1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan


l  The 3rd wave of the COVID-19 infection has not seen its peak yet, breaking the record of each day of the week every week. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike took an initiative inviting the governors of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, to request PM Suga to declare the 2nd State of Emergency (SoE) for the residents of the four prefectures. As the result of the governors’ push, coupled with the fact that from the capacity of the hospitals in the region is almost full, PM Suga declared the SoE on January 7th for the four prefectures for one month through February 7. Having learned that clusters had been found mostly at bars and restaurants, the SoE requests those places to stop serving alcohol at 7 pm and close the operation at 8 pm. It also requests people to stay home after 8 pm unless there is any immediate requirement to go out.  Unlike last time, the SoE this time does not order schools to be closed. Sports events and other events are allowed if the number of spectators is less than 5,000, and less than 50% of its original capacity. Like the first declaration, it does not contain any penalty clause. Due to a series of the government sponsored campaigns to promote domestic tourism, shopping and dining in the summer through early winter last year, the level of the public sensitivity or fear against the infection had been offset by the Go-To campaigns’ encouragement to go out.  Surely, all the campaigns had been stopped for the time being, and we do not know when the government would resume them. 

l  On January 13, PM Suga announced to extend the coverage of the SoE for 7 more prefectures (Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Aichi, Gifu, Tochigi and Fukuoka). 

l  The Media reported on January 13 that the government of Japan solidified a policy that it would close the border, which had been open to 11 nations including China, Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. 

l  Daily number of infection is more than 7,000, and the accumulated number of death had surpassed 4,000 this week.

l  According to NHK, the national broadcasting station’s survey for the month of January, the approval rating of PM Suga’s cabinet went down by 2 points to 40% from the previous month, and the disapproval rating went up by 5 points to 40%.  It is for the first time since the inauguration of the cabinet in September last year that disapproval rating surpassed approval rating. Then, 58% of the respondents replied that the government response to COVID-19 was poor, while 38% approve the response. With regard to the vaccination, 50% of the respondents would like to take the vaccine, while 38% would not like to get it.  

l  Very cold waves landed the Japan Sea side as well as the western part of Japan last week and this, which, coupled with the “Stay Home” campaign under the SoE, pushed up the demand of electricity, and for the very first time since the liberalization of the Japanese power supply market in 2015, electric power supply companies in the Kanto and Kansai regions were requested to be ready to supply individual full capacity.


  1. Japan To Collaborate With U.S. and U.K. for 5G Network Supply Chains


In the wake of their decisions to exclude Huawei products out of their individual 5G related supply chains, the government of the United State and United Kingdom are separately in agreement with the Japanese government to add the Japanese 5G supply chain to their respective 5G supply sources, Yomiuri reported on January 11.    

NEC and Fujitsu, the two major 5G network suppliers in Japan had already committed to excluding any of Chinese components from their network products.    

Japan and the U.S. are also in agreement to collaborate with each other for “Beyond 5G (6G)”.    

Currently, Huawei keeps the largest share (33.1%) of the 5G communication base station related market in the world, followed by Ericson (25.0%) and Nokia (19.9%), while NEC has just a 0.7% share and 0.6% for Fujitsu.   

The two companies are currently leading the development of 6G technologies in Japan, so they hope to leverage their technology and the trilateral alliance this time to boost their positions in the advanced communication network market in the world.


  1. Japan-Korea Relationship To Be Further Damaged By Korean Court Decision And Japanese Response


The media widely reported on January 9 that the Seoul Central District Court sentenced on January 8 that the government of Japan should indemnify plaintiffs as per their demand. 

The plaintiffs are 12 Korean women, who claim that they were forced to be comfort women during the WWII, and sued the Japanese government at their local court for the damage. 

When this law suit was filed, the Japanese government diplomatically responded to the Korean government that it would not respond the case considering sovereign immunity, which is a principle of the International Law that provides sovereign states and their properties with immunity against foreign lawsuits.  

As for compensation for the damage, PM Suga stated that the two countries had reached the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and other relevant agreements that the two countries concluded when they normalized their relationship in 1965. 

The Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, which is the core of these agreements, stipulates that Japan shall supply to Korea US$300 million in grants and extend loans up to US$200 million, and that problems concerning property, rights and interests of the two countries and their nationals (including juridical persons), as well as concerning claims between the Contracting Parties and their nationals, are “settled completely and finally,” and no contention shall be made thereof. 

As such, the Agreement has provided the basis for the bilateral relationship up until now. 

In 2019, the Korean Supreme Court ordered Japan to compensate the plaintiffs for the damage, who claimed that they were drafted to work in Japan during the WWII.  

This ruling was a sort of bolt out of the blue to the Japanese government, and the Moon Jae-in administration’s attitude to support the court judgement rather than protecting the bilateral agreements had been widening the mutual gap. 

Without finding any chance of a thaw, this new court decision is expected to just worsen the relationship.


  1. Corrugated Cardboard Wanted In China


Japan’s exports of recycled corrugated cardboard paper to China is rapidly growing.  

Yomiuri reported on January 10 that Japan’s exports of them to China during the period between January and November of 2020 increased by 6.6 folds.  

The market size of online shopping in China as well as the speed of its market growth are highest in the world, causing the high demand of corrugated cardboard for delivery packages.  

Corrugated cardboard is made of recycled corrugated cardboard paper, 90% of which come from used corrugated paper with specific recycle processes.  

The Chinese government banned imports of foreign used corrugated paper out of the concern of contamination through the recycling processes.  

This policy, coupled with the market expansion, are making its imports of the Japanese recycled corrugated paper, which shows good recycle quality, rapidly growing. 


I wish you healthy and prosperous 2021!