Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 10, 2021

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Update on Japan

  • Japan extended a state of emergency in the Tokyo area by two weeks on Friday to try to combat COVID-19, prompting a “heartfelt apology” by Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide. The state of emergency had been set to end on 7 March, but with four and a half months until Tokyo is due to host the Olympic Games, Suga said there was a need for caution because of the threat from new coronavirus variants and the possibility of cases rising again.”I am deeply sorry at not being able to lift the state of emergency by the previously-promised 7 March. I offer my heartfelt apology,” Suga said at a news conference. Under the state of emergency in Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures, the government has requested restaurants and bars close by 8 p.m. and stop serving alcohol an hour earlier. People are also asked to stay home after 8 p.m. unless they have essential reasons to go out.Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures, which make up 30% of Japan’s population, sought the extension because the number of new coronavirus cases had not fallen enough. Suga said conditions had improved but there were still problems such as pressure on the medical system in the Tokyo area and cases could still rebound. Variant strains of the virus have been found in 19 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. In order to protect your lives and livelihood, and to take back a secure and lively life, I ask for your cooperation from the bottom of my heart,” Suga said.

    Tokyo Governor Koike told a video conference of governors of the affected area that the extension was essential. “We can’t have things rebound now, this is a really important time, and I think we all understand this,” she said. “We’ll keep in close contact with each other and beat the virus.”

    Suga said he would offer as much support for businesses as possible, but restaurants and related businesses fear continued suffering. Koganezawa Akira, vice president of the association for 55 restaurants that serve monjayaki, a pan-fried batter dish popular in the Tokyo area, said it was “a matter of life or death for us. Without enough subsidies, some restaurants would go out of business.”

    New case numbers are still a fraction of their peak in early January, when the state of emergency took effect. Tokyo reported 301 cases on Friday, compared with a record high 2,520 on 7 January. Nationwide, Japan has recorded about 438,000 cases and 8,185 deaths from COVID-19.

  • Japan will allow hospitals to administer Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine using insulin syringes, which can extract seven shots per vial rather than the five possible with the type of syringe the government has procured, health minister Norihisa Tamura said Tuesday. The move comes as the country’s vaccine rollout grapples with a supply shortage owing to production delays at Pfizer’s factory in Belgium and export controls by the European Union.Kono Taro, minister in charge of the country’s vaccination efforts, said the government will look into procuring insulin syringes “if there is a surplus” and it does not affect supply for diabetes patients.The government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu, said it would be up to hospitals to ensure the vaccines are administered properly, and that the government does not plan to actively advocate the use of insulin syringes.

    Since launching its vaccination program in mid-February, Japan has used six-shot syringes on an initial group of 40,000 health care workers and switched to the more widely available five-shot syringes to inoculate other medical staff totaling 4.8 million.

    The country has a supply agreement with Pfizer for 144 million doses, enough for more than half its population, within this year. On Monday, the fourth batch of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Narita airport from Belgium, a week after the third batch of up to 526,500 doses was delivered. Other vaccines developed by AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc. are still under review by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for fast-track approval.

    The health ministry last week also approved a low dead space syringe developed by Terumo Corp that can also yield seven shots per vial of the Pfizer vaccine but has a longer needle, with production ready to begin as early as the end of this month. The medical equipment maker expects to manufacture 20 million of the syringes, which were designed using know-how from the 2009 swine flu pandemic, in the fiscal year beginning in April, according to a company official.

    Prime Minister Suga has called vaccines the “decisive factor” in bringing COVID-19 under control in Japan, with the economy languishing under restrictions on dining out and less than five months to go until this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. But Kato called on the public to continue taking precautions against COVID-19 even after getting vaccinated including wearing masks, adding the health ministry will update its guidelines as needed.

    On Monday, coronavirus vaccinations for around 14,000 medical staff from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces began, the Defense Ministry said, as part of a program launched last month to inoculate health care workers nationwide. Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said in a press conference on 19 February that the SDF members would be prioritized to receive the vaccine due to their role in health care and fight against the pandemic.

  • A tsunami learning facility has opened in the northeastern Japanese city of Ishinomaki, almost 10 years after the city was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.A non-profit group spent 90 million yen to open the facility as part of its activities to pass on the lessons of the March 11, 2011 disaster. The head of the group, Suzuki Noriyuki, said at the opening ceremony on Monday that his association will work with other organizations to make the facility one of the centers of the community.The two-story wooden building has a large viewing screen measuring 3.5 meters tall and 12 meters wide. A computer-generated image of the 2011 tsunami and survivors’ accounts will be shown on the screen to enable visitors to see the destructive power of tsunami and to teach them how to escape to safety. The facility also has a learning space for children.

    A memorial park will open nearby later this month. A tsunami-hit former elementary school has been preserved as a reminder of the disaster. The group says it wants to make the facility a place where visitors to the park and the school can interact with local people.

  • Ten years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, Japan’s nuclear industry remains crippled, with the majority of its reactors halted or on the path towards decommissioning. The government still hopes to revitalize the sector, in part to reduce the country’s dependence on energy imports as well as help it meet a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.Around 5,000 people are still working daily at the Fukushima plant, where four reactors were severely damaged by the March 11, 2011 tsunami that was triggered by a powerful earthquake. Tangled scrap metal can still be seen strewn around parts of the site, including at the top of the No. 1 reactor, whose roof blew off during the disaster. Three reactors melted down in all and even now mobile Geiger counters periodically beep throughout the site.So far, the reactors’ surroundings have been cleared, intact fuel rods have been removed with giant cranes, and new concrete dikes are being built to protect against tsunamis. But the most difficult part lies ahead: extracting nearly 900 tons of molten fuel mixed with other highly radioactive debris.

    Development in Britain of a special robotic arm for use in the operation was delayed by the pandemic, pushing back the start of the extraction process by a year to 2022. But that’s barely a blip in a decommissioning process expected to take 30 to 40 years, at best.

    A 7.3-magnitude quake that hit the region overnight on 13 February this year did not spark a tsunami or cause major damage, including at the Fukushima plant, but it caused cooling water levels to drop in several reactors — though plant operator TEPCO said the effect was limited, as the water is in a closed system that does not leach into the surrounding environment.

    All of Japan’s reactors were halted after the accident and nuclear safety regulations were tightened significantly. Just nine reactors are currently operational, compared to 54 before March 2011, and two dozen are set for decommissioning. Nuclear accounted for just 6.2% of electricity generation in Japan in fiscal 2019, a fraction of the 30% before the accident, according to official figures.

    The government’s current goal, which is being reviewed, is for nuclear to account for 20-22% of electricity generation by 2030 — a target viewed as impossible by many experts. A majority of Japanese remain opposed to nuclear power after the trauma of the Fukushima disaster, and dozens of lawsuits have been filed by communities near plants in a bid to prevent them restarting. Other obstacles include the astronomical costs of implementing new nuclear security measures, as well as the longer-term price tag for decommissioning and maintenance of both operational and halted plants.

    In early 2020, Japanese news agency Kyodo calculated these costs for all the country’s reactors at 13,460 billion yen. But the figure does not include the cost of decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi and decontamination work in the region. “The future of nuclear power is very bleak,” Kikkawa Takeo, an energy expert and professor at the International University of Japan, said this week.

    With no plans for new or replacement plants, “nuclear power in Japan will wane and gradually disappear,” he predicted. And some Japanese firms in the sector appear to agree, increasing investment in renewable energy as Japan seeks to meet its carbon-neutral goals.

    Last June, TEPCO announced it would invest 2,000 billion yen over 10 years to boost its green energy capacity. Toshiba and Hitachi have also abandoned nuclear power projects in the UK in recent years.

  • The Japanese government has decided to exclude overseas spectators from attending this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials with knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday 9 March.The government and the Japanese organizing committee of the Summer Games are expected to hold a remote meeting with the International Olympic Committee and two other bodies later this month to make a formal decision on the issue of overseas visitors.The government has concluded that welcoming fans from abroad is not possible given concerns among the Japanese public over the coronavirus and the fact that more contagious variants have been detected in many countries, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    On 3 March, the representatives of the five organizing bodies, which also include the International Paralympic Committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government, agreed to make a decision on overseas spectators by the end of this month. They will then make a call in April on the number of spectators to be allowed into venues.

    Hashimoto Seiko, president of the Japanese committee, has sought to finalize whether to let visitors from abroad watch the games live in the stands at each venue before the domestic leg of the Olympic torch relay begins on 25 March. The opening ceremony of the torch relay will be held without spectators as well to prevent the spread of the virus, officials with knowledge of the planning also said Tuesday.

    The organizing committee has decided it is essential to hold the ceremony in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima behind closed doors, only permitting participants and invitees to take part in the event, to avoid large crowds forming amid the pandemic, the officials said.

    After the ceremony at the J-Village soccer training center, about 10,000 runners will carry the flame through Japan’s 47 prefectures before the opening of the Olympics on 23 July. The training center served as a frontline base in the battle against the nuclear crisis that was triggered by the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami of March 11, 2011. It was selected as the starting point of the relay to showcase the northeastern region’s recovery from the triple disaster.

    Last month, the committee released a set of coronavirus countermeasures for the 121-day relay that requested those who wish to watch the event to refrain from traveling to other prefectures and to maintain social distancing from other spectators.

    In recent weeks, a number of celebrity torchbearers, who were expected to draw large crowds along the route, have opted out of the event, which was supposed to have been held last year before the Olympics and Paralympics were due to the global health crisis.

    The Olympics are due to take place between 23 July and 8 August, followed by the Paralympics from 24 August to 5 September.

  • Japan’s government has approved a draft bill aimed at recycling plastic and reducing waste. The draft approved in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday covers measures to be taken at each step from designing plastic products to disposal and recycling.The bill would require manufacturers to design products that are easy to recycle under a new system established by the government that recognizes eco-friendly products. Retailers would be banned from offering excessive single-use plastic items such as spoons and forks, and required to offer items made of other materials.Businesses that make or sell plastic products would be encouraged to draw up plans to collect used items for recycling to bypass other procedures related to the country’s waste disposal law.The government plans to submit the proposed bill to the current session of the Diet and have it enacted. About 8 million tons of plastic waste is estimated to flow from Japan into the ocean every year, causing serious environmental problems.
  • Japan’s transport ministry says it will set up an office to integrate work being done on so-called flying vehicles. The government aims to put next-generation air mobility into practical use in 2023. Electric-powered flying cars will use technologies associated with drones.Officials hope the vehicles will improve logistics and reduce traffic. They could also be a way to reach remote islands and sparsely populated areas. The office is set to open on 1 April. It will study vehicle safety standards and the skills required for pilots.It will draw up plans to register vehicles and control operations. Some officials will be based at a test field in Fukushima Prefecture, where they will support test flights and the development of new technologies.

Update on the Netherlands

The curfew rule in the Netherlands is extended until the end of March.

  • On Monday 9 March, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge gave an update on the state of affairs around the pandemic during a press conference. It was confirmed that the curfew will be extended through at least 30 March along with all other coronavirus restrictions.But some minor relaxation of the rules are ahead. Swimming lessons for children up to 12 years old will resume from next week, and non-essential shops will be able to have more customers depending on the number of square meters.Additionally, cafe terraces could be permitted to reopen on 31 March if the basic reproduction (R) number of the virus is below 1.00 at that time, meaning that 100 people contagious with the coronavirus infection pass it on to fewer than 100 others. Likewise, higher education students could be allowed to return to classrooms once per week around that time provided they present a negative result from a rapid coronavirus test.

    More restrictions could be relaxed faster if vaccines are given out more quickly. The Netherlands launched this week an ambitious plan to increase the number of facilities where jabs are provided with a goal of administering 1.5 million doses per week in May.

    Aditionally, the Dutch government decided to lift the ban on passenger flights and ferries from the United Kingdom. It also relaxed travel restrictions for a number of people who want to travel to the Netherlands from outside the European Union, including business travelers and people in a long-distance relationship.

    From Tuesday 9 March, passenger flights and ferries can come to the Netherlands again. Travelers from the United Kingdom still need to test negative for the coronavirus before boarding, and they are still urged to quarantine upon in their arrival in the Netherlands. The ban on incoming flights from South Africa and a number of countries in South- and Central America still applies.

    Exceptions were also added to the travel restrictions for countries outside the EU. The following groups are now allowed to enter the Netherlands: business travelers, students, highly skilled migrants, professionals from the cultural and creative sector, and people in a long-distance relationship.

  • The Dutch government is working on a proof of non-contagiousness to give more freedom to people who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, recently recovered from an infection and therefore are immune, or recently tested negative for the virus. People can use such a coronavirus passport to attend concerts, festivals or go to the movies, for example, NOS reports.Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health confirmed to the broadcaster that the government is working on “making it technically possible”, but there are still some questions surrounding the use of such a coronavirus passport. For example, it must first be confirmed that vaccinated people no longer play a role in spreading the virus. “And what we do not want is compulsory vaccination, not even indirectly,” he said. “People should not feel forced to get vaccinated.”According to De Jonge, there is already an app called CoronaCheck that can make a code on your phone to serve as proof of COVID-19 test results. “We can adapt that app in such a way that it makes the same code from a vaccination certificate,” he said.

    The departing Health Minister expects that the use of proof of non-contagiousness will be technically possible before the summer. But whether or not it will actually be used, remains to be seen.

  • In the spirit of the National Week Without Meat, Dutch smoked sausage and soup producer Unox announced that they will be partly replacing the meat in their sausages with plant-based products. Unox also intends to bring more vegetarian soups to the Dutch market.The switch comes in an attempt to reduce the amount of saturated fat in their food, as well as the impact that meat consumption has on the environment, the company stated in a press release.Soon some of the meat in chipolata sausages will be replaced by kidney beans and paprika, for example. In other sausages, such as the smoked sausage and the Frankfurters, the pork will be partly substituted by chicken. Chicken meat is more environmentally friendly and contains less saturated fat, Unox said.

    “With these changes, we are helping the consumers to continue enjoying a plate of stew or a bowl of soup with a good conscience”, marketing director Esther van Spronsen said.

    The goal is to help the Dutch population reach a 50-50 balance between animal and plant-based protein by 2025. Currently, about 61% of the protein in the average Dutch person’s diet comes from animals. “The ratio needs to be reduced back to 50-50. That is better for our health and for the planet.”

    Unox’s plans are a part of Unilever’s strategy to increase sales of meat- and dairy substitutes. The group wants to push the sale of their brand De Vegetarische Slager along with providing more vegan options for their mayonnaise brand Hellman’s and the ice cream brands Ben&Jerry’s and Magnum.

  • Amsterdam is adding another 4 million euros to its regular 8 million euros budget for fighting youth unemployment in the city. This extra money is to pay for new measures in this fight, including giving unemployed young people a more individual plan of action, deploying job hunters to actively approach employers, and giving young people more guidance and help with debts, homelessness and stress, the city announced.”Young people are often the first on the street when things go wrong,” alderman Rutger Groot Wassink for Social Affairs said. “If they are entitled to unemployment benefits, it is very limited. It takes years to make up for a bad start on the job market. We must do everything we can to prevent this, which is why we are fully committed to fighting youth unemployment by keeping young people in work or getting them back to school.Due in large part to the coronavirus pandemic, youth unemployment increased from 6.5% in 2019 to 8.5% in 2020. That percentage may actually be a bit higher, as the effects of the second lockdown is not yet clear.

    The crisis did not affect all young people equally. Young people with a practical and secondary education, and young people from ethnic minorities in particular are struggling to find work. This is partly because these groups are more often employed in the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, like hospitality and events.

  • Ten years ago, the Japanese prefecture Fukushima was badly hit by a tsunami and earthquake. Back then, the successful fundraising campaign ‘Nederland Helpt Japan’ made a major contribution to the prefecture’s recovery. But the area and its farmers are still struggling.Now, our member Hotel Okura Amsterdam once again joins forces with ‘Nederland Helpt Japan’ to reflect on this event and contribute to the solid recovery of agricultural production in this region. For this reason, they are donating 10% of Okura at Home’s revenue to the local chapters of the farmer organization in Fukushima to boost this prefecture, in the week from Thursday 11 March until Sunday 14 March.In light of reminiscing the victims of the earthquake and tsunami, there will also be an online event organized by the JCC on Thursday: Great East Japan Earthquake -10 years after – Nederland bedankt. At this event, JCC would like to express their gratitude to the tremendous support from Dutch people and society to the affected area after the earthquake and tsunami.

    It will be a good opportunity for both Dutch and Japanese to know about the reconstruction progress in last 10 years and the current situation through video message from affected cities.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • We are proud to announce that Dujat member Mr. Marinus Noordenbos, the CEO of Hokkai Suisan and Hokkai Kitchen was appointed as the first ever Dutch ‘Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador’ by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).Recently Ambassador Horinouchi presented him with the official letter of appointment and badge. Hokkai Suisan delivers Japanese style fish products all over Europe and you can enjoy Japanese cuisine at the Hokkai Kitchen restaurant in IJmuiden. Congratulations!
  • It seems that if you want to present a Rembrandt on the art market nowadays, you have to discover one yourself. But how do you do that? For this ‘webinar The Friends of The Rembrandt House Museum have invited Jan Six XI and Baukje Coenen to discuss the latest trends in the international art market and the scarcity of available Old Masters artworks.Jan Six is an art dealer and art historian and known for his Rembrandt discoveries of ‘Portrait of a Young Man’ and ‘Let the Children Come to Me’. Baukje Coenen is senior director Old Master paintings, Sotheby’s Amsterdam. Watch and join the conversation on 11 March @ 19:00 CET during the live webinar. works.Registration is free ([http:// https://meo.webinargeek.com/are-there-any-rembrandt-s-for-sale]Sign up here). This webinar is organised by The Friends of The Rembrandt House Museum. The foundation supports the Museum and realises various projects and art purchases. Click here to find out more about how to become a Friend of the museum.
  • If your company has any news to share in next week’s newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to vangastel@dujat.nl.

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

蘭日貿易連盟 | www.dujat.nl

Stroombaan 10 | 1181 VX Amstelveen | The Netherlands

Sources: Nu.nlNOSJapanTodayNHKKyodo NewsJapanTimes