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, November 08, 2015, Issue No. 827

– What’s New — What Happened to all Those Bubble Era Impressionist
– News — What happens now Japan Post Group is worth JPY18trn?
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback — Not just Shibuya, Halloween comes to Roppongi
– Travel Picks — Boro clothes in Akasaka, Kirin Beer tour in Kanagawa
– News Credits

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Back in August the Nikkei had a delightful article about Kikuko Iwai,
one of Japan’s premier art restoration experts. The article covered
Iwai’s experience working on some of the world’s most valuable
paintings, including the large and colorful work from Van Gogh’s
“Sunflowers” series, which is owned by Sompo Japan Insurance company.
Iwai made two memorable comments in the interview. Firstly she said that
the best cleaning medium for aged oil paintings is not a special soap of
some kind, but human saliva. The Nikkei quotes her: “I pick up a cotton
bud, give it a lick and wipe the paint,” Iwai said with a giggle.
“Numerous alternative soaps have been created, but nothing beats saliva.
The temperature is right, the stickiness is right, the amount of enzyme
is right and it’s much more compatible with oil than water.” Funny.

The second memorable quote by Iwai was that while restoring the
Sunflowers image, she realized that the Tokyo-based painting “…has the
colors, the bright yellows, closest to the original state.” Certainly,
when you look at images online of the other versions, you can see
brilliant yellows as compared to dull browns in some of the others. This
says something about the quality of works that the Japanese managed to
acquire back in the go-go eighties.

And what’s amazing is that you can go see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers pretty
much any day other than Mondays here in Tokyo, simply by paying JPY1,200
and riding up to the top floor art gallery in the Sompo building in
Shinjuku. We can testify that the painting is luminous and mesmerizing
— well worth the entry fee.

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[…Article continues]

The Sunflowers painting was purchased by Sompo for US$39.9m in 1987 at a
Christies auction in London. This was part of a slew of similar
purchases by other Japanese businesses during that period thanks to the
bubble economy. The buyers were particularly focused on Impressionists,
because of the richness of colors (generally speaking Japanese love
color in their art) and possibly the cultural connection. Back in the
19th Century, many of the French impressionists were taken with Japanese
Ukiyoe images and had extensive collections of them. Van Gogh in
particular experimented with Japanese artistic motifs and Monet had his
Japanese bridge in the garden in Giverny.

So we started wondering just how many impressionist works of art are
here in Japan? It turns out there are quite a few. Several of the
largest collections are not surprisingly located in and around Tokyo,
while there are lots of single paintings spread out all over the country.

To get a feel for what is out there, and where, we picked Monet and
Renoir (not Van Gogh, since there are very few here) as target painters.
There are about 1,070 Monet oil paintings (versus other media) in
existence globally, and because of the number there is a handy search
engine showing where they are all located:

The search engine isn’t 100% accurate, because it thinks there are just
30 Monets in Japan, but in fact you can find a few more by doing simple
searches of major museums around the country. Still, this tool gives the
names of each museum it knows about and thus forms the basis of a list
of where art is kept in Japan.

There are five major repositories of Monet and Renoir works in Japan.
These are the privately owned POLA museum out at Hakone; the National
Museum of Western Art (NMWA) in Ueno, Tokyo; privately owned Ohara
museum in Okayama; privately owned Benesse Chichu museum in Naoshima;
and the privately owned Tokyo Fuji Art Museum in Hachioji. The POLA
museum is particularly outstanding, with 20 Monets and 15 Renoirs, which
is also somewhat concerning given that Mount Hakone is just 400m away
and is active again. The NMWA has 17 Monets and 11 Renoirs.

In researching private collections of impressionist art on the web, and
their worth, what we found is that Japan is pretty much ignored in
global rankings. We presume this is a mix of language inconvenience and
also the fact that many paintings here were acquired 25 years ago, and
therefore are not making the headlines. However, if you were to consider
the size and quality of the POLA collection, which also includes 20
Picassos, we think that this would rank it as at least one of the top 10
private collections by value in the world, if not one of the top 5. And
the NMWA, which is a huge collection based on a gift from Matsukata
Kojiro, the son of the founder of Kawasaki Heavy, also probably belongs
in the top ten. Certainly these two collections are the largest in Asia.

What are they worth? The amount is unknowable, but for entertainment’s
sake, a recent comment by a British museum expert was that a Sunflowers
painting like the one owned by Sompo insurance would fetch in excess of
US$130m. Further, in a recent auction a noted Monet Water Lillies
fetched more than US$50m — the Benesse museum in Naoshima alone has
five of these. A high grade Renoir might sell for around US$10m,
although many of his still lifes are sold for much less.

So the answer to the question about what happened to the impressionist
paintings bought during the bubble is clear. They’re mostly still in
Japan and mostly available for public viewing. Enjoy!

…The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

– First gay couple in Japan are officially “married” (kind of)
– What happens now Japan Post Group is worth JPY18trn?
– Airbag maker Takata on the ropes
– 2020 target for tourists increased by 50% to 30m
– Plan to slash secondary airport landing fees

=> First gay couple in Japan are officially “married” (kind of)

Taking advantage of Shibuya Ward’s new attitude towards family
diversity, the first officially “married” gay couple in Japan, two women
living in Shibuya ward, received their notarized certificates on
November 5th. The couple are local high profile LGBT activists who chose
to publicly celebrate their union to give awareness of discrimination
against gay couples. While a step forward, the ward office certificate
doesn’t connote the full advantages of marriage and public entities are
not bound to honor it legally. ***Ed: To have that happen, the
government needs to pass anti-discrimination legislation. And given that
even racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan, LGBT-friendly laws
look like they will be a long time in coming.** (Source: TT commentary
from, Nov 5, 2016)

=> What happens now Japan Post Group is worth JPY18trn?

The multiple IPOs of the Japan Post Group went about as well as the
government could have hoped, with the overall group now being worth
about JPY18trn (approx.). Shares of Japan Post Insurance jumped 77% in
the first couple of days, while Japan Post Bank rose 15% and Japan Post
Holdings 26% on the first day, before all settled back for more modest
gains by Friday. All told the government raised JPY1.44trn from the IPO,
and the exercise brought out a lot of first-time investors due to the
perceived safe nature of the investment. Japan Post Bank after all is
the largest bank in the nation and indeed one of the largest in the
world. ***Ed: Presumably by underpricing the IPOs, the Abe government’s
idea is to give risk-averse older folks a taste of the benefits of
investing in the stock market, and thus leading to further unlocking
some of their JPY800trn (approx.) kept in non-performing bank deposits.
With the massive GPIF fund at Abe’s beck and call to bolster public
share prices, he can certainly make this shell game work for some months
or even a year or so. Presumably he is hoping the whole thing will
snowball and there will be a sustained bull market in coming months. But
we wonder if the Japanese public can be suckered so easily?** (Source:
TT commentary from, Nov 6, 2015)

=> Airbag maker Takata on the ropes

Well, not quite on the ropes, given that the company only reported a
first-half loss of JPY5.6bn while they have about JPY70bn in cash
reserves. Still, with Toyota and Honda both announcing that they would
stop using Takata air bag inflators, the company must be feeling under
some threat. Takata’s shares lost 40% value in the last week. The Takata
execs, ever combative and lacking any commonsense or humility, pointed
out that while inflators are indeed being cancelled by their major
customers, they are still supplying actual air bags and other
components. ***Ed: A bigger threat is probably a class action law suit
in the USA, something that Takata is likely going to precipitate by
refusing to set up a victims fund in the USA.** (Source: TT commentary
from, Nov 6, 2015)

=> 2020 target for tourists increased by 50% to 30m

It appears that the number of foreign tourists expected to come to Japan
this calendar year will be around 19.5m, well above the 16m of so that
were forecast this time last year. As a result, the Japanese government
has decided to revise its 2020 Olympics year tourist target up to 30m.
***Ed: We think they have a good chance of achieving this, by tinkering
with visa rules and by keeping the yen low in comparison to regional
currencies. Thailand is a good example. Since the visa exemption for
visiting Thais which was put in place in July 2013, Thai arrivals have
soared about 400% to an estimated 800,000 this calendar year. (Source:
TT commentary from, Nov 7, 2015)

=> Plan to slash secondary airport landing fees

The Transport Ministry has said that it will subsidize the landing fees
at about 25 regional airports as part of its effort to move more foreign
travelers to the regions instead of focusing them on major arrival
points. This means that LCCs may see annual landing fees fall from about
JPY30m per airport to zero for at least one year while the subsidies are
in place. ***Ed: One of the biggest hurdles for foreign airlines landing
at secondary airport destinations has been the prohibitive cost of
landing fees. As we discussed in Terrie’s Take 824 several weeks ago
(, this is an essential issue to resolve if
regional cities are to benefit from the inbound tourist boom. We used
the case of Kochi airport as a good example, showing how, while
Matsuyama to the west is drawing air travelers from HK, China, and
Taiwan thanks to local landing subsidies, Kochi was not. This new
direction by the Japanese government will remove at least this hurdle
for Kochi.**(Source: TT commentary from, Nov 5, 2015)

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 inconvenience.


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—————- ICA Event – December 2nd —————–

Title: “Wednesday December 2nd, 2015 – ICA Japan End of Year Bonenkai”
Details: Complete event details at
Date: Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
Time: 19:30pm to 22:30pm – Doors open
As a set menu it will include multitude of food including Beers, Wines,
Juices, Shochu and Soft Drinks etc.
Cost: 5,500 yen – Open to all. No sign ups at the door!!!!!!! First
registered will secure a place as seats are very limited
RSVP: By 4pm on Friday 27th November, 2015. Venue is Andy’s Shin
Hinomoto at Yurakucho

————– Turkish Festival Special Offer ————-

You may remember Hasel Foods, the online Mediterranean Gourmet Specialty
Store, Bakery, and Catering service? They will be appearing in person
at the annual Turkish Festival in Shin-Okubu (near Shinjuku) from
November 12-15. As a special service if you mention `Terrie’s Take` to
the staff at the Hasel Foods booth, then you will receive 4 bottles of
stuffed olives (original price JPY750 each) and one original Baklava
pack, all for just JPY1,500. This offer is limited to just one set per
person and until stocks last.


=> In Terrie’s Take 826, we opined that with Halloween, Shibuya was
becoming “Party Central” for Asia. A reader reminds us that the world
doesn’t stop at Shibuya alone on November 31st.

*** Reader Says:

Thought you’d like to know that on November 31st (Halloween night) the
walk from Roppongi station to the Roi Building, a rather normal five
minute stroll took me more than 30 minutes at 11:00 pm that night. There
were just that many people there. The Japanese police had opened up the
main road by half its width just to get people to move along. I am not a
crowd-counting expert, but surely there must have been tens of thousands
easily. Can’t help but say that there was a lot of candy for the eyes
too! Some of those outfits the “kids” were wearing would get them in
trouble on a normal night out.



=> Amuse Museum, Asakusa, Tokyo
Japanese products: design, textile art and movie props

Hiding between office buildings and other museums in Asakusa, the Amuse
Museum displays an interesting history of Japanese product design and
culture. Amuse Museum focuses on textile arts, product design,
traditional culture, and Ukiyo-e (woodblock print) Art.

The museum houses about 1,500 items of Boro clothing, which was worn
between the 17th and 19th century, made out of leftover fabric oddments
and different clothes which were too good to waste. For those who could
not afford regular traditional clothes, people – mostly women – started
to cut and sew old clothes together as new ones. Their sewing and
weaving of Boro was done so well that the clothes could last for
generations. This was a major saving for families who could not afford much.

Since every Boro piece is a unique item, nowadays it is viewed as art.
In the world of design it’s all about one-of-a-kind items and innovative
fashion, which is why Boro has become popular again. Also because of the
eco-friendly technique of re-using fabric you have a great example of
the recycling philosophy that existed at that time. A lot of
contemporary clothes are inspired by this technique and even duplicated.

=> Kirin Beer Village Tour Yokohama, Kanagawa

Over the past few years I have been to the top seven beer breweries from
Fukuoka to Sapporo and in between. Most were informative, however the
Yokohama Kirin tour is by far the best. As a contrast, last year while
in Sapporo on the way back to the airport I stopped in at the Chitose
Kirin Brewery. Since it was snowing there were no other people taking
the tour and I had my own private tour guide. It was really fun. BUT,
the Yokohama Kirin even beats the Hokkaido facility out for a very
thorough and entertaining tour. I am sure it all depends on who the
guide is and each brewery has different features.

I recently retook the Yokohama Kirin Beer Village tour after taking it
about three years ago. There are several new videos and a tasting area
where you can judge the difference between the First Press Malt method
verses the Second Press Malt method used by other mass produced beer
brewers. The first press has a much fuller, less sweet taste. Ichiban is
the only mass-produced beer in the world that uses first press malt.
Ichiban in Japanese means first or number one.



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