1.  COVID-19 Updates In Japan


l    It seems that the 3rd wave of the COVID-19 infection saw its peak this week. The number of newly infected people is declining day by day, although it is still near 1,000 per day in Tokyo. In order for the central government to lift the State of Emergency declaration, it requires the number to go below 500 per day constantly.  

l    PM Suga appointed Rep. Kono, who is the Minister of State for Special Missions to lead Japan’s vaccination implementation smoothly by eliminating the stove-piped bureaucracy. Yet, Kono announced on January 27 that the vaccination of the public, after giving the shot to the medical community first, won’t happen until April 1 considering the approval process of the Ministry of Welfare and Labor, and logistics network systems to be set up throughout towns. 

l      The Japan Franchise Association announced on January 20 that the aggregated sum of the revenue of all the national convenience store chains for 2020 went down  by 4.5% to 10.7 trillion yen ($103 billion) from the previous year.  It is the very first annual declination since the collection of the comparable statistics started in 2005. COVID-19 reduced the number of store visitors by 10.2%, the statistics revealed.

l      The Japan National Tourist Organization announced on January 20 that the number of foreigners who visited Japan in 2020 declined by 87.1% to 4.1 million in comparison with the previous year.

l      Although the number of people who committed suicide in Japan had been constantly declining since 2009 when the number went up due to the Lehman Shock, it increased in 2020 by 3.7% (750 people) to 20,919, the Ministry of Welfare and Labor, and the National Police Agency announced on January 22.  The number of men who committed suicide last year declined from 2019, while the number of women and young students who killed themselves increased more than the decrease of men.  Experts are warning that the Covid-19 situations are unevenly imposing stress over women who have concern of job, raising kids, caring seniors or taking care of husbands who lost job or work from home.

l     The Japan Food Service Association announced on January 25 that the total amount of the Japanese food-service industries’ revenue for 2020 went down by 15.1% from the previous year. The decrement is largest ever since 1994 when the collection of the comparable statistics began.  Among others, Japanese izakaya bars experienced a 49.5% declination of revenue. In the meantime, Japan’s super-market industry saw a 2.6% increase of revenue thanks to “Stay-home” campaign demand. Also, the home electric appliances industry enjoys recognizing revenue increase by 1.0% for the same reason.


  1. Japan-U.S. Top Officials Exchanges 


A series of telephone meetings were made between the top leaders from the government of Japan and of the United States as follows:


Jan 24  Defense Minister Kishi and Defense Secretary Austin   

Jan 27  Foreign Minister Motegi and State Secretary Blinken

Jan 28  PM Suga and President Biden  


Through these meetings, the two countries agreed to jointly promote “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Ocean Concept”, reconfirm the applicability of the Japan-U.S. Security Pact’s Article 5 to the Senkaku Archipelagos of Okinawa Pref., and cooperate with each other for denuclearization of North Korea and solving the abduction issue.   

President Biden invited PM Suga to visit the U.S. to participate in the Climate Change Summit conference that President Biden is going to organize in April.  

President also agreed to cooperate for Japan to acquire the new coronavirus vaccine in a timely manner.


  1. Semiconductors Wanted For Auto Industry


Feeling the world-wide shortage of semiconductors for automobiles, the Japanese government is now working on the authority of Taiwan to request its semiconductor industry to increase its production, Yomiuri reported on January 26.  

Taiwan keeps the largest share of semiconductor production in the world.   

Since last spring, automobile industry’s demand of semiconductors had been declining due to the COVID-19 led plunge of the world auto demand, while the world-wide stay-home and telework trends had been pushing up the demand of the semiconductors for PC and home electronics.  

So, the semiconductor suppliers in the world had shifted some of their production lines from automobile applications to PC and home electronics ones.  

Now that the demand of automobile is rapidly coming back especially in the U.S. and China, auto manufacturers are rushing to locate suppliers who could have potential capacity to add up the production of semiconductors for automobiles.  

Considering the significance of the Japanese economic dependence on the auto industry, the government of Japan decided to take an initiative to go upstream of the supply chain, and concluded that asking its counterpart in Taiwan would make the best consequences for both sides economically and politically.


  1. Zero Emission Ships Sought


The Japanese ship building industry used to dominate a largest share of the world ship building amount, such as around 50% in 1980s. It is now taking a backseat position behind the Chinese and Korean ship building industries. In 2019, China’s share was 34%, followed by Korean (32%) and Japan (24%) in terms of the amount of ship building.  


Besides, the corona virus situation is pushing the Japanese ship building industry into a corner without seeing any good market sign over the horizon yet. Under these circumstances, the government of Japan decided to encourage and accelerate the industry’s effort to develop zero emission ships and unmanned auto cruising ships by providing subsidies and tax breaks.  


Currently, the Japanese ship building industry is considering zero emission ships to be fueled by hydrogen or ammonium, and remotely controlled auto cruising ships, and the aforementioned governmental support is expected to accelerate the development.


Please continue to be safe, and enjoy your weekend!