Inside Japan

We are all very much aware that Japan is in the grips of dealing with the aftermath of a horrendous natural disaster further compounded by the damaged Nuclear Plant in Fukushima. Having lived in Japan for more than 20 years these are difficult times, however the one bright spot that is my saving grace is the knowledge that these people are resilient, their discipline and dignity will help them recover to an even stronger nation both in social and economic terms.

Notwithstanding the huge task ahead to recovery the following are snippets of other news out of Japan over the first few months of 2011.

Government:  New Cabinet Initiative

Promotion of the US backed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, regional free trade pact currently being negotiated by nine countries including the US, Australia, Chile Singapore, Brunei New Zealand, Malaysia Vietnam, and Peru.

Prime Minister Kan wants to wants to start an era of Japanese free trade and intends to reach a decision on entering the TPP by June 2011. New Trade Minister Kaida is a firm believer in the benefits of Japan  joining the TPP.

The TPP will require member countries in principle to reduce all tariffs to Zero within 10 years.  The sticking point to any past initiative such as this has been the agricultural sector, however Foreign Minister Saeiji Maehara mentioned in a forum in Washington earlier in January 2011, that the agricultural sector has lost strength and now only accounts for 1.5 % of Japans GDP.

Health, Natural, and Gourmet

These are key words according to confectioner Ezaki Glico who is aiming to develop products that will become necessities rather than items chosen on personal preference, an example is its product called Breo a tongue cleaning candy. Ezaki says that according to their surveys there is demand from women for products that easily fit into their purses and from men for business card size products.

Other hot products include calorie counters, a range of self massage items, goods that keep people warm, both clothing and food. Examples include Uniqlo’s heat tech clothing products and Ajinomoto’s supplements that contain red pepper components and Nagatanien which has marketed a range of ginger flavored foods and drinks.

JR East In-station Stores a Success

JR East have embarked on developing their retail portfolio and have had a lot of success in an otherwise subdued sector.  With station renovations and renewals in full swing across their organisation JR East have managed to lure shoppers to their retail outlets because of sheer location, people dropping in to do some shopping without having to deviate too far out of their way before heading home on the train.

Social Networking

The number of social network service registrants at the three major operators topped 65 million as at the end of September 2010 and increase of 40% over the previous year.

The three major providers are GREE Inc, DeNa Co. and Mixi Inc

Ageing Population

The population is projected to fall from 127 million to 90 million in 2055 – 40% of them over the age of 65%. This will place a heavy tax burden on workers.

I’m sure you will agree, the above does provide opportunities for companies looking to do business with Japan. We’ll be back with more soon, stay in touch.

Denis Zolin


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