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Tokyo Land Prices Record First Jump Since 1990

Land prices finally appear to be on the upswing in Tokyo, although not in Japan's rural areas. And it looks like 2006 will be a record year for sales of cellular telephones in Japan. But that news comes as imports are surging in Japan, slashing the country's renowned trade surplus dramatically.

While land prices in Japan's countryside are showing no improvement, the cost of Tokyo real estate has gone up for the first time in 15 years. Japan's Land Ministry reports the average price in the capital went up this year by 1.5 percent in residential areas, and six-tenths of a percent among commercial property. That is the first rise since the end of Japan's bubble economy at the end of the 1980's.

There appears to be a bubble-era jump for land prices on the main street of Tokyo's posh Ginza shopping district, where the cost of real estate has soared nearly 15.5 percent. Ginza real estate is traditionally among the most expensive in the world, and the latest increase brings the price of a one square meter patch in central Ginza to 15-million yen - about $135,000.

Market research firm Gartner is predicting sales of cellular phones in Japan will reach an all-time high of 49-million units in 2006.

Cell phone operator KDDI, in a step to stay ahead of NTT, its main rival, has decided to use foreign-made handsets for the first time. KDDI president Tadashi Onodera says his company, the number-two cell phone operator, has signed a deal with phone maker Pantech of South Korea.

Mr. Onodera says he expects to see more foreign units coming into the Japanese market if the handsets meet the demands of customers here.

NEC has announced it has developed the world's thinnest camera-equipped mobile phone, which is just under 12 millimeters thick when folded. That is a millimeter thinner than what had been claimed by Samsung of South Korea as the world's slimmest folding phone.

Japan's Finance Ministry says the country's trade surplus shrank in August by just under 80 percent from a year earlier, according to preliminary figures. Exports rose slightly while imports climbed, largely due to higher oil prices. The ministry says Japan's trade surplus with the rest of Asia dropped 23 percent, while it increased by more than 2.5 percent with the United States.

Japan's Trade Ministry is reporting that economic activity in the country in July fell eight-tenths of one percent. That number is pretty much in line with what economists had forecast. Japan's leading business daily, the Nihon Keizai newspaper, says the drop is "unlikely to detract" from the view that the nation's economy is on a broad recovery trend.