1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan

l  The number of infected people continues to be increasing this week throughout Japan. Out of the 47 prefectures in Japan, Iwate had been the only one prefecture without any infected resident, but on July 28, two people were found infected for the first time.

l  According to the statistics of Japanese corporations that were announced by the Ministry of Finance on July 27, sales of the corporate Japan for the first quarter (Jan.-Mar.) declined by 7.5% to 334.6 trillion yen ($3.2 trillion) in comparison with the same period last year. This declination rate is largest ever since the 2nd quarter of 2011, right after the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake and tsunami disasters. Its ordinary profit for the same period went down by 28.4%.  It is expected to see much larger declinations in the 2nd quarter (Apr. – Jun.) considering the stoppage of business activity in that period.

l  The government of Japan launched Go To Campaign effective on July 22. Originally, the government was to subsidize 50% of all the domestic tourism expenses including transportation, lodging and agency’s cost if the tour is reserved and paid through the government qualified tourism agencies or websites during the preset period. However, due to the remarkable increase of infection in Tokyo, all the tours originated from or destined to Tokyo were excluded from the campaign, which is a big blow to the tourism industry considering the size of the population and tourism asset of Tokyo.

l  As another tourism boosting policy, the central government is reportedly going to promote “Worcation”, a newly coined word, which combined work and vacation. Since more and more people are doing telework at home instead of their offices in major cities, some of them may wish to do their telework in resort areas enjoying the better access to relaxing environment.  The government is planning to assist tourism industry to promote such flow of businesspersons to the resort areas, while supporting local lodging and public places to be better equipped for internet connections and meeting spaces.  


  1. Japan-UK Trade Agreement To Be Concluded Soon


In the wake of UK’s decision of complete departure from the EU, the Japanese government and the UK government had been negotiating a bilateral trade agreement.

Yomiuri reported on July 29 that the negotiation is approaching near agreement with the following open areas to be closed:

Japan is requesting UK to decrease its tariff of automobile in stages as the Japan-EU EPA agreed, while UK would like to negotiate on this independently.

UK is requesting Japan to set additional no-tariff frames for its agricultural products like hops, while Japan is not in the position to provide additional no-tariff frames over and above the ones set for the Japan-EU EPA.

In the meantime, the two countries reached agreement on e-Commerce rules such as Fintech data utilization rules and higher level of data exchanges freedom than the level agreed on under TPP.          


  1. Spent-Nuclear-Fuel Reprocessing Plant’s Safety Measures Approved


Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded on July 29 that the safety measures presented by Japan Nuclear Fuel, Ltd. for its spent-nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho Village of Aomori Prefecture complies with Committee’s new regulatory safety standards. 

This plant is positioned as a core facilities of “Nuclear Fuel Cycle” – one of the nation’s key energy policies. 

The construction of the plant began in 1993. 

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant’s accident caused by the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake and tsunami in 2011 required NRC to tighten its safety requirement of the reprocessing plant, and it took additional years for planning and assessment. 

With the approval this time, the completion of the construction of the spent-nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant is expected sometime in the next year, and its operation will begin in January 2022.   

Once it reaches its full reprocessing capacity, which is 800 ton of spent-nuclear-fuel per year, the plant is expected to produce 7 ton of plutonium annually.  


  1. Japan To Promote Its Smart City Model As International Standard 

Yomiuri reported on July 28 that the Japanese government will form a new taskforce inviting METI, MoLIT, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and Cabinet Office to come up with a Japan model of “Smart City”, and it will promote the model as an international standard.

In April this year, China applied to the International Organization for Standardization four data utilization methods that were created to prevent prevalence of the novel coronavirus infection in China, to be authorized as part of Smart City’s standard framework.  

The China model allows the central government to funnel and watch all the data from individual users of “Smart City” systems through relevant suppliers of the systems in not only critical times, but also in peace times, while Japan model is expected to be the one that cuts off the central government from the data flow.