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, August 03, 2014, Issue No. 767


– What’s New — No Welfare for Foreigners Ruling Not Apocalyptic
– News — Breakthrough high-current experiment
– Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies — Account manager/Sales position
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback — Falling Exports May be Temporary
– Travel Picks — Dramatic Festivals in Ehime
– News Credits

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This last week, popular foreigner-related message boards lit up in
collective outrage over the finding of the Japanese Supreme Court,
that foreigners are not legally entitled to receive welfare support if
they get into personal financial trouble. As readers will recall, the
case was presided over by the Supreme Court after a series of legal
challenges by an 82-year old ethnically Chinese (but who was born in
Japan and is for all intents and purposes a Japanese) lady residing in
Oita, Kyushu.

She was fighting to get welfare payments that were originally denied
by the city of Oita because she has some financial savings. In this
respect, she appears to have been treated similarly to how a Japanese
would have been treated — in that if you have money, you’re expected
to use it first before applying for welfare. Nonetheless, she sued the
city, and got the ruling reversed by the Fukuoka High Court, and thus
started receiving welfare again from 2011 until now.

Although Oita city originally refused payments based on her financial
position, as the case rose up through the courts it became clear that
another issue was at stake — whether or not a foreigner like her was
even entitled to welfare in the first place. We suspect it was a lot
easier for the Supreme Court to make a judgement based on this aspect
of the case rather than focus on financial needs, which would have
upset a lot of Japanese. In this sense you can’t blame them for taking
the most politically expedient route to a “no” decision.

The main complaint on the message boards was the unfairness of denying
foreign residents a privilege that Japanese can receive. “Why are we
paying taxes?” was a repeated refrain. Especially long-term residents,
who function as “almost-citizens”, similar to green card holders in
the USA, it seemed very parsimonious. We decided to do some research
for this week’s Take and found that the crux of the Supreme Court
rests on whether you are a citizen and thus entitled to support.
Indeed, as the Japan Times also confirmed in a follow up article,
foreigners have only been able to receive welfare checks until now
based on a humanitarian decision made by the Japanese government back
in the 1950’s. It was never a legal requirement.

It’s easy to see the wide gap between what foreigners think of the
Supreme Court ruling, and what Japanese do. For foreigners, it’s just
another of a thousand cuts, reminding otherwise staunch tax-paying
members of the community that they are outsiders and that Japan has no
interest in making them feel at home. For Japanese, it’s either
puzzlement that foreigners should be expecting something they have
never been legally entitled to and have been lucky to get up until
now, or more radically, that foreigners who want to be treated as
Japanese should become Japanese. Naturalizing isn’t that hard to do
and Japanese citizenship does at least give you a First-world

This of course gets into whether long-term visa holders should be
pressured/coerced into becoming citizens, as seems to be the trend in
Western countries. Personally, we’re glad that Japan doesn’t force you
to decide, because there are many reasons why a foreign national might
wish to keep their original nationality, such as having family and
property commitments back home that require local citizenship,
planning to retire to another country and thus preferring to keep an
existing passport with better rights, or simply feeling that being
married to a Japanese doesn’t mean you have to “marry” the Japanese
system as well. We see nothing wrong with a person living and working
temporarily in Japan and still receiving rights that should accrue to
any long-term tax payer. Clearly the Japanese judiciary doesn’t think
the same thing.

[Continued below…]

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[…Article continues]

What is important to know about this ruling is that while it denies
ALL social welfare to foreigners that in legislation or the
Constitution is worded to apply to citizens, many benefits denied are
subsequently modified by international (mostly UN) treaties signed by
Japan over the years. For example, pensions and health benefits ARE
covered by international treaties and so foreigners will continue by
law to receive these benefits as they did before. The term “welfare”
in this particular case refers to payments made when you have no other
coverage to see you through financially, and so is treated differently
from the social insurance system (“Shakai Hoken”) that all of us are
supposed to contribute to by law.

Unfortunately, not everyone is covered by social insurance and thus
welfare payments could become a necessity…

For example, foreigners who come to Japan after the age of 35 (say
they married a Japanese while in their 40’s and subsequently moved
here for the spouse to look after aging parents), then since even if
they pay into the social insurance system they won’t qualify for a
pension due to the 25-year-minimum-payments rule. It is conceivable
that after retirement they may not be able to earn enough to support
themselves, and then they will be at the mercy of the local
authorities — who btw still have the discretion to make welfare
payments if they wish. Further, we have heard that the Social
Insurance authorities are on occasion willing to make exceptions to
the 25 years rule — so it’s not a hopeless case.

Then there are the so-called “Zainichi” foreigners, those 3rd and 4th
generation Koreans, Chinese, and others, who were brought to Japan
forcibly during the war, and who due to changing laws have been unable
to meet the legal requirements to gain the pension and other benefits.
Still others include foreign spouses who have not worked but who have
kids and who have divorced. Right now, by custom, the local
authorities give these one-parent families welfare assistance, but you
do wonder, as finances become tighter due to the aging society if at
some point these families will simply be told to “go home”… And that
of course is why foreigners are upset. It’s the possibility that the
loss of the right to receive assistance may become a reality one day.

This case certainly doesn’t help Japan in its quest to make Japan more
attractive to highly-skilled immigrants. If the country was really
serious about improving its image it would take a leaf out of South
Korea’s book, and introduce legislation that guarantees that
foreigners can enjoy all the same rights and privileges as nationals,
with perhaps the exceptions of military service and voting. Or Japan
could go even further than South Korea, and become the first
first-world nation to ratify the UN’s 1990 convention on the
protection of the rights of migrant workers.

This excellent document covers all the major issues that foreign
migrant workers have in Japan, and would provide Japan with a
framework similar to the Hague Convention and other treaties, that
would allow it to update domestic laws that discriminate against
non-Japanese residents (migrant workers). This would surely boost the
nation’s chances of attracting talented migrants, since signing it
would place Japan ahead of Australia, Canada, and the USA in terms of
legal rights. Article 27, for example, directly addresses the issue of
social security by saying that, “Migrant workers and members of their
families shall enjoy in the State of employment the same treatment
granted to nationals in so far as they fulfill the requirements
provided for by the applicable legislation of that State…”

The problem is that not one first world country has actually signed
this landmark treaty. Mostly, we suppose, because they feel it
impinges on their domestic laws restricting immigrant rights as part
of a larger fight to control immigration itself. Unfortunately, this
is the reality of the world we live in, and provides Japan with an
excellent excuse not to offer more rights and privileges to foreigners
living here.

…The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

– Real wages fall in June
– New Yahoo car navi app and online mall update
– Over 1/3 large firms hurt by geopolitical tensions
– Breakthrough high-current experiment
– Spring’s new domestic LCC service starts

=> Real wages fall in June

Taking into account inflation, real wages in June fell by 3.8% over
June 2013, thus marking last month the largest drop in real wages
since December 2009, in the fall-out from the Lehman Shock. Average
total wages actually grew a modest 0.4% in June, but not only was this
a continuation of a falling trend — 0.7% increases in March and April
and 0.6% increase in May — those monthly numbers don’t take into
account the effect of inflation. Hence the importance of qualifying
the word wages to real wages, take into account the dynamic of
inflation. ***Ed: Authorities are saying that this is just a
preliminary number and may yet still be adjusted. However, from what
we can see, although some employees of large, listed exporting
companies are getting fatter bonuses, most companies are still hiring
part-timers and paying lower wages as a means to survive.** (Source:
TT commentary from, Jul 30, 2014)

=> New Yahoo car navi app and online mall update

In a bid to compete with Google and Apple, Yahoo Japan has launched a
car navigation app for smartphones and tablets. The new app is fully
localized and indicates alternative routes for traffic jams, open
parking lots, and lower-priced gas stations. The app comes as Yahoo
has been experiencing amazing growth in its online shopping mall. The
company decided that to compete better with Rakuten it would do away
with online merchant fees and make the site essentially free to be on.
Since the campaign started last fall, the number of merchants on the
site has soared from 19,932 to 134,000 stores. ***Ed: Will be
interesting to see what type of impact Yahoo’s move on the shopping
mall will have on Rakuten. We feel that Rakuten is over-extended.**
(Source: TT commentary from, Jul 31, 2014)

=> Over 1/3 large firms hurt by geopolitical tensions

A recent Reuters poll has found that territorial and ideological
tensions between Japan and its neighbors China and South Korea are
having a real and negative effect on Japanese exporters. The poll of
276 respondee firms found that 88 of them said their businesses were
hurt to some degree. Generally speaking the effect was weak sales
and/or difficulty in buying materials or parts. In some cases
companies said that their prospective and former customers even
refused to meet with them — especially where those companies were
government-related in some way. Investment by Japanese firms in China
was off by 30% in 2013 and for South Korea it was down by 18%.
(Source: TT commentary from, Jul 28)

=> Breakthrough high-current experiment

In another step towards magnetic fusion reactors, scientists from the
National Institute for Fusion Science (NIFS) and Tohoku University
have achieved a world record current flow of 100KA. They achieved the
milestone by using yttrium superconducting tapes arranged in stacks.
The tapes were cooled to a relatively warm minus 253 degrees Celsius
and were subjected to current flow of 40 A/sq mm. ***Ed: Nice photo
with the article showing superconductive (Meissner effect)
levitation.** (Source: TT commentary from, July 27, 2014)

=> Spring’s new domestic LCC service starts

Chinese LCC Spring Airlines launched its Japanese domestic service on
Friday, with three routes, between Narita and Takamatsu (Kagawa,
Shikoku), Hiroshima, and Saga (Kyushu). The airline will run a daily
round trip to each destination. Originally Spring Air was planning to
launch its services in May, but put off the launch due to delays in
preparing staff and support. The company says it is looking for a seat
occupancy rate of 70% – 80%. ***Ed: Their travel times are pretty
good, basically near the middle of each day, and prices are very
competitive, so we imagine their occupancy levels will be pretty
good…** (Source: TT commentary from, Aug 01, 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



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=> => In TT-764 we ran a news piece that May orders were badly down
and how this did not bode well for the economy.

*** A reader responds:

Machinery orders… Yes, they did fall dramatically. BUT… look at
steel production, which is pretty well flat at a high level. Then
there is the rebound in car production/sales and May retail sales…
which both took less of a hit than expected. It is REALLY hard to read
this economy. Personally, I think that as long as the LDP remains in
power and has someone charismatic like Abe san at the helm, things
won’t be too bad up until 2020. After then, though, Japan’s situation
may start to get interesting. I guess it depends on just which
industry one is following and using as an index for the health of the



=> Dramatic Festivals in Eastern Ehime
The Saijo and Niihama autumn festivals

The Saijo and Niihama festivals in the Toyo area of Ehime are held in
the middle October to give thanks for an abundant autumn harvest. Both
are beautiful and exiting festivals, with parades of portable shrines
and drum wagons. The Saijo Festival is held at the Kamo, Ishioka,
Isono and Iizumi shrines. The origin of the festival is uncertain, but
it’s a traditional event which goes back as far as 1757. Isono Shrine
owns a scroll depicting the Saijo Festival with details of the
festival as it was held in the Edo period. It’s said that the feudal
lord of Saijo sent the scroll to Lord Date to boast about the exciting
things that happen in Saijo. The festival enjoyed the support of
successive lords of Saijo, and although it experienced a decline after
World War II, it’s more vigorous than ever today.



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