Category Archives: BUSINESS

Pensions boss Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare set for split?


Rumours that the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare is targetted for breakup in an upcoming policy paper from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party broke cover in the Nikkei today.

The proposal is said to be part of a wider review of the structure of central government since it was reorganised two decades ago into 13 agencies and ministries. That reform included the amalgamation of the Ministry of Labor with the Ministry of Health & Welfare, a marriage which may now be dissolved.

In the intervening years the nw Ministry’s remit has expanded significantly so that it now covers job-based pension funds of all types.

As soon as the two were departments were conjoined the assets of many zaikei (savings accumulation) schemes, which had rested with the Ministry of Labour, were passed to SERAMA (The Smaller Enterprise Retirement Allowance Mutual Aid) in whose oversight the new Ministry plays a significant role.

The MoHLW then took over from the Ministry of Finance responsibility for the regulation of approximately 65,000 so-called tax-qualified plans (TQPS), re-establishing the 13,000+ of them which met its criteria into covenant (or “contract”) schemes and folding the rest into one of SERAMA’s many arms or dissolving them.

Next it assumed responsibility for the several giant civil service schemes as their benefits structure was reorganised and they agreed to follow the same asset allocation as the Government Pension Investment Fund — the world’s largest institutional investor — which is also under the MoHLW.

Small wonder that it is now said to be overburdened but the repeated scandals in which it has been involved since 2007 — when it could not match about 50 million pension records to their owners — mean that it attracts little pubic sympathy.

The future of the Pension Fund Association may also be up for review. Despite its name, the …continue reading


Is Japan up to leading WTO reform?

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

If the goal of Japan’s G20 presidency in 2019 is merely to get through the summit in June with a business-as-usual approach, at best it would be a lost opportunity. At worst, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japanese officials could find the global economic order collapsing around them on their watch or end up throwing a hospital pass to the next G20 hosts, Saudi Arabia.

World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo meets with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan, 8 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato).

Tensions between China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, are disrupting the global economy. Even if the two reach some kind of bilateral settlement, there’s likely to be systemic damage — most likely they’ll do a deal outside of the established rules that undermines the multilateral trading system. Managing the rise of China is difficult enough for the global community but with the multilateral order under threat from President Donald Trump’s America First agenda, it is worse.

Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and one of America’s most important allies. It shares one of the world’s largest bilateral economic relationships with its neighbour China. That puts Japan in a unique if excruciatingly difficult position to navigate the defining challenges the global community faces today.

Simply getting through the Osaka G20 Summit is …continue reading


Tokyo Apartment Sales in January 2019

The following is a selection of apartments that were reported to have sold in central Tokyo during the month of January 2019:

Building Sold Price
(USD/sq.ft) Days Listed Discount
Park Court Akasaka Hinokicho The Tower (2018)
/sq ft
18 1.7%

A luxury high-rise apartment building adjoining Tokyo Midtown. When off-the-plan apartment sales began in late 2015, there were an average of 1.9 buyers per apartment. The building was designed by Kengo Kuma and features concierge, gym, roof deck, and various resident lounges and function rooms. This was a corner unit on a mid-floor. There are currently 10 sale listings in the 322-unit building, down from 13 listings as of October 2018. The average asking price is 3,345,000 Yen/sqm, while the average apartment size is just 59 sqm. The average resale price in 2018 was 3,354,000 Yen/sqm.

Ark Hills Sengokuyama Residence (2012)
/sq ft
17 3.7%

Ark Hills Sengokuyama is a 47-storey mixed-use development by Mori Building. The high-end residences are located on the lower half of the building and include concierge service and the Hills spa. Despite having 243 apartments, including Mori’s rental-only units, only 4 apartments are currently available for sale in this building, with an average asking price of 2,745,000 Yen/sqm. Three of these four apartments are rented to tenants with gross yields of 2.5 ~ 3.2%. Supply is extremely limited in this building with just 11 resale listings appearing on the market over the past 6 years. This apartment is only the third publicly reported sale in this building (other sales may go un-reported). It was a tenanted unit that sold to an investor. When sales began in 2012 (a time when Japan’s property market was at the bottom), 1-Bedroom units were priced from 1,685,000 Yen/sqm, which …continue reading


Time for global leadership, Japan-style

Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU

Japan has taken up the G20 presidency at a key time in global economic affairs and has the opportunity to shepherd the global economy through a period of greater uncertainty than there has been in decades. But the task is tough. Not only are the issues on which progress must be made substantial, but also Japan’s G20 presidency will effectively be one of the shortest ever, with leaders meeting in the middle of 2019.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech at a business leaders’ New Year party at a hotel in Tokyo, Japan, 7 January 2019 (Photo: AFLO via Reuters/Yoshio Tsunoda).

The World Trade Organization (WTO), at the core of the multilateral trading system, is in crisis. With only three out of its seven possible appellate body judges, the WTO’s dispute settlement body’s appellate court is down to the minimum number of judges needed to function. If one of the three judges has to recuse himself or herself from a case or becomes unable to serve, the enforcement mechanism of the multilateral trading system ceases to function. This is the system that holds countries accountable to the world trade rules and, without it, a core function of the WTO will collapse.

It’s the United States that is vetoing the appointment of new judges because …continue reading


Slowly changing Japan's IP dispute resolution system

We Japanese often say “お変わりありませんか?(okawari-arimasenka?)” that means, in English, “Nothing has happened (or everything remains unchanged)?” to someone whom we meet after a long interval. No change is a good thing in Japanese culture. I’m just wondering if we can change such a greeting to something by which we can expect or accelerate change.

JPO commissioner Naoko Munakata mentioned the necessity of improvement of Japanese IP litigation system and demonstrated the high level of interest, in an opening speech for Global IP Strategy Forum 2019 which was held on January 28 2019 in Tokyo.

However, I have seen a difference of opinion between SMEs and large enterprises, a conservative court, and also surprisingly witnessed the tension between JPO and industry groups of large enterprises, at the advisory committee. So, we are in no situation to expect impressive outcomes immediately. On January 25, the government published a report on the discussion thus far among its members to invite public opinion.

Inspection procedure is likely to be introduced. In order to facilitate evidence gathering to prove patent infringement especially for manufacturing methods, BtoB products, software etc., the court can issue the inspection order in response to a patent holder’s motion, by which neutral experts inspect the facility of the alleged infringer to gather necessary materials and make a report. It is allowed to file the motion only after filing a suit, to prevent abuse of this procedure and secret leak.

Regarding damage calculation, compensation more than actual damages (e.g. punitive compensation, taking away all of profit) has been discussed, but faced many opposition. After all, it was decided to continue further discussion. However, provisions relating to presumed damages is likely to be revised so that damages is calculated a little higher than at present. …continue reading