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What are essential factors for Japan to return to its status as the rising sun ? (Part 2)

Last week, I penned down some thoughts about Japan after a recent trip to Tokyo and I wanted to continue on that train of thought…

After my stop in Tokyo, we headed to Osaka, where we drove across the world’s longest suspension bridge – the famous US$5 billion Akashi Kaikyō Suspension Bridge spanning 3,911 meters in length. Rising 66 meters over the water, the bridge took over 10 years to build and was completed in 1998. The construction challenges were enormous since the bridge had to be designed to withstand for winds of up to 286 kilometer per hour and earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter scale. In fact, while construction is underway the Kobe earthquake of 1995 occurred. The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge is one of Japan’s greatest engineering feats, pushing the limits of technology at that time. It is a reflection of the Japanese’s brilliance, determination and perseverance – key factors that would be crucial in helping to turn the economy around.

And as I mentioned in my previous blog, Japan faces many economic challenges before it can make a comeback – I talked about exports and the macro-economic picture last week. So let’s look more closely at the domestic situation – Japan’s immigration policy needs to loosen up to help lower labor costs. In addition, the government needs to reduce spending and taxation so that local small and medium sized enterprises can grow by expanding into the rest of Asia and to business in places like China, India and Indonesia. That’s because small and medium sized enterprises are a crucial part of the economy that help to create new business and enterprises. In order for those to flourish, there’s a need to reduce the role of the government in the Japanese economy.

If Japan is able to effectively tap opportunities outside its domestic market for the small and medium sized enterprises in a way similar to how Toyota, Nissan, Sony, Panasonic and Hitachi have gained fine reputations worldwide, and that, combined with the strong work ethic and pride of its people, should help the country work its way out of its lost decade.

p.s. It was also in Osaka where I had the best memories, especially when we visited the Otsuka Museum of Art. It is known as the world’s first and only ceramic art museum. Upon entrance, we were in awe of the huge vaulted ceiling hall covered with the most amazing reproduction of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling art.

As we began our tour, we marveled at an incredible collection of the world’s most famous art works done on ceramic boards. To reproduce these great art works, as many as 20,000 colors had to be developed by the Otsuka Ohmi Ceramics Company. Here is art, in its original size, which you can walk up to, feel and take pictures to your heart’s content. According to the museum, the reproductions can maintain their color and shape for over 2,000 years.

We found over 1,000 replicas covering the full history of Western art’s most priceless masterpieces, ranging from Greek murals to modern paintings. It is amazing when you think about it, how collections in over 190 art museums in 26 countries were brought right before your eyes under one roof. From “Guernica” by Picasso to “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo Da Vinci, they have all been reproduced by master craftsmen, in all its glory and amazing clarity. In 4 hours, it was closing time.

I told myself I would have to return to enjoy what is truly a most wonderful and artistic experience. I’ve also been told that there are fantastic fireworks held twice a year in Japan that are not to be missed, so it’s not just cherry blossom season that’s spectacular.

By Mark Mobius
Executive Chairman
Templeton Asset Management Ltd.

Dimanche 3 Octobre 2010

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