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  • Radboud Molijn

GB "Japanews Digest" December 2023

Every week, we scour the web for the hottest Japanese news items. At the end of the month, we translate a selection of articles into English and curate them into a little digest so you can get an overview of the latest news that moves Japan. The digest is divided up into 4 categories in no particular order: Economy, Corporate, Society and Politics.


The following covers major news highlights of December 2023, presented in chronological order per category.


Economy


Nikkei Average Keeps 30,000 Yen Level at Year-End (December 29)


The final trading day of the year on the Tokyo Stock Exchange saw the Nikkei Average close at 33,464 yen. Starting the year at 25,716 yen, factors such as post-COVID recovery, inbound tourism, and a weaker yen contributed to a trend of rising stock prices throughout the year. The Nikkei Average maintaining the 30,000 yen level on the last day of the year was the first time in 34 years since 1989.


Corporate


Daihatsu Motor suspends shipments of all models for domestic and international markets due to new inspection irregularities (December 20)


In April of this year, inspection irregularities were discovered in some vehicles destined for overseas markets. As a result of an investigation by a third-party committee, 174 cases of inspection irregularities were found in 25 test items, including domestic automobiles. The oldest confirmed irregularity dates back to 1989.


The third-party committee cited pressure from management executives as the cause of the irregularities. There was a corporate culture that demanded rapid vehicle development from employees at the site and did not tolerate schedule changes. As a result, it became commonplace at the operational level to conduct vehicle inspections with irregularities as the starting point.


Location-based Social Media platform "NauNau" publishes investigation results of information leakage suspicions, "No information leakage confirmed" (December 7)


Reports surfaced of potential leakage of personal information from the SNS app "NauNau," which had suspended its service since October this year, affecting over 2 million individuals.

The investigation found no evidence of information leakage. However, it confirmed security flaws within the company, allowing unauthorized access to personal information by individuals with technical knowledge. The company pledged to work towards preventing future occurrences, including the involvement of third-party organizations, but did not mention resuming services.


Massive communication outage occurs on au network services (December 11)


Communication services using the au network provided by KDDI experienced a communication outage. Service was restored the same day. The cause of the outage was believed to be a malfunction in communication facilities covering the western Japan area. KDDI experienced a nationwide communication outage in July last year, prompting Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno to seek investigation reports at the level of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.


Major Hair Removal Salon "Ginza Color" Operating Company Goes Bankrupt (December 16)


Total liabilities amount to 58 billion yen. There are 100,000 creditors. Customers who paid the plan fee for hair removal in advance but could not receive the service are effectively treated as creditors. There is no prospect of a refund. Ginza Color is a major chain with 50 stores nationwide.


Nippon Steel Announces Acquisition of U.S. Steel (December 19)


The acquisition amount is expected to be around 2 trillion yen. With the increase in economic security, the American steel industry is returning domestically, and it is judged that there is expected market growth in the American steel industry in the future. Although US Steel has agreed to the acquisition, labor unions are opposed to it.

US Steel is a major American steel company with a 122-year history. Through steel production, it has supported the economic development and rise to a major power of 20th-century America. It has been struggling in recent years due to its delay in decarbonization.


Society


22 countries, including Japan pledge to Triple the capacity of nuclear power generation (December 2)


Proposed by the US government, 22 countries including Japan, the UK, France, and the UAE reaffirmed their policy to promote nuclear power to achieve a decarbonized society. The goal is to triple the global nuclear power generation capacity using nuclear power by 2050 compared to 2020.


Revised Cannabis Control Law" passes, legalizing medical marijuana (December 6)


Until now, both recreational and medical marijuana have been prohibited in Japan, but the revised law only legalizes medical marijuana. Simultaneously, recreational marijuana is prohibited not only for "possession" and "transfer" but also for "use."


Nine NHK News Department Executives Disciplined for Improper Expense Claims (December 19)


A problem with a NHK News Department journalist in his 30s (former journalist, disciplinary action) making fraudulent expense claims. As a result of an investigation by a third-party committee, 410 cases of fraudulent claims were confirmed. The amount of fraudulent claims totaled 7.89 million yen.


Expenses were claimed under the guise of reporting costs and deviated from internal regulations for several years. It wasn't until an internal report that the fraudulent claims were noticed, and nine people, including three former heads of the social department who were in a position to detect fraud, received disciplinary action such as salary reduction.


Politics


Prime Minister Kishida denies relationship with former leaders of the Unification Church (December 7).


During his tenure as chairman of the Policy Research Council in 2019, a former leader of the Unification Church was present at a meeting with former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Prime Minister Kishida stated that he was not aware of the identity of the accompanying individual (source).


Allegations of “kickbacks” surfaced against six senior members of the Abe faction (December 9)


In addition to Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno, allegations emerged that six senior members, including Takagi, chairman of the ruling party's parliamentary group, Hagiuda, chairman of the party's Policy Research Council, and Nishimura, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, had received kickbacks. Asahi Shimbun reported that they are likely to be replaced soon, citing sources close to the matter.


Japan government announces "Child Future Strategy Plan," a strategy to address declining birth rates from a different perspective (December 11)


The government unveiled concrete proposals for its "dimensionally different measures to combat declining birth rates," including abolishing income restrictions on child allowances and providing free university tuition for multi-child households. They aim to pass related bills during next year's ordinary session of the Diet.


The government positions the next seven years until the 2030s as Japan's last chance to reverse declining birth rates. During this period, they are coordinating to allocate a budget of ¥3.6 trillion, aiming to reach the top level among OECD countries in terms of measures to combat declining birth rates.


Expansion of Wage Increase Tax Reduction System, Tax Reform Outline (December 13)


The "Tax Reform Outline" summarizing the tax policy for the next fiscal year has been decided. The expansion of the wage increase tax reduction system to promote wage increases has been included. Tax reduction measures will be available according to the amount of wage increase. For small and medium-sized enterprises that have increased wages, even if they are in the red, the tax reduction limit can be carried forward for up to five years (previously two years).


The "Victims Relief Act" for the dissolution of the Unification Church is enacted (December 13)

This law imposes a duty to notify in advance when selling assets for religious groups subject to dissolution orders. It also requires quarterly reporting of financial status. The bill, targeting the former Unification Church, received support from both ruling and opposition parties. Its aim is to prevent the flow of compensation funds to overseas organizations affiliated with the former Unification Church.


Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno dismissed, replaced by former Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (December 14)


Nishimura, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, Suzuki, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, and Miyashita, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, were also dismissed simultaneously. All of them are members of the "Abe faction" within the party. It is also expected that Takagi, chairman of the party's parliamentary group, and Hagiuda, chairman of the Policy Research Council, will be replaced soon.


Former Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is currently 62 years old and belongs to the "Kishida faction." He is a highly educated member of the administration, having graduated from the University of Tokyo and Harvard University in the United States. He has previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, among other positions. This is his first time serving as Chief Cabinet Secretary.


Support for the Kishida administration drops to its lowest level (December 18)


According to the latest public opinion polls by major media outlets, support rates have fallen to around 23%. The disapproval rate is around 70%. In a public opinion poll by Mainichi Shimbun, support plummeted to 17%, marking the first time since the return of the LDP to power in December 2012 that support has fallen below 10%.


Cabinet Decision on Next Year's Budget Proposal, Total General Accounting Amount is 112 Trillion Yen (December 22)


This marks the sixth consecutive year of the total general accounting amount exceeding 100 trillion yen. Although slightly decreased from the previous year's budget of 114 trillion yen, expenditures for social security, defense, and local allocation tax grants exceeded those of the previous year. Tax revenues remained flat compared to the previous fiscal year. Public borrowing (debt) decreased slightly from the previous fiscal year.


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