Science & Technology News from Japan, January 2017

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The Science & Technology Office Tokyo is offering an internship for 6 months at the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan ideally starting on September 1, 2017. This provides an opportunity to gain valuable experience in the challenging world of science policy, bilateral collaborations, and scientific intelligence.

Application Deadline: February 28, 2017
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Table of Contents

1. Switzerland Related News

2. Science and Technology Policy in Japan

3. Education

4. Life Science / Health Care

5. Nano and Micro Technology / Material Science

6. Information & Communications Technology

7. Software / Mobile Services & Applications

8. Energy / Environment

9. Space Development

10. Engineering / Robotics / Automotive

11. Physics and Nuclear Development

12. Startups

13. Intellectual Property Rights / Technology Transfer / Alliances

14. General Interest

15. Calls


1. Switzerland Related News

Nippon Koei Engineer Dr. Mueller on his experiences in Japan – Swiss' Experiences #3

Science & Technology Office Tokyo, January 12, 2017

Already round three of the successful “Swiss Experiences: Surviving and Thriving in Japan” series was held on Thursday, January 12, 2017. Again, more than 30 participants signed up to discuss their experiences in Japan.

Minister of State for Science & Technology Policy visits Switzerland

Science & Technology Office Tokyo, January 14, 2017

On Friday 13th, Minister of State for Science & Technology Policy Mr. Yosuke Tsuruho visited with his delegation Switzerland. The tour started in Bern with meetings at the State Secretariat of Education, Research and Innovation SERI.

Japan Becomes a Rising Star for the Swiss Watch Industry

New York Times, January 17, 2017

Once considered Switzerland’s biggest rival in watchmaking, Japan is fast becoming its former foe’s best customer. Not only has it overtaken mainland China as the No. 3 market for Swiss watch exports worldwide, but Japan has proved more resilient to the swings of the global economy than Switzerland’s top two markets, Hong Kong and the United States.

Idemitsu Kosan: Establishment of OLED materials development company in Switzerland, January 18, 2017

Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd. has announced plans to establish, in January 2017, an OLED materials development company in Switzerland, in order to enhance its development structure in preparation for future growth in demand for OLED materials.

NCCR D-Fab visits Japan

Science & Technology Office Tokyo, January 30, 2017

A delegation from the National Centre of Competence in Research Digital Fabrication (NCCR D-Fab), visited Japan to meet with counterparts and potential partners in academia and industry. The group, invited to attend an academic symposium, took advantage of the occasion to exchange with experts in the field of architecture and construction to understand the situation in Japan and explore opportunities for future collaboration.

New Call: Young Researchers Exchange Programme

Science & Technology Office Tokyo, January 31, 2017

In its function as the Swiss Leading House for Asia, ETH Zurich announced the launch of a new call for the exchange of young researchers (PhD students, young postdocs and master students in exceptional cases) between Japan and Switzerland together with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).

Swiss’ Experiences #4 with Dr. Aurelio Cortese

Science & Technology Office Tokyo, January 31, 2017

Already the fourth time more than  30 Switzerland related participants met at Okuno & Partner’s offices to share and discuss their Japan experiences at the event-series titled “Swiss Experiences: Surviving and Thriving in Japan” organised jointly by the SCCIJ and the S&T Office Tokyo, Embassy of Switzerland in Japan.

2. Science and Technology Policy in Japan

Stricter labeling mulled for genetically modified food

The Japan Times, January 02, 2017

The government is considering expanding the scope of mandatory labeling of ingredients containing genetically modified crops from the current 33 food items, according to sources in the Consumer Affairs Agency. Imports have been increasing in Japan of genetically modified crops and food products containing them.

Government to hold massive anti-cyberattack drill for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

The Japan Times, January 05, 2017

The government is set to hold a large-scale drill aimed at countering cyberattacks by the end of March in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, government sources said Thursday.

Tokyo creating security guidelines for space systems

Nikkei Asian Review, January 07, 2017

The Japanese government intends to formulate security guidelines for agencies involved in the operation of satellites and other space systems. Tokyo will focus mainly on the threat of disruptive attacks designed to hijack or jam signals, as it strives to develop countermeasures so space systems can continue to operate with at least minimal functionality even in the event of an attack.

RIKEN to offer 40% of researchers long-term employment

The Japan News, January 08, 2017

The government-affiliated research institute will start a new scheme in April to provide long-term employment up through the mandatory retirement age of 60 for selected researchers currently under limited-time contracts.

Japan gropes for cyberattack solution as victims suffer in silence

The Japan Times, January 15, 2017

Last November, chilling news made headlines nationwide — the internal communications network of the Defense Ministry and Self-Defense Forces had been hacked in September, possibly by another nation.

Japan to stop coddling its rice farmers

Nikkei Asian Review, January 15, 2017

Japan's rice farmers could be about to lose some of their government protection. Drastic changes could take effect sometime next fiscal year, which begins in April, that would result in generous subsidies these farmers get being cut.

Firms asked to innovate for disaster management

The Japan News, January 18, 2017

The ministry aims to develop new instruments such as river water-level gauges that are battery-powered and can be used for extended periods, and small drones that can fly even when typhoons are approaching.

3. Education

Hyogo universities aim to develop disaster experts with new programs

The Japan Times, January 19, 2017

Universities in Hyogo Prefecture, which was hit by a devastating earthquake 22 years ago, are launching new programs to develop experts capable of leading efforts to respond to natural disasters.

Aichi nursing school teaches students how to feign senility to improve care for dementia patients

The Japan Times, January 23, 2017

The School of Nursing and Health at Aichi Prefectural University has developed a course that trains students how to act like people with dementia.

Free higher education emerges in constitutional revision debate

The Japan News, January 25, 2017

Making it free to attend school up through university and graduate school has emerged as one of the items subject to constitutional revision in the debate among ruling and opposition parties in the current Diet session.

4. Life Science / Health Care

Kagawa team finds incense helps students relax and concentrate

The Japan Times, January 03, 2017

Incense has been scientifically proven to make people relax and concentrate on tasks, a team of Japanese researchers said, adding that the findings could be used to help keep drivers alert behind the wheel.

Researcher keeps 24/7 watch for microbes high over Tokyo

The Asahi Shimbun, January 04, 2017

Microbiologist Jun Uetake wanted to take his sampling to new heights, so he cast a skyward glance to the Tokyo Skytree. He set up monitoring equipment on the world’s tallest TV tower, in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, to investigate what kind of microorganisms are floating high over a major city.

ANA to offer Japan medical tourism packages

Nikkei Asian Review, January 05, 2017

Airline group ANA Holdings is getting into the medical tourism trade, looking to make long-term fliers of affluent Chinese and others seeking quality care in Japan.

Japan, German researchers trying to save endangered rhinos using iPS cells

The Japan Times, January 07, 2017

A Japanese scientist has teamed up with a group of German researchers to try to save the nearly extinct northern white rhinoceros by producing eggs from induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells.

Unipac develops airconditioner filter to counter hay fever

The Japan Times, January 08, 2017

A Japanese company has developed air-conditioner filters for trapping and holding allergens that cause hay fever. Unipac, based in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, will start selling the filters to schools and large commercial facilities in February, ahead of the hay fever season.

Japan's syphilis problem prompts ministry to bring in special team

The Japan Times, January 08, 2017

The rapid rise of syphilis, including among young women, has prompted the health ministry to form a special research team to find ways of stopping the sexually transmitted disease.

MicroRNA injections could be a diabetes game-changer

The Asahi Shimbun, January 09, 2017

Comprising scientists from Tohoku University, the team said its research confirmed that injections of microRNAs resulted in the reproduction of pancreatic cells that secrete insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels.

Uterine transplant trials on horizon

The Japan News, January 09, 2017

A Keio University medical team intends to apply to the university’s ethics panel this year to perform uterine transplants on women born without wombs, as a means to help such women conceive and give birth, according to sources.

Research raises hopes for new drug to prevent atopic itching

The Asahi Shimbun, January 10, 2017

Patients suffering from chronic itchiness caused by atopic dermatitis may be in line for more effective treatment after researchers at Kyushu University here identified the protein that is behind their irritation.

Mice with incurable eye disease recover with iPS transplant, study says

The Japan Times, January 11, 2017

Photoreceptor cell functions of mice with an incurable eye disease recovered after the transplant of such cells produced from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), according to a study published Wednesday.

Japanese city to use vein data to identify lost dementia sufferers

The Japan Times, January 12, 2017

In a possible first for Japan, the city of Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, will start an experiment to register the vein data of elderly residents with dementia so they can be instantly identified if they wander off and are found without an ID.

Research in Japan and France suggests boys with autism spectrum disorder dislike yellow

The Japan Times, January 13, 2017

A research team including Nobuo Masataka, professor at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute, has found that boys with autism spectrum disorder tend not to like yellow but show a preference for green.

1 Japanese, 2 Americans given 2017 Crafoord science prize

The Asahi Shimbun, January 13, 2017

A Japanese and two American scientists have been awarded the 2017 Crafoord Prize for fundamental discoveries in immune regulation.

Tiny functioning intestines grown in laboratory for first time

The Asahi Shimbun, January 13, 2017

Functioning intestines about the size of a fingernail have been grown in the laboratory from stem cells for the first time by a team of Japanese scientists.

Tiny bowels created from human cells

The Japan News, January 13, 2017

A research team on Thursday said it has successfully produced from human cells small-size bowels that make muscular movements necessary to carry food along the digestive tract just like natural intestines.

Paucity of REM sleep could lead to paunchiness, research shows

The Asahi Shimbun, January 16, 2017

A lack of light, dreamy slumbers known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep might be triggering a craving for sweet and fatty foods among sleep-deprived individuals, a team of scientists found.

Scientists find new check for recurrence risk of gastric cancer

The Asahi Shimbun, January 17, 2017

Researchers have developed a technique to identify patients who are more likely to suffer a recurrence of gastric cancer based on the degree of abnormal DNA methylation.

Study: Certain medicine gives energy boost to anti-cancer drug

The Asahi Shimbun, January 17, 2017

The anti-cancer drug Opdivo appears to receive a defensive boost in fighting cancer cells when combined with medicine that activates mitochondria, a cellular structure that acts as an energy source, researchers said.

Fake hepatitis C drugs found in Nara drugstore chain

The Japan Times, January 18, 2017

Counterfeits of the hepatitis C drug Harvoni have been found at a drugstore chain in Nara Prefecture, the health ministry said Tuesday. Harvoni is sold by a Japanese unit of U.S. pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences Inc. The ingredients of the counterfeits are now under examination.

Japan wants to export nursing care services

Nikkei Asian Review, January 22, 2017

Japan's public and private sectors are joining hands to export nursing care services to Asian and other countries. In February, the government as well as more than 100 nursing care providers, companies and industry groups will set up a committee for what they are calling the Asia Health and Human Well-Being Initiative.

Curator at Mie aquarium gets ‘curious’ parasite named after him

The Asahi Shimbun, January 23, 2017

Takeya Moritaki, a 47-year-old curator, discovered five parasites measuring 8 to 30 millimeters long in the gills and fins of two “torikajika,” a deep-sea fish whose English name is Ereuniidae, at the aquarium.

Kyoto Univ. to halt iPS cell supply over ‘wrong’ reagent

The Japan News, January 24, 2017

Kyoto University said Monday it will suspend its supply of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells for clinical use, after a wrong reagent was possibly used to create such cells.

Kidney drug promises to help cats purr into old age

Nikkei Asian Review, January 24, 2017

A new drug from Japan's Toray Industries may be the best hope yet for treating chronic kidney disease in cats, a leading cause of death.

Miyazaki poultry farm culls over 168,000 chickens amid bird flu outbreak

The Japan Times, January 25, 2017

The local government began culling 168,400 chickens early Wednesday after some dead chickens at a poultry farm in Miyazaki Prefecture were found to have contracted a highly virulent strain of bird flu.

Study to look at whether laughter is in fact the best medicine

The Japan Times, January 26, 2017

An Osaka-based medical facility is looking to investigate whether laughter is indeed the best medicine, and whether it can be effective in treating cancer.

Easier diagnosis for nonalcoholic hepatitis sought

The Japan News, January 27, 2017

Seventeen hospitals across the nation have started joint research to establish a new method based on blood tests to diagnose nonalcoholic steatohepatitis — a disease known as NASH (see below) that affects non-drinkers

Health ministry gears up for possible ban on smoking in public areas

The Japan Times, January 31, 2017

The health ministry is considering a legal revision to ban smoking in public areas to help bring Japan’s battle against secondhand smoke in line with the global standard ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, an official said Tuesday.

5. Nano and Micro Technology / Material Science

Japan carbon fiber makers ramp up investment

Nikkei Asian Review, January 10, 2017

Japanese carbon fiber makers are pouring cash into new plants and acquisitions in a bid to further cement their dominance in the field. Toray Industries is the world leader in carbon fiber with a market share of more than 40%.

Bamboo used to make material stronger and lighter than steel

The Asahi Shimbun, January 22, 2017

The clearing of destructive bamboo thickets around Japan is pushing production of a material that could change the manufacturing process for products ranging from diapers to automobiles.

6. Information & Communications Technology

Questions for 2017 / Can AI surpass human intelligence?

The Japan News, January 07, 2017

This is the fourth installment of an interview series with leading intellectual figures around the world. The following is excerpted from an interview with Prof. Noriko Arai at the National Institute of Informatics, an expert on artificial intelligence.

‘K’ computer to predict torrential rain

The Japan News, January 08, 2017

A project team including the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), the Meteorological Research Institute (MRI) and other institutions has succeeded in developing the basic technology to predict the coming of disastrous torrential rain in specific areas at least half a day before its occurrence at 50 to 70 percent probability.

Nintendo Switch console to debut March 3 at $299

Nikkei Asian Review, January 13, 2017

Nintendo said Friday it will release its next game console, the Switch, in Japan, the U.S., Europe, Hong Kong and elsewhere on March 3. Nintendo will suggest a retail price of 29,980 yen ($260.76) in Japan and begin accepting orders on Jan. 21, a company representative said.

Here's to a new age of 'reality'

The Japan Times, January 14, 2017

Everyone is now familiar with virtual-reality headsets, but what about other wearable VR equipment? Cerevo have announced an upcoming release of Taclim, which it says are the world’s first VR shoes and VR gloves. This tech allow users to actually feel VR experiences via tactile devices — one in each glove and three in each shoe.

New service tracks workers' concentration levels via glasses

Nikkei Asian Review, January 19, 2017

JIN, the operator of glasses retailer Jins, has begun offering a service that lets employers monitor workers' concentration levels with the help of a computer application and a spectacle-type wearable device.

7. Software / Mobile Services & Applications

Japanese white collar workers are already being replaced by artificial intelligence

Quartz, January 02, 2017

Most of the attention around automation focuses on how factory robots and self-driving cars may fundamentally change our workforce, potentially eliminating millions of jobs. But AI that can handle knowledge-based, white-collar work are also becoming increasingly competent.

AI gives ‘objective’ advice for daily decisions

The Japan News, January 03, 2017

More and more companies are offering services utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to provide advice on daily life, including shopping and romance.

Can artificial intelligence help Japanese bureaucrats write answers to Diet questions?

The Japan Times, January 04, 2017

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to launch a test soon to determine whether artificial intelligence can help bureaucrats write draft answers for questions made to Cabinet ministers and others during deliberations in the Diet.

Japan Exchange Group cleared to adopt fintech

Nikkei Asian Review, January 07, 2017

Japan Exchange Group will be allowed to use such financial technology as blockchain that could make trading more efficient. The Financial Services Agency had previously limited JPX subsidiaries to activities directly linked to exchange operation, such as system development.

Hackers unlock NES Classic, upload new games via USB cable

Ars Technica, January 07, 2017

If you managed to get your hands on an NES Classic Edition this holiday season, you may already be tired of the 30 classic games pre-installed on the system by now. Nintendo has made clear that the tiny replica NES will not officially receive new games, especially with no WiFi protocol to download them.

Next-generation mirror analyzes faces and prints out customized makeup sheets

The Japan Times, January 08, 2017

Panasonic Corp. is developing a “magic” mirror for 2020 that will use nanotechnology for high-definition TVs to offer advice on how to become more beautiful. The aim of the Snow Beauty Mirror is “to let people become what they want to be,” said Panasonic’s Sachiko Kawaguchi, who is in charge of the product’s development.

SMFG to establish biometrics company

The Japan News, January 08, 2017

Biometric authentication can identify an individual from their fingerprints, face and voice. When a person carries out various internet transactions such as paying for shopping or reserving travel tickets, they have the option to use their fingerprints and face instead of a password for identification, via a dedicated smartphone application.

Taxi-sharing services app to be tested

The Japan News, January 16, 2017

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is considering introducing a taxi-sharing service, it has been learned. According to sources, the ministry plans to create a system utilizing a smartphone app to match customers looking for a taxi around the same time, whose points of departure and destination are both close.

Cyberattacks on home front prompt new lines of defense

Nikkei Asian Review, January 25, 2017

With all manner of household devices becoming connected to the internet, cyberattacks on equipment previously thought safe are on the rise, prompting manufacturers to develop countermeasures.

'Ethical hackers' prep for final round of annual cybersecurity contest

The Japan Times, January 26, 2017

With cyberattacks proliferating worldwide, a Japanese contest for “white hat” hackers supported by organizations including the communications ministry and National Police Agency is gearing up for the final round this weekend.

Real-time concert videos at the touch of a button

The Japan Times, January 26, 2017

Live Earth, a trio of IT workers who invented an application that helps bands turn their live performances into music videos, was awarded the grand prize at Billboard Japan’s first Live Music Hackasong.

8. Energy / Environment

‘Genome editing’ deployed to eradicate invasive fish

The Asahi Shimbun, January 02, 2017

Japanese scientists plan to release hordes of mutant bluegills into the wild in an attempt to eradicate the invasive fish species. The seemingly paradoxical project centers on genetically engineered bluegills that spawn infertile female offspring.

Fate of Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant remains unknown

The Japan Times, January 03, 2017

The government is struggling to decide the future of Tepco’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, which has been suspended since the March 2011 disaster. There have been increasing calls for decommissioning the power plant located just a few kilometers south of the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 installation.

Japan’s tornado warning system sees five-fold improvement

The Asahi Shimbun, January 04, 2017

The Japan Meteorological Agency says its new tornado prediction system is five times more accurate than its predecessor and enables some warnings to be issued up to 30 minutes earlier.

Insurer 2016 saw highest natural disaster losses in four years

The Japan Times, January 05, 2017

Last year saw the highest costs from natural disasters since 2012, with a pair of earthquakes in Japan in April accounting for the heaviest losses, a leading insurer said Wednesday.

70% of coral in Okinawa's Sekiseishoko area dead, survey shows

The Japan Times, January 11, 2017

About 70 percent of the coral in the Sekiseishoko area, the largest coral reef in Japan, is dead, an Environment Ministry survey has found. A ministry official said Tuesday the result showed accelerated coral bleaching was taking place — due chiefly to rising ocean temperatures.

Radioactive cesium in all Fukushima fish under government limit in 2016

The Japan Times, January 11, 2017

Levels of radioactive cesium in all fish and seafood sampled in the coastal waters off Fukushima Prefecture last year did not exceed the central government’s safety limit for the first time since the 2011 nuclear crisis, a local fishery laboratory has said.

Coral bleaching kills 70 percent of Japan’s biggest coral reef

The Asahi Shimbun, January 11, 2017

Coral bleaching has killed 70.1 percent of the nation’s largest coral reef as of the end of 2016, up from 56.7 percent just a few months earlier, the Environment Ministry said.

Chemicals exceeding standards again are detected at new site of fish market in Toyosu

The Japan Times, January 14, 2017

An amount of benzene 79 times the maximum allowed was detected among other toxic chemicals in groundwater samples gathered late last year from the new site at Toyosu, where the famous Tsukiji fish market is to be relocated, Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials said Saturday.

Japan's municipalities to be required to keep data on aging water mains

The Japan Times, January 27, 2017

Municipalities will be required from fiscal 2020 to keep data on water mains under a plan by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to ramp up the replacement of aging infrastructure across the country, according to sources.

Japan planning 5th scientific research base at Antarctica

The Asahi Shimbun, January 29, 2017

As Japan marked the 60th anniversary of the opening of its first base in Antarctica on Jan. 29, its commitment to the southern continent remains solid, with a fifth base planned.

Nuclear fuel debris that penetrated reactor pressure vessel possibly found at Fukushima No. 1

The Japan Times, January 30, 2017

Tepco on Monday found what may be melted nuclear fuel debris that penetrated the reactor 2 pressure vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Radar aims for fast rain forecasts for 2020 Games

The Japan News, January 30, 2017

A team of researchers led by such entities as the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), Toshiba Corp. and Osaka University will conduct demonstrations to test a radar system that can forecast localized heavy rain in the Tokyo metropolitan area 20 minutes before the rainfall begins.

9. Space Development

Japanese technology can help remove dangerous space junk from orbit

The Japan News, January 06, 2017

Cleaning up the massive volume of space junk that is floating high above the Earth has become a global problem. Concerned parties in the industrial, government and academic sectors are working briskly to use Japanese technology to reduce this nuisance.

Research team to develop micro Mars probe

The Japan News, January 09, 2017

Japan lags behind in the field of Mars exploration. The team aims to enable frequent exploration of Mars and increase the nation’s presence by developing in a short time a low-cost probe 50 centimeters in length, width and height.

Japan's space industry charts leaner, cheaper course

Nikkei Asian Review, January 10, 2017

Rocket development in Japan is getting lighter and leaner as more startups and private businesses enter the field. The industry, once dominated by government demand for large rockets, has seen an uptick in smaller, privately developed vehicles, with a number of projects now approaching the test-flight stage.

JAXA postpones launch of mini rocket because of strong wind

The Asahi Shimbun, January 11, 2017

Japan's space agency postponed on Wednesday the launch of a mini rocket that will put a satellite into space because of strong wind, an agency spokeswoman said.

Mini rocket splashes in sea in failed launch; cause unknown

The Asahi Shimbun, January 15, 2017

In a setback to efforts to develop mini rockets to put ultra-small satellites into orbit, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's launch of a 9.5-meter, 2.6-ton rocket ended in failure on Jan. 15.

Japan launches 1st military communications satellite

The Asahi Shimbun, January 24, 2017

Japan on Tuesday launched its first military communications satellite to boost the broadband capacity of its Self-Defence Forces as they reinforce an island chain stretching along the southern edge of the East China Sea.

Japan team qualified to vie for Google prize to land spacecraft on the moon

The Asahi Shimbun, January 26, 2017

Five teams, including one from Japan, have qualified to compete in a $30 million (3.4 billion yen) Google-backed competition to land and operate robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon, the XPrize Foundation said on Tuesday.

'Earth wind' and research: Japan team finds oxygen has been reaching moon since ancient times

The Japan Times, January 31, 2017

Oxygen from our atmosphere carried by “Earth wind” has been reaching the moon since ancient times, a Japanese research team said Tuesday.

10. Engineering / Robotics / Automotive

Just 10 years to go before launch of maglev Shinkansen

The Japan News, January 04, 2017

Work for a magnetic levitation, linear motor Shinkansen bullet train line has started in various related locations, with 10 years to go before the scheduled launch in 2027 of the services that will link Tokyo and Nagoya in only 40 minutes at the fastest.

Toyota unveils concept car with AI and autonomous driving tech

The Japan Times, January 05, 2017

Toyota Motor Corp. has unveiled a concept car with built-in artificial intelligence and autonomous driving technology designed to interact with the driver. The Wednesday unveiling of the Concept-i, which the automaker says can read its driver’s personality and emotions, came ahead of the opening Thursday of the Consumer Electronics Show, an annual global trade show held in Las Vegas.

Panasonic hatches egg-shaped conversational robot at CES

Nikkei Asian Review, January 06, 2017

Panasonic has created an egg-shaped desktop companion robot that speaks with humans using cloud data to determine responses, rolls on wheels and has an embedded camera and projector.

Nissan ending joint development of luxury cars with Daimler

The Japan Times, January 06, 2017

Nissan is halting joint development of luxury cars with Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, sources close to the companies told Reuters, suspending a key project in their seven-year partnership and potentially hitting profitability at a new shared factory in Mexico.

Carmakers include life-saving features to protect pedestrians

The Japan News, January 06, 2017

Such functions could become a key factor when people choose cars to buy because accidents involving pedestrians have a huge impact on drivers. The government’s efforts to reduce fatal accidents involving pedestrians have led to these efforts by automakers.

Honda, Toyota unveil concept cars with AI in Las Vegas

The Japan News, January 06, 2017

Honda Motor Co. at a major trade show in Las Vegas on Thursday unveiled its NeuV concept self-driving car that can also be used as a driverless taxi and earn money.

Robots show their personalities at Consumer Electronics Show

The Japan Times, January 08, 2017

Professor Einstein can roll his eyes, stick out his tongue and give a simple explanation of the theory of relativity. With his lifelike rubbery “skin” and bushy mustache, he can almost make you forget he is a robot.

Exclusive Mazda's new engine boosts fuel efficiency by 30%

Nikkei Asian Review, January 09, 2017

Japanese automaker Mazda Motor will introduce a new engine at the end of 2018 that offers 30% better fuel efficiency by using pressure, not spark plugs, to ignite fuel.

Honda goes higher-tech with updated Odyssey: Try the intercom

The Asahi Shimbun, January 10, 2017

A veteran player in the small but scrappy minivan segment is getting a major upgrade. Honda unveiled a sleeker 2018 Odyssey Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit featuring a range of design and technology updates.

Rise of robots puts pressure on 'world's factory'

Nikkei Asian Review, January 11, 2017

Companies across the globe are reducing their reliance on China by adopting cutting-edge technology and bringing production back home, a trend that puts pressure on the country and other offshore manufacturing locations to modernize as well.

In world first, drone delivers soup to surfers off Fukushima Prefecture

The Japan Times, January 12, 2017

In a world first, a drone successfully delivered a flask of hot soup to surfers on Thursday during a test of an unmanned flying vehicle traveling a preset route of more than 10 km.

Anti-sleep driving sensor being tested on Kobe buses

The Asahi Shimbun, January 18, 2017

Amid a series of deadly accidents caused by drivers falling asleep or being inattentive at the wheel, researchers have developed a monitoring system to warn anyone in danger of dozing off.

Volkswagen to bring electric car to Japan this summer

Nikkei Asian Review, January 18, 2017

Volkswagen will launch its first electric vehicle in Japan, releasing the e-Golf in June or July, as the automaker attempts to repair a reputation badly damaged by the 2015 revelation that it cheated on emissions tests for diesel-engine vehicles.

Narita tests robot to clear used dishes

The Japan News, January 27, 2017

Narita International Airport Corp. plans to promote the use of robots to improve passenger service ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Self-driving vehicles to be tested near Haneda Airport

The Japan News, January 30, 2017

A large-scale self-driving car feasibility test will be carried out on a public road near Haneda Airport in Ota Ward, Tokyo, it has been learned.

11. Physics and Nuclear Development

'Nihonium' research group among Asahi Prize recipients

The Asahi Shimbun, January 02, 2017

The group of scientists that discovered and named a new chemical element after Japan has been selected along with three individuals for the Asahi Prize for fiscal 2016, The Asahi Shimbun announced.

'Several years' needed to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant Niigata governor

The Japan Times, January 05, 2017

Restarting the world’s largest nuclear power plant will likely take “several years,” the governor of Niigata Prefecture said Thursday, highlighting the difficulty of concluding the nuclear disaster reviews sparked by the triple core meltdown of March 2011.

Amano secures 3rd term as IAEA chief

The Japan News, January 06, 2017

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday that no candidate for the top IAEA post other than incumbent Director-General Yukiya Amano had applied for the position by the deadline on Saturday.

Quake risk for Japanese-French nuclear plant in Turkey lowered to keep costs down, sources say

The Japan Times, January 08, 2017

Government-commissioned research firms have come up with a questionably low estimate for how badly an earthquake could rattle a nuclear power plant being built in Turkey by a Japanese-French venture, sources say.

Nuclear plant construction at center of town's first mayoral race in 16 years

The Japan Times, January 10, 2017

Official campaigning began Tuesday for the first mayoral election in 16 years in the town of Oma, Aomori Prefecture, with four candidates battling it out over whether an under-construction nuclear plant is good for the community.

Pipe checks at Japan's nuclear control rooms conducted without removing insulation

The Japan Times, January 15, 2017

The vast majority of Japan’s 42 viable commercial nuclear reactors have not had detailed checkups performed on the air conditioning and ventilation systems of their central control rooms, it has been learned.

1,130 cracks, 70% rigidity lost at Onagawa reactor building

The Asahi Shimbun, January 18, 2017

Plans to resume operations at the Onagawa nuclear power plant's No. 2 reactor have taken a hit, as the building sustained 1,130 cracks in the walls and lost an estimated 70 percent of structural rigidity in the massive 2011 earthquake.

Scientists closer to solving mystery of Earth’s core

The Japan News, January 31, 2017

Japanese scientists say that silicon is likely the mystery element in the Earth’s inner core, claiming progress on solving one of the planet’s deepest secrets.

12. Startups

Startups run by women getting more govt loans

The Japan News, January 03, 2017

Loans to women who aim to start businesses on a small scale are increasing in Japan, in line with a government policy of boosting women’s role in the economy and society.

Japan's tech startups thrive in small, custom niches

Nikkei Asian Review, January 05, 2017

Critics fault Japan for having failed to produce world-impacting innovations in recent years, but numerous interesting ideas are emerging thanks to efforts by the nation's startups, as information technology transforms the face of its society.

Japan: Healthcare startup Cykinso closes $2.3m seed investment

DealStreetAsia, January 10, 2017

Tokyo-based Cykinso, which develops and sells Mykinso – a test kit for intestinal flora, has announced that it secured 270 million yen ($2.3 million ) from the Regional Health Care Industry Support Fund and other investors in its seed round.

NTT Docomo eyeing more startup investments

Nikkei Asian Review, January 14, 2017

NTT Docomo will invest in 20 startups in Japan and elsewhere in the year ending March 2018, about double the current fiscal year's figure, a company source said.

Japan: HR startup Mosquitone raises seed funding from Genesia Ventures, Beenext

DealStreetAsia, January 15, 2017

Tokyo-based HR startup Mosquitone, which provides a cloud-based personnel assessment and target management platform called HRBrain, has secured funding from Genesia Ventures and Beenext.

Amazon Japan to offer startups funding, distribution help

Nikkei Asian Review, January 19, 2017

Amazon Japan will seek out startups with unique and cutting-edge products and provide funding and distribution assistance, the online retail giant announced Wednesday, aiming to sell exciting but unknown goods at home and abroad.

Four rising startups in Japan

Tech in Asia , January 24, 2017

This week’s featured startups are split between two companies that have been building steam for the past couple of years and two which are brand new to the scene. Smaller investors aren’t to be found this week though – major names like Nikkei, Draper Nexus, and Daiwa Corporate Investment drove the funding.

Silicon Valley is no longer the biggest startup game say these investors

Ventureburn, January 25, 2017

Tech has stolen the market cap crown from the oil tycoons. This change is perfectly natural according to a panel of regional experts last month at Innovation Weekend in Tokyo, but the Silicon Valley kingdom is also teetering on being overthrown.

13. Intellectual Property Rights / Technology Transfer / Alliances

Mass production of batteries begins at Tesla-Panasonic factory

The Japan Times, January 05, 2017

Tesla Motors Inc. said Wednesday that mass production of lithium-ion battery cells along with Panasonic Corp. has begun at a plant being jointly built by the two companies outside Reno, Nevada.

Ford, Toyota form telematics bloc to stymie Google, Apple

The Japan News, January 05, 2017

Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. have formed a consortium with four medium-size automakers to speed development of auto-industry standards for in-vehicle apps, a step toward preventing Apple Inc. and Google from controlling how drivers connect smartphones to their cars and trucks.

Takeda to buy U.S. maker of cancer drugs

The Japan News, January 10, 2017

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. said it would buy cancer drug maker Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. in a deal valued at $5.2 billion, to beef up its oncology pipeline. Takeda — which in September revealed it was scouting for multibillion dollar acquisitions to reduce its dependence on domestic sales — agreed to pay $24 for each Ariad share, a premium of about 75 percent to its Friday close.

Japan's Shiseido Agrees to Acquire Bare Escentuals

The Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2017

Shiseido Co., Japan's largest cosmetics company, is set to acquire the American make-up company Bare Escentuals Inc. for $1.7 billion, marking the largest acquisition in its 83-year history.

Retailer Nojima negotiating to buy Nifty's individual internet service

The Japan Times, January 14, 2017

Electronics retailer Nojima Corp. is in talks to acquire Nifty Corp.’s internet service provider for individual customers, it was learned Saturday. Nojima and Fujitsu Ltd., which fully owns Nifty, aim to reach a definitive agreement on the acquisition by the end of March, informed sources said.

Facing massive write-downs over U.S. investment, Toshiba to spin off its cash-cow chip business

The Japan Times, January 27, 2017

As it faces massive write-downs in its nuclear power plant business, Toshiba Corp. said Friday that it will spin off its cash-cow chip business at the end of March.

Honda, GM set up fuel cell system joint venture

The Japan News, January 31, 2017

Honda Motor Co. and General Motors Co. said Monday they have set up a joint venture in the United States to manufacture fuel cell systems, aiming to start mass production in around 2020 with investment of $85 million.

Konica Minolta, Pioneer set to merge OLED lighting ops

Nikkei Asian Review, January 31, 2017

Konica Minolta and Pioneer are concluding talks to merge their OLED lighting businesses under a 50-50 joint venture as early as spring.

14. General Interest

Over 1,000 Japanese firms to turn 100 years old in 2017

The Japan Times, January 02, 2017

More than 1,000 Japanese companies will mark the 100th anniversary of their founding in 2017, among them precision equipment maker Nikon Corp., automaker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Morinaga Milk Industry Co.

Japan seeks to attract workers, tourists to quake-hit region

Nikkei Asian Review, January 03, 2017

Japan aims to attract more workers and tourists to the northeastern region of Tohoku, which is still trying to rebuild its economy from a devastating earthquake and tsunami nearly six years ago.

Capsule toy vending machines at Narita airport a hit with tourists from abroad

The Japan Times, January 04, 2017

Capsule toy vending machines installed at Narita International Airport near Tokyo have become magnets for foreign visitors. T-Arts Co. set up 325 vending machines to dispense capsule toys in the basement floor of the airport’s Terminal 2 building, near escalators connecting Airport Terminal 2 Station and the departure lobby, and at some other locations, expecting purchases by foreign tourists waiting for return flights using leftover coins.

Rakuten steps up company-sponsored child care

Nikkei Asian Review, January 04, 2017

Rakuten has more than doubled the capacity of its child care center, in the latest of the internet service provider's efforts to better support working parents. The center also offers programs in English, in consideration of many foreign employees who may have difficulty finding suitable care elsewhere.

Wonderful world of 360-degree photos

The Japan News, January 05, 2017

Photo enthusiasts will have a blast with lightweight digital cameras that can create 360-degree images, whether they are photographs with family members or panoramic scenes. But be warned: a smartphone or similar device is needed as most of the cameras lack a display screen.

Advanced tech used by Paralympic athletes could throw perception of disabilities into question

The Japan Times, January 05, 2017

On Dec. 10, some 40 elementary school children showed up for a running workshop at Shin-Toyosu Brillia Running Stadium, a brand new indoor track facility opened the day before in Tokyo’s waterfront Toyosu district.

Sony, Samsung TVs wow CES crowds with new screen technologies

The Japan Times, January 05, 2017

It’s been a while since a new TV raised any eyebrows, but Sony Corp. has just unveiled a new product that’s creating a bit of buzz at the annual Consumer Electronics Show industry gathering in Las Vegas.

Trump's Japan ambassador pick rewards loyalty

Nikkei Asian Review, January 05, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump's apparent choice of a transition adviser as U.S. ambassador to Japan aims largely to reward a key supporter of unknown diplomatic caliber, who would return to Tokyo at a critical time for the two nations' security alliance.

Death of doctor in Fukushima disaster zone hospital throws patients’ futures into question

The Japan Times, January 06, 2017

A 120-bed hospital in the town of Hirono, Fukushima Prefecture, which has been on the frontline of efforts to restore communities annihilated by the March 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear calamity, has been thrown into crisis following the unexpected death last week of its aging and sole full-time doctor.

Japan's bottled-water exports to China set record in 2016

Nikkei Asian Review, January 06, 2017

Exports of Japanese bottled water to China are surging thanks to growing health consciousness in the Asian nation and the popularity of the water among visitors to Japan.

Study: Urbanites are 700 steps ahead of rural areas in walking

The Asahi Shimbun, January 08, 2017

People who think that country folk walk more than city slickers are out of step with reality, a group of scientists said.

Researchers warn of fingerprint theft from 'peace' sign

The Japan Times, January 11, 2017

Research by a team at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII) says so, raising alarm bells over the popular two-fingered pose. Fingerprint recognition technology is becoming widely available to verify identities, such as when logging on to smartphones, tablets and laptop computers.

Japan settling on 2019 as abdication date for emperor

Nikkei Asian Review, January 11, 2017

The Japanese government is looking to establish a framework that would allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate on the first day of 2019, according to revelations Tuesday from multiple government sources.

Japan Inc. moves toward minimum rest periods for workers

Nikkei Asian Review, January 12, 2017

Many Japanese companies are establishing a minimum interval between two days of work so that employees can receive enough rest time, a step aimed at fighting Japan's culture of lengthy job hours.

Exclusive: Records of 4m Japanese companies to be put online

Nikkei Asian Review, January 15, 2017

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Thursday will launch a searchable website of government-held information on some 4 million companies in Japan.

Symbols for toilet functions to be unified in Japan

The Japan Times, January 17, 2017

An association of Japanese toilet makers will unify pictograms on toilets with bidet functions to help foreign visitors use them.

Japan Inc. moving toward 4-day work week

Nikkei Asian Review, January 19, 2017

Three days off per week are increasingly common in Japan's workplaces as employers seek to improve the work-life balance in line with the government's push for labor reform.

Watchmakers set sights on Japan's working women

Nikkei Asian Review, January 19, 2017

Watchmakers are tweaking their lineups to appeal to Japan's growing contingent of working women, hoping that highly functional luxury offerings will counter slackening sales of men's timepieces.

Japan nominates natural, Christian sites for World Heritage honor

Nikkei Asian Review, January 20, 2017

A string of biologically diverse islands in southwestern Japan and historic Christian sites were recommended for World Heritage status by a government panel Thursday.

Japan looks to make women wait till 18 for marriage

Nikkei Asian Review, January 21, 2017

 Japan is considering setting the minimum age for both men and women to get married at 18, which it also aims to make the age of majority, in response to concerns over gender discrimination.

Japan to simplify residency process for foreign nationals with online service

The Japan Times, January 23, 2017

The government has decided to launch an online service to allow foreign nationals to apply and update their residency status in Japan from fiscal 2018, one of a series of measures aimed at improving business efficiency to attract more foreign investment.

Government plans to cap overtime at yearly average of 60 hours per month

The Japan Times, January 28, 2017

The government plans to propose an overtime cap to address the widespread issue of excessively long working hours based on a yearly average of 60 hours per month, sources close to the matter said.

'Father of Pac-Man,' Masaya Nakamura, dies at age 91

The Japan Times, January 30, 2017

Masaya Nakamura, the founder of game developer and distributor Namco Ltd. and known as “the father of Pac-Man,” died Jan. 22, Bandai Namco Holdings Inc. announced Monday via a corporate website.

SoftBank to offer online stress counseling system for employees

The Japan News, January 31, 2017

SoftBank Group Corp. will release as early as April a new stress check system, through which employees experiencing mental strain will be able to consult with a counselor at any time of day using an online video call service, according to sources.

15. Calls

Degree Programmes

UNU-IAS offers postgraduate programmes leading to master’s or doctoral degrees to strengthen the capacities of academic and scientific communities around the globe, particularly in developing countries and countries in transition.

MSc in Sustainability (2017)
Starting Date: 2017-09-01
Application Due: 2017-02-28

PhD in Sustainability Science (2017)
Starting Date: 2017-09-01
Application Due: 2017-04-28

Continuous Education at the University of Geneva

Looking for a new challenge in 2017? The University of Geneva continuing education programmes can help you reach your goals. In 2016, several projects and programmes related to the Sustainable Development Goals were launched, including the Geneva Trialogue on Knowledge and the SDGs Conference, which gathered international organisations, private sector and academia.
Programs in English:

Summer Courses at the University of Geneva

Summer French Courses from June 26 to August 25, 2017
Information and enrollment:

Executive M.B.L. at the University of St. Gallen HSG

The Executive M.B.L. at the University of St. Gallen offers early applicants a discount on the tuition fee
Apply until 28 February and enjoy a discount of CHF 1.500.- on the tuition fee!
For further information visit:

New Call: Young Researchers Exchange Programme

A new call for the exchange of young researchers (PhD students, young postdocs and master students in exceptional cases) between Japan and Switzerland was announced by ETH Zurich together with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).
Swiss young scientists can spend 3-6 months doing research in a Japanese partner laboratory or vice-versa, Japanese scientists can perform 3-6 months of research in Switzerland; grants cover international travel and living allowance. Deadline for application is May 19, 2017.
Guidelines and application forms can be found here:

More events on the Japan Science and Technology Office homepage: Check it Now!

The information in this newsletter is an opinion excerpt of news material from Japan and gathered to the best knowledge of the writer. The newsletter tries to provide information without any news preferences, and takes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information. No legal liability or responsibility can be taken. The information is provided for informational purposes only. No part of the newsletter may be used for any commercial or public use. Open disclosure of this newsletter is not permitted.