A New Beginning in Japan: Glimmers of False Hope

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com

April 1 is a new beginning in the Japanese calendar and coincides roughly with the much anticipated arrival of cherry blossoms. The first ethereal pink was sighted last week on an otherwise naked branch of a cherry tree in Kochi Prefecture, on Shikoku Island. Now blossoms have appeared in Tokyo. Full bloom is expected by Friday. Last year, after the horrific Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that took over 18,000 lives, most cherry-blossom viewing events and festivals had been canceled—at great cost to the industry that has sprung up around cherry blossoms. But this year, people appear eager once again to go places and spend money during the festivities.

April 1—this year, April 2—is also the beginning of the corporate year. Newly recruited college graduates show up for their first day of work and are welcomed with entrance ceremonies and speeches. When universities spit them out in March at the end of the academic year, they need to have a job offer in hand. If they don't, their chances of ever entering a career are minimal due to the rigidities of the system. By Japanese standards, the employment picture for graduates had been morose for years—“lost generation” they’re called. Then the financial crisis hit and hiring fell off a cliff. In 2008, 88.7% of the graduates had job offers. By 2011, it was down to 77.4%. Nearly a quarter of all graduates saw their visions of becoming a pillar of Japanese society vanish.

So when the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare reported that a still dismal 80.5% of the grads had accepted a job offer by February 1, it was greeted with relief. An estimated 800,000 new employees walked into their first jobs today, up from 776,000 in 2011, the lowest point since 2000 when collection of this data began. Banks went on a mini hiring spree. For example, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group hired 810 graduates this year, up from 709 last year, but down from 2,090 in 2009.

The overall jobs picture has improved as well. Unemployment for February, reported Friday, edged down to 4.5%, and unemployment among the 15-24-year-olds fell to 9.2% from 9.5%. With three jobs for four applicants, it was still dismal, but after nine consecutive months of increases, it was the best reading since November 2008. And a jump from November 2009, when there were more than twice as many applicants as job openings.

Even beleaguered Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda got his first respite on the relentlessly steep slope down the approval ratings. All Japanese prime ministers since Koizumi slither down that slope for 8-15 months. When their popularity drops into the low twenties, Japan Inc. sees to it that they're axed. But on the way down, they have a brief uptick. And Noda is having his—a tiny 2.6 percentage points to 31.6%.



But not everything is suddenly rosy in Japan. Today, the Bank of Japan released its tankan quarterly survey of over 10,000 manufacturers: minus 4, unchanged from its lousy reading in December. While coddled large companies became more optimistic, small and medium firms (ominously) became even more pessimistic, in part due to the catastrophic power situation.

TEPCO, the bailed out owner of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, is trying to shove rate increases of 17% down the throats of its commercial customers—while rationing power at the same time. Power shortages will spread across most of Japan this summer as the last of 54 nuclear power plants will be taken off line in a few weeks. While pressure is building to restart some of them, public distrust and resistance run high, particularly after revelations seeped out about the nuclear industry’s controlling relationship with its regulators. Japan Inc. at work. The conspiracy had squashed stiffer regulations for nuclear emergencies. Five years later, the people of Fukushima paid the price. For that fiasco, the emails that documented it, its deadly and ongoing impact, and the anger it caused, read... A Revolt, the Quiet Japanese Way.

But it’s a two-edged sword. Shortages of up to 20% this summer are expected to strangle the highly industrialized Osaka area, and companies are shifting production overseas. Now a panel of the Osaka municipal and prefectural governments floated a plan for the city of Osaka to demand that Kansai Electric Power shut down its nuclear power plants permanently. Mayor Toru Hashimoto has come out in support. Largest shareholder with an ownership of 9%, Osaka has some pull though it is unlikely to prevail over almighty Kansai Power.

But on the Japanese internet, there has been something ... lighter. And utterly cynical. It shows just how much trust the people have left in TEPCO and the government. Read:  Nuclear Contamination As Seen By Japanese Humor (mostly pics).

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
btdt's picture

you say:


But it’s a two-edged sword. Shortages of up to 20% this summer are expected to strangle the highly industrialized Osaka area, and companies are shifting production overseas. Now a panel of the Osaka municipal and prefectural governments floated a plan for the city of Osaka to demand that Kansai Electric Power shut down its nuclear power plants permanently. Mayor Toru Hashimoto has come out in support. Largest shareholder with an ownership of 9%, Osaka has some pull though it is unlikely to prevail over almighty Kansai Power.



Shortages expected by whom? Last summer, there were dire warnings on shortages and none appeared.

Shortly, the entire nuke fleet of Japan will be off-line and there are no shortages. 

Smells a bit strange. 54 reactors out of service and no shortages so far?

Can you spell excess capacity? Like in a shit load. Like in excactly what you expect in Japan?

The Japanese public was sold nukes, first as nukes for peace and lately nukes for green. Nukes for international competitiveness.. The reality has always been, nukes for pals in industry, for bribed local officals. nukes for subsidies for locals who vote for the LDP in return....

There indeed may be power shortages this summer, but it is likely to be the flavor of the Enron shortages for California back in 2000 rather than based on actual need.

Scare the sheep back into the corral.


steve from virginia's picture


Like it or not, one way or another, Japan will de-industrialize. The process is underway, there is nothing the Japanese can do to alter the outcome.

... the only question is whether the process will allow a 'Japan' to remain. Right now the questions facing the country are existential. Reactors don't play and they are in the game for tens of thousands of years.

Japan is the poster child for the follies of industrialization and 'development'. Before 1858 and Admiral Perry's 'black ships' the Japanese maintained a successful autarky: a country with 10% arable land fed itself and supported an intricate -- if overly mannered -- civilization with very limited contact with the 'outside world'.

Afterward came the ascendence of militarisim and factory production, the invasion and control of Korea and Manchuria followed by the 1930s invasion of China proper. This expansion blossomed into world war then collapsed along with the military's overt dominion over the country's politics. The outcome of Japan's first phase of industrial expansion was calamatous defeat.

After the world war and painful reconstruction, the Japanese reindustrialized around central planning and a mercantile 'war on customers' cleverly disguised with faddish orientalism and (false) politeness. Besides war on customers was accompanying war on resources/the natural world. Before China emerged (following the Japanese model) the world's raw material rapist was Japan with its voracious consumption of non-renewables. The Japanese whaling industry is a good window onto the country's attitude toward both nature and the rest of the world.

Part and parcel of the resourse stripping paradigm has been the ascendency of the nuclear industry, using whaling as a model. First -- not mentioned by Richter -- is Japan's nuclear weapons ambtiions and its deeply buried ambitions to re-create a new far eastern military empire. The nuclear power industry is -- to paraphrase Milton Friedman -- at always and everywhere a front for nuclear weapons production and the Japanese are no exception. It is understood by all with even mild interest in the subject that Japan is capable of making deliverably high-yield weapons at any time of its choosing.

Beyond creeping militarism, the reactor industry is of a piece with the 'Keiretsu' cartels which dominate Japan's business. At the top is the feckless government, at bottom is the Yakuza, the rest of Japan has no vote, no input, no say in the process.

Reactor economics has one significant difference from whaling variety: reactors must be tended at expanding cost to Japan economy or they melt down or catch fire. Four reactors 'down', fifty more to go, plus dozens of related facilities which contain thousands of tons of fissile/fertile material. The country is a cleverly and attractivly designed nuclear waste dump. This status is to remain in force for millenia! Nobody has a clear idea about how to solve this minor problem except to offer more payoffs to Tepco exec, more bribes backward toward government officials and prayer. Meanwhile, the four derelict reactors continually dump more and more rads into the environment, hastening the day when Tokyo and the intervening ground must be abandoned.

At Fukushima, yakuza slaves add more plastic tubing and duct tape. The situation on the reactor grounds becomes too dangerous even for the yakuza. Then what?

We humanoids are good at denying bad news. We don't want to hear about climate change, radiation, debt deflation, species extinction, ocean acidification, mounting political extremism, Peak Oil/non-renewable resources, peak credit and death-by-machines. We aren't serious. There have been decades of easy living, tailfins, 'Survivor' and 'Dallas', the Beatles and Eminem. Albert Haynesworth is important, getting rid of the machines that are bankrupting us and destroying our childrens' chance of any sort of future at all is 'too radical'.

Getting rid of the machines is not an option but a desperate necessity right now for the hapless Japanese who are trapped on a small island with their clever toys. They are also trapped within their own mendacious 'What Me Worry?' attitude of misplaced moral supremacy.

Look to yourselves 'exceptional' Americans: Japan's rads are coming your way, to steal your children.

Iconoclast's picture

Real quality journalism that...thanks..

tempo's picture

Radiation and the uncontrolled reactor #2 will crush the glimer of hope in Japan. Opps that glimmer may the after glow of an uncontrolled radioactive release. www.enenews.com

AnAnonymous's picture

False hope is not really explained.

Hiring is back, 80 pc new graduates have found jobs six months after graduating.

Reads more like a recovery and a return to normalcy.

Not Too Important's picture

Who is providing the stats? The government?

q99x2's picture

House of Koshu Cherry Blossom Wine. I still get a bad feeling when I thnk of it 40 years later. 

TheDavidRicardo's picture

True or false:  Japanese women dig white boys from California?

TheDavidRicardo's picture

Is that a down arrow for the "white boy" or the "California?"

I am willing to overlook fucked up teeth.

FinalCollapse's picture

They will start printing money like crazy - no other options left. Fukushima is FUBAR - they are getting irradiated little by little. 

Not Too Important's picture

. . . Getting irradiated lots by lots. Fixed it for 'ya.

Manthong's picture

Just as long as they don’t get their false hopes up too high.


I worked in Japan on and off from 2002 to 2007. I grew to love their culture and traveling on their fantastic bullet trains, and local railways.

I use to marvel watching their kids talk to each other on their web cam cell phones, etc. I was a there couple of times for the miracle of the Cherry Blossom festivals. Now, I guess, all the cherry blooms are irradiated. Sad.

Iconoclast's picture

Incredibly sad to think that the purity if Hanami is now permanently infected ;-(

flattrader's picture

Incredibly sad to think that while they spent decades developing a mass of worthless electronic consumer toys, including a robot puppy, they didn't bother to to develop a radiation hardened remove device that might actually be of some use.

jonjon831983's picture

OK, barring talk of radioactive Japan. How the hell are they supposed to get enough power for their industries after going cold turkey on nukes...

And as has been pointed out by some posts, the "solution" or rather the effect is for reduced energy consumption by production leaving the country...

So where does that leave the rest of the people who cannot leave?

css1971's picture





Natural Gas?



Tick the most likely.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

At first, big $ for oil and gas.  When Japan has been looted; conservation, austerity, emigration and death.  Japan spent too much time developing "sex robots".  They should have considered developing robots to deal with nuclear disasters, and fusion for power.  Oh well.  What are you going to do?  Japan is an object lesson for all on many levels.

Eric L. Prentis's picture

Rewarding, or not punishing incompetence leads to Fukushima like disasters. Japan has three China syndromes ongoing. Tokyo is covered in nuclear fallout. The Japanese are in real danger of losing their entire country.


The US is following in Japan’s footsteps, by not throwing the criminals, who caused the credit crisis, in prison. Instead, send zombie banks into bankruptcy, raise interest rates to stimulate demand and stop monetizing the debt. By postponing the crash, that should have occurred in 2008, the Fed is making the eventual crash, when it comes, infinitely worse.

Not Too Important's picture

Unfortunately, it's all they know how to do. All their plans have become fucked up, they're all in danger of losing their positions of power, so now it's "if I can't have it, you can't have it, and we'll all go down in flames together". Schoolyard psychology. Nothing difficult to understand. They are all essentially narcissistic psychopaths, and if one follows the logical path for people like this, it's easy to see where they're taking us.

The trick now is to figure out how to live a short, remaining life separated from their pyschosis.

flattrader's picture

If #4 Spent Fuel Pool, which is now listing and being supported by steel jacks, comes down...all bets are off...globally.

And that part of Japan is being nicked by a typhoon level storm right now.

Pay attention everyone.




gangland's picture

no glimmers, im sad but in reality, japan is done, sad but true, i would like to be pleasantly surprised, heartbreaking


fuck ldp dpj amakudari meti tepco ozawa

Freddie's picture

Don't forget the Yakuza who bid on the maint jobs at the power plant.  The place was a wreck before the tsunami.

Very sad.  Japan has a demographics time bomb, a debt bomb and a nuclear bomb that went off with old sh*t GE technology. Plus shitty containment vessels made in Japan.  Japan has pretty much no hope. 

The only positive is Japan's death will be less violent than the death of the now feral USA.

machineh's picture

Just wait until they raise the consumption tax from the current 5% to 8%.

Japan's economy will fold like a cheap suit, just as it did in 1998 when consumption tax was hiked from 3% to 5%.

Japan is the modern equivalent of a mastodon: unable to adapt, unable to learn from mistakes. 

non_anon's picture

I enjoyed my brief time in Yokohama and traveling the islands. It saddens me to see this happening to this intriguing culture.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Japan will soon be celebrating a new holiday: "Evacuation Day".

Not Too Important's picture

It won't be "Off Island Evacuation Day". The world has already turned its' back on the Japanese, or at least the poor ones that can't afford to leave and bribe their way into another country.

They are being treated like the Jews that left Europe, being turned back to face their demise.

Have you noticed that, since the very beginning of this horrific disaster, no country has offered to take Japanese refugees? That even the UN is sanctioning the shipping of Japanese radioactive fish to innocent schoolchildren in Third World countries for their school lunches? This is a worldwide-sanctioned genocide against a now-peaceful people that are slowly cooking to death, and the worldwide spreading of contaminated food to as many poor people as possible.

Here in the US, our government knows what's coming. The renewed push for an individual mandate for Obamacare is to help pay for the waves of cancer and respiratory diseases our exposure to the Fuku radiation is giving us, because the insurance companies are all broke. It doesn't matter, our medical system can't cope with the waves of death soon to hit us.

This isn't a matter of if, or how much. It's over. Make peace with those you love, and smell the roses before they all die.