Eighties outreach: Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko pictured in 1985
Japan is a society where wheels operate inside wheels. That explains how, 30 years ago, your humble correspondent achieved a certain fame by becoming the tennis and dancing partner of the Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko of Japan, the couple who, two years later, would ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne, from which Akihito on Monday signalled his intention to abdicate.
The proximate cause was the 40th anniversary ball of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan, of which I was then president. I was told by the club staff that, as a matter of protocol we should invite the Imperial Couple but, not to worry, they would not come. So Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone became the principal guest of honour.
But on the Monday before the Friday black tie ball, I got a call in my office asking me to come over to the Akasaka Palace to discuss the circumstances of their attendance, one of which would be to disinvite the prime minister. The mixing of church and state, as it were, would be inappropriate, which Nakasone’s office understood perfectly and said he would come for drinks with the honoured guests and be long gone by the time They arrived for dinner
They came, saw and conquered. I had been told They would leave after the dinner and toasts – mine to the Imperial family, his to the freedom of the press – but they didn’t. They stayed through skits by club members and when the band struck up a tune, They took off for the dance floor. After a few seconds, my wife and I followed and stayed close to them as a waltz became a scrum. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
In 2015, a sense of unease and foreboding seemed to settle on all the world’s major power centres. From Beijing to Washington, Berlin to Brasília, Moscow to Tokyo — governments, media and citizens were jumpy and embattled.
What the TPP means for US-Asia ties
The US reached agreement this week with Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim economies on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. Gideon Rachman discusses the scope of the pact and what it will mean for those who have signed up, and those left out, with Shawn Donnan and Geoff Dyer
By Richard McGregor in Washington
In the confrontational atmosphere pitting Beijing against Washington and its allies in Asia, it is often forgotten that China and much of the west were allies in the region’s defining wartime struggle, fighting their then mutual foe, Japan.
In September, Beijing is planning a massive military parade to remind the west and the rest of the world of that moment, the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the Pacific War. As commemorations go, it promises to be an awkward occasion. Read more
After a frenetic period of travel involving 10 separate trips overseas in the past three months, I am trying to catch my breath, shake off the jet lag and make sense of what I have seen. Leaving aside the big geopolitical themes, one tentative conclusion I have reached is that world leaders and hotel lobbies do not mix.
This first struck at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid as I waited to greet Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, who was the guest-of-honour at the FT’s Spain Summit. On one side of the lobby was a bank of photographers and TV crews. I was standing on the other side with a couple of FT colleagues and the hotel management. Rajoy’s limo drew up and we could see him and his entourage heading towards the entrance. Just at that moment, a party of elderly Americans came out of the lift, clad in their trademark tracksuit bottoms and fluorescent visors, and began to totter across the lobby, demanding loudly, “Where’s the coach?” The hotel manager froze — torn between the desire to shove the Americans out of the way and his duty to be courteous. He just about pulled it off but it was a close-run thing. Read more
♦ Many Iranians see basij– the ideologically-driven volunteer forces of the Revolutionary Guards – as stick-wielding thugs, but they show a softer side as they sip cappuccino and discuss art at Café Kerase.
♦ Although demographic and other factors are against the US Republicans, the Grand Old Party is seeing a strange revival.
♦ It’s not a good time for Japan to put its tax rates up, which is why the government is allowing retailers to act like they haven’t.
♦ Much has changed in Sarajevo since the day in 1914 when Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, providing the spark that lit the flames of the first world war, yet much has remained the same.
♦ The Egyptian army’s gift of land for homes has prompted speculation over a closely guarded secret: the size of the army’s stake in the economy.
♦ A property boom across Germany‘s biggest cities has been dubbed a betongold – literally concrete gold – rush. Read more
Will a slow down in Asian economies mean cancelled orders for Airbus and Boeing? Our Aerospace special report explores the possibilities and looks at how much western defence contractors such as Raytheon stand to gain from North Korean sabre-rattling and Asia’s territorial disputes. Read more
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe did not shy away from discussing the tensions with China in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Lifen Zhang, editor-in-chief of FTChinese.com, examines the reaction of Chinese delegates and journalists.
♦ While many previously buoyant island states across the Caribbean are struggling, Jamaica’s crisis is the deepest. Robin Wigglesworth profiles a country teetering on the edge of an economic precipice.
♦ The FT interviews Haruhiko Kuroda, the central bank outsider who this year took over the Bank of Japan.
♦ Israelis see many positive economic, strategic and diplomatic developments despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s dark public statements on Iran that present an image of an embattled, paranoid state, says Gideon Rachman.
♦ The Washington Post spoke to refugees from all walks of life in its report: Stories from the Syrian exodus.
♦ When veteran Egyptian politician Amr Moussa unveiled Egypt’s new draft constitution on Sunday, he did so in front of a vast banner that proclaimed the text represented “all Egyptians”. Unfortunately for Moussa, three of the five models used to depict “all Egyptians” turned out to be westerners.
♦Veronique Greenwood in Aeon explains why Swiss farmers take such good care of their cows. Read more
It’s been a year since Shinzo Abe got financial markets excited with his plan to pull Japan’s economy out of its more than 15-year deflation. So has Abenomics been a success? Jonathan Soble, Tokyo bureau chief investigates: Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ Fears of an accidental conflict are growing following China’s creation of an air defence zone over the Japanese-administered Senkaku islands it claims as its territory, with the US seeing the move as a provocative step, writes the FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo. Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ The financial crisis has hit a whole generation of English graduates, “for whom a degree has all but ceased to be a golden ticket to a decent job“, writes the FT’s economics correspondent, Sarah O’Connor. Graduates now earn less and owe more in student debt.
♦ “China and Japan are heading for a collision“, says Gideon Rachman, the FT’s chief foreign affairs columnist. The fact that both countries are setting up National Security Councils may be dangerous in times of military jostling related to territorial claims.
♦ In Japan, communities devastated by the 2011 tsunami are receiving support from architects. A project called Home for All seeks to build communal structures incorporating local history and customs, reports Edwin Heathcote.
♦ A middle class is rising in Mexico as the country finally attracts higher-end industries. “Many people are beginning to believe they can get ahead through study and hard work” says the New York Times.
♦ In Syria, veteran commanders say a second civil war has started - in which the goals of freedom, Islam and social equality were replaced by betrayal, defeat and anger towards rival militias, jihadis and foreign powers, reports The Guardian.
♦ “Dispute over gay marriage erupts in Cheney family,” according to the New York Times blog: The Caucus. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Amid all the noise about the economic reforms launched last week by China, it was easy to overlook another important change. The Chinese government is setting up a National Security Council, co-ordinating its military, intelligence and domestic security structures. The model is said to be America’s NSC. But China’s move also parallels developments in Japan, where Shinzo Abe’s government is also setting up a National Security Council.
By Gideon Rachman
A few years ago Wired, the technology magazine, ran a regular feature called “Japanese schoolgirl watch”. The concept was not as dubious as it sounds. The idea was simply that the schoolgirls of Japan are technological trendsetters and that the gadgets they adopt today will go global tomorrow.
There’s been a lot written in the FT and elsewhere about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Here are five reasons you should care about this trade pact:
1. This is a big deal.
If, or when, it is finalised the 12-country Pacific Rim deal will cover countries responsible for almost 40 per cent of global GDP and involved in more than a third of global trade.
This chart is taken from a June 2013 report by the US Congressional Research Service. Some $18tn in goods is traded around the world each year these days. The countries in the TPP (The current “TPP 12”: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, and Vietnam) accounted for 36 per cent of that total in 2011.
♦ The anxiety over Japan’s sales tax may seem bizarre to outsiders, but it will be a stern test of Shinzo Abe’s popularity.
♦ James Politi looks at the impact of the sequester on Head Start, arguably the most high-profile casualty among the anti-poverty programmes.
♦ Nicolás Maduro is looking to blame anybody else for Venezuela’s economic problems – even Spider-Man.
♦ While support for Cristina Fernández ebbs in Argentina, Sergio Massa has risen to become one of the strongest potential candidates for presidential elections in 2015.
♦ Slate magazine imagines how the US government shutdown would be covered by the US media, if it took the same tone that it does in its foreign coverage.
♦ The Washington Post is crowdsourcing for ideas as to how congress can be punished for the government shutdown.
♦ Smuggled letters from westerners caught up in the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood reveal that terrible prison conditions remained unchanged and there is a new willingness to subject westerners to the same treatment as Egyptians, according to the New York Times. Read more
By David Gallerano and Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The tragic ending of prisoner Menes, the Hungarian stork unfairly painted as a spy (as well as a duck) by the Egyptian police and clapped into a prison in the Qena governorate.
♦ A self-organized group of armed citizens is battling – with unexpected success – a brutal drug cartel at Michoachan, in central Mexico.
♦ Japanese economist Takatoshi Ito analyses Japan’s fiscal situation and argues Mr. Abe must press ahead with tax increases.
♦ “We Syrians are human beings of this world, and the world must stop the Assad regime from killing us. Now,” writes Syrian activist Yassin al-Haj Saleh, in his plea for a strong intervention that does not just “discipline” the regime.
♦ A profile of Rwandan president Paul Kagame – who “may be the most complicated leader in Africa”. Read more