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Japan Focus / Business

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Mar 03 Toyota protecting share of China market (Yomiuri)
 In the wake of massive recalls of its vehicles worldwide and mounting criticism in the United States, Toyota Motor Corp. moved quickly in China, the world's largest auto market, with President Akio Toyoda offering an apology for mass recalls. Toyoda stopped over in Beijing on his way back home from the United States, where he testified at a congressional hearing, and held a press conference Monday to speak to the Chinese media about Toyota's latest recalls. The beleaguered automaker aims to restore trust in Toyota vehicles, and in his remarks in China, touted the company's corporate principle to make safety its top priority in an effort to stop public concerns from growing.
Mar 03 Department stores struggling / Yet another industrial reorganization appears inevitable (Yomiuri)
 Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co., a product of the merger of two leading department stores--Daimaru Inc. and Matsuzakaya Co.--began operations Monday, aimed at boosting its purchase of of merchandise and streamlining its operations. Yet a similarly, large-scale reorganization of leading department stores, such as Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings under which Mitsukoshi Ltd. and Isetan Co. have integrated their management, has brought about few tangible effects. As fears have begun to be voiced over the survival of department stores, which have lost the support of many consumers with the rise in popularity of mass retailers selling products such as clothing and home electrical appliances, some experts have said the entire distribution industry will need to reorganize itself.
Mar 03 Home solar panel market heats up thanks to power buy-back deals (Yomiuri)
 Energy-efficient houses, in particular those equipped with solar panels, are growing in popularity as home buyers seek out environmentally-friendly options. One factor behind the rising demand for eco-friendly houses was apparently the start in November of a system in which electric power companies buy surplus electric power from such households at 48 yen per kilowatt--double the previous price. In June, a 34-year-old company employee in Osaka Prefecture built a two-story house that incorporates light steel bars that he fitted with solar panels capable of creating up to 3.4 kilowatts of electric power. All energy consumed in the house is powered by electricity, most of which is generated by the panels.
Mar 02 Toyota repairing leaky oil hoses in US, Japan (AP)
 Toyota is repairing more than 1.6 million vehicles around the world, including the U.S. and Japan, for potentially leaky oil hoses - the latest in a spate of quality problems battering the world's biggest automaker. The fix affects 1.3 million vehicles in North America, including repairs that have yet to be officially announced on 100,000 Highlander crossovers and 215,000 Sienna minivans, Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said Tuesday.
Mar 02 City, travel agency agree on financial help for theme park (AP)
 Sasebo City concluded an agreement on Monday to provide about 900 million yen annually over 10 years to major travel agency H.I.S. Co. to help it rebuild struggling theme park Huis Ten Bosch in the Nagasaki Prefecture city. At a press conference after the ceremony, H.I.S. Chairman Hideo Sawada said he will assume the post of president of a new company to operate the theme park and live in Sasebo to lead the turnaround efforts for the park.
Mar 02 Attorney glut may hit foreign firms (Japan Times)
 One of the interesting things about being part of Japan's new law school system and its role in greatly increasing the number of Japanese attorneys is this: Nobody seems to have bothered asking the Japanese people if they actually need more attorneys. The original target of increasing the number of people allowed to pass the annual Japanese bar exam to 3,000 by 2010 was based on a government target of achieving an attorney-to- population ratio comparable to France by the turn of the decade. (Why France? Nobody seems to know.)
Mar 02 Retailing giant Daimaru Matsuzakaya opens doors (Japan Times)
  Retailing giant Daimaru Matsuzakaya opened for business Monday, bringing to fruition the 2007 mega-merger between department store chains Daimaru Inc. and Matsuzakaya Co. The new chain, which combined under holding firm J. Front Retailing Co., will take over strategic planning and product procurement duties from J. Front to save costs amid the current deflation.
Mar 01 JAL to solicit record 2,700 applications for early retirement (AP)
 Japan Airlines Corp. said Monday it will solicit around 2,700 employee applications for an early retirement program as it aims to turn itself around through heavy restructuring under a state-led process. The target is the largest ever for the company's early retirement program. The staged application process will start from Friday. Japan's biggest airline, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Jan. 19, eventually plans to cut around 15,700 jobs, or about 30 percent of its group workforce, by the business year through March 2013.
Mar 01 Toyota chief apologizes to Chinese consumers for global recall (AP)
 Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda apologized to Chinese consumers Monday for his company's massive vehicle recalls around the world. The Japanese automaker vows to prevent a recurrence of similar problems, he said at a press conference in Beijing, adding it plans to appoint a chief quality officer for the Chinese market as part of its efforts. "I apologize to you from the bottom of my heart for causing concern and trouble in connection with Toyota's recalls around the world including in China," he said.
Mar 01 Newspapers lead online charge (Yomiuri)
 An increasing number of domestic newspapers have started charging readers for their online content. The newspapers hope to attract new readers by providing more specialized and detailed articles online, with the aim of making such services a pillar of their business operations. Nikkei Inc., which publishes the Nikkei business daily, will launch a fee-based online service on March 23 in which subscribers can access news flashes and articles carried in the newspaper's morning and evening editions.
Mar 01 Novel car-loan scheme booming (Yomiuri)
 An increasing number of people are turning to a type of car loan in which the subsequent trade-in price of the new vehicle is deducted from the initial loan, on the condition that the owner sells the vehicle back to the dealer a few years later. To give a concrete example, a buyer will promise a car dealer that he or she will sell the car to the dealer after three years or so, when buying another new car. A loan is then determined based on the price of the new car minus the predicted trade-in price of the car.
Mar 01 Best Denki to slash 1,000 more jobs (Japan Times)
 Electric appliance retail chain Best Denki Co. plans to cut about 1,000 jobs, or nearly 20 percent of its workforce, by soliciting early retirements and curbing new hiring to aid its restructuring efforts, sources said. The Fukuoka-based retailer has around 5,500 employees nationwide. The plan could be announced as early as Monday.
Feb 28 JAL can't curb business meltdown (Yomiuri)
 Friday's announcement that Japan Airlines Corp. suffered a record 46.7 billion yen after-tax loss during the October-December period has cast a spotlight on the beleaguered carrier's inability to turn its business around as travelers stay away amid the ongoing economic recession. JAL's consolidated after-tax loss was significantly larger than those it recorded in the previous two quarters. It was mainly attributed to a decline in the average per-passenger revenue from international flights--the company's bread and butter--which dropped 35 percent from the same period in the previous year. The airline said lower fuel surcharges and the yen's appreciation also contributed to the greater loss.
Feb 28 The business of pets (Japan Times)
 Japan's pet boom over the last decade has brought considerable benefits to the nation's economy. At the same time, however, it has led to problems involving both unscrupulous breeders and traders. While consumer sales in general have remained stagnant through Japan's protracted economic downturn of the last two decades, the pet-related market has been expanding, according to data from market-research firm Fuji Keizai Co. In fact, according to Shinpei Iwama, a researcher at the company's Osaka branch, the pet industry nationwide topped ¥1 trillion in turnover in 2006 and has now reached ¥1.2 trillion.
Feb 27 Shifting plans for Japan Post (Japan Times)
 The government plans to modify the process of privatizing Japan Post group, meaning people must continue to wait to find out how the services they rely on will be affected. In October the government outlined a basic policy of requiring Japan Post to make not only postal services but also banking and insurance services available nationwide on an equitable basis. A bill passed in December froze sales of government-held stocks in Japan Post Holdings Co. and its associated postal bank and insurance firms.
Feb 26 Outlet malls gaining popularity in Japan (Channel NewsAsia)
 Outlet malls have become popular in Japan, as people become more budget conscious. But the shops are usually located in remote suburbs, and may not be easy to get to. However, one shopping centre in Tokyo has brought outlet shopping to the city. The shopping complex re-creates medieval Europe. It opened in 1999, with around 160 boutiques and restaurants. But in December, the entire third floor was renovated to accommodate close to 50 outlet shops - a first for Tokyo. The nearest train station is just a walking distance away. That is the positive aspect of this new outlet mall.
Feb 26 Honda launches world's first sporty hybrid car (Japan Times)
 Honda Motor Co. on Thursday rolled out the CR-Z, the world's first hybrid sports car. The car, which will hit domestic showrooms Friday ahead of its global launch, comes with an electric motor equivalent to 1.5 liters and a 2.0-liter gasoline engine for acceleration. Its fuel efficiency is rated at 25 km per liter, compared with about 12 for similar gas-powered Honda models.
Feb 25 Nissan, Daihatsu, Suzuki issue car recalls (BBC)
 Three Japanese automakers have announced the recall of thousands of vehicles, mostly in their home market. Suzuki Motor is recalling 432,000 small vans in Japan because of a potential problem with air conditioning units. Nissan's recall involves about 76,000 cars in Japan and more than 2,000 overseas due to a defect that may cause engine failure.
Feb 25 Qantas to increase capacity to Japan from July (AP)
 Qantas Airways Ltd. will increase its seat capacity for flights to Japan from July this year, due to an increase in demand for travel to Japan, chief executive officer Alan Joyce said Thursday. Australia's national carrier currently flies daily between Sydney and Tokyo, using Airbus A330-300 aircraft. However, from July 5, Qantas will begin operating larger Boeing 747- 400 aircraft on six services each week, increasing capacity by 115 seats per flight, Joyce said in a statement.
Feb 25 Holland's 1st digital magazine on Japan debuts (AP)
 A digital magazine devoted to Japanese affairs has made its debut in the Netherlands. "It is heart-warming to hear that after the economic decline of 20 years there is still so much interest in Japan in the Netherlands," Japanese Ambassador Minoru Shibuya said at the official launch of The Netherlands-Japan Review last week. "The Review will be a future forum for Dutch and Japanese alike to share information," he said. "I hope to read more uplifting information about my country than what I have been reading recently."
Feb 25 Toyota chief's testimony closely watched in Japan (AP)
 Japan appeared largely relieved Thursday that much-anticipated testimony by Toyota's chief executive before U.S. lawmakers was finally over, though analysts said the company's recall woes are no closer to being solved. Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda's appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was closely watched in Japan, where the company his grandfather founded is a national icon. It was the top item on local morning news programs. At least one channel briefly broadcast his testimony live, where it took place Wednesday in Washington.
Feb 25 Nikkei to offer online subscriptions (Wall Street Journal)
 Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc., publisher of Japan's Nikkei business daily, said it will become the first of the country's four major national newspapers to offer an online subscription version, opening the door for other Japanese dailies to follow suit in one of the world's biggest newspaper markets. While U.S. newspapers have struggled for years with declining readership as more people turn to free news available online, Japan's major national dailies have fared somewhat better because of their huge circulation base.
Feb 25 Toyota chief apologizes over recalls, accidents in House testimony (AP)
 Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda on Wednesday apologized over safety problems that have led to the automaker's massive recalls as he faced his first showdown at a congressional panel with U.S. lawmakers who want a better explanation for various problems with its vehicles. "I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced," Toyoda said in a statement in English at the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Feb 25 FTC probes possible electric cable cartel (Yomiuri)
 The Fair Trade Commission on Wednesday searched the offices of several electric cable manufacturers on suspicion that they have formed a price cartel for wire harnesses sold to automakers in violation of the Antimonopoly Law. The firms investigated on suspicion of unlawful restriction on trading include such major makers as Yazaki Corp. and Furukawa Electric Co., both based in Tokyo, and Osaka-based Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd.
Feb 25 Direct flight from Miami to Tokyo could be in cards - if antitrust immunity granted (miamitodaynews.com)
 If US and Japanese governments give American Airlines and its partner Japan Airlines antitrust immunity, it may open the door to a direct flight between Miami and Tokyo. Both airlines are now applying for antitrust immunity, which would allow the two to share pricing and scheduling information, booking services, and marketing and corporate information. Immunity would also expand the Open Skies Agreement, an aviation agreement whose routes run back to the days after World War II and to this day only permits United Airlines and Delta to fly unrestricted into Tokyo and beyond.

By J.S. on Mar 4, 2010



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