Terrie's Take 864 - Moving Foreign Exchange Just Got Interesting, e-biz news from Japan

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Sep 12 08:40:25 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, September 11, 2016, Issue No. 864

- What's New -- Moving Foreign Exchange Just Got Interesting
- News -- Tokyo agrees to foreign housekeepers
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Historic Onsen in Nagano, Oriental Garden in Ryogoku
- News Credits

SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie's Take at: 

http://www.japaninc.com/terries_take, or, 


When was the last time you wanted to transfer or receive some money 
internationally? Not a credit card transaction to pay for an 
international Amazon order, but actual cash? Most likely it's been a 
while, and most likely that's because moving cash is no cheaper than 
credit card transactions and it's a lot less convenient. Unfortunately 
some things can't be paid for by credit card, and for those times we are 
quickly reminded just what a pain making international transfers can be.

To be sure we have PayPal, just so long as the other side has an 
account. But even PayPal isn't free of problems, especially if you 
receive a payment of more than JPY100,000 and PayPal decides to lock 
your money up for a week while deciding if it's really yours. We've had 
our accounts frozen in this way more times than we care to remember. 
Triggers include large amounts, accessing your account while you're 
overseas, changing a source credit card, etc. To be fair, this is not 
necessarily PayPal's fault. Once they decided to comply with Japanese 
government regulations in 2010, so they could source and service 
Japanese customers, they were subject to a much more rigorous regime of 
checks and oversights than they were in the USA. Indeed, PayPal couldn't 
accept cash transfers into accounts from Japan for over a year while 
they were undergoing some kind of "cleansing" process.

But as of last week there is now another player in town, one which is 
generating a similar level of excitement to PayPal when it announced its 
Japan presence. This new player, UK-based Transferwise, solves a number 
of problems with PayPal and could possibly become THE money transfer 
solution for  foreigners in Japan over the next couple of years. The 
company first came to public attention here in Japan late last year, 
when they started operations in the UK and announced they'd soon be in 
the Far East. You could set up an account back then, but it's only as of 
Wednesday last week that you could actually put money in that account 
and do something with it from Japan.

----------------- Partial Office for Sub-let --------------

Modern open-plan office used for incubating small international/start-up 
companies has a recently vacated space for a group of 3-5 people. 
Located just 200m from Roppongi Hills. JPY275,000 including furniture 
(desks and chairs), or JPY250,000 if you bring your own. Internet 
included on common connection. Separate charges for utilities, phones. 
Minimum 6-month contract. Deposit required. We can also supply bilingual 
(English-Japanese) back office services, such as HR and accounting, 
business mentoring, technology outsourcing, and other assistance as 

For inquiries, contact terrie at lincmedia.co.jp

[...Article continues]

According to Transferwise their main target in Japan is the 1.3m 
Japanese expats living outside the country and the 2.2m foreigners 
living and/or working in Japan itself. Other countries already able to 
use the service are Brazil, Canada, China, and Singapore. New Zealand 
and Hong Kong are next to be established. Although two of the biggest 
foreign demographics (out of Japan at least) remitting money home, 
Filipinos and Indians, do not have their countries on the list of 
in-country operations, they are on the 50-country list that Transferwise 
says you can send money to by sending through the company's 
correspondent banks there.

The main attraction of Transferwise is their unique business model and 
therefore low-cost transfers. Basically the company keeps pools of funds 
in a given country to service possible transfers from partner countries. 
Then, when someone wants to send money home, instead of making an actual 
transfer, they pay funds into the pool of the country they live in, 
while a similar amount of money in the local currency is credited to 
their account from the pool in the target country. This is really smart, 
and relieves the company of having to deal with the incumbent bank 
networks that currently control the world's interbank money transfer 

What are the fees? We have signed up for the service, but have not yet 
had a counterparty in a country we needed to target, and so for 
reference, we refer to Tokyo-based journalist Richard Solomon over at 
about his experience. On August 28th he gave the community a heads up 
that the company would start operations the following week and wrote 
that he ran a test transfer with them that went without a hitch. 
According to Richard the fees are 1% on conversion of yen to pounds 
sterling, euro and US dollars, and 1.5% on conversion to other 
currencies. On the website itself the company says 1% or a minimum fee 
of JPY500.

This compares very favorably with PayPal, which is 3.6% for amounts 
under JPY300,000. In fact, with PayPal, as with many other competing 
money transfer services, the real cost is a hidden one, which is your 
Foreign Exchange (FX) costs. PayPal will charge you about 3%-4% over the 
interbank FX rate, meaning that if you were transferring the 
hypothetical JPY300,000 you'd be wearing an 8% (base fees + FX rate) hit 
on your cash. In comparison, Transferwise with its mid-market FX rate 
charges nothing for its FX component. This is a huge plus over almost 
any other money transfer method.

So with a super cheap fee structure, can we trust Transferwise to stay 
in business? This is a good question. It is true that they have raised 
US$117m in funds so far and with unicorn status (valuation of more than 
US$1bn) they can probably raise a lot more than that. However, a CEO of 
a UK-based FX company VFX stated in January this year that 
Transferwise's business is all "smoke and mirrors". By this he was 
referring to whether or not Transferwise's business model of maintaining 
balanced pools of money in each transacting country really works. He 
pointed out that most FX transfers tend to go one way, for example from 
Japan to India, and there is not much demand going back the other way. 
This being the case, it means that to keep their business going 
Transferwise must be buying FX funds on the open market and at a loss, 
to balance the currency accounts.

Yep, he could well be right, maybe Transferwise's business model doesn't 
work as advertised, for now. But as with many unicorns it's a classic 
market-building challenge. You not only have to have a scalable 
electronic marketplace, you also have to float your buyers and sellers 
in equal proportions, or to finance either side until critical mass is 
reached. This is no different to Airbnb and Uber, or even Skype for that 
matter. The good news is that if enough people start using the service 
then the sheer volumes will iron the model out via regional 
recirculation (i.e., IT engineers in Tokyo sending savings back to 
Mumbai, Calcutta importers buy wool from Yennora - Sydney, and Melbourne 
used car dealers buy second-hand engines from Japan).

Will we be using Transferwise's service? Yes, for small transfers to 
start with, then after we gain confidence for our regular business. 
Given that about 16% of Japan's GDP is in exports, no doubt there will 
be many others watching and trying their own test runs as well. If we 
were PayPal, Western Union, or a number of other money transfer 
services, we'd be looking over our collective shoulders right now.

...The information janitors/


--- Japan Travel Inbound Travel Professional Services -----

Japan Travel's inbound company travel professional services team now 
serves incentive and group training logistics and support. We assist 
your headquarters HR teams in hosting your foreign employee groups in a 
successful program in Japan. Our services include: hotels, 
transportation, meals (including special diets), entertainment, 
activities, help desk support, telecommunications, guest speakers, and 
of course the core training (delivered by our professional training 
services partners). We work on a menu-basis, providing as much or as 
little as your management team needs to get the project done.

If you have a group needing assistance, we invite them to contact us at: 
tours at japantravel.com.

Or visit our pages at:http://bit.ly/29c2eG5


+++ NEWS

- Shareholders accept Softbanks ARM takeover offer
- JOC pronounces government innocent
- Japan and Russia to resolve the Kuril Islands problem?
- Tokyo agrees to foreign housekeepers
- Benesse appoints 4th CEO in 9 years

=> Shareholders accept Softbanks ARM takeover offer

Analysts are still debating the timing and wisdom of Softbank's 
Masayoshi Son taking over Britain's largest tech firm, chip-maker ARM, 
but at least for Son things are moving in the right direction. 
Shareholders in ARM Holdings have agreed to accept Softbank's £24bn 
offer. To help the deal go through, Son has agreed to keep ARM's 
headquarters in Cambridge and to increase its UK workforce to about 
3,000. ***Ed: One wonders if Son can continue piling on debt with these 
humungous overseas acquisitions? It is true that ARM is a great company 
and unlike the Sprint purchase in the USA it probably will pay for 
itself in the long run. Still, does he really need control of the chips 
themselves in his future businesses? Probably not. At the same time, 
thanks to ARM's deep IP licensing presence in mobile and IoT, he 
probably won't lose from this bet, either.** Source: TT commentary from 
theguardian.com, Aug 30, 2016)


=> JOC pronounces government innocent

In an amazing display of chutzpah, the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) has 
announced that its investigation into Japanese government Olympic 
bid-related payments has found the government not guilty of paying 
bribes. In May 2016, the Guardian newspaper revealed that the Olympic 
Bid Committee had paid about US$1.3m to a company related to the son of 
an influential member of the IOC, Lamine Diack. The French police are 
still investigating the allegations and while the JOC is now trying to 
whitewash the government's involvement, so far there has been no world 
on what the French police think. ***Ed: Corruption at worst, naivety at 
best...** (Source: TT commentary from hostcity.com, Sep 1, 2016)


=> Japan and Russia to resolve the Kuril Islands problem?

Ever since losing the northern Kuril islands to Russia after World War 
II, Japan has tried a number of times to get them back. But given that 
they are a symbol of national pride for Russia it has failed each time. 
It is interesting, then, to see that the two countries are now in "deep" 
negotiations over the islands. Just what that means, no one knows, 
because Russia has recently upgraded public infrastructure for local 
inhabitants and so would seem to be thinking to stay in for the long 
term. Still, the last year and a half of embargos on Russia by the USA 
and Europe over Russia's annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine, as well 
as depressed oil prices internationally, has put the country under 
significant economic pressure. ***Ed: We wonder what the Japanese would 
be prepared to pay for Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai 
Islands? US$100bn? US$200bn? This would be a drop in the ocean when 
compared to Bank of Japan spending (US$800bn approx. annually) on 
devaluing the yen through own-government bond purchases.** (Source: TT 
commentary from bloomberg.com, Sep 02, 2016)


=> Tokyo agrees to foreign housekeepers

New Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike, has given her support to allowing 
foreign housekeepers to live and work in Japanese homes. Koike agreed 
that helping mothers return to work was a good enough reason to have 
Tokyo join the list of cities who will allow the initiative, the other 
two being Osaka and Kanagawa. ***Ed: While this may sound like the start 
of opening the immigration floodgates, reporters in the Philippines, the 
main source of such domestic workers, say that migrant numbers will be 
extremely limited and that only housekeepers dispatched by a licensed 
company will be allowed. So far, only Duskin is permitted to handle such 
work.** (Source: TT commentary from mb.com.ph, Sep 2, 2016)


=> Benesse appoints 4th CEO in 9 years

Troubled Benesse Holdings has just appointed its fourth CEO in nine 
years to try to fix the struggling conglomerate. The latest CEO is 
Tamotsu Adachi, currently Chairman of the Carlyle Group. He succeeds 
hapless Kenichi Fukuhara who had to step in after ex-McDonalds Japan CEO 
Eikoh Harada resigned unexpectedly. ***Ed: Benesse has deep problems, 
not least of which is the decreasing number of school-age children and 
parents unable to pay the home study fees that used to be standard for 
families wanting good careers for their offspring. Another big issue is 
the fact that the company has a large and ossified middle management who 
are timid and slow to take action.** (Source: TT commentary from 
nikkei.com, Sep 10, 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.


--------- Micro Loans Program in South Pacific ------------

SPBD and MicroDreams seek to combat poverty in the South Pacific by 
enabling women to become entrepreneurs. These women apply for small 
loans, as low as US$120, to launch, grow, and maintain small businesses. 
Previously, many of our clients did not have a stable source of income 
to support their families. We work alongside these hardworking women, 
teaching them essential business and financial skills to expand their 
businesses and generate steady income and improve their quality of life. 
With our program, these women turn dreams into reality as they reap the 
rewards of their efforts.

Read about our remarkable clients
http://www.microdreams.org/success-stories. You can also donate to the
program at: http://www.microdreams.org/donate-today.


No events to announce this week.



=> Biwa no Yu, Asama Hot Springs, Nagano
A beautiful, relaxing spa that won't break the bank

Before coming to Japan, there were a few things I was hoping to 
experience. One of those items on my wish list was to visit a 
traditional hot spring. Today I ticked that dream off in the greatest 
way possible at Biwa no Yu in Asama Onsen.

Tucked away in a leafy corner of the little hillside village of Asama 
Onsen, this spa is as pretty as it is relaxing. Quiet woods surround the 
beautifully preserved, four hundred year old building, so that whilst 
you are there you truly feel as if you are fully immersed in nature and 
disconnected from all external stresses. What's more, the first lord of 
Matsumoto Castle, Ishikawa, established this spa and used to bathe here 
himself! For many years it was kept as a private facility for the 
palace, and is still today maintained by one of Lord Ishikawa's 

Even if it were not such an incredible experience, the spa would be 
worth a visit for its historical interest alone!

Biwa no Yu is easily accessible from Matsumoto City by bus or bicycle, 
and is a brilliant way to while away a lazy afternoon. For a very 
reasonable price you can make use of both their two indoor and outdoor 
bathhouse facilities. Beautiful maple trees surround the outdoor 
bathhouse, whilst the indoor facilities are spacious, clean and very 
relaxing. Soap and shampoo are provided, and items such as hairdryers 
are available free of use for after your spa session.


=> Kyu-Yasuda Teien Gardens, Sumida
A welcome oasis in busy Tokyo

Tokyo is a space of fantastic contradictions. Ultra-modern skyscrapers 
crowd out ancient temples below. Young girls with pink hair and knee 
high boots sit on the metro side-by-side with wizened old men in smart 
shirts and fedoras. McDonalds sell Egg McMuffins on the same menu as 
teriyaki chicken burgers. The range and density of contradictions make 
this city a delight to get lost in - you just never know what modern or 
ancient wonder you will have the pleasure of stumbling upon.

It was quite by chance, thus, that I had the pleasure of finding the 
Kyu-Yasuda Teien Gardens in Ryogoku. The unassuming exterior and lack of 
fanfare betray nothing of the gorgeous green haven hidden within. But 
how glad I was to find it amidst the modern shops and busy streets! With 
its hushed paths, still pond and lush greenery, it is the stuff of one's 
Oriental dreams.

Its existence dates back to 1691 when it belonged to a samurai resident 
of the area. In 1891, it became the property of Yasuda Zenjiro who 
granted it to the public in 1922. The great earthquake of 1923, however, 
destroyed the gardens and it was only in 1927 that the beautiful plot 
was finally restored. With all this history, Kyu-Yasuda is worth a 
visit. It helps even more that it is so beautiful.




SUBSCRIBERS: 6,681 members as of September 11, 2016 (We purge our list 


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

HELP: E-mail Terrie-request at mailman.japaninc.com with the word 'help' in 
the subject or body (don't include the quotes), and you will get back a
message with instructions.

Send letters (Feedback, Inquiries & Information) to the editor to 
terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com.

For more information on advertising in this newsletter, contact 
ads at japaninc.com.

Get Terrie's Take by giving your name and email address at 
http://www.japaninc.com/newsletters/free_sign_up, or go straight to 
Mailman at:

http://www.japaninc.com/terries_take or, 

Copyright 2016 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.

----------------- Japan Inc opens up Japan ----------------

J at pan Inc authoritatively chronicles business trends in Japan. Each 
posting brings you in-depth analysis of business, people and technology
in the world's third largest economy.

Visit www.japaninc.com for the best business insight on Japan available.

More information about the Terrie mailing list