Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Japan's two lost decades

An end to the Japanese lesson
Dec 30th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Japan has taught the world a great deal about coping with the financial crisis. Now the West is on its own

Illustration by S. Kambayashi
Illustration by S. Kambayashi

“NEW Year rally expected on Tokyo market next week.” That was a typically boosterish Japanese newswire headline on December 29th 1989, the day that one of the world’s biggest ever asset-price bubbles reached bursting point. Exactly 20 years later the Japanese are still paying the price for such hubris (see article). The Nikkei 225 index, which peaked at 38,916, now languishes at just over one-quarter of that level (though once again there is talk of a New Year rally). Japan’s economy has barely grown in nominal terms after two “lost decades”, and is again suffering from deflation. Where Japan was once bearing down on America, it now feels the hot breath of China on its neck. Remember “Japan as Number One”? These days the country’s chief claim to fame is having a gross government debt burden approaching 200% of GDP. Read the whole story here...

Worst. Decade. Ever.


Slide Show: Jerry Garrett's Top 10 Cars of 2009

This year's top new cars focus, more than before, on affordability, economy and sustainability.

Slide Show: Ezra Dyer's Top 10 Cars of 2009

While plenty of worthy, interesting cars were introduced this year, the advances were evolutionary rather than groundbreaking.

Slide Show: James G. Cobb's Top 10 Cars of 2009

In a year of high anxiety, car enthusiasts could take some comfort in going back to the basics.

Slide Show: Lawrence Ulrich's Top 10 Cars of 2009

More than a house, a car remains the most visible, desirable accessory of success.
Slide Show: 2010 Lincoln MKZ
Lincoln is aiming the MKZ at entry-level luxury buyers, but the car doesn't deliver all that it promises.


For One Reviewer, Prius Is the Year's Top Car

The new Toyota Prius earns points for a more powerful engine, gets 50 miles a gallon and has solar panels on the roof to help cool the interior. But it's also a great value.

Snowstorm Chasing in an Audi R8

The Audi R8 V-10, with a midengine layout and all-wheel drive, can tear around a racetrack. But how does it handle in an East Coast snowstorm?

Aston Martin Cygnet Available Only to Aston Owners

The Cygnet compact car is expected to be priced at around $35,000, which may seem low for an Aston Martin, but only existing Aston owners are eligible to buy one.

Lawyer Withdraws Cases Against Toyota

A Dallas lawyer who had filed a lawsuit to reopen 17 cases against the automaker has changed his mind after reviewing documents from Toyota.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tokyo homeless shelter opens

Holiday substitute for '08 Hibiya Park tent city

Staff writer
A holiday-season shelter set up by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government opened Monday in Shibuya Ward to take in hundreds of laid-off workers. Read more here….

Friday, December 25, 2009

Japan's favorite hangover cures

News photo
Watermelon power: Suika No Chikara, compressed fermented watermelon

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Making spirits bright through holiday shopping in Japan

Christmas is in the air, but Japanese salarymen see no reason to celebrate. Recent statistics said the average year-end bonus at major Japanese companies this year plunged by 15.01 percent to 755,628 yen, or around $8,400. It is also the first double-digit decline for winter bonuses and the sharpest year-on-year drop since the records began in 1959. Read the whole story here....

Christmas Greetings 2009

Christmas Blessings
to all of our friends

from all of us at Startline

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Panera Bread Defies the Recession

Ron Shaich, Panera Bread Co.'s CEO, shows off the variety of 
breads and pastries available in his stores on a daily basis.
Tom Gannam / AP
The $1.3 billion soup and sandwich joint has thrived during down times. Read the story here......


Quotes of Note

"After playing around on motorbikes, I'm ready for the serious stuff."

Formula 1 driver MICHAEL SCHUMACHER,
ends three years in retirement, signing a one-year contract to drive in 2010 with Mercedes GP

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

F1 driver rescued from mountain

Former Formula 1 driver Ukyo Katayama has been rescued from the slopes of Japan's Mount Fuji, but two of his climbing companions are feared dead.
Katayama, 46, was walking down a trail at a height of about 2,200m on the 3,776m mountain when a rescue team from Shizuoka police found him.
Katayama told reporters he was "alright", but two others are missing feared dead in harsh weather.
Katayama drove in almost 100 Grands Prix in the 1990s.

Ukyo Katayama appeared in almost 100 Grands Prix in the 1990s
Experienced climber
Kyodo news agency reported that the driver made two calls for help to police - at 0100 (1700 GMT Thursday) and 0730 local time.
The messages said that one colleague "appeared to have died and another was in danger".
Katayama indicated that his companions' tents had blown away.
Kyodo named the missing pair as Eiichi Usami 43, and Toshio Horikawa, 34, who both work for Katayama's firm.
The temperature was reported to be -25C.
Katayama drove mainly for Tyrell in the 1990s, then switched to rallying before taking up his love of climbing.
He has scaled the summits of Mt McKinley, Kilimanjaro and a number of Himalayan peaks.

Rough Ride for Hatoyama After Landslide Election

A growing deficit, a spat with Washington, a campaign finance investigation and broken promises: Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s first 100 days in office in Japan have been anything but smooth. Read the story here...

WHEELS @ The New York Times

Solar Car Charging Comes to New York

Solar and wind-farm company Beautiful Earth Group has built the city's first solar car charging station in Brooklyn.

Group Names Best and Worst Child Booster Seats

In a test of 60 booster seats, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave 15 ratings of Best Buy and Good Buy, while revealing 11 seats to avoid.

In Germany, Turning Wallflowers Into Supercars

The 200-mile-per-hour Brabus GLK V-12 and 9ff GT9-R are proof that the German love for horsepower isn't slowing down.

When It Comes to Car Paint, Black Is the New Black

Henry Ford had it right. While silver is still the world's most popular color, the color black is making a comeback.

Slide Show: They Built Excitement
The mingling of power and glamour was Semon E. Knudsen's goal for all of Pontiac.

New to the Aftermarket


Friday, December 18, 2009


600 vehicles will be on display making this the world's largest custom car show!
TOKYO AUTO SALON 2010 with NAPAC is the world’s largest auto exhibition with more than 600 vehicles on display as well as some 300 companies, associations and schools including after-market parts manufacturers, custom shops, car manufacturers, automotive businesses, and automotive vocational schools, etc. Exhibits will include not only custom cars and car tuning products but also every topic for those who love cars including intros to customizing technology and custom car product sales. Moreover live entertainment by top musicians and talk shows hosting famous drivers and celebrities will make this more than an event for automotive and motor sports fans. The TOKYO AUTO SALON 2010 will be show no one will want to miss!
January 15, 2010 (Friday), 16th (Saturday), 17th (Sunday)

G.M. Plans to Close Saab After Sales Talks Collapse

Published: December 18, 2009
Unable to find a buyer for Saab after a year-long search, General Motors said Friday that it would begin shutting down operations at the Swedish carmaker. Read the whole story here......

Three hundred and seventy one (371). That's how many Saabs were sold in November across the entire USA. Compare that with 18,500 Lexus vehicles sold in November, and it's easy to see that the upscale brand has been all but abandoned by car shoppers.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Help Us Help JHELP

JHELP.com is the organization that helps foreigners in trouble in Japan, and Japanese in trouble abroad. Metropolis Magazine has teamed up with several sponsors to create a Christmas donation program that helps both Metropolis and JHELP, and that costs you nothing in cash -- and just 5 minutes of your time online.

The program has 4 simple steps so please visit JHELP Christmas Charity Campaign.

What happens is that Metropolis then adds you to the donor's list, and in January 2010 will donate JPY200 per donor to JHELP. It may not sound like a lot, but the target is to sign up 5,000 registrations by December 25th, so collectively your 5 minutes of effort will go a long way to helping JHELP cover the operations costs it has helping those of us in need.

For more about JHELP, check them out on the internet at JHELP.

Christmas in Japan (日本語字幕)

What do you think about the way Christmas is celebrated in Japan?
Blue_Tiger at 08:43 PM JST - 5th December
What celebration? Yes, there's some nice stuff at Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea; yes, some stores really roll out the red carpet for those who bother to purchase gifts; of course, sure, cake companies do a lot of business; there may even be the occasional office party, or school special.....but really, what in Japan can be classified as Christmas Celebration otherwise?
I agree, Phillyprnc - no George Michael for this chap. Christmas songs are for Christmas; George Michaels Horror is best left for some other time of year....
As far as people who say Christmas is about Pushing Religion: Who's Birthday are we celebrating?

tigerguy at 08:44 PM JST - 5th December
I think that it's fantastic, the food, decorations, music... just like the western Christmas celebrations. Lots of businesses making lots of money off the occasion. I especially like to see all the lovely illumination lights. It's too bad the Japanese don't do more gift-giving on Christmas day and they still have to work. I just love this time of the year when I can get a really nice long break from work and enjoy with family and friends.

Azrael at 09:33 PM JST - 5th December
I find the American tendency to remove Christ from Christmas puzzling and sad, but I suppose it may just be a small but very vocal minority, because it doesn't match with census info. In Japan it's only expected; Christmas in Japan is purely commercial, but to be fair I do know there are Japanese Christians and they celebrate with their own flair. It's just that they are not quite visible.
Christmas in Japan (for non-Christians) is only one night. There's a tree, food, gift-giving. Love hotels. I cannot help but think about that comedian's dish. I think he defined it better than I could.
In my country, Christmas is about the religious aspect. I am Catholic. Christmas starts on December 8th (Mother's Day honoring Virgin Mary and all mothers) and ends on January 6th (the Three Wise Men arrive). There are posadas and the Christmas novena up to the last one on Christmas eve. Posadas are basically night parties as the holy Family travels from one house to the next seeking lodgings (hence the name Posada). There are Christmas chants to request entry and replies from the house (house owners make lists to participate in their community, it's only nine nights one house a night), then the novena is prayed and there's a party with Christmas music, traditional sweets and foods. The parties format varies throughout Ibero-America. Posadas are my favorite part of Christmas. My family puts up a Christmas tree, but we don't feature Santa Claus, yet many people does. Families with foreign descent mix in their food traditions and music. Christmas bring people together; it's the best time of the year. Christmas Eve mass is my favorite. Christmas day Mass and New Year's Mass are also beautiful. I'm an architect and I've helped design scenes for my neighborhood's church. I love to watch Christmas Eve Mass broadcast from the Vatican; since I moved last time here in Japan I've not found a Catholic Church (or any for that matter). How I miss Christmas at home. Yes, consumerism is creeping in but we don't have such a thing as "war on Christmas" like the US seems to have, if their Media is to be trusted (which well... it really isn't). My sister lives in Spain and she has described how beautifully Christmas is celebrated there in local traditions (Spain's south). I wish I'll see it someday.

Azrael at 09:37 PM JST - 5th December
AND YES, I hope I won't have to listen to George Michael ever again @____@;. Last year it was like the ONLY song department stores had in Tokyo!

Madara at 09:39 PM JST - 5th December
I like to spend my christmas in Japan, no need to deal with all the crap people tell me how I should be nice and cheerful not to mention all the religious crap in my face.

spudman at 09:45 PM JST - 5th December
Time to send all the religious fanatics away and let us pagans celebrate the winter solstice the way it was before the papists came along. The Japanese are pretty good cause at least they don't ram religion down your throat. Eat, drink, swap presents, have sex and carry on working the next day, yeah thats pretty good.

Disillusioned at 09:48 PM JST - 5th December
Just another adopted Americanism and poorly adopted at that. Yes, they have lights. Yes, they have Christmas trees. But, they have no idea why. And, it's just another work day. Pitiful!

Sarge at 10:07 PM JST - 5th December
Phillyprnc - Thanks for that Christmas in Japan youtube link - ha ha ha, I like the stormtrooper best!

imacat at 11:13 PM JST - 5th December
Christmas is what you make it!
I can't understand the people here complaining about Christmas in Japan... make a nice day of it with family, friends or your Japanese girlfriend or boyfriend.
It's nice to have all the illuminations in Tokyo... they look fantastic! Much better than London. I love walking around looking at them, people watching, taking some pictures...
You can buy all the xmas stuff you want in Japan to make a nice xmas dinner at home. Try www.themeatguy.com or else head over to Costco. Ikea has great Swedish mulled wine too. I always get a few bottles to warm up and drink over xmas.
And make sure to spend one night around xmas at karaoke, belting out all the xmas classics. Get your Japanese friends to sing one or two Japanese xmas songs. Some of them are really nice such as Tatsuro Yamashita's "Christmas Eve".
So quit whining and make your Xmas in Japan one to remember.
Merry Christmas to all who read JT!! (and bah humbug to the moaning minnies) ;-)

seesaw at 11:41 PM JST - 5th December
I didn't like it before but I've gotten used to it now.

whatsgoinon at 01:35 AM JST - 6th December
I really love KFC Santa! I think I'll put him on my Christmas cards this year.
I try to be in my home country over Christmas, but if I have to be here, I celebrate it the way i do in my own country, minus family, but with friends and loved ones here.

cliffworks at 01:35 AM JST - 6th December
pls read my earlier posting about how many Japanese couples celebrate Christmas Eve, it's a lovely tradition. tks

Azrael at 04:38 AM JST - 6th December
Imacat: Merry Christmas! ^-^!

Ranger_Miffy at 06:05 AM JST - 6th December
The commenters here have added considerably to my Christmas/ X'mas spirit. Merry Christmas/X'mas to all!

MrUSA at 06:36 AM JST - 6th December
Japan isn't a Christian country, they shouldn't celebrate it at all.


4 American Teenagers Arrested in Japan
Three boys and a girl from an American military base were arrested on charges of attempted murder for allegedly toppling a woman on a motorbike, causing her to suffer a serious head injury.

U.S. struggles to keep step with Japan's shifting foreign policy
When the Democratic Party of Japan roared to victory in August, unseating a party that had run Japan almost without interruption since the 1950s, Obama administration officials fanned out across Washington with an unexpected message, given their campaign embrace of change.
(By John Pomfret and Blaine Harden, The Washington Post)

GM widens shake-up of management team
Three days after the ouster of chief executive Fritz Henderson, General Motors Chairman Edward E. Whitacre Jr. announced a deeper management shake-up at the automaker that named new presidents for the company's North American, European and other international divisions.
(By Peter Whoriskey, The Washington Post)

Tiger Woods car crash reenactment.

Taken from a Chinese television show, depicting the Tiger Woods crash near his home and argument with potential mistress Rachel

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sales of imported cars rebound

Kyodo News
Sales of imported motor vehicles, including those made at Japanese carmakers' overseas plants, bounced back 4.8 percent in November from a year earlier to 14,190 units, for the first year-on-year gain in 19 months, an industry body said Friday.
The Japan Automobile Importers Association traced the rebound to a reaction to the 37.7 percent sales plunge dealers saw in November last year, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and the subsequent global economic crisis chilled consumer sentiment.
The association also linked the rebound to the spirited sales of new models major foreign automakers released at the end of October and November, including the Polo compact of Volkswagen AG and the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo.
Of the total, sales of foreign-brand vehicles rose 3.9 percent to 12,302 units, while those of domestic-brand vehicles rose 11.1 percent to 1,888 units.

New EU leader inspired by Japanese haiku

Hsin-Yin Lee, news editor at "China Times" in Taipei, writes about the new EU leader's haiku hobby. Read now

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Realizing an assertive post-American Europe

Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009

PARIS — As U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Sweden to collect his Nobel Prize, the celebrations expose an awful truth: Europe's admiration for its ideal of an American president is not reciprocated. Obama seems to bear Europeans no ill will. But he has quickly learned to view them with the attitude that they find hardest to endure — indifference.
We are entering a post-American world — the world beyond America's brief moment of global domination. Obama's administration understands this, and has responded with what it calls a "multipartner strategy." Whether it is the Chinese for the global economy, or Russia for nuclear disarmament, the United States will now work with whomever can help it get the results it wants — thus ensuring that it remains the "indispensable nation." Read more here.....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Supercar camp: Non-stars in insanely priced cars

By Marco R. della Cava, USA TODAY
MOJAVE, Calif. — Here are a few things you don't do when driving 200 miles an hour.
You don't think about family, friends or work. You don't worry about updating your Facebook page or missing any Tweets. You don't daydream.
You do concern yourself with surviving an experience that few mortals will savor. The reward is one extraordinary adrenaline rush, while the penalty for distraction includes the destruction of a super-pricey supercar and, um, damage to not only your own body parts but also those of the celebrated race car driver nervously riding shotgun. Read the whole USA Today story here……

Why Fritz Henderson Is Out as GM's CEO

Wednesday, Dec. 02, 2009
It's Ed Whitacre's GM now.
By accepting the resignation of CEO Fritz Henderson, the board chairman, Ed Whitacre, puts himself squarely in the driver's seat at General Motors.
Auto-industry insiders like to think of their business as impossibly complicated, involving as it does billions of dollars, intricate technology and the necessity of gauging consumer tastes three or four years in the future. By their reasoning, developing the necessary expertise takes decades of experience. No outsiders need apply. (See GM's great hopes for 2010.)
Former Boeing executive Alan Mulally has partially disproved that theory by leading Ford to the greatest success among the Detroit Three. Now GM board chairman Ed Whitacre, a veteran of the telecommunications business, will try to go the rest of the way. After accepting the resignation of GM veteran Fritz Henderson, Whitacre will be running the company as interim CEO while he searches for a full-time successor. Read on here.....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Start-Up Nation: Israel's Economic Miracle

JERUSALEM, Israel - How does Israel - one of the world's smallest countries - produce more startup companies than many of the world's most developed nations?
It's a trillion dollar question and the answer can be found in a new book investigating this modern phenomenon.
With a population of slightly more than seven million people, Israel leads the world per capita in technology startup companies.
One reason for Israel's leading role is its military and the kind of innovative leaders it produces.
"Veterans of the Israeli military, once they retire, join the commercial market and they apply the different cutting edge technologies in the medical market, telecommunications, cellular market, etc.," Israeli economic analyst Yoram Ettinger told CBN News.
As a result, Israel is credited with developing technologies like the cell phone, voice technology, and even the Intel Pentium chip.
Israel also puts a premium on research and development, with many more people per capita in this field than any other country in the world.
For example, in the Jewish state, 140 people per 10,000 work in research and development. The U.S. is number two in the world, with 85 people per 10,000.
"It just shows you how robust the human factor is here in Israel, and the outcome has produced per capita more cutting edge technologies than any other country in the world," Ettinger said.
A new book called Startup Nation, the Story of Israel's Economic Miracle, by author Dan Senor, examines how tiny Israel is a technological giant in today's global economy.
It argues that Israel is not just a nation but a state of mind, and its old fashioned chutzpa goes a long way toward economic prosperity.
It also shows how other nations - and individuals - can learn from Israel's example.

Edelbrock 2010 "Race Only" Products Catalog Now Available, FreeEdelbrock 2010 "Race Only" Products Catalog Now Available, Free

TORRANCE, CA (December 1, 2009) - Edelbrock Corporation, the longstanding leader in American Made performance parts, is proud to announce the release of their 2010 Race Products Catalog. Complete and up to date with the latest products from the floors of the SEMA and PRI trade shows, this catalog includes the full range of new and existing Edelbrock products that help racers, both amateur and professional, dominate the field at each event. Round the track, down the strip or on the water; Edelbrock race products can be found anywhere the very best in performance is demanded from an American Made pushrod V8.
Featured products include the new series of Victor Two-Piece manifolds that split longitudinally to allow easy access to the runners and plenum for CNC or hand porting work. Exciting, new cylinder heads are available in a wide variety of configurations, ranging from complete with valves, springs and CNC machined ports, to Pro-Port Raw for full customization by professional head porters. Most heads are available with a HIP treatment that raises the material density of the head to nearly that of billet aluminum for three times the fatigue life of a normal cast aluminum cylinder head.
As the only aftermarket intake manifold manufacturer licensed by NASCAR, Edelbrock has a pedigree for success second to none. Call today to receive your free 2010 Race Products Catalog, and discover the high performance parts that will keep your car running at the head of the pack.

    Features Include:
  • 24 pages of Edelbrock race parts and accessories
  • New design with dozens of new products
  • Available FREE online and in print (#01909)
  • To order call toll free (800) 416-8628
Click Here to Download The 2010 Race Catalog

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thinking globally to save riches of the sea

Given the price a single bluefin tuna can fetch -- one sold for a record $173,600 a few years ago at Tokyo's Tsukiji market -- it's not surprising that the rich, buttery fish is a prized catch. Or that it has prompted a feeding frenzy among international traders. Read here.....
(By Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post)

Japanese nuclear secrets revealed

Japan Herald
Saturday 28th November, 2009  

The credibility of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, has sunk lower after revelations about secret deals between Washington and Tokyo about the presence of nuclear weapons on Japanese soil.
The credibility of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party in Japan has sunk lower after revelations about secret deals between Washington and Tokyo about the presence of nuclear weapons on Japanese soil.

For decades, authorities had denied that nuclear weapons were allowed in Japan.

It now appears the LDP party, while it was in power, had a pact to allow the US to stockpile and transport nuclear weapons on Japanese soil.

Declassified documents have shown that secret deals between Washington and Tokyo took place with regards to the presence of the nuclear weapons.

Since 1960, the government led by the Liberal Democratic Party repeatedly denied that nuclear weapons were ever present in Japan or that any agreement existed to that effect.

The National Security Archives in Washington released declassified telegrams in October, with details of US nuclear weapons policy in Okinawa and other parts of Japan between the 1950s and 1972.

They show that when Japan and the United States renewed their mutual security treaty in 1960, the principle was established that if US ships and planes carried nuclear weapons they could only enter Japanese waters or air space with prior consultation.

In the wake of the two atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese people were strongly opposed to the presence of nuclear weapons on Japanese soil, but in 1972, just before Okinawa was put back under Japanese control, the leaders of both countries agreed that for the defence of countries in the Far East including Japan, in time of great emergency, the United States Government would require the re-entry of nuclear weapons and transit rights in Okinawa.

A secret document signed by the leaders said the Government of Japan would meet the requirements without delay, if suitable prior consultation was made.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tesla may build Model S electric car in California

DOWNEY, Calif. — Tesla Motors is close to a deal to build an electric car factory at the site of a former NASA manufacturing plant in Downey, Calif., a blue-collar city south of Los Angeles, Mayor Mario Guerra said Tuesday. Read the story here....

Dollar at 14-Year Low Against Yen

The yen’s strength prompted fresh concerns among Japan’s export giants, and could delay its move out of the deepest recession in decades. Read more here...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Deflation returns to Japan

The curse of defeatism
Nov 26th 2009
From The Economist print edit

Anybody who thinks deflation is no longer a threat should look at Japan and its flailing authorities

JUDGING by the shrill comments from Wall Street, Japan’s biggest problem is its huge public-sector debt, which has grown to nearly twice the size of the country’s GDP. But it isn’t (see article). Far more pressing is deflation.
On November 20th the new government of Yukio Hatoyama acknowledged what has been obvious for months: that prices are falling again after a three-year hiatus. This is worrying not just for Japan; countries such as America and Britain have more similarities with Japan than is commonly acknowledged (see article). Sadly neither the Hatoyama administration nor the central bank has shown any intention of tackling the latest incarnation of the deflationary curse. Read it all right here.....


The electric revolution
Your next car may be electric. We look at the rapidly developing technologies that will see motoring turned on its head and help store renewable energy to boot.