Blog

  • 12 Nov 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     Korean Supreme Court’s Decision Puzzles Japan

     

    On October 30, the Korean Supreme Court ruled that Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corporation should compensate four plaintiffs, who accused the company of compulsory labor in Japan during the World War II.

    According to the ruling, two individuals out of the four plaintiffs applied for a job posting of then Nippon Steel posted in Pyongyang in September 1943 and went to Japan for a job training and got a job in Osaka.

    One other person got a recommendation of the mayor of then Tejon City for a job at Nippon Steel’s Kamaishi Works in 1941.

    The last person applied for jobs recruited by the city of Gunsan, Korean in January 1943 and sent to Nippon Steel’s Yahata Works.

    As such, there is a doubt that they were compulsorily sent to Japan for labor.

    It is true that there were Korean workers, who were officially recruited by the Japanese Government.

    This falls under “compulsory labor”.

    However, the government of Japan and Korea reached an agreement of the war compensation and economic cooperation in 1965, and the two nations shared the recognition that all the war issues including the compulsory labor were completely and irreversibly solved.

    PM Abe and his administration immediately condemned the ruling and demanded the Korean Government to take necessary actions to honor the agreement of 1965.

     

    2. New Bill to Accept More Foreign Skilled Workers Presented To The Diet

     

    On November 2, the Abe Cabinet decided on a new bill to establish new categories of stay permits for foreign workers to work in Japan and submitted it to the House of Representatives.

    The administration simultaneously released its assumption that in the coming five years, the Japanese labor market would face a labor shortage of as big as around 250,000 without doing anything.

    Under the bill, the following two categories are newly established:

     

    Special Skill Category 1

    This stay and work permit will be granted to foreign applicants who pass a preliminary Japanese conversation test and a simple test related to individual skill categories.

    Permit holders can stay and work for five years, but no family visa is granted.

     

    Special Skill Category 2

    The Category 1 visa holders can obtain this Category 2 visa once they prove that their individual skills reach certain proficiency through skill tests etc.  Category 2 permit holders could stay in Japan without limit through periodic deliberations and they can bring their families to Japan for living together.

     

    3. Big Data Suggests The Influence Of Climate Change Over Japan

     

    Ms. Yukiko Imada, Chief Researcher of the Metrological Research Institute released the result of the Institute’s presumptive experiments recently that unless there was an influence of global warming, such an unusual summer as this July’s terrible heat waves in Japan would have never happened.

    She runs a simulation using Japan’s supercomputer based on 100 patterns of climate scenarios before and after the Industrial Revolution period.

    Input data were the density of CO2, the temperature of the sea surface and some other observatory data, and output was average temperatures of Japan’s atmosphere at the altitude of around 1,500 m.

    As the result, the possibility of having the similar heat pattern before the Industrial Revolution period was calculated to be 0.00003%, while it was 19.9% after the period, suggesting the causal relationship between the post-Industrial Revolution period and the unusual weathers observed in Japan.

     

    4. Toyota Announced A New Service “KINTO”

     

    Toyota announced on November 1 that it would launch a subscription service titled “KINTO” in early 2019.

    Its subscribers can pick and choose favorite cars individually as long as they pay a fixed monthly fee.

    The fee covers insurance, tax and maintenance expenses, while users have to bear the cost of parking and gasoline.

    They can switch their cars under certain conditions.

    Toyota also announced that it would begin a car sharing service within this year.

    Now that the trend of declining population in Japan is palpable, the Japanese car companies are rushing to come up with some new business models to keep their domestic car production rate intact.

  • 29 Oct 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    Abe’s Policy Speech Stressed the 1st Constitutional Amendment

     

    At the opening of the Extraordinary Diet Session on October 24, PM Abe delivered his general policy speech at the Diet.

    As he won the 3rd term of LDP’s presidency, the speech was a rough plan to finish his 9 years of leadership.

    He introduced the following key policies to be implemented during his last 3 years:

     

    • Constitutional Amendment to explicitly define the Self Defense Forces, etc.
    • Loosening working visas and stay permits acquisition and  for foreign workers:
    • Soft-landing measures to implement the consumption tax increase to 10% due October next year
    • Free education up to high school and other social insurance reforms:
    • Solving open diplomatic issues: North Islands territorial issue against Russia, abduction issue against North Korea, etc.

     

    Meiji Restoration’s 150th Anniversary

     

    Edo period ended and the Meiji Era started in 1868, when Japan became a constitutional monarchy state.

    At a press conference on October 23, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga stated that Japan should learn again from the Meiji Restoration, especially from the effort made and the ambition embraced by the Japanese people of those days to explore a new era through rapidly changing environments.

    Heisei era will end and a new Emperor year begins next year.

     

    Japan – EU EPA To Start in Next February

     

    Mr. Katainen, VP of EU Commission held a press conference on October 23 during his stay in Tokyo and shared his prospect that the forthcoming EU premiers meeting of December 20 would complete all the necessary remaining procedure to fully approve the EPA, Yomiuri reported.

    Since the Japanese Government is planning to present the agreement to the Diet during the Extraordinary Session (from October 24 through December 10) for approval, the EU’s completion of the procedure will conclude the entire approval process.

    A conclusion in December makes the EPA put into force on the 1st of February next year, according to the definition stipulated in the agreement.

     

    Japan to Court An Arctic Science Ministerial Meeting

     

    Mr. Shibayama, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology held a press conference on October 23 and officially expressed Japanese Government’s desire to invite the 3rd Arctic Science Ministerial Meeting to be held in 2020 to Japan.

    Japan is a member of the ministerial meeting although it does not have any coast that faces the Arctic Sea.

    Japan is approaching Iceland, who directly faces the Arctic Sea to co-host the ministerial meeting. 

     

    ODA To China Ends

     

    Japan’s ODA to China started in 1979 to assist in building infrastructure in China.

    Although large-scale ODAs to China ended in 2007 considering China’s growing wealth, some technical cooperation under the ODA scheme have been continuously made up until now.

    Taking the opportunity of PM Abe’s state visit to China this week, the Japanese Government will talk to the counterpart to end its ODA to China and discuss on a new scheme under which Japan and China collaborate with each other to establish new infrastructure in third countries.

    China has its own project titled Belt Road Initiative, while Japan has its strategy titled Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.

  • 12 Oct 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1. Denny Tamaki Defeated Ruling Parties For Okinawa Gubernatorial Election

     

    A former member of House of Representatives Mr. Denny Tamaki won the Okinawa Gubernatorial Election on September 30.

    He represented an Okinawan political group called All Okinawa, the members of which share the late Governor Onaga’s political initiative to stop the central government’s plan to landfill and construct a new airbase at Henoko of Okinawa for the U.S. Marine Corp.

    Although four candidates stood for the election, it was a face-off between Tamaki and Mr. Atsushi Sakima, former Mayor of Ginowan, who was heavily supported by the ruling parties.

    Having an American father and a Japanese mother, Governor Tamaki was born in 1959 and raised in Okinawa.

    After several local jobs, he became a talent and personality for the local media making a lot of followers thanks to his ability to speak Ryukyu language.

    In 2005, he became an official candidate of the DPJ for the House of Representatives of the 3rd district of Okinawa for the first time.

    He lost it but in the next election, he won and he had run four terms as a member of House of Representatives from Okinawa up to the gubernatorial election this time.

    It is a big shock to PM Abe, who has just started his 3rd term as Party President as well as to the ruling parties.

    How the Abe Administration would approach the new Governor on the Henoko issue is yet to be seen.

     

    2.  Tsukiji Market Closed, Toyosu New Market Opened

     

    The Tsukiji fish, fruit and vegetables market closed its 83 years of operation on October 6, and the market moved to Toyosu, which is a few kilometers south-east from Tsukiji.

    Considering the growing scale of the amount of deal and deterioration of the buildings, the move was decided earlier, but later a concern about soil contamination at Toyosu was raised, and the moving project was postponed by two years.

     

    3.  Japan-Mekong 5 Summit

     

    The 10th Japan-Mekong Summit Meeting was held in Tokyo this week.

    The Prime Ministers of Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos, as well as Myanmar’s National Advisor Aung San Suu Kyi, were greeted by PM Abe。

    The six premiers discussed on the collaboration of building high-quality infrastructures in the Mekong region, the North Korean denuclearization issue, the South China Sea’s oceanographic issues etc.

    A joint communique titled “Tokyo Strategy 2018” was unanimously adopted including the five Mekong members’ message welcoming Japan’s “Free and open Indo-Pacific Strategy”.

    China has been piling up its influence in the Mekong region both economically and politically, while Japan, both government and private industry have been historically assisting the development of the region through investment and technical assistance.

    Under these circumstances, this summit is being positioned in Japan as an important opportunity to check China in enhancing its influence in the region.

     

    4.  Japan-Australia Security Relationship To Be Strengthened

     

    Yomiuri reported on October 10 that PM Abe is visiting Darwin of Australia next month to have a meeting with Prime Minister Morison, who assumed the position in August this year.

    Australian Foreign Minister Pane revealed during the Japan-Australia 2+2 meeting held on October 10 in Sydney that the premier meeting will confirm the two nations to strengthen the semi-alliance relationship and agree to keep the free trade system.

    If this visit is realized, it is going to be a very first visit by a Japanese Prime Minister to Darwin, where around 250 people were killed by the Japanese military air raids during the World War II.

    PM Abe may visit a memorial site in Darwin to mourn the victims as a token of reconciliation.

    Since the U.S. Marine Corp stations in Darwin, PM Abe’s visiting Darwin might also mean to check China.

     

    5. Permanent Visas To Be Introduced For Skilled Foreign Workers

     

    The Abe Administration is submitting a bill at the upcoming Extraordinary Diet session to establish two new visas as follows:

    Special Skill Qualification #1:  up to 5 years stay permit after passing both Japanese language and skill tests (technical interns could extend their stay up to 10 years once they pass the same tests)

     

    Special Skill Qualification #2: Permanent stay permit to be granted after passing another Japanese language and skill tests.

    Permit holder’s family can join the holder.

     

    At this moment, these new visas will be applied to the following fields:

    Agriculture, Care, Food manufacturing, Construction, Shipbuilding, Lodging, Restaurants, Fishing, Building cleaning, Material industry, Industrial machinery, Electronics/electric industries, Auto maintenance and Airlines

  • 28 Sep 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1. PM Abe’s Win Met Cool Reception

     

    Yomiuri conducted its monthly survey on September 21 through 23 right after PM Abe defeated Rep Ishiba for the Party President election, and made his third term on the 20th.

    PM Abe’s approval rating stayed unchanged at 50% from the previous month, while his disapproval rating went up to 41% from 40%.

    46% of those who responded welcomed the fact that PM Abe made his third term, while 41% replied otherwise.

    Other findings are as follows:

     

    Do you agree or disagree to LDP’s Constitutional Amendment plan?    Yes 39% (45%)               No 43% (38%)

    Do you approve the government policy that solving the Northern Islands territorial issue should be solved first before concluding a peace treaty with Russia?                     Yes  75%           No 14%

    Which political party do you approve most?

    LDP      40% (40%)

    CDPJ   6% (4%)

     

    2.  Japan-U.S. New Trade Negotiation Starts

     

    PM Abe held a meeting with President Trump in New York on September 26 taking the opportunity of attending the UN General Assembly, and agreed on the following points:

    • The two nations begin to negotiate a new trade agreement on goods (TAG).
    • The United States will not impose an additional tariff on Japanese cars to be imported to the U.S. during the period of the negotiation of the TAG.
    • Tariff on U.S. agricultural products to be imported to Japan on TAG will not go under the ones that had been originally agreed for the TPP.
    • The two nations make sure to fully implement the sanction resolution against North Korea.
    • The United States continues to cooperate with Japan to solve the North Korean abduction issue.

     

    Reportedly, the TAG negotiation will begin in January next year.

     

    3.  Japan-U.S. Joint Exercise Over East China Sea

     

    Yomiuri reported on its front page of the morning paper today that the B52 strategic bombers of the U.S. Airforce and the F-15Js and F-2 fighters of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force conducted a large-scale joint exercise over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan on September 27.

    The purpose of the joint exercise is reported to check the Chinese advancement in the region.

    The B52s took off the Andersen Airforce Base in Guam, flew over Okinawa where they conducted a joint formation flight with the F15J from JASDF’s Naha Air  Base, then went up north off the coast of Kyushu to conduct joint exercise with the F-2s from JASDF’s Tuiki Air Base, and further flew north through the Sea of Japan to conduct some other exercises with JASDF’s fighters.

    The scale of the joint exercise is largest ever, Yomiuri reported.

     

    4.  Adoption Of Daylight Saving Time System Postponed

     

    Considering the benefit of energy saving and the risk of terrible heat in August, especially during the period of 2020 Tokyo Olympic games, the organizing committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games had been studying a proposal to the Diet to adopt a daylight saving time system in Japan in Fiscal 2020.

    However, Mr. Toshiaki Endo, Vice Chairman of the committee and a member of House of Representatives told to the media on September 27 that he decided to postpone the proposal to the Diet in time for the adoption in 2020.

    He cited the lack of time and cost to modify all the systems concerned and the low public acceptance as the reasons.

  • 21 Sep 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1. Putin Suggested Peace Treaty First Before Northern Island Settlement

     

    During this year’s “Eastern Economic Forum” held in Vladivostok this week, Russian President Putin suggested in a plenary session of September 12 that Japan and Russia should pursue to conclude a peace treaty first before trying to solve the Northern Islands issue.

    It was a sudden and surprising statement to Japan because none of alert nor prior contact had been made from the Russian Foreign Ministry to Japan’s MoFA on this new position of Russia.

    Earlier in the same plenary session, when PM Abe, who also attended the forum, was asked by the MC about his plan to reach an agreement on the territorial issue with Russia, he answered that the past approaches had not been able to bear a fruit, so the two countries should take such an innovative approach as joint economic activities on the four islands etc.

    Later on the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga stated at a press conference that the Japanese government’s position on the issue remains unchanged, namely it pursues to solve the territorial issue first before a peace treaty is concluded with Russia.

    President Putin’s sudden statement is interpreted by some media as a kind of check against Japan who is an alliance partner of the U.S. in the context of its recent difficult relationship with the U.S. and U.K.

     

    2.  Hokkaido Earthquake

     

    An earthquake with an intensity of 7 on the Japanese seven‐stage seismic scale occurred in Hokkaido early in the morning of the 6th of September.

    The epicenter was Iburi area - south-west area of Hokkaido and near Muroran.

    One week has passed and the local police and municipality announced that 41 people were killed and 1,291 houses and buildings were damaged.

    Another big impact was the cancellation of hotel reservations.

    Hokkaido is a fun destination of Japanese and foreign tourists in this season, but the earthquake followed by black-out for 2 days made around 500,000 reservations cancelled, according to the media.

    Although the direct damage caused by the earthquake is confined to the area of Iburi, the tourism industry throughout Hokkaido is now suffering.

     

    3.  Abe-Xi Meeting Confirmed Normalized Relationship Between The Two Nations

     

    After seven years of bitter relationship since Japan’s declaration of nationalizing the Senkaku Archipelagos in 2012, it seems that China is changing the attitude toward Japan to normalize the relationship.

    PM Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a meeting in Vladivostok on September 12 before the two participated in the “Eastern Economic Forum”.

    Reportedly, Abe and Xi agreed to set the North Korea’s denuclearization as a common goal and to hold a first public-private committee meeting in Beijing on Sept 25 to talk about Japanese companies possible participation in China’s Belt Road Initiative.

    Assuming that PM Abe is elected as LDP President for the third term in this month, he will visit China on October 23 to jointly celebrate the 40th anniversary of Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty.   

     

    4.  Edano To Learn From U.S. Grass Root Movement

     

    Rep. Edano, President of CDPJ - Japan’s largest opposition party, started his networking tour in the U.S. on September 11.

    He began the tour by meeting with the leaders of an LGBT support group and of a women’s support group of the United States.

    His party articulates in its platform that it shall promote a society without any discrimination by gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or disability.

    President Edano is aiming to win more Diet member sheets at the next election of the House of Councilors in next summer by gaining more support from LGBT and female voters.

    For this purpose, he is planning to include in his party’s campaign promises legalizing same-sex marriage and enlarging governmental support for single mother families etc.

    Purpose of his visit to the United States this time is to learn from the U.S. how liberal organizations accumulate political strength from grass root movement.

    Edano met with Senator Burnie Sanders to learn his way of gaining the grass root support.

  • 03 Sep 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1. PM Abe’s Approval Rating Returned To 50%

     

    Yomiuri conducted its monthly survey on August 24 through 26, which revealed the following results:

                                                                          Yes (last month)             No

    Do you approve the Abe Cabinet?           50% (45%)                      40% (45%)

    Which party do you approve most?         

    LDP     40% (41%), CDPJ 4% ( 8%),  Independent 45% (41%)

     

    Which candidate is desirable for the next LDP President?

    PM Abe 42%, Rep Ishiba 36%, Minister Noda 10%

     

    Do you agree to LDP’s Constitutional Amendment idea to add a clause to justify the existence of the Self Defense Force?

    Yes 45%            No 38%

     

    2.  Okinawa Governor Election

     

    Following the passing of Governor Takeshi Onaga due to pancreatic cancer, the schedule was set to conduct Okinawa gubernatorial election on September 30.

    For this election, the former mayor of the city of Ginowan Mr. Atsushi Sakima had expressed his intent earlier to run for the Governor.

    The LDP and New Komei Party support him.

    Later, Mr. Denney Tamaki, a member of the House of Representatives from Okinawa Prefecture and the Secretary-General of Liberal Party expressed his intent to stand as a candidate for the Governor.

    Rep. Tamaki and his party leader Rep. Ichiro Ozawa are asking the other opposition parties to support Rep. Tamaki.

    On August 31, Okinawa Prefecture withdrew its original approval for the Ministry of Defense to landfill a part of the Henoko Bay to construct a new air base where U.S. Marine Corp relocates its Futenma Air Station under the agreement between the government of Japan and the United States.

    The original approval was made in 2013 by then Governor Nakaima, while late Governor Onaga had expressed his intent to withdraw it right before he passed away.  

    Candidate Tamaki is expected to succeed Governor Onaga’s position, while Candidate Sakima is to approve the landfill again.

     

    3.  Amazon To Export Japanese SME Items

     

    Nikkei reported on August 31 that Amazon.com would accept orders from its users in 100 nations for merchandizes made by Japanese SME, which are displayed on the Amazon.com website.

    Amazon will provide all the logistical services related to exports from Japan including customs clearance and shipment while keeping the same level of commission charge as its domestic transactions.

    The rapidly increasing number of foreign visitors are finding Japanese sundries and beauty items very interesting and Amazon recognizes the strong demand for those foreigners to purchase them at home online directly from Japan.

     

    4.  Japan And China Agreed On EV’s High-Speed Charger’s Standard

     

    Media reported that a Japanese industry group to promote an EV charging device standard by the name of CHAdeMO and a Chinese industry group by the name of Federation of Chinese Electric Power Companies reached an agreement on August 28 to jointly develop a next-generation standard of high speed charging devices for EV based on CHAdeMO, aiming to make the standard practical in 2020.

    The standard output power is expected to be 500 kW or higher so that charging time should be one third or less of the present charging time.

    The Japanese and Chinese industry groups are going to promote this standard to India, where EV is getting popular so that the standard will assume the position of world’s de facto standard over Europe’s “Combo” standard.

  • 17 Aug 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     Abe-Ishiba Showdown Expected In September

     

    Rep. Shigeru Ishiba, former LDP Secretary-General held a press conference on the 10th of August and announced to run for the party presidency election to be held in September.

    He also raised the following campaign promises:

     

    1. Implement “Honest and fair politics” to solve financial and social security issues(implying criticism against PM Abe’s uncleared involvement in some government decision-related scandals)
    2. Establish “A First 100 Day Plan” and gain back public trust by implementing it
    3. No rush in amending the Article 9 of the Constitution
    4. Come up with a vision for social and economic development in 30 years to come

     

    The media is suggesting that there will be no other serious candidates, thus the September election will be fought between PM Abe and Rep. Ishiba on a head-on basis.

    As reported before, PM Abe keeps a vast majority of LDP’s Diet members’ support, while Rep. Ishiba is trying to secure a majority of the support of the party members throughout Japan.

     

    2.     Japan-US Trade Negotiation

     

    A Cabinet Member class new trade negotiation between Japan and the United States was held for the first time on August 9 and 10 in Washington, DC.

    From Japan, Rep. Mogi, Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization led the delegation, while Mr. Lighthizer, USTR headed the U.S. team.

    Although the two reached basic agreement to enlarge mutual trade amount and to cooperate with each other in jointly responding China’s compulsory technology transfer demand and IP infringement, the Japanese side reportedly requested that the United States reconsider coming back to the TPP member position, while the U.S. side demanded a bilateral trade agreement between the two nations expecting for more opening of Japan’s agricultural products market.  

    The Japanese side is concerned about the U.S. Government’s unilateral imposition of an additional customs duty on Japanese automobiles.

     

    3.     40th Anniversary of The JapanChina Treaty of Peace and Friendship

     

    August 12 marked the 40th anniversary of the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship.

    PM Abe and PM Li Keqiang exchanged a congratulatory telegram on the same day.

    The diplomatic relationship between the two nations was bottomed when Japan announced the nationalization of the Senkaku Archipelagos in 2012.

    A diplomatic thaw has been being felt since PM Abe expressed his willingness to cooperate with the Chinese large economic zone concept “One belt one road” in June last year.

    PM Li Keqiang visited Japan in May this year and it was the first Chinese premier visit since 7 years ago.

    PM Abe is expected to visit Beijing in October or at the time of next Japan-China-Korea premier meeting.

    Reportedly, Chinese President Xi Jinping may visit Japan June next year when G20 is held in Osaka.

    The media reports that the recent U.S.-China trade battle and other contentious exchanges between the two countries are making China reconsider stabilizing its diplomatic relationship with Japan.

     

    4.     April-June GDP Growth 1.9%

     

    The Cabinet Office announced on August 10th that the 2nd quarter (April – June ) GDP increased by 1.9% in real term on an annually converted basis from the previous quarter.

    The office said that the increase is attributable to personal consumption’s growth.

    The 1st quarter recognized the first negative growth after 9 consecutive quarterly growths, but it seems the minus was contained in that particular quarter.

     

    5.  Yamate Line’s Automatic Operations Being Studied

     

    Yomiuri reported that JR East organized a project team to study the feasibility of eliminating motormen of the Yamate Line and Tohoku Shinkansen by introducing automatic train running systems.

    Train cars should be equipped with sophisticated sensors to sense foreign objects on the rail track and platforms and other train running infrastructures need to have some mechanism to keep away foreign objects and secure safety.

    In its first phase, only a conductor will ride on the train so that he or she can respond to any emergency situations.

  • 03 Aug 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     PM Abe’s Approval Rating Unchanged

     

    Yomiuri’s monthly survey, which was conducted on July 21 and 22, found the Abe Cabinet’s approval rating remained unchanged from the previous month at 45%.

    Its disapproval rating was 45% (44% last month).

    Abe Cabinet’s approval rating was bottomed in April, and then it went up through May and June.

    Political parties’ approval ratings are as follows:

    LDP      41% (38% last month)

    CDPJ*  8% (6%)

    Independent 41% (44%)

    *Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan

     

    Following is the popularity ranking of the potential candidates for the next Prime Minister:

    29% Rep. Shinjiro Koizumi

    26% PM Abe

    22% Rep. Shigeru Ishiba

    4%   Minister Seiko Noda

    3%   Rep. Fumio Kishida

    3%   Minister Taro Kono

     

    2.     PM Abe’s 3rd Term As Party President Likely

     

    Former Foreign Minister and the chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council Fumio Kishida held a press conference on July 24 and announced that he would not run for the party president election scheduled in September.

    This is forming the next party president election almost a head-on competition between PM Abe for his 3rd term and Rep. Shigeru Ishiba for his second candidacy of the PM office although Ms. Seiko Noda, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications might run for it.

    Reportedly, PM Abe and his faction (94 members) successfully collected the commitment of support (vote) from the Aso faction (59 members), Nikai faction (44 members), and once the Kishida faction follows the suit, PM Abe’s support would be able to share around 60% of the Diet members votes of the LDP. 

    Rep. Ishiba would have to collect the local party members’ support more aggressively, but it might be difficult to make a significant difference locally especially after PM Abe’s presence in local areas for disaster relief and other opportunities is enhanced these days.

    LDP originally had the rule to limit the president in power to two terms, but thanks to PM Abe’s high popularity, it was extended to three terms.

    There is no term limit for Prime Minister as long as he or she is a House of Representative member and elected by the votes of the house.  If PM Abe is elected as the party president, he could be in the PM office up to September 2021 as long as his party stays in the ruling party position.

     

    3.     Integrated Resort (IR) Law Passed

     

    Integrated Resort Law passed the Diet on July 20 and became a law.

    The Abe Administration positions integrated resorts as a key pillar of Japan’s growth strategy after the Tokyo Olympic Games of 2020.

    Under this law, Japan’s first IR will begin its operation in as early as 2023.

    The law legalizes gambling, which had been a criminal act under the Criminal Law.

    The new law places the following limit at this moment:

     

    The maximum number of IR sites in Japan: 3

    Japanese guests have to pay 6,000 yen ($55) for casino admission every time.

    The maximum number of casino admission by Japanese per person: 3 times per week and 10 times per month

    Operators of casinos have to pay a 30% share of the total revenue to the local and national governments.

     

    4.     2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Approaching Within 2 years

     

    The countdown of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games’ opening marked the just-2 years-to-go point on July 24.

    The Tokyo Olympic Organizing Members Committee announced on the 20th the outline of admission tickets as follows:

     

    Opening ceremony:      from 12,000 yen up to 300,000 yen

    Closing ceremony:        from 12,000 yen up to 220,000

    Baseball games:           from   4,000 yen up to   67,500

    Basketball games:        from   3,000 yen up to 108,000

    Soccer games:             from   2,500 yen up to   67,500

    Swimming:                    from   5,800 yen up to 108,000

    Track and field:             from   3,000 yen up to 130,000

     

    The committee also decided to advance the marathon race hours to earlier time in the morning considering the recent trend of terrible heat in summer.

     

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    I have received questions from a Japanese client about the U.S. position with regard to a cashless society such as by when and how the U.S. Government could possibly stop the circulation of cash in the U.S. and how the stakeholders including commercial industries take an initiative to lead such a transition concretely.

    If you happen to know whether or not there is a government official schedule to achieve a cashless society or any other information related to these topics, I would appreciate your sharing of it with me a lot.

  • 13 Jul 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     Western Japan Devastated By Heavy Rain

     

    Record high volume of rain caused many landslides of mountains and floods of rivers in the western area of Japan in the last weekend.

    The Meteorological Agency had forecasted that it would be a monster rain of once-in-several-decades and had warned the residents of the western region to evacuate from home beforehand if they were living close to rivers, valleys or slopes of mountains.

    Almost six days passed, it revealed that 188 people were killed either by the floods or landslides and 72 people were still missing as of the evening of the 12th of July.

    Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime Prefectures suffered from the disaster most although 12 other western prefectures including Kyushu and Shikoku regions recognized the casualty of their residents.

    There are now 7,085 evacuees and 24,150 houses are either broken or damaged.

    The Abe Administration decided to call up Ready Reserve Self Defense Force Officials besides the local Ground Self Defense Force members to provide the local people in need with life-line support and fix the damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructures.

     

    2.     Aum Death Rows Executed

     

    The seven condemned criminals of a Japanese cult group by the name of Aum Shinrikyo were executed on the 6th of July, Justice Minister Kamikawa announced to the public on the same day.

    The seven death rows were recognized as ringleaders of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway and some other mass murder cases killing 29 people in total.

    Shoko Asahara (real name is Chizuo Matsumoto) founded this cult group in 1984.

    At its peak time, the number of believers reached 15,000 in Japan and 35,000 in Russia.

    Although Aum Shinrikyo itself stopped activity in 1999, the Public Safety Intelligence Agency and the National Police Agency are closely watching some derivative groups out of Aum Shinrikyo.

     

    3.     Japan-China Military Protocol Mechanism

     

    In order to avoid accidental conflict between the Chinese military forces and the Japan Self Defense Forces around the Senkaku Archipelago, the two governments created an ocean-air military protocol mechanism a month ago. 

    It opened direct communication between Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force’s ships and Chinese Navy’s ships as well as JASDF’s aircraft and Chinese Air Force’s aircraft.

    It, however, has not opened a hotline between the top leaders of the two forces yet.

    China stiffened its attitude against Japan when Japan announced its nationalization of the Senkaku Archipelago in 2012, and the diplomatic relationship between the two nations had been sour and deactivated.

    With its own global and geopolitical agenda in mind, Chinese Communist Party’s leaders are recently changing the attitude against Japan and reactivating several fronts including diplomacy, trade, economy and cultural exchanges.

    How this thaw leads to mitigating the tension between the two nations around the Senkaku Islands is yet to be seen.

     

    4.     Population Declined By 370,000

     

    The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announced on the 11th that Japan’s population declined by 374,055 to 125,209,603 as of January 1, 2018 in comparison with a year ago.

    Japan’s population peaked out in 2009 and since then, it has been declining consistently.

    Among the 47 prefectures, Hokkaido declined most, followed by Hyogo and Niigata, while Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, Okinawa, Chiba and Aichi rather increased the number of residents.

    The number of foreign residents in Japan increased by 174,228 to 2,497,656, which accounts for 1.96% of the total population (the ratio is the highest ever).

     

    5. Imperial Household’s Cherished Treasure To Be Presented To The Public

     

    According to Yomiuri, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga indicated that the Administration is planning to build new facilities in 2025 to present to the public the collection of the Imperial Household, which the Imperial Household Agency stores in its warehouse.

    There are 9,874 collected items in the warehouse including national treasure or important cultural property class items as well as historically important items.

  • 02 Jul 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     TPP Related Laws Passed

     

    Although the TPP agreement itself had been approved by the Diet earlier after the 11 nations reached an agreement of the partnership, 10 separate laws called TPP related laws are needed in order to change the existing rules, which contradict the TPP’s new rules.

    One example is the copyright protection period to be extended to match the TPP standard.

    All the TPP laws had been approved by the House of Representatives, and were approved by the House of Councilors on June 29.

    By this Diet approval of the laws, all the necessary approval procedure of Japan is now completed. 

    Mexico is ahead in finishing its internal approval process and once four more nations out of the nine remaining member nations complete their individual approval processes, the TPP will take effect in 60 days.

    Immediately upon taking effect, Australia will eliminate its tariff on Japanese cars, while Vietnam will eliminate its tariff on Japanese motorcycles with the engine capacity of 3,000 cc or larger in 10 years.

    Japan will eliminate its tariff of eventually 95% of the items currently being imported.

    Immediately after the effect, Japan’s tariff on beef will be reduced to 27.5% from 38.5% and in 16 years, it will be reduced to 9%.

     

    2.     Japan To Deploy Aegis Ashore In Akita and Yamaguchi

     

    Defense Minister Onodera visited the Governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture and Akita Prefecture individually on the 22nd of June and asked for their understanding of MoD’s plan to deploy the ground-based Aegis system by the name of Aegis Ashore in the two prefectures.

    This missile defense system has a missile defense coverage radius as long as one thousand kilometers, and by deploying one system in as north as Akita and another in as west as Yamaguchi, the entire Japan territory can be protected against ballistic missile attacks.

    Even though the denuclearization of North Korea is eventually realized, the country still has hundreds of ballistic missiles in its weapon inventory with conventional or bio/chemical warheads.

    Besides, Chinese Army demonstrated its nuclear cruise missile delivery capability up to off the Wakayama coast by its bomber H6 in August last year.

    With those as a potential threat, the MoD is planning to deploy Aegis Ashore in 2023.  

     

    3.     MRJ Flight Test Exposed To The U.S. Media For The First Time

     

    According to Yomiuri, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation exposed the ongoing flight tests of its Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) to the U.S. media for the first time on June 27.

    Four test planes are flying in Moses Lake, WA.

    Then, one of the test planes will fly to Farnborough, the UK soon to participate in this year’s Farnborough Airshow in the middle of July.

    It is going to be the first flight demonstration to the public.

     

    4.     Space Probe Hayabusa 2 Arrived At Planet Ryugu

     

    Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s prove named Hayabusa 2 arrived at its planned destination, namely Small Planet Ryugu at 9:35 am on June 27 (JST).

    Hayabusa 2 was launched at the end of 2014 and travelled around 3.2 billion kilometers with three and a half years heading toward the small planet that travels on an orbit between the Earth and Mars.

    Its direct distance to Ryugu is 0.3 billion kilometers.

    Hayabusa 2 was placed on an orbit similar to Earth’s orbit first and tested its ion engine’ performance.

    In December 2015, it conducted a “Swing-by” operation, which acquires acceleration using the earth’s gravity and the ion engine’s boost to switch the orbit to chase Ryugu.

    The probe gradually approached Ryugu by spending two and a half years and on June 27, it arrived at 20 km above the surface of Ryugu at last.

    After checking the gravity and shape of the small planet, JAXA will decide on a spot for Hayabusa 2 to land.

    Then, the probe will collect specimens like pieces of rocks etc.

    Hayabusa 2 is expected to leave Ryugu in a November-December 2019 time frame and return to the Earth at the end of 2020.

  • 18 Jun 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     Japan-North Korea Top Meeting Speculated

     

    In the wake of the U.S.–North Korea summit meeting, where President Trump raised the abduction issue and later recommended PM Abe to follow it up, the Abe Administration reportedly began to approach its counterpart in North Korea.

    As the result, Yomiuri reported that Foreign Minister Yohei Kono is seeking for a meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho during the upcoming ASEAN foreign ministers meeting to be held in Singapore from July 30 through August 4.

    If this meeting is realized, Foreign Minister Kono is expected to sound to his counterpart a meeting between PM Abe and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

    The media speculates that such a top meeting could be organized as early as August in Pyongyang or in September during the period of this year’s Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok.

    The Japanese Government is in a position to normalize the diplomatic relationship with North Korea based on the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration of 2002 and provide economic cooperation once the issues of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and abduction are solved completely.

     

    2.     Japan To Accept More Foreign Workers

     

    The Abe Administration released a new policy on June 15 to establish a new visa category for “Specific Skills” in the fields of agriculture, senior people’s care service, lodging and shipbuilding.

    This visa is valid for five years at maximum and applicants have to pass both a relevant skill test and Japanese conversational test.

    Technical interns’ stay in Japan can be extended up to five years based on their skill and experience, and if they apply for this new visa after their first five-year stay, they can continue to stay and work in Japan for a total of 10 years.

    And even after the 10 years, they can apply for a permanent stay permit if they pass an advanced expertise test.

    This permit allows its bearers to bring their families from their mother countries.

     

    3.     Casino Bill To Pass Lower House

     

    The Cabinet Committee of the House of Representatives passed the Integrated Resort Bill on June 15.

    The bill legalizes opening and operating a casino under certain conditions as part of an integrated resort.

    The bill goes to the floor of the House of Representatives on the 19th and then goes to the House of Councilors.

    The ruling parties will extend the session from the 20th of June through the middle to the end of July so that the Upper House has sufficient time to deliberate the bill.

    Considering the share of the ruling parties’ seats in both chambers, the bill is anticipated to pass.

    The TPP agreement is expected to be approved by the Diet in the same session.

     

    4.     Next Generation Battery To Be Jointly Developed

     

    Yomiuri reported that Toyota, Panasonic, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), and some others announced on June 15 that they would form a team to co-develop a next-generation battery “All Solid Battery” that is used to remarkably improve the performance of Electric Vehicles.

    15 companies from auto, battery and material manufacturers and 15 institutions including Kyoto University and Tokyo Institute of Technology will provide engineers and researchers for this joint development.

    The goal is to achieve mass production of this All Solid Battery by 2030 with the performance of three times better than the present lithium ion batteries in terms of charging time and production cost.

  • 04 Jun 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     Japan-Russia Summit Meeting Did Not Clear The Visibility Of The Northern Island Issue

     

    PM Abe visited Russia and met with President Putin on May 26.

    Although it was the 21st meeting between Abe and Putin, it was the first since Putin was reelected in this past March.

    According to Yomiuri, the expectation of Japan had been such that Putin might have become more relaxed after his fourth term win.

    However, there was no positive statement made by President Putin during the premier meeting with regard to the Northern Island issue, Yomiuri reported.

    The two leaders just confirmed the following points this time:

     

    • The two countries support to materialize the U.S. – North Korea summit meeting and its success.
    • The two countries keep a close tie to realize denuclearization of North Korea.
    • PM Abe requested that Russia cooperate with Japan in solving the abduction issue, while President Putin expressed his understanding of the request.
    • In order to embody the Japan-Russia joint economic activity, the two nations will dispatch mutual teams consisting of government officials and private representatives to the site in this July or August.

     

    2.     Milestones Set For Fiscal Consolidation

     

    The Government of Japan held the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy on the 28th of May to come up with a plan to restore the fiscal soundness and to achieve the Cabinet goal of the fiscal surplus in 2025.

    The council presented three intermediary indices as major milestones to be achieved in 2021 as follows:

     

    • The ratio of the deficit of JFY2021’s primary balance against JFY2021’s GDP shall be 1.5% as opposed to 3.4% in JFY2017.
    • The ratio of the outstanding balance of the national debt as of JFY2021’s end shall be in a low side of 180% of JFY2021’s GDP. (It was 189.4% in JFY2017.)
    • The ratio of the fiscal deficit of JFY2021 against JFY2021’s GDP shall be 3% or below.(It was 4.8% in JFY2017.)

     

    These targets assume annual growths of Japan’s GDP as somewhere between 1.9% and 2.5%, which are not necessarily easy targets considering the GDP growth of 1.6% in JFY2017.

     

     

    3.     New Innovation Strategy To Increase Young IT Researchers And Engineers

     

    Yomiuri revealed an outline of the Abe Cabinet’s New Innovation Strategy on May 29.

    The main goal of this strategy is to increase the number of young IT researchers and engineers, and allocate more research fund for those young IT human resources to explore out-of-the-boundary researchers and AI-based “smart industrialization” like “Smart Agriculture”.

    The number of young researchers at universities in Japan is declining, which might have been causing the decrease of the number of papers from Japan in the field of science and engineering (6% declination in the past 10 years).

    As the result, Japan slipped from the world No. 2 position down to the 4th in terms of the number of paper submitted in the world.

     

    4.     Australia Resumed Imports Of Japanese Beef

     

    Since Japan’s BSE issue became known to the public in 2001, the Government of Australia had stopped importing Japanese beef.

    As the wave of the Japanese food boom in the world is also coming to Australia creating a demand of Japanese beef as well, the Government of Australia decided to recognize Japan as a low BSE risk nation in 2015, and this month, they allowed to import Japanese beef.

    The amount of the exports of Japanese beef in 2017 was 19.2 billion yen, which is a 41.4% increase from the previous year.

    This increase is attributable to Taiwan’s market, which resumed imports of Japanese beef last year.

  • 21 May 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     New 5 Year Maritime Policy Emphasize National Security

     

    The Abe Cabinet approved and released the 3rd Maritime Basic Plan that provides policy guidline for the five years from JFY2018 to JFY2022.

    According to Yomiuri, it mentions how to respond the North Korean ballistic missile threat for the first time.

    It also prioritizes the necessity of enhancing the ability to patrol Japan’s territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as well as remote islands defense capability.

    For these purposes, the plan is to strengthen Japan’s Maritime Domain Awareness.

    It also states a policy to positively participate in an international rulemaking opportunities to mitigate the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice reduction due to global warming.

     

    2.     Listed Companies’ Bottom-line Marked Highest Ever

     

    Among all the companies listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s 1st Section, 1,312 companies have already announced their individual financial results of their fiscal 2017s. 

    SMBC Nikko Security summed up all the results to analyze the overall performance.

    According to the analysis, the total revenue and the total profit after tax went up by 7.6% and 24.7% respectively in comparison with FY2016s’ data.

    The total profit after tax of FY2016s was 23.5 trillion yen, which was the highest ever as of last year.

    But, The total PAT of FY2017s (30.1 trillion yen ($27.4 billion)) surpassed the highest record.

    Their good results are attributable to relatively weak yen and favorable overseas market conditions including the U.S. tax reduction.

    As for the prospect for FY2018s, the PAT might not further grow due to relatively strong yen and negative effect by the U.S.-China trade war, Yomiuri suggested.

     

    3.     1st Quarter GDP Downed For The First Time Since 4th Quarter 2015

     

    The Cabinet Office announced on the 16th that Japan’s January-March 2018 GDP went down by 0.2% from the previous quarter.

    This means a 0.6% GDP reduction on an annually adjusted basis.

    Japan’s economy marked 8 consecutive quarters of positive growth and this past quarter is the first minus growth since the 4th quarter of 2015.

    Consumer spending stayed flat, while capital and housing investment decreased by 0.1% and 2.1% respectively in the first quarter.

    Although salary and wage are increasing, so are key prices including gasoline, beer, utility etc.

    The prospect for the next quarter is not necessarily bright, economists here state.

     

    4.     iPS Cell Based Cardiac Muscle Transplanting Clinical Research Begins

     

    According to Yomiuri, the Ministry of Welfare and Labor conditionally accepted the plan presented by Osaka University’s research team for iPS cell based cardiac muscle transplanting clinical research.

    The research team receives iPS cells from Kyoto University’s iPS cell storage and cultures them to be cardiac muscle cells. 

    Then, the cardiac muscle cells are processed to be two slices with the diameter of a few centimeters and the thickness of 0.1 mm.

    The two slices of the cultured cardiac muscle cells are transplanted to a patient with ischemic cardiomyopathy.

    The transplanted muscle cells are expected to induce the patient’s heart to regenerate its own cardiac muscle.

    Three patients are expected to agree to undergo this clinical research for their treatment.

    It will take a year after the transplant to conclude the safety and effectiveness of this treatment.

     

    5. Hitachi Organizing Finance Scheme For Nuclear Power Plant Construction In UK

     

    Yomiuri reported on the 17th that Hitachi is reaching an agreement with the UK Government for a loan package in the amount of 2 trillion yen or larger ($18.2 B) to finance its project to build two nuclear power plants on the Anglesey Island in the UK.

    Hitachi took over this project from a UK based nuclear power business company by the name of Horizon Nuclear Power when it acquired this UK company in 2012.

    Hitachi already organized the Japanese Government participation and according to Yomiuri, the total project cost of 3 trillion yen ($27.3 B) will be financed as follows:

     

    Paid in capital: 30% of the total cost (10% each by Hitachi, Japanese Government affiliated financial institutions, and a group of UK Government and companies)

    Loan: 70% (UK Government and its affiliated financial institutions)

     

    Although there was a strong mood against the nuclear power plant in the public of the UK up to early 2000s, the nation decided to come back to nuclear power source due to the tapering production of oil and gas in the North Sea.

    The two power plants on the  Anglesey Island are expected to begin their operation in the early 2020s.

  • 07 May 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     PM Abe’ Approval Rating Continues To Decline

     

    Yomiuri conducted its monthly survey on April 20 through 22 on how the Abe Cabinet is publicly approved.

    The approval rating declined to 39% from 42% last time and decreased by 15% from the one before (March 9-11).

    The disapproval rating went up to 53%, which is highest ever since PM Abe formed his Cabinet in 2012.

    62% of those who took the survey listed the lack of trust in PM Abe as the main reason for their disapproval.

    The unanswered questions have been whether or not PM Abe’s political power influenced past decisions by government agencies with regard to some private school’s purchasing bid of governmental property or a local government with regard to establishing a new department for a local university.

    Besides, there are a series of scandals happening at the Ministry of Finance, Defense and some others.

     

    Political parties’ approval ratings are as follows:

     

    LDP      37% (36% last time)

    CDPJ   10% ( 9% last time)

     

    The result of the question of who should be the next prime minister is as follows:

     

    PM Abe                                                        47% (53% last time)

    Shinjiro Koizumi                                        22% (19%)

    Shigeru Ishiba                                            16% (15%)

    Kishida (former Foreign Minister)           4% (6%)

    Kono (Foreign Minister)                            4% (2%)

     

    2.     PM Abe – President Trump Meeting

     

    Although 66% of those who joined the survey valued the PM Abe – President Trump meeting held in Florida in February last year, only 45% valued the summit meeting this time also made in Florida, Yomiuri reported.

    Despite the fact that President Trump agreed to PM Abe’s request to take up the North Korean abduction issue during the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, which is expected to be held in the beginning of June or earlier, only 20% are optimistic about the possibility of the issue to be solved by the meeting.

    73% do not think any change will be made.

    In order to make North Korea give up its nuclear weapon development and experiment, 46% believe that the world society should emphasize dialogue with them, while 45% believe that pressure should be given.  

     

    3.     Difficulty To Hire At SME And Some Specific Industries

     

    Recruit, one of Japan’s largest HR company publicly announced that 1.88 is the job opening to application ratio for the university students who are to graduate in March next year and begin to work in April.

    It is highest ever since 1995.

    This ratio means 1.88 job openings for one job seeker.

    The ratio jumps to 9.91 as long as Japanese SME are concerned.

    Also, it varies by industry.

    Financial industry’s job opening to application ratio is lowest as 0.2 (5 applicants for one opening), followed by Services and Information Industry (0.45).

    The highest is Retail & Wholesale Industry (12.87), followed by Construction (9.55) and Manufacturing Industry (1.97).

     

    4.     Old Coal Thermal Power Plants To Retire

     

    Yomiuri reported on April 27 that the Japanese Government released a draft plan of its Energy Basic Plan, which is to present a guideline for mid-to-long term energy policies.

    The draft articulates that the existing coal thermal power plants that were built in 1990 or before should phase out considering the poor efficiency and high volume of CO2 emission.

    These old coal thermal plants share roughly half (20,000 megawatts) of Japan’s entire coal thermal power plants.

    The draft plan is suggesting that these old plants should be replaced by one of world’s most advanced type of coal thermal power plant called “Super Super Critical Pressure”.

    The draft also mentions the existing nuclear power plants as “important baseload power source”, while adding an expression that Japan’s dependence on nuclear power should be reduced to the extent possible.

    In the meantime, the draft plan expects to make renewable energy as Japan’s main source of power by reducing power generation cost.

  • 16 Apr 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo
    1.     Renewable Energy To Be Major Source Of Japan’s Energy For 2050
    
     
    
    A private council of METI called Energy Situation Round Table submitted on
    April 10 a proposal for a national energy strategy intended for Japan’s
    ideal energy supply situation in 2050, Mainichi reported.
    
    Under the Paris Agreement, Japan is committed to the target of reducing  its
    greenhouse gas emission by 80% in 2050 from the amount emitted in 2013.
    
    The national energy strategy is going to present Japan’s milestone to
    achieve the above goal.
    
    The round table’s proposal presented an energy portfolio for 2030 consisting
    of Renewable Energy (22% to 24%), Nuclear (20% to 22%) and Thermal Power
    (56%), while for 2050, it positioned Renewable Energy as major source of
    energy and pointed out the necessity of hydrogen technology etc. for energy
    storage to stabilize power supply throughout instability of RE power
    sources. 
    
    It did not mention the role of nuclear power. 
    
     
    
    2.     Henoko Shore Protection Work Started
    
     
    
    Committee for Environment Monitoring etc. of the Ministry of Defense
    announced its judgement on April 9 that the Henoko landfill work would not
    require transplanting the local coral as long as pollution prevention
    measure is strengthened. 
    
    With this judgement as well as the result of the Nago City mayor’ election
    that revealed the loss of the anti-landfill group’s candidate, the Abe
    Administration began the Henoko shore protection work on the 9th.
    
    Once the shore protection work is completed, landfill work work will follow.
    Meantime, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who was elected with the campaign
    promise to stop the Henoko project that is to move US Marine Corp’s  Futenma
    Air Station to Henoko is anticipated in this summer to cancel the
    authorization of the landfill work made by his predecessor Governor Hirokazu
    Nakaima in 2013.  
    
    Such cancellation can only be valid if there is a violation of law or
    similar misconduct by authorized parties. 
    
    Governor Onaga is going to claim that the environmental protection measures
    are not sufficient to sustain the authorization. 
    
    In this December, Governor Onaga’s first term expires, while he has some
    health issue, so whether he will run for reelection in November is yet to be
    seen.
    
     
    
    3.     Exit Tax To Be Imposed From Next January
    
     
    
    A new law passed the Diet on the 11th and all the visitors and Japanese who
    are departing Japan on or after January 7  next year will be charged 1,000
    yen per person as exit tax. 
    
    Transfer passengers and small children under two years old as well as crew
    of aircraft and ships are exempted.
    
    The tax revenue will be solely spent to improve the soft infrastructure for
    receiving inbound visitors such as more foreign language based sign boards,
    information dissemination and public Wi-Fi.
    
     
    
    4.     New Working Visa To Become Available Next April
    
     
    
    The Government of Japan announced on the 11th that it would create a new
    working visa category in April 2019.  
    
    This visa is going to be available for technical interns who finished their
    individual Technical Intern Training Programs (TITP) in Japan, which could
    last as long as five years. 
    
    As conditions, TITP interns have to return their mother nations first after
    the completion of TITP, and then apply for this visa temporarily called
    “Specific Skill Qualified Visa” if they want to work in Japan using their
    acquired skill.  
    
    They also have to pass some test as well.
    
    The visa will allow technical interns to stay in Japan for five to seven
    years depending on the original duration of individual TITP.  If a technical
    intern stayed in Japan for TITP for three years, his or her new visa will
    allow a 7 year stay, while in case of a five year TITP, the visa provides a
    five year permit. 
    
    The number of technical interns in Japan is rapidly growing now.
    
    It was 89,033, while now we see 274,233 interns.

  • 03 Apr 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     Schedule Set For Abdication and Enthronement Set

     

    The Abe Administration announced on March 30 that it is planning to take the
    following schedule for Emperor Akihito’s abdication and Prince Hironomiya’s
    ascension to the throne:

     

    February 24, 2019                       Ceremony of the 30th anniversary of Emperor Akihito’s Reign

    End of February 2019                 Announcement of New Emperor’s Era after Heisei(平成)

    April 30, 2019                               Traditional ceremony of the abdication of Emperor Akihito

    May 1, 2019                                  Traditional ceremony of the enthronement of New Emperor Hironomiya

    October 22 and 23, 2019            Public announcement of the enthronement of Emperor Hironomiya and reception to receive greeting from Prime Minister and international heads of states

     

    2.     Accelerated Aging Society – 2045 Population Estimate

     

    National Institute of Population and Security Research announced on March 30 its population estimate for the year of 2045.

    Total population will be 106,420,000, which is around 20 million less than 2015.

    All the 47 prefectures except for Tokyo  will see less people in 2045 than present in their individual areas. Tokyo’s population will be 0.7% more in 2045 than that of 2015.

    The pace of the declination of population is slowing down in comparison with the institute’s previous estimate five years ago thanks to the recent trend of higher birthrates than originally predicted.

    The share of 65 years old or higher will be 36.8% in 2045, while Akita prefecture will see one senior in every two residents(50.1%) in 2045, the institute’s estimate revealed.

    Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice announced recently that the number of foreign nationals who lived in Japan as of the end of 2017 grew 7.5 percent from a year earlier to reach a record high of 2,561,848.

     

    3.     Safeguard Against U.S. Frozen Beef Removed

     

    The Japanese Government announced on March 30 that it would remove the emergency import restriction measure, or “Safeguard” against frozen beef on April 1.

    This Safeguard had been kicked in by the Japanese Government against U.S. and other frozen beef since August last year when the pace of the increase of the imports exceeded 17% in comparison with the previous year.

    This trigger percentage had been agreed by the U.S. Government and the Japanese Government.

    Once the Safeguard is implemented, the tariff is increased from 38.5% to 50% as far as frozen beef is concerned, and once it is removed, it comes back to 38.5%.

    Most of the U.S. frozen beef are consumed at gyudon (a rice bowl topped with beef) chains like Yoshinoya and Sukiya as well as at many Korean BBQ restaurants in Japan.

    The same mechanism is applied to Australian and New Zealand frozen beef, but the TPP, upon getting effective, will reduce the tariff down to 27.5% and 16 years later to 9% and eventually 0% for the frozen beef imports from those TPP member nations.

     

    4.     High Stock Prices Creating Largest Capital Gain Ever For Corporates

     

    Japan’s fiscal 2017 ended today.

    Yesterday was the last trade day of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

    Nikkei Average Stock Price ended yesterday at 21,454.3 yen, which is 2,543 yen (13.5%) higher than the last trade day of Fiscal 2016.

    According to Nomura Security, the capital gain of 1,628 companies listed in the stock exchange is roughly 18.5 trillion yen($174.5 billion), which is largest ever since the company started collecting data in 2001 thanks to this favorable trend of the stock exchange market.



     

    5.       JAL and ANA To Ally With Sky Team Members And Others Respectively

     

    Japan Air Lines is a member of the One World Group and ANA is a member of the Star Alliance Group. ANA recently announced that it will begin code-sharing operations and honor mutual mileage members with Alitalia of Italy of the Sky Team Group.

    ANA has been allying with Garuda of Indonesia and Vietnam Air, which belong to different alliance groups than Star Alliance.

    JAL also does the same with Aeroflot of Russia, Aero Mexico and 13 others, none of which is a One World member.

    Yomiuri reports that due to the heated competition against LCCs and to the M&A of airlines, the original alliance group arrangement no longer fits the entire strategic landscape and both JAL and ANA have to pick and choose their right partners to survive the competition.

  • 16 Mar 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    Slow But Steady Recovery From The Disaster

     

    March 11 marked the 7th anniversary of the East Japan Great Earthquake, which caused the terrible tsunami killing 15,895 people and making 2,539 people missing.

    The seven years have reduced the number of the evacuees from more than 120 thousand to 70 thousand, while around 3,600 people died during the time due to the causes stemming from the disaster.

    Although the most of the social infrastructures including highways, roads, railways, and utility are recovered, and moving the houses of the survivors of the tsunami deeper inside of the land is completed, redevelopment of the tsunami raided area is not in progress other than creating public parks etc.

     

    Scandal Lowering Abe’s Approval Rating

     

    Yomiuri conducted its monthly survey on March 9 through 11.

    It revealed that the Abe Cabinet approval rating declined to 48% from 54% last month and its disapproval rating increased to 42% from 36%.

    There is an issue reported by the media that the government sold off some nationally-owned land to a private school under favorable terms.

    The media and the opposition parties suspect that some ruling parties’ politicians’ influence made the unfair deal possible.

    The story is becoming a large scandal after an insider of the Ministry of Finance leaked to the media that the ministry intentionally modified past record related to the land deal to hide the private relationship between the school and politicians or their families.

    Now that it is widely known that Mrs. Abe’s name was mentioned in the original document and the MoF removed that part intentionally, the opposition parties, as well as the media, are demanding the ruling parties to summon Mrs. Abe as well as some high ranking MOF officials.

    Due to this scandal, the Diet deliberation is paralyzed and the Abe Cabinet’s plan to explore the very first Constitutional Amendment is now in jeopardy.

    As for an anticipated Trump-Kim top meeting, the survey revealed that 56% expect that the meeting would result in solving the North Korean nuclear and missile weapon issue, while 41% do not.

     

    PM Abe To Visit U.S. In Early April

     

    According to the media report, President Trump called PM Abe in the morning on March 9 Japan time and briefed him on how the Korean government reported to the U.S. about the South-North Korean top meeting, and then shared his intent that the President would accept the invitation by Kim Jong Un for a meeting.

    As the result of the telephone conversation with President Trump, PM Abe announced to the media that he and President Trump agreed that PM Abe would pay a visit to the U.S. early next month to hold a discussion about the North Korean issue.

     

     TPP Signed By 11 Nations

     

    The representatives of all the 11 participating counties of the TPP signed the partnership agreement on March 8 at San Tiago, Chili.

    Its market is roughly 10% of the world GDP having 500 million population.

    It is much smaller than the original TPP 12 including the United States, but the Government of Japan still expects its positive impact including an 1.5% increase of GDP and 460,000 more employment.

    The agreement is to enter into force 60 days after first six nations ratified the agreement.

     

    Sharp’s V-shaped Recovery

     

    Sharp Corporation, once a leading electronics manufacturer in Japan, was acquired by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision in 2016 after recognizing large loss due to mismanagement.

    Immediately after the acquisition, Hon Hai sent its No. 2 (Mr. Tai) to Sharp to lead the company as CEO.

    Mr. Tai immediately succeeded in turning the company profitable using Hon Hai’s world distribution channels and made a V-shaped recovery in both revenue and stock price.

    Sharp’s stock returned to the listing of First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in December last year.

  • 05 Mar 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    Serious Human Resources Short Supply Revealed

     

    The Ministry of Welfare and Labor announced on March 1 that the unemployment rate for the month of January was 2.4%, which is the lowest ever since April 1993.

    Although the total number of people employed is increased by 920 thousand to 65,620 thousand in January from a year ago, the demand fulfillment rate was as low as 14.7%, meaning that a company who wants to hire 7 people was able to hire only one.

     

     Softbank Accelerating Acquisition of US Transportation/Delivery Service Providers

     

    In the wake of acquiring the largest stake of Uber, the world largest ride-share company in January, Softbank announced on March 1 that it invested  $535 million into DoorDash, a food delivery service company of San Francisco, Nikkei reported.

    Softbank is one of the three mega mobile carriers in Japan, owning Sprint in the U.S., Yahoo Japan and various ICT, internet and energy-related companies.

    The article suggests that Mr. Masayoshi Son’s plan is to accelerate investment in companies who provide unique technology and resources for transportation and delivery services so that he would be able to systematically create business out of the global flow of not only information and data over internet and electric wave but also the flow of people and delivery.

     

       7th Intelligence Gathering Satellite Placed In The Orbit

     

    The 38th H2A rocket was launched on February 27th from the Tanegashima Space Center and successfully placed an optical intelligence-gathering satellite in the orbit.

    With this placement, Japan operates 3 optical intelligence-gathering satellites and 4 radar intelligence-gathering satellites.

    Their main mission now is to gather intelligence over North Korea so that any symptom of their preparing its ballistic missile launch.

    However, for detecting the actual launching moment, Japan relies on the United States’ Early Warning Satellites’ intelligence.

    This launch of H2A marked the 32nd consecutive success in a row and its success rate is 97.4%.

     

    Rakuten To Enter Mobile Phone Market

     

    The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announced on February 27 that Rakuten, Japan’s largest online retail and related service provider, applied for new assignment of radio wave frequency bandwidths for mobile phone use.

    Japanese cellphone market has been dominated by the three giants, namely NTT DoCoMo (39.5%), KDDI (au)(27%) and Softbank(23.5%).

    Having 95 million members registered on its online shopping services, Rakuten aims at maximizing the synergy between cellphone services and online shopping services.

    However, investors are concerned about the relatively small scale of Rakuten’s capital and financial strength in comparison with the three existing carriers, thus Rakuten’s stock price has been consistently declining since its announcement of December last year to enter this market.

  • 19 Feb 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    1.     PM Abe Met North Korea’s No.2 Person At Pyeong Chang

     

    PM Abe met with Mr. Kim Yong-nam, the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea on the 9th during the dinner event that was organized by President Moon Jae-in of South Korea to celebrate the opening of the Pyeong Chang Olympic Games.

    Reportedly, PM Abe passed his message to him that the government of Japan demands the North Korean regime to solve the abduction issue that North Korean special forces abducted Japanese civilians tens of years ago and have not returned them back to Japan yet.

    Also demanded was giving up its nuclear missile development program. It is Abe’s first time to meet with a representative of Kim Jong-un’ regime. Kim Yong-nam is ranked No.2 after Kim Jong-un playing the role of head of state outside his country according to Yomiuri.

    He visited South Korea as the head of the North Korean high ranking officials group for the joint participation in the Winter Olympic Games.

     

     

    2.     PM Abe – President Moon Jae-in Meeting At Pyeong Chang

     

    PM Abe met with President Moon Jae-in on the 9th at a hotel in Pyeong Chang for an hour, Yomiuri reported.

    PM Abe demanded that the Moon Administration implement the Japan-Korea agreement on the Comfort Women Issue that was made in 2015.

    The agreement was made with the special recognition that neither country would ever revisit this issue so that the two nations would be able to constructively explore a futuristic bi-lateral relationship.

    However, last year, President Moon released a statement right after his inauguration that he would not think the 2015 agreement would ever solve this issue.

    With this as a background, PM Abe asked President Moon to reconfirm that the Moon’s administration honor the 2015 agreement to be fully implemented.

    President Moon told Abe that he would not request for a re-negotiation of this issue, while he explained that the two nations should further cooperate with each other to solve this issue.

    PM Abe also asked President Moon to reconfirm the Japan-U.S.-South Korean position against North Korea, namely maximum diplomatic and economic pressure to be placed on it without being affected by the North Korean sudden “Smile Diplomacy”.

    President Moon responded that the point that the South-North dialogue would lose the momentum of the international collaboration against North Korea is a needless fear.

     

    3.     PM Abe Keeps High Approval Rating

     

    In his 6th year of the Prime Minister position, PM Abe continues to receive a high approval rating, Yomiuri’s monthly survey revealed.

    According to the survey that was conducted on February 10 and 11, his cabinet approval rating was 54%, which is just the same as the previous month, while its disapproval rating was 36% (35% last time).

    Other key findings were as follows:

     

    With regard to possible Constitutional Amendments, how do you want Article 9 Section 2 that states Japan’s giving up military force to be amended?

    36% - Keep it by adding another statement to define the base for Japan to hold the Self Defense Force

    35% - Delete it and clarify the purpose and nature of the Self Defense Force

    20% - No need to articulate the existence of the Self Defense Force

     

    Do you think the thaw of the South-North Korean relationship contribute to solving the issue of the North Korean nuclear and missile issue?

    12% - Yes

    83% - No

     

    Do you approve the Abe Cabinet plan to move the US Marin Corp’s Futenma Air Station to Henoko?

    44% - Yes

    43% - No

     

    Who should be the next prime minister?

    32% - PM Abe

    25% - Rep Shinjiro Koizumi (Chief Vice Secretary General of LDP)

    21% - Rep Shigeru Ishiba (Former Secretary General of LDP)

     

    Which party do you approve most?

    42% - LDP (36% last time)

    9% - Constitutional Democratic Party (8%)

    36% - Independent (40%)

     

    4.       Pilot Shortage Issue

     

    Yomiuri reported that Japan’s supply of pilots is not keeping up with the pace of the growth of the flights both domestic and international.

    Reportedly, Air Do, a Hokkaido based LCC stopped 26 flights between Chitose (Hokkaido) and Haneda this month due to unavailability of pilots.

    This issue will become serious in 2030 when so many pilots are scheduled to retire.

    The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation, who takes care of air transportation policies, is warning the Japanese airlines and interest groups that unless the supply of new pilots increases by 40% by 2030, the demand can never be met.

    A six (6) percent of around 6,400 pilots working in Japan are non-Japanese.

    International market to hire non-Japanese pilots is becoming tighter and tighter due to Chinese LCCs’ strong demand, the article said.

     

    5.       Copy Right Protection Period To Be Extended To 70 Years

     

    The original TPP agreement reached in February 2016 included a U.S. led condition to extend the copyright protection period to 70 years after the authors or writers die in case of novels or music, and after the publication in case of records or CDs etc.

    Those protection periods are both 50 years currently in Japan.

    Since the United States decided to leave the agreement and since the new TPP without the U.S. set aside this condition, the Japanese copyright protection period remains unchanged for now.

    However, the Japan-EU EPA was agreed the end of last year incorporating the 70 years copyright protection period, so the government of Japan will present a bill to revise the Copy Right law accordingly to the Diet on March 8, Yomiuri reported.

     

    6. Agricultural Products Exports Increased By 7.6%

     

    The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery announced on the 9th that Japan’s agricultural, forestry and fishery products exports were 807.3 billion yen ($7.3 B) in 2017, which is a 7.6% increase from the year before.

    It is the 5th consecutive year to break the record of the exports amount.

    The largest contributor is sake and other alcohol beverage, followed by scallops, and pearls.

    Hong Kong imported most of the Japanese agricultural, forestry and fishery products (187.7 billion yen), followed by the United States (111.5 billion yen) , China(100.8 billion yen) and Taiwan (83.8 billion yen).

     

    7. Trade Surplus Shrunk, Current Account Surplus Increased

     

    According to the Statistics of the 2017 Balance of International Payments announced by the Ministry of Finance on the 8th, Japan’s trade surplus diminished by 10.8% to 4,930.8 billion yen ($44.8 B) from 2016, while its current account surplus expanded to 21,874.2 billion yen ($198.9 B), which is 7.5% more than a year before.

    The current account surplus increase is attributable to the increase of the return (dividend) on FDI (9.1% increase to 19,740 billion yen)  and the largest ever surplus of the travel balance (1,763 billion yen).

     

    8. Very Slow But Steady Economic Growth

     

    The Cabinet Office announced on the 14th that the 4th quarter of 2017 marked a 0.1% GDP growth in real term, which is the 8th consecutive quarter that recognized positive economic growth.

    This long continuous growth is for the first time since the bubble economic period, namely from the 2nd quarter of 1986 through the 1st quarter of 1989.

    However, the growth magnitude was much larger in the bubble economy period.

     

    9.  Admission Limit of Original Bill Of Integrated Resort Revealed

     

    The Abe Administration presented to the ruling parties (LDP and Komei) its original bill of Integrated Resort to be presented to the Diet this year, Yomiuri reported.

    The law legalizes casino as part of integrated resort facilities in Japan, which are expected to boost local economies after 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games is over.

    Casino has been illegal in Japan and it is still controversial to legalize it.

    The administration, therefore, came up with the following unique admission limit ideas for the review of the ruling parties.

     

    The maximum number for Japanese and non-Japanese resident in Japan allowed to enter casino is three times per 7 consecutive days.

    The area to place game machines or equipment related to casino is limited to 15,000 square meters or up to 3% of the entire IR area, whichever comes smaller.

     

    Once the groundwork with the ruling parties is completed, the IR law will be deliberated at the Diet this year.

  • 19 Jan 2018 by Global Chamber Tokyo

    PM Abe Keeps High Approval Rating

     

    Yomiuri conducted the monthly survey from the 12th through 14th this month.

    Some of the key findings are listed below:

                                                                          Yes                                                 No

    Do you approve Abe Cabinet?                54% (53% in December 2017)   35% (36%)

    Do you feel economic recovery               27%                                                73%

    Do you approve Japanese Gov’t            83%                                                11%

     

    Position against Korean Gov’t demand to revisit the 2015 agreement on the Comfort Women’s issue? 88% of the respondents demand the administration to work on economy and employment issues, while only 27% expect it to implement Constitutional Amendment.

    As for the possible amendment of Article 9 Section 2 that denies Japan’s holding military force, 32% of the respondents prefer keeping the section as is and adding a prescription of the base of the existence of the Self Defense Force. 

    34% replied that the section should be removed while inserting the statement to clarify the purpose and nature of the Self Defense Force instead.

    And 22% said there is no need to clarify the base of the SDF in the Constitution.

     

    Outline of Policies for the Aging Society Revealed

     

    The Abe Administration presented the draft of its Outline of Policies for the Aging Society to the ruling LDP on January 17, Yomiuri reported.

    The outline states the following objectives to be achieved by 2020:

     

                                                                          Present                                         2020

    Employment rate of 60-64 years old       63.6% (2016)                                67.0%

    Healthy life expectancy             Male 71.19 years old (2013)       add one or more years by 2020

                                                            Female 74.21                                and add two or more years by 2025

    Seniors’ social activity rate        Male 62.4% (2016)                      80%

                                                            Female 55.0

    Number of welfare taxi               15,128 cars (2016)                      28,000 cars

    Care robots market                      2.47 billion yen (2015)                50 billion yen

     

    The outline also suggests an option for senior people to delay receiving pension payment after 70 years old (increased payment) instead of 65 years old.

    Furthermore, it suggests financial support to senior entrepreneurs for start-ups.

     

    Chinese Warship and Nuclear Attack Submarine Passed Senkaku Archipelagos’ Contiguous Zone

     

    The government of Japan publicly announced on the 11th that a Chinese warship and an unknown submarine passed Senkaku Archipelagos’ contiguous zone on the same day, and it protested against the Chinese Government.

    Later, the unknown submarine was identified by the Maritime Self Defense Force as a Chinese Shang-class Nuclear Attack Submarine.

    According to the media, this type of submarines are equipped with cruise missiles.

    Despite its silent screw sounds, MSDF’s ASW patrol plane was able to chase the submarine continuously and to collect various data of the vessel, the media reported.

    The government of Japan suspects that the Chinese navy is collecting ocean and sea bottom data of channels from the mainland China to the Pacific Ocean.

     

    Foreign Visitors Increased By 19.3%

     

    Japan Tourism Agency announced on the 16th that 28.7 million foreigners visited Japan in 2017, which is 19.3% more than a year before.

    The visitors spent 4.4 trillion yen during their visits in Japan, which is 17.8% more than 2016.

    The largest spenders in 2017 were Chinese visitors with 38.4% of the total, followed by Taiwanese (13%), Korean (11.6%), Hong Kong (7.7%) and the United States (5.7%).

     

    Recruit Tie Up With Airbnb

     

    In preparation for Vacation Rental Business Law to be put in force in June this year, Recruit is entering this new market by collaborating with Airbnb, the world’s largest player in the vacation rental business, the media reported.

    SUMO, a Recruit’s wholly owned subsidiary company, is Japan’s largest real estate information company having more than 6.2 million houses for lease and those properties can be used for vacation rental service users from the world.

    Likewise, Rakuten, Japan’s largest online shopping website established Rakuten Lifull Stay to enter this market and to receive foreign visitors.

    It tied up with Booking.com.

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