Japan Digest #378

1.        PM Kishida’s Tenure Ranked Top 10


Prime Minister Kishida's tenure reached 864 days on February 14, placing him alongside former Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki as the 10th longest-serving prime minister among the 35 prime ministers since the end of World War II. 

According to NHK’s monthly survey, which was conducted from February 10 through 12, the Kishida Cabinet’s approval rating went down by 1 point to 25%, while its disapproval rating went up by 2 points to 58%.  

LDP’s approval rating was 30.5% hanging low over since December last year, while CDPJ, the largest opposition party’s approval rating slightly went up to 6.7%. 

One interesting question was made concerning LDP’s internal decision to allow exports to third countries of defense articles that are co-developed with foreign countries such as the next generation fighter being developed with Italy and U.K.

31% of the respondents said they would accept the direction, while 51% responded that they would object it.


2.   Japan And U.S. To Collaborate AI Development For Scientific Researches


The Japanese government and the U.S. government are going to have their individual research laboratories to collaborate with each other to jointly develop AI for scientific research and development, Yomiuri reported on February 11.

Specifically, Japan’s RIKEN (Institute of Physical and Chemical Research), which is controlled by the Ministry of Education, CultureSportsScience and Technology and America’s Argonne National Laboratory, which is governed by the Department of Energy are the main players of this AI joint development.

RIKEN and Argonne will share mutual supercomputer capacities (Fugaku and Aurora) as well as experimental data and papers.

The Japanese side is focusing its development of AI in the field of life and medical science and new material development, while the U.S. side is focusing on the scientific research of climate change, cancer and space.  

Once new AI for scientific research is established through this collaboration, RIKEN expects that development time to discover a new drug would be reduced from around two years to two months.


3.  Japanese Government Trying To Facilitate Foreigners To Work In Japan


The Kishida Administration decided on February 9 to replace the current Technical Trainees System with a new system to nurture foreign talents to be professional workers in Japan. 

Although the Technical Trainees System is categorized as part of Japanese government’s Overseas Development Aids (ODA) accepting young talents from developing countries as technical trainees and providing them with vocational training, the system had been changing its nature as time went by to a system to quickly supply blue workers to Japanese agricultural, fishery and forestry industries, construction industry and manufacturing industry.  

The problem is that technical trainees’ visa period is limited to 3 to 5 years and cannot be renewed because they are supposed to go back to their individual mother nations and make most use of their individual skills acquired in Japan for local economic development. 

Another problem is that the visa does not allow technical trainees to change job in the first 3 years. 

The new system is expected to provide a training and working visa for 5 years, during which trainees are expected to acquire skills up to the level required by the Specified Skilled Worker (i) visa, which was newly established by the government in 2019. 

Under this new system, young foreign trainees/workers can change their job after their first year is completed.  

After the first 5 years, they could apply for Specified Skilled Worker (ii) visa, which is a de facto permanent visa allowing family members to join the visa holder.  

On a different topic yet for the same reason, Ministry of Education, Culture,  Sports, Science and Technology solidified this week its policy to expand the applicability of its scholarship to children of foreign workers as long as they completed elementary school, junior high school and high school education in Japan and wish to enter a Japanese university. 

Such children are required to commit to work in Japan after graduation.


4.  METI To Subsidize Indigenous Cloud


Yomiuri reported this week that METI solidified its policy to subsidize a Japanese IT company by the name of Sakura Internet for their technology development to become an “Indigenous Government Cloud” that handles all the personal information which is currently possessed by individual municipalities. 

By Economic Security Promotion law, “cloud services” are categorized as “specified critical items” and the subsidy shall be provided by an economic security related fund. 

At this moment, the three top giant American players, Amazon, Microsoft and Google dominate a 60 to 70% share in the Japanese cloud service market. 

Sakura Internet is a small to mid-size company, and there is no way to compare with the giant companies except for the government’s hope to achieve “Data Sovereignity”.


5. Kishida Cabinet Presented The Diet Two New Bills For Carbon Free Society


The Kishida Cabinet decided on February 13 to present two new bills, one of which is to promote and diffuse hydrogen as a key source of future energy, and the other is to promote new business to retrieve the CO2 generated by fire power plants, etc. and store them underground. 

The Hydrogen Society Promotion Law is expected to subsidize business operators who are to generate and supply hydrogen in Japan by issuing Green Transformation Economic Transition Bond in the amount of around 3 trillion yen for 15 years to come. 


As for the CCS Business Law, the government is to provide business applicants with a license to drill and store CO2, yet obligating the liability of any accidents out of the drilling or storing.