Category Archives: BUSINESS

More plastic bags than fish: East Asia’s new environmental threat

Author: Lina Gong, RSIS

In March 2019, the fourth Session of the UN Environment Assembly convened in Kenya to discuss the environmental and climate challenges outlined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 agenda. The protection of oceans with a specific focus on curbing marine plastic pollution was among the points discussed.

Workers load collected plastic bottles on to a truck at a junk shop in Manila, 10 March 2015 (Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco).

Protecting marine environments is a growing priority in East Asia. In 2016, the World Economic Forum predicted that there would be more ocean plastic waste than fish by 2050 without effective intervention. The conference adopted resolutions on promoting sustainable development, including cooperation in reducing marine plastic debris.

Marine plastic pollution can threaten the security and development of regional countries and destroys the marine ecosystem by killing sea creatures and polluting the marine environment. Seafood contaminated with microplastics threatens food safety and public health across Asia as many people in the region rely on seafood for their protein intake.

Unsustainable practices in marine-related economic sectors are contributing to the surging amount of plastic debris in regional seas that harm local businesses. Bali and Boracay depend on revenues from tourism. Severe plastic pollution in the coastal areas damages their reputation as popular tourist destinations, while disruption in the marine ecosystem can also intensify competition between states for marine resources.

China, Indonesia, the Philippines, …continue reading


Japanese Nobel laureate seeking to gain the support of the public to raise royalty rate for Opdivo patents

Japanese scientist Tasuku Honjo, a winner of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 2018, is fighting over patent royalty rate against Ono Pharmaceutical, a Japanese pharmaceutical company.


Reportedly, in 2006, Honjo and Ono entered a license agreement for the patents on PD-1 which was applied to the cancer drug Opdivo (nivolumab). However, in 2011 when Opdivo was along in development, Honjo requested the raise of royalty rate. The negotiation has not proceeded as he expected. So, finally on April 10 2019, Honjo took the step of publishing the background and the outline of the agreement to gain the support of public.

The agreement specifies that Ono has the exclusive right to use the joint patents between Honjo and Ono, and Ono pays a certain of royalties to Honjo. Ono has paid the cumulative amount JPY 2.6 billion (about USD 23.6 million). However, dissatisfied Honjo has not received it and deposited the entire amount with the Legal Affairs Bureau.

Why you should be careful to make your invention joint ownership?

By the way, Honjo decided to make the patent joint ownership, due to budget constraints for patent filing. In Japan, when a joint owner wants to license the patent to a third party, the joint owner is required to obtain the consent from other joint owners. On the other hand, each of joint owners can use the patented invention freely. Therefore, in this case, when Honjo cancels the license agreement, Ono can continue to use the patented inventions, but Honjo cannot license the patents to other companies without Ono’s consent. Therefore, you should be careful to make your inventions joint ownership.

Who should be blamed?

The outline of Honjo’s argument claim is as follows:

  • Ono’s explanation on the royalty rate was inaccurate.
  • The current royalty rate (less than 1% of sales) …continue reading

For Sale: Yoshimura Junzo-designed house in Tokyo

Price: ¥113,200,000 (approx. 1 million USD)

This is a compact urban home designed by Yoshimura Junzo (1907-1997). Yoshimura got his start working at Antonin Raymond’s office before being transferred to Pennsylvania in 1940 for two years. He established his own architectural office after returning in the 1940s. His past clients have included the Rockefeller family and the Imperial Household. Yoshimura is one of Japan’s great modernist architects and his homes are often sought-after by collectors.

The three bedroom home was built in 1992, towards the later years of Yoshimura’s life, and has a total floor area of 128 sqm (1,377 sq.ft). It includes a fireplace in the living room – a signature feature of Yoshimura’s homes. The layout is practical, with the living area, large bedroom and full bathroom on the ground floor, and two bedrooms, a study and a smaller bathroom on the 2nd floor. The living room opens onto a small garden on the southern side, ensuring ample sunlight throughout the day. Some updates, cleaning or maintenance may be required.

The surrounding Shimotakaido neighborhood is a quiet residential area with mostly detached homes. It is 210 meters from the cherry blossom-lined Kanda River which is popular for joggers and dog-walkers. This district was developed as farmland …continue reading


Traditional merchant residence in Gifu to be converted into boutique hotel

Work is well underway on the conversion of a historic and traditional residence in Gifu into a boutique hotel. The former Matsuhisa Residence was built 100 years ago by the operator of a successful wholesaler of Japanese paper materials. The residence was designed to accommodate guests and customers during the Meiji and Taisho eras. The two-story sukiya-style wooden house with tiled roof has a total of 12 tatami rooms, a tea room, and four warehouses. The buildings sit on 2400 sqm of land.

A floor plan of the ground floor provided by the Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture.

In 2016 the grandchild of the original owner donated the property to Mino City. The city held a public appeal seeking any individuals or organizations that would be able to transform the property into a tourist destination. In late 2017 the city settled on a hotel proposal submitted by a joint venture between Marujyu Paper Company, based in Mino City, and hotel operator NOTE, based in Hyogo Prefecture. NOTE was established in 2009 with the purpose of reinvigorating rural areas through the restoration and preservation of old and vacant homes, helping to promote tourism and supporting local businesses. In 2015 they established the NIPPONIA brand of boutique hotels, focusing solely on creating unique accommodation in traditional and historic Japanese homes and buildings.

The hotel conversion will include six guest suites, some fitted with outdoor rotenburo baths. Exteriors, interiors and furnishings will be largely preserved, while traditional paper and paper-making equipment will be featured.

Room rates are expected to be approximately 35,000 Yen (approx. 310 USD) per night.

The property will be provided free-of-charge for 10 years to the operator. In return, …continue reading


80% of sellers/buyers not choosing home inspections

According to a survey carried out by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in the first half of 2018, only 18% of transactions involved home inspections.

Between April and September 2018, a total of 5,932 home inspections were carried out across Japan. A total of 12,904 inspections were forecast for the year, almost double the number seen in 2017. Still, this amounts to less than 8% of the 169,000 existing home sales on an annual basis.

A survey of real estate agencies found that buyers or sellers elected for home inspections in just 18% of brokerage agreements. For sellers, 16% elected for home inspections, while only 2% of buyers chose this option. In the cases where a home inspection was carried out, 62% ended up going through with the sale.

In April 2018, building inspection guidelines were introduced nationwide that require licensed real estate agencies to include a ‘home inspection’ clause in brokerage agreements with buyers or sellers. This clause indicates (1) whether the real estate company has an affiliated home inspection agent that they have a referral program with, and (2) if a home inspection has been carried out on the property within the past 12 months and the main details of the inspection results.

On the seller’s side, the seller has the choice of (a) carrying out a building inspection, (b) not carrying out a building inspection but allowing buyers to hire an inspector if they wish to, or (c) not carrying out a building inspection and not allowing buyers to hire an inspector either. The majority of properties we have seen on the sale market fall under (b), although we have seen several cases of (c) where the seller will not let a buyer carry out a building inspection.

Buyers must be aware that the home …continue reading