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Tax-inclusive retail pricing is among the more visible new measures that went into effect Thursday at the start of Japan’s new fiscal year.

The new method requires retailers and service providers to display price tags that include the 5 percent consumption tax. Previously, most retailers showed prices with the tax excluded.

Theoretically, the revision does not affect the amounts paid by shoppers. Tax authorities argue that the move is in the interests of consumers, ensuring that “what you see is what you pay.”

Supermarkets and other stores, however, are concerned that consumption tax-inclusive price tags will “mess up” the appearance of figures designed to attract shoppers and thus hurt sales.

Consumer groups have meanwhile balked at the change, claiming the new rule is a well-designed ploy paving the way for the government to raise the consumption tax.

In other areas, higher education in Japan also faces change as 89 state-run universities became independent administrative corporations with the aim of reducing government controls and introducing more competition and flexibility.

And a new system for nurturing lawyers, prosecutors and judges has been introduced at law schools to boost the quality of legal education.

Elsewhere, the National Police Agency was given authority to directly supervise prefectural forces to step up efforts in combating terrorism.

Those seeking medical licenses are now obliged to undergo a two-year internship at a hospital before starting practice as a physician.

The transport industry is undergoing changes in various sectors:

* Japan Airlines Co. and Japan Air System Co. have fully integrated their operations as Japan Airlines International Co. and Japan Airlines Domestic Co. to solidify their position as Japan’s No. 1 airline on both international and domestic routes. The merger is aimed at fending off the challenge posed by archrival All Nippon Airways Co.

* The New Tokyo International Airport Authority, the operator of Narita airport, took the first step toward full privatization by becoming a stock company and adopting a new name, Narita International Airport Corp.

* Teito Rapid Transit Authority, a subway system that serves some 5.6 million passengers a day in Tokyo, was converted from a government-run operation into to a stock company, Tokyo Metro Co., as part of deregulation.

As for municipality mergers, 11 new cities came into being, bringing the number of cities, towns and villages across Japan to 3,100. A special merger-promotion law expires next March.

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