Despite welcoming over 20 million annual tourists, Kamakura, a historic beachside city an hour by train from central Tokyo, has a surprisingly small number of hotel rooms. The mountain resort town of Hakone, also in Kanagawa Prefecture, has the same level of tourists but as many as 8,000 hotel rooms. Kamakura has just 980.
In January, a luxury hotel and restaurant opened in a historic, 164-year old kominka in the Nikaido neighborhood. Kamakura Cokon, pictured above, has just two guest suites where overnight rates range from 80,000 ~ 120,000 Yen (approx. US$740 ~ 1,100). Until recently, land zoning for this property prohibited hotel use. However, a relaxation to the short-term letting law in 2018 now allows registered hosts and operators to provide overnight accommodation for a maximum of 180 days per year. The hotel only operates on Fridays and weekends when demand is high, which allows them to stay under the 180-day limit. The hotel employs two concierges and has two chauffeurs on standby. The hotel operator is planning to open more accommodations of this style in Kamakura over the next two years.
The minpaku short-term accommodation law has led to a rise in the number of private accommodations in Kamakura, but new hotel construction remains rare.
With the exception of the station area, the majority of Kamakura is not zoned to allow hotels, limiting supply. In April 2020, Nihon Hotels will open Hotel Metropolitan Kamakura near Kamakura Station. The 138-room hotel will have guest rooms ranging from 20 ~ 45 sqm, with nightly rates to start from 17,400 Yen.
Kamakura’s relatively close proximity to Tokyo and Yokohama and its compact size make it ideal for day trips, potentially limiting the need for tourist accommodation.
Nara-based Nanto Bank has set up a 1.5 billion Yen (approx. US$14 million) fund that will restore historic kominkas and convert them into tourist accommodation. Nara Kominka Machitsukuri Partners will start operations next month. The first project is a soy sauce brewery founded in the Edo period. The former storehouse will be converted into overnight accommodation.
Nanto Bank established the fund along with Hyogo Prefecture-based NOTE, a company that specializes in the development and operation of historic hotel conversions, and SMFL Mirai Partners, a real estate development firm financed under Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing.
The soy sauce brewery was founded in 1689 and is the oldest soy brewer in Nara Prefecture. The business folded after WWII due to food shortages. However, the 18th generation owner recently re-started operations using traditional methods.
Restoration and conversion costs are estimated to be around 200 million Yen (approx. US$1.85 million). The seven-room hotel is scheduled to open in July 2020.
Last year, the bank tied up with NOTE to convert a 130-year old sake storehouse into the NIPPONIA Hotel Nara Naramachi. The eight-room hotel offers sake brewery tours, tastings, and fine dining. The bank is planning to open 20 ~ 30 similar projects throughout Nara Prefecture over the next five years.
Creating boutique hotels like these takes an enormous amount of patience, and close relationships with local communities and the owners of such historic buildings. The majority of funds tend to focus on short-term projects, limiting the number of players in this sector.
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Source: East Asia Forum
Author: John West, Sophia University
Japanese companies, especially those in the automobile and electronics sectors, played a strong role in the country’s exceptional rise from the ashes of World War II.
Still today, Toyota is the biggest passenger car manufacturer in the world and is also placed among the world’s 50 most innovative companies. It is also ranked among the world’s most valuable brands alongside Honda, Sony, Lexus, Nissan and Uniqlo.
And yet Japanese companies typically compare poorly to their Western counterparts when it comes to productivity — about 30 per cent lower on average than US companies. Many have also struggled to respond quickly to market environment changes.
This has led many analysts and observers to question Japan’s system of corporate governance as one of the factors undermining Japan’s corporate performance. Other issues include rigid labour mobility, traditional work culture and quality of leadership.
Japan’s corporate governance has been characterised by close relationships between main banks and large corporations. This provided long-term stability, as did cross-shareholdings within corporate groups — corporate board members were typically insiders coming from a main bank, the corporate group and the corporation itself.
This system seemed to serve Japan well during its high-growth period leading up to the burst of the asset price bubble that hit the country in the early 1990s. But in reality, poor corporate governance probably contributed to some of the bad lending that led to the crisis and to the sluggish response that followed. The ‘insider dominance’ of boards also limited their capacity to hold management to account. This meant that companies were substantially protected from mergers and acquisitions, especially from overseas companies, which may have injected new dynamism into corporate Japan.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has <a target=_blank …continue reading
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Source: East Asia Forum
Authors: Henry Gao, SMU and Weihuan Zhou, UNSW
Whether China is a ‘developing’ or ‘developed’ country for the purposes of the World Trade Organization (WTO) matters a lot to US President Donald Trump. Trump ignited a new front in the US–China trade war in July 2019 by tweeting that the world’s richest nations are masquerading as developing countries to get special treatment. They are ‘cheating‘, according to Trump. He directed the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to ‘use all available means to secure changes‘ at the WTO.
Then Australia joined in. While in the United States, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison referred to China as a ‘newly developed economy‘. He backed Trump by saying that, ‘Obviously, as nations progress and develop then the obligations and how the rules apply to them also shift’.
China is digging in. It stands by a statement from its Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng in April 2019 that ‘China’s position on WTO reform has been very clear. China is the largest developing country in the world’.
What’s at stake? In practical terms, almost nothing. Trump and Morrison are demanding something that would give them little.
In the WTO, developing countries are entitled to ‘special and differential treatment‘ set out in 155 rules. But none of those rules define a ‘developing country’. Instead, each member is able to ‘self-designate’, subject to challenges from other members.
Being recognised as a developing country was one of the three key principles on which China insisted when negotiating to join the WTO in 2001. It faced resistance. Several members cited ‘the significant size, rapid growth and transitional nature of the Chinese economy’.
In response, the WTO took what it called a ‘pragmatic approach’, meaning that China …continue reading