Media March 2013

News in Brief

Plans Could Limit Language Learning

Japanese language teachers in England are worried that proposed changes in elementary schools’ curriculum might sideline the language and cause schools to stop offering Japanese classes, the Japan Daily Press reported on 31 January.

Under the proposed plan, students aged 7–11 will be required to study at least one of six foreign languages, not including Japanese.

It will still be possible for the language to be taught at schools, but it will be only an option. Teachers are worried that, by excluding Japanese from the mandatory list, the government is suggesting that the language is no longer important.

The changes are expected to come into effect next year and will only be implemented in English schools.

KDDI Invests in Taxi Hailing App

One of Japan’s largest mobile operators is to team up with a UK-based developer of taxi-hailing mobile applications, the Japan Daily Press reported on 5 February.

KDDI will invest in Hailo’s technology, which uses smartphone apps that directly link potential passengers and drivers to arrange pickups as well as handle billing.

The new agreement could drastically change the landscape in Japan, where the numerous popular apps for calling taxis mainly register requests with dispatchers and log a caller’s GPS location.

The Tokyo launch of the app is planned for later this year.

Power Firm to Launch Joint Venture

Intelligent Energy Limited and Suzuki Motor Corporation have announced an agreement to develop and manufacture air-cooled fuel cell systems for various industry sectors, the Financial Times reported on 8 February.

The firms will have an equal stake in the new venture, SMILE FC System Corporation. The partnership includes a non-exclusive licence agreement that gives Suzuki access to Intelligent Energy’s leading fuel cell technology for its next generation of eco-vehicles.

UK in 5th Spot for Industry Output

The UK is ranked fifth in industrial production among G7 countries, while Japan is in last place, according to a Trade Union Congress study issued on 25 February.

The poll compares figures since the end of 2010 and shows that industrial production has shrunk in every quarter since the start of 2011.

The UK economy needs manufacturing and mining to grow and thus close the trade gap, if it is to become less dependent on financial services.

Norfolk Firm Takes to Japanese Ideas

A manufacturing firm believes that Japanese business philosophies can advance its efficiency and boost its bottom line, the Eastern Daily Press reported on 21 February.

Teknomek Ltd., a leading producer of stainless steel equipment, has introduced a continuous improvement programme based on the Japanese models of kanban (having a visible record) and kaizan (continual, incremental product and production improvements that emanate from the plant floor) to track the flow of in-process items through a just-in-time production process.

Key to the changes are daily meetings at which the staff discuss objectives and positive and negative aspects of their performance.

Utility Provider Tours Nuclear Reactor Site

Employees of Tokyo Electric Power Company have visited Berkeley Power Station to learn about the plant’s decommissioning work, the Gazette reported on 9 February.

Ten visitors from the leading Japanese utility firm also visited other sites owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, including Hunterston ‘A’ in Scotland and the Sellafield reprocessing facility in Cumbria.

In 2010, Berkeley Power Station was one of the first sites in the world to put its nuclear reactors in Safestore, postponing the final removal of controls for 40 to 60 years.

Study Reveals Handset Preferences

Mobile phones are used in different ways in Japan and the UK, according to a 7 February study by Nielsen.

The research firm’s poll of handset usage patterns in the two nations found that mobile users in the UK were more than twice as likely to own smartphones compared with their Japanese counterparts.

At the start of last year, while some 61% of UK handset owners had a smartphone, only 24% of the phones owned by Japanese were smartphones.

The study found that smartphone owners in the two countries tend to use different features and services on their phones.

Some 50–70% of smartphone owners in Japan use search portals to navigate the internet, while their counterparts in the UK are more likely to directly access specific destinations, such as news and sports sites.

Meanwhile, Japanese users have about 10 apps on their smartphones, compared with six on the average UK user’s device.

In addition, Japan’s smartphone owners are more active in social networks than Britons, who are more passive users of social networks.

Themed Café Comes to London

The first cat café from Japan is to open in the UK, The Independent reported on 22 February.

Members of the public donated over £100,000 to bring the popular Japanese idea to life in the UK’s capital city.

The café will have 10–15 rescued cats, and guests will need to pay a fee to stroke the animals while drinking coffee.

The idea became popular in Japan as landlords are often not keen on tenants keeping pets in rented accommodation. In addition, increased financial pressures mean that not everyone can afford the food and veterinary care needed to look after a pet.

Scottish City Holds Matsuri

A Glasgow organisation held a Japanese matsuri (festival) on 3 March, to educate people about Japan’s culture and heritage, and promote community involvement, STV Glasgow reported on 20 February.

Organised by the Japanese Matsuri for Glasgow group, the city’s Hina Matsuri is now in its 12th year, but was initially planned as a one-off event.

The festival involved as many visitors and volunteers as possible, regardless of background and nationality.