Terrie's Take 771 -- Only 33 Registered Tour Guides Serving Tokyo? E-biz news from Japan.
terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Sun Sep 7 23:54:19 JST 2014
* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term
technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.
General Edition Sunday, September 07, 2014, Issue No. 771
- What's New -- Only 33 Registered Tour Guides Serving Tokyo?
- News -- IVF babies hit record high
- Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies -- Community Manager position
- Upcoming Events
- Travel Picks -- Fishing in Okinawa, Panoramic Views in Sapporo
- News Credits
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+++ WHAT'S NEW
For travelers other than those able to read Chinese characters, the
idea of having to deal with the Japanese language can be quite
off-putting and a good reason to switch from going to Tokyo to instead
choosing Bali or Bangkok. Language makes it difficult for travelers to
do what they like when they want, such as renting cars, arranging
babysitters, buying groceries, or even chatting to regulars in a bar
down from the hotel. For vendors, too, there is a lot of discomfort
about supporting foreigners and their language requirements. This is
one reason why there are relatively speaking so few onsen and ryokan
on the inventories of popular international hotel booking services
like Booking.com and Expedia. The owners of such establishments think
that foreigners and having to deal with them is a royal pain in the
With language being such a big impediment, you would think that it
would be a point of focus for the Japanese government's investment
policy. Rather than more public works projects, putting some cash into
a sector that is almost guaranteed to double from around 0.5% of
national GDP to 1% in the next five years seems like it would be a
sound move. However, so far, the idea of getting financial oil to
smooth the path of hordes of foreign tourists has eluded the nation's
central planners. For example, we recall that there was talk of a
national multilingual help desk several years ago. But that idea
appears to have been killed because the budget required to run it
would have become a significant proportion of the meager sums the
government currently budgets for tourism.
One way to alleviate travel language fears and to give tourists some
real depth and perspective to this amazing country would be to open up
the tour guiding sector so that more youthful bilinguals could get
involved through online marketplaces. Unfortunately, the industry is
being badly hampered by vested interests and outdated laws. While the
rest of the world is moving to crowdsourced solutions in everything
from transport to accommodation, where anyone can hang up their
shingle and where quality is controlled by customers ranking vendor
performance, Japan's government finds itself wanting to micro-control
the entire travel sector, even when the results in some parts like
tour guiding are worse than having no official guides at all.
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The heart of the problem is that Japan has a rather aggressive law
which protects a small and elite group of bilingual tour guides to the
virtual exclusion (there is one exception, see later) of anyone else.
In particular it excludes foreigners who can't pass the
Japanese-language interpreter-guide examination, regardless of how
well they can handle Japanese aurally/orally. The law in question is
the "Guide-Interpreter Business Law of Japan" enacted in 1949 and as
far as we know has not updated since. It was put in place at a time
when a few tens of thousands of wealthy (at least to the Japanese)
Americans were traveling the country, and the government wanted to
guarantee service levels.
The law says very clearly (translated here) that "...only persons who
have passed the nation's guide-interpreter examination may work as
guide-interpreters for a fee, and that a person who has no guide
license and who has accompanied persons other than Japanese and
provided them with travel guide services in a language other than
Japanese for a fee, shall be penalized with a fine of up to 500,000
yen pursuant to Article 40 of the law."
In other words, if you are a local foreigner in Tokyo and you put an
ad on Craig's List saying you'll lead a bar crawl for which members
have to pay for your beer, you've broken the law and be liable for a
fine of up to JPY500,000. OK, maybe that example is a bit extreme, but
it does mean that crowdsourced online tour guide sites that broker
local individuals to show their city to foreigners are also illegal.
This is an interesting situation, because in fact there are a number
of foreign crowdsourced tour guide sites working Japan, for example,
www.meetrip.to, www.triip.me, www.shiroube.com, and which feature
local students (mostly) who make a modest $10 or $20 an hour helping
foreigners out and practicing their English at the same time. The
activities of these sites, which are very careful to dodge legal
liability by operating outside of Japan and/or making legal
disclaimers that they are just a marketplace and that the guides
themselves have to comply with local laws, are starting to attract
noticeable levels of customer bookings.
As a result, we are now seeing a clash of cultures and something is
going to have to give. The Japan Federation of Guides
(http://jfg.jp/green/jfg_eng.html) is pretty much representative of
the old guard, and you can see on their site what they would expect
you to pay for a guide -- not significantly expensive if you're a rich
western business person, but if you need the guide for a couple of
days, then you'll be paying more than most SE Asian visitors would
earn in a month back home. In other words, they are completely out of
touch with market needs.
This problem of an over-regulated sector obviously became an issue
some time ago, probably the 1980's, because it was at that time that a
typically Japanese solution was created to side step the
professionals. The authorities gave permission to create a set of
shadow tour guide organizations where the guides offer their services
for free (well, transport and other costs need to be covered). In
Tokyo one such organization is the so-called TOKYO SGG (Systemized
Goodwill Guide) Club, which has all of 152 members. We can say from
personal experience that this organization is short on the "goodwill"
component and basically consists of polite but intolerant old people
who have no interest in expanding their operation or their membership.
They also typically refuse to take bookings by internet.
Now, we accept that some rules are necessary to keep out unscrupulous
tour guides and operators. But while one way to achieve control is
through laws, another is to provide mechanisms that allow the buyer to
make more informed decisions. In this regard, the government should
take action to create a separate and far more flexible category of
online tour guide marketplaces. These marketplaces should be able to
self-police after a very simple registration procedure, and should be
allowed to provide online bookings of both professional AND amateur
guides so long as they include open and transparent information that
lets customers make better decisions. That transparent information
should be on a standard web marketplace that ranks guides'
performance, competitive pricing, experience, etc.
One measure of how messed up the current situation is, just go to the
following JTA site,
try to find a Tour Guide at the bottom of the page. If you click on
the link, you'll find that the link in fact goes to an engagement ring
sales site. (www.guidesearch.jp). Try it... Obviously it's been a long
time since anyone ever actually tried clicking that link...
In fact, the correct URL for the nation's Tour Guide list is
www.guidesearch.info. However, if you somehow do manage to find that
page, and use the filter, you'll quickly find that it states there are
68 guides serving Tokyo in English. Out of curiosity we clicked around
and found that both the counter and the filter function are broken. In
fact the site only has 33 registered English-language tour guides for
We think it's time for Mr. Abe's team to unleash market forces by
deregulating the travel market, or at least the tour guide part of it.
No one seems to care about it anyway, so they may as well let some
private companies try to improve this broken public-private service.
...The information janitors/
----- One-day directorship training program for women -----
On September 19, The Board Director Training Institute of Japan (BDTI)
will offer a special one-day directorship training program for women,
followed by a dinner and panel discussion with a stellar list of
experienced women directors. Anyone is welcome to attend either or
both programs, which comprise an official side event of the
government's "Shine Weeks" symposium to promote the participation of
women in the economy. Given the number of firms that are looking to
appoint female board members, this is an excellent opportunity for
Japanese-speaking women. Details are at: http://bdti.or.jp/node/1014 .
Co-sponsors: EY Japan, Women Corp. Directors, Tanabe Law Offices.
- Another big acquisition for Rakuten
- Rays of hope from bonus payments
- IVF babies hit record high
- Inventions ownership law to be reversed
- Japanese retailers wake up to foreign tourists
=> Another big acquisition for Rakuten
Rakuten boss, Hiroshi Mikitani, certainly takes his vision of leading
the company to become the world's largest e-commerce player seriously,
putting billions of dollars where his mouth is. This time around the
company is buying Ebates, a US-based loyalty rewards company, for
around JPY100bn. The purchase is to allow Rakuten to enlarge its
successful rewards system beyond Japan, to encompass its overseas
operations. Ebates has a footprint in North America, China, and South
Korea, and will underpin a number of important markets for Rakuten.
(Source: TT commentary from asiaone.com, Sep 6, 2014)
=> Rays of hope from bonus payments
Although Japanese unemployment has been falling thanks to increased
numbers of jobs and fewer workers, most of the new positions are going
to temporary workers rather than permanents, and as a result wages
over the last year fell, rather than rising as might be expected. One
thing that temps do get alongside regular workers, however, is
bonuses, and both categories of workers appear to be getting some
unexpected upside this year. As a result, labor cash earnings for July
2014 rose 2.6% over the same period in 2013. Most economists were
predicting a fall of about 0.9%. This provides some commentators with
hope that employers are topping up bonuses first, as a prelude to
bigger pay raises on regular salaries and increases in temp-to-perm
conversions. ***Ed: In reading the headlines, one also has to remember
that what really matters is "real wages", which are calculated after
adjusting the take-home pay for inflation. In this case, the lot of
the average worker is still deteriorating.** (Source: TT commentary
from bbc.com, Sep 2, 2014)
=> IVF babies hit record high
Although the figures are two years old, the Japan Association of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that 2012 marked a record
number of in vitro fertilization (IVF) births in Japan. Around 330,000
women underwent IVF treatments and as a result, 37,953 babies were
born -- meaning roughly 4% of Japanese births are IVF babies. The
trend is expected to continue as women age and suffer from infertility
problems. IVF treatment is government subsidized, making it widely
available. (Source: TT commentary from xinhuanet.com, Sep 5, 2014)
=> Inventions ownership law to be reversed
In what seems to us to be a retrograde step for firms wanting to
retain above-average talented researchers, the government has reversed
the patent law as regards awarding patent benefits to employees and
not just the companies they work for. The current law is vaguely
worded and until now has allowed employees to sue companies if they
don't pay rewards commensurate with the benefits being enjoyed by the
company as a result of the invention. Now the government has decided
to give companies sole possession of any patents awarded. ***Ed: While
this will give companies temporary benefits of complete control of
their R&D fruits, it will also ensure that brilliant thinkers like
Shuji Nakamura (Blue LED inventor) will move to the USA or other
destination where they can enjoy the fruits of their intelligence and
creativity.** (Source: TT commentary from asahi.com, Sep 03, 2014)
=> Japanese retailers wake up to foreign tourists
Until now, the main recipients of massive foreign tourist spending
have been electronics and cosmetics retailers, food outlets, and
hospitality firms. However, that is all about to change over the next
12 months, and we predict there will be a huge (over-) focus on
foreign tourists as a new source of revenue by other retail sectors.
Indicative of the coming trend, boutique apparel retailer, Ships, will
open display areas at some of its stores that target foreign tourists
with specialty souvenirs. The new sections will have a line-up of
tableware, apparel, and other uniquely Japanese goods, to be dubbed
Ships Souvenirs. The first store will be in trendy Harajuku where
already about 10% of all customers are foreigners. (Source: TT
commentary from nikkei.com, Sep 06, 2014)
NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days
of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the
+++ WEB CONTENT/TECH VACANCIES
=> Are you in web content, sales, or engineering- If so, this section
is for you.
** HIGHLIGHTED POSITION
- Community manager
www.japantravel.com's "special sauce" as a travel website is its
community. We are recruiting a bilingual person with an outgoing and
friendly manner to manage our 3,000-person community both in Japan and
abroad. The person will be involved in recruiting, contracting,
managing, and motivating the key leaders in the community, as well as
assisting with troubleshooting of downstream contributors and other
participants. Ability to multitask, show empathy, and yet maintain
discipline in terms of results are important attributes for this
position. Location of the job for the first 12 months will be in
Tokyo. Some travel around the country is also anticipated. JPY4M -
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foreign applicants. For language fluency, ability to listen, speak,
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Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to: info at japantravel.com.
+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS
-------------- BizDo Introduction Seminar -----------------
Discover The Secret of Leadership Success : Gyoku Shin
On November 7th, during the height of Kyoto's beautiful foliage
season, we will hold our next BizDo Introduction Seminar which
introduces the secrets of Leadership success hidden in the philosophy
and principles of the Japanese Martial Arts. This event is exclusively
for senior executives and only 20 seats are available.
To hear what other top Executives in Japan say about our Seminars and
to reserve your seat, visit: http://www.bizdo.co.jp/seminars/terrie/
=> No feedback or corrections this week.
+++ TRAVEL DESTINATIONS PICKS
=> Blue Water Explorations, Okinawa
Fishing charters & marine exploration
Fishing anyone? If you visit Okinawa, you must try the deep sea
fishing! I'm actually shocked at how many people never go out on the
boat and fish in Okinawa. I know... it's too hot, humid, stinky, and
you get sea sick. Well, grab your sun shades, motion sickness medicine
(the Japanese fune yoii kusuri, as it's the best), and book a charter.
You won't regret it.
Although I own my own boat, I like to charter with Blue Water
Explorations Captain Chris Pancoast. He speaks fluent English &
Japanese and has a very nice 110 ft. commercial fishing boat that
makes the trip as comfortable and fun as it can get. Chris has over 20
years of fishing experience in the Ryukyu Island chain, and caters to
individuals and groups of all sizes. On my last trip, a group of eight
of us went trolling and drifting. We set out at 5:30 am, and returned
to the port at about 6 pm. We landed 60+ nice-sized yellow fin tuna, a
few mahi mahi, one wahoo, a barracuda, and many katsuo tunas.
As we were trolling on the way back, we landed a modest 100lb+ Marlin!
These fish can fight, and it was extremely exhausting hauling this
thing in. There was too much fish to take back for most of the group
members, but I was prepared. My van was ready with an extra-large
camping cooler, and I was able to haul back home about 200 lbs of
=> Sapporo TV Tower, Hokkaido
The best place to get a bird's eye view of Sapporo
Welcome to Sapporo -- a city home to picturesque summer days,
Siberian-style winters, a buzzing nightlife and a treasure trove of
hidden gems. There is arguably no better place to get a complete
360-degree view over this wonderful city than from the top of the
Sapporo TV Tower. Standing at 90.36m, the observatory at the top of
the tower takes you right up above the city.
I've been up my fair share of towers -- Sydney, Auckland, Toronto and,
of course, Tokyo. Each and every time I've been graced with a new and
interesting view of the city which lies below. The view from the
Sapporo Tower would have to rate among the best that I've seen. It's
not a particularly tall tower by any means, especially compared to its
333m brother, the Tokyo Tower, far to the south. However, it does have
one thing that the others don't... It's located in Sapporo and better
still on a hill commanding a prime view of the city below.
Sapporo is home to over 2 million people, and is surrounded by
beautiful emerald-colored mountains. Odori Park, Sapporo's very own
Central Park, is also one of the city's shining stars. From the
western-facing side of the observatory you'll find yourself looking
out over Odori Park, a view which will transform dramatically as the
seasons change. From the north of the tower, you will see Hokkaido
University and the iconic JR Sapporo Tower. The south-side will bring
you face to face with the Sapporo Dome, Mt Moiwa and Susukino, Japan's
largest entertainment district north of Tokyo. From the eastern side
you will see the Sapporo Factory and the Centennial Memorial Tower.
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+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)
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