Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 33 & 34, 2023

This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 29-8-2023. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan

Japan’s government released its white paper on the economy and public finance for the current fiscal year. It says the country has a chance to pull itself out of deflation because rising import costs pushed up prices across the country, prompting businesses to offer significant raises during the annual wage negotiations earlier this year.

But the report says higher prices are weighing on consumption, mainly among low-income households. It adds that the pace of increase in service-related prices remains moderate.

The white paper calls for efforts to reject the longstanding deflationary mindset, and raise prices and wages in sustainable ways. It suggests workers seek additional education to improve their productivity and earn higher pay. And it says companies should try to boost earning power so they can raise prices and wages.

Japan’s environment ministry on Sunday 27 August said tests of seawater near the Fukushima nuclear power plant did not detect any radioactivity, days after the discharge of treated water that had been used to cool nuclear reactors.

Japan on Thursday started releasing water from the wrecked Fukushima plant into the Pacific Ocean, sparking protests within Japan and neighboring countries and prompting China to ban aquatic product imports from Japan.

The environment ministry’s tests of samples taken from 11 points near the plant concluded concentrations of radioactive isotope tritium below the lower limit of detection – 7 to 8 becquerels of tritium per liter. It said the seawater “would have no adverse impact on human health and the environment.”

The ministry will publish test results weekly at least for the next three months and will then review the timing of further disclosure, an official told Reuters on Sunday.

Japan’s fisheries agency on Saturday said tests of fish in waters around the plant did not detect tritium.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) on Friday said seawater near the plant contained less than 10 becquerels of tritium per liter, below its self-imposed limit of 700 becquerels and far below the World Health Organization’s limit of 10,000 becquerels for drinking water.

TEPCO on Sunday said it had not detected any significant change.

Hitachi and Tobu Railway are developing a biometric identification system that can recognize users by their faces and the veins in their fingers. They say it will allow shoppers to make payments and accumulate loyalty points without using their credit cards.

The companies say the system will make shopping easier and relieve congestion at cash registers. Store clerks will no longer have to ask for ID when registered users buy alcohol.

The companies are now working on putting the system into commercial use. They are planning to install it at self-checkout kiosks in select supermarkets around Tokyo by the end of the fiscal year. They also say they hope to eventually introduce the system to gyms and hotels as a way to ease the effects of staff shortages.

“We hope the biometric ID system will be a solution to the labor shortage,” says Yoshida Takahiro of Hitachi.The companies add they are confident the system will enter widespread use because it ensures a high level of security.

Japan’s first new tram system in 75 years began operating north of Tokyo on Saturday, with features designed to make it easy to access for the elderly and wheelchair users as Japan’s society grays.

The so-called next-generation tram system in Tochigi Prefecture runs between the east side of JR Utsunomiya Station and the nearby town of Haga, covering the 14.6-kilometer route in 48 minutes.

The train, with yellow stripes, has been dubbed the “Lightline” after the frequent lightening observed in Utsunomiya that has earned the capital of Tochigi the nickname “thunder capital.”

Running on renewable energy, the train cars are designed with low floors and reduced vibration for ease of access.

Utsunomiya Mayor Eiichi Sato said at an opening ceremony that he hopes the new transit network will contribute to “exchanges among people and bring energy to the local area.”

A special train commemorating the start of the service left the Utsunomiya Station East stop, carrying children and others, while many people cheered and watched the departure.

The Haga Utsunomiya Light Rail Transit, which has cost 68.4 billion yen (€430 million), was initially planned to open in March 2022, but the schedule was postponed twice due to a delay in construction work. During a trial operation in November, a derailing accident occurred.

The Utsunomiya municipal government is also planning a 5-kilometer extension of the tramway from the west side of Utsunomiya Station by 2035. The last time a new tram opened in Japan was in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture, in central Japan.

The Japanese agriculture ministry plans to encourage domestic companies to invest in overseas storage facilities for farm products. This comes amid rising concerns about food security.

Global food supplies are being jeopardized by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other factors. The ministry wants to ensure that Japan will be able to continue to obtain stable supplies of grain and feed.

When Japanese firms consider making investments in storage facilities or logistics centers abroad, they conduct investigations to determine whether the envisioned projects will be profitable. The ministry says it will cover half the cost of those investigations.

The ministry plans to ask for about 200 million yen, or around 1.37 million dollars, in its fiscal 2024 budget request to pay for the expenses. The 2024 fiscal year begins in April.

Japan relies on imports of wheat, rapeseed and corn that is used to feed livestock. The prices of those imports have been soaring since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. That has put a heavy strain on Japanese farmers and consumers.

Update on the Netherlands

Max Verstappen won the chaotic Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort on Sunday 27 August. Zandvoort welcomed 105,000 visitors every day during the three-day Dutch Grand Prix that started on Friday. 

Almost 2.3 million people saw on NPO1 on Sunday afternoon how Max Verstappen won the race. Nearly 1.9 million viewers also watched the afterthought on that channel.

Verstappen was the first to cross the line in Zandvoort in front of a soaking wet but frenzied audience. Second place was for Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin, followed by Pierre Gasly.

The NS transported a record number of 50,000 people to Zandvoort on Sunday. “Never before have so many people been to the Grand Prix in Zandvoort by train,” says a spokesman for the carrier.

The NS had expected to transport 40,000 to 45,000 race fans to Zandvoort on Sunday, but that had become more. The spokesperson thinks this is due to the bad weather. Code yellow is in effect on Sunday due to thunderstorms, with strong winds and hail.

Connexxion also brought more travelers to Zandvoort on Sunday than expected. In total, about 8,500 people took the bus to the event. Earlier in the day, about seven thousand race fans were taken into account, says a spokesman.

Even after the summer holidays, many classes are without a teacher. One in nine children will start the coming school year without a teacher, warns the General Education Union (AOb). Although many schools have looked for solutions during the summer holidays, the teacher shortage is far from being eliminated.

Now that children in the Central Netherlands have been going to school for a week and the South region returned to school this week, the teacher shortage is becoming painfully clear again.

Many schools have come up with temporary solutions in recent weeks, such as putting an unauthorized person in front of a class or merging classes. Sometimes schools opt for emergency solutions such as a four-day school week because they simply don’t have anyone who can teach.

“But that doesn’t make the teacher shortage any smaller,” says Floor de Booys of the AOb. “These are emergency measures of schools that have to get their timetables done. No long-term solutions.”

The government now has to work hard to find a real solution, says De Booys. Because the quality of education is deteriorating rapidly now that tens of thousands of vacancies cannot be filled structurally.

According to the AOb, this starts with good salaries. Because if you want to attract new teachers, you have to be able to offer a salary that allows them to pay the fixed costs.

But it also concerns, for example, the workload, which is only increasing due to the shortage. “Young teachers who are just starting are quickly overworked due to the excessive workload,” says De Booys. “Many people think: what does it matter whether you have a class of thirty or sixty children? But don’t forget that you also have to mark sixty tests. And then there is no room for the individual at all.”

“It’s a long-term problem,” said a spokesman for the Ministry of Education. “You can’t just solve that during the summer holidays.”

The AOb hopes that the new cabinet will get to work. “We want more structural improvements. In recent decades there has not been a strong policy to solve the teacher shortage,” says De Booys.

The government can no longer wait to intervene, said outgoing minister Mariëlle Paul (Primary and Secondary Education) last week. The outgoing cabinet will not deal with many subjects and will therefore be passed on to the next cabinet. But according to Paul, the fall of the cabinet should not be a reason to wait with measures against the teacher shortage.

The minister expects that many MPs agree with her and will therefore allow the outgoing cabinet to continue to make policy in this area.

The rates of public charging stations for electric cars can vary considerably, even within one street. Moreover, the prices are not always clear to consumers. This is according to research by the Consumer Association. 

If you don’t have a charge card, you need to scan a QR code and download an app to charge electrically. But the prices then vary considerably. Even if you have a charge card with a variable rate, the prices can vary greatly.

For example, the rate in Hoofddorp in Noord-Holland differs by 0.28 euros for a 200-metre piece. This saves consumers 14 euros on a charging session of 50 kilowatt hours (kWh).

But the prices per city also vary quite a bit. Consumers in Amsterdam, The Hague or Nijmegen pay an average of 0.33 euros per kWh. In Almere and Haarlem you pay almost double: 0.61 euros. Dozens of cities also have only one provider, which means that the provider has a monopoly position.

It is a legal obligation for companies to be transparent about the prices of public charging stations. This can be done via a sticker or a QR code. But it is not always clear to consumers how much they pay to charge electrically.

“We checked dozens of poles, but QR codes do not always work,” says Sandra Molenaar, director of the Consumers’ Association. “You don’t end up with the rates or you have to register first. That’s cumbersome.”

As an alternative, consumers can also use a charge card with a lower fixed rate. But according to the Consumers’ Association, it takes a lot of time to find out what benefits you. There are hundreds of charge cards and each has its own cost structure and conditions.

Brewer Heineken stopped all its activities in Russia. The Russian Arnest Group takes over all shares for the symbolic amount of 1 euro. Heineken expects the loss as a result of the acquisition to amount to EUR 300 million.

Arnest Group is a packaging solutions company. It is also one of the largest producers of cosmetics, household products and metal packaging in Russia, Heineken reports. Top man Dolf van den Brink calls it a reliable party. “It has been an important supplier to Russia for years and they are not on any sanctions list,” he says.

The deal includes seven breweries and 1800 employees. In the agreement with Arnest Group, it has been agreed that Heineken’s Russian staff will receive a job guarantee for a period of three years.

The production and sale of the Amstel beer brand will be phased out over a period of six months, but according to the company it will not be profitable. It is also not possible to return in the long term, other than completely starting over in the country.

Heineken will not make its beer more expensive to compensate for the expected loss, Van den Brink assures. “We have already spread the pain in steps.” In the figures for the first half of 2023, the brewer wrote off 113 million euros for this and 88 million before that.

The brewer began the process of withdrawing from Russia in March 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sales of the Heineken brand already stopped at that time, but the brewer continued to work in the country with other brands.

According to the brewer, since then there has been no profit from beer sales in the country. However, withdrawing proved difficult due to uncertainty about the rules applied by Russian authorities.

The Heineken CEO admits that the process has taken much longer than originally expected. But according to him, “this transaction secures the future of our employees”. It also offers Heineken “the opportunity to leave Russia in a responsible manner”, says Van den Brink.

The Dutch police sees a sharp increase in the number of reports of stolen electric bicycles. An increase of 20% was seen in the first half of 2023, a spokesperson told According to the police, international gangs are also increasingly stealing e-bikes in the Netherlands.

Every year, 100,000 bicycles are reported stolen. There are probably many more, because according to the police only 14% of the victims report the crime.

This percentage is higher for electric bicycles, because theft of these bicycles often has to be reported to the insurance company. This requires a report to the police.

Despite a lack of hard figures, the police speak of a significant increase. “E-bikes are becoming more popular, so more and more models are coming onto the market. The more models, the more theft,” says the spokesperson.

International gangs in particular know how to find Dutch e-bikes. Professional and sophisticated, these gangs drive trucks across the country stealing electric bicycles. They use a so-called ‘power key’ for this. This is a device with which a ring lock can be opened in a short time.

According to the police, interceptions of loads of stolen e-bikes show how sophisticated criminals work. They can often fake a frame number so well that it looks like an exact copy of the original frame number from the manufacturer. Forged charging papers are also often found.

The gangs are also difficult to track, as they constantly move around the country and regularly change warehouses. It is important for the police to track down stolen bicycles before they cross the border.

Owners of e-bikes are called upon by the police to properly secure their bicycles, for example with an extra lock. Thieves want to make their move quickly, warns the police. With an extra lock that becomes even more difficult.

The police also advises owners to register their e-bike with Stop Heling. This is a platform of the Ministry of Justice and Security on which buyers and sellers of e-bikes can see whether a bicycle has been reported stolen.

Update on Dujat & Members

We are pleased to welcome Centre People Appointments BV as a new member of Dujat, and look forward to introducing them to our network at our upcoming events!

Yesterday we opened reservations for this year’s Dujat December Dinner which will take place on Monday 11 December at Hotel Okura Amsterdam. It is also the edition where the 9th Deshima Netherlands Awards will be awarded to two of the most successful Japanese investors in the Netherlands.

All members on our mailinglist received the announcement. If you missed it, feel free to get in touch.

The first upcoming event after the summer vacation season will be the Dujat & Asunaro Golf + Lunch Event on Saturday 16 September. Reminder invitations were sent to all Dujat members and Asunaro relations yesterday.

If you are interested in joining the golf tournament, basic golf clinic, and/or the lunch buffet, we welcome you to register. This is a family event, so feel free to bring your family to the lunch. We hope to see you then!

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