JIN-212 -- Japan to Get A Lot More Convenient This Year

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business and Technology News

Issue No. 212
Thursday, January 23, 2003


++ Viewpoint: Japan to Get A Lot More Convenient This Year

++ Noteworthy News
- Mizuho Plan to Offset Record Loss Given Thumbs-Up by Some
- Press Reports: Japan to Raise NTT Access Fees
- China Surpasses Japan as PC Market

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++ Viewpoint: Japan to Get A Lot More Convenient This Year

No country has embraced the convenience store quite like Japan. Stores
here are high-tech versions of the corner store, places for people to
gather to collect information, supplies and even a little *oden*. The
stores play a central role in the country's e-commerce, offering a
spot for pickups and payments. They also fit into Japan's logistics
system since package delivery companies use them like satellite
offices. And it turns out that Japan's embrace of its so-called
*konbini* is about to get a lot firmer in 2003. The country's top
three convenience-store chains plan to open a net 1,400 new stores in
the year through February 2004, a year-on-year rise of more than 80
percent, according to Nikkei reports.

Seven-Eleven is taking the lead by opening 1,000 new shops, a record
for the company. It will open 100 in Aichi prefecture alone. Lawson
will open 600 new shops, many of which will be spread around the
capital. And No. 3 FamilyMart will open 500. Subtract the closings of
the three chains, and Japan will have 1,400 more stores -- that will
put the grand total around 43,000 or 44,000.

Many of the new stores will be in office buildings, hospitals and
universities, the Nikkei reported, because of the increased traffic in
these spots.

Meanwhile, the stores -- always experimental -- are likely to add new
services and products this year. Look for more stores to target senior
citizens with their products, and also look for more services around
the latest hot products. One product we bet will make its way into
convenience stores soon is Omron's Sassoku Print service, which has
been launched on a trial basis since Jan. 15. It's basically a Print
Club machine for cellphones with cameras. You can develop pictures
taken on your camera onto a sheet of stickers for 200 yen a sheet. The
machines will be in 55 Station film developing stores eventually, but
we bet they'll fit in perfectly in the ever-evolving *konbini* of

-- Bruce Rutledge

Nikkei Net (password required)

Nikkei BP (Omron's Sassoku Print)

J@pan Inc newsletter #164, "The Ever-Evolving Convenience Store"

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** Mizuho Plan to Offset Record Loss Given Thumbs-Up by Some

In Brief: Mizuho's plan to record a nearly 2 trillion yen loss at the
end of this fiscal year and also receive an infusion of about 1
trillion yen is winning some support among analysts and traders.

The bank's announcement on Tuesday of its expected record loss -- the
biggest in Japanese history -- was coupled with a restructuring plan
that includes offerings of preferred shares to clients and investors
in Japan and abroad. The bank hopes to raise 1 trillion yen this way
before March 31.

Initial reaction from traders was good as the bank's share price rose
4 percent Tuesday. Analysts also gave the plan praise, but tempered
their support with concerns about the bank's ability to draw enough
new capital, and if it does, whether it can handle the dividend


Nikkei Net (password required)

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** Press Reports: Japan to Raise NTT Access Fees

In Brief: The Japanese press has reported that Japan will approve
NTT's request to raise access fees by 5 percent from April, a move
that is bound to infuriate many of NTT's competitors. The access
charges are levied on telecommunications companies tapping into one of
NTT's two regional networks to place calls. Telecom carriers offering
phone service may end up passing on the price hike to consumers,
analysts say.

Commentary: This price hike comes at a time when several companies are
pushing IP phones and services. Look for this market to heat up in
2003 as telecom operators try to make sure we keep paying phone bills,
even on calls made over the Internet, and more large companies try to
cut costs by adopting IP telephone services.

From Forbes

"Conspiracy Theories -- Some Calls Are More Equal Than Others" from
our November 2002 issue

** China Surpasses Japan as PC Market

In Brief: China was the world's second biggest market for personal
computers in the last half of 2002, according to International Data
Corp. China jumped ahead of Japan, which held the No. 2 spot behind
the US for the first half of last year. In the last six months of
2002, 6.3 million PCs were shipped in China and 5.7 million were
shipped in Japan.

Commentary: It was just a matter of time -- China became the world's
largest market for cellphones in 2002 as well. But China's rise
indicates a new stage for Japan. The graying, more niche-oriented
Japan is likely to often be overlooked as China's IT infrastructure
grows by leaps and bounds.

Wire reports

"China's Transition Merits Caution," from our December 2002 issue

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Written and edited by J@pan Inc staff (editors@japaninc.com)


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