadest indices until markets see 2.5%.

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