TT-781 -- 300,000 Pedometers and Yokohama, a Massive Health Experiment. E-biz news from Japan.

An Insider's comments on Japan's high tech business world
* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A bi-weekly focused look at business opportunities and trends in
Japan, by Terrie Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur
living in Japan. (

General Edition Sunday, November 16, 2014, Issue No. 781

- What's New -- 300,000 Pedometers and Yokohama, a Massive Health Experiment
- News -- Japan has strongest country brand in 2014
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Gundam in Akihabara, Castles in Akita
- News Credits

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Did you know that 50% of healthcare spending in Japan is on people 65
and over? While this fact is not surprising given that the nation is
aging so rapidly, it does stimulate the debate on whether it is fair
that so many are making so little contribution to supporting those
costs. Up until now, the thinking has been that this age group has
worked hard and deserve their health benefits, but in the light of an
impending health system blow out, local authorities around the country
are looking for ways to get things under control again.

One of the easiest ways to reduce medical costs for the elderly, as
proven in studies around the world, is to increase the physical
fitness of the target population. Fitter elderly people have better
quality of life, better mental attitude, decreased and lower severity
of ordinary diseases, and lower incidence of injuries.

The problem is that getting your population to stay fit is not that
easy. For example, the current national average for daily walking by
seniors in Japan is just 500 meters a day, mostly consisting of their
moving around the house. Given that this is a national average, if you
subtract the hardy farmers of Japan's interior, then you're talking
about a lot of very sedentary urban dwellers doing even less. OK, the
average Japanese old person is probably still in better shape than
their western peers, where the car is just a garage away, but still,
lack of exercise means higher incidence of diabetes, hypertension,
depression, and the lower body inflexibility that contributes to falls
and other accidents.

Yokohama is a classic aging community. This city of 3.67m people is
expecting to have an incredible 1/3 of its population aged 75 years or
older in 2025, just ten years away. The city is taking the aging
situation seriously, installing elevators at all railway stations,
converting the bus fleet to low-floor buses (so-called "non-step"
buses), reconstructing citywide barrier-free public facilities,
building more group homes for those with dementia and increasing
home-help services for those who don't, commissioning more emergency
medical care centers, and so far attracting six new privately run

All-in-all, it's pretty impressive.

---------------- O.G.A. FOR AID "Tohoku" ------------------

O.G.A. FOR AID, a non-profit disaster-relief organization organizes a
very special Christmas party in Minamisanriku, Miyagi every year to
bring the families of those affected by the tsunami together.
Minamisanriku survivors and O.G.A. FOR AID volunteers need your help
to raise money and presents.

We are all working together to bring Santa to the children of Tohoku.
400 survivors will be present at the party for the celebration on
December 13, 2014. Donations from you will go directly to these
families including 260 children. For more information on how to donate
or get involved, please visit our website.

[...Article continues]

But the thing that has attracted our attention, because of the
financial and business implications, is a wellness project called
Yokohama Walking Point, which started this month. Walking Point is
basically a "big-systems" walking challenge, and comes complete with
rewards, donation incentives, interesting places to walk to and view,
networked pedometers, and most importantly smartphone-viewable big
data that lets participants compete against others. It's an amazingly
well integrated program and one that we think will be carefully
watched by other major cities in Japan and overseas in the coming

The city is targeting all residents over 40 years old. It signs them
up and hands out an Omron-made pedometer, which generates the
all-important online data. We haven't seen the system in operation (we
don't live in Yokohama), but the idea of having people compete against
their cohort is a good one. Not only are the Japanese taught to be
competitive (a densely packed population will do that to you), they
also like to compare notes with their neighbors over the back fence
anyway, and this aspect will cause positive peer-pressure as they egg
each other on. (English overview) (Japanese complete site)

The incentives are also interesting and substantial. For example, each
participant who exceeds the target will cause the city to donate
JPY200,000 to the UN World Food Program (WFP). This is a nice
combination of reward and altruism that will stimulate people through
the feel-good factor, without introducing concerns of fraud. That
said, there does appear to be a secondary reward system, where 1,000
prizes are up for grabs by quarterly lottery to those who have reached
a minimum total of steps during the period -- adds to the fun, we

The city had originally budgeted for 50,000 sign-ups by the end of
this fiscal year, with a target of signing up 300,000 people by the
end of 2017. However, the project has really captured the public's
imagination, and by October they had already hit the 50,000 target, so
now they have upped the March 2015 target to 80,000. Maybe they will
wind up with 500,000 participants? If so, that will mean about a
quarter of the population over 40 will be walking to a fitness target
-- a fantastic opportunity to study health effects and reduction of
health spending.

This is also a great commercial opportunity for Omron and its
pedometers, and other companies providing the big-data analytics.
Pedometers are just the start of what can be done in mass studies.
Whether in this project or some similar effort conducted elsewhere in
Japan, we are expecting the imminent arrival of Toray's new "Hitoe"
smart fabrics, which, in a project they are doing in conjunction with
NTT DoCoMo, will monitor vital signs and give users access to the
results on their cell phone. The new fabric is made of nanofibers
coated with conductive resin which can then be connected to a
centralized sensor and the smartphone. Better still in odor-sensitive
Japan, the fabric is washable...

Anyway, the Yokohama project is of course not the first mass
fitness=health trial in the world. A recent study done on a Health
Enhancement and Pedometer-determined Ambulatory (HEPA) project in Hong
Kong found that over just ten weeks, the 205 elderly participants
increased their average number of steps per day by 36%, from 6,591 to
8,934. During that time, they had notably better lower and upper body
strength, better aerobic capacity, and better mental health. A welcome
side effect was that a social support network formed which helped
participants enjoy their neighborhoods and lives more.

We imagine that the Yokohama Walking Point project will reveal
something similar. It's interesting to see that so far no one in
either Hong Kong or Yokohama has been publicly concerned about the
big-brother aspect of these projects, which we previously thought
would inhibit many people from signing up. Perhaps this age group is
more trusting, or perhaps they simply understand that giving up some
privacy is the price you pay to keep the system running. Either way,
their mass participation will make it a lot easier for central
planners to improve health efficiencies. As a result, we expect to see
a lot more of these projects take place in Japan over the next 5

...The information janitors/

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+++ NEWS

- Game developer Gumi to do monster IPO
- Japan has strongest country brand in 2014
- Abe to call a snap election for December
- Actual numbers on smartphone zombies
- Real story, 1% of companies generate 80% of gains

=> Game developer Gumi to do monster IPO

One of the biggest game development companies you never heard of is
based in Nishi Shinjuku and earns around half of its JPY100bn in
revenue in the USA. Gumi is best known for the smartphone game Brave
Frontier, and has tapped a ready market of users outside Japan even as
the domestic market shrinks. The company says it will list for around
JPY10bn. It looks like the smart money has known for a while that Gumi
was something special: JAFCO, GREE, Gree, Shinsei (bank), NTT DoCoMo,
and Zynga are all shareholders. (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 14, 2014)

=> Japan has strongest country brand in 2014

In what is a surprise to many of us, Japan has been selected by the PR
company FutureBrand as the country with the strongest brand.
FutureBrand surveyed 2,530 frequent international travellers about
experiences that the company uses to define national brand value.
Those questions included perceptions about the quality of products
made, whether the respondents would like to live there, quality of
infrastructure, history, culture, and attractiveness as a tourist
destination. (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 12, 2014)

=> Abe to call a snap election for December

Despite denials from senior LDP handlers, the odds are that PM Shinzo
Abe will call a snap election for December. It appears that Abe feels
he needs a strong electoral mandate so that his party can push through
the second increase in consumption tax late next year (well, maybe
sometime in the next 3 years anyway). ***Ed: Lots of speculation as to
why Abe is calling the election now. Our take is that the LDP realizes
that things could get a lot worse economically for the common man
(i.e., a majority of voters), and for them to stay the current course
of tax increases means that it is more prudent to get reelected now, a
virtual shoe-in, and get to run the country for another 4 years
through the turmoil that is still ahead.** (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 13, 2014)

=> Actual numbers on smartphone zombies

We've run news earlier about the problems of zombie phone users who
are so locked into playing on their smartphones that they are
oblivious to everything around them, including cars, bikes, and other
pedestrians. Now the Tokyo Fire Department has reported that in the
five years between 2009 to 2013, 122 people were involved in traffic
accidents serious enough to warrant ambulances. NTT DoCoMo did a study
recently where it found that if 1,500 phone users all went into
so-called "zombie" mode and kept walking while looking at their
screens, their field of vision is reduced to just 5% of normal and
this would cause something like 446 collisions, 103 people losing
balance, and, OMG, 21 phones being dropped...! ***Ed: Storm in a tea
cup? 24 accidents a year doesn't sound too bad to us. Maybe DoCoMo and
its Ministry handlers are looking for something to whine about.**
(Source: TT commentary from, Nov 13, 2014)

=> Real story, 1% of companies generate 80% of gains

At last someone has done the math and come up with the blazingly
obvious, that the current stock market upturn is limited to a lucky
(capable) few. According to this article by the Nikkei, although the
nation's publicly listed firms collectively reported a 10% increase in
profits, in fact, 80% of the increase was accounted for by just 1% of
the 3,500 companies on the various stock exchanges. In fact while 280
companies recorded growth of 30% or more, over 300 companies
conversely had double-digit drops. If there was a trend to be noted,
it was that those companies with more than 30% of their sales abroad
collectively enjoyed profit growth of 21%, while domestic-only
companies typically suffered. (Source: TT commentary from,
Nov 13, 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


------------------ ICA Event - November 20th-------------------

Speaker: James Santagata, Founder and Managing Director of Career
OverDrive! and SiliconEdge.
Title: "I'm 40 Now!!!!! Is It Really Game Over For Me In Japan's Job Market ?"

Details: Complete event details at

Date: Thursday, November 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: By 4pm on Monday 17th November 2014
Venue is The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan



=> No feedback or corrections this week.



=> The Gundam Cafe in Akihabara
Indulge yourself with Gundam-themed ambience & dishes

If you have a childlike heart with a burly man's stomach, nothing will
meet your huge fancy for kiddie adventures and your ravenous appetite
at the same time better than putting one and one together. And if you
are a huge fan of robots and animated movies, you will surely enjoy an
exciting visit to Gundam Café, the first official café in Akihabara
for robot-lovers.

Located just a few strides from the Electric Town exit of JR Akihabara
Station, Gundam Café offers an interesting adventure and a relaxing
space for famished adventure-lovers, both locals and tourists alike.
With the futuristic interior design, you will enjoy an
out-of-this-world experience as you let the ambience take you to the
imaginative world of Gundam Wings. There is tons of atmosphere, with a
profusion of Gundam-inspired decorations and delectable original
dishes, and you can allow yourself to get lost in your anime-packed

=> Yokote Castle, Akita
Symbol of Yokote city

Located in Yokote Park, Yokote Castle is one of the most popular
tourist attractions in Yokote city, Akita Prefecture. If you like
castles and temples, Yokote's tiny castle, with a great view of the
city, should definitely be added to your list.

The castle was originally built by the Onodera Clan in the 16th
century. This clan ruled over the area until the Battle of Sekigahara
in 1600. After the Battle of Sekigahara and during the Edo Period
(1603-1867), the castle changed hands many times. In 1868, at the
beginning of the Meiji Period, the castle was burned down in a battle
during the Boshin War -- a civil war that happened from 1868 to 1869.

What we see today is the reconstruction of the castle which once stood
there. The present castle was constructed in 1965. The structure of
the castle has three levels and four stories. The castle's interior
has been transformed to a local museum and the top floor is an
observatory with a breathtaking view over Yokote city from one side
and Yokote Park from the other. The park also contains a pond and rose
garden, which look beautiful during spring and summer.



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