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, May 07, 2017, Issue No. 895

– What’s New — Tips on How to Recruit Senior Sales People in 2017
– News — Bomb shelter companies flooded with inquiries
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback
– Travel Picks — Mountain fun in Biwako, Farm animals in Chiba
– News Credits

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Back in March (TT-889), we ran a news item on how recruiting fees in
Japan are soaring. To us this is proof positive of the elevated level of
competition for skilled employees going on currently, since the
recruiters making those higher fees are usually a last resort for
Japanese firms. Indeed, before going to a recruiter, a company will
first try more traditional lower-cost methods such as: university
contacts, employee introductions, job fairs, and of course job sites.
Data from (a great data site, btw), shows that
job ads are near their recent peak, the peak being 527,800 ads in early
2015. Clearly demand outstrips supply and as a result, recruiters, who
are also prolific job board listers, are doing a roaring trade.

This increasing use of recruiters is caused by the following major factors:
1. The tight labor market which is caused by the mass retirement of
almost 10m people now in their 60’s, the so-called “dankai” generation,
thus creating a black hole for experienced staff in many companies.
2. A mismatch of skills to job availability. Lots of factory workers,
not enough software developers.
3. The lower yen, making the manufacturing of some high-value, high-tech
products viable again within Japan – if only they could find the workers.
4. The huge increase in inbound tourism, fueled by both the low yen and
visa easing, which is soaking up the supply of bilinguals.
5. The need for bilinguals not just here in Japan but also for major
Japanese firms embarking on global expansion to supplement the market
shrinkage back at home.

So, should you get into the recruiting business? Our view is that
getting in at the top of the market is never a good idea, and if you
believe in historical patterns, the last up-trending cycle for job ads
was from 2000-2007 (not much impact in Japan caused by the
bust), with that cycle being punctured finally by the Lehman Shock. In
contrast, the current bull market in jobs started in 2010, making it 7
years already, and it may continue for another 2-3 years if there are no
external shocks. Trump being impeached, having a trade or territorial
fight with China, or getting into a Middle Eastern war would all
comprise suitable shocks that could upend the market. And you’ll recall
that in times of global instability, the yen strengthens and this knocks
Japanese exports (including Inbound Tourism) significantly. So
recruiting will be one of the first professions to suffer.

But even as we say this, it seems that every other week an international
recruiting firm is setting up a new office here in Japan.

———— Japan Travel Group Tour Services ————-

Japan Travel’s Type-2 licensed travel agency business is one Japan’s few
independently foreign-owned inbound DMCs. Our specialty is looking after
groups of 10-30 people, and we have already assisted schools,
businesses, special interest organizations, and extended family groups.
We create unique experiences from a blend of memorable destinations,
dining, activities, guide, and transport options.

If you have a group needing assistance, we invite them to contact us at:
Or visit our pages at:

[…Article continues]

But this Take is not about recruiters making money. Rather, we wanted to
set the backdrop for the reason why it’s getting more and more difficult
to find the staff that you want, when you want them. In fact, we have
been approached by four companies over the last 3 months for help to
find them senior bilingual sales staff – because even after taking on
multiple recruiters, they are still coming up empty-handed. This is not
surprising because senior bilingual sales staff have long been one of
the most difficult categories of skill to recruit for.

The first thing we counsel desperate corporate recruiters on is that
there are so few “perfect” candidates they should either: i) think less
perfectly, ii) put their business plans on hold for 6-12 months while
they keep scouring and interviewing, or iii) increase the offering
salary so much that it is hard to ignore. Such is the demand for
specific skills that the salary difference between so-called perfect
senior sales candidates and country managers are now starting to blur.
Top sales guys in the digital field at companies such as Yahoo and
Google are fetching base salaries of JPY15m-JPY20m, and this is before
commissions or bonuses. In comparison you can still get a country
manager for JPY20m-JPY30m.

One strategy to leverage this shrinking gap is to recruit the candidate
as a sales director first, then hold out the prospect of becoming the
country manager role if they are successful in the job.

If we can get your HR department back home past the idea that they don’t
need a perfect candidate, the next thing to focus on is what can be
imperfect and yet still be acceptable? The easiest thing logistically is
for them to forget the need for the candidate to be bilingual. Yes, it
would be great if they could participate in global strategy meetings and
produce western-style reports in natural English. However, there are
millions of competent, productive sales people in the Japanese
workforce, and most of them (90%-plus) don’t speak English. So until you
came along with your super-interesting “international” job in Japan,
they probably never needed to speak it.

Therefore, we tell our clients to recognize reality on the ground and
instead reorganize their company rules. By all means make the country
manager a competent bilingual, but for the sales director consider going
with monolingual candidates with strong track records. Surely a person
with the track record and a personal network of million-dollar accounts
is more valuable to the firm than a witty but excuse-laden
under-achiever with good English? Unfortunately, you’d be surprised how
many head office HR departments don’t get this point.

Anyway, one tip we mention early on is to avoid being enraptured by
high-touch bilingual communicators who job-hop around the market every
18-24 months but who don’t really seem to get anything done. You know
the type: they have spent so much time acquiring English and a foreign
persona they have had to sacrifice time that should have been invested
in human networks, technical knowledge, and putting together real deals.
Instead, make sure that the HR team focuses on the candidate’s track
record and figures out a language workaround to get real results.

The second best way to onboard a talented salesperson is to get someone
who comes from a different field entirely and to train them. We are only
referring to experienced workers, not fresh graduates – who come with
their own baggage. There is always some sector of the compressing
Japanese domestic market that is under pressure and where companies are
having to shed experienced staff, including bilingual staff. For us in
the travel sector, for example, this is clearly companies who are in the
domestic Japanese and outbound travel markets, since Japanese are
traveling less as they get older and their salaries are remaining
stagnant (for now).

So, we look at those companies and study their weaknesses. In particular
we look for firms that were recently taken over and where the staff feel
that the business is losing its own identity (this makes the employees
feel the equivalent of a member of their family dying, and is very
unsettling), or if there is outright bloodshed as existing management
try to crash land the business. Although you can use a motivated
recruiter to take you in, because it’s hard to get past the gatekeepers
by yourself, the best way in is usually through personal relationships
and introductions. For this reason, we maintain a wide network of
friends and allies, who trust us and trust us with their friends.

Lastly, in pulling individuals out of suffering companies, be careful
not to import someone who was part of the cancer. In particular there
are some brandname firms out there in which the Japanese and foreign
staff are permanently feuding, and where the losers from these battles
become embittered. You may not see the bitterness to start with, because
especially if the candidate is over 40 years old they probably need your
job to survive. So they will hide their true nature for 6-12 months
until they are comfortable in the role. But then they start to reveal
their toxic natures and infect your other team members with their
negativity and cynicism. Getting rid of these people is a whole ‘nother
ball of wax and we wrote a series of articles about the right way to
fire, here:

…The information janitors/



+++ NEWS

– Why avocados are getting more expensive
– Bomb shelter companies flooded with inquiries
– 99% of refugee applications refused
– Important 2nd methane hydrate test successful
– Five Eyes about to become six?

=> Why avocados are getting more expensive

If you like avocados, you will have noticed that the retail price has
climbed from around JPY100-150 per piece to JPY150-200 in the last
couple of months. The way things are going, the price will probably go
up by as much again in the next 3-6 months. The causes are several-fold:
i) a shortage of the fruit in the USA, caused mostly by drought in
California last year, as well as strikes by pickers in Mexico, and ii)
competition from China, as that country acquires a taste for the fruit.
In 2016 Japan imported 74,000 tons of avocados, the US, 562,000 tons,
and China 25,000 tons (up from just 4,000 tons in 2014). (Source: TT
commentary from, May 04, 2017)

=> Bomb shelter companies flooded with inquiries

Fueled by fears of a possible North Korean attack on Japan, underground
bomb shelter companies report that inquiries for their products have
soared in the last couple of months. For example, maker of an
underground tube that can house 4-10 people for a few days, Earth Shift,
has said that they are receiving about 20-50 calls per day compared with
just 20 or so calls a year normally. The company’s flagship product
includes air filters and space for basic living functions for around
JPY4m. They also have a larger shelter for 40-50 people which costs
JPY30m. ***Ed: Both look uncomfortable, but if you have to chose between
breathing in radiation and survival, discomfit wins. BTW, most of the
inquiries are apparently coming from people living close to US armed
forces bases, believing that these will be targeted by Pyongyang
first.** (Source: TT commentary from, May 03, 2017)

=> 99% of refugee applications refused

Although Japan had a record 10,901 refugee applications in 2016, up 30%
from 2015, the country only accepted 97 people for residence for
humanitarian reasons and an additional 26 as actual refugees. Japan
rejects more than 99% of asylum seekers, saying that most of the
applicants are economic refugees rather than people genuinely
threatened in terms of their personal safety. ***Ed: Looking at the
stats for countries accepting asylum seekers around the world, Japan
appears to come dead last in terms of people accepted per capita.**
(Source: TT commentary from, May 05, 2017)

=> Important 2nd methane hydrate test successful

The Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) has
announced that it has successfully tapped and flared gas from a methane
hydrate field off the coast of Mie-ken. This is the second successful
experimental extraction of methane from a field locked in ice about 600m
below the ocean surface. The gas production will run for about 4 weeks,
and if the flow continues as planned the company will move towards
commercial production of the enormous gas fields that surround Japan.
***Ed: We covered in depth the promise of methane from deep ocean ice
nine years ago in:

There is potentially 100 years worth of energy under the ocean bed in
the form of methane hydrate. The problem with drilling for this gas is
two-fold: i) separating the gas from the ice and sand it is locked in,
from 600m-1.2km below the ocean surface, and ii) the high possibility of
gas explosions as there is a runaway release of gas, since methane
hydrate deposits are apparently very unstable.** (Source: TT commentary

=> Five Eyes about to become six?

Last month the secretive spying alliance Five Eyes (“FVEY” comprising
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, and USA) met in the exclusive
Millbrook Estate resort in New Zealand’s South Island. No doubt they
were discussing a new agreement between Japan and the USA which was just
signed last week. The new agreement expands on existing immigration data
sharing (yes, if you’ve been to Japan, the USA knows who you are,
including your fingerprints) by now agreeing to share cyber threat
indicators, using the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Automated
Indicator Sharing (AIS) platform. ***Ed: Given the parlous state of
Japan’s own cyber security skills, no doubt the AIS technology is mostly
benefiting Japan. It would be interesting to know what kind of money
they are paying to receive this.** (TT commentary from May
04, 2017)

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 inconvenience.



——— Terrie Lloyd’s Entrepreneur Seminar ————-

Have you ever thought about setting up your own company in Japan? Or,
are you already running one and wondering how to move up to the next level?

Local Australian/Kiwi entrepreneur Terrie Lloyd, is running a seminar
for people who want to form their own companies. Terrie has established
17 companies in Japan over the last 34 years, and has a lot of
experience to share about how to structure and run your business when
first starting up. Terrie has successfully had seven M&As of previous
companies and is currently building a software company and a travel company.

Date: May 20, 2017
Location: Roppongi, Tokyo


———– ICA Event – Thursday 15th June —————-

Speaker: Jeff Crawford, Founder and Lead Consultant of JC Digital
Title: “The Top 10 Digital Marketing Mistakes Made by Japanese Companies
in 2017″
Details: Complete event details at
Date: Thursday 15th June, 2017
Time: 6:30pm Doors open
Cost: 1,000 yen (members), 2,000 yen (non-members). Open to all. No sign
ups at the door!
RSVP: By 5pm on Monday 12th June 2017
Venue: Room F, 9F, Sumitomo Fudosan Roppongi Grand Tower, 3-2-1
Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0032


No corrections today.



=> Biwako Valley, Shiga
Ski resort in winter, adventure playground in summer

Needing only an hour from central Kyoto, Biwako Valley on the western
side of Lake Biwa can be visited as a day trip. Located 1,100 meters
above sea level, Biwako Valley has lots to offer depending on the period
of the year. On some weekends, special events and temporary food stalls
are set up. A ten minute ropeway ride to the top offers amazing views of
Lake Biwa and the surrounding town below. I visited just at the start of
spring and there was still snow remaining halfway up the mountain.

There are two main seasons, winter season and “green” season. In winter,
Biwako Valley turns into a snow resort boasting eight different courses,
which are suitable for beginners to advanced skiers and snowboarders.
For non-Japanese speaking ski and snowboarding learners, there are
lessons conducted in English as well.

In the green season (from April to middle of December), a host of summer
activities like zip lining and sky walking cater to the adventurous. For
more children or family orientated activities, try walking horizontally
on a rock wall, riding a bicycle without pedals for children, water
slides or swinging on hand-made wooden swings.

=> A Pleasant Day at Mother Farm, Chiba
Enjoy a family day doing various activities on a farm!

Mother Farm was founded by the same man who started the Sankei Shimbun
newspaper and financed the Tokyo Tower. It is a large piece of land
which houses many different animals, has an attractions area, a
restaurant with an observatory on its roof, access to fun activities
such as bungee jumping and zip lining, and a few live animal shows.

It is a lot of fun for the whole family, but especially for children.
They can join the pig race and try to catch one. They also have the
chance to touch many farm animals, use the attractions area or create
their own leather designed key chains. The adults will probably have to
help with creating the key chain but it is a lot of fun and kids can
imprint their own name on it, or even different symbols or animal prints.

I would recommend this for both adults and children, it is a fun area
and looks amazing in the summer, and of course, you can taste some
delicious ice cream made with farm fresh milk.



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