Category Archives: BUSINESS

Public housing block to receive heritage listing

Three public housing blocks in Tokyo’s Kita ward have been registered as tangible cultural properties by Japan’s Council for Cultural Affairs. The historic building registration was formalized in December 2019. These are the first public housing blocks in the country to receive a national heritage listing.

The three star-shaped apartment blocks form part of the Akabanedai Danchi complex just west of Akabane Station. The five-story reinforced concrete buildings were completed in 1962. They are currently unoccupied, with the goal of eventually opening them up to public tours.

The Akabanedai Danchi was the first large-scale project by the former Japan Housing Agency (now the Urban Renaissance Agency). There were 3,373 apartments over 55 buildings. The apartments had their own baths – a rarity for public housing at the time – and being selected via the public lottery system for a residence in this danchi housing project was considered a big deal.

Originally there were eight of these ‘star house’ buildings. Due to the aging and deterioration of the complex, several are in the process of being gradually demolished and replaced with new ones.

The star-shaped buildings became popular in the 1950s and 1960s as they allowed good light and airflow for residents. They began popping up in various public housing complexes. The three remaining Star Houses in Akabanedai Danchi are the oldest examples in the Kanto region.


Akabanedai 1 Chome, Kita-ku, Tokyo

The Nikkei Shimbun, January 4, 2020.
The Nikkei Shimbun, July 19, 2019.

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32-story office tower for Akasaka

The former Kokusai Akasaka Building will be replaced with a 32-story office tower. The new building will have a floor area of 73,000 sqm (approx. 785,000 sq.ft).

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2021 with completion in 2024. The new building will be 160 meters tall – more than double the height of the building it is replacing.

The 6,000 sqm site is located above Tameike-Sanno Station and across the street from Sanno Park Tower and the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

In 2019, Nippon Life Insurance Company paid 40 billion Yen to Sekisui House to acquire a 50% ownership share of the property. Sekisui House had acquired the property in 2014 for 74 billion Yen.

The former 20-story, 76-meter tall Kokusai Akasaka Building was built in 1973 for the Kokusai Motor Co., Ltd. (the km Group tax company). Demolition began in February 2019.


2-4-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo

The Kensetsu Tsushin Shimbun, January 7, 2020.
Nikkei Business Publications, January 17, 2020.

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SNA Visible Minorities Col 6: “Carlos Ghosn’s Escape from Japan Was the Right Move”, Jan 20, 2020


I have to admit more than a twinge of sympathy for Carlos Ghosn’s Great Escape.

Ghosn, the former CEO of Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Renault, was arrested in November 2018 on the initial suspicion of falsifying his compensation levels, and subjected to more than a year of Japan’s “hostage justice.” That is, he was held hostage to a judicial system that detains you until you confess to a crime, and subjects you to days, weeks, months, or conceivably even years of interrogation and tortuous conditions until you crack. Understandably, most do crack, and Japan’s conviction rate after indictment is famously more than 99%.

But as you have probably heard, at the end of December Ghosn suddenly turned up in Lebanon, one of three places he has citizenship. Out on bail in Japan, he made a daring escape that people are still trying to piece together, including man-sized musical instrument cases, an uncharacteristic lack of Japanese border security, and a mysterious visit to Lebanon’s president by Japan’s state minister for foreign affairs mere days before Ghosn jumped bail.

Ghosn is now making good on his threat to expose everything that happened to him while in custody. His multilingual press conference in Beirut two weeks ago was breathtaking to watch, full of documentation, pointed fingers, and hot-tongued accusations of the human rights denied to Japan’s incarcerated.

This has been covered exhaustively worldwide, so what more is there to say? My perspective comes as a person who also tried to change Japanese rules and practices, and found that The System similarly fought back dirty…

Rest at …continue reading


The fallout from the Japan–South Korea trade ruckus on global trade rules

A woman tries out a Samsung Electronic's Galaxy A50 at a Samsung store in Seoul, South Korea, 14 November 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji).

Author: Yasuyuki Todo, Waseda University

Japan and South Korea are engaged in a trade dispute generated by national security concerns. The fallout from this dispute has the potential to hurt the global economy through the propagation of negative shocks to global supply chains. Towards the end of last year, there was some back-off but the dispute raises systemic questions rules about international trade restrictions for national security reasons.

In July 2019, the Japanese government tightened controls on the export to South Korea of three materials used in semiconductor production. Japan claimed that some of the exported materials had been re-exported to other countries that could be a threat to Japan and the world — including North Korea. The following month, the Japanese government further tightened controls on exports to South Korea covering a broader range of goods.

South Korea responded by imposing similar controls on exports to Japan. The government also filed a dispute with the World Trade Organization (WTO) while South Korean consumers boycotted Japanese products such as Uniqlo clothes, Kirin beer and tourist travel to Japan.

There have been large economic losses for both countries. From August to November 2019, exports from Japan to South Korea and from South Korea to Japan declined by 315 billion yen (US$2.91 billion) or 16.5 per cent, and by 131 billion yen (US$1.2 billion) or 11.1 per cent respectively, compared with the same period in 2018. Exports from Japan to South Korea of hydrogen fluoride — one of the restricted chemicals — and beer dropped to virtually zero in October and November.

The negative effect of the trade dispute is aggravated by its propagation through global supply chains. South Korean semiconductor companies, such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, are major targets …continue reading