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Update on Japan
More than 1,300 people have applied to travel to Japan on guided tours since the country restarted visa procedures to accept some leisure visitors from abroad a week ago as worries about the COVID-19 pandemic wane, a government agency said Friday 17 June.
Wada Koichi, who heads the Japan Tourism Agency, said at a press conference that over 300 applications have been received for June, with around 1,000 from July onward. The very first group comprising a small number of people arrived in Japan on Wednesday, he said, without revealing their nationalities. Wada said he expects entries to Japan to “rise slowly,” with most of the arrivals coming mainly from Southeast Asian countries, as well as South Korea and the United States.
Tour participants to Japan are requested to observe infection prevention measures, including wearing masks, and are asked to take out medical insurance in the event they contract the coronavirus. Operators of package tours are required to explain to customers that they may not be able to travel if they do not follow the guidelines. Tourists need their travel agencies to enter their travel information such as names, passport numbers and their place of stay on the country’s immigration registration website before applying for and obtaining visas.
On 10 June, the Japanese government resumed procedures to accept foreign tourists, taking the initial step toward increasing inbound tourism for the first time in around two years. The relaxations are limited to people from 98 countries and regions deemed low-risk for coronavirus transmission, including the The Netherlands, United States, Britain, China, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.
Japan has slowly lifted its cap on entry numbers, most recently doubling it to 20,000 on 1 June. Before the pandemic, the country had aimed for 40 million foreign visitors in 2020 when it was originally scheduled to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were postponed for a year.
The government has not indicated when it will begin allowing individual travelers again. It has said “appropriate decisions will be made” on further relaxations based on factors including the infection situations at home and abroad.
Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has said he is planning to roll out a package of measures to fight inflation.
The aim is to curb rising prices of agricultural products and reduce electricity costs. Kishida made the pledge at the first meeting of a government taskforce to deal with inflation. He said he would get to work on the comprehensive package worth 13 trillion yen, or about 96 billion dollars.
One part would be aimed at reducing the cost of producing agricultural products by 10%. A funding program would tackle surging prices of fertilizers and animal feed. The plan would also provide farmers with incentives to engage in environmentally-friendly agriculture.
Kishida touched on electricity costs. He said he will create a system that grants redeemable points to households that have conserved a certain amount of electricity. Another program would allow utility companies to buy surplus power from businesses.
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has renewed his pledge to support Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion. He wants to continue it in coordination with other members of the international community.
Kishida laid out his government’s policies on Wednesday, as a 150-day ordinary session of the Diet came to a close. He said, “We must show that any actions violating the international law will incur a high cost. We have drastically changed our policy toward Russia. We’ve been working with other G7 nations and wider international community to impose strict sanctions against Russia.”
Kishida said Japan will continue to try to align Asian countries with the G7’s views. He also vowed to drastically strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities, bring the Japan-US alliance to a higher level, and push for a free and open Indo-Pacific with like-minded nations.
Kishida said his government will try to enable people to return to regular, pre-pandemic life as much as possible, while also better preparing Japan for infectious diseases.
He said, “We will ensure that necessary medical care is always available and that the system will function well in the event of an emergency. We will also bolster public health care offices and strengthen testing systems. And we will make sure enough vaccines and medical supplies are available. To carry out emergency measures promptly and effectively, we will enhance the government’s function as a control center.”
The prime minister announced a new agency in the works. It will comprehensively plan, oversee and control anti-infection measures. He said the government also wants to create a new organization comprised of medical and public health experts, which he describes as the Japanese version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Several major auto parts suppliers, in particular listed subsidiaries of Japan’s Toyota Motor group, have slipped new ambitions into proposals for their upcoming annual general meetings, with plans to diversify their businesses into sectors including agriculture and health care.
Diversification strategies have always been a concern for the management of parts makers in the turbulent automotive industry. The companies will meet shareholders in June to convince them that they are prepared to move beyond a sole reliance on automobiles.
Denso, a leading parts maker, is one of the companies proposing amendments to its articles of association. While already handling a diverse range of automotive-related products from engine parts to car air conditioners, the company will add agricultural businesses to its operations.
Denso began its foray into the agricultural field in March 2020. The company invested in Certhon Group, a greenhouse provider based in the Netherlands, and jointly established a sales company, Denso AgriTech Solutions. The new company aims to develop large-scale indoor agriculture facilities in Japan, and is currently conducting a demonstration of automated tomato harvesting in the west of the country.
The company utilizes its own arm-type robot, which is equipped with a camera that recognizes and cuts out only ripe red tomatoes. The harvested crops are transported by an automatic guided vehicle, just like in its auto components factory.
Denso believes that it can take advantage of its strengths, including process control and high quality requirements, as well as automation technology gained from the manufacture of auto parts, to improve the efficiency of agriculture.
Toyoda Gosei, which makes interior materials for cars, will add a wide range of new businesses to its articles of incorporation, including sporting goods, health care equipment and energy-related equipment. Among the new listed businesses, the parts maker is aiming to make use of its expertise in material handling.
Its “e-Rubber” product — a material that contracts like muscle when electric current is applied to it — is one example which has potential for use in the sports or health care field. The company has begun providing samples of the new material to Japan’s sports gear maker Mizuno for use in shoe insoles that can detect minute weight shifts associated with movement.
Among other suppliers broadening their operational portfolios, Toyota Boshoku, a vehicle seat manufacturer, will add agricultural business using biotechnology, while Tokai Rika, which handles car switches, will include the management of restaurants and childcare facilities.
Behind the drive by parts makers to diversify their earnings lies the transformation of the automotive industry: the shift to electric vehicles will greatly reduce the number of parts required, as engines and other components that require complex machining will no longer be necessary.
While manufacturers are also moving forward with the production of parts for greener vehicles, there is a strong sense of urgency among companies seeking to apply their existing technologies and expertise accumulated in the automotive parts business to other industries.
Another reason behind the series of amendments among these companies appears to be the reorganization of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Recently, there have been many cases where companies have had to explain their future business operations to the public as a result of the market restructuring.
“In several cases, companies have decided to include such information in their articles of incorporation if they are inclined to do it as a new business,” said Seiji Sugiura, an analyst at the Tokai Tokyo Research Institute. However, “whether the new businesses will bear fruit immediately is another matter,” he added.
A train station in Tokyo on Wednesday started reproducing platform announcements and the sounds of train arrivals and departures onto a screen in the form of text and sign language to help the hearing impaired on their journeys.
In the trial project that began at JR Ueno Station and will run through 14 December, East Japan Railway Co aims to provide the hearing impaired with a safer and more convenient travel experience.
In the service developed in conjunction with Fujitsu Ltd., station announcements and train sounds collected by microphones are converted into text and onomatopoeic descriptions in real-time using artificial intelligence.
They are then displayed on a screen positioned above a vending machine, with the roar of trains represented by cartoonish fonts and with different sizes to add to the detail provided, with the text changing to represent volume levels, for example. The screen will also show station staff signing commonly used announcements.
On Wednesday morning, the whooshing sound of an approaching Yamanote Line train was expressed with Japanese onomatopoeia. A sign language video was shown to inform passengers that the doors were closing ahead of the train’s departure.
Called “Ekimatopeia,” a portmanteau of the Japanese word for “station” and the English word “onomatopoeia,” the service is based on ideas that came out of a workshop conducted at a school for deaf students last summer in Kawasaki, near Tokyo.
“We thought it would be helpful if we could understand what was going on around us through written words. It feels amazing that our idea became a reality. I want it to be displayed in more stations,” said Sora Konno, 18, a student at the school.
Update on the Netherlands
In July, 7,000 fewer travelers can depart from Schiphol with KLM every day. The so-called slot coordinator has made this calculation. In total, 67,500 travelers are allowed to depart from Schiphol every day: 13,500 fewer travelers per day than usual in July.
More than half of the number of canceled passenger seats is therefore at the expense of KLM, the main user of the airport. Also, half of the slots are normally allocated to KLM.
The so-called slots are distributed by Airport Coordination Netherlands (ACNL). Director Hugo Thomassen tells the NOS that all airlines have been informed about the number of seats to be cancelled. Thomassen does not want to say how many seats other airlines have to cancel. Airlines are free to determine themselves how the seat restriction imposed on them is implemented. This can be done by stopping or limiting ticket sales, or canceling flights.
The airlines and travel organizations expect that they will be able to inform travelers on an individual level about their flight in the course of this and next week. “We will receive an answer in the course of this week about which flights will be cancelled,” said a Transavia spokesperson. Then we will puzzle over to allow as many trips as possible to continue.” Only then does Transavia say it will be able to inform customers. The same message is heard at TUI Airlines.
Corendon Dutch Airlines has already moved 150 flights from Schiphol to Rotterdam The Hague Airport. “That is about 25% of our flights. We did that before there was clarity about the deletions. Whether that is enough remains to be seen,” a spokesperson said.
Travel organizations Sunweb and D-reizen/PrijsVrij hope to get clarity this week. If there is, Sunweb expects to be able to inform customers who have already booked next week about their trip and possible alternatives. The travel provider will therefore adapt the offer on the website to the restrictions.
The Consumers’ Association is closely monitoring the state of affairs at Schiphol. “We believe that there should be clarity for consumers quickly,” said a spokesperson. “Flights are planned months in advance. The fact that there is still so much uncertainty at the last minute before departure is an excellent example of amateurism.”
The consumer association expects that many travelers will be the victims. That is why the association announced last week that it would investigate the possibilities of holding Schiphol liable for the costs that consumers will have to incur. “We do not believe that travelers should be the victims of bad policy at the airport.” The travel sector is also preparing to go to court. The trade association ANVR wants Schiphol to compensate for the damage caused by the chaos at the airport this summer.
Travelers who cancel their flight to avoid the possible chaos at Schiphol cannot do this for free. Travel industry association ANVR says that the problems at the airport are not a valid reason. It would mean the end for many travel organizations if people cancel holidays en masse due to the feared chaos, emphasizes ANVR director Frank Oostdam.
Travel organizations TUI and Sunweb also say that “uncertainty and feeling” are not legitimate reasons. They advise travelers to be patient until more is clear about limiting capacity.
The Dutch cabinet wants to make the coal-fired power stations run faster in order to guarantee security of energy supply in the coming winter. Minister Rob Jetten (Climate and Energy) and State Secretary Hans Vijlbrief (Mining) announced this on Monday afternoon at an inserted press conference.
By generating more energy with coal-fired power stations, less gas is needed. There is currently no gas shortage in the Netherlands, but the cabinet considers the risk “too great” of doing nothing.
Since this month, Russia has stopped supplying gas to the Netherlands, just as the Russians have already (partially) cut off other European countries from their gas supply. This has everything to do with the war in Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions against Russia. The government is therefore concerned about gas storage in Europe.
In recent years, coal-fired power stations have actually slowed down or have been shut down completely in order to reduce CO2 emissions. That was a way of complying with the Urgenda judgment and it is necessary to achieve the climate goals for the coming years.
A law states that the coal-fired power stations will close in 2030 and that will remain so, Jetten explained. In addition, a temporary law included that until that time the coal-fired power stations were only allowed to operate at 35% of their capacity. They were compensated for this production limitation.
This law is now being deactivated, allowing the coal-fired power stations to run at full capacity again. This can save 2 billion cubic meters of gas annually. The power stations no longer need to be compensated, which means that the cabinet will probably have considerably more money left over.
The government assumes that the coal-fired power stations will increase production themselves, even though the compensation scheme is very attractive. It is expected to take a few weeks before production increases, because, for example, coal still has to be stocked.
Jetten will make “efforts” to fully compensate the net CO2 emissions, so that the climate goals remain in view. The government wants to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030. Jetten will announce additional measures for this on Budget Day.
In addition to lifting the production restriction on coal-fired power stations, the cabinet has decided to declare the first level of a gas crisis. This brings the Gas Protection and Recovery Plan into effect. Minister Jetten emphasizes that there is currently no shortage of gas. These are preventive measures.
What is the Gas Protection and Recovery Plan?
- A plan with measures that can be taken if there is a threat of a gas shortage
- There are three crisis levels
- Early warning level 1 is now in effect
- Gas companies are now required to provide additional detailed information on current gas deliveries and stocks on a daily basis
- This will enable the cabinet to keep a closer eye on the gas market and to intervene further if necessary
The government also wants to focus on even more savings. They will help large consumers financially to consume less gas. They can submit a plan for this.
Consumers will not notice anything of the measures themselves, thinks Jetten. Energy prices will not suddenly fall sharply due to the extra running of the coal-fired power stations and the savings measures. In the coming period, the cabinet will consider possible additional schemes for low incomes.
Another possibility is to increase gas extraction in Groningen again, but that option only comes into play as “a very last resort”, said Vijlbrief. He emphasized again that extra gas extraction is not safe at the moment.
In order to make this decision, an acute safety risk must then arise for the Netherlands, which must be weighed up against the safety risk for Groningen residents. For example, if hospitals can no longer be heated or households can no longer cook. Before that happens, many other measures can first be taken that are included in the Gas Protection and Recovery Plan.
Drinking a beer in the cafe will in many cases be considerably more expensive this summer. Beer brewer Heineken is increasing the prices that cafes and restaurants pay by an average of 5.8%, the company confirmed on Monday after an earlier report in De Telegraaf.
Beer is also becoming more expensive in the supermarket. Heineken has previously made agreements about a comparable increase in prices, according to a spokesperson. Heineken Netherlands informed catering entrepreneurs of the price increase on Monday. It will take effect on 1 August.
The brewer had previously announced that price increases are inevitable because of the increased costs for energy, but also for raw materials such as grain. In addition, companies spend more on wages, packaging material and transport. Heineken has announced that it will now pass on part of the increased costs to the catering industry.
Heineken also raised all its prices last year. As a result, the yields per hectolitre were on average 8.3% higher.
Do you suffer from hay fever? Then know that your physical condition can have major consequences for safety in traffic. Nu.nl shared advice on what you can do to keep pollen out of the car as much as possible.
Hay fever affects driving skills, headlines an article on AutoWeek.nl. Research by Maastricht UMC even shows that the effect of the allergy is comparable to drinking two to three glasses of alcohol – as if you were getting behind the wheel with a blood alcohol level of 0.5. If a novice driver is stopped for a check, he will already be thrown on the receipt at a blood alcohol level of 0.2.
The website of the Public Prosecution Service states that with a blood alcohol level of 0.5 you have 40% more chance of an accident. The same applies if you drive with hay fever. Hay fever is associated not only with a stuffy nose, itchy eyes and sneezing, but also with fatigue, memory problems and a reduced reaction time. This has direct consequences for your driving skills and road safety.
Hay fever occurs in approximately 2 to 5% of the Dutch population, which is more than 800,000 people. It goes too far, of course, to deny all these people their license to drive when the hay fever radar turns red. Anyone with an allergy to pollen can take enough precautions themselves to minimize the impact of hay fever on road safety.
The car is a breeding ground for allergens such as pollen. Not only do these tracks remain in the car due to the airflow while driving, but also when the car is stationary – for example when the car is parked near a flowering bush or tree or on a dry lawn – pollen adhere to the car.
Modern cars are usually equipped with excellent cabin filters, which collect pollen from the supplied air, so that they are not blown into the interior. This is the case at Tesla, for example, that the HEPA filters used on its models filter up to 99.97% of all pollution from the air. An extensive air quality system is standard on the more expensive versions of the new Opel Astra. For the cleanest air, the cabin filters should be cleaned regularly or replaced (after approximately 15,000 kilometres).
On summer days it is of course very tempting to open a window or the roof in the car, but that is a bad idea when you suffer from hay fever. In the summer, keep the windows closed as much as possible and let the air conditioning regulate the temperature and air supply. Use the air conditioner in recirculation mode so that no air is brought in from outside – and pollen are not brought in. Also regularly clean the interior of your car, so that as few allergens as possible can remain in the upholstery.
The German Technischer Überwachungsverein (TÜV) has investigated what effect a sneeze can have in city traffic. A person who has to sneeze travels about 14 meters with their eyes closed. This can quickly lead to a collision with another road user – a vehicle, a cyclist or a pedestrian.
In addition to the symptoms of hay fever (sneezing, fatigue, concentration problems), the medicines that counteract these symptoms also have an effect on your car control and traffic participation. Medicines such as cetirizine or loratadine may remove the symptoms of hay fever, but in turn have exactly the same effect on human actions: as if you had a few drinks and the blood alcohol level in your blood was 0.5 to 0.8.
Update on Dujat & Members
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Last weekend we were at the Japan Festival which took place in Amstelveen on Sunday 19 June: a beautiful day full of Japanese culture. We look forward to seeing the festival back again, next year!
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Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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