Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 47 & 48, 2022

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Japan has approved “level-4” drone flights, which will allow operators to pilot aircraft over residential areas, even where they have no direct line of sight. (Source: Nikkei Asia)

Update on Japan

On Monday 5 December, Japan lifted its ban on “level-4” drone flights over residential areas to allow aerial parcel deliveries and help address the country’s labor shortages amid an aging population across the country, particularly in rural areas.

There are four types or “levels” of drone flights under Japanese regulations. Level 1 is where the human pilot stays within visual range of the aircraft. These flights are typically for things like aerial photography and bridge inspections. Level-2 flights are automated, with a programmed departure, speed, route and arrival that takes place within visual range. These flights are often conducted to spray crops or to survey land for civil engineering projects.

Level-3 flights are “out-of-sight flights over uninhabited areas.” They are permitted in places where humans are not usually present, such as over rivers, the ocean or forests. Test flights conducted by Japan Post for transport between post offices in Fukushima prefecture, in northern Japan, fall into this category.

Level 4 refers to automated drone flights over residential and urban areas where the operator cannot see the vehicle. These will now be permitted, so long as the operator obtains permission from the central government for each flight. They could be used to deliver packages from warehouses to private residences or elsewhere.

These classifications were introduced through a June 2021 revision to the Civil Aeronautics Act; the ban on level-4 drone flights was lifted on Monday when the revised law came into effect. In conjunction with the lifting of the ban on level-4 flights, the government established a certification system for aircraft safety and a licensing system for pilots.

Companies planning to operate drones commercially have been conducting test flights ahead of the lifting of the ban on level-4 flights.

It will likely take time before drones can make the logistics business more efficient and help to ease the labor shortage in the transport industry. The three main issues are ensuring the safety and profitability of drone deliveries, and pilot training.

Japan has missed its chance to advance to the quarterfinals at the men’s soccer World Cup in Qatar. The Samurai Blue lost to Croatia on penalties.

This was the third World Cup to pit Japan against Croatia which was the runner-up in 2018.

Japan’s Maeda Daizen opened scoring just before half time. Croatia equalized the score in the 55th minute.

Japan’s goalkeeper Gonda Shuichi saved a shot from the 2018 tournament’s MVP, Luka Modric.

Mitoma Kaoru shot from a speedy dribble, but was blocked by the goalkeeper.
The game went to penalties. Japan missed three of its spot kicks, Croatia just one.

Japan will not advance beyond the round of 16 but it did finish at the top of its group, beating former champions Germany and Spain.

FIFA praised Japan’s performance in the tournament, commenting “what a journey they’ve had” and thanking the team for adding some new World Cup moments.

Tokyo Metro will raise subway fares for the first time in 28 years as urban train operators nationwide grapple with ridership declines caused by the pandemic and a subsequent population exodus from Japan’s biggest cities.

A ride with Tokyo Metro will start at 180 yen (EUR 1.25) from the spring, up from the current 170 yen. This marks the first increase in nearly three decades, excluding consumption tax hikes. Osaka Metro will also increase its starting fare by 10 yen in April 2023.

The changes represent one of the latest signs of the historic inflation sweeping across Japan. Tokyo Metro’s and Osaka Metro’s passenger numbers were down by roughly half at one point in 2020 from 2019 as Japan urged residents to stay home and closed the door to foreign visitors. Average daily passengers on Kyoto’s subways fell 33% in fiscal 2020 to 260,000. Subway ridership in northern Japan’s Sendai remained 18% below fiscal 2019 levels in fiscal 2021.

The coronavirus and the resulting rise in telecommuting have also caused a demographic shift in cities, which for years enjoyed an influx of residents even as Japan’s overall population shrank. The estimated population of Tokyo as of 1 January had fallen for the first time since 1996. In 2021, Sapporo and Yokohama saw their populations decline for the first time since World War II, and Sendai for the first time since 1989.

This has dealt a major blow to subway operators, which have relied on growing local populations and foreign tourists in recent years. Some are reducing service instead for now. Kyoto cut the number of subway trains running between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. by 10% in December. Sendai will reduce trains by 10% in July.

Japan’s government plans to promote exports of ornamental nishikigoi carp to meet its goal of increasing overseas shipments of cultivated products.

The government has drawn up a draft strategy aimed at boosting shipments of farm, forestry and fishery products, as well as processed food products, to an annual value of 2 trillion yen, or about 15 billion dollars, ahead of the original target of 2025.

The draft plan suggests that nishikigoi carp be added to 30 key export items, including beef, rice, and fruits that the government is promoting. The proposal calls for the government to strengthen its support for ornamental carp producers and areas of production as the fish fetches high prices overseas.

The draft strategy also includes the establishment of an organization to monitor registration of licenses to grow certain varieties of agricultural products, and protections to prevent them from being used illegally abroad. It also says that Japan’s food labelling rules should be aligned with international standards.

The export value of Japan’s of farm, forestry and fishery products, as well as processed food products, stood at about 7.5 billion dollars by October.

The value for 2022 is expected to surpass last year’s record high.The government aims to soon adopt an official strategy to achieve its goal earlier than had been initially planned.

Across the world last Sunday, examinees took the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, a lengthy comprehension test that is the most widely taken Japanese exam by foreign nationals, whose upper levels can open opportunities in employment and education.

Many companies seeking to hire foreign workers with Japanese ability specify the top two of the test’s five levels among their requirements. But the JLPT’s multiple-choice format of passive reading and listening skills, with no sections for speaking or writing, casts doubt over its suitability as a standard for gauging candidates looking to work in a Japanese environment.

Established in 1984 and administered jointly by the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services, the JLPT boasts huge examinee numbers that were surging before the coronavirus pandemic. In 2013, 571,075 people in 65 countries and regions took the test, rising to a record 1,168,535 examinees in 87 countries and regions in 2019.

All of its N1 to N5 levels require examinees to reach a minimum score in the reading and listening subsections to pass the exam. Typical questions include choosing the correct missing word and listening to recorded exchanges to decide what the speaker will do next.

But its lack of productive testing excludes it from an official equivalence against the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), the six-level international standard that can be used to gauge a language user’s ability or test’s difficulty across all linguistic skills.

In response to a request for comment, the Japan Foundation said it constantly looks into how to improve the JLPT with considerations including language input and output, but added it cannot comment on any plans for changes or revisions.

While acknowledging expectations of the test have changed, the Japan Foundation said the way exam results or scores are used is up to candidates and individual groups or organizations.

Update on the Netherlands

The planned ‘Lely line’, a railway line that will connect Groningen with Lelystad

The planned Lely line, a railway line that will connect Groningen with Lelystad, has a chance of receiving a subsidy from the European Union. The connection will be included in a rail network that the EU considers important and supports financially, the responsible ministers of the EU countries have agreed.

State Secretary Vivianne Heijnen of Infrastructure and Water Management is pleased with the proposed decision, she says at Omroep Flevoland: “Of course there is still a lot of work to be done, but this European decision helps us with that and at the same time challenges us to really work on the Lelyline.”

Since the late 1960s, there has been a desire in the northern provinces to bring the north and the Randstad closer together with a new rail connection.

The most concrete attempt to realize this wish dates back to 2004, when the cabinet issued a tender for the line and also reserved the necessary budget. Balkenende II set aside 2.73 billion euros for the project. But in November 2007 Camiel Eurlings, then Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, canceled the plan.

If the Lely line comes along, it could reduce the travel time by train between Groningen and Schiphol Airport to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Now such a journey still takes 2 hours and 5 minutes. The railway would run along Drachten, Heerenveen and Emmeloord.

The Lelylijn could also lead to further urbanization of centers such as Drachten and Heerenveen, because these places would become interesting for commuters.

The Lelylijn will become part of the so-called extensive TEN-T network of the EU, if the European Parliament – as expected – also agrees to this. How much European money the line can subsequently count on is not yet certain. Fewer European billions are available for the ‘extended’ TEN-T than for the core network.

The estimated costs for the construction of the Lely Line are between 6 and 9 billion euros.

Alderman Sofyan Mbarki presented his plans to limit tourism on 30 November. A discouragement campaign and a smoking ban should keep nuisance tourists away, but there will be no gates on the Red Light District and the tourism tax will not be increased for the time being. 

In the so-called Visitor Economy 2035 vision, alderman Sofyan Mbarki makes proposals to tackle the growth and nuisance of tourism in the city. Mbarki: “Amsterdam is a metropolis and that means bustle and liveliness, but in order to keep our city livable, we now have to opt for limitations instead of irresponsible growth.”

The most striking measure is that a smoking ban will be introduced in parts of the city center: joints may no longer be lit in public spaces. Mbarki also wants to see whether there should be a ban on selling hash and weed after 4 p.m., from Thursday to Sunday, as it already applies to alcohol.

Other measures that can take effect quickly: bringing forward the closing times of catering establishments and window prostitution in the Red Light District.

Mbarki emphasizes that it is a long-term vision. Entrepreneurs play an important role in this. ‘We want to get rid of commercial parties who earn their money from vulgar tourist entertainment in the already scarce public space in the city centre: entertainment that does not take any account of Amsterdammers who live, live or work in the city.’

Part of this long-term vision is to ban organized pub crawls. The question is whether this is legally feasible: operating permits are being examined for this. It is also being investigated whether a reservation system for visiting the Red Light District is possible. Tourist accommodation is also being looked at.

The city council will debate the measures on 21 December. Then it must become clear which measures can take effect definitively and immediately.

From 1 April 2023, ABN AMRO customers will no longer be able to make contactless payments with a ring, key ring, watch or bracelet. The bank will then remove support for so-called passive wearables.

The payment functions of the SwatchPAY!, Mondaine, LAKS, K-RING and Olympic will no longer be supported from 1 April, ABN AMRO reports on its website. According to the bank, the use of this type of passive wearable has declined sharply in recent years.

At ABN AMRO, customers have been able to make contactless payments with a passive wearable since the beginning of 2019. Payment with passive wearables works the same as with a bank card. The watch or ring is held against the payment terminal and the payment is completed. For amounts above 25 euros, the pin code must be entered. Customers can spend a maximum of 250 euros per day with a wearable.

After 1 April, ABN AMRO customers will still be able to make contactless payments with their bank card, smartphone or smartwatches from Apple, Garmin and Fitbit.

Utrecht will probably become the first municipality to force a group of residents to switch off the gas. This concerns a total of 320 rental homes in the Overvecht-Noord district. According to the city council and housing corporation Mitros, it is necessary to speed up the energy transition and it would be a waste of money to renew gas pipes.

This means a total of 320 rental properties. The residents only use gas for cooking. During a consultation, 92% voted in favor of switching to electric cooking, 5% were against and 3% abstained. The city council approved the proposal on 1 December.

The original reason for forcing the residents to turn off the gas is a brittle gas pipe. The municipality sees replacing the gas pipeline as a waste, because the gas pipelines would only continue to function until 2030. One of the goals of the Climate Agreement is to have disconnected 1.5 million homes from gas by 2030.

The cabinet is therefore preparing a law in which all municipalities will have coercion as an instrument. They can then disconnect districts or neighborhoods from natural gas, even if residents do not want to. The bill would take effect on January 1, 2024.

It is not entirely unexpected that the Utrecht district is going off gas. Since 2017, Overvecht-Noord has been one of the testing grounds in the ‘Programme Natural Gas-Free Districts’ project. There are a total of 46 living labs in the Netherlands participating in this project.

“In the first instance you could not legally oblige people to go off the gas,” says Esther Verhoeff of the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG). “That is why an Order in Council was issued about two years ago, so that you could not stop it. It was already known in 2017 that the Overvecht-Noord district must be rid of gas by 2030.”

Update on Dujat & Members

We are pleased to welcome BIPO Service (Netherlands) B.V. as new member of Dujat. We look forward to introducing them to our network at our upcoming events!

If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

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Sources: Nu.nlNOSRTL NieuwsParoolNHKNikkeiJapanToday