The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


February 2014

Fiesta Returns to Japan After Long Absence

Press1.02.14Ford Motor Company’s Fiesta compact is back in Japan despite failing a decade ago in a market dominated by powerful local brands that specialize in small cars (The Evening Sun, January 9).

Japan Ford President Toshio Morita, unveiling the ¥2.29 million model, said: “This is for those who might want a different kind of compact.”

Morita told reporters at a Tokyo cafe displaying the Fiesta, which was set to go on sale here on February 1, “Our business in Japan will become stronger.”

Ford stopped marketing the Fiesta in Japan after selling just 2,800 of them from 2004 to 2007. The Fiesta is one of Ford’s top-selling models, with more than 720,000 sold worldwide a year.

Last year, Ford sold 3,500 vehicles in Japan, about half of them Explorer sport-utility vehicles. Ford has managed to increase Japan sales every year for the past four years.

Morita and other Ford officials stressed the Fiesta’s efficient 1.0 liter engine called EcoBoost, “kinetic” exterior design and trademark driving performance.

Ford will also introduce the EcoSport sport-utility vehicle later this year, bringing to eight the Ford models sold in Japan, including the Mustang and Focus.

Toyota Tops Best-selling List of 2013

Press2.02.14Toyota Motor Corporation’s Aqua hybrid compact car was the top-selling vehicle in Japan, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association and the Japan Mini Vehicles Association’s survey of new vehicles sold in the country last year (The Japan Times, January 9).

With 262,367 Aqua cars sold, Toyota’s Prius hybrid was pushed to second place (253,711 units), having been the best-selling car for four years in a row until 2012.

Nine of the top 10 vehicles were hybrids or minicars.

Life-logging App Released

Press3.02.14Sony Corporation has launched at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas its Lifelog software that charts a person’s activities on an interactive timeline (Technology Insider, January 8).

The app is Sony’s interpretation of the quantified self—the ability to better understand and change behaviors by gathering data about ourselves.

The system records when a user speaks to friends, receives emails, watches a movie, and carries out other smartphone-related actions.

The app receives data from a small piece of wearable hardware called the Core, which acts as an activity tracker. It contains an accelerometer that always needs to be worn to provide data about the user’s movements.

Information gathered can then be used to work out what they were doing and how many calories were burned.

The device also features LED lights and a vibration motor to alert the owner to notifications sent to their phone. A life bookmark button can be pressed to highlight special moments on the timeline.

Users can get information on time spent doing different activities to help them make informed choices.

Tokyo to Lend US $4 billion to Build First Super-Maglev High-speed Train

Press4.02.14The Japanese government will provide loans totaling about $4 billion to the United States to build the first Super-Maglev train to run between Baltimore and Washington DC (Los Angeles Times, January 7).

The 40-mile (64-kilometer) journey between the two cities, which now takes one hour by conventional rail link, will take just 15 minutes by high-speed train.

The Japanese government and the Central Japan Railway Company hope to use the project to showcase what they believe will be the transportation technology of the future.

Maglev (magnetic levitation) vehicles are propelled along their track through electromagnetic pull, removing friction and providing a smoother, quieter ride at a faster speed.

Tokyo is hoping the US maglev train will be operational within the next decade and will serve as a symbol of US–Japan cooperation.

Google Robot Wins 3/11 Rescue Challenge

An android developed by Google-owned and Tokyo-based Schaft Inc. has won the two-day DARPA Robotics Challenge near Miami, Florida (GlobalPost, December 22).

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was inspired to organize the event after realizing that robots had only played a very limited role in efforts to contain the 2011 meltdown of nuclear reactors in Fukushima.

The Japanese start-up’s machine carried out all eight rescue-themed tasks to outscore its 16 rivals by a wide margin.

Schaft and seven of the other top scorers can now apply for investment of up to $1 million from DARPA to improve their robots’ skills before the December finals.

To spur development of more adept robots, the agency challenged contestants to complete a series of tasks, with a time limit of 30 minutes for each.

Schaft’s 1.48m tall, two-legged robot employs a new high-voltage, liquid-cooled motor technology that is powered by a capacitor, rather than a battery. This allows its arms to move at higher speeds than would otherwise be possible.

Launch of Futenma Tenders 

Japanese defense authorities in Okinawa are launching bids for projects related to the relocation of the US Marine’s Futenma Air Station within the island prefecture (NHK, January 21).

The Okinawa regional defense bureau has publicized details of tenders for three projects in Nago City, where the government plans to build an alternative airfield.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima approved the government’s request to reclaim land off the Henoko district in Nago for the airfield.

The bureau is planning tenders for embankment design, a survey of corals and the sea mammal dugong, and studies of preservation measures.

Defense officials are also preparing to announce a tender for a coastal drilling survey in Henoko.