January 28, 2015

Tourists surge into Japan

The country is awash with tourists. Recent 2014 figures from the Japan National Tourism Organisation were at an all time high of 13.4 million. Over 65% of visitors are from South Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, attracted by Japan’s proximity, culture, food and of course shopping. Zojirushi, a niche manufacturer of electrical goods and famous for its rice cookers is doing a soaring business judging from every tourist group that I see on the metro. Earlier last year I took a flight from Narita to Shanghai which ended by being delayed simply by the huge volume of check-in luggage, no one wanted their purchases in the hold. I have just been in Hokkaido for a snowboarding trip. Niseko was bursting with visitors and there were few Japanese locals to be seen. A UK fish and chip shop just opened its doors and according to the owner was doing a roaring trade.
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January 26, 2015

Usuikyou Whisky Display

Japanese whisky is increasingly in the headlines these days, winning awards and gaining notoreity around the world as connoisseurs seek out new tastes. Most Japanese whisky is made by large companies like Suntory and Nikka. Unlike Japanese sake, where there are numerous, small, artisinal breweries, whisky was never top of mind for many companies. Certainly the investment required for ageing is a major discouragement; sake by contrast is best drunk within a year of production. Perhaps this is changing. “Massan” is an NHK drama about the founding of the Nikka Whisky company, currently airing in the morning on Japanese TV. Will there be more Japanese whisky producers emerging? I hardly drink whisky but could not fail to notice this display from Usuikyou yesterday in a premium wine and import shop in Osaka. Yes you help yourself from the cask! Usuikyou is made by an East Osaka company called
January 15, 2015

Fuji Film’s Astalift

Happy New Year 2015! If you’re looking for a New Year’s facelift or ideas on revitalising a flagging business, then Fuji Film’s Astalift brand is worth checking out. Facing a rapidly declining film and camera business, the company had no choice but to enter new categories to survive. Healthcare and cosmetics in particular was selected as antioxidants are a common feature of both film and make up. Ultra violet rays cause colours to fade. Today in Japan the Astalift brand is worth approximately JPY10billion in sales, about USD90m, and whilst not huge (the Japan cosmetics category is worth over USD17billion), not insignificant. Fuji Film is reportedly aiming for healthcare sales of USD1 billion. Astalift is sold in drug stores as well as on-line and in company owned flagship stores.
December 17, 2014

Lessons in Customer Service

Japan is usually “best-in-class” when it comes to customer service. But nothing can be taken for granted as this photo, shared by a friend today shows… The fact that Off House sells recycled goods partly explains the motives behind the sign, I think at least they should have had it checked by a native speaker.  


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