The Next Big Theme Japan: December 2023


Nvidia Gears Up for Rising AI Chip Demand from Japan

On December 5, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura held a press conference at which he announced U.S. semiconductor giant Nvidia’s plans to establish an R&D center in Japan. On the same day, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, met with Minister Nishimura and stated that the company intends to prioritize demand from Japan as the market for AI semiconductors rapidly expand. According to Gartner, global demand for AI semiconductors is expected to grow nearly three-fold from $44.2 billion to $119.4 billion between 2022 and 20271. Against this backdrop, Japan is focusing on energizing its domestic semiconductor industry. The establishment of Rapidus in August 2022 is one example of how the government is aiming to catch up in advanced chip production. At the same time, the government is using subsidies to entice major foreign companies such as TSMC to build factories in Japan.

Toshiba and Rohm Join Hands for Powerchip Production

On December 8, electronics manufacturer Toshiba Corp. announced plans to invest $2.7 billion in the production of power chips in a partnership with semiconductor giant Rohm2. According to Rohm's announcement, the company plans to build a new production facility in Miyazaki Prefecture. In addition, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will provide a subsidy of 129.4bn yen for the project3. Power chips are specialized electronic components designed to efficiently manage and convert large amounts of electrical energy and are essential for systems such as power supplies, motor drives, and renewable energy converters.

Gaming and Animation

Community Tournament Guidelines by Nintendo Cause a Stir

On October 24, Nintendo released a controversial set of community tournament guidelines, implementing restrictions on spectator fees for community tournaments, the number of contestants, and usage of copyrighted videos and images of Nintendo games. Three versions of the guidelines were released for Europe, Japan, and the Americas, respectively, and the guidelines went into effect on November 15. According to the guidelines, community tournaments must be small, not for profit, and played by no more than 300 contestants online or 200 offline4. In addition, video footage of Nintendo games that have officially been released may be shown within offline community tournament venues. Game competitions that do not meet these and other requirements must be approved by Nintendo. The guidelines have received pushback, with the competitive gaming community criticizing their strictness. The competitive gaming community for Nintendo games is more grassroots than the communities for Xbox, PlayStation, and PC games, with less direct investment from Nintendo.

Robotics and AI

Fanuc Develops Robots for EV Production, Signs Contract with Volvo

In November, robotics giant Fanuc revealed M-950iA/500, a model designed specifically for EV production. The model has a payload capacity of 500 kilograms and will go on sale in January 20245. Fanuc has identified EVs as a source of rising demand and is moving to meet it. In October 2023, the company signed a contract with Swedish automaker Volvo to provide robots for Volvo's first exclusive electric vehicle facility6. Earlier in 2021, Fanuc revised its profit outlook upward on the back of EV demand and began positioning EV manufacturing robots as a long-term growth driver.