So what do Japanese actually think about Canada?

I’m looking at the 2014 Countries Rating Poll, a report from BBC and GlobeScan that measures how people from one country view the influence (mostly positive, mostly negative or “depends/neither-neutral/don’t know”) of other countries.

Canada and Japan are once again near the top – Canada coming second behind Germany (unchanged from the 2013 report) and Japan slipping one place to fifth. The interesting thing about the findings is that while Canadians have clear opinions about Japan (58% mainly positive, 30% mainly negative and 12% neutral or drawing a blank, only 45% of Japanese have a concrete opinion of Canada (44% mostly positive against 1% mostly negative), with 55% neutral or having no opinion. For the sake of comparison, 84% of South Koreans had a definite opinion about Canada.

Not that a neutral impression is something to be worried about – especially when the distinctly positive impression dwarfs the negative. I poked about a bit online to see if I could dig up more information and found two pieces of content that, if not exactly scientific in their methodology, are nevertheless intriguing.

The first is a video interview of 15 or so Japanese college students asking them their impressions of Canada. Most associated Canada with the usual suspects – maple syrup, the aurora, abundant nature, Niagara Falls and the cold. When asked to elaborate on their impressions – or to come up with a negative stereotype – several noted that Canada either didn’t have any or was simply not very eventful (relative to its southern neighbor). Those answers certainly jibe with the neutral score in the country rating poll.

The second is a post on Excite that poses the question, “Why aren’t Japanese interested in immigrating to Canada?” The post summarizes an entry by a Chinese blogger who quotes other Chinese musing about the comparative lack of Japanese expats in Canada. Oddly enough, given all of the tension between China and Japan, all of them seem to prefer Japan over Canada.

The first point made notes that while other Asian nations are represented in large numbers at Canadian universities, seeing a Japanese studying abroad in Canada is relatively rare.

A Chinese graduate student explains why they think this is the case: “That Japan is better than Canada is a given. Maybe Japan can’t compete in terms of the natural environment, but it’s much easier to find a job in Japan, and over there they don’t fire you for no reason. Japan also has more heart than Canada. Compared to Canadians, Japanese are kinder.”

Another Chinese who studied in Japan for seven years before moving to Canada had something similar to say: “Frankly, even though I came to Canada from Japan, I wasn’t able to settle in. That’s because Japanese are so much nicer than Canadians. In Japan, the bus driver says ‘Thank you!’ when you get off the bus, but in Canada you’re the one saying ‘Thank you’ to the bus driver.”

The final interviewee had this to say: “If your own country is considered better than Canada, you’re not going to move there. That’s just natural. If you can live comfortably at home why would you go someplace they don’t understand what you’re saying and have a horrible experience?”

Perhaps all three just weren’t cut out for a Western experience.
In the end, despite its strong academic environment, appealing natural environment and thriving high-tech and creative industries, for many Japanese thinking of moving abroad, Canada may never have the pull of a more adventurous destination such as the United States, Europe or China.

By D. Fath, Vice President, TOCS

Is this Canadian-Irish film a litmus test for a nation’s liberalness, conservativeness?

Laws and regulations provide clues as to whether a country — or in the cases of Canada and the US, provinces and states — are liberal or conservative. Film is a medium that also serves as a yardstick to help measure a society’s liberal or conservative bent.
Take the film Room, for example.

It is based on a shocking event. Remember the Austrian man named Josef Fritzl? As German newsweekly Spiegel recounted in May 2008, he had confined his daughter Elisabeth to a single room in the basement of his house in Amstetten, Austria from 1984 to 1993. Elisabeth was repeatedly abused and bore seven children by him.

The event inspired Irish-Canadian novelist Emma Donoghue to write a novel – on which the film is based – and it became a best-seller in 2010.

You may wonder how many (or few) Japanese novelists would choose such a challenging subject. It appears that Japanese in general saw the unbelievable event of this sexual predator as an isolated case and have forgotten it.

Donoghue adapted her own novel into a screenplay, which was then produced by filmmakers in Ireland and Canada. It was directed by Lenny Abrahamson, a relatively unknown Irish filmmaker who got the job after he wrote a 10-page pitch to Donoghue, and stars Brie Larson, who plays Ma, a character based on Elisabeth, while child actor Jacob Tremblay plays the protagonist, Jack.

“Movies with heavyweight stars and Oscar dreams were all vying, as usual, for the coveted audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival in September,” The New York Times reported (October 9). “Six of the past seven award winners had gone on to receive Oscar best picture nominations, and three of them had won. To much surprise, the award went to Room, a $13 million closely observed picture…”

Room “had audiences at both Toronto and the earlier Telluride Film Festival on their feet, applauding through tears,” NYT said.

The film was screened in the US in October and is scheduled to debut in other countries in January 2016.

It remains to be seen if Room will arrive in Japan. Probably. If so, it is hard to predict what sort of reviews the film will draw and how Japanese moviegoers will respond to the Irish-Canadian work, which is based on an unbelievable story of an extreme maniac.

By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

Will Justin Trudeau, the PM’s son, snatch Canada’s government from Conservatives on October 19?

With a week to go, the national election campaign – at 2.5 months, the longest in Canadian history – is now heading into the home stretch. Nobody knows what will happen between now and October 19, but according to various polls, as of October 12, the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau have steadily built a lead of more than six points over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. If they hold on, then a Liberal government could replace the 10-year-old Conservative government that has been in power since Harper took office in 2006.

A three-day (October 8-10) rolling poll of 1,200 randomly selected Canadians conducted by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail and CTV suggests the Liberals have 35.1% support nationally, followed by the Conservatives at 29%, the New Democratic Party (NDP) at 25% and the Greens at 5.1%. The six-point lead marks the 10th straight day the Liberals have polled ahead of the Conservatives, who are now below the 30% mark for the second straight day. (The Globe and Mail, October 11)

Another poll a week earlier showed a race so tight that Liberals and Conservatives were running neck and neck, with 32.5% for the Liberals and 32.3% for the Conservatives, and only 25% for the NDP – a 12 percentage point drop since August, when Harper called the election. By seats, however, the Conservatives still led with 126, while the Liberals had 118 and the NDP, 92. (Financial Times, October 6)

It’s likely that many voters spent their Thanksgiving (October 12) dinner discussing for whom they would vote in the election.

Sunday, October 11, found Trudeau taking a break from the campaign trail to share Thanksgiving dinner with his family; Harper skipped a similar family event in Ottawa to canvass the vote-rich Greater Toronto Area in an effort to reach out to voters.

The family meal notwithstanding, the Liberal leader didn’t completely ignore politics on Sunday, issuing an open-letter that took Harper and his government to task: “Across this country, I’ve heard so many stories of people desperate for real change. In all of our conversations, one thing has become very clear: we can’t afford another ten years like the last ten years. I’ve seen you come together to reject the politics of fear and the promoters of hate. You know that has no place here.” (The Globe and Mail, October 11)

The campaign’s nasty turn toward identity politics revealed a sharper edge to the usually amiable, good-natured Trudeau. Asked to comment on Harper’s musings about banning the use of niqab – a face veil some Muslim women wear – by public servants, Trudeau snapped: “No election win is worth pitting Canadians against Canadians.” He had one word upon hearing news that non-Muslim Syrian refugees may have had an easier ride into Canada than equally desperate Muslims: “Disgusting.” (Canadian Press, October 11) The Toronto Star (October 9) endorsed Trudeau as the leader for “a decent, progressive government.”

The Conservatives spent the Thanksgiving weekend warning voters about what they consider to be the economic perils of putting Trudeau in office. (The Globe and Mail, October 11) The Conservatives have often mocked the youth (43 years versus Harper’s 56) and inexperience of Trudeau, the son of popular prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Before he became a Montreal MP in 2008, Justin taught math and French in a secondary school. He has also been prone to gaffes. During the current campaign, the Conservatives have portrayed him as an inexperienced politician who cannot be trusted with the nation’s highest office.

Trudeau, acknowledging the concerns about his credentials, has surrounded himself with a group of advisers, including Larry Summers, a Harvard scholar and former Obama White House economic adviser, and David Dodge, the former Bank of Canada governor. (Financial Times, October 6) His economic policy proposals call for aggressive infrastructure investment, partly as stimulus for a slowing Canadian economy (said to be hovering on the edge of recession), with reasonable deficit spending while interest rates are low and the debt-to-GDP ratio is healthy. (The Economist, October 3) This is text book Summers economic policy and somewhat reminiscent of Abenomics.

The Economist (October 3) says that to make use of his popularity and seize power from the Conservatives, “Trudeau must persuade voters that he is more than political royalty and convince the 76% who say they want change that the Liberals are best-placed to deliver it.”

With only one week before they go to the polls, voters are now looking at Trudeau differently. Sixty days ago he was a political star and the son of their one-time political hero; today he is the leader of the front-running party. Pollster Nik Nanos told The Globe and Mail (October 11) that Canadians are now conducting “due diligence” on Trudeau. There may be more twists and turns before the ballot boxes open.

By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, senior consultant, TOCS

Consistency supports Candu reactors outside Canada

“Two Canadian organizations [the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries and the Canada Korea Business Council] are aiming to promote and facilitate increased exchanges between the [South] Korean nuclear power industry and Canadian nuclear suppliers under a newly signed strategic partnership agreement,” World Nuclear News, a London-based online news service, reported on September 4, 2015.

The centerpiece of Canada’s nuclear power is the Canadian deuterium uranium (Candu) reactor, a technology born of collaboration between the federal government and the private sector.

Thirteen Candu reactors are currently operating in Canada – 12 in Ontario Province and one in New Brunswick – and an equal number are online in other markets: Argentina (one), China (two), Pakistan (one), Rumania (five) and South Korea (four).

As for Japanese industry’s international nuclear power reactor business, Toshiba – a maker of boiling water reactors (BWRs) — acquired an 87% stake in US-based Westinghouse Electric Co., a principal builder of pressurized water reactors (PWRs), for about 640 billion yen in October 2006. Note the timing, which was more than four years before the accident at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11, 2011 led to changes in nuclear power policies in multiple countries.

Westinghouse is contracted to build four PWR units at Sanmen in Zhejiang Province, China, with the first unit scheduled to begin commercial operation in September 2016.

An uncertain outlook on long-term reactor construction in Japan prompted Hitachi, a rival of Toshiba, to acquire UK-based Horizon Nuclear Power from two German power companies in October 2012. Horizon is likely to begin commercial operation at the first of two- plants in the 2020s; each plant will have two to three reactors.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) was once a licensee of Westinghouse for PWR technology. MHI has now teamed up with the French one-stop nuclear power concern, Areva, to jointly develop a PWR named ATMEA1. Turkey will build four ATMEA1 reactors at Sinop, the country’s second planned nuclear power station, where the first unit’s construction may begin in 2017. Russia’s Rosatom has an agreement with the Turkish government to build its first nuclear power station at Akkuyu.

The Vietnamese government is also likely to name MHI the supplier of two PWRs at Vinh Hai, south of Cam Ranh Bay. As in Turkey, Rosatom will build the first nuclear power station in Vietnam, at nearby Phuoc Dinh.

Officials at both MHI and Hitachi have said that they would not have thought of exporting complete reactors before March 2011.

World Nuclear News reported that “the Canadian and [South] Korean nuclear industries’ long-standing relationship dates back more than 30 years, since the construction of four Canadian-designed Candu units at Wolsong, all of which are in operation.” Vendors support maintenance following reactor startup. The Candu ties with Wolsong are no exception. Canadian companies supported “a major refurbishment of Wolsong 1” completed in 2013, according to World Nuclear News.

By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

Canadian Whisky making quiet comeback

The overseas reputation of Japanese whisky has been rising steadily in recent years. Suntory’s “Hibiki 30 Years” (blended whiskey) and Nikka’s “Taketsuru 21 Years” (blended malt) walked away with the first World Whisky Awards for their respective categories in 2007, the Japanese duo triumphing over top-class Scotch and other whiskies. Japanese whiskies continue to dominate the awards – sponsored by the U.K.’s Whisky Magazine – with brands like “Yamazaki 25 Years” and “Yoichi 20 Years” collecting WWAs like clockwork. In both 2014 and 2015, Nikka’s “Taketsuru 17 Years” won the WWA for blended malts. The boost in reputation has spurred consumption in and exports to overseas markets, while at home, whisky consumption has grown in part as the result of the popularity NHK serial drama “Massan,” which chronicles the founding of Nikka Whisky. Some of brands are so popular fans can’t find them anywhere.

The Canadian whisky scene, meanwhile, has been undergoing a relatively more subdued renaissance of sorts. It is said that the unreasonably low reputation of Canadian whisky has been quietly rising, leading to a significant increase in heretofore stagnant sales and popularity. The latest available statistics indicate that 17 million cases (one case contains 12 750ml bottles) of Canadian whisky were exported to the U.S., the largest market for the product, in 2013. The U.S. consumes between 70 and 75% of all Canadian whisky. (Canadian whisky expert Davin de Kergommeaux in “A Journalist’s Primer on Canadian Whisky” – – April 3)
Men’s Journal earlier this year (February 9) declared that Canadian Whisky was making a big comeback.

Five types of “whisky” dominate this category of spirits: Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, American whiskey (bourbon), Canadian whisky and Japanese whiskey. If you’re wondering about the inconsistent spelling, a British editor and colleague of mine once explained to me that “whisky” is reserved for Scotch and that anything produced outside Scotland should be spelled “whiskey.” For whatever reason, the Canadian product is rendered as “Canadian whisky.”

Canadian whisky is commonly a blend of low-alcohol-content “flavoring whisky,” with a flavor typical of rye (made from rye, corn, wheat, and barley), and high-alcohol-content “base whisky” made from corn. This blend is matured in oak barrels for at least three years. Canadian whisky is popularly served mixed with ginger ale, soda or 7 Up (like in a “7 and 7” – Seagram’s 7 Crown and 7 Up.

My first encounter with Canadian whisky arrived in 1970, when a Japanese-Canadian friend of mine covering Osaka Expo ’70 taught me the popular way of drinking Canadian whisky: mixing Seagram’s Crown Royal (given to reporters by the Ontario Pavilion) with ginger ale. I would continue to drink Crown Royal that way for nearly 20 years, accumulating quite the stash of soft purple bags – a popular collector’s item, even among less dedicated consumers of booze. (Crown Royal, now part of London-based Diageo, is still produced at the Crown Royal distillery on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba; it is the oldest and stodgiest distilling giant.)

The pickle in which Canadian whisky find itself – an oligarchy of just eight major distilleries, including Canadian Club, producing more than 250 million bottles of whisky – is one reason why innovation has been glacial, according to Bloomberg (February 3). In Scotland, production is shared by about 100 distilleries.

The low image and reputation, somewhat unreasonable, that Canadian whisky has endured for decades are now being challenged. “Craft” or “micro” distilleries – operations producing unique, high-quality whiskies using the small batch, single-barrel method already popular in the U.S. – have begun to pop up in Canada over the past five or so years. At the end of 2014, about 30-odd craft distilleries were operating in Canada, de Kergommeaux estimates, as compared to several hundred in the U.S. (Bloomberg, February 3)

A turning point came when winemaking veteran and innovator John Hall set up Forty Creek Whisky in 1992. His craft Canadian whisky arrived with a new and sophisticated flavor, winning many awards in Canada. Now a new generation of small distilleries is trying to do the same. Forty Creek was sold to Campari America in March 2014 for $120.5 million, but Hall continues to produce Forty Creek whisky, scooping up eight medals for various bottlings at this year’s Victoria Whisky Festival on Vancouver Island, where the Canadian Whisky Awards are given, plus a Lifetime Achievement Award.

His impact is spreading to other distilleries, new and old. Even Crown Royal recently brought out a single-barrel offering, the first major Canadian brand to do so, but it is only available in Texas – Crown Royal’s biggest market and one of the biggest for Canadian whisky in general. This case is the exception, however, as new, high-quality premium whisky is seldom found in markets outside Canada. Even though the U.S accounts for up to 75% of Canadian whisky sales, only 10% of the best Canadian whisky ever travels south of the border. This is a problem for Canadian whisky’s international (i.e. U.S.) reputation and image that has yet to be tackled. (Bloomberg, February 3)

By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, Senior consultant, TOCS

Hydropower makes Canada energy giant

I have a quiz for you. True or false: Water long having been a familiar means for generating motion, hydropower generation began prior to the Industrial Revolution (including the invention of the steam engine).
Answer: False. For an explanation check the end of this story.

Canada has been an energy giant for quite some time now. In 2014, its energy self-sufficiency rate (excluding nuclear power) was 162%, according to an International Energy Agency report on the OECD. The rate goes up to 173% if you include nuclear power. Those high figures mean that Canada exports surplus electric power to the United States.

Even the energy-rich U.S. was below 100% (it was at 85%, including nuclear power). The figure for the U.K. was 57%. France presents a unique; case; heavily dependent on nuclear power, the country’s self-sufficiency rate stands at 9% without it, 54% with it.

Japan’s rate was 5%. This of course excludes nuclear power; none of Japan’s 43 operable commercial reactors was online in 2014.

Canada is likely to boost its hydropower capacity from 77,600 megawatts (MW) in 2014 to 84,800 MW by 2025, which would account for 49.4% of the nation’s total electricity generating capacity, according to a consultancy (Global Data) quoted by the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan in a report dated August 19.

Japan offers an impressive number with respect to hydropower: 2,000 plants located in about 550 communities, according to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

Yet as impressive as those numbers may be, hydropower accounts for a mere 3.2% of the nation’s total power generating capacity.

Any outsider passing through these communities can see why: most are small hydropower stations (that may or may not be connected to dams) located in areas with serious economic and demographic problems. ANRE says that most of Japan’s hydropower stations are in the mountains, that is, in communities struggling with depopulation and aging populations.

What can be done?
About 40 Diet members from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party agreed in late August to form a caucus to help promote hydropower. METI intends to seek 5.1 billion yen in the next budget to fund a subsidies program that would kick off in fiscal year 2016. The financial assistance would help build new hydroelectric stations and renovate half of the existing ones, which are around 40 years old. ANRE hopes that new hydropower plants with combined capacity of 100 MW could be online by fiscal year 2020.

Quiz explanation: The first hydropower plant began operating on September 30, 1882 on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin. The Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the 1760s.

By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

Canadians are drinking less milk. Why?

Canadian newspapers have occasionally reported that the consumption of milk in Canada for many years has been on the decline; recently, this trend has become more conspicuous. Decreasing milk consumption is not a phenomenon particular to Canada. It’s a being observed in most advanced countries in the West, so perhaps there’s nothing particularly unique about what’s happening in Canada.

According to figures released last month by Statistics Canada, sales of milk fell in June by more than 3% from the same month a year earlier, marking the eighth consecutive monthly decline of what was once a staple of the Canadian diet. Per-capita consumption of milk has fallen by 18% over 20 years – from 90 liters a year in 1995 to 74 liters in 2014. (Globe and Mail, August 26)

Taking into account population growth, Canadians consumed some 20 million liters less milk between 2013 and 2014. In another report, consumption of “fluid dairy” (i.e. milk) has decreased a dramatic 25% in the last 20 years as consumers switch to alternatives for cow milk – such as almond, soy and rice milk. (Huffington Post, February 14)

Reduced milk consumption can be attributed to more than one factor. An aging population is one. But a graying society is not just a Canadian problem – it’s a common issue shared by almost all advanced countries. In Canada, consumers aged 65 or older number more than five million, as against a total population of 35.87 million (as of 2015). Since many boomers are now joining the that group, and converting to “empty nesting” because their children have left home for good, they will either reduce their consumption of milk or completely eliminate it from their diets, Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at the University of Guelph’s Food Institute, explains in his article “So we drink less milk – let’s understand why” in the Globe and Mail (August 31).

Another factor, very Canadian, is ethnicity: according to Charlebois, more non-milk drinkers are coming to Canada. “Canada welcomes many immigrants from parts of the world where milk is not perceived as a food staple. Milk is essentially a luxury product for many emerging [countries]. When migrants come to Canada, they bring along culinary traditions that often don’t include milk.”

Another phenomenon hitting the dairy sector particularly hard is the rise of veganism, Charlebois notes. A slightly more relaxed vegetarian will consume milk, cheese and other dairy products as well as eggs, but vegans – a word many were unfamiliar with just a few years ago – strictly reject all animal-based products.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada found in a recent survey that a “surprisingly significant” portion of the milk consumption drop is due to consumers who believe that industrial farming practices are unethical. They don’t drink cow milk or eat dairy products because they think it is unethical to keep dairy cows in concrete stalls 24/7 to ensure high productivity. They view the highly industrialized production of cow milk as an animal welfare issue. (Globe and Mail, August 31)

In the survey, 10% of non-milk drinkers stated they had gone vegan, and 8% said they no longer wanted to support an industry the practices of which they regarded as cruel to animals. According to one study, dairy cows at modern factory dairy farms produce (or have been designed to produce) seven to 14 times the volume of milk cows produce naturally. (Huffington Post, February 14)

Despite the consumption declines at home, and price declines worldwide – by half in recent months – consumer prices for milk in Canada remain unchanged (neither rising nor declining) thanks to the notorious “supply management” system; with the blessing of the government, the domestic dairy and poultry market is closed to cheap imports in order to protect domestic producers and suppliers.

Canada is under pressure to either remove the supply management system or stay out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade regime as the final stage of the negotiations approaches.

By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, TOCS Senior Consultant

Historical Canada-Nagano ties: Norman family

Legend has it that people in Nagano Prefecture have always had a thirst for knowledge; back in the day, even farmers’ wives read highbrow magazines from publisher Iwanami Shoten while stoking wood fires to heat their bathwater.

Nagano was also home to Daniel Norman (1864-1941), a Canadian Methodist missionary, and his wife, Catherine. The couple lived in Nagano from 1902 to 1940. A farmer’s son from Aurora (near Toronto), Daniel was familiar with both theology and agriculture. He introduced the tomato to local Japanese farmers to help them grow cash crops in addition to rice, as well as the bicycle and automobile. His teachings included abstaining from drink. His followers included a man who would become the prefecture’s governor after World War II.

The couple’s eldest son, Howard (1905-1987) was born in Karuizawa, where his parents maintained a villa. The summer resort community was developed by foreigners, including the Normans, through the Karuizawa Summer Residents’ Association.

Howard followed in his father’s footsteps, conducting missionary work in Toyama and other places beginning in 1932. He was also a professor at Kwansei Gakuin University and served as dormitory superintendent at the Canadian Academy in Kobe City, which his more well-known brother E. (Egerton) Herbert Norman (1909-1957) attended until 1926. Herbert was also born in Karuizawa. A sister, Grace, was born in 1903.

Four family members, including Catherine, attended the University of Toronto. Herbert went on to study history at Cambridge and Harvard. He could read French, Latin and Japanese.

Herbert is known among historians and general readers for three academic books: Japan’s Emergence as a Modern State – Political and Economic Problems of the Meiji Period (1940), Soldier and Peasant in Japan: The Origins of Conscription (1943) and Ando Shoeki and the Anatomy of Japanese Feudalism (1949).

These books maintain, convincingly, that the Meiji Restoration, which started in 1868, did not turn Japan into a modern nation overnight. Feudalistic ideas and practices persisted after 1868, while democratic ideas, such as equality for both sexes, were advocated during the Edo Period by people like Ando (1703-1762), who practiced medicine in what is now known as Akita and Aomori Prefectures.

Herbert entered the diplomatic ranks in 1939, when he joined Canada’s Department of External Affairs; he was posted to Japan in 1940 and was promoted to third secretary in December 1941. He mixed with liberal people, such as Kazuo Watanabe (1901-1975), a professor of French literature at the University of Tokyo, during his two stints in Tokyo (May 1940-December 1941 and September 1945-February 1946).

Those friends were shocked to learn of his suicide on April 4, 1957 in Cairo, where he was ambassador to Egypt. At the time Herbert Norman was accused of being a communist during the red purge conducted by the U.S. Senate.

His books and essays are available in paperback and published by Iwanami Shoten, which was founded by Shigeo Iwanami (1881-1946), who studied philosophy at the University of Tokyo. He was born in Nagano Prefecture.

By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

The day when baseball returns to Montreal

Hopes are rapidly rising in Montreal that a Major League Baseball team will be coming back to the Canadian city – once home to the Montreal Expos – either very soon or in a short couple of years.

Expectations had been simmering for the past three or so years, but began to roil since the turn of the year, when Canadian news media started reporting several major developments that have fueled locals’ optimism. The Montreal mayor, in particular, has been aggressively lobbying MLB in search of a franchise for the city.

Last week, The New York Times added its voice to the media cacophony with a long report explaining that “the past several months, a series of events has led people in Montreal to embrace the idea that baseball might be coming back.” (August 19)

Montreal, with a metro area population of more than four million people, is the largest city in North America without a baseball team.

The Expos, which had entertained the city for more than three decades beginning in 1969 – this despite never winning an MLB championship – were moved out of Montreal by the team owner in 2004 after a string of poor performances led to decreasing popularity, plummeting attendance and a weak bottom line. The Expos moved to Washington, D.C. the following year for a new start as the Washington Nationals.

Since then, Montreal baseball fans have had no chance to watch live baseball games in the city, including exhibition games, until two of the latter were held in April last year. As for fans wanting to take in a regular season MLB game, they have to travel to Toronto, the home of the Blue Jays – the only remaining MLB franchise in Canada.

The two exhibition games held in Montreal saw capacity crowds (over 46,000 and 50,000 fans, respectively) pack into Olympic Stadium, the Expos’ former home, to watch the Blue Jays take on the New York Mets. Clearly, baseball fever is still smoldering in Montreal. Mayor Denis Coderre threw out the ceremonial first pitch at one of the games dressed in an Expos jacket and cap.

This year, two more preseason exhibition games were held in the city, with the Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds drawing crowds of similar size. In addition to the huge attendance figures at these exhibition games – and in contrast to the end of the Expos era – Montreal now has two French-language sports networks thirsting for content. (The New York Times, August 19)

Another factor raising hopes in the city is the arrival of new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who seems to be more open to the idea of bringing baseball back to Montreal. He is on record in a media interview saying that he sees Montreal as “a viable possibility” if MLB expands to 32 teams or if an existing team is looking to relocate. In April, he said he’d “love to see another team in Canada,” although he sounded more cautious in a recent interview. (Sportsnet, July 14)

Mayor Coderre, an enthusiastic supporter of the movement to bring baseball back to Montreal, met Manfred in May and explained the city’s strategy for securing an MLB franchise. The mayor asked the MLB to let Montreal host three or four regular-season games in 2016 as the next step in bringing a team back to the city. He also explained the city’s recent $11 million investment in local baseball diamonds as proof that the city is keen about increasing interest in baseball among young people, and noted that youth baseball registrations have increased 25% over the past two years.

Manfred was open to Montreal hosting regular-season games in 2016 and their meeting was “extremely positive,” according to the mayor. However, the commissioner said that although Montreal had successfully passed the first test (demonstrating strong interest), the city would have to meet several other criteria, including a clear commitment to a proper, new stadium “that could support baseball over the long haul.” Olympic Stadium, built for the 1976 Olympic Games was the home of the Expos beginning in 1977 (capacity: 45,757). (Canadian Press, May 28, May 31)

To host an MLB team, a city must have a long-term strategy and a viable plan for filling the stadium 81 times during the season – a far higher hurdle to clear than filling Olympic Stadium full of fans for a couple of exhibition or regular-season games. The market in Montreal, and across Quebec, will still have to prove that it has the capacity to support a team.

Notably, former Expos outfielder Warren Cromatie has come to the aid of Montreal with a practical strategy. In 2012, he founded the Montreal Baseball Project, an organization dedicated to bringing baseball back to the city where he played from 1974 to 1983 – before joining the Japanese pro baseball team Tokyo Yomiuri Giants as a free agent (where “Cro” played for seven years and is still fondly remembered by Japanese baseball fans).

“The [Montreal Baseball Project] already has an impressive array of sponsors, and it helped produce a $400,000 study that concluded a team could thrive in Montreal. The report included a handful of sites for a possible stadium, the most appealing of which might be a snazzy waterfront location in the city’s Ped Basin.” (The New York Times, May 19)

Cromartie is bullish about Montreal getting baseball back. “I don’t think it is a matter of if. It is a matter of when,” he has told the U.S. daily. “I am looking forward to moving back to Montreal (from Miami, his hometown, where he lives now) on a permanent basis when we get a team back,” he added. “And I look forward to throwing out the first pitch.”

The conventional wisdom among most experts is that instead of waiting for MLB to expand to 32 teams, Montreal should invite the Tampa Bay Rays to relocate. Rays attendance has fallen every year since 2012, and the average for the 2015 season is a league-worst 15,903 per game. The team owner denies rumors of a Rays’ move out of St. Petersburg. The Oakland Athletics are also mentioned as a possible candidate for relocation to Montreal. But in both cases, the situation is not that simple.

If and when baseball comes back to Montreal, it will surely have a far-reaching impact not only on the city of Montreal and the MLB, but on the Canadian economy and Canada’s sports landscape, to say nothing of how it will impact the traditional emphasis on ice hockey in this historical city.

By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, TOCS senior consultant

Canadian, Japanese universities pledge gender equality efforts

UN Women, the United Nations’ entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, on June 18 announced “bold commitments to gender equality from 18 partners.”

The 18 people included Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia and other political leaders as well as heads of educational institutions, such as president and vice-chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur of the University of Waterloo and president Seiichi Matsuo of Nagoya University.

The University of Waterloo, in Canada’s Ontario Province, may be best known for maintaining the largest faculty of engineering in the country.

Maclean’s magazine has named the university “most innovative” for 23 consecutive years; “best overall” in Canada 18 times; and “leaders of tomorrow” 16 times.

When it comes to general gender equality in society, The Economst’s “glass-ceiling index” for 2014 (March 15 issue) ranked Canada 11th out of 28 countries (down from ninth the previous year); the United States placed 17th (unchanged) and Japan was 27th, just above South Korea.

The newspaper compiles the ranking based on data from nine sources, including the OECD and World Economic Forum. The Nordic trio of Finland, Norway and Sweden dominates, each with about 80 points out of a possible 100. Canada scored 63.7 points, while Japan, with a mere 27.6, was described as “among the worst OECD member countries for women’s workplace equality.”

Japan’s National Personnel Authority (NPA) announced on June 19 that women accounted for a record 38.8% of all new national government employees who entered the workforce in April. The number refers to workers (excluding those with science/engineering backgrounds) who are on a career track with the potential of reaching the top bureaucratic post (vice-minister).

NPA reported that women’s share of top posts (vice-minister, director general and councilor) was 2.2%.

The graduate school of Nagoya University launched a sub-major program, “Wellbeing in Asia: Female Leader Program” in October 2014. Four of the first 20 graduate students enrolled in the program are male.

The national university also opened a daycare center on campus in 2009, the first such facility at a university in Japan, according to the school. The daycare center will take care of school-age children of teaching staff until 9 p.m. Dinner and baths are optional.
The sixth grade daughter of Narie Sasaki (associate professor, graduate school of science) benefits from the daycare facility because her husband is a professor and her boss at Nagoya University, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper (July 18 issue).

By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

Page Top