What an exhilarating summer of sport we have had here in the UK... the Cricket World Cup, Wimbledon, the Netball World Cup and The Ashes. And now, in Japan, the ninth Rugby World Cup has begun. Surprise, surprise, New Zealand are the bookies' favourite to win again at 5/4. According to World Rugby, there are 103 member unions and twenty of them will be on show in Japan over the next six weeks. Of the 8.5 million who play the sport globally, about a quarter (2.14 million) play in England with a further 234,300 playing in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. As you would expect, South Africa, France, New Zealand and Australia are all up there too in terms of participation, but in fact, it is the USA that comes in second with 1.53 million players. And, as we know, in rugby, size does count. So, spare a thought for the two minnows in the competition - Namibia (8,192 players) and Uruguay (8,916 players). Whilst both are semi-regular qualifiers, prior to this World Cup, they have only ever won two matches between them and have only scored 342 points, whilst spilling a rather painful 1,726 points in the process. So, if you are attracted by the 5,000/1 odds for either of them to win the Webb Ellis Cup on 2 November, The Weekly recommends you save your money!
Hosting the RWC, and then the Olympics next year, is a big deal for Japan. But what do we know about the country? How does it compare with the UK? Here are ten interesting facts:
Japan is made up of 6,852 islands, of which 430 are inhabited. By comparison, the UK has just over 6,000 islands of which 136 are permanently inhabited. And, whilst iconic, Mt Fuji is only the 35th tallest mountain (12,388 ft) in the world. Even so, there are 240 mountains in Japan that are higher than Ben Nevis (4,413 ft).
Like the UK, Japan has a constitutional monarchy. The Diet is made up of two houses – The House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. Unlike the UK though, the upper house is elected.
According to the IMF, Japan has the world’s third largest economy behind the US and China with a GDP of $5.36 trillion. The UK is ranked seventh at $3.02 trillion. Germany, India and France separate us from Japan.
Japan’s population (126.8 million) is approaching twice that of the UK’s (67.6 million). Moreover, about 92% of Japan's population live in urban locations compared with 83% in the UK.
Japan has an ageing population. The average age is 46.7 years. In the UK it is 40.1 years. However, this doesn’t seem to worry Kane Tanaka. She is the oldest living person at 116 years old. With its ageing population, more nappies are now sold for adults than for kids.
Ten year Government bonds in Japan are -0.16% compared with 0.6% in the UK. With this in mind, it is not surprising that the yields on prime Tokyo offices are 2.65%, compared with 3.75% for London’s West End. The size of the Tokyo and London markets are very similar at 23.6 million sq m and 21.1 sq m respectively.
Prime Tokyo office rents are currently 47,950 yen per tsubo (loosely converted to £91 per sq ft) compared with top London rents of £107.50 per sq ft.
Although it has more McDonald’s restaurants than any other country outside the US and Sumo is their national sport, Japan is ranked the sixth least obese country. The UK, on the other hand, is ranked the 46th most obese.
Just as the UK is recognised for codifying football, cricket and rugby, so Japan is recognised for Sumo, Judo and Karate – the latter two being classified as Olympic sports for the 2020 Games.
Whereas the proverb ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ was first recorded in a sermon by John Wesley in 1778, it is self-evident that standards have slipped here in the UK. In Japan however, the issue of cleanliness is so important that in some schools the students are expected to clean the toilets and classrooms. The Weekly wonders what the reaction would be if Boris imposed the same rule here!
The Weekly‘s editor was a regular visitor to Tokyo back in the eighties and nineties and the courtesy of his principal institutional investor client was legend… including invitations to golf, concerts and even a wedding. On one occasion, either through exhaustion or, more likely, as dictated by the increasing imposition of the firm’s Gift and Hospitality Policy, he requested a ‘traditional’ weekend. It transpired that this comprised overloading on sake and sushi on the Friday night followed by a visit to a golf and spa centre in Hakone the next day. Hakone is about 80 km south of Tokyo. His host offered to pick him up from his hotel at 11.00 am on the Saturday morning… which he duly did. As they drove up the ramp to the expressway, it was evident that the traffic was going to be very heavy. In fact, it was jammed all the way. As they pulled off at the Hakone exit at around 3.00 pm it was clear that it was going to be too dark to play golf. And at just that moment, the bullet train pulled into Hakone station. Our editor politely asked why they didn’t take the train rather than spend four hours trapped in a car. His host replied most apologetically ‘’ I am so sorry. I thought you wanted a traditional Japanese weekend. This is what we do!!’’ The moral of this true story is clearly ‘Yoku kangaete kara negai nasai’ or, in English, ‘’Be careful what you wish for!’