TT-746 -- T'attitude Needs Change, E-biz news from Japan

An Insider's comments on Japan's high tech business world
* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, Mar 02, 2014, Issue No. 746


- What's New -- T'attitude Needs Change
- News -- Mt. Gox -- Probable management incompetence
- Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies -- Sales Manager-cum-Country Manager
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Nebuta in Aomori, Tanuki in Shiga
- News Credits

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The announcement that Tokyo had won the right to host the 2020
Olympics was not just exciting for the prospect of our metropolis
hosting a major sports event, it is also going to be interesting in
terms of how it will stimulate cultural change in Japan. We are
already seeing a ground shift in thinking about how to make Tokyo and
Japan as a whole more acceptable to foreign visitors and what has to
change to make it so. Mostly the focus is on tourist conveniences such
as language, facilities, food, and WiFi, but we think the Olympics
will have an influence all of its own in areas that are not so

Take tattoos, for example.

In 2012 the mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, came out "full blast" with
a policy that had been quietly advocated for years previously -- he
outlawed tattoos -- in the Osaka government at least. Specifically, he
ordered a stop to city employees getting inked, because he reckoned,
"...they will make people feel nervous and intimidated." Whether a
20-year old girl with a butterfly tattoo on her back makes people
think she is connected to Yakuza is debatable, but what Hashimoto has
done is to unleash a wave of unreasonableness upon those sporting
tattoos. There will be no tattoos, no exceptions.

His was no hollow announcement. Just six weeks ago (January, 2014), a
23-year old female clerk at an Osaka public school was docked an
entire month's salary based on the fact that she got an arm tattoo
some months after Hashimoto's edict was proclaimed. She was the first
person punished under the new rule, which affects about 38,000
employees in Osaka. The new policy is really an amazing and so-far
unchallenged invasion of privacy in our view, and all employees are
required to report any tattoo on any part of their body, especially
those which are publicly visible. Given the imperious nature of this
rule, we're surprised that Hashimoto's henchpeople don't make the
city's rubbish collectors wear ties as well, at least after they're
done transferring/firing those with tats of course.

[Continued below...]

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Another recent incident of collective public paranoia about tattoos is
the passing of a new law in Zushi, Kanagawa-ken, preventing members of
the public from showing body tattoos at the beach. How you are
supposed to swim in jeans and long-sleeved shirt, we're not sure, but
certainly the new rules are not welcome amongst members of the U.S.
military based down there. Perhaps they don't need to get too worked
up about it yet, though. Not only has the city of Zushi "not yet
developed specific guidelines" (whatever that means - sounds like
they're weaseling their way out of a stupid law), but there is also a
civil suit being brought against the city by beach hut owners who
worry that the new rule will hurt their business -- which it of course

Anyway, the Osaka and Zushi laws are just the tip of an ongoing
movement in Japan against tattoos, and it's well known that almost all
onsen and public baths in the nation already have a no tattoos policy.
You can read screeds on the Internet as to why the Japanese don't like
tattoos, and of course the association with inked gangsters is the
most common reason given. We suspect it's more a case of disliking
non-conformity, especially amongst rebellious youths, than any genuine
fear of criminals in the same bath. Whichever, this level of official
nannying is unfortunately going to butt head-on with the emerging
trend overseas for people to accept and even glorify body art.

Indeed, in many countries tattoos are now de rigueur for top athletes,
and by example, for their young and impressionable fans. David Beckham
has a ton of tattoos, Michael Phelps has them, Canadian 2014
Shorttrack gold medalist Francois Hamelin has them, and apparently all
but two of the current All Blacks (Rugby) have them. Come the 2019
Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympics, thousands of similarly inked
athletes and fans will be traveling Japan and expecting to visit its
onsen and public places.

The question is whether the central government is going to continue
allowing local authorities to pass repressive etiquette laws or get
real. A tattoo ban will effectively ban foreign athletes and visitors
from enjoying themselves at a time when the country is desperately
trying to build its image as a welcoming and fun place to visit. The
recent incident of 60-year old bespectacled Maori cultural performer
Erana Brewerton being barred from a Hokkaido onsen because she has a
chin moko (traditional Maori face tattoo) shows the potential for some
serious negative fall-out if something isn't done.

Brewerton is about as far from a Yakuza-looking customer as you can
get, but the onsen employees blindly followed policy and no exceptions
were possible. This pathetic instance of cultural inflexibility
eventually prompted one of the top government officials in the nation,
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, to publicly comment in
frustration that, "It is important to have respect for foreign
cultures and deepen our understanding of them..." OK, so now what are
you going to do about it? Nothing from the central government at this
stage. We suppose that they have another 2-3 years before it really

Actually, the whole culture of tattoos in Japan is an interesting one.
Take some time on the Internet to be amazed at the beauty and
diversity of the fine art practiced on peoples' skins. Previously
Tokyo-resident photojournalist Tony McNicol has a particularly good
selection of photos taken during a Tattoo art exhibition held at the
Foreign Correspondent's Club back in 2009.

Because of the official stance to drive the practice underground,
Japan is now at a point of wide divergence with attitudes on tattoos
overseas. This was highlighted for us last year when one of our journalist interns, Perri, decided that one of her
early stories would be a visit to the very highly-regarded (overseas)
Three Tides Tattoo chain. Her story is here: She
chose Three Tides because their advanced artistic ability and
forthright presence as a normal and trusted business. They were one of
the first stores to go mainstream, opening parlors in Osaka and in
Harajuku, Tokyo. Given that the local shopkeepers association hasn't
kicked them out of either location, it seems that they might have
created a beachhead of tolerance and acceptance, one that we hope will

Apparently one of the challenges of tattoo artists is that not only is
their work frowned on by the older generation but they also have to
break the law to practice. You need a medical licence to insert a
needle into a customer's skin -- something that would normally apply
to medical personnel, but which also happens to apply to the tattoo
industry. So a tattoo artist could theoretically be arrested. The
reality is though, that apart from some rabid politicians like
Hashimoto, the police and authorities in general turn a blind eye to
the situation.

Anyway, Perri's idea of getting a tattoo as a souvenir of Japan is an
interesting one and is quite doable. Three Tides lists their prices,
starting at JPY10,000 for a coin-sized tattoo, JPY50,000 for a
postcard-sized one, and topping out at JPY15,000/hour for multi-day
masterpieces typically done in 3-hour sessions. No one knows how many
tattoo parlors there are in Japan, but one of the leading sites in
Japanese,, has about 640 of them listed. The site is a
good one, actually, and also includes a list of onsen and bathhouses
which allow inked customers to enjoy the facilities without being
harassed. If you happen to be inked and don't want the embarrassment
of being thrown out for stripping off, then check out

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+++ NEWS

- Uniqlo to buy J. Crew?
- Mt. Gox -- Probable management incompetence
- Course set for nuclear reactor re-starts
- Conbini turn to vege farming
- High employment or high under-employment?

=> Uniqlo to buy J. Crew?

The fund that owns clothing chain J. Crew in the USA have said that
they are in discussions with Fast Retailing (Uniqlo) for the Japanese
firm to buy the business. The purchase price is likely to be around
US$5bn, a big uplift for the TPG fund and partners, who bought the
company for US$2.8bn back in 2010. If they deal goes through, it will
add more than 400 U.S., Canada, and U.K. stores and US$2.4bn in sales
to Fast Retailings existing US$10.2bn annually. ***Ed: The deal is not
done yet, and analysts point to the fact that CEO Tadashi Yanai has
scotched other deals at the last minute because he didn't get the low
price he was looking for.** (Source: TT commentary from, Feb
28, 2014)

=> Mt. Gox -- Probable management incompetence

Excellent reporting and analysis of the Mt. Gox Bitcoin debacle by
local journalist Jake Adelstein, reporting for His
analysis after speaking to employees of the company is that Mt. Gox
failed primarily because of the tender age, inexperience, and possibly
ego of the CEO, Mark Karpeles. The picture which is emerging is that
Karpeles and friends were lucky enough to be in the right place at the
right time for the emergence of Bitcoin as a hot new web trend, and
that while they were smart enough to create a user-friendly web
interface for customers, those smarts did not extend to diligence
about security, accounting, and generally managing the exchange. As a
result, even though Karpeles knew that the site had been hacked and
that there was a vulnerability that allowed users to repeat
withdrawals, he and other employees were either unaware of the
seriousness of the breach or unable to plug it quickly. ***Ed: Either
way, the size of this failure and the fact that the U.S. fiscal
authorities are upset about it pretty much guarantees Karpeles is in
for some serious interrogation and most likely charges of negligence
by Japanese authorities. However, it also highlights the fact that
international internet innovations are ignored by the Japanese, at
their peril. Some things you just can't turn a blind eye to.**
(Source: TT commentary from, Feb 27, 2014)

=> Course set for nuclear reactor re-starts

The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) has floated the
latest draft of the nation's Basic Energy Plan, which bureaucrats are
indicating is the first step in restarting idled nuclear power plants.
If followed, which is highly likely, the government's policy will
focus on restarting the reactors as soon as tougher safety checks are
done, with little attention to a reduction process. Opponents to the
Plan say that rather than increasing supply and therefore power
consumption, the government should in fact be promoting power
conservation, which will reduce reliance on nuclear. One professor,
Masaru Kaneko at Keio University, goes so far as to point out that the
government's hardline power policy is probably prompted by
self-interest. He says that "Seventy percent of individual donations
to the LDP come from electricity company executives." ***Ed: If true,
it has the potential for scandal later.** (Source: TT commentary from, Feb 27, 2014)

=> Conbini turn to vege farming

In an effort to ensure stable supplies of vegetables and other fresh
produce, major convenience store chains Seven & I Holdings' 7-Eleven
and Itochu's Lawson chain have announced various initiatives to hire
and train young employees as farmers. Lawson has already started 12
farming j/v's and is planning another 28, while 7-Eleven started its
first j/v farm in 2008 and now has ten in total. Currently the
companies are only allowed to either lease the farm land or do 50/50
joint ventures with registered farmers, until such time as the
government changes landownership laws -- something that is expected to
happen soon. The number of farming corporations has jumped from 1,732
in 2009, the first time that joint ownership was allowed, to 13,561 in
2012. This translates to about 7% of all farm land now being
corporatized. ***Ed: Japan needs to be more self-sufficient, no doubt,
but something makes us uncomfortable thinking that the average
Japanese will be even further removed from the land and natural
environment.** (Source: TT commentary from, Feb 26,

=> High employment or high under-employment?

Many other countries look at Japan's unemployment figures and are
envious of its low rate. But as this Wallstreet Journal article points
out, not all is as it seems. Yes, the jobless rate is 3.7%, and people
really are working, not just dropping from the statistics after giving
up hope. The problem, though, is the shift from full-time regular
employees, with benefits and job security, to part-time or contract
workers. The shift is so massive that even as the jobless rate fell,
the number of permanent jobs also fell, by 94,000 positions, to 32.42m
people. On the other hand, non-regular jobs rose 1.33m to 19.56m
people. This means that a full 37.6% of the workforce is now in an
unsecure job and working for less pay and benefits. ***Ed: This
disenfranchisement of Japanese employees can only affecting the
economy and the population's mental health. For starters, part-timers
and contractors are more likely to be fired when the market correction
comes. Further, they are more likely to have no savings and thus find
it difficult to get home loans, plan to have children, and have a
future.** (Source: TT commentary from, Feb 28, 2014)

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


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* If you are a video journalist, then you will also be assigned a
region to cover and will be expected to produce an edited 2-3 minute
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=> Are you in web content, sales, or engineering? If so, this section
is for you.


- Web marketing/technology Sales Manager-cum-Country Manager position

If you are working in a web marketing or web technology company, and
have a strong sales record and excellent Japanese and English (this is
compulsory), we have a client looking for a person to manage their
Japan start-up operation and who on showing reasonable performance
will become the country manager of a team of professionals here.
Unlike most start-ups entering Japan, this one already has clients and
is winning recognition in the market for their technology. The
position requires a strong knowledge of who the main market players
are, and thus a strong personal network, and if not a native Japanese
speaker, then you will need to demonstrate a strong track record of
previous successful appointments. This is not a Country Manager role
right out of the box, and so a flexible, sales-oriented personality is
essential. Salary is JPY10m base and JPY3-4m on achievement of very
reasonable sales targets. Please send your resume to


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Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:




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Speaker: Hideki Thurgood Kano, Corporate Lawyer and Author at Anderson
Mori & Tomotsune
Title: "Unilateral Termination of Employees (due to their poor performance)"

Details: Complete event details at

Date: Thursday, March 20th, 2014
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 Friday 14th March 2014. Venue is The Foreign
Correspondents' Club of Japan.



=> No corrections/feedback this week.



=> Gorgeous Kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms, Kanagawa-ken

When most people talk about cherry blossoms (sakura), the type usually
referred to is what is known as "Somei-yoshino". These cherry trees
usually bloom around late March to early May, depending on the
location and the weather. But in Japan, there are other kinds of
cherry trees that bloom MUCH earlier than that. If you are lucky
enough to catch them in full bloom, you can enjoy the cherry blossom
season to the fullest before the REAL sakura season comes. I would
like to introduce one of the earlier blooming cherry trees, called

1,000 Kawazu-zakura cherry trees grow near the Miura-kaigan Station
and begin to bloom in late January to early February, and last for a
month. This type of cherry tree was originally found at Kawazu-cho in
Izu, Shizuoka -- hence the name. The original tree is still alive, and
starting from around 1968 cuttings were distributed to other places
all over the country. The pink flower color is a bit deeper than the
Somei-yoshino and so the petals look truly gorgeous.

=> Ciel Cafe, Kumamoto-ken
"Heavenly" desserts outside Kurokawa Onsen

Part of the appeal of staying in an onsen town is the knowledge that
your ryokan will stuff you silly for both dinner and breakfast. But
some of us have a sweet tooth that is hard to satisfy with just a
helping of fruit or small dessert. When your taste buds tingle for
that rush of sugar, you won't mind the walk (or drive) up the insanely
curvy driveway to the hilltop cafe of Ciel.

It's hard to interpret which aspect of the cafe the owners intended to
represent with the chosen name - Ciel means "sky" but also "heaven" in
French. To be sure, the views here are second to none. Sitting on a
ridge above Kurokawa Onsen, diners have clear views from the massive
picture windows of the imposing Kujo mountains in Oita prefecture to
the north. Come in winter and these peaks are snow-capped - you'll be
glad of the cozy indoor space. In summer, however, a large terrace
allows diners to take their food or drinks out to the wooden lounge
chairs to soak up the cool breezes that blow through this valley while
the rest of Japan swelters.

The view of the dessert case inside is equally enticing, however, and
travelers can expect typical French pastries such as mille feuille
(layers of cream and wafer like pastry), mont blanc (with heapings of
chestut cream), and fruit tarts in flavors like apple and pear. You
can have dessert only or choose a set, which includes tea or coffee.



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