As legend has it, Japan was founded around 660BC by a direct descendent of the Sun Goddes, hence the name “Land of the Rising Sun”.
Now, I don’t get excited about China taking over the world; it’s Japan that is important. As I see it, most of us are following the wrong show. While the media was focused on secretary’s Xi’s celebrations, Japanese voters granted Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe an overwhelming parliament majority. Sure, Xi Jinping is disrupting and reshaping Chinese political corruption to better suit him, but Shinzo Abe was able to get his anti-war, Buddhist coalition partners to support his efforts to expand the role of Japan’s military forces. It is Japan, not China that boasts the world’s second most formidable navy, second only to the United States in the number of aircraft carriers floated (Japan claims those carriers are only for helicopters but if you believe it, I have the Eifel tower to sell to you).
Abe is the first Prime Minister who seems likely to become the longest-serving leader in modern times. But perhaps most important is the shift in Japanese society toward a more nationalistic, assertive position both regionally and globally.
Japan is a vibrant democracy with no minorities to speak of that has relocated most of its industrial base to the territories of its foreign customers and boasts a leader who is genuinely popular likely because of his militant stances. What do you make out of that?
Add to the issue the festering hatred of Japan throughout Asia for World War II that simply will not go away. It is even hard to find a Japanese restaurant in anywhere in South East Asia.
The Japanese recently slapped South Korean with export restrictions that will cause delays for materials that are critical to the advanced Korean semiconductor manufactures. And this is unusual, as a trade war is generally initiated by a deficit country, which simply means there is more to it here.
In retaliation Korean boycotts of Japanese goods have sprung up. Both sides have since withdrawn the other from their respective “white lists” – a classification that enables trade in sensitive technologies without the need for time-consuming and cost-intensive permitting. The Koreans are threatening to cease intelligence sharing (the agreement expires in November), and from their side Japanese said that they would not renew it anyway. In the old days the US would told them to cut the nonsense out the day it surfaced, but the days of global US management are going away.
Now, the Indian Summer topic.
Last weekend I drove to Annecy, which is town in southeastern France, where Lake Annecy feeds into the Thiou River. It’s known for its Vieille Ville (old town), with cobbled streets, winding canals and pastel-colored houses.
Overlooking the city is the medieval Château d’Annecy, once home to the Counts of Geneva.
I was staring at the sun sitting on a patio by the river with an espresso cup in my hand, which is a bad habit of mine, the staring part I mean. I never wear sunglasses and sometimes I can no longer tell the difference between things I say and things that I just have in my mind.
Some people call it a gift, but it’s a brain reflection just the same.
“Where are you from?” asked the waitress. She was a dark haired handsome French woman with tasteful tattoos on her arm.
“Toronto, and don’t pronounce the second T, that’s how the city is known to the locals.”
“Got it”, she smiled. But by now I am as Swiss as the Pellegrin white wine.
“Do you miss what you’ve left behind?” she asked.
It took me w while to come up with the answer.
“I am trying.”
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler