Back & Forward

By Ken Worsley

A slightly irreverent look at some of Japan’s biggest business stories.

WorldWorld, here we come...
Japanese social network site Mixi moved into the Chinese market in June, and has announced intentions to roll out its website in English to target the North American and European markets. Although Mixi currently has about 1/10 the number of users as MySpace, it is apparently not averse to tying up with an overseas firms in order to make its move, unlike MySpace and Facebook, whose forays into Japan have been lackluster at best. Will Mixi help overseas consumers to view Japanese web services on the level with automotive and electronic exports?

uniqlo...out of neccessity
Mixi CEO Kenji Kasahara echoed what’s on the minds of many Japanese business leaders when he said “The Japanese market is limited. Potential is far bigger worldwide,” at a news conference in August. Another company looking to make bigger inroads overseas is Uniqlo, which announced that it is considering moving into the Indian and Russian markets. Uniqlo also plans on establishing at least 100 shops each in China and South Korea. It seems as though buying out a local company might be out of the question after Uniqlo’s failed attempt to acquire Barneys.

Illustration of a houseKeeping it close to home...
Speaking of investment, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has announced plans to provide about $1 billion in capital to set up a fund that would work along with existing sovereign wealth funds in order to invest in ... umm ... Japanese companies. METI hopes to attract more foreign direct investment in Japan, even if that means pouring in Japan’s own money. No word yet on whether this project will be funded by further debt issuance.

Illustration of a house - magnified...and even closer
13 corporations have lined up to fund a 24-hour English news network in Japan, including NTT, Itochu and Microsoft. NHK is spearheading the project, which is also being funded by local television networks, with NTV and TBS also on board. NHK has established a subsidiary called Japan International Broadcasting, which we assume will put something other than Yomiuri Giants baseball games on the air. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has announced plans to start a satellite network in Japan sometime in 2011, just in time to promote the fourth election of George W. Bush.

CurrencyMore internationalization?
Discussions are underway concerning whether Japan should adopt international accounting rules, which are currently used in over 100 countries. The Japan Business Federation and the Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants both support use of the international standards, which would help Japanese firms move overseas and be able to secure capital in those markets. The Financial Services Agency, however, is not yet convinced, holding that Japanese accounting standards better reflect the focus on long term growth held at many Japanese firms.

HelpUgly internationalization?
Even though caregivers from Indonesia arrived in Japan in the past few months, The Japanese Nursing Association (JNA) is doing all it can to prevent nurses from the Philippines from setting up shop in Japan. More significantly, barriers being put up by the JNA have led to difficulty in getting a 2006 bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) ratified by the Philippine government, which holds that the free flow of workers must exist. The JNA counters that the EPA is not its concern, and that Japan should utilize currently unemployed domestic nurses rather than bringing over workers from overseas.

Ken Worsley runs Contact him at: