Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 31 & 32, 2023

This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 18-7-2023. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan

The top spokesperson for Japan’s government says it will help the countries and economies taking part in the Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai ensure completion of their pavilions before the event opens. The world expo is scheduled to open in April 2025. So far, 153 countries and economies have announced their participation, including the Netherlands.

More than 50 of them said they will build their pavilions with their own budgets, but none has submitted an application to Osaka City for construction approval. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu told reporters on Friday that the top priority is to have all the pavilions completed before the expo opens.

He added that the government will cooperate with the organizer, the Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition, and provide all-out support to the participants and their contractors to achieve the goal.He also said relevant information is now available from the organizer for potential contractors.

The delay in preparations is attributed to soaring construction material costs, Japan’s tight labor market and complex designs of some pavilions.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Nishimura Yasutoshi told reporters on Friday that the coronavirus pandemic postponed the previous expo in Dubai for a year, reducing the participants’ preparation time for the one in Osaka.

Earlier on Thursday, the expo association announced its plans to support the participants, including introduction of potential contractors. It added that it is also proposing changes to the participants, including making their designs more compact and increasing their budgets.

At Japan’s tsunami-wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, giant blue pipes have been constructed to bring in torrents of seawater to dilute treated, radioactive water under a plan to discharge it gradually into the Pacific Ocean.

Workers were making final preparations as Associated Press journalists received a rare opportunity Friday to get a look at key equipment and facilities for the release, expected in coming weeks or months. The International Atomic Energy Agency has looked at Japan’s wastewater-release plan and said it would cause negligible radioactivity in the sea and no effect on neighboring countries.

The Japanese government has also set up a livestream of fish living in a tank of the treated wastewater and published articles in newspapers as evidence of its plan’s safety.But the plans continue to draw strong protest and no starting date has been set.

Japan’s fishing industry fears it will destroy the reputation of the country’s seafood, and groups in South Korea and China also have raised concerns. Hong Kong announced Wednesday it would ban seafood imports from 10 Japanese prefectures once the release begins, and Beijing has threatened possible new restrictions on the Chinese mainland.

The blue pipelines at the coastal plant are designed to dilute treated water with hundreds of times the volume of seawater, in a primary pool. Later, the treated water from the tanks will be transported through a much thinner single pipeline after treatment, mixing and testing. The diluted water will slowly be sent to a secondary pool before hitting a tunnel for a gradual, offshore release — over the span of decades — at an exit point 1 kilometer (1,000 yards) off the coast.

Workers are setting up a final water sampling station and testing two sets of equipment designed to shut down the system in emergencies — all part of the operation permit granted to the plan by nuclear safety inspectors.

The government and the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, or TEPCO, have struggled to manage the massive amount of contaminated water coming from the reactors after they were damaged in a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. They say the plan to treat the water, dilute it with seawater and then release it into the Pacific Ocean will be much safer than national and international standards require.

Nippon Yusen is slated to become the first company in the world to equip its ships with a new fuel-saving technology, as the Japanese shipper invests aggressively into decarbonization.

The Tokyo-based company will install a variable compression ratio (VCR) system in two large coal carriers being constructed by Oshima Shipbuilding for delivery in 2025. The system can improve fuel efficiency by 3% in ships that run on liquefied natural gas, like Nippon Yusen’s, and by 6% in diesel vessels.

Developed jointly by a unit of Mitsui E&S and Swiss engine licenser Winterthur Gas & Diesel, VCR systems have been used mainly in automobiles. But they can be applied to maritime vessels, including those running on new types of fuel like ammonia.

Nippon Yusen’s new vessels are designed for a maximum load of 95,000 tonnes. They eventually could be converted to run on ammonia.

The shipper aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its oceangoing vessels 30% by fiscal 2030 from fiscal 2021 levels, and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. It plans to invest 290 billion yen ($2.09 billion) by fiscal 2026 and 450 billion yen by fiscal 2030 toward these goals.

“We will continuously absorb new technologies as they emerge and accelerate our reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” President Takaya Soga said.

While Nippon Yusen develops ammonia-fueled vessels, the company also is expanding its LNG-fueled fleet as a way to reduce its carbon footprint in the short term. It will issue up to 20 billion yen in five-year transition bonds this month, helping to fund its plan to build 30 new ships by fiscal 2030.

Japan’s education ministry has asked universities and technical colleges across the country to come up with their own policies or guidelines on using generative artificial intelligence.

The ministry notified the institutions of the request on Thursday. The move comes after the ministry released interim guidelines on using generative AI for elementary, junior high and high schools last week amid the rapid spread of the technology.

The ministry says in the notification that it is preferable for each university and college to decide how to use the technology depending on its courses and programs. It proposes that students come up with ways to use generative AI by changing questions and instructions for such systems.

The ministry also says generative AI can provide answers containing factual errors, and that there are risks of personal data leaks or copyright infringement. It urges the institutions to consider ways to respond to violations of their policies or rules on using such AI.

They say that as the technology is expected to evolve rapidly, each institution should review its guidelines soon and appropriately. Some universities in Japan have already created policies on whether and how much to allow students to use generative AI in classes and writing reports. The ministry’s notification is expected to accelerate such moves.

Electronics giant NEC has been working on a wristband device aimed at traffic safety, which captures signals which can reveal a driver’s emotions. These include excitement, nervousness, and fatigue. The firm tested the device on taxi drivers early this year.

NEC aims to analyze the data to track shifts in a driver’s health and emotions while at the wheel, and use the information to help transportation companies and logistics firms enforce safe driving. It hopes to put the technology into practical use in fiscal 2025.

Meanwhile, motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha Motor has said it is making progress on emotion recognition technology aided by artificial intelligence. A belt-type wearable device captures electrical signals conveyed to the heart, and then AI analyzes the data to predict mood changes.

The system classifies emotions into nine categories, including nervousness and joy. An app displays the driver’s emotional state along a route on a map. Yamaha hopes the technology can help identify spots prone to accidents. It plans to roll out the system next year.

Update on the Netherlands

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has offered the resignation of all ministers and state secretaries to His Majesty the King. The King has considered the application for dismissal and has requested the Prime Minister, Ministers and State Secretaries to continue to do whatever they deem necessary in the interest of the Kingdom.

On Saturday 8 July, the King received outgoing Prime Minister Rutte at Huis ten Bosch Palace for an explanation of the cabinet’s application for resignation.The new parliamentary elections will be held on Wednesday 22 November. The outgoing cabinet has decided this, reports outgoing minister Hanke Bruins Slot (Internal Affairs) on Twitter on Friday.

The election date means that the Netherlands will have a caretaker cabinet at least until after that time. After the elections, the formation can begin. Experience shows that this can take a long time. Cabinet Rutte IV had the longest formation in Dutch history.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledges that the fall of the cabinet is causing damage. Ongoing files will be delayed. But “we can limit that damage together”, Rutte said prior to the cabinet.

“Then you must all work wisely, that you let the important things continue.” He invariably mentions the handling of the surcharge scandal, Groningen, Ukraine and MH17, “but also the budget, for example”.

After a year and a half, the fourth cabinet led by Mark Rutte has come to an end due to months-long discussion about measures to limit the influx of asylum seekers which has finally collapsed after days of crisis consultations. There was a plan to divide refugees into two groups: one with an A status, who, for example, has to fear persecution in the home country, and a B status, the group who fled from a general danger such as war.

The differences between VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie turned out to be “irreconcilable” at the last crisis meeting, as Prime Minister Rutte himself said in a press conference a few hours after the fall.

On top of the fall of the cabinet, Mark Rutte has announced to resign as VVD leader and will step back from politics.

Dutch officials are no longer allowed to shop mobile on AliExpress because of espionage fears TikTok was already banned for central government officials, but it’s not the only app they’re not allowed to have on their work phones. The app of online store AliExpress and the chat app WeChat – both made in China – are also out of the question. Sources report this to the NOS. 

A total of ten apps are blacklisted; in addition to four apps from China, there are also apps from Russia, Iran and North Korea; all countries that, according to intelligence service AIVD, are guilty of espionage. Two other better-known apps that are blocked are those of the Russian social network VKontakte and CapCut, an app from the developer of TikTok for editing videos. The other five apps are fairly unknown.

The fear is that foreign governments can use the apps to access customer data and misuse it for espionage. Among other things, lists of contacts, the location of users and photos and documents on a device could be of interest to intelligence services.

The cabinet announced the ban in March; only TikTok was then mentioned by name. For many civil servants, these apps can no longer be used. ICT departments of national governments have been instructed to block the apps, which is not yet possible everywhere.

It is unknown how many government officials had the apps in question on their work phones. TikTok is extremely popular in the Netherlands, especially among teenagers and people in their twenties, but the other apps have fewer users in the Netherlands.

The most popular app after TikTok is probably AliExpress, the Chinese marketplace of the Alibaba conglomerate where the Dutch can also order products for low prices. VKontakte is a large social network from Russia, but little used outside the former Soviet Union. WeChat has few users in the Netherlands, but is used by more than a billion people worldwide, although the vast majority of users come from China.

The government blockade does not go well in all cases. A NOS source reports that some ICT departments only block the TikTok app, and not the other “problematic” apps. The ban is also sometimes difficult to implement due to technical obstacles. For example, it is not always possible to remove apps if they have already been downloaded. The ban is sometimes difficult to implement, especially for Android phones.

Ultimately, the intention is that only approved apps can be installed on work phones of civil servants.

The cabinet followed other European countries such as Belgium and the United Kingdom with the ban on TikTok. Employees of European Union institutions in Brussels are also no longer allowed to use the app. In the United States, many government officials have also been banned from using the app; there are even calls for a total ban.

A spokesperson for outgoing State Secretary Van Huffelen for Kingdom Relations and Digitization does not want to comment on the matter. TikTok links to a page explaining how it collects data. It will soon be available in Dutch, promises a spokesperson.

There were no long queues at Schiphol Airport so far at the start of the summer vacation, but strikes by airport and airline workers in Italy and Belgium caused various cancellations as well as thousands of stranded travelers on Saturday 15 July. 

At the height of Italy’s busy summer season, some 1,000 flights – both domestic and international – have been canceled. According to the Italian aviation authorities, this is the result of a strike by ground staff.

Another 120 flights to and from Belgium’s Charleroi airport on Saturday and Sunday have also been cancelled. This is due to a strike by budget airline Ryanair pilots. They stop working because of dissatisfaction with the working conditions. Air Malta flights were also hit after pilots joined the strike.

Airlines flying from Schiphol are also affected by strikes, says an airport spokesperson. KLM points out that the strike at Italian airports was announced well in advance.

“In recent days, KLM has canceled 34 flights to and from various Italian destinations that were supposed to depart and arrive. This concerns 17 return flights,” a spokesperson said. According to her, all passengers have been rebooked. Some 200 flights were canceled at Rome airport on Saturday. In Milan, there are 150 flights. In addition, dozens of planes are grounded in Turin and Palermo.

Italian Transport Minister Matteo Salvini called on the strikers to use their “common sense” so as not to “harm millions of other workers and tourists”.

Airports urged people to check the status of their flights before traveling. According to the Italian consumer organization Codacons, the strikes may affect 250,000 travelers.

The 105th edition of the Nijmegen Four Days Marches started on Tuesday 18 July with 42,528 runners. New during this walking performance tour is the use of a safety car.

The starting shot for the 105th edition of the Four Days Marches in Nijmegen was fired on Tuesday at 4 a.m. The runners who cover 50 kilometers for four days in a row were allowed to start. The walkers on the 40 kilometers followed an hour later and the 30 kilometer runners leave between 07:00 and 08:00.

Although more than 42,000 runners will start on Tuesday, all 47,000 available tickets were sold. This means that 4,472 people who had registered declined to participate in the walking performance tour.

The organization of the Four Days Marches has no explanation for the high number of non-runners. “The weather is fine and will remain good this week. It can’t be that,” said march leader Henny Sackers.

The starting tickets were sold according to a different system this year. They sold out completely in less than two days. Entrants had to pay 109 euros immediately and lost that money if they did not show up. The De 4Daagse Foundation says it will investigate why more walkers than usual have not started the journey.

Last year, the Four Days Marches was not fully booked for the first time, because many runners were still taking into account a return of the measures due to corona. This year the event sold out faster than ever. The Four Days Marches’ own weather service predicts four days with “fine walking weather.”

For the first time, a so-called safety car for the walking legion will go out over the course. The occupants of the so-called ‘broom wagon’ check road closures, medical aid stations and checkpoints, among other things.

Four Days Marches runners are not allowed to overtake the broom wagon. If they do, they do so at their own risk. The safety car is necessary, because every year a small group of runners try to finish first in Nijmegen. This had led to dangerous situations in the past, because these walkers walked in the dark on unfenced public roads.

Stichting De 4Daagse guarantees the safety of the course behind the safety car. Anyone who misses a checkpoint due to speed walking will be disqualified. Fast walking and running has always been prohibited during the Four Days Marches.

Update on Dujat & Members

Ahead of the summer vacation, we already opened registrations for two of our upcoming events. On the 21st of September, we will organize an event on energy transition in Rotterdam together with Rotterdam Partners. Feel free to register or send an e-mail to vangastel@dujat if you did not receive the invitation.

On 5 October we will organize a cyber security seminar with Soliton Systems and Van Doorne. More information can be found in the e-mail we sent, and will be shared later in September. It is already possible to register.

Last week on Wednesday 12 July, the 3rd edition of the Dujat Showcase took place at Hotel Okura Amsterdam. We extend our gratitude to all members who participated and attended this event. It was the initiative of our members that started this event, and that will also continue this: we are pleased to inform that the Dujat Showcase will make its return in 2024.

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.nlNOSNHKNikkei