Category Archives: BUSINESS

Shrine in Enoshima up for foreclosure auction

A Shinto shrine on Enoshima Island is up for foreclosure auction next month with a minimum bid set at 46.8 million Yen (approx. 430,000 USD).

Kodama Shrine was established in 1918 to honor Viscount Kodama Gentaro, a general in the Imperial Army and government minister during Japan’s Meiji period. The shrine was apparently built on the site of his summer home. Kodama liked the seclusion and privacy the island location afforded him.

The property includes the main shrine built in 1918 and the shrine office. Several other shrine buildings were demolished from 2016 due to deterioration. The total registered land size is 7,200 sqm.

The Yokohama District Court will be accepting bids between December 3 and December 10, with the winning bid to be announced on December 17.

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The US–Japan trade deal: small agreement, broad implications

Japan's new Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama attends a news conference at the ministry in Tokyo, Japan, 25 October 2019 (Photo: Reuters/ Issei Kato).

Author: Takemasa Sekine, NUCB

The recent announcement of the US–Japan Trade Agreement (USJTA) must have come as a surprise to many in Japan given its unusual expeditiousness. The agreement was concluded just six months after negotiations began — a dramatic contrast to the EU–Japan Economic Partnership Agreement which took more than five years to achieve. One reason why the United States and Japan were able to conclude this deal so quickly was that they limited the agreement to two areas: tariff elimination and reduction and rules relating to digital trade.

With regard to tariffs, the highest priority for the United States was beef. Under the USJTA, Japan’s tariff reduction schedule for beef is almost exactly the same as that of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which the United States withdrew from. The USJTA starts with commitments corresponding to the second year of the TPP. The same can be said for other products such as pork, wheat and wine.

At the same time, the USJTA stepped back from the TPP in certain aspects. Japan did not make any commitments on products such as skim milk, butter, forest products, fishery products and all types of rice. Overall, from the US perspective, the gains from the USJTA fall short of those it would have achieved through the TPP.

On the other hand, from Japan’s viewpoint, the agreement can be assessed as at best being ‘a defensive success’. Japan obtained little direct benefit from the agreement. Regarding its most prominent interest — tariff eliminations for automobiles and auto parts — the agreement only provided that those ‘will be subject to further negotiations’, without indicating any timeline (Paragraph 7, Annex II). This implies that the United States will maintain the upper hand in subsequent negotiations.

The main win for Japan lies outside …continue reading


100-yr old building to be converted into hotel

Heiwa Real Estate is in the process of converting a 100-year old office building in Nihonbashi into a small luxury hotel. The new hotel is scheduled to open next February.


The Kabutocho No. 5 Heiwa Building is located just behind the Tokyo Stock Exchange. It was built in 1923 for the Daiichi Bank (now Mizuho Bank). At some point, the decorative stone exterior was covered up with exterior panels in an attempt at modernization. Luckily, some of the original exterior details were preserved underneath and are now being restored. The building has a total floor area of 2,096 sqm, with four floors and one basement.

The 20-room hotel will be located on floors two, three and four. Nightly rates are expected to range from 20,000 ~ 60,000 Yen (approx. 185 ~ 550 USD), with the suite going for around 150,000 Yen (1,380 USD). The ground floor retail will include a Brooklyn Brewery flagship, a new restaurant produced by the people behind the popular KABI in Meguro, a Switch Coffee Tokyo branch, and a library-bar.

With the relocation of the Japan Securities Dealers Association to Nihonbashi in 2018, the Kabutocho area has started to empty out. Heiwa Real Estate, a major property owner in this neighborhood, has been actively seeking out ways to reinvigorate the district by supporting startups, and encouraging retail and hotel development. Kabutocho was the birthplace of the country’s modern financial industry and was considered the Wall Street of Japan.
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Sapporo sees drop in vacant homes for first time

The number of vacant homes in Sapporo City is on the decline. In 2018, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reported 125,400 vacant homes and apartments within the city, resulting in a ratio of 11.9%. This was the first year since 1993 to see a decline. What is causing it?

Between the 2013 and 2018 survey, Sapporo’s vacancy rate dropped by 2.2 points, while the number of vacant homes dropped by over 16,000 units.

The Ministry’s definition of a vacant home, or ‘akiya’, refers to homes that are not in use as the primary residence of their owner, either due to being advertised for rent or sale, temporarily empty due to various circumstances (eg. a job transfer or hospitalization), or used as holiday homes. Then, there is a classification for homes that fit none of the previous criteria. These properties are often in various states of disrepair and neglect and are of the highest concern to cities and communities across Japan. Sapporo had 44,300 of these homes in 2018, up over 10,000 units from 2013, and the highest level the city has seen.

Essentially these homes are considered unlivable. They often require expensive repairs, or similarly expensive costs just to demolish them. They are often not in areas with any demand, leaving the owners or heirs little opportunity to sell or rent them out. Some are given away for free in the rare case where a buyer can be found. New regulations introduced in 2015 give local municipalities the authority to demolish these homes if the owners will not cooperate, with the demolition bill sent to the owner afterward.

The number of vacant homes advertised for rent in Sapporo dropped by a staggering 30,000 units, while the vacant homes advertised for sale dropped by 3,000 units. The recent deregulation of the home-sharing …continue reading


Japan’s blockchain enabled next-generation financial transactions to start in 2020

Japan’s blockchain enabled next-generation financial transactions are planned to start in 2020. On November 7 2019, Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation (MUTB), the second largest in trust business in Japan, announced the establishment of the Security Token Research Consortium consisting of 21 companies, and the development of next-generation financial transaction services using blockchain technology.

They state that, “By combining security token and smart contract technology, as well as collaborating with external programmable money, which is expected to be adopted in the future, the Service will enable efficient financial transactions on our program base with the aim of making it possible to do fundraising and management on one platform, managing a “variety of financial products” (bonds, securitized products, etc.) “anytime” (24 hours a day, 365 days a year), “anywhere” (accessible without an exclusive terminal), and with “anyone” (including individual retail investors and overseas investors).”

As previously reported, MUTB has also developed personal data brokerage business. So, it looks like the most innovative company in the Japanese financial industry.

The media reports that MUTB is aiming to start this new service during fiscal 2020. It also reports that the securitized products in this service will include intellectual properties, and companies will be able to collect funds based on such intellectual properties.

In Japan, the government has been promoting the IP financing by preparing the “IP Business Evaluation Report”. However, as reported before, the financial institutions do not necessarily rely on such report to make a decision as to whether they can lend money, at the current moment.

As you know, intellectual properties such as patents may sometimes be invalidated and deemed to have never existed. Also, the value of patented technologies vary depending on technological trends. So, estimating the value of patents is not easy. In …continue reading