Posts Tagged ‘business’

Japan-related Links of the Week: 29 May 2010

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Posted 29 May 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Food, Japan, Japanese Politics, Links of the Week, News, Only in Japan, Style, Tokyo

A roundup of some of the best Japan-related links from this week.

Asahi Shimbun Co. said Monday that it incurred its first ever group operating loss last year due to falls in advertising revenue.

Asahi Shimbun suffers operating loss
The Japan Times (Kyodo News)

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The [Japanese] government released a study on fish consumption on May 21 in which salmon emerged as the most popular to eat at home, followed by squid and tuna, all of which are straightforward to turn into a meal.

Salmon takes over as top table treat in Japan
The Independent (Relaxnews)

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[Tokyo] is an unexpected city, not a homogenised J G Ballard city of the future but a series of small and distinct neighbourhoods. It can be startlingly beautiful.

Tokyo, Japan: My kind of town (an interview with author Edmund de Waal)
The Daily Telegraph

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After being mauled in the media for sartorial crimes … Hatoyama will be buoyed by the news that a Shanghai-based shirt-maker is selling copies of his most infamous garment as a tribute to his “individuality”.

Shirt-maker cashes in on Japanese PM’s unique dress sense
The Guardian (Justin McCurry)

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Twenty years ago, there was one retiree for every six working-age Japanese. By 2025, the government projects that the ratio will decrease to one retiree for every two people employed.

Does Japan’s decline foretell our future?
CTV News (Alexandra Seno)

Japan + robots = a BBC news report!

Posted 18 May 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Japanese Politics, News, Only in Japan, TV, Technology, Tokyo

For those of you who regularly watch BBC World News (come on, it can’t be just me!), you’ve probably noticed an eerily similarity between its Japan-related reports. It seems that no matter what the story, be it whaling, dolphin slaughtering or population decline, robots manage to get in there somehow. Take this story on immigration, for example.

Is there really any possibility that robots will replace human nurses? I’d say the chances are slim, to say the least. Considering that even the most advanced robots still have trouble mastering the simple act of walking down a flight of stairs, I can’t envisage them pottering around nursing homes changing soiled bedsheets and helping old chaps put on their pyjamas. And of course robots don’t pay taxes or buy goods, and they most definitely don’t have babies.

Nevertheless, a lot of BBC news reports seem to gloss over important issues in favour of portraying Japan as a nation of robot-mad, insular lunatics. I don’t know anyone who thinks the use of robots in frontline service/healthcare industry jobs is even remotely feasible, nor do I know anyone who seeks to preserve Japan’s “racial purity”. There may be a small, but vocal, minority of right-wing politicians and nutters who hold such views, but they should not be seen to represent the opinions of the majority of Japanese.

From a business standpoint there is little debate about whether or not Japan needs immigrants: the domestic car industry already relies on immigrant workers (especially Japanese-Brazilians), and the country’s most powerful business group, the Nippon Keidanren, is strongly in favour of granting more foreigners permanent resident status. When the Japanese government finally faces up to the Big Decision – increased immigration or a crippled economy – it will, I’m sure, choose the former.

The Nikkei turns its back on the internet

Posted 13 Apr 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category News, Only in Japan, Technology, Tokyo

There’s been much talk recently about newspaper websites setting up paywalls: both the New York Times and the Times (of London) will soon follow in the footsteps of the Wall Street Journal by charging users for access to most of their articles. Here in Japan, meanwhile, the Nikkei has gone one better (or should I say worse?): linking to any of its articles – and even its home page – now requires a written application.

The newspaper, with an estimated daily circulation of 3.1 million, is fiercely protective of its intellectual property. Subscribers currently pay a monthly fee of JPY4,000 (approx. £28) for online access, which is a mere JPY383 cheaper than a subscription to the print edition.

The Nikkei said that it implemented the new policy to prevent links coming from “inappropriate” sites, and to stop non-subscribers from viewing articles.

Have you ever heard of a website requiring a written application for linking to its home page? No, I didn’t think so, and for good reason: it’s a completely mental idea. I, for one, am intrigued to know what they mean by inappropriate sites. Perhaps someone at JapaneseMILFs.com has been trying to attract a more up-market audience by adding a bit of business news to its front page (probably titled “Stocks and C…”).

As for the non-subscribers viewing articles issue, well, I’ve never heard of such a problem before. If a non-subscriber clicks on a link to an article behind a paywall, then surely he/she simply gets directed to an “access denied” page?

In all honesty, though, this kind of backward-looking approach to putting content online isn’t surprising. The Japanese newspaper industry doesn’t really know what to do about the internet. There is a tendency to emphasise the negatives of going online (the loss of traditional print subscriptions and advertising revenue) over the positives (capturing a moneyed youth audience that gets most of its news from mobile phones and TV). This in turn influences how much money newspapers allocate to their online divisions. Some Japanese newspaper websites, for example, are appallingly designed; in fact they often look like they were last spruced-up in the late 1990s.

Until Japanese newspapers start to see serious drops in their (currently massive) circulation figures and profit margins, they will want to stay within the warm, womb-like confines of traditional paper-and-presses for as long as humanly possible.

Kuruma banare (車離れ): de-motorisation

Posted 18 Jan 2009 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category News, Shopping in Japan, Technology, Travel

Lots of cars

While car companies are currently in a terrible financial situation, with sales having slumped in developed countries, most do see light at the end of the tunnel and anticipate a recovery. In Japan, however, the decline may be much harder to reverse.

In 2009 it is predicted that 4.86 million new cars will be sold in Japan, which would be the first time in 30 years that sales have fallen below five million. What is even more worrying for Japanese car makers is that young people – men especially – are far less interested in cars than they used to be.

Car sales demographic

While owning a car used to be a status symbol, Japanese youngsters these days are more likely to be spending their money on the latest mobile phones, MP3 players and other electronic gadgetry than on their first car. The convenience of public transport in urban areas also leaves childless 20- and 30-somethings with little reason to buy one.

So how can car manufacturers make their products more appealing to young Japanese? Perhaps one way forward is for companies to generate more revenue from car-related services than from car sales. A car-sharing scheme could prove popular, especially when coupled with an online “car booking” service that can be accessed from mobile phones. All for a monthly fee, of course.

What do you think will happen to the Japanese car industry?

Related: “Japan auto sales plunge as young lose interest” – The Detroit News