An Insider's comments on Japan's high tech business world

* * * * * * * * TERRIE’S TAKE – BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term
technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

General Edition Sunday, July 06, 2014, Issue No. 763


– What’s New — Trade Shows Best Way to Get Connections
– News — Denso exec gets jail time for price-fixing
– Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies — PHP Zend engineer
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback — WiFi on Shinkansen is a non-starter
– Travel Picks — Kinugawa gourmet hotel, Kakunodate time travel
– News Credits

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Through our sister company Japan Inc Holdings ( we have
been involved in market entry for foreign firms since the 1990’s, and
one of the most common questions we are asked is how to find partners,
resellers and clients. In this age of the Internet, the most obvious
answer for end customers is to have a good local online presence and
generate enough traffic so that the 0.1% of visitors who convert to a
purchase still add up to hundreds or even thousands of transactions.

But finding Japanese partners and resellers is a bit more involved.
Oh, yes, you still need to have a website, because without the
appearance of online credibility — and your prospect WILL check your
site as soon as you call and ask for a meeting — you probably won’t
get to first base. But where the real action comes in is from meeting
the other person face-to-face and connecting with them personally.
Practically speaking, the most efficient way to reach people
face-to-face in Japan is at trade shows. So we tell our clients that
for best impact, you should get yourself along to some relevant
events, either as an exhibitor or as an “audience member”, and start
pressing flesh.

Trade shows work in Japan because of the following reasons:
1. Graduated face-to-face meetings create trust in Japan, and trust
leads to business. Other than getting a high-level introduction from a
friend, the best way to start this process is to get in front of your
prospect at a time he/she is receptive to such an approach, meaning at
trade shows.
2. Most of the major trade show exhibition locations in Tokyo are
within 2 hours travel for a population of 35 million people (lesser
numbers and same levels of concentration for Osaka, Nagoya, and
Fukuoka) — that’s pretty much a guarantee of large and well-qualified
3. Because of the Japanese need for familiarity to do business,
customers naturally expect to see their suppliers annually at their
booth. The suppliers of course know this and so send their best
people. This is a huge benefit for you as a foreign visitor, because
you have a good chance of cornering some of the top people, all in one
place, all in one day.
4. Because your prospective partners/resellers are in “selling mode”
themselves, with the steady flow of their customers, you’ll find it
much easier to reach out and establish a connection than if you tried
to cold call them at their office — and that’s IF you could first get
past the gatekeeper receptionist.
5. All the noise and competitor logos nearby allow you to stimulate
your prospects by casually referring to other exhibitors you just
happened to meet earlier. The competitive instinct runs deep in Japan.

The downside of trade shows is that they are tiring, and you need to
pick your timing in targeting the key person. No point in being at the
end of a long line — your interaction will be limited to exchanging
name cards and that’s about it. Instead, if they are busy ask for an
appointment at a given time and come back, several times if necessary.
That said, sometimes being a foreigner helps get you prioritized, as
you could present a country that the prospect doesn’t already do
business in (even though it is you wanting to do the selling), and
this can get you to the top person quickly.

So, with the value of trade shows in mind, we’d like to relate two
different shows we visited this week, each the opposite of the other,
but both of which highlight how networking gets started in Japan.

[Continued below…]

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[…Article continues]

The first was a smallish event held at a venue we’ve never visited
before, the Tokyo Ryutsu Center, a large distribution complex down
near Haneda Airport that was set up by a spin-off of the Tokyo Chamber
of Commerce and Industry back in 1987. We were attending the “Appeal
of Food” (“shoku no miryoku”) fair, which features innovative
food-related SMEs from all over Japan presenting their wares to
corporate buyers in Tokyo. There are of course zillions of
seller-buyer mini-events like this one in Japan, but we wanted to
attend this one because the companies only focus on new products, and
since their travel costs are paid for by their local banks they are
supposed to be the best of breed in each region. There were about 120
sellers and 1,000 buyers present. We were the only foreigners there.

We were hoping to find products that might be suitable for tourists,
but what quickly became obvious is that what we as non-Japanese think
of innovation and what the exhibitors had in mind where rather
different. While no doubt many of the products were notable
refinements, they still looked to us much like existing supermarket
staples, and perhaps only a connoisseur would really know the
difference. This is one of the big problems that business development
agencies face in Japan — getting companies with limited resources to
think more out of the box for export.

But there were a couple of interesting products. For example, a unique
nigorizake, a normally white and sweet form of sake that quickly makes
you light-headed if you drink it fresh (it is still fermenting), this
time without the alcohol…! Drinking the product was a weird
experience — with the liquid tasting something like rice milk but
with a thicker and clotted texture. It was pretty good, actually, and
we imagine it could be sold as a replacement to milk-based cordials
like Calpis.

Another cool product was an add-in for soy sauce. A lady in Ehime (who
was there) invented it, and you buy a bottle loaded up with all kinds
of dried fungi, garlic, and wakame. The idea is that you then buy a
bottle of regular cheap Kikkoman and pour it into the flavoring bottle
and let the mixture stand for a few days. Thereafter, the soy comes
out with a unique taste which is delicious. According to the inventor,
you can refill and reuse a single flavoring bottle for about 3 months.
Now that one might sell overseas…

The next day, we attended the second event, the much bigger Tokyo
International Book Fair, which was held at Tokyo Big Sight and was
organized by Reed Exhibitions. 1,530 exhibitors from 25 countries were
participating across four halls, each with a sub-theme that marks a
progression away from traditional books and into the digital age. We
were there on the industry professionals day, which meant no regular
public — and yet it was still jam-packed. As with any Japanese trade
show, there was plenty of noise, demonstrator girls in miniskirts,
animatronic dinosaurs, English-teaching book and art book hawkers, DTP
software companies, and even a hulking book binding machine that took
reams of paper at one end and spat out fully trimmed printed books at
the other.

In fact, there was so much eye candy that we had to remind ourselves
to focus on finding business opportunities… ;-) Thus we quickly made
for the smaller booths at the periphery, where the start-up firms with
the interesting new technologies are generally located. Not a lot of
mind-blowing stuff this year, although a nationwide ebook player had
some interesting software capabilities.

Overall we came away from the TIBF feeling that most of the industry
is still stuck on paper — which is understandable, because fresh
paper smells and feels so good. But at least the energy is still
there, along with foreign exhibitors, who were back in force after 3
years of staying away. This year it was the Malaysians, with their
rich story-telling traditions and lifestyle content who were
attracting the most attention. Just another indication of the
increasing ties between Japan and the ASEAN nations.

In conclusion, the smaller of the two shows was probably more
interesting, in that every exhibitor was 100% ready to talk business,
not just salarymen/ladies pushing a brand. On the other hand, there
wasn’t a foreigner to be seen — meaning we’d be having to educate
each prospect on why they should start thinking export. All-in-all,
both shows represented two days of solid market research, name card
exchanges, and several business leads.

Yup, we have to remember to get out more often.

…The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

– New multi-entry visa for India
– Denso exec gets jail time for price-fixing
– Mascots to be culled?
– Gene related to early flower death identified
– Puroland loses another JPY240m

=> New multi-entry visa for India

Japan has started issuing multiple entry short-term stay visas to
Indian nationals. The new visa is intended to be used by tourists and
businesspeople alike, and was agreed upon after PM Abe visited India
back in January. Roughly 70,000 Indians visited Japan in 2013, up
25,000 from 2012. ***Ed: Given that the number of Thai tourists jumped
about 400% when visas for nationals of that country were relaxed, it
appears that we could be looking at several million Indian visitors to
Japan over the next year.** (Source: TT commentary from, Jul 3, 2014)

=> Denso exec gets jail time for price-fixing

Price-fixing (“dango”) is a fact of life in Japan, and helps maintain
the status quo of established suppliers in a given industry to repel
upstarts and to extract more profit from the customer base. However,
as domestic demand shrinks and more businesses are forced to go
abroad, they are finding that what’s acceptable in Japan is illegal
abroad. Such was the case in a recent trial of an executive of a major
auto parts company and Toyota Group supplier, Denso. Although Denso is
not new to foreign business, their attitude to cartel laws was highly
laissez faire. Now 6 Denso executives are paying the price, with one
of their number being sent to jail in the USA for a year and a day.
Further the company is being fined US$2.3bn, which it has agreed to
pay. There are similar investigations of the company going on in the
EU, Canada, and now… even Japan. ***Ed: Maybe things are changing?
Nah, this is just the cost of getting caught. The company was fined
US$78m just 18 months ago for a very similar charge. We guess the
proof will be in whether the manager doing jail time (or for that
matter any of the others), get fired once they come back to Japan, or
instead are just quietly reabsorbed into the work force.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Jul 4, 2014)

=> Mascots to be culled?

The Japanese obsession with creating mascots of every location and
movement in the country has flooded the nation with sweating junior
staff dressed up to look like oranges, hair balls, and balloon-shaped
animals. To our eyes, the mascots are preposterously cumbersome and
mostly lacking imagination and design sense — but they never fail to
bring out fans wanting to pose and snap photos together. Even an
agricultural event we attended several days ago had two ungainly
mascots being led around by the hand (in case the actor inside fell
over and couldn’t get up again). Anyway, apparently the Ministry of
Finance is ordering local authorities to stop creating so many mascots
(“yuru-kara”) because they are a waste of tax-payer money. Apparently
some of these mascot suits cost up to JPY1.38m, and up to another
JPY90,000 to transport and hire an actor for. (Source: TT commentary
from Jul 3, 2014)

=> Gene related to early flower death identified

Scientists at the National Agriculture and Food Research Organisation
in Tsukuba have identified a gene which programs the normal death of
Morning Glory (“asagao”) flowers. They conducted an experiment whereby
they suppressed the gene, now nicknamed Ephemeral1, and were able to
slow the aging process by 50%, from the normal 13 hours under ideal
conditions to around 24 hours. The scientists are not saying that the
gene can be manipulated in all species of flowers, but they are
apparently hopeful that the discovery will allow flower producers to
provide product with a longer shelf life. ***Ed: What’s the bet that
this will trigger an avalanche of new research into mammalian life
spans?** (Source: TT commentary from, Jul 4,

=> Puroland loses another JPY240m

Hello Kitty creator Sanrio has a theme park based in Tama City, called
Puroland. The park had 793,000 visitors last year but still managed to
lose about JPY240m. The park has been losing money for years, mostly
due to the aging of its robotic attractions, which hadn’t been
upgraded since the park opened in 1990. A major upgrade was done last
year, and this appears to be reversing the decline, although the
company is not out of the woods yet. Sanrio says it will extend park
hours and start offering discounts. ***Ed: We remember when this park
opened. The animatronics were all sourced from a U.S./British company
and the head engineer gave us a guided tour of the place — which btw,
is FAR from anywhere. Not to upgrade the electronically-controled
characters for 23 years is both a testament to the quality of the
foreign firm’s products and Sanrio’s lack of interest in managing the
asset — probably because they make too much money licencing Hello
Kitty characters… All very reminiscent of the attitude other
landlords who are from a sector other than real estate, and who think
that investment is a one-time occurrence.** (Source: TT commentary
from, Jul 3, 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.


– Senior PHP Zend Software Engineer

If you have more than 5 years professional experience developing web
and mobile applications and know PHP Zend to an advanced level, then
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on our core ACQ platform. Salary will depend on experience, but will
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Please send your resume to


– Bilingual account manager for major tourism portal
(, we are particularly interested in speaking to
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within FY2014. JPY3M – JPY5M + 10% commission

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:




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Date: July 24th (Thursday)
Cost*: ¥3,000 ICA members; ¥4,000 non-members.

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RSVP: Tickets limited hence register by June 30th by 4pm as space is limited.




=> In TT-762, we talked about the “race” to free WiFi in Japan, and
how it is that one of the smallest players in the Japanese WiFi world,
NTT, plans to finally offer such a service to tourists, even if it is
only for a 3-month trial.

=> A reader comments:

The Shinkansen WiFi situation cracks me up. They claim to have Wifi
between Tokyo and Osaka…. But you have to apply for it
beforehand…. And not on-line either; an actual paper application is
required… The English announcement then actually becomes a lie, as
they don’t make any mention of the application, but just that WiFi is
available between Tokyo and Osaka….. Which it isn’t, at least not
for any tourist.

1. Why is it only available between Tokyo and Osaka?
2. Why not allow people to sign up with their credit cards on-line,
on-the-spot…. Even if you are going to charge…

Hard to fathom…



=> Kinugawa Park Hotels’ Gourmet Food, Tochigi
Traditional Breakfast and Dinner in an Onsen Resort

Kinugawa Park Hotels is a luxurious hotel located near Kinugawa Onsen
Station, a vacation area known for its Japanese hot springs and which
is about two hours away from Tokyo. It is an ideal place to visit if
you need to take a small break from the hectic rhythm of the city.
This popular onsen area developed around the Kinugawa river, an
impressive river ravine carved through the volcanic landscape and deep
forests surrounding the city.

Kinugawa Park Hotels is more than a simple hot spring hotel. Along
with its incredible collection of bathing facilities, which come in
all shapes and styles, and the comfortable and luxurious rooms, they
also offer traditional gourmet meals of the highest quality. And as I
found, the service is also outstanding. A typical morning breakfast
consists of delightful sashimi and other samplings – fish, meat, and
rice — all prepared with delicious sauces and dressings, and a
“bucket-full” of boiled vegetables, fruit and eggs. Everything is
infused with herbs and the unique ingredients that give each piece a
rich and subtle taste.

As for dinner, it is even more impressive…

=> Kakunodate – a Trip Back in Time, Akita
Walking through the heart of a Samurai town

Japanese cities are impressive for their numerous bright flashing neon
lights and endless rows of ultra-modern high rise buildings — both of
which seem to have succeeded in eradicating any sense of culture or
history. Unfortunately, this is a phenomenon found in far too many
urban areas in Japan, which in a rush to modernize, they have lost
something irreplaceable – their traditional core.

One exception to this continuing phenomenon is the beautiful city of
Kakunodate in Akita prefecture, which is one of the very few places to
have successfully maintained its historical heart – if perhaps partly
for the sake of tourism! Originally established as a military outpost
in 1620, Kakunodate later developed into a Samurai town. Over the
course of time, eighty spacious residences were built to house each
warrior and their family. These immaculately preserved wooden
buildings can be seen when walking along the unusually wide streets
where it is easy to imagine Samurai riding by on their horses in
ancient times.



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