Japan's central bank says business confidence among big manufacturers has dropped for the first time in nearly two years. The Bank of Japan's quarterly Tankan survey shows rising concern among industrialists about slower demand for information technology products and weak export growth.

The government, however, sees the economy continuing its current modest expansion. Japan's ruling coalition has approved raising taxes for the first time in six years. It is expected that higher taxes will take an extra $1,400 a year from average wage earners or property owners.

The package recommends readjusting the entire tax system in 2007, including the unpopular consumption tax.

But Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi does not appear to agree with all the recommendations. Mr. Koizumi said he wants to assure the public that the consumption tax, which adds five percent to almost every business transaction, will not rise while he is prime minister.

Japan's parliament is to debate and vote on the package next month.

Consumer entertainment giant Sony has received a boost from the successful introduction of its PlayStation Portable game machine. The company's share price rose after the new device quickly sold out in Japan.

Sony's game business unit says it shipped 200,000 units of the much-anticipated PSP handheld device for sale in Japan. It goes on sale outside Japan next year.

A Japanese tourism company plans to begin a taxi service for foreigners, after visitors complained taxi drivers either do not understand them or refuse to pick them up because they are not Japanese.

The company, Outdoor Technology, says its taxi drivers will speak fluent English and be able to interpret for their customers while they shop.

But all this will come at a price, a minimum three-hour hire starting at about $175.