Media February 2014

news in brief

Historic Whisky Brands Bought

Suntory Holdings Limited has acquired three Scotch whisky brands, reported on 14 January.

The £9.8bn deal includes Scottish brands Teacher’s, Laphroaig and Ardmore, as well as Jim Beam bourbon whiskey, listed in New York. Teacher’s and Laphroaig joined the Beam portfolio in 2005.

The transaction will make Suntory the world’s third-biggest premium spirits firm, with expected annual sales of nearly £2.6bn. The Japanese producer founded the country’s first whisky distillery, Yamazaki, in 1923. Suntory has also been named a potential bidder for Glasgow-based Whyte and Mackay.

Speciality Shop Opens in Tokyo

The world’s first shop devoted to selling Kit Kat, a snack created by Rowntree’s of York, has opened in northern Tokyo, Japan Today reported on 21 January.

The Kit Kat Chocolatory opened on 17 January at the Seibu department store in Ikebukuro. In Japan, those studying for entrance exams consider the chocolate good luck, because the name, as pronounced by the Japanese, sounds like the phrase kitto katsu (you’re sure to win).

The shop will sell Kit Kats in original flavours such as “sublime bitter”, all created by acclaimed patissier Yasumasa Takagi.

Tech Firm Invests in Nuclear Project

Toshiba Corporation has announced it will buy a 60% stake in a UK nuclear power venture, The Daily Telegraph reported on 14 January.

The electronics firm paid £102mn for a controlling interest in NuGeneration, which plans to build three nuclear energy plants in north-western England, including one in West Cumbria that will provide 7% of the UK’s electricity needs. Toshiba will build three nuclear reactors for the project.

The deal is expected to create thousands of skilled jobs in Britain over the next decade and help Toshiba develop its overseas nuclear business, in the wake of weakened domestic demand since the March 2011 crisis in Fukushima.

Brollymaker Boosts Exports

Mitsukoshi, Ltd. is an increasingly important client for an English umbrella firm, the BBC reported on 27 January.

Exports overtook domestic sales at Fox Umbrella Ltd. for the first time last year, though global customers have always been crucial to the business. Founded during the reign of Queen Victoria and with prices going up to thousands of pounds, President Ray Garrett said that Fox is “the Rolls-Royce of umbrellas”.

Garrett said Japanese opt for lighter shades and eye-catching patterns, and that their demand for umbrellas in both wet and dry weather helps the firm avoid seasonal slumps. Despite the recent financial crisis, Fox has continued to expand.

“It’s always raining somewhere in the world”, he said.

Event Expands Artist Profile

The London Art Fair, which mainly focuses on modern British art, showcased the work of two leading Japanese artists this year, the Financial Times reported in its 11–12 January edition.

The exhibition ran from 15–19 January and included 128 booths. Tokyo-based Whitestone gallery showed several works from the Gutai School, an avant-garde group that emerged in the 1950s.

Among the artists Whitestone took to London was Atsuko Tanaka, an original Gutai member. The gallery set the price for Tanaka’s painting at over £300,000.

The top price paid for a Gutai artist’s work is around £2.4mn, the price for which a Kazuo Shiraga piece sold in New York last year. Whitestone’s price for its Shiraga at the London fair exceeded £600,000.

Bard’s Plays Translated

New Japanese-language versions of many of William Shakespeare’s classics will be staged this year to mark the 450th anniversary of the playwright’s birth, The Japan News reported on 21 January.

The Bungaku-za theatre company, founded in 1937, is also planning a Shakespeare Festival. The opening event, running until early March, features three weeks of performances.

The company’s director Hitoshi Uyama said, “Humans have more than one face. [Shakespeare] sees events from multiple angles and depicts them from many different points of view. That’s Shakespeare’s greatest appeal”.

Summer Railway Promotion

Thomas the Tank Engine, a character created by English Reverend Wilbert Awdry, will be coming to Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan Today reported on 7 January.

The train and his locomotive friends already have an amusement park and hotel dedicated to them in Japan.

Thanks to a collaboration with Sony Creative Products Inc., this summer, fans will be able to ride on a working Thomas the Tank Engine steam locomotive down the hills and round the bends of the historic Oigawa Line.

The Oigawa Railway is famous for its steam trains and spectacular scenery.