December 2016

LDP ignores needed reform by focusing on term limits

Updated : 27.12.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

The Liberal Democratic Party quickly wrapped up its discussions to extend the maximum tenure of its president. However, the ruling party does not seem to be paying much attention to more complicated and serious issues that concern its future.

In just about a month after the party's political reform panel led by Vice President Masahiko Komura began discussions on the matter, the LDP effectively decided in late October to allow its president to run for three consecutive three-year terms, instead of the current maximum of two terms—a decision scheduled to be officially endorsed in a party convention next year. That will pave the way for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the incumbent party chief, to run for yet another term as LDP president when his current term ends in September 2018. Initial calls for caution over the change by the potential post-Abe leaders who stand to see their chances of a near-term ascent to the party presidency dashed, such as Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and former Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, quickly faded away.

What price will Japan pay for getting islands back?

Updated : 22.12.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

Lord Palmerston, who served as prime minister of Britain in the 19th century, once remarked that "We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow." By quoting these words, a Japanese government insider said recently that Japan is no exception—particularly in an age when a character like Donald Trump gets nominated for president of the United States (and goes on to be elected), noting that Japan would have to map out a new path of its diplomacy should its alliance with the U.S. starts to become adrift.

As if to reflect this view on history in transition, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is bent on seeking a breakthrough on the decades-old territorial dispute with Russia over the group of islands off Hokkaido and move Russo-Japanese relations forward when he meets with President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 15 in Nagato in his home prefecture of Yamaguchi.

NHK-Netflix tie-up facing resentment from Japanese private broadcasters

Updated : 19.12.2016 / Category Capsule

A tie-up between NHK and Netflix kicked off December 12 with the Japanese public broadcaster's terrestrial airing of "Tokyo Trial," a four-part documentary drama about the post-World War II hearings of Japanese war criminals, jointly produced by NHK and a subsidiary of the major U.S. Internet television network provider.

Under the tie-up, NHK will provide the drama on demand after its broadcast, and Netflix will start streaming it in about 20 languages in January.

Trump's shock US election win may disadvantage Toyota

Updated : 15.12.2016 / Category Capsule

Toyota Motor Corporation could face sluggish sales in the United States after the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president in January, according to Japanese analysts.

"The increased public works spending and tax cuts touted by Mr. Trump will likely spur the U.S. economy, while environment-related deregulation is set to accelerate after the United States withdraws, as per his declared intention, from the Paris Agreement," said a reporter who covers the automobile industry for a trade paper. "Americans tend to buy large, gas-guzzling vehicles when their economy is booming. If environmental regulations are eased, that trend will be amplified."

Japan's cyberdefense capabilities open to question

Updated : 14.12.2016 / Category Society and Culture

Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: As the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games reaches its climax in front of 80,000 live spectators on the evening of July 24, 2020, delegates from each country begin filtering into the freshly completed New National Stadium, and the Emperor and Empress take their seats in the VIP area. But just as Japan's national anthem begins wafting through the air, a series of bizarre events begins to unfold.

First, the prelude of Georges Bizet's "Carmen" suddenly begins blaring through the stadium speakers, drowning out the national anthem and throwing the audience into a state of confusion. Next, the stadium lighting goes out and a message flashes up on the stadium screen, proclaiming, "Japan, stop killing dolphins!" Only then do people start to understand what is happening.

Fears mount over environmental destruction caused by Toshiba hydropower plant construction in Laos

Updated : 12.12.2016 / Category Capsule

Environmental experts are concerned that a hydropower plant construction project in northern Laos, for which Japan's Toshiba Corporation received orders through its Chinese subsidiary, poses an environmental threat to the region and will force ethnic minority residents to relocate.

"The settlements of ethnic minority residents will become submerged after the dam is constructed," said one such expert. "Not only that, the project could ruin the environment and the local fisheries industry."

Parts suppliers outraged over Sharp's high-handedness

Updated : 08.12.2016 / Category Capsule

Sharp Corporation has provoked the ire of parts suppliers for its de facto demand that they shoulder the cost of relocating several facilities in Hiroshima Prefecture, casting a dark cloud over the firm's rebuilding efforts.

The company, which is undergoing reconstruction after being acquired by Taiwan Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. earlier this year, is planning to transfer some facilities in Mihara City to Fukuyama City, both in the prefecture.

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

Updated : 07.12.2016 / Category Economy

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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.

Dark clouds hover over Hitachi's IoT business

Updated : 05.12.2016 / Category Capsule

Hitachi Ltd.'s Lumada, an Internet of Things platform positioned as pivotal to the success of the firm's 2018 mid-term management plan, is in a sharp downward spiral, showing little prospect of returning the massive investment pumped into it by the Japanese electronic giant.

Hitachi President & CEO Toshiaki Higashihara introduced Lumada in May with much fanfare when announcing the firm's mid-term management plan. The core platform provides solutions for digital transformations in data analysis and artificial intelligence, among other areas.

Hitachi had aimed to sharpen its cost-competitiveness with Lumada by shifting its operations from a customer-specific software-development business model. But to date, it remains a high-cost, low-return project.

Family tensions and succession maneuvering darken Toyota's top ranks

Updated : 01.12.2016 / Category Economy

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A complex network of family connections helped the Toyoda family create the giant conglomerate that today is centered around Toyota Motor Corp. Japan's leading carmaker now has more than 560 subsidiaries—either consolidated, or accounted for in the equity method—under its wing.

Yet amid the transfer of power at the company from Shoichiro Toyoda to his son Akio, there have emerged clear signs of friction between members of the main Toyoda family and relatives in other branches of the family, according to a former executive of Denso Corp., a Toyota group firm.

In the past, members of the sprawling Toyoda family tree were on more familiar terms, calling each other by their family nicknames, according to inside sources. Members of the three branch families—referred to as the Shinke, Oshikiri and Chikaramachi branches—would gather socially with their relatives in the main Toyoda family a few times a year.