All posts by blogsonjapan

A Look At Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Womenomics 5 Years On

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s much ballyhooed targets for women achieving managerial positions in Japanese companies doesn’t seem to be working out as planned. What’s happening and how can Japan reverse the trend?

On the surface, the situation doesn’t look particularly bad: Japanese female labor participation surpasses the United States for the first time in history, according to data by the OECD. The Japanese government has set up incentive programs to subsidize companies that promote women’s participation in the workforce. Yuriko Koike became the first woman to be elected governor of Tokyo. Looking just at these “results,” you start believing that Abe’s Womenomics policies are going well, but a closer investigation reveals issues lurking below the surface.

“Womenomics”: The Master Plan

Womenomics is a term coined by Kathy Matsui, vice chair and chief Japan strategist at Goldman Sachs Japan, which refers to theories examining how the advancement of women in business and society links to increased development rates. In simple terms, countries where women have equal status in government, work and social standing, tend to do better economically. This also works with smaller-scale businesses. In results of a study done by the Catalyst group, companies with more women on their boards outperformed companies with exclusively male board members.

With Japan facing increasing economic pressure due to its aging population, one of the cornerstones of Abe’s financial growth strategy, Abenomics, has been creating policies to encourage more women to join the workforce, in order to jumpstart economic growth — a 15% growth in Japan’s GDP being the ultimate goal.

Nearly half of [Japan’s employed women in 2016] were employed part-time, on a contract base or as haken (temp) workers, which equates to low pay, little responsibility and few chances to advance their careers.

To achieve this, since assuming power in 2012, the ruling bloc …continue reading


I still love Kendo!

Apologies everyone for my long absence from posting in this blog! Last November we moved home. At the same time my wife was operated on for Brain Cancer, so kendo took a back seat.

In December I got the news that I have Stomach Cancer (one of Japan’s most popular). For a lifetime henna gaijin, it seems a remarkably appropriate disease. My lack of blogging is not so much a direct response to my illness, but for me training, teaching and writing are inextricably linked and I need the stimulation of all 3 (4 with refereeing)

Thanks to great medical care and friend and family support I am continuing to enjoy life. I am still doing the job I enjoy and although I have given up on the big international engagements. I am still keeping up with many of my kendo commitments.

In the last two weeks I have taught and practised in a kendo class in Spain, run a referee’s seminar in Spain been shinpan shunin at Sunday’s Londo Cup and aim to run the big Watchet Kendo seminar in the UKs Somerset at the end of this month, with the help of some great 7th and 6th dan teachers. Best of all my buddy of 40 years from Japan, Hayashi Kyozo, kyoshi, hachidan is coming to the UK at the beginning of June, so I am hoping to be fit enough to receive yet another beating.

The one thing I do miss is my regular attendance at Mumeishi, either because of downsides in my chemotherapy cycle, or because the motorway from my home is permanently under repair at night and the journey home, causing me to break the curfew applied by my ever-caring wife. Still I try to get there when I can, and I am writing this now to congratulate …continue reading


Elementary school students in Japan invited to vote for 2020 Tokyo Olympics official mascot

tokyo 2020 olympics games mascot

The organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games have sent information to elementary schools in Japan, offering students the chance to participate in a vote for the official 2020 Olympics mascot.

Over 21,000 schools received postcards with details on the voting process, which starts in December.

tokyo 2020 olympics games mascot

The committee’s mascot screening panel plans to announce three mascot candidates on December 7th. Elementary school students will cast their ballots from December 11th to February 22nd, which will decide the final design.

Takeshi Natsuno, a member of the screening panel and guest professor at Keio University, was quoted as saying that having a say in the judging of the mascot is a chance for the young to learn about the Olympics and Paralympics.

“I think there’s no reason (for schools) not to participate in such an amazing experience, it’s the best way to learn (about the games),” Natsuno said. “I want about 10% of the schools to cast their votes.”

Following the disastrous initial preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games, in which the new national stadium design was scrapped, the official logo withdrawn in the face of accusations of plagiarism, and controversy over the relocation of the Tsukiji fish market caused further delays to facility construction, the organizers have attempted to present a more transparent process.

The replacement logo was effectively crowdsourced and public participation has been ostensibly tapped in various other ways. The reality of this latest scheme is, however, that the candidates for the official mascot are first chosen by Dentsu and the Olympic committee regardless of public opinion (and most likely, outside expert opinion), but the PR approach is clearly intended to offset the earlier damage.

The final choice of mascot design is expected to be announced in February or …continue reading


Imperial Gratitude: The Reason for Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan

Source: Gaijin Pot
Imperial Gratitude: The Reason for Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan

Around this time each year, I have the same conversation with my students: “There’ll be a national holiday next week,” I begin. “Can any of you tell me the name of that holiday?”


“C’mon, think. This Thursday — and no peeking at Wikipedia!”

One of the student calls out: “Culture Day!”

“No. Culture Day, or Bunka no Hi, was three weeks ago on Nov. 3,” I say. “Thursday, Nov. 23. What’s the holiday? Anyone? Anyone?” I feel like the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

“Oh! I know!”

“Ayano, yes, what was it?”

Kinro Kansha no Hi.

“That’s right! Now what is Labor Thanksgiving Day? Anyone?”

One student suggests that it is a day we give thanks to our parents for working hard.

“Well, maybe, but there’s more to it than that. Are any of you doing anything special for Labor Thanksgiving Day?”


I go around the room, asking students what their plans are. Some will work at their part-time jobs, others will probably loaf about at home. A few may go shopping.

“If you’re not going to do anything special, why have a national holiday?” I ask. “Whenever a national holiday holiday rolls around, I always try at least to wear my Rising Sun skivvies.”

When half of them laughs, the other half that has been dozing comes to life. Now that I’ve got their attention I ask why some of their holidays, such as the autumnal equinox, Shubun no Hi, fell on a Saturday this year? “Why not move the day to a Monday like so many other holidays? Why is the date for Shubun no Hi and other holidays like Kinro Kansha no Hi fixed?”

They don’t know.

Shubun no Hi, I explain, is actually one of two Koreisai and Labor Thanksgiving Day is in reality a harvest festival called Niiname-sai, a Shinto rite performed by the Emperor.

“Have any of …continue reading


Double-end commission still at high levels

According to an article in ZAi Online, some of Japan’s major real estate agencies are collecting double-end commissions on over half of their sales. Collecting brokerage fees from both the buyer and seller may be illegal in some countries, but is a legal and common practice in Japan. Many times the buyer or seller will be unaware as there are no duties to disclose this to the customer.

In some companies, the agency has represented both the buyer and seller for as many as two-thirds of all transactions. Agencies are heavily dependent on this practice as it makes up a significant portion of their annual sales, and it is not likely that heavy regulation will be introduced to curb this behavior.

In early 2016, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) introduced reporting requirements for agencies that use the REINS online listing database. Agencies with exclusive-listing agreements are obligated to update the status of the property on the database if an offer has been received. This is an attempt to boost transparency in the real estate market, but appears to have had a limited effect.

O◇ 71% 5.54%
M◇ 66% 5.39%
S◇ 62% 5.23%
D◇ 45% 4.69%
C◇ 36% 4.40%
T◇ 28% 4.15%
N◇ 15% 3.74%
*Agency names appear in the original article but are not being published above.
*The maximum brokerage fee that can be collected from one side in a transaction is 3% + 60,000 Yen + sales tax. An agency collecting an average brokerage fee of over 3% is likely to have represented both the buyer and seller.

Whether you are a buyer or seller, relying on an agency that prioritizes double-end commission presents issues for you as a customer. It is similar to hiring a lawyer to represent both sides in a court case.

As a buyer, that agency is more likely to only show you properties on their books …continue reading