How COVID-19 is altering consumer behavior in Japan

Like millions of other Tokyoites enduring month after month of “soft lockdown,” Megumi Takesawa has been stocking up on non-perishables such as canned tuna, tomatoes, and corned beef as well as boil-in-the-bag curry. She also stores a wider selection of alcohol in her pantry now, from bottles of wine and sake to cases of beer, as dining out and gathering with colleagues after work for drinks have become a rarity.

Meanwhile, the 39-year-old office worker says she’s spending less on tickets for live concerts, movies, and theater performances, and has substantially cut down on vacation expenses, as long-distance travel is frowned upon. She also tries to buy books from local bookstores so the smaller shops won’t go out of business, and, in order to stay fit while working remotely, she’s taken up jogging.

Some hygiene practices that have become commonplace over the past year to curb the risk of contagion will likely stick, Takesawa says.

“I think I’ll be carrying around disinfectant sprays and wet wipes regularly even after the pandemic,” she says.

COVID-19 is upending Japanese shopping habits like never before. Stay-at-home requests, social distancing measures, and the surge in remote work have seen consumers reprioritizing what is essential.

Healthy dietary and lifestyle choices, as well as demand for home cooking and baking, have seen products such as protein powder and flour fly off the shelves while the ubiquitous use of face masks has hammered cosmetics sales. And with physical contact being largely avoided, more people are swapping supermarkets for online shops.

A Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo’s Nihombashi neighborhood is closed during the state of emergency in April 2020. | KYODO

For corporations buoyed or burdened by the phenomenon, the big question they are asking themselves is whether these trends are temporary or here to stay.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Toshimitsu Kiji, a data analyst at market research firm Intage Inc. The company collects weekly sales data from approximately 4,000 retail outlets nationwide, including supermarkets, convenience stores, and drug stores, to assess consumer trends.

According to figures it compiled for the whole of 2020, sales of face masks, disinfectants, and thermometers jumped by 380%, 296%, and 255% year on year, respectively. While that may be unsurprising considering the ongoing pandemic, more unexpected products also made its top-30 list of highest-selling goods last year.

At the sixth place on its list is “malt beverages,” which grew by 173%. Behind the spike was a social media-backed campaign purporting the health benefits of Milo, the malt-based chocolate drink produced by Nestle. Its sudden popularity saw the powdered product disappear from supermarkets, with opportunists selling them at a premium on resale sites.

“Snacks produced by toymakers” come in at No. 7, with sales climbing 154% compared to 2019. Kiji says the phenomenon was partially the result of people flocking to snacks that come with stickers and other toys that feature characters from “Demon Slayer,” the manga and anime series that was the basis for a film released last year became the biggest-ever box-office hit in Japanese history.

Protein powder follows in eighth place with a 141% surge.

“From around June last year, young women began buying soy protein powders in order to stay in shape during the pandemic,” Kiji explains. “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle while remote working has been a big topic affecting shopping trends.

“Others on the list include non-perishables such as frozen seafood as well as whipping cream and baking mix for home cooking purposes. With people spending more time at home, we saw sales of detergent, deodorants, and dehumidifiers grow,” he says. “And with restaurants facing closures and asked to curtail business hours during a state of emergencies, alcohol sales have been robust.”

Sales of face masks in Japan rose 380% in the 2020 year on year, according to figures compiled by market research firm Intage Inc. | REUTERS

Meanwhile, cosmetics took a hit in 2020, with lipstick faring the worst with sales down by more than half at 42% compared to the previous year. Sales of face blushes, foundations and makeup bases also plunged to 63%, 68%, and 72% year on year, respectively, with fewer opportunities to go out and people encouraged to work from home. Drugs for motion sickness fell out of demand as trips became less frequent, while better hygiene over virus fears put a damper on common cold medicine.

“Sales of chewing gum and candies — things often purchased by office workers to stay alert during the day — have also fallen,” Kiji says.

So which products are going to maintain their edge when the pandemic subsides?

“It essentially comes down to goods that consumers feel are useful,” Kiji says. “For example, recent data suggests hair treatment products are gaining popularity. If people feel they can take care of their hair by themselves rather than frequently visiting beauty salons, that could become a lasting trend. The same goes for bath additives. If consumers feel they’re effective in relaxing and rejuvenating, they will continue using them even when they can freely go out without the worry of contagion.”

A report on the impact COVID-19 is having on Japanese consumer behavior compiled by Nomura Research Institute (NRI) says stockpiling of non-perishables will likely decelerate as the pandemic subsides, but home cooking will still be popular and interest in healthy eating is expected to continue growing. Sales of large television sets and other home entertainment audio-visual systems are expected to remain strong, while the outdoor activities boom may see demand for SUVs rise.

The outbreak is understandably accelerating spending on online services as well — not only shopping for daily necessities, but also for games and video-on-demand streaming and rental services.

Hiroyuki Hayashi, a consultant at NRI and an expert on consumer trends, says the ratio of those surveyed by the think tank who are subscribers to Amazon Prime, for example, jumped by 6 percentage points from 16% to 22% in the two months from March to May last year.

“Prior to that, it took two years for the ratio of subscribers to grow 3 percentage points, so this was quite a surprise,” he says. “It shows how the first state of emergency issued last April turbocharged digitalization in Japan.”

Online shopping, banking, and free video-streaming services such as YouTube have all seen strong demand, Hayashi says, although there’s a catch.

“Online shopping activity remains strong amid the pandemic, but the number of money users spends per transaction has decreased,” he says. “Whereas people used to buy in bulk when shopping online, they are now buying more frequently in smaller quantities.”

Surveys conducted by NRI in December 2018 and December 2020 showed that the number of times respondents said they shopped online annually grew from 33.8 to 37.4. In terms of the amount spent per transaction, however, the figure dropped to ¥2,136 from ¥2,484.

“When analyzing the number of transactions and payment amounts, we notice purchasing activity is most robust among youths,” Hayashi says. “Those in their teens, for example, spend roughly ¥600 on average per transaction, while those in their 20s typically spend around ¥1,000.”

China leads the pack with one of the most sophisticated digital ecosystems in the world. According to Mckinsey & Company’s China consumer report 2021, the nation has more than 850 million internet users, with mobile payment penetration triple that of the United States. It also boasts the world’s largest e-commerce market, accounting for about 45% of global retail e-commerce transaction value in 2018.

The report says around 55% of Chinese consumers are likely to continue buying more groceries online after the peak of the crisis. The consulting giant said that, according to its mobile survey, 74% of Chinese citizens increased their online grocery visit frequency during the pandemic, and 15% said they will increase visits after its peak has passed.

Japan, in the meantime, has been a slow starter when it comes to digital payments. Cash remains king, and contactless transactions including credit cards and smartphone apps account for only 20% of personal spending, according to 2016 data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. That’s compared to over 95% in South Korea and nearly 70% in the United Kingdom.

Hayashi of NRI says surveys show that even during the pandemic, the Japanese have been relatively hesitant compared to other developed nations in using services such as online learning, telemedicine, and smart speakers. But when users were asked whether they plan on utilizing these services after the pandemic, a large portion was optimistic.

“Digitalization will be here to stay,” he says. “Japanese tend to be reluctant to spend money on new services, but once they do and realize the benefits they can enjoy, they tend to become loyal customers.

“Internet shopping will also take a stronghold, especially when movement has been restricted for so long,” he says.

“There’s no comparable event in modern history that has impacted consumer behavior at this scale,” Hayashi adds, expressing concern that a growing digital divide and financial hardships endured by many during the crisis could exacerbate economic inequality.

“I fear the economic fallout from the pandemic will widen the wealth gap.”

The outbreak is already taking a severe toll. According to the health ministry, as of early April, more than 100,000 people have been dismissed or seen their employment contracts terminated without renewal.

Under the circumstances, job insecurity is likely to remain high especially among workers in the manufacturing, retail, and restaurant industries that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. That, in turn, is impacting consumer behavior.

In order to understand how the pandemic is changing consumer psychology, online market researcher Macromill Inc. launched its own consumer segment — the With COVID-19 Segment — in December. It features six segments based on analyzing the company’s 1.3 million consumer panel.

These include average consumers (33%) who are adapting to the new lifestyle yet feeling stressed and inconvenienced, as well as those who are “home nesting” to avoid virus risks but are struggling with their social lives (14%) and feeling financially pinched (14%). The latter two segments are mostly women in their 40s and below.

Then there are the digital natives in higher income brackets who have quickly adapted to the “new normal” (15%) and those who have taken the pandemic in stride (11%) without letting the crisis get in the way of their personal lives and hobbies. The latter segment is led by men in their 40s to 60s.

Finally, there’s the segment composed mainly of men in their 30s and younger who are feeling inconvenienced by virus-induced restrictions but nevertheless continue to go out and meet with like-minded people (13%).

Tomoyuki Shibuya, a senior consultant at Macromill, says half of the six segments representing roughly a third of all consumers surveyed are enduring a lower quality of life amid the outbreak compared to the rest that is typified by older men and high-income white-collar types.

“Those feeling financially strained are most often members of small to midsize businesses that are facing the wrath of the pandemic,” he says. “This divide will likely remain after the crisis. Japan has long been described as a middle-class society, but that may no longer be the case.”

Source: Japan Times

society expo

Society 5.0 Expo showcases Japan’s advanced technologies

The Cabinet Office on Thursday launched the Society 5.0 Expo jointly with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) at Tokyo Skytree Town. This is expected to be Japan’s first major expo to focus on Society 5.0. The expo will also be viewable online with multilingual explanations for the global audience.

The expo will showcase the Society 5.0 concept proposed by the Japanese government as a highly desirable future society. The  concept envisions the creation of a human-centered society in which all industries and other areas of society adopt AI, IoT, robots, big data and other innovative technologies to overcome critical challenges. The Cabinet Office’s 6th Science, Technology and Innovation Basic Plan covering fiscal 2021 to 2025 sets forth the direction of science, technology and  innovation policies to secure sustainability, resilience and the well-being of diverse individuals. 

The expo will present achievements being realized through national projects focused on increasing innovation in society,  including the cross-ministerial strategic innovation promotion program (SIP) and the ImPACT program for stimulating high risk, high-impact R&D. Japan’s scientific and technological aspirations will be conveyed through numerous displays of  advanced technologies. 

Specifically, some 50 leading Japanese companies, universities and organizations will exhibit approximately 200 products  and research achievements that are expected to contribute not only to Society 5.0 but also the U.N.’s Sustainable Development  Goals. The exhibits will cover fields such as mobility, healthcare and caregiving, manufacturing, agriculture, food, disaster  prevention and energy, including:  

• Asteroid-explorer Hayabusa2’s returned capsule  

• Full-scale model of SHINKAI 6500 submersible piloted to 6,500 meters undersea 

• SkyDrive flying car 

• Honda Legend Level-3 autonomous vehicle with high-definition 3D mapping 

• Model of small synthetic-aperture radar satellite system for on-demand launches and instant observation

• HAL wearable cyborg that transmits brain signals to human muscles for assistance with physical functions

• Disaster-prevention systems for heavy rain and tornado forecasting and ICT-based information sharing

• Smart agriculture technology, such as an automated water supply and drainage system 

International viewers will be welcome to enjoy the many exhibits viewable online via mobile devices and PCs, supported  with explanations available in a number of languages. The organizers will be pleased to present the virtual exhibition as an  opportunity for the global community to learn more about Japan’s forward-looking Society 5.0 concept. 

Exhibits will be grouped under the follow themes: 

Stage 1 Prologue

The opening theme will present a full-scale model of the SHINKAI 6500 research submersible and a Dagik Earth three-dimensional digital globe, etc. Satellite-based technologies that are being deployed on a practical working basis in various sectors also will be introduced.

Stage 2 Science Frontiers — Space and Ocean

Exhibits of Japan’s world-class space-exploration technology will include models of the International Space Station, the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module, a full-scale rocket engine, and the Hayabusa2 return capsule.

Exhibits of Japan’s ocean exploration and environmental-simulation technology will include autonomous underwater vehicles for exploring hydrothermal vents and ocean-floor resources and advanced solutions for ocean research.

Stage 3 5.0 Society of the Future

Science and technologies developed through Japan’s SIP and ImPACT programs and how they will help to enhance life in five areas: 1) 100-year lifespans, 2) Mobility and social interaction, 3) Infrastructure for more resilient and safer life, 4) Human- and earth-friendly lifestyles and 5) Advanced manufacturing. Exhibits will include automated solutions such as robots, vehicles and drones, disaster-prevention systems such as AI for infrastructure inspections, robotic industrial borescopes, next-generation energy and resources such as ammonia fuel and ocean-floor minerals, and advanced materials such as synthetic spider silk and strong but flexible ultra-thin polymers.

Stage 4 Trajectory toward Society 5.0

The evolution of human civilization will be presented through videos and other visuals portraying Society 1.0 (hunting & gathering), 2.0 (agriculture), 3.0 (industry) and 4.0 (information) as well as 5.0 (at Tokyo Skytree Tembo Galleria, the closest point to space in Tokyo).

Stage 5 Society 5.0 Theater

Films from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and JAMSTEC will be aired. Also, researchers and experts will give presentations about science, oceans, disaster prevention and ICT for advanced technology and innovation.

Japanese employees

Is Thursday, the new Monday?

Last year, companies around the U.S. scrambled to figure out how to shut down their offices and set up their employees for remote work as the COVID-19 virus suddenly bore down on the world.

Now, in a mirror image, they are scrambling to figure out how to bring many of those employees back.

Most companies are proceeding cautiously, trying to navigate declining COVID-19 infections against a potential backlash by workers who are not ready to return.

Tensions have spilled into the public at a few companies where some staff has organized petitions or even walkouts to protest being recalled to the office. Many workers in high-demand fields, such as tech or customer service, have options amid a rise in job postings promising “remote work” — an alluring prospect for people who moved during the pandemic to be closer to family or in search of more affordable cities.

“A lot of people have relocated and don’t want to come back, ” said Chris Riccobono, the CEO of Untuckit LLC, a casual men’s clothing company. “There’s a lot of crazy stuff that is a big day-to-day pain point.”

Riccobono said he can’t wait to get his 100 corporate staffers back to the office in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood because he believes that productivity and morale are higher that way. Starting in September, the company will require those employees to report to the office Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays on the hope that the flexibility of a “hybrid” schedule will keep everyone happy.

Many others are similarly introducing a gradual return. Companies like Amazon and automakers Ford and General Motors have promised to adopt a hybrid approach permanently for their office staff, responding to internal and public surveys showing an overwhelming preference for work-from-home options.

But implementing a hybrid workplace can be a headache, from identifying which roles are most conducive to remote work to deciding which days of the week employees need to be in the office. There are client meetings to consider. And some business leaders argue newer employees need more face-time as they begin their careers or start new at at company.

“Thursday is the new Monday,” according to Salesforce, a San Francisco-based technology firm, which found that Thursday was the most popular day for employees to report to the office when the company reopened its Sydney offices back in August.

Riccobono, on the other hand, insists employees show up on Mondays to get organized and set the tone for the week. Like many employers, however, he acknowledges he is still figuring things out as he navigates uncharted territory.

“We will revisit in January, ” he said. “We will see how it works.”

Across the country, office buildings in the top 10 U.S. cities had an average occupancy rate of about 32% in late June, according to estimates from Kastle Systems a security company that monitors access-card wipes at some 2,600 buildings. In Manhattan, just 12% of office employees had returned as of late May, according to the latest survey by the Partnership for New York City, a non-profit organization of major business leaders and employers.

Romina Rugova, an executive at fashion brand Mansur Gavriel, enjoyed the tranquility as she sat on a riverside bench in lower Manhattan after a rare day back at the office for a meet-and-greet with the company’s newly hired head of e-commerce.

A mother of two, Rugova had mixed feelings about returning to the office. Seeing colleagues in person after so long was invigorating, and she did not always enjoy blurring her family and professional life.

“The challenge is you have to be three people at the same time. You have to be a professional, you have to be a cook, you have to be a cleaner, you have to be a mom,” Rugova said. “Being in the office after a while was so nice and refreshing. It’s completely different experience, you don’t realize it.”

But she doesn’t want to completely give up the three hours of extra time she saves without the commute. Many of her colleagues feel the same way, so Mansur Gavriel will likely implement a flexible policy when most of its 40 employees return to the office after Labor Day.

“We are still figuring it out,” Rugova said.

While most employers will accelerate their return-to-office plans over the summer, nearly 40% of office employees will still be working remotely in September, according to the Partnership for New York City’s survey.

The trend has raised concerns about an unequal economic recovery, given that working remotely is an option available to a privileged few. Only about 15% of workers teleworked because of the pandemic in June, according the U.S. Department of Labor’s monthly jobs report. Most work jobs at restaurants, schools, hospitals, factories and other places that require them to show up in person.

Some of large investment banks, which are top employers and office space tenants in New York City, are leading the push to bring employees back, taking a hardline approach in comparison with tech giants that have rolled out generous remote work policies.

Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said at a conference earlier this month that he would “be very disappointed if people haven’t found their way into the office” by Labor Day.

“If you can go a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office,” Gorman said, though he acknowledged that there should be flexibility for parents still struggling with childcare logistics that fell apart during the pandemic.

Gorman also made clear that he was not open to the “work from anywhere” mentality that some companies have adopted, saying employees who want to earn New York City salaries should work in the city. The CEOs of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs have made similar comments, sparking furious debate about whether they would push employees out the door.

It remains to be seen how deeply remote work policies will influence recruitment and retention. But professionals looking for flexibility are finding they have options.

Brecia Young, a data analytics scientist and mother of a 1-year-old child, had choices when she was looking to switch jobs from a small Chicago firm. She accepted an offer from Seattle-based real estate company Zillow in part because the company allowed her to work from home and stay in Chicago, where she and her husband have relatives to help with child care.

Japan looks to ease virus state of emergency ahead of Olympics

Japan expects to ease a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and most areas this weekend. New daily cases are falling just as the country begins making final preparations for the Olympics starting in just over a month.

Back in late March, Japan was struggling to slow down a wave of infections. New daily cases were soaring above 7000 at one point and seriously ill patients were filling up the hospitals in Tokyo, Osaka and other metropolitan areas.

Daily cases have since subsided significantly and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to downgrade the state of emergency when it expires on Sunday to a less-stringent quasi-emergency for several weeks.

Despite concerns raised by medical experts and the public over the potential risks of holding the Olympics, Suga has said he is determined to hold a “safe and secure” games starting July 23.

Holding the Olympics before elections in the autumn is also a political gamble for Suga, whose support ratings have tumbled due to public dissatisfaction over his virus measures, a vaccination drive criticized as being too slow, and lack of a clear explanation of how he will ensure the virus doesn’t spread during the Olympics.

Government-appointed experts met Wednesday to analyze the situation ahead of Suga’s decision on the emergency measures and expressed concern about the potential for infections to climb again after measures are eased. Suga is expected to make a final decision Thursday after more meetings.

Suga placed Tokyo, Osaka and two other areas under a state of emergency in late April and has since expanded the area to 10 prefectures and extended the measures twice. Japan does not enforce hard lockdowns and the state of emergency allows prefectural leaders to order closures or shorter hours for non-essential business in return for compensation to those who comply and fines for violators. Stay-at-home and other measures for the general population are only requests and are increasingly ignored.

Ryuji Wakita, the director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases who heads a government COVID-19 advisory board, said infections have decreased in many areas, but the slowing has bottomed out in the Tokyo region. He warned that infections could increase after an easing of the measures. He said signs of a rebound are already seen among younger people.

Even as more people are vaccinated and most of the country’s 36 million senior citizens are expected to be fully inoculated by the end of July, younger people are largely unvaccinated and infections among them could quickly burden hospitals, Wakita said.

“In order to prevent another upsurge, it is crucial to prevent the people from roaming around during the Olympics and summer vacation,” he said. Experts say it is crucial to accelerate the vaccine rollout.

SoftBank-backed food delivery firm enters Japan!

A U.S. food delivery firm, DoorDash Inc, which is backed by SoftBank Group Corp announced Wednesday the launch of services in Japan. They are joining an increasingly crowded market that has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Services will be available to the city Sendai in Miyagi prefecture. The delivery firm told the reporters that they plan on expanding to Canada and Australia as well.

“Our strategy has always been to empower local economies, especially in the suburban markets that are historically underserved, yet the appetite for connectivity between merchants and customers is high,” Chief Executive Tony Xu said in a statement.

SoftBank backs some of the largest delivery services in Japan such as Uber Eats from Uber Technologies Inc and Demae-can Co Ltd.

Last month, DoorDash raised its forecast for annual gross order value, as stimulus checks helped keep food delivery demand resilient in the first quarter, even as vaccinations and as easing of curbs encouraged dining-out again.

DoorDash reported a near three-fold jump in quarterly revenue to $1.08 billion. They have branched out into delivery from grocery and convenience stores last year.

The company saw a surge in order volumes during the pandemic as consumers were hesitant about stepping out of the comfort of their homes due to COVID-19.

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Toyota and Honda suspend vehicle production in Malaysia due to lockdown

COVID-19 is now interfering with the production of vehicles. Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co have put a pause on producing vehicles at their plants in Malaysia the country began a two-week total lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Due to the reduced workforce, both companies have decided it would not be enough to keep their factories running. Virus cases are rising in Malaysia as vaccination against COVID-19 lags. Japanese automakers and automotive parts makers also have plants in other countries in the region, such as Thailand and Indonesia, where cases are also increasing.

The companies could face production delays if infection rates worsen in those countries. In Malaysia, Toyota has two plants in Selangor State, while Honda has a motorcycle plant in Penang State and a car factory in Malacca State. The officials said that after-sales service for car owners will continue while new car sales are suspended.

Toyota produced about 50,000 passenger and commercial vehicles in Malaysia last. Honda says its motorcycle factory has the capacity to make 300,000 units annually with its car plant capable of producing 100,000 units.

The Japanese Government about extending the state of emergency.

Japan will decide Friday on whether they will extend COVID-19 state of emergency. Tokyo, Osaka and seven other prefectures were set to be released from the state of emergency beginning of next week.

The infection numbers in Japan’s latest coronavirus wave have not lowered and are leaving the medical system under considerable strain. Many prefectures have requested for the government to extend the emergency. Health minister Norihisa Tamura said he will be making a decision based on expert’s evaluations. The current state of emergency is set to end Monday in 9 prefectures including Hyogo, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Fukuoka and Okayama.

The new end date for the state emergency might be June 20 now. Osaka Governor, Hirofumi Yoshimura said it is up to the central government to decide on the end date but that only extending the date for a short period of time would be insufficient.

The Osaka prefectural government is requesting the central government to extend state of emergency due to shortage of hospital beds. It will request together with neighboring Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures. Tokyo is also considering making the same request. Norihisa Tamura said new cases are declining in Japan overall, but worsening in specific areas.

Japan’s vaccine rollout has been slow compared to other developed nations. Only 2% of Japan’s population have received 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Source: Japan Today

Radiation checks on food conducted across Japan

Since the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011, food products have continuously been checked for radiation. Nearly 17 prefectures are testing food products that are not listed in the guidelines such as vegetables, fish, and other items. These tests comfort domestic and overseas consumers even though it is rare for these products to exceed the national standard for radiation. The Yomiuri Shimbun has discovered that 11 prefectures are conducting radiation tests on their own.

For food items such as rice and vegetables, the national standard of maximum acceptable radiation levels is 100 becquerels per kilogram. Japan is much stricter compared to European and the United States standards. The European Unions’ maximum is 1250 becquerels per kilogram and the United States’ is 1200 becquerels per kilogram.

The provisional standard for maximum acceptable radiation level was originally 500 becquerels per kilogram, but it was revised to 100 becquerels in April 2012. The standard for infant food and milk is 50 becquerels. However, the standard for drinking water is 10 becquerels per kilogram. The areas to be inspected for radiation in food are determined by the government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters.

As of March 17, 2021, wild mushrooms, wild mountain vegetables, and meat from birds are now required to be tested by prefectures in eastern Japan. These products can no longer to shipped if the radiation levels exceed the national standard.

According to the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry, 54,412 items were tested nationwide in 2020, and only 0.23% or 127 items exceeded the national standard. One of 127 items came from an unknown origin. The other 126 items underwent an inspection. The Fukushima Prefecture will continue testing. They are also testing tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables that not required for inspection. As of 2015, no radiation has been found in these products. The prefecture will continue testing to rebuild trust again and dispel the long-lasting negative rumors after the nuclear accident.

15 countries restrict imports from Japan and even require inspection certificates.

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Source: The Japan News ​​

Will the Tokyo Olympic Games happen?

The latest update on the Olympic Games is that it will take place starting on July 23. Officials claim that the Games will be held safely, despite what the health experts say. The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach says that if the Olympics don’t go through this year, they won’t happen at all. Any more postponements of the Olympics will interfere with the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

Athletes along with participants and attendees will be required to follow strict guidelines, in order to limit exposure to the coronavirus. Athletes will be required to depart after participating in their competitions. Two negative COVID-19 tests will need to be submitted prior to boarding the plane and a third test will be taken once the athletes arrive in Tokyo. Vaccines are not required for the athletes to participate in the Olympics. Participation in the Olympics can be jeopardized if an athlete tests positive.

According to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University, 580,000 coronavirus cases and 10,050 deaths have occurred as of late April in Japan. The first vaccination shots started rolling out on February 17 in Japan. A fraction of the Japanese population will have been vaccinated by July.

A poll was conducted in January regarding whether the public would like to cancel or continue hosting the Olympics. The Tokyo Broadcasting System found that 81% of the respondents felt the Olympics should be cancelled due to the virus.

Tokyo 2020 officials decided to only allow Japanese spectators to attend the Olympics. They are trying to limit the number of foreigners entering Japan to minimize any possible spread of the coronavirus.

Job offers for 2022 university graduates improve as COVID-19 fears subside in Japan

Job offers to students set to graduate from universities and graduate schools in Japan next March marked a significant improvement from a year earlier as concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic subsided, according to a recent survey.

Such offers dropped 1.0% to an estimated 676,400, compared to the 15.1% tumble in 2021 when firms grew cautious about hiring new graduates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Recruit Works Institute said.

Hiroyuki Motegi, an analyst at the Tokyo-based research institute, pointed out companies are increasingly willing to hire new graduates, saying they “are prepared to some degree to cope with the third state of emergency” the government declared over the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Going forward, job offers are expected to remain flat or show a gradual recovery,” Motegi said.

The academic and business year begins in April for most educational institutions and corporations in Japan.

For students graduating next March, the ratio of job offers to an applicant eased 0.03 point to 1.50, according to the survey.

By size, job offers fell 6.0% at companies with 300 to 1,000 employees, and the offers were down 0.2% at companies with less than 300 workers.

The number of offers, however, rebounded at companies with more than 1,000 employees.

The number of students applying for firms that employ 5,000 people or more stood at 109,300, up 51.0%, which is a sign that students attach importance to large companies seen as more stable.

The number of those applying for firms with less than 1,000 employees showed a decline.

The survey drew responses from 1,674 job-seeking university and graduate students and 4,459 companies with five or more employees in a three-month period through March.

source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/