Real Estate: Cutting off Dead Wood?

Gloomy Real Estate IllustrationBy Anna Kitanaka -- With an unprecedented number of real estate companies filing for bankruptcy this year, what does the future hold for the shakiest foundations in Japan? With the economic forecast looking gloomy, Japan’s financial institutions have tightened up their spending, hauling in the ropes for stricter lending practices and more stringent control. Now, welcome to the demise of the credit-reliant companies.


Currency: The Socialization of Capitalism

US DollarBy Michael Condon -- With reports of a planned currency deal with Japan and the EU, and bailouts of financial institutions, is the US now interventionist?

George W. Bush scanned the throngs of restless journalists as he stood at the podium of the Economic Club of New York. Things could have been better.

It was March 14, and following a flood of failed mortgages, a plummeting US dollar and the Bear Sterns bail-out, the US federal government was attempting to play poker with the media.


Mining War: Steelmakers Unite

SteelmakerBy Michael Condon -- As the pit fight over raw commodities intensifies, the nation’s five biggest steelmakers and trading giant Itochu have banded together to take on the mining companies. In November each year, representatives of the world’s most powerful mining and steelmaking companies sit around tables and decide what the standard price for iron ore will be for the year. It’s a decades-old practice, reminiscent of union-management brawls that companies from both sides are used to. The bitter and lengthy talks continue until the first steelmaker accepts a price—then the others follow.


US Election: The Waiting Game

Flag of the United StatesBy Tobias Harris -- Where does the next American president see Japan’s place in Asia? Every four years, as Americans prepare to elect a president, Japanese elites struggle to divine the ramifications of the US presidential election upon the US-Japan relationship. They parse every word written or spoken by the presidential candidates and their advisers in search of clues for how the incoming administration will approach Japan.


Japan Tobacco: Choking at Home

CigaretteBy Peter Harris -- As the anti-smoking movement gains momentum, Japan Tobacco draws up its battle plans. Smoking bans in public is a global trend that is taking off everywhere—or everywhere except Japan, one of the world’s most smoker friendly nations. In a controversial new move, summer 2008 saw the Japanese government consider a threefold tax increase on cigarettes. The proposal submitted to the tax commission would see cigarettes reach prices of 1,000 yen a packet, up from the 300 yen ($3) a pack it is today. Compared to other industrialized nations, tobacco in Japan is sold at an astonishingly low price—cigarettes in Canada, the UK and Norway cost at least $10.



The World’s Tallest Building ... Nearly

Mori TowerBy Anna Kitanaka -- J@pan Inc takes a look at the secretive developer, Minoru Mori, his business dealings and his controversial ‘vertical garden cities.’ -- In September 1, the 101-story Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) finally opened after 17 years of tumultuous development. Initially constructed to be the tallest building in the world, unfortunately for Minoru Mori, 73-year-old property tycoon and owner of half a dozen skyscrapers, the tower failed to retain the title.

Closer to home, Mori had also faced problems, namely due to its controversial Roppongi Hills complex. Opened to the public in 2003, the mega-complex incorporates office space, apartments, shops, restaurants, cafés, movie theaters, a museum, a hotel, a major TV studio, an outdoor amphitheater, as well as a few parks.


Chamber Spotlight: Opening Doors

Armin FrauenknechtArmin Frauenknecht, president of the Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan, discusses life inside the European Business Council.

Here at the chamber, we’re a one-woman show. The embassy takes over when it comes to helping new Swiss companies establish themselves in Japan. If a small Swiss company had a product they want to sell in Japan, we’re probably the first place to call on.


Inside Out: Africa

Boy in AfricaBy Gordon Jones -- As China moves into the continent, how is Japan positioned? When former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda addressed the crowd of dignitaries at this year’s Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TI-CAD-IV), he did so with bold predictions and promises. “In the future, Africa will become a powerful engine driving the growth of the world,” Fukuda said as he stood before the dignitaries of 52 African countries and a multitude of international organizations.


Salaryman-Style: Fried Chicken and Sushi

YurakuchoBy Hugh Ashton -- The lack of legroom for wining and dining has some companies looking for alternatives. Anyone who has had extended connections with Japanese companies will recognize the following scenario: turn up at a Tokyo hotel at about 6.30 p.m., in company with a few hundred dark-suited male middle managers, and listen to speeches delivered by several hosting executives standing in front of a banner declaring the purpose of the gathering. After 20 minutes of this, bottles of beer are opened, the magic word “Kanpai!” is shouted, and the hordes attack the fried chicken and sushi provided as a buffet. At a precisely defined hour, usually quite early, the hotel staff stop refilling glasses and start politely but firmly ushering the guests to the door, where coats are collected and trains caught back to the suburbs.


Hotel Events: Wholesome Hospitality

Employee PartyBy Sarah Noorbakhsh -- In times of economic woe, we find out that the best way to cheer up staff is to throw a party. Tokyo may now be one of the world’s prime locations for extravagant corporate galas and employee parties, but it hasn’t always been that way. While the bubble era meant that companies had more than enough free-flowing cash to treat employees to overseas trips and all-you-can-drink karaoke bashes, the industry as a whole has since evolved, and there has been a renewed surge of demand from companies both domestically and internationally for a new breed of employee- oriented parties hosted at some of Tokyo’s finest hotels.



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