Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 29 & 30, 2023

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Update on Japan

Heavy rain pounded Japan’s southwestern Kyushu region on Monday 3 July, causing a bridge to collapse, with evacuation orders issued for some 360,000 residents in the city of Kumamoto.

The Japan Meteorological Agency warned of torrential rain and thunder continuing across the region through around Tuesday noon and called on residents to be on alert for mudslides and flooding.

Kumamoto Prefecture saw the development of linear rainbands known to bring torrential downpours. The towns of Yamato and Mashiki in the prefecture registered hourly precipitation of 82 millimeters and 80 mm, respectively, both July records for the areas, on Monday morning.

The violent rain caused a 37-meter concrete bridge above a small river running through Yamato to collapse, according to local authorities, adding there were no reports of casualties.

Japan and the European Union have agreed to strengthen ties for a stable supply of semiconductors. Japanese industry minister Nishimura Yasutoshi and European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton signed a memorandum in Tokyo on Tuesday 4 July.

The two sides agreed to promote information sharing and work together at a time when the chip industry faces supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic and other problems. They also agreed to closely cooperate in research and development for materials essential for next-generation chips.

Japan and the EU will also exchange opinions on fostering human resources and share information on subsidies for the industry to ensure appropriate competition.

Nishimura said he expects both sides to contribute to the resilience of semiconductor supply chains by promoting cooperation and using each other’s strengths and knowledge.

Japan and the EU are building up ties in the chip sector to enhance economic security.

In December, new Japanese semiconductor consortium Rapidus exchanged a memorandum with a Belgian research lab to conduct joint research and development on next-generation chips. Rapidus was founded by eight major Japanese firms.

Households and businesses in the Tokyo area on Saturday 1 July began a period of power conservation, spanning from July to August, as the electricity supply is forecast to become tight in the area this summer.

The Japanese government has issued a request based on the projection that the reserve power capacity rate in the region served by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc in July could drop to 3.1%, slightly above the lowest level for maintaining a stable supply, if a once-in-a-decade level of extreme heat grips the area.

Since electricity demand could swing about 3% from the anticipated level, it is necessary to secure at least a 3% reserve, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The rate is projected to improve to 4.8% in the TEPCO-serving region in August, while that in other regions is expected to stay above 5% in July and August, a ministry official said.

Last year, the government issued a nationwide power-saving request from July to September, but the latest request only targets the area served by TEPCO.

Last summer’s request was the first issued since fiscal 2015 when all of the country’s nuclear reactors were offline in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in 2011.

The country’s weather agency has predicted Japan may face a hotter summer due to the influence of the El Nino climate pattern — warmer water in the central and eastern Pacific — among other reasons.

Besides the nation’s capital, TEPCO serves Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki, Yamanashi and part of Shizuoka prefectures, according to the utility.

Japanese teenagers will be taught to make batteries for electric vehicles as part of a national effort starting this year to overcome labor shortages in the industry.

A plan to train 30,000 battery-related workers by 2030 — in addition to the current workforce of about 10,000 — was detailed in March by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and trade groups including the Battery Association for Supply Chain, which includes Toyota Motor, Panasonic Energy and their battery joint venture, Prime Planet Energy & Solutions.

As a first step, about 40 students will attend an experimental class starting in December on battery technology at Osaka Prefecture University College of Technology, a kosen vocational school that turns teenagers into professional technicians through five years of intensive training. Next year, similar courses will be offered at kosens, high schools and universities in other parts of Japan.

Masaru Miki, chief human resources officer at Panasonic Energy, told Nikkei Asia that the company this year hired 50 students from kosens and high schools but that it will be needing “many more.” The company plans to hire 5,000 employees globally by 2026, with around 3,000 in North America, where it is a major battery supplier to Tesla.

“Good battery engineers are lacking worldwide,” said Mitsutaka Fujita, a researcher at Tokyo-based Techno Systems Research. “You need to train engineers and designers before they become good, but currently they’re lacking everywhere.”

The Japanese courses will enable students to use battery-making equipment provided by the government’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, take virtual tours of EV battery plants and learn how the technology will contribute to carbon neutrality. Instructors will include retired staff from battery companies.

The move comes as automobile giants are announcing massive plans to increase their battery production capacity. General Motors plans to build four lithium-ion battery plants by 2025. Helped by $9.2 billion in U.S. government loans, Ford Motor intends to construct three new battery plants. Toyota will start battery production in the U.S. state of North Carolina by 2025.

Japan’s tallest skyscraper, towering at a height of 330 meters, was completed at the heart of Tokyo, Mori Building Co said Monday, beating the previous title holder by 30 meters.

The Azabudai Hills Mori JP Tower building is a key feature of an area being redeveloped as Azabudai Hills to fully open this fall in Minato Ward, a district dotted with tall office buildings and luxury condominiums.

The new building, with 64 floors above ground and five underground, holds in its upper floors residences with spa and other exclusive services provided by luxury hotel operator Aman Resorts.

It is also expected to accommodate the British School in Tokyo and a medical institution operated by Keio University, as well as company offices, retail shops and restaurants, according to Mori Building.

The tallest building in the country before the new landmark’s completion was the 300-meter Abeno Harukas in Osaka.

The Azabudai Hills building is already expected to be surpassed by another skyscraper in fiscal 2027, however, as a building to stand at 390 meters is being constructed by Mitsubishi Estate Co near Tokyo Station.

Japan’s convenience-store chains are targeting young people with new products and services in the hope they will remain loyal customers in the future.

Seven-Eleven Japan has just started selling the line of health-food products. They are based on the concept of “chrono-nutrition,” which stresses the relationship between nutrition and the timing of meals. A clock icon on each product’s package indicates the best time of day for it to be eaten.

The chain is hoping to capture demand from young people who are willing to invest in their health.

Yamaguchi Keisuke of Seven-Eleven Japan said, “We discovered from sample testing that the concept was supported by the younger generation. We want to respond to their values.”

The FamilyMart chain is using digital signboards at its outlets that show videos of YouTube influencers. The company says the content can only be seen at its stores. It adds that the campaign’s originality is attracting the interest of young customers.

FamilyMart plans to install the signboards in 10,000 of its stores by the end of this year.

Lawson started selling South Korean cosmetics from March. Demand is increasing, particularly among the young.

Update on the Netherlands

Eco-Runner Team Delft celebrating Guinness World Records

Schiphol Airport is expanding its system for reserving a time slot for security checks to all destinations. Previously, this system was only available for destinations in the countries of the Schengen area.

Those time slots allow passengers to reserve a self-selected time to go through security. As a result, Schiphol has a better view of passenger flows and long queues at the baggage check are prevented. According to Schiphol, one in five travelers now uses a time slot. These slots can be reserved from three days before departure.

The Schengen area comprises 27 European countries. Residents of the European Union may travel freely within that country zone. Persons are checked at the external borders of the Schengen area.

According to Schiphol, the subsequent border control is taken into account for non-Schengen destinations. The last time slot that a passenger can book is 90 minutes before departure. For Schengen destinations this is 60 minutes.

Schiphol emphasizes that this service only relates to security checks. Travelers must allow themselves sufficient time to check in and to hand over hold luggage. Schiphol is the fourth largest airport in Europe that works with security time slots.

Last year there were often lengthy queues for security.

TU Delft students set a world record on Monday with a self-built car that runs on hydrogen. The Eco-Runner Team covered more than 2488 kilometers on a circuit in southern Germany without refueling, almost 500 kilometers more than the previous record. ‘The focus was now on the technology, the next car must be street-legal,’ says Eliane van Boxtel (22) from Amstelveen, on behalf of the student team.

About 5,000 laps have been driven for the record. Van Boxtel drove the first eight. ‘That was very exciting because then we also had to see whether everything was going well.’ The team then drove the record ride with several riders in 72 hours.

The circuit is close to the heart of the German car industry. Major brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz have shown their interest in the technology during the record attempt. ‘Very nice to see too. And that’s kind of our goal. To inspire the car industry to use sustainable energy on the one hand and to make more efficient use of it on the other.’

The ride was, of course, not without tension. In the last laps the pressure in the hydrogen tanks dropped. “A small problem, we had to tighten that up a bit and then we could move on.’

Now that the record has been set, it is up to the next batch of students to adapt the car. ‘This year the focus was on breaking through technical boundaries. Next year they will look within that framework to see how the car is actually allowed on the road.’ A video was posted on their YouTube channel.

The Ministry of Education is issuing urgent advice for schools, stating that students should not bring a mobile phone into the classroom, unless there is a special reason to do so. There will be no legal prohibition, but a guideline. It is not clear to which forms of education the directive will apply.

Minister Dijkgraaf of Education believes that a telephone is only allowed in the room if there is a medical reason for it or if it must be used for class, sources confirm reports from the AD.

In recent months, there has been a lot of discussion about banning smartphones in the classroom. Experts warned in several reports and at a hearing about the extremely harmful consequences of smartphone use in the classroom.

Smartphones are highly addictive for young people and the brains of young people are underdeveloped to resist the stimuli, vibrations and sounds, according to scientific reports. Students who spend a lot of time on their phone score an average of 1 to 1.5 points lower on tests.

In the House of Representatives, the ruling party CDA and opposition party PVV pushed for a ban on mobile phones in the classroom, as already exists in France and Sweden. At first, Dijkgraaf and the recently resigned education minister Wiersma saw nothing in The Hague to intervene.

Schools had to set their own course and make agreements, they thought, and they were professional enough for that. The introduction of a national ban would also take too long, making a law takes at least three years.

Nevertheless, Wiersma decided in February to talk to schools about the tricky subject. Because teachers and parents increasingly said that banning the mobile phone in the classroom wasn’t even such a bad idea.

The digital threat to the Netherlands remains as great as ever, partly because new technologies entail new threats. This is stated in a report by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg.

“Expect the unexpected” is therefore the main message of the new threat report. The NCTV calls on organizations to continuously adapt their security to changing circumstances, so that cyber criminals, including enemy states, cannot cause damage.

“We cannot always prevent cyber incidents, but we can increase our resilience, reduce the consequences and limit the damage,” says Aalbersberg.

According to the NCTV, cybercrime is an attractive revenue model and a way to achieve geopolitical goals. Moreover, more and more programs and apps are coming onto the market that make it easier to break in digitally. “As a result, less technically skilled criminals can also commit cyber attacks,” warns the NCTV.

The rapid development of artificial intelligence is also a concern for the NCTV. Software programs such as ChatGPT make it much more accessible for malicious parties to make phishing emails more credible.

The European Parliament recently agreed on rules on artificial intelligence and will be negotiating a law in the near future. The subject sparked a lively debate. Almost everyone agrees that there should be rules, but opinions differ about what they should look like in practice.

Because how far can you go with artificial intelligence when it comes to the privacy of citizens? Many MEPs are concerned that if there are no clear rules, artificial intelligence could cause major problems in the future.

Update on Dujat & Members

We are pleased to welcome a new Dujat member to our community: ADNA Europe B.V. We look forward to introducing them to our network at our upcoming events!

Next week on 12 July, we look forward to seeing many of you at our major event of summer 2023: the Dujat Showcase. This is the event that gives our members the opportunity to present themselves with a pitch presentation and/or exhibition stand. For those who did not register yet, feel free to still register here. We look forward to welcoming you!

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.nlNOSRTL NieuwsNHKNikkeiThe JapanTimes