Pokémon a go go

July 19, 2016

Since the launch of Pokémon GO on the 6th July, Japan’s Nintendo Co has seen a 14% jump in share value, with its market capitalisation rocketing to 4.5 trillion yen ($42.5 billion, €38 billion) by Tuesday, Reuters has reported.

Much to the frustration of fans around the world, the release of this smartphone game was staggered, initially being limited to just the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Now, however, Pokémon GO is available to download on iPhones and Android phones in a total of 35, mostly European, countries, and has become a worldwide smash hit.

According to data collected by app analytics firm SimilarWeb, on the 7th July, one day after it’s official release in the United States, the game had already been installed onto more US Android phones than Tinder.

Moreover, the figures for app usage have also been astonishing. SimilarWeb reported on the 10th July that over 60 percent of those who downloaded the Android app in the US were daily users, which means roughly 3 percent of the entire US population were playing Pokémon GO on a daily basis.

The firm also reported that daily usage among players averaged 43 minutes 23 seconds, which puts its daily user activity higher than those of Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat or Messenger.

Meanwhile BBC News reported that in its initial week, Pokémon Go was more heavily tweeted than Brexit in the first week of the referendum (15.3 million tweets in comparison to 11.7) and twice as popular as the Euro 2016 football championships in its first week.

Even on the day of the UK referendum vote, there were almost as many Google searches for the game as there were for Brexit, and after it’s release, searches for the game even overtook those for that internet staple, pornography, reported the BBC.

For Nintendo, the runaway success of this game has provoked immense buying of their shares, on a scale that has surprised many.

Takashi Oba, senior strategist at Okasan Securities, said, “I’ve never seen the trend of such a big company’s shares changing so quickly in such a short period of time.” 

In fact, on Tuesday, trading in shares in Nintendo accounted for almost a quarter of all trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile the turnover of Nintendo shares reached 703.6 billion yen ($6.6 billion, €5.9 billion) by the end of Tuesday, thereby surpassing the 476 billion yen ($4.5 billion, €4 billion) record it set on Friday for trading turnover in individual shares.

Until now Nintendo has not been a contender in the virtual reality and augmented reality market, yet there has been speculation that the company may seek to capitalise on the success of Pokémon GO, for example with other popular characters such as Super Mario and Zelda following down the same path.

Sources include: Reuters, BBC News, SimilarWeb

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Scientists map wheat genome

July 17, 2014

Bread is a staple food for one third of the world’s population, and accounts for a huge 20 per cent of the world’s calorie intake.

In terms of science however, wheat has been rather overlooked. Until now that is.

Since 2011, scientists and members of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, have worked to find out what exactly the humble grain is made of. On Tuesday, they published the first draft genome sequence of “common” or “bread wheat”: an accomplishment which they believe could help farmers meet the ever-increasing demand for a high-quality crop – something which is particularly important in the context of climate change and an ever-growing population.

The research, published in the journal Science on Tuesday, reveals the result of what has been nearly 3 years work and around USD 68 million. The team of scientists, including researchers from Germany, the United States, the Czech Republic, and Canada has so far succeeded in deciphering the blueprint for nearly all the genes of bread wheat and roughly 60 percent of the whole genome.

The unusual size and form of the genome made the sequencing especially difficult for the team, the article said. Indeed, that of wheat contains a staggering 100,000 or so genes, 5 times more than the human genome, which contains roughly 20,000.

The largely repetitive nature of the wheat genome also made its untangling more difficult.

The advantages of the project are manifold. “Wheat improvement is crucial to ensure food security and the development of sustainable agriculture in a context of climate change and growing population,” said Frederic Choulet, plant genomicist at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), and one of the lead researchers on the project.

The new draft genome is also expected to significantly decrease the time it will take to identify and isolate genes of interest to plant breeders, such as those which express resistance to heat, stress, insects, or disease.

The consortium plans to finish the full genome within three years. “We have a clear path forward for completing high quality sequences of all bread wheat chromosomes,” said Kellye Eversole, the consortium’s executive director.

Source: The Japan Times; National Geographic

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Child Poverty and Pension Worries For The Japanese

May 19, 2014

At 16 percent, Japan’s relative poverty rate — the share of the population living on less than half of the national median income — is already the sixth-worst among the 34 OECD countries, just ahead of the United States. Child poverty in working, single-parent households  is by far the worst at over 50 percent, making Japan the only country where having a job does not reduce the poverty rate for that group.

As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe charges ahead with his “Abenomics” policies to revive economic growth, things look set to get harder, not better, for Japan’s working poor. This deepening divide between the haves and have-nots could threaten Abe’s vision of Japan’s economic revival

Having ramped up spending on public works projects and business incentives, the government has also moved to shore up its finances, cutting welfare benefits last summer and last month raising the national sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent. The regressive tax puts the biggest burden on the poor, and another hike to 10 percent is planned in a mere 18 months.

For those like Ririko Saito, who lives hand-to-mouth with her daughter on an hourly wage of ¥1,080 ($10.6), last month’s tax hike has made life considerably harder. An extra ¥1,300 a month she will be receiving from the government to offset the higher costs of essentials is just not enough to avoid the repeated utility cuts.

“As it is, we can only afford discounted groceries.” Saito said. “I’m not sure how we’ll manage, but I’ll just have to find a way.”

Team Abe’s success in reversing 15 years of price declines that have hurt business confidence and investment also squeezes the poor, who cannot count on bonuses or financial profits to offset rising living costs as he artificially stokes inflation.

Japan says it plans more aid for welfare recipients, largely through job training. That, however, is little consolation because even those with jobs often live under the poverty line. The government does not officially define the “working poor,” but the number of part-time, temporary and other non-regular workers who typically make less than half the average pay has jumped 70 percent from 1997 to 19.7 million today — 38 percent of the labor force.

“The Abe administration’s stance is more about fixing things, including poverty, with a trickle-down effect from overall economic growth,” said Takashi Oshio, a professor at Hitotsubashi University specializing in social security. “There’s little political capital spent on issues like alleviating child poverty. It doesn’t garner votes.”

Some economists say a broad recovery in consumption, a key ingredient of Abenomics, may not last if more and more households struggle to hold above the poverty line. In the longer run, problems associated with poverty such as worse access to quality education, poor health and crime could increase fiscal burdens and dent Japan’s growth potential by shrinking the pool of skilled workers.

“Rising poverty leads to a wider gap in education,” said Makoto Saito, an economist at NLI Research Institute. “Japanese companies are supposed to be creating value-added jobs, but at this pace there won’t be enough people to fill those positions.”To be sure, higher sales taxes are widely seen as inevitable given Japan’s public debt is more than twice the size of its economy, and growing.

But economists say the government could limit the pain with policies that redistribute wealth better. With current social spending skewed toward pension and health care schemes that mostly benefit the elderly, Japan is the only OECD country where the poverty rate among working households and households with children rose after benefits and taxes, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“Politically, it’s easier to get the understanding of the electorate since multiple tax rates would benefit everyone, not just the poor,” said NLI’s Saito.”But if effective countermeasures aren’t adopted to help low-income earners, the poverty rate is just going to keep rising.”

The majority of Japanese people are also worried about their financial future according to a recent survey by the Japanese Government which revealed that around two-thirds of Japanese aged 35 to 64 are concerned they will not have enough money to last through retirement. The Cabinet Office survey of around 6,000 people late last year revealed growing anxiety among people that savings, retirement payouts and public pensions will prove insufficient in old age.

About 67 percent said they feel they will have inadequate economic resources to fall back on after they retire, with three-quarters of that group stating their provisions are “quite inadequate.” Only 1.6 percent said they feel they will have enough money and 21.7 percent said they will have the bare minimum. Around half of those surveyed also said they want to be able to keep working after they turn 65.

The survey’s results will go into a white paper on Japan’s aging society to be adopted by the Cabinet in June.

Source: The Japan Times, the OECD

TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds.

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Japanese banknotes to be adapted for the visually impaired

May 9, 2014

Japan is to begin issuing modified versions of banknotes which are suitable for the visually impaired as it attempts to adapt to the its ageing society. From May 12th, new 5000 yen ($49, £29) notes carrying holograms of a different texture will be issued by the Ministry of Finance, in order to make it easier for the growing number of visually impaired people in Japan to accurately distinguish between the different denominations of banknotes.

As well as bearing a modified hologram, the new 5000 yen notes will also be both larger and squarer than their predecessors, so that they can be clearly distinguished from the 10,000 yen notes. Takayuki Suzuki, Vice Chairman of the Japan Federation of the Blind, said, “Holograms on the old notes were small, and so the new design will make it easier for blind people to feel the difference.”

The modifications come as part of an initiative by the government to address the issue of Japan’s ageing population, which is impacting upon its workforce and economic output . As of last year, an estimated 25 per cent of Japan’s 127.3 million citizens were aged 65 and over, a global record, and a number that is continuing in an upwards trend. Japan may have the third largest economy in the world, but the Japanese government are keenly aware of the potential harm the ageing population – and consequent decrease in workforce – could bring to Japan’s productivity and output. As such, the government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are introducing a number of different programs, including the new banknotes, designed to be more inclusive of elderly people in daily society.

Suzuki’s vision for the notes is one of great expectations, but he is aware that progress may be slow: ‘We’d like to see different notes having different widths and lengths like euros, but this would be difficult as all the vending machines in the nation would have to be adjusted.’

Sources include: Japan Daily Press, Bloomberg Business

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TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds.

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Japan to buy Canadian shale gas

September 29, 2013

During a visit to Ottawa, the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, announced that Japan would like to reinforce imports of Canadian natural gas in order to diversify supply in the post-Fukushima nuclear dearth.

During a joint press conference with his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, Abe stated that Tokyo “strongly hopes to strengthen cooperation” with Ottawa.

Huge deposits of shale in the west mean that Canada is the third largest producer of natural gas. “Canada possesses a significant level of energy resources, including natural gas, which show considerable potential in terms of energy cooperation” he noted. Japan’s natural gas imports have increased since the Fukushima disaster and now the country wants to “ensure a stable supply of LNG (liquefied natural gas) at competitive prices” the Prime Minister explained.

At his side, Stephen Harper, whose government is a strong supporter of fossil fuels,  stated that he and Abe met with Canadian business leaders and that “the discussion was focused on energy.” The two countries are currently conducting two “very important” economic negotiations, he continued without giving any further details.

Before these comments, the Japanese media had said that Tokyo and Ottawa may come to an agreement which would allow Japan to import up to 40 million tons per year of Canadian shale gas. This would represent over 45% of the volume of LNG imported by Japan in 2012.

The media also reported on the possibility of Japanese aid to facilitate Canadian exports of LNG. Tokyo could, among other possibilities, assist in the construction of pipelines in Canada to transport gas from production sites to ports, while supporting the development of an infrastructure to help process shale gas into LNG.

As the third largest global economy, Japan is the largest consumer of LNG in the world. Yet, it pays higher prices for the gas than both Europe and North America. Asian contracts are often long-term and are as such based on oil price indexes, meaning the cost is ultimately higher than those on the gas market for short-term contracts.

This discrepancy is even more detrimental to Japan since it had to greatly increase imports of natural gas to compensate for the shutdown in nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. As a precaution, none of the 50 reactors are now in operation.

If this more recent agreement with Canada materializes, it will occur after two recently concluded agreements with the United States for the delivery of 6.7 million tons of shale per year to Japan from 2017.  Japan clearly hopes to negotiate lower prices by multiplying contracts of this kind with other shale-rich nations.


Deflation in Japan approaching an end, suggests government

August 17, 2013

The Japanese government has today offered a more positive view of the country’s economic situation than it has in the past four years, suggesting that Japan may be nearing an end to the deflation which has affected the market in recent months.

The government’s report is based on an in-depth assessment of consumer prices across Japan during the last economic quarters, and their findings suggest that deflation may finally be coming to an end, as increased consumer prices revealed a steady improvement in Japan’s economy, thus allowing companies to pass on the rising costs to its customers.

The government’s economic report for August stated that “recent price developments indicate that deflation is ending,” offering a much brighter perspective than the previous month’s report, in which it was revealed that whilst consumer prices had also risen, this was due to higher electricity bills, rather than increased consumer demand. The August report’s positivity continued, stating that Japan’s economy was “picking up steadily and showing some moves toward a sustained recovery.” However, the report was keen to stress that such news did not mean that Japan could dispense with the notion of deflation entirely, emphasising that the nation would need to demonstrate more lasting rises in consumer prices in order to secure its status as a country which had made a successful exit from deflation.

The report was also optimistic in its review of Japan’s job market, revealing unemployment rates of just 3.9%, the lowest recorded in Japan since October 2008.

A potential end to deflation, coupled with impressive unemployment rates, will no doubt play heavily in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s favour, who made economic improvement his key policy throughout his election campaign and in the following year. The Bank of Japan will also benefit from such positive reports, having heavily funded the country in April in order to achieve its two per cent inflation target in two years.

Sources include Japan Daily Press, Reuters

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Facebook to buy voice translation software firm

August 16, 2013

Social media giants Facebook and voice technology specialist firm Mobile Technologies have agreed upon a contract, by which Facebook will acquire and subsume Mobile Technologies in the near future.

No financial details of the contract have been released as yet, although both companies have released statements commenting on the transaction. Tom Stocky, Product Management Director for Facebook wrote today online that he was “excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Mobile Technologies, a company with an amazing team that’s behind some of the world’s leading speech recognition and machine translation technologyVoice technology has become an increasingly important way for people to navigate mobile devices and the web, and this technology will help us evolve our products to match that evolution.”

Mobile Technologies, which is a significantly smaller company than Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, a social media network with over one billion users, released their own, shorter statement, in which they declared that they were “excited” about the deal, and that “once the deal has closed many of us will be joining the company at their headquarters in Menlo Park, California.”

Mobile Technologies is a Pittsburgh, US-based company, and the creators of Jibbigo, a mobile phone application launched in 2009 which allows the user to access automatic audio or written translations of their text or voice recordings in over 25 languages.

Facebook currently uses Bing, a Microsoft program, for the translation of the site’s comments and newsfeed posts. With the acquisition of Mobile Technologies, Facebook will have access to an in-house translation service, with which it hopes to significantly improve the audio and text translation features of the social networking site, making interlingual communication a more integral feature of the site.

Sources include Japan Today, The Telegraph

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