Terrie's Take 803 -- Japan's New "Great Game". E-biz news from Japan.

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon May 11 09:20:34 JST 2015

* * * * * * * * 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, May 10, 2015, Issue No. 803

- What's New -- Japan's New "Great Game"
- News -- Met scientist says more volcanic activity
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Wisteria in Fukuoka, Sourdough in Kumamoto
- News Credits

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In April last year, Reuters reported that Japan would dispatch 100 
troops to a newly built military monitoring outpost on the nation's 
western-most inhabited island, Yonaguni. The island is part of the 
Yaeyama group and is the closest inhabited Japanese land mass to the 
Senkaku islands -- which are contested with China. Now, just a year 
later, media rumors are flying that Japan is again going to ratchet up 
its presence significantly in the area by sending 600 troops, anti-ship 
missiles, and other military hardware to Miyako and Ishigaki islands. 
Ishigaki is about 170km south-east of the Senkakus, and therefore is 
about the same distance from those islands as it Taiwan.

Not only does this stimulate the Chinese, it sets in motion Japan's 
involvement in a new Great Game for the East and South China Seas.

Just the day before the expansion rumors started circulating, Japan took 
another very significant China-containment step when PM Abe managed to 
extract from the USA a new set of guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense 
cooperation. The guidelines commit the two countries to coming to each 
other's aid, although on the Japanese side, this will be more of a 
support role and thus without teeth. The obvious target for the new 
charter is China, and includes Japan's Self-Defense Forces having the 
right to conduct operations to "retake an island.' You can read the LDP 
interpretation here: http://bit.ly/1E16f6U.

--------- Help Us Test New No-Network Maps App ------------

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To register as a tester, send an email toinfo at metroworks.co.jp 
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[...Article continues]

Also last week -- a busy one for military news -- the Abe government 
announced that it would conduct a small but notable military exercise 
with the Philippines later this month. The exercise, which only involves 
a few ships, will take place close to the Spratly Islands, where China 
is building a series of bases in competition with and as a challenge to 
the Philippines and other countries in the region. The exercise comes 
alongside other rumors that Japan and the U.S. are discussing the idea 
of joint surveillance operations in the South China Sea, something that 
will provoke China even more.

It seems pretty obvious to us that the Abe government for whatever 
reason has decided that now is the right time to start pushing back at 
China's expansionary plans in the region. Getting U.S. support in the 
new treaty seems to have given the LDP hawks the confidence to start 
down a path of militarization that will probably have Japan becoming a 
proxy "big brother" to Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and possibly 
Malaysia. We predict announcements of war games, training, equipment 
sales, and eventually co-defense treaties with each of these countries.

Normally a nation engaging in the Great Game has some financial reasons 
for doing so. While Indonesia possibly has value to Japan in terms of 
resources in the future, there doesn't seem to be a lot of secondary 
benefit to the Japanese taking on China in this way. Maybe they are 
looking for international support from these threatened countries on 
other issues? Or maybe Abe simply wants to give his military some more 
realistic practice?

Whatever the case, Japan should tread carefully as military expansion is 
a costly and risky game, and with record government deficits, it is not 
one that Japan can really afford. Indeed, a recent Cato Institute 
commentary said as much, pointing out that the new military cooperation 
accord will probably cost the U.S. more than it will Japan. In April 
Japan increased its military budget to JPY5trn (US$42bn), a record 
amount since WWII, but which still pales in comparison to U.S. at 
US$581bn and China at US$129bn (2014 figures). If Japan wants to play 
with the big boys, it will need to find another JPY5trn from somewhere.

Then of course there is the possibility that someone will make a mistake 
and catapult the two rivals into something more than just practice. 
Already Japan is scrambling fighter planes two and half times a day (943 
times in 2014), a record since the 1960s. It only takes a little too 
much bravado by one pilot or another to start a full blown crisis. We 
believe that if Japan persists in its current course, it is highly 
possible that at least one Japanese fighter will be shot down (either by 
the Chinese or less likely by the Russians) before the Olympic games.

And if that happens, we wouldn't want to be a Japanese consumer products 
company in China or for that matter a Chinese student or tourist in Japan.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Coffee consumption reduces lifestyle disease deaths
- Govt. debt hits JPY1.053 Quadrillion
- Met scientist says more volcanic activity
- Shodo Island olive oil takes first prize
- Sumitomo Realty expecting record profit

=> Coffee consumption reduces lifestyle disease deaths

Researchers from the National Cancer Center and University of Tokyo have 
published the findings of a massive nutritional study which found that 
people who consume 3-4 cups of coffee a day are 40% less likely to get 
heart, stroke, or respiratory diseases than those who drink less than a 
cup a day. Furthermore, those same coffee drinkers also enjoyed a 24% 
lower likelihood of dying from cancer. The study was conducted on 90,000 
people aged 40-69 between 1990 and 2011. The researchers said that 
chlorogenic acid and caffeine were the two most healthful compounds in 
coffee. (Source: TT commentary from japantimes.co.jp, May 8, 2015)


=> Govt. debt hits JPY1.053 Quadrillion

The central government debt (i.e., not even including regional 
governments) in March stood at a record JPY1.053qdrn (that's 
"quadrillion, a number first mentioned in 2013 after Japan started its 
QE operations).  In April, the number will be JPY1.167qdrn. The national 
debt now stands at JPY8.3m/per head of population. ***Ed: This is a bit 
less than half the U.S. Federal Government debt, but the Japanese number 
is rising much faster and looks a lot more difficult to inflate away.** 
(Source: TT commentary from marketpulse.com, May 8, 2015)


=> Met scientist says more volcanic activity

Probably not what we want to hear as a tourism destination, but 
apparently the chairman of a Japan Meteorological Agency study panel has 
warned that since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake there seems to be a large 
increase in the activity of Japan's volcanoes, such as the warning put 
in place for Mount Hakone. The expert says that there are now Level 2 
alerts for 10 volcanoes around the country, and three Level 3 (more 
severe) alerts. He does point out, though, that even though they are 
close together, the Hakone magma chamber is separate for the Mount Fuji 
one, and that an eruption in Hakone should have no effect on Fuji. 
(Source: TT commentary from asiaone.com, May 9, 2015)


=> Shodo Island olive oil takes first prize

Olive oil isn't the first thing that comes to mind with you think of 
food produce from the Okayama region. However, the area is the center of 
Japan's emerging olive oil industry, and in March, a Shodo Island 
producer won first prize for his Mission mono-varietal extra virgin 
olive oil. The variety was originally imported from the USA, is hard to 
produce oil from, and this is the first time that Japan has won such an 
award. ***Ed: One of the secrets to the grower's success could be his 
rice and beans-based compost, along with the lack of herbicide use.** 
(Source: TT commentary from oliveoiltimes.com, May 7, 2015)


=> Sumitomo Realty expecting record profit

Sumitomo Realty & Development has stated that it will record pretax 
profit for the 2014 fiscal year ending March 2015, of around JPY139bn, 
up about 6% over last year. The company says that it is experiencing a 
surge in office space demand by newly profitable companies domestically, 
as well as lower interest rates, higher rents for some properties, and 
lower vacancy rates (currently around 5%). ***Ed: The asset most coveted 
in a boom market in Japan is real estate, so it makes a great barometer 
for where the economy is probably headed.** (Source: TT commentary from 
nikkei.com, May 9, 2015)


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 inconvenience.


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Operators and agents wishing to apply, contact info at japantravel.com


------------------ ICA Event - May 21st -------------------

Speaker: Rochelle Kopp - Managing Principal of Japan Intercultural 
Title: "Managing Across Cultures"

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/

Date: Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and Cash Bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members) Open to all. No sign 
ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: By 5pm on Monday 18th May 2015. Venue is The Foreign 
Correspondents' Club of Japan.


=> No corrections this week.



=> Kawachi Wisteria Tunnels, Fukuoka
Flowering gardens of purple, pink, and white

Tunnels of wisteria blooms the length of a football field - that's why 
they come each spring in late April and early May from around the world 
to this majestic garden hidden in the mountains of southern Japan. The 
millions of tiny hanging blossoms meticulously arranged by the master 
gardeners here have achieved a level of fame that brings a steady flow 
of visitors to Kawachi Fuji-en on the outskirts of Kitakyushu.

Wisteria, or "Fuji" in Japanese, is a wooden vine that can be found 
naturally climbing trees in the Japanese countryside. It is cultivated 
to produce an other-worldly grandeur here. Although you can find many 
outstanding wisterias around the country, such as the giant of Ashikaga 
Flower Park, near Tokyo, dating all the way back to 1870, the 
distinguishing feature of this garden is its gorgeous tunnels of flowers.


=> Pain au Levain, Kumamoto
A popular bakery just off Kyushu's expressway

The small ivy covered building that houses Pain au Levain sits just far 
enough off the main roads of eastern Kumamoto that you would think the 
crowds might overlook it. Yet the sizable parking lot is constantly full 
and, after months of passing by without ever stopping, I decided to see 
what the fuss was about.

Pain au Levain technically translates from the French for "sourdough 
bread", although that isn't the only thing on the menu here. The 
wheat-based selection is fairly extensive and covers three sides of the 
large airy building. All of the usual suspects can be found - like the 
popular "anpan" and "melonpan" - as well as croissants and flakier 
pastries that you might discover in a typical European bakery. On the 
shelf closest to the door, the staff lays out the top selling pastries 
for that month. Being April, one of them featured a sakura (cherry 
blossom) filling.




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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)

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