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Update on Japan
Japan is aiming to remove its cap on daily arrivals by the end of October, government sources said Monday, as it looks to revive the world’s third-largest economy hit hard by the absence of tourists amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration, facing pressure from business circles to loosen strict COVID-19 travel regulations, is likely to judge how to ease its border control measures as early as next week, the sources said. In addition to lifting the entry cap, currently set at 50,000, the government is also expected to discuss whether to allow foreign tourists to travel without a tour guide, according to the sources.
Japan has drawn criticism at home and abroad for failing to keep pace with other Group of Seven major industrialized nations, including Britain, France and the United States, in opening its borders, as well as requiring those who do visit to obtain visas and asking them to wear masks at all times during their trip.
For domestic tourism, the government is meanwhile considering restarting its nationwide subsidy program as early as late September as the number of new COVID-19 cases is trending downward, according to the sources. The program expanding the scope of the domestic tourism campaign introduced by each Japanese prefecture may last until the end of this year, offering up to 11,000 yen (€76) per head for a one-night stay in financial assistance, the sources said.
The expected start date will be decided by each prefecture, and it is possible that the nationwide program will not begin at the same time across the country. To be eligible for the program, applicants must prove that they have been vaccinated at least three times or present proof of a negative COVID-19 test, according to the sources.
Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the government will consider how to alleviate COVID-19 restrictions while “maintaining a balance between preventing the spread of infection” and promoting “social and economic activities.”
Matsuno’s remarks came a day after Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said in a television appearance that the government is reviewing its border control policy of keeping daily entries below 50,000 and will remove it in the not-so-distant future.
As Japan’s economy has shown few signs of a robust recovery, Kishida’s government has been trying to accelerate growth by inviting more foreign visitors, who now stand to benefit from the Japanese yen’s rapid depreciation. Matsuno said at a press conference that the government will continue to make appropriate decisions based on the infection situation, as well as the needs of travelers and border steps implemented by other major economies.
Last Wednesday, Japan increased its entry cap from 20,000 to 50,000. Now, incoming travelers who have been vaccinated at least three times do not need to take coronavirus tests within 72 hours of departure and show proof they are not infected. The cap on overseas arrivals, including Japanese nationals, had been raised in stages since March, although the country has been battling its seventh wave of infections triggered by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
In 2021, only 245,900 foreign visitors entered Japan, the lowest figure since comparable data became available in 1964, delivering a significant blow to the nation’s travel industry which had been heavily reliant on inbound tourists before the pandemic began in early 2020.
Japan’s economy in the April-June period recovered to its pre-pandemic size, with an annualized 3.5% growth from a quarter earlier, but analysts said the outlook remains gloomy as a resurgence of infections and rising costs could weigh on consumer spending.
The yen has hit a fresh 24-year low against the U.S. dollar recently. A weaker yen boosts the buying power of foreign travelers to Japan, with the value of their currencies, such as the dollar and the euro, becoming higher against the Japanese unit. A falling yen also usually props up exports by making Japanese products cheaper abroad and jacks up the value of overseas revenues in yen terms while pushing up import prices. Japan depends on imports for more than 90% of its energy needs.
NHK has learned that Japan’s transport ministry has compiled its first guidelines for introducing self-driving trains.
The ministry’s expert panel discussed automated train operations out of concern over a shortage of drivers due to the country’s shrinking and aging population. Local railway companies are faced with particular challenges, including difficulty securing drivers.
The guidelines feature technical requirements for automated operations to ensure safety at the same level as trains controlled by drivers. The three automation levels include trains operated without any staff on board, those with crew members on the train in case of emergency, and those with train staff on hand in the front car.
For the first two levels, the guidelines ask for safety measures, such as installing platform barrier doors, obstacle detection sensors and fences to prevent trespassers on the line.
The guidelines also point out that the third level will require train staff to conduct safety checks before starting and to make emergency stops. Such trains will also need an advanced automatic stop system.
Ministry officials plan to draw up rules with the railway operators based on the guidelines.
A new shinkansen line linking the prefectures of Saga and Nagasaki in the Kyushu region is set to open on 23 September.
The 66-kilometer Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen line, part of the west Kyushu route of the Kyushu Shinkansen line, is the shortest of all shinkansen lines in the nation.
The Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen Line, to be operated by Kyushu Railway, or JR Kyushu, links Takeo-Onsen Station in the city of Takeo in Saga and Nagasaki Station in the city of Nagasaki. The line has three other stations — Ureshino-Onsen in Saga, and Shin-Omura and Isahaya in Nagasaki Prefecture.
There are plans to link Takeo-Onsen with Shin-Tosu Station on the Kyushu Shinkansen line, which fully opened in 2011, to complete the west Kyushu route of the bullet train network in the Kyushu region. But details, including a specific route between Takeo-Onsen and Shin-Tosu stations, located in the Saga city of Tosu, have not been decided yet.
For the time being, passengers using the Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen line from Takeo-Onsen will travel on conventional express trains for access to the station. At Takeo-Onsen, a conventional express train uses one side of the platform and a Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen train the other side, making transfers straightforward.
The Kyushu Shinkansen Line connects Hakata Station in the city of Fukuoka and Kagoshima-Chuo Station in the city of Kagoshima.
JR Kyushu and local communities around the Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen line hope that the high-speed railway will help increase tourist numbers and revitalize local economies.
But it remains to be seen how much tourism demand the new railway will create, due to the section between Takeo-Onsen and Shin-Tosu not being built yet.
Six-car Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen trains, nicknamed Kamome, travel between Takeo-Onsen and Nagasaki stations in as little as 23 minutes, reducing the minimum travel time between Hakata and Nagasaki stations by about 30 minutes from the current level to one hour and 20 minutes.
“We aim to maximize the effect of the opening (of the Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen line), which is expected to create new jobs and increase visitors,” JR Kyushu President Yoji Furumiya said in a speech at an event organized by the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo on Friday.
In additional efforts, JR Kyushu plans to construct hotels around the new shinkansen line and is set to introduce the “Two Stars 4047” tourist train, which also travels between Takeo-Onsen and Nagasaki stations but takes a different, coastal route. Two Stars 4047 will also debut on 23 September.
Local communities expect the launch of the new shinkansen line will lead to an increase in the number of tourists, especially from the Kansai and Chugoku western Japan regions.
Coca-Cola Japan is collaborating with Kirin Holdings to develop a health drink that contains live bacteria developed by the Japanese beverage company, Nikkei has learned.
LC-Plasma — which is short for lactococcus lactis strain plasma — is an ingredient patented by Kirin that is used in the company’s health drinks. Kirin claims that the live bacteria boosts immunity in healthy people.
Kirin is the first among companies that make foods and beverages they claim to boost immunity to have been given the approval by Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency in 2020 to advertise its products as such.
The COVID pandemic has spurred much interest among consumers for such products, and Kirin says its sales of health drinks are growing.
Coca-Cola Japan plans to put LC-Plasma into its three of its brands, Georgia, Irohasu and Minute Maid. The Consumer Affairs Agency has also given a stamp of approval to advertise those drinks as bearing the benefit.
It is rare for big competing beverage makers to develop products together, although there have been partnerships in vending machine management services.
This partnership shows the desire of Coca-Cola Japan to strengthen its standing in health drinks. Although it leads the soft-drinks market with a 26% share according to market research company Inryo Soken, Coca-Cola has not made notable progress in the health drinks segment.
Kirin, on the other hand, sees health products as its next area of growth and is expanding sales of its LC-Plasma ingredient. It hopes its sales of health drinks will jump fivefold to 50 billion yen (€346 million) by 2027 from its 2020 level.
The company has already sold the LC-Plasma ingredient to Taisho Pharmaceutical Holdings, and confectionery makers such as Morinaga & Co. and Kanro.
Kirin companies come up against Coca-Cola Group in many products. Kirin Beverage, a subsidiary of Kirin Holdings which is the fourth largest maker of soft drinks in Japan, sells a wide range of drinks including coffee and green tea, that Coca-Cola Group also manufactures.
Although providing unique ingredients to a competitor could undermine Kirin’s advantage, working with Coca-Cola could help it to reach a wider market.
Japanese restaurants and retailers are adding plant-based meat substitutes to their offerings, hoping to tap growing consumer interest in healthy and sustainable food even as prices for soybeans — a key ingredient — rise.
The international market price for soybean futures is at around $14 to $15 per bushel — 1.5 times higher than in 2020 due to increasing demand in China and supply disruptions after Russia invaded Ukraine. Japan relies on imports for 93% of its soybean needs, according to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data for 2021.
Adding to the pain for Japanese importers is the yen’s sharp weakening against the dollar. The greenback has risen some 25% against the yen this year, fueled by rising interest rates in the U.S.
Last month, Fuji Oil, a major Japanese producer of soybean meats, announced a price hike for soy-based processed foods, including soy meat, starting in October, meaning the meat substitute’s price will increase 50 yen ($0.35) per kilogram.
Meanwhile, the alternative food industry appears to be expanding in Japan. In July, popular ramen chain Ippudo, operated by Chikaranomoto Holdings, opened an outlet in Tokyo that sells plant-based ramen dishes. Its egg-free ramen with soy milk-based broth topped with vegetables, mushrooms and plant-based meat is intended to keep regulars satisfied but with fewer calories.
The plant-based version of Ippudo’s signature ramen sells for a tax-inclusive price of 990 yen, 170 yen higher than its regular pork broth ramen.
And United Super Markets Holdings, which operates 528 supermarkets in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures, sees promise in alternative foods, announcing on Sept. 2 that it signed an exclusive Japan distribution agreement with Beyond Meat, a major U.S. producer of plant-based meat alternatives.
Beyond Meat’s offerings include a “burger patty” and “sausage” made of peas, beans and brown rice protein. According to the announcement, Beyond Meat’s products will become available this year in United Super Markets Holdings establishments such as grocery store chains Maruetsu and MaxValu.
“We will contribute to the health of our customers and the reduction of environmental burdens by providing information on how to enjoy plant-based meat alternatives and how to eat them,” the Japanese company said in a news release.
Global demand for plant-based foods has been on the rise, partially fueled by a newfound health consciousness and environmental awareness some consumers gained during the pandemic. The trend is expected to grow.
Despite the rise in soybean costs, some consumers who favor alternative foods are optimistic.
Emi Brinkman, a university student in Tokyo who is also president of a vegan group at her school, said she believes costs will be less of a problem when plant-based diets become more widespread and prices come down. “We are just in a phase where plant-based food is expensive,” she said, “because it’s something new and undiscovered.”
Update on the Netherlands
The first groups of people can get a new repeat shot against COVID-19 from 19 September, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport announced on Thursday. This concerns people with a higher risk of becoming seriously ill and healthcare employees with patient and/or client contact. They receive a shot with the renewed vaccine from BioNTech/Pfizer or Moderna.
The invitation for a repeat injection will be on the doorstep of these people from 13 September. They can make an appointment with the GGD. The first shots will be taken from 19 September.
The renewed vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna provide better protection against more variants of the corona virus, writes Minister Ernst Kuipers (Public Health) in a letter to the House of Representatives. The vaccines used in previous rounds were aimed at the original variant of the coronavirus. The new vaccine protects against more variants.
First, people from the age of sixty and healthcare employees with patient and/or client contact are invited. The flu shot group, people between the ages of 12 and 59 who receive an invitation for the flu shot every year, will receive an invitation from the beginning of October. After that, anyone aged 12 and older who wants to can get an injection.
“Vaccination thus helps to keep healthcare and society open to everyone,” the minister writes. According to the ministry, the repeat shot is necessary to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from the coronavirus as much as possible.
Schiphol has asked airlines to cancel flights this afternoon due to the crowds at the airport. Schiphol writes this in a press release. The reason for the crowds is a shortage of security personnel. It is not the first time this year that Schiphol has asked airlines to cancel flights.
The crowds became clear on Monday morning, when considerable queues arose at departure halls 1 and 3. Those queues arose due to a shortage of staff at security. According to the airport, fewer staff have been delivered today than previously requested from the security companies.
Due to the persistent crowds, Schiphol has now asked airlines to cancel flights between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. The airport’s website shows that some flights have been canceled during the afternoon, but it is not clear whether this is the result of the call.
Transavia has announced that it will cancel two flights at the beginning of the evening, to Paris-Orly and Porto. As a result, about three to four hundred travelers are unable to travel to their destination. Schiphol has announced that it will compensate the airlines that comply with the request.
The airport has been struggling with a staff shortage for months. It already caused very long queues in the spring. Some of those waiting even missed the flight.
Since then, Schiphol has been trying to recruit new staff as quickly as possible, but that is difficult because of the shortage on the labor market.
Dutch museums are having a difficult time. Visitor numbers have declined during the corona pandemic, and the prognosis for 2022 does not look good either. Meanwhile, rising energy prices pose a new threat. Smaller museums, municipal museums and private museums are particularly hard hit, according to figures from the Museum Association.
In 2021, museums had even fewer visits than a year earlier: the number of visits fell from 13.2 to 11.8 million. That had to do with lockdowns and other corona measures. In 2019 – before the pandemic – there were still 32.6 million museum visits.
The current state of accounting differs greatly per museum, says Vera Carasso, director of the Museum Association in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal. “Museums were closed for a large part of the year due to lockdowns. Then there was financial support, says Carasso. “But what we find worrying is that there have been many cutbacks during the same period. They have an impact on what is happening now.” Last year there were 37% fewer new exhibitions.
Museums that have been able to invest in new programs and collaborations are now in good shape. “But there are also museums that had to cut everything back during the corona period,” says Carasso. “If you cut back, that has an effect on the quality of what you deliver. As a result, you subsequently get fewer visitors. So you end up in a downward spiral.”
Moreover, many museums are located in poorly insulated monumental buildings. With a rising energy bill, the Museum Association foresees “major concerns” for the coming months. There is a risk of deterioration, especially in municipal museums. “They were less well supported financially during the corona period,” says Carasso.
Municipalities did receive financial support from the government to compensate for the loss of income in the cultural sector, but this amount was not earmarked. Municipalities could therefore also invest this money elsewhere.
Carasso sees solutions to the financial problems partly in museums themselves. She praises the creativity of the sector, and says that what the public wants should be looked at. “But that does require investment.” The Museum Association is looking to the government for this.
One third of the swimming pools and ice rinks are in danger of falling before the end of the year due to the sharp rise in energy prices. According to the employers’ organizations and sports associations involved, this is apparent from an inventory. They want an emergency fund.
According to the parties, the inventory shows that 200 of the 637 public swimming pools and 6 to 8 of the 22 skating rinks in our country are in danger of going under. In all cases, these are accommodations for which the energy contract expires this year.
For the swimming pools and ice rinks, energy costs are an important part of the budget. This is normally 15 to 20% for ice rinks. After the expiry of the fixed energy contract, that could amount to 50%, is the fear.
The Koninklijke Nederlandse Zwembond (KNZB) and the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Schaatsenrijders Bond (KNSB) fear the social consequences if accommodations have to close. “Swimming is of course very healthy, but it is also of great importance for safety in our water-rich country that people continue to swim,” says director Aschwin Lankwarden of the KNZB. We don’t say for nothing: swimming is for everyone. The swimming pool in our own area is therefore indispensable.”
Teun van Etten, chairman of the Employers’ Association in Swimming Pools and Swimming Schools (WiZZ) says he has already heard that a number of swimming pools are in consultation with municipalities about closing the pool: “This is a disastrous scenario for millions of Dutch people who live in their own neighbourhoods. take swimming lessons, rehabilitate or swim in a sporting manner,” he says.
In 2023, the rest of the ice rinks and swimming pools must sign a new energy contract. If the prices are still so high, they too will have to deal with extremely rising costs. Collectively, the costs for gas and electricity for all jobs and baths will increase by 378 million this year and next. And that is impossible to compensate with more expensive tickets and subsidies, say the unions and operators.
According to the parties involved, the solution lies in making the accommodations more sustainable, so that the dependence on gas is reduced. “Due to the extreme prices, investments can be recouped within one to five years,” thinks Dennis van Rijswijk, chairman of the Association of Artificial Ice Rinks in the Netherlands and manager of a multifunctional sports facility, including an ice rink and swimming pool, in Dordrecht.
The government has also earmarked money to make ‘social real estate’ such as sports complexes more sustainable, but that cannot be arranged overnight. That is why the unions and operators, supported by sports umbrella organization NOC*NSF, are calling for an emergency fund. The bridge must be provided to keep accommodations in the air during that time,” says Van Rijswijk.
Marc van den Tweel, general director of NOC*NSF, warns against ‘serious and permanent impoverishment of sport across the board’ if the problems are not taken seriously. “If accommodations are forced to close, even if only temporarily, associations can no longer offer their members. The corona crisis has led to a serious reduction in sports participation and thus a lack of exercise, with all its consequences. We cannot afford to let this happen.”
Train tickets are expected to become more expensive the coming year, but not due to a new wage increase for NS staff, said NS.
Due to the collective labor agreement of last Sunday, NS staff will probably earn considerably more in the coming months. Members of the trade unions can still vote on the agreement in principle.
But if they agree, NS staff will receive an average wage increase of 9.25% in eighteen months. The employees will also receive a bonus of 1,000 euros in December 2022 and in July 2023.
That will cost the NS a lot of money. But according to a spokesperson for the passenger organization Rover, train passengers will not immediately notice this in the prices. “The NS always determines the rates for the coming year in the autumn. The company is then obliged to ask for advice from passenger organizations. There is already a proposal with the passenger organizations for next year. In addition, the NS cannot just adjust the prices,” according to the report. the spokesman.
This is due to the requirements that the government imposes on the NS. For example, the trains must run on time and the fares must not be too high. “We are only allowed to let certain products, such as a one-way ticket and a return ticket in second class and subscriptions, increase in line with the expected inflation for the coming year,” explains a spokesperson for the NS. “So we cannot pass on the wage increase one-to-one in the price of a train ticket.”
That does not mean that the prices remain the same. “The expected inflation for the coming year is much higher than in recent years,” says the NS spokesperson. As a result, there is a good chance that the price increase of train tickets will be greater than before. The inflation adjustment for train tickets also includes the wage component. “That is reflected in that, but that is not linked to the wage increase in the collective labor agreement.”
The spokesperson is not yet able to answer the question of where the money for the wage increase will come from. “The ink of the draft agreement has just dried and the members of the union have yet to agree to it. We can’t say much about that yet.”
Update on Dujat & Members
We are pleased to welcome CITCO Nederland B.V., HAND Enterprise Solutions Europe B.V and Hibino Europe B.V. as new members of Dujat. We look forward to introducing them to our network at our upcoming events!
The next Dujat event will take place this weekend on 17 September: the Dujat & Asunaro Golf Event and lunch. Registrations have already closed for this event and we look forward to welcoming all those who applied.
We do like to point you to our event next week which will take place in Brabant. Did you know that over 80 Japanese companies are located in Brabant? The partnership between Brabant and Japan means an exciting exchange of high-quality ideas about innovation, technology, and research. On Wednesday the 21st of September, you can be part of this exchange.
Join the annual Japan meets Brabant event on the 21st of September at the Automotive Campus in Helmond. Learn more about the regional automotive cluster and meet companies and institutes like Lightyear, Mirai Data, Sekisui Alveo, Solar Team Eindhoven, Siemens TASS International and more.
Are you interested in learning more about the automotive cluster in Brabant? Click here for more information and register here!
If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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