TT-506 -- The Demon Weed, ebiz news from Japan

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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, February 22, 2009 Issue No. 506


- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
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- Corrections/Feedback
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If there is anything the Japanese authorities are allergic
to, following perhaps foreign burglars and divorced
foreigners wanting custody of their kids, it would be
marijuana -- the demon weed that always seems to have been
"bought from a foreigner in Roppongi". The media is having
a field day with the number of arrests frequently, and
clearly the police are feeding lots of juicy details as
each case breaks.

The National Police Agency announced this last week that it
arrested 2,778 people for marijuana offenses in 2008, 22.3%
more people than in 2007. 90% of those arrested were
first-time offenders -- not habitual criminals, and 60% of
them were under the age of 30. Over the last 12 months,
we've seen a parade of high-profile marijuana users get
busted. Entertainers, sumo wrestlers (Russian and
Japanese), students at prestigious universities (e.g., Keio
and Waseda), foreign rugby players, and even large portions
of entire university rugby teams.

How do Japanese get a taste for marijuana? With the
draconian laws over possession, it's surprising that anyone
goes anywhere near the stuff. Still, partly it's because of
the weird split personality the judiciary has over the
various forms of the plant. Since the seeds do not yet
contain detectable levels of THC, the active psychotropic
ingredient, they are legally sold in Japan as a spice for
cooking and as bird seed. Some of this product has been
irradiated and can't grow into plants, but other sources
don't go to this amount of effort. More recently seeds are
also sold as curiosities and you can go online and order
them from both local suppliers as well as from "coffee
shops" in Amsterdam -- 10 seeds for between JPY10,000 to
JPY20,000. It's only when they've been planted and the
plants produce THC that the substance suddenly becomes

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[...Article continues]

But to get to the stage of wanting to plant out your own
stash, it seems that most Japanese kids, and usually it's
the richer, better educated kids who are likely to travel
overseas, that get to taste the demon weed first. They
will try it on the beach in Hawaii, or in universities on
the U.S. mainland, in Australia, the U.K., etc. Or they'll
travel to Amsterdam to enjoy the hash experience. However
it starts, they soon realize that marijuana can be a lot
of fun and is essentially harmless (let's not get into
possible gene damage). When they get back to Japan, they
realize that the demonization of the plant is not based on
fact or logic and they talk to their friends, write about
it on Japanese blogs, and basically reinforce the aura of
coolness that the hemp culture has here.

There are also the wild hemp plants up north in Aomori and
elsewhere, which we recall were particularly popular with
surfers back in the 80's and 90's. Things may be a bit
different these days, especially now that the authorities
in Hokkaido have started issuing growing licences for
varieties proven not to be a significant source of THC,
but back then, in the middle of Fall, groups of guys would
get in their vans and do a road trip to the areas where
THC-rich wild hemp plants are still known to pop up.
Indeed, there were so many people doing this that they got
to be a nuisance and the police were called out to warn
them to stay away.

We don't do drugs -- it's just not worth the risk. However,
researching for this column, we find that the price of
weed in Tokyo is as high as JPY200,000 a gram, which is
about 40 times the price in Hawaii. This means that not
only does the trade attract criminals out to make some big
money, but it is also highly tempting for kids who otherwise
might not bother to sell the stuff. After all, if you've
been able to buy the seeds, and marijuana does grow furiously
like a weed, then what better way to pay for electricity and
grow lights than to sell a few bags to your friends so as to
support the costs?

Unfortunately, despite the seemingly innocuous nature of
marijuana, the fact remains that Japan wants none of the
foreign drug taking culture here. Sentences for locals
include 3-5 years in prison, while for foreigners it means
prison followed by deportation. We don't see any
likelihood of attitudes changing any time soon. So the
result is that otherwise law-abiding kids, who would have
gone on to quietly become doctors and scientists, are
instead hauled before the courts, are castigated in the
newspapers, and have their lives and family reputations
ruined for good.

It all seems so pointless. Heck, one of them might have
even become a future Prime Minister. Since Japan likes to
emulate U.S. values (it was GHQ that criminalized marijuana
in 1948 in the first place), maybe they'll take note that
Barack Obama is the first U.S. president to admit youthful
marijuana and cocaine use, and certainly he has the
people's trust a darned sight more than any Japanese
politician of recent times.


Our Entrepreneur Handbook Seminar is obviously filling a
need in the community right now, as many people look at
their employers and see the writing on the wall. We had a
sell-out audience of 35, and still more people wanting to
attend. So, we have decided to re-run the seminar next
month for those people unable to make it this month. The
new date will be Saturday March 14. Details will be posted
on the website shortly, at:

Lastly, Terrie's Take is proud to be a supporter of The
Japan Helpline. To get help 24 hours assistance with any
problem, whether personal, legal, or financial, any time,
go to and click `help`.

To donate:
Your support keeps The Japan Helpline going.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Top ten richest in Japan
- Prudential winner of AIG Japan bids?
- Wrong woman pregnant from IVF mistake
- Balance sheet treatment of loyalty points
- FTC to fine freight forwarders

-> Top ten richest in Japan

Forbes Asia has announced its latest list of the top ten
richest people in Japan. Heading up the list is Tadashi
Yanai, the president of Fast Retailing (better known as
Uniqlo). His net worth was US$6.1bn, thanks to surging
sales to scrimping consumers. Following Yanai were:
pachinko machine maker Sankyo's former chairman Kunio
Busujima (US$5.2bn), Nintendo's former chairman Hiroshi
Yamauchi (US$4.5bn), property magnate Akira Mori
(US$4.2bn), Softbank's Masayoshi Son (US$3.9bn), golf
course operator ShinNihon Kanko's Eitaro Itoyama
(US$3.7bn), Rakuten's Hiroshi Mikitani (US$3.6bn),
Suntory's Nobutada Saji (US$3.5bn), consumer financier
Takefuji's widow Hiroko Takei (US$2.8bn), and electronics
maker Keyence CEO Takemitsu Takizaki (US$2.4bn). (Source:
TT commentary from, Feb 19, 2009)

-> Prudential winner of AIG Japan bids?

Reuters says that Prudential Financial is the likely suitor
for the buy-out of AIG's two life insurance companies out
for tender. The companies are AIG Edison and AIG Star Life,
and are expected to sell for around JPY100bn-JPY200bn.
Another high profile bidder is Canada's Manulife. The deal
is expected to be finalized this coming week. (Source: TT
commentary from, Feb 20, 2009)

-> Wrong woman pregnant from IVF mistake

In what is reminiscent of a B-grade horror movie, a hospital
in Kagawa Prefecture is being sued for implanting the wrong
donor eggs into an IVF patient. The patient bore the wrong
fetus for several months before the mix-up was discovered,
and eventually she decided to abort at 9 weeks. (Source: TT
commentary from, Feb 19, 2009)

-> Balance sheet treatment of loyalty points

The Nikkei ran an interesting article this week on how a
lack of rules on how to cover the liability risks posed by
loyalty points programs means that some home electronics
companies are likely to see their share prices get hammered
if new international IFRS accounting standards are adopted
in Japan, as is proposed. The Nikkei points out that while
internationally, loyalty point values are usually deducted
from a year's sales and added back in later years as they
are consumed, in Japan many companies simply estimate the
points usage and set aside financial reserves until the
points are actually used. Naturally, the estimates are
lower than 100%, thus resulting in the Japanese firms
possibly having insufficient coverage. (Source: TT
commentary from, Feb 20l, 2009)

-> FTC to fine freight forwarders

The Japan Times is reporting that the Fair Trade
Commission (FTC) has notified at least 10 air cargo
companies that it plans to fine them a total of JPY10bn for
fixing air freight prices nationwide. The FTC reckons that
the prices were fixed at meetings of the Japan Aircargo
Forwarders Association between 2004 to 2007. (Source: TT
commentary from, Feb 22, 2009)

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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'How to Handle Your HR issues during the Economic Crisis'
CCH Japan presents 'Dismissal: Statutory view point
and Practical stand point'

Covered in the seminar are the following key topics:
- Lawful Dismissal
- Unlawful Dismissal
- Alternatives to Dismissal
- How to Handle 'Severance'

Date: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 1:30PM-5:30PM
Venue: Toranomon Pastoral Hotel (6F, Violet)
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FEES: Terrie's Take Readers-JPY20,000+Tax
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Number of seats: 30 seats
Language: English
Speaker: Attorney from Anderson, Mori and Tomotsune LLP
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------------- Entrepreneur Handbook Seminar ---------------

Our Entrepreneur Handbook Seminar is obviously filling a
need in the community right now, as many people look at
their employers and see the writing on the wall. We had a
sell-out audience of 35 and February, and still have more
people wanting to attend.
So, we have decided to re-run the seminar next
month for those people unable to make it this month.
The new date will be Saturday March 21.

Details will be posted on the website shortly, at:

------------------- Smartphone Showdown -------------------

Time: Thurs. March 12, 2009 from 7pm to 10pm
Location: The Pink Cow (
Organizers: Mobile in Japan, Tokyo PC Users Group, Digital
Cost: 1,000 yen, (incl. snacks, TPC member rates apply)

Event Description:
Join the Tokyo PC Users Group, Digital Eve Japan and the
Mobile in Japan Community for an evening of debate on the
merits and demerits of the increasing array of smartphones.

Learn about the benefits of a smartphone over a regular
Japanese keitai, features of various brands (iPhone,
Windows Mobile, Nokia, Blackberry, Palm and Android), and
developments we can expect to see.

Please RSVP at:

----------- Entrepreneur Association of Tokyo -------------

Speaker: Tei A. Gordon, President and CEO of gEco Holdings,
LLC, Importer of Kona Brewing Co., Hawaii

Tei is a serial entrepreneur who has founded his first
company when he was 12 years old. In 1999, with two
partners, he started a VC and M&A company 'Aja Ventures.'

He has held various management positions, including: at his
family energy conservation and engineering company; as a
trader in the food section of Mitsubishi Corporation; and
as an Advisor to JETRO. He is also a guest
business-strategy lecturer at Waseda University's extension
campus -- the 'Nakazawa Academy.'

Tei's latest venture is assisting 17 wineries, 4
distilleries and Kona Brewing Co., to market their products
in Japan. Tei will be conducting a tasting of his Kona Beer
during the seminar so this is one event you don't want to

Please sign up early while seats are available.

Date/Time: Tuesday, March 3rd-Doors open at 6:30,
Seminar starts at 7:00
Location: The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan
Language: English

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



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