September 2016

Foreign Ministry in the dark over Abe's surprise Rio appearance

Updated : 30.09.2016 / Category Capsule

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was apparently left out of the loop by the Prime Minister's Office vis-à-vis Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's unexpected turn during the closing ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games on August 21 (local time).

In a scene that stunned viewers around the globe, the Japanese premier appeared as the popular video game character Super Mario, as part of a performance geared toward showcasing Tokyo, which will host the Games in 2020.

Inada's missile intercept order stirs grumbles in defense circles

Updated : 28.09.2016 / Category Capsule

Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada's issuance of a permanent order to intercept North Korean ballistic missiles has raised hackles at the Ministry of Defense and within the Self-Defense Forces.

Previous interception orders were issued on a temporary basis when signs of an imminent missile launch were detected. However, North Korea's use of mobile launchers made it difficult to accurately gauge when it might fire a missile. Inada issued the order in early August, soon after she was appointed minister, to ensure Japan could shoot down a projectile at any time.

The deeper meaning of the Emperor's video message

Updated : 27.09.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

In his video message that was televised nationwide Aug. 8, Emperor Akihito posed a much more far-reaching question than had been anticipated, which was tantamount to a political statement requiring deep thinking for full comprehension.

The soft-sounding title "message" may have given the impression of what the Emperor said as the story of a highly respected, aging head of a long-established company timidly revealing his desire to retire. More than 80 percent of people in opinion surveys are said to have expressed sympathy for the Emperor. They probably thought that it was only natural for him to say what he said and wanted the government to take prompt action to respond to his wishes. That's because they took the Emperor's problem as an issue that could confront every family in this rapidly aging society—as if they had found a pitfall in the social security system.

Sharp's RoBoHon a flop

Updated : 23.09.2016 / Category Capsule

A robot-shaped smartphone Sharp Corp. launched with great fanfare this year as a symbol of the electronics giant's recovery has been a flop.

Although Sharp has the capacity to produce about 5,000 RoBoHoN units per month, only "about 1,000" sold over two months from the end of May, according to a source inside the company.

Billed as a "humanoid robot that can walk on two legs and be operated by voice commands," RoBoHon is essentially a robot-shaped smartphone with functions that barely differ from older phone models. Even so, it was priced at ¥198,000.

End is nigh for GSDF tanks as amphibious vehicles muscle in

Updated : 21.09.2016 / Category Capsule

Japan's Ministry of Defense is embarking on the joint development of an amphibious vehicle with the United States that will consign tanks used by the Self-Defense Forces to being "relics of history."

According to Japan's Medium Term Defense Program, the ministry will purchase 52 U.S.-made AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles by fiscal 2030, and will deploy these mostly to an amphibious vehicle unit to be established by the end of that year in the Ground Self-Defense Force. If production of the AAV-7's successor vehicle increases, "this unit will effectively become Japan's version of the marines and its tank division will largely disappear," a senior GSDF official said.

Tokyo governor's new secretary irks Chinese Embassy, pro-Pyongyang group

Updated : 20.09.2016 / Category Capsule

New Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike's appointment of Kazusa Noda as a "special secretary" to the governor has furrowed brows at the Chinese Embassy and the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon).

A former member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, Noda is known for his ultraconservative views, including support for reinstating the 1890-1947 Meiji Constitution that provided for a form of mixed constitutional and absolute monarchy and was founded on the principle that sovereignty resided in the person of the Emperor.

Toyota unduly exploiting subcontractors

Updated : 15.09.2016 / Category Economy


Subcontractors that manufacture auto parts for Toyota Motor Corp. were stunned by a report that the automaking giant had downwardly revised its operating profits for the current term to 43.9 percent, representing a drop on the same term last year.

But it was not the deterioration in the firm's business performance that shook the subcontractors, rather, it was the prospect of having to make price cuts—something that Toyota was certain to demand.

Toyota and its primary cooperative companies ordinarily start negotiations over procurements for the second half of the fiscal year in September. "This year, Toyota hinted as early as July that we should cut prices further because it had experienced a decline in business performance due to the stronger yen," said a high-ranking official of an auto parts manufacturer with links to Toyota. "This demonstrates Toyota's extraordinary obsession with price reductions."

Fukushima nuclear disaster 'Class-A war criminals' landing top jobs in private sector

Updated : 13.09.2016 / Category Capsule

More than five years have passed since the nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Now, an increasing number of people within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry are saying "the mourning period is finally over."

Their sentiment refers to the fact that Tetsuhiro Hosono, who was commissioner of METI's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy at the time of nuclear meltdowns, recently landed the presidency of JECC Corp. (formerly Japan Electronic Computer Co.), a company that leases information-processing equipment. It is the kind of position he could have held years ago—were it not for the accident.

METI retaliation suspected in unusual removal of top TEPCO executive

Updated : 12.09.2016 / Category Capsule


The purge of high-ranking personnel from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., is having ramifications that spread far and wide.

Shinichiro Yano, a man considered the leader of conservative executives and head of TEPCO Power Grid, Inc.'s Tama regional office in western Tokyo, has been forced to step down effective September 30. It is extremely unusual for such a personnel matter to be implemented outside of the regular summer reshuffle.

According to a midranking TEPCO employee, the prevailing view within the company is that Yano's ejection is "an act of retaliation" by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry because Takashi Shimada, a METI official who pushed reforms at the utility, was sacked as the ministry's deputy vice-minister in accordance with the wishes of the Prime Minister's Office. The clean-out of TEPCO personnel could continue further.

Contenders in dogfight to become Mizuho Financial Group's next boss

Updated : 09.09.2016 / Category Capsule


Rumors are swirling over who will become the next head of Mizuho Financial Group, although the current president, Yasuhiro Sato, has suggested he could stay on in the job for some time yet.

Sato, who also is the group's chief executive officer, retained his posts during a personnel shake-up in 2016, effectively removing candidates who joined the company in 1979 and 1980 from contention to replace him when he eventually steps down. This includes Deputy President Daisaku Abe, who was widely regarded as a top candidate during behind-the-scenes jockeying last year to get in position to take over from Sato. The focus of attention has now shifted to executives who joined the bank in 1982 and 1983.