I recently had a conversation with a person I'll call O-san, an executive of a small ironworks operation in the Tohoku region. He spoke frankly about his predicament:
"There's no work now. We haven't had any orders since last September. I've asked the city and the prefecture for financial help. We borrowed 1 million yen from city hall. But the prefecture responded harshly. We received some financing from them, but they were quick to insist on repayment. They wouldn't wait. The city was willing to wait six months for repayment, but we're cornered. It's either closing down or filing for bankruptcy for us. I've been growing a few vegetables on a small plot of land and planting rice there, but you need money to get started in farming. We've been eating the food we grow on our land. We're practicing self-sufficiency."
As I listened to O-san talk, I kept thinking that there's nothing I could say to bring him comfort. I felt that anything I could come up with would sound empty, so I just kept listening. When he finished talking, I said, "All you can do is endure it."
"That's right. I'll endure it," came his reply.
The impoverishment of the Japanese is spreading rapidly. The money is not flowing, and that is a frightening concept. Poverty has become a serious issue. The truth is we're broke.
There are many reasons for the public to not support Prime Minister Taro Aso or opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa, but one of the biggest reasons is that both of them -- and many other politicians -- refuse to comprehend the poverty out there. They haven't come up with adequate solutions for stemming the recession, which is the reason for the poverty.
An old joke relates how someone talking to a person of responsibility and stature said, "The people are in such bad shape that many of them don't even have bread to eat." The person of stature replied, "So let them eat cake." Unfortunately, this is no joke in Japan today. The Japanese populace is in despair because the politicians don't have a clue about their predicament.