2010年12月27日 星期一

沒魚蝦也好: Edible iPhone treats selling like hot cakes

Edible iPhone treats selling like hot cakes



photoApple Inc.'s iPhone 3GS, left, and an iPhone cookie sold at bakery Green Gables (Asako Hanafusa)photoKumiko Kudo making cookies (Asako Hanafusa)

TOKUSHIMA--Hand-made chocolate cookies in the shape of the iPhone have become the latest must-have accessory for the tech-savvy gourmet.

The biscuits, which are about 12 centimeters long and 6 cm wide, are made by Kumiko Kudo, the 44-year-old owner of bakery Green Gables in Aizumi town, Tokushima Prefecture, replicating Apple Inc.'s iconic device on a chocolate base, with icons nicely drawn in red, green and blue icing.

Kudo said the idea for the biscuits came from one of her customers, who asked her to make a look-a-like of the iPod touch media player for her husband's birthday gift in October 2008.

Kudo mistook the gadget for the very similar iPhone, which had just appeared on the market, but the customer was delighted by the end product.

News of Kudo's creation did not spread widely until a message on the Internet micro-blogging site Twitter in January by the well-known economic critic Kazuyo Katsuma.

A few days before a 42-year-old female company worker in Tokyo had seen the iPhone cookie on the blog of Kudo's bakery and had ordered two to give to Katsuma and singer Komi Hirose, who coauthored a book on Twitter.

Katsuma immediately posted a message on Twitter heralding the "amazing iPhone cookie." Hirose also posted a message about the "edible iPhone."

Their many followers read the messages and news of the cookie spread quickly. Orders began to pour in.

When Kudo was invited to an event held by Softbank Corp. in March, she handed President Masayoshi Son one of biscuits, who had earlier posted his own Twitter message saying: "I want one!" Son was overjoyed: "I'm so happy. I cannot possibly eat this," he said.

Kudo, who makes all her own cakes and biscuits, says she can create no more than 20 iPhone cookies a day. One biscuit is priced at 2,730 yen ($33), including tax.

Kudo has received requests for iPad cookies. She said she has experimented, but "it turned out to be too big, heavy and difficult to make."

2010年12月26日 星期日

Japan's Emperor Akihito celebrates 77th birthday

Japan's Emperor Akihito celebrates 77th birthday

TOKYO (AP) — Emperor Akihito celebrated his 77th birthday Thursday and urged Japan to pay heed to the needs of the elderly, as the number of older people in the country rapidly grows.

Akihito greeted thousands of well-wishers waving Japanese flags from a balcony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Empress Michiko and other royal family members — including Akihito's eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Crown Princess Masako — appeared on the balcony.

Akihito has cut back on official duties because of health reasons. He did not make any foreign trips this year. The emperor underwent an operation for prostate cancer in 2003, and the Imperial Household Agency says he has been undergoing hormonal therapy to prevent its recurrence.

At a palace news conference Monday, Akihito also said that he has hearing problems.

"With regard to aging, I have become somewhat hard of hearing so when I receive people, I ask ... them to try to talk to me in a louder voice," the emperor said.

He said he hopes people will be more attentive to the elderly, including more attention paid to ensure buildings and towns are better equipped to serve their needs.

"In our society today, where the aging population continues to grow, it is my sincere hope that there will be further understanding of the needs of the elderly," Akihito said.

Japan has long prided itself on its citizens' long life spans. Government data for 2009 showed average life expectancy was about 86 1/2 years for women and 79 1/2 for men.

Japan also is one of the world's most rapidly aging countries. Japanese who are 65 and older hit a record 22.7 percent of the population last year.

2010年12月24日 星期五

Chinese tourist numbers dive amid fallout


photoA drugstore in Osaka's Chuo Ward with signs in Chinese to help Chinese visitors (Kenta Sujino)

Arrivals of Chinese tourists to Japan fell at a faster pace in November due to fallout from the dispute over the Senkaku Islands two months earlier, government figures show.

Figures released by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) on Wednesday show that the number of tourists from the mainland China plummeted 15.9 percent year on year to 68,500 in November.

From Hong Kong, 27,400 tourists arrived, a decline of 14.7 percent from a year earlier.

The figures show that the rate of decline sharply accelerated from October, when it posted a drop of 1.8 percent from the same month in 2009.

From February to September, the number of arrivals from China set a record for each month.

An official with JNTO said the pace of the drop shot up because the fallout from strained bilateral ties spread to wider sectors and many Chinese opted to attend the Guangzhou Asian Games in November instead of traveling overseas.

The Japanese government will kick off a promotion campaign toward the Chinese New Year holidays in February to lure more tourists. The tourism industry is watching closely for signs of a rebound.

Meanwhile, a company in Beijing that canceled planned tours of 10,000 Chinese to Japan in protest over the Senkaku incident decided to favor South Korea next year, sources said.

Baojian, which deals in health foods and cosmetics, planned tours to Japan in early October with staff from sales agencies.

The scheduled tours were considered a huge coup following the relaxation in July of visa requirements for individual Chinese.

Baojian said it canceled them to protest Japan's handling of the Senkaku incident and as a display of its patriotism.

Having passed on an overseas trip this year, the company decided to send a tour group of the same size to South Korea.

South Korea competed with Japan to lure the Chinese group.

While the number of Chinese tourists visiting Japan dwindled, the figure for South Koreans climbed to 197,200 in November, up 51.3 percent from a year ago.

Overall, number of tourists to Japan rose 12.4 percent year on year to 635,000, a year-on-year increase for 13 months in a row.

The expansion of international flights to and from Tokyo's Haneda Airport in late October and growth in other economies apparently helped, analysts said.

Total arrivals from January to November surged 29.2 percent from the same period a year ago to 7,963,300, a record.

2010年12月20日 星期一

Uniqlo Makes Global Push

Uniqlo Makes Global Push
Japan's Fast Retailing plans to introduce its Uniqlo stores in the fast-growing Indian and Brazilian markets and to vastly expand its presence in China.

2010年12月15日 星期三

Japan, China moving closer together in outsourcing field


photoWorkers at a business process outsourcing center in Dalian input data to computers. (Gen Hashimoto)photoZhang Yue explains what work is like at Chuo Electric Works Ltd. to students at Kinki University in Higashi-Osaka, Osaka Prefecture. (Tetsushi Yamamura)

Editor's note: This concludes a two-part series on integration of Japanese and Chinese businesses.

* * *

At a busy office in Dalian, China, it is not uncommon to see a female worker weeping over scrawled handwriting on a document.

The office is a base for InfoDeliver, a Tokyo-based company that is the largest business process outsourcing (BPO) concern in Japan.

Japanese manufacturers forced to increase efficiency have been turning to the young and cheap labor in China. But now, other Japanese companies are using Chinese workers to handle even clerical work, leading to closer business ties between Japan and China.

In InfoDeliver's room that handles operations for Taiyo Life Insurance Co., about 30 women in their 20s sit in front of computers to enter handwritten diagnoses that are the basis for making insurance payments. And they obviously take their jobs very seriously.

"Their eagerness to improve themselves is incredible. If they come across characters they cannot read because of bad handwriting or peculiar habits, they will cry in anguish," said Yasuo Kumonari, 55, of Taiyo Life Insurance's claims adjustment section.

Because the women are able to correct misspellings or find dropped characters, their accuracy is considered greater than that of workers in Japan.

Several tens of thousands of young Chinese fluent in Japanese work for Japanese clients at BPO companies in a high-tech industrial complex in Dalian.

Not only is the volume of work being outsourced growing, but the content of the work is also increasing in importance.

Taiyo Life Insurance turned over the work to InfoDeliver in 2008. The amount of work reaches 13,000 cases a month.

The entered data was initially used only as supplementary materials. But since October, insurance payments have been checked based on that data.

InfoDeliver has 1,500 employees in Dalian who can handle a wide range of activities.

Sompo Japan Insurance Co. has used its Dalian base to handle accident reports.

Agents fill out handwritten reports that include about 300 items, and those reports are faxed to the Dalian base.

Each report is entered into a computer within six minutes. Ten minutes after a client has contacted the company, an agent in charge of handling the accident report has the information on a computer screen.

At education service provider Benesse Corp., postcard applications to its Shinken Seminar correspondence sessions that are received at a Tokyo post office are partially scanned and sent to Dalian, where the data is entered into a computer.

The method eliminates one day from the time it takes to mail out learning materials after receiving the applications.

Although Japan Post Service Co. has not made public its internal operations, information on reports for those who have moved and want mail forwarded is believed to be handled at the Dalian base.

Companies in Japan and China are also becoming more involved in each other's management.

In late October, a meeting was held at the Tokyo headquarters of Renown Inc. to help Chinese business people absorb the Japanese way of management.

In attendance were about 40 visiting senior officials from Shandong Ruyi Science & Technology Group, a Jining, Shandong province-based textile company that acquired about a 40-percent stake in Renown in July.

Over a two-day period, Renown employees served as lecturers at a Tokyo hotel to pass on how business was conducted.

The topics included periods when corrections had to be made in budget management and reasons for monthly sales differences.

Opinions were exchanged to seek a compromise between the Japanese and Chinese ways of doing business.

Toshiharu Oogiri, 53, the Renown official in charge of the company's Chinese strategy, built up a relationship of trust with Qiu Yafu, 52, chairman of the Shandong Ruyi Science & Technology Group, after repeated discussions.

"I was told they would implement a Japanese-style management," Oogiri said.

Preparations are being made for the first retail outlet in China to be operated by a Renown-Shandong joint venture. The eventual goal is to have 2,000 outlets in a decade.

One area where compromise is needed is in design. Oogiri said, "There is a way to take advantage of Renown's strengths in the creative area."

However, Shandong officials want design work conducted the Chinese way.

"Although Chinese consumers have specific tastes, Japanese companies do not want to change their way of doing things," said a senior Chinese official who came to Japan. "They should move closer to the needs of China by moving design work to the mainland."

According to officials of Recof Corp., which provides advice on mergers and acquisitions, there were 26 cases in 2009 of Chinese companies acquiring Japanese companies. This year, there have already been 36 cases through November.

Japanese companies are also reaching out to Chinese companies.

Since 2008, major trading company Itochu Corp. has invested in a number of Chinese and Taiwanese conglomerates and has gained rights to intervene from a management standpoint.

In 2009, Itochu obtained a 28-percent share of Shanshan Group Co. based in Ningbo, Zhejiang province.

The Shanshan Group has expanded its operations from apparel, its main line of business, to financial services, real estate, lithium batteries and solar cells.

In thinking long-term, company Chairman Zheng Yonggang said, "There are more things we can learn from Japanese companies, which stress trust, than from the U.S. companies that Chinese companies have used as models."

Although relations between Japan and China have wavered due to the Senkaku Islands incident, Zheng said: "Minor disputes will eventually be resolved. No one in the business sector wants to see the relationship between Japan and China worsen, and there is very little actual effect (from the Senkaku incident)."

It is rare for a Japanese company to invest directly in a conglomerate group. Itochu officials feel they can gain the "fruits" of various growth sectors by partnering with a conglomerate.

"We want the two companies to engage in projects on a scale of 10 billion yuan (about 120 billion yen)," Zheng said.

Chinese studying in Japan have also helped to bridge the gap between the two nations.

In 2009, there were 6,333 Chinese students in Japan who found work in Japanese companies, double the figure of five years ago. They have especially had a large presence in small and medium-sized companies.

An association of such companies in Osaka Prefecture held a job fair in October.

The only individual in charge of the booth for Chuo Electric Works Ltd., which manufactures measuring equipment, was Zhang Yue, 28, a third-year employee from Dalian.

"Zhang understands what kind of people we are looking for," said Yoshio Hatano, 63, the company's president.

A 26-year-old Chinese student who visited the booth said, "It is very comforting to have someone who understands our situation."

Of the 44 employees at Chuo Electric Works, eight are Chinese. And three of the six new recruits picked this year are Chinese.

"Unlike major companies where one has to do what one has been assigned, there are many areas where we can contribute," Zhang said.

In late September, Nagaoka International Corp., a waterworks equipment manufacturer based in Izumiotsu, Osaka Prefecture, was presented a technology award at the World Water Congress of the International Water Association held in Montreal.

Standing on the stage to receive the award along with company President Hitoshi Mimura, 61, was No Hayashi, 52, who was born in China but is now in charge of the company's water business.

After returning to Japan, Hayashi was made a director, the first foreigner to reach that status.

He had worked for a major Japanese waterworks consulting company and acquired Japanese citizenship.

Last year, he moved to Nagaoka, which has 130 employees.

"A big reason was that the president trusted me enough to do whatever I wanted," Hayashi said.

(This article was written by Tetsushi Yamamura, Kyoko Isa and Tokuhiko Saito.)

2010年12月7日 星期二

Seals and silvery sardines lighten the spirit at Christmas time



photoSantas and seals at the Epson Shinagawa Aqua Stadium (Louis Templado)photoSardines form a Christmas tree illusion at the Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise. (Louis Templado)

It's that time of the year again, when nearly everywhere you look is lit up by Christmas illuminations. It's grand, but after a few "oohs" and "ahhhs," the festive lights start looking familiar, while the mercury drops.

For an experience more novel, head over to the aquarium. Like honey and gorgonzola cheese, Christmas and sea creatures are an unexpectedly savory pairing.

In Tokyo's Shinagawa area, for instance, you can enjoy the Norwegian-themed illuminations--imagine the elf-like Julenissen instead of Santa Claus--before diving into the glow of the Epson Shinagawa Aqua Stadium, inside the Shinagawa Prince Hotel complex. (Despite the name, it's actually in Minato Ward.)

If you enjoy watching neon-colored fish swimming around stacked martini glasses and Christmas ornaments (and who doesn't?), this is the place to be.

If you time your visit just right, say just after work and before dinner, you can also catch sight of two baby fur seals, kitted out with reindeer horns, walking the watery corridors of the aquarium. The event is a first for the five-year-old facility and continues until Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, at Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, you can happen on something more illusionary: A glittery "Christmas tree" formed from sardines. Together with sharks, the aquarium's main tank is stocked with a school of 50,000 "ma-iwashi" sardines.

Come meal time, a combination of pumps disperses feed into the 1,500 tons of enclosed water in such a way that it forms a cone. When the lights dim and the sardines start to feed, you'll be lost for words.

Standing in the dark, listening to Christmas carols while watching a silvery spiral of sardines may not be a normal Yuletide experience.

It is, however, oddly enthralling and proves that the spirit of the holidays really is wherever you look for it.


Epson Shinagawa Aqua Stadium in the Shinagawa Prince Hotel is a three-minute walk from Shinagawa Station. Open from noon to 10 p.m. (from 10 a.m. on weekends, closing at 9 p.m. Sundays). The seal walk takes place daily at 6:30 p.m. until Dec. 21, at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 22-25. Admission is 1,800 yen (1,000 yen after 7 p.m.). See (aquastadium.jp).

Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise is in front of Hakkeijima Station on the Seaside Line. Admission is 4,400 yen. Christmas pair tickets are 5,000 yen for two, until Dec. 25. For details, see (www.seaparadise.co.jp/english).

2010年12月5日 星期日

Japan’s Robot Picks Only the Ripest Strawberries

December 4th, 2010 by Aaron Saenz
Filed under robots.

With multiple cameras and sharp pincers, this robot resembles an insect pest. However, it could help revolutionize fruit picking.

It takes more than a green thumb to be a great farmer, super-human vision helps as well. The Institute of Agricultural Machinery at Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, along with SI Seiko, has developed a robot that can select and harvest strawberries based on their color. Ripened berries are detected using the robot’s stereoscopic cameras, and analyzed to measure how red they appear. When the fruit is ready to come off the vine, the robot quickly locates it in 3D space and cuts it free. From observation to collection, the harvesting process takes about 9 seconds per berry. Creators estimate that it will be able to cut down harvesting time by 40%. Prototypes are currently being tested in the field with marketable versions expected in the next few years. This artificial agriculturalist was recently recognized by the 4th Annual Robot Award of the Year in Japan. You can see why in the videos below. If we adapt its combination of visual acuity and manual dexterity for other produce, the strawberry harvesting robot could help reshape industrial agriculture.

A typical berry field one square kilometer in size takes about 500 hours to harvest. With its speedy evaluation, the strawberry picking robot could cut this down to around 300 hours. Not only that, but every berry would have a quantifiably similar level of ripeness based on color, and would be harvested with a minimum of bruising. Robots will also be able to harvest during the night (as shown in the videos below) allowing for the fruit to reach market closer to optimum freshness. These improvements in speed and quality will likely translate to millions of dollars saved each year for the industry as a whole. Even if we focus on strawberries alone, robots like this one make a lot of sense.

Berries have a relatively high value per fruit, and can be raised in controlled conditions very well, so they are an ideal first test case. Clearly, however, the lessons that NARO is learning with the strawberry robot are going to apply to tomatoes, grapes, and many other plants with similar anatomies. Crop selection based on color would be useful for almost all fruits, as well as many other forms of produce. Stereoscopic vision, which allows the robot to accurately locate the fruit in 3D space and remove it without damage, could help with any agricultural project, and is a big part of the robotics industry as a whole.

We’ve seen other projects which highlight the potential of robots in the gardens, fields, and farms of the world. MIT developed prototype bots that could monitor, feed, and harvest tomato plants. Robots have been an important part of dairy farming, and continue to increase in scale and skill. Such machines allow humans to fill management roles and let robots maintain cheaper, healthier, and more valuable crops.

The automation of agriculture could prove to be a pivotal development in the early 21st century, akin to the adoption of combustion engines in the early 20th century. Just as horses were eventually replaced by tractors, humans may find themselves replaced by robots in the remaining realms of agricultural labor in which they still hold sway.

It will be a few years, however, before NARO’s strawberry robot is threatening anyone’s job. Yes, the sophistication of the bot is wonderful to behold, but the device is still in field tests. Developers will need to finish that research, redesign the robot accordingly, and then market the device. Who knows how long it would take it to hit the global agricultural industry. That’s assuming, of course, that the robot’s costs (for electrical power, maintenance, etc) are low enough not to interfere with the benefits it produces in harvest effeciency and quality.

Given enough time, however, it will make economic sense to pick berries with robots rather than humans. The history of industrial agriculture teaches us that if a worker can be replaced by a machine, they will be. Yet despite the obvious disruptions this causes in employment, I think the eventual move towards robotic agriculture is a vital one. We are still fighting global hunger, and anything that can increase our productivity and efficiency in agriculture is likely a valuable step towards solving that grand challenge. The strawberry robot is a relatively small development, but it’s a good one.

[screen capture: meminsider]
[video credit: DigInfo News, meminsider]
[source: DigInfo]

2010年12月2日 星期四



〔編譯林翠儀/綜合報導〕日本日前公布今年度的流行語及年度新聞,結果卻令民主黨政府相 當尷尬:不但民主黨黨魁選舉時出現的「脫小澤(一郎)」一詞被選為流行語,日中釣魚台撞船事件與撞船影片外流事件,還被青少年選為年度新聞的榜首與第三 名。網路流行語投票中,與釣魚台事件相關的「外流(sengoku38)」也獲得銀牌獎。

今年的「新語與流行語」從入圍的六十句中票選出十 句,其中獲得大獎的「怪怪怪的(GEGEGE)」,出自NHK日劇「怪怪怪的妻子」,這部日劇改編自妖怪畫家水木茂夫人武良布枝的自傳,播出後造成轟動。 另外,還有「脫小澤」、「AKB48」、「女子會」、「食用辣油」、「無緣社會」及「育兒男」等與政治、社會現象及影劇相關的流行語。

由於 年度新語、流行語名單公布後,一般都會頒獎給各個流行語的「始作俑者」,而令民主黨感到尷尬的是,「脫小澤」一語獲獎後,首相官邸的記者便起鬨拱菅直人首 相出面領獎,遭菅直人以「我沒說過這句話」為由拒絕領獎。後來,媒體又找上被視為是民主黨內反前幹事長小澤一郎主將的官房長官仙谷由人,仙谷也只能苦笑搖 頭。



平價當道 日本人變了!好過族!

一碗牛丼飯的祕密 平價當道 日本人變了!

作者:謝明玲  出處:天下雜誌 461期 2010/11








從一九九○年開始,日本經濟陷入長期不景氣,失落了二十年。景氣不佳,終身雇用制崩解、裁員、派遣人員盛行,讓日本人陷入更大的焦慮。影響所及,造 成消費行為的改變,麥肯錫的報告指出,社會中新興、從未經歷過泡沫經濟的年輕一輩,對於職場和消費傾向悲觀,成為得過且過的「好過族」。 過去日本消費者,肯為品質和便利性付錢,但現在他們湧入折扣商店和網路購物,購買大包裝的便宜商品。人們更少出門,甚至自己帶便當。麥肯錫稱日本的消費, 已經進入了新常態(new normal)。






2 交換經濟興起,「喜歡不一定要擁有」



這家在失落的二十年間成長的二手商店,在日本已有逼近一千家分店,甚至將觸角延伸到其他用品的回收。消費者能在這兒換到一點錢,也能以相對低的價格 購得物品。不只是書、CD、DVD、電玩等,還包括嬰兒用品、服飾、甚至是高爾夫球具等,Bookoff要打造「再利用」的事業王國。

3 更彈性的消費


今年春天,吉野家針對這個新客群著手研究新商品,秋天正式推出了兩百八十圓的「牛鍋丼」。牛鍋丼為吉野家增加了四○%的客人。木津表示,其實這群人 並不是每天都來吃兩百八十圓的餐點,中間也可能間雜昂貴的消費,某些層面也追求好的商品,但失落十年,讓消費者「依情況精打細算」的狀況更加明 顯。

Omotesando lights up for Christmas


photoShoppers view holiday-season illuminations in Tokyo's Omotesando district. (Hiroshi Kawai)

Tokyo's Omotesando district burst into light Tuesday evening when holiday illuminations adorning the main boulevard were turned on.

At 6 p.m., nearly a million light-emitting diodes lit up the 153 trees lining the 1 kilometer-long Omotesando Street. Spectators cheered when organizers threw the switch.

The illumination returned to the up-scale shopping district last year after an absence of a decade.

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of Meiji Shrine and its Omotesando approach, a record 900,000 LED lights were used this year, compared with 630,000 last year.

The lights will be switched on daily from sunset to 10 p.m. through Jan. 3.

2010年12月1日 星期三

Top-Selling Book in 2010

Top-Selling Book in 2010

A novel about a high-school girl who takes inspiration from the teachings of Peter Drucker, the Austrian-born management consultant who died in 2005, is set to become Japan’s biggest seller this year.

“What If the Female Assistant of a High-School Baseball Team Read Drucker’s ‘Management’,” written by Natsumi Iwasaki, sold 1.21 million copies in the year ended Nov. 21, beating out Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84” and a dieting guide, database provider Oricon Inc. said today on its website.

Iwasaki’s story is about a teenager named Minami who is trying to help her high school’s baseball team get into Japan’s national tournament at Koshien stadium. After mistakenly picking up Drucker’s “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices” in a store, she decides to read through the 1973 book and apply his methods in her dealings with both players and coaches.

“Japanese loved the book because they want advice for living in an uncertain world,” Eiji Hiruma, a spokesman for Diamond Inc., the book’s publisher, said today by telephone. “Drucker sticks to basic principles, so what he said can be applied to almost anyone.”

Drucker, who was born in Vienna and studied at Frankfurt University before moving to the U.S. in 1937, taught at several colleges before joining the faculty of the Claremont Graduate School in California. His work has been cited by business leaders including former General Electric Co. CEO Jack Welch and Intel Corp.’s Andrew Grove.