An Insider's comments on Japan's high tech business world

* * * * * * * * TERRIE’S TAKE – BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term
technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

General Edition Sunday, June 08, 2014, Issue No. 759


– What’s New — Is it Safe to Eat Fukushima Veges Again?
– News — Crowdfunding for shares to start in Japan next year?
– Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies — PHP Zend engineer
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback
– Travel Picks — Wasabi in Nagano, Saw-tooth Mt. in Chiba
– News Credits

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Those of us living in Japan with kids have since the March 12th, 2011
explosion of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 nuclear reactor, been
feeling uneasy about the safety of our food supply. Reading back
through issues of Terrie’s Take in 2011, you can see frequent mentions
about radiation levels, where to buy safe vegetables online, and
avoiding Honshu-based milk that may have been contaminated by
deliberate mixing by major dairy suppliers. It was all very worrying.

The problems at Fukushima are still not resolved, and although we are
now more than half way through the transfer of the spent fuel rods at
building 4, this is not really a meaningful milestone, in that this
reactor was already shut down before the earthquake and tsunami
occurred. Instead, the real problems are with the other 3 reactors,
which melted down, exploded, continue to hemorrhage radiation on a
daily basis, and which may take decades if not hundreds of years to
bring under control.

So is our food supply still at risk?

Last week, significantly, the Singapore government announced that with
a few exceptions, the restrictions on food being imported from Japan
are being lifted. The Singaporeans appear to be making a
scientifically based decision that we think gives a qualified green
light to Fukushima produce. Basically they are saying that fruit,
vegetables, dairy products, meat, eggs and green tea products from
the previously affected regions of Chiba, Ibaraki, Gunma, Kanagawa,
Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, and Tokyo are now safe and don’t need
pre-export testing. You’ll note that Fukushima is not on this 100%
safe list, yet, but seems to be in a “slightly less safe” category on
its own. The announcement wasn’t clear how Fukushima was being
demarcated, other than the indication that the total ban on Fukushima
products is being lifted.

[Continued below…]

———— Japan Travel Seed Round Funding ————– has become the largest content creator for inbound
travel content in Japan and the second largest for traffic. The Japan
Travel KK company now about to start its first outside round of
funding and invites expressions of interest from qualified early-stage
investors. Per Japanese law, Japan Travel KK will only accept the
first 50 applications and will contact each potential investor
individually to discuss the opportunity further. Applications close
June 13th, 2014.

Interested parties should contact:

[…Article continues]

What was clear, though, is the produce types and sources still on the
pre-testing and banned lists. Seafood and forest products sourced from
Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma will still need pre-export testing.
Seafood, agricultural products, and forest-related products from the
Fukushima control zones and some other areas will be banned

We think this is a fair assessment of what is safe and what is not,
and recommend that you modify your shopping accordingly. In
particular, we’d still stay well away from any seafood caught in and
around Fukushima.

One thing that the 3/11 disaster has done, is to accelerate public
awareness of food security and safety. Japan’s concerns include food
continuity (e.g., supply interruptions caused by natural disasters and
global warming), food contamination such as pesticides in products
from China, GMO products from the USA, local radiation and
contamination problems, and the lack of interest by young people in

Of these issues, the government appears to be taking care of the
farmer decline by moving towards legislation that will allow
corporations to own farm land. This may take a few years, but given
that the average age of farmers is now 70 and there are only 420,000
full-time farmers left, it’s only a matter of time before reality
overtakes politics.

More sensationalized is the threat of bad food coming from China. For
the average Japanese, Chinese food represents at least three levels of
threat: i) Direct contamination that causes immediate sickness. There
were at least 222 food safety violations in FY2012 involving food from
China, topped off by a toxic rice scare. ii) Low-level accumulative
contamination, caused by things like heavy metals being absorbed by
the plants and animals being grown in China. We don’t see much media
coverage about this and people tolerate Chinese food that might have
these problems, but the awareness is still there. iii) Continuity of
supply. The fact that the Chinese are showing muscle over their
dealings with Japan vis-a-vis the Senkaku islands, the expectation is
that just as the supply of rare earths to Japanese manufacturers was
squeezed off in the last confrontation, more basic commodities such as
food supplies are also at risk. This is a very real consideration,
given that Japan imported US$13.2bn of food from China, second only
after the US$13.5bn it imports from the USA.

These factors, plus the fact that it’s simply cheaper, have meant that
the construction of vegetable factories in Japan is on the rise. There
are currently at least 150 hydroponic vege factories in Japan, more
than anywhere else, and the volume of output from these operations is
not only phenomenal, it is done in a controlled environment isolated
from the environmental and political factors affecting the nation. So
it is no wonder that there is so much investment interest.

The world’s largest vegetable factory running on artificial lighting
is owned by Kyoto-based Spread Company, and is 25,200 sq. m. in size.
It produces 730 tons of lettuce annually, or about 20,000 heads of
lettuce a day — every day, even in winter. The factory was built in
2007 at a cost of JPY2bn, and by 2008 was producing 1,000 heads of
lettuce a day. Obviously they have made big strides in efficiency
since then. The owner is now planning another four factories of
similar size.

There is a good article about Spread in the Toronto Star, here:

The economics are sufficiently good that the nation’s major
corporations are getting in on the act. This last week, Mitsui Fudosan
announced it opened the second largest factory in Japan, which will
produce about 5,000 vegetable items daily, every day of the year. The
company spent just JPY600m building the facility, which has a floor
space of 1,300 sq. m. They managed to cram more into the smaller
footprint by growing the plants on ten cultivation layers, versus
Spread’s four layers. The facility is expected to produce about
JPY300m in annual sales — a good model for other operators
considering entering the market.

…The information janitors/


—————– Tour Operator in Japan- —————– is now Japan’s largest inbound travel portal by
content volume and second largest for traffic, and continues to grow
rapidly. The company is now soliciting interest from travel operators
around Japan who would like to become charter members of our new
tours-and-travel-experiences marketplace, due to open soon. Unlike our
existing advertising-based media offerings, companies in the
marketplace will do business with the portal on a
commission basis. Preference will be given to those operators able to
create unique and visually attractive travel experiences to our
200,000+ unique visitors a month.

For more information, contact


+++ NEWS

– Are more Filipina maids needed?
– Casino legislation to be debated next week
– Only now will child porn possession become illegal
– Yen forecast to weaken to 115 to US dollar
– Crowdfunding for shares to start in Japan next year?

=> Are more Filipina maids needed?

It seems to have become a truism for the government that Japanese
women will return to the workforce if only there were more caretakers
around to help them look after their kids. Maybe this is true, or
maybe Japanese women prefer to focus on their kids during the critical
early years of development, but either way it looks like the foreign
maid trend is coming to a theater near us. The Council on Economic and
Fiscal Policy, chaired by PM Abe no less, says that it reckons that at
least 2.2m Japanese women would return to work if they had caretakers
for their kids or elderly parents. The planned influx will happen in
Tokyo and some of the other five special economic zones (SEZ) first,
then probably catch on from there. ***Ed: Actually, this SEZ situation
could open up a can of worms for Immigration. For example once a
foreign maid has a work visa, the constitution says that she has the
right to seek work freely elsewhere. So will the new visa rules forbid
her from working outside the SEZ? I.e., outside of Tokyo? If so, this
might be a human rights violation…** (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 05, 2014)

=> Casino legislation to be debated next week

An LDP politician has indicated that a bill to legalize casinos in
Japan will be debated this coming week. Early reports are that the
bill will have a difficult time getting passed this session even
though apparently up to 200 politicians are for casinos. ***Ed: We’ve
been following the pro-casino camp ever since the last big opportunity
for Japan’s first casino approval happened over 15 years ago. What is
clear is that the conservative majority is still really concerned
about the negative aspects of casinos and this group still wields a
lot of power. Yes, there is a gradual change in attitude and the
scales are moving slowly but surely towards legalization. But while a
bill will eventually be approved, after all the casino industry is
expected to deliver up to JPY2trn of new tax income to the government
every year (based on Macao numbers), nonetheless, for this year at
least we believe the conservatives will prevail.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Jun 03, 2013)

=> Only now will child porn possession become illegal

It’s hard to understand the motivations of those dealing in child
porn, but even harder to understand why the government has been so
slow to ban its possession — art or not, some things are just not
compatible with modern society (stoning adulterers and betting on
lethal animal fighting would be others). The new ban will go into
effect in 2015, and the punishment for possession will be imprisonment
of up to one year or fines of up to JPY1m. ***Ed: The local argument
has long been that porn is art and should be allowed under the freedom
of expression. But it is pretty clear by now that making it legal to
own child porn establishes demand for this genre and thus causes
children somewhere to be abused to create it. In fact, it is this very
point that was the basis for Japan deciding to keep manga and anime
out of the ban — because no child suffered in their production. There
is a kind of logic there, we guess.** (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 04, 2014)

=> Yen forecast to weaken to 115 to US dollar

Foreign bankers in Tokyo are forecasting that the yen is likely to
weaken to between JPY107 – JPY115 to the US dollar by the end of this
year. The consensus among the experts is that the Bank of Japan is
unlikely to do further major easing before the end of this year, and
instead will allow actions such as the PM’s arm-twisting of the
General Pension Investment Fund of Japan (GPIF), the world’s largest
pension fund, to start buying more bonds and stocks both in Japan and
abroad. ***Ed: The expectation is that the GPIF alone will put over
JPY20trn into Japanese stocks and foreign securities, all on its own
moving the yen down by 10%. We’re not convinced this will actually
happen, and instead think that the markets will realize the GPIF, as
big as it is, is still just a drop in the bucket in terms of
international flows. We also don’t think the maneuvering the GPIF into
diversifying into a riskier portfolio qualifies the move as a proper
“third arrow” for Abe. What is needed is real reform, not more
issue-dodging.** (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 04,

=> Crowdfunding for shares to start in Japan next year?

One thing that might turn the SME market around and cause the
collective growth of small firms and therefore an increase in
meaningful employment, is making more early stage venture funding
available to start-ups. It looks like the Japanese government may move
on this more quickly than expected, with the Financial Services Agency
(FSA) apparently getting ready to revise the rules on venture funding
as soon as April 2015. 60% of the world’s crowdfunding occurs in the
USA, and last year (2013) the amount of money raised globally was
around US$5.1bn. ***Ed: Just a note that the crowdfunding being
planned for Japan next year isn’t the mere donation of money to pet
projects. Instead, the public will be able to buy small lots of actual
company shares. It will be interesting to see how this will be
organized, since looking after hundreds or thousands of JPY10,000
shareholders would be a nightmare under today’s financial rules.**
(Source: TT commentary from, Jun 03, 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



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


– Senior PHP Zend Software Engineer

If you have more than 5 years professional experience developing web
and mobile applications and know PHP Zend to an advanced level, then
we are interested in talking to you. MetroWorks seeks a senior
developer or someone with advanced development and conceptual skills,
to work on its Tokyo team. We will accept suitable applicants from any
location and provide visa and moving assistance if required.
MetroWorks is delivering crowdsourced applications to web portal
partners in a number of sectors, and as this business expands we need
skilled developers to assist in creating new tools and functionality
on our core ACQ platform. Salary will depend on experience, but will
be competitive with other development shops in Japan. Friendly team
and working environment, based in the center of Roppongi, Tokyo.
Please send your resume to


– Bilingual account manager for major tourism portal
(, JPY3M – JPY5M + 10% commission
– Bilingual sales trainee for web media properties, JPY2.5M-JPY3M +
10% commission

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:




—————— ICA Event – June 19th ——————

Speaker: Jason Hurst, Representative Director, Tokyo Japan,
International Solution Group
Title: “CONGRATULATIONS! 2013 Japanese Taxes are finished, we made it!”

Details: Complete event details at

Date: Thursday, June 19th, 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: By 4pm on Friday 13th June 2014
Venue is The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan



=> No corrections or feedback this week.



=> Meet the Real Wasabi in Nagano
Daio Wasabi Farm, the biggest wasabi farm in Japan

Many people might think that the wasabi we eat at Japanese restaurants
or the green wasabi powder that has to be mixed with water is
“wasabi”. These substances might be called wasabi but they are often
not the real thing. Instead, they are made from horseradish, mustard
powder, food coloring, and just a sprinkle of real wasabi. So I wanted
to meet face to face with the authentic product, and off I went to a
wasabi farm in Azumino, Nagano – the “Daio Wasabi Farm”.

Daio Wasabi Farm is quite large. There are several paths running
throughout the area which can get you up close and personal to the
star “wasabi”. Daio Wasabi Farm is using the Sawa method of growing,
which involves planting wasabi semi-aquatically in running water and
keeping the water temperature at about 13 degrees. Wasabi that is
planted this way has the taste that is closest to the plants that grow
in the wild. During the months of May to October the wasabi field has
black mesh stretched across for sun protection.

The paths run past a set of very picturesque traditional water wheels,
built for the movie “Dreams”, and it sure looks like a dream. Many
artists can be seen with their tools spread out, painting the scene.
In the summer, there is also a rubber raft tour that costs between

=> Nokogiriyama: “Saw-tooth” Mountain, Chiba
A secret hiking escape to Japan’s largest stone Buddha

On Nokogiriyama, also known as “Saw-tooth” mountain, the scars of
stone excavation for Tokyo’s Edo palaces create the foundation for an
escape to nature, filled with man-made secrets. This unknown and
peaceful day-long get away from metropolitan Tokyo is only a jump from
one peninsula to another, in the neighboring prefecture of Chiba.

Getting to the base of Nokogiriyama can be done either by train or
ferry. Hamakanaya is the closest train station to the mountain.
However, the ferry runs once an hour and lands right at the base of
the mountain. Your detour south to the port at Keikyu Kurihama is
rewarded with a much cheaper (JPY720) and quicker (40 minutes) journey
on the refreshing sea instead of changing from one cramped and stuffy
train to the next. The ferry has indoor and outdoor seating along with
a small cafe and beer vending machines!

After arriving on Chiba’s Boso peninsula, a five minute walk brings
you to another choice of routes. Hikers may wish to explore the
mountain from the bottom, climbing their way through the Nihon-ji
temple to the summit. The path is entirely stone or pavement and, not
counting the numerous steps, is quite easy. The entrance to the temple
is closest to Hota station, one stop away from the port.



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