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, Dec 10, 2017, Issue No. 926

– What’s New — Masters of Japan’s Beach Trash Universe – the Bonzi’s
– News — New overseas organ transplant fund
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback — More trash comments, including Yakuza roles
– Travel Picks — Spectacular illuminations in Mie, Doll-making center
in Saitama
– News Credits

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Masters of Japan’s Beach Trash Universe – the Bonzi’s

Last week we ran a piece on how communities in Ishikawa Prefecture lost
the chance to host some high-end cycling tours next year, because of the
ugly concentration of trash along their shorelines. We had a great
reaction from readers and you can read some of the responses in the
Feedback section below.

However, one response in particular reminded us that as non-Japanese
living here, with the high profile that comes from being different, we
can play a pivotal role in helping to make things better. Additionally,
if we play our cards right, we can even build a business around being
civic-minded residents. Such is the case with Alana and Michael Bonzi,
who since 2001 have run several family businesses in Fujisawa (south of
Tokyo and certainly right on the coast) and who lead a massive beach
cleanup each year.

Actually the Bonzi’s are a classic study in how non-Japanese can carve
out a productive life for themselves even outside the big metropolis.
Michel is from Nice, France, and Alana is a Trinidad & Tobago/Canadian
dual citizen. The couple are well known in Fujisawa and offer French
language and French cooking lessons through their school, Soleil
Provence. They also offer home stays and professional apprenticeships
for pastry chefs, bakers, and cuisiniers in France, and more recently
(and connected to their oceanside public works) they are the Japanese
distributor for Tiwal sailing dinghies.

We ran a short interview with Alana, to find out more about their beach
clean up activities.


TT: When did you get started with the Fujisawa Beach Cleaning Project?

Alana: In October 2009, we started the Fujisawa Beach Cleaning Project.
In 2008, we bought our house in Fujisawa, becoming de facto members of
the local community. Many of the students at Soleil Provence, our French
language school, live and work in the local area, so as two foreigners,
as local business owners, we were looking for a way to give back to the
community. Our house is 800m from the sea and the marine environment has
been really part of our lives, so beach cleaning came naturally to us.
The difference has been how to make it connect to our communities – both
foreign and local – and make it family friendly and easy to understand.

Luckily, everyone understands a clean beach and everyone loves to make
new friends. So we added a French touch, with a networking aperitif
after the actual cleanup. Now, in 2017, the cleanup is a biannual
activity (in the Spring and Fall, before and after the peak “umi no ie”
season). Our Fall beach cleanup is also part of Ocean Conservancy’s
International Coast Cleanup Campaign, which takes place in 112 countries.

TT: Almost 10 years later, you have tremendous community interest in the
project don’t you?

Alana: Yes, absolutely. Working with primarily foreign companies who
sponsor their employees and families as a CSR activity, we contribute
about 600+ volunteers to each cleanup. Of course it’s not just us. All
over Kanagawa in 2016, 161,671 volunteers participated in beach
cleanups, removing an amazing 2,557 tons of beach litter! That number
includes Kamakura (968 tons) and Fujisawa (572 tons).

TT: Where is that trash coming from?

Alana: According to the Kanagawa Prefectural Coastal Foundation, of
which we are members, 30% of the garbage found on the beach is generated
on site. The rest comes from waterways, runoffs etc. This is not just
from the sea, but also inland. As would be expected, the bulk of this
washes up after typhoons and other storms.

We haven’t yet seen any specific statistics on sea-borne debris for
Japan, but just anecdotally, in 30 minutes of sailing in our Tiwal [Ed:
a 3.2m French-made dinghy they are selling in Japan] in Hayama early
one August morning, it was easy for us to collect one large bag of
floating debris. This has led us to include an ocean cleaning component
via a our Community Youth Sailing Program.

Our plan is to use the dinghies like floating labs/classrooms to
incorporate marine education as well as STEAM education for Japanese and
international students. In the off-season we plan to move students from
crewing sail boats to building model sailboats – thus offering a
stimulating way to learn tech and coding skills as well.

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[…Article continues]

TT: Mobilizing thousands of people must be expensive, do you get
government support?

Alana: Nationally, local governments get about JPY3bn for beach and
ocean cleaning. That’s for this current fiscal year, 2017.

TT: You’ve also spoken publicly about a lesser known beach pollution

Alana: Yes, the Japanese public is practically ignorant of the threat of
microfibers in our waterways. According to the Ocean Conservancy,
microfiber pollution is a serious problem. This is caused when tiny
plastic particles are released as we wash clothes made from synthetic
materials like polyester.

TT: How do potential corporate sponsors contact you?

Alana: Most of our projects now run under the Tokyo2020 Sankaku banner,
and they can start by visiting us at: [SEGO URL]

As well, they can watch a short video that we took last April: [Cleanup video]

TT: What is SEGO Initiative?

Alana: It’s a not-for-profit “shadan hojin” we launched in 2014. The
goal is to create more opportunities for corporate-community engagement.
Recently we have been developing an organic farming project in Shonan,
but the Fujisawa Beach Cleaning Project remains our flagship and we
continue to actively expand this project. As an NPO SEGO makes it a
little bit easier for us to qualify for employee giving/corporate
matching programs. We have been recently accepted by Techsoup (low cost
software/ hardware) and Benevity (Apple Matching Gifts Program).

Further, since we are based in Fujisawa (official Tokyo2020 Olympic
venue), SEGO is now part of the Tokyo2020 Sankaku Program for our local
area. With the Games fast approaching, we now have the credibility to
approach brands and corporate supporters who would like to participate
from both a CSR and a marketing perspective. BTW, in case you are
wondering, SEGO stands for themes and concepts in French as well as
English: Sustainability (Solidarité), Environment/Education
(Environment/Education), Global Citizenship (Générosité), Outdoors/
Open-Mindedness (Ouverture d’esprit)

TT: What was the strangest/most interesting trash you found washed up on
Shonan’s beaches?

Alana: The strangest was a television that washed up in Fall 2011, along
with lots and lots of car tires. I’m guessing, given the timing, that
these came from the Tohoku disaster.

TT: What’s the most common trash?

Alana: Sadly, cigarette butts on a non smoking beach…

[Ed: End of interview.]

Next week will be our last Take for 2017, before going on holiday for 4
weeks. As we start the countdown for Christmas and the New Year, it’s
appropriate that we spare a thought for those less fortunate than
ourselves, with the help of another selfless member of the foreign
community, Charles McJilton and his Second Harvest program, which feeds
the homeless and poverty-stricken in Japan.

As Charles notes frequently in the media, poverty in Japan is not,
despite western media reports, really about homelessness. In the last
five years the number of those living on the street has dropped from
15,000 to less than 6,000 – and this is nationally, not just Tokyo.
However, not all is good news. There are nearly 20 million people living
below the poverty line in Japan, with 13 million of them living on less
than JPY100,000 per month.

At the same time, Japan destroys over 5m tons of unexpired, perfectly
edible food each year (the equivalent of 13bn meals). The challenge is
the lack of infrastructure to get this surplus to those in need. Unlike
New York City (for example) with 1,100 places to access emergency
groceries each week, Tokyo only has 10 weekly distributions (not
including groups handing out onigiri in parks). Even Hong Kong nearby
has 160 distributions. Second Harvest Japan is the largest food
re-distributor here, doing five weekly distributions of its own and
supplying food to another five organizations.

While you make plans for your own Christmas/New Year’s break, you can
help make the festive season a bit nicer for stressed local families by
donating to Second Harvest Japan. Right now they are running a campaign
called “No Hunger for Holidays” where every JPY1,000 you donate
facilitates the delivery of 40 meals. Additionally, 2HJ is also looking
for churches, temples and other NPO locations to host a distribution.
They have an immense amount of food available to them, but lack
distribution points. If you are interested, send an email to their CEO
Charles McJilton ( [2HJ site, that goes straight to the campaign]

Lastly, you can catch Charles and the team on an hour-long TV program on
December 14th (Thursday) on Cambria Kyuten hosted by Nobel Prize
laureate Ryu Murakami. [URL for TV program]

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+++ NEWS

– New overseas organ transplant fund
– One-year startup visa – much ado about nothing
– Bureaucrats to to start “appropriating” unclaimed land
– BoJ stock pumping may slow down in 2018
– Japan-EU finalize trade deal

=> New overseas organ transplant fund

Due to the fact that there are only about 100 organ donations a year in
Japan, and yet 14,000 sick people in need of transplants, most
transplant patients are traveling abroad to receive surgery. As a
result, only wealthy patients can afford transplants as an option
because on average the cost is JPY200m~JPY300m per operation. The health
ministry is now considering paying up to JPY10m of the expenses incurred
for such operations, so as to give hope to a greater range of patients
looking for replacement organs. ***Ed: While it’s good that the health
ministry is being realistic about overseas transplants, we wonder why
they don’t address the real problem – which is why only 100 organs in
all of Japan are made available each year?** (Source: TT commentary from, Dec 10, 2017)

=> One-year startup visa – much ado about nothing

The Japanese government is apparently getting ready to create a
nationwide one-year visa option, to allow young entrepreneurs to gain
access to Japan to start new companies. Currently there is already a
so-called “entrepreneur visa” but it’s only for 6 months, and is only
available in Tokyo and Fukuoka. Like the 6-month option, the incoming
entrepreneur will need to have a business plan, open an office, hire two
or more permanent employees OR have investments exceeding JPY5m in
Japan. ***Ed: While Japan says it is trying to make it easier to let
foreigners gain a foothold here, the reality is that this entrepreneur
visa is virtually the same as a Business Manager visa, but without the
benefit of a 3-year launch pad. So what’s all the fuss about? It’s still
more beneficial to get a Business Manager visa.** (Source: TT commentary
from, Dec 8, 2017)

=> Bureaucrats to to start “appropriating” unclaimed land

Japan’s archaic land inheritance laws coupled with punitive taxes on
unused land practically guarantee the increase of unclaimed property
around the country. As a result, apparently about 11% of Japan’s land
area is currently unclaimed. The ministry of land is now looking at new
legislation which will allow national and local authorities to skirt the
normal procedures to appropriate unclaimed land and make it available
for “the public good”. Practically this means appropriation for any
purpose other than business or residential. ***Ed: We find this to be a
troubling development. Although the current system is terrible, in that
tracking down the dozens of potential claimants of a plot when someone
dies is both time consuming and expensive (it happened to our Kyushu
family recently), the idea that local authorities can simply take the
land themselves will surely create conflicts of interest. Japanese
public authorities have a poor track record of respecting the public
good and instead are prone to feathering their own nests. City and Ward
offices putting up holiday condos in the countryside for their
residents, but which are hard to reserve, is a good example.** (Source:
TT commentary from, Dec 10, 2017)

=> BoJ stock pumping may slow down in 2018

Financial analysts are predicting that the Bank of Japan will
substantially reduce its stock buying program, which it has been
conducting through local Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). The currently
JPY6trn in annual stock purchases, which has been criticized for
distorting the market (you think?), may fall by 30% to 50%. The BOJ cuts
follow a substantial recovery in the Japanese stock market, which is now
trading at its highest prices in 26 years. ***Ed: We always found it
strange that the public would buy into the concept of a “recovering”
stock market, when it so obvious that the increased prices are a direct
result of the BOJ (essentially the JP government) pumping the best part
of US$200bn into the markets over the last 3 years. Without this, the
markets would most certainly be a smoldering heap.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Dec 10, 2017)

=> Japan-EU finalize trade deal

Even as the USA becomes more protectionist, the rest of the world still
sees trade deregulation as essential to the health of the economy. Such
is the thinking of Japan and the EU, which have arrived at a set of
mutually agreeable trade measures to show the USA how it’s done. ***Ed:
Essentially the agreement is the reduction of trade barriers for cars
(into the EU) in exchange for easier access for soft cheese and pork
(into Japan). We feel this is really just a politically cosmetic
exercise, but still, for those of us partial to Camembert and brie,
we’ll be happy to see prices fall by 30% or more.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Dec 10, 2017)

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.



No events this week.


Lots of feedback to our beach trash article last week.

Reader 1:
Hi Terrie – loved the article – I was visiting my in-laws in Katsuura
over the summer and was saddened by how much trash there was on the
beach. The surfers love the high tides but seem to leave a lot of waste
behind. Maybe it is washing up from the ocean – who knows? I was also
surprised that there were no trash cans nearby. I hope that this article
can raise awareness about this issue.

Reader 2:
I recall being at Kumei jima – one of the Okinawa Islands a year ago and
I was astounded at the amount of plastic and rubbish on the beach. So
being a good Aussie, I started collecting it in boxes – masses of boxes
and sorted out the recyclables and separated all. The Japanese I met
while I was collecting the rubbish on the beach or in the sea thanked me
BUT no one offered to help like in Oz! It goes without saying that I
also have not seen as much junk on Aussie beaches.

Reader 3:
Pollution of the oceans is a global phenomenon as far as I can gather
but then I haven’t been to a Japanese beach for ages…

Tokyo is reasonably clean because through peer-group pressure each
property owner cleans in front of their property. Further, most people
walking in the streets would be ashamed if seen throwing garbage.
However, after the subway gas attack 20+ years ago the authorities
decided to remove all the public garbage bins in Tokyo of fear for such
places could hide bombs, gas, whatever. Fast forward a few years and we
find that garbage bins did return to subway/train stations but not in
any great abundance and even in heavily trafficked Tokyo Station, they
can be hard to find. I don’t know
if more garbage bins would help improve the situation, but at least the
big cities in Europe have trash receptacles everywhere – in the streets
and even on the beaches. A further ugliness is that in Tokyo drivers
have no problem throwing garbage or cigarette butts out of the car when
stopping for red lights.

Reader 4:
Related to latest edition I saw this recently: The smaller video pane
with David Attenborough (run time is: 1min) [D. Attenborough video]

I recall, too, being quite shocked while at a beach in Okinawa a couple
of years ago, at all the flotsam and jetsam from locations unknown that
was washed up on shore (despite my being an enthusiast as a beach-comber…)

Reader 5:
Three years ago, in the summer of 2014, I had several irritating
experiences in a row regarding trash and being a tourist. The first was
at a famous tourist spot on the Sea of Japan. To get to that spot, you
have to walk through a gauntlet of about a hundred shops selling food,
drinks, souvenirs, etc. There were zero trash cans… none, anywhere.
Not in the shops, not in the stores, not in the parking lot, not even in
the restrooms. Curious, I made dozens of inquiries and was told by
everyone I asked, including one booth that sold me a yakitori stick but
refused to accept the stick back, that I was supposed to “take it back.”
Take back to where, I asked everyone… Iowa? All I got was blank looks
and the stock answer “That’s the way it is,” with no one able to tell me
who decided it, or why. Meanwhile, I was horrified, but not surprised,
to find out where most of the garbage was going. That’s right: on the
beach, all over the famous tourist spot, ruining it to a great extent.
In the end, I literally wound up taking that yakitori stick back home to
Nagoya, maybe 4 hours’ drive away!

Another was a family picnic at a park in Gifu. Attendees included my
in-laws from Yokohama and family friends from Kansai. We all rented, at
considerable cost, a BBQ pit in a lovely area that, curiously, we had
almost all to ourselves. We bought a huge amount of our food and drinks
at a Circle K about 5 km away. After our BBQ, which was great, we were
stunned to discover that there was no waste disposal in the park. None.
Zero. There were 8 of us and a dog in a minivan, with no room for an
extra beer can, and we were staying in a ryokan about an hour’s drive
away. We returned to the Circle K, although it was out of our way, but
despite having bought most of our stuff there we were told that we could
not throw away even the trash from what we had just bought, such as
empty beer cans! (It is for this reason, BTW, that I no longer shop at
Circle K if I can help it. Now, it turns out, they’re being bought out
by Family Mart…and I like to think it’s because of their unhelpful,
rude, and customer-unfriendly trash policy).

We finally had to take two huge sacks full of trash back to our ryokan,
which at first refused to accept any of it, and could tell us of nowhere
in the prefecture we could take it (again, they insisted we should “take
it home with us”). Things got a little heated and in the end they
relented after we threatened to leave (we still had two more nights
there). At every stop: in the park, at Circle K, at rest areas, we heard
the same refrain, repeated as if everyone had been taught by the same
instructor: “Take it back with you.” To where, we asked again. Yokohama?
Kobe? Gifu? To that, no one had an answer.

Long story short, since I get to do research for a living, I spent about
a month doing some research on trash disposal in Central Japan. I
quickly learned that garbage disposal is something that no one — and I
mean no one — wants to talk about. In part, apparently, this is because
the industry, in all of Japan’s large cities where the matter is quite
well regulated and paid for, is apparently largely set aside for, ahem,
segments of the population that are socially taboo (frequent readers
will know what I’m talking about). Plus, it’s just not really a “cool”
subject, although frankly, given the state of the planet, the state of
the trash market, and all of the possible business opportunities that
exist, it ought to be.

Anyway, and after being blown off and ignored by dozens of private
companies, third sector parties, and local governments, a special tip
led to a big part of what I suspect is the ultimate answer. Until about
15 or 20 years ago, apparently, garbage disposal outside of Japan’s big
cities was something that was virtually “set aside” for Japan’s
organized crime (yes, the yakuza). They took care of the problem for a
reasonable price and no one asked any questions. Two things changed all
this. First, with globalization, a realization that doing business with
gangsters (especially if you were a local government entity) was bad PR,
leading, as we all know, to a slow but steady pushing of Japan’s less
reputable organizations off to the side. Two, several high-profile
scandals brought to the surface what everyone already knew: some of the
trash was being disposed of properly, yes, but much of it was simply
being dumped in out-of-the-way places, which a growing popular consensus
agreed had to stop.

So, over the last decade or so, the yakuza have been pushed out of the
trash business. However, local governments have subsequently found out
that legitimate trash disposal is very, VERY expensive, no one else
wants to do it, and no one wants to pay for it (the taxpayers). So the
“answer” has become to simply tell everyone to “take it home.” With odd
timing, if that’s was it was, 9/11 and a heightened fear of terrorist
attacks provided a terrific excuse for everyone who wanted to to get out
of the trash business. Instantly, almost overnight, 99% of Japan’s
garbage cans in public places vanished: parks, stations, and restrooms,
tourist spots, everywhere. Rather than deal creatively with the problem,
the powers that be told everyone to merely tell everyone else to “Take
it home with you,” without any consideration at all for tourists,
travelers, or even locals who might have more than a can or two.

Bottom line: trash disposal in Japan is a huge problem that suffers from
several structural barriers to solution. First, it’s taboo and no one
will talk about it willingly. Second, now that the “Just take it home
with you” mindset is firmly entrenched, it will be hard to get rid of it
(this does not bode well for leisure, tourism, travel, parks, and many
other things). Thirdly and perhaps most depressingly, it throws a harsh
spotlight on the lack of critical thinking in this society. Many of the
non-answers I received to my research questions — including from some
very senior people — were stupifyingly illogical and unhelpful. When I
pushed back, using logic (my Japanese is pretty good), instead of a
reasoned reply I always got instead a look or response that meant: “I
don’t want to think about it, I don’t want to take any responsibility
for it, I certainly don’t want to put any effort into it, and what I
want most of all is for you to go away so that I may continue to ignore
the entire thing as I have been doing happily until now…”



=> Nabana No Sato Winter Illuminations, Mie
Be amazed by a spectacular show of lights

Winter is here and one of Japan’s best illuminations displays is Nabana
No Sato, in Mie prefecture. Even though these light-up events have been
ongoing annually for more than ten years, visitors are still mostly from
within Japan, and Nabana is not yet popular internationally. With more
than 8 million LED lights, there is certainly no holding back, turning
the area into a massive winter wonderland. Illuminations in most cities
are usually constrained by lack of space, but Nabana No Sato has a
massive amount of space to showcase their skills.

The theme changes every year, and this year the popular Kumamon
character from Kumamoto prefecture is the star of the show. Previous
themes include “Nature”, “Waterfalls”, “Aurora” and “Flowers”.

Upon entry, you will be awestruck by the vast amount of lights, and the
urge to start taking masses of photos will begin. There is a recommended
route to follow, and as you move forward the lights get more and more
amazing. One feature that remains every year is the tunnel of lights, a
very popular photo spot, whereby you can walk through a tunnel
surrounded by colored lights, which stretches for 200 meters. A new
addition in recent times is the sakura light tunnel. Shorter at 100
meters, it is beautifully decorated with pink LED lights.

=> Iwatsuki Doll History Museum, Saitama
Traditional and modern examples of the doll making art

You can meet elegant court ladies, fierce warriors, sweetly smiling
babies, shrine maidens, feudal lords, entertainers, and people in period
dress – all in Iwatsuki Ward, Saitama City, which is the historic home
to Japanese doll making. Iwatsuki Ward is actually a former castle town
that has been the center of the nation’s doll-making industry since the
17th century. Today, the town has hundreds of shops displaying the works
of local doll makers who produce everything from charming folk art to
great masterpieces of doll making.

For example, immediately outside Iwatsuki Station is the Togoku Doll
Museum on the fourth floor of the station front building. This museum
displays rare and historical dolls that document the changing styles of
doll making over the centuries. The museum features imperial court
dolls, hina (girl’s festival) dolls, and works by contemporary doll
artisans. Admission to the museum is just JPY100.



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