2010年3月22日 星期一

Galápagos syndrome


Galápagos syndrome or Jalápagos (Japan + Galapagos) is what the Japanese call when they develop a product that evolves isolated from world markets. The term comes from the Galápagos Islands where Darwin studied plants and animals that were genetically isolated.[1]

[edit] Usage

  • "Japan’s cellphones are like the endemic species that Darwin encountered on the Galápagos Islands — fantastically evolved and divergent from their mainland cousins — explains Takeshi Natsuno, who teaches at Tokyo’s Keio University."[1]
  • "Japanese phones suffer from 'Galapagos Syndrome' — are too complex to survive abroad.[2]
  • "It has been claimed that the indigenous American automotive industry has suffered from the Galapagos Syndrome – its products have evolved separately from the rest of the world."[3]

2010年3月16日 星期二

日情色動漫設限 , 太陽能單車棚

日情色動漫設限 漫畫家抗議


東京都政府上月向都議會提出「青少年健全育成條例」修正案,主要針對出現在動漫及電玩軟體等出版品中、年齡未滿18歲的所謂「虛構青少年」角色,只要涉及 性行為的情節,將視為兒童色情,都將和內容涉及性暴力的出版品一樣,被列為「不健全圖書」,禁止販售給青少年或供其閱覽。東京都議會總務委員會預定19日 針對這項修正案進行表決,最快月底送交大會表決。



日本第一! 東京啟用太陽能單車棚

〔編 譯鄭曉蘭/綜合報導〕日本大型電氣公司「三洋電機」與東京世田谷區合作設置的太陽能電動腳踏車租借場(見圖,法新社),十六日正式啟用。兩座位於車站附近 的太陽能腳踏車租借場,舉凡腳踏車及夜間照明電力,均完全來自太陽能電池面板,提供民眾往來車站或遊覽周遭景點的環保代步新選擇。

三洋電機 耗資約九千萬日圓(約台幣三千一百六十萬),在東京京王線櫻上水車站及東急田園都市線櫻新町車站的腳踏車停車場,屋頂分別設置長一百四十二公分、寬八十九 公分的三十六片太陽能電池面板。三十六片面板的最大發電量為七.五六千瓦。兩座停車場各有四十輛電動腳踏車,另一處小田急線經堂車站的腳踏車停車場,則設 置二十輛電動腳踏車。




It's a dog's wash in Japan!

Asia | 16.03.2010

It's a dog's wash in Japan!

The Japanese enthusiasm for state-of-the-art technology has come up with a new service for pet owners in Tokyo – a washing machine for dogs.

3-year-old poodle Mizuho being shampooed at Bildunterschrift: 3-year-old poodle Mizuho being shampooed at "Pet World Joyful Honda". The service inside the closed machine includes a tear-free shampoo, rinse and blow dry. The course runs for 30 minutes and costs only 1,000 yen (about 11 US dollars or eight euros).

Yen's Persistent Strength

Yen's Persistent Strength Frustrates Japan Leaders

Japan's stubbornly strong currency, something of an economic puzzle, is becoming a growing source of frustration for the country's new administration.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama tried to weaken the yen Friday through the unusual step of talking down the Japanese economy in front of parliament. He said the yen doesn't reflect 'that Japan's economic and industrial conditions aren't strong enough.' Mr. Hatoyama called for international action to push the yen lower, saying there is a need to 'politically cooperate on the world stage.'

A weaker yen could make Japanese exports more competitive, aiding the world's second-largest economy, which the International Monetary Fund expects to grow just 1.7% this year.

The effect of Mr. Hatoyama's speech: The dollar eased slightly against the yen Friday, ending New York trading at 90.47 yen compared with 90.55 yen late Thursday.

The U.S. currency is down 2.8% against the yen this year. The yen is 18% stronger than it was in August 2008 compared to an inflation-adjusted basket of currencies weighted toward Japan's largest trade partners, according to the Bank of Japan.

A dysfunctional Japanese economy, super low interest rates, a ballooning deficit and plenty of government jawboning have done little to weaken the currency.

The yen's strength is 'perplexing,' says Pierre Gave, head of research at GaveKal, a Hong Kong-based analysis and investment firm. 'If there's one thing everyone agreed upon, it was that 2010 would be the year of yen weakness.'

Many investors are betting on a yen slide, which could still happen. Data issued by the Tokyo Financial Exchange shows market participants have been aggressively building bets against the yen.

Explanations for the yen's strength are varied. The difference between interest rates in Japan and abroad have been small, giving little incentive for investors to convert yen into other currencies. A strong Japanese trade surplus creates demand for yen to even out the nation's balance of payments.

In addition, foreign investors have converted dollars into yen to buy Japanese shares in recent months. A tax law is encouraging corporations to bring money home from abroad. Nomura estimates companies will repatriate 500 billion yen ($5.53 billion) in excess overseas capital in March.

The latest hope for yen weakening comes from reports that the Bank of Japan will increase the money supply through additional quantitative easing at its meeting this week. Mr. Hatoyama's government has been encouraging the central bank to be more aggressive to fight deflation.

But markets seem to be shrugging off the expected moves, which have been telegraphed in the news media.

'I suspect that it's in the price,' says Julian Jessop, economist at Capital Economics in London.

Leon Goldfeld, chief investment officer for HSBC Asset Management in Hong Kong, had been cautiously bullish about Japan in January. But he now thinks the government has lost its nerve to weaken the yen.

Another factor that some say could cause modest yen declines is the return of the yen carry-trade. The investment strategy involves borrowing Japanese yen to invest into higher-yielding currencies. Interest rates are creeping up in Australia, and expectations for rate hikes in the U.S. have increased.

A symbolic measure of funding interest rates, the three-month London interbank offered rate, or Libor, recently went in the yen's favor for the first time in several months, implying it might be cheaper to fund carry-trades in yen than in dollars.

At its height in the middle of last decade, the yen carry-trade was taken up by hedge funds around the world, along with Japanese retail investors. The trade drove the dollar to 123 yen in 2007.

But the financial crisis forced investors to unwind the trade when they needed the money back home. The dollar weakened to below 90 yen by January 2009, and hit a 14-year low in November at 85 yen. With interest rates near zero, the U.S. dollar became the cheapest funding currency.

Alex Frangos / Andrew Monahan

2010年3月11日 星期四

Novel Idea for Japan: Airport for Budget Travel

Novel Idea for Japan: Airport for Budget Travel
Published: March 10, 2010

MITO, JAPAN — The diktat from the governor was the kind of sweeping order that gives Japanese bureaucrats heart attacks: plans for a three-story airport terminal, painstakingly laid over years, were to be scrapped and replaced with a single-floor layout.

Trimmings would be pared to a minimum. Boarding bridges would be eliminated, with passengers told to board planes from the tarmac and even handle their own check-in luggage — an idea so blasphemous in service-conscious Japan that one local official said his “mind went blank” when he heard of the plan.

Ibaraki Airport, which opens Thursday about 85 kilometers, or 53 miles, north of Tokyo, is intended to be a completely new type of Japanese airport: a no-frills facility that could finally open up Japan’s expensive capital city to low-budget airlines.

Ignored by Japan’s big-league carriers, the little airport is up against all odds. It is the 98th airport in a country with a landmass smaller than California’s. Ibaraki Prefecture is devoid of tourist attractions, except for an ancient garden, known for its plum blossoms, and famous purveyors of natto, or pungent, fermented soy beans.

For now, Ibaraki will offer just two flights a day: one to Seoul by the South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines, and another to Kobe, a medium-size port city in western Japan, by the Japanese budget carrier SkyMark Airlines.

Even Japan’s transportation minister, Seiji Maehara, has been hard-pressed to muster much enthusiasm for the airport’s opening, despite its roughly ¥22 billion, or $243 million, in funding from local and national coffers. The news media have painted Ibaraki as just another money-losing airport, an example of the useless public works projects that dot Japan’s countryside.

“I’m not about to beg airlines from Japan and elsewhere to fly to Ibaraki,” Mr. Maehara said last week. “The prefecture needs to do what it can to make use of the airport.”

A closer look at Ibaraki, however, reveals a strategy that could jolt Japan’s long-stagnant aviation sector. Some experts say Ibaraki — with its explicit focus on cutting costs and budget carriers — could be just the kind of airport the country needs at a time when traffic demand is slumping, consumers are scrimping after a recession and airlines are being pressed to cut costs to the bone.

Some experts say low-cost air services have the best potential for growth, especially as incomes rise in big countries like China and India, bringing air travel to more people. Budget carriers have sprung up across the region, but Japan’s airline industry, dominated by giants Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airlines — and plagued by expensive and inefficient airports — has been largely left behind.

Experts say the greater Tokyo area, especially, could use another airport to handle flights by low-cost carriers, much like the Stansted or Luton airports outside London. The capital and its environs, the largest metropolitan sprawl in the world with a population of 40 million, are served by two airports, Narita — which handles most of the international traffic — and Haneda.

But capacity is notoriously tight, and that is expected to continue even after expansions at both airports in the next year. Strict regulations have stifled the flexible allocation of flights. Moreover, high landing and other costs put Narita and Haneda beyond the reach of low-cost carriers.

“Ibaraki is definitely on the right track,” said Ushio Chujo, a professor of transportation economics at Keio University in Tokyo.

“The airport’s success would hinge on whether more low-cost carriers will start up in Japan and in neighboring countries,” he said. “That could take 5 to 10 years, so Ibaraki will have to prepare for the long haul.”

In 2007, long after blueprints for an impressive terminal building at Ibaraki Airport were drawn up, and contractors hired, Ibaraki Prefecture’s governor, Masaru Hashimoto, called for building “an airport Japan had never seen before.”

“Just another standard airport wasn’t going to work. We’d be behind the times as soon as we opened,” Mr. Hashimoto said in an interview. “We needed to turn our thinking upside down.”

Mr. Hashimoto ordered a redesign of the terminal from scratch, brainstorming ways to cut operating costs, both for the airport and for carriers. He scrapped a plan to place arrivals, departures and a viewing deck on separate floors, instead putting everything on one level. That meant passengers could be served with fewer staff members.

Mr. Hashimoto got rid of boarding bridges, which are expensive for carriers to use, and for airports to maintain. Passengers instead will board from the tarmac. (“People will love it — they can pose for photos in front of the plane,” he said.)

He also wants passengers to carry their own check-in luggage to the plane, in a setup similar to some regional American airports — though he is still negotiating with officials on the point. (“We think that’s a bit too much,” one provincial official said on condition of anonymity, saying he was unauthorized to speak to the media.)

Planes landing at Ibaraki will taxi and park in a way that does not require the help of a tractor to push them back onto the runway before taking off — another reason passengers will board from the tarmac. That move, the first for an international airport in Japan, saves tractor usage fees for airlines and slashes maintenance costs for Ibaraki.

When officials protested that Japan’s finicky passengers would complain about the rain, Mr. Hashimoto and his aides offered this plan: give out free umbrellas on rainy days. (Japanese people love freebies, he said.) The governor is also pushing to accept private jets, as well as a helicopter link with downtown Tokyo, and is renting out extra space for parties and conventions.

Those efforts have paid off: Landing fees for a Boeing 737 on a scheduled flight at Ibaraki are about ¥89,000, two-thirds of Narita’s ¥139,600 fee and less than half of the ¥189,600 at Haneda, according to the industry publication Orient Aviation.

Other factors may work in Ibaraki’s favor: Its finances are not as dire as many of Japan’s other airports, in part because it was built as an extension of a military air base. And foreign carriers can serve regional airports without the bilateral agreements necessary for access to Haneda and Narita, making it easier to add routes. Asiana has had difficulty adding to the six routes it flies from Seoul to Narita and Haneda, for example.

Ibaraki offers unlimited free parking, while parking costs at Narita and Haneda are sky-high, and also plans to offer bus service from central Tokyo for 500 yen, or less than $5 — a fraction of the cost it takes to travel to Narita, and comparable to the cost of reaching Haneda.

Accounting for the time it takes for the plane to taxi on Narita’s runway and the passenger to make his way through that sprawling airport, the total journey to central Tokyo from Ibaraki is about the same — less than 90 minutes — according to Katsuichi Yabunaka, an Ibaraki official.

Meanwhile, the airport serves a big market in its own right: about 20 million people live within 100 kilometers of the new airport, according to Ibaraki Prefecture.

The airport faces plenty of headwinds. Haneda and Narita are planning extensions. Japan’s economy remains depressed. Foreign arrivals in Japan are also on the decline, though the trend could change with better access, particularly by budget carriers, experts say.

The airport is expected to lose ¥20 million in its first year of operation.

Still, Ibaraki is going on a sales offensive. The airline is in discussions with low-cost carriers in China, Malaysia, Philippines and Macao. Asiana, meanwhile, is studying an additional route to the South Korean port city of Busan.

“Ibaraki is the first airport in Japan to break the mold by really focusing on cost and efficiency,” said Dongshil Hyun, executive vice president at Asiana and head of the airline’s Japan operations.

“We finally have a much-needed new and cost-efficient route to Tokyo,” he said. “How could we not be excited?”

2010年3月3日 星期三


Cast adrift for a photo finish



photoChildren release paper dolls into the Mitarashigawa river in Kyoto on Wednesday to offer prayers for perfect health. (KAZUNORI TAKAHASHI/ THE ASAHI SHIMBUN)

KYOTO--Paper dolls symbolizing prayers for the health of children are cast afloat Wednesday at Shimogamojinja shrine in Sakyo Ward as the nation celebrated Hina Matsuri, or Dolls Festival.

Called Nagashi-bina, the rite traces its origins to a Heian-Period (794-1185) custom in which people floated dolls on a river to carry away bad luck and bring good health.

A local commerce and industry association re-established the event in 1989.

A couple wearing gorgeous 12-layered kimono and other garments were the first to release the dolls into the Mitarashigawa river, which flows through the shrine, followed by kindergarten children and other worshippers.



Nagashi-bina is an event that involves dispelling impurities and misfortunes by floating dolls away on water. In earlier days this took place all over Japan, but the practice has died out in most areas. Only in Tottori-shi and Mochigase-cho in Tottori Prefecture does nagashi-bina survive today. In this rite, dry straw is woven into a boat, which carries a pair of male and female dolls to be cast adrift in the river. As it has become quite a rare event, in recent years it has come to attract visitors by the busload.