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Air Date(jibtv) : 2011/3/25

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On March 11, a massive earthquake struck northeastern Japan. Registering a magnitude 9.0, it was the biggest ever recorded in the country. The ensuing tsunami devastated coastal areas, killing scores of people. The twin natural disasters also caused serious damage to a nuclear power station, with authorities scrambling to contain the crisis.

Nikkei Japan Report has decided to cancel its originally scheduled program to focus entirely on the immediate impact and future implications of this catastrophic event on the Japanese economy.

Air Date(jibtv) : 2011/2/25

[Today's Pick]

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Robotics technology is constantly evolving. The next frontier in this dynamic field is "the human hand". In recent years, robots have been introduced in a variety of fields requiring the delicate touch of the human hand. Examples include the making of sushi, which needs to be rolled with just the right amount of pressure, and metal shaping, which can only be carried out by skilled and experienced craftsmen. Another area that demands an even softer human touch is nursing care. Here, a major electronics maker is developing a robot that can wash hair. What's more, new technology is now giving people with accident-related dexterity impairments the ability to do things that were once thought impossible.

[Newsmaker]

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Soy sauce is an indispensable ingredient in Japanese cooking and has become popular around the world, including in Europe and the US. The company that helped spread soy sauce in the US and elsewhere 50 years ago is none other Kikkoman. We talked to company chairman, Yuzaburo Mogi about his efforts to develop the overseas market and his strategy to popularize this traditional flavoring. Mr. Mogi also tells us about the challenges the company faces as it seeks to expand in Asia and his plans to overtake the competition.

[Kizashi : On the Horizon]

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They're almost real, but not quite. The food samples that are displayed in front of many restaurants in Japan are a surprising sight for many overseas visitors. In recent years, a small town that has a 60% share of the food sample market has developed into an attraction for people curious about this unique art form. In this program, we look at one town's initiative to tempt tourists with food that can be touched, but not eaten.

[The Afternote]

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The robots we covered for this story varied greatly in terms of application, but the one trait they all shared was "flexibility". Unlike industrial robots that repeat the same set of movements with great speed and accuracy, these robots are capable of adapting to and carrying out their work under ever-changing conditions, such as washing hair while adjusting to the shape of a person's head. After seeing their capabilities first hand, I feel more than ever that they will become an integral part of our daily lives in the not-too-distant future. Still, the human hand is significantly more efficient than a robot's, even for a task as simple as picking up a glass, and replicating that subtle touch will remain a major technological challenge.

Mr. Mogi says one element to succeed overseas is "to verify whether there's demand". But he also says "you shouldn't just give up if there isn't. As long as there's potential, it's possible to stimulate demand and create the market". Mr. Mogi's words ring true, knowing that he led the company to success in spreading a Japanese traditional flavoring across the Western world. He also focused on developing local recipies that soy sauce could compliment, rather than trying to promote Japanese dishes and conventional uses. It was a low--key, but highly effective strategy that allowed the company to overcome the obstacles faced by many Japanese food makers in gaining acceptance around the world. (Makiko Utsuda)

Air Date(jibtv) : 2011/1/28

[Today's Pick]

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The yen's appreciation is delivering a blow to a Japanese economy reliant on external demand. The trend is an especially big headache for exporters such as car manufacturers as the higher exchange rate eats into earnings. However, for individuals, the situation has not been necessarily negative. One example is the growing number of individual investors who are taking advantage of the rising yen to conduct foreign exchange margin transactions. A variety of trades are being carried out to profit from or hedge against the daily fluctuations in the exchange rate. While Japan is seen as lagging behind the US in the area of financial education, in recent years, there have been moves to better inform average consumers of such investments. In this program, we report on the widening impact of exchange rates on Japanese people and what they are doing to deal with this looming reality in their daily lives.

[Newsmaker]

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Two Japanese scientists - Akira Suzuki and Ei-ichi Negishi - were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry at a ceremony held in Stockholm in December 2010. Mr. Negishi, who is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Purdue University, was recognized for his work in "cross coupling reactions", an area of intense interest among researchers. In our interview, he talks about the emotions he felt in receiving the prize and the enjoyment of engaging in chemistry research. We also hear about what Japan needs to do to sustain the high level of scientific research in the country and to nurture world-class researchers for the future.

[Kizashi : On the Horizon]

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Bonsai is the practice of planting miniature trees in pots for the purpose of aesthetic appreciation. These Japanese gardens in a pot are highly regarded not only in Japan but around the world and have attracted a large number of enthusiasts overseas. At one of a handful of bonsai museums in Japan, many of the visitors are non-Japanese. Meanwhile, a farm in Takamatsu city, Kagawa prefecture, which has a thriving pine bonsai culture, is targeting the European market and has experienced a surge in exports to the region in recent years. We take a closer look at a bonsai revival being sparked by strong overseas interest and the underlying potential of this horticultural art form to develop into a big export industry for Japan.

[The Afternote]

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Japanese people, myself included, tend to be risk adverse in terms of financial matters. So I was very surprised to find that a growing number of individual investors are actively trading in the foreign exchange market. To a large extent, the trend has been accelerated by the spread of the internet as well as financial deregulation. But there has also been a big shift in the way people, especially the younger generation, view investing. Individual traders have increased rapidly during the last 5 years, and currently account for around 20 to 30% of all transactions in the Tokyo foreign exchange market, something unique even compared to markets overseas. With the higher risks, more needs to be done to educate the public about the pitfalls that accompany the potential for profit.

The stereotypical picture of a Nobel prize winning chemist is a person obsessed with research and caged inside a laboratory. On the contrary, Mr. Negishi golfs, skis, plays the piano, and is very outgoing. But it is his passion for research that stands out above everything else. Even after spending 50 years in the field, his eyes twinkle when explaining that "with chemistry, you can actually see things change in front of your eyes, it's just so interesting!". His next focus is to research global warming, and his enthusiasm in tackling new challenges is boundless. (Makiko Utsuda)

Air Date(jibtv) : 2010/12/24

[Today's Pick]

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Few countries in the world can boast the wide variety of stationery available to consumers in Japan. In one major stationery store, there are over 100,000 items on display. Many new products are also being developed one after another, offering convenient and useful functions for users. One manufacturer has come up with an unconventional pen ink that can be erased. Another has devised a revolutionary structure for mechanical pencils. There are even devices that record and instantly digitalize handwritten words and pictures. Meanwhile, a major notebook maker is expanding into Asian markets by designing products geared to meet local needs. In this report, we look at the latest trends in uniquely Japanese stationery.

[Newsmaker]

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Amid the growing interest in eco-friendly vehicles, a car that has been attracting attention around the world even before its debut was finally launched in December. Called "Leaf", it is an all-electric car developed by Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. The company, which lagged behind rivals in hybrid cars, is betting its future on this promising new area. At the same time, Nissan has shifted production of its mainstay "March" compact car to Thailand and reimporting them back into Japan, as it undertakes a bold management strategy to survive the global competition. COO Toshiyuki Shiga talks about his vision for electric cars and his international strategy.

[Kizashi : On the Horizon]

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Sushi is probably the most famous Japanese food around the world. Recently, there has been a growing number of people from overseas who are coming to the country, not just to eat sushi, but to learn how to make it themselves. The "Sushi Classroom" in Shinjuku, Tokyo, is the top destination for foreigners hoping to become "sushi chefs". We report on what's being passed on to these eager apprentices and why so many non-Japanese are coming to study sushi.

[The Afternote]

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While Japanese stationery is generally simple and reasonably-priced, they can be loaded with some surprising technology and innovative ideas. One example is a erasable pen ink that took some 30 years of research to develop. An engineer who was involved in creating the ink says they "were driven by a singular focus to invent something no one had ever seen before". The variety of pens can also be overwhelming. Manufacturers are continually improving the functions and useability, as they seek out hit products to survive in the fiercely competitive industry. Even as computers and keyboards become increasingly embedded in our lives, old-fashioned stationery remains the preferred medium for writing and communication for many people.

"It's not a car if it's not fun", declares Mr. Shiga. Engineers strived to replicate, and even improve upon, the feel and driveability of a conventional car in designing the Leaf. The heart of the electric vehicle is the battery. Nissan plans to use the lithium-ion batteries mounted on the vehicle as an energy source for households, which it hopes will lead to a greener environment. While many Japanese companies are shifting production overseas to overcome risks from the rising yen and to reduce costs, Mr. Shiga vows to keep a significant portion of production within the country. He says, that is the only way "to hold on to our technological strength", underlining his strong determination to retain the "made in Japan" quality which has been a cornerstone for the company. (Makiko Utsuda)

Air Date(jibtv) : 2010/11/26

[Today's Pick]

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Touch panels are now indispensible for smart phones and electronic readers. As the market for such products expands, their performance and functions are continuing to evolve. Currently in development are touch panels that can handle complex operations such as simultaneously recognizing over 100 different finger movements. One company has even succeeded in designing a touch panel with a curved surface. In addition, work is being carried out on interfaces that don't require any physical contact, allowing a user to simply make hand motions to control machines. In this program, we report on touch panels that are making it easier and more convenient to operate devices, and explore the future possibilities of the technology.

[Newsmaker]

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This October, the Nikkei Global Management Forum was held in Tokyo, bringing together executives of multinational companies for discussions on the global economy and corporate management. We interviewed some of the Japanese participants to identify the issues facing domestic companies. Everyone seemed to agree on one thing - the need for "change". Takahisa Takahara, the president of Unicharm, a baby-care and sanitary goods maker, has succeeded in driving sales by developing products based on extensive consumer research. In search of new growth opportunities, the company has embarked on a strategy to tap into the strength of the Asian economy. Other Japanese companies, such as an oil concern looking to diversify away from its main business, and an education company launching a new service to meet the needs of a declining and aging population, also provide insights on the directional changes taking place in the business world.

[Kizashi : On the Horizon]

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A new office building opened in Tokyo's central business district this October. Located inside the modern facade is a commercial facility that recreates the atmosphere of the "Edo" era. From long-established specialty food stores to cutlery makers, many shops here draw the attention of visitors with their live demonstrations. We take a look inside the traditional culture that blossomed and thrived in the Nihonbashi district, once the economic center of old Japan.

[The Afternote]

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Unbeknownst to the average consumer, touch panel makers are loading pioneering technology into their products and using advanced manufacturing techniques to improve both precision and durability. Japanese companies still lead the field in terms of market share, but rivals in Asia are quickly catching up. One engineer I talked to for this report admits that "it is extremely difficult for Japanese makers to compete in the cost-cutting race", and says "the strength of Japanese makers is their ability to continue developing new technologies, which is also their only means of survival". The development of a touch panel with a curved surface began 10 years ago by engineers who envisioned the future even before flat touch panels had become widespread. This fundamental strength may be what keeps Japanese companies firmly positioned in the global competition.

After listening to many executives share their business strategies, what left an impression on me was their emphasis on speed. Unicharm's Mr. Takahara revises his management plan on a week-to-week basis based on results, saying it is the only way to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the consumer. As the focus shifts from developed countries to newly emerging markets, all business leaders seemed to acknowledge not just the challenge of change, but the need to implement change quickly to stay ahead in the global market. (Makiko Utsuda)

Air Date(jibtv) : 2010/10/29

[Today's Pick]

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In Japan, there are numerous manufacturers that are small in scale yet possess world class technologies and products. One company's luminous pigment, used in clock dials, commands an 80 percent global market share. Another has come up with an ultra-fine needle that allows for painless injections. Yet another has developed a specially structured nut that won't become loose even when subjected to extreme vibration. In this report, we introduce little-known companies which have one-of-a-kind technologies that are highly sought after around the world.

[Newsmaker]

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Need to deliver a package to family or friends? All you need to do is take it to a neighborhood store and it'll be delivered to their doorstep by the following day. That's the convenience provided by express delivery services. Yamato Holdings was the first in Japan to offer small parcel delivery services to individual consumers, something rare around the world at the time, and it has continued to dominate the industry. Since starting the business in 1976, the company has diversified its offerings in response to changing demands. This year, it launched full-scale door-to-door parcel deliveries in Shanghai and Singapore and has been expanding aggressively in overseas markets. Yamato president Kaoru Seto tells us the reasons for the company's success and his strategy to build a global delivery network.

[Kizashi : On the Horizon]

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In our brand new segment, we will be introducing up-and-coming topics and industries in Japan.
Our first report is on a hotel in Kyoto that is gaining popularity for its unique offerings. We take a look behind its unconventional design and growing reputation among foreign tourists.

[The Afternote]

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The SMEs I visited for this report varied in size and scope, but all were highly motivated and brimming with energy, seemingly unfazed by the current economic slowdown. Unconventional ideas, flexibility and an unrelenting drive to develop new technology, even those that had been abandoned by major manufacturers, were some of the notable characteristics common among Japanese SMEs. Many saw in Japan a seemingly limitless source of technologies, crafted by SMEs, that have the power to compete globally. But some also lamented the lack of know-how in marketing them effectively. SMEs are undeniably the source of Japan's economic strength. The country needs to capitalize on these technolgical gems by creating an environment conducive to their development and success.

When Yamato first launched a delivery service, no one believed it could become profitable. Who would send packages? And where would they want them delivered? There was a countless number of potential problems and risks surrounding such a service, considered by many as the domain of the post office. Mr. Seto says the key to success was "to put quality of service above everything else, even profits", which would ultimately lead to a critical mass of users and finally, profits. Despite the current expansion into overseas markets, Mr. Seto believes there is still untapped potential in the domestic market. One of his primary goals is to thoroughly refine the company's services to position them "beyond the reach of competitors". (Makiko Utsuda)

Air Date(jibtv) : 2010/9/24

[Today's Pick]

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The automobile industry has been engaged in ongoing research and development to reduce damage and injuries resulting from car accidents. Fuji Heavy Industries has already commercialized a system that helps drivers avoid collisions and minimizes the damage by detecting oncoming pedestrians or objects and automatically applying the brakes in low-speed conditions. Nissan Motor is currently carrying out research into a "collision-avoidance car" that maneuvers around obstacles, an idea derived from observations of animal movements. Honda Motor, meanwhile, has developed the industry's first "pedestrian" crash test dummy. Using it, the company has been able to collect data on the impact of collisions on pedestrians, which is now being used in new car development. Many other devices are being introduced, such as systems to warn drivers of nearby objects and devices that prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. In this report, we look at the latest trends in technologies geared to safeguard human lives.

[Newsmaker]

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Daikin Industries specializes in making air-conditioners, including those for large-scale facilities such as high-rise buildings and airports, as well as for households. Since the 1990s, it has been expanding overseas and has developed into one of the top global manufacturers. The company chairman, Noriyuki Inoue, says their biggest focus now is the Chinese market. In 2008, Mr. Inoue decided to partner with a local counterpart, overriding concerns within the company of a technology leakage. Behind the decision was his strategy to become a major global player. We talked with Mr. Inoue to learn more about his management vision.

[The Afternote]

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I was amazed at the wide variety of car safety systems being developed. Some detect the driver dozing off or not paying attention and sound an alert, while others automatically activate the brakes when they sense obstacles ahead. Developing safe cars is no longer only about protecting the driver and passengers. Just as important is predicting and preventing accidents. Even so, developers stress that technology alone won't guarantee safety, and ultimately, it's up to the judgement and ability of the driver. Competition is intensifying in the auto industry as new car makers emerge one after another in countries such as India and China. There are many elements that influence a car buyer's choice, from price, design to performance, but as "safety" becomes an increasingly critical issue, Japanese car makers might just have an edge over the competition.

Mr. Inoue says "those who win in China, will win in the global market ". For him, China isn't simply a massive market. By getting the country to adopt his company's products and technology as national standards, Mr. Inoue believes they can eventually win global recognition. By aggressively seeking partnerships with Chinese firms, he has taken the initiative to establish local standards, even at the cost of sharing key technology. His vision and strategy has helped propel the company into a major multinational company. (Makiko Utsuda)

Air Date(jibtv) : 2010/8/27

[Today's Pick]

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Japan is one of the few countries in the world where tap water is not only drinkable but considered palatable. Moves to globalize this Japanese technology and infrastructure for providing safe drinking water are now speeding up. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is trying to market its advanced processing techniques for water treatment plants to countries across Asia, as well as infrastructure, technology, and know-how for a cutting-edge water supply management system. Japan also boasts the top global market share in reverse osmotic membranes for desalinating sea water. In addition, a small company has developed a low-cost treatment technology using an unusual material and is helping to solve water supply problems in developing countries. In this report, we look at the strengths and possibilities underlining Japan's water business.

[Newsmaker]

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Last year, struggling major Japanese electronics retailer, Laox, was acquired by its biggest Chinese counterpart, Suning Appliance. The person chosen to lead Laox, headquartered in Tokyo's Akihabara district, is Luo Yiwen from China. Mr. Luo has lived in the country for over 20 years and is an entrepreneur who operated numerous businesses in the past, including a newspaper for Chinese residents of Japan. What was behind Suning's buyout of a Japanese electronics retailer? How does Mr. Luo plan to turn around the company? And what does the future hold for business between Japan and China? Mr. Luo gives us his insights.

[The Afternote]

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Turning on the tap and taking a drink of water. We do it everyday without thinking, but through this report, I was reminded of the big role of advanced technology in providing a safe and stable water supply in Japan. Many foreign tourists I interviewed for the story seemed to like Tokyo tap water, including one who said, "I never drink tap water back home, but in Japan I fill up my bottle and take it around with me". Companies in the water business point out that there's huge demand for cutting edge water purification technology oveseas and they plan to expand further in the global market. Building water infrastructure overseas brings challenges such as tailoring solutions for the unique needs of each region, or securing financing for the huge cost required by such projects. But with the market expanding rapidly, the water business may grow into one of Japan's core export industries in the near future.

Mr. Luo's strategy of reviving a financially-troubled retailer by targeting the ever growing number of Chinese tourists in Japan seems to be an effective strategy. Visiting the store, I was truly amazed at how Chinese tourists arrive in droves from early morning. Mr. Luo says, "to go global is key for the company to rebuild and expand further", and stresses that, "there should be no boundaries in terms of a Japanese or a Chinese market. Our aim is to create one market where consumers from both countries can find the products they want". (Makiko Utsuda)

Air Date(jibtv) : 2010/7/30

[Today's Pick]

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Throughout Japan, various local areas are engaged in centuries-old traditional arts and crafts. The sophisticated and complex techniques that underline them are highly regarded not only in Japan, but overseas as well. However, such traditions are in danger of dying out due to declining sales and the lack of apprentices. New business ideas are now being explored to bring about a revival and to carry on this invaluable heritage. In the lacquer ware-producing region of northern Japan, new demand is being generated with the development of products adapted to the modern Japanese lifestyle and compatible with the microwave ovens and induction-heating (IH) cookers widely used in Japanese households. In Kyoto, the know-how of crafting umbrellas using Japanese washi paper and bamboo has been adopted in lighting devices, which are increasingly popular in Europe. Meanwhile, a university in Kyoto launched a project to record the techniques of these craftsmen for future generations with the aid of a computer system. In this edition, we report on the efforts of various regions to revive and preserve traditional arts and crafts.

[Newsmaker]

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Our Newsmaker is Isami Wada, chairman of Sekisui House, Ltd, the leading home builder in Japan. The company is currently focusing its efforts on designing eco-friendly homes that incorporate devices such as solar power generators. Mr. Wada, who says his company's mission is the environment, pioneered the concept in Japan and has been offering ecological home solutions for over a decade, earlier than any of his competitors. Leveraging its environmental technologies and vast know-how, the company is now expanding into overseas markets such as Australia, China and Russia. Mr. Wada tells us about his environmental efforts, the company's response to the shrinking domestic market, and his strategy to build a global business.

[The Afternote]

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Traditional arts and crafts in Japan are exquisite in every respect, but many are no longer used in daily life. I visited a workshop that has been making Japanese-style umbrellas since the 19th century. The craftsman there says, "traditional crafts have undergone constant innovation to stay relevant", and warns that unless they cater to the needs of modern lifestyles, they may eventually become extinct. The workshop has developed a lamp that incorporates techniques used to make umbrellas, and is designed to suit western interior tastes, in an attempt to seek wider marketing opportunities overseas. I was struck by the craftsmen's strong will to break with tradition and explore new ways of thinking. Creating new business opportunities will ultimately help them to preserve and pass on these traditions and technologies. It's an approach that may provide lessons for modern businesses as well.

One of the pleasures of travelling in Japan is staying at a Ryokan, or a Japanese-style luxury inn. But because of the high cost of providing the meticulous service for which such facilities are known, many are struggling financially. Mr. Hoshino says Japanese style hospitality is something to be treasured, and he aims to retain this quality of service, while improving business efficiency at the same time. He adds that customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to increase profits and strengthen the business. He believes Japan has the potential to become one of the most attractive toursim destinations in the world, and is working to make that a reality. (Makiko Utsuda)

Air Date(jibtv) : 2010/6/25

[Today's Pick]

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Solar power is the most widely-used natural energy worldwide. Japan has emerged as a global leader in the development of both solar cells and photovoltaic panels on the back of its technolgical strength. Leveraging its ability to provide the world's highest production efficiency in photovoltaic panels, one electrical machinery maker is working closely with its group companies to increase domestic and global market share. Various other companies are also supporting the rise of the solar power business through technologies such as a refinement method to thoroughly remove impurities and increase the purity of the raw material, silicon, as well as high-precision processing to manufacture thin and distortion-free panels. Development is also being carried out into next-generation solar cells that may result in new uses and lower costs. In this program, we report on the solar power technology revolution taking place amid accelerating environmental efforts.

[Newsmaker]

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While Japan has numerous tourist attractions such as Kyoto and Hokkaido, the country's tourism industry remains weak in terms of global competitiveness. Last year, one ryokan inn was opened in Kyoto in an attempt to address this situation. The inn, which is managed by Yoshiharu Hoshino, CEO of Hoshino Resort, emphasizes "Japanese-ness" and provides facilities catering to overseas tourists. Mr. Hoshino, who is the heir to a one-century-old inn in Karuizawa, built up his company into a major resort chain through innovative management and now operates 21 different facilities. He tells us his strategies for success in the hospitality business, and how Japan can become a more attractive destination for visitors from around the world.

[The Afternote]

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After getting a closer look at solar power systems, I was struck by the ease with which they generate electricity. Once the system is installed, all that's needed is some good sunshine, and the better the weather, the more power it generates. For this report, I visited a family which has been using solar power for the past 7 years, and the mother remarked that "it really makes me happy, because I can save on electricity bills without doing anything!". Such a view underlines a key reason why more of this clean, abundant energy should be put to practical use. Currently, most solar cells are big and heavy and made to be installed on top of buildings, but research is ongoing to develop devices that are light and portable, even bendable or printable on materials like cloth. In the near future, it may just become possible to have a home with solar cell furniture, or to even wear solar cell clothes.

One of the pleasures of travelling in Japan is staying at a Ryokan, or a Japanese-style luxury inn. But because of the high cost of providing the meticulous service for which such facilities are known, many are struggling financially. Mr. Hoshino says Japanese style hospitality is something to be treasured, and he aims to retain this quality of service, while improving business efficiency at the same time. He adds that customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to increase profits and strengthen the business. He believes Japan has the potential to become one of the most attractive toursim destinations in the world, and is working to make that a reality. (Makiko Utsuda)

Air Date(jibtv) : 2010/5/28

[Today's Pick]

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In earthquake-prone Japan, research and development is being carried out into quake-resistant technologies by both the public and private sectors. One major construction company has developed a vibration-absorption device that uses hydraulic pressure to minimize shaking in buildings during an earthquake. Another company, in a joint research project with a university, has come up with a special alloy that is starting be used as a construction material. For regular homes, devices that use pneumatic pressure to lift the entire structure of the house to prevent damage and a specially-structured metal plate that prevents furniture from toppling over have already been commercialized. Meanwhile, a super high-rise tower under construction in Tokyo is incorporating a quake-resistant structure similar to that used in historic Japanese architecture. In this edition, we report on the latest anti-seismic technologies from Japan that are gaining attention following recent earthquakes around the world.

[Newsmaker]

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In Japan last year, a production-model electric car was launched in the market and such vehicles are expected to become increasingly popular among consumers. The world leader in lithium ion battery technology, which powers electric cars, is GS Yuasa Corporation. The company, which is the world's third biggest and Asia's top maker of lead batteries for cars, is now eyeing the expanding eco-car market and increasing efforts in the lithium ion battery field. In addition, the company is also aiming to expand into the environmental business by leveraging its rechargeable battery technology. President Makoto Yoda tells us about the possibilities of battery technology.

[The Afternote]

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Japanese quakeproofing technologies are aimed at not just protecting lives and property, but also mitigating the shaking itself and reducing the scope of damage so people can carry on with their everyday lives with little disruption. Experimenting with the devices, I was amazed at the extent to which they could minimize the shaking. Most engineers we interviewed for this story said Japanese technology is one of the most advanced in this field and if applied in advance, could largely mitigate the massive damage caused in the wake of an earthquake. The next step will be reducing costs so that the technology is available to everyone.

The mass production of electric vehicles has brought intensive focus on batteries, and Mr. Yoda says "it feels like batteries which used to play only a minor supporting role, have suddenly become a leading star". He expressed strong confidence in the quality of the company's large-scale,lithium-ion batteries,which the company started developing well before the arrival of the current eco-car boom. The potential applications of these powerful batteries are huge, and Mr. Yoda hopes to open up new markets around the world. (Makiko Utsuda)

Air Date(jibtv) : 2010/4/30

[Today's Pick]

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Mobile phones have become indispensable for the Japanese. Products made for the domestic market are increasingly multi-functional and new services are being launched one after another. Users can buy food and pay taxi fares electronically, or even reach a specific location using GPS navigation. Some companies are now taking advantage of such features in their marketing strategy. In this edition, we report on the unique development of the Japanese-style mobile phone business.

[Newsmaker]

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The heart of Japan's securities trade is the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The bourse boasted the highest market capitalization in the world at one time, but its position has slipped in recent years as trading volumes fell amid the country's economic downturn. The TSE is taking various measures to increase the attractiveness and competitiveness of the Tokyo market, including improving the speed of transactions and launching new products. TSE President Atsushi Saito talks about what's now necessary to revitalize the Tokyo market, and the Japanese economy as a whole.

[The Afternote]

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From shopping, directions to a tourist site, to even managing one's health, Japanese mobile phones are equipped with functions that go far beyond the conventional definition of a phone. They offer such a wide variety of functions and services, far more than an average consumer like myself can take full advantage of. Most are limited to use within Japan, but some functions and services that we looked at for this report were extremely useful or unique, and may provide potential business oppurtunities overseas as well.

"The Tokyo Stock Exchange is like the themometer of the Japanese economy" says Mr. Saito, adding "the prolonged slump in the stock market is a warning that action needs to be taken". Mr. Saito stresses that a stock market's fundamental role is to provide a place where new companies with growth potential can raise funds. "The TSE aims to become such a place", he says, "to create a flow of funds not just for Japanese firms but also to help develop companies throughout Asia". (Makiko Utsuda)