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 28, 2016, Issue No. 862

– What’s New — Why NHK Can’t Force You to Pay Their Annual Fees
– News — Would you kill for instant ramen?
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback
– Travel Picks — Nara Real Fruit Ice cream, Awesome Odaiba Light Show
– News Credits

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If there is one government organ that pops up in our domestic lives at
least once a year and which almost everyone has an opinion on, it’s the
national TV broadcaster NHK. Mostly the public regards NHK these days
with disdain, and there are two good reasons why. Firstly, although
originally established to be a politically neutral service established
for the public good, it is nowadays overtly controlled by the ruling LDP
and has become a mouthpiece for the government’s own conservative
political views. We will justify this statement below.

Secondly, the confrontational, almost Yakuza-like tactics of NHK’s
subcontracted subscription collection men, and their lawful right to
force you to pay those subscriptions, even if you don’t ever watch NHK.

So it was with some interest that we saw news on Friday that NHK has for
the first time lost a law suit over its ability to enforce collection of
its viewer fees. Specifically, the owner of a One Seg cell phone
equipped with a public broadcast TV receiver, including the ability to
receive NHK transmissions, took NHK to court in Saitama over NHK’s
insistence that he pay them the roughly JPY15,000 a year that NHK
charges EVERY household possessing a television regardless of whether
they watch NHK or not.

The case, heard in the Saitama District Court, revolved around a very
narrow interpretation of Article 64 of the Japan Broadcast Law which
requires all households, or if no household then individual owners, who
have “installed” equipment to receive TV broadcasts to sign a contract
with NHK and pay the required fees. The decision appears to have been
made over the definition of the word “installed”. The plaintiff said
that he bought the cell phone with One Seg already there and that he
didn’t “install” it. The judge agreed and ruled in the gentleman’s
favor. This was a significant decision by that judge, since surely he
would have realized that in doing so he was bucking the system –
especially since until now NHK has never lost a case over suing people
for not paying its fees. Needless to say, NHK is going to appeal the
ruling, so a final decision by a higher court may take years.

The finding at the District Court level, though, is important, because
it recognizes that a device that may have some primary purpose other
than TV cannot become the arbitrary target of NHK rooting around for
more fees. So, as TVs themselves become more primarily Internet devices,
depending on what a higher court decides in the future, this could be
the beginning of the end for NHK and its right to gouge fees from all TV

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[…Article continues]

That said, and while the law is the law, it may surprise you to learn
that unless you particularly want to support NHK there is no compelling
reason to pay them anything at all. Yes, the law says that NHK has the
right to receive fees from every TV owner/household, but it apparently
does not include legal penalties as a means of enforcement. Instead, to
make you subject to legal enforcement, NHK first has to jump a twilight
zone hurdle, which is that they have to get you to sign a contract.
Then, using that contract they will then have the leverage to sue you.

So to stay out of NHK’s clutches the key is for you to sign nothing.

Unfortunately, getting you to sign that contract is what encourages
NHK’s fee collectors to engage in intimidating tactics. There are no end
of social media stories about collectors arriving at residences as late
as 22:00 in the evening, browbeating housewives and teenage kids,
entering the dwelling uninvited, and generally being nasty. This type of
approach by representatives of a state organ is really quite
unacceptable, and significantly contributes to the negative feeling that
people have about NHK.

Further, we have a moral problem paying fees of any type to NHK because
of political manipulation of the broadcaster and the law which empowers
it. Firstly, we have witnessed the loading up of NHK’s board with
conservatives and history revisionists close to PM Abe personally
(Katsuhiko Honda for example was apparently Abe’s elementary school
teacher), and the appointment of conservative businessman Katsuto Momii
as NHK’s president. You’ll remember him as being the guy who baldly
stated in a public interview that NHK should not “…deviate from the
government’s position in its programming.”

Then the Broadcast Law itself has been become a tool to bludgeon
dissenting channels. Rumored threats to hurt NHK’s for-profit
competitors has led the senior management of those companies to
undertake a number of high-profile firings or “coincidental departures”
of popular but tough-on-the-government TV personalities — such as
Hiroko Kuniya of NHK’s Close up Gendai, Ichiro Furutachi of TV Asahi’s
Hodo Station, and Shigetada Kishii of TBS’s News 23. Indeed, government
pressure on conventional media is now so bad that Japan’s ranking in the
Reporters Without Borders press freedom index has slipped from number 26
in 2002 to 72 in 2016. In 71st position, above Japan, is Tanzania.

The press freedom organization makes this statement on its web site

“Don’t mess with state secrets

The Japanese media, which are among the most powerful in the world, are
free to cover what they want except state secrets. This rather vague
category is protected by a very harsh law that deters journalists from
embarking on investigations. The Fukushima nuclear disaster, the
Imperial family’s personal lives and the defense of Japan are all ‘state
secrets’.” [Ed: Fukushima is a state secret? If true, that’s truly

Anyway, enough of politics, back to the farce which is NHK fee policies
and its ability to collect those fees from unwilling TV owners. The
erudite Colin Jones at Doshisha had a great article recently regarding
the judiciary’s view of NHK’s right and ability to force people into
contracts. He says that in October 2013, NHK successfully sued in the
Tokyo High Court to establish its right to unilaterally create a
“contract” with you simply by giving you two week’s notice from the date
of their making a subscription offer. This is whether you agreed to that
contract or not! As Jones says, the two weeks was an entirely arbitrary
number plucked out of thin air by NHK and agreed to by the judges
hearing the case.

However, Jones then goes on to quote another case just two months later,
where the same court but different judges found that NHK could not
unilaterally impose a contract, since there is no such power defined in
the Broadcast Law, nor, for that matter, in NHK’s own contracts. So now
with that impasse NHK will no doubt appeal to the Supreme Court, which
will need to decide which of the two findings should stand. If the
Supreme Court decides to go ahead with increasing NHK’s fee collection
powers, it will in the process be destroying the foundation of civil
contract law, which makes the assumption that since the fees are not a
tax, both parties should have the right to agree to the terms before
signing. That will be an interesting conundrum to pass judgement on…

In the meantime, of course, fewer and fewer people are watching TV
anyway, and with the Abe government muzzling political dissent in
conventional media, anyone wanting to know what others really think are
already turning to the Internet for political news and discourse —
thereby rendering TV irrelevant. It amazes us that Abe and co., don’t
get this very obvious point. So unless they put something in our
drinking water, the only way they will be able to control public opinion
in the future will be to engage in massive online censorship, such as
installing a Japanese version of the great Chinese firewall. However,
given Japan’s reliance on western trade and technology, we doubt we’ll
see this in our lifetimes at least.

…The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

– Exciting new engine tech from Nissan
– Next effort to goose the stock market
– Would you kill for instant ramen?
– Short-sellers in Japan having some success
– Over-enthusiastic cop surveillance in Oita

=> Exciting new engine tech from Nissan

Nissan is getting ready to launch a new petrol-driven internal
combustion engine that promises the performance of a 3.5 liter 6
cylinder engine with a 4-cylinder powerplant of just 2 liters. As a
result, the company will be able to offer an incredible 27% better fuel
economy and a drastically downsized engine profile. The new engine
varies cylinder displacement and thus compression ratio on the fly,
providing a large gain in efficiency depending on load on the engine.
***Ed: This is not a new technology, as Nissan filed a patent around the
idea back in 2001, but it is good to see that the company hasn’t put all
its eggs in the electric vehicle basket – yet.** (Source: TT commentary
from, Aug 15, 2015)

=> Next effort to goose the stock market

The Abe government has been doing all it can to push stock prices up so
as to unleash “animal spirits” by retail investors – thereby drive an
inflationary environment that they hope will spread to the rest of the
economy. The goosing methods are many and varied, including flooding the
stock markets with orders from ETFs receiving funds from the Bank of
Japan; political directives to the world’s largest pension fund, the
GPIF, to buy a ton of local stocks instead of government bonds (which
are being hoovered up by the BoJ); and having other government-related
banks and organizations buy directly into leading stocks. As the next
phase in the stimulation program, the government is going to lift a ban
on margin trading on non-TSE trading platforms for retail investors,
allowing them to buy on credit in evenings and on holidays. ***Ed: This
is like handing out crack (cocaine) to drug addicts. While there are
only two trading platforms today, SBI Japannext and Chi-X Japan, once
this law passes in 2017 there will be dozens more.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Aug 26, 2016)

=> Would you kill for instant ramen?

…Well you might if you’re incarcerated in a US prison. This
interesting read from the Washington Post says that instant ramen is
replacing cigarettes as the underground currency in U.S. prisons.
Apparently because prisons are now cutting food quality and quantity to
keep costs down, hungry prisoners find that instant ramen fills the gap.
It’s cheap, tasty, easy to cook, and “surprisingly non-perishable”.
***Ed: Seems that the biggest challenge is getting hot water in the
cells. ** (Source: TT commentary from, Aug 23, 2016)

=> Short-sellers in Japan having some success

Unlike the legal challenges that short-seller stock traders are
experiencing in Hong Kong, their colleagues in Japan have successfully
pushed down the shares of six different Japanese companies after
releasing negative investment reports about those companies. The latest
hit was on the shares of robotic limbs maker Cyberdyne, which fell by 7%
after a Citron Research press release said Cyberdyne was misleading
investors over technology assets. ***Ed: Perhaps this is a good example
of how sometimes the Japanese have a much more laissez faire attitude to
financial market behavior than elsewhere in Asia.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Aug 18, 2016)

=> Over-enthusiastic cop surveillance in Oita

A bit disturbing to learn that a police team in Beppu set up several
surveillance cameras to monitor a building used by members of a
political opposition party, the SDP, as well the Rengo trade union. An
internal investigation by the force gave up four officers to the
prosecutor’s office after some Rengo members complained about the
cameras to the Oita Prefectural Police. The cops responsible obviously
didn’t think too hard about the political optics of where they placed
them, and they have received pay cuts and reprimands as a result.**Ed:
Of course, no one is saying that there was an order from Kasumigaseki to
spy on the local opposition members, but then, that would probably be a
national secret, wouldn’t it?** (Source: TT commentary from, Aug 28, 2016)

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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Title: “Tokyo Bay Cruise ICA Summer Networking”
Details: Complete event details at
Venue: Tokyo Takeshiba Terminal

Date: September 9th (Friday)
Cost*: ¥3,000 ICA members; ¥4,000 non-members. Special offer on the
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at the members rate!
Note: You must be at Tokyo Bay – Takeshiba Terminal by 6:35pm as the
ship sets sail at 7:00pm sharp. Meeting point is at the Big Ship Mast at
the front and if on arrival you are unable to find this location then
please call 080-4169-9660 ASAP.

RSVP: Tickets will be limited and you must register with the ICA by
September 2nd by 5pm.



=> Asukano Log House Ice Cream, Nara
Sweet relief from the summer heat

I know no heat like a Japanese summer and summer in Nara Prefecture can
be even hotter. The rice fields and mountains of Asuka Village in the
southern part of the Nara Basin offer some relief from the heat of the
city, but not nearly as much as the ice cream and frozen yogurt of the
Log House.

I was on a filming and photography excursion collecting photos and video
of Asuka’s most ancient and significant sites (it is Japan’s first
capital after all). I had just finished up at the Ishibutai, a 7th
century burial mound with a monolithic stone tomb open to the public,
and needed some form of refreshment before moving to the next site. I
had read about the Asukano Log House in a Nara-related newspaper article
and as it was located just across the street from the Ishibutai, I went
there for an ice cream.

I had been expecting a display full of tubs of ice cream and there was,
but next to it was a display with lots of real fruit as well. What a bonus!

“We can grind and mix your choice of fruit with our frozen yogurt,” the
lady working the counter informed me (in Japanese). “Would you like to
try some? All the fruits but the tropical ones came from here in Asuka.”
I asked for chocolate frozen yogurt to be mixed with strawberries.
“Nobody has ever ordered that before,” she told me. “Most people do
vanilla and strawberry.” Nonetheless, she proceeded to fill my order. I
love Asukano, they took my order while other ice cream stores rigidly
follow the menu and flat out refuse requests like mine.

=> DMM Planets x TeamLab in Odaiba
Art and technology unite in a mesmerizing display

In collaboration with DMM Planets, TeamLab has come up with another
amazing art installation for Fuji TV’s summer festival. For an entrance
fee of ¥2000, visitors can experience an otherworldly interactive art
exhibit, incorporating lights, music, and digital art. This year it’s
entitled, “A World of Wonders.”

TeamLab is a collaborative group, made of both creatives and technicians
experimenting with the unification of art, technology, and science. The
group’s works are charged with both creativity and precision, that leave
visitors of all ages in awe. This specific exhibition highlights some of
TeamLab’s most popular works, such as the Crystal Universe.

In the first main room, you may let out a gasp of surprise when you
enter the Crystal Universe. Rows upon rows of lights are lined up in
different forms and clusters, allowing guests to walk through the art
itself. The walls and ground are made of mirrors, which subsequently
create an illusion of infinite lights. In sync with the ambient music,
the lights change hues, zoom throughout different sections of the
installation, and twinkle ever so fluidly.

After taking ample pictures and wandering through the space in awe, many
people sit against a wall in an open space to simply watch the light
show play out from start to end. While many could sit for hours on end
fully experiencing the Crystal Universe, several more exhibitions in the
DMM Planets space wait to be explored. Prepare to get a bit wet in the
next installation though (as well as several of the paths in-between),
as water fills the room up to knee height.



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