Japan and India to enter technology partnership  

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will announce the plans, which will see the two nations share their respective technological talents and expertise, during Modi’s visit to Japan set to begin on Sunday 28 October 2018.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016

Japan is well known for being one of the most technologically-advanced countries in the world. As competition from other countries intensifies, however, the country is seeking new ways to retain its superior status. One of these is to attract the most talented minds from elsewhere. Its most recent move in this direction will see Japan sign a technology agreement with India to promote the development of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. “The partnership will include joint research, promotion of startups and development of human resources in both countries,” the newspaper said. The two countries have different strengths, with Japanese corporations excelling in areas such as infrastructure, consumer electronics, and automotive engineering, while Indian companies are renowned for expertise in software technology.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Tokyo this weekend. The agreement will be announced during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

According to the report, research and development in digital technology will be a focus of the partnership. “The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan’s largest state-sponsored research institute, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, are planning joint studies, initially in image recognition. The research may later expand into 5G mobile communications and robotics,” the Nikkei Asian Review stated.

Students from the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, have also attended a briefing by The Japan External Trade Organization along with a number of Japanese companies, to emphasise Japanese companies‘ desire to recruit Indian talent. Interviews will start in December for students expected to graduate in June of 2019, at the companies’ Indian offices and at headquarters in Japan.

The two countries also hope to expand into one another’s markets, and recently opened a joint office Japan in Bangalore, home of India’s tech industry, in order to help facilitate this. At this office, India’s government will provide support to Japanese companies looking to expand in India, and help Japanese companies find local partners and talent. Japan, meanwhile, will invite Indian businesses with competitive technologies and ideas to Japan, and help them collaborate with large Japanese companies.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review


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Japan and China to collaborate on Thai smart city as first of 50 joint projects

The smart city will be built in Chonburi, Thailand

As part of their growing economic cooperation, Japan and China will announce their commitment to collaborate on around 50 private-sector, third-country infrastructure projects when they meet in Beijing on Friday, 26 October 2018, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The first will see them set out plans to work together to build a smart city in Thailand, with construction to begin as early as this year.

Japanese urban development and green technology company Yokohama Urban Solution Alliance (YUSA) will work with low-cost Chinese construction company JSCC and Thailand’s largest builder and operator of industrial parks Amata, to upgrade an industrial park in the province of Chonburi, Thailand.

China hopes the partnership will be a boon for its controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – expected to be the world’s largest infrastructure project – while Japan believes it will benefit Japanese companies who often struggle to win bids against low-cost Chinese counterparts.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also attend a forum on infrastructure investment attended by 1,400 company representatives from both nations during his visit to the Chinese capital.

The Chonburi smart-city is one of many such projects planned across for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as part of plans to transform the regions infrastructure as it experiences rapid urbanisation and dramatic population growth.

According to the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), “a smart and sustainable city is an innovative city that uses ICTs and other means to improve the quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social and environmental aspects”.

The trend for smart cities across the ASEAN region has created business opportunities for Japanese companies in a range of fields, including environmental technology, housing, automotives and public transportation, the Nikkei Asian Review said.

The Japan-China joint projects will also include more than 10 deals in finance. The automotive industry will also be involved, creating technologies for next generation vehicles while members of the oil and energy sector will collaborate to build hydrogen filling stations for fuel cell vehicles.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review


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Ground-breaking Japanese space rover sends video of sun seen from asteroid’s surface

The Japanese space agency JAXA made history last week by becoming the first to land a rover on an asteroid. It has now released a video taken from the asteroid’s surface showing the sun moving across the sky.

The rovers were in good condition as they landed and began transmitting images and data.  “The good news made me so happy. From the surface of Ryugu, MINERVA-II1 sent a radio signal to the Earth via Hayabusa2 S/C. The image taken by MINERVA-II1 during a hop allowed me to relax as a dream of many years came true. I felt awed by what we had achieved in Japan. This is just a real charm of deep space exploration,” Takashi Kubota, Spokesperson for the Hayabusa2 Project said of the successful rover landingHayabusa2, launched in December 2014, will attempt next month to collect samples from the asteroid and carry them back to Earth for scientists to study. It is believed studying the composition of asteroids can provide information about the formation of the solar system billions of years ago.

Discovered in 1999, Ryugu is a 1-km wide, diamond-shaped asteroid situated 186 million miles from Earth. According to JAXA, it was chosen as the subject of the Hayabusa2 mission because it is “rich in water and organic materials,” which allows scientists to “clarify interactions between the building blocks of Earth and the evolution of its oceans and life, thereby developing solar system science.”

It was named Ryugu after Ryūgū (Dragon Palace), a magical underwater palace in a Japanese folktale. The story tells of a fisherman who travels to the palace on the back of a turtle and returns carrying a mysterious box.

Source: JAXA

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Sake grown on trees?

Scientists at the Japanese Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute have developed a method to produce “wood alcohol”, which they hope will become a popular beverage in the country.

Cherry wood is one of the types that has been used so far to create “wood sake”

You may have heard of “Kuchikamizake”, a special kind of sake in which human saliva functions as a fermentation starter (after the rice has been chewed and spat out), but how about sake made from trees? Scientists at Japan’s Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute recently announced they have managed to create just this. By fermenting wood through a process similar to that used to make the traditional Japanese rice wine, the researchers have created an alcohol suitable for drinking, which retains the aroma of the wood, the Japan Times reported. The resulting “wood alcohol” tastes similar to alcohol aged in wood barrels, like whisky, and could be on shelves within three years.

Until now, methods used for the alcoholic fermentation of wood (for instance, in the production of biofuels) required the wood to be processed with sulphuric acid and heated to a high temperature to dissolve the cellulose or plant fibres, rendering the resulting product unsafe for drinking.

In the newly-invented method, the wood is crushed into microscopic chips which are mixed with yeast and an enzyme to start the fermentation process. Because no heat or harmful chemicals are used in the process, the alcohol created retains the aroma of the specific type of wood, and is suitable for drinking.

Using this process, the scientists produced 3.8 litres of liquid with an alcohol content of around 15% – similar to that of sake – from four kilograms of cedar wood. The researchers have produced alcohol from birch and cherry wood.

According to reports, the institute, which has a partial mandate from the Japanese government, plans to commercialise the venture with a private-sector partner, and begin selling wood sake within three years. It says it hopes the product will push demand for domestically grown wood in the future.

“We thought it would be interesting to think that alcohol could be made from something around here like trees,” Kengo Magara, a researcher responsible for the development project, was reported as saying.

“In Japan, there are about 1,200 species of trees. I hope people will be able to enjoy alcoholic drinks made from trees peculiar to each region.”

Sources: The Japan Times; Daily Nation

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An egg-cellent source of renewable energy

Researchers from Osaka City University in Japan have discovered that using proteins taken from egg whites could help facilitate the carbon-free production of hydrogen.

Although hydrogen is considered clean fuel because it emits nothing but water when burnt, the creation of the gas itself is a less eco-friendly affair. Currently, the mass production of hydrogen involves the burning of fossil fuels, a process which releases harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Scientists have discovered that is possible to generate hydrogen for fuel cleanly using a photocatalyst like solar power by creating a fluid to store the substance. But free-moving and randomly located molecules and particles in the fluid can interfere with the process of producing hydrogen and scientists have long searched for a way to immobilise them.

A team of scientists at Osaka City University believe they have found the solution. The researchers, led by Professor Yusuke Yamada, have developed a method in which the protein contained in egg whites can be harnessed to build crystals with lots of tiny holes to trap these particles.

“We found protein was a useful tool” to generate hydrogen in a lab without using a fossil fuel, the professor told AFP.

The whites of chicken eggs, which are inexpensive and inexhaustible, consist of porous lysozyme crystals.

“Lysozyme crystals have a highly ordered nanostructure and, thus, we can manipulate the molecular components when they accumulate in the crystals,” Hiroyasu Tabe, a special appointment research associate at the Graduate School of Engineering at Osaka City University in Japan, said. The crystal structure can be easily analysed with X-ray technology.

The change brought a sense of traffic control to the molecular interactions and improved the efficiency of clean, hydrogen production, Yamada was cited as saying. The discovery was published in the February edition of the scientific journal “Applied Catalysis B”.

Hydrogen is considered by many as the ultimate clean energy. If an efficient method to generate the gas can be found, it could be used to power everything from cars to buildings.

Source: Osaka City University; AFP

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Chemical found in fast-food fries could cure hair loss, Japanese research suggests

Scientists at Yokohama National University have discovered that a chemical used to cook McDonalds’ fries could help cure baldness.

After using the chemical dimethylpolysiloxane in the cell generation process, the research team managed to mass produce up to 5000 ‘hair follicle germs’ (HFGs) simultaneously, according to a paper published in the journal Biomaterials. The scientists then transplanted the cells onto the backs and scalps of mice which started to sprout new black hairs in these areas. HFGs, which are the reproductive source of hair follicles, are notoriously difficult to produce. This is the first time they have been produced in a lab on a large scale. According to the study, preliminary experiments indicate this technique will also work in people.

“We hope this technique will improve human hair regenerative therapy to treat hair loss such as androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness), Junji Fukuda, a professor at the university involved in the study, said.

Dimethylpolysiloxane, a chemical found in silicone, is used in the production of the fast-food chain‘s fries for safety reasons to the prevent cooking oil from foaming . Fukuda said the use of the chemical was crucial to successfully producing the hair follicle germs, the Independent reported. According to reports, the chemical is particularly effectives for HFGs because oxygen can easily pass through it.

“The key for the mass production of HFGs was a choice of substrate materials for culture vessel,” Fukuda said in the press release. “We used oxygen-permeable dimethylpolysiloxane at the bottom of culture vessel, and it worked very well.”

“This simple ssHFG preparation approach is a promising strategy for improving current hair-regenerative medicine techniques,” he added.

Source: The Independent; The Evening Standard; The Mirror

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First “Japan Festival” opens in Turkey

Turkey’s first festival to promote Japanese culture began in the country’s capital Ankara on Saturday (10.02.2018). More than 300 people took part in the opening ceremony of the “Japan Festival”, NHK World reported.

Increased interest in learning Japanese among young people in Turkey has been put down to the popularity of Japanese comics and animation.

The number of people who have taken an exam to gauge their proficiency in Japanese has increased by more than 50 percent this fiscal year, compared to last year, the news service reported.

Minister for the “Cool Japan” strategy adopted by the Japanese government, Masaji Matsuyama, said he hopes those attending the festival will serve as bridges between Japan and Turkey.

Numan Kurtulmus, Turkish minister for culture and tourism pointed out that the number of Japanese tourists in Turkey is now increasing after a decline due to concerns over the security situation. He too expressed his hope for further cultural exchanges between the countries, NHK said.

Entertainment at the festival included music played on a Japanese “koto” harp and a traditional Turkish flute called a “ney,” as well as a dance performance.

Source: NHK World

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The Japanese Connection offers a wide range of professional Japanese translation or interpreting services worldwide, with specialists in many areas including lawbusiness and engineering.  Indeed, our level of specialism coupled with excellent customer service accounts for our ever-expanding list of clients from around the world. To find out how our services can assist you, please visit our website or contact us directly by email. You can also visit our blog guide to doing business in Japan.

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Low-cost origami 3D-printing technique could improve bone implants

Scientists at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands have created a new way to print flat structures which self-fold into complex shapes according to a pre-planned sequence. The research has many applications, including the potential to improve bone transplants, the university said.

origami-1308378_1920

Essentially a combination of the Japanese paper-folding art of origami and 3D printing, the technique created by Amir Zadpoor and his team of researchers is means of creating shape-shifting constructs without the high costs or manual labour usually associated with this process.

Zadpoor’s team used an Ultimaker, one of the most popular 3D printers, and PLA, the most common printing material available. “At about 17 Euro’s per kilo, it’s dirt cheap”, said Zadpoor. “Nevertheless, we created some of the most complex shape-shifting ever reported with it.” The process is also fully automated and requires no manual labour whatsoever.

Zadpoor’s team achieved this by creating a technique in which they simultaneously printed and stretched the material in certain spots. “The stretching is stored inside the material as a memory”, PhD researcher Teunis van Manen explained. “When heated up, the memory is released and the material wants to go back to its original state.”

The researchers also alternated the thickness and the alignment of the filaments in the material.

“What makes the team’s shape-shifting objects so advanced is the fact that they self-fold according to a pre-planned sequence,” TU Delft wrote about the project.

“If the goal is to create complex shapes, and it is, some parts should fold sooner than others”, Zadpoor explained. “Therefore, we needed to program time delays into the material. This is called sequential shape-shifting.”

This approach marks an important step in the development of better bone implants for two reasons, the researchers explained. Firstly, it makes it possible to create prosthetics with a porous interior which allows a patient’s own stem cells to move into the structure of the implant and attach themselves to the interior surface area, instead of just coating the exterior. This will result in a stronger, more durable implant.

Secondly, with this technique, nanopatterns that guide cell growth can be crafted on the surface of the implant, TU Delft explained.

“We call these ‘instructive surfaces’, because they apply certain forces to the stem cells, prompting them to develop into the cells we want them to be”’, said PhD researcher Shahram Janbaz. “A pillar shape, for instance, may encourage stem cells to become bone cells.”

It is impossible to create such instructive surfaces on the inside of a 3D structure. “This is why we decided we needed to start from a flat surface,” said Zadpoor.

Other applications for the research include printed electronics (“by using this technique, it may be possible to incorporate printed, 2D-electronics into a 3D shape,” Zadpoor said) and flat-pack furniture. “Shape-shifting could definitely turn many of our existing 2D worlds into 3D worlds’, he said. “We are already being contacted by people who are interested in working with it.”

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Campaign to foster “a culture of giving” in Japan enters third year

For the first time, partner organisations from all 47 prefectures of Japan will be getting involved in the “Giving December” project, designed to encourage people to donate to charity in Japan, the Japan Times reported.

Giving December

Japan lags behind other developed nations when it comes to donating to good causes. While, in 2016, individuals in the US donated a total of around USD 282 billion in 2016, according to data by the Giving USA Foundation, those in Japan donated only USD 6.8 billion over the same period, the Japan Fundraising Association found in its recent survey.

In the US, over 30 per cent of donations are made in December. It makes sense, then, for a campaign focused on improving these numbers in Japan, to take place during this season of giving.

The message of the campaign which began in 2015 and is supported by a network of non-profit organisations, local governments, companies, universities and others, is “Donate more. Invest in the future of society”.

“The amount of donations in Japan is small among the advanced countries,” Hiroshi Komiyama, head of the promotion committee for this year’s “Giving December” was quoted as saying.

Organisers of the Giving December campaign hope that the projects planned under the initiative will help to close this gap by instilling in people the joy of giving and the benefits of charity, which then translate into positive changes in society.

The Japan Fundraising Association (JFRA) is one of the main bodies behind the campaign. Set up in 2009, the association was founded “to create a society with a new culture of giving.” The Association’s CEO, Masataka Uo, also heads the committee’s secretariat.

According to the report, about 500 entities (up from 397 in 2016) will participate in the initiative. A record number of projects under the “Giving December” header will also be carried out, said Uo. Last year, there were 71 projects, while this year, there are expected to be 125.

According to the Japan Times, an initiative by high school students to produce an original stamp, or digital sticker, on LINE, a popular messaging app in Japan, is among the 125 projects. Other examples include the official certification of company mascots – collectively known as “yuru-kyara,” meaning “loose characters”  – to promote the cause, and a restaurant in Sendai offering customers a special drink menu in which part of the proceeds will go to charity.

“Giving December” has also been received support from celebrities. Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates spoke at a forum that year to discuss philanthropy and innovation, the Japan Times reported.

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Images taken by Japanese camera space drone on ISS released

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has released the first group of photos and videos movies taken by its zero-gravity autonomous camera drone, known as the JEM Internal Ball Camera (or “Int-Ball”), aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Photo: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The JEM Int-Ball is the Agency’s first camera drone that can record video while moving in space under remote control from the ground, JAXA said.

Its main purpose is to optimise cooperation and communication between flight controllers on the ground and the astronauts on board, and to eliminate the need for onboard astronauts to take photographs: a task which currently accounts for around 10% of working hours.

Manufactured using 3D printing, and adopting modern drone technology, the orb-shaped camera is able to move autonomously in space and record still and moving images under remote control by the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center, JAXA said. It is also really cute – with CNN calling it the “cutest little orb since Star Wars’ BB-8 droid.”

The recorded images and videos taken by the floating camera can be checked in real time by flight controllers and researchers on the ground, and then fed back to the onboard crew, the agency said.

Int-Ball was received on board the ISS’s Japanese Experiment Module known as “Kibo” on 4 June 2017, and the images were released on 14 July.

Source: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

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