Japan Travel

* * * * * * * * 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 15, 2014, Issue No. 760


– What’s New — Crowdfunding Kids Through Foreign College
– News — It may be a cool, wet summer
– Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies — PHP Zend engineer
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback
– Travel Picks — Cute island in Biwa-ko, Coastal walk in Kanagawa
– News Credits

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Interesting article on the Wall Street Journal Friday about how to
reduce the incidence of people defaulting on their student loans.
http://on.wsj.com/SXtL57. Many thanks to the reader who sent it over.
In a nutshell a professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, has
suggested that student loans be structured in a kind of crowdfunding
approach, where investors “buy” a share of the students earnings for a
specific time at a defined and mutually agreed rate of revenue share
(the “upside”). After the loan and revenue share is repaid, the
student goes on debt-free, and the investor goes on to fund another

Actually, this system reminds us a lot of the sharemilking system that
is practiced in New Zealand. In a legal construct that could be unique
to New Zealand, owners of farms and farmers who want to work those
farms (but who are too young or poor to own one) come together in a
profit-sharing contract. We think this system is a good model for the
Vanderbilt prof. to look at, because it involves many of the same
variables, such as the uncertain future performance of humans (and
more extreme still, the weather and livestock), restrictions to
prevent profiteering and servitude, and overall risk mitigation. If
you have the time and interest, you can read about sharemilking here:

How is this relevant to Japan, where virtually anyone who wants to can
go get a higher education?

Firstly, relatively free education is not equally available for the
best jobs. You will quickly discover this if you want to help one of
your kids become a doctor or dentist, or indeed, any one of a wide
range of well-paid professions. Instead, access to these jobs is
restricted to a brilliant few, who get admitted to national
universities, and the richer masses, who with the payment of 4-5 times
what the high-IQ kids’ parents pay, can gain access to for-profit
medical schools. If you are poor and not well connected, then forget
it. Thus, if Japan wants to increase its number of doctors and other
professionals, something it is probably going to have to do as the
current crop start to age themselves out of the market, we think it
needs to find a way to help its less fortunate youth make the
financial leap necessary to gain the right training and credentials.

[Continued below…]

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[…Article continues]

At the same time as offering a better future for kids willing to work
for such as chance, there is also the fact that Japanese universities
themselves have been hit hard financially and need a way to earn more
revenue. Thus, while a funding system would naturally start with local
Japanese kids getting financed into better courses and jobs, with a
bit of imagination the same system could be expanded to foreign kids
as well. There are plenty of Asian kids who think Japan and its
education system is top rank, and so while there could be some flight
risk for investors, one imagines that most of these kids would be from
good families who could easily be monitored by their own governments
while still under contract. At least having a risk-profit sharing
arrangement would be infinitely better than the current abusive
“intern” system that restricts Asian kids to factory work in the name
of learning.

But the main reason why we think the Vanderbilt prof’s idea can apply
to Japan, is in relation to Japanese kids from poor families who have
the gumption to go study abroad. These kids are a huge asset to a
country which is faced with the reality of having to internationalize,
and yet they get little to no help in covering expenses overseas. Yes,
there are scholarships, but these are few and far between and
certainly not enough to cover to the cost of a high-grade (or even
mid-grade) university in the USA. Even generous government
scholarships generally only cover basic tuition costs for a limited
period (typically a year at a time) — making it tough for bright kids
to feel confident they can get through the 2-4 years they will need
for sufficient foreign educational “polishing” to become tomorrow’s
Nobel prize candidates.

Without naming names, we were approached a few weeks ago with a
request to help a young Japanese woman studying in the USA. She has an
unfortunate family background that has meant she is all alone in
pursuing her dream of a bilingual education in women’s rights. After
schooling here in Japan, she took a job in her early twenties and
finally saved enough cash to get herself into a decent school in the
U.S. From there she learned English, and started her studies.
Unfortunately for her, the reality of the costs of schooling in the
U.S. hit her in her second year and despite finding several partial
scholarships, she has now almost run out of funds. Yes, her class
results are good. So, she has resigned herself to having to come back
to Japan and take up an office job again. Maybe in another 3-4 years,
in her early 30’s, she thinks she will give a U.S. schooling another
shot. A dedicated lady…

In another even more extreme case, a Japanese friend, who now speaks
perfect English and who did make it over the hurdles, got himself a
high-grade university education by getting himself adopted at the ripe
old age of 12 to a family in New York..! He did the research and made
all the arrangements, some time back in the 1980s. It must have really
taken some guts both on his behalf and that of his mother, to let him
go. But with the family facing a difficult situation financially,
adoption was the only solution he could think of. We know of other
similar stories of self-sacrifice by disadvantaged Japanese kids so
that they might get ahead with an international education and thus the
chance of a blue-sky career. All we can say is, “What a waste of human
capital!” The government really should try harder to make it possible
for such kids to gain the skills and international experience that
Japan so badly needs.

The whole idea of sponsors operating within a structured and monitored
program to invest in people’s futures is the same one behind the
upcoming crowdfunding programs that the government is proposing for
next year. Shared risk, participants making promises to behave a
certain way and perform, and profit motive. These elements will all
combine to make for a powerful force for change if they are allowed to
exist. The problem that we see, though, is that not only are Japanese
not used to making what effectively can be seen as donations for
personal causes, but those that do are equally fixated on the outcome
of those donations.

A good example of the possible backlash can be seen from a website
specifically set up to help students pay for better education. We’re
talking of the www.studygift.net, a crowdfunding site which in 2012
got embroiled in controversy when its first university student
recipient, a Google superblogger named Aya Sakaguchi, was found to
have a dubious relationship to the company running the site. Whether
she and the company cooked up the project to milk money from funders
or not (the money was returned), the execution of the new service was
a mess (not at all unusual with small, new start-up companies), and so
it managed to blackened the whole crowdfunding industry. Whatever the
government comes up with in its place is sure to involve lots of
bureaucratic oversight as a response. We sure hope they don’t throw
the baby out with the bath water.

Rather, we hope that the architects of the crowdfunding aspects of
Abe’s Third Arrow realize that they have to build in an allowance for
failure for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, without asking for a pound of
flesh in return. If they don’t, then we predict a high likelihood for
failure for crowdfunding as funding hopefuls come to realize that they
can’t possibly satisfy the terms and conditions being requested.

…The information janitors/


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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 info@japantravel.com.



+++ NEWS

– Interesting bifurcation of Tokyo real estate
– Food export plan rachets up targets
– It may be a cool, wet summer
– Aeon starts nursing facility for aged dogs
– Pilot shortage has another cause

=> Interesting bifurcation of Tokyo real estate

In a trend which echoes the nature of Abenomics itself, this report
from FT shows the bifurcation of Tokyo real estate. Thanks to the
massive stock purchases by the Bank of Japan and general liquidity in
the market from unlimited cheap lending to the top-most slice of
Japanese companies, the demand for Grade-A property in Tokyo is
rising, and as a result, Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) and other funds
are joining the feeding frenzy. Attracted by high single digit annual
returns on rents, the SWFs of Qatar and Singapore, a hedge fund from
Germany, and even an oil fund from Azerbaijan were among the foreign
investors to spend over US$10bn on city real estate in the first 3
months of this year. ***Ed: So where is the bifurcation? Well, while
Grade-A properties saw supply sink to a 4.7% vacancy rate and
companies like Mitsubishi Fudosan raise rents 5%-10%, the other 87% of
properties, including mostly Grade-B property, still saw flat or
sinking rents.** (Source: TT commentary from ft.com, Jun 11, 2014)


=> Food export plan ratchets up targets

While it is difficult for us to see Japan as a major food exporter in
the future, the gnomes in Kasumigaseki have come up with a strategy
that has Japan’s export of farm and marine products increase not by
the previously advertised JPY1trn by 2020, but now by JPY5trn by 2030,
a 500% increase. Current export levels run around JPY50bn a year. The
government plans to set up a “Japan Brand” and use this to promote
high value produce. ***Ed: We suppose that with the dramatically
falling price of land in the hinterland of Japan, and with
corporatization of farming, volumes could conceivably be increased by
this level. But with only 450,000 or so farmers, one wonders where the
labor is going to come from. More JPY400/hour interns from China and
SE Asia?** (Source: TT commentary from globalpost.com, Jun 14, 2014)


=> It may be a cool, wet summer

The meteorological agencies of India, Australia, and Japan are
forecasting the return of the El Nino weather cycle, possibly by
August. If correct, this means while SE Asia will experience drier,
hotter conditions, in Japan it is likely to be cooler and wetter than
usual. While the cooler temperatures will be appreciated by those of
us having to go outside for work (e.g., sales, maintenance, laborers,
etc.), it also means that vegetable and particularly rice production
may be disrupted, causing prices to increase. ***Ed: Luckily Japan has
a huge stockpile of rice, so any effect is likely to be mild.**
(Source: TT commentary from wsj.com, Jun 11, 2014)


=> Aeon starts nursing facility for aged dogs

Aeon has built a dog nursing home that will cost JPY100,000 per month
per animal. The home includes a playground, swimming pool, hourly room
temperature checks, and webcam sessions with owners. The nursing home
is targeting owners of elderly dogs, presumably elderly people
themselves, who are no longer able to care for their pets. The
facility currently has capacity for 20 dogs, and Aeon says it is
planning to expand this number. ***Ed: What seems strange to us is why
Aeon would build this facility in Tokyo. Surely a countryside location
would be better for the dogs, and owners wouldn’t be traveling that
much further to see their furry friends. Either way, this facility is
another sign that Aeon is fast-becoming a major player in the pet
industry.** (Source: TT commentary from dailycaller.com, Jun 12, 2014)


=> Pilot shortage has another cause

In TT-754 we commented on how Peach Airlines’ cancellation of a bunch
of flights due to pilot shortage is an avoidable problem. At the time
we mentioned that foreign outsourcing companies are quite active in
Japan, and now we hear from the Nikkei that the shortage has an
avoidable cause as well — over regulation. According to the Nikkei,
there are only two training routes for Japanese pilots: to enter a
state-run civil aviation college, which generates about 25 graduates a
year, or get hired by either Japan Airlines or ANA and get trained by
their internal organizations. The Nikkei reckons that the government
has to either deregulate the civil aviation training business, or to
allow SDF pilots an easier licence transition than the rigid system
now in place, so that airforce flyers can take up the slack. ***Ed:
Hopefully the PM’s office has read this article.** (Source: TT
commentary from asia.nikkei.com, Jun 12, 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 jobs@metroworks.co.jp.


– Bilingual account manager for major tourism portal
(www.japantravel.com), we are particularly interested in speaking to
people living OUTSIDE Tokyo, and wish to recruit at least 10 staff
within FY2014. JPY3M – JPY5M + 10% commission

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




—————— 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 http://www.icajapan.jp/

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.



=> Chikubu Island, Lake Biwa, Shiga
Temples, trees and plate throwing

Lake Biwa is a gargantuan expanse of water between Kyoto and Shiga
prefectures. Cycling the circumference is a popular challenge for
sports enthusiasts, and day trippers love to paddle and splash in its
clear waters whilst squinting into the distance across the mirror-like
surface, searching for the opposite shoreline. Reminiscent of North
America’s Great Lakes, on hazy days the water seems to stretch out
endlessly like an ocean. If you want to feel truly lost at sea you can
visit Chikubu Island, a pinprick on a map of Japan, but a veritable
treasure trove of temples.

With a coastline of 2km and a surface area of 0.14 km2 Chikubu may
sound too small to bother with, but there you would be wrong. This
diminutive rock is covered with beautiful trees, Japanese maples,
sakura (cherry blossom) and peach trees being the most dramatic. The
temples hidden among the trees are equally delightful. Hogon-ji (part
of the 33 temple Kannon pilgrimmage), a Buddhist Shingon temple, and
Tsukubusuma, a Shinto shrine also known as Chikubujima shrine, are
both well tended and attractive structures which have been rebuilt
several times following fires.


=> Cape Tsurugi Coastal Walk, Kanagawa
Sandy beaches, breezy bays and rocky cliffs

Perhaps a little too well known by many people is Miura beach in
Kanagawa, which, if not for the swarming summertime crowds, would
otherwise be an enjoyable place to go. If like me, sharing a beach
with endless hordes of people isn’t your idea of fun then there is a
great alternative option close by.

Located only a couple of kilometers away near Cape Tsurugi, on the
southern tip of the Miura Peninsula, is a great coastal walk that
passes through many sandy bays, rocky cliff tops, and the odd cave
just to add to the fun. In addition to having some spectacular views,
this is the closest you will come to experiencing an almost empty

The starting point for this walk can easily be reached by taking any
bus bound for Cape Tsurugizaki. These depart frequently from bus stand
#2 outside of Miura Kaigan train station on the Keikyu line. The ride
takes about ten minutes and costs 200 Yen. Get off at Togari bus stop,
where the sudden sea breeze hits you like a slap in the face.




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

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