Kyushu’s economic contribution to Japan

Kyushu is one of the 5 major regions of Japan consisting of 7 prefectures making up about 10% of the Japanese population. It is known as being a much more relaxed place than Tokyo, with great weather and more space. This attracts people who are looking for more worklife balance. Natives of Kyushu that go to the big city and return later, say to raise kids, do what is called a U-Turn. For non-natives that come here, they do what is called an I-Turn — just a straight line.

Due to its relatively lower land prices, a lot of manufacturing base has built up here over the years. Of course, Nagasaki was where Japan’s industrial revolution began in the late 1800s, and was the site where Mitsubishi really got started (at the Takashima Coal Mine). Nowadays there are many car manufacturers such as Nissan, Toyota, and Daihatsu, with factories in Kyushu. Steel production is important here and about 40% of Japan’s IC chip production is based in Kyushu. Other than manufacturing, Kyushu provides the rest of Japan with 20% of its food, and medical is another strong industry here.

To put Kyushu in context with the rest of the country, at least in economic terms, I compared Kyushu’s 7 prefectures with the top 7 prefectures in terms of GDP, which turned out to be convenient because those top 7 prefectures were the cut-off, accounting for half of Japan’s total GDP.

Map of Japan with the following prefectures highlighted alongside their rank:

1	Tokyo
2	Aichi
3	Osaka
4	Kanagawa
5	Saitama
6	Hyogo
7	Chiba
8	Fukuoka
25	Kumamoto
26	Kagoshima
32	Nagasaki
33	Oita
37	Miyazaki
44	Saga

All this data is from the OECD and is in 2015-adjusted Yen. I am showing 2016 data here, but the trends tend to hold since 2000. Here is the breakdown in a table, showing the relative share of GDP for each of the prefectures compared:

Table showing the following data. Each row is Prefecture, GDP rank, GDP share


Tokyo,1,19.00%
Aichi,2,7.17%
Osaka,3,7.09%
Kanagawa,4,6.29%
Saitama,5,4.13%
Hyogo,6,3.81%
Chiba,7,3.71%
Fukuoka,8,3.48%
Kumamoto,25,1.08%
Kagoshima,26,0.98%
Nagasaki,32,0.83%
Oita,33,0.79%
Miyazaki,37,0.67%
Saga,44,0.52%
Other,-,40.46%

The top 7 prefectures make up 51.19% of Japanese GDP, and the Kyushu prefectures make up 8.35%.

Looking at population you can see, at least for Kyushu, size of population aligns with GDP rank. The Top 7 have 6X the GDP and 4.5X the population of the Kyushu 7

Table showing the following data. Each row is Prefecture, GDP rank, Population share, Working age population %


Tokyo,1,10.73%,65.83%
Aichi,2,5.91%,62.17%
Osaka,3,6.96%,60.93%
Kanagawa,4,7.20%,63.18%
Saitama,5,5.74%,62.12%
Hyogo,6,4.35%,59.49%
Chiba,7,4.91%,61.23%
Fukuoka,8,4.02%,60.19%
Kumamoto,25,1.40%,57.10%
Kagoshima,26,1.29%,56.44%
Nagasaki,32,1.08%,56.69%
Oita,33,0.91%,56.21%
Miyazaki,37,0.86%,56.11%
Saga,44,0.65%,57.73%
Other,-,43.97%,42.59%

I added in the percentage of Working Age (15-64) population to see if the number of retired people in the countryside has an effect. For Japanese prefectures, the average percentage of the population of working age is 58.5%. You can see that for the top performing prefectures, their working age populations are higher than the national average. Tokyo is the top in the country at 65.83% (the lowest is Shimane at 54.49%). Of Kyushu prefectures, only Fukuoka is over the average. This demonstrates the pull of economic centres, and the migration of jobs to urban areas.

Fukuoka is far and away the economic hub of Kyushu. In the past 20 years it has always been in the top 10 as you can see from the chart below (lower is HIGHER rank). Miyazaki has moved up to 37 from a low of 42 in 2006, but other than that, things are pretty stable.

Chart showing the GDP ranking of each Kyushu prefecture from 2001 to 2016. There is little variation.

Not to say there isn’t growth, but it is mostly concentrated in Fukuoka Prefecture as you can see below.

Line chart showing GDP growth for each prefecture from 2001 to 2016.

Looking at the bottom 23 prefectures, the bottom half of the table where six of Kyushu’s prefectures fall, the average prefectural share of GDP is 0.71% and the median 0.69%. Only 2 of Kyushu’s prefectures don’t beat those numbers (Miyazaki and Saga). As you can see from below, Japan’s GDP is like a power law, with Tokyo providing almost a fifth on its own! Kyushu prefectures are spread out, with representation near the top, middle and bottom.

Share of national GDP by prefecture, 2016. Top 7 performing prefectures, and Kyushu prefectures highlighted.

These are some simple stats to give you a sense of Kyushu within the context of Japan. I am still digging around, and will soon turn my attention to ExIm flows, which I am particularly curious about. Any little tidbits I find I will be sure to share!

Keychron K2

I bought my first computer in the spring of 2002. I had come late to personal computers. It was a Fujitsu laptop that I bought from a big box electronics store near Enmachi in Kyoto. It took a few months before it was even connected to the internet!

A couple of years later, I made the switch to Apple and bought a 17 inch iMac G4 off of a friend who was getting the 20 inch. The flat-panel G4 was iconic because of its lampshade design. I loved it, and it was partly on that machine that I learned design. I have owned many computers in the intervening years, but to this day I still think about the keyboard that came with that old iMac — the JIS version of the A1048. It had big chunky keys that clacked (a bit) when you typed. It felt great.

Since then I have experimented a bit with mechanical keyboards, some split style ones and even some straight columnar ones, all courtesy of some real keyboard-freak friends. I agree that something you spend 8-12 hours touching all day, should be optimized for you. However, I spent a lot of time rushing from meeting to meeting with a laptop, and it didn’t seem that optimal to be switching external keyboards all the time.

Now I am in my home office, and spend most of my time on my 27″ iMac. I do go out occasionally, but take my iPad Pro with its little keyboard when I am on the road. Since most of my time is here at my standing desk at home, beside my window that looks out over the port, I decided to take the opportunity and get a big, chunky, loud THERE IS A WRITER AT WORK, CAN YOU NOT HEAR!? keyboard.

I looked around quite a bit, and asked some friends, and ended up getting the Keychron K2 with white backlight and brown switches. It checked off most of my boxes:

The only thing I couldn’t get was a Japanese layout. There is a really good Japanese mechanical keyboard outfit, but they only make keyboards for Windows computers, and I wanted something I could use out of the box without any key-surgery.

So after a bunch of deliberation, I went for the K2, a reasonably priced keyboard with a good rep. It arrived today. Take a look!

Unboxing

I have been clacking away at it all morning. I am going to need a few days to get used to it. I totally prefer the arrow key config compared the Apple Magic Keyboard, but having the Backspace and Return buttons not at the edge of the keyboard means I cannot be so wild with my typing.

Here it is on my desk. (The woody looking thing is my iPhone charger… I was using my phone to take this picture.)

iMac with new keyboard and Apple Mouse sitting on a desk. To the left is a GoPro on a mini tripod.

Sakyōbana, crumbling pillar of Heaven

In my last post I explained about the “Pillars of Heaven”, the eight objects sent down by the gods to prevent Iki island from floating around the Sea of Japan at its own free will. Other than Saruiwa the Monkey Rock, most have crumbled into the sea. Of the remaining pillars, my favourite is Sakyōbana, a lava rock formation that looks like a massive, stubby finger pointing up to the sky. You can just imagine this as the remains of a “heavenly pillar.”

Sakyōbana sits just off the coast on the Easternmost part of the island. The cliffs are about 20 meters high, and covered in stiff vegetation, clinging to the rocks as the ocean winds whip at the rock face. It is spectacular seascape viewing at this part of the island. There is not much civilization, and the road runs right along the cliffs so you get amazing views. Also, these cliffs are where these cool sea cows hang out.

At Sakyōbana is a wide grassy field atop the cliff with a memorial sign, a gazebo for windy picnicking, and a shrine overlooking the sea. Here is a 4K video of Sakyobana from the top of the cliffs:

I climbed down the cliff to take some shots of the waves close up. All the rocks are igneous and dangerous. I was on the lookout for snakes, imagining if they popped out and caused me to fall, the lava rocks would tear my flesh before I fell into the big waves crashing into the rocks. It was very dramatic. My wife looked down upon me from the cliff tops, impassive as a stone statue.

The tide was starting to come in, so I didn’t spend that long taking footage of the waves, as the water began lapping at my feet. Here is a 4K video at the water level:

Below is a bit of a gallery. It is just one of the stunning natural spots that Ikijima offers.


Monkey Rock, a pillar of heaven

On the eastern side of Iki, jutting 45 meters out of the ocean is a giant rock formation, somewhat covered in moss-like greenery. From a certain angle the rocks look uncannily like a massive gorilla, solemnly looking out over a nearby cliff. This is the treasure of Ikijima: Saruiwa 猿岩 or “Monkey Rock.”

The Kojiki, or the “Record of Ancient Matters”, describes the creation of Japan by the gods Izanagi and Izanami (the parents of the Sun Goddess). With their jewelled spear they originally created 8 islands, not all are part of modern day Japan. The fifth island created was Iki… but there was a problem. Iki was a “living island” and apparently floated around the sea at its own whim. This was inconvenient for the gods, who preferred that islands stay put. So they cast down eight massive pillars to pin the island, and hold it in place upon the sea. Saruiwa is one of those “heavenly pillars.”

The other seven are not so spectacular — most have crumbled into the sea (I will cover one of the better ones in a future post). But Saruiwa is extremely striking. I wish I had a 50mm lens to give you a sense of how massive the thing is.

Below is a mini gallery from the rock. You can check out a few more photos and short videos, including some from the evening and from the cliff beside the giant Monkey Rock on Flickr.


Sounds of the Monkey Rock

It had been raining for days, so when I went up there the grasses were full of all sorts of life. I decided to take a quick recording. Listen to this while you look at the photos, and maybe you will get a feeling of being there. It was very windy, so I pointed the mic away from the ocean, but you can hear the waves in the background.

Convenient Countryside Karaoke

Hey peeps in Japan, does your FamiMa include a Karaoke room? I mean, convenience stores here have everything but I have never seen karaoke in one before!

On the left is a convenience store. On the right is an attached building with a sign for "Onpu"
“Onpu” — the local karaoke joint in Gonoura

The only big name convenience store on Ikijima is FamilyMart — there are no Lawsons or 7-11s. FamiMa has two locations and both of them have attached karaoke rooms. The above is in the “city” of Gonoura. It is pretty fancy as you can see. Onpu (literally “musical note”) is attached to the FamilyMart. The entrance is right beside the cash register inside the convenience store.

Below is Pop, at the other FamiMa on the island, in the “town” of Ashibe. It is not as fancy, and is not attached. You have to go into the convenience store and get the key, which you reserve in advance.

On the right is a convenience store. Beside it to the left is a small building with a sign for "Pop"
“Pop” — the local karaoke joint in Ashibe

As you can see below, Pop is shaped like a trailer but is a permanent building. It is more like the karaoke trailers that you see around, but nicer.

A different angle of "Pop" with the convenience store in the background

Elsewhere on the island you will see the more “rustic” karaoke trailer. Below we have “Music Studio Shinjo“, which you can see upon closer inspection, is literally a trailer.

I have only experienced karaoke in larger cities, so this is the first time I have ever seen a “country karaoke trailer.” It seems like a good idea to put these little bunkers out in the middle of nowhere where no one will be bothered by my caterwauling. Is this common in other rural parts of Japan? I can’t imagine this is a purely Iki thing… let me know in the comments. 👇

What is the most exciting thing in publishing today?

This weekend I was thinking about the recent history of publishing content: What are the innovations and trends of the past? What is in the near future?

Let me give you a few examples of the kinds of things I am thinking about:

  • blogs
  • microblogs vs tumblr vs twitter
  • social
  • interest-based blog networks like Medium
  • Podcasts become popular (again)
  • recent trend in newsletters, especially paid ones
  • fediverse platforms like Mastadon
  • old skool Indie ‘zines
  • Cellphone novels
  • Kindle singles and other self-published eBooks
  • more novellas coming out in recent years
  • Wattpad

This is not an exhaustive list of publishing tools/models (if you have more please add them in the comments!).

These platforms go in-an-out of fashion. One reason is when a certain platform starts getting eyeballs, professional orgs come in and start crowding out indie voices (I really saw this both in blogging and podcasting). It is a kind of gentrification. We saw this with blogs and podcasts. I wish I could find the original quote, but I think of it as a dictum:

Everyone has a voice on the internet, but that doesn’t mean they will be heard.

Unknown

Network effects, especially driven by the big social media platform(s), means that content distribution is really bumpy.

On the opposite end, you get the “Yogi Berra effect.” You know:

Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.

Yogi Berra

So there is churn in online publishing, even if it is cyclical. Benedict Evans said in his most recent newsletter:

New internet distribution models work like slash-and-burn agriculture: OK for year or two and then it’s time to move on.

There is tons of content online, and if you want to contribute, which distribution channels should you use? How not to get buried?

Ben Evans points out:

… the average FB user feed has 1,500+ items a day – once you’ve followed everyone interesting you’ll never see what they post, and you’ve mixed your friends and your interests, and the algorithm hides what it will.

(This is a question I have been asking for a while, as I think about how to share all the photographing, filming, and writing about Japan I have been doing returning here 4 months ago).

In the early 2000s the blog was the tool, and RSS was the network that bound everyone together. RSS lost out to social media as the network, and in many cases social became the publishing tool (think of how many people just use Insta instead of a blog). You can write alone on the web on your blog forever and not be discovered because you have no distribution into/via the network. If you are trying to start up a new project, figuring out how to crack the nut of distribution and get effective reach is key. These are old problems, but they stay evergreen due to the musical chairs of publishing/distribution tools+networks mentioned above.

Looking at the problem at its most simplistic, there are two axes of differentiation:

  1. Content: you have unique ideas/perspective/experiences/skill
  2. Medium: you express your ideas/perspective/experiences/skill in a unique medium

Sounds like a “style vs substance” or “form over function.” — I told you it was simplistic! — but it got me thinking about publishing mediums in general.

I have been writing on this blog for 10 years, and have been blogging for nearly 20, and I came to it 10 years late! Blogging is a very mature medium and although the tools might improve, I think it is still a pretty recognizable form after all this time — like the novel or poetry.

Every day I am now using Roam as I work on my zettelkasten. Last year I was inspired by Andy Matuschak’s essay on transformative tools for thought. These are new ways to write==think. Andy’s published notes site is a very interesting way of putting that thinking online (I recommend clicking around and exploring it). I have been following Evgeny Morozov’s The Syllabus since the beginning (see this interview with De Correspondent to get what it is all about). Then there are things like Craig Mod’s companion site for his book Koya Bound. That’s just classic, cool webdesign.

These are certainly cool tools providing novel ways to interact with ideas/perspective/experiences/skill. But they don’t have the best thing that blogs had back in the day: community. I want to engage in a back-and-forth, to learn new ideas and improve my own. That was the best part of blogging in the early 2000s: meeting cool people online, and then meeting them in real life! I want to capture that feeling of blogging 20 years years, which had little to do with technology, and everything to do with the community.

In thinking about this, and looking to be inspired, I am on the hunt for innovative publications, magazines, blogs, etc that are firing people up: getting them engaged with more than just hitting a Like button. If you have any you want to share or plug, post below!