Japan

Gideon Rachman

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

  • The pragmatists have won out over the radical idealogues in Venezuela’s administration and Nicolás Maduro is starting to take orthodox steps to repair the economy.
  • Israel is staying out of the fracas in Ukraine: it cannot jeopardise ties with Russia, even if that puts it at odds with the US.
  • The US-Japan relationship has been the bedrock of Asian security and economic growth, but recent frictions have raised questions about how committeed they are to the partnership.
  • The decline in crime in Western nations could have been a result of the removal of lead from petrol.
  • It may have been disparaged for its decline since the fall of the Soviet Union, but the Russian army has upgraded to 21st-century tactics in order to seize the initiative from the west.
  • Residents of Crimea are living in a state of perpetual confusion, but Crimean authorities are pushing for the peninsula to become the world’s next Las Vegas.

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♦ 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

  • The prospect of intelligent machines improving human lives will depend on how the gains are produced and distributed, says Martin Wolf.
  • Hassan Rouhani has fended off the hardliners and can count on the support of the supreme leader, but this depends on his being able to secure a longer-term nuclear deal that leads to a removal of sanctions.
  • If Japan is really to put “women power” to work, it needs more revolutionary change, argues David Pilling.
  • Ugly people are oppressed and to “imagine we could ever completely overcome this kind of natural inheritance… is a fantasy” according to Jonny Thakkar, a lecturer at Princeton.
  • An Italian monastery has become a trendy atelier for brides looking to keep their wedding costs down.
  • Without immigrants, the Swiss football team would be very different.

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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 disputesRead 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.

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♦ 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 cowsRead 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