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, Oct 21, 2018, Issue No. 966

– What’s New — The Holy Grail of Fermentation – Koji and Cheese Making
– News — Future of Japan’s hotels is villages?
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback – Insider view about Russian hackers
– Travel Picks — Tancho Cranes in Hokkaido, Ramen Competition in Tokyo
– News Credits


+++ The Holy Grail of Fermentation – Koji and Cheese Making

One of Japan’s hidden pearls is its fermented foods culture. We love
the whole concept of fermenting so much that is
planning to start fermented food tours to artisanal factories (i.e.,
no automation and time worn facilities) around Tokyo, Nagoya, and
Osaka. Japanese fermented foods are becoming big business in the USA,
mostly driven by startups in California looking for meat alternatives,
and chefs across the world looking for new tastes.

Probably the best known fermentation products are natto, umeboshi,
sake, various pickled veges, miso, black vinegar, katsuobushi, etc.
But there are some truly unique ones as well. We could have kicked
ourselves for not taking notes, but last year on a visit to Hirosaki
in Aomori, we were served a meal that included a unique fermented fish
dish, where the flesh was inoculated with spores from leaves of trees
that only grow in that part of the country. It was divine.

But while Japanese fermented delights are relatively new tastes in the
west, they are old hat here in Japan. So now the Japanese, especially
older Japanese, are looking for the latest and greatest fermented
product that they can’t already get. Inevitably this is leading to
experimenters here creating foods that are a fusion of east and west,
and which, if they are successful, will probably travel the world as
the next hot food trend. So, watching what is happening in Japan is a
good idea if you’re in the food business or want to offer jaded
western tourists something totally new.

Safely fermented food does offer a host of health benefits, which is
why older Japanese are turning to them with gusto. The most obvious
benefit is that the bacteria in your friendly fermentation inoculate
your gut with prebiotics and probiotics, delivering a payload of
nutrients, enzymes, B-group vitamins, linoleic acid, fiber, and many
other elements. These work together to at least help you deal with
bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and
inflamed bowel. But recent research suggests that a healthy gut
microbiota also alleviates Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis,
Lupus, various skin and kidney problems, chronic fatigue, and perhaps
even ADHD and autism (although there is much debate about this).

[Article continues below…]

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[…Article continues]

Here in Japan, apart from the usual Japanese starters and molds (such
as koji), you can now also buy online – particularly through Yahoo
Auction – most milk-based starters as well. Recently we acquired Milk
Kefir grains, for example, which makes an effervescent yeast drink
with the consistency of yoghurt. But it’s significantly more powerful
for your gut than is yoghurt. What’s left, then, is probably the holy
grail for fermenters in Japan – cheese, especially if that cheese can
have the same consistency as European cheeses, but is imbued an extra
Japanese flavor or bacteria that creates a whole new product.

We recently discovered just such a cheese fermenter on Linked In,
where you can find people with all sorts of interesting and unusual
jobs. This particular fellow lives in Kyushu and after training in
cheese making in France, he has returned to Japan and is now trying to
develop a french-style hard cheese that is cured with koji spores.
This a serious adventure, and following many trials and
disappointments, he is now saying that his first cheese rounds will be
ready March 2019. We can’t wait for the result.

Actually making cheese with Koji has in fact been done before in the
lab, here in Japan. The whitepaper is pretty dry and all the writers
had to say is that one of the batches tasted a bit bitter. It’s
interesting stuff though if you’re into cheese and science. You can
see the white paper here:

So making hard cheese (soft ones are already being done) from milk
using koji cultures does sound possible, although it may take another
couple of years to come to the market. In the meantime, there are a
number of artisanal outfits around Japan making European-style cheeses
then washing them with Koji and other local ingredients. This is
becoming quite popular, and there is a cheese fermentation site in
Japanese which reports the latest developments, as well as giving
primers on each international cheese variety – most of which you of
course can’t get in Japan. Maybe after the trade deal with the EU is
implemented, things will change. The site is here:

But perhaps it doesn’t matter if we are missing out on the European
cheeses because there are some inventors right here in Japan who are
making amazing foods. We came across several interviews on European
cheese sites with John Davis, the self-styled “Cheese Guy” living in
Okinawa. Davis has been living in Japan since 1976, and has some
amazing products. He uses fresh milk from a friendly neighboring
farmer, organic of course, and salt from Aguni Island, where Davis
reckons the best salt in the world comes from. He flavors his cheeses
with local fungi, herbs, Okinawan turmeric (Uchin), and of course
Koji. You can buy his stuff online for very reasonable prices, and
although its sold out, the following Ryukyu Crown koji cheese looks
especially incredible.

This cheese uses Okinawan Kuro Koji, Black koji (Aspergillus oryzae) –
the same spores used to produce awamori. It produces a good volume of
citric acid which helps to prevent the souring of the cheese, as well
as the usual 3 key points of koji, being: i) effectively extracting
the taste and character of the base ingredients, ii) imparting a rich
aroma, and iii) delivering a slightly sweet, mellow taste.

Feeling hungry yet?

…The information janitors/


+++ NEWS

– MVNOs complain of being squeezed
– Japan-based flanker gets exemption to play for All Blacks
– Exports down because of Typhoons, earthquakes
– More details on super-fast missiles
– Future of Japan’s hotels is villages?

=> MVNOs complain of being squeezed

Interesting how even with three separate carriers, Japan’s telcomms
market still looks like a monopoly. A number of low-cost MVNOs have
complained to government that they need lower fees for leasing mobile
phone networks. In particular, they are asking the telecommunications
ministry to intervene and get involved in revising the current pricing
from the three majors. ***Ed: Most of the low-cost MVNO companies are
leasing from NTT, because both KDDI and Softbank are essentially
hostile to third party resellers. With DoCoMo understanding this, it’s
no wonder that they are squeezing the MVNO’s as much as they can.
Nothing has really changed.** (Source: TT commentary from, Oct 19, 2018)

=> Japan-based flanker gets exemption to play for All Blacks

NZ Rugby, the organization that manages among other things the All
Blacks, has decided to break its own rules and allow the inclusion of
a player who is not resident in New Zealand. Flanker Matt Todd has got
the nod as a replacement for injured Sam Cane, even as he is under
contract to Japanese club Panasonic. Apparently the exception was
given both because he is on a short-term contract to the club, and of
course because they need him. ***Ed: The real hero of this news is
Panasonic, which apparently offered to provide Todd a let out just in
case NZ needed him for the All Blacks. Let’s hope that NZ Rugby
remembers to repay the favor in the future.** (Source: TT commentary
from, Oct 20, 2018)

=> Exports down because of Typhoons, earthquakes

Thanks to its diverse geography, natural disasters usually don’t do
much more than increase food prices for a month or two. But this year,
the sheer number of typhoons and earthquakes caused national exports
to fall for the first time in two years. The main causes for the drop
were the two-week closure of the Kansai International Airport, which
accounts for about 7% of export shipments, coupled with power cuts in
Hokkaido. Exports fell 1.2% for the month versus the same period last
year. (Source: TT commentary from, Oct 17, 2018)

=> More details on super-fast missiles

While we reported a while ago on rumors that the Japanese were
developing ramjet missiles that are significantly faster than anything
available today, now there is news that the Ministry of Defense is
also developing ICBM-like rockets with gliding warheads. As with the
ramjets, the Japanese thought process is that they need something with
long reach and fast response should the Chinese decide to invade the
Senkaku Islands. Such weapons would also defang Chinese efforts to
build a large naval force, since missiles are far cheaper than
aircraft carriers to fight with. ***Ed: Actually, we don’t understand
why Japan doesn’t simply assert its sovereignty, something the Trump
government would support, and build a naval base on the Senkakus.**
(Source: TT commentary from, Oct 18, 2018)

=> Future of Japan’s hotels is villages?

The UK’s Guardian newspaper is running an interesting article about a
new hotel in Kyoto called the Enso Ango. Apparently the facility is
the one of a spread of buildings that will be interspersed throughout
the downtown area, between Shijo and Gojo, and which together comprise
a single hotel. The idea is that while guests may stay in one
facility, they will walk the neighborhood to get to the bar, or for
breakfast, or to shop for souvenirs. The hotel’s owner reckons the
concept will get guests out into the neighborhood and rubbing
shoulders with locals. ***Ed: Not sure that I’d want to walk for
breakfast, I’m already feeling seedy as it is, but this idea of a
dispersed set of buildings would certainly appeal to regional areas
that don’t have enough money to splash out on a single big facility.**
(Source: TT commentary from, Oct 18, 2018)

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 upcoming events this week.


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=> In TT-964 we posited that Japan is relatively safer from hacking
than English-speaking countries, because of language and limited
access to sensitive areas. One reader strong disagrees with us, and
makes some good points.

*** Reader:

Well, first of all, those four Russians arrested in Europe were never
verified that they tried to hack something. More likely there was a
political motivation behind the British saying that they were doing
something bad. From the evidence provided to the public, a reasonable
person would say that the Brits can only prove that “it is HIGHLY
LIKELY the Russians did it”. Remember that it wasn’t so long ago that
Colin Powell declared to the UN and the world that there was
incontrovertible evidence Sadam had chemical weapons. The
disinformation machine isn’t just a Russian invention. So at least it
would be more respectful of you not to make such big assumptions in
your newsletter, about Russia.

Second. I don’t agree with you on the safety of Japanese vendors
(especially NEC). NEC employs dozens of Russian IT guys to make
software for its hardware – because as we all know, and as you stated,
the Japanese generally SUCK at software. I’m aware of NEC recently
hiring a team of about 20 Russians to make a code for their
internet/comms devices. Who can be sure there won’t be any backdoors,
certainly not the management at NEC.

Rakuten is another Japanese vendor that’s a leaky sieve. After trying
to become one of the biggest mobile phone operators in Japan and
failing, they then hired a RUSSIAN IT company to make all their
software – again a team of about 20 people. The work includes
homepages, MNP, back office software, etc… So if you believe in
Russian hackers, you should also believe that the Japanese
communications network can be compromised by the Russians. That
doesn’t sound secure to me.

BTW, I think the Rakuten supplier (subcontracted via NEC) is Net
Cracker. They are registered in Florida, but the actual office is in
Moscow and at least 20 guys I know are Russians!



=> The God of the Marsh
The story of Japan’s red-crowned crane

The “God of the Marsh”, the “Red Crowns”, or simply, the Japanese
Crane – who can deny the beauty of their red-on-white plumage,
graceful bearing and hypnotic pair dance?

The crane has traditionally played an important part in Japanese
culture, being associated with qualities such as longevity and
fidelity. Legend has some cranes living for 1,000 years, and that
folding one thousand paper cranes will make a wish come true. This
auspicious symbolism has persisted through to popular culture, and it
features today in various guises from the official logo of Japan
Airlines to the Series D 1000 yen banknote.

While the Tancho crane now enjoys a protected status, it has not
always been the case. In the Meiji era, Japan’s largest bird was
hunted almost to extinction. Eventually, a small population was
discovered in the Hokkaido marshlands, after which the government
designated the marsh as a national park to conserve the population of
precious birds.
Today, they are still one of the rarest crane species in the world. Of
a global population numbering 2,800, 1,500 live in Japan, two thirds
of which live in Hokkaido’s Kushiro Marsh.

=> Tokyo Ramen Show
Forty ramen shops from around Japan descend on Tokyo

Did you know that every year, Tokyo’s top ramen shops do a cook off to
see who is the favorite with the crowds? This year the Tokyo Ramen
Show will be at the Komazawa stadium used for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics,
and will feature around 40 stores vying for your attention and your
taste buds. Take your pick of the many shoyu, tonkotsu and shio bowls
available – each one is available from JPY850. Ramen fans who don’t
have the time to visit their favorites around Japan won’t want to miss

Perhaps even more impressive than the fact that you can spend 11 hours
eating ramen, is that fact that the event runs for 11 whole days…!
[Ed: Someone likes the number “11”, given that the event will wrap up
in November.]

Venue: Komazawa Olympic Park When: Oct 26th – Nov 5th 2018 , 10:00am – 9:00pm



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