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The Japan Times


Coal country cleanup: U.S. plan sketches out possible future for former miners

The Japan Times

Now, with mining jobs hard to find, he's cleaning up the mess the industry left behind. The 68-year-old operates a bucket loader scraping away red, rocky waste dumped years ago by failed coal mine operators in a valley in the town of Clinchco, Virginia. The $17.50 an hour before overtime he makes cleaning up massive "gob piles," as the locals call them, is less than what he earned in decades as a miner. "If this work goes away, I don't know what I would do," Mullins said. Appalachia, long the heart of the U.S. coal-mining industry, may be set for a surge in jobs like Mullins' if President Joe Biden is successful in his ambitions to transition the United States to a cleaner energy economy to fight climate change.


AI predicts sales from weather to cut food waste in Fukuoka test

The Japan Times

Fukuoka – The city of Fukuoka, jointly with the Japan Weather Association, is conducting an experiment to reduce food waste using artificial intelligence. In the experiment, AI is used to predict sales of products in line with weather conditions, allowing stores to adjust their order and production volumes. Participating stores were able to reduce waste and boost sales in the fiscal year that ended in March. The experiment uses the JWA's weather-based demand prediction service, which analyzes mainly weather conditions, temperatures, social media posts and past retail sales data to predict demand for more than 660 products, including fresh food and prepared food, in seven stages. In the experiment last fiscal year, six of the eight participating companies in the city saw their food waste decline, while seven logged increased sales.


Going electric: Carmakers prepare to make the switch

The Japan Times

Paris – Leading automakers have signaled their intention to scrap internal combustion engines by 2030 or cut back sharply on their production as the sector turns toward electric vehicles. The latest to unveil plans was German group Daimler, maker of Mercedes Benz and smart cars, which aims to be fully electric before 2030 -- five years ahead of a deadline proposed by the European Commission. Here is a look at who wants to do what. Daimler Plans to invest more than €40 billion ($47 billion) to be able to electrify all of its cars by the end of the decade. From 2025, all Mercedes "architectures" -- the chassis, motor and wheels -- are to be 100% electric. Daimler also plans to build eight factories to produce the batteries that are the vehicles' key component.


Honda scraps go-it-alone strategy for safer shift toward EVs

The Japan Times

Honda Motor Co. long eschewed big strategic alliances, preferring to go it alone even as many of its carmaking peers banded together to improve economies of scale. That's changing now that the Japanese automaker is shifting more aggressively to electric vehicles. "It will be extremely risky for Honda to push the move alone," Chief Executive Officer Toshihiro Mibe said in an interview Tuesday. "It's meaningful to form alliances, mass-produce and lower costs to make our business sustainable." As the world's largest manufacturer of engines, Honda is uniquely exposed to risks posed by combustion falling out of favor around the globe.


Narita and Haneda airports start wider use of facial recognition

The Japan Times

Chiba – Japan's Narita and Haneda airports on Monday started the full-scale use of facial recognition, allowing international travelers to check in baggage and pass security checkpoints without showing passports or flight tickets. With the "Face Express" system aimed at speeding up the boarding process and providing a touchless experience for passengers, travelers need to have their photos taken at check-in when they register their passports and boarding passes upon arriving at the airports. After registering necessary data with special terminals, cameras at baggage check-in, security checkpoint entrances and boarding gates will automatically verify passengers' identity and allow them to pass through, Narita International Airport Corp. said. "The procedure (for boarding) ended quickly and the gate opened smoothly," said company employee Susumu Hayakawa, 29, before traveling on a Japan Airlines flight to Chicago from Narita Airport near Tokyo. The system fully came into service after Narita Airport started trialing the use of facial recognition in April, only involving airport staff and not actual travelers. It will also lead to reduced physical contact between travelers, machines, and airport and flight staff, helping to prevent the spread of virus infections, the airport operator has said.


High-tech startups breaking into Japan's disaster prevention field

The Japan Times

Kumamoto – Startup companies are acquiring a growing presence in the field of disaster prevention and reduction, leveraging their strength in technology and their ability to quickly develop goods and services responding to actual needs in afflicted areas. Wota Corp. released a portable recycled water treatment device in 2019. Called Wota Box, it is capable of making 98% of the water that is discharged after showers, handwashing and laundry reusable. With the quality of water managed by artificial intelligence technology, Wota Box makes potable water available when the supply of water is cut off. More than 20 local governments have introduced the device for use at times of disaster.


EU challenges partners to keep up with new ambitious climate measures

The Japan Times

Brussels – The European Union is using its strength as a wealthy trade bloc of half a billion consumers to set the global pace of climate change action, challenging others to match the ambitions of its latest carbon cutting plans. In its most ambitious bid yet to hit a goal of cutting net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030, the EU on Wednesday laid out proposals that would consign the internal combustion engine to history and raise the cost of emitting carbon for heating, transport and factories. The question now is whether the EU gambit becomes an established benchmark upon which investors and sectors like the auto industry set transition strategies, and how big emitters like the United States and China respond ahead of U.N. climate talks later this year. "Amongst G7 and G20 nations, the EU position is now the explicit global benchmark," said Julian Poulter, Head of Investor Relations at Inevitable Policy Response, a consultancy on environmental economics. "It will exert a new influence on that basis, in other industrialized nations and their financial sectors, and increase pressure on those nations that remain as climate outliers and spoilers," he added.


Netflix's plan to jump into video games puzzles Wall Street

The Japan Times

Netflix Inc.'s foray into gaming is raising more eyebrows than excitement among analysts. Though there's long been speculation that Netflix might move into video games, Wednesday's news that it had hired an executive to lead the effort -- and would start adding titles to its streaming platform in the next year -- came as a surprise to many. The Los Gatos, California-based company doesn't have the infrastructure or the expertise to create or support top-tier games, analysts said. And that capability won't be easy to build. "They don't have a game catalog -- they haven't cultivated a base of gamers in their audience," said Lewis Ward, research director for gaming at IDC. "And they don't have an internal studio or infrastructure to handle a service."


U.S. Marines use Japanese language during drill to improve ties with SDF

The Japan Times

NAHA – The U.S. Marine Corps have held a drill in Japan with orders given in Japanese for the first time, according to the troops, in a move aimed at enhancing their partnership with the Self-Defense Forces. Although it remains unclear whether the Marines will interact in Japanese during actual operations, use of the language in Marine training suggests Washington is attempting to engage Japan's Ground-Self Defense Force in new operations involving remote islands, according to an SDF source. In a Marine exercise on April 29 at an airfield on Ie Island in Okinawa Prefecture, a Marine is confirmed to have directed other members in Japanese to move a rocket and fire it while pointing at a spot on the map. The exercise was part of the Marines' new Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, or EABO, in which troops practice securing a base for an attack on an island. "We would very much like to increase our partnership and interoperability," said Capt.


Toyota's tech arm plans major hiring push in self-driving race

The Japan Times

Toyota Motor Corp.'s software and technology arm plans to embark on an ambitious hiring and acquisition spree as automakers globally jostle for pole position in the race to develop smart cars that will one day drive themselves. James Kuffner, CEO of Woven Planet Holdings Inc. -- the unit charged with leading the world's largest carmaker through an era in which the lines between technology and automobiles are increasingly blurred -- said he's looking to "double or quadruple the size of the company in the next couple of years." "And so that means organic and inorganic hiring, and when it makes sense, strategic acquisitions," Kuffner said on Wednesday. "We need a lot more people to deliver our mission faster and so I'm always looking for ways to attract, partner with and acquire top talent in that area." Acquisitions are already being made rapidly.