The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


December 2013

The Tokyo American Club (TAC) has achieved its highest-ever recurring earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for the fiscal year ending September 2013 (press release, November 19).

The club’s EBITDA was ¥793 million, up ¥298 million (59 percent) on a recurring basis. As of September 30, the dues-paying membership totaled 3,664, representing a year-on-year increase of 367 members (11 percent). Meanwhile, revenues for the period were ¥4.4 billion, a rise of ¥553 million (14 percent) year on year.

John Durkin, club president and representative governor, said: “These favorable results reflect our efforts to reinforce the club’s financial foundation, increase member benefits, and grow our community of members.

“Fiscal year 2013 results are the first step to ensuring TAC’s sustainability, vitality, and long-term ability to contribute to cultural exchange between the United States and Japan.

“I would like to thank all TAC members, management, and staff for a successful year.”

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman spoke at the 50th US–Japan Business Conference in Washington on November 14 about the changes in the US–Japan economic relationship over the past 50 years, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) (Office of the United States Trade Representative, November 15).

Froman told attendees of the annual event: “A few months ago, on my first trip to Asia as US Trade Representative, my first stop was in Japan because Japan plays such a central role in the global economy, in the emerging architecture of Asia and in the TPP.

“Now more than ever, we’ve got the potential to put our economic relationship on a solid, positive trajectory. 

“We have taken some important steps in that direction, but there is much work to do.

“We have worked through the Economic Harmonization Initiative to remove important barriers to trade and investment, as well as to pursue new agreements with Japan creating new opportunity—ranging from high-standard trade principles for information and communication technology services to a recently concluded equivalence arrangement on organic agricultural products. And we have expanded our cooperation in areas like healthcare by, for example, improving the effectiveness and availability of new vaccines in Japan.

“But the greatest potential avenue for our work together is through the TPP. 

“The TPP will provide strategic and economic benefits to both our countries, while strengthening our bilateral ties. US exports to Japan reached a record high last year.

“But the TPP’s strategic and economic importance reaches far beyond the United States and Japan.

“While the substance and the ambition of our negotiations will ultimately drive the timing of a deal—and we are certainly not going to agree to a bad deal just to meet a deadline—the TPP negotiators are working around the clock to resolve the remaining issues and bring these negotiations to a close this year and with the objective of closing them this year.

“Now is the time for political leaders in all of the TPP countries to take the tough decisions required of those who wish to set the standards, to define the rules of the road and to shape the future—for their own countries, for the Asia-Pacific region and for the trading system itself.

“By definition, completing the TPP in a manner that reflects ambition, high standards and strong disciplines will be tough. But this is the moment for all the TPP countries to demonstrate that they have the political will to get it done.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a radioactive imaging chemical from General Electric to help screen for Alzheimer’s disease (Japan Today, October 28).

The drug, Vizamyl, is designed to highlight abnormal brain plaque (beta amyloid protein) in medical imaging scans.

Dementia caused by Alzheimer’s is associated with buildup of the plaque. However, it can also be found in patients who do not have neurological problems.

Vizamyl works by binding to the plaque and creating images that show up on positron emission tomography scans of the brain.

According to the FDA, a negative scan means there is little plaque and the cause of dementia is probably not Alzheimer’s. A positive scan means the patient has some plaque, but doesn’t prove they have Alzheimer’s.

Coca-Cola Japan has introduced its hot ginger ale in the hopes of lifting demand for carbonated drinks in winter (NHK World, October 23).

According to beverage makers, winter sales of soft drinks are roughly half those of summer.

The company believes it has found a way to ensure that its hot ginger ale won’t scald consumers’ hands when they open the can. Officials say they’ve discovered a way to match carbonation with a heated drink.

Toyota Motor Corporation’s chameleon-like vehicle, which changes color according to the driver’s mood, suggests destinations based on facial expressions, and warns of cars in blind spots, will go on display at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show (press release, November 6).

The car, code named Toyota FV2, uses applications that engineers believe may have resulted from the automaker’s research into humanoid robots and their use of facial and voice recognition.

Toyota has joined other automakers, including General Motors Company LLC, in introducing computer-assisted technology that helps reduce accidents and human error on the road, and may eventually allow cars to drive themselves.

At the Tokyo show, the Japanese car manufacturer also plans to display a concept version of a hydrogen-powered car as a preview of the fuel-cell vehicle it plans to introduce in 2015.

Apple Inc. now commands a 34 percent market share in Japan—the first time in a decade a smartphone brand has surpassed the 30 percent mark for market share in the country (Japan Today, November 3).

The country’s smartphone market has typically been dominated by domestic companies, including Sony Corporation and Sharp Corporation and, until the past quarter, Apple didn’t hold much sway here.

Apple skyrocketed from third place in Japan’s mobile handset market to the top spot, partially because the iPhone finally was launched on NTT DoCoMo, the nation’s largest wireless carrier.

In September the iPhone 5s became Japan’s best-selling smartphone, with about 500,000 sold.

Meanwhile, to compete with DoCoMo, other Japanese carriers offered massive discounts and incentives on the iPhone 5.

Although Japan isn’t a large market for Apple, investors should be happy to see that the company can make large gains in markets previously dominated by domestic brands.