TT-727 -- Earthquake Retrofitting to Save Lives, 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, Sep 22, 2013, Issue No. 727


- What's New -- Earthquake Retrofitting to Save Lives
- News -- VC investors to get tax breaks
- Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Bikes in Shikoku, Chinese gardens in Tottori
- News Credits

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The Mainichi newspaper published an article last week that reminds us
how vulnerable Tokyo is to an earthquake. The article highlights those
parts of Tokyo considered most at risk of widespread destruction if a
big one hits -- something that is highly likely to happen in the next
4-30 years. The article is mostly based on an earthquake hazard map
produced by the Tokyo Metropolis Government, that is updated every
five years.

While you might think that the most vulnerable parts of Tokyo are
those built on newly reclaimed land (such as Odaiba), the Tokyo
Metropolitan Government thinks otherwise. For them, aging buildings
and the risk of fire are considered more threatening. Therefore, of
the 5,133 districts in Tokyo, more than 60% of the 84 most dangerous
ones are in the Shitamachi area -- being Adachi, Arakawa, and Sumida

You can find the Mainichi article here:

And the hazard map here:

What's interesting for us is how the authorities focus on fire. It is
of course reasonable for them to do so, because in earthquakes,
ruptured gas lines do quickly result in widespread fires, which means
emergency services have to have quick access. The Shitamachi areas of
Tokyo are typified by narrow streets, old fire-prone timber dwellings,
and low-strength multi-story buildings, and therefore there is a high
likelihood of impeded access to fire engines and ambulances.

[Continued below...]

-------------------- DELTA AIR LINES ----------------------


Delta has cut check-in times for passengers at Tokyo (Narita) by up to
40%. Working in partnership with SkyTeam(R), Delta has redesigned the
Tokyo Narita International Airport Terminal 1 lobby in the North Wing
and increased the common-use, self-service check-in kiosks to 111. The
upgraded kiosks are in the front area of the lobby so passengers can
check in quickly and easily before dropping their bags at the
individual Delta counters so they save even more time.

Discover more check-in options from Delta, please go to

[...Article continues]

Still, for us, a similarly important risk factor would be the threat
of tsunami, especially in light of the fact that the next big one is
expected to emanate from the waters south of Tokyo, and is thus more
likely to push a wave directly up Tokyo Bay. In this case, we think
many of the newer "low-risk" areas should also be re-assessed --
although that might be bad for business and the new proposed 2020
Olympic village. According to, the average elevation
of Odaiba for example is just 11m. This is well within the wave height
of a tsunami similar to the one that hit Tohoku in March 2011. FYI,
the average elevation of Arakawa-ku is 8m, Shinagawa-ku is 23m and
Shinjuku-ku is 42m.

Then of course, there is also the problem of liquefaction of the
ground, as we saw happen in Shin-Urayasu, another so-called low-risk
area. While the buildings themselves in this 1980's development are
anchored with deeply sunk piles and thus did not suffer any
significant shaking damage from the Tohoku quake (the center of which
was 400km away), nonetheless, there was plenty of subsidence of land.
This broke sewer lines and squeezed massive concrete drains out of the
earth just like pips out of a lemon. As a result, some condominiums
went without water for almost a month after the quake -- in itself, a
major fire hazard.

Liquefaction also makes undamaged buildings uninhabitable. When the
1995 Kobe earthquake happened, we traveled to the area shortly after,
and saw large office buildings on Rokko Island that were quite safe
but nonetheless empty because all the underground services, not just
water, had been broken as the ground subsided. One massive building in
particular looked like it was built on top of a small hill, because
the ground around it had sunk several meters. It took about almost 12
months for them to get the tenants back in there. If this same
scenario happened in Shinagawa, it would require the mass evacuation
of most of the ultra-modern high-rise residences that line Tokyo bay.

Going back to the original Metropolitan Government report, while
widening the streets of the downtown areas is going to be hard to do,
replacing or retrofitting those aging buildings is much more feasible.
Indeed, the national government is implementing a wide range of
stimulative measures to increase the rate of earthquake-resistance
modifications to existing older buildings. These include reducing the
1.4% fixed-asset tax by 50%, as well as a special 10% depreciation
deduction for pre-1981 buildings which are retrofitted from next

There will also be a change in the law for the resale or demolition of
old condominiums. Whereas now a property developer or group of owners
wanting to redevelop their land have to get approvals from 100% of the
stakeholders (owners, banks, tenants, etc.), with the new law only 80%
of the property owners would need to consent. Again, these rules would
only apply to condos older than 1981, which nonetheless is about 1m
properties out of the 6m condominiums standing in Japan.

Home reinforcement does save lives and it's reasonably cheap to do.
According to the Metropolitan government's website on earthquake
alleviation, retrofitting a standard family home with reinforcement
costs around JPY1.5m-JPY2m and can help the dwelling remain standing
after a M6.8 earthquake similar to the one that hit Kobe. Here is a
good photo of a massive test assembly that simulated the Kobe
earthquake and how a reinforced house survived:

As an aside, the prediction of a major quake within the next 4-30
years (versus just 30 years) is being made because scientists are
concerned about the elevated number of mini-quakes hitting Tokyo,
about three times more than before the Tohoku event. They think that
although the Tohoku quake released seismic stress in that region, it
may also have started in motion a train of seismic events that will
trigger a major quake in the Nankai Trough or possibly even under
Tokyo itself. Read the article here:

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+++ NEWS

- What the government thinks people live on
- VC investors to get tax breaks
- Raising wages is not a patriotic duty, yet
- Balentien surpasses home-run record
- Vacant homes show the impact of demographics

=> What the government thinks people live on

Interesting to see the government's assessment of how much the average
person can live on. This is demonstrated by the fact that they are
going to compensate low-income people (based on 24m people who pay no
residency tax because their incomes are too low) for the rise in
consumption tax. They are going to give them a one-time payment of
JPY10,000 to tide them over for 18 months following the consumption
tax rise from 5% to 8%. ***Ed: If you work this out, the government is
saying that low-income people are living on about JPY18,500 per month
for food and other essentials -- all of which will be affected by the
consumption tax. The poor have it tough in Japan.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Sep 19,2013)

=> VC investors to get tax breaks

It's been a long time coming, but finally the government is
recognizing the high risks involved in venture investing and are going
to allow investors in venture firms to book a percentage of the
amounts invested as impaired assets. The new legislation will take
hold in 2014 and is already nicknamed the "Angel Tax System". VC flows
are significantly lower for Japan compared to other advanced
countries. In 2011, just JPY60bn (US$600m) was invested into
start-ups, compared to US$30bn for the USA. (Source: TT commentary
from, Sep 17, 2013)

=> Raising wages is not a patriotic duty, yet

According to a very good Reuters report, a recent survey by the
company has found that most Japanese firms are not willing to increase
base salaries. The survey, which was answered by 266 firms, found that
only 13% are planning to increase salaries to help employees counter
the tax increase, while 37% said they will wait and see, and just
under 50% said they will not make any increases, either on base pay or
bonuses. Of those firms expecting pay negotiations to require some
sort of rise, about 60% said that they will only raise bonuses, not
the base salaries. ***Ed: So if salaries don't go up, that means
taking into account the increased consumption tax, consumption itself
will go down -- pretty much defeating the purpose of Abenomics. Maybe
the government has to appeal to CEOs' patriotism more aggressively?**
(Source: TT commentary from, Sep 20, 2013)

=> Balentien surpasses home-run record

Curacao native Wladimir Balentien was the talk of the Japanese
baseball world this week as he finally topped Sadaharu Oh's 49-year
record for the number of home runs in a single season. On the 15th,
Baletien hit number 56, breaking Oh's record of 55. There was a lot of
speculation as to whether Balentien would be allowed to set a new
record, especially in light of a number of spoiler pitches that were
served to him in previous weeks. Luckily, it seems that not all the
teams were set on keeping the foreigner in his place, and so he was
able to hit not just the record-breaker on the 15th, but a follow-up
home run in the same game as well. (Source: TT commentary from, Sep 21, 2013)

=> Vacant homes show the impact of demographics

A rambling but interesting article from Bloomberg highlights the
impact that changing demographics is having on Japan. According to the
land ministry, by 2050, about 20% of residential areas, mostly in the
countryside, will become ghost towns. Vacant homes already account for
about 18% of the nation's housing stock of approximately 57m homes.
What's more, the number of homes being vacated is rising by about
570,000 dwellings a year. One reason given for this, apart from the
obvious one of elderly owners being sent to rest homes, is that
Japan's resale level of used homes is just 14% of total housing sales
in Japan. People don't want to buy pre-inhabited homes. In contrast,
in the U.S. the number of used home resales is 90% and in the U.K.
86%. The article focuses on the fact that people want the convenience
of living in the major cities in new apartment buildings, and that
having their own plot of land and a garden is no longer desirable.
(Source: TT commentary from, Sep 17, 2013)

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



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-----------------ICA Event - September 19th----------------

Speaker: Dr David Sweet , Managing Director of the human capital
consultancy, Top Grade Japan
Title: "Aftershock: The New Job Market Landscape in Japan"

Details: Complete event details at

Date: Thursday, October 24th, 2013
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members), open to all. No
sign ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: RSVP by 10am on Monday 21st October
Venue is The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan



=> No corrections this issue.


---------------- Help Still Needed in Tohoku --------------

The Japan Emergency Team, operator of Japan`s only Disaster Relief
Vehicle is asking for help to keep the Disaster Relief Vehicle
running. The DRV, a 30 foot converted Motorhome sleeps up to ten, has
shower, cooking, facilities and is still on site in Tohoku where it
assisted in providing showers, food and emergency assistance as it
still does. In addition it has a mobile `convenience store` which
provides necessities to those in temporary housing.

The Japan Emergency Team was formed in 1989 when 38 students from Chuo
University went to assist in the San Francisco Earthquake making
history as the first overseas disaster assistance from Japan. When
there is not an ongoing disaster in progress the DRV visits schools,
government and other events to promote disaster awareness and is as
much in demand when there is a disaster as when there is not.

Sponsorship includes a logo on the side of the DRV, participation in
regular disaster awareness events and more. Those able to help are
asked to contact for a sponsorship packet or to invite
the DRV to an event.



=> The Giant Store Imabari, Shikoku
Rental bicycles, accessories and repairs

Setouchi Shimanami Kaido is a highway that connects the six islands
between Imabari in Ehime and Onomichi in Hiroshima with nine
spectacular bridges. The route is about 60 km long. The most unusual
feature of this maritime road is that all but one of the bridges have
paths for pedestrians and bicycles. If you want to explore the Ehime
side of the Shimanami Kaido by bicycle, the Giant Store Imabari is a
good place to start. The store is located on the ground floor of
Imabari JR railway station, so there's no need to use a car if you
don't have one. There is however a car park if you come by car.

For tourists, the main attraction of the store is the rental cycles of
which there are quite a variety. They offer everything from carbon
road bikes with electric assist to children's bikes. In terms of sizes
available, they have only one really large bike for adults, but they
assured me that I would be comfortable on their medium size road bike.
I'm 182 cm tall or thereabouts. A standard aluminium road bike costs
2,400 yen to hire for five hours, and 7,200 yen for two days with an
overnight stay. This price includes loan of a helmet and free use of
the changing room, lockers and showers.

=> Enchouen Chinese Garden, Tottori
Imperial China in Tottori

Japan is an island nation but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have
neighbors. Russia is to the north, Taiwan is to the south and Korea
and China are to the west. Enchouen Chinese Garden is a reminder of
the neighborhood that Japan is in. This expansive garden on the edge
of Togo Pond in Yurihama Town is a re-creation of an imperial garden.

The interesting thing about the location is that Yurihama seems like a
traditional Japanese bathhouse town. The nearby buildings are like
something right out of Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi. There is a sense
of irony to the fact that these two cultures can come together so
seamlessly in a relatively small area. Somehow looking into China from
Japan works, and the minute you approach the garden you will see why.

I took Route 151 to Route 22 from Yonago City by car which was like a
rollercoaster ride. By train you can take the Sannin line to Matsuzaki
Station and walk through the town to the garden from there.



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