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Yomiuri Shimbun: Drone deliveries key to government growth strategy

dronedelivery

Creative Commons: Flash Alexander

By Yomiuri Shimbun, 8:24 pm, May 29, 2017

The government plans to focus on policy measures and investment in five different areas to promote its new growth strategy, setting up specific goals such as realizing delivery services using drones in the 2020s, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. According to a draft of the “Japan Revitalization Strategy 2017,” the government will concentrate on the promotion of a “fourth industrial revolution,” which aims to advance industry through robot technology, artificial intelligence and other technologies. The government is to unveil the draft on Tuesday at the Council on Investments for the Future, chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It plans to adopt the draft at a Cabinet meeting in early June at the earliest.

The draft says that although the Abenomics economic policy has driven the nation’s corporate profits to their highest levels in history, Japan has remained in long-term economic stagnation due to prolonged sluggish growth in productivity and a lack of creation of new demand. As a key to ensure medium- to long-term economic growth, the government plans to introduce technological innovations to drive the fourth industrial revolution in a variety of industries and in society, according to the draft.

On that basis, the government plans to aggressively mobilize the nation’s policy resources and promote future investment in the five areas: prolonging a healthy life expectancy; realizing a transportation revolution; improving supply chains for future generations; creating comfortable infrastructure and urban development; and providing the public with “fintech,” services that integrate finance and information technology.

The draft also states drone delivery services will start next year in mountainous regions. The strategy further establishes the specific goal of introducing full-fledged, safe drone deliveries in densely populated cities in the 2020s.

In addition, the government sets a clear goal in the draft regarding driverless vehicles, and of several driverless trucks being led by another truck with a human driver along an expressway. It is aiming for practical application for commercial use by 2022 at the earliest.

Using both drones and driverless vehicles is expected to facilitate prompt delivery services to and from remote islands as well as other places, and to significantly reduce logistic costs. The government hopes to deal with the serious labor shortage in the distribution industry by introducing these delivery systems.

The government will launch a new system to ease the nation’s regulations for a limited period during demonstration experiments, the draft states. Healthy life expectancy will be prolonged by promoting remote medical services, according to the strategy. The draft also covers the establishment of a system to disclose the names and other information of a company’s president and others should they remain with the company as an adviser or consultant even after stepping down.

***Major plans from ‘JapanRevitalization Strategy 2017’***

■ Introducing a full-fledged delivery system using drones in cities in the 2020s.

■ Realizing automated driving in which several driverless trucks are led by a truck with a human driver along the Shin Tomei Expressway in 2020, with the aim of practical application for commercial use by 2022 at the earliest.

■ Promoting remote medical services combined with medical consultations with a doctor, with the aim of reducing the burden of frequently visiting medical facilities.

■ Setting up a system to disclose the names and other information of a company’s president and others should they remain with the company as an adviser or consultant even after stepping down.

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Kyodo News: Central Tokyo population expected to keep growing

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Creative Commons: erikjohansson

KYODO: The population of three central Tokyo wards is projected to continue growing after 2025, when the overall number of citizens in the capital is estimated to take a downward turn, thanks to an apartment construction boom and convenient transport access. Chiyoda, Chuo and Minato wards have seen an influx of families with children and elderly people and the population growth there is expected to continue through 2040, but it could present municipal governments with challenges in providing adequate child and nursing care.

According to a Tokyo metropolitan government estimate, the population of the capital is expected to fall after hitting its peak of 13.98 million in 2025. But the three central wards are expected to rise further and reach a total of around 635,000 in 2040, up some 40 percent from January 2017. The three wards faced population drain to suburbs due to soaring land prices in the period of steep Japanese economic growth around the 1960s and 1970s and in the peak years of the bubble economy in the late 1980s.

However, the number of residents picked up in the late 1990s with Minato Ward’s population exceeding 250,000 in February for the first time in 54 years. Emiko Kanno, a 42-year-old office worker, lives in a Minato Ward apartment close to Tokyo Tower. “With the developed transportation system, the area is convenient for living and my husband’s commuting,” she said. A native of Hyogo in western Japan, Kanno used to live in Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, but she moved to the area four years ago when she got married.

The international character of the area boasting many foreign embassies has been a draw and Kanno seems satisfied with the environment for raising her 1-year-old son. High-rise apartment buildings in the waterfront areas proved popular among families with small children and the total fertility rate, which shows the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime, stood at 1.44 in Minato in 2015, the highest among Tokyo’s 23 wards.

Chiyoda Ward, home of the national parliament and many government buildings, also saw its population surpass 60,000 for the first time since 1981. The population in Chuo Ward, where the Ginza shopping district and Tsukiji fish market are located, once fell below 80,000 but has recovered to 150,000.

A Tokyo metropolitan government official said, “We have seen a trend of people moving to city centers after the burst of the bubble economy. The three wards with many office buildings have also gone through redevelopment.”The official suggested the latest trend reflects more people opting to live close to their offices after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disrupted transportation systems and forced many to walk back home.

But the growing urban wards are not free from problems. The number of children who failed to secure slots in preschools in Minato Ward rose 2.5 times in April from a year earlier. A Minato Ward official said the municipal government is “overwhelmed with delight but a lack of enough childcare services has been the biggest challenge.”

Some elderly families have also been moving from detached houses in the suburbs to apartments in city centers as they are more convenient and well managed, the Tokyo metropolitan government official said. But with more senior citizens living alone or the elderly taking care of their even older parents, more social workers would be required to look after them. “It would be difficult for social workers to come to homes of the elderly in high-rise apartments that are automatically locked at their entrances. There would also be a need to assist people in such cases as elevators stop in disasters,” the official said.

While Tokyo continues to draw population, neighboring prefectures have seen serious population outflows of young people. Even in prefectural capitals of Maebashi in Gunma and Kofu in Yamanashi, populations have been declining. In the city of Shizuoka in central Japan, an estimated population as of April 1 fell below 700,000.

© KYODO

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Results of MLIT’s latest land price survey

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According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s annual residential land survey (地価公示), titled 平成29年地価公示 (2017 Land price public announcement) residential land in Tokyo’s most central 23 wards increased by 3% in 2016, and in greater Tokyo area that averaged 0.7% increase. Chiyoda, Chuo and Minato wards all have prices increase by more than 5% in 2016 (see graphic above), while most of the 23 wards experienced growths of between 2 and 5 percent growth YoY. There is great disparity between what is happening in Tokyo (particularly within the 23 wards) and nationwide.

As we have written in the past, growth in condominium prices in central Tokyo have increased substantially over the last few years. However, given the high prices, the total number of transactions decreased last year. As the number of new condo sales has started to decrease, there is also less pressure among property developers to acquire and develop sites, which in turn keep land prices at bay. In terms of commercial real estate, the total for 23-Ward Tokyo increased by 5.5% (4.8% in 2015) and increased by 1.9% (1.8% in 2015) for the greater Tokyo area in 2016.

Visit the main site to download the statistics (in Japanese): http://tochi.mlit.go.jp/chika/kouji/2017/index.html, and here is the summary for Tokyo residential land: http://tochi.mlit.go.jp/chika/kouji/2017/46-1.html

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Automate washing clothes with the Laundroid

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Hate doing laundry? Very soon this task could be automated. In a recent article published by Bloomberg (written by Yuji Nakamura & Hiroyuki Nakagawa), a Japanese company has created a “laundry robot” called the Laundroid.

laundryrobot31According to the Bloomberg article (here is an excerpt): Shin Sakane, head of Seven Dreamers Laboratories Inc, received 6 billion yen ($53 million) from partners, including Panasonic Corp., last month to advance “the Laundroid” — a robot Sakane is developing to not only wash and dry garments, but also sort, fold and neatly arrange them. The refrigerator-size device could eventually fill the roles of washing machine, dryer and clothes drawer in people’s homes. Sakane (aged 45), whose earlier inventions include an anti-snoring device and golf clubs made of space materials, said the funding will bring closer his dream of liberating humanity from laundry.

Sakane wouldn’t disclose how Laundroid works, but patents show that users dump clothes in a lower drawer and robotic arms grab each item as scanners look for features such as buttons or a collar. Once identified, the clothes are folded using sliding plates and neatly stacked on upper shelves for collection. The goal is to eventually get the price of the full version to less than about JPY300,000.laundryrobot2

Users will still have to do some tasks, such as partially buttoning shirts, ensuring clothes aren’t inside out, and bunching socks before putting them inside the machine. That’s because even the best machine-learning applications can’t figure out how to fold a pair of socks. At the moment, each item takes about 10 minutes to fold, which Sakane attributed to the time necessary to scan each part of the clothing and communicate via Wi-Fi with a central server. He is working to get it down to 3-to-5 minutes, but said the robot was designed to be used passively while users are doing something else or out of the house.

Photo credits: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

For the entire Bloomberg article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-01/robot-inspired-by-a-space-odyssey-will-relieve-you-of-laundry

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Hina Matsuri: An Early Spring Tradition

19th century Ukiyoe by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892)

19th century Ukiyoe by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892)

Every year on March 3rd, Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival) is celebrated in Japan. As one of five major seasonal festivals in the country, ceremonies and special dishes are prepared to ensure good fortune. It is easy to spot any Hinamatsuri celebration since it involves the display of elaborately crafted dolls representing the Imperial Court. In the old days, there was a broader tradition that involved making simple paper dolls called hitogata for religious purposes. The hinamatsuri gradually became a time to give thanks for the health and development of young girls. Over time, the intricately crafted artisan dolls came into flavor.

dolls-set

Creative Commons, Katorisi

Dolls in The Imperial Court

The most alluring aspect of the Hinamatsuri is, of course, the intricately crafted dolls (Hinakazari). These are displayed on a red-carpeted, platform called Hinadan, which represents the court of the Imperial household. The top level displays the Prince and Princess (this pair of dolls is the most basic of displays, called the Dairi Bina, which is often displayed inside a glass casing). In the full setting, the royalty are waited upon by the court ladies, musicians, and other attendants who sit on the lower levels along with decorations such as sake cups and elaborate chests of drawers.

From sometime in February, households with young daughters will display the ornately dressed figurines prominently, where they can be admired by family members and guests. However, once the festival is over the dolls and decorations are promptly packed away (superstition dictates that leaving them out too long will harm a daughter’s chances of marriage).

Creative Commons (flickr), Takashi .M

Creative Commons, Takashi .M

Families often buy a new set of dolls when the first daughter is born, while others pass down the Hinakazari from one generation to the next. In the past it was not uncommon for new brides to take their set with them when they married. Undoubtedly, the hinadan represented one of the most splendid and valuable possession in the home and was cherished not just by girls, but the entire household.

Events and Activities with Hina Matsuri

Creative Commons, Midori

Creative Commons, Midori

In the days leading up to March 3 it is common for children to celebrate hinamatsuri by holding parties and enjoying such treats as hina-arare (multi-colored sweets made from rice and sugar), chirashi-zushi, clam soup, and red and white rice cakes called hishi-mochi. Traditionally, sprigs of peach blossoms are displayed along with dolls at these gatherings.

There are also exhibitions held across Japan that showcase the Hina Matsuri dolls, many are antiques created and preserved as historical relics. In Tokyo, there are also many displays for Hina Matsuri, and there are a variety of exhibitions in town. Below we list a couple of major exhibitions that are held annually.

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Meguro Gajoen

At the Meguro Gajoen: this location in Meguro hosts a large, extensive display of Hina Matsuri dolls at its historically relevant and well preserved Hyakudan Kaidan (a series of seven extravagantly decorated rooms linked by a 99-step staircase that has great historical value, and is worth a visit in its own right). Throughout the year, the Hyakudan Kaidan hosts a number of exhibitions and events. The area would otherwise be closed to the public. For more info, visit: http://www.megurogajoen.co.jp/event/hinamaturi/

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Keio Plaza

At Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo: Every year, through February and March, the Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo celebrates the Hina-matsuri festival. The main lobby, and other locations around the hotel, will showcase 6,500 handmade hanging silk dolls. In addition, a variety of bonsai are displayed to compliment the festival. For more info, visit: http://www.keioplaza.com/offers/events1601_01.html

hinabanner

Creative Commons, S Kitahashi

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Japanese Koshu: Wineries to watch

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Recently Decanter Magazine published an article on Japanese wine, specifically from Koshu in the Yamanashi Region. Here below is an excerpt of the article.

Decanter: Japan may be better known for its sake, but its national grape, Koshu, has been picking up awards for several years, mostly under the radar. Decanter’s Tasting team has selected five wineries to watch out for following a recent tasting hosted in London by Koshu of Japan. (Visit the Decanter website for the selected five wineries.) It is surprising to see that such a new style over here in the West has been around for a long time in Japan, with our top five wineries all being founded in the five decades spanning the 1880s to the 1930s.

japanese-wine31About Koshu from Yamanashi Prefecture

Koshu is a native Japanese grape variety that has been grown domestically for centuries, but only used for winemaking since 1874. It now covers 480 hectares of vineyards in Japan, with 95% grown in the Yamanashi prefecture, in the shadow of Mount Fuji.

About the Viticulture

During the growing season, typhoons can bring a lot of rain which threatens the bunches with rot. This is countered by training the vines high above the ground on a pergola system to encourage airflow. Some vineyards even adorn individual bunches with hats that protect them from rain; an incredible display of attention to detail!

About the Flavour

A delicate and aromatic grape variety, Koshu produces refreshing still and sparkling wines that display distinctly Eastern flavours such as yuzu and creamed rice. Suffice to say, thanks to the high acidity and lightness of this variety, it is a perfect pairing for Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi.japanese-wine

For the entire article: visit http://www.decanter.com/wine-reviews-tastings/japanese-koshu-wineries-354235/

For more info on Koshu wine, visit Koshu of Japan, an organization established in July 2009 by fifteen Japanese wine producers from the Yamanashi Prefecture.

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Toss Away Your Demons

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Dividing the Seasons with Setsubun

Setsubun (節分, せつぶん) literally means “seasonal division” is celebrated on February 3rd every year. Setsubun is the day preceding risshun, which is the first day of spring according to the old Japanese or lunar calendar. The idea of Setsubun involves cleansing away all the evil of the former year and drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come.

Artist: Sheila Harrington of eachdayisacelebration.com

Artist: Sheila Harrington of eachdayisacelebration.com

Called Mamemaki (bean throwing), the ritual involves throwing roasted soybeans either out the door or at a member of the family wearing an Oni (demon or ogre) mask, while saying “Demons out! Luck in!” (鬼は外! 福は内! Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!) and then slamming the door. These soybeans are called fuku mame or fortune beans,

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Source: Daderot, Creative Commons

The beans are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them. Also people can be healthy and happy if they pick up and eat fuku mame the number equal to their ages. Also, eating fortune sushi rolls called eho-maki is a Japanese custom on Setsubun.

Mamemaki is still common practice in households, and widely celebrated at schools and kindergartens with children. In addition, many people attend a shrine or temple’s Spring festival for an event. At major temples and shrines, Japanese celebrities often participate in mamemaki by tossing the beans at the revellers.

Setsubun at Sensoji

Setsubun at Sensoji

For Zozoji Temple, famed for its association with the long line of Tokugawa shoguns and for its proximity to Tokyo Tower, will have a bean flinging ceremony. Also, a similar event will be held at Asakusa’s famous Sensoji Temple.

For more on the subject visit Best Living Japan’s compilation here: http://www.bestlivingjapan.com/best-of-setsubun-february-3rd-read-go-and-make/

setsubunclassic2

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Hand-Drip Green Tea has arrived

Source: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

Further to the string of green tea chain shops around town that serve up delights such as matcha tea lattes and accompanying red-bean sweets, a new style of tea shop has arrived. Recently, Tokyoites are being offered a hand-drip green tea shop (slated to be the world’s first).

Source: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

Located in Sangenjaya, Tokyo Saryo recently opened at the beginning of January 2017. At the shop, detailed attention is given to the brewing temperature and brewing time, to provide, according to Tokyo Saryo, the best balance in aroma and flavor for a proper tea experience. According to the company, packaged green tea drinks and instant types fall short in maximizing the aroma and depth that can be derived from the tea leaves; and by this method operated by the shop, the richness and complexity of the tea leaves can be enjoyed.

The menu is simple, offering a two-tea sample along with accompanying sweets ideal for pairing with the tea at a cost of JPY1,300 (including sales tax). And similar to the high-end coffee brewing experiences found at some high-end coffee chains (or high-end Starbucks), the teas are meant for discussion and contemplation. For more information, visit: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

Source: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

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Famicon Stationery Coming Your Way this December

famicon-accessoriesFrom Spoon & Tamago: Famicon Stationery Lets Adult Gamers Relive Their Childhood

An interesting blog post from creative site Spoon & Tamago featuring another great Omiyage (souvenir) from Japan. I think this will appeal to adults in their forties as they relive this childhood icon through these super cute products.

Here is an excerpt. For the whole article, visit: http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2016/11/28/famicon-stationery-lets-adult-gamers-relive-their-childhood/#more-38889

famicon-accessories-3Stationary company, San-Ei is releasing a line of items inspired by the 1980s video game console, Famicon by Nintendo. San-Ei’s lineup of Famicon-inspired items includes pencils and pens, clear folders and memo pads that all can fit snug into the Famicon tote bag. There’s also a ringed notebook that’s designed to be the exact same length and width as the original. The items are set to go on sale December 23 but many of them are available for pre-order through Amazon.

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New Bakery in Ebisu: Crossroad Bakery

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In the last couple of years, we have seen many high-quality bakery cafes open up in Tokyo. With the TV-show famous City Bakery (Sex and the City) adding to the already sophisticated french-style versions and popular mall types (such as Aux Bacchanales), there just seems to be a fancy sit-down style bakery in almost every part of Tokyo.

At the foothill of Daikanyama, in Ebisu, a swanky new bakery has opened. Crossroad Bakery (http://crossroadbakery.com/) offers all-day breakfast as well as other carb-loaded delights. The new shop is located just a few shops from the popular Blacows burger restaurant, and is a few minutes walk from Ebisu station. An eat-in section accompanies the bakery, which offers a wide variety of bakery items for takeaway.

img_20160928_114446Items on the menu include: the usual burgers and sandwiches, but also offers other items not so commonly seen in Tokyo — the Philly Cheese Steak and various stews and fondue served in fresh bread bowls. There is also a dinner menu with main dishes, and appetizers that include guacamole, chili and popcorn shrimp.

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