A Wine Tasting and Discussion about Japan Meeting was held on as always on March 2, 2016 at the representative’s home. The guests included Dr. Khalil Bin Ebrahim Hassan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Bahrain where the representative visited as a state guest in 2012; Mr. Taimei Yamaguchi, a Member of the House of Representatives who also serves as the Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party Organization & Campaign Headquarters with a role in broadening the support of the party through interaction with many citizens, and his wife Mrs. Ritsuko Yamaguchi; Mr. Takashi Nagao, a Member of the House of Representatives and the Liberal Democratic Party Health, Labor & Welfare Minister and Deputy Director of National Defense, and a man who is clearly asserting the problem with the media in Okinawa; and Mr. Arvind Singh, the Minister (Economy) for the Embassy of India and a man who is promoting the further deepening of economic relations between Japan and India. They talked to each other with a focus on the presidential election in the U.S. that is a currently a hot topic of conversation all over the world.
The momentum of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election primaries is not running out of steam. It now seems certain that he will become the presidential candidate of the Republican Party. He may even actually become the president. That is the kind of momentum that he has. Trump asserts that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty is unfair. This is because the U.S. will protect Japan if it is attacked, but Japan does not have to protect the U.S. if it is attacked. If he is elected president, he will no doubt ask Japan to take on a more reasonable share of the burden. Could this be an opportunity for Japan to become a country with an independent self-defense? If the Democratic Party’s Hillary Clinton becomes president, she will no doubt reject the independence of Japan because she is an ally of China to her core. Trump is not stupid; his seemingly rash remarks are actually calculated. He has been married three times, has experienced bankruptcy four times and has found popularity as a television personality. Furthermore, in fact, this is his third time running in the presidential election. He is a character experienced in the ways of election campaigning. U.S. citizens are seeking a strong president after a presidency from Obama that has given a feeble impression externally. In accordance with his image, Trump has repeatedly made strong claims such as that it is necessary to build a wall to stop illegal immigration from Mexico and to ban Muslims from the country. Part of this is that he insists Japan has stolen jobs from Americans – mistaking Japan for China. Poor whites that make up the majority of U.S. citizens are applauding Trump for this. The Republican candidate Marco Rubio is the one who understands Japan the most. However, although he was an honor student and would no doubt win a speech contest, he is not the type that can prevail in a tough battle to be the leader of the pack. It is very unlikely that Rubio will become the Republican presidential candidate this time. China is most wary of the birth of President Trump. However, Trump is a pragmatist. Once he becomes the Republican presidential candidate, he will change what he is saying at once and make more realizable assertions.
Donald Trump was originally the son of a millionaire. He has experienced numerous failures in business, such as the failure of his casino in Atlantic City. Nevertheless, the U.S. is a society that allows the defeated to make a comeback. Trump has listed his company on the stock exchange and the upper floor of his famous Trump Tower in New York has also been turned into a condominium – it is not his possession. Trump is seen as a very rich person in the media, but there are surely many people with a lot more money than him in the U.S. He has been skillful at selling his own name since a long time ago. For example, he attached the Trump mark to the back of his limousine and this can sometimes be seen being driven around New York. He has also published his own book in which he wrote about the success story to his business.
Yoshihide Suga, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, is an extremely clever person, doesn’t make unnecessary remarks and also conducts himself well so as not to stir up feelings of resent. The Japanese bureaucracy is most afraid of Yoshihide Suga in a good way. The second Abe administration has been very skillful in its deployment of personnel. Reflecting on his first administration that was called the “Cabinet of Friends,” Prime Minister Abe has also appointed people like Sadakazu Tanigaki, the Chief Secretary, who don’t necessary agree with him, to key positions. Politicians are able to be considered as such for the first time when they retain their seats in parliament. It seems that this year will feature the elections for the House of Representatives and House of Councilors at the same time. The Liberal Democratic Party will not hold the elections on the same day so that they don’t lose the support of the New Komeito. If they hold elections at the same time, members of the House of Representatives would surely support the House of Councilors election in the same way as their own. The House of Councilors election will probably be held in July with the House of Representatives election coming in August. Prime Minister Abe has recently expressed his ambition to reform the constitution. He will probably be victorious in the simultaneous elections this year and obtain two thirds of the lawmakers. He will then propose amendments to the parts of the constitution where he is likely to obtain consent. He may well then obtain a majority in a national referendum to make his first round of revisions to the constitution.
If Donald Trump is elected president, it will no doubt be China that he will come into intense conflict with. At that time, Japan can position itself as an important partner to the U.S. The current U.S.-Japan Security Treaty prevents Japan from being a proper country. Trump has said this is unfair, but who decided this? Wasn’t it the U.S.? If he is going to say that, Trump has an obligation to change this treaty. If Prime Minister Abe makes a proposal to the effect that he wishes to mutually change the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, Trump will surely agree. If that happens, Japan will be able to break free from its relationship with the U.S. like that of a colony or suzerain state and be able to become an equal independent nation. The repudiation of the role of the U.S. to act as the world’s policeman by the inward-looking President Obama has caused major chaos in the world; Crimea has been occupied by Russia, civil war has occurred in Ukraine, and the I.S. has risen up in Syria and Iraq. If Trump wins the presidential election, the rules of the world will no doubt change once again.
The continuing fall in the price of crude oil is not abating. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which used to adjust the supply of oil to keep prices high, has been losing its ability to regulate prices. The reasons for this are the shale oil in the U.S. and the increase in sources of supply of oil from Russia and other countries. Saudi Arabia, which leads the OPEC, has not been decreasing production because it does not wish to lose its share of the oil market. Iran, another major nation in the OPEC, has just had its economic sanctions lifted and is only interested in expanding its oil production. The cost of drilling for oil in Saudi Arabia is cheap at four to five dollars per barrel. This is fifty to sixty dollars for shale oil. Saudi Arabia has the upper hand in this game of chicken of who will reduce their production of oil first. It is not only the U.S. that is being damaged by this game of chicken; the country suffering the most severe damage is Russia. Accordingly, Russia has taken a leadership role over the ceasefire in Syria and is looking to increase its influence in the Arab world to compete with Saudi Arabia.
APA Hotel is now in a perfect condition. The company is maintaining a very high level profit rate of 30% or more. This is amazing when compared with a rate of 4% for a rival hotel chain and a rate of 5% for a leading Japanese city hotel. The increase in inbound tourism has also contributed to these excellent results. Inbound tourism will no doubt continue to increase in 2016 and hit 25 million people. Another source of APA Hotel’s strength is that the number of card members has reached about 10.5 million people. When members spend 50,000 yen at APA, they can receive cash back of 5,000 yen. If members save up the points they accrue from the accommodation expenses paid by their companies, this can turn into cash for them. This 10% cash return is a popular secret. Focusing on Internet bookings from early on has paid off. This allows reservations to be made over the Internet without the need for sales. APA Hotel is the most popular accommodation facility in Japan for overseas hotel booking sites like Agoda, Expedia and Booking.com. The other day, the APA Group purchased the site of the Nagatacho TBR Building, which used to hold the offices of Noboru Takeshita and Keizo Obuchi, in front of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence. The plan is to build a 500-room APA Hotel with 17 floors here. This will surely become a landmark hotel as a flagship of APA.
The accommodation rates of APA Hotel have been a topic of conversation recently. However, these are determined by the managers. The upper limit is set by an internal rule, but there is no lower limit. This is because APA Hotel has introduced a technique called “yield management” to control the amount of supply and prices depending on the situation. This is a technique that is used in the sale of airplane boarding tickets. The company has also introduced software that automatically issues accommodation rate guidelines. There is a hotel that has maintained a 100% occupancy rate for nearly two years since opening like with the APA Hotel: SHINJUKU-GYOENMAE for example by making full use of these cutting edge management techniques. The overall number of nights staying in accommodation in Japan is about 500 million. However, APA Hotel provides 10 million nights to this figure with a share of the market still at around 2%. There is still room for the company to grow. The company is going to be busy in the future with the opening of large hotels such as APA Hotel & Resort: YOKOHAMA BAY CENTER that will be home to 2,400 rooms – the largest number in Japan. The East Wing of the APA Hotel & Resort: TOKYO BAY MAKUHARI will also come into service this year to bring up the number of rooms at the hotel to 2,001.
The APA Group did not suddenly leap into the hotel business. The company started business with custom homes. The company was then successful in the condominium business. After establishing these foundations, the company entered the hotel business. A hotel incurs a heavy deficit at the start. The company aimed to constrict taxes by totaling profits and losses with the condominium business in which profits come in all at once after selling a completed project. The company’s hotel business has now grown to a size ten times greater than that of their condominium business in terms of both sales and personnel. The company’s condominium business has now shifted to luxury apartments in the best parts of town such as Daikanyama. They have now embarked on a global strategy in the hotel business with new urban hotels. When thinking about the company’s hotel operations originally, they investigated what kind of hotel is really needed. The company decided it would be difficult to profit with hotels focused on tourism which are busy at the weekend with guests coming and going but are then empty during the weekdays. Accordingly, the company built a hotel business model that is strong on weekdays by targeting business people. The number of APA Hotel members has been increased with a cash back system. However, they have also enriched their hotel network in multiple layers. For example, the company builds and owns its own hotels in the city while buying local hotels outside of urban areas and rebranding them to increase their number of franchise hotels. Furthermore, the company has expanded its contracts with partner hotels where it is possible to save points. This is to always keep APA Hotel in a state where its members want to stay there. This is also one of the company’s strengths.
The representative does not seek to maximize sales profits with respect to business. He just wants to realize profit and a profit ratio unprecedented in the hotel industry as a result of pursuing user-friendliness for guests. Moreover, he is an enterprising man that has been successful with this kind of business, but the most important thing to him is to express his views so that Japan can become a proper country. There is significance to this. There are about 3,600 listed companies in Japan. The unlisted APA Group would be located around the 300th largest listed company in Japan in a comparison with consolidated ordinary income. However, although listed companies have many shareholders, the APA Group is solely owned by the representative’s family. Assets were once 20-times that of the annual profit of the APA Group, but this has now reached 25-fold. The group has abundant assets by never going into the red once in its 44-year history. APA Hotel probably owns the greatest number of hotels in Japan.