BBC starts service in Japan to stream news

UK-Japan News August 2018

A new BBC news streaming service has been launched in Japan, bringing video news to online audiences, Japan Today reported on 19 July.

The service, which is being run through the Yahoo! JAPAN website, is available from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, and offers a selection of news and documentaries from the BBC’s World News channel, with either Japanese simultaneous interpretation or Japanese subtitles.

Programmes on offer include News Day, Asia Business Report and HARDtalk.

Kanagawa theme park to fete Paddington Bear

UK-Japan News August 2018

A theme park based on Paddington Bear opened in Japan on 21 July, Kyodo News reported the same day.

The amusement park is the world’s first to be based on the popular British character. Located in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, the park has five attractions for children and families.

Among the activities of interest is a ride on a miniature fire engine. Children can knock over targets made to look like fire.

The facility is part of the Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest complex near Lake Sagami.

Hokkaido bears for Yorkshire

UK-Japan News August 2018

One of four Ussuri brown bears that will be given a home at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. PHOTO: YWP

Four bears are to be sent from Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, The Mirror reported on 21 July.

The Ussuri brown bears have been living in tiny cages at the Ainu Culture Museum, but experience and resources to look after the bears are now lacking, the report said.

Named Riku, Kai, Hanako and Amu, the bears will be sent to a rehabilitation centre at the park in Doncaster, where a volunteers’ day was held to get everything ready for their arrival.

Princess heads to Eton

UK-Japan News August 2018

Princess Aiko departed for the UK, where she will take part in a summer school programme at Eton College, The Japan News reported on 23 July.

The 16-year-old princess, a granddaughter of Emperor Akihito and the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, will also visit other places, including Portsmouth and Oxford, the report says.

The short programme at Eton is part of her high school’s study schedule, and will see her return to Japan in August.

UK beats Japan in 4x100m relay event

UK-Japan News August 2018

Japan came second, losing out to Great Britain, in the men’s 4x100m relay in the final day of the International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League event in London, The Japan Times reported on 23 July.

The Japanese team recorded a time of 38.09 seconds, behind the UK’s 37.61, which was the world’s fastest time this season, according to the report.

Three of the Japanese runners were members of the relay team that won the silver medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Maker of new engine hopes to attract Japanese car firms

Japan news July 2018

Representatives of a British manufacturer of a new type of engine for cars have been holding meetings with automakers in Japan, according to a 15 June report in Forbes.

Roger Stone and Mark Gostick of Camcon met with staff from Toyota Motor Corporation, Honda Motor Company, Ltd. and Mazda Motor Corporation to show off their Intelligent Valve Actuation (IVA) system.

The IVA engine combines the fuel economy of a diesel engine with the emissions and power of a gasoline unit, the report said.

The firm, a small start-up based in Leamington Spa, has spent seven years developing the technology, and is now testing it out with a Jaguar prototype in the UK.

Hitachi seeks partners for new N facility in Wales

UK-Japan News July 2018

Hitachi, Ltd is looking for partners to help share the cost of building a new nuclear complex on the Welsh island of Anglesey, the Nikkei Asian Review reported on 16 June.

The cost of the Wylfa Newydd is expected to be around ¥3tn (£20.5bn). The British government has already pledged to arrange ¥2tn in loans.

Hitachi has been in talks with the Development Bank of Japan and a number of Japanese energy firms about funding the project.

The article suggests, however, that gaining a commitment from Japanese power providers will not be easy.

Glasgow firm bought by Arm

UK-Japan News July 2018

The firm manufactures processor chips and semiconductors.

Scottish Internet of things (IoT) firm Stream Technologies has been bought out by Japanese software and semiconductor manufacturer Arm, The Herald reported on 13 June.

The Glasgow-based firm was set up in 2000 by Nigel Chadwick and deals with platforms allowing data transfers between different machines, such as smart meters, cars and vending machines.

Arm, which was bought by SoftBank Group Corp. in 2016, said the deal would help expand its IoT connectivity and device management capabilities, the report said.

The value of the deal has not been disclosed.

NHS to use robots

UK-Japan News July 2018

SoftBank Group’s robot Pepper has been used in dementia care trials.

The NHS is to follow Japanese health services and begin using robots to assist patients who have dementia, The Telegraph reported on 1 July.

Then-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK should follow Japan’s example in embracing technology to produce “world beating” outcomes, and helping people stay healthy for longer, the report said.

As well as robots, virtual health coaches will be used to encourage families to lead healthier lifestyles.

Sawfly threat to UK elms

UK-Japan News July 2018

The zigzag elm sawfly is threatening British elm trees after having made its way across Europe, The Daily Mail reported on 22 June.

The pest, which originated in Japan, feeds on elm leaves, and is known for the signature zigzag trail of destruction that is left on the leaves, the report says.

It added that, while the sawfly rarely kills trees, it can defoliate them. This, in turn, causes problems for other creatures living among the trees and prevents photosynthesis from taking place.

Evidence of the pest has been found in Surrey.

Welsh and Hyogo castles to be twinned

UK-Japan News July 2018

North Wales’ Conwy Castle is to be twinned with Himeji Castle in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, the BBC reported on 17 June.

The report says the mayor of Himeji was preparing to travel to Conwy to sign an agreement on the plan.

Jim Jones, managing director of North Wales Tourism was quoted as saying Himeji Castle was “absolutely stunning” and that both castles shared a bond, given their construction started at a similar time.

He said the twinning move was the first for Wales, and possibly the first for the UK.

Himeji Castle features in scenes from the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, the report says.

Princess completes studies

UK-Japan News July 2018

Princess Kako has returned to Japan after completing her studies at the University of Leeds, Japan Today reported on 16 June.

The princess, a granddaughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, studied performing arts for one academic year at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies as an exchange student.

“I had an enjoyable and fruitful nine months in Britain. I will treasure my experiences there,” she is reported to have said.

While in Leeds, besides taking classes, the princess travelled to Spain and Portugal for holidays, the report added.

Japan House culture centre opens in London

UK-Japan News July 2018

Japan House London sells and exhibits a range of items from Japan. • PHOTO: JAPAN HOUSE LONDON

A new cultural centre showing off all things Japanese has opened in London, The Asahi Shimbun reported on 22 June.

Japan House showcases food, art, design and technology, the report said, with examples of products on show ranging from bonsai trees and traditional tea cups to freshly made sushi and whisky.

It is the third Japan House to open, following those in Los Angeles and Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Japan’s tidy habits lauded

UK-Japan News July 2018

The behaviour of Japanese fans at the 2018 FIFA World Cup should be an example for the UK to follow, according to a 1 July opinion piece in the
Crewe & Nantwich Guardian.

In the piece, the writer detailed a trip to Alderley Park in Cheshire during which they spotted litter and cigarette butts discarded around flower beds, and compared this to the way Japan fans pick up their rubbish at the end of football games and take it with them.

Fans of the Japanese side made headlines around the world when they were filmed tidying up around their seats after Japan’s games.

England dodge Japan for World Cup knockout stage

UK-Japan News July 2018

Talk was focused on whether England would face Japan in the knockout stages of the football 2018 FIFA World Cup, after both teams led their groups after two games at the group stage.

The Daily Mail was one of the many news outlets speculating on the possibility of the two sides meeting in its report on 28 June. It described Japan’s last game of the group stage, against Poland, as “farcical” due to a lack of action by the Blue Samurais.

England were defeated by Belgium in their last group stage match. This left England to face Colombia and Japan to face Belgium in their first knockout matches.

Deal sought to build two nuclear power plants

UK-Japan News June 2018

A computerised rendition of the proposed Wylfa Newydd complex • PHOTO: HORIZON NUCLEAR POWER

The UK government Hitachi Ltd. are continuing talks to reach a deal for two new nuclear power plants in Wales, The Japan Times reported on 28 May. The Wylfa Newydd complex would help fill the UK’s nuclear energy gap, as most of the country’s 15 reactors are set to be retired by 2030.

Hitachi, through its British nuclear arm Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd., aims to start operating the facility in the first half of the 2020s, if approval is given, the report said.

Meanwhile, in late May a group of anti-nuclear protestors travelled from Wales to Japan to hand a petition against Wylfa Newydd to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, according to a BBC report.

Bilateral pressure on NK

UK-Japan News June 2018

After Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, both agreed to keep pressure on North Korea, according to The Mainichi on 22 May.

The politicians’ stated aim is to rid the country of its nuclear and other weapons, the report said.

The talks took place on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Buenos Aires on 21 May. Kono reached similar agree­ments with the foreign ministers of the Netherlands and Australia.

Tsunami book wins top prize

UK-Japan News June 2018

Richard Lloyd Parry’s Ghosts of the Tsunami, a non-fiction book detailing the journalist’s years covering 2011’s Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami, has won the UK’s Rathbones Folio literature prize, The Guardian reported on 8 May.

The book, in which an assortment of bereaved residents of north-east Japan detail their experience of the disaster and its impact, beat competition from two other non-fiction works and several books of fiction.

The author spent six years covering the aftermath of the tsunami, which claimed more than 18,000 lives.

Old Natsume postcards found

UK-Japan News June 2018

Postcards written by Japanese author Soseki Natsume while he was studying in the UK have been found more than 100 years on, The Japan Times reported on 23 May.

The three cards detail the writer’s time in the UK at the turn of the 20th century, and were sent to Japanese friends studying in Germany, the report said. Writing a month after arriving in London, Natsume described his loneliness in the UK, where he was to stay for two years.

The discovery of the postcards was announced by the Fukui Prefectural Government.

Memorial to Japanese killed on WWI ship to be unveiled in Wales

UK-Japan News June 2018

A memorial to victims of a Japanese merchant ship sunk in the closing days of World War I will be established in Wales, The Japan Times reported on 13 May.

One month before the armistice was signed, a German U-boat in the Irish Sea torpedoed the Hirano Maru, with the loss of more than 200 sailors and passengers. A number of bodies washed ashore in Pembrokeshire.

The memorial in Angle will be unveiled on 4 October, and representatives of Nippon Yusen K.K., the vessel’s shipping company, and the Embassy of Japan in London will attend.

Visa-free pact sought

UK-Japan News June 2018

Japanese firms are seeking visa exemptions for em­ployees as part of a future trade deal with the UK post-Brexit, the Financial Times reported on 20 May.

The report quoted a senior executive of a large Japanese trading house as saying that bringing Japanese staff into the UK has become more difficult, and that there are fears the situation could become worse during the transition period.

It went on to say that Tokyo will push for a tougher trade deal with the UK than that it will sign with the EU.

Scottish exhibition feting “mother of Japanese whisky”

UK-Japan News June 2018


An exhibition on the life of a woman dubbed the “mother of Japanese whisky” has opened in East Dunbartonshire, Scotland, the BBC reported on 28 May.

Rita Cowan married Japanese Masataka Taketsuru in 1920, when the latter was studying at the University of Glasgow. He later opened a distillery in Yoichi, on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.

The article said Cowan provided moral and financial support to her husband in helping him produce his first whisky in 1940, and the exhibition includes such items as her kimono and obi sash.

Japan passport said most powerful

UK-Japan News June 2018

The Japanese passport has been declared the world’s most powerful travel document by the Henley Passport Index, The Express announced on 22 May.

The index looks at how many destinations a bearer can travel to without needing a visa, and examines 199 different passports.

While Japan topped the list with 189 visa-free destinations, the UK came in joint fourth place, with bearers of a British passport able to travel to 186 countries without the need for a visa.

More visitors to cross border

UK-Japan News June 2018

A visit to north-east Scotland by a delegation of high-ranking officials is expected to give a boost to visitor numbers to the region, The Press and Herald suggested on 19 May.

A visit by Japan’s Ambassador to the UK, Koji Tsuruoka, and the country’s tourism minister, Jotaro Horiuchi, to the region involved a tour of places such as the Queen’s residence of Balmoral Castle and the Longmorn Distillery south of Elgin, both in Scotland.

The group also included a number of tour operators and representatives of the Japanese tourist board, who were looking to strengthen tourism links.

The delegation also visited attractions linked to Japan by Scottish-born Thomas Blake Glover, a merchant involved in the growth of Japan’s economy and whose house in Nagasaki attracts millions of visitors each year.

McLaren Senna supercar launched in Tokyo

UK-Japan News June 2018


British carmaker McLaren launched its Senna supercar in Japan with an event at Tokyo’s Zojoji temple, Forbes reported on 25 May.

The car, named after racing legend Ayrton Senna, is a “track-focused, limited edition, street-legal hypercar”, the article says, adding that a Noh percussionist had been chosen to provide a musical introduction to the launch.

Ayrton Senna is revered by Japanese racing fans, it goes on to say, with McLaren having been partnered with Honda during the racer’s heyday.

Boxing: Jamie McDonnell defeated by Naoya Inoue

UK-Japan News June 2018

Doncaster boxer Jamie McDonnell lost his WBA world bantamweight title in Tokyo after being defeated by Japan’s Naoya Inoue in a single round, The Mirror reported on 25 May.

Inoue, known as “The Monster”, has become a three-weight world champion in 16 fights, and will go on to enter the bantamweight tournament in the World Boxing Super Series, according to the report.

McDonnell was quoted as saying, “I take my hat off to Inoue, he’s a great champion”.

Hamleys comes to Japan

Japan news June 2018

Hamleys, shown here in the UK, is set to open in Japan. • PHOTO: THE HAMLEYS GROUP LIMITED

Bandai Namco Amusement Inc. on 25 May announc­ed a tie-up with Hamleys (Franchising) Limited of the UK. Details of the store location and opening date have yet to be announced, but media sources have said its opening will be in 2018 and the store, in greater Tokyo, will boast a sales area of 3,000m2.

Hamleys, founded in London in 1760, claims to be the oldest and one of the largest toy shops in the world. It operates 133 outlets in 19 countries. In South-East Asia it operates two shops in Singapore. The tie-up with Bandai Namco represents its first venture in Japan.

The announcement follows on the heels of the Japanese firm’s reorganisation. Effective 1 April this year, Namco Limited and the Amusement Machine division of Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. merged to become Bandai Namco Amusement Inc.

Hamleys CEO, Ralph Cunningham, said: “We are thrilled to be launching the Hamleys brand in Japan this year and delighted to be partnering with Bandai Namco. With its ex­ten­­sive experience in the entertainment sector and its in-depth knowledge of the Japanese market, Bandai Namco is the perfect strategic partner. Japan represents an exciting and im­portant market and is key to Hamleys’ continu­ed international growth strategy. We look forward to bringing smiles to the faces of children and families all over Japan and delivering the unique Hamleys in-store experience to this fantastic market”.

Driving away smokers

Japan news June 2018

Kushikatsu Tanaka, a popular nationwide chain of izakaya (Japanese-style pubs), specialising in deep-fried titbits served on skewers, has banned smoking, effective 1 June. Smoking has been banned in its more than 180 outlets nationwide, the Nikkei Business (28 May) reported. The ban extends to smokeless tobacco products, and the outlets will not be providing a smokers’ corner.

As Keiji Nuki, the firm’s president, explained, “We’ve received numerous complaints from customers. While the trend has been to restrict smoking, our thinking has been that it will be necessary to come up with ways to meet customer needs in the future”.

On 9 March, Japan’s Cabinet decided to require businesses and public organisations to deal with secondary smoke; the proposal was submitted to the Diet. Eating and drinking establishments are expected to be the most affected by the new law, which essentially bans indoor smoking and penalises offenders. The government plans full implementation by April 2020, three months before the start of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party with interests in the business sector, however, are trying to weaken the law, by diluting the provisions to exempt small and medium-sized businesses capitalised at less than ¥50 million, or existing restaurants with a customer seating area of less than 100m2—which are said to account for some 55% of the total.

Bars and restaurants are in agreement that banning smoking will cut into their revenues. One operator of a restaurant chain, however, noted that trends have changed over the past several years, and the percentage of smokers is declining. According to a recent survey by Japan Tobacco Inc., 18.2% of Japanese adults (people aged 18 or over) are smokers.

McDonald’s Japan took the initiative to ban smoking completely at some 3,000 of its outlets in 2014, and such chains as Denny’s and KFC Japan are currently said to be in the process of banning smoking. Even among operators of pubs, the perception exists that, as one izakaya president puts it, “If we ban smoking, sales may temporarily drop, but more people will bring their families and the overall result will be positive”. The writer pointed out that staff at the restaurants should find that a smoking ban improves their work environment and, in turn, makes it easier for such establishments to recruit new workers.

Focus on Tokyo’s night-time economy

Japan news June 2018

The Nikkei Marketing Journal (9 May) has rep­orted the results of an Internet survey regarding “economic activities at night”, defined as the hours between sundown and sunrise.

The survey, conducted by Macromill Inc., a leading marketing research company in Japan, received valid replies from 1,000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 59 residing in Tokyo’s 23 wards. In addition to frequency and amount of outlays, the questions also differentiated between personal out-of-pocket expenditures as opposed to business-related entertainment.

Going out “almost every evening” (6%) and “once a week”, together accounted for a total of 41% of the answers.

The largest segment of respondents (30%) said they spend ¥3,000–5,000 per month, with two thirds of respondents spending less than ¥10,000 per month. On average, the respondents’ outlay comes to ¥14,519, with 6% saying their monthly spending exceeds ¥50,000.

In reply to a question about whether they agreed that the service and infrastructure for night business in Tokyo should be increased, 26% of respondents answered in the affirmative, and 27% in the negative. The remaining 47% were noncommittal.

Rather than thinking about night-time enter­tainment, however, 67% of the respondents stated their desire that night-time service be available at hospitals, 61% that trains run all night and 47% that more supermarkets be open all night. Of all those surveyed, 72% said they did not expect any major changes.

A sidebar to the article adds that, to promote the night-time economy, more efforts are being directed to attracting overseas visitors by such means as the Shibuya Night Tour, which commenced in April. After a group photo is taken at Shibuya’s famous scramble intersection, the tour makes its way along Dogenzaka and through Maruyama-cho, where participants are invited to partake of takoyaki (balls of minced octopus) and eat sushi standing up at a counter. The cost for the two-hour tour is ¥3,000 (extra for the food and drink consumed). On a different tack, by 2020 the Tokyo metropolis plans to have night illuminations in 58 city locations—about double the current number.

Will part-timers move to long-time?

Japan news June 2018

Why aren’t more part-time workers taking advantage of new rules that would secure their positions long-term? The “J-Cast Bulletin”, in the Yukan Fuji newspaper (27 May), reviews a rule that came into effect in April, and enables part-time or non-regular contract workers to apply for indefinite tenure at their place of work.

So far, according to a survey of the job-hunting service Hatarako Net, only 3% of eligible workers are said to have submitted the relevant requests to their employers.

The system in question, promulgated in 2013, was set up to enable workers who had spent five years with the same employer to have the right to change their status to that of regular company staffer. The low number of applicants for indefinite tenure may be due to a general lack of familiarity with the system. A survey of workers, with 1,369 valid replies, finds that only 9% of respondents said they were familiar with the rule. A further 22% said they “know a little” about it.

According to a PR employee at a retailer in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, “it appears that not many workers know about the rule”. But, he added, “as more of them come to understand it, we expect more will request a change to indefinite employment status”.

One possible answer to the question may be the prospect of instant rewards for part-time workers. The Nikkei Marketing Journal (28 May) reports that Persol Process and Technology, an affiliate of Persol Holdings Co., Ltd., will introduce a service that can be used by retailers or food service industries. For a set service charge billed to the corporate client, the system enables applicants for part-time jobs to receive an advance on wages via Persol. The client then reimburses Persol, which earns a service charge of ¥900 per applicant. The larger the sum paid to the worker, the cheaper it is for the client, since the service fee is fixed.

With part-time workers apparently preferring early remuneration, there are already 1.6 times more workers paid weekly than monthly