2017年10月31日 星期二

Japan Inc.'s safety failures point to deeper malaise

OCTOBER 29, 2017 / 3:51 PM / 3 DAYS AGO
Japan Inc.'s safety failures point to deeper malaise

Sam Nussey

TOKYO (Reuters) - A series of safety scandals at Japanese companies have put the country’s lionized factory floor under scrutiny as manufacturers struggle with increased pressure on costs, stricter enforcement of standards and growing competition.

The logo of Subaru Corp. is pictured at the 45th Tokyo Motor Show in Tokyo, Japan October 25, 2017. Picture taken October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai - RC150E746E90

With margins squeezed by a stagnant domestic market and rivalry from China and South Korea, many factories have cut costs, reducing their reliance on workers in lifetime employment in favor of laborers on temporary contracts.

As they have done so, safety scandals have erupted across the country’s much-vaunted manufacturing sector, with Subaru Corp on Friday joining Nissan Motor Co Ltd in admitting it failed to follow proper vehicle inspection procedures.

Earlier this month, Japan’s third-largest steelmaker, Kobe Steel Ltd, said its workers had tampered with product specifications for years, leaving companies around the world scrambling to verify the safety of cars, planes, trains and electrical goods.

Unable to easily lay off “regular” employees, full-time employees with permanent contracts and pay scales based on seniority that formed the heart of Japan’s post-war workforce, companies have increasingly come to rely on “non-regular” workers - temps, part-timers and short-term contract workers.

These non-regular workers allow companies to cut costs and adjust their workforce, said Koji Morioka, emeritus professor at Kansai University and an expert on workplace issues. But it has led to a de-skilling of the factory floor, lowering standards and increasing the likelihood of wrongdoing and accidents, he said.

“The use of these ‘disposable’ workers is greatly increasing,” Morioka said. “The loss of experienced, skilled workers on the factory floor is becoming more and more risky.”

The share of non-regular workers in the labor force has risen from 20 percent in the early 1990s to a record 37.5 percent last year - with the proportion in some companies higher still.

The pay gap is stark, with regular workers last year on average paid 321,700 yen ($2,830) monthly compared with 211,800 yen for contract workers.

Companies are failing to produce the skilled workers needed to ensure standards are met in areas like safety at a time when scrutiny is intensifying around the world and lapses are met with greater criticism, said Parissa Haghirian, professor of Japanese management at Sophia University in Tokyo.

“There is a real human resource problem,” she said, with the traditional model of hiring workers straight out of school or university, teaching them on the job and rotating them between departments no longer functioning well.


With the ratio of companies complaining of labor shortages at a 25-year high and with firms needing specialists but failing to produce them internally, competition for skilled workers is likely to become more fierce, Haghirian said.

“I predict high performers will leave more quickly... leaving companies in trouble because these people traditionally would stay and drag everyone else along,” she said.

Japanese companies are not alone in being caught up in scandals, with European and U.S. companies caught cutting corners and manipulating results in areas like vehicle emissions tests to the sale of meat. But the Japanese firms face questions over whether they can adapt quickly enough.

Some Japanese makers have taken the attitude that “because the factory floor is well run, quality control and inspection can be applied as an afterthought,” said Tadashi Kunihiro, a lawyer who is a director and auditor on company boards.

Companies, he said, were not placing their most skilled workers in quality control roles.

While safety lapses have been going on at some companies for years or even decades, the decline of the lifetime employment system has likely sapped the loyalty of workers who are more likely to raise concerns themselves, Kunihiro added.

Improving transparency at companies has been a key plank of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s corporate governance reforms through measures such as boosting the number of outside directors.

But experts question whether such reforms can do much to prevent safety scandals occurring in the first place.

“Even if there are more outside directors, if there is cheating on the factory floor there is no way they will be able find out,” a senior executive in the aluminum industry said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“Even executives don’t know what’s happening on the factory floor,” he said.

Executives are guilty of becoming too detached from the operational side of the business, said Toshiyuki Shimegi, president of Porsche Japan.

“There is a need for more micromanagement,” he said on the sidelines of the Tokyo Motor Show. “They are missing the hands-on approach.”

Reporting by Sam Nussey, additional reporting by Aaron Sheldrick, Ritsuko Shimizu; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Can Japan burn flammable ice for energy? (CNN)

Can Japan burn flammable ice for energy?
Japan is trying. Between 2002 and 2017, its government spent around $1 billion on research and development, according to the Ministry of Energy, ...

...They are pioneering a new technology that could reshape the global energy industry. Even better, a technology that revolves around a resource which Japan has in abundance buried under the ocean.
The Japanese government wants to burn "flammable ice" for energy.

A new type of energy

Worldwide there are up to 2,800 trillion cubic meters of methane-bearing gas hydrates -- a frozen mixture of water and natural methane -- according to the United States Energy Information Administration.
Vast reservoirs of this resource are found where high pressures and low temperatures combine -- i.e. buried inside thick Arctic permafrost and under deep ocean floors.
Possibly the planet's last great source of carbon-based fuel, gas hydrates are thought to contain more energy than all the world's other fossil fuels combined.
So far though, no one is close to being able to extract it commercially.
Japan is trying. Between 2002 and 2017, its government spent around $1 billion on research and development, according to the Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry.
"There are two reasons the government wants to develop this technology," says Ryo Matsumoto, professor of geology at the Gas Hydrate Laboratory at Tokyo's Meiji University.
"The first is to secure energy resources -- if they can exploit a domestic resource they will increase their energy security. The second is that they are trying to decrease carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels."
Natural gas consumption emits roughly half the amount of carbon dioxide that coal does.
"Because natural gas is a cleaner source of energy, Japan wants to increase the proportion of natural gas used in the entire energy structure."

What is flammable ice?

Flammable ice doesn't look that different from something you might use to chill a cocktail, but the similarity stops there.
A scientist holds marine natural gas hydrate trapped in icelike crystals, extracted from the seabed of the Shenhu Area of the northern South China Sea. Similar marine natural gas hydrates have been extracted from Japan.
These ice crystals hold a remarkable quantity of natural methane gas. It is estimated that one cubic meter of frozen gas hydrate contains 164 cubic meters of methane.
Hold a match to the ice and the gas ignites so that instead of melting, it burns. The problem with gas hydrates is that the gas is hard to extract.
The first step, however, is to find the hydrates. In Japan, that's not hard.
"Japan is rich in reserves within its exclusive economic zone on both the western Pacific Ocean side and along the eastern margin on the Japan Sea side," says Matsumoto.

Engineers have so far focused on Nankai Trough, a long, narrow depression 50 kilometers off the coast of central Japan, which had been extensively surveyed over many years.
Analysis of extracted core samples and seismic data has revealed that 1.1 trillion cubic meters of methane -- enough to meet Japan's gas needs for more than a decade -- lies below the floor of the trough.

First extraction

In 2013, MH21 (Research Consortium for Methane Hydrate Resources), a Japanese government-funded research group that brings together industry experts, scientists and policymakers, conducted the world's first extraction tests.
The team positioned the drillship, Chikyu, over a formation called the Daini Atsumi Knoll that lies 1,000 meters under the sea, south of the Japanese city of Nagoya.
"To extract gas, the hydrate must first be melted so that it separates into gas and water," says Dr. Koji Yamamoto, leader of the research group for field development technology at MH21.

Japanese retailer Aeon brings 'Singles Day' to Japan for online sales event

Japanese retailer Aeon borrows Chinese and US promotions to energize slow consumption in November.

2017年10月30日 星期一



2017年10月25日 星期三

伊藤博文 Itō Hirobumi ;長州五傑英國留學一百五十週年2013

Prince Itō Hirobumi was a Japanese statesman and genrō. A London-educated samurai of the Chōshū Domain and an influential figure in the early Meiji Restoration government, he chaired the bureau which drafted the Meiji Constitution in the 1880s. Wikipedia

歷史上的今天 (1909年10月26日)
歷史上的今天1909年10月26日 (星期二) 灑血於中國領土上 日本明治維新的功臣伊藤博文,係於1909年的這一天,在我國東北哈爾濱車站接受俄國財政大臣哥烏佐輔的歡迎儀式上,慘遭韓國志士安重根持槍襲擊,當場身中三彈而死,享年六十八歲。伊藤博文之所

伊藤博文這番說話只是「畀面」李鴻章,實情是李鴻章的識見、能力、做事之決心,遠遠不如伊藤,李是慈禧太后的一個奴才,而伊藤是有信念的政治家,兩者根本不能相比。今天我介紹一本他的傳記:《伊藤博文:創造近代日本之人》,作者是伊藤之雄,曾於哈佛大學燕京學社及賴肖爾日本研究所(Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies)研究近現代日本政治外交史。這是根據第一手資料寫成的伊藤博文傳記,作者以四個字「剛凌強直」(即剛強、嚴正、真誠)貫串他的一生,這評價是來自明治維新大老木戶孝允,他是從伊藤立身處身之道出發,認為貫串其中的信念是:隨時都有連地位、性命皆可拋棄的覺悟。

1863年,五人在英國駐日領事Anthony James Gower和怡和洋行橫濱機構的幫助下,化裝為英國水手到達上海,然後,藏在一艘鴉片船中,再分為兩組,跨海抵達英國,入讀倫敦大學學院。導師為亞歷山大·威廉·威廉姆遜

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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The Chōshū Five (長州五傑 Chōshū Goketsu?) were members of the Chōshū han of western Japan who studied in England from 1863 at University College London under the guidance of Professor Alexander William Williamson. It was still illegal to leave Japan when they left, as the seclusion policy (sakoku) was still enforced until the Meiji Restoration.


Voyage to Britain

A Mr. Weigal, Jardine Matheson's manager in Yokohama, put the Chōshū youths, disguised as English sailors, aboard a reluctant Captain J. S. Gower's vessel at 1000 ryō each, bound for Shanghai where they were sheltered on an opium storage ship before dividing into two groups for the long voyage to London.
When they reached London the Chōshū students were introduced by William Matheson to Professor Alexander Williamson.
Inoue Kaoru and Itō Hirobumi, destined to be two of the greatest Japanese statesmen of the age, worked as deckhands aboard the 1500 ton steamer Pegasus on the voyage to Europe. They also returned earlier than the other three when they realised that the Chōshū clan was in danger of attack by the Western allied powers for trying to close the Straits of Shimonoseki to foreign shipping.

Identity of the Chōshū Five

New Film

A movie entitled Chōshū Five[citation needed] was released in Japan in January 2007. Chōshū Five received the Grand Remi Award at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival.

See also

External links