Leicester firm signs deal to import must-have toy

UK-Japan News July 2017

Peterkin UK Ltd. is taking on the recent British craze for fidget spinners—flat, three-lobed toys—after having secured an exclusive licence to import the Japanese toy Mokuru to the UK market, Toy News reported on 19 June.

The Mokuru can be flipped and rolled, and purportedly tests dexterity, balance and focus, while advanced users can control multiple Mokuru at a time. Andrew Moulsher, Peterkin’s managing director, said the firm had been aware of Mokuru for some time and knew of its popularity through their Hong Kong office.

“Spinners are so last month”, said Moulsher.

Tablets finished in Cardiff

UK-Japan News July 2017

The latest model in Panasonic Corporation’s Toughbook range will be produced at the company’s Petwyn factory in Cardiff, Wales Online reported on 27 June.

Panasonic expects to produce about 10,000 Toughbooks at the Petwyn site in the first 12 months. The devices will be assembled in Japan, with the final configuration for the European market carried out in Petwyn.

The model is designed for business and public-sector organisations, and is a convertible device, the screen of which can be detached from the laptop base and used as a tablet.

Abe seeks early trade talks

UK-Japan News July 2017

Tokyo is seeking to hold early trade talks with the UK in anticipation of the country’s expected withdrawal from the European single market, The Guardian reported on 26 June.

The overtures from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are an attempt to protect bilateral commercial ties and reinforce the strong bond the countries share at a time when Britain’s international standing might be adversely affected.

The UK is prevented by European Union rules from negotiating trade deals formally before it leaves the bloc.

Dentsu bags top stake in London digital talent firm

UK-Japan News July 2017

Dentsu Aegis Network Ltd. has taken a 90% stake in the London-headquartered digital talent management agency Gleam Futures for an undisclosed fee, Dentsu Inc. announced in a press release on 20 June.

Gleam Futures manages more than 40 influential figures on social media whose YouTube channels have a total subscriber count of more than 60mn. The firm also offers publishing, content production, branding and product launch services.

Gleam Futures will retain its name, and will pursue synergies with Dentsu Aegis’s content division The Story Lab.

Japan-inspired gin set to be sold across the UK

UK-Japan News July 2017

A Japan-inspired London dry gin has sealed an exclusive UK distribution deal with specialists’ spirits agency Mangrove, Drink International reported on 22 June.

The deal will allow Kokoro Gin to use Mangrove’s network to reach a larger market, including on- and off-trade, wholesalers, independent outlets and supermarkets.

Launched in September 2016, the gin is made using sansho berries as a main ingredient. These berries are imported to the UK from the Afan Woodland, a sustainable forest in Nagano Prefecture.

Mobile payment firm expands

UK-Japan News July 2017

Cambridge-based Bango.net Limited, a platform for mobile payments, has announced a new payment method for Amazon customers in Japan with KDDI or NTT DOCOMO mobile phone accounts, the firm announced in a 6 June press release.

Customers are now able to pay for physical goods bought from Amazon without registering any bank cards by instead charging the purchase to their mobile phone bill. Users simply select the relevant option when checking out.

Carrier billing has long been popular in Japan, particularly with young consumers.

Monarch tries out new Hitachi train

UK-Japan News July 2017

Queen Elizabeth II took a test ride between Slough and Paddington on a new Hitachi-built, high-speed train, the Asahi Shimbun reported on 14 June. The journey was a recreation of Queen Victoria’s first train trip in 1842.

The train, which will go into service in the autumn, was built at Hitachi’s Kasado factory in Kudamatsu, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The first car of the train has been named after the monarch.

After arriving at Paddington, the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended an unveiling ceremony. “I enjoyed it very much”, the queen said of the journey.

Angola mine project gets bilateral funds

UK-Japan News July 2017

Japan and the UK will collaborate on mine clearing in Angola after London signed a contract with the non-governmental organisation the Halo Trust, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan announced on 16 June.

Both countries are providing funding for a Huambo Province demining project, to be implemented by the Halo Trust. The work is part of the collaboration agreed at the second UK–Japan Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meeting in January 2016.

Thirty-five percent of Angola’s landmass is contaminated by landmines, despite the fact that its civil war ended in 2002.

Welsh trainees in Shimane to learn from nuclear power firm

UK-Japan News July 2017

Apprentices from Hitachi-owned Horizon Nuclear Power Services Limited visited Japan for a two-week training course, Hitachi announced in a press release on 13 June. The apprentices were hosted by Hitachi–GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd., a joint venture of Hitachi, Ltd. and General Electric.

The apprentices, who work at the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station in Anglesey, Wales, visited the Shimane Nuclear Power Plant as part of their itinerary.

“This is another great example of Japan and North Wales working closely together”, said Tadashi Kume, president and representative director of Hitachi–GE.

Jockey treks across 3 islands for charity

UK-Japan News July 2017

Richard Dunwoody MBE, the two-time Grand National winner, has completed a 3,219km trek across Japan, Horse & Hound reported on 6 June.

By walking across three of the country’s main islands, Dunwoody raised more than £14,000 for the cancer charity Sarcoma UK. He was moved to support the charity because his 21-year-old nephew suffers from the disease.

“It has been an incredible and, at times, gruelling experience”, said Dunwoody. “It has also been a humbling experience and I will never forget the kindness and generosity of the Japanese”.

Lockers help home deliveries

Japan news July 2017

A Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) survey notes that e-commerce transactions grew 9.9% in 2016 to reach ¥15.1tn. Meanwhile, the number of parcel deliveries had grown 16% over the five years up to 2015, having reached 3.7bn items.

This heady growth has stretched parcel delivery drivers to the limits of physical endurance. Transport firms consequently are said to be mulling adding an extra charge for making a second call if a householder is not home to receive a delivery.

One way to avoid this would be to have a locker in which parcels could be securely kept until the recipient returns home. The Shukan Asahi of 16 June reported that manufacturers of such containers, which can range in price from tens of thousands of yen to upwards of ¥1mn, are being flooded with orders.


Revealed: first half of 2017’s hit items

Japan news July 2017

At the midway point in 2017, what consumer trends have stood out? The Nikkei Marketing Journal (NMJ) dated 7 June issued its famous Hitto Shohin Banzuke (listing of hit products) in traditional sumo-style calligraphy and ranked, as are wrestlers, on east and west sides in descending order.

At the top of the east was Kisenosato, the first Japan-born grappler in 19 years to reach the exalted rank of yokozuna (grand champion). Admission tickets to all 15 days of the summer tournament, one of six held annually, were sold out within 90 minutes of going on sale.

Top-ranked item on the west side was the Nintendo Switch, a game system that can be played both on home consoles and mobile phones. Over 2.7mn were sold during their first month on the market, and sales are forecast to exceed 12.7mn by year end.


Are you still saving power?

Japan news July 2017

The summer following the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 was an uneasy time for Japan. With all its nuclear power plants shut down, the country was forced to rely on thermal energy generation and, on days when the mercury soared, factories shut down machinery and people at home turned off their air conditioners or switched over to less power-hungry devices, such as electric fans.

Six years later, the weekly “be between” online survey featured in the Asahi Shimbun dated 10 June asked readers, “Are you still conserving electricity?” Of 1,777 respondents, an overwhelming 87% replied that they were, as opposed to the remaining 13%, who said they were not.

Quite a few respondents objected to the “still” in the question, insisting they have always been conservative in their use of electricity. Conservation efforts included turning off appliance switches when not needed (as stated by 1,351 people); adjusting the thermostat (868); changing from incandescent to LED lighting (720); purchasing devices that consume less power (318); and unplugging appliances so that they would not consume power when not in use (256).


SoftBank funds for London games firm

UK-Japan News June 2017

The British technology firm Improbable Worlds Limited has raised $502mn (£390mn) in a new funding round that included SoftBank Group Corp. among the investors, Venture Beat reported on 11 May. Improbable is the creator of an operating system, SpatialOS, that enables the creation of vast online game worlds through the use of cloud computing.

SoftBank’s Managing Director of Investments Deep Nishar will join Improbable’s board as a result of the investment, although SoftBank has taken a non-controlling stake. Improbable will now also explore possible opportunities for cooperation with SoftBank and its partners.

The investment will enable Improbable to expand its operations in London and San Francisco.

Nissan to make batteries for UK homes

UK-Japan News June 2017

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd and US power firm Eaton will be producing batteries—previously used for electric cars in the United Kingdom—to store energy for households, The Guardian reported on 4 May.

These are believed to be the first British-made household batteries pitched to the UK home energy storage market. Households using solar panels will be able to store electricity to use later, rather than export it to the grid, thereby saving some £43 a month.

The batteries will be manufactured at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, assembled in Morocco, and sold in partnership with Eaton.

ARM CEO: Still in control

UK-Japan News June 2017

SoftBank has honoured its commitment not to interfere in the day-to-day running of ARM Ltd., Simon Segars, the firm’s chief executive officer, told Management Today in an interview published on 2 May. SoftBank acquired ARM for £24.3bn in September last year.

“They haven’t spoiled the neutrality and our discussions are all about strategy and growth”, Segars told the magazine.

Segars also praised the speed at which ARM can now grow and operate.

“For me and my team that has been pretty liberating and motivational”.

Farmers see big demand when UK meat ban ends

UK-Japan News June 2017

The rising consumption of meat in Japan may offer a chance for UK farmers to sell British beef and pork to this high-value market, Farmers Weekly reported on 1 May.

Britain’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is looking to open up opportunities in Japan for beef, imports of which are dominated by Australia and the United States. Currently, the UK cannot sell beef in Japan, because Tokyo has not conducted sanitary and phytosanitary tests at UK processing plants since a trade ban was instated in the wake of the BSE crisis.

AHDB hopes Japanese officials will visit UK plants within the next 12 months.

Duffel coats a big hit in Japan

UK-Japan News June 2017

Japan is the biggest market for the London-based duffel coat maker London Tradition, the Hackney Gazette reported on 17 May.

“The Japanese love anything authentically British, and it has to be made in the UK as well”, the firm’s co-founder Rob Huson said, noting that the firm sells a lot fewer coats in the UK than in Japan. “A duffle coat … is a very English product and it’s made in London, so what’s not to like”.

Based in Hackney Wick, London Tradition is 15 years old and produces 800 to 1,000 coats a week, both for its own brands and high-quality high street retailers in the UK.

Yorkshire vegetable firm gets Heinz Japan contract

UK-Japan News June 2017

J E Hartley, a frozen vegetable supplier based in North Yorkshire, has secured a contract with Heinz Japan K.K., BDaily reported on 27 April.

The contract will see the firm supply frozen peas and mixed vegetables for products sold by retailers and used in Japan’s food services industry. The firm already has a contract with Heinz in the UK.

J E Hartley, founded in 1954, has 60 staff and a £16m annual turnover. The firm produces and sells a wide range of frozen vegetables including peas and various root vegetables.

NHK shines light on Lake District

UK-Japan News June 2017

National broadcaster NHK transmitted a 90-minute documentary on Dalemain House and Historic Gardens in Cumbria on 31 May. Jane Hasell-McCosch, the wife of Dalemain’s owner, was interviewed about her passion for gardening at the mansion, where she grows an old variety of apple.

Dalemain House and Historic Gardens is famed for hosting the World’s Original Marmalade Awards, where Japanese chef Hideko Kawa introduced her yuzu-flavoured marmalade and which was visited by Japanese Ambassador to the UK Koji Tsuruoka.

London gets first sake brewery

UK-Japan News June 2017

London’s first sake brewery, named Kanpai, has opened in Peckham, the Southwark News reported on 27 May.

The brewery is run by Lucy Holmes and Tom Wilson, who both still work full time and make the sake during evenings and weekends.
The first batch will be launched at Selfridges in June, and local pubs and restaurants have expressed an interest in stocking the beverage.

The pair began brewing sake as a hobby after visiting Japan.

British author takes food tour of Japan

UK-Japan News June 2017

Michael Booth, a British author, journalist and broadcaster, spoke to Nippon.com about how he got to know Japan through its food.

Booth’s travels took him on a culinary journey around Japan. His initial trip included Sushi Jiro in Ginza, lunch with sumo wrestlers, and umibudo sea grapes, an Okinawan speciality seaweed. In particular, he highlighted izakaya, Japanese pubs, as his ideal place to eat.

His new book, The Meaning of Rice, will look at his latest journey to Japan.

Tale of samurai and pirates proved

UK-Japan News June 2017

A British teacher in Japan has found evidence of a visit to the country in 1830 by a ship from Australia, then a British colony, The Guardian reported on 28 May. The visit came at the height of Japan’s sakoku, or isolationist, policy, and was long dismissed as fiction by scholars.

The episode saw British convict pirates land on Shikoku, one of Japan’s main islands, aboard the Cyprus. There they encountered local samurai, who attacked and also helped the pirates.

Nick Russell, who made the discovery, came across it after examining a record of an encounter between samurai and non-Japanese.

New tonic for drinkers

Japan news June 2017

A report, in the Nikkei Marketing Journal of 29 May, says that gin is growing more popular in the land of sake, especially among people who enjoy imbibing at home.

Seijo Ishii Co., Ltd., a speciality supermarket chain that stocks a wide variety of imports, now carries 30 different varieties of gin—up by some 60% compared with a year ago—including a limited-edition craft gin sold under its own label. To encourage customers to better appreciate the beverage’s versatility, new ideas for gin-sipping, such as mixing it with club soda, are also being introduced.

KI NO BI Kyoto Dry Gin, the product of Japan’s first dedicated gin distillery, sells for ¥5,000 (plus consumption tax) per 700ml bottle. Seijo Ishii also offers Sipsmith V.J.O.P. London Dry Gin (“Hand crafted in small batches”, the label reads), for ¥4,990 (plus tax) per 700ml bottle. For an extra kick, it claims to use double the amount of juniper berries compared with a conventional gin.


Dyson pops up in Nagano

Japan news June 2017

Dyson Limited, already popular in Japan for its high-performance vacuum cleaners and cooling fans, has announced its entry into the competitive market for hand-held hair dryers. The initial product launch—pitched to the media by 31-year-old Mexico-born musician Kavka Shishido—happened at the Ikebukuro branch of the Seibu Department store on 10 May, according to the Japanese version of the technology website Endgadget. The dryer features a distinctive cylindrical design and can be set to reach 100 degrees Celsius, compared with the existing limit of 78, thereby providing faster drying and added styling capabilities.

The firm is planning to post qualified beauticians and other staff on the sales floor to give demonstrations. The new model’s suggested retail price is ¥45,000, plus tax. Dyson also plans to offer limited-edition purple-coloured models exclusively at the department store.

Beginning in June, the firm plans to operate a Dyson Demo Pop-up Store in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, a resort area where affluent urbanites go to escape the summer heat.

Shops battle to keep the lights on

Japan news June 2017

Even in Tokyo, round-the-clock business operation only began making inroads in the late 1980s—during the so-called bubble economy—when technology businesses began flourishing and Japan’s capital finally emerged as an international financial centre.

The 14 April edition of Weekly Toyo Keizai magazine reports that a warning lamp has gone on concerning 24-hour businesses, particularly with regard to convenience stores and restaurants. As has been reported previously in BCCJ ACUMEN, they are finding it difficult to procure staff.

The Royal Host family restaurant chain, for example, announced in January that it would halt round-the-clock operations, and McDonald’s Japan K.K. has been reducing the number of all-night outlets.


New designs as buyers seek good-looking items

Japan news June 2017

Household goods have a better chance of selling when they help to make the home look better in the eye of the beholder. Aera reported on 17 April that household product manufacturers’ efforts to wreath their items in attractive containers have been paying off. It seems that if attractively designed, even goods for everyday use, such as dispensers for liquid hand sanitizer, can be appreciated as part of the home interior. Photos by users of such products, posted on Instagram, are playing a role in spreading the word.

Aera focused on several examples, such as the sales success of Resesh deodoriser, which Kao Ltd. offers in an elegant dispenser, with its pump colour-coordinated with the pattern on the container.

In addition to the claims of the products’ quality, these package designs may make it easier to sell them online as a result of their attractive appearance on a screen.


TEPCO invests in battery firm

UK-Japan News May 2017

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. (TEPCO) has made an equity investment of £500,000 in UK-based residential battery firm Moixa Energy Holdings, TEPCO announced in a 4 April press release.

“Having previously worked with TEPCO, I am particularly pleased to be able to partner with this leading Japanese corporate, to bring the Moixa technology to new markets”, said Moixa Chairman David Thomlinson.

Offering compact and affordable smart batteries and a cloud-based platform called GridShare, Moixa has worked with housing associations, councils, energy firms and network operators to deliver more than £5mn of projects.

Court denies tobacco firms right to appeal over new laws

UK-Japan News May 2017

The UK Supreme Court has refused the tobacco industry permission to appeal against new laws requiring standardised packaging for all cigarettes, The Guardian reported on 11 April.

Firms including British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International claimed the law infringes their human and intellectual property rights.

The new packaging will remain the same shape, size and colour with two thirds of the front and back surfaces covered in health warning images with warnings written on the sides.

Banks to offer better way to send money abroad in 2018

UK-Japan News May 2017

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. (BTMU) and six other international banking groups, including Standard Chartered plc and The Royal Bank of Scotland plc, are to launch a faster and lower-cost cross-border wiring service that uses blockchain technology, the Nikkei Asian Review reported on 31 March.

The cost of maintaining the systems used for transfers is expensive, and the blockchain will allow banks to create a service that does not require costly servers. Advanced encryption will also make data difficult to falsify.

BTMU plans to offer the service to individuals in 2018.