Fresh & Hot from Japan, 27 to 31 May 2016

Please enjoy fresh & hot news from Japan with comments by Europe-Japan Dynamics.

27 May. “Words that speak to the heart” is what victims of atomic bomb want

Most of the victims of the atomic bomb in Japan seals their demand to request apology to the US President on his visit to Hiroshima, but want to hear “words that speak to the heart”. This is because they wish to have concrete steps to abolish a nuclear weapon that brings a horribly non-humanitarian ending.

Comments: Emotion speaks to Japanese.

30 May. Mizuho Bank to extend the retirement age to 65 by the end of March 2019, the first among the three major banks

Mizuho Financial Group (FG) has decided to extend the retirement age to 65 years old from the present 60 years old. The plan, which is the first among the three major banks in Japan, will be implemented by the end of fiscal year 2018 (March 2019). Recognizing an imcreasing importance of consulting on asset management and its efficient use, FG will benefit from those bank clerks with ample experience, while meeting a social demand to extend the retirement age.

Comments: The plan meets a requirement of the aging society. It allows the bank to benefit from experience built in-house and allow longer working opportunities to its employees. For the bank employees, however, the plan may mean that they must have skills needed by the bank in order to benefit from the extended retirement.

31 May. Twenty years of Pokemon, “Want to soak into the real world” said the president

Pocket Monster which greeted 20 years since the release of the game has grown up to be major game contents that represent Japan. The game is popular by a nickname of Pokemon, as well as its fancy goods. The sale of the Pokemon-related products amounts to over 4,600 billion yen worldwide. Upon an interview, President Tsunekazu Ishihara (58 years old) of company “Pokemon” which manages the brand said, “We want to promote Pokemon in a way in which people feel Pokemon is there in the real world.

Comments: Making Pokemon integrated in the real world is a very Japanese idea. Japanese take all the existence in the nature and spiritual world as their neighbours.

  • All the news items are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and summarized and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

Fresh & Hot from Japan, 19 to 26 May 2016

19 May. SONY to finance US venture for AI R&D

Sony Corporation announced that the company will finance “Cogitai”, a US venture of the artificial intelligence (AI) development, to start collaboration. The amount of investment is not released.  The purpose is to integrate  knowledge from outside to be prepared for the times when AI is incorporated in household appliances. “AIBO” (Aibo), a dog robot sold by Sony was equipped with face and the sound recognition sensors, which were later applied for TV and digital cameras. Sony plans to feed results of the collaboration into future products.

Comments: The era of AI is coming close.

20 May. “The Japanese Nobel Prize winners, majority is on the achievements made by less than 45 years old” said the white paper on science and technology

The Cabinet approved the 2016 edition of the white paper on science and technology. The white paper contains a detailed analysis of all the 16 Japanese Nobel Prize winners after the year 2000. It was found that most of the achievements that lead to the Nobel Prize had been accomplished by the age of 45 in majority of the cases. The white paper concluded that the support to young researcher s was important.

Comments: It is also reported that all the researchers were in a stable post with a long term contract. This proves that a precarious situation on which many young researchers presently have to stay does harm to the development of science and technology.

23 May. 3000 participated in a disaster drill of earthquake, organised by an university in Kumamoto in the summer heat

The Kumamoto Gakuen University (Chuo-ku, Kumamoto-shi) performed the disaster drill that assumed an earthquake. The drill was planned to enhance crisis management at the time of the disaster, having taken a lesson from the Kumamoto earthquake that recorded seismic intensity of a little over six in the city. Approximately 3,000 students and staff of the university participated in the drill despite a very hot day that recorded 30 degrees in the mid-day.

Comments: The drill must have been efficient when people still strongly remember the fear of the earthquake.

24 May. “No plan to have more child” said 44% of the generation raising children in Japan, the largest among those countries surveyed

A survey by the Cabinet Office found that nearly half of the people don’t plan to have more child than now. This survey is to find attitude of those in a generation of child raising in Japan, the UK, France and Sweden. The percentage of those who replied this way is largest in Japan. The result reveals that the environment for child raising is hardest in Japan among those countries surveyed.

Comments: The result is no surprise for Japanese. An increasing number of low income family, precarious employment, small houses, long time to commute, shortage of child-care facilities, overwork of women, etc. have lead to a decreasing birth rate.

25 May.  Ise-Shima Summit to start on 26th, focus on cooperation in fiscal policy

A Ministerial summit of seven major countries (G7) will start on 26 May in Japan after an interval of eight years. The Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will chair G7 plans to propose cooperation in fiscal policy to stimulate the economy. It is worth watching how much would the G7 countries are prepared to cooperate among themselves.

Comments: Let’s watch how the debate will roll out.

26 May. G7 opened in Ise-Shima region, focus on cooperation over the world economy

A Ministerial summit of seven major countries (G7) started this morning. The largest focus this time is the level of cooperation among the leading economies as to political measures to lift the world economy. The agenda also includes refugee issues and counterterrorism. The Leaders’ Declaration will be adopted on the last day, 27 May.

Comments: Anecdotally, Ise Shrine, which has not been known outside Japan despite its cultural values, may see a large number of foreign visitors after G7.

  • All the news items are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and summarized and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

Fresh & Hot from Japan, 12 to 18 May 2016

Please enjoy fresh & hot news from Japan with comments by Europe-Japan Dynamics.

12 May. Nissan to invest 200 billion yen in Mitsubishi Motors for its management rebuilding with a take-over in mind

NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD. has decided to finance over 200 billion yen scale to Mitsubishi Motors (34% of the shares), which is being strongly shaken by the false reporting of fuel consumption rate. This act will be a de-facto take-over of Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi Motors will decide the acceptance of the investment in the board of directors on 12th. Nissan is also to decide an investment in the board of directors in the afternoon of the same day. Both companies will announce the capital tie-up in the afternoon. A large scale disgraceful affair of Mitsubishi Motors will lead to the massif reorganization of the automotive industry worldwide.

Comments: Automobile sector has responded to a disaster of a weak player so quickly.

13 May. Scholarship to support the study at the university will not lead to reduction of the welfare allowance

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has adopted a policy not to reduce the welfare allowance, when a high school students from a family that receives the allowance using the scholarship to pay an examination and entrance fees of the university. Though the Ministry once decided not to adopt this policy at an operation review in the autumn last year because “Proceeding to study at the university is not a common practice”, it has changed the decision to include the expenses to enter the university in the list of items exempted from the reduction of welfare allowance. This change is to prevent “Handing over of the poverty” from a parent to a child.

Comments: An increasing population living in poverty is a big problem and becoming an attention of policy measures in Japan. The issue of the handing over of the poverty over the generations is especially critical, as having a university degree is a “must” to obtain a decent job.

16 May. Panasonic, to recruit more engineers for the AI development, including scout of talented students

Panasonic announced that the company will increase the number of engineers involved in the R&D (research and development) of AI (Artificial Intelligence) by 2 – 3 times more than the present number (less than 100) by 2018. The company has also started scouting excellent students studying AI. Panasonic also created a training program for in-house engineers to acquire skills to be an AI specialist in cooperation with a university in the Kansai Region. Mr. Yoshiyuki Miyabe, Managing Director in charge of R&D, said, “Observing an increasing need for AI engineers in various areas, we wish to increase the number of engineers”.

Comments:  AI requires much wider creativity than the present software development. It’s interesting to see how Panasonic will grow creativity, against a Japanese IT sector culture which is not strong in the creativity front.

17 May. Toyota to build a new factory in Malaysia to  produce 50,000 vehicles per annum, aiming at the operation from 2018

Toyota Motor Corporation plans to build a new factory in Malaysia to start operation in 2018.  The new factory which will produce 50,000 vehicles per year will be built near the existing one that produces 80,000 vehicles per year. The planned investment is tens of billions of yen. The company thus will meet an increase of local demand, while maintaining efficiency in production.

Comment: The plan reflects rapid growth of demand for personal vehicles that corresponds to income growth in South East Asia.

18 May. Suzuki also cheating mileage data

In connection with the issue of mileage camouflage of Mitsubishi Motors, Suzuki Motor Corporation has revealed that the company measured the mileage data of cars by a method different from the one in the national regulations. Chairperson Kazaru Suzuki reports it to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in the afternoon of 18th. The possibility of the false measurement of the mileage may spread throughout the industry. Nissan and Toyota have reported to the Ministry that they found no problem.

Comment: If the State has been OK with the paper reporting, it’s easy for companies to cheat. What can consumers trust?

  • All the news items are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and summarized and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

Fresh & Hot from Japan, 5 to 11 May 2016

Please enjoy fresh & hot news from Japan with comments by Europe-Japan Dynamics.

5 May. Japan-Arab Ministerial economic forum started, Casablanca

“Japan-Arab economic forum ” that aims at the reinforcement of the economic relations of Japan and the Arab countries began in Casablanca, Morocco, on the 4th.of May. The cabinet ministers from each country discussed those themes such as the diversification of the economy, human resource development, etc. The Minister of Economy Trade and Industry, Mikio Hayashi, announced a policy to promote investment from Japan, stating “We wish  to extend the number of Arab countries that signed the investment pact from the present five to more than ten by 2020”.

Comments: The economic ties between Japan and the Arab countries have not been so tight compared with those between European and Arab countries. It will help to both sides of the countries to diversify business partners.

6 May. Three weeks after the earthquake, Toyota resumed operation of all the factories and Honda, a part of it

Those factories of Toyota Motor Corporation and Honda which suspended production due to the disaster of Kumamoto earthquake, or lack of supply of components, resumed the  production. Toyota managed to restart all the domestic production lines three weeks after the earthquake. Honda started operation of a part of the production in its factory in Kumamoto prefecture.

Comment: Good to know that economic activities are coming back.

9 May.  Real wage increased by 1.4% in March, two months in a row, reflecting the wage increase in an annual negotiation in the spring, according to the labour Ministry

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced in the breaking news of monthly labor statistics that the average cash payroll per worker in March was 278,501 yen, up by 1.4% compared to the same month the last year. The increase is seen in two months in a row. The consumer price level was the same as the previous year and “the real wages” that excludes the influence of the price fluctuation also increased by 1.4% for two consecutive months.

Comment: Hope the increase signals the economic recovery.

10 May. Tokyo may permit housekeeping work by foreign nationals, the third prefecture if implemented

The Government of Tokyo will examine if it could lift the ban on the housework service by the foreign nationals, using “a special ward system” that allows to relax regulations in limited areas. If implemented, Tokyo will be the third local government that lifts the ban. Some other local governments might follow the change of policy of Tokyo, which has been careful in allowing the foreign nationals to take housekeeping work.

Comments: Though this news signals a change of Japan to wider opening of working opportunities of foreign nationals, this issue should not be limited to some “special” areas. Japan should up-date at the national level its outdated policy and regulations that still strictly prohibits foreign nationals to work in the country.

11 May. “Iku men league”, a group of male members of Diet advocating men’s participation in child raising,  requested improvement of the status of children in waiting list for nursery schools

The bipartisan “Iku men league (League of male members of Diet who are willing to share responsibility of child raising)” submitted a request for the improvement of the issue of children in waiting list for nursery schools to two Ministers, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki, and Minister in charge of vitalizing all the population of Japan, Katsunobu Kato. The league requested not to force women alone to bear the burden and difficulties arising from having children who cannot be taken by nursery schools due to lack of capacity to meet demand.

Comment: This is a good action itself and makes those men who are willing to share responsibility of child raising visible to the public. Such men are still rare in Japan.

  • All the news items are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and summarized and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

Fresh & Hot from Japan, 21 Apr. to 4 May 2016

Please enjoy fresh & hot news from Japan with comments by Europe-Japan Dynamics.

21 Apr. Mitsubishi Motors manipulated fuel consumption data of over 620’000 cars in four models

Mitsubishi Motors announced on the 20th that the company illegally manipulated the fuel consumption data of 4 models of the light vehicle. This is to show the data better than it really is, and the number of cars concerned amounts to 625,000. Mitsubishi Motors has stopped production and sale of these cars. The Ministry of LandInfrastructure and Transport began an onsite inspection in the company’s technical center (Okazaki-shi, Aichi-ken) on the same day.

Comments: There must be a long lasting management problems in the company as the data manipulation is the last thing that may happen in the production process.

22 Apr. Releasing the digital textbook to schools from 2020, said Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology decided to lift the ban on digital textbook for primary, junior-high and high schools from 2020. The Ministry expects the digital textbook to efficient enable learning integrated with sound and video functions. The ministry plans to seek advice to a panel of experts today.

Comment: Teachers will need training to make use of the digital textbook efficiently, as children are digital savvy.

25 Apr. Toyota restarted assembly in 4 factories in Tokai and Tohoku regions, after stopping production in 15 factories after the Kumamoto earthquake

Toyota Motor Corporation reopened the assembling of the vehicle in four factories in Tokai and Tohoku regions, including Tsutsumi ground of Toyota-shi, Aichi ken. The company stopped the assembly in 15 factories in Japan after the Kumamoto earthquake, due to lack of supply of door parts produced in Kumamoto ken.

Comment: One week after the earthquake, what a prompt recovery it is!

26 Apr. The National Police Agency to start operations of the security intelligence center as one of the measures of counterterrorism

The National Police Agency is to start operations of the “Internet OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) Center” to automatically collect and analyze information found over the Internet related to terrorism. The center is one of the measures of the counterterrorism by improving ability to collect and analyse information as a measure of counterterrorism, against background of an increasing terrorism in Europe such as those undertaken by extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS).

Comment: Hope that Japan may contribute to the security intelligence to prevent terrorism.

28 Apr. Reduction of 7,350,000 employment as a result of introduction of AT and Robots, according to “the fourth Industrial Revolution”

“- – that the employment in 2030 will be less than the one today by 7,350,000 jobs. This would be due to the automation enabled by the artificial intelligence (AI) and the robot technologies, etc. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) experimentally calculated the influence of “the fourth Industrial Revolution” brought by AI or big data brought in terms of the number of the employment. On the other hand, METI also says that the employment decrease could be 1,610,000, if the new employment would be created as a result of restructuring.

Comment: Job decrease or creation is a complex subject. We must create new business opportunities in those areas which only human beings can do.

29 Apr. Smartphones become TV at disaster, TV stations delivered special programs of the earthquake via the air and Internet

Hundreds of small level of earthquakes still continue in Kumamoto, and about 40.000 people live as evacuees. While the TV stations broadcasted useful information minute by minute, many people cannot watch TV in such environment because of the blackout spread at the stricken area, or as they stay in a refuge or in a car to avoid risk of the collapse of buildings. To overcome such difficulty, major TV stations made is possible for the affected people to watch the TV programs related to the earthquake by the smartphones at the same time as the programs on air.

Comment: It was great that the Internet infrastructure was not shut down in the Kumamoto earthquake case. This experience demonstrate us how important it is to maintain the infrastructure of information in disaster areas.

2 May, G7 Energy Ministerial Meeting ended with “Kitakyusyu initiative”

The Ministerial meeting of Energy Secretaries of seven major economies (G7) ended with a joint communique “Kitakyusyu initiative”, that emphasized the importance of continued investment in oil and gas field developments, and creation of a transparent market of natural gas.

Comment: Stable energy supply through transparent markets is critical to the world economy.

3 May, “Will put in place an additional monetary policy, if needed”, said Mr. Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan, upon an increasing value of yen

Following an increasing value of yen, Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda, the Governor of the Bank of Japan stated press, “My decision is unchanged to take additional monetary policy without hesitation if I judge it necessary to achieve the objective of price stability of 2% “. He said that in Frankfurt where he was visiting to attend a general meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Comment: The value of yen is high, when the shape price of Japanese companies is low. It’s a tricky situation.

4 May, Objection to the  targeted monitoring of currency exchange rate by the US, unexpected debate by  the Finance Ministers of Japan, China and Korea

The Finance Ministers and Governors of the central banks of Japan, China and Korea discussed the US designation of these countries as targets of monitoring in its monetary policy though this issue was not in the original agenda of their meeting in Frankfurt held on the 3rd . Minister of Finance of Japan, Taro Aso, said that the Japanese exchange policy would not be affected by the designation by the US.

Comments: It is likely that the Japanese exchange policy would take into account the US designation of Yen as a currency to monitor, despite the initial reaction by Mr. Aso.

  • All the news items are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and summarized and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.