Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 47, 2020

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Best Masknist Award 2020 held to honor pioneers in Japanese mask fashion

Update on Japan

  • On Tuesday 17 November, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 298 new cases of the coronavirus, up 118 from Monday. The number is the result of 3,647 tests conducted on 14 November. The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 35,229. By age group, the highest number of cases were people in their 20s (81), followed by 50 each in their 30s and 40s. The number of infected people in Tokyo with severe symptoms is 42, up two from Monday, health officials said.Nationwide, the number of reported cases was 1,686. After Tokyo, the prefectures with the most cases were Osaka (269), Hokkaido (197), Aichi (138), Kanagawa (133), Hyogo (107), Chiba (79), Ibaraki (55), Kyoto (49) and Okinawa (24). Seven coronavirus-related deaths were reported,

    Japan is not in a situation that requires a state-of-emergency declaration again over the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday, adding that experts backed that view. Speaking to reporters, he said the government’s initiative to boost domestic tourism with subsidies also did not need to be revised. Coronavirus infections reached the highest-ever 1,634 cases in Japan on Thursday, topping a previous record set on 7 August, according to public broadcaster NHK.

  • The Japanese government will financially support shops and restaurants that are asked to shorten their business hours in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday 16 November. Suga’s pledge came as Hokkaido officials agreed to ask residents of Sapporo to refrain from nonessential outings following back-to-back days of record infections in the region.Speaking at a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force, Suga said the government plans to use 50 billion yen for the support program should local authorities deem it necessary to cut short business hours. The money has been set aside assuming payments of between 200,000 yen and 300,000 yen per outlet for one month, according to officials.

    The request for shorter opening hours will be limited to specific areas and industries, Suga said. In addition to Hokkaido, a popular tourist spot known for its heavy snowfall, Aichi Prefecture is also looking to raise its coronavirus alert, while Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities continue to see high infection numbers.

    In total across Japan, record daily coronavirus cases were reported for three consecutive days through Saturday, with the figure hitting 1,737 on that day. Suga also said he would ask governors to consider making groups of more than five people or so ineligible for the government’s Go To Eat program, which is aimed at encouraging dining out at restaurants.

    With 189 new infections in Hokkaido reported on Monday, Gov Naomichi Suzuki and Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto agreed in an emergency meeting to urge the city’s residents not to travel to other areas of the island. Hokkaido has recently been experiencing a rapid rise in daily infections, with more than 200 cases reported on four consecutive days through Sunday. It reported a record 236 cases last Thursday.

    Sapporo is expected to raise its alert for the pandemic to four on the island’s five-level coronavirus scale, indicating a rapid surge in infections and a need to implement measures to avert a great burden being put on medical facilities. Raising the level will enable authorities to request limits on the operational capacities of facilities that have failed to implement measures against the pandemic.

    The island initially requested catering and entertainment businesses in Sapporo’s Susukino nightlife district to refrain from operating between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., while pledging 200,000 yen for each business that follows the request. But local authorities now plan to expand the request to the entire city and call on eateries without proper virus prevention measures to refrain from opening.

    Meanwhile, Aichi Gov Hideaki Omura said Monday that his prefecture is considering raising its coronavirus alert after it saw over 100 daily infections for six straight days through Sunday. “We don’t expect a downward trend” for the time being, he said at a press conference. Despite a spike in cases, Suga has said the government will maintain its Go To Travel subsidy campaign to support domestic tourism.

  • Ruling and opposition parties on Monday jointly submitted a bill to recognize those who give birth to a baby using donated eggs or sperm as legal parents, a move that could help conclude a decades-old debate in Japan.The current civil law does not have a provision regarding in-vitro fertilization involving a third person, sparking discussions about how to eliminate legal uncertainties with regard to the parentage of such children. But the bill does not recognize the rights of such children to seek disclosure of the identities of egg or sperm donors, triggering criticism from groups representing them as well as the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

    It also postpones responses to some other issues such as the buying and selling of eggs and sperm as well as whether to approve surrogacy. Lawmakers said they will consider legal action to address those issues over the next two years.

    The bill also does not reflect the recently increasing demand among sexual minority couples and single women who wish to have children. The bill is expected to be enacted during the current Diet session through early December with support from parties including Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party and the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

    It stipulates that a woman who gave birth is the mother of the child when she used a donated egg, and that a husband cannot deny he is the father after he consented to his wife using sperm donated from a third person. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has only allowed egg donations from a third person to married couples who cannot have a baby of their own. It has also excluded women with aged ova as recipients.

    In Japan, such fertilization has been conducted at a limited number of facilities and many patients, mostly older women, have given birth to children after receiving eggs abroad. The number of patients seeking treatment overseas through mediators has increased in recent years. But problems over sperm donation between individuals via the internet have been on the rise.

    The debate over donating eggs and sperm became active in Japan after a doctor in Nagano Prefecture announced in 1998 he had carried out in-vitro fertilization for a woman using eggs donated by her younger sister. In 2003, a panel of the ministry released a report that allowed egg and sperm donation under certain conditions. The report also called for a legal system to allow children aged 15 or older to request disclosure of who donated eggs or sperm.

  • Japan is set to break with its age-old tradition of requiring citizens to use personal seals to stamp all official documents, scrapping their use in nearly 15,000 administrative processes, an official at the Cabinet Office said on Friday. The use of seals will be abolished for all but 83 instances such as automobile registration, the official said, affecting transactions carried out by millions of Japanese every day. The official said no specific timetable has been set for phasing out seal use.The radical switch comes as newly installed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga seeks to boost use of digital technology to streamline processes and spur lackluster growth in the world’s third-biggest economy. A custom originally imported from China more than a thousand years ago, the use of seals – hanko in Japanese – was formalized by Japan’s government in the mid-1800s.

    With far more people working from home in Japan than previously amid the coronavirus pandemic, the custom has come under criticism with millions of workers forced to commute to their offices because of the need for contracts and proposals to be stamped using the seals.

    Taro Kono, minister in charge of regulatory reforms, stoked controversy in recent weeks after he posted a picture of a seal with a phrase “abolish stamps” engraved on it on Twitter. Kono’s move triggered an angry response last week from the All Japan Seal Industry Association, representing 890 seal manufacturers and retailers that serve a population of about 126 million.

  • The requirement by many of Japan’s firms that job applicants indicate their gender and even provide a photo on resumes has left the country out of step with the international norm, but that may be about to change. An internet petition campaign stressing that such practices can lead to discrimination has collected over 10,000 signatures, while at least one major company has altered its rules to scrap both requirements and even stop asking for applicants’ first names.Identifying gender on resumes is particularly problematic for transgender people, often leading to obstacles in getting hired, experts say. “For someone like myself who is unable to circle male or female on a resume, I often face hardships about my ideal situation. Gender should have nothing to do with my job,” said Minori Hori, a 31-year-old resident of Onagawa, who is legally a woman but feels as if “I am neither male nor female.”

    “Getting rid of the gender section on applications will help prevent discrimination,” said Manabu Sato of Posse, a nonprofit organization that offers free job-related consultations, among other services. In the United States, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant because of race, color, religion or sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy).

    The signatures calling on eliminating gender on resumes were submitted to the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry and the Japanese Standards Association, whose resume format had been referred to by stationery makers until being deleted from the association’s official website in July.

    Major stationery manufacturer Kokuyo Co plans on selling resumes without a gender section. Some companies, such as Unilever Japan, no longer require photos or gender specifications — going as far as to ask job applicants to only list their surname to prevent bias recruitment based on sex. Toyota Motor Corp has also jumped on the bandwagon, eliminating curriculum vitae gender sections to respect diversity, it says. The company still requires photos, however.

    Even so, some argue that information on gender is sometimes essential, at least as a way of demonstrating equal opportunity. Kirin Holdings Co has made it voluntary to provide gender since it hired new college graduates to join the company in the spring, explaining that the practice has not been wholly dissolved as it seeks to hire the right balance of employees and promote women in the workplace. This also helps with its public relations image, the company argues, when asked about gender ratio quotas.

    The Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation, which supports sexual minorities and has launched a petition for an LGBT equality law, welcomes the elimination of gender sections on job application forms, but it is also apprehensive about “not being able to calculate the ratio between men and women in the workforce, putting women at a disadvantage” in Japan’s male-dominant work environment.

    Yuichi Kamiya, secretary general of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation, said, “It is desirable to ask for gender identity rather than (legal) gender that does not respect the person’s perception. We also need the option of neither.” But Kamiya added: “Some gender information needs to be known. We need to listen to and consider the opinions of experts about its necessity for hiring and how people should be asked.”

  • This month, the first-ever Best Masknist Award ceremony was held at the Capital Hotel Tokyu in Chiyoda, Tokyo. This award honors the people in four categories who best exemplify the spirit of using a mask as a fashion accessory rather than just a plain old way to avoid infecting people. The concept was taken from the Best Jeanist Award that was also given out earlier this year for the 36th year, even leaving the “n” in the title, making it “Best Masknist Award”.It was a well-intentioned event to help put a positive spin on wearing a mask. Despite the protective qualities, the fact that you cannot see other people’s smiles every day can have negative psychological effects. So perhaps by injecting some style this general malaise can be curbed.

    The Best Masknist Award 2020 was given to people in the fields of influencer/model, athlete, entertainer, and actor. In addition to the honor, each winner also gets a Gold Mask Trophy which is literally a trophy in the shape of a golden mask.

    In the first category the Best Masknist Award went to model Yuki Kimura, affectionately known as Yukipoyo, for her commitment to wearing stylish masks. In the athlete category, soccer player Karina Maruyama can now put a Gold Mask Trophy next to her Olympic silver medal and FIFA World Cup 2011 champion medal. Maruyama thanked the event’s sponsor SERAO for producing a mask with good breathability, which is indispensable for people with active lifestyles.

    The Best Masknist Award 2020 for entertainers went to the Osaka-based comedy duo Milk Boy, Takashi Komaba and Takashi Utsumi. Finally, the Best Masknist actress award went to Mayuko Kawakita, star of numerous Japanese TV shows and feature films. Kawakita gracefully accepted her Gold Mask Trophy and told the audience, “because masks are indispensable in my life I’m honored to receive the Best Masknist Award.”

  • International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has inspected venues for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Bach is now visiting Japan for the first time since the decision was made in March to postpone the Tokyo Games to next year.On Tuesday, day three of his four-day stay, he visited the athletes’ village, guided by the head of the village, Kawabuchi Saburo. Bach inspected accommodation buildings and the main dining hall. Under the current plan, one or two beds are to be placed in each room at the village, but the plan is reportedly under review to prevent coronavirus infections.
    Bach praised the facilities, saying they have sufficient space for social distancing.

    He then visited the main stadium for the Games, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and Paralympics. He took time to walk around the National Stadium, viewing spectator seats. Bach said he was impressed by the stadium’s Japan-inspired design and coloring.

    When he was asked if he hopes to see the stadium filled with spectators during the Games, he said everybody hopes so, but indicated that they will settle on an appropriate number of spectators. He said what that number will be is not yet clear. He also expressed hopes of visiting Japan again in spring, when the Olympic torch relay and test events are scheduled to begin.

Protesting members of the Farmers Defense Force (FDF) drive past the residential palace of King Willem-Alexander in The Hague.

Update on the Netherlands

  • In tonight’s coronavirus press conference, the government will not give clarity on what Christmas will look like in terms of the lockdown, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health said on Monday. The government wants to temper expectations – Prime Minister Mark Rutte will be warning against excessive optimism, according to De Telegraaf.”Christmas is still a long way off. What we naturally want to do: see if we can do something more, because it is a party that you celebrate together,” De Jonge said, RTL Nieuws reports. “But I don’t think we can provide any clarity about that right now. The figures are a lot lower than they were, but still a lot higher than they need to be.”

    As expected, the additional measures implemented on top of the partial lockdown two weeks ago will be scrapped. That means that people will be allowed to come together in groups larger than two again, though how much larger is not yet clear. Museums, libraries, theme parks, zoos, and concert halls will be allowed to reopen again, but still with restrictions. The expectation is that there won’t be more relaxations, according to the broadcaster.

    The government is considering various options for reopening the catering industry, but no decision is expected on Tuesday. A definite timeline for the catering industry is expected sometime early December.

    On Monday 16 November, 4,873 people tested positive for an infection of the coronavirus, public health agency RIVM said. The total was 11% lower than Sunday, 3% higher than a week ago, and also the lowest number of new infections reported in a single day since 10 November.

  • A vaccine against COVID-19 developed by Moderna is 94.5% effective, the pharmaceutical company said based on interim results on Monday. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) started a “rolling review” for the vaccine, NOS reports.Normally, pharmaceuticals only submit the results of their vaccine trials to the authorities for review once all their trials are done. Due to the current exceptional circumstances, the authorities are giving vaccines a “rolling review”, in which pharmaceuticals submit interim results. The requirements that vaccines must meet do not change, but authorities can start forming an opinion sooner.

    “An assessment outside corona time can take 18 months. How long it will take with this procedure depends on the quality of the research data and whether we have additional questions,” a spokesperson for the Dutch medical evaluation board CBG said to NOS. “Earlier this year, the virus inhibitor Remdisivir had an accelerated evaluation, which the EMA was able to do in four weeks.”

    The Moderna vaccine is one of six that the Netherlands helped negotiate for on behalf of the European Union. The EU agreed to buy 80 million doses of the vaccine, with the option to scale up to 160 million doses. The Netherlands is entitled to 3.89% of those vaccines. If the EMA approves the vaccine, the European Commission can grant a license for it.

    The Moderna vaccine, mRNA-1273, works on the basic principle that a RNA molecule is used as a messenger, which prompts the body to produce its own active ingredients to fight various diseases, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health said in a letter to parliament in September. The vaccine is now in phase 3 of its trials, the phase in which it is determined whether the vaccine actually protects people against COVID-19. A total of 30 thousand people are participating in this trial, half of whom will get two doses of mRNA-1273, the other half will get two placebos.

    The EMA previously announced rolling reviews for two other vaccines that the Netherlands will also get a share of – the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford, and the one developed by Pfizer and BioNtech. Pfizer last week announced that its vaccine is 90% effective, based on interim results.

  • The housing prices in the Netherlands are still rising, though there has been a shift where some areas see the biggest increases. While in past years the prices increased most in the Randstad and especially Amsterdam, it is now the more provincial cities and rural areas that are seeing the biggest jumps, according to figures from online appraiser Calcasa.At the end of the third quarter, Amsterdam homes were on average 5.7% more expensive than the same time last year. Home prices in the city of Groningen jumped 11.6%. Nationwide, home prices increased by 8.9% on average.

    Calcasa called it “important changes in the regional distribution”. There were already signs of people moving from the big municipalities to the suburbs, and the coronavirus crisis intensified that. Homes outside the big cities are sold much more quickly than homes inside the cities, Calcasa said. The province of Groningen also saw the biggest increase in home prices at 11.3%. Flevoland and Noord-Brabant took second and third place, both seeing home price increases above 10%. At the bottom of the list are Zeeland, Limburg and Noord-Holland – Amsterdam’s home province.

    Despite the recent below average price increases in Amsterdam, homes in the capital are still very expensive. In the past decade, Amsterdam homes became 75% more expensive. Compared to the housing market low point in the previous financial crisis in 2013, Amsterdam home prices increased by 92%. The other large cities also saw major home price increases compared to 2013. In Rotterdam, home prices increased 85%, in Utrecht 88%and in The Hague 77%.

    “Due to these price increases, these cities became unaffordable for many people and they are therefore less likely to move there. The consequence of this is that the demand for other areas, such as Groningen, increases and prices will subsequently rise sharply.”

  • The coronavirus crisis is hampering the project to create more jobs for people with occupational disabilities. The goal to create around 125 thousand jobs within five years is getting further and further out of sight, Aart van der Gaag, commissioner of the project, said to NOS. “The momentum is gone. Until the beginning of the year, we were well on track. I still have hopes that we will reach that 125 thousand, but the longer corona lasts, the more difficult it becomes,” he said. “Then we won’t reach 2026, it will be a few years later.”Since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, the number of jobs for people with occupational disabilities decreased instead of increased. Halfway through this year, the counter stood at 58 thousand. The goal was 67,500 this year, according to the broadcaster. “You simply cannot expect companies in the hospitality industry or a museum that is now closed to hire people. They are already having a hard time,” Van der Gaag said.

    Governments are still doing well in hiring people with an occupational disability, catching up in the backlogs on the agreement of recent years. The Tax Authority now employs 600 people with disabilities, for example. “They do all kinds of work, from tax specialist at the FIOD to cleaner. This year in particular we are focusing on administrative employees,” a spokesperson for the Tax Authority said to NOS.

    The trade association for social employment companies, Cedris, also noticed that the goal of the job agreement is getting further out of reach. “It’s a tough time for the job deal,” a spokesperson said to the broadcaster. “We see that, partly due to support measures from the governments, many employees are being retained, but employers are hardly willing to hire new people.”

  • Dozens of Members of the Farmers Defense Force (FDF) gathered in The Hague with their tractors on Tuesday 17 November, to protest against the government’s nitrogen policy and the Environmental Act. A few dozen parked their tractors on the Malieveld, against the agreement with the municipality, the police said. Two people were arrested at the protest, though what they are suspected of is not yet clear, NU.nl reports.The municipality of The Hague gave the farmers permission to park their agricultural vehicles at Koekamp, next to the Malieveld and Den Haag Central Station. But not on the Malieveld itself, because it was damaged by two large farmers’ protests last year. The local police said on Twitter that Farmers Defense Force (FDF), the action group that organized this protest, will address the farmers on the Malieveld and instruct them to move.

    Because the Environmental Act was already passed in parliament four years ago, FDF addressed the king during this protest. A law is only valid once the head of state has signed the document. With this law, the cabinet wants to merge the current regulations on spatial planning, living environment, construction, nature, environment and water, with the idea that fewer permits will be required. The intention is that the law will take effect in 2022.

    FDF fears that farmers’ permits will expire in the future due to the Environmental Act. Though this fear is not shared by agricultural organization LTO Nederland, which stated that the existing laws and permits will not change under the Environmental Act and will still apply after it is introduced. In addition to the Environmental Act, the FDF is also protesting against the government’s plans to cut nitrogen emissions, and the government’s new purchase scheme.

    Unlike with previous farmers’ protests, today’s stream of tractors towards The Hague did not cause major problems on the highways. Later on Tuesday, the farmers planned to take a tractor parade past Huis ten Bosch Palace, in an attempt to raise their concerns to the King’s attention. According to FDF, they received permission to do so from the municipality and the police.

  • Self-employed persons who have to go into quarantine due to the pandemic, should be compensated for the income they lost while isolating, the behavioral unit of public health institute RIVM recommended in a report on increasing adherence to the coronavirus rules.A study published by the RIVM on Saturday showed that 60% of people who were told to quarantine at home in the past six weeks, still went outside at least once. Only half of the people contacted by the health authorities and informed they were in contact with a COVID-19 patient, stayed home the full 10 days of quarantine. Of travelers who returned from a coronavirus hotspot, 70% did not quarantine for the 10 day period, and even 20% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 did not stay home.

    But the researchers found that this is not because people do not care about the measures, or feel unwilling to follow them. “The vast majority of people take the measures seriously. And 90 to 95% say they absolutely do not want to infect someone. The people we surveyed often said: I really had to do something outside, but I did it at a quiet time, and I made sure to keep my distance. Considerations which are easy to understand,” RIVM behavioral scientist Marijn de Bruin said to the Volkskrant.

    The behavioral unit therefore recommended that the government take measures to reward following the rules, like compensating self-employed persons for the income they lost while adhering to quarantine advice. “If you can do that with rewards, I think that is a good thing. Punishment is difficult at the moment: people who have symptoms and have not yet been tested must already be in isolation at this point and you do not know who they are,” Bas den Putte, member of the behavioral unit and professor of health and communication at the University of Amsterdam, said to BNR.

    He couldn’t tell the broadcaster how likely it is that the government will follow this advice. “But if you close industries to prevent corona, I think the only logical thing is to also help self-employed people who help to prevent the spread of corona. We are still in one of the biggest crises since the Second World War.”

Update on Dujat & Members

  • What is the current status of negotiations and likelihood of deal? The expected impact of Brexit on the UK economy, trade with the EU, and on investments? Can we take any positives from Brexit? These topics were discussed at this morning’s Brexit Webinar with Baker McKenzie, Jones Day and Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA).Presentations are available for download via this link. A second webinar on Brexit has been announced for January 2021. This will be organized on Wednesday 27 January, in collaboration with the same speakers and co-hosted by JCC. Save the date!
  • The Port of Rotterdam presents ‘Supply Chain Talks’ on December 3rd 12:00h (CET) With international speakers from leading parties in shipping and logistics:Joerg Bull – Senior Vice President Seafreight Greater China at Kuehne + Nagel
    Allard Castelein – CEO at Port of Rotterdam Authority
    Marty van Pelt – Program Director Get Ready for Brexit at Portbase
    Rogier Rook – Logistics Manager at Nature’s Pride
    Anne Saris – Business Manager Agrofood and Distribution at Port of Rotterdam
    Aad Scholten – General Manager at ECT Delta Terminal
    Marcel van der Vlugt – Operations Manager Port & Terminals at Stena Line

    During this 45-minute live studio broadcast with interviews, discussions, news and behind the scenes video coverage we connect with our business partners from around the globe. In this edition they cover:

    – An interview with CEO Allard Castelein on investing in a reliable supply chain
    – Developments and trends in the reefer supply chain including an insight from Shanghai from market leader Kuehne + Nagel – Brexit experts on last-minute Brexit preparations
    – On site interview with ECT on investing in a future proof terminal.

    If you are interested, please register here.

  • L&A advocaten is organizing a webinar on 26 November from 15:00 CET: ‘Working from home – From the ‘new way’ of working to the ‘normal’ way of working?’ The webinar is accessible for Dujat members and will be in Dutch language.Summary: In a year marked by unexpected challenges and rapid change regarding the ways of working, the aspects of working from home have gained attention and importance. People in the Netherlands largely worked from home during the last eight months and still do. Much has already been said about the consequences of working from home, e.g. on working together, leadership and work-life balance.

    But what are the legal aspects of working from home? In what way should an employer deal with conflicts? What is allowed and what not? Which case law has led to new views?

    Join L&A advocaten virtually for its signature webinar on working from home. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about a variety of topics in relation to working from home such as:

    – working from home policy; do’s and don’ts;
    – managing and monitoring employees;
    – the role of employee participation on working from home.

    The webinar will also consider interesting corona-related case law and an interview regarding a recent research report on the impact of working from home on a long-term basis on working (together) in organisations. The speakers will be Arlette Putker-Blees (managing partner), Irene Francken-Van der Ven (partner) and Susan Smulders (partner Moneypenny).

    Please note again that the presentation will be held in the Dutch language. You can register via this link. L&A advocaten looks forward to see you at the webinar.

  • If your company has any news or updates to share in next week’s newsletter, let us know via e-mail to vangastel@dujat.nl.

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

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Sources: Nu.nlNOSDeTelegraafRTLNieuwsJapanTodayNHKPRtimes