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Akemi Nakamura
For Akemi Nakamura's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
JAPAN
Dec 14, 1999
Singapore Airlines banks on new services, alliance
Staff writer Singapore Airlines hopes to increase its share of the passenger market for travel between Japan and Singapore by upgrading in-flight services and forming an alliance of multiple carriers, says T.K. Tan, general manager of the company's Japan office. "Our strategy is to emphasize our products and services," said Tan, who took up the post in October. "We hope to get 6 percent growth (in passengers from Japan to Singapore and beyond) next year." The airline currently handles about 50 percent of the bilateral aviation market. The airline spent 500 million Singaporean dollars ($300 million) since September 1998 on upgrading equipment and services in the cabin for all three classes -- first, business and economy -- to be more competitive, Tan said. For example, an advanced entertainment-on-demand system that enables passengers to access 60 programs, including music, movies, news and TV games, whenever they want was introduced in June in the first- and business-class sections on some flights. The system will be made available on Tokyo-Singapore flights by mid-2000, according to the airline. Singapore Airlines' planned participation in Star Alliance, a strategic partnership of major international carriers, will help it increase riders, Tan said. Singapore Airlines will join the alliance in April as its 12th member. The alliance, formed in 1997, has 10 member carriers, including United Airlines, Lufthansa German Airlines and All Nippon Airways. "The major benefit of joining Star Alliance is expansion of our route network," Tan said, noting that joining the group will enable his airline to offer improved services, including convenient flight schedules, joint use of lounges and frequent-flyer programs. Singapore Airlines will also start discussions with ANA early next year on code-sharing operations and cooperation in other areas, Tan said. As for the Y2K computer problem, Tan said the airline has already checked its critical systems, including ticketing and aircraft control, using simulations. "Singapore Airlines started working on the Y2K problem three years ago," Tan said. "We can say that we are Y2K-ready and we are confident (of flight safety)." The airline has canceled some New Year's Day flights and has made contingency plans in each department to handle unforeseen problems, he added. According to Tan, Singapore Airlines saw net profits during the April-September period increase 26.9 percent from a year ago to S$507 million (32.2 billion) yen, while most of East and Southeast Asia was still recovering from economic crises. As the airline attempts to lure more Japanese passengers, Tan still views Japan's economic recovery as a very slow process but hopes to see a full-scale recovery next year. "We will continue to provide high-level services to our customers, and we are trying to look at how to streamline some of the (boarding) procedures to make it more convenient," he added.
JAPAN
Dec 14, 1999
Taiwanese tourism still paralyzed by earthquake fears
Staff writer TAIPEI -- More than two months after a deadly earthquake struck Taiwan on Sept. 21, a well-paved road running through Taroko Canyon, one of the island's more popular tourist destinations, still drew little vehicle traffic. "This area didn't suffer any damage, but the occupancy rate of our guest rooms decreased 41 percent in October and November (from the previous year)," said Gillian Lee, a spokeswoman for Grand Formosa Taroko, a mountain resort hotel with 225 rooms in Hualien County, western Taiwan. "I think many people must have thought the roads leading here were blocked," she said. "The number of guests is increasing in December, but the figures are still below last year's." Even though the quake- devastated areas were limited to central Taiwan, tourist destinations in other areas, such as Taipei and Hualien County, are suffering a decline in foreign visitors, said S.L. Chang, director general of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications' tourism bureau. According to the bureau, the number of foreign visitors in October decreased 21.9 percent from the same month last year to 162,282. Among Japanese tourists, the drop was sharper -- the figure stood at 44,805 for the month, a year-on-year decline of 34.8 percent. "About 820,000 Japanese visited Taiwan last year. Without the quake, we might have had more than 1 million Japanese travelers this year," Chang said, noting the island's tourism industry would probably lose an estimated 30 billion New Taiwan dollars (about 100 billion yen) by the end of December. Chang said many people might have been misled about the situation in Taiwan because of initial media reports that repeatedly showed collapsed buildings in Taipei. In actuality, visitors need not be concerned about inconveniences while traveling through most of Taiwan, because air, highway and rail systems as well as hotels are operating normally. In Taichung and Nantou counties, however, many buildings stand unoccupied. In some areas, even as damaged buildings are being razed, debris from the cleanup is piled up on narrow streets, bringing traffic to a halt. In late October, the tourism bureau and travel agents began promoting quake-devastated areas as travel destinations, setting up four tour courses through the quake-damaged areas for educational purposes. These sites include the facilities and track field at Kuangfu Junior High School in Wufeng, Taichung County, which lay right along the fault line, a collapsed bridge and waterfall made by the quake in Dungshr, Taichung County, and Sun Moon Lake, a popular scenic spot located 12.5 km east of Jiji in Nantou County, above the epicenter of the quake. "More courses may be added in the future after the safety of the areas is checked,"Chang said, noting the government's plan to restore the Sun Moon Lake area and designate it a national park. Although the temblor hurt Taiwan's tourism, it seems to have had little impact on the semiconductor business, its major industry. In the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park, 80 km north of Taichung, most companies were able to resume operations five days after the quake, according to Taro Hosono, president of Shin-Etsu Handotai Taiwan Co., one of about 330 high-tech companies in the industrial park. "Our company suffered no major damage, but we couldn't manufacture semiconductor chips at our factory for five days because electricity was out," Hosono said. "But I don't think the quake adversely affected our business, because our rivals also had to suspend operations." Total losses from the quake are estimated at NT$180 billion (about 630 billion) yen, including losses of NT$10 billion (about 35 billion yen) for the manufacturing industry, according to Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the government's Council for Economic Planning and Development. "Before the quake hit, we set our economic growth target at 5.74 percent for this year," Chiang said. The expected increase, he said, has now been lowered to about 5.4 percent. The government is taking various emergency measures to aid survivors. Compensation is being paid to people whose family members died or were severely injured in the temblor and those whose homes were damaged. In addition, each member of a family whose home was destroyed receives NT$3,000 (about 10,000 yen) per month as a housing rent subsidy. Loans with no interest or lower-than-normal interest rates are available for people who rebuild or repair homes. While the government is drawing up a reconstruction plan that will allow survivors to return to normal daily life and rebuild local industries and infrastructure, more than 10,000 people still live in tents or temporary public housing units, according to the Government Information Office. In a public temporary housing village in Dungshr, Lai Zhi-xiang, 75, whose house collapsed in the quake, said he was relieved in mid-October when he and his wife were able to move from a tent to one of the 1,000 temporary housing units used by survivors of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and later donated to Taiwan. About 140 households are located in the village, erected at a former military hospital site. Each housing unit is equipped with home appliances, including a refrigerator, television set, washing machine and gas stove. The village also has a 7-Eleven convenience store, three public phones where calls can be made free of charge, three meeting rooms, a nursery center and a medical office. In exchange for staying in public housing units without paying rent, dwellers gave up their right to receive the rent subsidies. The government is also offering public apartments to quake survivors at 30 percent below the normal rent. "This unit is much more comfortable, although I have to walk 1 km to go shopping," said Lai, a former bus driver who lives on his retirement allowance. "I want a permanent home as soon as possible, but I don't know when it will happen."
JAPAN
Nov 26, 1999
Retailers rev up for holiday shoppers
Staff writers
JAPAN
Nov 18, 1999
Efforts afoot to woo foreign tourists
Staff writer
JAPAN
Nov 10, 1999
Air travel unruffled by Y2K: IATA chief
Staff writer
JAPAN
Nov 1, 1999
Taxi perks aim to win back fares
Staff writer
JAPAN
Oct 21, 1999
Tokyo Motor Show: GM to expand Asia-Pacific presence
Staff writer
JAPAN
Oct 18, 1999
ANA pins survival hopes on global alliance
Staff writer
JAPAN
Sep 20, 1999
Major airlines launch fare war on Skymark
Staff writer
JAPAN
Aug 4, 1999
Kawasaki takes on housing discrimination
Staff writer
JAPAN
Jun 4, 1999
Foreign women who leave husbands have few options
Second of two parts
JAPAN
Jun 3, 1999
Immigrants: Foreign laborers attempt to organize
First of two parts
CULTURE / Art
May 16, 1999
Doors of modest home open to lessons of the past
Slide open the door to a two-story wooden house in Tokyo's Ota Ward and enter into the life of an ordinary family in the mid-Showa Era, when people lived in homes with mostly tatami rooms, wooden furniture, traditional cooking tools and fetched their water from a well.
JAPAN
May 13, 1999
Bill could enlarge temp workforce, magnify woes
Staff writer
JAPAN
Apr 21, 1999
Professor brings POW drama to stage
Staff writer
JAPAN
Mar 31, 1999
New equal opportunity law called a start
Staff writer
JAPAN
Mar 8, 1999
Groups seek to help victims of violence
Staff writer
JAPAN
Feb 11, 1999
Gaming fans snatch up latest Final Fantasy
Hundreds of electronic game lovers mobbed stores in Tokyo's Akihabara Thursday to snap up the latest version of Final Fantasy, a popular PlayStation computer game that went on sale in the morning.
JAPAN
Jan 29, 1999
Kobe facility gives quake orphans place to reach out
A black rainbow drawn by a 10-year-old boy who lost his father and sister in the Great Hanshin Earthquake four years ago has become a symbol of the psychological damage suffered by child survivors of the temblor.
JAPAN
Apr 20, 1998
Video 'magazines' to fill foreigners' news needs
Staff writer

Longform

Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin,” once the victim of high waves that dragged it into the sea, sits at the end of a pier on the south side of Naoshima.
Why is the most exciting art in Japan so hard to get to?