Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump during a round of golf at the Mobara Country Club in Mobara, Chiba Prefecture, on May 26 (Taken from the Twitter account of the prime minister's office)

  • Photo/Illustraion

When someone you are with yawns, you do, too.

That yawning is contagious is apparently a fact that can be explained. One widely accepted theory is that the phenomenon owes to the human capacity for empathy.

Seeing someone yawn is said to make one relate to that person's state of mind. Perhaps there is some form of contagion that affects us without our being aware of it.

And now, here's something that makes me sigh, rather than yawn.

I am referring to U.S. President Donald Trump's behavior, which must be infectious.

As if contaminated by America's trade war with China, the Japanese government has announced export restrictions of materials used to manufacture smartphone and television screens to South Korea.

It appears that Japan is effectively taking a retaliatory measure against Seoul over its handling of lawsuits involving former Korean laborers who were conscripted to work for Japanese companies when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese control.

Even though Seoul's approach to the issue has been questionable, Japan's reaction is just as misdirected. As an old Japanese expression goes, "Getting one's revenge on someone in Nagasaki, not in Edo as it should be."

Seoul is said to be considering appealing the case to the World Trade Organization. Should this trigger a tit-for-tat reaction, the Japanese economy will be bloodied, too. But perhaps the Abe administration thinks the risk is worth taking, as intimidating South Korea may well benefit the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the upcoming Upper House election.

One thing I find hard to understand is that Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and other business leaders have not raised any protest at all. I mean, don't they stand for free trade? How can they remain silent?

Or am I overrating the nation's business leaders today?

Incidentally, human yawning is said to be contagious to dogs. One study concluded that dogs that are loyal to their masters are especially prone.

Could this be the case with Abe's Japan, which is obviously loyal to Trump's America?

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 3

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.