Terrie's Take 948 - The Nuclear Issue: Missiles, Meltdowns, and MOX, e-biz News from Japan

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Jun 11 08:56:27 JST 2018

* * * * * * * * 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, Jun 10, 2018, Issue No. 948

- What's New -- The Nuclear Issue: Missiles, Meltdowns, and MOX
- News -- Foreigners keep combini running at night
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Sumo tickets for Osaka, fireflies in Oji, Kyoto
- News Credits

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Whatever you may think of Donald Trump, the president of the USA, he is 
certainly fulfilling the prediction that film maker Michael Moore once 
made about him, being: "The human hand grenade that [the people who used 
to be in the middle class] can legally throw into the system..." The 
thing about hand grenades is that you don't always know where they are 
going to go off if you're not an expert in using them, as the G7 leaders 
found out to their dismay late this week. And as Japan is just now 
finding out from Trump's meeting with North Korea's Kim in Singapore.

For the Japanese, the Trump-Kim summit is a bit of a slap on the face as 
they are being bypassed by Trump in his eagerness for a North Korea 
deal. Essentially the White House is relegating Japan's interests to 
being of minor concern, and the message being sent is that Trump doesn't 
really care about the USA's most loyal ally in Asia. Maybe he had a bad 
experience trying to raise finance here? But even as this subtle 
humiliation of PM Abe is going on, there is another White House pivot 
which is just as concerning, and that is their public calling out of 
Japan over its plutonium stockpile. It seems that both the Department of 
State and the National Security Council have decided in the most public 
way possible that Japan's plutonium stockpile is going to become a US 
bargaining chip in getting North Korea to end its nuclear ambitions.

We find this to be an extraordinary turn of events. The official stance 
of both Japan and the USA has for years been that Japan does not have 
nuclear weapons, so if that was the case, why would anything in Japan be 
considered worth bargaining the North's nuclear step down over? Of 
course, as we reported in August 2015, most military analysts believe 
that while Japan may not have actual weapons (or that it might), it 
certainly does have the capacity to produce them in significant 
quantities very quickly if it wanted to.

http://bit.ly/2xXQM1l [Terrie's Take-815 about whether Japan has nuclear 

Japan has the launch vehicles (rockets), which it certainly doesn't need 
for other commercial reasons - there being much better launch services 
available from SpaceX and others. And it has the mountain of plutonium, 
47 tons of it according to US news sources, and possibly more. As China 
keeps say, the thing about Japan's plutonium is that it is supposedly 
for our MOX reactors, but right now out of the 8 reactors still 
operating nationally, only 3 use MOX (a Uranium/Plutonium mixture). So 
why does Japan need to stockpile it? The only logical conclusion is for 
national security.

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[...Article continues]

Now that the White House has decided that Japan's Plutonium reserves 
should be used as a bargaining chip, we can conclude that probably Japan 
is viewed as the main regional threat by the North Koreans (yes, an 
irony, we know), and perhaps Japan really does have a secret nuclear 
weapons program - as our reader commented hinted back in 2015. If that 
were the case, North Korea would probably know of it - as they have been 
remarkably industrious in hacking various online Japanese institutions.

What's strange about all of this is that most of the officially 
recognized plutonium (about 36 tons) is not in fact in Japan at all. 
It's in France, being held in storage or for re-processing, and must be 
shipped back to Japan at some risk (of environmental catastrophe) on a 
regular basis. So if we are to believe that North Korea thinks Japan is 
a nuclear (weapons) power, then we can also assume that Japan is not 
being honest about just how much plutonium it has stockpiled or 
alternatively how it is using it. Again, our logic in this line of 
thinking is based on just why the Trump administration thinks Japan 
makes an attractive bargaining chip.


Staying on our nuclear theme, we now move from a story of national 
insecurity to one of national despair - that being the ongoing crisis 
happening at the ruined Daiichi power plant site in Fukushima. Rainy 
season is almost upon us and this is the time of year when TEPCO, the 
site operator, most struggles with surges in contaminated ground water 
flows. TEPCO has famously been building acres of water storage tanks to 
retain 850,000 tons of this contaminated water, which it then treats. 
But it has announced that by 2020 it will literally run out of space at 
the site and rather than build more tanks in a much further away another 
location, it is instead planning to do controlled releases into the 
Pacific ocean. This of course is not being well received by the public 
and in particular the fisheries cooperatives that operate north and 
south of the site.

Last week one organization that we do trust, one with the understanding 
and skills to properly analyze the risks involved, www.safecast.org, 
released a two-part paper arguing the fact that the science shows that 
water release into the Pacific will be so dilutive that it should be 
safe, and that probably such releases are unavoidable and should go 
ahead. Their paper makes the point that the stored water has been 
treated to remove most of the radionuclides and that the primary 
remaining contaminant is Tritium, which has a short biological "half 
life" of 10 days and a radiation half life of 12.5 years. The 
expectations by scientists are that the tritium will be quickly 
dispersed in the ocean waters to such small concentrations that they 
will be only just perceptibly higher than natural background levels.

You can read Part One here:


The main concern about the tritiated water (HTO) is that while it does 
not bio-accumulate, organically bound tritium (OBT) does, and fish 
consuming tritium can retain OBT in their body tissues for years. 
Scientists don't have enough data to know just how bad the 
bio-accumulation will be, but current assumptions are that such fish 
will be safe for consumption. Indeed, after dilution, the levels of 
tritium (HTO) will be hundreds and even thousands of times lower than 
the permissible amounts for drinking water in many western economies 
(such as Australia, for example).

For this reason, TEPCO and METI apparently have already made up their 
minds that the water releases will occur, but other government forces 
recognize that a lot more work will have to be done to convince the 
public and the fishing community that the levels will be safe. 
Safecast.org makes a good point that the authorities could go a long way 
to alleviating public fears by opening up in situ contamination 
measurement to neutral third parties rather than organizations 
controlled by the Japan's Nuclear Regulation Agency. Unfortunately, as 
the white paper concludes, it is more likely that the release will 
happen on the command of someone at Kasumigaseki, and responsibility for 
the release will be decided later.

As far as we are concerned, while the fish from Fukushima may well be 
perfectly edible, we prefer not to be the guinea pigs in finding out. So 
long as we have the financial means to do so, we will stick to buying 
marine products harvested no further south-east than Hokkaido and 
Aomori, and more preferably those from the other side of Japan, such as 
in Kyushu and Chugoku. We get the feeling that most other Kanto and 
Tohoku consumers will be thinking the same thing - and so for now at 
least, the idea of 850,000 tons of tritiated water being dumped into the 
Pacific Ocean is going to be more of an academic exercise. Still, that 
IS an awful lot of bad water.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Japan's obsession with cash
- Last Japanese PC business sold off
- Face recognition gates at Narita - for the people who need it least
- Nissan foreign trainee missteps
- Foreigners keep combini running at night

=> Japan's obsession with cash

Fascinating article by norbert.gehrke posting to Medium, about Japan's 
obsession with cash payments versus cashless. While cashless is trending 
all around the world other than in some structurally-challenged interior 
parts of China, Japan is once again proving a Galapagos marketplace. 
Gehrke presents evidence that Japanese consumers still prefer cash by a 
wide margin. Using forward-looking South Korea as a reference, where 
they have a cashless payment rate of around 70%, one of the highest in 
the world, Japan's cashless usage is stuck at less than 20%. ***Ed: 
Actually, this isn't so surprising when you think about all the 
negatives consumers face with banking their cash these days, especially: 
difficulty in getting a bank account, JPY10m limitation in bank deposit 
insurance, rising bank fees, dwindling numbers of bank branches, and 
minuscule interest rates.** (Source: TT commentary from 
medium.com/@norbert.gehrke, Jun 02 2018)


=> Last Japanese PC business sold off

Although the Japanese press are reporting the Toshiba decision to sell 
its PC business to Sharp for JPY4bn, as a Japan deal, in reality given 
that Sharp is now owned by Taiwan-based Honhai, the deal is better 
characterized as the exit of the last major Japanese electronics maker 
brand from the PC industry. With NEC and Fujitsu's PC businesses being 
bought by Lenovo several years ago, and Sony's Vaio brand being sold to 
an investment fund in 2014 (and thus for sale at some point to the 
highest bidder), Toshiba has been the last PC holdout. ***Ed: On the 
bright side, Toshiba's divestment of its chips, PC, and home electricals 
business have allowed the company to report its first group net profit 
in four years.**


=> Face recognition gates at Narita - for the people who need it least

The Immigration Bureau at Narita has installed automatic passport 
control gates for Japanese passengers, which will go into operation on 
Monday. Over the next few months Immigration plans to turn on at least 
31 gates across the nation's major international ports of entry. ***Ed: 
Hopefully the new face recognition gates at Narita are just a test, and 
not an indicator of long-term official policy. If you're Japanese, your 
typical wait is already less than a minute, so what benefit the gates 
will bring is hard to say. On the other hand, certainly something needs 
to be done about the long foreign traveler lines at the major 
international ports. Then of course there is the joke that is the 
automatic gates for re-entry visa holders, who after going through the 
gates still have to go to a manned booth for what amounts to the same 
period of time and same level of personal checks as previously.** 
(Source: TT commentary from the-japan-news.com, Jun 09, 2018)


=> Nissan foreign trainee missteps

Not sure why the Nikkei is beating up Nissan over missteps on its 
employment of foreign trainees, since for sure, other auto makers have 
similar issues. Nonetheless, the newspaper outlined a voluntary report 
from Nissan to the Organization for Technical Intern Training, where the 
company says that of about 200 trainees from mostly SE Asian countries, 
45 were given out-of-spec jobs and the remainder are under-employed and 
therefore not achieving training aims. The company is saying that one 
incident where plastic molding operators were asked to paint car bumpers 
is a case of factory line managers not understanding the company's 
obligations towards the trainees. ***Ed: Or maybe the managers were 
simply remembering back a couple of years ago to when the trainees were 
just cheap slave labor? Very strange how the whole system has suddenly 
swung from being so abusive to so timid now. They way things are going, 
we wonder if the trainee programs may even be dropped by major companies 
- due to their being just too much trouble. Certainly Japanese 
manufacturers still need a new source of labor.** (Source: TT commentary 
from asia.nikkei.com, Jun 06, 2018)


=> Foreigners keep combini running at night

Interesting to see a new book that claims that mostly foreign workers 
are now running Japan's top three combini chain stores in the evenings. 
The book's author, Kensuke Serizawa reckons that there are now more than 
40,000 foreign workers at 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson - almost one 
for every one of their stores nationwide. As a ratio, the number of 
foreign workers to Japanese overall at the stores is about 5%. Most of 
the employees are Japan-resident students hailing from China, Korea, 
Nepal, and Sri Lanka, who are working the 28-hours a week they are 
permitted by their visas. The author gives an example of the tough life 
these students lead, describing one Uzbekistani clerk working at a store 
in his neighborhood, who works through the night then leaves directly 
for his language classes the next morning, without sleeping. ***Ed: 
Great way for these kids to learn Japanese and make some extra cash. We 
hope that more than a few of them stay on after they graduate. Japan 
needs more people with this kind of motivation.** (Source: TT commentary 
from soranews24.com, Jun 07, 2018)


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.



No upcoming events this week.



=> In response to our TT-944 story about expat Canadian banker Glen Wood 
and his lawsuit against Japanese-owned securities firm Mitsubishi UFJ 
Morgan Stanley Securities and its obliviousness about paternity leave 
laws in Japan.

*** Reader One: GREAT article about Glen Wood. Having experienced the 
short end of the stick about the Japanese Government discrimination I 
know how hard it must have been for him. Since I do not know how to 
contact him, please convey my best regards to him and thank him for 
holding on. Japan is a great country and it's a pity that it is marred 
by such backwards thinking... if any amount of change happens from Mr. 
Wood's actions, it will help define a role for those of us foreigners 
who love the country - to become change agents.

*** Reader Two: Wow! What an explosive interview with Glen Wood! Great 
reporting! Thank you for this terrific piece.


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multilingual customer support. Passes start at a flat rate of JPY 1,620 
for a basic rental at the bike port (more for pre-bookings), and renters 
can use the bicycle or any replacement, for up to 24 hours (from 00:01 
to 23:59 each day). 580+ bicycle ports across Tokyo allow convenient 
rental and return to any port within the area. JapanTravel.Bike is 
currently available in Tokyo and Nara, and will be coming soon to other 
major cities in Japan.

To rent one: www.japantravel.bike


=> Tickets for the Sumo Wrestling Tournament in Osaka

Sumo is a traditional sport founded in Japan more than 1,500 years ago, 
where wrestlers fight with their bare hands, exemplifying their true 
natural  strength and fairness of the sport. These dramatic matches have 
been captivating fans worldwide. Now Japantravel.com makes it possible 
to purchase online tickets for the sumo matches at the Osaka Prefectural 
Gymnasium in Osaka. Tickets usually sell out quickly, so make your 
reservations quickly!

Being offered is a one-day pass, so in-and-outs are okay, and you can 
arrive and leave at any time you desire. Please keep in mind the tickets 
do not include food or drinks.


=> Firefly Viewing in Uji, Kyoto
Discover magical fireflies in the Botanic Park

Venue: Uji City Botanical Park
When: May 26th - Jun 10th 2018,  5:00pm - 9:00pm. The big names and 
famous photo opportunities in Kyoto city can seduce visitors and locals 
for an entire lifetime. However, the rest of the prefecture should not 
be overlooked. Uji, just 15 minutes from central Kyoto by train, draws 
visitors throughout the year, entranced by the Tale of Genji Museum, 
Byodo-in Temple, and traditional cormorant fishing in the summer months. 
Uji River in particular offers a special something to visitors in late 
May and early June - fireflies.

A short bus ride (or a fair uphill walk) from the city center brings you 
to the Uji City Botanical Park where its firefly population show off 
their luminescent talents for just a few weeks a year. The park's hilly 
position offers lovely views stretching south to Osaka, and it's the 
perfect place to watch the sky's changing colors at sunset before 
seeking a different type of light show. Once the sun does go down and 
dusky light bathes the area, I recommend browsing the photographs of the 
park's previous flower bed masterpieces, as they are quite spectacular. 
You can also squeeze in a quick lap of the greenhouse; a jungle in its 
own right, full of exotic flowers and beautiful blooms.

In the evening it is a lot cooler and beautifully lit. There is also a 
special display to peruse in the waiting area. When I visited it 
featured an impressive collection of azalea bonsai trees, pruned to 
perfection. Finally, when all is dark, venture down the lantern-lit path 
in search of the park's seasonal attraction... and there they will be.




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

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