Japan Travel

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, Feb 23, 2014, Issue No. 745


– What’s New — Bangkok Travel Show Successful for Japan
– News — 30-minute cancer test
– Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies — Sales Manager-cum-Country Manager
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback
– Travel Picks — Nebuta in Aomori, Tanuki in Shiga
– News Credits

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We are down in Bangkok, Thailand, to attend the 14th Thai
International Travel Fair, taking place from the February 20th until
today (23rd), 2014. We’re not normally travel fair groupies, but felt
that we needed to be at this one, since it is at the center of the
latest trend in Japanese inbound tourism — the phenomenon of
China-Plus-One — or the new strategy of the Japanese government to
target customers in Southeast Asia in preference to the previously
high-spending Chinese. The presence of at least 63 Japanese companies
led by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is ample
evidence of this strategy being put into place.

Not that the Chinese inbound (to Japan) market is that bad. After the
setback caused by the Senkaku islands sabre rattling last year, in
fact, a recent Travelzoo China survey has found that Japan is now the
most preferred overseas travel destination for mainland Chinese, level
pegging with the USA. As a result, tourist flows are up 96%
year-on-year. Travelzoo reckons Chinese tourists are also becoming
more sophisticated, and besides mere shopping are now looking for more
history, food and culture, things which Japan offers in abundance.

But although the Chinese are high spenders, the Japanese government
clearly thinks a more reliable future is to be found in SE Asia, as
demonstrated by the massive Japanese presence at the Bangkok fair at
the Queen Sirikit convention center. The fair itself was an
interesting microcosm of international tourism destinations all
competing for attention from an estimated 200,000 Thai potential
tourists who are collectively enjoying a growing economy and rising
discretionary incomes (pending political revolutions not
withstanding). The travel fair featured this year more than 1,000
booths of both foreign government travel organizations and their local
Thai travel agency handlers.

The Japanese presence was located far from the main receiving doors
from the MRT subway station, and in fact the first country we saw when
entering was the Korean booth, which was both well designed and well
organized. For a moment we thought that JNTO had messed up and let
their biggest competitors steal the show. However, as you took a right
turn by the Korean booth and wandered down past Turkey and several
other countries, you were suddenly in Japan Land, which despite the
political protests in the streets, was teeming with people.

[Continued below…]

——— Japan Travel 2014 Intern Program Begins ———

Following on from our inaugural photojournalism internship in 2013,
JapanTravel KK is pleased to announce the launch of its 2014 program.
We are looking for foreign students and recent graduates of
photojournalism and videography courses to live and work in Japan for
6-8 weeks this year.
* If you are a photojournalist you will be photographing an assigned
area of Japan and writing short stories about your experiences. Our
expectation is 1-2 articles a day, and you can be a native in either
English, French, Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian, Korean, or Chinese.
* If you are a video journalist, then you will also be assigned a
region to cover and will be expected to produce an edited 2-3 minute
clip every two days.

For more information, go to: http://en.japantravel.com/interning.

[…Article continues]

Almost all the big players were there: major travel agencies like JTB
and ClubTourism, hotel chains like the Prince and up-and-coming luxury
operator Hoshino Resorts, and shopping havens like Isetan/Mitsukoshi
and Laox. But what was surprising was the lack of presence by the
nation’s major airlines — both JAL and ANA were absent. Conversely,
there was a large number of ground transport companies, primarily
train and bus operators. We assume that means that the airlines didn’t
feel the need to promote themselves, while the ground transport guys
are feeling the pinch of competition from the Low-cost Carrier (LCC)
airlines. Actually, most of these ground operators have complete
business ecosystems thanks to being part of a conglomerate, such as
hotels, tour companies, etc., and so any discounting they might offer
tourists at the show, on train/bus tickets, can easily be recouped as
those customers move on down the engagement funnel. The issue is that
most of them are generally not cut out to handle foreign tourists yet
and this was noticeable at the trade fair. Still, very interesting to
find them there.

Another surprise was to see the ward/city of Shibuya representing
itself as a travel destination. This of course makes sense, since
pretty much every Thai tourist with a camera wants to get a shot of
the crowds passing through Shibuya Crossing — it’s a kind of rite of
passage. Anyway, Shibuya’s presenting itself as a standalone
destination no doubt heralds the start of more subsectioning and
branding of different cities of Tokyo (and later Osaka, Nagoya,
Fukuoka?), and thus will create more players and more budget spent to
pull in the tourists.

The overall fair was jam-packed with people, organizers estimate total
attendance of 200,000, and the Japan area had by far the highest
amount of foot traffic on the days we were there. Estimates last year
were that about 40,000-60,000 people visited the Japan booths, and
repeating exhibitors told us that they thought that the numbers were
up about 20%-30% this year. The most popular booths were those running
small competitions for trinkets and food, which reminded us that if we
ever do another trade show booth ourselves in Asia (not just Thailand,
this works really well in Japan too), to buy a bunch of snacks and
have a game for passersby to enjoy and to ask for their personal
contact information in return. A good 2-day trade show in Japan can
yield 2,000-3,000 name cards or email addresses with this simple ploy.

Travel agent HIS was everywhere, and appeared to be a senior sponsor
of the overall fair as well. They even train-jacked some of the MRT
and BTS carriages to advertise their vastly increased presence in
Thailand. From what we can tell, HIS is replicating their successful
low-cost charter tours model to Thailand and their offerings are no
longer just tied to Japan. They have adapted well to the Thai mindset,
and had a local young male singer as their celebrity on posters in
major public transport locations. The target is obviously university
students and young office ladies, much as it was originally in Japan
as well.

“Yuru-kyara” (character mascots for PR) were in ample supply, and
although we’ve always felt these humans-in-furry-football mascots to
be childish and awkward, Thai single women love them as much as the
Japanese do. Many photo sessions in front of characters’ home booths
will ensure that the travel fair will live on social media for days to
come. Now, to be fair, there were also some samurai, such as the
hotelier from Yamanashi who did a pretty decent sword swing, and train
conductors too. But they really didn’t get the attention that the
character mascots did. Yup, another lesson to file away for our next
trade show…

Unedited i-Phone video of the display area and crowd is here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wFEoItMdww. Warning: this is boring to
watch if you’re not fascinated by trade shows… :-)

…The information janitors/


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receive points which can be redeemed for items such as traditional
Japanese food, T-shirts and even plane tickets. Whether sipping coffee
at a cafe, hiking a secluded mountain, or visiting an electric
festival, JapanTravel.com is the best place to relive your experiences
and receive gifts in return. Go to www.japantravel.com for more
information and to read the thousands of articles written by



+++ NEWS

– 30-minute cancer test
– Riken to offer “cook book” for stem cells
– BoJ waits for government to catch up
– Novartis office raided
– ODA opening many doors for Japan

=> 30-minute cancer test

Most cancer tests take at least 3 days to 3 weeks to analyze blood
work and confirm/deny a patient’s cancer diagnosis. Now a University
of Tokyo/Nikon team are about to introduce a new blood pattern
matching test that can conduct the same tests in just 30-minutes. The
test views on a transparent slide the patient’s RNA, using just 1ml of
blood. The test has been found to be 80% accurate for identifying
breast cancer, which is comparable to existing blood tests. The new
method will be incorporated into a self-contained testing machine the
size of a small printer, and should be ready by 2020, if not sooner.
(Source: TT commentary from asia.nikkei.com, Feb 21, 2014)


=> Riken to offer “cook book” for stem cells

After Riken dropped the bombshell news that one of its researchers had
developed a simple method of stressing blood cells so that they revert
to stem cells, there has been a huge demand (naturally) of other
research groups around the world looking to replicate the technique.
Problem is that they are unable to do so based on the simple
procedural explanations given in the relevant Nature magazine article.
Thus, in order to allay fears of fraud, the Riken Center for
Developmental Biology has said that it will publish a detailed
procedural description of how to replicate the experiments. ***Ed: No
word on when the work will be published, but we imagine that they are
also double-checking their patent application, amongst other things.**
(Source: TT commentary from wsj.com, Feb 23, 2014)


=> BoJ waits for government to catch up

Good article from William Pesek on how there appears to be a lack of
will by the LDP to follow through on structural reform after the
aggressive monetary lead set by the governor of the Bank of Japan,
Haruhiko Kuroda. Pesek argues that because the BOJ’s efforts to
devalue the yen and rev up the stock market have been successful, they
seem to have removed the pressure on the government to make deep
changes of its own. Thus, the likelihood of “Abenomics” failing
through due to a lack of depth of regulatory change is increased.
Pesek also convincingly argues that the BOJ’s move to double its easy
lending to banks last week is actually a signal to the government that
if Abenomics does fail it won’t be because of a failure to act by the
BOJ. ***Ed: Problem is, one wonders if the LDP’s conflicted special
interest groups will let Abe actually make the changes that need to
happen.** (Source: TT commentary from bloomberg.com, Feb 21, 2014)


=> Novartis office raided

What do you get when you have an over-eager product manager who wants
to make sure that the company’s next block buster drug doesn’t fail?
Well, you buy in the technical data from a friendly university or two,
to provide studies that show just how effective the drug is. We
suspect that this kind of professionals-in-the-pocket test buying is
common in the industry, but the problem for Novartis is that the
manager involved wasn’t smart enough (or maybe was just too lazy) to
make the numbers look convincing. As an outside medical expert pointed
out, the data set numbers were just too similar to be independent
studies, and this gave the show away. Bad news for Novartis, which
apparently stands to earn about JPY100bn from sales of the product,
Diovan, this fiscal year. Unfortunately, it’s also the second time
that the company has been caught out “over-exercising” its
relationships with outside academics, and so the expectation is that
the health ministry will come down hard on them. (Source: TT
commentary from genengnews.com, Feb 21, 2014)


=> ODA opening many doors for Japan

An ODA white paper on Japan’s efforts to provide developmental aid to
SE Asian countries shows the level of commitment the government has to
the idea that international government-to-government investment today
will build substantial ties and private companies trade tomorrow. In
2012, Japan’s ODA budget was US$10.6bn, down 2.3% from FY2011, but
still 5th in the world after the USA, UK, Germany, and France. More
interesting are the top recipients and how they fit into Japan’s
strategic planning. Vietnam was at the top of the table, receiving
US$1.64bn, followed by Afghanistan with US$873m (no doubt to keep the
USA happy), and India with US$704m. Then in a misleading 17th place is
Myanmar. We say “misleading”, because while the absolute amount of new
ODA to Myanmar was small, they also received a separate huge loan (for
some reason not considered ODA) of US$1.1bn — meaning that Myanmar
was infact the second largest recipient of Japanese government
largesse. (Source: TT commentary from globalpost.com, Feb 21, 2014)


NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days
of posting them, thus breaking our links — we apologize for the



=> Are you in web content, sales, or engineering? If so, this section
is for you.


– Web marketing/technology Sales Manager-cum-Country Manager position

If you are working in a web marketing or web technology company, and
have a strong sales record and excellent Japanese and English (this is
compulsory), we have a client looking for a person to manage their
Japan start-up operation and who on showing reasonable performance
will become the country manager of a team of professionals here.
Unlike most start-ups entering Japan, this one already has clients and
is winning recognition in the market for their technology. The
position requires a strong knowledge of who the main market players
are, and thus a strong personal network, and if not a native Japanese
speaker, then you will need to demonstrate a strong track record of
previous successful appointments. This is not a Country Manager role
right out of the box, and so a flexible, sales-oriented personality is
essential. Salary is JPY10m base and JPY3-4m on achievement of very
reasonable sales targets. Please send your resume to


– Bilingual account manager for major tourism portal
(www.japantourist.jp), JPY3M – JPY5M
– Bilingual sales trainee for web media properties, JPY2.5M-JPY3M +
10% commission
– English-only experienced PHP Zend software developer, 5 years
experience, JPY3.5M – JPY5M

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to: jobs@metroworks.co.jp.




—————— ICA Event – March 20th —————–

Speaker: Hideki Thurgood Kano, Corporate Lawyer and Author at Anderson
Mori & Tomotsune
Title: “Unilateral Termination of Employees (due to their poor performance)”

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/

Date: Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members) Open to all. No
sign ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: RSVP by 10am on Friday 14th March 2014. Venue is The Foreign
Correspondents’ Club of Japan.




=> No corrections/feedback this week.



=> Ominato Nebuta, Aomori
Parade of lords, samurai, gods and devils

Walking through the streets overlain with sunset hues, the distant
rumble of drums could be heard. I spied out an empty lot and shared
the steps leading up to it with a few local residents, camera at the
ready. The procession made its way through the narrow road toward us
in waves. The first wave was of children dressed in traditional
clothes; a few were pulling a small paper float of a cartoon
character. After them, the assault began. Older men with lanterns lead
the way. In their wake was a float 10 feet or so high and 10-20 feet
wide, being pulled by volunteers from the various neighborhoods or
organizations that sponsored the float.

Each float that passed by was a depiction of various gods, samurai and
other historical figures, demons, and the occasional cutesy animal.
They were made out of paper (the same kind you find in the paper walls
and sliding doors here) with a skeletal frame of wire, lit up from the
inside so as to cast an iridescent glow of color. My favorite one was
of a samurai standing in the waves of the ocean, sword drawn against a
cyclops and demon samurai wrapped in blue fire. At various points the
men would spin the float around in a frenzy to impress onlookers,
narrowly missing clipping homes and people in the narrow streets.
Immediately behind the floats were taiko drums being beaten upon in
rhythmic fury, with dancers of various sorts in their trail. This is
Ominato Nebuta.


=> Shiragaki, Shiga
Town of Tanuki statues

Shigaraki is a small pottery town in the middle of Shiga’s
countryside, but it is a town with a long and interesting history.
Shigaraki became the Imperial capital for a few months in the year
745, but the Imperial court moved after the palace was burned down in
a forest fire. However the really curious thing about Shigaraki is
that everywhere you look there are cute pottery raccoon dogs known as
tanuki. There seems to be a number of interesting stories about these
tanuki. For example, once when the emperor visited the town the local
people were concerned that they were too few in number to provide a
rousing welcome for their illustrious guest, so they got the idea of
lining up hundreds of tanuki on the sides of the road. I bet that made
the emperor smile!




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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd@japaninc.com)

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