Week of January 11, 2016
- Last week I reported that the Japanese government rolled back its ambitious target it set on the proportion of senior- level jobs to be held by women. From the original goal of 30 percent by 2020 championed by PM Shinzo Abe, the new five-year gender equality program published this month now targets a far more modest 15 percent for the private sector and 7 percent for national government bureaucrats. What would be better if lawmakers and bureaucrats would set the tone? Lawmaker for the ruling LDP Kensuke Miyazaki is planning to take a 4-week paternity leave when his baby will be born next month. He is grilled by his party, his voters and the media. Interesting to read in this article in the Daily Telegraph: "on paper the Japanese government officially offers new fathers a generous 12-month paternity leave retaining close to 60 per cent of their salary, but no more than a disappointing 2.3% of Japan’s fathers choose to take it."
- North-Korea started the new year with a big-bang: it’s newly developed H-bomb. H-bomb or turbo-charged A-bomb, Kim Jong-Un is in the picture again. But what do we know about North-Korea’s ruler who turned 33 two days ago? Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese cook, went deliberately to Pyongyang in 1982 to be the “royal" sushi-chef and was Kim Jong-Um’s playmate. He escaped in 2001 and went back in 2012 upon invitation of Un. Fujimoto presents himself now as Kimjongunologist (Washington Post).
- High-level British delegation this week in Tokyo for meetings with their counterparts: the ministers of Defense and of foreign affairs of the two countries now aim for increasing their joint military operations, including involving cooperation between their military cyber analysts (Defense News).
- Hard, reliable data on Japan's economy: Bloomberg News claims that these are missing in Japan. Example? Last year, initial GDP data showed Japan falling into recession in the third quarter, which pushed down stocks and the yen on the news. Three weeks later, revised data showed the economy actually grew 1 percent. It is more common than exception that GDP data are being revised considerably. Knowing how focused Japanese companies are to provide accurate figures, this article surprised me.
- Travel agency Expedia had a survey among working people in a range of countries and reported that 53% of the Japanese workers do not know how much annual leave they can take, the highest among any of the 26 countries and regions included in the study. The result seems to confirm the stereotypical image of the “Japanese workaholic.” But hey! The Netherlands ranked second at 38%, followed by Norway at 28%. So why are the Dutch no workaholics as well…? (Japan Times).
- Chinese tourists - and traders - were and are probably still buying Dutch baby milk from Dutch supermarkets, but here is the other end of the story: Chinese tourists are avid buyers of Japanese nappy’s. Quoting the Japan Times, “occasionally, suburban Japanese supermarkets clock the fact that nappy export gangs are arriving in trucks and loading up with product bound for China.” Japanese companies are now ramping up nappy production.
- Toshiba, until recently a blue-chip name in corporate Japan, is suffering: accounting scandals, big losses and massive write-offs. FUJIFILM and Sony are eying to buy its medical systems business. Next week the auction process will start, with also US PE funds ready to make bids. I wil inform you in the next weeks on developments in this (Nikkei).
- Grolsch … this Dutch brand is for sale as we all know: its parent company SABMiller needs to divest it now that it will be acquired by Anheuser-Busch Inbev. Asahi Beer is considering acquiring Grolsch. It would be another Japanese acquisition of a major Dutch company, after OCE (acquired by CANON), Robeco (by ORIX) and recently USG People (by Recruit). Nikkei reports on it.
- ANA, or All Nippon Airways, will face greater competition from Japan Airlines, which will have government restrictions on its growth plans lifted in March 2017. JAL went bankrupt in 2010 (and stopped flying to Amsterdam) and is expected to acquire (stakes in) airliners in the next years. ANA is speeding up its acquisitions (Financial Times).
- The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are not for all concerned an outright pleasure. Ignition reports that the mostly elderly residents of the Toei Kasumigaoka apartment complex will have to leave their homes. No doubt they will be offered newer and more adequate homes, but it is is the communication that seems less smooth.
- "Women bypass banks via crowd funding sites for projects” was a header in the Financial Times on January 8. It will be still small business, but nevertheless: it is “womenomics” as well and for that fits in PM Abe’s plans to increase women participation.
- And to end tis edition a great read in the Financial Times on Japanese drumming. Or more specifically: on the Kodo drummers from Sadoshima. The trainees have a very disciplined life and are not permitted to use their phones or computers, grow much of their own food, carve their chopsticks and drumsticks and are schooled in tea ceremonies. No computers or phones are permitted, and so their only contact with families and friends off the island is via handwritten letters. Wow! Kodo’s European tour starts on January 30 in Brussels and can be seen in Rotterdam on February 1 in De Doelen.