TT-740 -- Nine New Trends for 2014, ebiz news from Japan

An Insider's comments on Japan's high tech business world
* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, Jan 19, 2014, Issue No. 740


- What's New -- Nine New Trends for 2014
- News -- Record Current Account deficit in November
- Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News Credits

SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie's Take at:



Welcome to the first edition of Terrie's Take for 2014. As is our
custom, we take a peek into the future and ask ourselves what trends
or macro developments might happen and what impact they will have on
doing business in Japan. While fortune telling is an art best
practiced by monkeys throwing darts, we nonetheless enjoy the
speculative process and here share it with our readers. Looking back
at our 2013 predictions
(, we
see that we got 5 out of 9 predictions badly wrong -- meaning the
monkey would probably have done better... :-). Still, here we are with
another year and another chance!

If you have some predictions of your own, providing you can rustle up
a decent enough argument for making them, please let us know and we
will replay them in future newsletters.

1. Conflict with China over the Senkaku Islands

One wonders what is really going on behind the sabre rattling by Japan
and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. On the surface it's about
oil reserves and national pride, and maybe that is all there is to it.
On a deeper level, though, maybe there is a dimension of global
politics that is yet to express itself clearly -- one in which Japan
is just a pawn. If the conflict is about oil and pride, then the path
to escalation could be short and swift. Patriotism, the most deadly
form of pride, is readily found in the armed forces of both countries
(how else do you get people to sign up during peace time?), and given
that the initial source of conflict is likely to be a showdown between
the Japanese and Chinese airforces or navies, we can be reasonably
sure that a miscalculation is not far away. The question, though, is
not whether there will be an escalation but how far will it go?

Until recently the Japanese were reasonably confident that their
territorial claims would be backed up by the international community,
while their military objectives would be backed up specifically by the
USA. However, an annual Japanese government poll
( found last year that U.S.
public opinion has swung towards the feeling there that Japan should
take care of its own security. This result was apparently a bit
shocking for the Japanese, who see the U.S. as a Big Brother in terms
of its security relationship, but it has also provided the impetus the
Abe government has needed to commit itself to rebuilding the military
and to have Japan play a more assertive role internationally.

If there is an escalation, we don't see it developing into a
full-scale war. Instead, we believe that the Chinese would quickly
occupy the Senkakus and set up facilities there, forcing the Japanese
into a humiliating retreat. Even if Japan put soldiers on the Senkakus
before such an escalation, the Chinese would still invade the islands,
capturing the Japanese forces emplaced there and trying them in a
military court back in Beijing -- echoes of what happened when the
Chinese fishing boat skipper was tried in Japan several years ago.
Also, by "invasion" we don't mean just militarily. We think the
Chinese will be more imaginative, for example, causing a flotilla of
private protestors to try to land on the islands, looking to provoke a
Japanese response -- after which the Chinese could act militarily to
"rescue" their citizens.

If there was such a showdown, we suspect that the rest of the world
would vigorously condemn China's actions but do little else because of
their collective dependence on China's factories and investment. This
will further emphasize to Japan the new reality that it's on its own.
What's the probability of a conflict happening? We'd like to say
"low", but logic would dictate that if China was to take the risk and
make a move, it should do so this year, while Japan is still
militarily vulnerable and not yet politically organized enough to
respond effectively to an annexation of the Senkakus. The longer China
waits, the more likely it is that Japan will fight back, causing a
polarization of the developed world and an increased likelihood of
trade bans and other retaliatory actions.

2. Bigger than expected drop in consumer spending

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to imagine that the increase of the
nation's consumption tax from 5% to 8% in April will cause consumers
to think twice about buying more stuff for a while. Abe's big gamble
is that there will be sufficient public optimism that within a couple
of months of the increase, people be sufficiently buoyed by "animal
spirits" to forget the extra costs, and resume consumption and
investment locally. The unfortunate problem is that with 31% of
Japanese households having no savings, any increase in the cost of
living is going to go straight to their bottom line, with no upside
that inflation usually brings -- such as increased interest on your
bank account or increased prices for your shares. This will create
more suffering, despite some meager handouts the government is making
so that it can say it is doing something for the poor.

Furthermore, among the 40m people with regular jobs, less than 20%
work for the companies most benefitting from Abenomics, the exporters.
Of the rest, pay raises will be small or not happen at all in 2014,
and they will also experience a perceptible drop in living standards
as the economy in their segment of the market tightens. It's probably
fair to say that the brunt of Abenomics will be borne by younger
families and the elderly. With older people, the pressure will be on
them to sell up their assets, which is the harsh reality not having
enough of the working generation to support them. However, for young
families there is no real escape. So instead, they will do without. If
you have shares in companies making kids clothing or cram schools, it
might be a good time to sell.

[Continued below...]

----------- THAI'S NEWEST DESTINATION - SENDAI ------------

THAI now has flights to Sendai, direct and non-stop from Bangkok.
Sendai is the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, situated in the heart
of the scenic Tohoku region. THAI's new flights operate non-stop from
Bangkok every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with TG680 departing
Bangkok at 23:59 and arriving in Sendai at 07.55 on the following day.
The return flights operate on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, with TG681
departing Sendai at 10:30 and arriving in Bangkok at 15.40.

For ticket reservations, please visit or call
THAI's Japan desk at 0570-064-015, or the international Contact Center
at +66-02-356-1111.

[...Article continues]

3. LDP scandals to re-emerge?

As a result of the consumer spending hit, Abe's honeymoon with most
citizens will likely end in Summer-Fall 2014, and his political
fortunes will become more polarized. The media will pick up on the
changing public mood and will start digging for dirt. Based on the
theory that old habits die hard, we wouldn't be surprised if the LDP
finds itself caught up in various hands-in-the-cookie-jar scandals by
the end of this year and in 2015, just as they used to in the good old
days. Where will theses scandals come from? As always, look to where
the money is going, and you will find greed and power-grabbing not far
behind. In the case of Abenomics, this will be in the use of BOJ, DBJ,
and other government-controlled banking and funds, the nuclear power
industry, the construction industry and particularly the Tohoku relief
efforts and shortly the Olympics, and military spending. Lots of nice
big dark corners in all those sectors.

The problem, of course, is that now there is a secrecy law in place,
and so the details of some of the best scams will be placed under lock
and key, allowing the politicians to control which tidbits (opposition
peccadillos) go to the media and which get kept secret until such time
as the perpetrator has long-since deceased. That said, we wonder if
the Japanese secrecy law can be enforced abroad? Probably not. So we
will add another mini prediction -- that "deep-dive" Japanese
journalists will start passing their most juicy leads to western
colleagues, so as to ensure that their stories get heard.

4. Scandal over child cancers in Fukushima

Apart from monetary scandals, we believe another source of negative PR
for the government will be in health and particularly the kids in
Fukushima. Already, early health checks are finding abnormally high
instances -- "several times to several tens of times higher" (59 kids
and teens out of 239,000 tested) -- of thyroid cancer in Fukushima
prefecture. It defies belief that government and local prefectural
authorities are saying that it is too early for such cancers to be
manifesting themselves, so this must just be a statistical blip.

Or, and no one is saying it, but maybe those kids were affected by the
Daiichi plant years before the disaster? Either way, families with
children who decided to trust the government and stay in the
prefecture after the Fukushima power plant blew up must be regretting
their decisions now. Over time, as it becomes clear whether or not
there is another Minamata-type wave of victims, the decision-makers
will no doubt duck responsibility and leave it to the families
affected to drag their cases to the courts -- something guaranteed to
take years or decades to happen. Maybe someone will say sorry in 2061
-- this is how long it took (50 years) for the nation's PM, Junichiro
Koizumi in 2006, to issue the first formal Prime Ministerial apology
to the Minamata victims.

5. Continuing improvement in tourism sector

Lose China and gain an alternative market. The "China-plus One"
strategy was originally conceived for Japanese manufacturers trying to
diversify away from overdependence on China, but now is being applied
to other sectors as well, such as consumer product exports, food
imports, and tourism. So while Chinese tourist arrival numbers are
still being affected (although increasingly less so) by the Senkaku
Islands row, the government has decided that they will turn on the
taps for South East Asian travellers, by removing unpleasant visa
restrictions that applied up until now. The government has obviously
decided that the threat of a couple of thousand potential overstayers
each year is vastly outweighed by tourist spending and independence
from the Chinese. As of July last year, easy entry was offered to
Thais and Malays, with the result that Thais started arriving in Japan
at the rate of about 50,000-60,000 per month (61,300 in October 2013),
significantly more than previously and vaulting Thailand into the
position of being the fifth largest source of tourists, just behind
Hong Kong.

This year, the chances are that Vietnam and Indonesia tourists will
also be offered freer access, and in the case of Indonesia this will
unlock a market population of 247m people, bigger than all the other
SEA markets combined. Given that Thailand will probably field about
half a million tourists to Japan in the full year (since the visa
easing) through to June, then Indonesia could wind up contributing 4-5
times this number. With this simple but effective move, the government
appears to have been able to build inbound tourism by a surprising 20%
per year. While the numbers are still small potatoes compared to other
industries, the incoming spending will still be very welcome news to
government financial planners.

The soaring numbers will stimulate more hotel building, and more
importantly help build the presence of more foreign firms. We think
this is important, because as the ski resorts of Niseko and Hakuba
show, the presence of foreigner operators completely changes the
attractiveness of those destinations to foreign tourists. It makes the
destinations far more accessible and less intimidating. The presence
of more hotels will also support more activities operators, who will
diversify the experiences a tourist can have when coming to Japan,
thus increasing the likelihood of repeaters. Think of trailblazers
like Canyons (white water rafting) in Gunma, other guided adventure
tours, cycling, unique traditional accommodation, and other

6. More large M&As, stimulated by low interest rates

Since the Lehman Shock, those Japanese companies that got in on the
M&A track prior to December 2012 found themselves with a 30% price
saving compared to 2013, by virtue of the temporarily high yen.
Coincident with Abe's reset of the yen in 2013, M&A activity for 2013
also fell, by about 50% by value. However, we don't think it was
necessarily the falling yen that caused the reduction in deals, and
instead it has been more a matter of market timing and the inevitable
gap between the early adopters and the rank-and-file. We need to
remember that Japanese companies are not particularly opportunistic
and are not buying up companies overseas just because the yen is

Instead, what they are looking for is future earnings. Why? Because
earnings are likely to decrease back in Japan mid- and long-term, and
because money is still cheap. For this reason, the Japanese like to
buy profitable, not distressed firms, and the premium being paid is
justified by simple accounting math. The average profitable foreign
company yields 2-3 times the earnings on capital that a similar
Japanese businesses in their local market does, largely because
foreign firms are more efficient and because of their focus on
returning profits. In Japan, company politics and the ethos of the
"company being the family" mean that a lot more cash gets spent on
overheads that wouldn't be considered necessary in other business
cultures. Let's not forget, either, that Japanese companies get their
funds for 1% or less per annum, and that buy-out loans can 10 years or
longer. So if your M&A target company is making 10% or so in EBIT
profits annually, then buying it for 1% interest on the new cashflow
is a no brainer. Instead, your deal frequency is going to be more a
gauge of your bank's confidence in you and your confidence in managing
a bunch of foreigners.

7. Foreign M&A as government policy

A related prediction this year is that we think it will emerge that
some Japanese corporate M&As are being done in close concert with the
government, rather than as solo efforts by the acquiring company
themselves. In much the same way as Japan has operated a convoy system
for chosen industries domestically in the past, we believe that a
similar line of thinking will emerge in international M&A, whereby the
government will pick companies that can ONLY survive by overseas M&A,
and provide the expertise and financial means for them to do so.
Strategically the thinking will be that this prevents a foreign,
especially a Chinese, player from snapping up desirable international
competitors. The government already buys public stocks, so why not
extend the mandate by providing research, management support, and of
course easy loans to continue the M&A march?

While we know of no western government taking such a deliberate and
calculated market domination approach, sovereign wealth funds clearly
show that countries believe they have a role in making markets. Still,
Japan will have to be careful that it is not seen as a monopolistic
threat by its allies, else it may have to endure a repeat of the
Japan-bashing it received in the 1980's. Where will the next big deals
come from? We expect substantial ongoing M&A in all the major export
sectors (autos, retail, food) as well as the service sectors most
benefiting from Abenomics, such as banking, construction, real estate,
and science.

8. TPP passes but is gutted

One of the predictions we got wrong last year was that Japan would not
join the TPP discussions. We took things at face value and imagined
that Japan would fail to gain traction on its own. We didn't think
about the fact that the USA might want Japan in the talks, nor that PM
Abe would be able to keep his own farming constituency quiet. Our
guess is that several secret "grand deals" were done to get Japan into
the TPP discussions. Now, as with many deals, the resulting
compromises may mean that TPP will be significantly watered down and
will be a disappointment to most of the other member countries. But
bread crumbs better than nothing.

TPP will, however, be a political gift to PM Abe, since he will be
able to push through various unpopular agricultural and other market
sector reforms, all the while pointing a finger saying, "The
foreigners made me do it." It does help that with China's saber
rattling, the conservative Japanese farming lobby is probably now torn
between preserving their lifestyles and in the future possibly just
preserving their lives. Japan needs the USA militarily for the time
being and no one denies that, so if the USA wants or is willing to
give certain concessions on the trade side of things, then that's the
way it's gonna be.

9. Commercialization of stem cells

Imagine being able to grow back your eyesight when you're in your 50's
and beyond, and your doctor has diagnosed that you will go blind in
the next 4-6 months? What would you, an older person probably with
substantial personal assets (typically, in Japan at least), be willing
to pay to have your eyesight restored? US$100,000? More? OK, another
question: what about those patients who don't have a lot of wealth?
Will they be given government subsidies to get regenerative medicine?
Or will regenerative procedures for non-life-threatening ailments be
classified as non-essential and thus effectively for the rich only?

These are the type of difficult questions that are going to be
confronting the Japanese in the next ten years, as the research into
adult stem cells accelerates. Late last year, the government gave the
go-ahead for Riken to undertake clinical trials using stem cell
therapy to repair macular degeneration. The consensus is that the
techniques are now well established and predictable, and that fears of
failed surgeries and unexpected tumors are receding. We forecast that
not only regeneration of eyes, but also of a number of other organs
will be announced over the next 12 months. Coupled with these
scientific breakthroughs, we believe that there will also be network
of commercial ventures announced, which will explain why PM Abe said
last year his government was willing to pump potentially over US$1bn
into the field. Basically the Japanese are on the verge of creating a
whole new industrial sector, where science and technology, not just
labor costs, provide the nation with a new competitive advantage.


Lastly, and completely separate from our predictions for 2014, we
would like to make a special mention of an unusual announcement (just
below) in today's newsletter. This individual is a foreign
entrepreneur who has built his successful English school from scratch
and who has now been approached by a friend who is leaving Japan and
who wants to sell him his school as well. Said foreign entrepreneur is
not rich, just hard working, and after due diligence is convinced that
the second school will help him grow his business significantly.
Although he can apply for a government business loan, since this would
be the first time for him to do so, and since the use of funds, a
small M&A, is unusual by Japanese standards, it is highly likely that
conventional funding rules will bury his ambitions. Therefore, he is
appealing to any readers possessing funds of around JPY3MM and an
interest in sponsoring a growing business, to contact him about a loan
or investment. This request has nothing to do with ourselves and will
purely and privately be between the parties. There is obviously risk
involved, however, we have already heard the background to the
opportunity, found it interesting, and decided to run the information

...The information janitors/

-------- New Entrepreneur Seeking Modest Funding ----------

Hello. I have never appealed to the public for funds before, but I
guess there is a first time for everything. For the last 9 years I
have been the owner-operator of a small but financially secure English
school here in Japan. In the last few weeks, I have been offered by a
close friend returning to his home country to buy his English school
and thus grow my business into the beginnings of a small network of
schools. My friend's business is in good shape and just needs someone
competent to run it -- which I'm confident I can do. I have not
planned for this type of growth and if I'm to take advantage of the
opportunity, I need funding of between JPY2.5MM and JPY3.5MM to make
the acquisition.

I would like to appeal to readers of Terrie's Take who may be
interested in backing a small but growing language business with
either a loan or possibly an equity investment. If it is a loan, I
believe it can be repaid within 12 months and I'd be willing to pay
above market rates for the help.

Interested parties may contact me directly for more information,
including financials (under a non-disclosure agreement), at: Genuinely interested parties only please.


+++ NEWS

- Record Current Account deficit in November
- JGC co-wins big Canadian LNG project
- Gathering 280 chickens (islands) to mother hen
- Budget operator Tune Hotels looks at 20 new hotels for Japan

=> Record Current Account deficit in November

One important measure of the health of the Japanese economy, the
current-account deficit, increased to a record JPY592.8bn in November
2013, mostly due to the weaker yen and the ongoing record import of
hydrocarbon fuels to drive Japan's electrical utilities while a
decision is made as to whether to restart the nation's remaining 50+
nuclear reactors. Experts say that the deficit is sustainable for some
time to come, because of the surplus of income from overseas, but if
it continues, it is likely to undermine the faith of investors of
Japan's public credit-worthiness. (Source: TT commentary from, Jan 14, 2014)

[Ed: 'Current Account Deficit' is a measurement of a
country's trade in which the value of goods and services it imports
exceeds the value of goods and services it exports.]

=> JGC co-wins big Canadian LNG project

Engineering company JGC has announced that it has co-won a major
contract with U.S. Fluor, to build an LNG gas plant in Canada. The
deal is reportedly worth around US$9.4bn and is for Chevron Canada at
the company's Kitimat site in British Columbia. Once the plant is up
and running, it is expected to produce about 11m tons of LNG annually.
Kitimat is expected to become yet another major feed point for fuel
for Japan, the world's largest consumer of LNG. (Source: TT commentary
from, Jan 14, 2014)

=> Gathering 280 chickens (islands) to mother hen

In for a penny, in for a pound. Japan has decided that it will
nationalize about 280 islands whose ownership is unknown and which it
believes determine the country's territorial waters claims. While some
of the targeted islands are inhabited, most are not, and therefore,
the historical owners in many cases are unknown. Apparently about 500
islands serve as the anchor points for Japan's territorial claims.
Only about 160 of the 280 islands in question have names, and so the
government plans a naming program as well. ***Ed: No word on just
where these islands are or what effect they will have on diplomatic
relations with China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Russia. However, we
would rank this action as being equivalent to Abe visiting the
Yasukuni Shrine ten times in a row, in terms of international
stimulative value, if the islands are in contentious territory. With
280 of them, chances are that some are... Stay tuned!** (Source: TT
commentary from, Jan 9, 2014)

=> Budget operator Tune Hotels looks at 20 new hotels for Japan

The owner of the budget brand Tune Hotels, Tim Hansing CEO of Red
Planet Hotels, has said that his company intends to open up to 20 new
budget hotels in Japan by 2020. Hansing said in Hong Kong after a
recent research visit that his firm is planning to capitalize on the
expected surge in younger travelers to Japan, competing with the
nation's traditional operators, whom he labels "very boring, poor
value for money, and very tired." Hansing's visit came as foreign
operators try to figure out whether Japan needs more hotels or not.
***Ed: Some experts such as Capital Economics in London reckon that
Japan has limited capacity for increased demand for hotel rooms, and
if this is true, then for those companies willing to make the
investment, the opportunity to carve out a new segment in the market
seems to be attractive. For example, we are unaware at the present
time of any well-known international (foreign) budget operator active
in Tokyo. There are of course many local budget operators, but Hansing
seems to suggest that they may not understand the foreign target
market.**(Source: TT commentary from, Jan 14, 2014)

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

Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 15th of February, 2014

If you have been considering setting up your own company, find out
what it takes to make it successful. Terrie Lloyd, founder of over 17
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:

-------------- Tokyo International Gift Show --------------

The largest international trade show in Japan is the "77th Tokyo
International Gift Show Spring 2014", and features personal gifts,
consumer goods, and decorative accessories, and it opens soon! With
the motto "Let's meet at the Gift Show," the industry professional
event takes place over 3 days, from February 5-7, and will take over
the entire Tokyo Big Sight venue.

Bi-annual, The Gift Show traditionally selects a theme reflecting
Japanese lifestyles, and this year focuses on global gifts. The show
brings together new and cutting edge foods, fashion, and design. Drop
by to find out what the next big thing will be in lifestyle and gifts.

------------------ ICA Event - February 20th-------------------

Speaker: Tish Robinson, Professor of Organizational Behavior at
Hitotsubashi University ICS
Title: "Workshop - Speak Out!!! Don't Freak out!!!"

Details: Complete event details at

Date: Thursday, February 20th, 2014
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 17th February, 2014. Venue is The Foreign
Correspondents' Club of Japan.



=> Many thanks for the readers who wrote in pointing out that our
TT738 news item on credit card readers that attach to smart phones,
are made by Square, not Foursquare -- although both are Jack Dorsey



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Fred Krug passed away on January 18. He started the ISP Hunter Point Online in 1997, which was the last surviving independent ISP in Japan when it closed several years ago. After this Fred focused on managing his other businesses of an international kindergarten and an English conversation school in Chiba. Fred was a fighter to end still showing up for work only a few days before he lost his battle with cancer. He will be sadly missed by his loving family and friends in Japan as well as those in Canada. He possessed not only the spirit of the proud Haida people of the Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada, but also that of the samurai. He was truly an incredible man. A funeral attended only by family members was held on Sunday. His final resting place will be the waters surrounding Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada where his ashes will be scattered. Arrangements have been made for a memorial event on January 25 (Sat.) in Funabashi. The gathering of friends, who will talk about Fred and celebrate his life, will be videotaped for Fred’s family in Canada. Anyone who knew Fred is welcome to attend and encouraged to share any memories they have. Contact for details: yaesukita(at)yahoo-dot-com