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Voters sink Sogo’s lifeboat

The collapse of the Sogo department store, the largest bankruptcy of a non-financial corporation yet seen in Japan, is significant in two important ways. It shows the fragility of economic recovery. Persistently slow growth may leave many more Japanese companies at risk and the country’s banks may suffer more bad debts. Second, it shows the old conservative consensus breaking down. Shinsei Bank, the old LTCB under new American ownership, refused to play along with a bank-led bail-out. And when politicians attempted a public rescue, an angry populace shouted it down. Painful corporate restructuring is at hand, reports Kevin Rafferty

Author: Kevin Rafferty


Elvis lives! Well, on closer examination, it is not the King himself, but several younger Asian reincarnations jiving up and down to the blaring music of Elvis Presley on a hot summer Sunday afternoon. Their eyes squint against the sun and sweat makes their trademark quiffs glisten with a shine the King would have envied. Elvis sightings have been reported all over the world, but none are as strange as these in Harajuku, not least because it is literally a stone's throw from Omotesando, once of Tokyo's swankiest shopping streets.


Just 50 metres away from the Elvis prince-lings, more than a hundred young girls are conducting their own anti-fashion parade. In the boiling heat, most of them are dressed in heavy black drapes and wearing thick white make-up. Their accessories are individually kitschy, including silver teardrop eyelashes, cutesy lacey parasols, clumpy platform shoes, Fishnet stockings, feather boas, bright red and orange hair, but together they are outrageously over the top and as far removed from the image of conformist dark-suited and booted Japan as it would be possible to devise.


These girls are mere teenagers, the oldest 15 or 16 and some of them only 12, the age when traditionally Japanese children spent their time with their heads buried in their schoolbooks.




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