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Yahoo! Japan, the most viewed site in the world June 26, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Internet, Japan.

Netratings have published Japan PV and user numbers for May 2007, and Yahoo! Japan again comes top with 31.8B pageviews/month. Yahoo! Japan has retained the top spot for 85 months, since the first Japanese statistics were compiled in April 2000.

Uniques for Yahoo! Japan have surpassed 40 million for the first time ever, and reach is estimated at a staggering 88%.

y/y growth provides solace for Google, which is up 58% which appears to be poised to rise to #2 web property in Japan imminently. Google is currently behind Rakuten (25.8M users), NTT Communications(24.5M) and Microsoft(24.3M) at 23.8M users, but competitors are showing negligible growth (2~3% y/y) or in the case of Microsoft, a decline (-6%y/y). The domestic total internet user base grew 8% last year, so the #2~4 players’ reach has actually declined. Yahoo! Japan showed 10% growth in y/y user numbers.

Yahoo! Japan’s 31.8B pv/mth figure puts it (just) ahead of the most viewed site in the US, which is the original Yahoo! at 31.6B pv/mth. When you consider that Y! Japan, because of the Japanese language nature draws its user base almost exclusively from the Japanese internet population which is approximately 1/3 that of the US, and Yahoo! US has greater overseas exposure on top of its larger domestic base because its content is in English, the lingua franca of the global internet, the page view numbers are even more impressive.

Today’s energy conservation tip June 18, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Energy, technology.
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A group led by researchers at AIST (the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) have found that adding hair conditioner to the water used in water circulating air conditioning systems (as commonly found in office buildings and the like), can dramatically reduce energy consumption used to circulate water in the system. OK, the boffins at AIST didn’t really put hair conditioner in the water, rather just a surfactant mix. But as this Asahi article points out, surfactants are a main functional ingredient of hair conditioner.
The test was performed using Sapporo City Hall, a 19 floor building (+2 underground floors) which has an air conditioning system with a 37kW rated output pump which circulates 32 tonnes of water through the air conditioning unit.

The energy savings found appear impressive. The AIST team calculated that by adding just 0.5wt% (ok, that is still about 150kg…) of generic surfactant into the water, the pump could be driven at 30% reduced speed, which translates into a power reduction of around 65%. For the Sapporo City Hall, this translates to a potential annual reduction of the electricity bill by JPY630,000, and a reduction in CO2 of 32 tonnes/yr.

This kind of fairly low tech solution is all the more attractive because it is potentially so easy to replicate on a massive scale.  I wonder how many buildings have air conditioning units which might be able to accomodate modifications to take advantage of this research?

Here in Japan, energy consumption peaks during hot summer days, when air conditioners are on full blast in all those office buildings. If this research can be applied on a wide scale, a significant reduction in electricity consumption due to air conditioning units can be achieved. This has the additional benefit of specifically reducing peak load electricity consumption, most of which is generated by fossil fuel burning power stations. All electricity is not created equal, peak load electricity has a higher carbon footprint than base load power a significant proportion of which is drawn from nuclear capacity.

There is also an economical argument for reducing peak load consumption for building owners and tenants too, as commercial electricity unit costs are determined using a formula which incorporates peak load consumption.

(There are potential issues about discharging surfactant loaded water during maintenance of course, but I suspect that the problems are addressable….)

Comsn continued June 12, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Japan, Society.

With Goodwill Group being pressured into divesting Comsn to a third party, several groups are being mentioned in the press as potential parties to a transaction.

Watami has expressed an interest in the old peoples’ homes business, which they already have a presence.

Another interested party is Nichii Gakkan, who is a major player in the care services market.

But Nichii was one of the three companies (along with Comsn and Japan Care Service) which were named as having profitted illegally from abusing the system.

A Tokyo Metropolitan Government sanctioned inquiry had found that Nichii had pocketed approximately $1M illegally, compared to Comsn’s $2.5M.

Why is the media glossing over the fact that Nichii has also been abusing the system, even if they did not engage in the tactics employed by Comsn of liquidating their subsidiaries to escape punishment?

It seems to have been decided by the media’s puppetmasters that Comsn will be used as a scapegoat whilst others who engaged in substantially similar illegal practices are allowed to continue as if nothing had happened.

Whilst Comsn’s attempt to avoid punishment is undoubtedly a underhanded act which exacerbated the situation, the underlying issue is that a number of major care service providers have been institutionally defrauding the taxpayer. The problem is bigger than one single corporation.

It seems the problem is being spun as being due to a greedy rogue corporation, when the signs are that there are fundamental problems with many of the larger players in this sector.

Pretending that the problem is isolated to Comsn is unacceptable. A wholesale review of the industry is required. But I don’t expect that to happen in the current climate. The underlying problems will resurface again later, after more people suffer, and more taxpayers’ money is wasted, unless the structural problems are not addressed. Another MHLW disaster in the making.

Comsn June 7, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Japan, law, Politics.

Just as I was going to bed last night, I caught the news that Goodwill Group was going to circumvent the sanctions imposed on its (fully owned) subsidiary Comsn related to the fraud (of taxpayers’ money no less) by transferring the care business to another group company, NSS corporation. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (hereafter the MHLW) apparently doesn’t have a problem with that and the existing licenses will be renewable by NSS. As far as Goodwill Group is concerned, it will basically be business as usual.

This is total Bullshit. (excuse my French)

I was so pissed off at the MHLW for allowing such a blatant attempt at circumnavigating the rules that I woke up at 4am in a really foul mood. I’m still angry as I begin to type this post at 4:10am.

(I don’t have much anger directed at the company, because I’d already decided based on past performance that they really don’t give two hoots about anything more than basic compliance to the letter of the law and have given up on them)

Comsn has a history of evading sanctions by winding businesses up when a realistic threat of an official sanction appears. The legal corporations are dissolved, and a new corporation is formed to pick up where the old one left over. All directed from HQ.

This latest attempt is much the same, albeit on a much larger scale.

It doesn’t surprise me that the MHLW is fine with this slight of hand, either. The timing of their announcement regarding the Comsn affair also appears to be a diversionary tactic, as they are also involved with the scandal surrounding the Social Insurance Agency and the 50million pensions records which are unaccounted for. Nice distraction, eh.

Wasn’t the Aneha scandal exposed just when the media started probing politicians’ finances? And Livedoor….? (Not saying that these wrongs should not be exposed, just that the timing of many of these scandals seems to be convenient. I guess they have a whole bunch of stories in their cache which they can whip out and offer to the media, so that the media can jump on these stories and plausibly explain the shift in attention from stuff which is embarassing to the government and bureaucrats, whilst the media is rewarded for its cooperation….)

Regardless of the timing of this current round of sanctions, Goodwill Group (a group who have been implicated on multiple occasions of illegal labour practices, and not just at Comsn) needed to be punished. Pity the central government bureaucrats colluded with the company to insure that no substantive punishment will be forthcoming.

The CEO of Goodwill Group is certainly well connected, and has a post within the Keidanren, who historically have been large clients of non-full time labour providers.

Crystal Group, which was shipping out labourers to various manufacturing giants in contravention of labour laws is now part of Goodwill Group, and Goodwill are also the people behind Mobaito.com, the leading mobile portal which is a marketplace to attract cheap, casual, day labour.

(Companies who have been found to be exploiting labourers by using firms like Crystal and breaking the employment laws reads like a who’s who of Japanese manufacturing – Canon, Toyota, Matsushita, Ricoh, Fuji Xerox, Nikon, NEC, Sony, Sharp, Sanyo, Fujitsu, Toshiba, NTT, Komatsu…. Fujio Mitarai, Chairman of Canon and head of the Keidanren criticized the labour laws for being too restrictive when his company was implicated for having thousands of labourers working under illegal schemes. The “miracle” of Japanese manufacturing companies’ financial performance during the decade+ long economic malaise is exposed as having been built upon the exploitation of the workforce, but as usual the media circus died down very quickly)

For all the drum beating that goes on about having to improve labour conditions and increase full time labour and reduce the number of especially young people who are not in full time employment, the establishment continues gleefully exploiting the situation.

At least some people are taking a stand. Governor Nisaka of Wakayama prefecture has stated in his weekly press conference today (June 7th) that he is not going to approve license approval requests from NSS.

Hopefully there are other politicans with a backbone who will follow Gov. Nisaka’s stance and say NO to exploitation of workers.

Update: 24 hours later, the MHLW is now saying that it will oppose Goodwill Group’s plan to transfer Comsn’s care practice to another subsidiary and thereby avoid sanctions. What has changed materially in the last 24 hours, apart from public criticism? Clearly these people are unfit to oversee anything.

I have a feeling that Goodwill’s founder will again claim he is being victimized. (for whatever reason….)

I’d be inclined to agree with him a bit if the other firms who have been similarly defrauding the taxpayers get off without similar punishment, but regardless of the punishments doled out (or not) to others, it doesn’t change the fact that Comsn has been engaging in a pattern of behaviour which was designed to avoid sanctions by dissolving a huge number of group companies just as these companies were being audited by local authorities, and this pattern is nothing if not premeditated and directed from the top of the organization.

Burger King returns to Japan on June 8th June 2, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Food and Drink, Japan.

Burger King returns to Japan this Friday, with the first store opening in Nishi-Shinjuku. (previous mention about the return of Burger King here)

The Burger King is located within the Shinjuku Island Tower building, taking over the premises of a Lotteria burger joint (the BK franchise is being developed by Lotte which owns the Lotteria chain).

Interesting to note, the Island Tower is home to McDonalds Japan’s head offices.

The second store opens in Ikebukuro’s Sunshine Building complex on June 22nd, and Lotte and Revamp plan to have 50 Burger Kings in Japan within 3 years.

The Japan only  “teriyaki whopper” will be making a reappearance.

Personally I look forward to the fries and onion rings at BK which are better than at their competitors.

I’m sure no one will begrudge me a trip to a fast food burger joint once in a while. Once I’ve come off my diet anyway….