Why doesn’t Japan produce more geothermal energy?

I’ve been wondering this for a while. With its many volcanoes and hot springs, Japan clearly has the ability to produce electricity from heat underground. It also has some big companies that make the hardware. However, Japan only gets 0.3% of its energy from geothermal sources, making up just 5% of the world’s total and being about the same as the tiny population of Iceland use.

A student of mine works for a Japanese company building a new geothermal plant in Indonesia, and she claimed that the main impediment in Japan is that most good sites are in national parks. An article on the topic on the Economist website mentions that but puts more emphasis on resistance from onsen hot springs owners who are worried that all their hot water might be drained away. While they are a surprisingly powerful lobby in Japan, I think it’s much more likely to be the influence of the power companies, who for some reason have resisted any pressure to produce renewable energy and have had the political clout to make sure no pressure is put on them (the same main reason for nuclear accidents etc).

Explanations of Japanese company names updated

About half changed in the last week or so:

Japanese company names explained

Meanings/ Origins of Japanese company names post much expanded

Still needs a lot of work, though, so questions and corrections here please:

Japanese company names explained

Why did Uniqlo suddenly switch to having katakana in their logo?

This changed seemed to happen slightly earlier abroad than in Japan and I also saw Uniqlo advertising “Japanese technology” in their winter underwear, it seems like a deliberate move from wanting to be generically international to wanting to have a specifically Japanese image. As I know nothing of the internal decision making of this company obviously talking about the reason why would be pure speculation, but here goes anyway with three possible theories:

– It was an internal decision to bring back some national pride to the poor Japanese salarymen who were being forced to use English in the headquarters in Japan

– It was a reaction to the success of the faux-Japanese brand SuperDry

– It was due to the expansion of Uniqlo in China, where everything Japanese is either cool and worth a premium price or evil and worth burning, depending on the day

Why are Prius owners the worst drivers in Japan?

I notice this again and again, and often are growling at the crap driving before I even see what car it is, so it’s not some kind of prejudice.

My theory is that the car simply attracts holier-than-thou types who think they have even more an entitlement because they have a green car. It’s certainly not due to actual concern for the environment that the Prius has become a bestselling car in Japan, that’s for sure. It actually seems to be more some kind of showing off, though I can’t quite work out how or why.

Why are bananas by far the cheapest fruit in Japan?

There is sometimes a big bunch for 98 yen next to apples which start at 298 yen a piece.

I’m guessing the government puts few restrictions on their import because they aren’t grown here and so there is no danger of Japanese farmers being hurt. There is also a Japanese free trade agreement with the Phillipines, where most or all of them (including those sold by American companies like Chiquita) seem to come from.

Same explanation seems to work for why fruit salads in convenience stores and supermarkets are always at least 80% pineapple.

Why aren’t Superdry clothes sold in Japan?

This came up in a teachers’ room conversation the other day and I could instantly make myself unpopular for being a smartarse because I’d heard all about it on a BBC Radio download in which the CEO mentioned they are still in dispute with Asahi of Superdry beer fame over the use of the name.

If you’ve never heard of them, there’s a Guardian article on the company here.

Why was a job for life a big thing in Japan?

And why is it fading away?

“Shrewd observers of the Japanese system had long ago noted that lifetime employment offered companies the opportunity to employ scads of young people at little expense. Starting wages were fixed below true value across whole industries, and workers endured them in return for security and promised raises…

By 1993, with the percentage of workers fifty-five or older rising to 13 percent, that benefit had turned into a costly burden. Nearly 40 percent of Japan’s workforce had fifteen years or more of seniority. This posed a grave problem: Under seniority-based wages, only a tiny fraction of those older workers could be expected to produce more than the earned.”

About Face pg 153

Why are robots such a big thing in Japan? 2nd attempt

“In Japan robots were early on perceived as a strategic industry worth developing, not just because robots can provide labour at less cost than humans, but because robots can also be more accurate, reliable and clean” (America and the Four Japans pg 116)

Makes sense.

First attempt here.

Why the obsession with quality? 3rd attempt

“As Sony’s founder, Akio Morita, has noted, exporting forces an improvement in quality, not just to satisfy foreign customers but to reduce the high costs of servicing the products in distant places after the sales have taken place”

America and the Four Japans pg 120


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