TT-611 -- Gillard Sends Right Message at Minami Sanriku, e-biz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * 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, April 24 2011, Issue No. 611

+++ INDEX

- What's New -- Gillard Sends Right Message by Visiting Minami Sanriku
- News -- Cheap Hotel Rooms in Tokyo
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- Small Temporary Dwellings for Tohoku
- News Credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW

This last week the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia
Gillard, paid a visit to Japan and to the tsunami
devastated town of Minami Sanriku. In paying the visit,
Gillard became the first foreign leader to venture to the
disaster area, a point that won't be missed by the Japanese
in terms of their relationship with Australia.

In fact, the entire visit of Gillard to Japan was both
thoughtful and inspired. Thoughtful in that the purpose of
the trip was primarily to show goodwill and support for
Japan in these difficult times, rather than to push trade
or a special agenda. Such an action by a world leader will
not be forgotten quickly by the Japanese, where what you do
and how you do it make all the difference.

We were at a charity dinner held in Tokyo on Friday night,
and Gillard was the guest of honor. She took the dais to
give a heartfelt speech about the tragedy and how Australia
was ready to do whatever was necessary to help. Her
presentation was heard by diet members and other Japanese
dignitaries, in both English and Japanese, and her message
would not have been missed.

The visit was inspired, because despite lingering fears
about radiation and aftershocks, the team at the Australian
Embassy was able to convey the importance of such a
trip at this particular time -- while it is still fresh in the mind
of the public. It is to Gillard's credit that she decided
to take the risk, however small we might think it is living
here in Tokyo, to make the trip. Fortunately her four days
here passed without event.

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[...Article continues]

Gillard was transported by bus to the ruins of Minami
Sanriku. We're sure that whatever she was briefed on at the
embassy in Tokyo, where everything is still oh-so-normal,
would not have prepared her for the overwhelming devastation
confronting her when she stepped off the bus. Some of the
press photos of her standing amidst the wreckage show the
shock on her face, and the realization of just how bad the
tsunami was. As a reminder, here is a video we've not seen
before, showing the 10 minutes that changed forever the
lives of the residents of this small rustic fishing town.
Scroll about half way down the page, past the photos and
Japanese text, and you'll see the video.

http://pop-rin.seesaa.net/article/194917311.html

Accompanied by Japan's foreign minister Takeaki Matsumoto,
Gillard met Jin Sato, the Mayor of Minami Sanriku, who has
an amazing tale of survival to tell himself. He was in the
town's disaster management center when it was engulfed by
the tsunami. He and about 30 others made it to the roof
of the building, and as the flood waters rose they washed
away 20 or so colleagues, but Sato and 10 others somehow
managed to hang on to rooftop antennas and other fittings.
Just a day later, despite his terrifying ordeal, Sato was
back at work coordinating the relief effort to what was
left of his town. Apparently Gillard embraced him after
hearing what he'd been through, trying to offer some
comfort.

While it is easy to dismiss Gillard's visit as being
opportunistic, in fact, the act of her visiting Minami Sanriku
and paying her respects fills a strong need by Japanese
for ceremony and personal commitment. Her visit tells all
of Japan that Australia is an ally it can depend on right up
to the very top. As a result, her visit was widely
documented and praised in Japanese newspapers
around the country.

Of course, other nations have also shown their friendship
and commitment, by sending rescue teams, aid, donations,
and in the case of the USA, much needed logistical support
for relief operations and technical support to deal with
the nuclear crisis at Fukushima. The Japanese foreign
ministry is no doubt keeping tabs of such demonstrations
of support. But while the bureaucrats may know just how
much cash and kind has come from whom and when, it takes
the visit by a national figure to really cement the message
of friendship and support to the citizens of a nation
still in shock. And Australia's Julia Gillard was able to
achieve this with her well-timed trip.

***************

For those of you living outside Japan, we can tell you that
Tokyo is getting back normal. People are starting to return
to bars and restaurants, trains are starting to run
normally again, and even the foreign families are
returning. We heard that international schools are back to
around 80% of pre-earthquake enrollment. Bottled water is
available again, as is toilet paper and natto. Yoghurt,
non-standard breads, and other specialty perishable
products are slowing reappearing as well. There is still an
air of consumer restraint, especially in terms of
big-ticket spending such as travel, hotel stays, and
department store shopping. But our take is that with daily
life returning to normal, other spending will not be far
behind.

The irony is that with the return of normality, there is a
danger of people forgetting that there is an ocean of need
still continuing in Tohoku and the eastern sea coast. So
far the bulk of attention has been on the Red Cross,
however, smaller aid organizations are also busy providing
supplies and assistance as well. One of these is JHELP,
run by Ken Joseph. Ken and his team have emailed us asking
that we let readers know that they still need volunteers to
help with the clean up in Sendai, Ishinomaki, Fukushima,
Kesenuma and other areas of Tohoku. Even 1-2 days would be
sufficient to be useful.

Ken's team also needs: used laptop computers, small
Japanese Kei cars, new mens and womens underwear, towels,
canned and instant food, and internet access devices.
Donations can be made at www.jhelp.com or by Postal Furikae
00160 7 162438, Nihon Kinkyu Enjotai. Those able to assist
are asked to contact team@jhelp.com.

Oh, and speaking of volunteers, don't forget the RDTN.org
folks who are looking for drivers to start their radiation
monitoring service in Fukushima. Contact them at:
Info@RDTN.org.

...The information janitors/

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+++ NEWS

- Hotel rooms going cheap
- Demand for rice bread growing
- Cross-border fund for Japan/USA
- Gree goes all out to secure gaming platform
- iPhone game donates Tohoku relief funds

-> Hotel rooms going cheap

No thanks to the huge drop off of tourists and domestic
travelers since the Tohoku earthquake, major hotels in
Tokyo are offering amazingly cheap rooms to drum up
business. Prince Hotels is offering a two-person room at
the Takanawa Prince for just JPY6,500/night, about 80%
off the rack rate. Fujita Kanko, the owner of the
Washington hotel chain, is offering 7 nights at the
Shinjuku Washington Hotel for just JPY4,500/night. The
Nikkei reckons that average hotel occupancy rates in
Tokyo were under 50% for March, the lowest in the last 20
years. (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Apr 22,
2011)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20110421D21JFA18.htm

-> Demand for rice bread growing

A subsidiary of Nippon Ham, Tohoku Nippon Meat Packers, has
said that it is stepping up the production of frozen rice
bread, after the product range has proved a hit around the
country. The company says it will double production, still
at modest levels with just 6 tons of rice harvested for
bread flour in 2010, but that it expects demand to rise
quickly as more parents start to realize their kids have
gluten intolerance. ***Ed: Indeed, one of our kids suffers
from gluten intolerance and rice bread has been a great
replacement. Just wish they'd stop putting sweetener in the
product, though.** (Source: TT commentary from
e.nikkei.com, Apr 22, 2011)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20110421D21JSN04.htm

-> Cross-border fund for Japan/USA

Venture Capital investment is seldom conducted cross
border, because VC firms like to know their investees and
to have a feeling of control of their activities -- hard
to do when you're 5,000 miles away and speaking a different
language. However, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and JAIC America
have put the finishing touches on a $25m fund (eventually
to become a US$50m fund) that will do cross-border
investment in both countries. The fund will invest in
consumer technology, enterprise software, mobile technology
and advanced materials. (Source: TT commentary from
wsj.com, Apr 21, 2011)

http://on.wsj.com/gwUEWM

-> Gree goes all out to secure gaming platform

US$104m in just 3 years, that's the earn-out that investors
in OpenFeint and its CEO made this week, when mobile games
company Gree agreed to buy out OpenFeint. Gree was of
course after the rest of the highly successful gaming
platform that it doesn't already own. OpenFeint is
apparently the base for 19,000 game developers serving
around 75m users globally with over 5,000 separate games,
making it the biggest gaming platform of its type. (Source:
TT commentary from Gree PR, Apr 21, 2011)

http://bit.ly/dLfSI1

-> iPhone game donates Tohoku relief funds

US-based Cats from Japan, founded by the founder of
Metropolis magazine, Mark Devlin, has released an iphone
game, named Sweepr, and will donate some of its subscribers'
revenues to the Tohoku relief efforts. Sweepr is a simple
but highly addictive arcade-style game that sells for
99 cents. You can get it at the iPhone App Store. (Source:
TT commentary from email from CfJ, Apr 24, 2011)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.

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***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

No events for this coming week.

***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ CORRECTIONS/FEEDBACK

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 editors@terrie.com.

*** In TT610 we commented that as part of the relief effort
for Tohoku, Japan will pay around JPY4.4m for companies
able to supply a 30sq m home expected to house two
families. That seemed a pretty small space to us.

=> Reader:
It is indeed small for a long-term living space for two
families, but not unbearably so by Japanese urban
standards. I've been living in "Japanese style" for a
decade or so now in a 25 sq. m one-room apartment, and it's
far from uncomfortable; it hardly even qualifies as "cozy."
This is large for a one-room; many of my friends live
long-term in a room hardly more than half the size (15 sq.
m or so).

This does require some adjustments in living style that
Westerners might find uncomfortable. I sleep on a futon
which can be folded up and put out of the way during the
day; my main table is a low one that moves from a corner to
the center of the room; I mostly sit on the floor (on
zabuton cushions) instead of on chairs; when I work at home
I use my laptop on a small folding desk and chair; and
perhaps the worst hardship to some, I own a lot less stuff
than I ever did in North America.

There are corresponding advantages, too. I have the comfort
of knowing that my environmental impact (especially in
terms of power usage for heating and cooling, and less so,
lighting) is quite low; I'm a lot more eco-friendly than
most of even the more fanatic environmentalists I know back
in Canada. (With the shortage of electrical power these
days, this is even more important than just stewardship of
the Earth.) And the money I save by having a small
apartment and no car is available to be spent on
entertainment outside of my house, which is not only
convenient but helps to keep others employed.

So while 30 sq. m for a couple of married couples and a
couple of kids is somewhat cramped even by Japanese
standards, it's still an amount of space that would be
quite normal for two single people, and it's not as much of
a hardship as many Westerners might think, even if they are
likely to live there for several years.

Speaking of environmental impact and power usage, thanks
for the reminder about LED light bulbs. That reminded me
that my most-used light source, a 100 W bulb in the corner
of my room, wants replacing with a low-power LED model.

***********************************************************
END

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+++ ABOUT US

STAFF
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd@japaninc.com)

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