Terrie's Take 835 -- BitCoin and Chinese Real Estate Purchases, e-biz news from Japan

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Jan 25 11:00:03 JST 2016

* * * * * * * * 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, January 24, 2016, Issue No. 835

- What's New -- Bit Coin and Chinese Real Estate Purchases
- News -- Another truckload of public money to hit stock market
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Aquarium in Nagoya, Onsen in Izu
- News Credits

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It's been an interesting last six months for the Bit coin community. 
Starting with the October re-arrest of Mark Karpeles, the President of 
failed Bit coin exchange Mt Gox, who was charged among other things with 
procuring prostitutes with company funds, and ending with the government 
in late December declaring that it considers Bit coin a security like 
any other and will shortly legislate to regulate the trading of Bit 
coins by corporates. The proposed new rules will include:

* Registered cryptocurrency exchanges will have to comply with 
anti-money-laundering laws (this is a big one)
* Exchange operators will need to have a minimum amount of capital
* Operators will have to manage customer assets separately from their 
own assets (so-called "Kapeles" law)
* Auditing
* Confirming new customer IDs before signing them on
* FSA reporting of unusual trading
* Transaction records
* Adequate security and protection of customer information

----------- World Class Ski Resort Land For Sale ----------

While all the attention for snow sports properties has been focused on 
Niseko in Hokkaido over the last ten years, now investors are starting 
to realize that there are more convenient locations on Honshu that offer 
the same snow quality and landscapes for more affordable prices. This 
property is 25 hectares adjacent to ski lifts (approx 50m at nearest 
point). Includes 3.3 ha with no development restrictions on 9 separate 
contiguous titles (200% plot ratio), and 22 ha of Grade 3 national park 
on 8 titles which can be developed within guidelines.

Available for asking price of US$2,000,000 or near offer. Contact 
ggassoc at ozemail.com.au


[...Article continues]

This laundry list sounds intimidating enough that it should deter most 
companies from getting into the BitCoin business, although we note that 
only "registered" exchanges are going to be subject to money laundering 
oversight. That is a curious wording - what happens to unregistered 
ones? Also, given the media frenzy over the case and the general 
skepticism by most Japanese that BitCoin is a viable trading currency, 
we expected the government to come down on BitCoin trading much more 
aggressively. For example, they could have followed China's 2013 
reaction and banned the banks from handling the currency all together.

Instead, they appear to be accepting the currency but regulating 
companies that might bring bit coins into the mainstream economy by 
offering a means of converting to cash. The market of bit coins for 
barter appears to be left alone. So why the mild reaction?

We can think of three possible answers:
* They are following the lead of the USA -- big brother knows best, and 
most of the new proposed legislation actually follows similar rules 
passed in New York earlier last year.
* The technology underlying Bit coin transactions, i.e., block chain 
databases and protocol, is likely to become the future of formal 
banking, and Japan doesn't want to get left behind.
* There is a side benefit to not killing BitCoin off that the government 
isn't sharing.

Yes, well, of those three reasons, it's the side benefit that is most 
interesting. It's pretty well known that well-heeled Chinese use illicit 
means to circumvent their government's US$50,000 limit on foreign 
exchange, by laundering money through relatives, fake billings, and more 
recently through BitCoin purchases (and redemption). Although as of a 
few weeks ago there has been a lull in real estate purchases in the USA, 
Canada, Australia and other favored Chinese destinations, after the 
latest round of government crackdowns on capital movement, interest in 
BitCoin has never been higher and industry players expect that within a 
year the flow of funds will resume. Probably it's inevitable. Rich 
Chinese don't trust their own system, can't own land anyway, and so will 
naturally flee to places that are stable and trustworthy via means that 
are relatively undetectable.

Real estate in Japan is becoming an attractive alternative to investing 
in already overpriced western countries, and it's a lot easier to travel 
to Japan on a regular basis. And besides Taiwan, Japan is the only Asian 
country in close proximity to China that allows foreigners to have 
private ownership of land, and then later a lifestyle for their kids and 
grandkids who may visit or study/live in Japan. For this reason, over 
the last five years wealthy Chinese have been buying overpriced inner 
city condos in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka, and keeping everyone involved 
happy in the process. Then they come here and spend a whole bunch more 
money on lifestyle. Our guess is that with a golden goose like that, why 
would you want to kill it off?

The technology equation shouldn't be underestimated, either. Adoption of 
block chain technology is moving quickly because it does away with the 
logistics of printing and distributing money, and allows the "overseers" 
of such a system to know exactly who has how much. For the government, 
this means eliminating or controlling the underground economy and opens 
up the ability to apply system-wide taxes and fees simply by altering a 
configuration file. It's easy to see that the Japanese government 
wouldn't want to give this up, and is willing to have to deal with a few 
miscreants in order to stay in the race.

...The information janitors/


----------------- Home For Sale in Australia --------------


So much is on offer from this large modern home at Lammermoor Beach, 
Yeppoon, Queensland, Australia. Boasting just the right elevation to 
enjoy magnificent ocean and island views in a quiet, friendly 
neighborhood. Just a short walk to one of the most pristine beaches on 
the Capricorn Coast. The home features 4 bedrooms plus an office, 2 
living areas, 2 bathrooms and 3 toilets, an in-ground swimming pool and 
terraced backyard. There is a roomy balcony and plenty of storage room 
in the double garage. Tenants are in place for the investor if required. 
The owner lives in Tokyo and is available for inquiries at 
nrb0327 at gmail.com. For detailed information on the property please see here.



+++ NEWS

- Plutonium transport ships due end of March
- Another Abe administration scandal surfaces
- Expired frozen food exported to China, North Korea
- Another truckload of public money to hit stock market

=> Plutonium transport ships due end of March

Two special nuclear materials transport ships complete with armed crew 
members have set sail from the UK with the mission of picking up 331Kg 
of unused plutonium from Japan's stock pile of around 47 tons, and 
transporting the material to its final storage destination in South 
Carolina. The material, which was lent to Japan some years ago by the UK 
for experimental purposes, is apparently enough to create 40 nuclear 
bombs. ***Ed: No comments from the Japanese side about what they plan to 
do with the other 46.3 tonnes of the stuff...** (Source: TT commentary 
from ecowatch.com, Jan 22, 2016)


=> Another Abe administration scandal surfaces

One thing you can be very sure of about the LDP, because it is built 
from special interest groups the party will always be a ripe source of 
scandals. The latest to surface concerns Akira Amari, the economy 
minister, who was accused in the Shukan Bunshu of taking bribes for 
favors. Apparently he was recorded admitting connection to a series of 
unrecorded donations from a construction company, involving about 
JPY12m. The construction company was seeking to win a dispute with the 
government concerning a public works project. ***Ed: The LDP is trying 
to shrug the accusations off by saying that presence of a recording 
means Amari was unfairly targeted. On the other hand, it is more likely 
that the construction company wanted an insurance policy in making the 
recording, and, besides, it is legal in Japan to covertly record a 
conversation and use it later as evidence.** (Source: TT commentary from 
nytimes.com, Jan 21, 2016)


=> Expired frozen food exported to China, North Korea

Frozen food that had passed its expiry date has apparently been exported 
to China and North Korea, and in at least one case re-sold in rural 
Japan, according to the Asahi newspaper. It is common knowledge that 
frozen food expiry dates in Japan are unnecessarily short and brokers 
are taking advantage of this fact by recycling expired goods to 
consumers in both China and North Korea, who in any case, are not fussed 
about old products. Apparently several shipments a month have been 
procured by shady brokers from waste disposal firms, with chicken, fish, 
veges, and other products at the top of the list. ***Ed: While everyone 
is looking for a scapegoat in this latest incident, it's pretty obvious 
that Japan's food industry has a lot of shady characters, including some 
big players. In the Asahi's investigation, they found that at least some 
of the expired products came from 7-Eleven.** (Source: TT commentary 
from upi.com, Jan 22, 2016)


=> Another truckload of public money to hit stock market

The government is planning to allow the world's largest public 
investment fund (the GPIF pension fund) to invest directly in stocks 
rather than in investment funds as has been the case until now. 
Apparently the GPIF will have an arsenal of JPY130trn, which it can 
invest for up to 5% of any target company. Other institutional investors 
are concerned that the GPIF will distort the market for individual 
stocks, and cause price instability as speculators try to anticipate the 
fund's moves. ***Ed: In fact, when you inject JPY130trn into your stock 
market, you are obviously trying to distort the markets. We can only 
assume then, that the LDP wants such distortion in order to create 
inflation, and goosing the stock market until retail investors can't 
resist joining the party is the plan. Let's hope that they don't 
succeed.** (Source: TT commentary from wsj.com, Jan 22, 2016)


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.



---------------- ICA Event - February 18th ----------------

Speaker: Fred Almeida - CEO - Reactive Inc.
Title: "Everything is Computation - In the Real World of Artificial 
Intelligence "
Date: Thursday, February 18th, 2016. 6:30 Doors open. Buffet Dinner 
included with charges and pay as you go cash bar.
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members) Open to all. No sign 
ups at the door!
RSVP: By 1pm on Monday February 15th, 2016. Venue is The Foreign 
Correspondents' Club of Japan.



=> No corrections or feedback this week.



=> Nagoya Port Aquarium, Nagoya
Vast, beautiful aquarium in hip district

The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium was one of my biggest shocks when I 
visited Nagoya. It doesn't have the fame that it clearly deserves. What 
I found was a very high-class aquarium that had a wide variety of ocean 
life displayed in very comfortable, beautiful facilities. The half-hour 
that I had to wait to enter (on a crowded national holiday) was well 
worth it.

The facilities span across two buildings, each with a different theme.

The North Building is home to some of the more notable animals, which at 
the time of this visit included four killer whales (orcas), along with 
numerous dolphins and white whales (Belugas). A lot of thought went into 
creating the aquarium facilities. For instance, one of my favorite areas 
was a big, carpeted room with stadium-like seating where you can sit and 
relax to watch the animals swimming, rather than having to stand and 
fight through a crowd.


=> Mizunosato Marukyu Ryokan, Shuzenji
Lovely accommodation in Izu Peninsula

Located in the heart of the Izu Peninsula is the onsen town of Shuzenji. 
A river flows through its center and many lovely Japanese inns line its 
banks. With its friendly staff and cozy traditional atmosphere, the 
Marukyu Ryokan is a perfect choice for anyone staying overnight in the 
area. As you enter the front door, you are greeted by a lovely okami-san 
(female inn owner) and her staff. You may even see your name, 
handwritten in gorgeous Japanese script, on tall, thin paper signs at 
the entrance. The lobby, decorated in a modern Japanese style, is very 
inviting - especially the beautiful sitting area containing a table made 
from an old wooden wheel. Nearby, there is a small souvenir shop and a 
lounge where guests can enjoy coffee, tea, ice cream or gelato, and alcohol.

The first floor also contains segregated communal onsen baths with a 
comfortable tatami resting area.  There are both indoor and outdoor 
pools filled with hot spring water that leaves your skin feeling clean 
and silky. In addition to the first floor onsen baths, there are also 
some private rotemburo (open-air baths) on the top floor that people can 
use with their friends or family, free of charge. I find some onsen to 
be too hot, but these were perfect, especially when bathing outside in 
the crisp air.



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

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