According to The Asahi Shimbun, showrooms in Tokyo's Yurakucho and Shinjuku districts where shoppers can see and try out merchandise on display are nothing out of the ordinary.
But in the ones that b8ta Japan G.K. opened in August last year, there are no cash registers or sales on site. Instead, customers are asked to place their orders online for items such as a desktop clothes dryer and a delivery locker.
Catering to a growing number of customers visiting brick-and-mortar shops to check out products but purchasing them online, retailers are increasing their stores dedicated to "showrooming."
Startups and other businesses that have no dealings with retailers are renting small sections in these showrooms to display their products.
The trend has attracted attention, seen as a way to re-evaluate the meaning of physical stores amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced millions of people to stay at home.
According to The Nikkei Asia, Japan's Fuji Electric will invest an extra 40 billion yen (US$365 million) to expand production of power semiconductors, which are used to manage power flows in air conditioners, electric autos and more.
The decision is a response to "growing demand from renewable energy" applications, such as electric vehicles and solar, said President Michihiro Kitazawa.
The 40 billion yen is on top of the 120 billion yen Fuji Electric had earmarked for the four years through fiscal 2022, which has already been moved up from the original time frame of fiscal 2023 to meet unexpectedly strong demand.
According to The Nikkei Asia, Japan's efforts to attract overseas talent have not translated into better access to higher education for children of foreign nationals, a Nikkei survey of universities shows.
Of the 82 national universities surveyed, only one had an admission process for foreign-born Japan-educated students that was separate from the general entrance exam that would be difficult for one without native fluency and the restricted programs for international students.
According to The Nikkei Asia, Hitachi is developing a system to monitor energy consumption and the use of renewable energy in factories, at a time when verifying greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts is becoming more important as investors put more focus on companies' green credentials.
The Japanese industrial conglomerate plans to develop and implement a new system to measure and optimize energy use in at least three of its factories this year. The company then hopes to make the system available for other manufacturers and suppliers from 2022.
The system eventually would be a key tool to prove carbon neutrality in the supply chain, Hitachi's chief environmental officer and executive vice-president Alistair Dormer told Nikkei Asia in an interview. There would be a need for this sort of authentication because, just as companies' financial records and taxes are audited, "we think the same thing will be [required] for ESG [environment, social and governance concerns], because it is becoming so important to investors" and society, he said.
According to The Nikkei Asia, Fujifilm Holdings will invest 70 billion yen (US$ 637 million) over the three years through March 2024 into its semiconductor materials business, tapping the surging global demand for chips driven by the rise of fifth-generation wireless and artificial intelligence.
The figure represents a roughly 40% increase from the previous three-year period. Fujifilm aims to expand its revenue from chipmaking materials by about 30% to 150 billion yen by the year ending March 2024, turning it into a key driver for growth alongside its health care business.
Fujifilm is particularly focused on photoresists used for printing circuits onto silicon wafers. The company will bolster production of resists for extreme ultraviolet lithography machines, used to make advanced chips of 5 nm or less.
According to The Nikkei Asia, Japanese trading house Marubeni will set up a market for used solar panels featuring blockchain technology to maintain accurate records and prevent fraud.
The company plans to launch a website as early as next fiscal year where buyers and sellers can provide information and make trades. Marubeni itself will participate in the market, looking to make money from buying, selling, exporting and generating power from used panels.
Japan's Environment Ministry estimates that 800,000 tons of solar panels will require replacing here each year in the mid-2030s -- nearly 300 times the 2020 tally. Finding new homes for this equipment would cut down on waste and get more mileage out of the silicon and other materials used in their construction.
Marubeni expects that a trustworthy distribution network for this equipment would draw interest from domestic and foreign power companies, among others. It plans to partner with Japan's Environment Ministry and Nagano-based Next Energy & Resources on the project, seeking to make the platform Japan's go-to market for such deals.
According to The Nikkei Asia, Isuzu Motors and Hino Motors are making forays into no-emission light trucks next year as Japan trails other major automobile markets in embracing electrified fleets.
The Japanese commercial vehicle producers are eyeing business with shipping and logistics companies while fighting the growing presence of Chinese rivals, which offer competitive prices.
Hino intends to roll out the Dutro Z EV truck in early summer 2022, with Isuzu planning to release an electric version of its Elf truck next year after testing. They are following in the footsteps of compatriot Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus, which debuted the eCanter in 2017. These electric-powered trucks are all light-duty with a capacity of 2 tons to 4 tons.
Hino and Isuzu are in a new partnership with Toyota Motor to develop electric and other new technologies for commercial vehicles. Suzuki Motor and Daihatsu Motor joined the Toyota-led alliance this month to accelerate the EV push in Japan.
According to The Nikkei Asia, Japanese engineering company JGC Holdings and petroleum wholesaler Cosmo Oil are commercializing jet biofuel in Japan for the first time, targeting aviation companies that are under pressure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to meet green credentials, Nikkei has learned.
Biofuels, also called sustainable aviation fuel, are made from waste plastics or biomass such as algae and wood chips.
JGC and Cosmo are planning to use waste cooking oil collected by Kyoto-based Revo International from restaurants and food factories. The companies are planning to start production in 2025 in Osaka.
Total carbon dioxide emissions from raw materials procurement through burning in jet engines is estimated to be as much as 80-90% lower compared to traditional jet fuel. Major airlines Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have both already started using SAF, and are set to expand usage in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, the industry ministry is taking actions to cut Japan's electricity generation by 10 percent by fiscal 2030.
It also plans to make nuclear energy and other non-fossil energy sources account for about 60 percent of the power output by bolstering renewables, according to sources.
These targets are expected to be incorporated into the new Basic Energy Plan, which may be unveiled as early as July 21. The plan is typically revised every three years, and the ministry has been working on the update to the plan.
Japan is ramping up efforts to meet its goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent from their level in fiscal 2013 by fiscal 2030.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, check-in and other procedures are rapidly being automated and rendered contactless at Tokyo's Haneda Airport to address health issues due to the COVID19 pandemic as well as personnel shortages.
With the summer break approaching, the second since the pandemic flared early last year, aviation industry officials are doing their utmost to reduce chances for passengers to interact with staff at the key gateway to Japan.
Air carriers also began bolstering their anti-virus measures in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics that kicked off July 23.
Japan Airlines Co. upgraded its automated check-in system at Terminal 1 for domestic flights this past spring. The system scans fingerprints with infrared rays, allowing passengers to operate it while holding their finger several centimeters from the screen.
A zero contact solution has also been introduced for the automatic baggage registration equipment put in service last year. This eliminates the need for people to line up at check-in counters to explain the content of their luggage to staff.
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