British music scores hit in Japan as exports soar

UK-Japan News October 2017

Japan was the seventh-largest market for UK music in 2016 and the only Asian country in the top 10, The Guardian reported on 7 September, citing figures from the trade body BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) Limited.

Although overseas sales figures were not provided by the BPI, the success of British artists was attributed to high-selling albums by the likes of Coldplay, Adele and David Bowie.

The total value of British music exports reached a record £365mn, in part boosted by the adoption of legal music streaming services.

Devon firm doubles revenue

UK-Japan News October 2017

The Devon-based firm Fortis Clothing Limited is expecting to double its revenue over the next 13 months after securing three-year deals with three Japanese fashion retailers, DevonLive reported on 12 September.

The firm, which makes coats, trousers, bags and vests for the military, police, farmers and those involved in outdoor activities, currently employs 10 people and has a turnover of £500,000.

The deals were sealed with the help of Lloyds Bank plc’s International Trade Portal and add to growing global demand for its luxury products.

Peppa Pig seals deals

UK-Japan News October 2017

The hit UK children’s TV programme Peppa Pig will be shown on Japanese screens, now that the series’ owner, London-listed Entertainment One Ltd., has secured a distribution deal with TV Tokyo Corporation, the US entertainment trade magazine and website Variety reported on 25 September.

In addition, 2018 will see partners Sega Toys Co., Ltd. launch Peppa Pig products, and Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. distribute the programme’s DVDs, expanding its Asia reach. It is already shown in China and other Asian markets.

Belfast software firm targets retail market here

UK-Japan News October 2017

Belfast-based marketing and software firm Velocity Worldwide Ltd is entering the Japanese market with its Darius technology, the Belfast Telegraph reported on 12 September.

Darius allows retailers to connect with consumers through their mobile device and personalise the in-store shopping experience using lighting, digital signs and robots. The firm claims that this engagement results in higher sales.

Velocity Worldwide will also look at bringing the technology to stadiums.

Scotland to aid Japan in £15mn subsea energy pact

UK-Japan News October 2017

Scottish Enterprise and the Nippon Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding for a £15mn subsea energy pact at the Offshore Europe 2017 conference and exhibition in Aberdeen, Energy Voice reported on 7 September.

Both organisations will provide equal funding to projects that will see firms from Scotland assist Japanese industry with subsea technology challenges and collaboration between world-leading experts. The Nippon Foundation also signed a letter for collaboration with Robert Gordon University.

Scotland makes up 14% of the global subsea market, with an annual turnover of £7.5bn.

Zytronic adds staff in Tokyo

UK-Japan News October 2017

Touchscreen firm Zytronic PLC is expanding its presence in Japan by appointing new staff in the country, industry magazine Installation reported on 5 September.

The firm’s new business development manager, Masami Saito, will work out of the Tokyo offices of Business Link Japan KK, Zytronic’s long-term regional strategic partner.

New distributors KTL Corporation and Takachiho Koheki Co. Ltd have also been appointed.

Fusion food takes off in London

UK-Japan News October 2017

Anglo-Japanese fusion cuisine is on the rise in London, the Evening Standard reported on 13 September, pointing to the emergence of establishments such as Ichibuns, Gilly’s Fry Bar and Untitled.

Some of the cross-cultural dishes on offer include tempura served in the style of a northern chip shop, an English breakfast udon bowl and Nobu Shoreditch’s take on a roast beef Sunday lunch.

Chefs highlighted the complementary nature of Japanese cooking techniques and seasonal British produce.

14-year-old girl wins Ito En haiku contest

UK-Japan News October 2017

A Gloucestershire student has beaten 18,248 entries to win a haiku competition organised by drinks maker Ito En Ltd., the GloucestershireLive website reported on 4 September.

Gracie Starkey, the first non-Japanese person to win the contest, travelled to Tokyo with her mother to attend the awards ceremony at the Imperial Hotel. There she gave a brief speech with the help of her Japanese teacher.

Her winning haiku is to appear in English and Japanese on Ito En green tea bottles.

Mayfair sushi eatery gets third Michelin star

UK-Japan News October 2017

A London sushi restaurant with just nine seats has become one of a handful of British restaurants to receive three Michelin stars, the Daily Mail reported on 3 October.

Araki, which is located in Mayfair, was established in 2014 by chef Mitsuhiro Araki after he closed his Tokyo restaurant and set himself the challenge of largely using European fish. The establishment serves edomae sushi prepared according to a 200-year-old tradition.

The restaurant’s set menu costs £300 per head.

How Scottish fabrics became menswear staples

UK-Japan News October 2017

On 6 September, the fashion website High Snobriety delved into the enduring popularity of traditional Scottish clothing in Japan.

Initially catching on in the 1960s and 1970s, due to appreciation of the preppy style of US Ivy League colleges, where tweeds and tartans were popular, Scottish clothing quickly became the basics of Japanese menswear, something that endures to this day.

“Scottish fabrics for us represent a traditional way of making things that has not changed”, said Hideki Mizobata, director of Beams Co., Ltd.’s Beams Plus label.

Chemists profit from ageing populace

Japan news October 2017

One retail business that owes its steady growth to Japan’s ageing population is the chemist. The announcement on 7 August that Sapporo-based Tsuruha Holdings, Inc. would acquire the Shizuoka-based Kyorindo Group Holdings, effective 29 September, is seen as a survival strategy to counter the increasingly intensifying competition between the major chemist chains.

The Shukan Jitsuwa of 5 October reports that Tsuruha’s consolidated annual sales of approximately ¥600bn will exceed the figure recorded by Welcia Holdings Co., Ltd.—part of the Aeon Co., Ltd. retail group—moving it to top place.

An industry analyst stated that, while shops will continue to operate under the Kyorindo name, the firm expects to develop new products under a shared brand, as well as integrate procurement and other business activities.

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Firms use tech to move into food sector

Japan news October 2017

Product diversification involving a manufacturer’s entry into a field unrelated to its main lines of business is always newsworthy, and it was on this note that the 18 September edition of Nikkei Business examined recent activities by Teijin Limited, Nihon Paper Industries Co., Ltd., Iris Ohyama, Inc. and others into the area of food.

One example is a new chicken and scallop- flavoured porridge from Ajinomoto Co., Inc. named Supa Omugi-gayu, or Barleymax. Introduced to FamilyMart Co., Ltd. convenience stores on 22 August, the product sold more than 1mn packs in the first week. The maker then had to retroactively designate the item a limited edition, and end sales by 18 September.

Ajinomoto’s product, which took two years to develop, came to fruition through a joint venture in Australia between its supplier Teijin and a local firm.

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Aroma products make inroads in homes, firms

Japan news October 2017

The Aroma Environmental Association of Japan, established in 2005, boasts 276 corporate members and 55,809 individual members. As reported by the Shukan Kinyobi dated 9 September, the annual market in 2015 for perfumes, which includes aromatic essences and additives for deodorisers and daily goods, came to ¥333.7bn, up 26% from the previous survey in 2011.

While aroma therapy products and services generate annual revenues of around ¥60.9bn, the market for goods that blend perfumes into products such as cosmetics, detergents and deodorisers is considerably larger, at ¥272.8bn.

Recent growth has been driven by the rapid increase in demand for “aroma cosmetics” and clothing detergent and softeners into which scent extracts have been blended. Another growth area has been aroma services, which in the past were contracted mainly by hotels. Now it’s become common for offices, medical facilities and other public places to utilise them as well, resulting in a 36% rise in such services since 2011.

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Aston Martin seals deal to increase car exports

UK-Japan News September 2017

Exports to Japan by Aston Martin Lagonda Limited will be stepped up after the announcement of a £500mn UK–Japan trade and investment deal, the BBC reported on 30 August.

The five-year deal includes exports from the firm’s plants in the Vale of Glamorgan and in Warwickshire. In addition, an Aston Martin Meta Technology and Luxury Accelerator office will open in Japan in 2018.

Chief Executive Officer Dr Andy Palmer made the announcement during a visit to Japan as part of the 16-strong delegation accompanying Prime Minister Theresa May.

Glasgow firm to sell Japan skincare goods

UK-Japan News September 2017

Glasgow cosmetics firm KiraKira Studio Limited revealed in a 25 August press release that it is launching its Japan-inspired skincare products in the UK.

The items it produces are made in Japan, and the result of the latest Japanese innovations and technologies.

“Spending many years travelling in Asia, I was inspired by the Japanese approach to beauty, but noticed that there had been no real effort to introduce their philosophies to the Western market”, said founder Renate Bergman.

Pressure on PwC over audit

UK-Japan News September 2017

PricewaterhouseCoopers Aarata LLC and Toshiba Corporation had a serious back-and-forth ahead of the release of the latter firm’s 2016 financial report, The Mainichi reported on 11 August.

PwC Aarata was under pressure to finely scrutinise Toshiba’s finances after high-profile troubles were experienced by the Japanese conglomerate’s US nuclear business. Meanwhile, Toshiba wanted to avoid an outcome that would lead to its shares being delisted.

In the end, PwC Aarata stated there were problems with Toshiba’s figures, but they did not seriously affect the business as a whole.

Scottish seafood sellers tout wares at Tokyo expo

UK-Japan News September 2017

The largest delegation to visit the Japan International Seafood & Technology Expo from Scotland displayed their wares in Tokyo from 23 to 25 August, Seafood Source reported on 29 August.

On show was a range of Scottish mackerel, herring, crab, langoustines, as well as smoked and farmed salmon, while recipe cards were distributed to interested parties. The contingent also hosted a Taste of Scotland Seafood reception at the British Embassy Tokyo.

This is the fifth year that Scotland has hosted a pavilion at the event.

Brits spend more time, money on tourism here

UK-Japan News September 2017

According to a survey by the Japan Tourism Agency, British tourists in Japan are staying longer and spending more money, the Nikkei Asian Review reported on 18 August.

Between April and June, tourists from the UK spent more than those from other countries. With outlays averaging ¥250,000 per person per visit, they took the top spot from China. Of the total figure, 13% was dedicated to shopping, and 72% to lodging, food and drink, and entertainment. Average stays were 14.5 days.

Total spending by international tourists reached a record ¥2.04tn for the first half of the calendar year.

Sake sales soar in Britain

UK-Japan News September 2017

According to research by drinks supplier Bibendum PLB Group, sake sales in Britain have been on the up over the past 10 years, despite declining in Japan, The Japan Times reported on  12 August.

Sales have grown 240%, as a result of the drink having come to be stocked in many restaurants, bars and supermarkets across the country. Meanwhile, UK sake breweries are beginning to emerge. Increased talk about the drink in the media also indicates that it is beginning to enter the mainstream.

GSDF band takes part in Edinburgh Tattoo

UK-Japan News September 2017

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Central Band is the first from the country to take part in the Edinburgh Tattoo—a series of musical performances by international, domestic and Commonwealth military bands—The National reported on 11 August.

The annual showcase at Edinburgh Castle saw members invited to tour the Japanese Kyoto Friendship Garden within the grounds of the city’s Lauriston Castle. The garden was built to celebrate the twinning, in 1994, of Edinburgh and Kyoto.

Soloist Michiko Matsunaga closed the band’s performance.

Yorkshire offers guide to country living

UK-Japan News September 2017

In an effort to further research how to encourage more people to live in the countryside, Japanese professors embarked on a fact-finding mission with a walking group tour in the Aire Valley, Yorkshire, the Telegraph & Argus reported on 15 August.

Professors Yuko Shioji and Tatsuya Suzuki of Hannan University in Osaka were given a two-week tour of Baildon, Otley and Burley-in-Wharfedale as part of a government-funded research programme.

Japan has a declining population in the countryside and Shioji explained that they plan to set up a similar walking group in Japan.

Great Wave becomes popular London mural

UK-Japan News September 2017

Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s famous Great Wave has made its way to a wall in south London, thanks to Camberwell resident Dominic Swords, the BBC reported on 7 August.

Swords first painted the mural in 1997 on the back of his house. But after an explosion in a drug lab in the flat underneath his home, half of the mural was burnt off. Nonetheless, within weeks the community in Camberwell had returned it to its original state.

Eddie Jones: Miyazaki may be best for rugby

UK-Japan News September 2017

England Rugby head coach Eddie Jones has visited Japan to search for venues and training facilities ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, England Rugby reported on 11 August.

The training facilities, which are a short walk from the hotel, were described as “great”, and Jones noted the hot weather would be good preparation for the World Cup. Overall, he described Miyazaki as a “strong candidate”.

Jones and his team also visited Tokyo, Yokohama and Kobe.

Single-product shops take off

Japan news September 2017

An oft-said expression in Japanese is junin toiro, which literally translates as “10 people, 10 colours”. From the second half of the 1980s, it came to be increasingly used when referring to the growing trend among Japan’s consumers to crave designs in apparel, accessories, home furnishings and other possessions that differentiated them from one’s peers—a noticeable shift from the cookie-cutter conformity that had persisted for much of the post-war era.

Diversity, however, can only be taken so far, and on 31 July Nikkei Business observed a reversal of the trend that became popularised three decades ago.

It may also be a reaction to too many goods on store shelves. According to the newspaper, since 1997 the total number of items handled by the nation’s supermarkets grew 60%, from 150,000 to 233,205 last year. Of the latter number, 157,570 were food items and 75,635 were household and general goods.

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Shared offices appeal to regional firms

Japan news September 2017

The Nikkei Marketing Journal dated 16 August reported that refinements in the types of facilities offered by shared offices have succeeded in increasing demand. These efforts are being spearheaded by two major real estate firms: Tokyo Tatemono Co., Ltd. and Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd.

In July, Tokyo Tatemono began offering space in an office building located in the Yaesu district of Chuo Ward, close to Tokyo Station. Named Plus Ours Yaesu, the building offers some 380m2 of shared office space that has been designed to appeal to staff from regional cities who ride into Tokyo using the network of Shinkansen trains. The shared facilities include an open lounge available for a fee of ¥20,000 per month, per person or ¥2,500 on a single-day basis. Alternatively, a furnished one-room office can be leased for as little as ¥80,000 per month.

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Service areas face challenge from self-driving cars

Japan news September 2017

The service areas (SAs) that sit beside Japan’s toll expressways can be said to have a captive audience, but that doesn’t mean they don’t go out of their way to appeal to customers. The 28 August edition of Weekly Playboy paid a visit to Kanagawa Prefecture’s Ebina SA, situated on the Tomei Expressway, which serves as the main east–west artery.

It happens to be the last stop before reaching Tokyo, or the first when leaving the capital and, thanks to its favourable location, boasts the highest sales turnover of all the nation’s SAs. On holidays, Ebina welcomes as many as 60,000 Nagoya-bound drivers and passengers per day, in addition to another 40,000 who are Tokyo bound.

Hungry travellers at Ebina SA have the option of dining at 10 different restaurants at a food section named Umai Mono Yokocho (tasty food alley). Guides aboard the many tourist buses that visit Ebina SA have been credited with promoting locally made products—such as melon-flavoured bread—sold at the souvenir concessions by announcing it to their wards before a comfort stop. The area also has access to a nearby theme park and other leisure facilities, including hot springs.

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Unilever backs Koike’s Jisa Biz work hours scheme

UK-Japan News August 2017

Staff from Unilever Japan assisted with the launch of the new campaign by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to reduce the city’s crowded trains, the Nikkei Asian Review reported 11 July.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s Jisa Biz campaign is encouraging firms to stagger work hours to reduce crowding on peak-time trains, and Unilever is among the more than 250 firms supporting the drive. On the day of the campaign’s launch, Unilever staff handed out bottled drinks to commuters.

Last year, Unilever implemented flexible working practices, which the majority of its employees have adopted.

Nestlé to open new Kit Kat factory in Himeji

UK-Japan News August 2017

Nestlé S.A. will open its first factory in Japan in more than 25 years. According to a 26 July report by the BBC, the move reflects a demand for exotic flavours of the York-invented Kit Kat.

This comes as demand increases for Asia-specific flavours such as wasabi and green tea. This has resulted in a 50% growth of sales since 2010.

A focus on more expensive versions of the chocolate-covered wafer and innovative flavours has seen spending on the confection by visitors to Japan more than triple over the past four years.

Barclays begins hiring drive

UK-Japan News August 2017

Barclays Bank PLC is on a hiring spree to boost its investment banking and market operations in Japan, The Straits Times reported on 11 July.

This follows 120 job cuts and the closure of its cash equity business one year ago. Kentaro Kiso, president of Barclays Securities Japan Limited, explained that the firm is looking to hire 10 bankers and sales staff this fiscal year to advise on mergers and sell investment products.

The bank is looking to boost revenue and rebuild its Japan operations after it withdrew from the struggling stock-brokerage business last year.

Mulberry sets up Japan joint venture

UK-Japan News August 2017

British luxury fashion house Mulberry Group Plc has announced it has signed an agreement with Onward Global Fashion, its licensing partner in Japan, to set up a joint venture, the Financial Times reported on 8 July.

The new agreement gives Mulberry greater control than it had under the previous distribution agreement. It also allows the UK firm to sell its handbags and other leather goods in Japan, where the firm says it sees a “significant growth opportunity”.

Both firms have an equal stake in the venture, and are set to invest £2.8mn in the new enterprise.