JIN-220 -- New Postal Corporation Gets Ready for Business

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business and Technology News
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Issue No. 220
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Tokyo

CONTENTS

++ Viewpoint: New Postal Corporation Gets Ready for Business
++ Noteworthy News
- Japan's Land Prices Continue to Slide; Tokyo Remains Firm
- "Spirited Away" Wins Academy Award
- War Worries Propel Tokyo Gov. Ishihara Back to the Limelight

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++ Viewpoint: New Postal Corporation Gets Ready for Business

Lawson, the convenience-store chain, will open a store in a Tokyo post
office this summer, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported this week. While
Japan's "konbini" have been evolving to include everything from ATMs
to digital-print vending machines, putting a convenience store inside
a post office is something new. That's because Japan Post, the
nation's new public postal corporation due to start on April 1,
is eyeing every possible business opportunity it can find.

The Postal Services Agency has already announced that Japan Post will
form an alliance with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking and IY Bank for the
mutual use of ATMs. Also, some convenience stores already offer some
of Japan Post's services at their counters. The Nikkei reported that
the postal agency plans to invite other convenience stores and
restaurants to open outlets inside post offices as well.

The new entity will start as the nation's largest financial
institution in terms of deposits, with 235 trillion yen in postal
savings, as it will inherits the benefits, such as tax exemptions,
enjoyed by the Postal Services Agency. It also has an additional 124
trillion yen in insurance premiums. But it is under tremendous
pressure to make a profit. While its high-yield teigaku deposits come
to maturity in the next four years, it also faces huge appraisal
losses on its stock investments.

Japan Post president-to-be Masaharu Ikuta, who is also chairman of
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, reportedly said in February, "We hope to
catch up to (the private sector)." Talks on privatizing Japan Post
have been stalled, and the entity will find it difficult to generate
profitability without agitating Japan's financial system.

The private sector remains critical of the new entity because it has
huge advantages and may weaken already fragile banks.

Japan Post also faces competition from transportation firms.
Yamato Transport plans to drop its rate to send mail on April 1, the
day Japan Post is launched. Yamato says its rate will be lower than
Japan Post's.

-- Sumie Kawakami

Source:
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, March 25, 2003 (password protected)
http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/AC/TNKS/Nni20030324D24JFF02.htm

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++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS
(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)

** Japan's Land Prices Continue to Slide; Tokyo Remains Firm

In Brief: According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and
Transport, Japan's average land prices fell 6.4 percent in 2002. The
plunge was the second steepest in value since 1991, when the prices
fell sharply just after the bubble economy crashed.

But the same statistics shows a wider gap in land-price trends
between central Tokyo property and land elsewhere. Drops in both
residential and commercial land prices in Tokyo's 23 wards narrowed in
2002 for the fourth straight year, officials said.

Commentary: Residential land in Shibuya Ward was actually higher for
the first time in 15 years. Overall, Tokyo's residential land prices
were down less than 2 percent. The ministry says it was largely due to
strong demand for multi-family residences in the capital's population
centers.

At first glance, Tokyo seems to be flourishing. Mori Building's
54-story Roppongi Hills complex -- a massive, ambitious project that
will change the face of Tokyo's favorite nightclub district -- is
nearing completion. But, the firmness of Tokyo's land prices is not a
given. Tokyo's vacancy rate for new office buildings is expected to
surge starting this year.

Source:
The Asahi Shimbun, March 25, 2003
http://www.asahi.com/english/national/K2003032500428.html

Links:
"First Tokyo, Then the World" from our November 2002 issue (profile of
the Mori family)
http://www.japaninc.net/article.php?articleID=931

"Searching for the Bottom" from our March 2003 issue (Tokyo land
story, password protected)
http://www.japaninc.net/inc/login.html?articleID=1028

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** "Spirited Away" Wins Academy Award

In Brief: "Spirited Away" (Japanese title: "Sen to Chihiro no
Kamikakushi") won an Oscar Monday in the animated-film category,
making it only the second Japanese movie in the 75 years of the
Academy Awards to win. Director Hayao Miyazaki was less then
ebullient, however, saying the "tragedy" in Iraq kept him from
wholeheartedly rejoicing, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

"Spirited Away" is the top-grossing film in Japanese history. The only
other Japanese film to win an Oscar was "Miyamoto Musashi," which won
the Oscar for best foreign-language film in 1955.

Commentary: Miyazaki is perhaps the most talented animator in an
incredibly talented industry. Japanese anime is quietly making solid
links with Hollywood and in many ways surpassing the US entertainment
scene. A good example of the close ties between Japan's anime industry
and Hollywood is the work surrounding the popular film "The Matrix"
and its animated counterpart, "Animatrix." Movie fans will know that
the sequel to "The Matrix" -- "Matrix Reloaded" starring Keanu Reaves
-- is coming out on June 7. But "Animatrix," which will be released
May 24 at Roppongi Hills, tells the story that exists between "The
Matrix" and the upcoming sequel. Also, there are supposed to be clues
hidden within "Animatrix" that help viewers understand what the world
according to "The Matrix" is all about. It's an interesting alliance
between some of Japan's best anime talent and some of Hollywood's most
powerful marketing forces. Stay tuned.

Source:
The Asahi Shimbun
http://www.asahi.com/english/culture/K2003032500452.html

Link:
"Anime in America" from our January 2003 issue
http://www.japaninc.net/article.php?articleID=972

** War Worries Propel Tokyo Gov. Ishihara Back to the Limelight

In Brief: The Washington Post ran a story this week about Tokyo
Governor Shintaro Ishihara's chances of becoming prime minister.
Here's the lead from Doug Struck's article:

"The man who would rearm Japan, who would bomb North Korea, who urged
the United States to get on with Iraq "like we did with Pearl Harbor,"
waits in the wings, offering advice and waiting for the chance to
become prime minister."

Commentary: Ishihara obviously wants to be PM someday, despite his
frequent denials. If he is ever to be elected, it will probably come
at a time when fear among the populace is high, and the way things are
going, that time could be soon. Not only does North Korea pose a
threat, but the US-led war with Iraq is also weighing on the Japanese.
A recent TV Tokyo poll asked people in the street who they feared
most, Kim Jong-il, Saddam Hussein or George Bush. The North Korean
leader was chosen by 50 percent of those surveyed, but 40 percent
chose Bush. Only 7.5 percent chose Saddam, and the rest were
undecided.

Source:
From the Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A16756-2003Mar23.html

Link:
"Ishihara's Tokyo Revival Bonds Start Strong" from our February issue
http://www.japaninc.net/article.php?articleID=1004

"Ishihara on the Stump" from our August 2002 issue
http://www.japaninc.net/article.php?articleID=871

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