Mizuho Bank implicated in suspected "illicit money transfer" of ¥500 million to North Korea

Updated : 07.03.2018 / Category Economy

While the PyeongChang Olympic Games opened the door to rapprochement between the two Koreas, tension between the United States and North Korea showed no sign of easing as Washington maintained its hardline stance against Pyongyang. The Japanese government has been in lockstep with the United States on North Korean issues, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe frequently reiterates that Tokyo stands shoulder to shoulder with Washington in dealing with the rogue state.

Against this backdrop, a bank scandal threatens to jolt the Japan-U.S. alliance to its foundations. How will the United States react to money sent from Japan that could possibly end up financing North Korea's nuclear development program? The stage for these money transfers was Ehime Prefecture, a tranquil region in Shikoku and far from the capital of Tokyo.

How the Nikkei Stock Average became skewed

Updated : 17.05.2017 / Category Economy

Japanese market players frequently gripe about the timing of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd.'s release of its earnings reports.

Fast Retailing, which operates the Uniqlo clothing store chain, releases an earnings report on the second Thursday of each new quarter. This tends to influence the Nikkei Stock Average's special quotations for index futures and options, which are calculated after the stock market opens on the second Friday. The release of special quotations is sometimes delayed and its figures often deviate from the actual Nikkei Stock Average.

Overwork suspected behind suicide of Mitsubishi Electric young researcher

Updated : 08.05.2017 / Category Economy


While the suicide of an overworked rookie Dentsu Inc. employee generated plenty of headlines recently in Japan, the case of a talented young researcher of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation who killed himself in November 2016 has created barely a whisper.

The suicide note left by Takashi (not his real name) described the torment he went through at work. "I was squashed by Mitsubishi," he wrote, and, "I was publicly 'executed' in front of everybody." But, Mitsubishi Electric, a leading Japanese electrical and electronics manufacturer, has not revealed any information regarding the 25-year-old employee's death.

Friction reported between Panasonic, Tesla employees over cell battery plant

Updated : 21.04.2017 / Category Economy

The Gigafactory that Panasonic Corporation and Tesla, Inc. will build for battery cell production in Nevada is causing a few headaches for the Japanese firm, according to well-informed sources.

"Tesla CEO Elon Musk has absolute power over his company and his subordinates must obey what he says," said an insider. "Because of this, some Panasonic employees have grown frustrated in dealing with Tesla employees, who they regard as inflexible."

Nikon's bleak future

Updated : 17.04.2017 / Category Economy


Nikon Corporation is acutely feeling the pinch following a steady stream of business setbacks over the past 10 years.

The low-cost digital camera market has virtually vanished due to the advent of smartphones, and sales of single-lens reflex cameras--Nikon's primary profit-earner--have declined as shopping sprees by Chinese tourists visiting Japan have cooled in the past few years. In addition, the Tokyo-based company lagged rivals in the development of new semiconductor lithography systems. Nikon's survival now depends on exports to liquid crystal-related plants in China, where capital investment on such facilities is ramping up.

Japan's Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance deceived client to seal major contract

Updated : 10.04.2017 / Category Economy

In March 2015, an Osaka-based section of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co., Ltd., was struggling to attain the sales target for the business year that would end that month. The section, which sells cargo insurance to major companies including Daikin Industries, Ltd., Teijin Ltd. and Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd., was trying to surpass about ¥1.8 billion in sales it attained the previous business year.

To reach this goal, the section resorted to "unacceptable wrongdoing," alleges a Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance insider. The company is the core member of MS & AD Insurance Group Holdings, Inc., Japan's second-largest non-life insurance company.

Honda's Thai operations 'on the decline'

Updated : 11.02.2017 / Category Economy

Following poor sales, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. is to halt one of its two production lines at its factory in Ayutthaya, Thailand, by March. "It's the start of Honda's decline in the area," said a source at a rival Japanese carmaker, echoing similar growing sentiments.

Honda officials insist that shifts have doubled on the remaining production line and "output is being maintained." However, informed sources say the firm's annual Thai-based output capability--including that of Honda's second factory in eastern Prachinburi--has reduced from 420,000 vehicles to about 270,000--a drop of almost 40 percent.

Toyota trembles in face of Trump demands

Updated : 01.02.2017 / Category Economy

The North American vehicle market is poised to undergo a sea change as global automakers scramble to deal with new U.S. President Donald Trump's bluster. In particular, Toyota Motor Corp. has been singled out by Trump in a Twitter tirade. On Jan. 5, Trump tweeted: "Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax."

However, a reporter for a Japanese national newspaper suggests Trump might have some of his facts wrong. "Toyota will build a plant in Guanajuato, not Baja. And what's more, Toyota is shifting production there from Canada—it has nothing to do with the United States," said the reporter, an expert on the auto industry. "It was a completely groundless accusation. There was no need to make a big deal about it."

Nevertheless, the public criticism by Trump jolted Toyota. At the North American International Auto Show held in Detroit a few days later, Toyota President Akio Toyoda announced his company would invest $10 billion in the United States in the next five years.

The insatiable ambition of SoftBank's CEO

Updated : 10.01.2017 / Category Economy

SoftBank Group Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son stunned both the Japanese and U.S. political and business circles when he met with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York on December 6 (local time).

During the 45-minute-long talks at Trump Tower, Son—known for his shrewd ability to win over influential individuals to further his own goals—promised to invest a total of $50 billion (about ¥5.7 trillion) in U.S. startups, helping create about 50,000 jobs. For his part, Trump described Son (warmly referring to him as "Masa") as "one of the great men of industry." It was the first meeting between the two men.

JT making questionable political donations in bid to stop tobacco tax hike

Updated : 07.12.2016 / Category Economy


Antismoking is a long-established social trend that makes smokers feel out of place. And with the International Olympic Committee championing smoke-free Olympics and Paralympics, Tokyo will likely stiffen regulations in the run-up to the 2020 Games—including the rules on passive smoking.

Despite the global antismoking trend, Japan Tobacco Inc. (JT) has been putting up resistance in an attempt to protect its huge profits and vested interests. The company is accused of prioritizing corporate gain over smoking-related health issues, allegedly providing donations to politicians "in return for favors."

This article tries to shed light on JT's behind-the-scenes maneuvering in a society where antismoking is the mainstream stance.

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