Here’s Alternative to Searing Abenomics Coverage: Opening Line

We’re honored that you turned to us for insight on the geopolitical, economic and investment implications of Shinzo Abe’s election triumph in Japan.

Our advice: Go see what our Bloomberg News colleagues have to say.

You see, here at Opening Line, we find ourselves drawn more to the social and cultural quirks, diversions and contradictions of modern Japan, with its put-upon salarymen, its world-beating cuisine and its identity-questioning teenagers.

This weekend we learned about a Tokyo restaurant that says it will turn away couples on Christmas Eve, as their presence “would cause severe emotional trauma to our staff members.”

The “spaghetti diner PiaPia” made the declaration via a hand-drawn sign in its window, the online newspaper Japan Today reported. The sign shows a stick man and stick woman with an X through them, which, we take it, is the international symbol for “Ew, get a room.”

Christmas Eve “has long been the bane of Tokyo singles, who are forced to watch thousands of happy couples marching all over town” holding hands and visiting light displays, the newspaper reports. It’s also “one of the few times public displays of affection are relatively accepted in polite Japanese society.”

Japan’s more serious demographic problem, of course, is its declining, aging population, which can produce vivid news reports such as last week’s Associated Press story headlined, “Scarecrows outnumber people in dying Japan town.”

The village of Nagoro, “deep in the rugged mountains of southern Japan,” is down to zero schools and just 35 people, who are “outnumbered three-to-one by scarecrows” crafted by a 65-year-old resident -- a relative youngster -- “to help fill the days and replace neighbors who died or moved away,” AP reported.

Her “life-sized dolls” are “perched on fences and trees, huddled side-by-side at a produce stall, the bus stop, anywhere a living person might stop to take a rest.”

Or to read a book.

The best-selling book of 2014 in Japan, according to wholesaler Nippon Shuppan Hanbai Inc., is Takako Maki’s “Nagaiki Shitakerya Fukurahagi wo Mominasai,” or “If You Want to Live Long, Rub Your Calves.”

The book details “the importance of massaging one’s calves and how it can improve symptoms of foot and back pain, high blood pressure and bad blood circulation,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

No. 2 on Japan’s best-seller list is “Jinsei wa Nyantoka Naru,” which offers inspirational remarks and quotes alongside photos of cats.

Nobody could argue with a straight face that Americans aren’t suckers for cute cats. But says the bestselling new books of 2014 in the U.S. were relatively weighty affairs, led by Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings,” a history-based novel about slavery.

Making Americans look serious by comparison? Thanks, Japan. We’ll celebrate by taking a moment to rub our calves.


Today’s U.S. economic indicators include Empire Manufacturing at 8:30 a.m. EST, industrial production and capacity utilization at 9:15 a.m., NAHB housing market index at 10 a.m. and TIC flows at 4 p.m.

VeriFone Systems reports earnings after the bell.

This morning, a three-judge panel hears Apple’s appeal of a finding that it led a conspiracy to fix e-book prices.


- Some hostages flee Sydney standoff. - PetSmart is bought by group led by BC Partners for $8.3 billion. - Paul Krugman predicts no interest-rate rise in 2015. - Haiti loses another prime minister. - Jeb Bush will share his gubernatorial e-mails with everybody. - Sony wants news outlets to stop writing about hacked e-mails. - And you thought your flight was bad. - A high school senior made $72 million trading stocks on his lunch break. - The man behind the Topps baseball card, Sy Berger, died at 91. - Meet Hazel Grace, born at 10:11 on 12/13/14. - Kobe Bryant passes Michael Jordan on NBA’s all-time scoring list.


We know you’re busy with work, kids, gift-buying, leaf-raking and marching against injustice, so, no pressure or anything.

But if tomorrow dawns and you still have holiday cards or gifts to mail, you are, according to the U.S. Postal Service, behind the curve.

Today will be the busiest day of the year at post offices around the country, with more than 640 million pieces of mail expected to be processed. All of that (we hope) will be delivered later this week, making Thursday or Friday propitious times to give your letter carrier that $20 gift card to Starbucks.

There’s no gentle way to say it: It’s T-minus 10 days to Christmas, so let’s get moving, people.


The cataclysm that caused the extinction of dinosaurs is one of those historic mega-events we think we know about, but not really.

Manuela Hoelterhoff, executive editor for coverage of global cities, writes today of how the airing of “Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink” on the Smithsonian Channel this month coincided with the annual international conference on climate change. She asks, “Are we on the brink of another mass extinction?”

The next one, assuming it comes, will be the sixth in our planet’s history. While the fifth and most recent mass extinction was caused by an asteroid strike and killed off the dinosaurs, Hoelterhoff notes that the third and largest one, known as the “great dying,” was caused by “volcanos belching toxic gases like giant coal plants.”

“We are changing the world’s atmosphere in ways that rival past destructions,” Hoelterhoff writes. “We are also producing politicians with reptile brains and corporate titans with short-range thinking.”


Speaking of climate change, have you heard about oyster herpes?

It seems that the rising ocean temperatures that enhance our vacations in Florida have much graver implications for the permanent residents of the seas.

Australian researchers are investigating the role of water temperature in the spread of a herpes virus that is plaguing the $4.1 billion global oyster industry, Phoebe Sedgman reports today.

Ostreid herpesvirus-1, also known as Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome, “can kill most of a farm’s stock of young shellfish in a day and has been linked to oyster deaths in Europe, Australia and New Zealand,” Sedgman writes. In Europe, it begins killing oysters when water temperatures reach about 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit).

Unrelated to the herpes that infects humans, oyster herpes can’t harm people.

The same can’t be said of its effect on human wallets.

This oyster-killing virus first appeared in 2008, probably as a mutation of a more benign virus. Since then, herpes has claimed 26 percent of France’s oyster production, according to Sedgman. One result: Since December 2008, wholesale prices for French oysters have surged 36 percent.

“Why, then, the world’s mine oyster,” Shakespeare wrote. Now, it seems, the oyster’s our world.


Never a polite tea party on its best days, the National Football League put on a feisty, fiery display yesterday as teams were eliminated and big names humiliated.

Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel was roughed up in his first start by the Cincinnati Bengals, who taunted him by mimicking his celebratory hand gesture.

The New York Jets and Tennessee Titans, with four wins and 22 losses between them coming into the day, brawled after Jets quarterback Geno Smith took a punch to his helmet.

The Washington Redskins, who haven’t won since before Halloween, collectively exploded with anger when a touchdown by their star-turned-backup quarterback, Robert Griffin III, was overruled on instant-replay review.

Clearly the NFL’s new personal conduct policy is having an effect.

As for the winners, we know now that the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos, the Indianapolis Colts and the Arizona Cardinals will be four of the 12 teams playing post-season games. The Dallas Cowboys got a leg up on the Philadelphia Eagles. And star-in-the-making Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants used both hands to score three touchdowns.

Seven teams have now been eliminated from contention, including the once-mighty San Francisco 49ers.