TT-731 -- Ehime Kicks Off Cycling Mecca Strategy, ebiz news from Japan

********* Terrie's Take *******
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, Oct 20, 2013, Issue No. 731


- What's New -- Ehime Kicks Off Cycling Mecca Strategy
- News -- International M&A continues to boom
- Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Sadness in Akita, Muesli in Ibaraki
- News Credits

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One of the big problems that Japan has in trying to turn its economy
around is that the hollowing out of its manufacturing base to China
and other SE Asian countries means that there isn't a lot left for
unskilled/low-skilled people to do. Probably the extra budget recently
unleashed to build more roads and reinforce buildings and rivers will
take up the slack for a while, but most local governments recognize
that the writing is on the wall and they have to start planning for
the future.

To our mind there are really only three promising areas for workers
living in the countryside to engage in, else they have to move to the
major cities and find more creative opportunities -- something more
people are doing. Tokyo's population continued to grow in 2011, up by
27,000, Osaka's held steady, and in the meantime 40 of the nation's
other 47 prefectures saw their populations shrink, especially in rural

The three unskilled/low-skilled job sectors of the future are probably
going to be farming, aged care, and tourism. Of these, farming is the
most difficult in which to make a living. If you are not the actual
landowner, you are not going to be receiving those subsidies and other
benefits that come with being a farmer. Instead, you get a subsistence
wage, back-breaking work, and often a cranky landowner whose family
has done things a certain way for the last 300 years, and isn't
interested in new ideas. So it's little wonder that the number of
farmers is at an all-time low (1.5m) and in fact only 420,000 of them
actually work their land. And now, with TPP, it might become more
profitable to rent the land out for solar installations instead.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

With the nation's changing demographics, aged care is of course a
great business to be in, particularly if you don't build medical
facilities onsite since the rules are then reasonably relaxed. This is
a sector that lends itself well to local development since those older
folks who were traditionally cared for by their rural families but who
are now being kicked out to rest homes by independently-minded young
wives, are still wanting to stay near their friends and grandkids. As
a result, all over Japan you can find retirement homes popping up in
unlikely spots.

A (very) small country town we are very familiar with, Ishiharamachi
in Fukuoka-ken, Kyushu, had a large vacant lot next to the main road
that had been unused for years. It was rumored to become a hotel one
day, but the shrinking population put paid to that plan. Then,
suddenly about two years ago, where there were once weeds and a
tumble-down storage shed, there appeared a large 2-storey structure
that is the area's first modern retirement home. At first we wondered
how it would do, being stuck out in the rice paddies and surrounded by
conservative farming families. However, business is booming and it is
full. Our guess is that there will be 2-3 competitors in the area by

However, the sector that we think will bring the biggest benefits to
Japan's regions is tourism, whether of the domestic or foreign kind.
Tourists, unlike locals, are forced by their circumstances to spend
money on dining and traveling every day, and so make an immediate and
significant contribution to the local economy. Further, if they are
foreign tourists, then as the consumption tax goes up they represent a
source of windfall income, since they pay the tax but draw no benefits
in return.

Local governments know that tourism is important, but have only just
recently started figuring out how to draw them in. Take Ehime
Prefecture in Shikoku for example. This is a part of the country that
while famous for its mikan and seafood, is going to struggle to draw
visitors when there are other more diverse and historically important
attractions much closer to the megapolises of Tokyo, Nagoya, and
Osaka. But one thing that Ehime has going for it is a spectacular
series of bridges connecting Honshu to Shikoku. And during the
planning phase, some bright spark decided to add a cycling lane, so
that now the Shimanami-kaido is one of the few places in Japan where
you can experience the thrill of a major suspension bridge over deep
blue waters (and whirlpools) without having to rush over it in an

Also related to cycling, it helps that a Toray factory in Ehime was
apparently one of the original sources of carbon fiber for Taiwan's
giant cycling maker, Giant. The prefecture has created a strong
relationship with Giant and leverages it in its planning and marketing
of cycling events. Thirdly, there is the fact that LCC JetStar is now
able to fly into Matsuyama. It costs just JPY12,000-JPY14,000 to get
from Tokyo to Matsuyama, and roughly another JPY3,000 round trip to
take a bike with you. This confluence of factors has caused Ehime's
authorities to find themselves promoting the prefecture as Asia's
biggest cycling mecca. To that end, they are planning an annual
mega-scale sports event for cyclists from 2014, for riders from all
over the world.

Today (October 20th) was the trial run for the 2014 event. Dubbed
"Cyclring Shimanami 2013", it offered 3 courses between 40km and 110km
and drew about 3,500 people aged from 10 to 88. This was a pretty
decent number of riders, thanks to the fact that the Ehime government
managed to get permission to close off part of the national highway.
As a result, registration apparently sold out only a week after it was
advertised. Next year the target is an awesome 10,000 on their bikes
-- which will make it one of the largest such events in Asia. Unlike a
marathon, a bike takes a lot more space, so the assembly area will
probably be 3-5 kilometers long.

Today's run was held on a wet and windy day, so not particularly
auspicious. But the governor must have been happy to see four news
helicopters buzzing the crowd, waiting to report an occasion that
boosted the small town of Imabari's population by 2%. Actually, the
whole idea looks like it could be a huge commercial success for Ehime.
10,000 people will generate a large number of accommodation, bus, and
train/air bookings. Then there are the omiyage purchases, dining out,
foot massages, and of course spare parts for bikes. Looking at the
crowd today, about 30% of the participants were astride carbon bikes
worth JPY150,000-JPY300,000 -- indicating that Japan's cycling
community is willing to invest in and travel for their favorite sport.

...The information janitors/


------------- YOKOHAMA ENGLISH SITE RENEWAL ---------------


Yokohama is revamping the city website and wants your feedback. Check
out the current website and let us know what you think about it in
this very quick survey.

All registrants will be eligible for a chance to win one of several
Amazon gift certificates. Thank you for your help!

Survey link:

+++ NEWS

- International M&A continues to boom
- Protect your privates with anti-rad underwear
- Reasons for a successful online auction market
- Problems with overstayers on new Thai tourist visas
- Did Takehiko Nakao really say that?

=> International M&A continues to boom

Japanese firms are doing exactly what PM Abe is telling them to, and
using up their surplus cash, just they are not spending it at home.
Instead, there were a record number of international M&As involving
Japanese firms this last three months. The number of Japanese-led
acquisitions increased 28% over the same period last year, to 131
deals. Of these, two large and notable players were Softbank, lining
up deals in the U.S. and Finland, and Lixil Group, which is buying
Germany's Grohe for JPY380bn. (Source: TT commentary from, Oct 18, 2013)

=> Protect your privates with anti-rad underwear

In an "only in Japan" story, apparently Osaka based materials company,
Yamamoto, is selling gamma-ray protective underpants, probably
targeting the many workers at the Fukushima plant dealing with the
crisis there. The undies are uncomfortable and heavy, weighing 3.4kg,
but that's not surprising considering they are made from a
lead-impregnated fabric. The selling price will be about JPY8,000. The
same company is also selling beta-ray protective suits that look like
a wet suit. These are priced at around JPY100,000 and will be
available in late November. ***Ed: Really says something when the
nation's PM is assuring the world that all is under control at
Fukushima, while at the same time for-profit companies like Yamamoto
see money to be made out of selling gamma/beta ray blocking
clothing...** (Source: TT commentary from, Oct 18, 2013)


=> Reasons for a successful online auction market

Interesting article by Kyodo News about the online auction market and
who the players are. The article of course identifies Yahoo Auctions
as being the leader, but also highlights the sudden rise of CyberAgent
with its mobile Pashaoku service. Being able to do auctions easily via
cell phone has boosted CyberAgent's membership from just 100,000 to 1m
people in just one year. Apparently the online auction market is worth
around JPY800bn, up 400% in the last 10 years. However, it is at
saturation level and now the opportunities are in innovators like
CyberAgent stealing market share from the incumbents. In case you're
wondering, the leading items being sold are apparel, music, and manga,
followed by a wide range of other goods and services. (Source: TT
commentary from, Oct 19, 2013)

=> Problems with overstayers on new Thai tourist visas

One of the realities for Japan in opening up its tourist visa waivers
to developing countries is that there will always be a percentage of
visitors who once here will try to stay on and work illegally. Such is
the case with Thailand, where Thais are now able to get a 2-week visa
waiver (implemented on July 1st, 2013). Out of roughly 6,000 people
who came to Japan on such visas during the last quarter, roughly 50 of
them overstayed. This Bangkok Post article speculates that mostly they
have been females working in massage parlors. (Source: TT commentary
from, Oct 19, 2013)

=> Did Takehiko Nakao really say that?

Does anyone else appreciate the irony of the president of the Asian
Development Bank, speaking at a Foreign Press Club event, saying that
the U.S. political impass over funding of the Federal government was
like "...taxation without representation..."? He was referring to the
knock-on effects a possible default would have on the global economy
and in particular on major holders of U.S. Treasury Bonds such as
Japan. The reason we mention the word "irony" is that "taxation
without representation" could equally be used to describe the
situation of 2m+ foreigners living in Japan who have no access to the
political process here. OK, they are allowed to make political
donations, but local politics ensures that such donations are
considered toxic. (Source: TT commentary from, Oct 17, 2013)

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



=> Are you in web content or engineering? If so, this section is for you.


- IT Support Person

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to engage in business development with the nation's many
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intangibles. Must have native or strong Japanese. Excellent salary and
visa sponsorship is a possibility for the right person.

Friendly team, interesting technology, central location in Roppongi,
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- Bilingual account manager for major tourism portal
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foreign firms, JPY4M - JPY5M
- English-only experienced PHP Zend software developer, 5 years
experience, JPY3.5M - JPY5M

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:




----------------- ICA Event - October 24th ----------------

Speaker: Dr David Sweet , Managing Director of the human capital
consultancy, Top Grade Japan
Title: "Aftershock: The New Job Market Landscape in Japan"

Details: Complete event details at

Date: Thursday, October 24th, 2013
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members), open to all. No
sign ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: RSVP by 10am on Monday 21st October
Venue is The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan



=> No comments this week.


---------------- Help Still Needed in Tohoku --------------

The Japan Emergency Team, operator of Japan`s only Disaster Relief
Vehicle is asking for help to keep the Disaster Relief Vehicle
running. The DRV, a 30 foot converted Motorhome sleeps up to ten, has
shower, cooking, facilities and is still on site in Tohoku where it
assisted in providing showers, food and emergency assistance as it
still does. In addition it has a mobile `convenience store` which
provides necessities to those in temporary housing.

The Japan Emergency Team was formed in 1989 when 38 students from Chuo
University went to assist in the San Francisco Earthquake making
history as the first overseas disaster assistance from Japan. When
there is not an ongoing disaster in progress the DRV visits schools,
government and other events to promote disaster awareness and is as
much in demand when there is a disaster as when there is not.

Sponsorship includes a logo on the side of the DRV, participation in
regular disaster awareness events and more. Those able to help are
asked to contact for a sponsorship packet or to invite
the DRV to an event.



=> The Towada Triangle, Akita
Be enthralled by the lake's beauty and mystery

Music gives expression to many stories from antiquity, not only the
good old days but also times of sorrow and remorse. Music opens a
whole Pandora's Box of emotions from inside our hearts. And sometimes
the place names themselves evoke similar feelings. In blues music, the
words Mississippi or the Deep South are so evocative that we are
suddenly filled with certain impressions, even for Asian people like
me. In Japan we have something similar, called Enka, which is a type
of folk music. In the Enka narrative, Michinoku, the ancient language
for Northern Japan, or Tohoku, is a word that stirs up a kind of deep
feeling inside many Japanese.

Today I am standing on the shore of Lake Towada. Streams of water flow
gently to the Oirase mountain stream from the lake. Walking along the
shores of the glimmering blue lake in perfect sunshine, I am
surrounded in perfect peace. At the same time, I felt a twinge of
sadness, why? I have heard the name "Oirase" a lot in Enka, and its
sad lyrics played back in my sub-conscious. It is a strange
experience, to be amongst so much beauty, and yet be overcome with

=> Studio Nada, Kashima, Ibaraki
Self-catering Country Cottages

The sound of ocean waves intermingles with the Cuban music coming from
the CD player just inside the open door, where a colorful cotton
curtain is blowing in the breeze. As I relax on a private balcony in
the sunshine, drinking tea and eating my favorite muesli topped with
fruit, I decide to adopt this location, this seaside cottage retreat,
as my happy place, a holiday destination to bring my family to on
three-day weekends when the weather is most agreeable.

Studio Nada is an affordable (Y9,000 ~ for two people), self-catering
seaside cottage in Kashima, Ibaraki about a 45-minutes drive away from
Narita Airport. I first stayed at Studio Nada in 2006, after learning
about it through Outdoor Japan. When my sister's family came to visit
Japan a couple of years later, I booked two suites side by side for
five of us. Months later, my mother and I stayed Studio Nada's lake
view farm cottage, up the hill from the seaside location, where we
were awakened by the crow of roosters, and enjoyed a beautiful view of
horses in the foreground and Japan's second largest lake in the
background. Last weekend was my first time back to the cottage since
2008. I had been wondering how Studio Nada had faired in the 3/11
Tohoku earthquake and ensuing tsunami. My worries were put to rest;
everything was in good shape. The German owner, Renate, let my young
son meet her horses, chickens and pigeons at the farm.



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Great to see an extremely backward area like Ehime trying something like this. Sounds like a great event, but don't get me started on the economic wastefulness of those bridges.