This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 21-11-2023. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan
Japan Airlines is moving into the development of an electric-powered vehicle that glides several meters over water on a cushion of air for carbon-free transportation.
JAL has inked an agreement with U.S. startup Regent Craft to operate and sell the exotic electric sea craft in Japan.
Seagliders are attracting attention as a new means of passenger and cargo transportation, offering low-cost, safe and high-speed flight. Regent is a world leader in its development.
JAL will assist with measures necessary for operating the gliders in Japan, such as exploring the parameters of safe flight operations, developing test-flight infrastructure and collaborating on obtaining certification. Regent will develop the gliders themselves and JAL subsidiary Jalux will sell them in Japan.
If put into practical use, the gliders will not only help alleviate traffic congestion, but also serve as a transportation option with a lower environmental impact than cars. JAL is looking to put its knowledge in aircraft safety and reliability to use in helping seagliders get off the ground in Japan.
Regent was established in 2020 and JAL’s corporate venture capital fund, the Japan Airlines Innovation Fund, invested in the company two years later. Japan’s Yamato Holdings, U.S. regional carrier Mesa Airlines and Lockheed Martin are also investors. Regent aims to begin commercial operations in 2026.
In fiscal 2025, the airline plans to generate about 40% of its earnings before interest and taxes from its non-aviation Mileage, Lifestyle and Infrastructure business, which includes the seaglider.
Japan’s health ministry has decided to ban a compound with properties similar to those found in cannabis. More than a score of people in the country have fallen sick after consuming gummy candies containing the substance.
At an emergency meeting on Tuesday 21 November, a health ministry panel of experts approved the regulation of hexahydrocannabihexol, or HHCH, on the grounds that it could trigger health problems.
HHCH will be added to the list of designated drugs on Wednesday. And its possession, use and distribution will be prohibited from December 2.
Since the start of this year, more than 20 people in Tokyo and Osaka have reported falling ill after consuming the gummy candies produced by a company in Osaka.
Officials from the Health Ministry and its Narcotics Control Department identified HHCH in gummies on sale at a store they inspected in Tokyo.
The ministry is now considering a comprehensive ban of all compounds with a similar chemical structure, in order to prevent the future use of other similar cannabis-like chemicals.
Delivery businesses across Japan are grappling with a severe driver shortage. They will have another problem to contend with next year when limits on driver overtime take effect.
Companies that rely on delivery trucks to get their goods out to the country are responding by focusing on efficiency. They’re making their products more compact so they can load more of them onto a truck.
Daily goods maker Unicharm says it used special technology to reduce the packaging size for its diapers for elderly people by 10%.
Officials say this will likely slash the number of 10-ton trucks needed for deliveries each year by about 1,000.
Another daily goods firm, Kao, has taken a simpler approach. The company made the packaging for its cleaning wipes smaller by taking out some of the air. It also changed the way it puts the packages in boxes.
Kao officials say the two changes have cut box space by half. That means a truck can carry twice as many units.
Food and daily products maker CGC Japan is another firm focusing on saving space. The company trimmed the height of its cooking oil bottles by four centimeters without reducing volume. It says the change has delivered big efficiency gains.
Tokyo-area railway companies are rushing to install doors on station platform edges to improve safety. But installation can be complicated, requiring reinforcement of certain platforms.
Toei Subway, which is managed by the metropolitan government and operates one of Tokyo’s two subway systems, was scheduled to finish installing the doors at all its stations as of Saturday, with the exception of Oshiage Station, which it shares with Keisei Electric Railway.
The company first introduced the doors on the Mita Line, finishing all of its stations in August 2000. Installation was completed on the Oedo Line in 2013 and the Shinjuku Line in 2019.
Installation of doors on the remaining Asakusa Line has taken longer because multiple railway companies operate direct service through the line’s stations, complicating the rollout.
The system to synchronize the open and closing of doors that uses QR codes was jointly developed with Denso Wave, the Japanese company that created the QR code. Cameras on platform ceilings scan QR codes on the doors’ glass windows. Patents for the system have been made open, allowing it to be adopted by such other railway companies as Odakyu Electric Railway.
The number of platform falls on the Toei Subway decreased greatly after the doors were installed, from 50 incidents in fiscal 2007 to two in fiscal 2022 — both on the Asakusa Line, which still had stations without doors.
The doors are estimated to last around 20 years, and the Mita Line underwent its first renewal work in 2019. Toei Subway’s last remaining station, Oshiage, will get its doors in February 2024.
Rail operators have made mixed progress on installing the doors, which can weigh about 400 kilograms per pair and may require platforms at certain stations to be reinforced. Installation and maintenance costs pose another hurdle.
Operators including East Japan Railway, or JR East, raised train fares this March to help with funding, allowed to do so by a government program to boost accessibility. Keisei Electric Railway is planning a hike next spring.
JR East plans to equip 330 stations in the Tokyo area with the doors by around the end of fiscal 2031. It had installed them at 99 stations as of the end of fiscal 2022 and plans to do so at 18 more in fiscal 2023, aiming to further accelerate its push despite supply chain issues from a shortage of semiconductor devices.
Work at Shinjuku and Shibuya stations, two of the busiest train stations in Tokyo, is expected to start once ongoing installations are on track to be completed.
Keisei Electric Railway has finalized a long-term plan through fiscal 2035 to install platform doors in 14 additional stations, including the several in Chiba prefecture.
Apart from rail lines at Narita International Airport, no stations in Chiba prefecture have platform doors. Chiba city has lobbied both Keisei Electric Railway and JR East to expand the installation project over a wider area.
Tokyo Metro had installed platform doors at 88% of its stations by the end of fiscal 2022 plans to reach 100% by fiscal 2025. Odakyu Electric Railway plans to install platform doors at 10 stations by year-end and at 37 stations by fiscal 2032.
Keio will install platform doors at all stations along the Keio Line by the early 2030s, and all along the Inokashira Line by around the mid-2020s. Both lines serve Tokyo.
More broadly, accessibility issues include installing elevators for wheelchair users and closing the gaps between platform edges and trains. Rail operators face growing pressure to accommodate Japan’s aging population.
The number of Japanese restaurants outside Japan increased more than threefold over the past decade to around 187,000 in 2023 as the country’s eatery chains expanded worldwide, a recent survey by the farm ministry showed.
The number increased around 20% from the previous survey in 2021, with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries attributing some of the growth to increased interest from anime fans in Central and South America.
By region, Asia and Europe both saw gains of around 20% from 2021 to 122,000 and 16,400, respectively, driving expectations for growth in Japan’s agriculture and seafood exports as its food culture continues to spread.
By country, China had the most Japanese restaurants at 78,760, followed by the United States at 26,040 and South Korea at 18,210.
Major players in the Japanese food service industry have taken advantage of opportunities to expand abroad, with Royal Holdings Co. now operating a total of over 30 Tendon Tenya outlets in four Asian countries as well as Hong Kong after opening its first store in Thailand in 2013.
The chain features the popular tempura dish that is known for its light batter and sweet and savory sauce. In Thailand, the chain offers dishes fused with local flavors and ingredients such as holy basil sauce and catfish to cater to local taste buds.
Eateries located in dining areas of department stores are thriving, with many people also using the opportunity to learn about Japanese-style store operations by taking jobs in such restaurants, according to a company official.
While the number of Japanese restaurants in North America decreased around 10% to 28,600 in 2023 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, those in Central and South America almost doubled from 2021 levels to 12,900.
Demand for Japanese cuisine in the region has been fueled by the popularity of anime like “One Piece” and “Demon Slayer,” while a change in survey method also helped uncover more establishments, according to the ministry.
Update on the Netherlands
After thirteen years of Rutte, a new era is dawning in Dutch politics. The House of Representatives elections are on Wednesday 22 November. This year, 26 parties are participating in the House of Representatives elections. This is less than in the previous elections: when there were still 37 parties on the list. Yet there is a lot to choose from, compared to elections in other countries.
According to I&O Research, 75% of voters are not yet sure about their choice. That uncertainty can have a significant impact on the election outcome.
Based on the polls, it is now clear that four parties have the best chance of winning: VVD, NSC, GroenLinks-PvdA and PVV. When the exit polls are announced on Wednesday evening, a lot may have changed. For example, a week before the 2021 elections, D66 ended up with 14 to 16 seats in the polls, but the Democrats ultimately got 24. The doubting voter can therefore make the difference.
Research by I&O Research shows that 61% of people have a preferred party, but are also considering other parties. 14% have no preference at all and are still completely ‘floating’. These figures are comparable to the period leading up to the previous parliamentary elections.
According to political science professor Tom van der Meer from the University of Amsterdam, voters are now considering more and more parties, which means they float longer and decide later which party they will definitively vote for. Although he does not actually want to speak of floating voters, but rather of picky voters.
The Dutch e-bike brand Qwic has been declared bankrupt by the Amsterdam court. It had been clear for several days that the bicycle manufacturer was in financial trouble, because last week the company applied for a deferment of payment. Bankruptcy often follows.
Last summer, an Amsterdam bicycle brand also went bankrupt. Then VanMoof collapsed due to debts, disappointing sales and dissatisfied customers. After the bankruptcy, VanMoof was taken over by scooter brand LAVOIE, part of McLaren.
The e-bike market slumped somewhat in the past year as consumers cut back on their spending. While Qwic also suffered a loss in 2021, the last year in which the company published annual accounts. A loss was also expected this year.
The final straw for the bankruptcy turned out to be an additional assessment of 12 million euros from the Tax Authorities, CEO Taco Anema wrote in a letter to customers last week. According to the tax authorities, Qwic paid too little import duties on parts that the company imported from Taiwan between 2018 and 2020. Anema disagrees.
Qwic existed for seventeen years and sold a total of 200,000 bicycles through hundreds of specialty stores in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. This placed the brand in the top ten of best-selling e-bike brands in the Netherlands.
About 40% of new cars sold are hybrids or plug-in hybrids, almost as many as last year. Both types of cars also have a combustion engine. With the plug-in hybrid you can also charge it yourself with a plug and therefore almost always drive electrically. With a ‘normal’ hybrid, your car is charged automatically while driving and the battery supports the combustion engine.
29% of cars sold in the Netherlands are now fully electric. Last year it was still 22%. Across the EU as a whole, the share of fully electric vehicles is only 14%. In Germany (17%) and Belgium (22%), fully electric cars are also less popular than in the Netherlands.
Eneco has plans to build a green hydrogen factory the size of about twenty football fields in the port area of Rotterdam. The new factory, for which Eneco collaborates with the Japanese parent company Mitsubishi, must supply green hydrogen to industrial customers.
Eneco has already applied for environmental permits in the hope that construction can begin in 2026. The factory, called Eneco Electrolyzer, could open in 2029.
The hydrogen in the Eneco Electrolyzer must be extracted from the water with green electricity from solar and wind farms. Eneco wants to first sell the clean hydrogen to industry. It currently uses fossil natural gas, which is separated into carbon and hydrogen. Eneco reports that hydrogen can eventually replace natural gas as a fuel in industry.
According to an Eneco spokesperson, the investment costs are “around hundreds of millions”. The hydrogen factory will have a capacity of 800 megawatts and can produce up to 80 kilotons of hydrogen annually. However, Eneco is dependent on the amount of green energy available. In addition, it is still uncertain how great the demand for green hydrogen is from industry.
“It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem,” says the energy company spokesperson. “The cost of producing green hydrogen depends on the demand from the industry. We believe that the demand will come, also because the European Union already has guidelines for the use of hydrogen.”
Update on Dujat & Members
On Thursday this week, Dujat, HVG Law LLP and Nippon Recruitment will organize the seminar “Recruitment & Retention – Key Factors in 2023”, at the office of HVG Law LLP in Amsterdam. If you or a colleague would like to attend this seminar, please contact our office.
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.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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