TT-807 -- Natto and Healthy Aging, 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, June 07, 2015, Issue No. 807

- What's New -- Natto and Healthy Aging
- News -- Elevator toilets
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- Abe's deliberate yen devaluation
- Travel Picks -- Open air market in Saitama forest, Well-priced Asian
meals at Hikarie
- News Credits

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Traveling to Kyushu on business and visiting the in-laws this weekend
reminds us just how many old people there are in Japan. Most of the
workers in the fields of northern Kyushu appear to be in their late 60's
or older and we were surprised to see an elderly man with apparent
dementia just wandering around at Fukuoka airport and no one paying him
any mind.

This got us thinking about how a number of Japan's organic foods have
almost medicinal qualities to them and which contribute to the longevity
of its citizens. We have written previously about Matcha (not to be
confused with regular green tea), which is one of nature's most
concentrated sources of antioxidants. Today we want to cover another
superfood -- natto. Back in 2009 (TT-519) we gave a short introduction
to natto, but this time around we want to discuss the food in context of
human longevity.

WebMD says that a number of the active ingredients in Natto, including
Nattokinase and Vitamin K2, help to control cardiovascular diseases such
as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, chest pain (angina), deep
vein thrombosis (DVT), atherosclerosis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins,
poor circulation, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). The site also
says it is useful for the reduction of pain, fibromyalgia, chronic
fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, muscle spasms,
infertility, some types of cancer, and beriberi. That's quite a list!

Rather than looking at that long list of claims, let's focus on the Big
Three for the aged: bone health, cardiovascular health, and cancer

Firstly, Vitamin K2 is believed fight osteoporosis. A 2001 Japanese
study of a large group of postmenopausal women in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and
London (UK) found that levels of Serum MK-7 -- Menaquinone-7 being a
type of K2 most commonly found in Natto and certain other foods
(including brie, gouda, and edam cheeses) -- had a direct bearing on the
incidence of hip fractures. Many readers will know that while natto is
popular in Tokyo it is not in western Japan. Thus it isn't surprising to
learn that in the Tokyo cohort, the levels of K2 present were 5.26 +/-
6.13 ng/mL, 1.22 +/- 1.85 in Hiroshima, and just 0.37 +/- 0.20 in
London. The findings were that hip fractures were 77% less prevalent in
Tokyo than for Hiroshima. [Ed: Yes, we realize another study abroad cast
doubt on Vitamin K and osteoporosis recently, but we point out that the
researchers in that study mysteriously used K1 as their supplement,
while in Japan it is K2 that has been clearly identified as the Vit. K
subtype that actually produces results.]

--------- 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 To
register for Japan Travel, go to:

[...Article continues]

Next, Nattokinase, the enzyme isolated by Doctor Hiroyuki Sumi ("Dr.
Natto") back in the 80's, is probably most famous for its ability to
thin the blood without side effects and to dissolve blood clots. This
function is particular important for the elderly, because as we age the
body's ability to naturally produce the enzyme plasmin falls, increasing
the chance of random clots ("thrombi") forming anywhere in the body and
traveling to the brain, heart, or lungs. Strokes are the third biggest
killer of the aged in Japan. Sumi's discovery of Nattokinase means that
now anyone passing through middle age can supplement their diet with
either Natto itself or Nattokinase capsules, and regulate their blood
condition -- remembering, though, that it is a blood thinner and so it's
not for everyone.

Last on our short list (and there are indeed many other documented
benefits of Natto), a 1997 Hawaii Cancer Research Center report found
that isoflavones such as genistein and diadzein present in Natto and
other soy products were effective in reducing the incidence of uterine
cancer. Other studies suggest the same effects for breast and prostate
cancer, and in fact prostate cancer occurs 15 times less frequently in
Japan than in the USA.

A couple of interesting Natto facts.
1. The U.S. Army's GHQ temporarily banned the sale of Natto after WWII
on the basis that they thought Natto was rotten food and could be a
media for spreading typhoid and cholera.

2. Natto bacilus produced before WWII came in a wider range of variants
than now and was used as a gut tonic due to its much stronger
antibacterial effect than the remaining three varieties today.

3. Nonetheless, Natto bacteria still have a sufficient antibacterial
effect on E. Coli (O-157) that in 1996 when there was an outbreak in
school lunches in a Gifu Elementary school, those kids who ate Natto
more than 3 times a week had a far lower infection rate.

4. Apparently most strokes happen is 06:30am in the morning, due to peak
production of Plasmin by the body at that time. So the best time to eat
Natto is the night before.

So how much natto should you be eating to gain some of the benefits
above? The Japan Nattokinase Association (yup, there really is one) says
that you should target about 2,000FU per day. "FU" is not an
abbreviation for a personal insult, but rather stands for Fibrin
Degradation Unit -- a measure of nattokinase activity. You can either
take natto as the product sold in supermarkets, for less than JPY100 for
a packet of 3, and which will contain somewhere between 1,400FU to
2,000FU, OR, you can take a nattokinase supplement. Our recommendation
is to eat the raw product if you can, since it includes all the other
nutrients that a nattokinase capsule removes.

...The information janitors/


------------- Bilingual Web Designer Vacancy --------------

Japan Travel KK, the operator of, has a vacancy for
an experienced bilingual web designer, to work on service roll-outs for
the portal. This is a chance to work with a dynamic leader in the Japan
inbound travel sector -- in a stimulating and front-line position where
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
convenient location in Roppongi. Choice of PC, Mac. Adobe CS6/Creative
Cloud applications.

Interested applicants please send your resume to

+++ NEWS

- Elevator toilets
- Iceland exporting whale meat to Japan
- Japanese and Korean antipathy getting worse
- Hackers steal pension data
- Surging stock market attracts more foreign investors

=> Elevator toilets

The government has started discussions to put toilet facilities into the
capital's 150,000 elevators, due to fears of a major earthquake striking
the city. In an earthquake in 2005 over 64,000 elevators were left stuck
and some of these had passengers who waited hours to be rescued. Another
earthquake in 1992 caused some elevators to be stuck for an entire day.
From these events the Japan Elevator Association reckons that around
17,000 people would have to be rescued. Already the Chiyoda Ward
recommends water, blankets, and "emergency (toilet) boxes" be placed in
elevators. (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 3, 2015)

=> Iceland exporting whale meat to Japan

Whalers in Iceland have just loaded a shipment of 1,700 tons of whale
meat for export to Japan. The shipment is being tracked by activists and
the ship carrying the meat has had to be re-routed from a stop in South
Africa because of international protest. ***Ed: The irony is that Japan
already has a mountain of unsold whale meat (around 5,000 tons) and
domestic consumption has fallen to an all-time low. Clearly this
shipment is politically motivated.** (Source:, Jun 05, 2015)

=> Japanese and Korean antipathy getting worse

In a weird contrast to tourism flows, a new survey has found that
nationalistic politics in both South Korea and Japan have created
increasingly negative feelings by the populations of both countries
about the other. The survey found that around 3/4 of Koreans resent
Japan's denial of the existence of comfort women and about 2/3 are
unhappy about the Takeshima/Dokdo islands dispute. In another survey,
56% of Japanese think Korea is nationalistic and 57% of Koreans think
Japan is militaristic. Korean negativity about Japan has climbed
substantially since Abe became prime minister for a second time. As a
result, Abe's popularity score in South Korea is 1.1 out of 10 -- even
lower than the 1.3 scored by North Korea's Kim Jong Un...! (Source: TT
commentary from, Jun 02, 2015)

=> Pension data compromised

The hapless Japan Pension Service has admitted that due to its employees
clicking on emails containing virus infections, the personal details of
more than 1m people were revealed and that about 52,000 people had their
details appear on the Internet. The service also admits that the details
of around 31,000 people may have been modified, although a
representative said the changes wouldn't allow unauthorized access to
pension funds. ***Ed: Hmmm, like we believe that. A Japanese TV program
last week alleged that claims were emerging of hundreds of people having
disputes over payments by the service.** (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 01, 2015)

=> Surging stock market attracts more foreign investors

The percentage of foreign ownership of Japanese stocks is now 35.3%, up
0.3% from the end of FY2014, and is now at a record high thanks to the
surging stock market. Foreign investors are being attracted by strong
earnings, stock buy-backs, and the GPIF and other government entity
investing large sums into the markets. Sony is particularly popular and
now 56.6% of the company is owned by foreigners. In contrast, and
perhaps because the stock is fully priced, Toyota is 31.1% owned by
foreigners, only 0.1% up from 6 months ago. (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 06, 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 - June 22nd-------------------

Speaker: Pieter Franken - Chief Technology Officer, Monex Global Vision
Title: "How has Open Source technology helped my Organization"

Details: Complete event details at

Date: Monday, June 22nd, 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 Thursday 18th June 2015. Venue is The Foreign
Correspondents' Club of Japan

----------------Operation Nepal---------------------

The Japan Emergency Team announces "Operation Nepal" its 89th Disaster
Operation since 1987.

Volunteers able to for a minimum of three days are urgently needed as
well as emergency supplies including canned and instant food, rice,
bottled water, powdered milk, used laptop and tablet computers, sleeping
bags, tents and unused Airline Miles. To volunteer or for information on
where to send supplies please send a note to

To donate Postal Furikae 00160 7 162438. The Japan Emergency Team would
like to thank Lenovo Computer for their kind donation of ten Laptops and
Tablet Computers.


=> A reader disputes our comment that Abe is responsible for a massive
devaluation of the yen.

*** Reader says: 'Massive devaluation of the yen': I don't think so; but
if so, Kuroda's or Abe's? Also, the move started from Nov 2011;
secondary low before acceleration Sept 2012. So pre-both of them.
Average USD/JPY 20 years (Interbank -1%): 10.44; 25 years 108.69
(Oanda). In my mind, par is 120. We saw 147 in 1998, after 79 in 1995.

So I'd say rectification rather than devaluation - and which is also why
we have not heard that much on the subject from the China, Taiwan and
Korea. Really it was about the repatriation of borrowed stimulus Yen
that could/did not find useful employment in post-bubble (post
mis-allocation) Japan, and therefore was carry-trade fodder. The current
price of the Yen is therefore merely a rectification. Once this
weakening move is over, expect a pullback to, what, 105 or so. But if we
ever revisit 147 and then surpass it, then Japan is seriously in trouble.

*** Our response: Maybe we have to agree to disagree on this one. We're
strongly of the opinion that it was Abe's election coupled with his
subsequent selection of Kuroda for the BOJ top post that caused Japan's
QE to be enacted, and hence created a sinking yen. Having a central bank
that is buying pretty much all the government's debt (at a pace double
that of USA's QEIII) will pretty much do that. Of course everyone is too
polite to call it a devaluation.

We just pulled up the JPY-USD rate for the last 5 years. You
can pretty much track the yen peak until now from Abe's election in
November 2012 (it was obvious to the market that he'd win in October)
and his selection of Kuroda in March 2013. Yen has sunk 30%+ since then.
Was the yen over-valued? Yes. But our point isn't whether it was
over-valued or not, it was that the trigger was Abe's election and what
came afterwards, and that the net effect is a devaluation in sheep's
clothing (so to speak).

BTW, again, in our opinion, the 2011 November peak you refer to and the
subsequent 2-month weakening before peaking again was simply due to
market factors (although obviously the BOJ was talking about QE from
mid-2011, no one until Kuroda in April 2013 had the guts to really make
it happen). The change over the whole period was never more than 7% or
so. We think mostly the causes of weakening during that short period
were geopolitical (wars) and improvement in the US labor market causing
the dollar to strengthen. In contrast, a 30% almost straight line
sinking trend starting with Abe's election is pretty hard to ignore and
is having lasting effect. Not sure why China doesn't complain, but South
Korea surely is. See and many other articles like it.



=> Seiryu Open Air Market, Saitama
A free market in the middle of the forest

Looking for a completely different shopping experience in a unique
atmosphere? The Seiryu Open Air Market may just be the thing for you.
Already on its 53rd run (as of May 2015), the Seiryu Aozora (Open Air)
Market is held on the last Sunday of the month, from April to November
in the clearing of a forest in Seiryu, Hidaka, Saitama. Started by
Eizaburo and Ai Kami over seven years ago, the market brings the local
community together once a month in the festive atmosphere of a farmer's
market. Setting up a stall is completely free - you just need to bring
your own table and find your own space to lay out your wares. When asked
why they don't charge vendors for setting up a booth, Ai-chan, who
speaks fluent English says, "We do this all for fun."

Here you might find the fresh produce of the season and meet the farmers
themselves. You might also find handcrafted items like tea cups, bowls,
carved wooden implements, colored glass decorations, paintings and meet
the artists as well. "Might" - because each market day is different and
you never know what stalls will be there each month. The market attracts
vegans, vegetarians and people interested in organic, all natural food,
products and lifestyle. A lot of the food and drink stalls offer
homemade vegan and vegetarian meals and treats, although some vendors
have cafes or restaurants in the neighborhood. Sometimes there are
booths that offer acupressure massage, color therapy, aura reading and
other similar kinds of consultation.

=> Papaya Leaf, Shibuya
Tasty, affordable South-East Asian food in Tokyo

Despite its high profile and prestigious location right next to Shibuya
station, the restaurants in the Hikarie tower are perfectly reasonably
priced, often giving you change from ¥2000-3000 after dinner. One of
them is Papaya Leaf, a cosy place on the sixth floor with a good range
of dishes from South-East Asia.

The tone is set at the entrance, with the name sign being a
cross-section from the base of a big tree, and there are more plants at
the door. Inside, the furnishings are unfussy but comfortable, in mellow
earth tones and simple designs, and there's a restful atmosphere created
by low lighting, with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and
Asian-style floor-standing lanterns. The tables away from the walls are
separated by elegant carved screens, while there are understated but
colorful prints and decorations around the walls, and the BGM is perky
Asian pop.

For my dinner I chose the grilled chicken and rice with green curry
sauce for ¥1520. When it arrived, I thought at first that there wouldn't
be enough curry to go with the rest of the dish, but it turned out to be
exactly the right amount; it was good and spicy, with a solitary prawn
in with the eggplant, baby corn and other vegetables. The chicken was
tender and succulent, with enjoyably crispy skin, and generously sized
to boot, and the dish was completed by a smooth fried egg on top of the
rice, and some salad to supplement the veggies in the curry.



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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (

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