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Today is Tuesday June 19, 2018

News In Japan Time Warp. Each day, providing headlines and snippets from old newspaper articles about Japan.

In The News 30 Years Ago
April 19, 1988

Japan Begins Savings Tax, Tapping Pool of $2.4 Trillion. TOKYO, April 3-- The Japanese investment world is scrambling after an enormous pool of wealth -- $2.4 trillion in individual savings looking for a better way to grow. In an important change in policy, the Government on Friday began to take a 20 percent slice of the interest earned on certain savings accounts, which had been exempt from taxes for the past 25 years. The tax-free system, known as maruyu, was a major inducement for the Japanese to save. Through maruyu, they were persuaded to put away a sizable portion of their disposable income into safe, low-interest bank and postal accounts. Thanks to these accounts, Japanese industry had ready access for many years to a vast reserve of cheap capital. Meanwhile, the average Japanese household saw its savings grow to as much as $65,000, according to one estimate. But now that their savings are being taxed, millions of Japanese with billions of yen to invest are expected to shop around for higher returns. Even before the official change on Friday, securities firms, insurance companies and money-market managers were making their pitch for maruyu cash.

Some Japanese (One) Urge Plain Speaking. TOKYO, March 26-- Nearly two decades later, the words of Eisaku Sato still glisten in the annals of Japanese verbal befuddlement. As Prime Minister in 1969, Mr. Sato visited Washington to deflect American anger over a flood of textile imports from Japan, a hot trade issue at the time. The Japanese must exercise restraint in exports, President Richard M. Nixon insisted. To which Mr. Sato replied as he looked ceilingward, "Zensho shimasu." Literally, the phrase means, "I will do my best," and that's how the interpreter translated it. What it really means to most Japanese is, "No way." Mr. Nixon thought that he had an agreement, however, and when Japan continued on its merry export way, he reportedly called Mr. Sato a liar. The interrelated worlds of Japanese politics and business are chockablock with obfuscations of this sort, but a few Japanese have begun to demand a lifting of the linguistic fog. One such person is Kazuhisa Inoue, a young member of the Japanese Parliament, or Diet, who recently called on the Government to form a committee of linguists and other scholars to study ways to purge parliamentary debate of especially dense phraseology. Mr. Inoue, who belongs to the opposition Komei Party, says it is bad enough that ordinary Japanese cannot figure out what their leaders are saying. But with Japan now a global force, he says, obtuse language can only create mistrust and encourage overseas stereotypes of "sneaky Japanese."

The Burden-Sharing Numbers Racket by Pat Schroeder. WASHINGTON-- The confusion generated by statistics on our allies' contributions to defense is nothing short of amazing. Nobody wants to set the record straight because the record is embarrassing. This numbers racket - juggling of facts and figures - consumes and obscures much of the burden-sharing debate. It should be abandoned. Instead, the United States should initiate a new relationship in which we transfer to the Europeans and Japan the burden of defending their territory. Richard N. Perle, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, admitted that the Defense Department purposely seeks statistics that make America's allies appear to be contributing their fair share of the common defense burden. That admission was not surprising. Every ally plays the numbers racket. For example. Japan spends about 1 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, a pathetic figure compared to the 7 percent we spend. What is worse, the 1 percent includes a number of obscure costs. For example, Japan counts road tolls not paid by members of the American military as part of their defense outlays. Similarly, our European allies make questionable statements about costs. West Germany, for example, argues that if the United States reinstated the draft, the United States's defense costs would be substantially lower. In fact, reinstating the draft would make only a marginal difference in those costs. The Reagan military buildup gave our allies the irresistible excuse to neglect their own NATO commitments. But we can't place all the blame on the allies. They are not taking us to the cleaners; we are more than willing to drive there all by ourselves. The next President will have to come to terms with the fact that we are not stuck in the 1950's.

The Japanese Spend Every Yen They're Allowed to for Defense. To the Editor: Representative Pat Schroeder, in "The Burden-Sharing Numbers Racket" (Op-Ed, April 6) perpetuates the myth that the United States is alone in guarding the last bastions of the free world. While her complaints about Japan's reluctance to adopt a greater role in Western defense are in many ways legitimate, her use of certain statistics out of context bends the truth. Ms. Schroeder's greatest claim against Japan is that defense absorbs only 1 percent of the Japanese gross national product. What she forgets to mention is that Japan is constitutionally mandated to such low ceilings in a Constitution imposed by our own country after the Second World War. Our own patronizing of Japan after the war is the very source of the imbalance in trade burdens. Furthermore, relative to the size of the Japanese G.N.P., that 1 percent assumes far greater outlays than Ms. Schroeder would have us believe. The Jan. 23 Economist of Britain points out that, using the North Atlantic Treaty Organization definition of defense spending, Japan ranks third in the world in money given to defense - only the United States and the Soviet Union spend more. Clearly, Japan is taking a responsible role in the defense of the Western world.

TO START WITH . . .; High-Flying Haiku. "IN JAPAN," SAYS JAPAN Air Lines in a series of radio ads, "most everyone writes a haiku now and then, even busy executives." Now J.A.L. is urging busy American executives and other listeners to follow suit -- with the chance of winning two first-class, round-trip tickets to Tokyo and $1,000 in spending money. Why the emphasis on business people? "Because sometimes they should have a chance to look at nature," says Tadao Fujimatsu, the airline's vice president for public relations, based in New York. "Haiku is a kind of tranquilizer." Haiku is the Japanese verse form consisting -- usually -- of three lines of five, seven and five syllables on the subject of nature. The haiku contest, open to residents of the United States and Canada, might seem on the face of it an effort to promote J.A.L. But Shunichi Shibohta, the director of public relations in Tokyo, offers another explanation: "Human beings in this age of high technology and advanced industrialization need more interchange of human heart and nature." The airline has received more than 16,000 entries so far. Verses for the contest may be no longer than 17 syllables, but there is no restriction on the number of lines.

1. Haberman, Clyde (April 4, 1988). "Japan Begins Savings Tax, Tapping Pool of $2.4 Trillion". The New York Times.
2. Haberman, Clyde (March 27, 1988). "Some Japanese (One) Urge Plain Speaking". The New York Times.
3. Kennedy, David Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. (April 6, 1988). "The Japanese Spend Every Yen They're Allowed to for Defense". The New York Times.
4. Molnar, Hedi (March 27, 1988). "TO START WITH . . .; High-Flying Haiku". The New York Times.
5. Pat Schroeder, Democrat of Colorado, chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee's panel on defense burden sharing ( April 6, 1988). "The Burden-Sharing Numbers Racket". The New York Times.

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