Dear ESS members
This is an announcement of the practice scheduled on July 30th.
Coordinator: R. Matsumoto
Title: Analysis of social trends
Descriptions: We will read some impressive topics in the former half of this year. Thereafter, the team leader will summarize the talks in each table.
[How to proceed]
✓ First of all, make several groups to recall some impressive events in the first half of this year.
✓ And then leaders in each group will summarize the most impressive topic for less than five minutes in the end.
Nikkei hit ranking for first half of 2016 defined by thrift（質素・倹約）
With Abenomics sputtering and hopes for an escape from deflation dim, Japanese consumers are back to counting pennies this year. The Nikkei Marketing Journal's ranking of popular products for the first half of 2016 underscores this preference for bargain-hunting.
The table is split into east and west divisions. Taking the yokozuna slot in the east was "cheaponomics" -- a return to thrift as consumers reversed course from a boom in premium products spurred by Abenomics. Fast Retailing's price hikes on its Uniqlo casualwear were a bust while rivals boasting low prices drew more buyers. Restaurants added cheap offerings to their menus. Four years after discontinuing pork bowls, Yoshinoya Holdings brought them back in April, pricing them 50 yen (46 cents) lower than beef bowls. It sold 10 million pork bowls in just two months -- half the annual sales target.
The Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal -- Busta Shinjuku for short -- ranked second in the division, taking the ozeki title. The new hub at Shinjuku Station consolidated 19 once-scattered bus stops and taxi stands in one place -- a godsend for frugal travelers going by highway bus rather than pricier planes or shinkansen bullet trains.
Next in the east division, snagging the sekiwake ranking, is minpaku, or renting rooms to travelers. Some 1.3 million guests booked accommodations through the American home-rental website Airbnb last year. Usage was up 280% on May 1 from a year earlier.
Topping the west division is demand created by negative interest rates. Consumers have found upsides to this unconventional monetary policy. Total new mortgage applications at eight major banks jumped 15% on the year to around 127,000 for the February-April period as rates fell. About 73,000 people refinanced mortgages, a 2.6-fold increase.
The west ozeki title went to Ise-Shima and Hiroshima. The recent Group of Seven summit in the Ise-Shima area spotlighted such attractions as the Ise Shrine. Foreign lodgers in Mie Prefecture will likely swell fivefold from the 2014 figure to 900,000, by some estimates. Hiroshima saw the sharpest rise in hotel reservations during last month's Golden Week holiday, according to Rakuten Travel. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the designation of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Itsukushima Shrine as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The city also got a significant boost from a recent trip by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The west sekiwake title was taken by artificial intelligence, which has made great strides of late. A system developed by Google defeated a grandmaster of the ancient board game Go in March.
The komusubi slots in both divisions reflect an accelerating shift in leisure spending away from physical products in favor of unusual experiences that people can gush over on social media. The Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet train line, which began service in March, and the Genbi Shinkansen, a train on the Joetsu Shinkansen line that displays modern art, were grouped together as "northern bullet trains" in the east division.
The Kyoto Railway Museum, which exhibits 53 railway vehicles, including one of the largest steam locomotives operated by the old Japanese National Railways, saw 111,500 visitors during Golden Week.
Lower in the ranking are doya-kaden -- high-end devices that owners like to brag about. Even financially troubled Sharp has come out with such popular items as an air purifier that can catch mosquitoes and an automatic cooker that requires no water.