Tuesday Dispatch #4: advertising insurance badly, Vietnam, phasing out fossil fuels and a music box

Ross Hall

November 2, 2021

Photograph of 3 people on a concrete pier. One is a model and poses, the other two check a camera.

Japan is as close to a one-party state as a democracy can get, with the LDP spending most of the past six decades in power. That winning streak looks set to continue for a while yet with this week’s win in the General Election. Despite calls for change, frustration over former Prime Minister Suga’s handling of Covid, and concerns around rising inequality, the electorate handed KISHIDA Fumio a full majority in the lower house.

There’s a lot of priorities in Kishida’s to-do list. Restarting a stalled economy, addressing climate change, and dragging the country into the digital era, are high on the list. Maybe as important is the country must end its frustrating period of isolation.

Tens of thousands of people are waiting to enter the country to take up jobs, start their studies or reunite with loved ones. So far Japan has been reluctant to allow entry, at one point recording single digital immigration levels. It’s an issue that’s been raised at the highest levels.

There are signs a loosening is on its way. Reports are circulating suggesting the new Kishida Government is considering opening the borders to students and businesspeople. Quarantine periods for the full vaccinated could fall from 10 days to 3. Tourism is expected to be excluded from plans, at least for now.

While these are positive and practical steps, there is another issue to address: the damage done to Japan’s global reputation. The abrupt closure of the border, its duration and the impact on non-Nationals will be hard to forget. Even now, as restrictions ease, there are those in the country nervous about leaving it in case another surge brings closures and leaves them stranded.

Let’s hope that while we might not have seen a change in ruling party, we will see a change in attitude towards the non-Japanese.


Image above: a photoshoot on a pier in Ako Misaki.

9 tonnes of plastic removed from the Pacific.

Boyan Slat has spent a decade dreaming up ways of removing the plastic waste building up in the Pacific Ocean. A quirk of currents has created so-called “plastic islands” where large quantities have gathered, and plastic is ripe for harvesting.

It appears his latest invention has successfully recovered several tonnes of the stuff. Slat’s now predicting most of the islands can be cleared within the next two decades.

Read more on the Good News Network.

Meta Matrix arrives…

Cringefest time at Facebook as they announced the “Metaverse”. Basically Second Life for people who don’t mind their data being sold, it’s been mocked and lampooned relentlessly.

There’s little doubt it’ll succeed given who’s behind it. Question is whether it’ll be successful enough to fill a possible gap in revenue as users start turning away. Bigger question is where it will end up in what seems like an increasingly certain break up of the behemoth.

Graphic satirising the Facebook Meta Logo as the opening title to The Matrix
My riff on Facebook’s new “Meta” brand.

Is there a place for the private sector in phasing out fossil fuels?

The Asian Development Bank has starting funding buy-outs of coal plants. The aim is to help developing nations fund renewable projects by buying polluting plants, then manage their withdrawal from the grid over several years. Previous attempts have been less than successful as countries have simply ramped up generating from other parts of their coal fleet to cover the gap.

UK insurer Prudential is said to be identifying potential acquisitions. How phasing out a coal plant contributes to a pension fund remains to be seen.

Let’s hope this isn’t another way for Western companies to greenwash their own emissions.

Full article on China Dialogue.

Vietnam’s electronics sector posts bumper growth.

Vietnam’s electronics sector has continued to expand. Despite tough lockdowns and problems with supply chains, the sector has been surging, no doubt helped by worldwide demand for phones, TVs and computers.

Read more at the Phnom Penh Post.

UK Seafood trade with Japan won’t offset French losses.

UK Twitter blew up over the fishing situation with France. Alongside calls for war and withdrawing from the Brexit withdrawal agreement, was the idea Britain could sell its catch to the Japanese.

Like a red rag to a bull, I jumped up and wondered what the numbers look like. According to Fish Farmer Magazine, Japan bought £16.6 million worth of seafood from the UK in 2019. In the same year, France bought 93,700 tonnes and was a growth market.

It’s also worth noting, much of that Japanese purchase was farmed Salmon.

Graphic with a woman in a circle writing on a pad and various images to her right
My guide to using stock photography has been updated. Click the image to read more.

Japan’s start-ups hurt by Government money

Contrary to popular belief, Japan has a thriving start-up scene. It could be better though, particularly when it comes to breaking out of the border. Culture and language clearly plays a part, but so do does Government support. In particular, how funding filters through the university system is having a negative impact.

In a wide-ranging discussion, entrepreneur Dr Suga Hiroaki digs into his own success with PeptiDream, and why the University system is letting Japanese entrepreneurs down.

A key takeaway from this, although not explicitly stated, is there is opportunity for Western investors to step in and fill some of the gaps and solve problems Dr Suga speaks about.

Podcast and transcript at Disrupting Japan.

John Lewis offers a case study in misleading advertising.

A recent advert for John Lewis Insurance triggered a wave of anti-wokeness rants. It featured a child in a dress trashing a house and ran for almost two minutes.

While many condemned John Lewis for being “woke”, those of us with Compliance backgrounds were rolling our eyes. The Home Insurance policy being advertised didn’t cover the damage the child was causing, despite the soothing reassurances at the end.

The advert was pulled by John Lewis Insurance, with a suitable statement about learning lessons. I suspect one of those lessons should be how it got past compliance.

Black and white photograph of Kobe Port Tower from across the harbor at night
Kobe Port Tower at night. Prints are available on Redbubble and DeviantArt.

Can you fly in a wheelchair?

Travelling in a wheelchair on a plane is a pain. The user has to be hoisted out of their chair onto a narrower “aisle chair”, then transferred to the right seat. They can’t sit in certain places for safety reasons. Long haul flights gives rise to problems around compression sores and toilet breaks.

PriestmanGoode, a design company specialising in aircraft interiors, has launched a concept that aims to change that. In theory, a wheelchair user could stay in their seat from door-to-door, making life easier for everyone involved. Of course there are challenges, such as the width of the chair and aisles, survivability in a crash and moving around the cabin. It’s a good start though, and should encourage more accessibility and mobility solutions to be explored.

Full article on FastCompany

Buy and EV or retrofit an ICE?

I love my Suzuki Hustler, but in a few years it’ll be obsolete. Plans are already afoot to replace it with a BEV, but is there a better way?

Would it be better to retrofit the existing tin and keep the bubbly green bundle of fun on the road?

And finally: Fisher Price tear down reveals easter egg

The latest “let’s take this apart” from Foone is a Fisher Price record player. Some of us remember these first time around, and now the second generation is here with added batteries.

It’s worth reading, both for the easter egg, and the eventual conversion to MP3 player.

I'm Ross, a digital editorial designer and content creator from the UK now living in Japan. I help growing companies plan, source, produce and promote a range of content. Find out more

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