* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd. (http://www.terrie.com)
General Edition Sunday, Jan 06, 2013, Issue No. 692
- What's New -- 9 Predictions for 2013
- News -- Property prices now too low
- Upcoming Events
- Travel Picks -- Beautiful photos in Kanagawa and Chiba
- News Credits
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+++ WHAT'S NEW
Welcome back to Terrie's Take for 2013. As is our custom, we are going to kick off the year by making some predictions about where we think Japan, her people, and companies are headed this year. If you have some even better ones, then please let us know about them.
Of the 6 predictions we made in 2012, the one about an Israel-Iran conflict over Iran's nuclear facilities was well off the mark. We still think this war could happen, and if/when it does, it will trigger a rapid rise in oil prices and consequently make electric vehicles look very attractive again -- good for Japanese companies. But until then, gas and hybrid is all the go.
After 3 damaging years of a highly-valued currency, the December election of PM Shinzo Abe precipitated a dramatic fall in the value of the Japanese yen. The reason is simply that Abe has promised both inflationary government policies and to coerce the Bank of Japan into inflating the economy through Quantitative Easing. In other words, Japan is going to play a game of beggar-thy-neighbor by debasing its currency vis-a-vis the US dollar and the Euro.
On the surface, this is fair enough, since Korea and China have really killed Japanese companies in the global marketplace with their relatively undervalued currencies. However, the problem for Abe is three-fold: 1) how does he make sure that any public monies spent are spent on productive assets rather than political ones, 2) what will the government do if the planned inflation causes the interest payments on its own debts to spiral out of control? Debt payments already account for 50% of the annual tax take, and a 2% interest rate would wipe out any tax income. Then, 3), what if the Eurozone has another Greek-style meltdown? Then the yen will once again become a safe haven currency. We do indeed think the Eurozone problems are not over -- after all, how can a country have 50% unemployment and remain politically stable? Therefore, we are betting that the yen won't stay down for very long. Our guess is 6 months at JPY90-JPY95 to the US dollar then by the end of the year back to JPY80-JPY83.
2. Abe and Upper House
Although PM Abe came across as being hard right wing in his election speeches, we think that some of this was acted out for the aged population who are the main body of citizens actually interested in getting out and voting. No doubt LDP planners thought he needed to cut a strong contrast to the highly unpopular Noda of the DPJ, and positioned Abe as a strong leader able to get things done both economically and with China. But whatever the planners fantasized, the reality probably is that voters simply wanted some normality in government again after the chaos of the DPJ-Ozawa split -- so they were voting against the DPJ and the the new ultra-rightist parties, rather than voting for Abe.
While a populist message was acceptable for the Lower House elections, experts are saying that particularly for the next 6 months Abe will need to downplay his true feelings about the military, foreigners, and China, so as to appear more centrist and to get the economy going again. For now Japan still needs China. Furthermore, Japan's voters are intelligent enough that while they wanted the DPJ out, they nonetheless don't necessarily trust Abe and his cohort, and so will want a counterbalance in the Upper House. We'll be surprised if the LDP enjoys the same overwhelming majority in the summer elections as they have just had last December.
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2013 has all the makings of a short-term growth year, due to the fact that the consumption tax rising in 2014 will stimulate capital purchases beforehand, and also because the new government has managed to get the value of the yen down -- thus bringing some relief to exporters and their employees. We don't think the rosy outlook will last, though, and neither will the temporary rise in fortunes trickle down to the majority of consumers. But for those with regular jobs and those who are looking to invest in a house, rental property, or a car, 2013 is the year to do it.
As a result, research firm Real Estate Economic Institute is predicting that Tokyo's supply of apartments will bounce back by over 10% this year, to around 50,000 units. This is still a far cry from the greater Tokyo supply peak of 95,635 units in 2000, but not so terribly worse than the 2007 Pre-Lehman supply of 60,000 units. Real estate developers Nomura, Sumitomo, Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Daikyo all expect to supply 4,000-7,000 units each in 2013, about 5%-10% higher than last year.
We'd also note that if you're looking to invest in some holiday land, now would also be a good time to do it, as owners of under-utilized properties will suddenly start to realize from media reports that it's now or never to move their unproductive assets. Banks will also be more receptive to loan requests, especially in contrast to the depressive mood likely to hang over Japan after April 2014.
4. Kamei moratorium and bankruptcies
In December last year we noted in Terrie's Take that the legislation introduced in 2009 by then financial services minister Shizuka Kamei was due to expire in March this year. So far, we've not heard anything from the LDP as to whether they plan to extend the moratorium, but given their predilection for spending other people's money (i.e., passing debts to future generations), there doesn't seem to be any reason for them to not extend. If for some strange reason this don't extend, though, then you can expect hundreds of thousands of companies to quickly get into financial difficulty, and bankruptcies will quickly surge. Indeed, banks are already canceling business relationships with struggling firms and passing them on to the government's various guarantee corporations. So the banks at least seem to think there will be no renewal.
5. State asset spending
Based on past experience of how the LDP does things, we don't hold high hopes for Abe's latest announcement of a JPY10trn stimulus package. Probably it will be business as usual -- passing public cash to special interest groups who have been kept away from the feeding troughs for the last 3 years. However, it was good to see some moderation at work. The initial announcement that the money would be used for public works was quickly amended to say that it would be spent over 6 years and a good chunk of it would be on much needed maintenance and earthquake proofing. However it's presented, though, this package is just the tip of the government-rescue iceberg. If you consider direct support measures between the BOJ and government (quantitative easing), government-controlled banks and funds buying listed stocks in lieu of the public, scads of u-turn aid monies to places like India and Burma, the above-mentioned loans moratorium, and a number of other indirect financing measures, then the amount of debt being taken on is much, much more than is obvious in the newspapers.
A good example of how opaque government funding is being implemented can be found in a new initiative just announced. A new public/private fund is apparently going to be infused with JPY100bn, rising to JPY1trn in the next 5 years, and will go around buying assets from major companies that are having financial problems, leasing the assets back to these companies at very favorable terms. The rumors are that this form of public largesse will start with some Sony factories, that the company will otherwise have to sell. We can think of plenty of other firms in the electronics industry who will be crowding around wanting their handouts as well.
Again, Japan seems to be copying concepts from the USA in deciding that some companies are just too big to fail. Lucky those who are selected -- we wonder how that will actually be done. However, unlike the USA, Japan is not acting under the threat of an immediate emergency, but rather is using the financing as a means of avoiding responsibility -- supporting companies and industries that should probably be radically restructured, to make finance available for new businesses that will survive in this new era.
6. Overseas M&A
We believe that even at JPY90 to the US dollar, acquisition of foreign firms by Japanese ones will continue apace for 2013, although there will be a tailing off by the end of the year due to instability in Europe again. The big difference this year, though, is that the first wave of deals done 3 years ago will start to come back to haunt their Japanese acquirers. We say this because most Japanese corporations are not well prepared to handle international management teams or the dynamics of global economic movements, so through inertia they will over time cause the talented leadership of their acquisitions to give up in frustration and leave.
Also, since Japanese companies tend to buy at the top of the market, even though they are picking up assets that are high performers, such companies are generally tuned like thoroughbreds, meaning that they can have the stuffing/profit knocked out of them very quickly when things go wrong. Just look at Nomura's costly and nightmarish experience with the various Lehman assets that they picked up and are now having to lop off. Or Daichi Sankyo with their Ranbaxy debacle in 2008.
7. Battery breakthrough
Although we keep this item on our list from previous years, we do feel that Japanese materials scientists are getting closer to developing Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries that can offer real-world range and power. The consumer needs at least a battery that will get them 300km-400km, and doesn't want to have to pay double the cost of a normal gas-powered engine. There were enough exciting power density improvements in 2012, that we're convinced a commercially viable EV battery is just around the corner.
Among the front runners are NEC and Panasonic, who have announced battery technologies that will increase power output by 30%. NEC's technology is based on manganese lithium-ion, which will reduce battery costs significantly while increasing output by 30%, while Panasonic's technology, actually developed at Kyoto University, involves metallic lithium for the negative electrode and a newly developed high-performance polymer for the positive one -- also offering a 30% boost in power for a much lighter product.
According to the Nikkei newspaper, Japan has to decide by February whether it wants to join the TPP trade negotiations or not. The reason is because the 11 players in the proposed trading bloc, including the USA, plan to have reached a basic agreement by October on what TPP will cover and just how much protection of each country's favored industries will be allowed. The original sentiment of the TPP founders was that there would be no excluded sectors, but with the involvement of the USA, there are bound to be some exclusions. So this offers some hope for the Japanese in regards to farming, law, medicine, and education. However, at the same time, the timing is not good for the LDP, since any sign of them showing interest in TPP will cause a supporter backlash here at home. Therefore, we think that Japan will NOT join the TPP talks, or if they do, they will do so as an observer.
9. Fukushima ecological problems
Is the Daiichi power plant in Fukushima safe yet? Not by a long shot. Not only are there 1,500 spent fuel rods still to be transferred to transportation/storage housings and then to safer locations -- something that won't be started until November and an operation which could be easily interrupted (or worse) by a major aftershock -- but also there appears to be ongoing contamination of the groundwater around the plant. It is now fairly clear that there was no melt through of the reactor vessels, and so we don't have a China Syndrome going on, however, cracks in the cooling system or perhaps in the containment vessels themselves are still a possibility, given data released last year by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute based in Massachusetts, USA. The Institute's research vessel sampled the ocean currents leading away from Fukushima and found that Cesium levels have flattened out, when instead they should be decreasing, indicating that the cesium is still being released from one or more sources. There are various theories as to what is happening, including land run-off into the rivers, excretion of cesium by organisms on the sea bed, and, what we think is the most likely cause -- a leak somewhere in the plant.
Either way, we don't plan to be eating sea food caught North of Izu and south of Hokkaido for a while to come yet.
Next, do you fancy yourself as a writer? Then you'll be happy to see the competition being run by Japan Society/Stanford University-related Japan - U.S. Innovation Award Program, which is offering a handsome US$3,000 cash prize for the best story about entrepreneurship in Japanese companies, or in foreign firms located here. More details in the Events section below.
Lastly, a comment about the new look of the newsletter. We are experimenting with eliminating the 60-character carriage returns we have traditionally used in our e-mails. Previously we formatted so that mobile phone users could always see emails the way we intended, but as many readers cut-and-paste snippets to friends, they lose formatting in the process, so we have decided to change things on our end. What about HTML? Well, not yet, other than for the archives. We invite feedback from anyone who finds this change problematic.
...The information janitors/
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- Property prices now too low
- Another scandal in Fukushima
- Japanese internet usage up 50% since 2006
- Myanmar becomes major recipient of new aid
- Major mobile data speed improvements
=> Property prices now too low
The Bank of Japan (BOJ) Deputy Governor Kiyohiko Nishimura has delivered a presentation in the USA stating that he thinks property prices in Japan have been depressed beyond the level that fundamentals would indicate. He alluded to the fact that after the bubble, regulatory factors had a big part to play in depressing prices, creating a spiral of pessimism that kept them depressed. He also said that he thinks other developed nations are entering a similar phase since the Lehman Shock in 2008. ***Ed: Although we feel that real estate in cities is probably fairly priced and certainly not cheap by international standards, it is the land in the countryside that is absurdly low priced. Being able to buy a wooden house and 300 sq. m. of land for JPY3m is surely beyond logic, given Japan's stable and law-abiding society, infrastructure, and guaranteed rights to ownership.** (Source: TT commentary from bloomberg.com, Jan 5, 2013)
=> Another scandal in Fukushima
TEPCO obviously still has a bunch of thugs running the Fukushima clean-up, after it has been revealed by the Asahi newspaper that contractors are illegally moving radioactive soil and tree trimmings into surrounding rivers and unauthorized land areas. The newspaper took photos of several instances of contractors dumping tainted trash into a local stream. In other reports, contractors dumped contaminated soil in the town of Naraha. Anyone caught illegally disposing contaminated trash can be punished with a JPY10m fine or 5 years in prison but so far no charges have been laid. (Source: TT commentary from japantimes.co.jp, Jan 5, 2013)
=> Japanese internet usage up 50% since 2006
A Communication Ministry report has stated that Japanese are spending up to 50% more time on the Internet than they were in 2006. The 200,000-person survey found that the average person spends 41 minutes on the Internet. Those aged 25-34 spent about 77 minutes a day on the web, compared with 40 minutes in 2006. ***Ed: Some other interesting stats in this article, like the one where less than 30% of Dads eat dinner with their kids on weekdays...** (Source: TT commentary from wsj.com, Dec 25, 2012)
=> Myanmar becomes major recipient of new aid
Coming on top of a write-off of JPY500bn of old loans due from Myanmar to Japan, the SE Asian country is being rewarded for reopening itself politically to Japan by being made a new JPY50bn low-interest loan in March. New Deputy PM Taro Aso visited Myanmar on Jan 3 and made the announcement during the visit. ***Ed: Given that these loans are generally for infrastructure and need to be spent with Japanese contractors, this money will essentially make its way over the next 12 months to Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and other major Japanese firms. Japan Inc. at work.** (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Jan 3, 2013)
=> Major mobile data speed improvements
NTT DoCoMo is trying to fight back in the iphone/mobile price war started by Softbank by significantly increasing its service performance, and most notably, the speed of data transfers. The company says it will quintuple the speed of its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network to 187.5Mpbs in major cities around the nation as early as next year (2014). Not far behind, KDDI is quadrupling the speed of its connections over the same period. (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Dec 31, 2012)
NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the inconvenience.
------------- Japanese Travel Writers wanted -------------
Do you know someone who can write native-level Japanese and who is interested in travel? The JapanTourist.jp division of Metropolis (Japan Partnership KK) has two brand name clients in the tourism sector who need to have a substantial number of travel articles written about Japan. These are paid positions.
While professional writers are welcome, the JapanTourist.jp project is a writer community set up for talented amateurs to have a forum to test their skills. Therefore, we welcome housewives, retired people, and Japanese living overseas who would like to re-connect with their home country.
All work can be done from your own home, with stories and editing discussions taking place by email and through the JapanTourist.jp backend dashboard and associated tools.
Interested writers may contact JapanTourist at:
+++ CANDIDATE ROUND UP/VACANCIES
=> BiOS, a Division of the LINC Media group, is actively marketing the following positions for customers setting up or expanding in Japan, as well as other employers of bilinguals.
** HIGHLIGHTED POSITION
BiOS is urgently looking for a Data Center Engineer to join our client, an international IT services provider in Tokyo. The successful candidate will be responsible for providing 24/7 data center support to a global investment bank, with duties including break-fix of Sun and HP products, installing servers and building/maintaining workstations, managing inventory and databases after installation, and tape management. In addition, you would also be responsible for escorting and monitoring onsite vendor activity, creating reports, monitoring servers, storage, and networks, and escalating problems.
Due to the technical nature and demanding work environment, this position is suitable for someone with at least one your of IT hardware support experience (i.e., network/server monitoring, IT equipment asset management, etc.). In addition, since this role requires direct coordination with both regional and global IT teams, Business-level English and Conversational-level Japanese language abilities will be required.
Remuneration is JPY3.5M - JPY4M depending on your experience and skill level.
** POSITIONS VACANT
- Network Engineer, global data center services provider, JPY5M - JPY8M
- Software Asset Management Officer, global bank, JPY4.5M - JPY5.5M
- MAC Coordinator, global IT hardware and services provider, JPY3.5M - JPY5M
- Administrative Assistant, IT services provider, JPY 2M - 3.5M
- Sharepoint Specialist, global electronics company in Tokyo, JPY7M - JPY9M
** BiOS Job Mail
Every 2 weeks BiOS sends out a regular communication to its job seeking candidates, called BiOS Job Mail. Every edition carries a list of BiOS's current and most up-to-date vacancies, with each entry featuring a short job description and a direct link to the main entry on the BiOS home page. Regardless of whether you are unemployed and searching, thinking about a career change, or just curious to know if there is something out there that might suit you better, the BiOS Job Mail newsletter is an easy and convenient way for you to stay informed. If you would like to register for the BiOS Job Mail, or to find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to: email@example.com and check out the BiOS web page for other jobs: http://www.biosjp.com/positions.php
+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS
---------------- Start a Company in Japan -----------------
Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 9th of February, 2013
If you have been considering setting up your own company, find out what it takes to make it successful. Terrie Lloyd, founder of over 17 start-up companies in Japan, will be giving an English-language seminar and Q&A on starting up a company in Japan.
This is an ideal opportunity to find out what is involved, and to ask specific questions that are not normally answered in business books. All materials are in English and are Japan-focused.
For more details: http://www.japaninc.com/entrepreneur_handbook_seminar
----------------- Australia Society Tokyo -----------------
Come and join the Australia Society Tokyo at our annual Australia Day Ball on Saturday 26th January, 2013 at the centrally-located ANA Intercontinental Hotel ballroom.
Bookings for tables of ten guests can be arranged at members' rates and individuals are of course welcome, too. Enjoy fantastic food, specially selected wines, three different live music performances, and chat with a wide variety of people. There are prizes to win, auctions to raise funds for worthy causes, and a few surprises as well.
This event, being the highlight of our social calendar, attracts many so register quickly as seats sell out fast. Treat yourself once a year - you won't be disappointed!
Visit www.AustraliaSocietyTokyo.com to register.
------------------ Kyoto Convention Bureau ------------------
Invitation to Kyoto for Corporate Meeting Planners, 5th & 6th March 2013
Are you considering Kyoto for business events? The Kyoto Convention Bureau invites you to join fellow decision-makers for a two-day learning-focused workshop in Kyoto about using this city to add value to your corporate meetings, incentive travel and events.
------------------ Prestigious Writing Prize --------------
The Japan - U.S. Innovation Award Program , which is produced by the Japan Society of Northern California in cooperation with Stanford's US-Asia Technology Management Center, is opening up a new award category this year: the "Untold Story in Innovation" Award.
This will go to the author of a previously unpublished story of intrapreneurial innovation inside a company (probably a large company) that has relevance to Japan - U.S. business. This award is aimed at professional or part-time journalists and other researchers/writers.
The award is for an English language piece of journalism. There will be one winning author, who will receive a $3,000 cash prize. We will also recognize two Award Alternates, who will each receive a $1,000 cash prize. Although the cash prizes will only go to the winning
authors, the innovators and companies featured in their stories will also be named as recipients of the honor.
The first step is to send in a "pitch" proposal to the Subcommittee for this Untold Story award, namely:
with cc to John Thomas
Deadline for the pitch is January 31, 2013. PLEASE REFER TO the attached document for details on what to include in the pitch, etc. If you have further questions, please contact Prof. Richard Dasher or Ms. Dana Lewis .
---------------- Share House Near Ikebukuro ---------------
There are gaijin share houses, and those that you share with others on a casual basis, but none has the facilities and amenities of this new-to-market offering in Oizumigakuen. Large 4-bedroom house with large yard, share kitchen-living-dining rooms, and with your own large bedroom. Available for short and long-term tenants. Just JPY50,000/month. Includes share of internet connection.
Only 20 minutes by train from Shibuya/Ikebukuro.
Contact the owner at firstname.lastname@example.org
In this section we run comments and corrections submitted by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and amplify our points, by email, to email@example.com.
=> No corrections or comments this week.
+++ TRAVEL DESTINATIONS PICKS
=> Tokei-ji, the Divorce Temple, Kanagawa-ken
Get Thee to the Nunnery!
Tokei-ji is located just a couple-of-minutes walk from Kita-Kamakura station, about a 90 minute train ride south from central Tokyo. The temple was founded in 1285 as a refuge for battered wives. Thus, it became known as the "divorce temple". The grounds are dominated by an ancient refreshingly shaded cemetery carved out of the hillside.
Many graves are adorned with statues that have been standing guard for probably centuries. If you are there in the summer, Tokei-ji is a welcome retreat from the harsh Japanese summers.
=> Shrine of the Third Generation King, Chiba
Shinto shrine in a pristine, natural setting
Simplicity. Beautiful simplicity. While the bigger, more notable shrines of Japan deserve their fame and waves of visitors, there is nothing quite like the intimacy of a small, local shrine that appears to not have been changed in its 800 years of existence. The Shrine of the Third Generation King consists of an entire forested hilltop, with statues and monuments tucked within tree roots, into the sides of the hill, and around every wooded path.
The buildings are spread throughout an area that takes time to explore, with every idea to check out some little clearing in the trees yielding breathtaking results. Above the bustle of the town below, time here seems isolated and hidden from the rest of the world. Built between the years 1171-1175 by the third son of Tsunetane Chiba, leader of the Chiba Clan, it gives visitors a sense of the ancient, unmodernized Japan that is becoming harder to find.
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(We purge our list regularly.)
+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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