Friday, April 30, 2010

"Golden Week"... Time off !

Holidays! Golden Week vacations started in Japan with the escape of millions of travelers. It's the longest Japanese holiday with the exception of New Year and the Obon week. Millions of people get ready to travel to domestic resorts, beaches, sightseeing tourism, carnivals, and family gatherings. Overseas call catch a lot. Guam and Hawaii, as well as European countries France and Italy, are said to attract tens of thousands of travelers from Japan (Tokyo Narita airport expects over 1 million users) during the holiday season through early May. Some depart to nearby nations, Korea, China, especially to the Shanghai 2010 World expo. Thailand is the place with a big question mark even though the local gorgeous sea-resorts are far from being harmed by the current dreadful political instability.

Even if Japan recovered faster from the financial crisis than most other nations, the crisis strikes for a lot of Japanese and costs are severely cut. For many islanders the " G.W." will be a short trip, bathe in an Onsen station, gazing at a Zen garden, sipping local 'Sake', stay home and have good food and take a rest in front of a noisy TV with kids joyfully jumping around... while others will experiment the mecca of hi-tech products 'Made in Japan'. For others the Golden Week is the only time in the year to fill the islander with art and aestheticism, a national sport with museums filled by art lovers as bees in a hive.

The Golden Week actually started on Thursday and runs from April 29 through May 5. There are four national holidays during this period: Showa Day (April 29), Constitution Memorial Day (May 3), Greenery Day (May 4), and Children's Day (May 5).

Quotes "The end of April through around May 5th is called "Golden Week" in Japan since there are many Japanese national holidays during this period. Many Japanese offices close for about a week to 10 days, depending on the calendar. People take a vacation and travel around the country or abroad, so tourist attractions in Japan are very crowded during Golden Week. Also, airports and train stations in Japan are overflowing with people. It is hard to get reservations for accommodations and transportation during Golden Week...

The first national holiday during Golden Week is April 29, which was the birthday of the former emperor Showa. Now, this day is called showa-no-hi (Showa Day). The second holiday is kenpou-kinen-bi (Constitution Memorial Day), May 3. The new Japanese constitution was put into effect on May 3, 1947. Then, May 4 is called midori-no-hi (Greenery Day) during which we show appreciation for nature...

The last holiday during Golden Week is kodomono-hi (Children's Day) on May 5th. It's Japanese Boy's Festival called tango-no-sekku and is a day to pray for healthy growth of boys. It's a Japanese tradition for families of boys to hang up carp streamers (koinobori) outside their houses around this holiday. Carps are believed to symbolize successes in children's lives. Also, samurai dolls called gogatsu ningyo (May Dolls) are displayed in their houses."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The EU That Can Say NO to Japan

“We could perhaps take some more time to first identify the objectives both parties want to reach,” Herman Van Rompuy, permanent president of the European Council and Haiku lover.

Herman... who?

"On a journey, ill
My dreams roam
Over a wild moo"

European Union President, Belgian born Herman Van Rompuy has humour, and he loves Japanese poems, the Haiku. He event dared a metaphor yesterday at the press conference ending the summit by adding a poetic note. "The sun is rising - sleeping yet in Europe - still the same sun," to a stunned Yukio Hatoyama.

Herman van Rompuy influenced by Greek Thucydides and Pericles of the school of realpolitik

Mr Van Rompuy, known to some as Haiku Herman, is a passionate writer of haiku, the traditional Japanese form of poetry. The 62-year-old former Belgian prime minister published his first book of haiku, which are composed of three unrhymed lines totaling 17 syllables. It is said he sometimes writes on political themes, but reserved comment Wednesday on the meaning of his latest work narrated in Tokyo...

Looks like the Belgium VIPs stick to cultural interaction, and maybe it's a pretty good idea to create ties with Japanese torrid claim of their genuine fascination for cultures of Europe...

I remember having interviewed for NHK the ex-Belgium ambassador the Baron Nothomb, yes the one who fathered writer Amélie (Fabienne) Nothomb! He was able to sing Noh theatre for hours to the stupefaction of my recording studio colleagues.

The dialogue of/trough/via cultures may be helpful for European Union Council president Herman Van Rompuy who yesterday told Japanese politicians that "Japan and Europe would be stronger in facing the challenges of a changing world if we work together." In other words: the EU asked the student Hatoyama to review his copy prior to launch an integration project.


Telling this to a Japanese prime minister, whose popularity heading down dangerous levels and whose eyes are turned towards the East side of the Pacific a few months prior to the October APEC informal gatherings, was a "fatal gesture" some say, "no, very astute" others counter-attacked.


Where we are now: Van Rompuy agreed with Hatoyama that Japan and the European Union will establish a "high-level group" to discus their economic relations, including the possibility of a free-trade agreement, as EU already signed with South Korea. The will for an integration agreement, EIA, is strongly supported both by the Keidanren, Japan's business lobby, and by European businesses in Japan, although business associations in Europe and big automakers have lobbied against. José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, made clear the EU expected progress on non-tariff barriers and regulatory harmonization before it would start working on a deal. Hatoyama said Japan understands the EU's frustration with non-tariff barriers in Japan, such as the tight regulations on public procurement and product safety screening, which Brussels blames for distorting fair trade.

The party seems tense, look:

EU Japan Summit, April 28, Tokyo

Clear enough. The free trade deal signed between the EU and South Korea last October sparked Japanese interest in a similar agreement. "Currently the EU impose 10 percent tariff duties on imports of vehicles and 14 percent on electronics, but South Korean companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai Motor will be eventually exempt from those tariffs.

I remember the EBC, the European Business Council in Japan, called for several years, towards such agreement under former president Richard Collasse, and for current president Tommy Kullberg, "the 2010 EU-Japan summit is an "unmissable opportunity" to start work toward an EIA. "Nothing will change if we don't have binding discussions."


The working group could take six to 12 months to review the progress that Japan and the EU have made to ensure free and open trade, Hatoyama said, adding he believes the two sides will be able to secure an FTA in the future. Van Rompuy called for strong "political will" to deepen the bilateral economic relationship, saying the high-level group must not work "in a bureaucratic way."

According to the European think-tank Copenhagen Economics, the combination of both elimination of tariffs and the reduction of non-tariff measures would increase "economic welfare" by €33bn a year in the EU and €18bn in Japan.

The EU delegation flew to China for a EU China summit in Shanghai, where the World Expo is to open there on Saturday. Maybe Mr Van Rompuy is to claim some Confucius thoughts and verses to the Chinese leadership?

Sources: Reporters' notes

✍✍✍ Et en Français, langue chère au président du Conseil de l'Union Européenne: "Herman Van Rompuy, a estimé mercredi que le temps n'était pas venu de signer un accord de libre-échange avec le Japon, en raison notamment des barrières non tarifaires qui entravent encore l'accès au marché japonais. "Il est bien sûr évident que le moyen d'intensifier les échanges entre nos deux blocs serait d'avoir un accord de libre-échange", a-t-il dit lors d'une conférence de presse à Tokyo avant un sommet UE-Japon. "Beaucoup de barrières non tarifaires restent en place, ce qui entrave l'accès au marché japonais et fait hésiter l'UE à aller plus avant", a cependant souligné M. Van Rompuy, ajoutant: "Nous pourrions peut-être prendre un peu plus de temps pour identifier d'abord les objectifs que les deux parties veulent atteindre". Le Japon souhaiterait abolir les taxes à l'entrée sur le marché européen pour les automobiles et les téléviseurs à écran plat. L'UE réclame de son côté que le Japon assouplisse ses critères de sécurité pour les automobiles européennes et accélère le processus de vérification des équipements médicaux en particulier. Présents lors du sommet UE-Japon mercredi, en présence de M. Van Rompuy et du Premier ministre japonais Yukio Hatoyama: son ministre des Affaires étrangères, Katsuya Okada, la chef de la diplomatie européenne, Catherine Ashton, et le président de la Commission Européenne, Jose Manuel Barroso."