Japan Digest #376

1.        Noto Peninsula Earthquake Update


18 days have passed since the great earthquake of Seismic Intensity 7 that occurred at 4:10 pm on the New Year Day in Noto Peninsula of Ishikawa Prefecture, yet the number of casualty, evacuees and damaged houses are growing day by day.

As of Thursday, 232 people were confirmed dead, 15,130 evacuees are living in shelters and 28,925 houses are broken.

Thousands of local school children are now being moved to safe areas by bus to be assigned to schools that have capacity to accept them while their parents continue to live in shelters to plan for restoring their houses and living.

This earthquake cut off not only lifelines of water, power and gas but also roads and train lines directly or indirectly by landslides, etc. 

Several towns on the edge of the peninsula or the littoral area are completely isolated from ground transportation. 

The Japanese Self Defense Forces has dispatched around 7,000 service people as well as 49 aircraft and 9 special ships including LCAC an air-cushion ship to rescue those isolated people in needs, restore the lifelines and roads and to provide supplies of food, water, medicine and so forth.   

The U.S. Forces in Japan also started on the 16th to provide support of transporting food and sanitary goods by its two UH-60 helicopters from the JASDF’s Komatsu base to the Noto Airport.


2.   Kishida Cabinet’s Approval Rating Inched Up


According NHK’s monthly survey for the month of December, PM Kishida’s approval rating went up by 3 points to 26% from last month, while his disapproval rating went down by 2 points to 56%.

At the last survey, the approval rating of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party went down below 30% for the first time since it went back to power in 2012, but this month it came back to 30.9%.

Although the public is still unhappy about the Abe Faction’s financial scandal and disappointed at LDP’s faction based politics, the disaster of the great earthquake and the administration’s effort to rescue the sufferers might have shifted the downtrend of the approval ratings of the cabinet and the party.(Last night, PM Kishida announced that he might dissolve his faction “Kochi-kai”.)


3.  Japan-Taiwan Relationship To Be Further Strengthened


Mr. Lai Ching-te of Democratic Progressive Party won the Taiwan’s Presidential Election of January 13. 

First thing in the following morning of January 14, the president-elect met with Mr. Mitsoi Ohashi, Chairman of Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association. 

After the meeting with Mr. Ohashi, Mr. Lai also met with Mr. Keishi Furuya, Chairman of Japan-Taiwan Diet Members Caucus, a non-partisan caucus as a separate meeting.

The two Japanese, who met with Mr. Lai on the 14th told the media that Mr. Lei places very high priority on the Japan-Taiwan relationship. 

They also emphasized the necessity of expanding grass-root exchange with Taiwan by promoting school excursions to Taiwan.


4.  Japan’s Blue Carbon To Be Reported To UN For The First Time


Blue carbon is the carbon deriving from CO2 that are absorbed and stored in algae or sea weeds. 

Yomiuri reported this week that the Japanese government solidified a policy to report the amount of blue carbon to the United Nations. 

If it is reported, it is going to be the very first blue carbon report in the world.   

The government has already calculated the amount of blue carbon in 2022 as around 360,000 ton. 

Since Japan has one of the largest territorial sea in the world and cultures quite many algae and sea weeds for energy and food, blue carbon is going to account for around 10% of total CO2 that all the plants in Japan are expected to absorb by 2030. 

Japan has already set a target of a carbon free nation to be achieved by 2050.  


5. Foreign Visitors’ Spending Hit 5 Trillion Yen For The First Time    


Thanks to the weak yen and to the inflation, foreign visitors’ spending in Japan in 2023 increased by 9.9% to 5.3 trillion yen from the previous highest amount recorded in 2019, which was right before the pandemic, Japan Tourism Agency announced on the 17th.  

Although the number of foreign visitors, which was around 25 million in 2023, haven’t returned to the level of 2019 yet, the amount of consumption per visitor jumped by 33.8% from that of 2019 to 212,000 yen.

An average stay was extended more than 10% to 10.2 days per visit. 

The number of visitors from the United States and Singapore marked the highest ever individually in 2023.