Japan Travel

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, Mar 09, 2014, Issue No. 747


– What’s New — What if Japan Couldn’t Import Food?
– News — Yamaguchi-gumi suffers member losses
– Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies — Sales Manager-cum-Country Manager
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback — What do Renewable Energy and Tattoos have in Common?
– Travel Picks — Shimogamo Jinja, Kyoto & Kintai Bridge, Yamaguchi
– News Credits

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A good rallying call for the nation’s conservatives is Japan’s food
security, and its dependence on imports for 60% (on a caloric basis)
of food consumed. This is a topic that repeatedly surfaces whenever
agricultural imports deregulation is discussed and will become even
more popular if the TPP trade talks ever get back on track. The most
recent news on the topic was just a few days ago, when the Cabinet
Office released the results of a 3,000-person survey that shows that
83% of respondents were concerned at some level about the security of
the nation’s food supply.

OK, so survey results from the government, which has a large number of
legislators who are against trade rules relaxation, is probably
biased. Still, it was interesting that more than half the respondents,
53.8%, said that they think Japan’s staples should be produced
locally, even if this makes those staples a lot more expensive. We’ll
see if they still think that once the yen drops another 10%-20% and
consumptions taxes have doubled — but for now it shows that the
Japanese public is feeling vulnerable. Either that, or the Cabinet
Office did the survey exclusively among farming communities… ;-)

That got us to thinking about a “what if” scenario. What if Japan,
because of global war, contamination, contagion, or extreme yen
devaluation, suddenly couldn’t get its normal food supply from abroad?
Would this mean that Japan wouldn’t be able to feed itself?

Thinking through this, we assume that the most basic denominator in
determining Japan’s ability to withstand an external food shock would
be whether its population could at least survive for the period that
it takes to plant out more crops and use these to become self
sustaining. In this case, we thought a good base point would be the
last time Japan was self sustaining, which was during the Edo Period
(1603 to 1867) when the country was almost completely isolated from
the rest of the world. It was at this time that the unit of rice
measurement, the “Koku”, was actively used to define a person’s

[Continued below…]

—- Woodbridge Expands International Reach into Japan —-

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Leveraging upon the strength of our global reach we identify the
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To hear more about our unique process please visit http://www.woodbridgegrp.jp.

[…Article continues]

One koku is equal to about 150kg of milled (white) rice, and was
considered the amount necessary to sustain an average adult. It’s
interesting that they understood this, because if you divide one koku
by 365 days, you get 410gms, which represents about 1,470 kCal. Then,
if you check the calorific intake required for an adult of about 150cm
and 60kg (males a bit more, females a bit less), then you wind up with
almost the exact same number for a person to maintain their weight. So
this measure really was based on a human requirement.

Of course, people at that time ate more than rice, such as fish and
vegetables. But in terms of calories, probably most of their intake
was from that one staple. Just recently the consumption of bread in
Japan exceeded rice for the first time, but if there was a food
emergency, then shipments of wheat would be disrupted, bread would
mostly disappear, meat and dairy from the nation’s cattle herds would
be in short supply, and people would quickly revert back to a
rice-fish-and-condiments diet. So if they did that, how long could
they survive?

Apparently Japan will have about 2.55m metric tons of rice stockpiled
by June this year, a 15-year high, and this will be added to the 7.6m
or so tons that will be produced this current year. Doing the math,
and allowing one koku per Japanese per year, you will find that the
nation can feed itself a sustenance level ration of rice for about 5
months. Although this is not enough to sow for the next season if a
food emergency occurred at the wrong time of year (late Fall for
example), allowing for the fact that the nation has warehouses
brimming with non-perishables, probably Japan could in fact survive
until rice plantings were boosted to the previous high — which was
14.5m tons in 1968. This would be almost enough to feed the nation
(actually about 96.7m people) for a year if consumed at the rate used
during the 250-year Edo period.

So when you add in local other cereals, vegetables, fish (Japan’s
fishing fleet accounts for 15% of the global catch), poultry, and
additional sources of nutrition, the reality is that Japan is not as
critically exposed as the conservatives would have you think.

BTW, in doing our research on Edo eating habits, we came across a very
entertaining article on the recycling that went on in the Edo period.
There was recycling of everything imaginable, including paper, metals,
clothing, oil, wax, and even human feces (more politely, “night
soil”). Believe it or not, and this is a new one on us, merchants
would pay inhabitants of particularly healthy parts of town to get
their night soil to use as fertilizer to improve the performance of
green tea plantings.


…The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

– Bluefin tuna catch to reduce 50%
– Yamaguchi-gumi suffers member losses
– One third of December construction tenders draw no bids
– Stock predictions through tweet data
– Kampoyaku maker moves herb production to Japan

=> Bluefin tuna catch to reduce 50%

Concerned by studies that show a dramatic decline in the wild Bluefin
tuna population, the Fisheries Agency has decided to set quotas for
Japanese fishing fleets at 50% of the 2013 quota. Last year, a massive
2.65m tons of tuna was harvested from the Pacific alone, a record, and
about 60% of the entire global catch. Another 13,400 tons were caught
in the East Atlantic and 1,750 tons in the Mediterranean. ***Ed: To
really get serious about protecting fisheries stocks, Japan needs to
pass laws preventing fish wholesalers from buying fish outside
official channels. Side deals by numerous small unregulated sellers
are just as damaging to fish stocks as catches by the big players.**
(Source: TT commentary from dw.de, Mar 9, 2014)


=> Yamaguchi-gumi suffers member losses

Police are scratching their heads over why the number of members
belonging to the top Yakuza gangs is falling. Membership numbers
across the nation fell to an all-time low of 58,600 last year, down
almost 5,000 from 2012. The top crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi,
alone saw a drop of about 2,000 members. “Experts” (whomever they may
be) apparently say that the new policing laws on gang members have
made the Yakuza lifestyle less attractive than it once was, and has
caused recruiting to dry up. ***Ed: Kids are also a lot better fed and
looked after materially these days, so rebellious teens are in shorter
supply than they once were.** (Source: TT commentary from
theguardian.com, Mar 6, 2014)


=> One third of December construction tenders draw no bids

Higher costs of raw materials such as steel and concrete, a shortage
of trained workers, and a reluctance by construction companies to
train more, appear to be at the heart of a dearth of construction
firms willing to bid on new projects. According to the Ministry of
Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MLIT), about one third of all
tenders made public in December, 2013, met with no bidders. After a
savage restructuring in the industry over the last 10 years, coupled
with the increasing retirement of aging workers, the construction
industry workforce is now one third smaller than in 1997, and about
20% of workers are already over 60 years old. ***Ed: Does this mean
the Olympics, the new Tsukiji fish market, or the Tohoku tsunami
barrier will be built by Filipino workers? The mind boggles…**
(Source: TT commentary from reuters.com, Mar 2, 2014)


=> Stock predictions through tweet data

Interesting new big data service from NTT Data launched last week — a
stock sentiment index created from posts on Twitter by Japanese users.
The company says the index comes from data drawn from tens of millions
of posts, with algorithms to associate sentiment with actual
companies. The company plans to sell the index to professional
investors as they look to figure out what the market swings will be
the following day. ***Ed: No word yet as to whether the index is
actually accurate, but a landmark study on this technology done by
Johan Bollen at Indiana University in 2010 and since corroborated by
research at Stanford University, found that in fact there is a
correlation between Tweet sentiment and market swings.** (Source: TT
commentary from asia.nikkei.com, Mar 7, 2014)


=> Kampoyaku maker moves herb production to Japan

Traditional Chinese herbal medicines (“Kampoyaku”) are highly popular
in Japan, and about 400 different herbs are approved for medicinal use
(and medical insurance reimbursement). As the population ages and
becomes more discriminating about product quality, kampoyaku producer,
Ryukakusan, has announced that it is bringing a large part of its
herbal production back to Japan from China, in order to provide more
consistent supply and pricing. The company will increase its
contracted plantings by 300% to around 10m sq. m. in Hokkaido. Among
the herbs it will focus on are cnidium rhizome, for nasal relief, and
Perilla (Shiso) for fevers. The market for kampoyaku is increasing
steadily, and was worth JPY131.2bn in 2012, up 30% from 2007. (Source:
TT commentary from asia.nikkei.com, Mar 7, 2014)


NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days
of posting them, thus breaking our links — we apologize for the


——— Japan Travel 2014 Intern Program Begins ———

Following on from our inaugural photojournalism internship in 2013,
JapanTravel KK is pleased to announce the launch of its 2014 program.
We are looking for foreign students and recent graduates of
photojournalism and videography courses to live and work in Japan for
6-8 weeks this year.
* If you are a photojournalist you will be photographing an assigned
area of Japan and writing short stories about your experiences. Our
expectation is 1-2 articles a day, and you can be a native in either
English, French, Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian, Korean, or Chinese.
* If you are a video journalist, then you will also be assigned a
region to cover and will be expected to produce an edited 2-3 minute
clip every two days.

For more information, go to: http://en.japantravel.com/interning.


=> Are you in web content, sales, or engineering? If so, this section
is for you.


– Web marketing/technology Sales Manager-cum-Country Manager position

If you are working in a web marketing or web technology company, and
have a strong sales record and excellent Japanese and English (this is
compulsory), we have a client looking for a person to manage their
Japan start-up operation and who on showing reasonable performance
will become the country manager of a team of professionals here.
Unlike most start-ups entering Japan, this one already has clients and
is winning recognition in the market for their technology. The
position requires a strong knowledge of who the main market players
are, and thus a strong personal network, and if not a native Japanese
speaker, then you will need to demonstrate a strong track record of
previous successful appointments. This is not a Country Manager role
right out of the box, and so a flexible, sales-oriented personality is
essential. Salary is JPY10m base and JPY3-4m on achievement of very
reasonable sales targets. Please send your resume to


– Bilingual account manager for major tourism portal
(www.japantourist.jp), JPY3M – JPY5M
– Bilingual sales trainee for web media properties, JPY2.5M-JPY3M +
10% commission
– English-only experienced PHP Zend software developer, 5 years
experience, JPY3.5M – JPY5M

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to: jobs@metroworks.co.jp.




—————— ICA Event – March 20th —————–

Speaker: Hideki Thurgood Kano, Corporate Lawyer and Author at Anderson
Mori & Tomotsune
Title: “Unilateral Termination of Employees (due to their poor performance)”

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/

Date: Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members) Open to all. No
sign ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: RSVP by 10am on Friday 14th March 2014. Venue is The Foreign
Correspondents’ Club of Japan.


—– Tell Your Friends Abroad About TPO’s World Tour ——

More than 100 members of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra are in New
York today, the first stop on their 100th anniversary world tour. Wish
them well by liking and sharing the TPO page on Facebook!

Tell friends in Madrid, Paris, London, Singapore, and Bangkok that
tickets are still available!




=> In TT-746 we discussed the divergence of Japanese public opinion
about tattoos versus the international stance. A reader came back with
an interesting comparison of cultural isolationism in another sector
— renewable energy.

*** Our reader says:
Thank you for addressing the issues of “cultural changes” which will
get some attention as Tokyo prepares for the Olympics. Reading TT on
the “tattoos” also got me thinking about similar parallels to the
nuclear energy issue. On the same day (Feb 25) as METI announced their
“second” draft of the nation’s Basic Energy Plan, there was a major
conference in Tokyo on the worldwide trend of shutting down nuclear
plans and boosting renewable energy. The seminar was held by the Japan
Renewable Energy Foundation. I attended the conference and “Energy
Week” exhibition at Big Site.

The Renewable Energy Conference outlined the worldwide trends in
global renewable energy — and made the point that consumers in Japan
are not given freedom of choice in selecting their source of power,
which many other major countries do allow. This has to change soon for
Japan to maintain any credibility in seriously addressing CO2 and
energy issues.

Investment in renewable energy industries will take off in Japan – as
they are worldwide – but only when the government separates power
generation from distribution. Right now both are controlled by the
power companies. This fact was totally ignored in METI’s “Basic Energy
Plan” and without a change, Japan will be one of the top
environmentally unfriendly nations of the world in terms of CO2 gases.
Most people don’t even realize this. By ignoring this international
“cultural trend” towards renewables, Japan will become a pariah.

Here is the link to all the conference proceedings in English:

At the proceedings, a video message from Mr. Son (of Softbank fame)
was especially uplifting, as was a second video on the global
worldwide trends. Also, I was surprised to see the Chinese
government’s level of support for renewables, stating it will produce
33% of power from renewables by 2015.

By the way, the Japanese version of a video by a great visionary on
the subject of renewables, David Suzuki, has just been released. The
DVD is called “The Force of Nature – The David Suzuki Story”. The DVD
is used in high schools in Canada to discuss sustainability and we
hope that this Japanese version might stimulate similar discussions at
high schools in Japan, or at least help inspire more young people to
follow the trends of creating a sustainable society. You can link to
the Japanese web site at http://www.forceofnature-movie.com/.
Available on Amazon.co.jp now.



=> Close up on Shimogamo Shrine, Kyoto
A very early morning visit to a shrine in a forest

An early morning visit in late December to one of Japan’s oldest
shrines, Shimogamo Jinja, was cold and beautiful. The sun had not yet
shown its face and so the sky was still black, and the shrine grounds
were virtually empty. We stayed for an hour or so, enjoying seeing how
different everything looked once the sun rose up over the horizon. The
early morning light was warm and penetrating, creating fog, and
melting the frost that had formed at night. [Ed: Great photos…]


=> Kintai Bridge in Yamaguchi
The most beautiful bridge in west Japan

If someone asked me, what is the most beautiful bridge in the world? I
would reply ‘Kintai’, because as far as I have seen, there are no
bridges like this one – where elegance, subtlety, refinement,
durability, and human determination meet beautifully with nature. I am
not over-praising, Kintai Bridge is really like that.

Build in 1673, Kintai Bridge is located in Iwakuni city, Yamaguchi
prefecture. The bridge was built across Nishiki River at the most
beautiful river bend, with beautiful scenery all around: mountains,
streams and trees large and small. Kintai Bridge is a five-span arch
bridge. The bases are built of stone, the rest is all wood, with not
even a single nail. Created by ancient skilled craftsmen of Japan, the
bridge is truly beautiful and elaborate, matching its? name “Kintai”
which means gold brocade sash.




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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd@japaninc.com)

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