Member Login

Member Login

Username
Password *

Number 1 Shimbun

2017: Something to Crow About?

 

There were many sighs of relief heard around the world as the year 2016 came to a close, yet there is little evidence pointing toward a quieter 2017. The political upheavals from populist movements that shook the stability of such nations as the U.S. and Britain seem to be just the tip of the iceberg. And while a negotiated peace halted the long civil war that killed thousands and thousands of Colombians, the Middle East seems stuck in its cycle of warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Japan, on the other hand, has been relatively quiet, and we wonder if this year will be the same. Will 2017 see a song sillier than PPAP? Will Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s strong stance against the runaway Olympic costs and toxic landfill be rewarded? Will baseball wunderkind Shohei Otani flee the professional fields of Japan for the major leagues? Will some mediocre celebrity be pulled from a commercial after a sleazy affair goes public? (The answer to that one is just too easy.)

To get some hint of what’s to come, we asked a few of our brave correspondents to peer into their crystal computer screens and make some bold predictions for the year ahead:

 

••••••••••••••

 

 

REALITY? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ REALITY

No1-2017-1VR

This year will start seeing people wearing VR headsets in unexpected places, as virtual reality will become even more mainstream, pushed by major brands like Sony and Microsoft. Augmented reality applications will continue to proliferate in the consumer and B2B fields. AI assistants and AI reporters will take over the writing of sports events, stock reports and other news. The few human reporters still on contract will be found sitting at their newsroom desks, dejectedly mulling over the debris from the U.S. election while sipping Family Mart coffee and chewing 7-11 doughnuts delivered by drones.

Tim Hornyak

 

GETTING OUT WHILE THE GETTING’S GOOD

No1-2017-1Guns

Sensing that a shakeup at the top could mitigate hostilities between warring factors, Tsukasa Shinobu, the Yamaguchi-gumi’s top boss, will step down in the Year of the Rooster. The past two years have not been kind to Japan’s largest organized crime group. Not only did its membership drop in a mutiny but it also became engaged in a sometimes violent dispute with the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, a rival gang composed of former members.

The groundwork for Shinobu’s move may have already been set. In late September, a secret meeting - dubbed “The Yakuza Summit” - between Shinobu and the bosses of the Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai, two other top syndicates, was held in Yokohama’s Chinatown. Was the purpose of the summit to prepare for his resignation? Japan’s criminal underworld is about to find out.

Brett Bull, Editor-in-Chief, the Tokyo Reporter (www.tokyoreporter.com)

 

FORWARD TO A VERY BLEAK FUTURE

No1-2017-1Harris
This year, Japan’s auto industry will pass a momentous tipping point that could fracture the bedrock of national prosperity – the $150 per kilowatt/hour (kWh) cost of electric vehicle batteries.

This is widely seen as the level where EVs start becoming cheaper to build than conventional cars. Once it’s crossed, internal-combustion engines may disappear with head-spinning speed.

The balance point is battery cost vs. a long list of components EVs don’t need: engine block, transmission, exhaust system, gas tank and more. All those get replaced by simple, durable electric motors that have few moving parts and need no lubricants. Tipping the scale further is the lower cost of EV ownership – especially for homes with solar panels.

Although a godsend for the planet, Japan may suffer – given how much of its economy is devoted to skills-intensive making of today’s auto drivetrains. With no compensating inherent advantage in making batteries, a huge chunk of manufacturing may simply disappear along with a wide swath of auto services, since EVs need no gasoline, oil changes or timing-belt replacements.

• John R. Harris, Automobile Magazine

 

NO ROOM FOR THE VIEW

No1-2017-1Tourism

The number of inbound tourists will continue to grow at a rate that surprises even the most positive analysts at the Japan Tourism Agency. In order to cope with the hordes of people flocking to the most well-known tourist destinations, different kinds of barriers and screening mechanisms will be put in place. There will be a lottery deciding who will get to venture past Asakusa’s Kaminarimon gate and spots in the elevators that lead up to the observation deck at Tokyo Skytree will be auctioned to the highest bidder.

• Said Karlsson, Navitime for Japan Travel

 

 

IF I HAD KNOWN I WAS GOING TO LIVE THIS LONG, I WOULD HAVE TAKEN BETTER CARE OF MYSELF

No1-2017-1Robots

In a further sign of the “silver tsunami” engulfing Japan, new research reveals that by the middle of the century 98.6 per cent of articles written by foreign correspondents based in Tokyo will be about the ageing society. The remaining 1.4 per cent will be about cute robots.

Richard Lloyd Parry

 

The Times

 

 

 

WHEN A WOMENOMICS PROGRAM DISAPPEARS IN A BUREAUCRATIC FOG, DOES IT MAKE ANY SOUND?

Prime Minister Abe will meet his goals for women in management positions by first revising the target from 15 to 1.5 percent, then by including male managers who promote women and finally by including men who were born to women.

The Labor Ministry, which last year convinced exactly zero companies to apply for a subsidy that rewards firms for promoting women, will double that with an offer to cover the salaries of three female, non-regular workers plus a round of drinks for the HR bucho at a hostess club.

Finally, American Ambassador Ivanka Trump will serve as a shining example of women who fuel the Japanese economy when she inks a deal with Sanei International and then holds bilateral talks on behalf of her father, who will be busy filming the latest season of “The Apprentice” in the Oval Office, this one featuring Miss USA contestants.

 

Abigail Leonard

 

No1-2017-1Abe

 

 

 

 

THE MAN WHO WILL (STILL) BE KING

Shinzo Abe will remain as the king of global politics in 2017, for better or worse.

The conservative prime minister is the only global leader, aside from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who enjoys a stable government. Of course, he has challenges.

The biggest international one is how he’ll deal with President-elect Donald Trump. But he also is unlikely to make progress in peace treaty negotiations with Russia and China, while North Korea is likely to remain provocative and the Japan-Korea relationship is precarious. Domestically, he has not delivered economic reforms to bring innovation.

All these questions are critical for him to push for his ultimate goal of revising Article 9 by the end of the newly set tenure of 2021.

But the best news for Abe is the fact that there are no alternatives as long as the largest opposition Democratic Party remains pathetically weak and incapable

• Ayako Mie, Japan Times

 

 

THE ODDS HAVE IT

The fake news phenomenon appears to have swept across the Pacific to Japan with reports that U.S. President Donald Trump is to open a casino on the Senkaku islands. Katsuto Momii emerges from his post-NHK retirement to become chief cabinet secretary, citing his mahjong expertise as justification to oversee the casino industry launch. “It is extremely regrettable,” says everyone. The Liberal Democratic Party finally agrees to send a cabinet minister to the FCCJ to discuss “how to bet at roulette and other important stuff.” The press conference ends in chaos after correspondents press the minister to discuss government policy, sparking threats to prosecute reporters under the state secrets act. “This is deplorable,” the minister says. “Now ask me about my favorite season.”

• Justin McCurry, The Guardian

 

 

THE SUPREME LEADER NEVER LEARNED TO PARALLEL PARK

No1-2017-1Blair

Nintendo partners with Toyota and Google to create “Super Mario Kart Driver,”an augmented reality game that is downloaded more than 25 million times on its launch day – and the stock prices of the three partners and a host of related companies go stratospheric. The game allows players to use footage streamed live from dashboard cameras of random cars to simulate a realistic driving experience, into which characters from the Mario games are superimposed. On the fourth day of release a team of North Korean-sponsored hackers uses the app to take control of thousands of cars via their onboard computers and cause hundreds of accidents, many of them fatal.

• Gavin Blair

 

 

Published in: January 2017

Leave a comment

Go to top