October 2016

Prime Minister's Office alarmed by university's planned visit to North Korea

Updated : 20.10.2016 / Category Capsule

The government is alarmed that Nippon Sport Science University (Nittaidai) may yet press ahead with a visit to North Korea in defiance of repeated warnings from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at a time when Pyongyang is aggressively conducting nuclear and missile tests.

The university appears unswayed by the government's warnings, even after Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga last month leveled sharp criticism against a North Korean visit made by Antonio Inoki, a professional wrestler-turned-member of the House of Councillors. "I can't help but think the visit was extremely inappropriate," Suga said of Inoki's visit.

Nosediving performance and aftereffects of merger shaking Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings

Updated : 19.10.2016 / Category Corporate Investigations

Japan's Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings recently announced plans to shutter its Chiba Mitsukoshi department store due to the outlet's continued poor performance. The store, which has a sales floor space of 24,700 square meters, will close on March 20, 2017. Some of the outlet's functions—such as its external sales and service section—will then be transferred to an upscale shop set to open nearby, before the Chiba Mitsukoshi store closes down completely.

"A new station building at JR Chiba Station and new in-station stores were scheduled to open in November this year, and redevelopment of Chiba's downtown area was supposed to be led by the Mitsukoshi department store, among others," said an exasperated Toshiaki Ishii, president of the Chiba Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and corporate advisor to Chiba Bank. "The decision was a real bolt from the blue; totally surprising. I want to talk directly to the officials concerned."

Waseda rugby club eyeing increase in sponsorship through incorporated status

Updated : 17.10.2016 / Category Capsule

Waseda University Rugby Football Club is aiming to become a general incorporated association, with plans to that end currently making headway.

In August this year, Kyoto University Gangsters, an American football club, became the first university sports club in Japan to be granted incorporated status. Following the football club's designation, Waseda reportedly reached out to the team for help. "There's already an exchange of know-how and other information going on behind the scenes," a Waseda source said.

Fukui Prefecture fighting back over Monju plant decommissioning

Updated : 13.10.2016 / Category Capsule

Fukui Prefecture, outraged over the government's decision last month to decommission the Monju fast-breeder nuclear reactor, is making veiled threats to withdraw its approval for pluthermal power generation at Takahama Nuclear Power Station in the prefecture.

If the prefecture rescinds its approval and other prefectures with nuclear power plants follow suit, it could negatively impact the updating in 2018 of the Japan-U.S. agreement on cooperation concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Toshiba's new whistle-blower system deluged with reports

Updated : 12.10.2016 / Category Capsule


Toshiba Corp. currently faces a new challenge regarding changes to its corporate culture. This mission has become particularly important as its "Securities on Alert" status will likely be lifted by the end of the current business year. The embattled company was on the verge of delisting after the Tokyo Stock Exchange put its shares on alert one year ago.

Toshiba established a new system to receive reports from whistle-blowers aimed at preventing a recurrence of the accounting irregularities that battered the company, but it is being inundated with reports from employees accusing their bosses of bullying and sexual harassment. This whistle-blowers' hotline has unexpectedly helped expose yet another dark side of the company, according to observers.

Japan's ¥1 trillion economic assistance to Russia a foolhardy ploy to regain Northern Territories

Updated : 11.10.2016 / Category Economy


At a regular morning press conference on Sept. 2, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga showed little patience with a question about whether he acknowledged a plan by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to invest in Rosneft, a major oil company effectively owned by the Russian government. "There's no truth in that story," he replied curtly. "The ministry isn't discussing it." The top Japanese government spokesman then refused to answer further questions.

Japan-Russia summit talks were scheduled to take place that same day, and, in the afternoon, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew to Vladivostok for his 14th meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But, with a scoop that targeted the meeting, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) ran a story on its front page with a headline that proclaimed "Govt to offer comprehensive cooperation to Russia in energy field."

Sumitomo's Thai-based business plans 'overly optimistic'

Updated : 07.10.2016 / Category Capsule

Sumitomo Corporation's efforts to establish a consumer finance business in Thailand are already beginning to stall.

The company, which announced it would set up its business through a local entity that deals with installment plans for motorcycles, aims to notch up loans worth around 300 million baht (about ¥1 billion) by the end of the year. However, Japanese industry sources say Sumitomo's "outlook is overly optimistic."

Does Shinjiro Koizumi have what it takes to become prime minister?

Updated : 04.10.2016 / Category Politics

Shinjiro Koizumi, director of the Agriculture and Forestry Division of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, inspects a farming house in Ise, Mie Prefecture, in March.

Shinjiro Koizumi is a chip off the old block. His skillful oratory and confident performances evoke those of his father, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Of late, Koizumi Jr. has matured into a politician who is now being viewed as a possible future premier.

As director of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Agriculture and Forestry Division, Koizumi presently devotes himself to agricultural policies. But his caliber will be tested over the extent to which he can plunge the knife into the country's agricultural organizations, which cling dearly to vested rights.

Meanwhile, his neoliberal thinking, which puts priority on the principle of market mechanism, involves some risks. Public popularity and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin, meaning the higher the public's expectations, the larger its reaction could be to disappointment. Has this young politician—raised and protected in an ideal environment provided by his family—the wherewithal to become leader of the country?

Behind Xi's Senkaku moves

Updated : 03.10.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

In early August, a large fleet of Chinese fishing boats, numbering up to about 400 at a time, entered into the waters around Japan's Senkaku Islands, guarded by patrol boats of the China Coast Guard. But the principal players in the operations were neither the fishermen nor the coast guard, but rather a paramilitary group known as the "maritime militia," which played the crucial role in commanding the fleet. A close look at the incidents seems to point to a bitter feud between President Xi Jinping, who advocates reform of the military organization, and leaders of the military who appear to follow but in fact defy the reforms.

On the muggy afternoon of Aug. 15 at a fishing port in Quanzhou in the Fujian Province, fishermen were busy unloading from their ships the catch they had made during a 10-day expedition to the waters near the Senkakus. A man in his 30s, however, took off in a black 4WD vehicle hurriedly after landing on the port and giving instructions to others. According to an insider, this man was both the captain of a fishing boat and a key figure of the local maritime militia, and he needed to rush to the militia headquarters to report on the expedition. This scene illustrates how the primary purpose of the expedition was to encroach on Japanese waters, not to catch fish.

Takata Corp. chief ruining his once-thriving family business

Updated : 01.10.2016 / Category Business Tribunals


Proceedings are underway to select a financial backer to help reconstruct the troubled Takata Corp., currently reeling from the recall of its faulty vehicle airbags, which have caused more than 10 deaths.

Five groups tendered bids in the first round of the selection process held September 10, including Sweden's Autoliv—one of the world's three largest airbag makers, along with Takata and Germany's ZF TRW—and U.S. investment funds. An external committee comprising lawyers and other experts that was entrusted by Takata in February to work out a reconstruction plan will select two candidates by early October with help from U.S. M&A advisory firm Lazard.