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, December 14, 2014, Issue No. 785

– What’s New — Anime-Manga Boom in SE Asia
– News — Climate change to halve snowfall
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback
– Travel Picks — Hiking in Saitama, Illumination in Kumamoto
– News Credits

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We happened to be in Singapore on the weekend of December 6 and 7,
when the annual AFA (Anime Festival Asia) was held. For a city/state
of just 5.4MM it’s amazing how they can produce such large crowds of
excited fans. Sozo Pte., the company that runs the AFA events, reckons
that they had at least 90,000 people attend this year, and possibly
more, since the count in 2013 was 130,000. Oh, and ALL of those
attendees had to pay SG$14.00 to get in — so that would have been a
tidy bit of coin.

The exhibition hall where AFA was held was packed to the gills, almost
to the point of being a fire hazard. Not only were all the big name
Japanese content companies there, but also a myriad of local traders
and creators as well. Actually, bringing Singaporean creators together
and giving them an audience to sell to is a good strategy, since it
stimulates the local market and creates a supply of non-Japanese
controlled vendor/partners that keep prices down and originality high.

We think the efforts of the local creators were pretty good. There was
one young woman who has developed a kind of punk version of Japan’s
cute characters. Her trademark is Eva Comics, and she had people
lining up to buy her original postcard size images. We’re not sure of
her real name, but her bio shows she’s no ordinary comic strip
draw-er. She has an MBA, she’s already published a book, and what
started a hobby has now become a serious business.

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[…Article continues]

Besides the local creators, Korean firms were also out in force, and
their characters and stories seemed pretty much indistinguishable from
the Japanese products — which we suppose is the whole point, but it
does increase price competition and dilute the market for the premium

Although Japanese manga and anime market in the USA is rumored to be
waning (in profits at least), elsewhere, Japanese pop culture is still
a growing business. According to the Telecommunications Ministry, in
FY2013 the export (i.e., Japanese-only exports) of broadcast and
Internet content, most of which is anime and games, grew to just under
JPY20bn, up about 30% over FY2012. Of this number, broadcast anime was
worth JPY8.6bn and internet licencing and sales was JPY6.21bn. Clearly
the money is moving to the Internet.

The ministry numbers don’t include merchandizing, events, and
services, which probably double the base numbers. Asian consumers buy
about 52% of Japan’s pop culture exports, distantly followed by North
America at 25.1%, and Europe at 18.6%.

While in yen terms the industry numbers are still modest, the cultural
influence of Japanese manga and anime is deep and broad. According to in the USA, the U.S. market had 449 anime-related
conventions in 2012, up from 396 the year before. Each typically drew
in 20,000-50,000 attendees. Outside the USA, the big kahuna is the
Japan Expo in France, which at 150,000 attendees is actually the
largest anime and manga convention outside of Japan. FYI, as a
comparison, Japan’s Comiket, held several times a year, draws in about
500,000 people.

The SE Asian market is also very vibrant. Sozo, the company we
mentioned earlier that produced the AFA event, is already expanding
its manga/anime conventions to nearby countries such as Malaysia and
Indonesia. It is also expanding into the music business – where
consumers are even more likely to buy premium content.

Another player is Curio Asia, which produces the Kokoronotomo program
in Indonesia. This company produces its own content and sends a film
crew to Japan every 3-4 months. They produce their shows according to
what they feel are Indonesian cultural preferences, rather than simply
regurgitating what Japanese companies think viewers want to see. It’s
been a huge hit (250,000 likes on Facebook) and the program has a
large following there.

It will be interesting to see whether the SE Asian market goes the way
of the North American one, where companies in the Japanese pop culture
business are now struggling to make money even as the user base still
grows. Industry insiders in the U.S. point the finger at the lack of
new ideas and characters and excessive licencing fees as part of the
cause. However, what Sozo, Curio Asia, and others in SE Asia seem to
be doing differently is that not only are they licencing from Japan,
they are also helping local creators to “extend” the best parts of the
Japanese pop culture as well. This keeps the supply of original ideas
and products up, keeps fans entertained, and keeps Japan-bound
licencing costs down.

Sounds like a good formula to us.

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+++ NEWS

– Cool Japan fund gets into ramen
– Climate change to halve snowfall
– Another credit downgrade looming
– Youngest table tennis winners are Japanese

=> Cool Japan fund gets into ramen

In a good demonstration of the government’s thinking on what
constitutes cultural exports, the Cool Japan fund has decided that it
will invest up to JPY2bn into Chikaranomoto Holdings, the operator of
the Ippudo ramen shop chain. The company will get JPY700m as a direct
investment and a line of credit for another JPY1.3bn. The money will
be spend on expanding the ramen chain primarily in Asia. (Source: TT
commentary from, Dec 14, 2014)

=> Climate change to halve snowfall

The Japan Met Agency has announced that it thinks global warming will
increase Japan Sea winter temperatures by up to 4.4 degrees by the end
of this century, leading to a 50% reduction in snow fall, from the
current 130cm annual average to just 57cm average. The climate change
will apparently mean that there might be even more snow fall up in
Hokkaido, but less along the mountains of the Sea of Japan. ***Ed:
Obviously not a good prediction for those considering building ski
resorts in the lower western half of Honshu.** (Source: TT commentary
from, Dec 14, 2014)

=> Another credit downgrade looming

Fitch Ratings has put Japan’s debt rating on negative watch, due to
the government’s decision to hold off on the second increase of the
consumption tax. A Fitch report said that “The delay implies it will
be almost impossible to achieve the government’s previously-stated
objective of reducing the primary budget deficit to 3.3 percent of GDP
by the fiscal year April 2015-March 2016.” Fitch reckons that the
public-debt-to-GDP ratio will increase to 241% by the end of 2014, up
from 184% in 2008. Source: TT commentary from, Dec 9, 2014)

=> Youngest table tennis winners are Japanese

Two 14-year old school girls, Mima Ito and Miu Hirano, became the
youngest ever winners in the Table Tennis World Grand Final. The
girls, who beat the Polish runners up in four straight sets, won their
title in this year’s competition in Bangkok, Thailand. ***Ed: We love
the classic sound bite from Mima Ito after winning the JPY4m in prize
money, “We are going to buy lots and lots of presents for our family
and friends, we are so excited about this money.”. Funny!** (Source:
TT commentary from, Dec 14, 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



—————— Charity Project for JHELP ————–

The Japan Emergency Team arrived in Tohoku hours after the March 11,
2011 Disaster and continues to assist in its 87th disaster response
since 1989. Help them get Japan’s only Disaster Relief Vehicle
repaired after three years of on site operations and back to work!



=> No feedback or corrections this week.



=> Hiwada-Takasashi-Monomi Mtn Trail, Saitama
A beautiful day hike through the mountains

The mountains of Saitama have so much to offer in terms of variety and
beauty that hikers ought to take more notice of the area. The Mt.
Hiwada – Mt. Takasasu – Mt. Monomi Trail is a route through a trio of
mountains located in Hidaka, Saitama. It takes hikers on a path
through serene forests, pasts shrines, near a beautiful waterfall, and
onto a handful of overlook points to admire the world below. The
terrain is easy and manageable for people of all ages and abilities,
and the entire route takes approximately 3.5 – 4 hours.

Start at Koma Station, on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line. Next to the
station is a wealth of signs and information about the area’s history
(which is notable for its early Korean heritage, as marked by giant
red jangseung – large red totem-pole like structures that protect from
demons) as well as hiking maps. From there, it’s a short walk to Mt.
Hiwada, the most popular of the mountains on this route, and is the
most likely to be crowded. Its Kotahira Shrine has two awesome torii
gates, one a stone giant in the forest, and the other a beautiful
addition on a rocky ledge overlooking Tokyo and Mt. Fuji. Just shy of
its summit (305 m) is a fork, where the right trail takes you to the
peak and the left steers you towards the other mountains on this

=> Kumamoto’s Best Holiday Light-Up
When a simple string of lights just won’t do …

While city dwellers in Tokyo and Osaka have numerous options for
holiday illuminations, those of us in Kumamoto flock to the Saishunkan
company’s light extravaganza at their hilltop location just outside
the city. Covering over a hundred acres, the company picks different
themes every year. This season, the decorations included a flying
train, an undersea theme, Cinderella and her castle, and the
ever-popular light tunnel. [Ed: Nice photos.]



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