Grosvenor buys into Ginza

UK-Japan News December 2017

Grosvenor Group Limited has expanded into Japan’s retail sector after acquiring the Namikikan Ginza building for an undisclosed fee, Mingtiandi reported on 23 November.

The 10-storey, 6,610m2 property was purchased from Imabari Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., who bought it for ¥25bn in 2015. Analysts estimate that Grosvenor will not have paid much less than that price tag.

The Namikikan Ginza area, located in central Tokyo’s upscale Ginza shopping district, is filled with shops and travel agencies.

Hotel uses Rugby World Cup to boost European demand

UK-Japan News December 2017

Prince Hotels, Inc. plans to use the 2019 Rugby World Cup to boost by five percentage points the number of European customers it has, according to a 7 November Travel Weekly report.

In particular, since Prince Hotels is hoping that Brits will visit Japan as a result of the competition, this year the firm appointed Hills Balfour Ltd. to handle PR in the UK.

“We’re working to raise our profile in the UK and we think it’s a brand which will perform well here”, said Satoshi Funatogawa, the hotel’s regional sales director for Europe.

MUFG goes on hiring spree

UK-Japan News December 2017

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. has hired 180 new investment bankers in London since 1 April, City A.M. reported on 14 November.

The move comes as the finance firm seeks to boost its income outside Japan by increasing its European operations. The firm had already announced plans to open a subsidiary in Amsterdam.

Four Japanese banks have chosen Frankfurt as their base in the European Union as they try to minimise the impact of Brexit.

Izu ryokan lands gong at London awards gala

UK-Japan News December 2017

The ryokan (Japanese-style inn) Abba Resorts Izu was named Asia’s Best Culinary Boutique Hotel at the World Boutique Hotel Awards in London on 9 November, the resort announced in a press release. Owner Windsor Yeh described it as a “great honour”.

The judges praised Abba Resorts Izu for its location, level of hospitality and cuisine. It was the only ryokan to win an award and one of only two Japanese winners.

The World Boutique Hotel Awards is in its seventh year, and winners were chosen from more than 600 nominees in more than 80 countries.

UK IoT tech used in Kyushu

UK-Japan News December 2017

The Cambridge-based Internet of Things firm ZifiSense Limited will see its ZETA networking technology used for an aquaculture project in Kyushu, Business Weekly reported on 27 November.

The technology has been adopted by IT Access Co., Ltd., and QTnet K.K. following a pilot project at a sturgeon fish farm in Miyazaki Prefecture.

ZETA allows monitoring even in areas that have little or no communication and power infrastructure, making it suitable for use in rural areas.

Subaru and Isuzu feature on new Welsh rugby kits

UK-Japan News December 2017

Subaru Corporation has been named as sponsor of the Welsh national rugby team’s new away kit, Wales Online reported on 13 November.

They join Isuzu Motors Ltd., who grace the home kit. The sponsorship from both Japanese firms comes as a result of Welsh Rugby Union’s (WRU) partnership with UK automotive importer IM Group Ltd.

“We took a new and innovative approach to our latest shirt sponsorship negotiations and looked at ways to maximise value for our partners”, said WRU Chief Executive Martyn Phillips.

Nori industry saved by 1940s UK botanist

UK-Japan News December 2017

The important role, during the 1940s, of unpaid University of Manchester researcher Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker in saving the Japanese nori (seaweed) industry was outlined on 19 November by Ars Technica.

Back in those days, nori cultivation was not properly understood, and production had been disrupted by industrialisation and poor weather. But research by Drew-Baker published in Nature revealed how the seaweed was grown.

After her paper was read in Japan, cultivation was resumed, and led to the industrialised production of the plant seen today.

Sir Martin Wood Prize 2017 winner revealed

UK-Japan News December 2017

Oxford Instruments plc announced the winner of the 2017 Sir Martin Wood Prize for Japan on 13 November, with Dr Michihisa Yamamoto of the University of Tokyo walking away with the award.

Yamamoto was recognised for his work on the “control and detection of the quantum phase in semiconductor nanostructures”. The prize was established in 1998 with the aim of recognising and encouraging young scientists in Japan.

Yamamoto was presented with a medal, certificate and ¥500,000 prize at the British Embassy Tokyo by British Ambassador to Japan Paul Madden CMG.

Olympus whistleblower inks deal for US TV programme

UK-Japan News December 2017

Michael Woodford MBE, the former chief executive officer of Olympus Corporation who blew the whistle on financial irregularities at the firm, has signed a deal to have his story made into a TV programme, The Telegraph reported on 11 November.

Produced by US firm Tenafly Film Company, it will be part of an anthology showing “brave men and women standing up for what is right”.

Woodford had, at one time, been warned by police that his life was in danger due to the connection of some of Olympus’s illegal payments to organised crime.

British sumo pundit selected for award

UK-Japan News December 2017

Doreen Simmons, an English-language sumo commentator for NHK, has been awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government, The Sun reported on 8 November.

Eighty-five-year-old Simmons moved to Japan in 1973. After falling in love with the sport, she would attend tournaments whenever they were held in Tokyo and go to watch matches in Osaka and Nagoya.

She took up her role after NHK began offering English commentaries 25 years ago.

Small number of firms raise their prices

Japan news December 2017

The Nikkei Marketing Journal (10 November) released the results from its 35th survey of the service industry, in which about one out of 10 respondents reported that they had raised prices during fiscal 2016.

Topping the list, at exactly 50%, were cleaning services, the price increases of which ranged from under 5% to 70%. This was followed by parcel delivery services, with 44% of firms reporting price increases. A key factor in this increase was Japan’s ongoing labour shortage, particularly for lorry drivers.

Among marriage arrangement and wedding services, 40% said they had raised their prices, in some cases doubling their fees. In addition to higher charges for home moving services (37.5%) and child care services (33.3%), other types of business reporting increases included occupational training schools, membership resorts, hotels and short-term car parks.

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Leisure spending falls again, but travel booms

Japan news December 2017

For the second consecutive year, spending on leisure declined. The White Paper on Leisure 2017, issued by the Japan Productivity Center, said the value of the consumption of leisure-related goods and services during 2016 totalled ¥71tn, a decline of 2% from the previous year and down from ¥73tn in 2014.

The white paper has been issued annually since 1977. The latest, compiled via an Internet survey conducted in January, was based on valid responses from 3,328 individuals nationwide ranging in age from 15 to 79. Consumer outlays peaked at about ¥91tn in 1996, and over the following two decades figures dropped to levels not seen since 1988, the last year of the Showa era.

In terms of popularity, domestic travel, with 53.3mn tourists, replaced motoring trips as the top-rated activity. Second, in the same place as the previous survey, was eating out at restaurants (40.9mn), followed in third place by motoring trips and reading, in each of which 38.8mn people took part.

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Product origin more important for consumers

Japan news December 2017

The Japanese have a well-deserved reputation for being picky consumers, particularly when it comes to eating. When the weekly “be between” survey in the Asahi Shimbun (18 November) asked its participants, “Are you very concerned about where food products originate?”, out of the 1,699 valid responses, 83% replied that they were, as opposed to 17% who were not.

Among those who scrutinise product labels—or ask vendors—to ascertain where merchandise is produced, the first four entries on the list of items for which they do this were fresh goods, specifically vegetables (1,217 respondents), followed by meat (1,136); fish and other seafood (982); fruit (979); and rice (858). The numbers declined sharply after that: frozen food (547); milk and other dairy products (501); and eggs (429).

The top three reasons stated by the respondents for interest in the source were: “I want to have reassurance over the production process” (891 replies); “sensitive about use of pesticides and additives” (809); and “want to show support for producers in a particular region” (452).

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Toyota designs black cabs

UK-Japan News November 2017

Toyota Motor Corporation has mimicked the iconic design of London’s black cabs with its new JPN Taxi, AOL reported on 24 October.

The new model’s design features include a tall silhouette, hybrid drive train, spacious interior and wheelchair accessibility. Japan’s taxis are typically saloons and are best known for features such as automatic doors.

Toyota said the JPN Taxi would present “Japan as a more accessible, tourist-oriented country”.

Dr. Martens sees 88% rise in Japan revenue

UK-Japan News November 2017

Airwair International. Ltd.’s Dr. Martens footwear brand posted strong results in the financial year ending 31 March 2017. This was, in part, due to a major increase in Japan sales, according to the firm’s press release of 23 October.

Total revenue in the country that year was up 88%, to £22mn. The leap was helped by the opening of five new shops during the period, which took the firm’s total to seven. Meanwhile, e-commerce grew 118% during the same timeframe.

Dr. Martens now derives 23% of its revenue from Asian markets.

Hitachi-built trains hit by Kobe Steel safety fears

UK-Japan News November 2017

Concerns over the safety of Kobe Steel, Ltd.’s products spread to trains exported to the UK by Hitachi Ltd., the BBC reported on 12 October. However, Hitachi said the trains had all passed rigorous testing.

Kobe Steel admitted that product data had been falsified to show better strength and durability than was the case, causing alarm among car, train and aircraft manufacturers.

The firm has seen its shares plunge nearly 40%.

UK makes mark at BioJapan

UK-Japan News November 2017

A UK life sciences delegation, representing such organisations as MedCity, the Northern Heath Science Alliance and the Department for International Trade, attended the Asia–Pacific region’s largest biosciences conference, BioJapan, epm magazine reported on 12 October.

Yokohama hosted the 2017 annual event, which aims to facilitate interaction between Japanese and global organisations. The delegation sought to promote the UK as a country open for investment, research and business.

The UK is the fourth-largest market to receive investment from Japan in the life sciences sector.

Midlands firm markets kawaii

UK-Japan News November 2017

Derby fashion designer Alana Barker has signed a deal to be the sole UK supplier of the Japanese fashion label Liz Lisa Co., Ltd., BDaily reported on 9 October.

The 25-year-old founded her own label Mission Kawaii Limited, which is inspired by the Tokyo fashion district Harajuku, in March 2017. She has also signed a deal to stock Heads Co., Ltd.’s Listen Flavor brand.

Barker’s 22-piece collection was first featured at Liverpool Fashion Week in October.

Edinburgh tea firm founder invited to attend Kyoto expo

UK-Japan News November 2017

The founder of tea firm eteaket Limited, Erica Moore, has been invited to Japan, one of eteaket’s biggest export markets, to attend the Kyoto Infused with Tea Expo in November, The Scotsman reported on 14 October.

Moore will offer advice to Japanese tea brands wanting to export to the UK, as well as introduce eteaket’s two new creations: teas infused with Tomatin whiskey and Isle of Harris gin.

Moore was inspired to start her firm about 20 years ago while backpacking in Japan, where she experienced a tea ceremony.

North Wales route to attract Japanese tourists

UK-Japan News November 2017

North Wales Tourism (NWT) unveiled a new tourism route to appeal to Japanese visitors, the BBC reported on 9 October.

The Roads of Castles in Wonderland initiative, starting in Newtown, takes in UNESCO World Heritage sites and other attractions. NWT said it had worked closely with the Japanese Association of Travel Agents to launch the route.

Over the past two years, the number of Japanese tourists in Wales has risen 84% year on year.

Fukushima sake served in Parliament

UK-Japan News November 2017

Sake made in Fukushima Prefecture was served in Parliament during a reception jointly organised by the Fukushima Prefectural Government and the British–Japanese Parliamentary Group, The Japan Times reported on 19 October.

The reception was designed to show the recovery of the Tohoku region after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011.

In 2017, Fukushima sake brands won the most gold prizes at the Annual Japan Sake Awards for the fifth year in a row.

BCCJ makes national news in top newspaper

UK-Japan News November 2017

Aston Martin Japan Limited’s recognition at the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s British Business Awards on 2 November in Tokyo was covered by The Japan News, the English-language version of the world’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, The Yomiuri Shimbun, in an article published on 3 November.

The firm was selected as Company of the Year for a UK–Japan trade deal agreed earlier this year that could be worth £500mn over the next five years.

The article gave details of some of the other winners and the history of the awards ceremony.

Kobe take on northern soul draws attention in London

UK-Japan News November 2017

On 10 October, The Independent shone the spotlight on Kobe’s northern soul scene, focusing on the Jam Jam club and the monthly Nude Restaurant event it hosts.

Founded in 1994 by Ryo Kitaaki as a sixties club night, Nude Restaurant eventually switched to northern soul—a music and dance movement originating in the north of England—after he had visited London’s 100 Club.

“During the week, I’m a salaryman”, said Izumi Sawamoto, a member of the event. “Collecting, playing and listening to music like this is a huge sense of release for me”.

Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel comes out on top in survey

Japan news November 2017

The 4 November issue of the Weekly Diamond business magazine ran the results of its annual consumer preference survey of hotels and airlines. As a condition for voting, the 10,000 participants were obliged to have used the services at their own expense—as opposed to on the company tab.

The pollees were asked to give points based on evaluations of 15 criteria: reservations, check-in, location, bathroom, view, breakfast, other food and beverage services, quality of staff, atmosphere, newness, brand image, word-of-mouth recommendations, room charges, special offers and restaurants.

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Food markets pinning hopes on “groceraunt” experiment

Japan news November 2017

On 29 September, a new branch of the supermarket chain Seijo Ishii Co., Ltd. opened above the underground station at Chofu in Tokyo.

After passing through displays of various processed food items and fresh groceries and meats, one arrives at a separate section of the store furnished with tables—the “groceraunt”—featuring a signboard menu illustrated with larger-than-life, mouth-watering photos of featured meals: beef burgers from native Japanese breeds, pasta with shrimp, combo meals for pizzas and steaks, and other items, at prices ranging from ¥990 to about ¥1,500.

“We want customers to be able to savour our carefully selected food ingredients with all five senses”, Masafumi Hayafuji, executive director of Seijo Ishii, told the Nikkei Marketing Journal (NMJ).

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Firms look abroad for domestic workers

Japan news November 2017

At long last, ordinary Japanese households will be able to rely on foreign domestic workers to lend a helping hand. As reported in the Nikkei Marketing Journal dated 1 November, in August the cleaning service firm Duskin Co., Ltd. began hiring staff from the Philippines to perform jobs in Tokyo, Osaka and other cities. Rates charged are the same as for the firm’s Japanese workers.

A 38-year-old Osaka woman voiced praise for the service, telling the newspaper, “They take their work very seriously”.
In their spare time, Filipinas study Japanese by reading manga or watching TV dramas.

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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.