Category Archives: Business

100 Companies in Japan Make Something Stronger than Steel — Will work together to produce nanocellulose

About 100 companies in Japan will work together to put nanocellulose, made from wood fibers, into practical use as a next-generation material, with one-fifth the weight of steel but about five times the strength.

Companies involved with its development include paper manufacturers, automakers, chemical companies and others.

They aim to utilize the new material for manufacturing auto parts, construction materials, artificial blood vessels and various other purposes.

Because nanocellulose is made mainly from wood chips, it is considered friendly to the environment. Thus, the government plans to support the development as part of its economic growth strategy.

Nanocellulose is made by chemically processing fibers contained in wood. The fibers are dissolved into pieces, each of which is measured on a nanometer scale. One nanometer is one-millionth of a meter and is about one-hundred-thousandths of the thickness of a human hair.

Abe invites Kennedy for ride on state-of-the-art maglev train

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy took a 500 kph ride on a maglev train at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Center of Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai).

Abe invited Kennedy as U.S. President Barack Obama plans to introduce a high-speed railway network in the United States. Abe hopes Japan will be the nation offering the maglev technology that helps create that network.

Abe is also offering the same technology to other nations.

Japan Finance Minister does not know what bitcoins are

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso on Friday expressed eagerness to hold discussions with other ministers and government agencies about what is behind the recent trouble in the “bitcoin” virtual currency market.

“We do not clearly know what bitcoins are, so we have to start studying it,” Aso said at a press conference, referring to the sudden shutdown earlier this week of all transactions on Mt. Gox, a major bitcoin exchange based in Tokyo.

Aso added there is a group in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that is studying the bitcoin market.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PpXdJFu0nig

Mt. Gox chief says he is “still in Japan” after sudden operational shutdown of the exchange

The chief executive of troubled bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox has denied speculation that he fled Japan in the wake of its sudden operational shutdown and said work is under way to solve various issues.

“As there is a lot of speculation regarding Mt. Gox and its future, I would like to use this opportunity to reassure everyone that I am still in Japan and working very hard with the support of different parties to find a solution to our recent issues,” Mark Karpeles said in a statement posted online and dated Wednesday.

His statement came after the market for the virtual currency released a brief statement that it will “close all transactions for the time being in order to protect the site and our customers.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC948CvN7zw

Read the rest of the story: Mt. Gox chief says he is “still in Japan” to solve issues.

Tax-Free Individual Investment Accounts Launch in Japan

Monday is the launch day for tax-free individual investment accounts in Japan. Account holders will not have to pay taxes on capital gains and dividends from annual investments of up to 1 million yen, or about 9,500 dollars.

Government officials are targeting Nippon Individual Savings Accounts, or NISA, at individual investors.

The tax-free period will last 5 years after investors open their accounts.

Officials hope the system will encourage people to move their money from savings accounts into investments.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ImDV-vQ4eW0

Read the rest of the story: Individual investment accounts launched.

Maruha Nichiro Recalls Pesticide-Tainted Frozen Foods

Major Japanese food maker Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc. said Sunday that a pesticide, called malathion, has been found in frozen foods made at a plant run by subsidiary Aqli Foods Corp.

Maruha Nichiro has started voluntarily recalling all items made at the plant in the town of Oizumi, Gunma Prefecture, eastern Japan, regardless of their best-before dates, company officials said.

At least 6.3 million packs of frozen foods will be recalled, according to the officials. These were made between mid-November and Sunday.

The company is investigating the cause of the pesticide contamination. The Aqli Foods plant suspended operations.

“We have decided to recall all items made at the plant to fully ensure” the safety of customers, Maruha Nichiro President Toshio Kushiro said at a press conference in Tokyo.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=wFdXHYQuyd4

Japan’s Top Phone Voice – All-Japan Phone-Answering Competition

The contestants roll their shoulders and lick their lips. The audience holds its breath. At the center of attention on stage at an expansive convention hall: a single telephone.

It rings. The annual All-Japan Phone-Answering Competition for office workers has begun.“How may I help you today?” a young contestant in a checked vest and skirt uniform says in Japanese after she picks up the phone, her hand visibly shaking. She chirps through the salutations in the high-pitched voice preferred by Japanese bosses for decades. She nods and bows, smiles and then grimaces in what appears to be nervousness and sheer effort. “I’m always at your service,” she says.

For over a half-century, office workers from companies across Japan have gathered each year to battle it out for the title of Japan’s best phone answerer.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Top Voice – High, Polite and on the Phone.

Pirates with AK-47s Edge Japan to Lift Gun Ban on Tankers

Pirates wielding rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s have prompted Japan to ease a samurai-era ban on civilians carrying guns, allowing guards on locally registered oil tankers to be armed for the first time.

Shipping companies will be able to place security personnel with guns on the tankers when sailing through specified areas of the Indian Ocean and in and around the Gulf of Aden, where pirates have collected hundreds of millions of dollars by hijacking ships. The change in the law, which became effective Nov. 30 and only applies to oil vessels, marks the first time Japan has authorized civilians to carry automatic weapons.

Read the rest of the story: Pirates Wielding Grenades Spur Japan to Ease Samurai-Era Gun Ban.

You Ought to Know The Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Taking a quick poll of current trending news, using that word loosely, you will notice that the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is largely missing from the media. Why?One reason is due to the U.S government stalemate over the fiscal ceiling that, if left unresolved, could lead to ramifications we could sum up as cray banger.

    The Trade-Pacific Partnership, Initially under the acronym TPSEP, planned to liberalize trade in the Asia-Pacific region among  Brunei, Chile, Singapore, and New Zealand. After several negotiations with original members new candidate countries are being considered into the agreement; some of which include Mexico, the United States, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Japan. The United states began courting the TPP in early 2008 under the Bush administration’s leadership and now under Obama’s administration is being completed.  The TPP’s main priority is to “free” trade among partners to dilute barriers that stifles economic growth, i.e, tariffs and corporate restrictions.

    Japan voiced its interest in the TPP in early March 2013 to improve its trade in Asia especially after China advanced its position as the second largest economy–one Japan once held. The agreement would give Japanese corporations larger access to different markets; an overall positive outcome to minimize China’s growth within Asia as the  largest exporter. Concerns have grown among anti-globalization, environmental, and consumer-labor groups that the trade pact would stiffen nation business growth; in other words,Japan would become dependent on foreign companies similar to Mexico during its NAFTA treaty with the U.S and Canada.

    The Citizens Trade Campaign, a social and environmental trade policy group, pointed out that the TPP special provisions for corporations are “a wishlist of the 1%…[that] of the 26 chapters under negotiations, only a few have to do directly with trade….new rights and privileges [are enshrined] for major corporations while weakening the power of the nation states to oppose them.”  More concerning is that a larger majority of  information on the TPP meetings stem from Wikileaks and the Citizens’ Trade Campaign leaks. For instance, Intellectual Property Watch reported that $25,000 dollars were raised for Wikileaks to collect and publish drafted text from current TPP agreements because most has been redacted from the public domain and shared chiefly with industries. The shrewd secrecy in these negotiations concern Japanese as the chief majority of proposals  involve fields in government procurement, competition policy, labor standards, intellectual property, financial service, investment, telecommunications and environmental standards.

    One goal of the TPP is to eliminate tariffs and some of those involve what are labeled “sacred precincts.” Japanese tariffs cover about 9,018 specific items, of which the “sacred” categories of rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar account for 586. If current tariffs on all those items were maintained, according to The Mainichi, Japan would still eliminate tariffs on 93.5 percent of trade goods in the TPP zone. It is widely believed, however, that TPP negotiations are shooting for tariff elimination on more than 95 percent of items.Farmers in Japan have been protesting the TPP agenda for a while now. The Liberal Democratic Party, however, has vowed that it would seek to maintain tariffs on vital “national trade goods” including rice, wheat and barley. It was a clear move meant to reduce worries among voters that food safety would be jeopardized for trading consensus. Even if, the Mainichi notes, tariff protections are maintained for certain agricultural products and dropped for processed items, there is still a real possibility that domestic industries would take a hit under the TPP.

    Japan has fared well under Shinzo Abe’s leadership since 2012 winning its bid for the 2020 summer Olympics, raising exports, and taking a modest step out of recession. Consumer spending rose 0.9% and public sector infrastructure spending, part of Japan’s stimulus package, rose 0.8%, which is all good news for the country. Japan, however, faces  a wave of declining prices; a good thing for the average Joes who can now buy more with the same amount of money. For companies, however, if deflation persists for too long then their profits decline; thus, setting into motion a slew of policies that are meant to offset this scenario that involve cutting labor, closing manufacturing facilities, and reducing employee wages. For Shinzo Abe, TPP’s allure is the possibility that it could open new markets for the country in locations where it does not have strong footing. Nonetheless, he risks letting outsiders dominate Japan if he acquiesces to any compromises drafted by other nations such as the U.S; as to how Abe will handle the ramifications of the agreements is unknown. One thing is certain, Japan has much to determine before it can safely procure its citizens that Japanese  businesses, foods, and jobs will not be negatively affected. In the meantime, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) indicates the Japanese economy may see some advances against deflation fairly soon–continuing a string of welcomed reports.

Japan to Overcome Deflation Says BOJ’s Kuroda

The Japanese economy is on track to overcome deflation, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said at the 2013 Bretton Woods Committee International Council Meeting in Washington on Thursday.

The BOJ will maintain the current aggressive monetary easing policy until its target of 2 pct inflation is achieved, Kuroda said in a speech at the meeting, which brought together key economic figures.

Speaking to reporters after the speech, Kuroda called on the United States to resolve the ongoing fiscal deadlock as soon as possible and lead the global economy.

Kuroda expressed his concern that a U.S. government default could have a serious impact on financial markets and the global economy although he noted that he does not believe the event will happen.

Kuroda will attend a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies later in the day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=C3Aaqg3gzP4