Sr. Correspondent, Tokyo, Japan
Daniel's Feed
May 21, 2010

Natural for investors to rethink Thailand: finance minister

TOKYO (Reuters) – Thailand’s finance minister said he has not seen foreign investors leaving the country despite recent political unrest, but acknowledged it would be natural for them to reconsider their investment destination or delay their plans.

But Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij stressed that Thailand was committed to making efforts to win back investor confidence.

Apr 13, 2010

Starbucks eyes Japan growth, India market

TOKYO (Reuters) – Starbucks <SBUX.O> is planning aggressive growth again in Japan after having shored up its profit margins and is eyeing a partner to enter the Indian market, the head of the world’s largest coffee retailer said.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz also told Reuters in an interview that Starbucks would launch an iced version of its Via brand instant coffee in the United States, adding to a product line it says will turn into a multi-billion dollar business.

Apr 13, 2010

Starbucks eyes more stores in China, India

TOKYO (Reuters) – Starbucks <SBUX.O> sees the potential for thousands of stores in Greater China, where it currently has around 700, and is also keen on expanding in India and Vietnam, the head of the world’s largest coffee retailer said.

“We’ve built 700 stores in Greater China in 10 years. I think the next 10 years will be greater than that,” Chief Executive Howard Schultz told Reuters in an interview.

Feb 18, 2010
via Raw Japan

Half-pipe dream up in smoke for Japan bad boy

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Inclement weather has plagued the snowboard venue at the Olympics, but the storm clouds over Japan’s Kazuhiro Kokubo nearly prevented him from competing in Vancouver.

Ending eighth in the snowboard half-pipe finals with an apparent bloodied chin and lip,  Kokubo is also unlikely to have felt the last of a public bruising in Japan that began when some people thought he was scruffily dressed for his departure from Narita Airport and continued when he later seemed unrepentant.

Jan 14, 2010
via Raw Japan

JAL’s zen pilot

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 The next boss of beleagured Japan Airlines is a 77-year-old ordained zen monk who founded multi-billion dollar tech and telecoms companies, and – unlike most Japanese corporate peers – actually backed the current ruling party.

Kazuo Inamori, honorary chairman of electronics parts maker Kyocera and critic of many modern CEOs as well as capitalism’s excesses (think an older Michael Moore at Kyoto’s Ginkakuji), says he will take the job for no salary, working only three to four days a week.

Jan 12, 2010
via Raw Japan

Going for broke?

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Another love so true
That once turned all my gray skies blue
But you disappeared
Now my eyes are filled with tears
K. Sakamoto

Japan Airlines appears set to enter the hangar of court protection with $16 billion in debt, equal to a one-way Tokyo-Sapporo ticket for every citizen. The move would not be the most momentous  for Japan or for a global carrier in the age of deregulation, but it would be one of the most well-telegraphed.

Dec 29, 2009
via Raw Japan

Newly old

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The character “shin”, or “new”, is on display at Kyoto’s Kiyomizu temple, selected by Japan’s kanji association as the word of 2009, with the chief priest’s calligraphy perched above the former capital, known more for its history than the au courant.

The word’s stock rose with phrases like “new Cabinet”, “new influenza”, new model Prius and new jury system. But looking at its dry, black ink on a recent trip, I wondered if the choice was also a comment on its ubiquity, or non-newness, in a marketing-saturated nation where the adjective is often pasted without any real commitment to the fresh or innovative. Two years ago the kanji for “fake” had been selected as word of the year.

Nov 16, 2009
via Raw Japan

Obama bowing to convention

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The depth or angle of U.S. President Barack Obama’s bow — and handshake — with Japan’s Emperor Akihito has become a heated on-line topic, with sides arching into political camps on whether the greeting went too far — literally – or was appropriate based on customs and culture.I don’t pretend to be an expert on bowing in Japan, but a few basic rules of thumb, or backbone, are: the more important a person you are greeting, the deeper and longer you bow, with hands generally at one’s sides; and multiple purposes can be served by this act including greeting as well as displays of respect, recognition, apology or gratitude.While no one called the president’s bow an expression of apology or thanks, a number of blogs examined his and other U.S. leaders’ historical bent in stooping to diplomatically conquer, with a few labelling the U.S. commander-in-chief ”O-Bow-Ma”.The Fox network and the Los Angeles Times blog offered details of Obama’s and other official U.S. greetings with the imperial family, including a photo of Vice President Dick Cheney shaking Akihito’s hand, and one posted a comment that bowing and handshaking should not be done simultaneously.A blog from ABC news Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, citing an academic friend, says both sides have it wrong, as the bow was not over — or under — the top in precedence, although it did not display the cultural understanding intended, rather weakness in Japanese terms.The Huffington Post, meanwhile, seeming to anticipate a “bow row” ahead, noted criticism Obama had already received for a greeting of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in April, with Republican Senators blasting him and the White House calling the president “bent over” to shake hands but not in a bow.Rounding out coverage, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun/MSN on-line carried news of the Fox report that Obama’s bow was too low for a head of state as well as the comparison to Cheney’s 2007 Akihito handshake, adding a slate of imperial photos with slightly different angles and framing.Photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young

Nov 6, 2009
via Raw Japan

Japan’s Boys of Summer

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Eleven years ago I sat near a high school-aged Daisuke Matsuzaka as he used field glasses to watch a Japan-MLB All-Star game at the end of both leagues’ seasons.  I wrote a story based on that image about Japanese wanting to know “How good are we?” It was a question encompassing more than sport, as the same doubts existed for Japan in terms of corporate or diplomatic might, while the way the nation usually measured itself was in comparison to the U.S. The 2009 baseball season, which began with Matsuzaka and Ichiro Suzuki leading Japan to its second World Baseball Classic title and ended with Hideki Matsui winning the World Series MVP in helping the New York Yankees to the crown, hasn’t ended that self-assessment. Instead it has widened it to “How good can we be?” Matsui, whose decision to leave the Yomiuri Giants at the end of the 2002 was broadcast live across the island nation, hit a grand slam in his first New York home game but has been hobbled by injuries in seven seasons that may have made his Series heroics a Yankees coda. Ichiro, who set the record in 2009 for most consecutive MLB seasons with 200 hits and delivered the winning RBI in the WBC title game, is the greatest baseball export Japan has produced so far, but his zen approach to hitting and perceived statistics orientation have not always resonated with fans or teammates. Matsui, meanwhile, nicknamed “Godzilla” in high school for his power display at the national baseball championship, is less polished and a little more rough and ready. But he’s a player that nary a cross word has been said or written about, rather a “slugging salaryman” portrayal whose team focus is absolute, who even hit his sixth game Series homer to the Komatsu banner in rightfield. An MLB-insider told me after Game Six of the World Series: “Ichiro Suzuki will be elected into the Hall of Fame, Hideki Matsui will not. But Ichiro will never achieve what Matsui did last night.”Ichiro may not, but another Japanese player may, as the once distant fields of dreams across the Pacific have grown closer thanks to the countrymen’s feats in 2009, with Japan’s questions about how it rates becoming easier to answer.Photo credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar

Nov 1, 2009
via Raw Japan

Game on!

Nintendo still expects to make $4 billion this year and Sony to lose over $600 million, but last week may ultimately be remembered as a crossroads where each firm’s fortunes began to change directions, or at least when a 15-year battle for gaming supremacy again became competitive. Electronics conglomerate Sony trimmed its overall loss forecast on Friday, while some of last quarter’s bleeding was attributed to what is now seen as its successful price cut for the PlayStation 3 console, jolting the PS3 ahead of its Kyoto-based rival’s Wii in monthly sales.Nintendo, meanwhile, saw profit and sales declining at its earnings on Thursday with the main panacea a bigger screen handheld DSi LL console coming in late November, a move industry-watchers say is certain to diversify consumers’ handheld options but by itself won’t counter growing ennu-Wii.On Friday, shares of each underscored investors’ views on whether a shrinking loss or slowing profit was more attractive, with Sony bought before its statement and Nintendo sold after its numbers.Still, Nintendo, which began as a cardmaker and may have a thing for trumps, held its analyst briefing Friday at the same hour as Sony’s earnings, debuting the DSi LL. This followed a Nintendo price cut in September at nearly the same hour as Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai was addressing the Tokyo Game Show, an event the reigning game giant eschews.Before an interview with Reuters that day, console war veteran Hirai laughed when asked about Nintendo’s cut, adding: “Interesting timing.”Sony now has more than consoles on its plate in a battle to return to the black, but the hour is indeed  key and this year’s holiday push a game not to be missed.