TT-471 -- Knife-resistant T-shirts, Secom, ebiz news from Japan

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

General Edition Sunday, June 1, 2008 Issue No. 471


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

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In mid-March, 2008, a company called Nihon Uni introduced a
new t-shirt which is made of toughened polyethylene fibers
to make it knife resistant. The t-shirt is targeted at the
moms of young kids, following a rash of fatal stabbings
over the last two years, by crazed attackers who seem to
pick their victims at random.

A typical case was that of a March attack by a man at a
train station in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki, to the north-east of
Tokyo. The 24-year old psycho told police that he really
wanted to kill his sister, but since he was unable to find
her, he decided to attack the first person he came across
on his way to the station. Subsequently he killed an old
age pensioner outside the man's home and once blooded
then went on to attack and seriously wounded another
seven people around the station itself. One newspaper
reported he said to police, "It didn't matter who they

In light of the media sensationalization of such cases, and
the fact that they have been typically perpetrated by young,
strong, and obviously insane men, the resulting mayhem
can be significant. And so Nihon Uni is tapping into a
growing feeling of unease about personal safety in Japan.
Accordingly, the company has set the pricing of its Salvar
t-shirts at JPY20,200 (approx. US$200) or more for a
child's half sleeve version, and JPY31,500 for the adult

The company had the t-shirts tested by the Japan Synthetic
Textile Inspection Institute, which pronounced that the
specially processed fibers were three times stronger in
resisting knife penetration than regular cotton. We believe
the product will do well, especially if actively marketed
in locations where an attack has just occurred -- which at
the current frequency could well be monthly...

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

Just how justified are Japanese in feeling less secure?
According to the Statistics Bureau 2007 handbook, the crime
rate per 100,000 of population has risen by almost 50% in
the last 26 years, from 1,159.6 to 1,604.7. At the same
time, the number of police arrests has dropped by almost
half, from 59.8% to 31.2%. Add to this the fact that an
increasing proportion of the population is unable to
properly defend itself if attacked -- seniors and singles
for example, it is no wonder that the public is
starting to become paranoid about security. Ten years ago
you would see all kids of 6 and up walk to school alone or
with other young friends, but since a series of ride-by
and school yard stabbings in the last five years, parents
now ferry their kids by car or walk them in groups. No
doubt a number of these kids will be wearing Nihon Uni's
new t-shirts next year.

Apart from Nihon Uni, the main beneficiaries of the
increasing fear of crime are the security services
companies, such as Secom, Sohgo, and CSP. Of these,
Secom is by far the largest player, with an estimated 80%
market share in the highly lucrative home security market.
The Secom home security business breaks down into two
core areas: the monitoring of electronic security in
households and businesses, and the sales of hardware to
do that monitoring.

69.8% of Secom's JPY682.619bn (approx. US$6.83bn) in
consolidated group revenues through to March, 2008 came
from its monitoring services, accounting for most of its
profits as well. This is because once the initial cost of
installing the sensors, controller, and other hardware is
made, the monitoring of customer premises can be done
automatically. Happily, there are very few guard
call-outs occurring over the breadth of the roughly 1.5m
commercial and private customers the company has in
Japan. So basically Secom is in the insurance business --
but provides a piece of hardware instead of employing
actuaries. The home security hardware sales accounted for
another JPY24.4bn (approx. US$244m) of revenue.

Secom is often considered by investors as a turmoil-proof
company, thanks to its steady cash flow, reasonable profits
despite some undercutting from its competitors, and the
fact that it is barely tapping the overall potential
market. For example, last year it had just 406,000
residential customers in Japan -- out of a possible 47m
households. One reason for this apparently low number of
existing customers is that most apartments and houses built
before the long 1990's recession were not designed for
remote security, and thus householders in such premises
(most of Japan's current base of householders) haven't really
considered the security issue yet.

But with the recent stabbing attacks playing in the media,
along with Chinese gangs allegedly behind big increases in
break-ins in Kanagawa and Chiba, young families and singles
in high-rise apartments are starting to consider the reasonably
priced monitoring services offered by Secom and others. The
rates start at around JPY4,000, or approx. US$40, per month.
For this price, Secom throws in a panic button and provides a
quick response from one of its approx. 1,000 response points
around the country.

For comparison, America's (and the world's) largest home
security company, ADT Worldwide, which is part of the Tyco
Corporation, appears to have to work a lot harder. It had 2007
sales of US$7.6bn from its more than 6m customers across
50+ countries. So clearly Secom's profit margins and size of
business are not to be sneezed at. Indeed, we expect it and
ADT to start butting horns in their respective quests for more
market share internationally, especially now that Secom is
actively making acquisitions and enjoying growth in its
foreign markets.

Actually, we get a feeling of deja vu looking at Secom
versus ADT. Are we looking at a FujiFilm-versus-Kodak
battle all over again, but this time in the home security

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+++ NEWS

- Comprehensive ID card on the way?
- Office demand starting to slow
- Household spending down, joblessness up
- Matchmaker certification mooted
- Marijuana planted on Narita passenger

- Comprehensive ID card on the way?

The Nikkei says that the government is looking at producing
a new smart card that will combine both data from the
existing resident registration card as well as social insurance
data. The existing resident card has had a very low
take-up, mainly because it is currently only needed for
electronic tax filings, which very few salaried people need to
do. However, if combined with social insurance data, then the
ID card would become widespread in its adoption across the
country. The Welfare Ministry is hoping to introduce the new
card for every Japanese adult living in japan, by 2011. (Source:
TT commentary from, May 31, 2008)

- Office demand starting to slow

According the Japan Real Estate Institute, the
"capitalization rates" on loans for office buildings in
Tokyo rose for the first time in more than 5 years,
indicating that lenders are becoming concerned about risks
to the commercial rental market. While rents in prime areas
remain high, the demand for such properties has cooled
considerably since foreign finance firms have started
tightening up on costs following the sub-prime blow-out.
(Source: TT commentary from, May 29, 2008)

- Household spending down, joblessness up

The Statistics Bureau has announced that in April national
household spending fell 2.7% over the same period last
year, the largest fall in 19 months. At the same time, the
unemployment rate rose to 4%, a new high for 7 months.
Economists are saying that the Japanese economy, much like
the U.S. economy, is running just barely above negative
growth. ***Ed: Two quarters of negative growth are
considered a recession.** (Source: TT commentary from, May 30, 2008)

- Matchmaker certification mooted

In a case of better-late-than-never, an industry
association of eight leading matchmaking companies have
announced a certification program for companies in the
industry. Last year alone, there were more than 2,870
consumer complaints about hidden costs, shoddy service, and
difficulty in canceling contracts. The association is being
assisted in creating the certification process by METI.
According to METI there are as many as 3,900 companies in
Japan providing matchmaking services both online and with
traditional boy-meets-girl "Omiai" meetings. (Source: TT
commentary from, May 24, 2008)

- Marijuana planted on Narita passenger

We're sure most of you saw this already, but for those who
did not, you may feel less comfortable arriving back in
Japan after a long trip overseas after reading this.
Apparently an unwitting passenger passed through
customs with a packet of cannabis that had been planted
in his bag by a customs officer as a "test" for a sniffer
dog. The only problem is that the officer who planted the
marijuana lost track of his test subject, a business man
who made it all the way to his hotel before noticing the
baggie! He apparently turned the package in to the police.
***Ed: Customs says that planting test drugs in
passengers' bags is prohibited -- but hey, what's a couple
of lost packets of weed when you're the boys in blue?**
(Source: TT commentary from, May 26, 2008)

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.

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