1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan


l  The bars, pubs and restaurants, karaoke places, event halls, theaters and sport stadiums etc. of Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Aichi and Fukuoka had been observing the state of emergency rules, which were extended to continue until the end of the month. The numbers of newly infected people were apparently declining now in those prefectures, while the numbers of the infected, who are in serious conditions remain high, so all the hospitals and medical institutions in those prefectures have not much extra rooms to receive new patients. Effective on May 16, Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima were added by the central government for its state of emergency to be applied. And Okinawa was added to the list today. As of May 20, accumulated total of infected and death are 705,221 and 12,065 respectively.

l    In order to accelerate the vaccination, the Japanese government  recently decided to use the medical resources of the Japanese Self Defense Force to organize and run large scale vaccination centers in Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Hyogo and Kyoto. The SDF has already started to accept individual bookings of inoculation, and will begin mass inoculations on Mary 24 mostly using U.S. Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, which was approved for use in Japan today.  Astra Zeneca’s vaccine was also approved today.

l      Cabinet Office announced on May 18 that Japan’s Jan-Mar quarter GDP shrunk by 1.3% from the same quarter last year. It is a 5.1% declination of the economy on an annual basis.  This made the Japanese fiscal 2020 (April 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021)’s GDP growth minus 4.6%.  It is the largest annual declination of Japan’s economy ever since 1956 when the government started to record the statistics of economy consistently. 

l     According to the trade statistics that Ministry of Finance announced on May 20, Japan’s exports of April increased by 38.0% to 7,181.1 billion yen ($65.9 billion) from a year ago, which surpassed the level of monthly exports before the pandemic. Exports to the United States grew most(45.1%) thanks to the recovery of the demand of new cars and auto parts demand in the U.S.  Exports to China also increased by 33.9% with strong demand of semiconductor manufacturing machines and automobiles. Imports also grew by 12.8% to 6,925.8 billion yen ($63.5 billion) from April last year

l    The Ministry of Welfare and Labor and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology jointly announced that 96% of those who graduated universities in Japan in this March and looked for a job were able to get a job.  The success rate (96%) is 2 points lower than the previous year representing a difficult job hunting environments for job seekers due to the Covid-19.  


  1. Japan Took Initiative To Make Ecofriendly Ship Grading Rule


The Japanese government took an initiative last year to propose to IMO (International Maritime Organization) a ship fuel efficiency grading system together with China, Korea, Germany and 15 other nations.   The purpose of the proposal is to accelerate replacing less fuel-efficient vessels with new types of ships with much higher fuel-efficiency so that the CO2 emission of the international ocean transportation, which currently accounts for 2% of the world total emissions should be cut by 50% by 2050.  


According to Yomiuri, this proposal is going to be adopted by IMO in June this year, and it will be implemented in 2023. Ships that are subject to this new fuel-efficiency grading system are large ocean-going vessels such as container vessels, tankers and cruise ships. Owners or operators of those ships are required to annually submit fuel-efficiency data to respective governments where ships are registered so that individual ships are categorized into the five grades from “A” (highest efficiency) down to “E”(lowest). If graded “E”, or “D” three times in row, the owners of those low graded ships would have to submit to their individual governments fuel efficiency improvement plans.  


And, if sufficient improvement of fuel-efficiency is not recognized, those ships would not be allowed to be operated further. Japan used to dominate the world shipbuilding market share such as around 50% in 1980s, but it went down to 22% last year following China (40%) and Korea (31%). If the five grading system were applied last year, more than half of the ships built in Japan would be graded A or B as seen below, so Japanese shipbuilders expect this grading system would enable them to take back their shares making most use of their strength of fuel-efficiency related technology and skills. 


                                   Grade A  B          C         D          E

Ships built in Japan      27%     28%     28%     12%     5%

Ships built in China       17%     19%     31%     20%     13%

Ships built in Korea       16%     18%     30%     22%     14%



  1. JBIC To Assist Japan’s Defense Exports


In 2014, the Japanese government turned its long-lasting Arms Export Ban policy into a policy to allow defense exports to its allies and friendly nations who share the regional defense responsibility.There, however, has been no significant achievement of exports of Japan’s major defense equipment since then except for Mitsubishi Electric’s air defense radar system, which was exported to Philippine. 


Learning that it would be still difficult for developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region to finance themselves to purchase billion dollar class equipment, the government of Japan decided to let JBIC (Japan Bank for International Cooperation) offer its low interest loans to those nations who are interested in acquiring Japanese defense equipment.  


  1. More Options Of EV Are Now Available In Japan


In order to achieve the goal of a 46% reduction of CO2 emission by 2030 in comparison with 2013, and a carbon neutral Japan by 2050, it is crucial to accelerate to switch gasoline based cars to EV or PHV.  However, the pace of the purchase of EV in Japan is still slow, according to industry’s data. Japan Automobile Dealers Association recently announced that around 3,180,000 brand new cars were purchased in Japan last year, while gasoline-fueled cars account for more than 50%, followed by hybrid cars (35%).  EV’s share was just a tiny fraction of 0.4%.  


in comparison with Germany where the share of EV is 6.7% or with China (4.4%), the amount of incentive to be provided by the Japanese government for EV acquisition is small and the number of battery charging stations is much less (around 8,000) than that of the gas stations (around 30,000).  In the meantime, more variety of types of EV and suppliers including foreign brands are entering the Japanese EV market. In March 2019, there were only 7 types of EV, which were supplied by six auto companies, while, as of last month, 19 types of EV are being supplied by 12 car companies. This suggest that the auto industry is now feeling the EV boom is coming to Japan as well.


  1. Japan To Approve Stay Permit For Same Sex Marriage Partners   


Under the current Emigration/Immigration Law, a foreign spouse who married to a Japanese is automatically given “Stay Permit for Spouse”, which allows the holder to live and work in Japan. Since the Japanese government has not yet recognized a couple of same sex marriage as legitimate one, a foreign same sex partner of a Japanese, if he or she wants to live and work in Japan, needs to apply to the Immigration Control Bureau for a different stay permit. With the growing number of countries giving same sex marriage couples the same legal status as different sex marriage couples, and with more and more Japanese becoming same sex marriage partners in those countries, the Japanese government is now studying the possibility of giving a same sex partner of a Japanese “Stay Permit for Special Activity” to allow the partner to live and work in Japan. In order to apply for this visa, all foreign same sex partners of Japanese need to do is to present an evidence of marital status, which was issued in the countries that recognize same sex marriage.