Translation - English The Crucial Role of Social Capital in the Recovery Process
Now, as [we] plan this recovery, another stock will play a crucial role—the stock of social capital.
The father of the concept of social capital, the sociologist [Robert] Putnam, explains it as “the features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.” In short, this is to say that relationships, networks, and the like are a type of stock, and that their presence is playing a large role in shaping local revitalization, economic activity, and communities, among other things. Recent research has shown that, in broad fields like innovation and entrepreneurship, this social capital is playing a crucial role.
During this disaster, the foreign media in particular has been applauding the Japanese people's discipline and spirit of cooperation in dealing with disasters. Even in a disaster, [we] call on and help one another without panicking. Even when supermarket shelves collapse, looting and stealing do not break out. Instead, customers put the merchandise back on the shelves. [We] line up patiently for taxis. These things, ordinary for Japanese, are looked at with wonder overseas.
This is something I've seen around myself too. At the time of the quake I was in Hibiya and, since traffic had come to a halt, I waited in the nearby Imperial Hotel. The hotel lobby looked just like a refugee camp, but the hotel staff, not a single frown among them, placed all the chairs they had in the lobby and even passed out blankets and bottled water for free.
What is more, a friend of mine walked four hours back home from [his] office in Otemachi and tells me that, on the way, a shoemaker offered [him] [more] comfortable shoes for free, saying “feel free to use these.” [He] also said that [he] saw signs everywhere reading “Bathrooms Available.”
Without a doubt, [we] can say this spirit of companionship and cooperation in times of crisis is social capital that exists firmly rooted in Japan. Much as the presence of local social capital nurtures communities and has the power to bring about a safe society, social capital throughout Japan gave rise to a disaster response Japan can boast of to the world.
The question from here on out is whether the Japanese social capital wielded in this time of crisis can be wielded in the recovery process too. Whether Japan, faced with a historic calamity, can share the costs of rebuilding and cooperate to recover—that is the question.
Japanese to English: 株主としても喜べない「低」報酬ないし「定」報酬 General field: Bus/Financial Detailed field: Business/Commerce (general)
Source text - Japanese From Nikkei Business Online:
Translation - English For Shareholders, Displeasure with Low and Fixed Compensation
Of course, there are examples of [executives] earning huge compensations in excess of 800 million yen, like Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan Motors, and Howard Stringer, Chairman, President, and CEO of Sony. However, according to [information] revealed by the individual disclosure system started last year for executive compensation exceeding 100 million yen, less than 10% of the total compensations of presidents of listed companies exceed 100 million yen—and, for board members, it seems to be only a few percent. Ultimately, President Ghosn and President Stringer are nothing more than exceptions. In fact, by arranging a separate compensation system only for foreign executives, it appears as if they are getting special treatment.
In Japanese society, which values humility, it may be a virtue for executives to be satisfied with low compensation. There may even be a way of thinking that says, given that [low compensation] will raise profits—albeit only by a bit— that much higher, shareholders should not be unsatisfied either.
However, I doubt that it is alright for top executives at global companies to continue upholding virtues of Japanese culture and ignoring the personnel strategy of “gathering the world's wisdom to win at the world level.” On top of that, it is not necessarily the case that stockholders are totally pleased with executive compensation at Japanese corporations, which is low and fixed.
Suppose there are two companies. At one company, the portion of executive compensation tied to performance is very large, making executive compensation extremely high depending on [one's] performance. It is also a company at which all executives are strongly motivated to improve their performances.
At the other company, executive compensation is low, but the portion tied to performance is small, and the level of all executives' compensation falls into a fixed range regardless of the quality of their performances. Now, which company's future is more promising? I think [we] can see the difference between the former and the latter [in terms of] the difference between capitalism and socialism, or perhaps the difference between private enterprises and public enterprises. Naturally, the former company would be expected to be able to grow more.
Having put it this way, I can [already] hear objections like “it's difficult to measure each person's relative contribution to [company] performance” and “if a big gap in compensation arises based on relative contribution, the harmony of the team will be disturbed.”
With regard to the former, I think that giving up on measuring [performance] just because it is hard is nothing more than abandoning [one's duty to] evaluate personnel and is unacceptable for an executive. This was an argument repeated in the many service invention cases I used to work as a lawyer. Of course, as the manager of a company—albeit a small one—I am aware that it is no easy thing to evaluate each person's relative contribution to [company] performance fairly.
With regard to the latter, at globalizing Japanese firms, there is a clear difference in compensation structure and a big difference in how incentives like performance-based [compensation] are provided among Japanese and non-Japanese executives. So, I have significant doubts about whether Japanese, who supposedly value “harmony,” can really maintain harmony among a single “team” of executives and about what is going on with the consistency of that logic.
Thinking about it this way, I have concerns that low and fixed compensation dilute executives' management responsibility for [company] performance and, as a shareholder, cannot be totally pleased with them. In the end, I cannot help but have misgivings about whether corporate management that takes risks by pursuing growth will really go smoothly in a corporate culture in which executives themselves prefer a risk-averse compensation structure—since low and fixed compensation [offers] low risk in exchange for low returns.
Japanese to English: ねじれと政策遂行能力/A Divided Diet and Its Ability to Govern General field: Other Detailed field: Government / Politics
Source text - Japanese From Nikkei Business Online:
Translation - English A Divided Diet and Its Ability to Govern:
However, Japan's political decision-making system, which has been developed in an undivided state, dramatically reduces its ability to govern when in a divided state.
Even in a semi-divided [government], the ability to govern declines considerably. Take the matter of government appointments, for instance. Personnel like the president, vice president, and policy board members of the Bank of Japan need to have the approval of the Diet, but in this [situation] there is neither a rule that gives precedence to the House of Representatives nor a two-thirds override rule. If the House of Councillors does not approve, it does not come about. This became a reality when in 2008 the DPJ, which was the majority party in the House of Councillors, opposed a motion to make former Bank of Japan vice president Muto president.
And yet, though most people may not have noticed, buried in the papers on March 31st was an article saying it had been decided that the LDP would not oppose personnel proposals for members of the Bank of Japan's Policy Board. This is to say that the LDP could have opposed them as the DPJ had before, but did not this time around.
Considering that things are challenging even in a semi-divided government, a truly-divided government causes rather serious problems. Even if the budget were to go through, budget-related bills would not; so, in reality, the ability to govern becomes virtually nil. Special deficit-financing bonds laws become especially problematic.
As far as government bonds go, there are “construction bonds,” which provide a source of funds for building infrastructure, and, aside from those, there are “deficit-funding bonds.” Issuing deficit-financing bonds is prohibited by law in principle, and each time [they are issued] it is necessary to enact a special law and determine the amount to be issued.
And in a truly-divided state, when the minority party in the House of Councilors objects, [the government] becomes unable to issue deficit-financing bonds, bringing about nearly unimaginable turmoil. Out of the 92.4 trillion yen in annual expenditures in the 2011 budget, a little more than forty percent—40.7 trillion yen—is being covered by deficit-financing bonds. If a hole of a little over forty percent opens in revenues, [the government] will quickly find itself cash-strapped.
This problem is unrelated to financial reform, but there is a chance that, overseas, [we'll] be put on par with Greece given the confusion surrounding [our] finances and that long-term interest rates will rise and the yen will depreciate.
This problem still has not been solved at present, but it was my biggest concern prior to the earthquake.
Japanese to English: 米国は対日関係を「原点回帰」させる/U.S. to Bring Relations with Japan Back to their Starting Point General field: Other Detailed field: International Org/Dev/Coop
Source text - Japanese From Nikkei Business Online:
Translation - English U.S. To Bring Relations with Japan Back to Their Starting Point?
Furthermore, fears are beginning to emerge about whether, if this leaderless state of affairs continues, the United States will return to the post-World War II roots of U.S.-Japan relations and Japan will shift onto a course reducing it to the position of a protectorate that “only needs to provide bases.” Below, a Japanese defense official analyzes what is behind the United States pointing to the “strengthening of the U.S.-Japan alliance” and providing support after the earthquake.
“[I would say] the United States has put the status of Japan's current strategic position in East Asia at the same level as right after it recovered its sovereignty through the San Francisco Peace Treaty after the war. This status was one of restored sovereignty as, in effect, a protectorate of the United States during the U.S.-Soviet Cold War and something that, while lacking the semblance of an independent nation, formed the basic form of a stable order in East Asia through the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
The United States, reaffirming the Japan-U.S. security order, requested an expansion of the role of Japan's Self-Defense Forces after the Cold War, but this basic form has been maintained up to the present. That's because, in reality, the United States hoped a one-sided relationship in which Japan provided a position (bases) for protecting American strategic interests would be maintained.
Of course, there was a tendency to expect Japan would be used as a counter balance against a rising China; but [I would say that], seeing Japan's response after the earthquake, the United States has abandoned those expectations and is now thinking of returning Japan's status to its starting point. And in fact, I think the United States actually prefers it that way.”
In the past many Americans have remarked on what the United States actually wants, but [this view] has been endorsed by the frank remarks of Office of Japan Affairs Director Maher, who was dismissed just prior to the earthquake. Mr. Maher remarked “I think there's no need to change Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. I can't imagine Article 9 changing. If Japan's Constitution changes Japan will no longer need the U.S. military, so I don't think it would be good for the United States. If Japan's Constitution were to change, the United States would no longer be able to use Japan's territory to promote its interests.”
Considering frank American views like this and the current post-earthquake decline of Japan's strategic position, the United States may plot a restructuring of its strategy toward Japan premised not on an orientation toward “supporting Japan as a counterbalance against a rising China,” but instead on bringing it back to its basic postwar form.
Looked at in this way, it can be said that Prime Minister Kan, who could not exercise his leadership in dealing with the nuclear accident and lacks crisis management skills, is now not only a “risk to the world,” but also a threat to Japan's continued existence as an independent nation. A Nihon Keizai Shinbun survey showed that 70 percent of respondents, given “Prime Minister Kan Naoto's lack of leadership ability,” “do not support him”—a new record.
We must recognize clearly that, at this rate, there is a danger Japan's presence in international society will fall so far that it will be irreversible. In any case, putting an end to incompetent leadership likely will be the first step toward recovery and Japan's rebirth.
Japanese to English: エコノミスト達は今後の経済をどう見ているのか/How do Economists See the Economic Future? General field: Bus/Financial Detailed field: Economics
Source text - Japanese From Nikkei Business Online:
Translation - English How do Economists See the Economic Future?
How do Japan's leading economists see the economic future? We can tell from the Economic Planning Association's “ESP Forecast Survey.” This questionnaire surveys forty-three top economists' forecasts of the economic future and issues the average (what is called the consensus forecast). (A synopsis can be seen here)
According to the results of the survey, which was conducted after the quake at the beginning of April, most economists believe growth will be negative from January to March and April to June. Most notably, it has been forecasted that [growth] from April to June will fall 2.8 percent relative to the previous quarter (see the graph below).
However, after that the growth rate will actually rise. And rapidly at that—in fact, at a high rate of 4.6 percent from October to December. In other words, the post-earthquake economy is expected, after declining significantly in the first half of 2011, to recover dramatically.
That said, it is not entirely clear whether this will be recognized as an “economic fluctuation.” Every month, the ESP Forecast Survey asks “whether we have passed an economic turning point.” A recent economic turning point was the “March 2009 Trough.” This means [we] would expect the economists who think the economy has entered a recessionary phase because of the earthquake to answer that “we have passed a turning point.” But in these survey results [only] eleven economists answered that “we have passed a turning point,” [whereas] thirty answered that “we have not.”
For some reason, even though such an enormous decline in growth is being forecasted from April to June, the economists who do not see this as an “economic downturn” are in the majority. This is because, for March to be designated officially as an economic peak, the subsequent recession must have a certain degree of depth and length. The effects of the earthquake are undeniably recessionary in terms of “depth”; but if the economy turns around after half a year, then there is a possibility that, having been too short, they will not officially be deemed recessionary.
On the point of the earthquake's effect on the economy, my own thinking is about the same as the consensus of the economists shown here. That is, Japan's economy will see sharply negative growth as a result of the negative effects of the earthquake emerging concentrated in the first half of 2011. However, once the worst has passed, growth in the latter half of the year will suddenly be quite high, since the “diminishing of the extent of the decline” will boost the growth rate based on the previous period and bring in new investment demand for a stock recovery.
Of course, this is a forecast of the future, so it might be totally wrong. But saying nothing because “it might be wrong” is the same as not forecasting the future. How will things actually develop compared to this outlook of mine? I can't wait to see.
This economic decline and recovery, so instantaneous that it will not officially be deemed an “economic fluctuation,” may be buried in an even bigger economic wave. However, regardless of whether it is recognized as an official economic fluctuation, this economic decline will long be remembered as something brought about by a terribly tragic disaster, as the subsequent rapid recovery of economic activity will be remembered as a recovery from a tragedy [so harsh] that we'll hesitate to call it a recovery.
Years of translation experience: 9. Registered at ProZ.com: Jun 2011.
Japanese to English (Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level N1)
Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, IBM Lotus Symphony, Powerpoint
CV available upon request
I am a student at Florida International University with a passion for Japanese-English translation. I lived in Japan for three years as a child, traveled throughout Honshu during the spring of 2007, and spent the summer of 2008 in Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture as an exchange student from Bremerton, Washington.
At Florida International University, I have worked as a Japanese language tutor for the Department of Modern Languages. I have proofread translation work for the Asian Studies department and done translation work for the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Moreover, I have spent a year as an exchange student at the University of Washington. There, I completed the most advanced course in the Technical Japanese Program, in addition to studying Japanese literature translation and Japanese linguistics. I also received the N1 certification on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
Having translated a variety of material inside and outside the classroom, I welcome all kinds of assignments!
Keywords: japanese, news, newspaper, journalism, politics, government