August 2016

Prosecutors, securities watchdog in unseemly open fight over Toshiba case

Updated : 31.08.2016 / Category Capsule

Speculation is rife about why discord between prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission over whether to bring charges against former top executives of Toshiba Corp. has spilled into the open.

According to a reporter of the city news section of a national newspaper, the kerfuffle—concerning an accounting scandal—erupted after a prosecutor recently told the media it would be "hard to make a criminal case" against the former executives due to a lack of evidence. This leak came as the SESC was still investigating the case and sparked a furious response from the securities watchdog.

Murky future prospects for Line

Updated : 30.08.2016 / Category Capsule

After a spectacular start following this year's largest initial public offering, Japanese messaging-app operator Line Corp. has lost much of its luster. As the number of active Line users stalls, there is mounting concern over the company's future direction.

About 68 million people in Japan use the free messaging app, but the global number of users has plateaued at about 200 million. "There's no sign that Line will expand outside the limited area of Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia," a reporter for a business magazine said. The success of an online service like Line hinges on increasing its number of users. With no expectation that this is likely, there is no way the company can draw up an effective growth strategy.

Toyota pressing parts makers to slash costs despite robust Asia markets

Updated : 29.08.2016 / Category Capsule

Parts makers affiliated with Toyota Motor Corp. are feeling the squeeze as the major automaker "bullies" them to slash costs in their operations in Thailand, which is a major production base in Toyota's global network.

The drive to push down costs in Thailand is all the more brazen given that auto markets in nearby Asian nations are growing robustly. According to an executive of one parts maker, Toyota has seized a sharp cooling of the Thai vehicle market as an opportunity to "repeatedly demand that its subcontractors slash costs."

U.S. frustration grows over Okinawa's equivocal call for land return

Updated : 26.08.2016 / Category Capsule

Do they want the land returned, or don't they?

The U.S. government is becoming increasingly frustrated by the Okinawa prefectural government's tacit approval of actions by protestors disrupting the construction of helipads—a project essential for the return of land sought by the Okinawa government for decades. Indeed, duplicity is becoming something of a forte for the government of Japan's southernmost prefecture.

Kodo-kai still raking in funds despite tougher yakuza laws

Updated : 25.08.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

Between late August and early September, the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest yakuza syndicate, suddenly split into two groups, leading people to worry that the feud might lead to violent infighting.

But a police insider has all but brushed aside such fears, pointing out that the winner in this infighting will be determined not by guns and swords but by money. And well-positioned with a lot of money in hand is the Kodo-kai, a leading group within the Yamaguchi-gumi that has controlled the overall syndicate for more than a decade.

Shinobu Tsukasa, 73, whose real name is Kenichi Shinoda, has headed the Kodo-kai since 1984, and it was his talent for accumulating huge sums of money through various types of business that enabled him to become the sixth-generation leader of the parent Yamaguchi-gumi in 2005, according to a writer who has covered yakuza affairs for many years.

Japan's crack submarine fleet

Updated : 23.08.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

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China has lately been resorting to defiant and audacious acts like claiming its territorial rights over waters around artificial island it has built in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and unilaterally designating an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea.

While these acts are visible to all, the real front battle line lies deep in the sea where submarines are principal players. This article attempts to provide in-depth descriptions of the real picture of submarines of the Maritime Self-Defense Force and their roles, as little has so far been made known about them.

China's consumption blues

Updated : 19.08.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

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China has for the past several years been trying desperately to shift the driving force of its economy from investments in infrastructure and real estate to personal consumption in line with President Xi Jingping's call for "new normal." In reality, however, consumption is sluggish as there is no sign of an economic recovery, income levels are not rising, the number of children is falling and the overall population is aging rapidly.

The government's recent announcement to abolish the one-child policy, in place since around 1980, is aimed more at stimulating domestic consumption than at turning around the undesirable population demographics.

Collusion between Japan Post Holdings and internal press club raising eyebrows

Updated : 17.08.2016 / Category Capsule

Recently, suspicions have been mounting over perceived cozy ties between the mass media and Japan Post Holdings Co. Ltd, which joined the ranks of private enterprise in the autumn 2015 stock exchange listing.

The issue centers around the Japan Post Holdings Press Club, which is situated within the group's headquarters. Though press clubs are a feature of government offices, political parties and industry associations, they are not usually found within the private sector. However, presidential press conferences and various media-focused announcements are ongoing features of the Japan Post Holdings Press Club.

Chinese Foreign Minister undermining
Japan-China relations

Updated : 15.08.2016 / Category Diplomacy

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During a 2006 visit to China by then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo and Beijing agreed to foster a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests." Over time, however, this noble ideal has largely eroded, due to such issues as China's incursions into Japanese territorial waters and its stance over historical matters. But there are other factors at play, too.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who works at the forefront of China-Japan relations, has unnecessarily complicated the ties between the two countries. In short, Wang has fueled anti-Japanese sentiment among the Chinese public and leveraged this disaffection to serve his own interests.

Wang, a former Chinese ambassador to Japan, is well-versed in Japanese affairs. However, because he does not wish to be seen as pro-Japanese, he tends to push excessively in the opposite direction. In short, Wang is a yes-man keen to keep his superiors happy—and he controls China's foreign policy vis-à-vis Japan.

FSA casting critical eye over hybrid securities sold by BTMU, others

Updated : 12.08.2016 / Category Capsule

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Speculation is growing that the Financial Services Agency (FSA) may widen its regulatory net to include other financial products in its ongoing tussle with banks and securities firms over fee disclosure for savings-based insurance products.

If this comes to pass, the FSA's first target would likely be the "hybrid securities fund" investment trusts offered by the banks and securities firms. A high-ranking official at the FSA has already mentioned the product as a target, according to multiple industry sources.