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, August 24, 2014, Issue No. 769


– What’s New — Agritourism, the Italian Model
– News — Babies in Thailand to become Shigeta Party of future
– Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies — Community Manager position
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback
– Travel Picks — Beaches in Enoshima, Cheese in Zao, Miyagi-ken
– News Credits

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The Nikkei carried a news item on Friday stating that exports of sake
hit a record high in value for the first half of this year, totaling
JPY5.46bn. Unfortunately while the value increased, the unit volume
actually decreased slightly, possibly indicating that while sake
drinkers abroad are becoming more discriminating and going for more
expensive brands, the increase in new drinkers is falling off. So is
the sake market overseas already saturated? May be not. Another
explanation for falling unit sales in export sake could simply be the
rise in local competition, such as this outfit in Vancouver, Canada
that a reader told us about.

The recent success of the sake industry has given farmers and their
minders in government hope for food exports, and for that matter
agritourism — because food brings tourists. Indeed, we have heard
from various sources that recent surveys show the top reason for
tourists coming to Japan is for the food. Of course they are also
sightseeing and shopping, but apparently food is the biggest single
final deciding factor. We haven’t been able to find public versions of
these studies, however, there are some interesting statistics taken
from exit interviews showing that while tourists spend more by value
on cameras and electricals, a greater percentage of them are buying
food as souvenirs. Specifically in 2012, 50.9% of all tourists bought
Japanese cakes and confectionary to take home, and 45.85% bought other
foods and alcohol. In comparison, just 9.9% bought electricals and
9.7% bought cameras.

We are interested in agritourism because of its potential to change
the economy in regional areas — those areas currently experiencing
depopulation and industrial hollowing. Tourists of course are happy to
do the usual golden triangle of Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto, and for most
first-timers this is good enough. But now that Asians in particular
are doing multiple trips a year to Japan, they are wanting to discover
more of the country and enjoy the authentic experiences that the
countryside can offer. This is where agritourism, in the form of farm
stays and food-related activities (festivals, harvesting, processing,
etc.) comes in.

[Continued below…]

———– WILD TOUR KICKOFF 2014 ———————

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Our “Wild Tour Kickoff 2014”, part of the larger Wildcard Incubation
Program, will be held during October, from the 12th – 19th, and we are
currently accepting participants based in Japan, who are willing to
take the challenge! Free information sessions are scheduled on 8/2,
8/9, and 8/23 at Wis Square near Tokyo station. Register now to get
more details as they happen.

More info (Japanese) at: Contact:

[…Article continues]

In order to get these repeat tourists to move out of their comfort
zone and try agritourism, operators need to create an experience which
is both pleasant and memorable. Unfortunately, the current Japanese
concept of agritourism is to experience farm living without any
frills. This means relatively spartan facilities, very short stays,
and short and often unappealing (to foreign tourists) activities like
rice planting and “mushroom carrying”. OK, such activities may appeal
to Japanese city dwellers who are seldom in touch with the land, but
probably won’t get foreign tourists to travel thousands of kilometers
to see/do. Especially when those tourists are Asian and who can
already experience pulling apples off trees in Indonesia (in the
highlands), picking mushrooms in Thailand (where they grow wild), and
learning to plant and harvest rice.

In this respect, the Japanese need to learn from the Europeans, the
Italians in particular, about what motivates travellers. The Italians
have created an agritourism sector that combines authenticity, rustic
environment, and yet luxury and variety as well. As a result, visitors
flock to their farms and more importantly pay a premium to do so. As
an example, an iconic 5-day stay at a working winery in Italy’s
Tuscany region, complete with castle, pool, gym, nature walks, and a
cute township for shopping nearby, will set you back about JPY200,000
(JPY40,000/night) for a double bedroom with breakfast only. We think
Japanese agritourism operators would be quite happy to be earning this
kind of tariff, but to do so they need to make some big improvements.

Here is a good example of what Japanese agritourism looks like:

Here’s the Italian equivalent:

As we can see, Japan badly needs a class in marketing from the Italians.

The Italians also experienced a very similar challenge to what the
Japanese face now. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, as the country’s
population left the land and moved to the cities, many smaller rural
towns experienced severe depopulation and there was significant
concern about the survival of such communities. Sound familiar? Then,
in 1996, Italy passed a law that considers agritourism an agricultural
activity, and thus the subsidies and tax treatments available to
farmers were extended to farm stay operators. Since then the sector
has taken off. Rural economies are rebounding and people are returning
to the countryside to settle. And why not? Families owning farm stays
not only get to eat from their own newly planted gardens, they can
also use the gym and other facilities when guest numbers are low, and
generally life is good.

In terms of numbers, in 1998 in all of Italy there were only 8,905
farms (with 68,000 beds) offering accommodation and tourism
experiences. Then, just 15 years later, there are now more than 20,000
farms with more than 200,000 beds (these numbers extrapolated from
2009/2010 data). Although agritourism facilities still only account
for 2.4% of all farms in Italy, they nonetheless handle about 7% of
all incoming tourists. They earn higher than normal annual incomes and
that money trickles back down to the rest of the community.

Apart from the reclassification of agritourism as agriculture, the
Italians added one other important ingredient. The new law meant that
agriculture-related banks could lend to agritourism operators wanting
to develop their infrastructure. In Japan, to “develop” infrastructure
usually means knocking down the old buildings and replacing them with
a concrete box. But as the Italians found, tourists don’t travel far
and wide to get more concrete. Instead, they want authentic
experiences, and so most of the Italian loans are used to restore
ancient farm buildings and reinstate traditional arts and crafts, as
well as beautifying the surrounding countryside. This has been
incredibly successful and is helping Italy to preserve its history and

We think that Japan’s rural sector could use a double dose of this
recipe, before the farmers and everything else that is old and
authentic has disappeared.

…The information janitors/


—– One-day directorship training program for women —–

On September 19, The Board Director Training Institute of Japan (BDTI)
will offer a special one-day directorship training program for women,
followed by a dinner and panel discussion with a stellar list of
experienced women directors. Anyone is welcome to attend either or
both programs, which comprise an official side event of the
government’s “Shine Weeks” symposium to promote the participation of
women in the economy. Given the number of firms that are looking to
appoint female board members, this is an excellent opportunity for
Japanese-speaking women. Details are at: .
Co-sponsors: EY Japan, Women Corp. Directors, Tanabe Law Offices.


+++ NEWS

– Citibank to sell and leave retail banking in JPN
– Price guarantees for nuclear power?
– Almost 5% of Japanese adults have gambling problem
– Babies in Thailand to become Shigeta Party of future
– Japan Post selling yen forces currency down

=> Citibank to sell and leave retail banking in JPN

The Nikkei has published a story that Citigroup Japan will cut its
Japan-based retail operations, selling them to the highest local
bidder. The bank is apparently losing money on retail, mostly because
of the low margins caused by global quantitative easing hurting
interest rate spreads. In addition, Citi seems to have been singled
out for rough treatment by the Japanese authorities and has decided
the market is not worth all the extra effort and negative publicity
each time it is challenged by the FSA. ***Ed: If Shinsei doesn’t buy
the business, and there are doubts as to whether they can afford it,
then foreigners in Japan may well wonder if there will be anyone left
here who can handle their banking in a language other than Japanese —
another setback to Japan’s hopes of attracting foreign firms wanting
to headquarter here.** (Source: TT commentary from, Aug 20,

=> Price guarantees for nuclear power?

A panel in METI is recommending that the government pay nuclear power
operators a guaranteed price for electricity, as a means of helping
out struggling utilities. The panel says it will model the scheme on
Britain’s Contracts of Difference program, and would involve the
government subsidizing electricity through top-ups after consumer
receipts. ***Ed: One wonders about the ethics of this proposal. The
majority of Japanese don’t even want nuclear let alone moving public
cash to these operators to make them profitable again.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Aug 21, 2014)

=> Almost 5% of Japanese adults have gambling problem

Conservatives in Japan are fighting hard to keep casinos out of Japan,
and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has released figures
estimating that about 4.8% of the nation’s adult population, around
5.36m people, have gambling addictions. The ministry came up with the
numbers from a survey of 4,153 people, and says that Japan has about 5
times more addictive gamblers than countries such as Canada, France,
and South Korea. ***Ed: The irony is, that even as the conservatives
fight this rearguard action, the horse has already bolted. The survey
appears to simply capture the fact that many adult men (in particular)
already spend excessive time playing pachinko. How casinos will make
this worse is hard to say, although we suppose you can lose a lot more
cash a lot more quickly on the roulette table.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Aug 22, 2014)

=> Babies in Thailand to become Shigeta Party of future

There are probably few weirder stories than the one about Mitsukoki
Shigeta, the son of wealthy Hikari Tsushin founder, Yasumitsu Shigeta.
Apparently the 24-year old has been breeding babies, somewhat
illegally but probably not enough so to land him in jail, so that he
could populate the senior ranks of his own political party in the
future. Shigeta paid a number of Thai surrogate mothers to carry his
children, whom he then had raised in a Bangkok condominium, each with
their own nanny. ***Ed: The children have been taken into protective
custody, but our guess is that Shigeta won’t be charged, because: a)
the kids really are his, and b) he wasn’t planning to sell or
otherwise part with them. Indeed, Shigeta is now apparently trying to
get his kids back.** (Source: TT commentary from Aug 22, 2014)

=> Japan Post selling yen forces currency down

Wondering why with all the turmoil going on in the Middle East and
Eastern Europe, the yen is actually sinking in value, not going up? It
seems that Japan Post’s insurance unit is selling yen to buy foreign
securities. The company is likely to have bought up to JPY7.5trn in
stocks and bonds over the last couple of months (although the figures
in the Nikkei are theoretically for the whole of the last 12 months).
On top of this, the GPIF is getting ready to buy some trillions of yen
of international assets as well. ***Ed: We won’t be betting against a
weak yen for a little while, unless of course Ukraine or Iraq drag the
West into a new war — then all bets are off.** (Source: TT commentary
from, Aug 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.


– Community manager‘s “special sauce” as a travel website is its
community. We are recruiting a bilingual person with an outgoing and
friendly manner to manage our 3,000-person community both in Japan and
abroad. The person will be involved in recruiting, contracting,
managing, and motivating the key leaders in the community, as well as
assisting with troubleshooting of downstream contributors and other
participants. Ability to multitask, show empathy, and yet maintain
discipline in terms of results are important attributes for this
position. Location of the job for the first 12 months will be in
Tokyo. Some travel around the country is also anticipated. JPY4M –
JPY6M base + incentives. We are interested in both Japanese and
foreign applicants. For language fluency, ability to listen, speak,
and read emails in your non-native language are necessary.

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:




————– BizDo Introduction Seminar —————–

Discover The Secret of Leadership Success : Gyoku Shin

On November 7th, during the height of Kyoto’s beautiful foliage
season, we will hold our next BizDo Introduction Seminar which
introduces the secrets of Leadership success hidden in the philosophy
and principles of the Japanese Martial Arts. This event is exclusively
for senior executives and only 20 seats are available.

To hear what other top Executives in Japan say about our Seminars and
to reserve your seat, visit:



=> No feedback or corrections this week.



=> Enoshima Island and Beach, Kanagawa-ken
Staying cool at Kanagawa’s best worst-kept secret

Summertime is here, bringing with it weeks of glorious sunshine. On
the other hand, this also means several weeks of constant sweating,
making the steaming concrete jungle the last place that anyone in
their right mind would want to hang around in. It’s time to leave
those uninspiring air-conditioned offices and head for the beach!

Located less than 50 minutes away from Yokohama, Enoshima is
Kanagawa’s number one resort location for the endless hoards of city
dwellers attempting to stay cool and look cool. If you’re looking for
somewhere quiet, peaceful and sophisticated then this is probably not
that place, however, the summertime vibe here is great, and there is
an abundance of interesting attractions including the best sandy
beaches this side of Tokyo and if you’re lucky, excellent views of
Mount Fuji.

=> Zao Cheese Cabin, Miyagi-ken
Excellent cheeses with more than a few fun flavors

A trip to Zao is a real adventure. The mountain range spans Yamagata
and Miyagi prefectures and the area is abundant with hot springs,
nature, and in the winter, ski resorts (and snow monsters!). On the
Miyagi side of Zao in the Togatta-onsen area is one more destination
to put on your Zao trip itinerary. You of course brought your camera
and now it’s time to say cheese. The Zao Cheese Cabin is part of the
Zao Dairy Farm Group and is a must for cheese lovers. I am not a
cheese fanatic but I am a fan that has been disappointed too many
times with Japan’s cheese selection, quality, price, and taste. No
more, I found the motherlode.

While driving back to downtown Zao from the mysterious Fox Village, my
hungry friends and I passed right by the Zao Cheese Factory. I was
immediately interested. Yes, there is a factory but there are no tours
and you can’t go inside. Still, this place was much more popular than
I thought with two parking lots and several traffic guards. Behind the
factory you’ll find a fruit stand, bakery, restaurant specializing in
cheese dishes, and the Cheese Cabin. The large, modern cabin shaped
structure which will soon be your best friend — unless you are
lactose intolerant…! Step inside and activate your taste buds.



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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (

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