The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



Kyoto Prize Announced
Press4The 30th annual Kyoto Prize was awarded to two US scientists and one Japanese artist (Business Wire, November 20).

Recognizing their lifelong contributions to society, each laureate received a 20-karat-gold medal and ¥50 million.

Robert Langer is a biomedical engineer with more than 800 patents, while Edward Witten, a theoretical physicist, has made outstanding contributions to mathematical science through his 30-plus-year exploration of superstring theory. Fukumi Shimura is a dyeing and weaving artist who founded a school and tells stories with her kimono artwork.

The Kyoto Prize is Japan’s highest private award, and is supported by the nonprofit Inamori Foundation. To date the prize has honored 96 individuals and one foundation, collectively representing 16 nations.

First Oil in Four Years
The US shale oil boom has enabled Japan to import US oil for the first time in four years (BusinessWeek, November 27).

An export ban on US oil has been in place for nearly 40 years, but producers and consumers are finding ways around this in their quest to reduce reliance on Middle East suppliers. Cosmo Oil Co. received Japan’s first shipment of US condensate, a lightly processed form of crude, in late October.

The recent surplus of crude from US shale formations is reshaping decades-old trading routes and helping Asian buyers diversify their supply chain.

Pharma Firm Buys Partner
A Japanese drugmaker plans to buy US-based Avanir Pharmaceuticals to help expand its neurological drug offerings (Fortune, December 2).

Otsuka Holdings agreed to the deal for about $3.5 billion, largely because the patent for one of its most profitable drugs, Abilify, will expire in 2015. Abilify brought in $5 billion in revenues in 2013, about 40 percent of total sales.

Avanir develops drugs that treat central nervous system conditions, making the firm a good fit for Otsuka and its future ambitions. The Japanese company currently specializes in drugs to treat mental illnesses.

Tokyo’s $3 Billion Diversity Fund
Japan’s ambassador to Jamaica has announced a $3 billion fund for promoting women’s independence, in a speech where he also extolled the Japan–US alliance (Jamaica Observer, December 7).

Ambassador Yasuo Takase was speaking at an event marking the 50th anniversary of Japan–Jamaica diplomatic relations. He reiterated Tokyo’s three main foreign policy pillars, as stated by Foreign Affairs Minister Fumio Kishida: strengthening the Japan–US alliance, deepening Japan’s cooperation with neighboring countries, and bolstering economic diplomacy as a means of revitalizing the domestic economy.

The $3 billion reflects one of the guiding principles of the Shinzo Abe administration, Takase said, namely the empowerment of women domestically and internationally.

Mooove over McDonald’sFunny cow is protruding her tongue
Sales of beef offal, particularly cow tongue, from the United States have sharply rebounded since Japan lifted its 11-year ban on US beef in 2013 (, December 8).

In 2013, beef-tongue exports jumped nearly 150 percent over the previous year. Tongue belongs to the category of meat known as offal, which also includes internal organs, delicacies prized in Japan but rejected by most US palates.

Offal sells for about $8 a pound in Japan, but only 50 cents a pound in America. The hottest location for gyutan (beef tongue) in Japan is currently Sendai, which has over 100 beef-tongue restaurants, including a shop that invented and sells cow-tongue ice cream.

Japan now ranks as the top foreign market for US cattle producers, in terms of both volume and value.