The “what the hell” theory of Japanese law

Unless you follow the business media in Japan, you probably haven’t heard about the upcoming overhaul in Japanese corporate law. It’s pretty intense, and it illustrates my personal favorite theory of Japanese legal policy: the What The Hell Theory. Basically, the theory states that:

  1. Japan sees a legal instutition overseas and decides to adopt it.
  2. Japan picks a random portion of the institution and says “What the hell! Let’s change it!”
  3. This change leaves Japanese society with an evil mutant form of a foreign institution that doesn’t really work properly.
Case in point: this new institution called the godo kaisha (GDK). Up until now, there have been two basic kinds of corporations in Japan: the kabushiki kaisha (KK) and yugen kaisha (YK). The YK structure is for small companies, and the KK structure is for large companies (or, more often, small companies that want to seem large). As of April, the YK will cease to exist and its place in the system will be filled by the GDK. Continue reading

Takebe’s Grandchildren Think Horie is His Brother… OOPS!

At a speech in Saitama City, the embattled LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe, who is being blamed for his outpouring of support for ex-Livedoor president Takafumi Horie during the September 2005 Lower House election, let people know that he had to tell his grandchildren that he is in fact NOT Horie’s brother, despite saying so at a speech at the time.

Aso Backs off of Tactless Emperor-Visit-Yasukuni Speech PLUS

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Aso Qualifies Remark Calling For Emperor To Visit Yasukuni

TOKYO (Kyodo)—Foreign Minister Taro Aso clarified Tuesday that his call over the weekend for the emperor to visit the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo was not meant for the emperor to go there ‘’in the current situation.’’

‘’I made the remark from the standpoint of the spirits of the war dead enshrined (at Yasukuni) because they died for the emperor. I never said that (I wanted) the emperor to make the shrine visit in the current situation,’’ Aso told a news conference.

Aso said Saturday in a speech in Nagoya that ‘’From the viewpoint of the spirits of the war dead, they hailed ‘Banzai’ for the emperor—none of them said long live the prime minister. A visit by the emperor would be the best.’‘

Nothing witty to say about this guy, but I have discovered a wonderful site dedicated to the man. This site is as fascinating as it is jam-packed with information. Some quick highlights:

  • - He reads 30 comic books per week. 30! (Was once caught reading Rosen Maiden in the VIP room at Haneda Airport, and had comics shipped to him when he was in America)
  • - In addition to comics, he reads a ton of normal books and is an intelligent man with lots of stories to tell (Yet another counterexample to the facile notion that problematic politicians are simply fools)
  • - Visits Yasukuni Shrine every year despite being a Christian (Christians are, of course, forbidden to worship other gods as one of their most basic tenets)
  • - Is apparently aware of the existence of 2-channel as a “problem forum site on the Internet”
  • - Was voted best dresser in the political world in 1977
  • - Speaks English, having studied at Stanford and London University after graduating from Gakushuin, which before the abolition of the peerage in 1947 was an exclusive finishing school for the Japanese nobility
  • - Lived in Sierra Leone for 2 years developing diamond mines but left after a civil war erupted
  • - Once said, “I think the best country is one in which rich Jews feel like living.”

  • Continue reading

    Why I’m changing my name, part 1

    I’m taking an overnight trip out of town in a couple of weeks, and I decided to book a room in a “business hotel” online. Some of these places are surprisingly cheap: you can stay in the middle of a big city for as little as $40 a night or even less.

    Then, I got this email:

    Thank you for your reservation at Hotel. We are contacting you because of a matter of importance for our customers from overseas.

    At Hotel, our rooms are secured at night with an automatic lock system and PIN pads. While the PIN pad system is very convenient, it is also complicated, and among our customers who are not particularly proficient in Japanese or have difficulty understanding Japanese, many have been unable to use the system, or have been locked out of their rooms at night.

    Because of this, we ask all customers who do not speak Japanese to provide a translator at check-in when possible. After one stay the system is fairly easy to use, but as we cannot verify that you, Mr. Joe [sic], have stayed with us before, we are sending this message to you. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

    Yet another reason I need to naturalize and change my name to Joichi Koizumi.

    Update: I was thinking about this over a slow afternoon in the office, and I started wondering: “What would Debito do?” (Somehow he works his way into all of my blog posts.) So I wrote back to the hotel:

    Thank you for your e-mail. I live in Japan and work as a translator, so I don’t think there will be any problem. One thing I do wonder about, though, is whether you have had instructions written in English? Many hotels and weekly mansions in Tokyo have similar systems, and they provide instructions in English so that foreign customers do not have to worry about misunderstanding. Maybe something similar would save you from having to send out these warnings (and also be more convenient for your guests who don’t speak Japanese).

    The hotel manager wrote me back within ten minutes.

    Thank you for your reply. We do indeed have an English version of the instruction sheet you suggested in your e-mail, so please don’t worry about that. Our customers are not generally from the English-speaking world, thus the e-mail you received. Thank you again for your comment, and we hope you have a safe trip.

    Sooo, that’s that. I guess the interpreter is only necessary if you can’t read.

    Birthday cigarette [photos]


    Larger size here.


    Larger size here.

    Taken December 28, 2005 at a friend’s birthday party. The red glow comes from the focus assist light of someone’s miniature digital camera. I was looking through my camera while they took a photo, and when I saw the appearance of the scene bathed in orange light I had them keep it trained on the subject while I took my own photos.

    Both taken with Canon 300D and 17-85mm EF-S lense.