Aug

25

Great Op-Ed in the Times called Japan and the Ancient Art of Shrugging by NORIHIRO KATO:

"GROSS domestic product figures for the second quarter show that China has overtaken Japan as the world's second largest economy. I have been traveling while on leave from the university in Tokyo where I teach, and was in Paris when the news broke last week. My first reaction, frankly, was one of relief. In English, perhaps, one might say it was "a load off my shoulders."

In Japanese, people use the phrase "right shoulder up" to describe a graph that keeps going up, with each year's figures rosier than the last. Of course, if that climbing line is someone's right shoulder, it means the left is languishing somewhere out of sight. We're seeing only half the person.

Reading the papers that morning at breakfast, I saw a graph indicating the point in the 1990s when Japan's G.D.P. had peaked, after which the line started jagging down and up, over the long run comparatively leveling out. The relief I felt had something to do with the person I saw there, no longer so awkwardly bent. Finally we know where Japan stands — on level ground.


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