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Toshiba's new whistle-blower system deluged with reports

Updated : 12.10.2016 / Category Capsule

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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.

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