Monday, 24 May 2010

Towel Wars & other stuff

As if to prove that the recent plunge in stock markets, instability in the Euro and general demise of the world’s capitalist economy is just something that happens to other people, big manufacturing news in Japan! So, how’s this for a headline…

Osaka, Shikoku battle over No. 1 towel production title!

Now you may laugh, I know I did, but towels are important, and not just for drying yourself off (or wetting your brow on a hot day, wiping up spills or many other of the myriad of uses that a square or oblong piece of cloth can be put to) – I mean, where would Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent have been without their towels? So as you can imagine when I saw this headline on 17th May I immediately though I had better investigate further as it was prime Arakawa Riverview, ahem, material.

But, I’m sure you’re wondering, how can this be a battle, surely the association with the highest sales is the winner, no? Well, no. You see the Osaka Prefecture and Shikoku region (the smallest of the 4 main island of Japan, containing 4 prefectures, Kochi, Ehime, Kagawa and Tokushima – and yes, I did just have to look that up – and very close to Osaka) both claim they are the top producers of towels in the country, but base their claims on different calculation methods.

Ah, the murky world of towel production statistics.

Before WWII Osaka was, apparently, the place for towel production in Japan, however post-war the upstart island, through cunning use of cotton blanket production, overtook Japan’s second city. Recently the figures of 9,381 tons to Shikoku against 9,209 tons from Osaka have been bandied about, accounting for 99% of domestic towel production. But this of course, raises a number of questions – how were these figures compiled? What percentage of overall towel sales in Japan does this represent? Where does the other 1% of domestic towels produced come from? Who, outside of Osaka and Shikoku towel production associations and me, really gives a fuck about any of this? How on earth did this story get onto page-2 of a national newspaper?

Well, I can’t answer very many of those questions, except, luckily, the first one – the Osaka Towel Industry Association (102 member firms) uses as its basis the volume of towels brought to dye houses as the production figure – so if 1 ton of towels arrive to be dyed then the production figure is 1 ton.

The Shikoku Towel Industrial Association (132 members) calculates production by using the yield rate, which shows the percentage of cotton yarn that is actually turned into towels without being wasted. The association multiplies the amount of yarn by the yield rate to calculate towel production – the yield rate has gone up from 84% in 2007 to 95% in 2010, they argue, meaning the amount of towels actually made has increased.

Confused? I am. Why don’t they just count the number of finished towels shipped from their factories? Or the sales? Or at least agree on something? Why hasn’t the Japan Towel Industrial Association (or maybe the Japan textile Federation) got involved and sorted this out.

Uncertainty reigns as both Osaka and Shikoku associations are both now using ‘Japan’s largest towel production center’ on their advertising and websites – as you can image, in the cutthroat world of domestic towel production this has huge ramifications (and if I can think of any I’ll let you know).

So this is set to run and run, I’ll keep you posted if anyone ever writes anything about this ever again…

Yukio ‘the Hat’ Hatoyama news now

Jeez, talking about things set to run-and-run…

A few posts back I mentioned that the relocation of the US Airbase at Futenma, Okinawa, was a pressing issue for the Hat (I don’t think he is particularly known for his hats, by the way, it’s just an easy (read lazy) nickname for him). He was going round the houses desperately trying to find a solution that wouldn’t piss anybody off – fat chance of that as who would really want a US airbase next door? Not I.

So two updates, the first from a couple of weeks or so ago – so he’s the PM of a major, first world country, he knows he wants (or maybe needs) the US to be here, but he also knows that the ”people”, whilst knowing deep down that having the US here is a good thing, especially with Krazy Kim torpedoing S Korean ships, the “people” want the US to ‘here’ but not ‘here’ as in ‘close to my house’ but ‘here’ as in ‘over there – maybe in between Osaka and Shikoku so they can sort out this towel battle business’. So what does the Hat do? He goes to somewhere that isn’t where the base is now (I can’t remember where, the details of this story are so unbearably boring, which is ironic as the associated politicking is undeniably fascinating) and says to the local worthies;

“Ah, excuse me, terribly sorry to bother you, er, would you mind awfully if I put a US airbase in your prefecture…? No? Not the sort of thing you really want? Ah, I see, well, sorry for the trouble, do have a good day. Thank you.”

Oi, Yukio, grow a pair, will you! I mean, what did he expect, a tickertape parade and a welcome with open arms? This story has been going on so long that anyone, in any prefecture, is going to tell him to take a running jump. So instead of slapping down a few compulsory purchase orders and sending in the bulldozers he’s fart-arsing around and getting nowhere. OK, so maybe he’s trying to be less like the LDP which would have sent in the bulldozers (unless it was farmland) and ignored the locals, but this way everyone is looking at him saying ‘did we really vote for this guy…?’

So the weekend just gone he eventually went back the Futenma people and told them that, sorry, all been a big mistake and they would still have the base that they don’t want, but also the expanded version that they really, really don’t want. So 6 months of fucking about, a period which has seen his popularity plummet, to get back to the original plan which will still piss off the locals and will get the media even more on his back as he opposed this plan way back in 2006. Nice work there, Mr The Hat.

In other news

Goodness a lot has been going on since I last bother to write. Britain has 2 new leaders, well done there – I personally like the plan for the Clegg-Haig house share, with each getting to use it on alternate weekends, I’m sure they’ll get on like a house on fire…

Japan Cricket news, well, more like school cricket news in that now yours truly is coaching the primary cricket club kids on Monday mornings before school. This is jolly fun as these kids are some of the only humans on the planet who know less about playing cricket than I do, so I can generally sound knowledgeable when talking to them. Actually on Saturday just gone I took them up to Gunma Prefecture for a knockabout with a load of Japanese kids who are being coached by a chap named Richard, who is a loud, Aussie ex-pro cricketer who, I’m glad to say, told the kids basically the same things as I have been telling them when he gave them an impromptu batting session in between games.

Last but not least

Who are you all, part II.

I now have, it says on the sidebar, 38 followers of this blog – good on yer, as they say. Now, please could everyone who is a follower please leave a ‘hello’ type comment, just see how many we get – go on, you know you want to…