Leaders November 2013

Back to Business for Tohoku

BCCJ supports five organisations at Japan Matsuri

Immediately following the emergency relief phase of the 11 March 2011 disasters, the BCCJ established the Back to Business (B2B) Initiative for Tohoku.

Members will recall that the B2B Initiative supported projects that:

  • Had the potential to demonstrate measurable results
  • Positively impacted business, the community and/or society
  • Were driven by local stakeholders in Tohoku
  • We closed B2B fund-raising activity in March 2012 and, by September 2012, had allocated ¥8.3mn for 25 projects.

    Then, rather unexpectedly, we were identified as a Community Star by the Charities Trust in the UK. As a result, in September 2013 we received ¥540,000.

    The BCCJ’s Community Taskforce quickly concluded that the allocation of the funds should reflect the spirit of the B2B Initiative, while at the same time reflecting the current stage of revitalisation and recovery in the Tohoku region.

    At the September 2013 Executive Committee meeting, we opted to fund the marketing activities of five Tohoku enterprises, enabling them to make inroads into the UK at the Japan Matsuri in Trafalgar Square, London. This year, the festival was held on 5 October.

    The matsuri, hosted by the Japan Society (UK), the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Japan Society, is the UK’s biggest Japan-centric event, annually drawing 70,000–80,000 visitors.

    With support from the BCCJ, five local businesses were able to set up stalls on site and, for the first time, directly introduce their products to Brits. Participants aimed to find new business opportunities and distribution channels in London.

    These organisations were chosen for their promising business backgrounds, which fit the objectives of the B2B Initiative.

    All five have successfully established distribution channels in Japan, but are still relatively cash-strapped and need monetary and logistics support to explore overseas markets.

    One of the organisations, Watalis, had previously received support from the B2B Initiative. The other four enjoy UK connections, having been supported in their start-up phases by UK citizens in Japan or Japanese living in London.

    At the matsuri, brochures detailing the five organisations and illustrating some of the BCCJ’s other B2B projects were distributed to some 2,000 visitors.

    With 2013 marking the 400th anniversary of UK–Japan relations, the Japan Matsuri provided an excellent opportunity for the BCCJ, in collaboration with Japanese firms in London, to support our mission to strengthen bilateral business ties.

    The Japan International Cooperation Agency and Tohoku-support organisations in London will help the businesses by following up on leads generated at the event.

    Sincere thanks to BCCJ Executive Committee member Yayoi Sogo for coordinating this landmark project.

    Businesses supported by B2B Initiative at 2013 Japan Matsuri

    Creates products such as bags and accessories from kimono—initially those rescued from the tsunami—and provides job opportunities to over 30 young mothers and elderly women in Wataricho

    Sono x Nadeshiko
    Set up by fashion designer Ryoko Mutasono in collaboration with Nadeshiko Japan, this is a group of women who began making fashion accessories out of reclaimed kimono fabric. Their signature products are brooches, headbands and hats.

    Re-establishing the traditional wild camellia Kesen Tsubaki oil brand, made using local resources and traditional techniques in the Kesen and Sanriku areas

    Yarn Alive
    Borne out of a desire to help women living in temporary housing, Yarn Alive products are made from fabric and wool donated by supporters around the world. From scarves to blankets, each item is one of a kind.

    East Loop
    Created a community environment in which women can obtain direct profits from the sale of their handicrafts—mainly heart-shaped and floral-design brooches; to date, East Loop has delivered ¥27mn in profit to the disaster-stricken area