1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan


l    Although the number of new cases is rapidly declining throughout Japan, and so is the number of the hospitalized patients in serious conditions, the Suga Administration decided to extend the period of the present state of emergency for 19 prefectures out of 21, from September 12 to the end of the month considering the very tight availability of beds, ICU, and special devices like ECMO at most of the hospitals that can treat the patients who developed the Covid-19 driven pneumonia.

l     The Cabinet Office announced on September 8 that Japan’s GDP for the quarter of April through June increased by 0.5% in real term (1.9% annually). 


As for consumers’ confidence with regard to the present economy and its prospect, the Cabinet Office’s data of August shows weak or declining trends.


<As of 10 pm of September 16th>

The cumulative number of infected and dead in Japan are 1,664,633 and 17,058 respectively. 

The number of new cases in the nation for the day was 5,703. 

64.87% of the population have finished the first dose of the vaccine, while 52.61% have done for the 2nd.


  1. Suga To Withdraw From Party President Election


Citing it impossible to make two major battles simultaneously, one against Covid-19 and the other against LDP’s presidential election candidates, PM Suga announced on September 3 that he would not run for reelection for the party leadership, and would concentrate on fighting against the pandemic until his present tenure as prime minister ends in November. His approval ratings had been sharply declining in the past several months due mostly to the public perception that his public communication is poor, and strong leadership and clear vision under this socially and economically chaotic period is missing.


Since the national election of the House of Representatives is due right after the party presidential election, most of the party’s relatively young incumbent HoRs who aim at their first or second reelection had been internally demanding a fresh and appealing face of the party to win the national election.    


Originally, Suga had planned to change the party leaders like the Secretary General Nikai to divert the mounting blame and criticism from those young party members and from the public, and up until September 2nd, he had been committed to running for his reelection. 


However, the media reported that after calculating party’s internal dynamism (number of supporters) as well as the public perception, Suga may have concluded that it would be difficult to gain back his political capital both within his party and in the public.    

Now, the party presidential election is set to be held on September 29, and those who want to run for it need to declare their candidacy by today JST. 


So far, the following four members officially stood as a candidate:  


  1. Mr. Fumio Kishida, 64 years old, the 9th term of HoR from Hiroshima Pref, Head of the Kishida Faction, former Foreign Minister under Abe Cabinet, former Chairman of Party Policy Bureau
  2. Ms. Sanae Takaichi, 60 years old, the 8th term of HoR from Nara Pref, no political faction, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Telecommunication, former Chairman of Party Policy Bureau
  3. Mr. Taro Kono, 58 years old, the 8th term of HoR from Kanagaw Pref, Aso Faction, currently Minister of Special Tasks including the vaccination, former Foreign Minister and Defense Minister
  4. Ms. Seiko Noda, 60 years old, the 9th term of HoR from Gifu Pref, no political faction, Acting Secretary General of LDP, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Telecommunication etc.
  5. Ms. Takaichi represents and advocates the policies of former PM Abe including his Abenomics economic policy. 


Abe also endorsed her for the party election this time.


Thanks to the vaccination acceleration effort, which had been led by him, Mr. Kono’s public acceptance and approval rating is highest among others, while the party leaders and senior members have some concerns about his past statement for no-nuclear energy policy and pro- matrilineal emperor.


The Aso Faction which has the 2nd largest(53 members) in the party, decided not to endorse Kono as a unified candidate, and let the faction members decide and vote individually either for Mr. Kono or Mr. Kishida at least for the first vote.

However, if a run-off is to be held, the faction will decide on which candidate to be supported and force the faction members to follow the decision.  


Another potential hopeful Mr. Shigeru Ishiba decided not to run this time although he fought against Suga and Kishida at the last party presidential election a year ago. 


Reportedly, he endorsed Mr. Kono this time.  The Ishiba faction has 17 members. Hosoda faction, LDP’s largest (96 members)  also decided to let the members choose either Mr. Kishida or Ms. Takaichi. Once Kono makes PM, Mr. Ishiba and his faction may expect good positions in his new cabinet and in the new party leadership as well as expecting Kono to reciprocate the endorsement in some future presidential election. There are 383 votes of the incumbent LDP Diet members including the House of Councilors, and 383 votes from local party members. 


If no candidate was able to grab the majority of 766 votes, a run-off is held for the top two candidates. NHK’s public survey, which was conducted from September 10 through 13 revealed that Suga Cabinet’s approval rating inched up to 30% from 29% while the disapproval rating went down from 52% to 50%. Interestingly, his job in the past one year was approved by 55%, and LDP’s approval rating went up to 37.6% from 33.4% while the largest opposition party CDPJ’s went down to 5.5% from 6.4%.   


  1. Growing Number of One Century Old Japanese


On September 20, we observe Respect-for-the-Aged Day a Japanese national holiday. As of the 15th of this month, there are 86,510 Japanese who are 100 years old or older, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The number was increased by 8% from a year ago, and around 90% of those three digit aged seniors are female.  Shimane Pref., out of the total 47 prefectures, has the largest number of hundred years old or older per capita, and it is the 9th year in row that Shimane is ranked #1.


Ms. Kane Tanaka 118 years old is certified by Guinness World Records as the world eldest person as of now. Japanese women’s lifetime expectancy of 2020 was 87.74 years old, which is ranked #1 among the 48 major countries, while Japanese men’s was 81.64, which is ranked #2.


  1. Ammonium Electric Power Generation Is Under Spot Light


According to Yomiuri, JERA, a 50:50 joint venture of Tokyo Electric Power Company and Chubu Electric Power Company launched a project this year to demonstrate the viability of reducing the emission of CO2 out of its coal fire power plant in Aichi Pref. by mixing ammonium with coal fuel. JERA will gradually increase the share of ammonium fuel, for example up to 20% in 2024, and will fully replace coal fuel by 2040s. 


Some other Japanese electric power companies are also exploring the possibilities of using ammonium and hydrogen as CO2 free energy sources.  At this moment, the cost of ammonium based power (23.5 yen/kwh) is much higher than that of solar (12.9 yen/kwh) or wind (19.8 yen/kwh). 


Another issue is how to secure stable supply sources of ammonium. JOGMEC has already started survey of potential supply sources of ammonium, and it is now focusing on four areas including Russia and Indonesia.


Please continue to have a safe and pleasant weekend!