Business Break & Measure for Measure

One of Japan’s biggest online comparison-shopping sites,, has started a new service, bringing information from the TV to computer screens faster than before. The Website contains information on restaurants featured in programs in the Kanto area’s five TV channels. From prices to food reviews, the quality of service, a map and even how the restaurant was reviewed on the program can be found on the online directory. Because of an increase in people doing online searches for things they see on TV, Kakaku is hoping to create a one-stop shop for Internet searches to increase its user base.

Preparing foodTokyo gets tastier
When the first Tokyo edition of the world-renowned Michelin culinary guide was published, Tokyo took on the mantle of the city with the most-awarded stars. Now, it looks like the city’s reputation as a gastronomical paradise will be further cemented. This year’s edition will contain 191 stars, compared to 150 from last year –double the number of star-studded restaurants in Paris. “It’s clear. This year again, Tokyo is going be the capital with the most stars,” Michelin director Jean- Luc Naret was quoted as saying. However, it looks like there will be fewer foreigners able to enjoy the delicious cuisines available in Japan. Due to the strong yen, various hotels around Japan have reported that the number of foreign tourists making reservations has decreased significantly from last year.

NHK-on-demandNHK joins TV-on-demand revolution
Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) is set to join the Internet TV revolution in December with its new service ‘NHK on Demand.’ Its main payment schemes will comprise of a watch-all-you-want 1,470 yen monthly charge, or a 3100 yen one-off payment for certain programs such as documentaries. After suffering from the lack of license fee payments from analog TV viewers, NHK is hoping to gain revenue by giving its audience more control of its TV viewing.

Internet advertisingPoints to watch
In their latest bid to gain consumers’ attention, Dentsu, Fujitsu, and Advanced Communications have announced that they have developed a new distribution model for Internet advertising using a “license code system.” The code enables users to manage digital content distribution via two proposed models: 1) An Internet TV service where consumers can set content using mobile devices and then watch it later at home and 2) An Internet TV service where the consumers can accumulate points by watching ads, enabling them to view on-demand films and TV series. The proposed services were demonstrated in “Inter BEE 2008,” the International Broadcasting Equipment Exhibition in Makuhari on November 19.

Iias TsukubaShop ‘til you drop
Daiwa House Industry Co. is the developer of the 85,000-square-meter mall, Iias Tsukuba, which opened last month. The humongous shopping complex is twice the size of the Hanshin Koshien baseball stadium in Hyogo Prefecture, and is home to 221 clothes stores, restaurants and shops. It hopes to attract 12 million visitors a year. Apparently there will even be a studio where shoppers can try on a robotic cyborg suit for the elderly and infirm.

Japanese characters such as kanji may be used as country codes in domain names.Open up the domain
It could be time to buy up more Internet domain names again. From mid-2009, Japanese characters such as kanji may be used as country codes in domain names instead of the ‘.jp’ suffix. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is looking to allow Japanese characters for Japan’s country code as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) considers using characters other than the English alphabet for Internet addresses.

IPO Report
As the year comes to an end, few new companies have been listed on Japan’s exchanges. The numbers may be low, but there are still a few companies worth checking out. Many would be familiar with GREE, Inc., which will be making its debut on December 17, 2008 on the Mothers section of the Tokyo stock exchange. The Internet media company’s main operation, GREE, is one of Japan’s most popular social networking services (SNS). Initially started as the founder’s hobby, the popular SNS was reported to have surpassed more than 7 million subscribers last year. The major reason for the increase was the continuing popularity of the games, developed by the company that works directly with the SNS.

Meanwhile, Hoshizaki Electric Co., Ltd., which is scheduled to IPO on December 10 (section undecided), announced this summer that it bought Danish refrigerator manufacturer Gram Commercial. A representative from Hoshizaki was quoted as saying that the company’s aim is to strengthen its business in Europe, and to go global with new products that combine energy conservation technology and natural refrigerating technology. Its goal is to increase the foreign sales ratio from the current 23.8 percent to 34 percent by 2011.

Lastly, Yamabiko Corporation, created through equity transfers, will become the parent company for Kioritz Corporation and Shindaiwa Corporation and will handle group businesses that manufacture and distribute agricultural machinery. Yamabiko will be floated on December 1. As competition within the agricultural machinery and tool industries becomes fiercer, the two companies aim to strengthen their operations through material procurement and development.


Measure For Measure

1,429The number of bankruptcies in October, the highest in five years.

75.8The percentage of October bankruptcies caused by the economic slump.

40.3The percentage drop in new mobile phone subscribers from a year earlier for the three major carriers, KDDI, Docomo and Softbank.

10 trillionThe amount of yen Japan is willing to provide the International Monetary Fund to help boost loans to emerging economies.