The Next Big Theme (Japan): June 2023

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence

Fanuc’s Collaborative Robot (Cobot) Breaks Record

On May 15, Fanuc, a leader in the industrial robotics space, announced that a software update to the existing CR-35iA cobot will convert it to the CR-35iB model and raise its maximum payload from 35 kilograms to 50 kilograms, setting a record for payload by a cobot.1 The CR-35iB model is the newest in Fanuc’s CRX series and will be used primarily for handling and assembly. Fanuc displayed the new model at the Automate show in Detroit, Michigan between May 22 and May 25, and is slated to start mass production in August.2

CyberAgent Announces Self-Developed Large Language Model (LLM)

As the scramble for conversational generative AI models intensifies, on May 17, Japanese media giant CyberAgent unveiled its own self-developed Japanese LLM. CyberAgent’s model is trained on Japanese data from Common Crawl and Wikipedia, and aims to offer users an LLM that is fine-tuned to Japanese language and culture.3 The model will be accessible through the American AI application platform Hugging Face. Furthermore, on May 18, CyberAgent also announced that it will introduce an automatic ad copy generation function to its “Extreme Prediction AI” service, which will combine its proprietary LLM and OpenAI’s ChatGPT APIs.4


Nintendo’s Newest Legend of Zelda Game Records Historical Sales Right After Release

On May 12, Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (TotK), the sequel to the highly successful Nintendo game Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW), was released and achieved nearly 10 million sales in only three days.5 Tears of the Kingdom became the fastest selling Legend of Zelda title and the fastest selling Nintendo game in North America irrespective of console. Unlike previous Legend of Zelda games, 2017’s Breath of the Wild was developed in the open-world format, a genre in which players can freely explore a wide virtual space. Tears of the Kingdom’s early sales data may be seen as confirmation that the open world format works well with Legend of Zelda games.


The JPX signs a memorandum of understanding with the Asia Development Bank on Fintech

At a signing ceremony on May 3, the Japan Exchange Group (JPX) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Asia Development Bank (ADB) to build a framework of cooperation for the development and promotion of capital markets, sustainable finance, and digital technology in financial services in the APAC region. In addition to promoting the issuance of ESG bonds, the JPX and ADB intend to provide to support fintech startups that contribute to sustainability, with the overarching goal of boosting economic growth in APAC.6 In 2022, fintech investment in the APAC region was estimated to have reached $50bn, surpassing that of the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, Africa).7


Japanese Semiconductor Makers Aim to Start or Increase Production of SiC Power Semis

On May 19, semiconductor giant Renesas announced that it plans to begin investments into production of silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductors with the goal of starting mass production at its Takasaki factory in 2025.8 SiC power semiconductors have higher withstand voltages and higher thermal resistance than conventional silicon (Si) semiconductors, resulting in faster switching operation and lower power losses. In recent years, investment into SiC power semiconductors is on an uptrend. In addition to Rohm’s November 2022 announcement that it will invest up to 220bn JPY into SiC power semiconductors through 2026, in March 2023 Mitsubishi Electric announced that it will build an SiC manufacturing unit in Kikuchi city in Kumamoto prefecture and foresees production starting in April 2026.9,10