Drone Girls Dream of the Skies

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — The all-female “Drone Jo-Plus,” or Drone Girls, team at Kanatta Co. is promoting the appeal of drones by offering educational events for parents and children.

Kanatta Co. aims to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) embraced by all United Nations-affiliated countries. Goal number five of the SDGs seeks to achieve “gender equality and empower all women and girls.” The company thus provides a “mechanism” and “community” to allow women to prosper, express themselves, and function in the workforce.

Drone Jo-Plus contributes to the growth of new technologies, and in the process attempts to increase occupational opportunities for women. The group works to spread the appeal of drones by offering “programming learning for educational institutions” and “events at commercial facilities that parents and children can enjoy.”

A recent event was a drone study, experience, and photo session at Mukogawa Women’s University in Hyogo Prefecture. None of the participating students had ever before piloted a drone, so Drone Jo-Plus introduced them to something new.

The young women were permitted to put their hands on a drone for the first time, and were taught about their operational methods. Entertainment, industry, and hobby drones were featured. This study session also allowed the students to hypothesize the future uses of flying machines.

The students then piloted the drones and were encouraged to shoot aerial photos and videos. One student made a promotional video of the university campus using footage recorded during the piloting session.

Drone Jo-Plus holds regular teaching sessions in the Kanto and Kansai regions. These sessions are open to both beginners and to drone pilots who want to increase their understanding and skill level.

This female-led organization also tracks Japan’s ever-changing drone laws, and offers rental services people can use prior to making their own purchases.

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Strong Magma Flows into Burger King Japan

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Burger King Japan has unveiled its Strong Magma Super One Pound Beef Burger, the self proclaimed spiciest “meat wall.”

The Strong Magma comes as a new addition to the Strong Super One Pound series launched last year. This line of burgers includes the Extreme One Pound Beef Burger that replaced buns with two additional patties.

Burger King Japan celebrated the commencement of the one pound burgers with a limited time all-you-can-eat challenge.

The new Strong Magma will only be available until March 11, and even then only after 2pm each day. It may not be available in some locations.

The sandwich has four 100% all-beef patties that are cooked with Burger King’s signature flame grill.

The spice is similar to Burger King’s Spicy Yakuyoke Whopper, which they claim wards off evil spirits. The burger is also seasoned with garlic flakes coated in a sauce that uses powder from Gion Ajiko in Kyoto. The seasoning is known as “Japan’s spiciest golden pepper.” Burger King claims that this sandwich is the hottest in “the history of Super One Pound!”

Apart from the garlic, the sandwich features another original sauce made with doubanjiang.

From the top down, the Strong Magma includes a sesame seed bun, onions, original hot sauce, patties, spicy garlic flakes, two slices of cheddar cheese, and a bun at the base. If this list of ingredients sounds like too much of a challenge, Burger King Japan is offering to serve the sandwich cut in half.

For those who try to conquer the Strong Magma, Burger King is offering an original sticker as a reward that features the logo and reads “I did it.”

The meat behemoth is priced at ¥1,380 on its own or ¥1,680 for a combo including fries and a drink.

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Pokemon: Still Evolving 25 Years Later

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Pokemon is celebrating the 25th anniversary since releasing its first two games, Pocket Monsters Red and Pocket Monsters Green on February 27, 1996.

Pokemon has become a worldwide phenomena and the highest grossing media franchise of all time since its initial video game release. The pop culture giant is showing no signs of slowing down, continuing to produce the highly successful video games, trading cards, movies, and other products.

Pokemon’s 1996 release helped to revitalize the Game Boy handheld video game system, which had not seen a release equal to the popularity of Tetris or Super Mario Land for some time previous.

The game was unique, depending on the link cable of the system that previous games mostly had ignored. Pokemon’s main goal can be summed up with the tagline of the franchise, Gotta catch‘em all! This was an impossible task for gamers playing in solitude because neither Red nor Green contained all 151 original Pokemon. The link cable was allowed players to trade and battle with each other, ushering in a new age of “social games.”

The collaborative nature of the game allowed for it to skyrocket in popularity. Kids encouraged their friends to buy it so they could do battle and trade in their efforts to catch‘em all.

Besides the social factor, the game was popular among children of the 1990s due to its easy gameplay and streamlined story featuring cute monsters. Pokemon was released at the height of Japanese Role Playing Games, or JRPGs, like Final Fantasy. The game mechanics differed from its counterparts by being easy for younger people to pick up and to master the basics.

Pokemon carried this idea of beginner-level gameplay over to the world of collectable trading cards. The cards were released while Magic the Gathering was also spreading in popularity. Pokemon trading cards offered an entry-level experience to kids interested in role playing games. These cards promoted collaboration as players were encouraged to trade, collect, and to do battle with their friends.

The following year, Pokemon released an anime series that has spanned over a thousand episodes and twenty seasons. The success of the anime series led to the production of a film series that is also still ongoing. Pokemon: The First Movie broke box office records in 1998, and the latest film in the series, Detective Pikachu, has continued the tradition of blockbuster hits.

At this point, there have been over 122 games, including spinoffs, which have been released, and more than 368 million game units of various descriptions have been sold.

Perhaps one of the most successful entries of recent is the mobile game Pokemon Go, released in 2016. This too became a global phenomenon like its predecessors. Its success owed mostly to its inventive Augmented Reality gameplay design that forces players to get out and catch Pokemon in the real world. Different areas are home to different Pokemon, a fact which encourages players to go out and explore. Its immersive nature also features the simplicity and collaborative elements of the previous games, such as trading and combat.

In its more than two decades, the franchise has never found itself outside of the zeitgeist of the contemporary era. Pokemon continues to produce exciting new content that preserves the core basics of what made fans fall in love in the first place. Simultaneously, it adds new features and creatures. The game now spans two generations as the children of the 1990s are now having their own kids and encouraging them to share their love of Pokemon.

There is a global community dedicated to the franchise that feels a sense of comradery revolving around their mutual passion. Most fans do not grow out of it. The variety of content also ensures that there is something for everyone, whether it be trading cards, video games, or anime.

In its celebration of 25 years, The Pokemon Company has announced the release of four new games. Two of the games, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, are remakes of the Nintendo DS Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl, originally released in 2006. These games will be available for the Nintendo Switch in late 2021. The third is New Pokemon Snap, where players control a camera to help a research team study Pokemon in their natural habitats. New Pokemon Snap is set to release on April 30. The final game among the new releases is Pokemon Legends: Arceus, an open world twist to Pokemon set in the fictional world’s feudal past. Arceus is planned to release in early 2022.

To add to the new video game content, the company will also be releasing Pokemon 25: The Album. The album will feature Pokemon-themed music from Katy Perry, J Balvin, Post Malone, as well as yet unannounced collaborators from Universal Music Group. The album will be fourteen songs long. According to The Pokemon Company, each song “will be joined by a music video and an exclusive merchandise collection celebrating each artist and Pokemon.” The album will feature Post Malone’s cover of Only Wanna Be With You by Hootie & the Blowfish remixed with the Ecruteak City Theme from Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver, which debuted at the P25 Music Virtual Concert.

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Toyota Begins Weaving the Woven City

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — A groundbreaking ceremony has been held at the recently-closed Higashi-Fuji automotive plant, marking the start of construction of the Toyota “Woven City” prototype smart city of the future.

This project was announced a year ago at CES Las Vegas, and is now getting underway in earnest.

The groundbreaking ceremony featured Toyota President Akio Toyoda, Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu, and Susono city Mayor Kenji Takamura.

The Woven City project aims to weave together advanced technology, autonomous vehicles, and infrastructure.

The defunct Higashi-Fuji plant served roles in the past that Toyoda described as constituting “a driving force for motorization in Japan, supporting people’s daily lives, and promoting a car culture.”

The new community will be home to 360 residents in its initial stage, including Toyota employees and their families, as well as senior citizens and scientists involved in the project. The health of these residents will be monitored by AI systems, and their lives will be made easier through the use of the latest advances in robotics.

Woven City will feature three types of roads: one for autonomous vehicles, one for personal vehicles, and a third pedestrian-only promenade. These streets will weave together to form an organic grid that will test autonomous vehicles in a real-world setting. The city layout is being planned by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, known for his work on 2 World Trade Center in New York, which is now under construction.

Most buildings at Woven City will be built with traditional wood architecture to minimize its carbon footprint. The project will be powered by solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells.

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Toshiba Prepares Big Move into Wind Power

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Toshiba Corporation is in talks with General Electric for a possible collaboration within the wind power industry, according to several local media reports.

The talks between the two firms are reportedly centered on joint production of state-of-the-art nacelles, the equipment which houses the generator and other components of a wind turbine, but there is a possibility of offering services as well as equipment.

Toshiba announced last November its goal of more than tripling the value its renewable energy business to ¥650 billion yen (US$6.1 billion) by March 2031, and moving away from investments in coal-fired plants. Aside from wind power, this is meant to include solar energy, green hydrogen, virtual power plants, and data services.

While the Toshiba-GE alliance would naturally be eyeing Japan’s expanding appetite for wind power projects, particularly in Akita and Chiba prefectures, other Asian nations might also be included within its scope.

Toshiba CEO Nobuaki Kurumatani telegraphed his firm’s intention to move in this direction in a December interview with the Mainichi Shinbun, stating, “We want to make competitive, Japan-made products… We’re also looking into partial collaboration with foreign companies that have experience with the technology.”

Neither Toshiba nor GE have yet confirmed the reported talks.

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Ninja Works Drones Come Out of the Shadows

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Ninja Works, the self-proclaimed “Number One Drone Platform,” will be appearing at the 2021 Smart Agriculture Fair in Osaka from Wednesday to Friday this week.

The firm, which specializes in utilizing technology to solve agricultural problems, has recently listed its Cloud Ninja Works investment initiative to the Agri Week Osaka official website. This opportunity features the company’s two main products, the No. 1 Drone Platform agricultural drone and the Cloud Ninja Works IT solution.

Ninja Works is seeking venues to hold demonstrations of its drones spraying pesticides. The event will include a drone experience session.

Pesticide and fertilizer spraying is the firm’s main service, and it is performed by about sixty active pilots based out of sixteen stations nationwide. The company has recently reached the milestone of owning sixty-five drones. It claims to have the largest network of available drone pilots in the Japan.

Aside from its spraying business, Ninja Works is also involved in operating the Ninja Robot Farm, a mechanized organic farming project. This farm is monitored by a device called Farmo, which can ascertain the water level of any area of the farm at any given moment. These readings can be sent to smartphones or tablets.

The Ninja Robot Farm is also notable for its Weed Man, which the company hails as the industry’s first weeding machine that can operate over all kinds of farmland. Drones are used for soil analysis and radio-controlled hovercraft can also be used for paddy weeding.

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Nissan’s Sustainable Mobility Project in Fukushima

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Nissan has begun field tests for its new mobility services in a joint partnership with three local governments and eight companies to help promote sustainable communities.

The joint project, based in the Hamadori area of Fukushima Prefecture, is developing new transportation options that promote the use of renewable energy. These efforts will help “develop a revitalized, resilient, and sustainable low-carbon community,” according to Nissan.

The tests include an electric shuttle that runs in a high frequency loop around the center of Namie, a town made famous by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011. The shuttles operate using roadside mobility hubs that can also connect to personal vehicles. An autonomous vehicle route around central Namie has also been tested. Both passenger and cargo transport are supported by the route.

To further the goal of sustainability, the partnership is also set to develop an energy management system which uses rechargeable batteries and electric vehicles.

To revitalize the local community, the companies plan to cooperate on programs related to tourism as well. They also aim to increase power supplies in case of future disasters.

In a related development, the Nissan Note e-Power has surpassed 20,000 units in sales, more than doubling its original monthly sales target of 8,000 vehicles. The new vehicle is equipped with the electric powertrain engine and has been well received due to its smooth acceleration, stable deceleration control, and the quiet environment within its cabin.

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IHI Teams with Queensland on Green Hydrogen

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Engineering firm IHI Corporation and Queensland state-owned power producer CS Energy are teaming up on the construction of a demonstration plant to produce hydrogen using solar power.

The production of green hydrogen is a key step towards making hydrogen-powered vehicles the environmentally friendly technology that they are purported to be. Even if the hydrogen vehicles themselves produce no carbon emissions, the conventional production process for the hydrogen fuel, so-called “brown” hydrogen, does routinely contribute to global warming.

The Kogan Hydrogen Demonstration Project is expected to produce and sell green hydrogen from a base located northwest of Brisbane, next to Kogan Creek power station site, in partnership with CS Energy.

Kogan Hydrogen Demonstration Project will have a solar photovoltaic system, a battery energy storage system, an electrolyzer, and fuel cells to produce and sell green hydrogen to the Australian market through the grid.

This project is separate from both the Global LH2 Consortium unveiled in December, which teams Iwatani Corporation, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and Fortescue Metals Group in the green hydrogen business; as well as Sumitomo Corporation’s green hydrogen project in the city of Gladstone, also in Queensland.

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Autonomous Buses for Haneda Airport

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — All Nippon Airways (ANA) has declared itself to be “the first airline in Japan to use an autonomous vehicle to transport airport employees” after implementing tests at Tokyo Haneda Airport.

The autonomous bus technology has been developed by China-based BYD, and the vehicle can carry up to 57 people. Currently, it can operate at Level 3 autonomous driving, meaning that it can perform driving tasks on its own, but still needs human override in some situations.

ANA Senior Vice-President Masaki Yokai commented, “At ANA, we are constantly looking for ways to harness the latest technology to enhance operations and efficiency. In addition to marking a significant step forward for airports, fully electric autonomous buses will result in fewer emissions and decreased carbon footprints at airports. We are optimistic that these trials will give us the information we need to continue improving these technologies and will allow ANA to maintain its leadership in autonomous innovation.”

ANA is currently promoting a vision for a “Simple & Smart” airport of the future, achieved through the widespread application of sustainable autonomous technology. It aims utilize the autonomous bus technology with passengers by the end of this year, and to fully deploy it by 2025.

SoftBank Boldly and Advanced Smart Mobility are also partners in the project.

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Idemitsu Entering Electric Car Business

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Idemitsu Kosan, mainly known an an oil refining company, has reportedly decided to enter the electric car market this year in partnership with the Tajima Motor Corporation.

This news, which was first reported by the Nihon Keizai Shinbun, has not yet been confirmed by the companies.

The report indicates that the Idemitsu battery electric vehicle (BEV) will be an ultra-compact four-seater designed to quite affordable at under ¥1.5 million (US$14,290) per unit. It is designed for tasks such as taking a run to the supermarket. Even cheaper BEVs are beginning to sell well in China, and Idemitsu hopes to develop a similar product for Japan.

The firm plans to begin selling the BEVs by the end of the year, using the Idemitsu chain of gas stations across the nation as de facto auto showrooms.

The Idemitsu ultra-compact BEV has a total length of 2.5 meters and a width of 1.3 meters, and will have a maximum speed 60 kilometers per hour.

The vehicles will have a lithium-ion battery that can be charged from a household outlet, taking about eight hours. The cruising range on a full charge will be about 100 kilometers.

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Toyota Adjusts Course on Electric Vehicles

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Toyota Motor appears to have belatedly decided that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are indeed one part of the future, as the company has revealed that it will be introducing two BEV models to the North American market by the end of this year.

While Toyota has long embraced gas-electric hybrids and more actively promotes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the automaker has long resisted deep investment in fully electric cars. The last BEV it had available in the North American market was pulled seven years ago, when many analysts were still laughing at the ambitions of firms such as Tesla.

Toyota has not provided any details about the names or specifications about its two new BEV models, only saying that they will be available this year.

Bob Carter, Toyota Motor North America executive vice president of sales, stated, “We continue to be leaders in electrification that began with our pioneering introduction of the Prius nearly 25 years ago. Toyota’s new electrified product offerings will give customers multiple choices of powertrain that best suits their needs.”

Toyota’s own press release regarding the release of the two new BEVs was bizarrely grudging about its view on fully electric vehicles, taking pains to insist that its hybrid models “provide similar environmental benefits” according to the company’s internal research.

“[Greenhouse gases] of a currently available BEV model and [a hybrid] model are roughly the same in on-road performance when factoring in pollutants created by electricity production for the average US energy grid used to charge batteries,” Toyota claims.

In December, Toyota President Akio Toyoda lashed out at the Japan government’s reported plans to ban new gasoline car sales by the mid-2030s, declaring that such a policy would “collapse” the Japanese auto industry. He went on to declare, “The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets. When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?”

Toyoda was referencing his view that if Japan were forced to enhance electricity production on its national grid, that this would more than wipe out any environmental benefits of having BEVs on the roads.

Some electric vehicle advocates have been acid in response to Toyoda’s views. Fred Lambert of Electrek, for example, declared, “This small-mindedness could spell the end for the automaker if they don’t quickly let go of such ideas.”

So it would seem that while Toyota has adjusted its course on fully electric vehicles, it remains openly opposed to fully embracing them.

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Creating the 5G O-RAN Ecosystem

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Thirteen companies, including NTT Docomo, NTT Data, Fujitsu, and NEC, have agreed to create the “5G O-RAN Ecosystem” with the objective of globally accelerating open radio access networks (O-RAN), and to help enable flexible network deployments to serve diverse company and mobile operator needs in the 5G era.

In basic terms, radio access networks (RAN) are an essential part of any mobile network which communicates via radio frequencies between a core network and devices such as mobile phones and computers. Open RAN (O-RAN) stands in contrast to the RAN operated by a handful of companies (Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson) in the sense that it doesn’t rely on the proprietary technology of a single firm but is instead a set of agreed standards, specifications, and interfaces to which multiple vendors may contribute and participate.

In the latest development, the thirteen companies, effectively led by NTT Docomo, which was a founding member of the O-Ran Alliance in February 2018, will start discussions on accelerating O-RAN introduction to mobile operators. Specifically, the target is to package best-of-breed RAN and to introduce, operate, and manage them based upon the demands from mobile operators considering the introduction of O-RAN.

The other nine firms that are among the grouping of thirteen are Dell Technologies Japan, Intel, Mavenir, Nvidia, Qualcomm Technologies, Red Hat, VMware, Wind River, and Xilinx.

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Bringing AI to Maritime Shipping

Mitsui OSK Lines (Tokyo) — Mitsui OSK Lines and Bearing, Inc. announce an expansion of their partnership that began in 2019. The relationship was originally established with the goal of improving shipping efficiencies within the maritime industry. Through various trials and intensive discussions concerning ship modeling, a range of products including a newly announced AI-powered Smart Routing Engine, has been developed by combining Mitsui OSK Lines’ maritime expertise and Bearing’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology infrastructure. This routing engine automatically analyzes multiple potential routes for a given voyage and recommends prudent, efficient routing through use of optimal main engine output and propeller RPM profiles.

Bearing is a Silicon Valley-based AI technology startup that focuses on streamlining shipping operations. At the core of Bearing’s technology are highly-accurate ship performance models built off of a diverse set of real-world data points. These AI-powered models with some historical voyage data for certain vessels such as vessel speed, trim, main engine operation, weather and sea condition allow Bearing to predict metrics like fuel consumption with state-of-the-art accuracy even without vessels’ design parameters.

Bearing’s desire to partner with Mitsui OSK Lines arose from Mitsui OSK Lines’ reputation as a technology leader in the shipping industry that understands the transformative potential of AI. Mitsui OSK Lines appreciates Bearing’s profound AI expertise and background in building scalable AI technology products. These mutual recognitions lead to an agreement for the expansion of the existing partnership.

The global shipping industry has been challenged to further enhance energy efficiency and develop measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships in a manner that will phase them out in this century. The Mitsui OSK Lines Group is one of the world’s leading multi-modal transport entities that is committed to achieving sustainable “Net Zero GHG Emissions” through collective efforts by 2030.

Mitsui OSK Lines, at its highest organizational levels, continuously monitors the condition of our fleet to ensure optimum operational efficiency and prudent safe navigation by combining the technologies of Bearing as well as other existing and new solutions. Mitsui OSK Lines accepts its social obligation to take innovative steps to help solve environmental issues such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, air pollution and biodiversity impediments.

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Konami Far from a Video Game Force

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — In recent years, Konami has been distinctly fading as a force within the video game industry, so much so that it was forced to swat away rumors last month that it was shutting down its digital entertainment business altogether.

At mid-month, Konami had announced that it was shutting down “three product divisions,” which was misinterpreted by some observers as signifying a complete withdrawal from video game production. These rumors, in turn, led to an official statement clarifying that “the announcement made refers to an internal restructure, with Production Divisions being consolidated. We have not ‘shut down’ our video gaming division.”

What made Konami ripe for such rumors is its relative lack of visible activity on the video game front. The company has not been the creative powerhouse that it used to be, even if its video game revenues reached record highs in 2020 as more people were stuck at home gaming under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm is known to be working on a next-generation version of its respected Pro Evolution Soccer for the PlayStation 5, but few other of its current gaming projects are known. It’s once vibrant Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill franchises have been dormant for some years.

Most accounts of Konami’s decline link it to the 2015 departure of acclaimed video game designer Hideo Kojima, although arguments continue about whether his exit was the cause or just a symptom of the firm’s stagnation.

It remains to be seen if the pandemic-driven growth of profitability in its video game segment (while most of its other businesses took losses) will stimulate Konami to return more of its focus on the games that made it a household name.

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StormGeo to Support Akita Offshore Wind

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Norway-based StormGeo has been selected by the Kajima Corporation to provide weather forecasting services for the first multi-turbine offshore wind farm in Akita, Japan.

Kajima, which is the operator of the Akita Offshore Wind Corporation, believes that StormGeo can help it safely navigate the twenty-month construction period, which is now underway. The Norwegian firm will assist with weather, wave, and typhoon forecasting.

Koki Taguchi, Kajima’s general project manager, stated, “We chose StormGeo because they are one of the most experienced providers of metocean forecasting services for offshore wind, with more than one hundred offshore wind projects both in and outside of Europe. StormGeo also has Japanese staff located in Japan who will support us locally. StormGeo’s deep industry knowledge, long-term experience in the waters surrounding Japan, and decade-long experience in typhoon forecasting make StormGeo the ideal weather service provider for the Akita and Noshiro Wind Farm Project.”

Jostein Maelan, chief operating officer of Weather Insights at StormGeo, added, “This project is another important milestone for offshore renewables in StormGeo. Building on our many years of experience from both Europe and Taiwan, it is inspiring to be able to contribute to the success and growth of offshore wind in Japan.”

Forecasting will be delivered from StormGeo’s regional weather center in Dubai, and typhoon warnings delivered by StormGeo tropical forecasting center in Houston, Texas. The StormGeo staff in Tokyo will assist in Japanese language translation.

On January 12, the first ship carrying monopiles arrived at Akita Port, with a view to initiate the construction of the offshore foundations next month.

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Toyota Tech for Maritime Fuel Cells

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Toyota Motor has reached an agreement to supply its hydrogen fuel cell technology to a consortium led by Corvus Energy that is developing maritime fuel cells, aiming to power zero carbon emissions shipping.

Energy storage firm Corvus Energy is set to start development and production of sustainable, large-scale maritime hydrogen fuel cell systems, at a base located in Bergen, Norway.

Thiebault Paquet, director of the Toyota Motor Europe Fuel Cell Business Group, commented, “Decarbonization is inevitable, and at Toyota we are convinced that hydrogen will play a central role in creating a better future, both environmentally and economically.”

Corvus Energy CEO Geir Bjorkeli added, “Adding fuel cell modules to our product portfolio is a natural step for Corvus and advances our vision to be the leading supplier of zero-emission marine solutions. Fuel cell technology has reached a maturity level where scale-up of systems will be the next step. Toyota is in the forefront of the development and is by far the best partner for us to make this a success.”

The consortium aims to showcase its first marine fuel cell system onboard a vessel in 2023, and to be ready for commercial delivery from 2024.

Other consortium partners include energy firm Equinor, the two shipowners Norled and Wilhelmsen Holding, the ship design company LMG Marin, the NCE Maritime CleanTech cluster, and the state-run University of South-Eastern Norway.

The state agency Innovation Norway has also provided funding of around €5.2 million (US$6.2 million) for the project.

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Freewheeling Japan: Cycling the Back Streets

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Akihabara News Editor-in-Chief Michael Penn interviewed Brad Bennett, owner and founder of the Tokyo bike tour company Freewheeling Japan.

Originally from the Seattle area of the United States, he has been in Tokyo for 28 years. The first time Bennett visited Japan was in 1990, when he picked up a part time job for six months with a friend offering bike tours in the city. Bennett fell in love with the country and he flew home, sold all his belongings in the States, and bought a one-way ticket back to Tokyo.

Freewheeling differs from other tours of the capital city by offering a biking introduction to Tokyo for everyday people. The overarching theme of these tours is to show people the backstreets and local areas, to give them a sense of how and where the people of Tokyo live.

The company grew organically with Brad showing his friends on tours, but he decided to get serious and begin a company due to anticipation for the Olympics and increasing tourism. With Bennett’s twenty years of experience living in Tokyo, he has gained vast knowledge of the city from English newspapers, Japanese friends, and local governments. Bennett would purposefully get lost in order to discover the back roads and his way around the city.

Watch our interview below and learn more at the Freewheeling Japan website.

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Sensyn Robotics

Foundation: 2015

Headquarters: Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

President: Takuya Kitamura


Sensyn Robotics is a Japanese startup focused on development, application, and deployment of industrial drone services. Its annual income is undisclosed.

News Timeline



-Sensyn Robotics unveil “Sensyn Explorer,” a small drone about the size of the palm of one’s hand, which is designed to operate within tight indoor spaces.

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Sumitomo Corporation

Foundation: 1919

Headquarters: Chiyoda Ward, Osaka

President and CEO: Kuniharu Nakamura


Sumitomo Corporation is one of the largest Japanese general trading companies, with roots reaching back to the 17th century establishment of a book and medicine shop in Kyoto by Masatomo Sumitomo. Its annual income is in the range of US$30 billion.

News Timeline



-Sumitomo signs a front end engineering and design contract with JGC Holdings, aiming to produce green hydrogen in the city of Gladstone in Australia’s state of Queensland.



-Sumitomo Corporation concludes an agreement with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on the preliminary trial installation and verification of smart poles.

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Metasurface Allows 5G Passage through Windows

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — NTT Docomo and glass manufacturer AGC announced that they have developed a prototype metasurface that allows 5G radio signals to pass through closed windows, solving one of the key limitations of 5G technology.

With the application of the metasurface, tests have shown that 28-GHz 5G radio signals received from outdoors can efficiently pass through building windows to indoor locations with the signals remaining strong.

Although 5G technology is bringing much faster speeds to wireless devices, it has the drawback of not being able to travel over long distances and being relatively easily blocked by large physical objects such as buildings in urban settings. Potentially, the metasurface could thus reduce the number of 5G base stations that are needed to form a network.

The metasurface lens material developed by Docomo and AGC is a transparent film that can cover virtually the entire inside surface of a window. The material has no effect on LTE and sub-6 band radio waves, so it can be used to improve indoor reception of 28 GHz radio signals without affecting the performance of legacy wireless frequencies.

Trials also verify that structural design technology can be deployed to enable the metasurface lenses to allow high-frequency radio signals to penetrate glass that has been coated for heat insulation.

This technology is believed to be a world’s first.

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Source: Akihabara News – Metasurface Allows 5G Passage through Windows