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Update on Japan
Japan on Monday provided details of its full-scale tourism reopening, following Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s announcement last week.
The country will allow visa-free entry for visitors from 68 countries and regions, as it did before the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, there will be some coronavirus-related hoops to jump through, such as providing proof of vaccination.
Starting on 11 October, the government will allow general travelers to enter almost as they did before the pandemic. The current requirement of signing up for package tours will be dropped. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visitors from 68 countries and regions, including South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, the U.S., U.K., and the Netherlands, will no longer have to obtain a visa.
This restores the visa exemption arrangements that existed for short-term stays before COVID-19. In principle, a short-term stay is 90 days, though there are some exceptions, such as 15-day limits for visitors from Indonesia and Thailand.
As far as entry requirements are concerned, visitors will need to show proof of having received three doses of coronavirus vaccines. Alternatively, they can show a negative test result.
“We will require submission of either a certificate of the third dose of a vaccine on the World Health Organization’s emergency-use list or a negative test certificate from a test taken within 72 hours prior to departure abroad,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters on Monday.
The WHO’s emergency list includes some vaccines that Japan has not been recognizing — such as one made by China’s Sinovac. The Health Ministry said it would release a list of specific vaccine types later.
On reopening day, Japan will also scrap the last of its on-arrival COVID-19 testing and self-quarantine protocols. Currently, travelers entering from places deemed high-risk are required to take a test and quarantine depending their vaccination status.
Nationwide, the daily number of new infections in Japan has been on the decline since late August, when it reached a record of over 260,000. The seven-day average through 25 September was about 52,000 new cases a day and 91 new daily deaths.
The government has repeatedly said it will “maintain a balance” between curbing infections and promoting social and economic activity. As a result, since late March, restaurants, leisure facilities and events have been freed from requests to take strict precautions, allowing a gradual return to business as usual. Even so, the public is still urged to take basic infection control measures. Many establishments and attractions continue to require face masks.
If an individual suspects he or she has contracted COVID-19, the ministry recommends calling local coronavirus consultation centers for advice. In addition, the Japan National Tourism Organization advises tourists to contact its full-time hotline for COVID-related inquiries.
Travelers who can finally visit Japan again from 11 October might also notice some changes. Because of the pandemic, more shops and restaurants now accept cashless payments, including contactless creditcards and mobile payment services. Cashless transactions accounted for 32.5% of the total in 2021, up from 26.8% in 2019, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Tourists should be aware that some stores still only take cash, however.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has also fueled the rise of food delivery apps. UberEats is one of Japan’s two leading platforms, along with local operator Demae-can. Visitors will find many popular restaurants on each app. Private ride-hailing services, like the ones Uber and Grab offer in other countries, are still banned. The Uber app can call normal taxis in major cities.
Other shopping-related changes include charging for plastic bags at retail stores — a nationwide standard since July 2020. The extra charges generally run to about 5 yen (3 cents). When it comes to tourist attractions, one major addition is Super Nintendo World, an ode to the Super Mario games that opened at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.
For those who want to soak in a view, another addition is the Yokohama Air Cabin cable car in the city’s Minato Mirai bay area. Opened in 2021, it is described as “Japan’s first and the world’s most advanced urban-type circular ropeway,” running 630 meters between a gateway station and the waterfront. At least one attraction has been subtracted: The 115-meter Ferris wheel in Tokyo’s Odaiba waterfront area closed down last month.
People in Japan were bidding a final farewell to the country’s longest-serving prime minister at his state funeral on Tuesday 27 September. Abe Shinzo was shot and killed during a political rally in July.
More than 4,000 people have gathered at the Nippon Budokan arena in central Tokyo. Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, along with the heads of the Upper and Lower Houses, as well as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, are attending. Former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide is due to deliver a eulogy on behalf of Abe’s friends.
Abe’s is only the second state funeral held in Japan. The other was for former Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru, 55 years ago.
Members of the public have been laying flowers outside the venue to pay their respects. Flags at government offices across Japan are also being flown at half-mast.
But Tuesday’s day of mourning is also a day of protests. Some opponents of the state funeral say the government and Japanese taxpayers should not bear the entire cost of the event. Others question the rationale, as only one other former prime minister has been given a state funeral since the end of World War Two.
An NHK opinion poll this month found more than half of respondents did not approve of the event. Seventy-two percent said the government had not done a good enough job explaining why a state funeral was needed.
Questions are being raised over whether Japan’s latest intervention in the foreign exchange market will have a lasting effect of propping up the yen.
The government and the Bank of Japan stepped into the market on Thursday to buy the yen and sell the dollar. It was the country’s first such move since June 1998. The operation came after the Japanese currency briefly tumbled in Tokyo trading earlier in the day, with the greenback trading in the upper 145-yen range.
Following the intervention, the Japanese currency temporarily gained ground, with the dollar falling by more than 5 yen to the lower 140 range.
A senior Finance Ministry official told reporters on Thursday that he will not reveal what tools Japanese authorities have to address the yen’s depreciation. But he said they will act again if necessary. The problem is there is a limit to Japan’s foreign exchange reserves available to carry out interventions.
Also, Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda Haruhiko is expected to maintain the bank’s massive monetary easing policy, in contrast to recent interest rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve. He told reporters on Thursday that the BOJ will not raise rates for the time being.
Investors are likely to continue selling the yen and buying the dollar as they expect the rate gap between Japan and the US to widen further. Analysts say this makes it unclear how long Japan’s latest intervention and any future interventions will be able to shore up the yen.
Japan’s major snack-food makers are trying to go green by reducing plastic packaging.
This month, Calbee started using paper as a main material for packages of some potato-chip products. The bags contain half as much plastic as before.
Potato-chip packaging has a plastic film to maintain the chips’ taste and crispy texture. Calbee officials say their technology enables them to make the film thinner and to combine it with paper.
Calbee’s goal is to halve its reliance on petroleum-derived plastics for packaging by 2030.
Koike-ya is also using paper for packages of some products, including potato chips.
Lotte employs thinner plastic for chewing-gum containers and chocolate packages.
The companies say the moves cut their plastic reliance by more than 10%.
Update on the Netherlands
On 20 September, Budget Day 2022 (Prinsjesdag), King Willem-Alexander read the Speech from the Throne, setting out the government’s plans for the coming year. What are the main plans in the field of international policy and foreign trade and development cooperation?
Stimulate foreign trade and development cooperationThe cabinet is making an extra €134 million available to better combine aid and trade abroad. This brings the full annual amount for this to €518 million. The government wants to use this money to encourage Dutch companies to invest in developing countries. This is necessary because democracy is under pressure worldwide. For example, because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Europe more important than everSince the Second World War, Europe has again been confronted with a major conflict. As a geopolitical power, the EU must be able to better monitor its own strategic autonomy and security. The EU unity is therefore more important than ever. The remittances to the European Union, approximately €11.4 billion, therefore remain essential.
Expansion of humanitarian aid and reception in the regionMore than 300 million people are currently affected by natural disasters, epidemics or violence. Help is therefore desperately needed. The budget for humanitarian aid will increase by €184 million in 2023 to a total of €520 million per year. In order not to allow the pressure on Dutch asylum reception facilities to increase further, extra money will also be made available to improve reception facilities in the region.
ClimateClimate and climate change are urgent themes that do not stop at national borders, so the Netherlands helps countries to become more sustainable. With, among other things, an extra €109 million for the climate in 2023. The Netherlands will use this money for, among other things, investments in green energy in Africa, reduced deforestation and strengthening resilience for the most vulnerable people.
Promoting Global Human RightsTo improve human rights in the world, the government will make an extra €4 million available every year from 2023. It also wants to strengthen the international legal order and thus ensure a more stable and safer world. A total of €67.4 million is available in the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the protection and promotion of human rights. The extra impulse of 4 million will partly be used for extra staff in the field of human rights.
Expansion of embassies networkA strong network of embassies and consulates in the world is indispensable for the worldwide interests of Dutch citizens and entrepreneurs. That is why in 2023 an extra €29 million will go to strengthening the Dutch representations abroad. For example, to hire extra staff at embassies and consulates. This amount will increase to €40 million in 2024 and €52 million in 2025.
In the second quarter, the shortage on the labor market increased so much that all professional groups had a shortage of personnel, the UWV reports. The shortage of staff is increasingly having negative consequences for the economy and more and more people in the Netherlands are having to deal with it.
The number of vacancies grew by 44%, but the number of people on unemployment benefits who have recently worked decreased by 31%. So there were more vacancies and fewer people to fill them. All in all, the labor shortage in the second quarter was twice as great as a year earlier.
In the first quarter, the UWV already designated all labor market regions as ‘tight’ or ‘very tight’. But travel guides, painters, construction workers and drivers could still be found at the time. In the second quarter there was also a staff shortage in these professions. 75% of the professional groups have to deal with a very tight labor market. The shortage was greatest among engineers, electricians, machine technicians, nurses and software developers.
The labor shortage has a negative effect on economic growth. There are not only long waiting times at Schiphol or fewer buses and trains running. Facilities such as healthcare and education are also under pressure. “For a long time, the economy has determined the labor market. Now that the shortage on the labor market has reached such extreme proportions, that relationship seems to have been partially reversed,” said Frank Verduijn, labor market adviser at the UWV.
“As the supply of available candidates dries up, retaining and developing existing staff becomes more important. This can be done, for example, by offering sufficient development and challenge, but also attention to vitality, working conditions, working hours and work pressure is essential to bind and captivate employees.”, says Verduin.
According to Verduijn, employers can also take a good look at the application processes. “For some positions it is important to have the right diplomas. However, there are also positions where skills are more important than diplomas. For example, employers can also evaluate whether all skills should already be present when applying for a job. Some skills can also be acquired while working. learned,” says Verduijn.
Travel organization TUI will move a number of flights from Amsterdam to Brussels in October due to the limitations of flight capacity through Schiphol. According to the travel organization, these are flights that depart in the period from 10 to 31 October.
Due to staff shortages at security and large crowds with long queues of passengers, Schiphol asked airlines last week to reduce the number of daily departing passengers by an average of 18 percent until at least the end of October.
TUI finds this unacceptable. “Schiphol continues to solve their problems but leave it to others. We do not want our travelers to be the victims and we are not going to cancel holidays,” the organization said in a statement.
These are flights to the destinations Tenerife, Kos, Mallorca, Crete and The Gambia. All other trips depart as scheduled from the booked airport.
EasyJet has said it will cancel a number of flights from Schiphol until 30 October. This mainly concerns flights on routes where easyJet flies several times a day. With this, the company wants to protect holiday flights.
KLM expects to have to cancel an average of fifteen flights a day from Schiphol in the coming period to meet the restrictions at the airport. Travel organization Sunweb also says it will change flights, such as a flight from Rotterdam or another flight from Amsterdam.
On Saturday 1 October, the NS will not allow trains to stop at Bijlmer-ArenA station from 4 p.m. The NS has decided this due to a lack of train capacity and planned work.
There is not only an Ajax soccer match on Saturday evening 1 October, there will also be a farewell concert by De Dijk in the Ziggo Dome.
About 70,000 people will go to the area around the ArenA on Saturday evening and the NS cannot handle that many people. Due to construction work, there is only one track available that day between Amsterdam and Utrecht.
“We take this decision with a heavy heart,” the NS writes in a message. “We have come to this measure to prevent very unsafe situations. We are in talks with the partners in the ArenA area to see how we can prevent this in the future.”
Visitors are advised to complete their journey by means of transport other than train. For example, metro company GVB is increasing its capacity. It is expected that the area will become very busy with cars. The advice is therefore to travel together as much as possible.
The accessibility of the ArenA area has been under pressure lately. The NS is struggling with capacity problems and during work, problems quickly arise around the Johan Cruijff ArenA.
Update on Dujat & Members
It is our pleasure to invite you to join our upcoming agrifood webinar “Sustainable Food Systems: how could Japan and the Netherlands create this?” which will take place on 6 October from 9:00 (CEST) / 16:00 JST. We organize this in collaboration with Norinchukin Bank Europe N.V., Oost NL / East Netherlands Development Agency, Rabobank and EY.
If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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Sources: Nu.nl, NOS, Rijksoverheid, NHK, Nikkei, JapanToday, JapanTimes