SBI gives funds to Wirex bitcoin card

UK-Japan News April 2017

London-based bitcoin card provider Wirex has raised £2.45mn from Japanese financial services group SBI Holdings to launch a contactless card that allows users to spend using both traditional currencies and bitcoins, Business Insider UK reported on 6 March.

Japan was recently named the world’s biggest market place for bitcoin, and various funds and investment banks in Japan are moving into the space. SBI’s partnership with Wirex will see the latter firm push forward with expansion plans for the Asia–Pacific region.

England rugby coach Eddie Jones helps Nomura

UK-Japan News April 2017

Eddie Jones, the England rugby union coach, has taken a job advising Japanese investment bank Nomura and its clients about leadership, the International Business Times reported on 21 March.

As part of a three-year deal, the Australian former rugby hooker will work with the client-facing leadership team to share his insights and coaching experience. This is the 57-year-old’s second top banking role after taking on a post advising Goldman Sachs in Japan in 2015.

Jones previously coached the Japan rugby team to its biggest international win—over South Africa—during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

BAT’s glo sells out

UK-Japan News April 2017

Demand for British American Tobacco’s ¥8,000 glo tobacco heating device has surpassed supply in Japan, the International Business Times reported on 17 March.

The firm has subsequently changed its sales system. Transactions are no longer made on a first-come-first-served basis, but require online reservations followed by lottery-based sales.

Since Japan’s pharmaceutical regulations do not allow the sale of e-cigarettes, international tobacco firms see Japan as an ideal testing ground for smokeless tobacco products, which are an alternative to regular cigarettes.

Fintech link starts up

UK-Japan News April 2017

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and the Financial Services Agency of Japan (JFSA) will work together to promote fintech innovation and collaboration, City A.M. reported on 9 March.

The collaboration will help support and speed up the process for UK fintech entities wanting to set up in Japan, and vice versa. This follows similar agreements with Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.

The UK has been credited with being the best fintech hub in Europe with fintech-related opportunities being developed by the Department for International Trade.

J.League own goal for sports tech firm

UK-Japan News April 2017

James Rushton, chief executive officer of online streaming service DAZN, has apologised for glitches in the system during its launch on the opening day of the J.League season on 25 February, The Japan Times reported on 20 March.

The British-based Perform Group bought the domestic broadcasting rights for J.League last year in a 10-year deal worth ¥210bn. The system saw time lags, pauses in broadcasts and some subscribers received an email saying their subscriptions had been cancelled.

Barnsley firm sells sushi goods to Japan

UK-Japan News April 2017

SushiSushi, a sushi making business, sold its 500th Roller-35 manual sushi machine to a firm in Argentina, BQ Weekly reported on 8 March.

Barnsley entrepreneur Stuart Turner created SushiSushi to educate people on how best to source and make sushi, no matter where they are in the world. At the start, it was just an information-based website.

But after setting up an e-commerce website, Turner began selling products locally and globally, even to Japan. Along with the sushi-rolling machine, the firm also offers rice, refrigerators, Japanese knives and packaging for street food.

X Japan hits number-one in UK charts

UK-Japan News April 2017

Following their first major show of 2017 at the SSE Arena, Wembley, and the release of the documentary We Are X, the band X Japan took the number-one spot on the UK Rock and Metal Chart, Arama Japan reported on 18 March.

To promote the London show, the band held a signing at the music shop HMV in Mayfair. More than 1,000 fans attended, forcing the temporary closure of Oxford Street.

Miura beats Sir Stanley

UK-Japan News April 2017

Fifty-year-old Japanese striker Kazuyoshi Miura has taken the title of oldest professional footballer to score a competitive goal, beating Sir Stanley Matthews’ 52-year record, The Guardian reported on 12 March.

Miura, now in his 32nd season, scored when he took control of a deflected ball and angled the shot past the arms of the goalkeeper during a match against Gunma Prefecture’s second division Thespa-kusatsu.

Miura, who has scored 55 goals in 89 appearances for his country, made his professional debut in 1986 with the Brazilian team Santos.

Refugee charity gets top rating from Global Giving

UK-Japan News April 2017

Refugees International Japan has received an excellent rating from the non-profit Global Giving for one of its project reports, the charity revealed in a 16 March press release.

The project ensures women living in camps in Myanmar receive baby kits with essential health and hygiene items, including information leaflets, soap and baby wraps, to give their new-borns a good start in life.

Many of these women are living in tough conditions, receiving little to no antenatal education. The project aims to provide support for these mothers.

Tokyo “to top London” in cultural Olympiad events

UK-Japan News April 2017

London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Director Ruth Mackenzie has said that Japan’s Cultural Olympiad offering “will beat London’s”, The Japan Times reported on 9 March.

The Cultural Olympiad is a programme of cultural events held across an Olympic host country during the four-year period leading up to the Games. The Tokyo Cultural Olympiad began last year in the Nihonbashi district with performances involving traditional arts fused with modern technology.

Tokyo is yet to appoint a director to oversee the programme.

More firms rehire past staff

Japan news April 2017

In the parlance of the Japanese corporate world, demodori shain means an employee who has left the business and then returned. The 8 March edition of the Nikkan Gendai reported that recent data from a recruitment agency noted that such individuals now count for about 10% of mid-career placements.

The biggest reason for returning to a former employer, as stated by some 67% of those queried, resulted from an approach made by the president, director or a former boss. Another 33% attributed the reason to private contacts with former co-workers, while 20% said they were willing to return following the departure of previous management.

The issue of returning employees has been attracting attention lately since firms are increasingly seen as understaffed.


No high life for retirees

Japan news April 2017

Will economic pundits’ sunny expectations—that Japan’s postwar baby boomers will develop into a free-spending consumer segment who travel, engage in leisure pursuits and enjoy their golden years—turn out to be a big let down?

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has estimated that in 2015 there were some 18.3mn Japanese people aged between 60 and 69, marking an increase of around 15% over a decade earlier.

This cohort largely comprises the baby boomer generation, born between 1947 and 1949. Despite earlier optimism that these individuals, who began retiring in 2007, would become an active, hedonistic group enjoying a free-spending lifestyle, the picture that’s emerging is not nearly so optimistic.


Shops seek new solutions to thwart theft problems

Japan news April 2017

A new shoplifting record was set in Japan last year, with total losses estimated at ¥461.5bn. According to the National Police Agency, shoplifting accounted for 11.3% of all reported crimes.

In an interview in the 15 March edition of the Nikkei Marketing Journal, Yutaka Takehana, chairman of the non-profit National Shoplifting Prevention Organization, noted that, compared with other crimes, which have declined, incidents of shoplifting have shown almost no change.

“The figures reflect the number of known cases. But it’s possible that, if the amount of unreported incidents is worked in, the actual losses could be twice as high”, he remarked.

By comparison, losses in the United States, where shoplifting by organised gangs tends to be more common, are estimated to be around the equivalent of ¥3.3tn a year.


County Armagh plan for first wasabi crop heats up

UK-Japan News March 2017

Wasabi Crop Limited, based in County Armagh in Northern Ireland, has announced that its first commercial crop of wasabi will be available next year, the Fresh Produce Journal reported on 2 February.

Wasabi is considered one of the world’s most expensive crops. Scientist Sean Kitson founded the firm with the aim of tapping into demand for the plant. He hopes eventually to export the leaves and paste to Japan.

The first full-scale harvest will be next year.

Post-Burberry hard times for Sanyo Shokai

Japan news March 2017

In 2015, Burberry PLC announced it would allow its licensing contract with Japanese garment manufacturer Sanyo Shokai Ltd. to expire. This set the stage for Burberry to take control of its own operations in Japan, after having collaborated with Sanyo Shokai for 45 years.

The loss of ties to a prestigious foreign brand, one that Sanyo Shokai had come to rely on for a significant part of its revenues, came as a major shock. On 17 February, the Nikkei Marketing Journal (NMJ) reported that for the fiscal year ended in December 2016, the firm had announced losses of ¥11.3bn—the largest in its history.

Following the breakup with Burberry, Sanyo Shokai launched two of its own brands: Macintosh London and Crestbridge.
The manager at a department store in a regional city remarked that, compared with Burberry, “The new brands have less than half the brand familiarity. It’s going to take time for them to catch on”.


Craft gin takes off

UK-Japan News March 2017

Handcrafted gin made by artisans is catching on in Japan, the Nikkei Marketing Journal reported on 6 March, with shops and bars such as Tokyo’s Good Meals Shop, which now serves 200 kinds of gin, increasingly stocking the beverage.

Craft gin distinguishes itself from its mass-produced counterpart through the use of special ingredients, giving the drink distinct tastes and flavours.

Japan now also has its own craft gin producer—The Kyoto Distillery. The firm, which began operations last year, makes use of water and botanicals local to Kyoto.

Video to show settlers’ post-war pains

UK-Japan News March 2017

Named after forget-me-nots, a flower recognised as a symbol of constancy, the Wasurena-gusa Project has been created to preserve the memories of Japanese people who settled in Britain soon after World War II, the Japan Times reported on 14 February.

Organised by the Japan Association, the project’s aim is to record in a series of video interviews the history of the Japanese community, whose members made Britain home beginning in the 1950s.

The interviews will look at some of the hardships that people faced as they arrived in Britain, and their reasons for moving there.

Sony moves to Wales to make hi-tech cameras

UK-Japan News March 2017

Sony Europe Limited has begun making its 4K HDC-4300 video camera in Pencoed, south Wales, the weekly Broadcast reported on 20 February.

The factory is scheduled to make about 25 units per month and Wales is the only country other than Japan to produce the camera.

The Sony UK Technology Centre has been producing broadcast technology since 1999, shipping more than 13,000 units a year. The plant was chosen due to its production capabilities and expertise in high-end, high-value and low-volume products.

Delivery firms stretched to breaking point

Japan news March 2017

The proverb stating that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link is about to be tested. In this case, it’s the supply chain, as parcel delivery drivers are being stretched to the limit and their unflagging efforts are no longer taken for granted.

As a result, the healthy growth in e-business supported by Japan’s parcel delivery network may be disrupted as a result of an increase in fees or the curtailing of services in the near future, the Shukan Gendai warned on 4 March.

Currently, Inc.’s Japan operation alone fills about 200mn orders per year. But a looming shortage of personnel may seriously cut into its business. Exacerbating the pinch are special members’ services that promise same-day delivery or, in the case of some products, delivery within one hour of receipt of an order.

From 2005 until 2013, Amazon Japan had used Sagawa as its main delivery agent, but then shifted to Japan Post, which operates as a private entity. The Sagawa drivers couldn’t handle the work, and Japan Post employees don’t seem to like it any better.


Scholars offer Olympic advice

UK-Japan News March 2017

Visitors from Japanese universities met with staff from the University of East London (UEL) to gain valuable advice for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Newham Recorder reported on 1 February.

Organised by the British Council, talks were given by the UEL on how to prepare for the Games, with a focus on hosting an Olympic training camp, volunteering opportunities, marketing and communications, research and special Paralympic projects.

The UEL was the first stop on a five-day tour of UK universities.

Madden blogs about emperor and Osaka

UK-Japan News March 2017

Ambassador Paul Madden CMG reflected on the first month of his role in a 14 February entry on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office blog.

Madden wrote of his visit to the Imperial Palace to present his credentials to the emperor, and of his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He also detailed his efforts to support British business in Japan and strengthen UK–Japan ties.

In his first week, Madden visited the British Consulate-General Osaka.

Envoy visits North for talks on business

UK-Japan News March 2017

Japanese Ambassador to the UK Koji Tsuruoka visited Greater Manchester to explore trade opportunities, the Manchester Evening News reported on 21 February.

The trip was co-ordinated by Manchester Investment Development Agency Service and showcased the region as an investment and business destination to the Japanese delegation.

Hitachi, Ltd. is already active in the region, and has worked on big data projects with NorthWest EHealth, the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre and the Salford Royal NHS Trust.

Fintech startup gets boost

UK-Japan News March 2017

Tokyo stock exchange operator Japan Exchange Group, Inc. (JPX) has invested £791,000 in UK-based fintech startup OpenGamma Limited, Tech City News reported on 1 February.

JPX has taken a minority stake, and OpenGamma will use the investment to expand its services in the Japanese market. OpenGamma’s Chief Executive Officer Peter Rippon said the investment would help with the firm’s credibility.

OpenGamma is one of the best-known capital markets fintech startups in the UK, and has produced a tool that helps derivatives traders calculate risk.

BoE fines Tokyo banks

UK-Japan News March 2017

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. (BTMU) has been fined £17.85mn for failing to be open with the Bank of England (BoE) about enforcement action it faced in the United States, Business Times reported on 9 February.

Along with MUFG Securities EMEA plc, which was fined £8.9mn, the BTMU has been accused by the BoE’s Prudential Regulation Authority of having failed to be open and co-operative regarding an enforcement action imposed on the BTMU by the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS).

The BTMU was fined $315mn in 2014 for misleading the DFS with a watered-down report on its dealings with sanctioned countries.

Scottish food, drink exports soar due to whisky, seafood

UK-Japan News March 2017

The Scottish Financial Review reported on 15 February that food and drink exports from Scotland to Japan surged to £100mn in 2015, the latest available data, largely due to the popularity of whisky.

The alcoholic beverage makes up 70% of the total, while seafood accounts for 16.71%. Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said that the government will continue to build on this success and strengthen relations with major food distributors in Japan.

A Scottish food and drink fair was held on 15 February for the first time at the Isetan department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Cars smash sales quota

UK-Japan News February 2017

Justin Gardiner, brand manager of Caterham Cars Japan for S-Eye Co., Ltd., said the firm has sold the 100 cars allocated to the country for 2017, meeting the entire sales quota for the year, Forbes reported on 17 January.

One fifth of Caterham’s global production is allocated for sale in Japan. In 2017, this included 60 of the 60th anniversary models of the Caterham 7, all of which were sold within the first two weeks of January this year.

Caterham’s cars are classed as keijidosha, or light automobiles, giving them access to special tax advantages.

£1mn in sales for wind firm

UK-Japan News February 2017

Ecotricity Group Ltd. has sold £1mn worth of small wind turbines to Japan over the past 18 months, making it the largest wind energy exporter in the UK, the Stroud News & Journal reported on 19 January.

Built by Ecotricity subsidiary Britwind, a further 30 windmills are set to be dispatched to Japan by the end of March—130 have already been shipped.

“The Japanese government is backing renewable energy and has created a real opportunity for wind power”, said Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity.

Tweed trademark checked

UK-Japan News February 2017

The Harris Tweed Authority will be appointing an ambassador to Japan to prevent the false marketing of tweed from the Scottish Outer Hebrides, The Herald reported on 12 January.

While the popular Harris Tweed brings in about £4mn a year in Japan, the Harris Tweed trademark is not always used properly in the market, with some goods falsely marked. The appointed ambassador will look to ensure consumers are not misled.

Harris Tweed products use Orb Labels, the oldest British trademark remaining in continuous use. The cloth is protected and defined by the Harris Tweed act 1993.

Nissan cleared to test self-driving cars in London

UK-Japan News February 2017

Nissan has received clearance from the UK government to commence trials of its self-driving cars on public roads in London, Wired reported on 16 January.

The modified Nissan Leaf electric car has been updated with Nissan Intelligent Mobility, comprising a special suite of radar, laser and camera systems. Clearance from a final local authority is needed before tests can commence.

It is hoped the car will be available commercially by 2020.

Nations ink pact to bolster defence ties

UK-Japan News February 2017

The UK and Japan have signed an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement that will allow their armed forces to share logistics support in an effort to strengthen their defence ties, The Mainichi reported on 27 January.

The agreement will see Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the British military share supplies including food, fuel, transport and equipment during UN peacekeeping missions, international relief operations and joint exercises.

The move will strengthen the UK’s military ties to Japan and the Asia–Pacific region.