Iland6 Co., Ltd.

#71 Robots and Salad

Notesletter #71
Robots and Salad
What’s the connection between robots and salad? And, which one belongs in a hi-tech newsletter?
The past 5 years have seen a growing penetration of pre-packaged fresh salads in Tokyo’s supermarkets and convenience stores. This represents a tipping point in the social fabric. The transition is underway from the nuclear family with single wage-earner and stay-at-home mom to new patterns like the double-wage family, and lone bachelors and bachelorettes well into their thirties. The Abe government’s goal of higher women’s labor participation is starting to happen, though one can argue if it is due to government policies or in spite of them. There is certainly a long road ahead for women’s entry to management ranks.
Home robots are starting to appear in showrooms such as Tsutaya leisure outlets, Softbank shops, etc. So, robots are part of the same social trend of time-saving, right? Well, not exactly. The current generation of robots like Softbank’s “Pepper” are positioned more as “companions”, for elderly and lonely people. They carry on conversations (well, not something I’d call a conversation, but…), and eventually will have sensors to look after their “masters”, and a store of apps. At 198,000 yen a robot, why not?
So, you get the idea. The packaged salads are the labor-saving device. The robot is a companion. What will come next – a taxi that drives itself, while the driver bows and apologizes?
As the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) negotiations progress heralding deregulation, it is worth remembering one U.S. negotiator's reminisce from the U.S.-Japan Structural Impediments Talks of the 1980’s. “It was a circular negotiation. For example, we asked them to deregulate the automotive market. They responded, “what percent of the market do you want”. We said, “even zero percent is ok, as long as it’s a level playing field”. They said “oh, zero percent is ok?”.
According to one Hong Kong think tank, Japan is the #3 most regulated country in the world (India easily captures #1, and China #2).
My company iLand6 recently released a cloud digital signage system, and one of its widgets streams weather forecasts. But, Article 17 of the Meteorological Service Act restricts unauthorized bodies from publishing weather information for “public security reasons" (!?!), so such streaming may be a no-no.
In the last few years, it’s often hard to find butter in grocery stores here. Turns out there is a 10,000 ton/year shortage. The Forestry and Fisheries Ministry tries to blame the lack of dairy farmers, but the real reason is import regulations.
TPP to the rescue? Not really. Japan is insisting that TPP exempt Critical Food categories – rice, wheat, beef, pork, sugar, milk… and butter falls in the milk category.

iLand6 Co., Ltd.

Notes letter