Dif­fer­ent coun­try, same world

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

It’s good to get away

from Greece ev­ery once in a while just to be re­minded of how big and com­plex the world is. Ja­pan is a far­away coun­try that is at the epi­cen­ter of tec­tonic changes that af­fect us all. It is an ex­tremely se­ri­ous coun­try and very dif­fer­ent to Greece. So many lit­tle things make an im­pres­sion. Like the ren­o­va­tion of a build­ing right in the cen­ter of Tokyo. Con­struc­tion went on into the night, but there was no noise, no shout­ing. The side­walk in front of it was cor­doned off with dozens of small lights and work­ers in flu­o­res­cent vests po­litely guided pedes­tri­ans safely past the works, bow­ing their apolo­gies for the in­con­ve­nience caused. When a bul­let train pulls up at a sta­tion, there are al­ways clean­ing crews wait­ing right where the doors will open. They bow to the pas­sen­gers, clean out the car within five min­utes flat and bow to the new pas­sen­gers com­ing in. Yes, it is a very dif­fer­ent coun­try. Its peo­ple work very hard and like to go out quite a lot be­cause their apart­ments are very small and of­ten far away from work. The coun­try right now is fac­ing a ma­jor de­mo­graphic chal­lenge. The di­rec­tor of Ja­pan’s big­gest news­pa­per told me on my re­cent visit there how the work­ers who de­liver news­pa­pers of­ten have to check if the sub­scribers are alive, be­cause most are very el­derly. No one knows how the prob­lem of the ag­ing pop­u­la­tion will be solved, but the so­lu­tion of im­mi­gra­tion has been ruled out so far. Aca­demics and busi­ness- men pre­fer to fo­cus on how tech­nol­ogy, and ro­bot­ics specif­i­cally, can help the coun­try’s el­derly ci­ti­zens. But Ja­pan also has China to deal with. Re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries have al­ways been tense. China is aware of its own strength, wants to be the lead­ing force in the re­gion and takes ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to strengthen its strate­gic ad­van­tage. Just to give you an idea of its sheer size: I re­cently read that ev­ery four months, China’s growth comes to the same amount as Greece’s an­nual gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. And if there is one cap­i­tal where con­cerns are run­ning high over whether the West – and the USA in par­tic­u­lar – is en­ter­ing a state of de­cline and stray­ing from its post-World War II val­ues, then that is Tokyo. There are, of course, politi­cians and oth­ers who be­lieve that, be­ing an is­land, Ja­pan can shut it­self off it­self off from the rest of the world and be self­suf­fi­cient. That said, it is clear that Ja­pan will soon face some ma­jor strate­gic dilem­mas as global power and money shifts to Asia. The world is chang­ing rapidly. Chris­tine La­garde re­cently said that the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund may move its headquarters to Bei­jing in the next few years, when China sur­passes the US in wealth. Over here in Greece, this may all seem some­what aca­demic, the prob­lems of a dif­fer­ent world. But when we’re talk­ing about a coun­try like Ja­pan, there is noth­ing dis­tant about these is­sues.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.