Home » Japan

Category Archives: Japan

A Deeply Civilized Country Welcomes a New Emperor

by John Brian Shannon

April 30, 2019 | Japan’s former Emperor Emeritus Akihito chose to abdicate Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne due to age and personal (health) reasons today, choosing his son Naruhito to become Japan’s new Emperor in an elegant but simple ceremony.

Each Japanese Emperor represents a particular era and is so named by the incoming royal; “Showa” (enlightened peace) was the name of Emperor Hirihito’s era (1901-1989), while his son Akihito’s era was named “Heisei” (1989-2019) and the newest Emperor Naruhito’s reign will be known as ‘Reiwa” (2019-onward).

The name of each era carries deep significance and is chosen according to the state of the country and the aspirations of Japan in the opinion of the Emperor of the day.

Therefore, Akihito’s reign as named Heisei, or, “peace everywhere” (literally; 地平かに天成る “peace on the heaven and earth”) while the new Emperor chose to name his reign ‘Reiwa” which means “order and harmony” (literally; 令和 “fair and gentle”) and we can see these kinds of terms used by Japanese Emperors going back to the first Emperor of Japan, 575-610 BCE.

Reiwa: as taken from Japan’s historic poetic works

Original Kanbun text:


Classical Japanese translation (kanbun kundoku):


English translation:

“It was in new spring, in a fair (“Rei”) month,
When the air was clear and the wind a gentle (“wa”) breeze.
Plum flowers blossomed a beauty’s charming white
And the fragrance of the orchids was their sweet perfume.”

The Chrysanthemum Throne Continues to Guide Japan’s Deeply Civilized Culture

Much can be gleaned by looking at the leaders (ceremonial leaders or hands-on political leaders) of any country.

Countries with warmonger, hawkish, troublesome, or even meddlesome leaders usually bring war against other countries or groups and it usually ends in some kind of disaster.

That’s not to say that countries under threat should give in to their enemies! War, or the use of so-called ‘Soft Power’, are instruments employed by governments to defend their countries from attack and such measures are often completely justified. Yet, some leaders have incited war over the centuries, or (almost worse!) allowed military preparedness to fall to such a low level that their country was too tempting a target, and so, were invaded or attacked by hostile powers.

Contrast that to the gentle urging of Japan’s Emperors who have favoured and advocated for the statecraft of “peace and harmony” and “fair and gentle” treatment of citizens for centuries in the longest-running continuous governance model in the world.

Japanese Emperors have been continuously guiding Japan’s people since 575 BCE (almost 550-years before the Roman Empire was created!) towards peace and harmony.

The only country in the world with both a pacifist constitution and 2500-year continuous line of sovereign leaders (although that pacifist constitution was slightly watered-down since the war on terror began in 2001) remains one of the world’s leading economies and its citizens enjoy a very high standard of living, proving that culture is much more than numerous art galleries, operatic works, or stunning architecture.

A ‘culture of excellence’ is almost always led by its most senior leaders and they work to set a high standard for citizens to meet, resulting in Japan’s postition as one of the most successful countries on planet Earth.

With grateful hearts we thank former Emperor Akihito and his family for decades of enlightened leadership and the culture of excellence that he promoted during the Heisei era, and we warmly welcome Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito and his family to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

3 out of 5 Arrows: Japan’s Abenomics

by John Brian Shannon | April 29, 2016

If the fundamentals of an economy are sound, any conceivable shock to an economy will eventually dissipate and normal economic flows will resume. (Every economist knows this)

Unfortunately for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan he inherited an economy where the fundamentals were unsound, and more than one economic parameter was out of alignment. Which is a different way of saying the Japanese economy was going to fail on his watch or during the next Prime Minister’s watch.

The Fukushima-Daiichi meltdown and the subsequent closure of Japan’s nuclear power plants massively shocked Japan’s economy. Some 29 percent of Japan’s electricity was produced by those (cheap to operate) nuclear power plants. Many of the country’s n-plants are now undergoing decommissioning or remain offline.

Mr. Abe’s Three Arrow policies were necessary, timely, and for what they are, effective. In retrospect, there was no other way for Japan to proceed. The country’s economy would have imploded had the Prime Minister not acted so appropriately.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012, he announced a strategy – comprising three “arrows” – to overcome the economy’s combination of slow growth and low inflation: [1] very easy monetary policy, [2] a short-term fiscal stimulus, and [3] structural reforms to labor and product markets. But the government’s economic policies (so-called Abenomics) have not fixed Japan’s problems and are unlikely to do so in the future.” — Professor Martin Feldstein writing in Project Syndicate

However, I suspect that even Shinzo Abe knew it would take more than Three Arrows to reset Japan’s economy. But they were a great start to putting Japan’s economic fundamentals where they need to be.

It will take two more ‘Arrows’ to return Japan to a balanced state — ‘the steady state’ where a fundamentally sound economy can withstand moderate economic shocks.

Mt Fuji from Yokohama, Japan. Image courtesy of comeonoutjapan com

Mt Fuji from Yokohama, Japan. Image courtesy of comeonoutjapan.com

Arrow #4 must surely be an inheritance tax of some significance. Japan’s diminishing population pyramid means that domestic demand will continue to taper. An inheritance tax can help to counter that loss in government revenue.

With falling tax revenue due to a shrinking population, the government needs money to operate — providing the same infrastructure, but to a shrinking population. In Japan’s case an inheritance tax of 25%-50% will allow the government to maintain services in the face of falling income tax and other tax revenues due to a rapidly declining population.

Understanding Population Structure in Japan.

Understanding the Population Structure in Japan 1960-2060.

Arrow #5 must be raising corporate taxes. If voters are expected to shoulder a higher tax burden then corporations must also pay their fair share. If that means that dividends for wealthy investors are a few cents lower, well, that’s just too bad.

Voters will not accept the twin assault of higher inheritance taxes and the (proposed) Value Added Tax increase from 8% to 10%. That will only result in widespread public disaffection and PM Shinzo Abe being voted out of office after doing so much good work.

By raising inheritance taxes and corporate taxes, the government could hit zero-deficit within 3 years.

At that point the Japanese economy will return to a ‘steady state’ where it can flourish as a fully functioning economy.

Although I’m a fan of massive stimulus; At the early onset of economic downturns, massive government intervention works well, but by continuing to massively stimulate an economy for more than 5 years, we reach a point of diminishing returns in the 6th or 7th year.

That is why, in order for government intervention to be most effective, it must be massive, it must be early, and it must continue for 5 years or less. (Less is better)

Other economic levers must also be applied. We can’t expect stimulus alone to solve the fundamental problems with the economy.

If an economy hasn’t got it’s fundamentals in order, massive stimulus only warps the equation — but in fairness — it gives the country’s leaders five years to get those fundamentals in order.

Therefore, my prescription for Japan’s ailing economy is ‘take two more arrows and aim for zero deficit within 3 years.’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has the credibility and the political energy to get it done. Leaving it for the next Japanese Prime Minister isn’t an option.

Related Articles: