19 May Australia-Japan News
This page collates links to interesting articles that provide a picture of what is happening in Japan and in the Australia-Japan relationship, with brief summaries of their content.
While we don’t claim this list to be comprehensive, and some of the articles may be behind paywalls, we hope it will evolve into a valuable resource that assists members and subscribers in keeping up to date and provides a record of key developments… make sure to check back regularly to see the latest.
* indicates the article is behind a paywall.
Japan will accept small group tours with vaccinated travelers from the U.S., Australia, Thailand and Singapore as a trial later this month. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, travelers will have to be triple-vaccinated against COVID to join fixed package tours limited to areas where prefectural governments have agreed to accept them. Japan’s borders have been closed to tourists since the early stage of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The government is considering doubling the daily arrival cap to 20,000 in June. The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2021 dropped 99.2% from 2019 (pre-pandemic year) to a record low 245,900. Read more >
The Bank of Japan’s data showed 16 May that Japan’s wholesale prices surged 10% in April from the same month a year earlier as the war in Ukraine and a weak yen pushed up the cost of energy and raw materials. The prices of goods traded between companies increased for the 14th straight month and the 10% gain was the fastest since comparable data became available in 1981. Prices of petroleum and coal products jumped 30.9% while prices of iron and steel were up 29.9%. A chief economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute said, “the rise in wholesale prices was surprisingly large, amplified by the yen’s sharp depreciation since March. The core consumer price index (CPI) is almost certain to hit 2%.” The Bank of Japan (BOJ) in April projected the core CPI, excluding volatile fresh food items, to hit 1.9% in the current fiscal year. However, the BOJ Governor Kuroda told the Japanese Parliament he would stick to his ultra-easy monetary policy. “There is no need to tighten monetary policy in response to a transitory trend, as opposed to a sustained one,” Kuroda said. He expressed his view at a press conference 28 April that recent inflation, driven by surging raw material costs due to the war in Ukraine, will not last and it will still take time to attain the 2% target in a stable manner, supported by a growth in earnings, wages and jobs. Read more >
In early April, Tourism Australia launched the Yours to Explore campaign, its largest in Japan for the past decade.
The integrated, comprehensive campaign is designed to educate Japanese consumers that Australia is open and is welcoming visitors around world.
In March, Tourism Australia participated in the Tabi Salad EXPO in Osaka, which was held by Tabi Salad, one of the most popular TV travel shows in Japan with 9 million viewers (per week) to promote Australia. The three-day event attracted over 20,000 visitors. Read more >
SoftBank Corp.’s HAPSMobile and Lendlease establish joint venture to explore HAPS deployment in Australia
SoftBank Corp.’s subsidiary HAPSMobile Inc. and Lendlease Corporation announced that they had formed a joint venture partnership to explore the feasibility of HAPS (High Altitude Platform Station) in Australia. The Sydney-based joint venture, HAPSMobile Australia Pty Ltd, was established on 29 April 2022. Given Australia’s expansive landmass, much of Australia is still without mobile network coverage. The flexibility of HAPS telecommunications systems based in the stratosphere can help enable the provision of high-speed LTE and 5G connectivity to locations with partial or no coverage from terrestrial base stations. Going beyond connecting people, HAPS technology could also be used to support industrial IoT. The joint venture will study the feasibility of HAPS deployment in the Australian market with Lendlease acting as facilitator. Softbank and Lendlease have a long-standing relationship and have been working together in Japan since 2002. Read more >
Prime Minister Kishida told reporters on 9 May following a virtual meeting of G7 leaders that Japan will phase out Russian oil imports but will remain involved with Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2, oil and natural gas projects located in Russia’s Far East. During the online meeting Kishida had announced that Japan will ban Russian crude oil imports “in principle” in accordance with the other G7 nations as part of additional sanctions against Russia. Japan imported 3.6% of its crude oil from Russia in 2021, as well as 10.8% of its coal and 8.8% of its natural gas. Russia was Japan’s fifth largest supplier of crude oil and LNG in 2021. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno said Japan’s decision to remain in the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 projects reflects their importance to resource-poor Japan. Japanese trading house Marubeni announced in early May it had cut its Russian investments by 12.6 billion yen in the fiscal year that ended March 31 by mainly writing down its stake in Sakhalin-1. The company has a 12.3% stake in Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development Company (SODECO) – a Japanese consortium who owns 30% of the Sakhalin-1 project. Marubeni said it would officially remain in the project in line with Japanese government’s policy, although it hoped to withdraw due to the war in Ukraine. Read more >
The Japanese Financial Services Agency is set to require companies, mostly listed, to disclose the ratio of women in management positions in their annual securities reports. Under the plan, about 4,000 firms, mostly listed, must also disclose details such as the average pay by gender and the ratio of male workers who took child care leave. The agency aims to make the disclosure mandatory possibly in fiscal 2023, starting in April next year. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ data showed the female manager ratio in Japan stood at 13.2% in 2021, compared with 30-40% seen in the U.S. and European countries. Japan also lags behind other major economies in achieving gender equality in management-level position. According to the World Economic Forum, Japan ranked 120th among 156 countries in the overall gender gap rankings in 2021. The agency’s move comes as investors are paying more attention to the ratio of women in management positions. On 4 April, the Tokyo stock market was reorganised from its four sections to three trading segments to attract more foreign investment through stricter listing standards and corporate governance. Read more >
Half of the respondents in a survey conducted by Kyodo News released on 2 May believe Japan needs to amend the Article 9 of its Constitution, which renounces war and bans the possession of military forces, to clarify the legal status of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). Despite growing concerns over regional security and increasing calls for an amendment among lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and some other parties following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the level of support has hardly changed from a year ago – 50% of the respondents said it is necessary to revise Article 9 while 48% said it was not, compared with 51% in favour of an amendment and 45% against in a similar poll conducted last year. Former Prime Minister Abe said during his tenure it is vital to clarify the SDF’s legal status to put an end to arguments that Japanese forces are “unconstitutional.” On 1 May, Prime Minister Kishida said on a TV program amending the supreme law, including Article 9, based on the LDP’s proposal is a task that Japan faces in order to deal with the changing security situation. Read more >