TT-803 -- Japan's New "Great Game". E-biz news from Japan

An Insider's comments on Japan's high tech business world
* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term
technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

General Edition Sunday, May 10, 2015, Issue No. 803

- What's New -- Japan's New "Great Game"
- News -- Met scientist says more volcanic activity
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Wisteria in Fukuoka, Sourdough in Kumamoto
- News Credits

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In April last year, Reuters reported that Japan would dispatch 100
troops to a newly built military monitoring outpost on the nation's
western-most inhabited island, Yonaguni. The island is part of the
Yaeyama group and is the closest inhabited Japanese land mass to the
Senkaku islands -- which are contested with China. Now, just a year
later, media rumors are flying that Japan is again going to ratchet up
its presence significantly in the area by sending 600 troops, anti-ship
missiles, and other military hardware to Miyako and Ishigaki islands.
Ishigaki is about 170km south-east of the Senkakus, and therefore is
about the same distance from those islands as it Taiwan.

Not only does this stimulate the Chinese, it sets in motion Japan's
involvement in a new Great Game for the East and South China Seas.

Just the day before the expansion rumors started circulating, Japan took
another very significant China-containment step when PM Abe managed to
extract from the USA a new set of guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense
cooperation. The guidelines commit the two countries to coming to each
other's aid, although on the Japanese side, this will be more of a
support role and thus without teeth. The obvious target for the new
charter is China, and includes Japan's Self-Defense Forces having the
right to conduct operations to "retake an island.' You can read the LDP
interpretation here:

--------- Help Us Test New No-Network Maps App ------------

Japan Travel is getting ready to launch its first iPhone app, which will
be a No-Network mapping tool. The tool lets foreign tourists use their
smart phones to prepare Google-like maps and find their way around Japan
without having a local network connection. Testing will require you to
download the application (you will need an iPhone) and to use it next
time you go out for a walk. Estimated test time and reporting back any
bugs will be about 30 minutes. For testers who are pre-registered on , you will be paid 500
points after you report back in from the test. We are hoping to have
about 100 people test the application, so please help us if you can.

To register as a tester, send an email
. To register for Japan Travel, go

[...Article continues]

Also last week -- a busy one for military news -- the Abe government
announced that it would conduct a small but notable military exercise
with the Philippines later this month. The exercise, which only involves
a few ships, will take place close to the Spratly Islands, where China
is building a series of bases in competition with and as a challenge to
the Philippines and other countries in the region. The exercise comes
alongside other rumors that Japan and the U.S. are discussing the idea
of joint surveillance operations in the South China Sea, something that
will provoke China even more.

It seems pretty obvious to us that the Abe government for whatever
reason has decided that now is the right time to start pushing back at
China's expansionary plans in the region. Getting U.S. support in the
new treaty seems to have given the LDP hawks the confidence to start
down a path of militarization that will probably have Japan becoming a
proxy "big brother" to Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and possibly
Malaysia. We predict announcements of war games, training, equipment
sales, and eventually co-defense treaties with each of these countries.

Normally a nation engaging in the Great Game has some financial reasons
for doing so. While Indonesia possibly has value to Japan in terms of
resources in the future, there doesn't seem to be a lot of secondary
benefit to the Japanese taking on China in this way. Maybe they are
looking for international support from these threatened countries on
other issues? Or maybe Abe simply wants to give his military some more
realistic practice?

Whatever the case, Japan should tread carefully as military expansion is
a costly and risky game, and with record government deficits, it is not
one that Japan can really afford. Indeed, a recent Cato Institute
commentary said as much, pointing out that the new military cooperation
accord will probably cost the U.S. more than it will Japan. In April
Japan increased its military budget to JPY5trn (US$42bn), a record
amount since WWII, but which still pales in comparison to U.S. at
US$581bn and China at US$129bn (2014 figures). If Japan wants to play
with the big boys, it will need to find another JPY5trn from somewhere.

Then of course there is the possibility that someone will make a mistake
and catapult the two rivals into something more than just practice.
Already Japan is scrambling fighter planes two and half times a day (943
times in 2014), a record since the 1960s. It only takes a little too
much bravado by one pilot or another to start a full blown crisis. We
believe that if Japan persists in its current course, it is highly
possible that at least one Japanese fighter will be shot down (either by
the Chinese or less likely by the Russians) before the Olympic games.

And if that happens, we wouldn't want to be a Japanese consumer products
company in China or for that matter a Chinese student or tourist in Japan.

...The information janitors/


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your work will be seen and used by millions of people a month.

Ideally the applicant will have a minimum 5 years experience in web and
user interface design. Any nationality, as a visa can be supplied to the
qualified individual, however, English and Japanese capability is
desirable. Modest salary to begin, then significant increases as the
business becomes self-sustaining. Great team, modern office in
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Interested applicants please send your resume to

+++ NEWS

- Coffee consumption reduces lifestyle disease deaths
- Govt. debt hits JPY1.053 Quadrillion
- Met scientist says more volcanic activity
- Shodo Island olive oil takes first prize
- Sumitomo Realty expecting record profit

=> Coffee consumption reduces lifestyle disease deaths

Researchers from the National Cancer Center and University of Tokyo have
published the findings of a massive nutritional study which found that
people who consume 3-4 cups of coffee a day are 40% less likely to get
heart, stroke, or respiratory diseases than those who drink less than a
cup a day. Furthermore, those same coffee drinkers also enjoyed a 24%
lower likelihood of dying from cancer. The study was conducted on 90,000
people aged 40-69 between 1990 and 2011. The researchers said that
chlorogenic acid and caffeine were the two most healthful compounds in
coffee. (Source: TT commentary from, May 8, 2015)

=> Govt. debt hits JPY1.053 Quadrillion

The central government debt (i.e., not even including regional
governments) in March stood at a record JPY1.053qdrn (that's
"quadrillion, a number first mentioned in 2013 after Japan started its
QE operations). In April, the number will be JPY1.167qdrn. The national
debt now stands at JPY8.3m/per head of population. ***Ed: This is a bit
less than half the U.S. Federal Government debt, but the Japanese number
is rising much faster and looks a lot more difficult to inflate away.**
(Source: TT commentary from, May 8, 2015)

=> Met scientist says more volcanic activity

Probably not what we want to hear as a tourism destination, but
apparently the chairman of a Japan Meteorological Agency study panel has
warned that since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake there seems to be a large
increase in the activity of Japan's volcanoes, such as the warning put
in place for Mount Hakone. The expert says that there are now Level 2
alerts for 10 volcanoes around the country, and three Level 3 (more
severe) alerts. He does point out, though, that even though they are
close together, the Hakone magma chamber is separate for the Mount Fuji
one, and that an eruption in Hakone should have no effect on Fuji.
(Source: TT commentary from, May 9, 2015)

=> Shodo Island olive oil takes first prize

Olive oil isn't the first thing that comes to mind with you think of
food produce from the Okayama region. However, the area is the center of
Japan's emerging olive oil industry, and in March, a Shodo Island
producer won first prize for his Mission mono-varietal extra virgin
olive oil. The variety was originally imported from the USA, is hard to
produce oil from, and this is the first time that Japan has won such an
award. ***Ed: One of the secrets to the grower's success could be his
rice and beans-based compost, along with the lack of herbicide use.**
(Source: TT commentary from, May 7, 2015)

=> Sumitomo Realty expecting record profit

Sumitomo Realty & Development has stated that it will record pretax
profit for the 2014 fiscal year ending March 2015, of around JPY139bn,
up about 6% over last year. The company says that it is experiencing a
surge in office space demand by newly profitable companies domestically,
as well as lower interest rates, higher rents for some properties, and
lower vacancy rates (currently around 5%). ***Ed: The asset most coveted
in a boom market in Japan is real estate, so it makes a great barometer
for where the economy is probably headed.** (Source: TT commentary from, May 9, 2015)

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 inconvenience.


-------------- Have a Tour to Promote? --------------------

Japan Travel is recruiting tour operators who would like to list their
inventory on our new Tours Marketplace ( Listing
is free, and only successful bookings will attract a marketing fee. Take
advantage of our position as Japan's largest independent inbound travel
website (714,000 unique users in March, 2015) and give your tours the
exposure you need to develop your business. We are particularly
interested in tours that include a unique aspect of Japan and where your
marketing collateral includes strong photography and/or videos,
evocative descriptions, and strong appeal. After June 1st, all new tours
MUST include at least a one-night stay or formal (not public) ground

Operators and agents wishing to apply, contact


------------------ ICA Event - May 21st -------------------

Speaker: Rochelle Kopp - Managing Principal of Japan Intercultural
Title: "Managing Across Cultures"

Details: Complete event details at

Date: Thursday, May 21st, 2015
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 5pm on Monday 18th May 2015. Venue is The Foreign
Correspondents' Club of Japan.


=> No corrections this week.



=> Kawachi Wisteria Tunnels, Fukuoka
Flowering gardens of purple, pink, and white

Tunnels of wisteria blooms the length of a football field - that's why
they come each spring in late April and early May from around the world
to this majestic garden hidden in the mountains of southern Japan. The
millions of tiny hanging blossoms meticulously arranged by the master
gardeners here have achieved a level of fame that brings a steady flow
of visitors to Kawachi Fuji-en on the outskirts of Kitakyushu.

Wisteria, or "Fuji" in Japanese, is a wooden vine that can be found
naturally climbing trees in the Japanese countryside. It is cultivated
to produce an other-worldly grandeur here. Although you can find many
outstanding wisterias around the country, such as the giant of Ashikaga
Flower Park, near Tokyo, dating all the way back to 1870, the
distinguishing feature of this garden is its gorgeous tunnels of flowers.

=> Pain au Levain, Kumamoto
A popular bakery just off Kyushu's expressway

The small ivy covered building that houses Pain au Levain sits just far
enough off the main roads of eastern Kumamoto that you would think the
crowds might overlook it. Yet the sizable parking lot is constantly full
and, after months of passing by without ever stopping, I decided to see
what the fuss was about.

Pain au Levain technically translates from the French for "sourdough
bread", although that isn't the only thing on the menu here. The
wheat-based selection is fairly extensive and covers three sides of the
large airy building. All of the usual suspects can be found - like the
popular "anpan" and "melonpan" - as well as croissants and flakier
pastries that you might discover in a typical European bakery. On the
shelf closest to the door, the staff lays out the top selling pastries
for that month. Being April, one of them featured a sakura (cherry
blossom) filling.



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