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PRESS | US–JAPAN NEWS

May 2014
Hilton Worldwide Extends Soap Reuse Scheme

Press-1Hilton Worldwide plans to expand its global soap recycling initiative to all 10 of its Japan hotels through its RePurpose program (press release, March 23).

As part of its corporate responsibility strategy, Travel with Purpose, the hotel group has partnered with the US-based Global Soap Project since 2011, and diverts waste soap from landfills through reuse and recycling, before sending it to communities in need.

Timothy Soper, vice president of Hilton Worldwide said: “Through this program, we hope to continue to increase environmental awareness among our team members and business partners alike and, in so doing, enable our guests to make sustainable choices when they travel.”

Since October 2013 and together with Hong Kong-based NPO Soap Cycling, Hilton Worldwide’s 1,000-strong housekeeping team in Japan has already collected 2.3 tons of soap left after guests check out from more than 5,300 hotel rooms across the country. Soap Cycling processes collected soap waste to create new bars and deliver them to underprivileged communities in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

Through the initiative, 20,000 new bars of soap were manufactured; some of these were directed to disaster-stricken communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last November.

David Bishop, founder and chairman of Soap Cycling, said, “Soap is a truly life-saving item. Research shows that simple hand washing in homes, hospitals, schools, and elsewhere saves 900,000 lives annually by preventing hygiene-related diseases.”

The hotels participating in the soap recycling program in Japan are: Conrad Tokyo, DoubleTree by Hilton Naha, Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk, Hilton Nagoya, Hilton Niseko Village, Hilton Odawara, Hilton Osaka, Hilton Tokyo, Hilton Tokyo Bay, and Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport.

Fast Food: Most Popular Chains

Press-2The reigning king of fast food in Japan is Mos Burger, while McDonald’s is a close second (Niconico News, March 18).

According to a survey of adults conducted by the video-sharing website, some 45.1 percent of respondents indicated they prefer Japan’s Mos Burger. Some of those surveyed believe the hamburger chain uses higher-quality ingredients, while others said they appreciate that some burgers are offered with grilled rice patties instead of buns.

McDonald’s, headquartered in the United States, garnered 37 percent of the votes. These respondents said the consistent taste and low price keep them coming back to the world’s largest hamburger fast food chain, while those with bigger appetites noted that the Big Mac set and other larger meal sets are a big draw.

In third place is Freshness Burger (3.8 percent), with Lotteria in fourth place (3.6 percent), and Burger King fifth (2.5 percent). Bringing up the rear are First Kitchen (1.9 percent) in sixth place, Dom Dom Burger in seventh (0.8 percent), and American transplant Wendy’s last (0.4 percent).

However, the survey results don’t necessarily reflect market share in Japan. In terms of sales, McDonald’s is still the undisputed market leader over Mos Burger.

Search Engine Unveils Works by Manga Artist

Google Cultural Institute has unveiled a collection of works by the legendary Japanese manga artist, Osamu Tezuka (Asia Travel Today, April 8).

Google offers free access to valuable historic documents and other materials on its website, and it is the first time the site has featured an artist from the manga genre.

The collection from the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazuka City, Western Japan, became accessible online on April 7—the birthday of Astro Boy, hero of one of Tezuka’s most cherished manga series.

The site offers free access to images of the late manga artist’s major works in chronological order. More than 170 items can be viewed, including Tezuka’s printed materials, original manuscripts, and photographs depicting his work and life.

Google Cultural Institute Director Amit Sood said unveiling Tezuka’s work is a significant step. Sood hopes to introduce more manga and anime, which are considered Japanese cultural assets.

Sony to Offer TV-style Programs

Sony’s PlayStation Network has followed online media giants Netflix, Inc. and Amazon.com, Inc. in commissioning its first original drama series (Japan Today, March 22).

Powers, based on a comic book of the same name, combines the genres of superhero fantasy, crime noir, and police procedural, and is to be produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

Sony is aiming to compete with its main video games console rival Microsoft’s Xbox Live in offering TV-style programming.

Sony’s new show is described as a one-hour drama that is, according to a company statement, “set in a world full of people with superhuman abilities and where all of those powers are just another catalyst for mayhem and murder.”

A detective investigates cases “involving the God-like men and women, referred to as ‘powers,’ who glide through the sky on lightning bolts and fire and who clash above cities in epic battle, oblivious to the mortals below.”

Netflix was the first streaming service to commission its own original shows early last year with political drama House of Cards, followed by Amazon with character-driven political sitcom Alpha House in November.

Amazon Offers Alcohol

Press-3Amazon Japan K.K. has started direct sales of more than 6,000 alcoholic beverages, including wine and beer, at its online shopping site (The Japan News, April 9).

The new service can sometimes deliver beverages to customers the same day the order is placed.
The company now sells over 150,000 alcoholic drinks, including beverages offered by stores that sell through the shopping site.

Direct sales of sake and whisky, in particular, have been strengthened. On offer are more than 1,000 kinds of sake, including brands from all 47 prefectures, as well as 300 kinds of single malt whisky.

ACCJ Proposes New Regular Employee Contract Option

Press-4The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) has issued a viewpoint titled “Add Flexibility to the Labor Contract Law to Address Burgeoning Social Inequality While Spurring Economic Growth” (press release, April 10).

The viewpoint calls on the Japanese government to create a new type of regular employee contract for full-time workers to enhance the country’s labor mobility, an essential factor for economic growth.

The ACCJ said the proposed new regular employee contract will allow companies and employees to conclude labor contracts of indeterminate duration, as long as in case of dismissal the employee is compensated with the immediate payment of a pre-contracted and legally enforceable amount of severance pay that is based on his or her total years of service at the company.

The ACCJ also proposes the following formula to set the minimum amount of such severance pay, and to ensure that it is paid to employees in addition to unemployment insurance benefits:

Years of Service: 0 to 2
Minimum Required Severance Payment: Number of years of service x 0.5 months’ salary
Years of Service: <2
Minimum Required Severance Payment: Number of years of service x 0.5 months’ salary, with an absolute minimum payment of 2 months’ salary

Because Japan’s existing labor system is split between employees with the only type of regular (seishain) contract available, and temporary/non-regular (hiseiki-shain) employees, the system lacks mobility and flexibility, factors linked to impeding economic growth.

The current system also contributes to a widening social and economic gap between the two groups of workers, as companies are becoming increasingly less inclined to hire employees on a traditional, regular basis.

Nicholas Benes, chair of the ACCJ’s Growth Strategy Task Force, said: “Adding the new type of regular employee contract option to the labor system will give both the employers and the employees more flexibility and choice, and this will facilitate gravely needed mobility in Japan’s labor market.

“Further, such a change will help ease inequalities and inefficiencies currently found in the labor market, and make it easier for both Japanese and foreign companies alike to invest, and hire employees, in Japan.”

Benes added: “It is important to note that this newly proposed type of labor contract would simply be an additional option for companies. It would not affect the existing categories of regular and non-regular employees, or the rights of those employees, nor would it prevent companies from continuing to use those categories in any way.”