TT-708 -- Safety and Money - It's All Relative. E-biz news in 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, Apr 28, 2013, Issue No. 708

+++ INDEX

- What's New -- Safety and Money - It's All Relative
- News -- Deflation still with us
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Illuminations in Kumamoto, History in Nikko
- News Credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW

This week we thought we'd cover a number of issues relating to safety and how the bigger the problems, the bigger the fudging that goes on to reconcile the solutions with their attendant costs.

1. Boeing battery problems, not fixed but modified

Firstly, so can anyone tell us how Boeing and its electrical contractor Thales SA of France can spend three months and 300,000 hours (combined) on checking the cause of the burning batteries and testing, only to decide "...the single most important thing I would say is that even if we don't know root cause, and even if we never know root cause, the enclosure keeps the airplane safe..."?

We suppose that wrapping the batteries in insulation and stainless steel and venting explosive gases outside the aircraft are good measures, better than having to do an emergency landing with a burning fuselage. But it's not that reassuring for passengers to know that whatever 787 they're flying could have another battery meltdown. As we said in TT-694, what if the voltage spikes are an inherent failure of the design of the airplane's electrical system? Then in that case the danger of further failures is still there.

Not that we are experts on aircraft electrical systems. However, we do understand the mysteries of unexplainable voltage spikes. Years ago we worked for an electronics manufacturing company that had problems with its power supplies. Despite working flawlessly 99% of the time, every now and again a power supply would catch fire for no reason -- something very disconcerting for a consumer. The company spent many months trying to track down the problem and the best they could figure out was that it was either occasional manufacturing tolerances in key components, or possibly the configuration of the wiring harnesses. The fix in the end was to put a diode in to shunt the spikes, which kind of worked, other than when the diodes themselves shorted out.

[Continued below...]

----------------------DELTA AIR LINE-----------------------
NEW DAILY NONSTOP SERVICE FROM TOKYO-HANEDA TO SEATTLE.

On June 3, Delta will launch convenient, daily nonstop service between Tokyo’s Haneda airport (HND), just 30 minutes from Tokyo’s main downtown business area, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

Flights depart at around midnight, allowing for a full day’s work before leaving for the airport well after evening rush hour traffic.

Seattle is an ideal U.S. entry point and offers convenient connections to popular West Coast destinations including Las Vegas, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Vancouver, Salt Lake City and many other major U.S cities.

On this route, Delta offers BusinessElite®) service with a full 180-degree flat-bed seat on selected flights as well as
fine dining and premium amenities. Located in the front of the Economy cabin, Economy Comfort™ seating* offers more legroom and greater recline on select flights. Preferred Seating reservations are also available in Economy.Find out more or book now at delta.com.

*Economy Comfort™ seating is available on select international flights, and is complimentary or discounted for SkyMiles Medallion® members, or for passengers with Y, B or M international Economy Class tickets.
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[...Article continues]

The good news, if there is any, is that the battery failures mustn't have been GS Yuasa's fault, otherwise we all would have heard about it. So their stock has recovered significantly (almost 50%) in the last 6 weeks. Nonetheless, we sincerely hope that Boeing and its contract continue their hunt into the real cause of the battery failures, and get the job done properly.

2. Two more Fukui reactors to come back online, two years too early

Even as TEPCO continues to struggle with removing spent fuel rods and with radioactive groundwater leakage caused by faulty groundsheet preparation of contaminated water holding ponds, other utilities around the nation are getting ready to bring their reactors back online. Ostensibly the newly empowered Nuclear Regulation Authority says it is making sure that we are all being kept safe by taking a hard line on surveying earthquake faults under reactors, and preparedness in case of future earthquakes, but you really have to wonder how serious they are.

For example, in the likely event that Kansai Electric gets permission to turn on two more reactors at its Takahama, Fukui facility, we wonder why it is that the facility still lacks a decent height sea wall to protect it against storms and tsunami? According to the Nikkei, Takahama's facility is just 3.5m above sea level, and while a new 15m sea wall is planned, it won't be built until sometime early 2015. So, essentially, the facility is unprotected for the next two years. Kansai Electric is on record as saying it "...sees no problems in resuming operations before then [2015]."

In that case, we don't think we'd be wanting to live near Takahama for the next two years. Nor, in fact, would we want to be in the Kyoto-Osaka area in general, because Fukui is host to the biggest cluster of nuclear reactors in the world (14), and if an event like Fukushima ever happened, instead of the radioactivity being swept out to sea to the prevailing winds, it would instead be carried directly over those cities.

3. MRI debacle, yet another ponzi scheme

You'd think that after the AIJ Investment Advisors scandal and subsequent loss of more than JPY100bn of mainly institutional money in early 2012, that the Financial Services Agency (FSA) would be more than interested in increasing surveillance of any other funds handling large sums of investor money -- especially investments abroad. So it came as a surprise to us to read in the papers that a second company, MRI International, is now being investigated for bilking 8,500 retail investors of up to JPY136bn.

Not only are the amounts similar, both being above JPY100bn, but what both companies also had in common is that they were running ponzi schemes. Regardless of the reasons and claims of relative innocence, the CEOs of both companies have admitted that they promised investors certain above-market returns, and used the deposits of later investors to make good on the "dividends" paid out to the existing ones. Both companies managed to keep the juggling act going on for some years, which speaks to the lax oversight by authorities.

What is coming out in the media now is that apparently the FSA has been lobbying to oversight ALL fund asset management and investment advisory firms since the AIJ fraud last year. Until now the oversight has been by the Ministry of Finance's local finance bureaus, who are clearly not up to the task. The problem is that nothing has been decided in the halls of power, and the Kanto Local Finance Bureau completely missed anything being amiss at MRI. We expect the FSA to receive its extra powers very quickly after this.

***********

Lastly, because it's Golden Week next week, we're taking one of our four weeks a year off, and will do exactly nothing next Sunday evening -- well, maybe have a nice glass of downunder Chardonnay, and think about headlines and deadlines. We'll be back on May 12th. If you're on the Japanese holiday schedule, we hope you have a good Golden Week.

...The information janitors/

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----------------Spinning the Wheel in Fukushima------------

Perhaps you have seen NHK’s historic drama set by a picturesque castle in Aizu Wakamatsu? It’s a real castle in a part of Fukushima sheltered by beautiful mountain ranges from the radioactive fall out. In fact, radiation is slightly higher in Tokyo, so there is no excuse not to enjoy the sakura blossoms. To coincide with this special time, CLIF Bar is sponsoring a local invention called the
Fukushima Wheel. LED lights project images as the bike is ridden through the castle.

Read more about the concept here: http://fukushimawheel.org and join us every day during Sakura season at the famous castle in Aizu Wakamatsu!
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+++ NEWS

- Homeless numbers fall to 8,200
- Tohoku being mobbed by tourists
- Easier visas mean increased tourism
- Government land sales up 30%
- Deflation still with us

=> Homeless numbers fall to 8,200

Only in Japan would the government know how many homeless people there are, but thanks to its resident registration system, they do. The number was declared by the Welfare Ministry as being 8,265 in January, 2013. This is actually 13.7% fewer people than the same period in 2012, and the decrease is attributed to more people receiving welfare and counseling. The vast majority of homeless are men, 7,671 people, versus 254 women. Osaka had the most homeless, with 2,094 people, then Tokyo with 2,006, and Kanagawa with 1,395. (Source: TT commentary from mainichi.jp, Apr 27, 2013)

http://bit.ly/12yl6WJ

=> Tohoku being mobbed by tourists

At last something is going well for the folks in Tohoku. According to the nation's major tourism companies, the number of reservations of Japanese headed north for Golden Week is up about 30% for Fukushima destinations and 20% for Miyagi. While most of the tours are traditional sightseeing and onsens, there is a significant number of "reconstruction tourists", people who are helping to rebuild Ishinomaki, Onagawa, and other hard-hit areas. Peach Aviation serving Sendai from Osaka also says that it has 70% of its seats booked. (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Apr 26, 2013)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20130426D26EE422.htm

=> Easier visas mean increased tourism

An MLIT panel has advised that to increase tourism, the government needs to continue its visa easing measures for SE Asian countries. Already, Thais and Malaysians are allowed to travel to Japan on 3-month visas, and now the panel is saying that these nationals, as well as Indonesians, should be allowed to travel to Japan visa-free. The new rules are expected to come into effect by summer. The LDP plans to increase tourism to Japan to 10m people this year, up from 8.37m last year. (Source: TT commentary from japantimes.co.jp, Apr 27, 2013)

http://bit.ly/161rSs0

=> Government land sales up 30%

The former DPJ may not have achieved much during their rule, but they did cut a lot of cosy relationships and inefficiencies in and around government. One of these has been government employee housing, where you had bureaucrats and their families paying just JPY50,000 a month to live in up-market apartments in Minato-ku and elsewhere. Apparently sales of government land rose 30% last year, to hit JPY100bn. Almost 10% came from the sale of a single 5,000 sq. m. government employee plot in Minami-Aoyama. (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Apr 25, 2013)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20130425D25EE305.htm

=> Deflation still with us

Although fuel, food, and some other imported goods are going up in price, the nation's CPI nonetheless fell 0.5% for March compared to the same month last year. This was slightly more than forecast by economists, and reflects the lower rise in fuel prices compared to last year. Observers are saying that for the BOJ to reach its goal of 2% inflation, the nation needs the price of services, not just goods, to rise, and that this requires wages to rise first. ***Ed: And thus we have a Catch-22. Most Japanese companies servicing the domestic market, and the consuming public, will be looking forward to the Consumption Tax increasing next April and decide they're not going out on a limb in the meantime.** (Source: TT commentary from wsj.com, Apr 26, 2013)

http://on.wsj.com/12ykTmz

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.

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

+++ 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

CEO Wanted for Financial Firm

Our client is a rapidly growing credit card acquisition company based in Europe/USA, that is looking to expand in Japan. The company is looking for a foreigner with deep operations or technical experience in the credit card industry and who speaks fluent Japanese, or a Japanese person with strong English skills and international work experience.

The job primarily has an operations, people management, and large accounts management focus, as the company already has a long list of potential clients in Japan interested in signing with them once they are established. You will be Employee #1, and over 2-3 years will be expected to build a team of roughly 50 in Tokyo, so team development and team management experience is essential.

The position is challenging and fast-paced, but well remunerated. Stock options offered to outstanding candidates.

** POSITIONS VACANT

- Inside Sales, global IT services company, JPY 2.5M - 3.5M
- Data Center Operator, global financial services company, JPY 3M - 5M
- Application Support Helpdesk Engr, major global apps co., JPY 2.5M - 3.5M
- Staffing Consultant, IT integration services provider, JPY 2.5M - 3M
- Desktop Engineer, IT services provider, JPY 3M - 5M

** 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 jason.kisling@biosjp.com.

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to: jason.kisling@biosjp.com and check out the BiOS web page for other jobs: http://www.biosjp.com/positions.php
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***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

---------------- Start a Company in Japan -----------------

Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 25th of May, 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
-----------------------------------------------------------

------------------- ICA Event - May 23 --------------------

Title: ICA Spring Networking Party

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
Date: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Time: 7.00pm Doors open till 9.30pm,
Cost: 3,700 yen (members), 4,500 yen (non-members), open to all. Includes open bar (beer, wine, soft drinks) & multitude of food. No sign ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: RSVP by 5pm on Friday, May 17th

Venue is Bar Del Sole http://www.delsole.st/store/roppongi/access.html
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***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ 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.

=> No corrections this week.

***------------------------****-------------------------***
+++ TRAVEL DESTINATIONS PICKS

=> Illuminated washi paper umbrellas, Kumamoto

For much of the year, the town of Yamaga lies in relative slumber in the mountains of Kumamoto prefecture. While its summer Obon festival has drawn massive crowds for years, the decade-old Toro Roman Matsuri (Winter Lantern Festival) is starting to generate its own solid following. Bamboo luminaries and delicate washi paper umbrellas in hues of red, white and deep purple line the streets of Yamaga's old town, creating an ethereal experience on cold February evenings. Glowing paths lead down side alleys to hidden shrines ablaze with candles. Young girls perform traditional numbers on an open-air stage in the middle of town and the beautifully-restored Yachiyo-za theater holds encore performances of the famous summer dances.

http://japantourist.jp/photos/yamaga-toro-roman-festival

=> Is this the view that impressed Isabella Bird? Tochigi

Isabella Bird was a Victorian woman who led a highly unconventional life. Arriving in Japan in 1878 and hearing that the north of the country was mostly unexplored by westerners, she planned an ambitious journey from Tokyo to Hokkaido. She was undeterred by warnings that her intended route would be impossible, writing, “I long to get away into the real Japan.”

As she didn’t speak a word of the language, Isabella hired a young Japanese man called Ito to act as her guide and interpreter. In true adventurer style, she decided to pack lightly, ignoring the recommendations of other westerners: “If I accepted much of the advice given to me, as to taking tinned meats and soups, claret, and a Japanese maid, I should need a train of at least six pack-horses!”

http://japantourist.jp/view/the-travels-of-isabella-bird-ii

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

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+++ ABOUT US

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

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