TT-872 -- Womenomics - Moving Beyond the Hot Air, ebiz 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, November 06, 2016, Issue No. 872

- What's New -- Womenomics - Moving Beyond the Hot Air
- News -- Foreign trainees on the lam
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback - Responses to the coming tourism backlash
- Travel Picks -- Salvador Dali in Tokyo, "forest bathing" in Kochi
- News Credits

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Late last month the World Economic Forum (WEF), based in Davos
Switzerland, published its annual global gender gap report. The report
shows that despite PM Abe's fine words since 2013 about empowering
women, the gender gap in Japan has actually widened. This year Japan's
ranking fell from 101st out of 145 countries to 111th out of 144
countries. This is pathetic and should be a wake up call to at least
half the nation's population that while the government may be able to
fool the local press and some of the people most of the time, the only
way to change this reality is to vote against it and force change.

In the WEF survey, Japan actually came in last out of the group-of-seven
industrialized countries. However, if it is any consolation, South
Korea, another OECD nation, came in 116th, and that is despite the fact
the country has a woman Prime Minister.

No sooner had the WEF study come out than it was roundly criticized for
measuring the wrong things, like whether having had a female head of
state was a true indication of gender equality or more a function of
nepotism among political families, and why there is no coverage of crime
and violence statistics, by gender. These are both good points, but
given that Japan is so enamored with multi-generational political
families, then if nepotism was really a substitute for genuine gender
equality we should have had several women prime ministers by now.
Instead, women are just as underrepresented as a gender in politics as
ever. In a 2015 survey, the Economist ranked Japan 123rd out of 189
countries for the percentage of women serving in the national
legislature. For example, in the Diet, women hold slightly less than 8%
of seats in the more powerful Lower House and 19% in the Upper House.

But change is happening, you might say... Look at Tokyo Governor Yuriko
Koike and DPJ Leader Renho... Well, our take on the rise of these two
outstanding women is that their positions were more like consolation
prizes than real examples of change in gender attitude. In both cases
they were candidates stepping in to take over a disaster zone and where
a disgusted public simply wanted change. If there was a real change in
attitude happening then how can you explain the lack of female leaders
in normally-functioning organizations? For example, why is only 1% of
the nation's mayors women? Why is the nation's ultra conservative
establishment still having a debate about the future imperial family
heads needing to be male? No, the gender problem runs deep in Japan.

Indeed, late last year the government's gender equality bureau cut its
goal of getting women into senior government jobs by 2020, from 30% (a
target set in 2003 by the Koizumi government) to just 7%. The target set
for leadership positions in the private sector was also cut, to 15%. The
sad reality is that just 3.5% of senior government jobs and 8% of
private sector jobs are filled by women. Perhaps more astounding, about
66% of Japanese listed firms still have NO women on their senior
management teams - a far cry from the 32% global average.

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[...Article continues]

The gender gap in Japan is deeply ingrained and will probably take
several more generations and a lot of hard PR work to breed out. There
has been a lot of conjecture about what to do about this. New laws? A
few have been passed already, but none with teeth. Japan should probably
take a leaf from Norway and make it a legal requirement for companies to
have 40% of their board members be female. However, it's difficult to
imagine the government or the judiciary having the willpower to enforce
such a law, especially when the courts can't even give married women the
right to have an independent surname to their spouses (and thus
pressuring wives to take the male's surname).

Then there are so many seemingly innocuous traditions and reminders that
boys have been more valued in this society. Take for example Children's
Day, which used to be Boy's Day (Tango no Sekku on May 5th) and which
was made a national holiday. In the meantime, Girl's Day (Hinamatsuri on
March 3) didn't qualify for holiday status and so parents instead have
to shift celebrations to the nearest weekend.

In 2013, PM Abe wrote a compelling article for the Wall Street Journal
that spoke about his vision for Womenomics. He recognized the
contributions of Kathy Matsui to raising awareness of the problem and
committed that his government would increase the labor participation
rate in Japan to 73% by 2020, by helping women return from child rearing
and reenter the workforce and by closing the salary gap which at that
time was 30.2% (compared with 20.1% in the U.S.). He then presented this
content a second time a week later at a UN conference. Unfortunately
while Abe is big on words, he is short on results and thus the 30% -> 7%
cut in the target to get women into senior positions. True, while he has
been PM the number of women active in the workforce has increased, but
we believe this is driven more from a need to improve family finances
than anything the government is doing. As a result, most of these women
going back to work are stuck at the lowest levels of the economy and
thus the lowest wages.

In June this year the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) did a
good job of working up a recipe of points that the government should act
on to help close the gender gap. Reading through them makes you realize
just how much the problem is not just one of legislation but also of
having to re-educate future generations about gender values. (ACCJ viewpoint access)

1. Reform working hours: Change the corporate culture of spending long
hours in the office that encourages unproductive overtime. [Ed: This
speaks directly to the issue of working mothers having to leave at 17:00
each day to look after kids and family while their colleagues stay on
until 20:00 or later. In leaving early, these women become subject to
harassment and criticism by colleagues who feel they are not doing their
fair share. This speaks in turn to the low rate of productivity in
Japanese companies and thus how deep the gender problem goes.]

2. Support male champions of change: Encourage male leaders to promote
gender equality in corporate Japan and the public sector. [Ed: I.e.,
normalize gender equality through top down (management) approval of rule
changes - this won't work unless there is bottom-up re-education as
well. Top-down mandates alone will be seen by Japanese employees as just
"noise" while they deal with real world problems like competitors and

3. Foster "ikumen" culture: Encourage men to be more active in raising
their children and assisting with housework... [Ed: that the idea
of supporting your wife and taking on family responsibilities becomes
fashionable. Pretty hard to do this while most of the business world
judges you for promotion based on the hours you work. Maybe this will
change more quickly as we move to a knowledge economy, where skill and
know-how trump physical endurance and time spent in the office.]

4. Increase transparency on women in leadership roles: Strengthen
requirements for transparency related to the gender mix of management and
executive positions in private and public companies. [Ed: This is a
direct shot at Japan's weak reporting laws for companies of 300 people
or over, where they are supposed to implement gender balancing policies
but have no penalties for not doing so.]

5. Create a new type of labor contract: Allow companies and employees to
conclude labor contracts that encourage women to return to the workforce as
regular employees and retain pay and promotion opportunities. [Ed:
Personally we think this isn't necessary, as there are plenty of scope
for a company to come to a private agreement with an employee on child
leave. The problem isn't contracts, it's management's attitude.]

6. Provide tax incentives: Create tax breaks that target corporations
(to encourage them to hire and promote more women) and individuals (to
reduce financial burdens on families, including single mothers). [Ed:
This is a no-brainer and should be implemented as soon as possible. The
same goes for employment of disabled people.]

7. Bring seniors in as before- and after-school childcare providers:
Support working mothers by tapping into Japan?s growing ranks of
retirees to staff childcare centers. [Ed: This is a good idea but it
lets the government off the hook for its failure to supply enough
child-minding facilities in the first place. Our company has two working
mothers who are struggling to find daycare, despite the willingness of
both moms to return to work. Abe's government bears 100% of the blame
for this ongoing mess.]

8. Ease employment restrictions for domestic workers: Revise Japan's
immigration policies to make it easier to hire foreign nationals as domestic
workers, which will provide working parents with another childcare
option. [Ed: This idea has become reality but unfortunately you will
have to be located in a so-called "special zone", such as in the middle
of Tokyo, to take advantage of it. Why the government starves the
regions of innovation with ridiculous special zone designations is
beyond us.]

9. Encourage HR-led talent management and training: Support the
evolution of strong HR departments whose programs foster diversity,
inclusion and the empowerment of women in the workplace. [Ed: Another
no-brainer. What about some METI subsidies for companies to buy in this
training? Otherwise, it will only be delivered at the top 300-1,000
companies, who employ less than 10% of the workforce and even less of
the female workforce.]

10. Provide employee assistance programs: Build employee assistance
programs and offer supplemental programs that include concierge services
such as childcare, nursing care, self-improvement and health and
wellness management. [Ed: Such services would be nice for large
companies to implement, but it's hard to see them taking root in smaller
companies, most of whom are simply struggling to survive.]

In closing, we would have dropped Items #6 and #10 from the ACCJ list
and instead added a call for the government to set up a special
investment fund for women entrepreneurs. After all, if there is one
category of employer in the country who doesn't need deep mental
re-programming to value female employees, it's a woman who has been
through the mill herself. In this way, those women willing to extend the
risk they have already taken to challenge the glass ceiling can finally
gain control of their professional lives, gather like-minded talent
around them, and prove to the community that a more caring attitude and
fairer treatment can create an equally competitive company. Nothing like
some good examples of financial success in our midst to change the
hardened attitudes of their all-male competitors.

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+++ NEWS

- Will the real resigned Mr. Kuroda please stand up?
- Foreign trainees on the lam
- Shake-out in shipping sector
- 14 months for killing pedestrian while playing phone game
- Daiichi frozen wall a failure?

=> Will the real resigned Mr. Kuroda please stand up?

Kind of funny non-event happened in the money markets on Friday. A
well-followed day trader tweeted that a press conference had announced
the resignation of "Kuroda". Other day traders jumped to the conclusion
that he was talking about Haruhiko Kuroda, the governor of the Bank of
Japan, and scrambled to place orders to buy yen. It took about 30
minutes and 150 re-tweets later before people realized that he was
talking about Hiroki Kuroda, the pitcher for the Hiroshima Carp baseball
team. ***Ed: Such is the life of a day trader, where you have a short
window to trade on market news.** (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 04, 2016)

=> Foreign trainees on the lam

According to the Justice Ministry, a record 5,803 foreign trainees went
missing last year while in training programs. Of these more than half
were from China, with Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia making up most of
the rest. Labor rights groups say that the disappearance of trainees as
they move to better jobs is a clear indication that the trainee program
is abusive to participants, and have in the past referred to the program
as slavery. ***Ed: The Immigration Bureau does not say whether the
record number is disappeared trainees is also a record in terms of
percentage of people coming to Japan to work on farms and in factories.
However, because the government is still planning to ramp up the number
of trainees we're guessing the percentage is actually going down not
up... meaning that the government thinks the benefits of more trainees
outweighs any risks. Yeah, especially if you're only paying those people
30% of the going Japanese rate, working them 100+ hours overtime a
month, and can kick them out again after three years. The whole program
is shameful and should be scrapped.** (Source: TT commentary from, Oct 31, 2016)

=> Shake-out in shipping sector

Because of a glut of shipping capacity around the world, but
particularly in Asia, Japan's three largest shipping firms have agreed
to merge and in the process create the world's sixth largest shipping
firm. The three companies, Nippon Yusen, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and
Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, say that the new combined firm will result in
savings of about JPY110bn. Their move comes after the August collapse of
Hanjin Shipping of South Korea, and a fear that a Japanese bankruptcy
might not be far behind. About 98% of the world's exports travel in
container ships and currently there is a 30% oversupply, forcing most
shippers to operate at a loss - estimated between the biggest 20 firms
to be around US$8bn-US$10bn this year alone. (Source: TT commentary from, Oct 31, 2016)

=> 14 months for killing pedestrian while playing phone game

A 39-year old farmer, Keiji Goo, is the center of an online shi*t storm
after running over a 72-year old pensioner while he was driving and
playing a Pokemon Go session on his smartphone. Goo also ran over a
second person, a 60 year old, putting that person in hospital. Public
comments on the web reflect outrage at the leniency of his sentence,
which one person said was "obscene". This is the third death caused by a
distracted Pokemon Go player in Japan. (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 01, 2016)

=> Daiichi frozen wall a failure?

It seems that TEPCO's JPY34.5bn effort to freeze a 1.5km stretch of soil
at the troubled Daiichi nuclear power plant so as to slow the flow of
contaminated water leaking into the ocean is a bust, so far. TEPCO has
admitted that the unprecedented number of typhoons to hit the area have
raised both water flows and temperature of underground water. As a
result, the soil is not freezing as designed and another solution may be
required. Currently water from the surrounding hills is flowing into the
basements of reactors 1, 2, and 3 at a rate of up to 1,000 tons a day.
The target flow if the ice wall starts working is 70 tons - at which
point the water scrubbing plants being installed will be adequate to
bring the toxic flow under control. (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 03, 2016)

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.


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=> Salvador Dali Exhibit at the NACT, Tokyo
An intimate look into the world of Salvador Dali

The Tokyo National Art Center is Japan's fifth art institution to be
organized by the national government. It has some of the largest
exhibition spaces in Japan, which vary by season and are built to
uniquely fit the works showcased. Being in an international friendly
city, the National Art Center routinely features works that span across
time and region. Whether you're familiar with Salvador Dali or not, the
exhibition is full of surprises and will keep you engaged as you enter
the world of surrealism incarnate.

From the pamphlet itself to the entrance of the exhibition, the design
that went into the space is something Dali would be proud of. The
exhibition leads like a book, chapter 1-8 featuring the life of Salvador
Dali throughout his years. There are great explanations between works in
English and Japanese, along with an audio tour option. Throughout the
chapters, one can see how Dali's style changes and develops. The works
and sketches become more complex and larger as more people influence
Salvador Dali throughout his life. Guests can learn intimate details
about his life, as he fuses surrealism with many other styles and
mediums in his works.

The works themselves are a beautiful puzzle of symbolism and color. Some
are as crazy and scattered as the master himself, which leaves guests
laughing when they come across a scene like "French Bread with Two Fried
Eggs, without a plate, and on horseback." There are recurring motifs in
his works which are quite whimsical and can leave one wondering what
kind of world Dali lived in. There are also two visual rooms where his
short films play for guests to see. At the end of the elaborate exhibit
there's an interactive souvenir shop where many unique Dali mementos
lie, just in case you want to keep a little piece of madness for yourself.

=> Forest Bathing In Kochi's Temples
Old Tiger Henro 6

Forest bathing, or shinrin yoku in Japanese, refers to the restorative
effects of relaxing in nature. I felt I was doing this, bathing in the
forests, when I henro-ed at Kochi's Temples 28, 29, 30, 31, and 32. They
were all havens of natural and untouched surroundings. The dense woods
also provided a bit of mystery to the main temples' adjacent shrines,
statues, stone monuments, as though these were playing peek-a-boo from
behind the trees, for I sometimes had to look twice to ensure I was not
seeing things. And sometimes maybe I was.

Dainichiji Temple 28 at the foot of Mount Sanpo is reached via a steep
ascent on roughly hewn granite steps, through overhanging fir, pine, and
bamboo. Dainichiji's deities can be prayed to for cures of illnesses of
the head and upper torso, and success in academic life. I can believe
it, it must be the shinrin yoku effect, which is regarded as "the
medicine of simply being in a forest".

I walked over a country road surrounded by farmland to reach Kokubunji
Temple 29. A cedar-lined corridor led to the temple which, with its
faded wood carvings, accompanying juzo and Kannon, all against a curtain
of green, temporarily staunched my desire for a pastry and coffee.
Zenrakuji Temple 30 was a splendor of greenery, with little walking
trails by the side of the temple for plenty of shinrin yoku. The Temple,
despite no Lemon Pledge, is beautiful with age and character.



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