Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 29 & 30, 2022

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Update on Japan

Japan’s western prefecture of Osaka is set to raise its coronavirus alert to the highest of three levels, officials familiar with the plan said Tuesday, as the area’s daily infection count hit a record 25,762 amid a fresh wave of COVID-19.

The alert level will be raised to red from yellow, possibly on Wednesday, as Osaka’s hospital bed occupancy rate has climbed to 49.6%. The prefectural government had said it would raise the level if the rate reached 50%.

On Tuesday, the nationwide daily count totaled 196,500, the second-highest, after hitting a record 200,975 late last week. Record daily numbers of COVID-19 were reported in 14 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, with the confirmation of 115 more deaths, exceeding 100 for the first time since late March.

Tokyo logged 31,593 new cases, up by about 20,000 from a week ago. The metropolitan government already raised the capital’s COVID-19 alert to the highest of four levels on 14 July.

Japan has not imposed restrictions on people’s movement, although it has grappled with the record-setting seventh wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant.

But Osaka Gov. Yoshimura Hirofumi has said the prefecture will likely restrict the movements of elderly people when the alert is raised to the highest level, given that they are at increased risk of developing severe symptoms when infected with the virus.

Still, he has said the prefectural government will not ask restaurants and bars to shorten their business hours as it did before. On Tuesday, the local government said 12 more people in their 30s to 90s died of COVID-19.


The recovery for Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) remains slow as the country’s strict border restrictions keep demand for international flights far below the pre-pandemic level while other global airlines are starting to see noticeable improvements in earnings.

JAL posted a loss of 27.5 billion yen ($208 million) in EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) for the April-June period on Monday, while ANA announced an operating loss of 1.3 billion yen for the same period.

Although both companies’ losses narrowed significantly on the back of recovery in the demand for domestic flights, Japan’s airline giants each posted losses for the third consecutive year during the first quarter. Compared to Singapore Airlines’ quarterly operating profit during the same period — the second-highest in the company’s history — the Japanese companies’ recoveries have been slow.

JAL’s domestic passenger volume for the April-June period doubled year-on-year to 6.07 million, while ANA’s doubled to 6.56 million. And this summer, with no government restrictions on travel or voluntary curfews, is likely to be another good period boosting their recovery domestically.

Meanwhile, the recovery of international flights is still in the process of picking up due to Japan’s slow opening. Japan has continued to have stricter border measures than other countries, easing its cap on the number of daily arrivals only in June, and even then only to 20,000.

According to the Immigration Control statistics, about 140,000 people entered the country per day in 2019, and the level of acceptance remains quite low. Visitors for tourism to Japan are also limited to group tours, and all visitors are required to have a negative test certificate.

JAL’s international passenger volume for the April-June period increased by 4.9 times to 720,000, while ANA’s increased by 5.2 times to 684,000. Passenger volume grew significantly thanks to increased demand from expatriates returning to Japan on furlough and demand on connecting routes between North America and Asia. However, compared to the pre-pandemic level, the figures represent a 70% decrease for JAL and a 74% decrease for ANA.

Nakahori Kimihiro, an ANA executive vice president, told reporters that “while demand for connecting flights is important, as a Japanese airline, I believe that our important role is to capture demand for flights to and from Japan.” Aiming to ease border restrictions, he added that “We are requesting the elimination of negative certificates prior to entry into Japan, and asking the government to allow individual tourists to enter Japan.”


The Expo 2025 in Osaka, western Japan, is picking up momentum as 130 countries and regions have confirmed their participation in the global event so far after marking 1,000 days to go until the opening.

Hungary, Fiji, Mauritius and Mauritania on Friday joined 126 countries and regions as well as eight international organizations, such as the United Nations, that have already confirmed their participation in the event.

On 18 July, Prime Minister Kishida attended a “1,000 Days to Go!” event in Tokyo and said, “Ushering in a new era by cutting-edge technologies, I would like to make this (the Osaka Expo) as an opportunity to solve social issues.”

The nickname of the official character of the Expo was announced as “Myaku-Myaku,” selected from over 33,000 submitted entries, at the event, while a countdown ceremony was held the same day in the host city Osaka.

In Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, adjacent to Osaka Prefecture, a demonstration flight of a “flying car” was held in front of invited guests from the prefectural government and firms.

The 5.7-meter long, 5.6-meter wide and 1.7-meter tall vehicle with the capacity of two people ascended to about 30 meters above the ground and successfully flew a distance of about 840 meters with no one aboard.

It is planned to be in service at the Expo 2025, which will be held from April 13 to Oct. 13 under the central theme of “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.”

In an online meeting Thursday of the National Governors’ Association, Wakamiya Kenji, minister for the World Expo 2025, said the expo will be an “ideal opportunity for revitalizing local economies.”

Osaka Gov. Yoshimura Hirofumi said, “I hope local charms will be disseminated through the Expo,” asking other governors for cooperation in the success of the event.

Yoshimura also expressed his desire to create a framework similar to a host town program, through which local people and visitors to the Expo 2025 can mingle and foster friendship.

The Japanese government aims to draw the participation of 150 countries and regions, as well as 25 international organizations, in the World Expo.


The Japan External Trade Organization is calling on Japanese companies to review their business strategies to cope with growing uncertainty around the world.

The government-backed trade group released its Global Trade and Investment Report for 2022 on Tuesday.

It says Japanese companies could be facing long-term difficulties due to a range of factors, including rising import costs stemming from a weakening yen. The report also cites the global semiconductor shortage, China’s tough anti-coronavirus restrictions, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

JETRO Chairman and CEO Sasaki Nobuhiko says the group will help the companies adapt to the changing business environment. “Japanese firms need to adjust to global trends, such as digital transformation, and innovate their business models,” he said.

The report also says the total value of global trade hit a record high last year, largely due to soaring energy prices. It estimates the amount exceeded 21 trillion dollars, up more than 26% from the previous year.


An Osaka city bus operator has started allowing local companies and facilities to create bus stops at locations of their choice for a monthly fee of 22,000 yen (€160) in the western Japan city.

The new initiative of Osaka Metro Group is aimed at improving revenues for its existing “on-demand bus” service, which takes passengers to stations whenever requested, unlike usual bus services that must go on predetermined routes.

On-demand buses operate only when reservations are received via a smartphone app or phone and run along shortest routes chosen by artificial intelligence to make stops within certain areas.

The service, first launched in 2021, runs through the city’s Kita, Fukushima, Ikuno and Hirano wards, with more than 700 stops after new ones were added earlier this month.

Vans operating as on-demand buses carry up to five or eight passengers, with an adult ticket costing 210 or 300 yen per ride depending on locations. But fares were insufficient to cover operating expenses.

For companies and facilities to create new stops, the stops need to be approved by local residents and police, according to the bus operator.

The company has also started selling “naming rights” where people can name bus stops for a monthly fee of 11,000 yen, as it aims to make the on-demand bus service profitable.


Japanese automakers are delaying delivery of vehicles and suspending new orders for some models largely due to the need to cut production amid a global semiconductor shortage.

Eight major carmakers say they assembled roughly 3.4 million vehicles in the first half of this year. That’s a drop of more than 14% from the same period last year.

Toyota Motor is not accepting new orders for the sport utility vehicle Land Cruiser. The firm says it will take up to four years to deliver Land Cruisers because the number of orders is far above output capacity. Toyota also says that owing to a limited number of units available for delivery it had to cancel some orders.

Nissan Motor and Honda Motor also aren’t taking orders for some models. A growing number of customers at other automakers are having to wait several months to have their vehicles delivered.

Cases of the coronavirus were found at factories in July, leading some assembly lines in Japan to suspend operations. Analysts say it will likely take some time for vehicle production to return to normal.


Update on the Netherlands

A new round of vaccinations against corona in autumn has been announced to start from September, for everyone aged 12 and older who wants to get a repeat shot. 

Everyone aged 12 years and older will soon be able to get a repeat shot against corona, says Health Minister Kuipers.

From the second half of September, RIVM will invite people with an increased risk of serious illness and death to get a repeat vaccination against corona from the GGD. This is the group that was invited for a repeat shot earlier this year, expanded to include people younger than 60 who are annually invited for the flu shot.

People who get the flu shot every year and who are younger than 60 are invited by their GP to get their shot at the GGD. Healthcare workers with patient contact are invited for a repeat injection at the same time as the first group to protect the high-risk groups.

After the first group, anyone from 12 years old who wants to can get a repeat jab against corona. Even people who have not yet received a vaccination against corona can still make an appointment with the GGD.

The cabinet is taking into account a new corona wave in the autumn. The OMT Vaccinations advised starting a new round of injections to maintain the level of protection against serious illness and death, to keep healthcare accessible and to prevent social burden due to, for example, the loss of personnel.


In Amsterdam, thousands of people took part in the Pride Walk on 7 August, the demonstration for equal rights for the LGBTI community. The protest march was part of the annual Pride Week, which started the weekend before that. 

The participants gathered in the Martin Luther King Park. From there they walked to the Central Station via the Rijnstraat, the Rokin and the Dam.

According to the organization, there were at least 5000 people. “The Pride Walk went smoothly, pleasantly and smoothly,” a spokesperson told ANP news agency. “A lot of participants got a feeling of, ‘Wow, we can show that we are who we are.'”

In advance, the organization already expected that many people would come to the Pride Walk. The demonstration was canceled last year due to corona and was one of the few larger physical activities this year.

For example, during this 25th edition of the Pride Amsterdam, which lasted until Sunday, there were no square and street parties. The festive boat parade on the Amsterdam canals, which was actually planned, was canceled for the second year in a row.

“With this understated version of the Pride, the substantive message of the Pride Walk came forward more than ever,” said the spokesperson. “It was more impressive than ever. Perhaps it was also the most loaded edition, we heard from participants, given recent events in Hungary, Georgia and in our own country.”

The participants in the Pride Walk drew attention to the rights of LGBT people worldwide. On the Rokin they passed 71 flags of countries where homosexuality is still prohibited. The flags are part of the Zero Flags Project and were hoisted last week, provided with a mourning band.

About a third of the world’s population, more than 2 billion people, lives in one of those 71 countries. “If you assume that 8% of people are not straight, then this is millions of people,” says Hans Verhoeven, chairman of the Zero Flags Project. Goal of the project? Getting the number of flags back to zero.

The death penalty can be imposed in 11 of the 71 countries for homosexuality. “As long as there are countries where Pride cannot be organized at all, we have a moral obligation, despite the measures surrounding corona, to try to organize Pride. In this way, we draw attention to the situation in other countries,” says Verhoeven.

According to Verhoeven, we are not there yet in the Netherlands either. “There is a lot to do here. Here too, we see a decline in acceptance of sexual and gender diversity in certain neighborhoods.”


 

Not only in the busy summer months, but also in September and October there is a limit to the number of travelers that can depart from Schiphol by plane every day. As a result, thousands less people can travel via Schiphol per day during the autumn holidays, the airport announced on Tuesday.

After consultation with the airlines, Schiphol has decided on the new capacity limitation. In September the maximum number of travelers is 67,500, in October there are 2,000 more. “The autumn holidays are also during this period.”

In and around the two weeks of the autumn holiday, according to Schiphol, there is an average of 3,500 travelers per day “too many” who fly from Amsterdam. “We have let the airlines and travel organizations know that.”

Schiphol says that although there are more security officers to check passengers and baggage in October, there is also more baggage and therefore fewer people can pass than this month. “That is due to the seasonal effect: people use more bins at security control after the summer, because they wear more clothing, such as jackets, mountain boots and vests.”

Director Frank Oostdam of the ANVR warns that we should not consider reducing capacity to be normal. “It seems like it has become the new normal, but it’s not normal for people to have to worry about how long they have to queue, about their luggage and whether they will even make their flight at all.”

He states that the last minute season for travel organizations has already completely fallen. “Now the same threatens for the autumn holidays.” Oostdam emphasizes that the damage to the travel industry “due to all the work with cancellations and rebookings” is already big. The damage is of course the greatest for the people it affects.


Every summer it is a matter of adjusting and measuring to get work schedules around, but this year a lot coincides. We are dealing with a record number of vacancies, absenteeism due to illness has been above average for months and a large part of the country is now also on holiday. The big danger is that the workload for people who are working is too high, so that they also drop out and the gaps only get bigger.

“Where it hurts now, is where the work pressure is already high and people make use of their right to take vacation days,” says Jannes van der Velde of employers’ association AWVN. “That causes the workload to rise further and as a result, the service can be reduced.”

Having to order your drink at the bar on the terrace is an example of this. “That was unthinkable in the past,” says Rob Hoedeman, company doctor at Mensely and expert in the field of psychological absenteeism. According to him, in these times we also have to look for pragmatic solutions of this kind.

“Like hybrid work where possible. That is efficient. We have to let go of the old standards, because that is necessary this summer.” Many shops choose to limit opening hours, cafes and restaurants are open less often, hotels make fewer rooms available. A company like NS allows fewer trains to run, Schiphol allows fewer passengers to travel per day.

Closing the doors completely is also an option in some sectors. “Some factories choose to close completely for a few weeks,” says Van der Velde of the AWVN.

The construction sector is a classic example with the collective construction sector. “In that case, it is nice if everyone goes on holiday at the same time. People with school-age children also want to leave during the same period and that makes sense.”

The UWV also recognizes the problems of extreme tightness in the workplace. According to the benefits agency, which keeps numbers on the number of vacancies and unemployed, the labor market is only getting tighter and tighter. And she also sees signs that the workload is increasing further among those who are at work.

That means companies have to make choices. “You have to look at what can and cannot be influenced,” says company doctor Hoedeman. “And set priorities.”

Both AWVN and Hoedeman are in favor of letting people determine their own schedule as far as possible. “That relieves the pressure because you can organize your own time more. And then I think we can get through this summer too.”


Exactly one month ago, the cabinet presented its first elaboration of the plans for road pricing in 2030 to the House of Representatives. It means that in just over seven years we will be dealing with a “pay-as-you-go system”. Here’s what you need to know, as compiled by Nu.nl.

With road pricing, the government wants to ensure that not everyone takes the car for every little thing. The Hague calls this “more conscious car use”. In any case, it should ensure that the air quality improves.

At the same time, it is mainly about maintaining government revenues. These are now declining because more and more electric cars are appearing on the road. Their drivers do not pay road tax. And if there are fewer fuel cars, there will be less refueling. And as a result, the government misses out on fuel taxes.

“This year we will collect approximately 14 billion euros, of which more than 4 billion euros through motor vehicle tax. Maintaining this government revenue is one of the reasons for introducing a new and future-proof system. Soon all motorists, including electric drivers, will pay. tax again depending on how much they drive,” said State Secretary Marnix van Rij (Finance) in July.

It will still take a while, but of course people have questions, so Nu.nl has a couple of them answered on their website.


Update on Dujat & Members

Yesterday we had our last cultural visit in what could be called a cultural year for Dujat. Due to postponing in two years of covid, many networking events at museums took place this year. It was our pleasure to finally introduce Dujat members to Nihon no hanga: a small hidden gem in the city centre of Amsterdam, where we could admire beautiful Japanese artworks and learn more about the interesting Japanese woodblock prints.

The museum will officially open its doors again in November with a new exhibition, so we strongly recommend to visit their website nihon-no-hanga.nl and sign up for their newsletter to stay up to date.


The next Dujat event will take place on 7 September, which is our visit to the Floriade Expo in Almere in combination with a Yakult CSR Seminar. We only have a couple of tickets left so if you are interested we recommend to register as soon as possible.


If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to vangastel@dujat.nl.


Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

蘭日貿易連盟 | www.dujat.nl

Stroombaan 10 | 1181 VX Amstelveen | The Netherlands

Sources: Nu.nlNOSNHKNikkeiJapanToday