The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


On June 9, a cabinet-level decision was reached on the “guidelines for robustness,” a working theme for management of economic and fiscal operations. Centered on free preschool and reform of universities, these guidelines will be key pillars in the “investments in human resources” being emphasized by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Nobuteru Ishihara, Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization, remarked, “With the low birthrate and aging of society ongoing, investments in people must be made to raise productivity.” The first thing that the robustness guidelines will aim for is free preschool—something many feel is likely to achieve favorable results.

The government’s emphasis on education is based on the view that, unless high value-added human resources can be developed, Japan—with its shrinking population—will be unable to stave off economic decline. Even if such advanced human resources are developed, these efforts will be meaningless unless the results can be linked to actual economic activities.

Achieving this will require moving ahead with the adoption of an infrastructure system for assisting in job changes and clarification of rules for dismissal.

On the other hand, some take the view that—due to the severe shortage of skilled workers in construction, for example—if free higher education is to be adopted, priority should be given to vocational schools to put emphasis on training skilled workers (page 14). Some have expressed the view that, to develop university instructors who will be effective for human resources, industry and academia tie-ups with technical experts at companies with leading-edge technical knowledge should be included.

The budget for FY2018 is proceeding with an eye to the government’s guidelines for robustness. Along with determining which fields should receive investment for nurturing human resources, emphasis on deregulation and a systematic infrastructure to bring about reforms in the labor market will be needed.


The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA), attached to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, may use the same kind of survey to calculate the number of travelers staying in private homes (minpaku) as is currently used to compile accommodation statistics for hotels and ryokan. The goal is to get a better grasp of the actual number of travelers. Current data suggests that the number of people being accommodated is not increasing, despite the growth in foreign visitors.

While the government has set an annual target of 40 million foreign visitors by 2020, the consensus is that current statistical data is insufficient to formulate an effective strategy. With more detailed data, the consumption trends and travel routes of foreign visitors can be better understood, enabling tie-ups between the national government and regions.

Thus far, efforts to grasp travel data have been unsuccessful. According to JTA, although the number of visitors to Japan this year—nearly 14 million by June—indicates record-breaking growth, the agency’s survey on hotel statistics shows a decline in the number of foreign visitors, completely at odds with port-of-entry data.

The variance, it is supposed, can be attributed to the increase in minpaku stayers. Airbnb reports 2.5 times more users in Japan during 2016 compared with the previous year, surpassing 3.7 million. Should a “law regulating accommodations at residences” be implemented, minpaku operators will be obliged to register in their respective prefectures and submit periodic reports regarding the number of days for which service was provided, thereby enabling the government to better understand the actual situation.

Minpaku are not to be entirely blamed for the divergence in figures, for travel patterns have also diversified as travelers expand into activities not included in the tally, such as sleeping aboard cruise ships, overnighting on long-distance buses, and spending nights in Internet cafés. With higher charges for hotels in the cities, foreign visitors have begun seeking cheaper accommodations, forcing the government into an ongoing game of “hide-and-seek” to grasp actual conditions.

Keizaikai magazine