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Update on Japan
As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan is slowly taking steps toward a wider reopening of its borders. Some restrictions were lifted from last Wednesday, and from 10 June tourists will be allowed to enter but only under certain conditions.
Here are five things to know about Japan’s border-easing measures:
What happened on Wednesday?
Japan increased the daily cap on the number of visitor arrivals to 20,000 from the current 10,000. For people traveling from 98 countries and regions classified as “blue” — about 80% of inbound travelers to Japan — on-arrival COVID testing and quarantine will not be required, even for unvaccinated entrants. The Netherlands, China, Taiwan and South Korea are among the places in this category.
For 99 “yellow” countries, including India and Vietnam, people will be exempt from testing and quarantine if they are triple vaccinated. Entrants are still required to test negative in a COVID test within 72 hours before departing the country for Japan.
When can tourists enter Japan?
From 10 June, but with conditions. The only tourists who will be allowed into Japan will be those in tour groups sponsored by a travel agency licensed in Japan or other receiving organizations located in the country. Individual tourists will still be banned.
Japan has been running trials of such tour visits since May, with about 50 tourists from Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the U.S. Based on the results of these trials, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is expected to issue guidelines for travel agencies to follow when organizing tours to Japan. Japanese media have reported that mask-wearing will be among the strict anti-COVID measures that tourists will be required to adhere to.
Why is Prime Minister Kishida taking this approach?
Japan is opening up its borders at a much slower pace than Western countries as well as many other places in Asia. Singapore, for example, has allowed fully-vaccinated travelers from any country or region to enter without quarantine from 1 April.
“Strengthening Japan’s border measures was necessary for us to ensure that our medical system was on a sound footing and provided time to administer vaccinations,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said when announcing the easing on 26 May. “However, from now on, we will further relax our border measures.”
Analysts say Kishida is keeping strict border measures because they were popular among voters. In a recent Nikkei poll, 70% of respondents said they supported the government’s COVID response. Overall support for Kishida hit 66%, the highest level since he came into office in October last year. He is especially popular among people aged 60 or higher.
Kishida also faces an upper house election, and analysts expect further easing steps should his ruling Liberal Democratic Party come through unscathed.
What will the easing of restrictions mean for the economy?
Japan’s tourism industry has had a devastating two years since the onset of the pandemic. Travel-related spending by foreigners visiting Japan hit a record high of 4.8 trillion yen (about €33 billion) in 2019, but fell to an estimated 744.6 billion yen in 2020 and 120.8 billion yen last year. Airlines, hotels and restaurants have cut staff as demand plummeted.
But the recovery will be gradual. Even after raising the upper daily limit to 20,000, Japan is still far from returning to pre-pandemic times. In 2019, Japan welcomed 31.9 million foreign visitors — about 87,000 per day.
Another key factor is when tourists from mainland China, which accounted for about 26% of all foreign tourists visiting Japan and 34% of spending in 2020, will be able to resume overseas travel. China maintains a zero-COVID policy and has imposed strict restrictions in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen following outbreaks.
“Even if visitors are less than one-fourth of the pre-pandemic peak, it would still be able to stimulate demand during the summer if they come,” said Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. “If they don’t, further easing measures may be necessary.”
How is the travel industry responding?
The travel industry has responded positively to the news. “Great strides have been made toward resumption of international exchange,” said Hiroyuki Takahashi, chairman of Japan Association of Travel Agents.
Jeremiah Wong, senior marketing communications manager for Singaporean travel agency Chan Brothers Travel, said inquires about its Japan tours have been growing “exponentially” on the recent news about Japan’s reopening. The company has already put together more than 25 group tours for 2022 year-end travel in Japan. “We expect bookings for Japan to continue to surge, especially if travel rules and testing requirements can be further eased subsequently.”
But details on how the tours would be operated are still unclear. A trial was suspended on Monday after a visitor from Thailand tested positive for COVID. Some visitors may choose to wait until the government allows individual tourists to come in. “We are waiting for the guidelines to come out before marketing the tours,” said a spokesperson for Japanese travel agency JTB. The person added that inquiries on longer-term plans, such as tours for next spring, have increased in anticipation of further easing measures.
The Meteorological Agency has announced the start of the rainy season in Tokyo and surrounding areas including parts of central Japan.
A weather front and low-pressure system brought rain mainly along the Pacific coast from western to eastern Japan on Monday 6 June. Agency officials announced that the annual rainy season appeared to be underway in Tokyo and the areas around the capital, as cloudy weather and rain are likely to continue over the next seven days.
If the announcement is formally confirmed, it will be the first time since 2005 the agency has announced the start of the rainy season in such areas, ahead of the southern Kyushu and Shikoku regions in western Japan.
Weather officials are predicting more rain through Tuesday in the southwestern prefecture of Okinawa, and the northeastern region of Tohoku. Officials are calling for caution against mudslides, floods and swollen rivers.
Japan will shift the focus of its public vocational training programs to fields with growth potential, focusing on the digital realm and decarbonization efforts, in an attempt to enhance productivity, Nikkei has learned.
Public vocational training programs are operated by the national and local governments as a way of supporting job seekers. Those who wish to work — new graduates, handicapped people or those who are already employed — are eligible for the training.
Japan aims to increase the ratio of digital-related courses, such as those on information technology, from the current 20% of all courses available to more than 30% by fiscal 2024. The move is aligned with the Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation, compiled on Wednesday by the government, which also set a goal of creating 2.3 million digital workers over five years.
In 2021, around 110,000 people attended public vocational training. Accounting and other clerical skills accounted for around 30% of the total courses, while information processing and similar skills accounted for about 20%. It has been pointed out that these courses were not able to fulfill the need of employers, who want to hire more cloud-savvy workers.
Japan’s labor productivity is the lowest among Group of Seven countries; the country also has a shortage of workers with digital skills and those who can help companies decarbonize. To promote decarbonization, the government will create courses related to renewable energy technologies. In addition, it will provide opportunities for applicants to study ESG investing and legal matters.
The government currently models its job training programs on those of European countries that promote reskilling. In Denmark, employers and employees jointly create a curriculum to enhance knowledge, technological savvy and digital skills related to specific occupations. The content is reviewed annually; courses in areas where demand no longer exists are subject to being culled.
Japan’s household spending fell faster than expected in April as the yen’s sharp decline and surging commodity prices pushed up retail costs, hitting consumer confidence and heightening pressures on the battered economy.
Spending improved from the previous month as households showed increasing appetite for services such as eating out, but the month-on-month rise was smaller than expected, suggesting the drag from the pandemic remained. In a sign of trouble for the economy, real wages shrank at the fastest pace in four months in April as prices posted their biggest jump in more than seven years, weighing on household purchasing power.
Household spending decreased 1.7% in April from a year earlier, government data showed, faster than the market forecast for a 0.8% decline in a Reuters poll, dragged down by lower spending on cars and vegetables. The month-on-month figures showed a 1.0% increase, also weaker than a forecast 1.3% rise.
“Higher energy and food prices are having a big impact and suppressing consumption,” said Minami Takeshi, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute. “While a spending recovery remains intact, its pace is slowing.” The data raises some concerns for policymakers worried about the growing hit households are taking from rising prices for daily essentials and a weakening yen, which is pushing up import costs and making consumers hesitant to spend.
Japan’s economy is expected to rebound in the current quarter following a contraction in January-March, though it faces increased pressures from high raw material and energy prices as well as the weak yen.
On 31 May, Nikkei also reported that food prices are rising steadily in Japan, reflecting higher materials costs. While edible oil and mayonnaise prices have increased more than 10% since early 2021, the cost of instant noodles, ice cream, seasonings and other foodstuffs. Retail price hikes are slower than in the U.S. and Europe, but consumer appetite for spending may weaken if prices continue to rise while wages stagnate.
Data collected by Nikkei POS — which tracks sales at about 470 supermarkets across Japan — was analyzed using the base figure of 100 for the average price in January 2021 of food products for which manufacturers announced price hikes last year.
Price increases will continue through July and the foreseeable future. Yamazaki Baking will hike sweet bun and bread prices in July for the second time this year, while breweries and soft drink makers will bump up shipment and delivery prices. Food makers plan to hike prices on 3,615 products from June, according to a Teikoku Databank survey. In 2022, prices on more than 8,000 products are set to increase by an average of 12% year on year.
Goods and services in Japan will also become costlier from June. Electricity and gas rates will increase against the backdrop of higher resource prices, while international flight tickets will become more expensive.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings (TEPCO) will hike its monthly power rate for an average family to 8,565 yen in June, up 60 yen from May. The 10th-consecutive monthly increase will mark a hike of as much as 1,652 yen from a year earlier. Of Japan’s 10 major power companies, TEPCO will be joined by four others in jacking up electricity fees. City gas charges will be also raised by four leading suppliers in June. Tokyo Gas will boost its rate by 24 yen from May to 5,808 yen.
Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways will increase fuel surcharges on international passenger tickets issued from June. One-way tickets for flights from Japan will cost 2,300 to 17,500 yen more per person. Restaurant operators will also hike prices in June.
Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, estimates that annual spending by households of two or more members will increase by an average of 100,000 yen if inflation continues at the same pace as in April. The increase will consist of some 36,000 yen for food and the rest for expenses such as utility bills.
“Expenditures on energy and food cannot be readily cut because they are essential to life,” Kumano said. “Spending on consumption such as leisure and clothing may be squeezed down the road.”
Japanese municipalities that hosted overseas athletes for training camps before last summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be eligible for new subsidies aimed at promoting people-to-people exchanges with their respective partner countries, sources familiar with the matter said Monday.
The Japan Sport Council will set up a subsidy program to cover part of the expenses, such as those for inviting athletes from abroad, the sources said, adding the program is due to begin in fiscal 2023 starting next April. The Tokyo-headquartered council, which works closely with the education ministry to advance sports activities, is expected to formally announce the launch of the initiative in the near future, they said.
The launch is part of efforts to pass down the legacy of the Tokyo Games, which were largely held without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic. The sources said the program will be financed by sales from soccer lotteries.
Before the Olympics and Paralympics, 533 cities, towns and villages across Japan registered for an initiative led by the government to promote exchanges between them and participating foreign athletes as well as their home countries. It was also intended to revitalize local economies and foster international goodwill.
Of those municipalities, 250 were able to welcome about 8,000 athletes and team officials by taking measures against COVID-19, according to the Cabinet Secretariat. Even after the games, 35 municipalities hosted 220 people from overseas delegations, it said. But many so-called host towns could not welcome athletes from their partner countries because of the pandemic, with some only managing to communicate with them online.
The subsidy program, designed to carry forward the governmental initiative, will be created as a number of municipalities wish to continue to interact with their partner countries or find opportunities to do so.
Municipalities across Japan welcomed the program. “It’s difficult to continue (exchanges) with just a city budget and support from companies,” said Togashi Keita, an official of Murayama city, which hosted Bulgaria’s rhythmic gymnastics team. He said the city in Yamagata Prefecture is looking forward to using the financial assistance as a local fan club was formed for the team and the Bulgarian athletes have treated the city like an adopted home.
An official from Sapporo, which hosted Ukraine’s men’s Paralympic goalball team, said, “We would like them to come here again once the situation is settled.”
As Japan has started easing its border controls following a fall in the number of new COVID-19 cases, the council plans to disseminate information about the subsidy program as soon as possible so that municipalities can prepare for their activities in advance, according to the sources. The council is also hoping that the program will help develop public support for Sapporo’s bid to host the 2030 Winter Games.
Update on the Netherlands
Energy costs will rise 50 euros per month for many households due to a price increase by Essent.
Essent will increase the variable rates by 25 to 30%. Depending on the size of the house and energy consumption, that means an increase of between 25 and 90 euros per month, the company expects. On average it is 49 euros per month. These increases come on top of the previous price increases of about 20 euros per month on average since 1 January. Essent, together with Eneco and Vattenfall, controls more than three quarters of the Dutch energy market.
It is not yet clear how high the price increase will be at the other energy companies. Both Vattenfall and Eneco cannot yet say what the prices will be as of 1 July. “We are still working on purchasing,” says an Eneco spokesperson.
“It is expected that consumers who have been paying a variable rate for a longer period of time will expect an increase,” says Sanne de Jong of price comparison site Gaslicht.com. The price increase for people who have to conclude a new contract is much higher. This has to do with the way in which large energy companies purchase gas.
As soon as a new customer signs up with an energy company, that company starts purchasing gas and electricity. A large part of the gas that consumers used in the past year was therefore already purchased before the major price increases in the second half of 2021.
Because energy is purchased long in advance, the prices as of 1 January for regular customers with a variable contract were not so high. But as high gas prices continue, that advantage is disappearing. And people who have to sign a new contract will have to deal with an even bigger increase in their energy bill. After all, the energy company has not yet purchased anything and is basing the contract entirely on the current purchase price of gas.
That purchase price quadrupled at the end of last year compared to the corona period, partly because of a reduced supply of Russian gas. At the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the gas price rose to above 120 euros per megawatt hour and now fluctuates around 90 euros per megawatt hour. Essent is anticipating even higher prices in the future as a result of the tensions surrounding the war in Ukraine and shortages that could arise next winter. “Only when the war ends and the demand gradually increases can the price start to fall,” expects energy specialist Joris Kerkhof of Independer.
The unpredictability of the gas price and the threat of huge price increases is the reason that energy companies hardly ever conclude long-term contracts. Buying off the associated risks costs too much money. As a result, consumers can often only opt for a variable rate with an expiring contract, for which higher prices apply.
“It is not beneficial for most consumers to switch now,” says Joyce Donat of the Consumers’ Association. “People have nowhere to go, because all suppliers are raising prices. What you can do is cut back on energy consumption, insulate and hope for better times. Prices have doubled in a year, so more and more people are getting into trouble.”
Nibud hopes that the cabinet will come up with additional measures. The VAT reduction that will take effect in July and the 800 euros that municipalities are allowed to give to low-income households are necessary, but not nearly enough to keep life affordable.
The flu epidemic is over. Fewer and fewer people have the disease, the RIVM, Erasmus MC and Nivel concluded on Wednesday 25 May.
The epidemic started in March, much later than usual. This is probably due to the measures against the corona virus. They also prevented people from passing on the flu virus to others. When the corona restrictions were relaxed, people came into contact with others more and therefore were also more at risk of contracting influenza.
Once the flu epidemic started, it lasted longer. The epidemic has lasted thirteen weeks, while it normally lasts nine weeks.
In the Netherlands there is a flu epidemic when more than 58 out of 100,000 people with flu-like symptoms visit their doctor for two weeks in a row and at least 10% have the influenza virus. This data is kept by the Nivel and the RIVM.
The flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory infections, but they are caused by different viruses. The viruses spread via droplets released by, for example, coughing and sneezing.
KLM passengers who saw their flight canceled on Saturday will receive a refund within seven days of the extra costs incurred, for example for an overnight stay. The airline asks travelers who report to KLM to also submit a claim for compensation.
KLM states in a statement that it will process passenger requests as soon as possible. “We look at the circumstances of the cancellation per flight and per case and we follow the European guidelines,” said the company. “For example, we look at the reason for cancellation, duration of the delay, whether or not a rebooking has taken place.” KLM is also looking at additional costs. “We will compensate and pay within the specified period of seven days to everyone who is entitled to compensation.”
People whose flight is unexpectedly canceled can usually choose between a rebooking or a refund. Travelers who were in transit and missed a connection due to the cancellation can also be reimbursed the costs of a possible return flight. In addition to the costs of a hotel, travelers can also be reimbursed for meals and refreshments that are in reasonable proportion to the waiting times. Compensations can also be paid in accordance with the generally applicable rules. The compensation can be up to 600 euros for a long flight.
KLM was forced to intervene on Saturday. Because only one runway was available due to maintenance and unfavorable working conditions, KLM did not consider it responsible to fly travelers from European destinations to the already busy Schiphol Airport. Also because fewer flights departed from Schiphol and it was therefore becoming busier at the airport. Instead, dozens of aircraft flew back empty.
KLM emphasizes that there was force majeure. The decision to reduce runway capacity came from air traffic control acting for safety reasons. Furthermore, the processes at Schiphol could not cope with the extra pressure if KLM had flown back with full aircraft.
A total of 42 aircrafts returned to Schiphol without passengers. The company did not give numbers of travellers involved. They were rebooked on a later flight. That is usually the next flight. On Sunday and Monday, the flights were again carried out according to schedule.
The number of young people with mental health problems increased significantly during the corona pandemic. In 2021, 18% of 12 to 25-year-olds were ‘mentally unhealthy’, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reported on Wednesday. That equates to 488,000 young people. In the two years before, it was still 11%.
The deterioration of mental health is probably related to corona measures such as school closures and lockdowns. “Young people felt more depressed and gloomy, among other things,” according to CBS.
Mental health has deteriorated most among girls and young women. Nearly a quarter of this group is classified as ‘mentally unhealthy’ by the statistical office. Before the corona crisis, in 2019, this was 14%. “But more young men also had to deal with poorer mental health,” the CBS said.
The statistics agency conducted a health survey of young people, a survey in which people answer questions about their mood. Among other things, it looked at how often young people feel depressed, restless and unhappy.
Earlier research by Statistics Netherlands already showed that the mental health of young people deteriorated from the last quarter of 2020. This trend continued in the first two quarters of 2021.
The NS (Dutch Railways) wants to start a trial in the summer with the rental of electric bicycles. For a year, the carrier wants to test whether the so-called public transport e-bikes are to the liking of users.
The NS has presented the idea for the trial to consumer organisations, ProRail and municipalities. They responded positively, a spokesperson for the NS told NU.nl. According to him, the chance that the test will not go ahead is small.
The NS says that travelers have asked for e-bikes before. Four stations will be equipped with thirty electric bicycles in those months. An e-bike should cost 10 euros per 24 hours. It is not yet known at which stations the electric bicycles will be placed.
Theft of the e-bikes can be a risk, the NS acknowledges. The bicycles are equipped with a GPS tracker. In the event of loss or theft, the bicycle can be found with this.
The NS also wants to use this GPS information for research during the trial. This allows information about, for example, the travel distances, the location of the bicycle and the speed to be mapped.
In order to preserve the privacy of consumers, the personal data and location data are stored separately, the carrier guarantees. For example, the supplier knows where the electric bicycle in question is, but not who is on the bicycle.
Sunday was the wettest Pentecost Sunday ever recorded in the Netherlands. The national weather station in De Bilt measured 26.1 mm of rain, breaking the 23.3 mm record measured on 20 May 1945, Weeronline reports.
In a short time, many reports of flooding were received by the police in East Brabant on Sunday. Especially in the places Eindhoven, Valkenswaard and Veldhoven there are many problems. Many streets in Limburg are also empty. It is not known exactly how many reports are involved.
According to the Brabant-Zuidoost Safety Region, the inconvenience caused by the heavy rain showers could last for even longer. They warn of dangerous situations, such as manhole covers that can wash away due to an abundance of water. “Be alert when you go outside,” said the security region.
The KNMI issued a code yellow for the whole of the Netherlands on Sunday due to thunderstorms. The showers will move from south to north over the country and a lot of precipitation can fall. The weather institute already warned that there was a local risk of flooding. Code yellow no longer applies to the entire country.
Limburg also had to deal with flooding. Images on social media showed how streets in, among others, Echt and Roermond have been flooded. More than 30 millimeters of rain had already fallen in some places in the south by the beginning of Sunday evening. Locally it is even 70 millimeters. That is more than the amount of precipitation that normally falls throughout the month of June.
Moreover, never before has so much precipitation been measured in one day as on Sunday, Weer.nl reports. In total, 48 millimeters of precipitation fell until about 8.45 pm. The old record was on August 28, 1996, when 47.1 millimeters fell. In Eindhoven there have been only seven days on which more than 40 millimeters of rain rained.
Rijkswaterstaat reports that several highways in Brabant and Limburg are also affected by all the water. As a result, some lanes are closed. Motorists should expect some delays.
Update on Dujat & Members
King Willem-Alexander opened the exhibition FLASH | BACK on Wednesday 1 June in the Mauritshuis, which celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2022. In the exhibition, sixteen photographers, both established names and up-and-coming talent, translate the work of 17th century masters into sixteen new works of art.
We are pleased to visit the exhibition tomorrow together with Dujat members. For last minute inquiries about this event, please contact our office.
Amity Amsterdam is delighted to announce the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) has approved the school for authorization to offer the Diploma Programme. The school in Amstelveen is now officially an IB World School for three of the four IB Programmes. Schools that offer at least three of the core programmes are referred to as continuum schools.
Amity Amsterdam will be offering students the opportunity to undertake the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) as of August 2022. This programme is a rigorous two-year pre-university education programme, leading to examinations, for highly motivated students aged 16 to 19 years old. It is a demanding undertaking and students must be prepared to put in sufficient effort and individual enterprise.
Principal Ms Sarah Wade is excited that the school can now offer education for children ages 3 up to 19 as a continuum school. “This is an exciting time for us. We believe a coordinated and consistent approach to teaching and learning is crucial for children to reach their potential and are very pleased to be a continuum school, offering high-quality education,” she says.
If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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