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Resentment simmers over JR Tokai loan deal

Updated : 22.02.2017 / Category Capsule

People within the rail industry are reportedly fuming over the "cozy ties" that exist between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) Chairman Emeritus Yoshiyuki Kasai in connection with the Linear Chuo Shinkansen project, according to a JR employee. This dissatisfaction stems from the government providing JR Tokai with long-term, low interest, fixed-rate, no-collateral loans to the tune of ¥3 trillion through its Fiscal Investment and Loan Program.

The first payment of ¥500 billion was parceled out in November 2016. An LDP Diet member said of the loan: "A low fixed interest rate of 0.6 percent, with repayment deferred for 30 years! Those are unbelievable conditions in light of the global trend of rising interest rates." Plans to disburse loans—on the same terms—to JR Tokai are proceeding as planned (starting from January), up to a total of ¥3 trillion.

Trump's election is bad news for human rights in China

Updated : 20.02.2017 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

Leaders of the Chinese Communist Party must be all smiles with the inauguration of Donald Trump as the new president of the United States.

When Trump was reported to be leaning toward strengthening U.S. ties with Taiwan -- defying warnings from Beijing following his telephone conversation last year with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, major Japanese media outlets reported that dark clouds hung over Sino-American relations, expecting that the Communist Party leaders in Beijing would be rattled by that prospect.

Such an anticipation, however, is off the mark. A source well informed of China's internal affairs says that Trump, who is not too keen on protecting human rights, will soft-pedal Washington's interference in China's human rights issues, which in turn would enable the Communist Party leadership to step up its ruthless suppression of pro-democracy forces and those advocating independence for Uyghurs. According to that scenario, Chinese President Xi Jinping will take advantage of Trump's policies of pursuing nothing but economic benefits, and deprive his nation of 1.3 billion citizens of the freedom of speech and thought.

DP and Hakuhodo step up fight against Dentsu

Updated : 17.02.2017 / Category Capsule

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The main opposition Democratic Party is pressing ahead with a relentless assault on major advertising agency Dentsu Inc., which has come under intense scrutiny following the 2015 suicide of an employee who had worked excessively long hours. DP leader Renho "is especially fixated on this issue," according to a DP executive.

On January 24, Renho very publicly hounded Dentsu during a representative interpellation at a plenary session of the House of Councillors. Renho also has instructed Kazunori Yamanoi, chairman of the DP's Diet Affairs Committee, to keep pressing on this issue, including maneuvering to summon Dentsu officials as unsworn witnesses before the National Diet.

Canon's main business faltering in face of shrinking sales

Updated : 14.02.2017 / Category Corporate Investigations

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As the countdown echoing around the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Japan reached "zero" at 8:33 a.m. on January 15, a rocket blasted off straight and true into the brilliantly clear sky. The takeoff went without a hitch, but just 20 seconds later, success instantly turned into failure.

The telemetry data—including data on such factors as position, altitude and speed—sent from the rocket to the space center suddenly cut out. Ignition of the rocket's second-stage engine was intended to be triggered by transmissions sent from the space center. But with the telemetry disrupted, ground controllers were unable to confirm the condition of the rocket, and pushing ahead with the ignition carried the risk of sending the craft into an unexpected flight path. The ignition was aborted and the entire rocket plunged into the sea where the first stage had been expected to come down.

Honda's Thai operations 'on the decline'

Updated : 11.02.2017 / Category Economy

Following poor sales, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. is to halt one of its two production lines at its factory in Ayutthaya, Thailand, by March. "It's the start of Honda's decline in the area," said a source at a rival Japanese carmaker, echoing similar growing sentiments.

Honda officials insist that shifts have doubled on the remaining production line and "output is being maintained." However, informed sources say the firm's annual Thai-based output capability--including that of Honda's second factory in eastern Prachinburi--has reduced from 420,000 vehicles to about 270,000--a drop of almost 40 percent.

Is Abe really keen to seek a third term?

Updated : 07.02.2017 / Category Politics

On the evening of January 19, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe breezed into Shimbashi Matsuyama, a traditional, exclusive restaurant with a quiet air—despite its location at the heart of bustling Tokyo. Upon entering the premises, Abe was met by an intimate group of politicians, business and mass media leaders. The politicians included Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hironari Seko and Yasutoshi Nishimura, a special adviser to the Liberal Democratic Party president (Abe).

During the gathering, Abe was the only one to raise conversational topics; the other attendees merely nodded or provided back-channel feedback. The topics varied widely, from the opening of the Diet—slated for the following day—to Abe's meeting in December with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the most attention-grabbing dinner-table chat revolved around Abe's hopes for 2017.

Toyota trembles in face of Trump demands

Updated : 01.02.2017 / Category Economy

The North American vehicle market is poised to undergo a sea change as global automakers scramble to deal with new U.S. President Donald Trump's bluster. In particular, Toyota Motor Corp. has been singled out by Trump in a Twitter tirade. On Jan. 5, Trump tweeted: "Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax."

However, a reporter for a Japanese national newspaper suggests Trump might have some of his facts wrong. "Toyota will build a plant in Guanajuato, not Baja. And what's more, Toyota is shifting production there from Canada—it has nothing to do with the United States," said the reporter, an expert on the auto industry. "It was a completely groundless accusation. There was no need to make a big deal about it."

Nevertheless, the public criticism by Trump jolted Toyota. At the North American International Auto Show held in Detroit a few days later, Toyota President Akio Toyoda announced his company would invest $10 billion in the United States in the next five years.

JAL's spending tactics raising eyebrows

Updated : 24.01.2017 / Category Capsule

After having pulled free of its bankruptcy crisis, Japan Airlines (JAL) continues to pursue its "athlete-chasing" program, among other eyebrow-raising spending.

In November 2015, the company entered into an agreement with professional tennis player Kei Nishikori—who had been contracted with Delta Airlines—in a five-year deal reportedly worth ¥1.5 billion, attracting intense public attention. Then, in November 2016, the firm agreed to sponsor figure skater Marin Honda, after the skater had initially approached rival firm All Nippon Airways (ANA) to ask for support, only to be turned down due to concerns over her potential and the cost-effectiveness of inking such a deal.

Haruki Murakami's other contribution to the literary world: translation

Updated : 18.01.2017 / Category Society and Culture

Haruki Murakami is one of the world's most celebrated writers, but he wears another hat, too, which has allowed him to greatly contribute to Japan's literary sphere: He is a superb translator of literary works into Japanese.

"As a translator and a novelist, I've striven earnestly, to the best of my ability, to find a way to translate that which constitutes the most important elements of 'The Great Gatsby—its very essence, if you will—more effectively and more accurately," Murakami writes in the postscript of his Japanese-language translation of the book.

For Murakami, literary translation is not a mere hobby. Rather, it is part of his life, on a par with his novel writing. His literary translation and novel writing play off each other to create him.

Shochiku planning kabuki theater following passing of 'casino bill'

Updated : 12.01.2017 / Category Capsule

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Shochiku, a major Japanese film and theater company, is welcoming the December 15 enactment of the integrated resort (IR) promotion bill, which was passed just in time for the end of an extraordinary Diet session, despite strong opposition.

Indeed, the firm has long hoped for the establishment of the so-called "casino law," which will legalize casino gambling in Japan.

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