Why is there a Harris tweed boom in Japan?

I first heard of this through the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan magazine, and finally came across it myself last week in my local Aeon supermarket, of all places, where Harris tweed was brightfully decorating some manbags which were twice the price of the other choices.

Upon doing some research, this hand-spun wool from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland seems to be going through a bit of a boom in general, but virtually every article on the topic mentions that Japan has suddenly become the number one market. What I can’t find is any ideas about why. Could it be related to the Japanese love of expensive Scotch whiskey or, more recently, expensive Scottish beer? Any theories or further info, anyone?

Why don’t Tokyo trains and buses run at night?

According to the Japan Times, Tokyo’s very first night bus has started running once an hour from Roppongi to Shibuya and back.  Reasons given against underground trains doing the same in the article include the need for maintenance (something other places somehow get around) and salarymen not wanting a reason to work even later (i.e. not to lose the excuse to leave of the last train home).

What the article doesn’t mention is the ability of well organised and pushy taxi drivers to block proposals like this – including in some countries their apparent ability to make sure that there are no other easy ways of getting to the airport! Given the famous electoral influence of farmers and owners of small shops in Japan, I’d be very surprised if taxi drivers don’t also have a real impact on policy.

Why is Kannon so popular in Japan?

I have difficulty believing it’s a major factor, but a recent very insightful piece on BBC Radio 3 about Christmas in Japan mentioned in passing that many secret Christians in the Tokugawa period transferred their affection for Mary mother of Christ to this (usually) female Buddhist Bodhisattva, also known as Kwannon in Japanese and Guanyin in Chinese.

The relevant Wikipedia page also has a brief mention of that use of Kannon statues, along with the details “During the Edo Period in Japan, when Christianity was banned and punishable by death, some underground Christian groups venerated Jesus and the Virgin Mary by disguising them as statues of Kannon holding a child; such statues are known as Maria Kannon. Many had a cross hidden in an inconspicuous location.”

However, the popularity of this figure is by no means limited to Japan, so I can’t imagine that had a large impact overall.

In case you’re wondering, yes that is where the company Canon got its name from.