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Stranded in Japan?

One of the nice things about living and working in Japan is that it's a convenient base for traveling to other parts of Asia. However, with oil hitting $135 a barrel last week, the days of cheap and easy travel look to be at an end.

The price of oil will probably stay in triple digit territory for the long term, and the canaries in the coal mine are the airlines. They exist because of cheap fuel. Although the demand for travel has never been greater, they are having a tough time making ends meet. The price of fuel is killing them:

According to the US Air Transport Association (ATA) six airlines have been forced to close down since the beginning of April, while another has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

'There has certainly been an acceleration of shutdowns in the past month or so,' a spokesman for ATA said, adding that 10 carriers had been forced to close since 25 December. 'This is all to do with the cost of jet fuel. Carriers simply cannot afford it.'

And as analysts predict that the price of oil will continue to rise, there are fears that the worst is yet to come. 'There has to be a fundamental change in the economics of operating commercial aircraft,'said an ATA spokesman.

ATA claims that every dollar added to the cost of a barrel of oil adds $456m a year in jet-fuel costs for US airlines. The ongoing increases in the oil price over the past year have sent the price of jet fuel soaring by more than 65 per cent in just 12 months.

American Airlines will scrap 75 planes, fire a bunch of employees, and reduce service by more than 10%. They are now charging $15 per piece of luggage. Delta and Northwest announced plans to merge. Australian carrier Qantas has hiked its fares. Airbus apparently has negative valuation.

The Japanese airlines are no different. The cost of fuel is also dragging down JAL and ANA even though they have recently reported that they are back in the black after a round of cost-cutting:

Japan Airlines Corp. said Friday that its group operating profit more than quadrupled to Y90.01 billion for the business year that ended March 31, helped by its cost-cutting efforts amid surging fuel costs.


For the business year to next March, JAL expects group operating
profit will slide by 44.5 percent to Y50 billion. It also sees a 2.1 percent fall in sales to Y2.18 trillion and a 23.2 percent drop in net profit to Y13 billion.

[JAL Executive Officer Yoshimasa] Kanayama said fuel costs would rise by Y137 billion for the 2008 business year over the previous year if Singapore kerosene, a type of jet fuel, hits an annual average of $140 a barrel.

"If it rises above $140, we would have to make more (cost-cutting) efforts, or raise the (international-flight) surcharge on fuel," he said.

The price of airfare no longer includes the cost of fuel--that gets tacked on as a surcharge, in many instances after you've purchased your ticket, because the airlines themselves don't know what their fuel costs are from day to day. Japan Probe has a short blurb on higher fuel surcharges that will add close to $500 to the price of a round trip.

What are the odds, then, of being stranded in Japan because your preferred carrier has gone bankrupt or the price of a ticket has become prohibitively expensive? One gets the sense that in the not-too-distant future the world is going to become a lot larger.


Yeah, this happened to me in 2001 when I flew to England with Sabena on a return ticket and the said airline went bankrupt during my stay. Another company took over their routes and customers (B.A. I think); I got home a few days later than planned. Thankfully this bankruptcy resolution process went a lot faster than others in recent memory, but then again I wasn't actually working for Sabena, so who knows.

I flew back to the UK in 2006 when the oil price first started to rise. We flew via Bangkok and stopped over which meant that the fuel surcharges doubled. They counted four flights instead of a return. We were also hit with three surcharges by JTB. One when we booked, one when we paid and the final time when we went to collect the tickets (about 2 weeks before departure). When I complained that we had already paid and that any additional costs should be paid by the travel agency they asked us if we wished to cancel the flight. ( I think the refund would have been less that 50% )Obviously we had to pay even though it felt like we were being gouged.

Full fuel surcharges were also charged for my 1 year old son even though the ticket price was 20% of an adult fare.

I looked at ticket prices for this summer and can't afford it.(over 5,000 USD for the three of us on Even Thailand is no longer the cheap deal that it used to be.

Definately stranded in Japan. At least for this year.

No point in going home anyway. Everythings more expensive and the tourism industry is shot.

Back here, maybe no more travel lessons to teach. Great. They're such a bore. Too bad about the cost of bananas though.

Sure felt it when I went home last month with the wife and kid. Next time, I'm going to ask her to say here!

Is there any truth in the rumour that our pay is going to be deferred? The office girls at my branch said they have been told their pays are to be deferred. They said they were strictly told not to tell any instructors.

This is not a good sign. This is not a good sign at all.

If that is true, you should not be the least bit surprised. I would think it would be more surprising if gcomm does NOT start paying employees late etc. That is what happens when you work for a company that is running in the red with no real plan to get out.

Hello, McFly?!

20 years, tops, and we'll all be back in the early 19th century, technology-wise, with a few innovations that can keep going without fossil fuels. Good luck, everyone.

"This is not a good sign. This is not a good sign at all."

Ahem, I'm sure you could find PUUUUH-lenty of people who'd disagree with you, on that score.

Well, if G-Com goes down, you will all have to wait for the NEXT company to come along, and relaunch Nova.

Norihiro Yamamoto Nova language school and plumbing services. Learn English, while your toilet is being fixed.

And the sad thing is, there'd be instuctors who'd sign up for that, too....

And the next one...

Nova Pizza delivery Eikaiwa...


I was really lucky. I saw the price hike coming about ten years ago, so I put US$50,000,000 into oil back then when it was dirt cheap. Now I'm almost a millionaire!! Haha!! I am fucking brilliant!! Pretty clever Ay!

I wouldn't worry too much about the cost of bananas. Apparently within twenty years or so, bananas as we know them will have become pretty much extinct. There's a virus that's killing them off as we speak, one yellow species already died about thirty years ago, this is the second and last of the nice yellow speicies the planet has. After it's died, no one's sure what's going to replace it (apparently the alternatives are not that appertising). Do a search on "banana republics" for more info.

f**k fossil fuels. scientists and government subsidizers need to get off their behinds.

..of topics on this site is overwhelming. Everything to the daily diaries of masturbatory (yet lovable) losers, with misplaced literary aspirations, to the rising price of air travel.

What's the next lofty chosen topic gonna be?

"Golly gee, only seven months to Christmas!!!"

Still, it keeps us all entertained, while waiting for the thread everyone is waiting for:

"Gcom crashes and burns. 1,500 out of work and stranded...again".

I get the feeling that we might be waiting a while for that, though, so keep the excellent, varied and distractory topics coming!

Yours thankfully


Actually, the rise in oil prices is a direct result of the fall of Nova late last year.

I hope you are just joking. Civilization would do much BETTER without fossil fuels. It is just a matter of developing the technologies more and investing in the infrastructure. Only then can we stop global warming and stop enriching the muslims and helping them spread radical, medieval islam (all religion sucks by the way).

You put $50,000,000 U.S. dollars into oil stocks when it was dirt cheap...and now you're millionaire?? From the way you wrote your was already millionaire, BEFORE you invested into oil stocks...

great post...yes it would be a better world without WASTING oil on cars...

although i believe we need individual transportation..and hate leftist clowns who think we should all crowd on buses and Canada, Australia, and the US thats simply not possibly due to the size of the countries.

we need to have oil to make plastics, medicines and other technologies..(you need oil to produce things that will help us make the technologies that wont need oil!!)

frankly oil is becoming too precious to squander on transportation..we have GOTTA have it for plastics especially...unless we wanna start carving our keyboards and dvds from wood.

I was feeling very pleased with myself when I got enough miles up for a ticket to Australia (via Korea), until I went to pay for th e extras. 50,515 yen!
No such thing as a free ticket!

I used miles for my wife's ticket when we went to the US last month. It cost 90,000 miles, but I didn't have to pay a surcharge (just $50) tax. I imagine they will change their policy soon enough though.

I do not see the price of oil coming down anytime soon.

CanadaJin wrote:

although i believe we need individual transportation..and hate leftist clowns who think we should all crowd on buses and Canada, Australia, and the US thats simply not possibly due to the size of the countries.

What do you propose then if you think we need personal transportation but oil is too precious to waste on cars?

I think the problem is really poor urban design. We (meaning North America) have created a society that demands you drive everywhere. Cities and neighborhoods are scaled for cars, not humans. They are for the most part unwalkable.

For example, my parents' home is a 10-minutes walk to the supermarket, yet they drive there. I decided to try and walk there and it almost killed me. I had to dodge cars like Frogger the whole way. There were few sidewalks along my route, and when I finally reached the supermarket, I found that the only way in was to use the same entrance as the cars. The supermarket was walled off from people by a thick fringe of crappy shrubbery and fast food restaurants.

Scaling down where we live so that our towns and neighborhoods are walkable would do a lot to reduce our dependence on cars and oil. Investing in public transit is another good idea. Most cities in North America had good inter-urban trolley or train services before we ripped them all up in the name of private motoring.

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.
-Albert Einstein


i was just thinking about how we all have baskets on our bikes..and how handy they are. A friend who went back to England removed her basket despite the fact that she thought it was the most useful thing ever.."Its not cool to have a basket on your bike." she claimed..

well..she IS maybe thats a concern.. parents?..same thing...huge freezer in the gets loaded up once or twice a week..they are retired, so theres no way they could carry or bike that stuff the crummy half a klick back to our house from the Zehrs.

electric cars...the wave of the future!...having the nerve to put a basket on your bike..and not worry who thinks youre a nerd...

better urban arguement here..

but you know what? on the train was an old man COVERED in psorasis..who wouldnt stop rubbing his face..and bleeding bandaged hands..there was a cloud of skin flakes all over the area...i am sorry for the guy (too much sugar in this country for ANYONE) but i shouldnt have to expose myself or my children to that kinda.. WHATEVER...YOUVE seen them on the trains...nosepicking...wipe it on the seat or grab the subway ring..sucking the takoyaki out of their teeth..i fucking hate it..its piggish...sneezing..coughing without covering your face...drunk salarimen hanging over you slurring and spitting... oh sure..The Better Way indeed.

sure id love to move back and live in Toronto..if i could afford it...if i wasnt sick of the slobs, and the vomit..and the packs of vicious scum roving the streets at night...whenever I go home..i dont sit in the subway the same way...i am alot more alert, aggressive and prepared to fight..last week someone got shoved into the tracks on the TTC (Toronto Subway) wasnt killed thank gawd..but its happened before..North America can be fucking scary...I still love it and i miss home..and would go back in a heartbeat....but why should live like that? my folks moved 150 K away from the city..

waiting for a bus? minus 30 degree weather..urban planning isnt gonna solve OWN personal car where I can come and go as I please, IS. People have to commute to where the jobs are..not all jobs are next to where people live..and would you WANT to live next to the paint factory (thank you lesson E50) ?

shivering on the whim of a fat union bus driver whos sticking to the rules tonight and not letting us on the warm bus We Are Going To Be On In 10 Minutes Anyway as he sits and idles it at the station...drives me up the wall!

yes in a place like Osaka..who needs a car?...but is the noise where YOU live? YOUR idiot neighbours start the shoji slamming at 4 fucking AM like mine do? about that garbage truck..or that damn van that is very slowly driving past your apartment at 7 am on a sunday asking you to bring out your used magazine?....

sorry..i would prefer to live well far away from other folks..not THAT far that i cant visit..cuz i need stuff obviously...but Hell Is Other People...and to avoid killing my neighbours..its best i move away from do that...i need OWN wheels..

personal transportation..the ability to come and go as you please.. is the single most important issue in regards to freedom...anyone who advocates taking that away..or taxing it to death while not providing concrete solutions to social problems in the city is wasting my time and insulting our intelligence....

hey canadajin i understand your point and how claustrophobic a world without personal transportation will seem. unfortunatley soon it may be a case of what we need, not what we want.
and we may not be able to afford personal cars in the not too distant...afford to run them that is.

OK, if we're to use some sort of alternative fuel for our cars and trucks, what will it be? You mentioned electric vehicles. Where does the electricity come from for the extra power generation? Who builds it and who pays for it all? Is it even feasible to switch every single car and truck over to electricity?

I think this is the main problem with alternative fuels--they work, but do not scale well like oil. This is why I brought up urban design. Rather than mire ourselves in an attempt to keep our cars and trucks on the road at any cost, why not think of ways of getting people out of their vehicles?

Searching for an alternative fuel just perpetuates the status quo. We should start thinking about changing the way we live and conduct trade and commerce.

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.
-Albert Einstein


no really..thanks

i am not sure i would use the word claustrophobic to describe my dislike of other people in the urban me that implies fear..and I am not afraid of other people per se..i just dont like their noise, filthy habits and selfish, oblivious ways.

if its a case of what we NEED like you suggest...well..I NEED to not live like a rat.

not to sound paranoid..but i would wager that GMC, Toyota, Ford, Daimler, Mitsubishi, et al HAVE the plans for engines that can run on salt water, or human urine, or a solar car that can do 150kph, or a hydrogen cell that costs 43 cents to fill...or any number of things we have never imagined of in our wildest dreams.

i myself...dont claim to have any answers...i frankly dont know if "Big Business" is going to be the hero or the villian in this...i know most folks distrust big business and think they are just out to screw us....i would LIKE to believe that the solutions for our problems are going to come from people and corporations who have motivation and resources to solve them....

perhaps thats hopelessly naive...i can see how it might be...

but what I do know that there is a massive market for self-drive cars...which is going to be far easier to satisfy than any kind of (what I can only see as a) "Killing Fields" style collectivist return to the cities. ( see?)

you are going to see bumper stickers; "over my cold dead hands"..holding a steering wheel instead of a rifle.... you will never see people give up their cars...oh maybe in pussy Canada..but very unlikely in the old USA.

i REALLY want a Dodge Charger...or the new Ford Mustang...will i able able to GET one?..i am starting to have my doubts..what is gonna happen to all our cars?...I imagine they will be phased out for hybrids..then as the technology will see less and less of them..until we are all driving cars that sound like vacuum cleaners..(just like Gattaca!)

if people werent such paranoid cowards..we could have the whole world humming on nuclear power..and yes i realize Uranium is in demand as well....but i am thinking that the technology will advance..(who could forsee the level of technology we enjoy now even 25 years ago?) i hear fusion anyone? not THIS instant....but one day..and sooner probably than we think.

about 10 years or so ago in Toronto it was illegal to drive a Vespa scooter..(i know this cuz a somewhat famous arrest of this woman who had one imported..and was ticketed several times..but kept driving it cuz it cost some crazy small amout to 2 dollars for a week of driving or some such)

I dont think they are illegal there anymore..but its a safe bet that people will start getting more of them..especially in summer..people CAN change...smaller cars...more walking..biking..scooters..hybrids..especially when money is at stake..(and to me thats NOT a dirty word, or a bad reason TO change) but i still think most people given a choice would not live in crowded cold grey dirty dangerous cities.

i promise you..people will be shovelling coal into their engines..or using those crazy old wood stove cars with a smokestack coming out of the trunk before being herded onto buses in North America outside of the major urban centres.

you suggest taking people out of their vehicles...respect..but i consider that to be an imposition on my freedom...beyond gunpoin..I MEAN LAWS...what do you propose?

I suggest we let the market dictate...if there is to be change in "the way we live and conduct trade and commerce" will come from there...and is better coming from there...instead of the "invitation to surrender our vehicles" that i suspect most socialists not-so-secretly drool for.

I doubt you'll find people using coal as a substitute for oil, at least not yet. Yes, synthetic fuel can be made from liquified coal, but coal is what's used to generate electricity, so if it becomes possible for something else, like ethanol, you'll see the cost of coal go up and that's not a solution.

I think nuclear power will become a much more necessary avenue in the coming years. It's not perfect, but it's the only alternative we really have at the moment. I think what will happen is nuclear power will be used as a stopgap while the technology for other sources of renewable energy will be perfected.

There will be several difficult years during that transition. But once the transition is made, it'll be for the best. We've had the technology for decades, but the oil industry did everything in their power to prevent the further development of that technology.

Monkeybridge has his hands in everything.

my biggest concern is the ability for industry to continue making plasics and medicines...things which can only come from oil...we arent realistically going to run out of those things..even if at some point we are setting up mines in old garbage tips for discarded pet bottles...(tar sands..plastics from coal and hemp..MY GAWD HEMP!...a whole other rant there!..) so much of our lives depend on plastic..its silly to me to be using oil for transit...even though its clearly the easiest way we have now..but check this out!

Sweden turning sewage into a gasoline substitute

By James Kanter

Published: May 27, 2008

GOTEBORG, Sweden: Taking a road trip? Remember to visit the toilet first. This city is among dozens of municipalities in Sweden with facilities that transform sewage waste into enough biogas to run thousands of cars and buses.

Cars using biogas created a stir when they began to be rolled out on a large scale at the start of the decade. The tailpipe emissions are virtually odorless, the fuel is cheaper than gasoline and diesel, and the idea of recovering energy from toilet waste appealed to green-minded Swedes

there are GONNA be all the and water being the biggest can panic..or you can be pro-active.

I am very worried that they will START making Plasics. They are very dangerous things! I once saw a plasic drive a cr into a shp. Carnage, it was...

The race is clearly on to find some alternative fuel to oil. I doubt that one as good as oil will ever be found. This is why I mention urban design. We can reduce our oil dependency by not using the stuff. Why not put some serious thinking into living locally without having to drive everywhere? Or are we unwilling to change the way we live until a serious crisis, such as a fuel shortage, occurs?

The business consultant quoted in the IHT article comes off as pretty delusional:

"When you're in the bathroom in the morning and you can see something good come of that, it's easy to be taken in by the idea - it's like a utopia,"

Utopia? This guy looks into a toilet and see utopia?

The killer in the biogas deal is this:

Ola Fredriksson, an engineer at Gryaab, the sewage facility in Goteborg, said that what an average person flushed down the toilet each year created enough biogas to drive 120 kilometers, or 75 miles.

That doesn't sound like a good return on investment. If it takes a year of poo to drive 120 km, this biogas project is a non-starter.

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.
-Albert Einstein


stupid fat fingers!

to cant fault people for at least TRYING to come up with new ideas..its pretty obvious to me anyway that most folks are just not interested in hearing about major changes in urban planning.

that article i posted is to show that there are alternatives..but unfortunately we are likely going to have to use a variety of alternatives to sustain our present level of movement and industry.

if we could do something like Ginganet from Canada (never could figure out why we are really physically HERE to begin with..) tele-commuting..working out of our homes..smaller family businesses...well sure..but are we at the point where life is too good to GO back to the land...even in a minor way?..are we TOO addicted to this lifestyle that people refuse to listen to alternatives in the way we live?

much like how the United States will never convert to metric...because it would mean a complete restructuring of their entire massive industrial ecomomy...they just cant AFFORD to switch over.. i think the world is far too complex to radically alter our commuting and living patterns as they are i said before..the market will dictate the changes...if the market..and the people WANT self-drive...they are gonna have it..if the people and market want to live in little self-sufficient communes in nature then that will happen...but dont hold your breath.

and no..youre right.. we dont make enough poo.

Of course, I'm not faulting anyone for trying to come up with alternatives, but these are not solutions, they are band aids. The biogas article is a good example since we can't make poo in large enough quantities or fast enough to scale it to a nation's entire fleet of vehicles. None of the alternative fuels available now--not bioethanol, biodiesel, biogas, or electric--are good enough to scale into mass use. They all have problem with energy density (it takes 1.3 liters of ethanol to obtain the same energy as a liter of gasoline) or the the process of creating and refining the fuel is too energy intensive (i.e. it takes 2 barrels of oil in terms of energy to obtain one barrel).

You may be right about society not being interested in changing they way they live. If true, it would be a huge mistake. If we don't modify the way we live, reality will,and we'll experience it through shortages and rationing. It's much better if we're in control of our fates.

There's a certain irony to it all. The cheapest way toward solving our fossil fuel problems is simply not to use them, but this is politically undesirable and requires us to make an effort or make some sacrifices. On the other hand, looking for alternative fuels is far more costly, but politically popular.

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.
-Albert Einstein


the biggest irony for me is the cost in oil we will need to create the technologiues we need to not use oil.

i hope its not the kind of thing that will affect one particular generation..the urban rethinking that youre on about may happen in a slow relatively painless manner..we can only do what we can.

but i do worry about the terrible future i saw on a TV documentary the other night..where fuel is so scarce that people have to soak up spills with rags and broken light bulbs...and have to defend small isolated pumping stations from hoardes of punkish marauders on motorcycles..

it might have been a documentary...or it might have been Mad Max...i was pretty drunk..

ah...actually...Mad Max would have never happened...the people who lived at the pumping station would have gladly traded the go-go juice for food and other supplies with the marauders...who would have found it in their best interest to trade instead of getting burned and killed with crossbows all the time.

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