Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 13 & 14, 2023

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Passengers from Shanghai wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at Narita Airport in January. | KYODO

Update on Japan

Japan will end the current border control measures on travelers from overseas on 8 May in line with its decision to categorize COVID-19 as a common disease the same day, the government said Monday 3 April, in a major shift toward normalizing social and economic activities.

The government will simultaneously start a new genomic surveillance program, under which entrants with symptoms such as fever are tested voluntarily, with the aim of detecting new infectious diseases. Currently, all entrants are required to present certification of three COVID-19 doses or a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure.

The end of the COVID-19 border controls, first introduced in February 2020 and considered by some the most stringent among the Group of Seven industrialized nations, is expected to help revive inbound tourism to Japan. In November 2021, Japan tightened border controls by barring the entry of nonresident foreigners and requiring returning Japanese nationals and foreign residents to quarantine at designated facilities as the country began seeing cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Initially implemented for a month, the control measures were later extended, sparking protests from foreign exchange students and business people. The country started gradually easing the daily entry cap in March 2022 before completely lifting it in October of that year.

Travelers arriving at five major airports — Narita, Haneda, Chubu, Kansai and Fukuoka — will be subject to the new framework, which is set to start when the legal status of COVID-19 is downgraded to the same category as seasonal influenza early next month. It takes about a few weeks for genomic test takers to get the results, according to government officials.

Ahead of the across-the-board lifting of border control measures, Japan will ease those on all arrivals from mainland China from Wednesday and give them the option of entering the country by presenting proof of being inoculated with three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, all visitors from mainland China must present proof of a negative coronavirus test taken 72 hours or less before departure.

In late December, Japan introduced blanket COVID-19 testing for all arrivals from mainland China amid an explosion in infections in the country after Beijing drastically relaxed its stringent “zero-COVID” policy that had involved lockdowns and quarantines. In early January, it further tightened border controls for visitors from the region by requiring proof of a negative test.

In March, however, the Japanese government ended the blanket testing for such visitors but started random testing at airports after finding that the number of those testing positive for COVID-19 had dropped.

Cashless payments have grown to account for more than one-third of all consumption in Japan, fueled by the demand for touchless purchasing options during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cashless purchasing reached 111 trillion yen (€765 billion) in 2022, according to data from the Bank of Japan, the Japan Consumer Credit Association and the Payments Japan Association. The 17% annual gain lifted the total above 100 trillion yen for the first time. While 36% of consumption in cash-loving Japan was covered by these payments last year, the share remains below that of Western markets, where the cashless ratio hovers around 60%. But Japan’s usage rate continues to climb.

Such payments in Japan are defined as purchases made through credit cards, debit cards, QR code apps like PayPay and prepaid e-money such as transit cards. Credit cards are the most popular option, rising 16% last year to 93.7 trillion yen. QR code payments jumped by 50% to 7.9 trillion yen, while e-money climbed by 2% to 6 trillion yen. QR platforms surpassed e-money payments for the first time last year. Debit card payments rose 19% to 3.2 trillion yen.

The yearly cost to maintain infrastructure for cash payments has swelled to 2.8 trillion yen, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry estimates. That includes the expense to keep money in registers and ATMs.

The pandemic sparked dramatic growth in cashless payments. Shuji Kobayakawa, professor of economics at Meiji University in Tokyo, said that “more people are avoiding handling coins.” The volume of coins in circulation during February was down 2% from the end of March 2020, the Bank of Japan reports.

The reopening of Japan’s economy has more people going out and spending. The use of e-money gained last year for the first time since 2019, after shrinking since the pandemic began.

Companies have responded by installing touchless payment terminals. Japan had 7.07 million prepaid e-money terminals at the end of December, roughly triple from five years earlier.

“The expansion had focused mainly on shopping areas within train stations, but now there are new units being added across cities and in outlying areas,” a representative from East Japan Railway said.

Japan this month began allowing digital wallets to receive direct deposits of paychecks without going through a bank account. But 60% of people do not expect to use that feature, the industry ministry survey found. Though digital wallet direct deposits are expected to catalyze the growth of the cashless economy, it likely will take time before that practice becomes common.

Japan’s major convenience store chains say they will stock more affordable items as soaring prices prompt consumers to spend less. They had been reluctant to give discounts up to now, but the highest inflation in decades has forced them to review their sales strategies.

Seven-Eleven Japan said on Wednesday it will boost its line-up of low-priced private label goods. Bread, tofu and other items that had only been sold at the group’s supermarkets will also be available at its convenience stores.

Aoyama Seiichi, the director responsible for merchandizing strategy at Seven-Eleven Japan, said he wants customers to know that not everything sold at convenience stores is expensive, and the company will continue taking this approach.

Rival chain Lawson says it will offer low-priced items such as cosmetics and stationery at all its outlets in Japan in a tie-up with major retail chain Ryohin Keikaku, better known by its Muji brand.

Its subsidiary Lawson Store100 that sells food items for about a dollar, will increase its line-up of sweets and other products. FamilyMart says it plans to reduce the price of toilet paper and other basic goods.

A section of one of Japan’s busiest expressways connecting Tokyo and Nagoya will be set aside for self-driving trucks in fiscal 2024  as part of government plans to cope with a severe shortage of drivers in this rapidly aging nation.

The self-driving lane will run along a section of the Shin-Tomei Expressway, covering some 100 kilometers between Numazu and Hamamatsu — two cities south of Mount Fuji — sources told Nikkei. The idea assumes demand at night for cargo transport on driverless trucks, and is part of a road map for national digital infrastructure due to be presented by the government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

A major component in the blueprint is an example of the push for labor-saving technologies that anticipates a sharp population drop in the coming years.

The Numazu-Hamamatsu section is long and straight with three lanes on each side, and well suited for use by autonomous vehicles. It has not been decided if the lane should also be open to driven vehicles.

Driverless lanes require sensors and cameras at short intervals to enable real-time monitoring of road conditions. If fallen objects or other obstacles are detected, approaching vehicles can be alerted to slow down.

Detailed rules regarding the installation of sensors and driving rules will be worked out by the transport ministry, the industry ministry and the expressway operator.

5G communication networks will be needed along the route, including along elevated stretches, for real-time information transmission.

The project will contribute to developing self-driving technology in Japan where momentum has been lost lately because of the lack of legal clarity on advanced automation levels and the lack of necessary road infrastructure.

Level 4 automation allows autonomous vehicles to perform all driving tasks under specific circumstances, and will be permitted from next month.

Businesses are looking to launch new services in anticipation of the rule change. Trading house Mitsui, for instance, is planning to introduce a logistics service using large driverless trucks in fiscal 2026.

Kyocera will invest 62 billion yen (€427 million) on a new plant for semiconductor-related components, the Japanese electronics manufacturer said Wednesday 5 April, building its first domestic production facility in two decades.

Kyocera breaks ground on the plant later this fiscal year in Isahaya, a city in Nagasaki prefecture. The 62 billion yen is earmarked for a six-year period through March 2029. “We will capture the market for advanced semiconductor components, a market that will double in the medium to long term,” President Hideo Tanimoto told a press conference in the city of Nagasaki.

Construction is slated to finish before April 2026, with operations beginning the following year. The factory will produce fine ceramic components for chipmaking machinery, as well as packaging materials for advanced semiconductors. The plant is projected to produce 25 billion yen in value in fiscal 2028. It will be the company’s first domestic facility since the Ayabe plant that opened in Kyoto prefecture in 2005.

As semiconductor nodes shrink to the size of a few nanometers, their production requires increasingly complex processes. This creates growing demand for ceramic components for photolithography systems. Compared with metal components, ceramic is more resistant to thermal expansion and corrosion.

Kyocera commands global shares of 70%-80% for a range of ceramic components. To date, the company has responded to demand by expanding capacity at flagship plants in the Kyushu island prefecture of Kagoshima and elsewhere. But “there is a likelihood that we’ll not find enough personnel going forward,” Tanimoto said of the existing factories. Kyocera chose Isahaya for the new plant because of convenient transit systems and the availability of semiconductor professionals in the area.

Isahaya, also on the island of Kyushu, is home to a smartphone image sensor production complex operated by Sony Group. Nagasaki Gov. Kengo Oishi, who appeared at the news conference with Tanimoto, wants to turn the prefecture into the nation’s second-largest semiconductor hub after nearby Kumamoto prefecture.

“I want to enhance the synergy of the semiconductor industry by focusing on bringing related businesses and developing human resources,” Oishi said.

Kyocera plans 900 billion yen in overall capital expenditures over three years through March 2026, roughly double the amount spent in the previous three years. Half of the capex is being devoted to the semiconductor-related business.

By fiscal 2028, Kyocera seeks to reap 1 trillion yen in sales from its Core Components segment, which makes semiconductor-related materials, up 90% from fiscal 2021.

In fiscal 2021, packaging components accounted for roughly 60% of the segment’s revenue. The global market for semiconductor packaging will expand 48% to about 13.6 trillion yen in 2028 compared with 2021, the Fuji Chimera Research Institute in Tokyo reports.

Update on the Netherlands

“A terrible accident,” Dutch PM Mark Rutte said about the train crash in Voorschoten.

On the track near Voorschoten, a passenger train and a freight train collided with a construction crane in the night of 3 to 4 April. The crane driver was killed and dozens of people were injured. Until 18 April, no trains will run between The Hague and Leiden.

One of the two trainsets was still on the track after the accident. The other train set was straightened on Monday afternoon by two cranes from the lifting and transport company Mammoet. That got new wheelsets.

Lifting the train set, which weighs between 40,000 and 90,000 kilograms, was done very carefully and slowly. The installations that Mammoet needs to store the trains together weigh about 1 million kilos, the spokesperson told

The trains are still packed before departure and are then driven to the nearby station of The Hague Mariahoeve to turn around. They then drive on to their final destination Amersfoort.

Cleaning up the two trains that are in the meadow has been postponed to Tuesday evening due to strong winds, the spokesperson says. “The expectation is that the wind will die down.” It would then be possible to hoist safely again.

The two trains in the meadow will be taken to a nearby company on a special platform. There they are loaded onto special trucks and then transported to Amersfoort.

Once all trains have been recovered, ProRail can begin repairing the track, platform, overhead lines and underground safety systems. A plan is now being drawn up for this.

There will be no trains between The Hague and Leiden until at least April 18. According to ProRail, that time is needed to completely clear and repair the track at Voorschoten.


On Wednesday 5 April, a Dutch court overruled a government plan to cap flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport at 460,000 in 2023 – 2024. 

KLM had filed a lawsuit against the state and was supported by several airlines. According to the companies, there are other ways to limit emissions and noise nuisance than shrinking, such as focusing on quieter aircraft.

They also pointed to European rules that would have been violated. The judge agrees, the cabinet has not gone through the correct procedure. According to European rules, the decision to shrink may only be taken if all parties have been consulted, the measures against noise nuisance have been mapped out and it has also become apparent that these measures are insufficiently effective.

The government has started these procedures, but can only complete them before 2026. The court’s ruling would therefore delay the reduction in the number of flight movements.

The State is appealing against the ruling. “The ruling is not in the interest of the people living near Schiphol,” Minister Mark Harbers (Infrastructure) explains in a letter to the House of Representatives.

Schiphol, wholly owned by the State, had already presented a plan a few days before the ruling to reduce the number of night flights and flights by private jets within two years in order to reduce noise nuisance for local residents. That saves at least ten thousand night flights.

Although the intermediate step of 460,000 flights has been rejected by the court, the airport is still heading for a reduction in the number of flight movements to 440,000.

The Netherlands is one of the forerunners in Europe when it comes to sustainable urban transport. More than a quarter of all buses that drive around in Dutch cities are now electrically powered. This means that the Netherlands scores above average in a European comparison. Only Luxembourg has a cleaner fleet; 40% runs on electricity there.

This is one of the outcomes of an international study that Rabobank has conducted into the sustainability of European urban transport. The results of the study were announced on Thursday. Six years ago, 85% of city buses in the Netherlands still ran on diesel. The fully electric bus has been on the rise since its introduction in public transport in 2015. Until the corona outbreak in 2020, sales of the ‘green’ city buses grew by tens of percent per year. Growth leveled off during the pandemic, only to pick up sharply again this year.

The switch to electric city buses is accelerating, the researchers note. This is stimulated by the mobility policy of major cities. City administrators want to improve the quality of life in the living environment.

An electric bus costs an average of half a million euros and has a lifespan of ten to fifteen years. The electric bus is much more expensive than the diesel variant and that is mainly due to the costs of the battery. The direct CO₂ emission of electric buses is nothing. The total CO₂ emission depends on the emission of electricity production.

It is expected that this year, for the first time, sales of new electric buses will exceed those of traditional diesel buses. But it will take years before the polluting diesel bus has completely disappeared from the cityscape in Europe.

Rabobank expects that no new diesel buses will be ordered in 2030. The researchers estimate that it would take another eight years before the last diesel bus disappears from the city. Bus manufacturers and carriers will then have to show double-digit growth over the next ten years.

On Wednesday 5 April, the municipality of Utrecht presented the long-awaited design of the ‘iconic’ Jaarbeursplein building called Oopen. The multifunctional public attraction of 105 meters high includes office spaces, sports areas, a nightclub and a romantic lookout.

The tower will have a round shape and will be provided with green terraces. The ‘soft’ appearance is a striking contrast to the nearby station area.

The first floor accommodates a nightclub. Cultural facilities, work and sports areas and a restaurant will be located in the other parts of the building. A bicycle storage with space for 3200 bicycles will be built under the building. The top of the tower becomes a romantic spot where couples can enjoy a wide view of the city.

The design was created by London-based architect Heatherwick Studio in collaboration with Barcode Architects. The initiator is sustainable project developer Edge. Oopen is to become the first CO2-neutral tower in the Netherlands.

Expectations in the run-up to the presentation were high. Responsible alderman Eelco Eerenberg (D66) dreamed of a versatile crowd pleaser. ‘The wide range of unique facilities attracts people like a magnet, enlivens the Jaarbeursplein and forms an addition to the skyline of Utrecht’, he wrote in the urban development program of requirements.

Residents were given the opportunity to think along about the interpretation of the Jaarbeursplein building. More than 4,000 Utrechters responded to that call. These ideas were incorporated into the final design. Construction is expected to start in 2025. Oopen will be taken into use from 2028.

More than half of the restaurants, retailers and cafeterias do not properly state whether their unpackaged products contain allergens. As a result, people with a food allergy may be at risk, says the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) in response to its own research.

The NVWA conducted research at 13,000 restaurants, cafeterias, bakeries and other companies where unpackaged food is sold. The service calls the results ‘worrying’: the information provision was not in order in 60%. Restaurants and companies that sell unpackaged food are required to state which allergens are contained in a product. “They fall short in this respect,” says Diane Bouhuijs, spokesperson for the NVWA. “We think that the business community should really pay more attention to this and pay closer attention.” Last year, the same type of research was carried out; according to the NVWA, hardly any improvement can be seen.

Allergens are substances in food that can cause some people to have an allergic reaction, sometimes these reactions can be life-threatening. According to the NVWA, 400,000 people have a food allergy. Gluten, nuts and milk are examples of products that can trigger an allergic reaction. To prevent this, companies that sell food must indicate in advance which allergens have been processed. This can be done both in writing (via cards in the display case or on the menu) and verbally (by indicating that staff can be contacted for questions).

At bakers, butchers and ice cream parlors (what the NVWA calls craft shops), almost 48% meet the conditions. In the hospitality industry, such as restaurants, hotels and cafeterias, this is 41%. In retail: 38%. At health care institutions, 65% is compliant. Written warnings or fines have been imposed on companies where things have not gone well.

There is also (a bit of) good news: slightly more companies provided better information in 2022 via a menu or a sign. “But we also see that the allergen information is sometimes incomplete and sometimes even partially incorrect. It also happens that the information is in a place where consumers cannot reach it, for example in a company computer. You increasingly see the sign ‘do you have an allergy, ask for our employees’, but upon further inquiry it turns out that the employees are not well aware of the allergens.”

Anyone can look up the results of the survey at catering establishments from April via the website of the NVWA. “In this way, everyone can see the state of the food safety of controlled companies in the Netherlands.” The results of craft and retail will follow later.

Update on Dujat & Members

Terranova Hydrogen NV is the new company founded by Terranova, Luminus and Nippon Gases Belgium. They are working together to build and operate an installation for the production of green hydrogen at Zonneberg in Zelzate.

The three companies will collaborate at Zonneberg on the construction and operation of a 2.5 MW electrolysis unit for the production of green hydrogen, including storage capacity and a compression and filling station. In addition, there is the possibility of further expanding the plant to 5 MW.

Read the full press release here.

Thank you for reading our newsletter. If your company is member and has any news to share in our next newsletter, let us know by contacting our office.

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

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Sources: Nu.nlNOSFDADNHKNikkeiJapanTodayJapanTimes