TT-408 -- Traffic safety for kids

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, February 11, 2007 Issue No. 408


- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News credits

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--------------- Start a Company in Japan ------------------

Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 24th of Feb, 2007

If you have been considering setting up your own company,
find out what it takes to make it successful. Terrie Lloyd,
founder of over 13 start-up companies in Japan, will be
giving an English-language seminar and Q&A on starting up
a company in Japan. This is an ideal opportunity to find
out what is involved, and to ask specific questions that
are not normally answered in business books. All materials
are in English and are Japan-focused.

For more details:


Something that strikes foreigners driving in Japan is the
number of families who let their young kids ride in the
front on a parent's lap, or in the back, unharnessed.
"Don't the parents care that they might kill their kids?"
is the frequent shocked refrain.

Well apparently not.

In 2005, there were 933,828 recorded traffic accidents in
Japan, resulting in 1,156,633 injuries and 14,802
fatalities. Of these, 182 deaths and 88,447 injuries were
of kids under the age of 15. Fatalities for unrestrained
kids were 3.1 times higher than for those strapped in --
and yet, ignorant or uninterested parents and grandparents
let their kids stand up and jump around on the back seat
while driving through town. Perhaps they think the heavy
traffic and slow speed lessens the risk, and yet
statistically almost 50% of all fatal accidents occur at
speeds of less than 50km/hr.

The main reason that the kids are allowed to travel
unrestrained at all is because it is still not compulsory
for rear seat passengers to wear seat belts. But finally it
looks like the law is going to be changed. The National
Police Agency (NPA) just last week submitted a bill to
government which combines stiffer rules for aged driver
testing, drunk driving penalties, and seat belts for rear
passengers. The bill comes in response to a series of DUI
accidents that hit media headlines last year, including one
particularly ugly incident where an intoxicated Fukuoka
city government employee rear-ended a family in a SUV on a
Hakata bridge, shunting the SUV into the bay and drowning
the 3 kids onboard.

The law currently defines the alcohol limit as 0.15 mg/ltr
of breath and violation can result in a maximum sentence of
a JPY500,000 fine or 3 years in jail. The new bill calls
for this to be increased to five years or JPY1m. While this
doesn't sound like much of a crack down, where the NPA
proposal is creating a public stir is that it seeks to
impose severe penalties on those who serve alcohol to
people they know are driving, as well as those who get a
ride from a driver they know to be intoxicated!

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

But back to our observation that Japanese passengers don't
seem that interested in wearing seat belts. A recent
NPA/JAF (Japan Auto Federation) survey found that when
travelling on municipal roads only 7.5% of rear seat
passengers in Japan wear seat belts, and on highways, 12.7%
do. This compares with 93.8% of drivers and 83.45% of
front-seat passengers who belt up for a neighborhood drive.
The proposed legislation will cause drivers found with
unbelted passengers to lose one point for every violation.

Ironically, the tougher legislation proposed by the police
comes as the traffic death toll in this country has
actually fallen to its lowest point in 51 years...
Throughout 2006, there were 6,352 deaths from accidents,
the lowest since 1955. The NPA reckons that its message on
seat belts and zero tolerance for DUI is getting through.
However, the more cynical amongst us might attribute the
fall to lower volumes of private traffic on the roads due
to the soaring fuel costs -- certainly sales of new autos
in Japan are down over 2% on last year.

Seatbelts in the back don't just benefit the kids, parents
too have a higher survival rate if their offspring aren't
flying into their heads at a sudden stop. A recent study
found that deaths of front seat occupants travelling with
back seat passengers could be reduced by up to 80% if those
in the back were harnessed. Apparently, this could bring
down the death toll by around 742 people a year, or reduce
severe injuries by 1,520 cases.

Now you might be wondering if the type of restraint that
kids use makes a difference to fatalities. While a more
complete and proper fitting harness does reduce the
severity of pelvic, chest, and neck injuries, an
interesting study done in the USA in 2005 found that the
survival rate of kids aged 2 thru' 6 years old is just as
good if they are simply wearing belts, versus being
strapped into an expensive designer-brand child seat. So
this is one time when anything is better than nothing.

Another sight on Japanese roads that surprises newly
arrived foreigners is that of young moms cycling their 1 or
2 offspring to school, with all three of them balanced
precariously front and back, and usually without head
protection. This is indeed a problem both for the family
doing the riding and also for those they run into. 46 kids
last year died while on bicycles and another 846 were
seriously injured.

A 2005 study by a Dr. Shinya Miyamoto of the Institute
for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis found that
about 30% of parents have had an accident with their young
children mounted on a bicycle -- typically with the cycle
tipping over while loading the child. Of these accidents,
he found that 50% (15% overall) resulted in some degree of
head injury. Miyamoto's went on to calculate the impact to
a child's head when a cycle topples over. His findings were
that under the right conditions, the force of impact could
be as much as 300G (3,000 m/s2), sufficiently heavy to
kill. The tests found that while high-back child seats
offer some protection, only wearing a helmet ensured a
reasonable level of safety. He found that the level of
impact when wearing a helmet was reduced by 50%-60%.

So, for children under 15, what is more lethal, riding
unrestrained in the back of a car or on a bicycle without
a helmet? Actually, the answer is neither. In Japan the
most lethal activity is walking to school. 74 kids died in
2005 and 2,024 were injured doing just this. Unsafe roads
are a real problem here and the authorities know it. As a
result, in the last 10 years they have increased the number
of sidewalks nationwide by 30% and those along major school
routes (counted as being used by more than 100 kids a day)
by more than 46%. We can only hope that this measure, along
with the proposed new laws, help to get this unnecessary
child road toll down.

At risk of sounding morbid, we list here several facts
relating to roads and child safety:
1. The most dangerous of the 47 prefectures for accidents
was Aichi, followed by Hokkaido, then Chiba.
2. It is much safer to teach your kids to walk AGAINST the
traffic flow than with it. Apparently only 3.4% of child
fatalities occured when facing oncoming traffic, versus
8.2% when walking with it.
3. In contrast, the most dangerous time to be a child
pededstrian is when crossing the road. 72.7% of all
fatalities occur at this time.
4. But to children under the age of 15, it is not so much
the roads of Aichi which are threatening than it is their
own parents. Compared to the 182 kids killed on the roads,
last year 916 were abused to death by their mother or
father -- a very disconcerting state of affairs...

We'll leave it there, but urge anyone toting or walking
their kids to school to educate them early about road

*** This week's FEEDBACK section is about the problems
Japanese companies have with IP litigation from foreign
IP holders.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Lyrics parsed from CD albums
- Carbon fiber business grows
- Part-time Yakuza outnumber regulars
- CyberAgent scores from Mixi IPO
- Specter of HIV/AIDS still with us

-> Lyrics parsed from CD albums

In a smart new take on voice recognition, a Kyoto
University research team has developed a software
application which parses and extract song lyrics in CD
music tracks and display them on a PC monitor. This
interesting application can be used as a type of
on-the-fly Karaoke lyrics display, or to just simply
allow listeners to see what is being sung. The developers
say that the software will allow the user to cue in on
specific lyrics without having to play the entire track.
(Source: TT commentary from, Feb 8, 2007)

-> Carbon fiber business grows

Textile maker Toray Industries has announced that its
carbon fiber business is going gangbusters, and is forecast
to hit 17,900 tonnes in 2008, up from an estimated 13,900
tonnes this year. The company has said that based on
accelerating demand from Boeing for its new 787 aircraft,
it will invest JPY55bn (US$454m) to increase production
capacity. The global demand for carbon fiber is around
27,000 tonnes and is expected to rise to 45,500 tonnes by
2010. Japanese firms account for more than 70% of supply.
(Source: TT commentary from, Feb 9, 2007)

-> Part-time Yakuza outnumber regulars

Only in Japan would a statistic like this be known.
According to the National Police Agency (NPA), there are
now 43,200 "part-time" Yakuza in Japan, compared with
41,500 regular members. A part-timer is defined as someone
not directly recruited into a mob group but who supports
the gangs in some political, financial, or enforcement way.
The largest of the gangs is Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi,
which accounts for 21,000 members, or about 47% of all
Yakuza in Japan. The next largest is Tokyo-based
Sumiyoshi-kai, with 8,000 members. ***Ed: The Yakuza boss
gunned down just down the road from our office in Nishi
Azabu last week was from the Sumiyoshi-kai.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Feb 8, 2007)

-> CyberAgent scores from Mixi IPO

If you're wondering how much money the Mixi investors made
on the SNS firm's stunning IPO last year, a notice from
CyberAgent last week gives a good indication. The company
said it sold 750 shares in Mixi for JPY1.636bn (US$13.7m)
after the IPO. The company apparently paid JPY9m
(US$75,000) for the shares -- thus creating a profit of
about JPY1.627bn (US$13.56m)! ***Ed: According to our
calculations, this amounts to a return of about 18,000% --
not bad...! (Source: TT commentary from CyberAgent IR web
site, Jan 31, 2007)

-> Specter of HIV/AIDS still with us

The Health Ministry has announced that Japan had a record
number of new infections of HIV and AIDS in 2006. There
were 914 new cases of HIV, up 10% from 2005, and 390 new
cases of full-blown AIDS. the Ministry says that the
increased numbers are probably because more people are
getting themselves tested. ***Ed: Which of course doesn't
tell us if the disease is gaining ground or holding
steady.** (Source: TT commentary from,
Feb 8, 2007)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.


======== Japan vending machine market cracked open! =======

Japan is home to the highest density of vending machines
in the world, with about 5.6m machines, or one for every 23
people. You can buy almost anything, and the Japanese do,
with about JPY6.67trn (US$56bn) being spent every year.
Yet, apart from the obvious players such as major soft
drinks companies, there have been no foreign owners of this
massive direct sales medium - until now.

Market Pioneer Japan is proud to announce that as of
December, 2006, it has built a network of 1,500 vending
machines placed nationwide, selling stickers and print
logos. We invite owners of licensable content to contact
us with a view to distributing your IP assets into the
Japanese market.



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============== Start a Company in Japan ===================

Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 24th of Feb, 2007

If you have been considering setting up your own company,
find out what it takes to make it successful. Terrie Lloyd,
founder of over 13 start-up companies in Japan, will be
giving an English-language seminar and Q&A on starting up a
company in Japan. This is an ideal opportunity to find out
what is involved, and to ask specific questions that are
not normally answered in business books. All materials are
in English and are Japan-focused.

For more details:

==================== ICA Event-Feb 15 ====================

Speaker: Eugene Saburi - Managing Executive Officer,
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Time: 6:30 Doors open, buffet dinner included
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Open to all - Location is Foreign Correspondents' Club

IT events announcements are priced at JPY50,000 per week.
For more information, contact sales at



In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to

-> TT 407 -- IP litigation. Last week's commentary was
about litigation against Japanese companies outside of

*** Our reader says: I'm in the interpretation business,
and the majority of my work is for IP depositions in
litigation involving Japanese companies. This is a highly
specialized and difficult field of interpreting (not least
of which because of the personalities involved). Also
interesting culturally because Japanese engineers are not
accustomed to Western-style bare-fisted interrogation and
my observation is that they have to be coached on how to
handle such interrogations. Either that or develop "severe
cases of amnesia"! It is interesting to see that the recent
semiconductor cases are now involving Taiwanese companies
beating up Japanese fabricators.

I thought you might like to know that a US-Japan treaty
mandates that all depositions in Japan take place on US
territory, which means one tiny room at the US embassy in
Tokyo and two tiny rooms at the US consulate in Osaka.
Lobbying by various law firms is underway to revise this
so that depositions can at least be held at at other venues
such as law offices.

Lastly, Koizumi, who is nobody's fool, was right on the
nail when he declared early on that IP and IP protection
were a major challenge for Japan. From where I sit,
Japanese companies have to pick up their game.

...The information janitors/

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