Page 1

A

bright future

Philips Electronics Japan looks past the downturn

ALSO INSIDE //

GAME ON JAPAN?

EU video game firms grapple with cultural differences

FUEL CELLS

Making petrol from algae

Danny Risberg Philips Electronics Japan president and CEO

09

2010

THE MAGAZINE OF THE EUROPEAN BUSINESS COUNCIL IN JAPAN / THE EUROPEAN (EU) CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IN JAPAN


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FOCUS 10 Generating business

14 Game on Japan?

20 Tongue-tied

Martin Koelling visits two renewable-energy fairs in Yokohama and finds that the green power sector’s potential is much larger than current business opportunities. Are EU companies getting left behind?

Several major European

Why is it so hard to find

video game companies

good English-speaking

have offices in Japan

staff in Japan, asks David

but their market share

McNeill? And, with

is modest at best. Trade

language schools and

barriers aren’t the

programmes under threat,

problem. So what is, asks

are more difficulties in

Andy Sharp?

store for EU companies?

CHAMBER SPOTLIGHT 2

September 2010

28 The Danish Chamber of Commerce in Japan promotes Denmark’s business, culture and way of life.


14 18

48 Cover photograph Benjamin Parks

COLUMNS 9 From the Editor 18 Q&A Robert Dujarric, a banker turned Temple University academic, tells David McNeill why Japan needs to bring in millions of workers from Asia.

38 In Committee The progress of postal reform may have massive repercussions for the private insurance industry, not least EU companies, hears Geoff Botting when he talks to the EBC Insurance Committee.

41 Green Biz 27 Executive Notes Will China save Japan, asks Dan Slater of the Economist Group?

30 Investing in Japan Philips Electronics Japan believes that the Japanese market and its ageing customer base represent the future for other developed-nation economies. Julian Ryall talks to president and CEO Danny Risberg.

32 Who’s Who Directory HR and Recruitment Consulting

Professor Makoto Watanabe is working to make oil from algae. Christopher S Thomas visits his Tsukuba University laboratory.

44 Special Advertising Section Interior Design and Home/Office Furniture

47 Event Report

master of the Urasenke school of the tea ceremony. He tells Nozomu Kawamoto how the way of tea is “a way of life”.

50 Talking EURObiZ Chair of the EBC Automotive Components Committee and president of ZF Japan, Richard Kracklauer works closely with Japan’s automobile manufacturers. He shares some lessons from several decades in Japan, and his hobby of goju-ryu karate.

52 Lens Flair Niigata-based Katakai Fireworks makes the yonshakudama – a 420kg behemoth of the pyrotechnics world.

“Is the world heading back into recession?” was the weighty question posed at a German Chamber of Commerce and Industry event at The Westin Tokyo hotel.

55 Upcoming Events

48 Culture Shock

Jan De Bock is a managing partner at creative concept marketers, trainspot.

Søren M. Chr. Bisgaard is a Danish-born

Europe and Japan business-related events.

56 Work Place

The Mission of the European Business Council To promote an impediment-free environment for European business in Japan.

September 2010

3


Publisher Vickie Paradise Green

European Business Council in Japan (EBC)

paradise@paradigm.co.jp

The European (EU) Chamber of Commerce in Japan

Editor-in-chief Tony McNicol

The EBC is the trade policy arm of the seventeen European national chamber of commerce and business associations in Japan

tonymcnicol@paradigm.co.jp

Senior Editor David Umeda Creative Director Richard Grehan Art Director Paddy O’Connor Designer/Illustrator Akiko Mineshima

Chairman Tommy Kullberg Senior Vice-Chairman Michel Théoval Vice-Chairman Duco Delgorge Treasurer Erik Ullner Executive Director Alison Murray Policy Director Bjorn Kongstad

Advertising Sales Jay Isaac, Helene Jacquet, Laura Schmelling Production and distribution Yumi Mitsuyama Herman Francesca Penazzi eurobiz@paradigm.co.jp

Published by Paradigm 4-18-12 Takanawa, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan 108-0074 Tel: 03-5447-8831 Fax: 03-5447-8832 www.paradigm.co.jp Published monthly in Tokyo. All rights reserved. The views and opinions expressed herein (other than editorials by the EBC ) are solely the opinions and views of their authors. The EBC is not responsible or liable for any portions thereof.

Subscription is free for members of the EBC and national European chambers of commerce. Subscription rates are: one year ¥9,000; two years ¥15,000; three years ¥22,000. ¥800 per copy. Rates include domestic postage or surface postage for overseas subscribers. Add ¥7,500 per year if overseas airmail is preferred. Please allow eight weeks for changes of address to take effect. Subscription requests should be sent to eurobiz@paradigm.co.jp If you prefer not to receive this magazine, and for all matters related to distribution, please send an email to eurobiz@paradigm.co.jp EURObiZ Japan welcomes story ideas from readers and proposals from writers and photographers. Letters to the editor may be edited for length and style.

Contributors Andy Sharp writes about video game localisation, page 14

Andy is an independent journalist and translator based in Tokyo. He regularly

Julian has lived in Japan for 19 years and is the Japan correspondent for The Daily Telegraph. “I was surprised at the depth of Philips’ business both globally and here in Japan – and it’s always nice to see a European firm giving the Japanese companies that dominate the electronics sector a run for their money.”

Nozomu Kawamoto talks to tea master Søren M. Chr. Bisgaard, page 48

Nozomu is a Kyoto-based writer, translator, and Kanze school noh actor. Born in Japan and raised in the United States, he returned

contributes business and current affairs articles to such publications as The Diplomat and JAL’s in-flight magazine, Skyward. He worked as a staff writer for The Daily Yomiuri for four years and has localised countless video games. “The lack of barriers to the Japanese market for foreign video game developers really surprised me. These firms just have to find a winning formula to break through here.”

Julian Ryall visits Philips Electronics Japan, page 30

to his native country after college and worked for the English-language Mainichi Daily News and then Japan Echo magazine for a total of over a quarter century. “In the interview with Bisgaard I was struck by how important it is to run into a good teacher, especially when one is in an unfamiliar cultural milieu. Surrendering yourself to a teacher whom you trust and respect can be the quickest and most effective way of arriving at a deeper understanding.”


FROM TH E EDITOR

An old relationship: a new reality So, Japan is number three. But anyone expecting shock and tears on the streets of Tokyo will have been disappointed. The news has been received with equanimity and realism. As Dan Slater of The Economist points out in his column this month (page 27) Japan has benefited hugely from the growth of its largest trading partner. The reordering has prompted more less-than-complimentary commentary on the new number three: “Japan’s slow descent to irrelevance” groaned The Australian. Newsweek warned that Japan, not Greece, was the world’s “scariest” economy. Yet, how scary is the situation here? Newsweek recently published an article rating “The World’s Best Countries” by education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism and political environment. Japan ranked number nine, two places above the United States, three above Germany and 50 places ahead of China. Clearly, size isn’t everything.

There is a perilous economic malaise in Japan that must be tackled, and soon. But there are opportunities too. For this issue Martin Koelling visited renewable energy fairs in Yokohama and found that EU companies are only just beginning to tap the market in Japan (page 10). Meeting the many needs of an ageing population could be another silver lining to dark clouds over the economy. As Danny Risberg of Philips Electronics Japan points out (page 30),

companies that invest in Japan can prepare for when the demographic time bomb hits other Western nations – and one day China too. No country understands Chinese business and culture better than Japan. Our story on tea master Søren M. Chr. Bisgaard is a reminder of the ancient links between the two nations. Green tea drinking came from China but the Japanese transformed it into the tea ceremony, an activity of profundity and beauty. What use might Japan make of future economic opportunities in China? The Japan-China relationship has always involved far more than competition.

Tony McNicol Editor-in-Chief

tonymcnicol@paradigm.co.jp

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LETTERS

inbox

Contact us via: eurobiz@paradigm.co.jp or www.eurobiz.jp Letters to the editor may be edited for length and style.

Too late?

Immigration changes

Whichever planet Gunter Pauli came from (Q&A August 2010), it must be in far better shape than ours. His approach is totally alien to our economic paradigm and unfortunately, as Mr. Pauli himself points out, in conflict with it. We, Homo sapiens, are confronted with the biggest challenge in our 200,000-year history, but we seem to be ill-equipped for the task. And yet, if we wish to avoid an ecological crash, we must somehow find a way to dramatically accelerate the transition to zero emissions as described by Mr. Pauli, and implement other ecology balancing initiatives, before it is too late, which of course it may already be.

[“Your new alien registration card” August 2010] People who arrive in Japan with a visa in their passport (through the un-changed Certificate of Eligibility process) will have their “Residence Card” issued at the airport. The visa holder will be given 14 days to report to their local authority (ward office, city or town hall) to register their new address in Japan. Any changes made to your home address in Japan will need to be reported to local authorities within two weeks, as before. However, changes to name, date of birth, sex, nationality, and employer or their address will need to be reported to the Immigration Bureau. The Ministry of Justice is currently looking at the possibility of having proxies make submissions to the Immigration Bureau on behalf of the person in question, and also the option of making changes by internet, or postal mail. Let’s hope for a positive outcome with these. Thanks for an informative article. Let’s hope the new system is implemented smoothly and makes life easier for all. Furthermore, if anyone has any good proposals related to this new system, please let me know as, through the EBC HR Committee, we will be submitting recommendations to the ministry on the system leading up to July 2012.

Duco Delgorge, EBC Sustainable Development Committee chair

Steve Burson, EBC Human Resources Committee chair

Sponsorship The European Business Council (EBC) once again is producing the EBC White Paper, its hallmark annual report on the business and investment environment, in English and Japanese, for release in mid-November. This will be the 11th in the series. The EBC cannot produce the white paper without kind financial contributions from its members and supporters to help cover production, translation and distribution costs. Also, placing advance orders assists with cost recovery.

Blue-Star Sponsorship: ¥150,000 (or more if you wish) (company name on a 2-name page) Special Sponsorship: ¥100,000 (company name on a 10-name page) Sponsorship: ¥50,000 (company name on a 20-name page) Purchase price: ¥5,000 per set: 1 English copy and 1 Japanese copy If you would like to support the white paper as either a sponsor and/or would like to pre-order copies, please visit www.ebc-jp.com

European Business Council (EBC) Tel: 03-3263-6222. E-mail: ebc@gol.com

www.ebc-jp.com


Generating business EU companies attend renewable energy trade shows in Yokohama Text and photos MARTIN KOELLING

10

September 2010


FOCUS

W

hen it comes to renewable energies such as solar, wind and biomass, Europe has often led the way. In 2009 Japan reintroduced subsidies for solar cell installation and followed the European example with a feed-in tariff allowing homeowners to sell surplus electricity back to power companies. After some years of lacklustre growth, the solar cell market in Japan is now expanding 50% a year – third in size after the United States and world-leader Germany. And, as indicated by the twin trade fairs “PVJapan” and “Renewable Energy” held from June 30 to July 2 in Yokohama indicated, a big future is also predicted for wind and biomass energy. Foreign companies aiming for growth in the budding green energy market had a strong presence at the fairs. But while entrepreneurs from China, Taiwan and South Korea were energetically courting Japanese customers with solar modules and parts, European companies were largely pushed to the sidelines. Steffen Studeny, representative director of Q-Cells Japan, notes the discrepancy between Europe’s huge renewable energies sector and its small footprint at the fair. The reason, he says, is the Japanese market’s poor image abroad. The local subsidiary of Germany’s

leading solar cell manufacturer was one of few European companies with a booth at PVJapan. “Many companies believe from hearsay or experience in other fields that doing business in Japan is difficult or impossible,” says Studeny. “They probably believe the same is true in the solar industry, but the opportunities are bigger than most people think.” The young executive learned the nuts and bolts of doing business in Japan during seven years at Bosch Group in Japan, the local arm of the big German car supplier. To be able to sell its own modules in Japan, Q-Cells turned its local representative office into a limited company at the start of 2010. Studeny is tight-lipped on how Q-Cells plans to crack the solar market. But Yutaka Yamamoto, president of Suntech Power, the local subsidiary of the China-based solar cell manufacturer, is less restrained. His company, the largest maker in the world, is already well established in Japan and shooting for a 10% share of the market this year. According to Yamamoto, a former IBM Japan employee and one-time Silicon Valley entrepreneur, foreign makers must dramatically change their sales strategy to overcome “a big invisible entry barrier” – the unique structure of the Japanese market. In Europe and the rest of the world

Solar Frontier, the solar cell arm of Showa Shell Sekiyu, at the PVJapan trade show

ACCORDING TO YUTAKA YAMAMOTO (SUNTECH POWER), FOREIGN MAKERS MUST DRAMATICALLY CHANGE THEIR SALES STRATEGY TO OVERCOME “A BIG INVISIBLE ENTRY BARRIER” – THE UNIQUE STRUCTURE OF THE JAPANESE MARKET manufacturers usually sell solar modules to other companies, known as system integrators, that combine the cells with cables and inverters into small solar power plants. In Japan, however, the module manufacturer usually fulfils this role, selling ready-to-use systems direct to the customer. It can cost a lot of time and money to build up the required sales and service network. Manufacturers must also provide a warranty, not only for the module but for the whole system. Suntech Power solved these problems by taking over MKS, a Japanese solar module integrator. The alternative was a partnership with another system integrator or electronic retail chain. “But the beauty of the system is that we don’t suffer price wars to the same extent as the rest of the world,” says Yamamoto. “Solar modules have already become a commodity. By offering value-added services we can keep a healthy profit,” he enthuses. Some companies are attracted by another feature of the Japanese market. “Japan is a very interesting market for us, because the Japanese demand high quality and like innovation,” says Giorgio Aguglia, owner of S.I.E.M., an Italian manufacturer of water-cooled solar modules. (Cooling prevents a drop in efficiency as cells heat up.) Aguglia was September 2010

11


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FOCUS

Clockwise from top left: A presentation at the Suntech booth by product manager James Plastow BioDiesel International CEO Wilhelm Hammer and CIO Edgar Ahn Suntech Power Japan president Yutaka Yamamoto being interviewed at PVJapan Hatsuo Sunada, representative of Vestas Japan

Solar cell shipments – Japan (kW) 2,000,000

JAPAN PHOTOVOLTAIC ENERGY ASSOCIATION

1,500,000

1,000,000

500,000

0

2000

2001

2002

2003

Domestic

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Export

at PVJapan for the first time to learn about the market and find potential partners. Biomass and wind way behind In biomass and wind energy, however, development in Japan is lagging years behind Europe, and foreign companies can only dream of healthy profits. Take the Austrian company BioDiesel International, a leading manufacturer and operator of plants that turn waste oil into biodiesel. For 10 years the company cultivated the Japanese market. It dispatched an engineer to Japan for 18 months to learn the language and business culture, and even advised the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on biodiesel standards,

all in the hope of tapping into an officially forecast 400,000-ton-a-year market for biodiesel – all to no avail. No [BioDiesel International] plant has been sold to Japan because, due to a lack of regulation and pressure on the oil companies to use biodiesel, there is no sizeable market. “Like Europe 20 years ago, the trend in Japan is midget plants where every farmer produces his own biodiesel,” says BioDiesel International CEO Wilhelm Hammer. “In Europe we invest in plants with a capacity of up to 200,000 tons-per-year because only industrial plants can deliver the highquality bio-diesel that is needed.” To jump-start the market the government would have to force citizens and companies to collect waste oil and use biodiesel. Hammer remains hopeful that this will eventually happen. “When the spark jumps the gap and the market takes off, we want to be present,” he says. Japan’s ambitious CO2 reduction goal might help, but so far the government has proved reluctant to act. Sceptics see a familiar mechanism at work: only after Japanese companies can compete with foreign makers does Japan start to open up or to promote an industry. And home-grown makers are far from competitive yet. CDM Consulting, one of the local leaders in this field, has just one 10,000-ton pilot plant.

Wind power is another marketin-waiting. It is often pointed out that Japan’s mountainous terrain has few suitable areas for wind turbines, unlike many European countries, explains Hatsuo Sunada, who represents the Danish wind-turbine manufacturer Vestas Japan. “But more importantly, government regulation is not supportive,” he adds. The new feed-in-tariff, for example, applies only to solar and not to wind power. Another industry insider, however, noted that this might soon change. Another issue is the regional fragmentation of Japanese power distribution, making it difficult to manage the fluctuations that often come with renewable energies. And reform of the energy sector proceeds at a glacial pace in Japan. In July, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshito Sengoku, nonchalantly included nuclear power amongst renewable energies. That explains a lot, say critics. “That’s why many European companies are convinced the Japanese government does not really stand behind renewable energies,” says Martin Seissler, who was helping staff the German national booth at the trade fairs. “Japan has to give the impression that the country is ready to rock and roll. Then European companies will flock to the market – regardless of difficulties.” September 2010

13


Cultural dierences not trade barriers frustrate EU video game makers Text ANDY SHARP Photos TONY MCNICOL

14

September 2010


European market share (%)

Japan market share (%)

1. Nintendo [Japan] 16.5%

1. Nintendo [Japan] 20.9% Others 44.6%

2. Electronic Arts [US] 16.3% 3. Activision 4. [US] 15.0% Ubisoft [France] 9.0%

5. Sony Computer Entertainment [Japan] 4.8%

2. Square Enix [Japan] 11.5% 3. Bandai Namco Games [Japan] 10.3%

ENTERBRAIN, INC.

ELSPA (UK)

Others 38.4%

“If you look at it on a country by country basis, Japan is the second-largest video game market after America. We need to be in this market, plus we have to consider that Nintendo and Sony are based here.” Miller believes the industry is accessible to foreign companies, saying, “There are no structural barriers that prohibit entry into the Japanese video game market. It’s a rather open market, and foreign firms are free to participate here. However, the preference of Japanese consumers for Japanese-developed titles means foreign firms have to temper their expectations before they launch any of their titles here.” Several major foreign developers have found Japan to be a graveyard for games, despite impressive sales in Europe and North America. This can be partly attributed to the penchant of Japanese gamers for role-playing and adventure games, as opposed to Westerners’ preference for first-person shooters such as Grand Theft Auto IV – a global multimillion seller that topped the charts here on release, but soon slipped down the rankings. Codemasters, a British developer that opened an office here in 2008 to localise and sell games made in Europe to the Japanese market, sees a variety in taste, even in what many would see as a single genre of racing games. “Our Grid [track-racing] series has sold well in both Europe and Japan, but our rally games don’t do so well here,” says Kazutoshi Miyake, president of its Japanese unit. “British and European gamers like to be able to drive in any direction they like, whereas Japanese like some kind of navigation to make the game easier to play. “For this reason we don’t bring all our games made in England to Japan. For example, our new International Cricket

5. Konami [Japan] 6.3%

4. Pokémon [Japan] 6.4%

BRITISH AND EUROPEAN GAMERS LIKE TO BE ABLE TO DRIVE IN ANY DIRECTION THEY LIKE, WHEREAS JAPANESE LIKE SOME KIND OF NAVIGATION TO MAKE THE GAME EASIER TO PLAY Kazutoshi Miyake, Codemasters Codemasters’ Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising

September 2010

15

FOCUS

apanese companies dominate the nation’s video game software market to such an extent that only one Western release snuck into the Famitsu top 100 annual sales chart last year – Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in 77th spot. Japan’s gamers spent ¥326bn on nearly 65m games last year, according to Enterbrain, publisher of the nation’s topselling gaming weekly Shukan Famitsu. Square Enix’s roleplayer Dragon Quest IX for the Nintendo DS led the way with more than 4.1m unit sales. But overall, gamers plumped for products made by Nintendo itself, with the Kyoto-based firm grabbing a 20.9% lion’s share of the market. These Japanese giants dwarf the foreign presence, which holds a market share of less than 2.5%, according to industry analyst Hiroshi Kamide. “The last game by a European company that made even a slight impact was Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, but it was nothing major in the grand scheme of things,” Kamide says. He cites three major reasons for the poor performance of foreign games in Japan: publishers who are reluctant to spend and give games a major marketing push; cultural differences, such as graphic representations and plot; and a lack of branding. Ubisoft, a French developer, established its Tokyo office in 1994 to localise games for the Japanese market. But despite a mere 0.6% market share last year, Steve Miller, managing director of the company’s Asian operations, believes it is still worth maintaining a presence here. “There is a lot of potential here in Japan,” Miller says. “The video game market is worth over $3bn, and if we have ambitions to be even in the single digits [of market share], there are huge growth opportunities for us.


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FOCUS

Popular Ubisoft title: Assassin’s Creed

Steve Miller, managing director of Ubisoft’s Asian operations

2010 game would be impossible. Although Japan has a team, it just wouldn’t sell.” In addition to ensuring a quality translation that immerses the player in the world of the game, Miyake says Codemasters places great weight on voice acting, using actual commentators to really put the gamer in the driving seat. According to Enterbrain figures, Codemasters held a minute 0.1% share of the Japanese market last year – something Miyake is keen to improve on by revving up the Japanese operation. “There are many excellent developers in Japan,” Miyake says. “We have a future objective of selling games made in Japan in Europe and the States through our sales channels. Looking way ahead, we are also thinking of setting up a studio here.” But Ubisoft’s Miller warns that several Western developers have fallen victim to their own accomplishments. “Usually what happens is that publishers have a successful

game in North America or Europe. They bring it to Japan. If it’s successful, they then tend to get overambitious and over invest,” he says. “They blow up the size of their office here and their overheads. They have to hire sharp programmers, graphic artists and musicians and designers and planners. All these people have to be bilingual and so your costs go through the roof. “Trying to explain [to headquarters] the rationale behind why a game will appeal to Japanese gamers is a formula for disaster. It’s like Quentin Tarantino trying to explain to a Japanese executive why Pulp Fiction is going to be so good and funny. It’s not worked very well.” Nevertheless, Miller sees plenty of possibilities for expansion: “There are untapped markets within Japan, such as the SNS and mobile phone markets. The opportunities for licensing and merchandising of video game characters are also huge, and remain untapped by Western publishers.”

UK games on show UK Trade & Investment is leading a mission of British games companies to this year’s Tokyo Game Show at Makuhari Messe (16-19 September). Representatives of these firms will visit Japanese game companies and take part in workshops during the week. EURObiZ Japan speaks with Ben Chesson, the mission’s Tokyo team leader and head of inward investment at the British Embassy. Which companies are coming? Green Man Gaming, ustwo, Eurocom Developments, Dynamo Games, Atomhawk

Design, Hello Games, Relentless Software, Games Consultancy and Digigraf srl [an Italian company]. Have you run such missions before; how successful have they been? We’ve been running computer games missions since 1998. Many licences and partnerships with Japanese companies have been generated and some UK companies have set up in Japan. British firms barely make a dent in the Japanese games market. Don’t you think it is a pipe dream to think such a mission will help companies make inroads? It’s not quite that black and white. Japanese firms need Westernised content to be truly global players. British firms have had massive success in developing and publishing content in the past, and their skills are

respected. This is why firms such as Sony Computer Entertainment have such a large presence in the UK. Paradigm shifters such as the success of the iPhone in Japan and online purchasing of titles are also altering the playing field. What special qualities can British games firms bring to Japan? The UK has a huge creative industries sector. For the games sector, this means a lot of high-quality companies offering innovative game play, publishing expertise, programming and support expertise. The UK has capabilities in everything from writing the storyline through to promoting the title or designing the chip on the device that the game is played on. Visit http://chinwag.com/ukti/japanmission for further details on the mission.

September 2010

17


Avoiding “Geriatric Inc” Robert Dujarric tells David McNeill that Japan should welcome millions of Asian workers Photo JEREMY SUTTON-HIBBERT

Director of the Institute of Contemporary Japanese Studies at Temple University, Japan, Robert Dujarric was raised in France and the United States, then worked in the banking industry before academia. You say mass immigration would be good for Japan. Can you explain why? The benefits are considerable. When people have advanced degrees and professional experience, immigration brings advanced managerial, scientific and entrepreneurial talent. It helps Japanese companies internationalise, using people who are capable of handling foreign markets. It brings in people who have global networks. If a Malaysian who has 18

September 2010

worked for ten years in Japan is setting up a business back home and looking for a supplier, maybe his first instinct will be to email some guy he knows in Tokyo instead of in the US. Where would Silicon Valley be without the immigrants? Half of Google (Russianborn Sergey Brin) is foreign. The guy who invented the Pentium chip (Vinod Dham) is from India. In the UK, the man who runs Prudential (Tidjane Thiam), one of

the world’s largest insurance companies, is a French national who was born in black Africa. The top British universities are full of students and faculty who come from elsewhere, and so on. This is particularly important for Japan? Japan is running out of Japanese. Every year the population goes down, but the working-age population has been going down for even longer. What are the


Q&A

THERE ARE THREE WAYS TO DEAL WITH THE FALLING POPULATION: ROBOTS, FOREIGNERS OR WOMEN. THE ESTABLISHMENT PREFERS ROBOTS

obstacles to the Japanese procreating? One is that it is even more difficult in Japan than in other societies to have children and two parents work at the same time. Another reason is that it is very difficult to find childcare here because there are so few immigrants. Whether you go to New York, Frankfurt, Paris or London, if you ask a couple where both are working who is taking care of the children, it is immigrants or the children of immigrants. If you removed every foreigner from the Parisian labour market, all these high-powered French couples – where both are working and therefore contributing to the economy at the same time as having children – would have a big problem. Japan thinks that it is competing with China in Asia and that China is eating its lunch. But if Japan had millions of Asian immigrants it would be listened to in Asia. If half a million Thais work in

Japan, that means five million people back home getting remittances. It’s also a way to spread Japanese culture and ideas. That’s one of the reasons America, despite everything, is still the centre of the world. A lot of the business and political elite appear to agree that Japan should bring in more foreign labour. Why hasn’t it happened? Look, there isn’t any country in the world where you win votes selling immigration. John McCain has adopted a girl from Bangladesh. [Barack] Obama, whose father was a foreign student, has a sister who is half-Indonesian, a brother-in-law who is Chinese-Canadian, relatives in Kenya. Did any of them campaign for immigration? No. I can’t think of anywhere in the world where people campaign on immigration. It’s not uniquely Japanese, and it’s unfair to say Japanese are more racist. Japan has a different history. In Europe and elsewhere it just happened: there you have a colonial past; here it is basically Korea and Taiwan. European colonialism lasted much longer. In France it lasted until the ’70s in some territories. You also had a period of very high economic growth in Europe in the ’50s and ’60s and a labour shortage, which you didn’t have in Japan because you could empty the countryside. Everybody in Europe thought the immigrants were temporary workers, but they came in and settled, had kids, and so on. Nobody, except perhaps Australia and Canada, made a rationally defined policy decision. Do you see this as a moral or an economic issue? It’s an economic issue. The problem with the moral argument is that it becomes about charity: people are starving and you’ve got to give them money. There’s nothing wrong with giving money, but [with immigration] you’re actually helping yourself. The British elite now is significantly non-European, including the richest man in the UK [Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi] Mittal. If you look at the US, immigrants have the highest rate of employment of any group because immigrants are often

poor – and the poor want to work. One of the reasons you can now eat well in London is because so many immigrants have opened restaurants. I grew up in Paris, which used to be dead at night – you couldn’t buy anything. Now you can because African immigrants have opened stores. Immigration is one of those issues where the costs seem to outweigh the benefits and get more media coverage. Sometimes you have immigrants whose kids misbehave. People focus on crime and all the social problems, some of which would exist without immigration. Hispanics in the US have a very low crime rate. What will change the debate? Most of the Japanese establishment is male and married to a spouse who doesn’t have a job in the labour market. They’re not seeing the problem because they’re not experiencing it. If you had more people in the establishment who came from working couples, and who saw how incredibly difficult it is in Japan to find child minders and caregivers, change might happen sooner. It’s not a priority now for the Keidanren or business. Japanese companies have replaced immigrants with factories in Asia. Immigration is not something politicians want to sell to the public. What you need is for things to get worse. The key issue is demography. There are three ways to deal with the falling population: robots, foreigners or women. The establishment prefers robots. If robots don’t work, then foreigners. And if that doesn’t work, then women. Women are last because empowering them is sociologically much more transformational. Of all the things that have happened in the West, the entry of women into the labour market is the most revolutionary. When will it change? When this country becomes not Japan Inc but Geriatric Inc. Then someone will say “Houston: We’ve got a problem”. We’re not there yet. Do you have an opinion on this topic you’d like to share? Please post comments at www.eurobiz.jp or send them to eurobiz@paradigm.co.jp

September 2010

19


Tongue -tied

Why do EU companies struggle to find good English-speaking staff?

TONY MCNICOL

Text DAVID MCNEILL

20

September 2010


FOCUS

I

t is one way to concentrate minds. Japan’s largest online retailer, Rakuten, has told its employees that they must be fluent in English by 2012. Executives who aren’t up to speed by then will be sacked; rank-and-file workers will find their path to promotion blocked. That tough directive is not the first. Fast-expanding retailer Uniqlo is one of a handful of Japanese companies that have recently made English their internal lingua franca. Sony and Nissan have used it for years. But Rakuten’s initiative by its Harvard-educated founder Hiroshi Mikitani may be the clearest sign yet that Japanese corporations are accepting a long-held truism: for better or worse, English is the language of global business. Unfortunately, the realisation may be too late. Getting good bilingual workers in Japan has never been easy and, despite government rhetoric on the need to internationalise, many say it is getting harder. “Frankly in my view Japan is going backwards,” warns Ian de Stains, longtime executive-director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan. “If you

look back 10 years, the level of English in service establishments and business was higher than it is today. Young people think they don’t need English or the rest of the world – they’re returning to a very insular view.” European and American companies have long noted the low ability of English speakers in Japan, despite its economic heft and the huge amount of time and money spent on teaching the language. Japanese children learn English in junior high and high school, and many go on to study it in college too. By the time they’re ready for work, millions of young graduates have spent nearly 10 years struggling with the language, but few can do more than mouth a few wobbly phrases. “It’s something I’m always surprised about,” says Suzanna Siebert, a Swiss national who runs a small print graphic design business in western Tokyo. “Even educated Japanese can’t speak [English]. In a university class, there will be only two or three out of 35 students who speak enough English to follow what’s going on.” A major inconvenience for Japanese firms looking to expand abroad, the

Bottom of the class 2009 TOEFL scores (internet-based)

ETS

100

DENMARK

0

CHINA

40

JAPAN

20

99

SINGAPORE

76

96

GERMANY

67

88

INDIA

60

81 SOUTH KOREA

80

90

FRANCE

100

GETTING GOOD BILINGUAL WORKERS IN JAPAN HAS NEVER BEEN EASY – AND DESPITE GOVERNMENT RHETORIC ON THE NEED TO INTERNATIONALISE, MANY SAY IT IS GETTING HARDER dearth of good interlocutors is a minor disaster for foreign firms trying to work here, says the business community. Most find they must work through translators, points out Pascal Gudorf, spokesman for the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan. “Negotiating directly or conducting a meeting with a Japanese executive is almost impossible, especially in smaller or mid-sized companies, which we deal with a lot,” he says. “It’s really rare to find a CEO who can speak English.” And a bigger issue is what goes on inside foreign companies that have set up here, says Gudorf, noting that there are about 500 German companies operating in Japan. “The level of frustration of our ex-pats goes up because they can’t find people with English, so they have only a few people in the company they can communicate with. Finding qualified people has always been a problem.” That problem may be worsening. One of the country’s largest foreignlanguage school groups, GEOS, went belly-up this year, even as the industry struggled to recover from the bankruptcy of its biggest player, Nova in 2007. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) – perhaps Japan’s most successful September 2010

21


FOCUS

Counterview

“Learn Japanese” But not everyone agrees that English ability is the problem. Foreign executives should learn Japanese if they want to do business here, argues Graham Harris of the Harris Consultancy. “I think that the Japanese would see complaints about Englishspeaking ability as more griping by foreign companies to cover up the fact that they are not doing well in Japan. The answer is surely for more foreigners to learn Japanese. I have a hard time seeing Japanese bankers in London complaining that life is tough for them because not many Brits speak Japanese.

attempt to shrug off its traditional cultural isolationism and engage with the world – is being targeted for cutbacks and possible termination. Under pressure from DPJ lawmakers looking to trim government fat, JET’s overseer, the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, this year trimmed 15% from its budget. Most expect that to shrink further. Observers are divided on the impact of these developments. Few professionals rated what went on in Nova or GEOS classrooms. And in a globalised world where language learning materials are available at the click of a mouse, the JET programme has outlived its usefulness, say some critics. Speciality or extra skill? The bigger problem here in any case has not been finding good English speakers, but those with good secondary skills, argues Bert Winderickx, general manager of the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Japan. “It’s not so much the lack of English that is the problem – though that’s an issue – as a lack of English speakers in the relevant sector. English is seen as a speciality, not as simply a tool in the management toolbox.” Owen Devitt of Enterprise Ireland in Tokyo agrees: “Although companies complain that they cannot find English-speaking staff, it may be more accurate to say that they cannot find English-speaking staff with business

The need for Japanese working for foreign companies in Japan to speak English is exaggerated. Many of them rightly spend 95% of their day speaking to Japanese people, i.e., colleagues and customers. The other 5% of their day is spent speaking to their foreign boss who is too lazy to learn Japanese. Foreign companies often ask head hunters to find them Englishspeaking executives when, in fact, they do not really need them. When they really work out how much English is actually required, then the pool of talent goes up tenfold. Sometimes the head of the Japanese operation is Japanese. Head office staff should have more patience when speaking to him, rather than that Japanese executive going on an English course.” Graham Harris has advised foreign companies on Japanese market entry for over 10 years and lectures on the subject at Keio University.

knowledge. Very often, Japanese overseas students will study humanities rather than business.” For smaller foreign firms that is an especially acute problem, notes Englishman Simon Godden, co-founder of Tokyo-based Ad Networks, an online advertising agency. “The specialist speakers want to work for bigger firms like Sony. They’d find it humiliating to work for someone like us.” But whatever their faults, the JET programme and those big chains were one indication of Japan’s passion for learning languages. Today’s cooling interest is in sharp contrast to the country’s Asian competitors. South Koreans have responded to the global downturn by spending more on education than ever – nearly $30bn in 2008, according to The Bank of Korea – much of it on private English-language learning. China sends five million students to university every year, all of whom must study English. “If you go to Seoul or Shanghai, there’s more readiness and openness to speak there,” points out de Stains. “It’s almost like the Japan of 30 years ago.” The big danger is that Japan will lose touch and “fail to compete globally,” he says, recalling what he calls the “farce” of the “Yokoso! Japan” tourist campaign as an example of its lingering insularity. “They chose a word that doesn’t mean anything to anyone who doesn’t speak Japanese. Compare that to [other tourist marketing campaigns such as] “Incredible India” or “Truly Asia”.

FRANKLY IN MY VIEW JAPAN IS GOING BACKWARDS …YOUNG PEOPLE THINK THEY DON’T NEED ENGLISH OR THE REST OF THE WORLD – THEY’RE RETURNING TO A VERY INSULAR VIEW Ian De Stains, British Chamber of Commerce in Tokyo

The cost to Japan could be high, he warns, citing the recent case of a “major” UK-Japanese joint venture that suddenly collapsed. “It completely fell apart because they failed to understand each other, and it’s difficult to avoid concluding that part of the reason was linguistic. On UK trade missions, there’s a real divide between those who are positive about business here and those who have not been able to make a real connection because of their interlocutors.”

Do you have an opinion on this topic you’d like to share? Please post comments at www.eurobiz.jp or write to eurobiz@paradigm.co.jp

September 2010

23


PROMOTION

Making a

splash with

Bio Rubber

TOMIZO YAMAMOTO + Born in 1959 + Graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Kinki University + Studied international business at Florida International University + Entered Yamamoto Corporation in 1981, and was appointed president in 1984

Tomizo Yamamoto and Yamamoto Corporation

O

utside of Usain Bolt leaving everyone in the dust, a common lingering memory of the Beijing Summer Olympics is the furore over swimsuits and the unfair advantage Speedo’s swimsuit gave to its swimmers. In the midst of that argument, a small Japanese company from Osaka stood up and made an offer to Japan’s 33 Olympic swimmers, saying, “We will supply our high-functional material for free. Use it in your swimsuit and you will win.” All was for naught, though, as the Japan Swimming Federation approved use of the Speedo swimsuit at the last minute. 24

September 2010

But fast forward to the Rome world championships in 2009 and you find that swimmers broke 43 world records, with 37 of those set by swimmers in suits made of a special material from Yamamoto Corporation. The power of an entrepreneur – bold, possessing unique ideas, and with a relentless thirst for what’s new – all define Tomizo Yamamoto, president of Yamamoto Corporation. The only thing is he is the 13th president of the firm. The company in its prior form dates back 300 years to the Edo era (1603-1868) when it operated as a wholesaler travelling from port to port down to Osaka and back.

+ Tomizo Yamamoto is also the president or director of several other firms in Japan and the US The family, realizing that expanding a business centred on Ishikawa would be difficult, moved to Osaka in the early 20th century. In 1919, with a vision focused on research, the Yamamoto Chemical Institute was established, and a daring transformation made from wholesaler to an extraordinary manufacturer of innovative materials. Eikichi Yamamoto, Tomizo’s great-grandfather, invented a synthetic button made from powdered skimmed sheep milk (before plastic even existed) at a time when metal hooks were the norm for clothing. It took the market by storm then and still draws attention as a pioneering eco-friendly product. In 1948,


90% of the triathlon market

wears wetsuits that use Yamamoto Corp’s patented Super Composite Skin Tokuzaburo Yamamoto, Tomizo’s grandfather, and Keiichi Yamamoto, his father, patented a pencil with a rubber eraser attached to its end, the de facto standard for non-mechanical pencils to this day. The company didn’t stop there, though. After incorporation to its present form in 1964, Yamamoto, at the behest of the national government, developed a wetsuit material for the then Defence Agency. Since the government placed orders only twice a year, the company sought a stable source of income and focused on wetsuits for none other than female oyster divers. It developed a rubber material for the wetsuit that would keep the women warmer while, at the same time, allowing water to pass over the surface quickly with little resistance. Yamamoto subsequently moved on to triathlon wetsuits, a realm where speed is all. It’s low-resistance wetsuit became a huge hit, and now over 90% of the triathlon market wears wetsuits that use Yamato’s patented Super Composite Skin. The company’s rubber materials not only have given swimmers and other athletes an extra edge on their road to victory, but also graced the figures of superheroes such as Ultraman and celebrities that include Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider II and Christian Bale in Batman Begins. Swimsuits, wetsuits, on the big silver screen – will it ever end? President Tomizo Yamamoto is constantly pushing the envelope for new applications using the company’s Bio Rubber formulation, which is at the core of Yamamoto’s current product development. This rubber is principally made from limestone of very high purity, containing over 99.7% calcium carbonate interwoven with gold, platinum, other metals and carbon. The oyster divers and other wearers benefit from an innovation that uses the heat-reflective properties of titanium alloy to keep them warmer, as well as a special rubber surface whose process lowers the friction resistance coefficient. The aforementioned Speedo swimsuit, by the way, had a coefficient of 1.35, while Bio Rubber Swim’s is 0.021. Today, Yamamoto is unveiling a slew of innovative products built around Bio Rubber.

A series of medical aid products using Bio Rubber exploits the far-infrared, ray-emitting qualities of the rubber, and the aforementioned heat-reflective properties, to alleviate stiff shoulders, lower-back pain, muscle tightness and other ailments. A new three-minute exercise program using Bio Rubber pads has been found to help the elderly and others walk better and more comfortably. Rugby players use the company’s knee braces, while its ankle brace, pad, wristbands and shirts all have their adherents. Yamamoto has developed a new tatami mat that feels like the luxurious straw mats widely used in Japan. In making Bio-II, Yamamoto has interwoven Bio Rubber into a tatami mat of more than eight layers that uses the rubber’s heat-reflective qualities to warm feet and bodies. The 45x45cm mats come in diverse colours and are suitable for a variety of locations. The red and black, and pink combinations in Yamamoto’s office and showroom in Harajuku, Tokyo are a unique neo-Japanese application of the tatami mat. Fire Cut 150 is a fire-fighting and smokeblocking strip of “rubber tape” that affixes to the edges of doors and expands to 12 times its original thickness when the air temperature reaches 150 degrees Celsius. Just released, the

product is marketed with fire/smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. Fire Cut 150 is key to preventing smoke from entering rooms, giving precious tens of seconds needed to run for safety and minimise smoke inhalation. Hybrid Active Suits are coming this fall, released by F-One, a tailor chain with several hundred stores nationwide. (You need to touch the material to be convinced.) This suit, which “breathes” through hundreds of microholes cut into it by Yamamoto, has been invented with winter in mind. The Hybrid Active Suit is warm and negates the need for a heavy winter coat under many temperature conditions. The suit is also waterproof so beads of rain can be wiped off easily. The suit doesn’t absorb spills like so many other materials, making it resistant to ramen broth stains and high dry cleaning bills. The material has been designed for application on both male suits and female skirts. Innovative applications of Yamamoto’s Bio Rubber don’t stop here. There are slipresistant golf grips and survival wetsuits, along with heat-insulation applications for aerospace and vibration-damping applications for cars. Promising agricultural applications promote healthier and faster growing plants, while a swimming machine helps beginners maintain balance. The special rubber “string” that made the two-piece golf ball possible was also invented by Yamamoto in 1969 and sold to Bridgestone to help us errant golfers. In fact, a clear desire to improve the performance or health of its customers underpins all of Yamamoto’s endeavours. On his company’s compelling efforts to construct a swimsuit to rival Speedo’s leading up to the Beijing Olympics, Tomizo commented: “I think it’s very sad that Japan’s swimmers felt they’d already lost the race even before they arrived in Beijing.” Tomizo continues to push the envelope in a bid to create a healthier, more vibrant society. Boasting around ¥7.8 billion in sales and ¥1.3 billion in annual profits, Yamamoto has developed a highly-successful business model that both benefits society and leads the materials innovation race. A September 2010

25


EXECUTIVE NOTES

To the rescue

Can the Chinese growth locomotive pull Japan out of trouble? China overtook Japan in nominal GDP for the second quarter of 2010, raising an essential question, can China’s awesome economic performance rouse Japan out of her torpid 0-1% annual GDP growth rate trend, or will Japan somehow find a way to balls it up? There are two simple ways China’s growth should be able to lead to GDP growth in Japan. First, Japanese companies increase their sales in China, hire more people in Japan, and pay higher salaries. This is already happening. China-Japan growth has increased 20% a year for the past decade, to its current level of $140bn in the first half of 2010, some 20% of Japan’s total trade. Second, Chinese companies come into Japan, buy up companies with excellent products but lousy management, hire lots of people, and start selling to Japan, and other regions. The Suning investment in Laox is along these latter lines. Japanese managers of Laox have been unable to translate Chinese interest in Laox’s excellent electronic products into China sales. So, Chinese managers are coming over to show the Japanese managers how it’s done. Such added competition from Chinese firms should also raise productivity in Japan’s service sector. As anybody who has dealt with Japanese banks, hospitals, telecommunication service providers, or schools knows well, these leave something to be desired. The big danger for Japan regarding the first strategy is hollowing-out. This would mean that Japanese companies selling into China decide to move all their factories to China, and could end up listing on the Shanghai or Hong Kong stock markets. If they list abroad, their profit dividends fail to return to Japan. Given how fast the Chinese market is growing, it also makes sense to keep re-investing in China (rather than repatriating the cash to Japan, as the government has been suggesting). Japan isn’t alone in this respect. Lots of large companies don’t necessarily provide profits to their country of origin. On the other hand, fungible capital means that UK pension funds from the UK can leverage a successful Japanese company by investing in it, to the benefit of future UK pensioners. The problem with Japan is that so much money ($8 trillion in household assets, and some $2 trillion on corporate balance sheets) is stuck in Japan – feeding the ravenous maw

THE RISK OF ALLOWING CHINESE INVESTMENT INTO JAPAN IS OF COURSE JAPANESE FEAR OF LOWPRICED COMPETITION FROM UNRULY FOREIGNERS of government bond issuance, rather than more productive investments in the private sector, either domestically or abroad. So the risk from the first course is that individual Japanese companies and their shareholders will make pots of money in China, without this noticeably boosting Japan’s GDP. The risk attending the second strategy, of allowing Chinese investment into Japan, is of course Japanese fear of lowpriced competition from unruly foreigners. A couple of deals have been done, to much fanfare (the Laox deal, and also the Shandong Ruyi investment in apparel company Renown), but Chinese FDI into Japan is still quite small, just 1.2% from China and Hong Kong combined in 2008. Interestingly, both investments are in very traditional, unexciting sectors – apparel and household electronics. But what would happen if a Chinese company decides to invest in a school, mobile phone company, hospital or bank? These are sectors the Japanese government has preferred to be able to influence directly. From a social point of view, this may be a good thing, but economically it’s a big lost opportunity. If the Chinese card is played well, Japan could reap immense benefits. But the outcome is not certain. Only $20bn of Japanese FDI goes to Asia, out of a $140bn total. Until Japan gets more enthusiastic about its backyard, the Japanese government could still let this historic opportunity slip through its fingers. DAN SLATER Dan Slater is director of the Economist Corporate Network (www.corporatenetwork.com) in Tokyo, and you can reach him at danslater@economist.com.

September 2010

27


Danish Chamber of Commerce in Japan 29-6 Sarugaku-cho Shibuya 150-0033 Tel: 03-3780-8729 • Fax: 03-3476-4234 Email: dccj@um.dk

www.dccj.org

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chairman:

Henrik Irmov, Scan Global Logistics

Vice-Chairman:

Jesper Vibe-Hansen, Royal Danish Embassy

Vice-Chairman:

Claus Eilersen, Novo Nordisk Pharma Ltd.

Directors:

William Boesen, Carl Hansen & Son Japan K.K. Vagn Heiberg, Coloplast K.K. Ole Johansson, SAS Scandinavian Airlines International Erik Lauridsen Peter Bidstrup, Grundfos Pumps K.K

Invitee:

Wataru Kojima, Saxo Bank FX K.K.

From a land of superlatives Denmark’s most successful product in Japan is pork. In 2009, meat and meat preparations trade to Japan totalled €456m or 35% of Denmark’s total Japan-bound exports. Equally important, says the DCCJ chairman, Henrik Irmov, are Denmark’s pharmaceutical and medical products. “We’re a world leader in diabetes and insulin care, while three of the five leading companies in the world that make hearing aids are Danish,” he notes. Together, pork and medicine exports make up more than 50% of Denmark’s trade with Japan. Yet, the majority of the DCCJ’s 51 corporate and individual members belong to more charismatic business sectors. “There are a lot of design and lifestyle companies,” says Irmov. “That’s what Denmark is famous for – architecture, furniture, audio

and so on.” Premium goods-producing companies such as Bang & Olufsen and BoConcept are well-known examples. For them, Japan represents an important market. “The Japanese are willing to pay more for a good product than anyone else,” says Irmov.

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Henrik Irmov, DCCJ chairman 28

September 2010

Daiki Koshiba, DCCJ executive director

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BANG & OLUFSEN

CHAMBER SPOTLIGHT

Bang & Olufsen’s BeoLab 11 loudspeaker

Yet other companies are at the mercy of both global events and Japan’s idiosyncratic regulatory system. “The Japanese are very scared when you have foot-and-mouth disease, and swine flu,” says Irmov. “When these things happen, they can stop importing altogether.” Meanwhile, for other sectors, both tariff and non-tariff barriers are a predictable and perennial headache. Together with the Royal

Danish Embassy, the chamber is conducting a survey of the issue now. Despite its modest size, the chamber hosts at least one event per month. “On The Way Home”, a regular event held early on a weekday evening, is one of its more popular, a get-together that mixes business and social intercourse. “Chamber members give a presentation about their company, their strategy, branding and corporate philosophy … tell other members how they operate in Japan and the success they have had,” says the DCCJ’s executive director, Daiki Koshiba. One upcoming event will be held by mattress and pillow company TEMPUR at its Ginza showroom. Recent speakers have included Graham Davis from The Economist Group, EBC Chairman Tommy Kullberg and a football club managing-director. The chamber also helps organise social events via sister organisation DCCJ Social. “They are really about getting people more interested in Danish lifestyle, or like a networking event where we socialise and exchange information,” says Koshiba. In November, for

FOR SOME JAPANESE PEOPLE IT COMES AS A SURPRISE TO HEAR THAT MANY PEOPLE IN DENMARK STOP WORKING AT FOUR OR FIVE IN THE AFTERNOON

example, the chamber helped import a famous Danish Christmas beer. Denmark’s image in Japan is a positive one, something that has a lot to do with Danish “eco” solutions, such as market-leading renewable energy products from Danish wind-power firm Vestas and Siemens Danmark. Similarly, many Japanese look to the Danes for a lead on an economically prosperous yet healthy work-life balance. For some Japanese people it comes as a surprise to hear that many people in Denmark stop working at four or five in the afternoon. Although, according to Irmov, this is common sense in Denmark. “We don’t work long hours, but when we work, we work hard in order to get the job done in office hours,” he says. Home life is of the utmost importance in Denmark and many families eat dinner together every day. Denmark has a host of superlatives to its name, Irmov points out. To support its comprehensive welfare system it has some of the highest taxes in the world, but it can also boast a good work-life balance and some of the best restaurants. Perhaps that’s why the Danes are often ranked the happiest people in the world.

Danish Prime Minister greets DCCJ members.

September 2010

29


First

Japan,

then the world

Philips Electronics Japan Text JULIAN RYALL Photo BENJAMIN PARKS

W

hile he’s not the first CEO to describe the Japanese market as “testing”, Danny Risberg means the term in a slightly different way. President and CEO of Philips Electronics Japan, Risberg says the changes that we can see today in Japan’s economy, society and lifestyles will be replicated in other advanced industrial societies. Which means it makes perfect sense to be testing future strategies and products in this market. Perhaps most importantly, in the area of care for Japan’s rapidly ageing population. “The world is looking at Japan right now because pretty much every 30

September 2010

developed country will, in the next few years, be going through what is happening here in Japan today,” he says. “They are even feeling the effects of population imbalance in China already. “We believe that if we can bring new products and services to market here and be successful, then the effective models that we set up in Japan can be applied elsewhere and the rest of the world can benefit,” he says. “How Japan addresses the problem of caring for an ageing population and paying for the cost of care is being watched very closely – and it is important that we get it right.” Philips – the full name of the Dutch multinational is Royal Philips Electronics – invests a lot of time and resources in

working with Japanese research institutions and local companies. Fully 70% of its business in this market is focused on the healthcare sector, with its lighting and consumer lifestyle products accounting for the rest. Those figures contrast with the company’s global business, which is evenly split among the three sectors. “Philips first started out in business here in 1953, in the form of joint ventures and partnerships with Japanese companies, and clearly there have been some huge changes in that time,” says 47-year-old Risberg, who is originally from San Diego in southern California. He points out the window of the company’s headquarters in the Shinagawa district of Tokyo.


I N V E ST I N G I N J A PA N

THE CHANGES THAT WE CAN SEE TODAY IN JAPAN’S ECONOMY, SOCIETY AND LIFESTYLES WILL BE REPLICATED IN OTHER ADVANCED INDUSTRIAL SOCIETIES

The company has occupied the same spot on the east side of the station for the past 30 years – but redevelopment since then has made its surroundings unrecognisable, he says. 1,500 staff in Japan “Twenty years ago, people knew that Philips sold electrical appliances, but because we were a technology company we had to go head-to-head with Japanese competitors,” Risberg says. “Now, people know us for a far wider range of business activities and particularly the health and wellness sector.” Two product lines that fit into that category have fared remarkably well in the Japanese market: its range of Sonicare electric toothbrushes and its

selection of men’s grooming products, including body shavers. “Those sorts of products have been a big part of our consumer business in Japan and this conscious shift away from white goods and more into health and well-being means we are focusing on what we can be successful in,” he says. Philips is one of the largest electronics companies in the world, with sales of €23.18bn in 2009 and close to 124,000 employees in 60 countries, including 1,500 staff in Japan. The company can trace its roots back to 1891, when Gerard Philips – a maternal cousin of Karl Marx – started producing light bulbs and other electrical equipment in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. In the early decades of the 20th century, Philips started to make vacuum tubes and in 1927 acquired British electronic valve manufacturer Mullard. In 1939, the company introduced its first electric razor, a product it remains synonymous with to this day. In 1972, Philips was the first company in the world to release a home-use video cassette recorder – ironically, a move soon mimicked by Japanese electronics firms, who won the battle on standards with the VHS system. A decade later, Philips teamed up with Sony to launch compact discs, which were subsequently enhanced as DVDs and Blu-ray discs. The company is also known for its specialist lighting technology, particularly LED lighting and, in the Japanese market, lighting solutions for the

automobile industry. During this summer’s World Cup in South Africa, six of the 10 stadiums benefited from Philips’ ArenaVision lighting, designed to provide the optimum visibility for the players while ensuring the best lighting for television cameras. That coincided with a major push by the company to provide outdoor lighting powered by solar panels to light up football pitches across the entire African continent. The Philips philosophy “The economic crisis was not something that was expected and not something any of us could have really planned for,” says Risberg, looking back at the last couple of years. “Like everyone, we were affected globally by the downturn and it was very difficult for a time there, but we were lucky in that we are spread across three sectors, meaning that we had a balanced portfolio. “The Philips philosophy is that all our products are interconnected and we are able to share our research and development knowledge, ranging from medical devices to LED lights and toothbrushes,” he says. “That has also helped us in the last couple of years and we are becoming even better at that synergy in design and technology.” That is not to say that the Japanese market is always an easy one, he admits, pointing to the high number of government-set product standards and regulations that do not mesh with global ones. And, he points out, when such barriers mean the latest medical devices take longer to come to Japan – the so-called “device lag” – it is the consumer who loses out, including Japan resident Risberg. “We’re not just thinking of this in terms of sales and profits. I live in Japan and this device lag directly affects me and my family and our employees,” he says. “That makes solving this issue important to all of us.” September 2010

31


Whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Who

HR and Recruitment Consulting in Japan

32

September 2010


Who’s Who // HR and Recruitment Consulting

Make or break personnel decisions

D

o you have Rules of Employment (ROE) that give you more legal protection and the tools you need to keep people on your team and on their toes? Do you have a transfer or job change clause that includes the ability to accordingly adjust people’s pay level? Do you have pay-cut language other than the Labour Standards Law maximum pay-cut of one-half a day’s pay or 10% of the pay during the pay period? (That one is for disciplinary action or a specific penalty). The power to reduce pay must come from the power of contract, but ROE have legal precedence over individual contracts. Therefore, it is important to also clearly write in the ROE that, in case of underperformance, a larger commensurate pay adjustment is possible. Reducing people’s pay is no fun for any of us. It should be rarely practiced, and usually be accompanied by a choice to take a moderate severance package. Unfortunately, the pay-reduction option, combined with modest severance, becomes important (without asking for staff ‘agreement’) because, otherwise, it can be just too difficult and expensive to terminate people in Japan. Asking for their agreement is wanting your cake and to eat it, too, and trying to cover the backside of your trousers with legal protection. That’s too much to ask. What if they don’t sign for the pay-cut? You then put an unnecessary boulder in your path. Instead, you are implementing the pay reduction 30 days later, or even further out, to give more wiggle room. Also, if your Japanese unit still has a defined benefit retirement plan, make sure there is a large discount between the voluntary/quitting and the

involuntary/reaching-retirement-age retirement benefit. Why make it easy for competitors to poach your people? Why not save money, and keep valuable resources for the business, and those who loyally stick to you? And regardless of what self-interested employees, or outplacement firms charging a lot of money per head tell you, or what you are told by advisors not up to snuff and not able to deliver real value, you NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have to offer voluntary, early-out staff reduction, extra severance payment to ALL of your staff to make it ‘fair’. Instead, you can be selective and hang on to 100% of the people you need, who obviously have no right to an extra severance package. And they know early on that the extra package will not be available to them – even if they whine for it. The most unfair thing about these strategically flawed staff reductions is to make the same severance package available to those you are pressuring out, and those you are begging to stay. Those poor troopers being pressured out hate this; and for that reason alone, many will not sign the letter of ‘separation’ (not ‘resignation’ or ‘termination’). This is the brake on the size of the severance package. If the extra severance payout becomes too large/rich, it is not fair to the good, needed people who have no chance of getting it. But the ‘keepers’ at least get to keep their nice jobs, you keep your company strong, and you get promoted (hopefully). Don’t encourage good staff to leave. As it was announced in the May 14, 2010 The Japan Times, bankrupt JAL did what it has always done – offering early retirement packages to ALL. Way too many pilots qualifying to fly its long-range jumbo jets resigned in

Thomas J. Nevins Founder/President, TMT Inc. Glasford International Japan

Don’t encourage good staff to leave.

order to get the extra pay-out. Just as all the best cabin crew and sales staff have left JAL over the years. There will now be ‘significant expenses’ hiring and qualifying short-range pilots for long-range flights. Hundreds of firms in Japan and around the world have been weakened, bankrupted, and have vanished for the same reason.

September 2010

33


Who’s Who // HR and Recruitment Consulting

Chasing the hare Can Japan’s steady hiring keep pace with a sprinting China?

W

ith another summer passing us here in Japan, so, too, has the first half of the fiscal year. Compared globally to the world’s other major markets, Japan provides good reason to be optimistic about the country’s and Asia’s recovery as a whole. According to the Asia Job Index (AJI) released by Robert Walters last month, job advertisements placed across Japan, Singapore, China and Hong Kong reached an impressive 11,464,702 between the months of April and June. This is an exceptional number considering that, compared to the same period in 2009, hiring activity was frozen as Asian economies came to terms with the global economic crisis. Representing an 85.9% increase from the year previous, the growth experienced is indicative of returning employer confidence to the region. Though it may sound pessimistic to cast doubt on the significant growth illustrated by these figures, the numbers alone, unfortunately, do not provide an accurate snapshot of each unique economy. Variations in culture, local industries, as well as interconnected economies, all must be accounted for as one tries to summarise this economically diverse region. Slow and steady Japan has recovered remarkably. Total professional job postings topped out at 438,380, representing a change of 34.3% since the first quarter of 2010. With a reputably strong manufacturing backbone, new opportunities in Japan have expectedly come strongest from

engineering (+27.1%) and administration (+26.6%). Shielded from the usual lull in posting activity in Q3, Japan’s market is uniquely poised to sustain its growth throughout this period. The ageing population, coupled with the fact that many young workers tend to prefer part-time or freelance work to permanent positions, suggests that there is sometimes a lag in the market when demand outstrips candidate availability. Whereas other Asian economies are expected to slow hiring slightly in the coming months, Japan, on the other hand, may benefit from its unique market lag that should result in continued hiring into the remainder of 2010. Leading the race Speaking in terms of total hiring, China eclipses that of its neighbours. Japan, its closest competitor in the region, could not even come close to producing the number of advertisements China posted in Q2 − not even by a long shot. With over 10,389,970 advertised positions from April to June, the absolute volume dwarfed other APAC (Asia-Pacific) nations. Favouring analyst (+20.6%) and merchandising (+30.7%) postings, respectively, total advertisements by Hong Kong (389,539) and Singapore (246,813) were only able to mount a combined total of roughly 6% of China’s postings. However, despite China’s rocketing economy, government efforts to decelerate its economy will inevitably impact the latter half of this year. These initiatives by the Chinese government are anticipated to subsequently impact Hong Kong’s growth as these two economies

David Swan Managing Director, Robert Walters Japan K.K.

Japan may benefit from its unique market lag that should result in continued hiring into the remainder of 2010 become increasingly intertwined. Though the outlook is very optimistic, many are doubtful as to whether the current rate of economic growth in China can be sustained. But even if the rate does drop slightly, the scale of China’s emergence should offset any bumps expected whilst it races towards the end of the fiscal year. As a truer indicator of economic health, the current Q3 and approaching Q4 should provide a more accurate outlook for how well the APAC nations have navigated themselves from recovery into outright growth. Though the seasons invariably change, hopefully the growth experienced thus far will not disappear like summer yukatas.

The Asia Job Index Developed by Robert Walters in 2008, the Asia Job Index was created with a view of becoming a de facto barometer for the job markets across the region. The Index tracks advertisements by number in leading media outlets and job boards for both print and online. Since its inception, the Index has grown in scope and now covers Japan, Singapore, China and Hong Kong. www.asiajobindex.com

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September 2010


Équilibre k.k.

Address

ARK Hills Executive Tower S303, 1-14-5, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052

Address

Yebisu Garden Place Tower F18, 4-20-3 Yebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-6018

Tel

03-5570-7272

Tel

03-5789-5548

Fax

03-5570-7271

Fax

03-3724-7690

Email

y.miyake@boyden.com

Email

info@e-quilibre.jp

Web site

www.boyden.co.jp www.boyden.com

Web site

www.e-quilibre.jp

Established

1992

Established

2006

Staff

7

Staff

4

Contact:

Yumiko Kamikariya, Secretary (yumiko.kamikariya@boyden.com)

You are a diamond; our mission is to make you shine. Équilibre k.k. is a specialist in emotional intelligence and leadership development, and also works on such areas as international communication, corporate culture change, effective team building, and vision and mission clarification. Call on us when you want to improve interpersonal communication, management of emotions under pressure, motivation to achieve goals, project management efficiency, and creativity. We can help you through our Equilibre Coaching™ for executives, group coaching for managers, and in-house training for managers. Équilibre k.k.’s international team includes four executive coaches and trainers certified in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) services provided in English, Japanese and French. For your international projects, Équilibre k.k. has established a worldwide network of executive coaches and trainers who share the same values and are all NLP trainers.

Boyden Japan was established in 1992, having inherited a part of a pioneer recruiting firm (established as one of the first recruiting firms in Japan). In 2000, we became licensed by Boyden World Corporation (Global Executive Search), the first executive search organisation in the world (1946). During our legendary history we have been a strategic business partner, discussing with our clients their hiring projects; identifying, sourcing, delivering, and placing talented human capital of high-calibre executives with solid expertise. Our organisation has proven its know-how, being the most experienced in local Japan employment practices under a leading global network of some 70 offices all over the world. Our knowledge, practice, and placements cover almost all industries and business area inter alia, from financial services, IT, and manufacturing, to heavy/precision machineries, automotives, consumer goods (even fashion), and other professional assignments. Our policy remains customer oriented.

Global Sage Hays Specialist Recruitment Japan K.K. Address

Kamiyacho MT Bldg. 14F, 4-3-20 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0001

Address

Akasaka Twin Tower, Main Tower 7F, 2-17-22 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052

Tel

03-5776-6518

Tel

03-3560-1188

Email

mori@globalsage.com

Fax

03-3560-1189

Web site

www.globalsage.com

Email

inquiry@hays.co.jp

Established

1998

Web site

www.hays.co.jp

Staff

60

Established

2001

Contact:

Kazuhiko Mori, Director

Staff

100+

Contact:

Hiroko Kadoya, Marketing Manager

Founded in 1998, Global Sage is a leading corporate intelligence and executive search firm, offering a broad range of strategic, competitive and talent management solutions to our clients in the financial services sector. We serve the spectrum of financial services clients with retained executive search, corporate intelligence, and advisory services. Our areas of specialization include Investment Banking and Brokerage, Institutional Fund Management, Alternative Investments, Principal Investments and Private Equity. In addition to individual and team searches, Global Sage also serves clients with advisory services such as talent surveys, reputational analysis, and organizational mapping. The firm represents 19 nationalities speaking 26 languages with search experience in more than 50 countries. Global Sage’s elite multi-lingual and multi-cultural teams operate out of key global business centers in Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York and London.

We are the experts in recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people across a wide range of specialised industries and professions. We deal in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. At Hays, we believe the right job can transform a person’s life and the right person can transform a business. We’re passionate about connecting our candidates with the right job for them. Our recruiting experts are available to you in the following specialisms: accountancy & finance, banking, finance technology, human resource, information technology, office professionals, pharma, property and sales & marketing. Devoted to both client and candidates, we power the world of work.

September 2010

35

Who’s Who // HR and Recruitment Consulting

Boyden Japan Inc.


Who’s Who // HR and Recruitment Consulting

LEGAL FUTURES

Legal Futures Japan K.K.

ADVANCE YOUR CAREER

LEGAL | COMPLIANCE | FINANCE

Robert Walters Japan K.K.

Address

Gloria Bldg. 6F, 3-6-15 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0013

Address

Shibuya Minami Tokyu Building 14F, 3-12-18 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0002

Tel

03-3580-3101

Tel

03-4570-1500

Fax

03-3580-3116

Fax

03-4570-1599

Email

japan@legalfutures.com

Email

info@robertwalters.co.jp

Web site

www.legalfutures.com

Web site

www.robertwalters.co.jp

Established

1999

Established

2000

Staff

20 in Japan

Staff

1,500 Globally

Contact:

Damion Way, Managing Director

Contact:

David Swan, Managing Director

Legal Futures is a boutique recruitment agency offering comprehensive legal, compliance and financial services recruitment expertise throughout Asia Pacific from our offices in Japan and Hong Kong. We recruit for a wide variety of job types for legal, compliance and banking & finance professionals across the Private Practice, Commerce & Industry and the Banking & Finance sectors and we have built our reputation on the quality of our service and our dedication to excellence. We will work to introduce professionals that not only meet our client’s expectations, but exceed them. Our consultants seek to build long-term working relationships within our client companies and we work to foster a positive and interactive relationship where the more we can understand our clients, the better a level of service we can provide.

Celebrating our 10th anniversary, Robert Walters Japan has been active in building integrated partnerships with clients and candidates, enabling us to consistently deliver the most relevant match of skills and culture. This is our ultimate goal as a recruitment and sourcing specialist, and the solutions we create are underpinned by a number of essential and defining attributes. Robert Walters Japan has the distinct advantage of size, proven track record, and the capability to tap into an unparalleled global network. Our synergistic application of these unrivalled strengths in the following industries enables us to bring clients and candidates together in the most efficient and productive way: advertising & media, asset management, banking & securities, chemicals, consulting & services, entertainment, healthcare, hospitality, insurance, IT & telecom, logistics, manufacturing & components, real estate, retail, and luxury & consumer goods.

Skillhouse Staffing Solutions K.K. TMT Inc. Address

Tomoecho Annex No.2 Bldg 7F 3-8-27 Toranomon Minato-Ku, Tokyo 105-0001

Address

Ichibancho KK Bldg., 13-8 Ichibancho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0082

Tel

03-5408-5070

Tel

03-3261-6471

Email

mark.smith@skillhouse.co.jp

Fax

03-3221-0601

Web site

www.skillhouse.co.jp

Email

info@tmt-aba.com

Staff

128

Web site

www.tmt-aba.com

Contact:

Mark Smith

Established

1978

Staff

20

Skillhouse provides IT staffing solutions to various global and domestic industries. Services include: •

IT Permanent Staffing

IT Temporary Staffing

IT Contract Staffing

IT Outsourcing Services

If you have any IT-related staffing or service need, please contact Mark Smith, President, at mark.smith@skillhouse.co.jp or on 035408-5070. Choose Skillhouse, you will see the difference.

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September 2010

TMT Inc.—Technics in Management Transfer—founded in 1978 by Thomas J. Nevins, is a unique human resource consultancy in Japan specializing in: 3 Executive Search 3 Labor/Personnel Policy • Rules of Employment (ROE) • Staff Reduction/Cost Savings Programs • Problem-Employee Solutions • Compensation and Benefits • Union and Staff Relations Tom Nevins, a labor consultant and headhunter, is also author of several books including Labor Pains and the Gaijin Boss (1984), Taking Charge in Japan (1990) – both by The Japan Times – Japan True or False (2004), and Gaijin Boss’s Power Pill (2010). TMT represents Glasford International (GI) in Japan. Founded in 1996, GI is a leading strategic partnership of retained executive search firms working together to provide HR/recruiting solutions for global clients. It is now represented in about 40 countries, and growing. Across diverse business cultures, Glasford’s mission is to provide consistent and personalized executive search solutions that deliver success for its clients, career opportunity for its candidates and profitable growth for its participating partners.


Who’s Who // HR and Recruitment Consulting

I N DUSTRY VOICE

Better hiring

T

he financial costs of hiring are well understood and can be budgeted for. However, less understood, if even considered, are the costs of a bad hire. Those cut much deeper. Even before any decision to terminate employment is made, costs are incurred from management time spent on corrective actions, mediation and negotiations. Also, the business reputation can be put at risk, as well as physical loss through acts of negligence or wilful misconduct. When the employee does leave, there can be direct employee payments and potentially unlimited legal expenses involved. While invariably there can be a few bad apples among candidates, you can’t always recognise who they are from traditional interview methods. Nonetheless, putting into the balance a well-managed hiring process – including pre-employment assessments and screening – is a professional and extremely cost-effective way to reduce the risks of a bad hire. Traditional pre-employment screening in Japan had been carried out by the human resources team – but without the scope to do much more than some personal reference telephone calls should they have the time. Another practice was approaching a local private detective agency to contact neighbours and previous co-workers in an attempt to elicit the candidate’s character and behaviour patterns – which was unethical as much as unreliable. Modern, pre-employment screening is accompanied by reassurances that the candidate is fully aware of the process and has given consent to have employment qualifications verified. In Japan, the PrivacyMark Organisation (www. privacymark.org) helps to ensure that personal information and privacy are taken seriously and that companies observe audited processes and procedures in compliance with the Japan Industrial Standards (JIS Q 15001:2006)

for personal information protection management systems. The PrivacyMark is gaining greater recognition, but is still voluntary. Also, many companies handling personal information are not yet accredited, preferring to avoid the costs of compliance. Of course, you may be thinking that, in Japan, you can forget your wallet in a public place and have a very good chance of someone handing it in, with all cash intact. Surely, people wouldn’t lie to get a job. In a depressed Japanese economy, we have encountered examples of candidates claiming education degrees they had never earned, exaggerating employment positions and experience. Recently a candidate pointed a finger at a recruitment consultant who had advised removing gaps in the career history by arbitrarily extending employment periods to invent a continuously employed profile. When it comes to foreign or Japanese job applicants who have studied or worked in other countries, they might be tempted not to disclose information such as a criminal conviction or slip in a false claim, assuming such violations to be unverifiable. As a global business, we conduct checks around the world, understanding that each country has different procedures and databases available. Here are some examples of where Japan is different: 1. A criminal record check is not available. 2. Personal credit rating checks are not made available to third parties. They can be issued to only the individual concerned or authorised companies requiring them for credit risk assessment. A criminal conviction or poor personal credit history alone should not be a barrier to hiring a qualified and otherwise good candidate. Intentionally creating a false personal history to gain employment, however, raises immediate

Tim Bennett General Manager, First Advantage, Japan & Korea 3F ASK Building, 1-24-4 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0013, Japan Tel: +81 3-5449-7373 www.FADV.com

While invariably there can be a few bad apples among candidates, you can’t always recognise who they are from traditional interview methods

concerns about honesty and, in many countries, would be a criminal offence. Widely recognized as the leader in background services in the Asia-Pacific, by combining our global reach and local Japan expertise, First Advantage has expanded its risk mitigating services to include hiring solutions complementing expertise in pre-employment screening. For further information: www.fadvasia.com, or email Tim Bennett at tbennett@fadv.com September 2010

37


Insurance// The postal reform problem Text GEOFF BOTTING

L

ike all EBC committees, the Insurance Committee has a long list of issues and recommendations. There are calls for harmonisation with global accounting standards and solvency margins and quicker product approval, to name just a few. Yet in recent months, those issues have been largely overshadowed by a single one – postal reform. The attention isn’t surprising, given that issue’s massive repercussions for the private insurance industry. The bill in its present form could no less than wipe out a big chunk of the lower-end and middle sections of Japan’s privatesector banking and insurance market, according to committee chairman John Kakinuki. “There are a lot of issues we’d like to deal with, but this is taking up a lot of our time,” says Kakinuki, a lawyer and executive officer at AXA Life Insurance. He is not alone in his fear and loathing of the postal-reform measure. As an

38

September 2010

A BRIGHT SPOT IS THE MOVE BY JAPANESE REGULATORS TOWARDS A PRINCIPLES-BASED REGIME AWAY FROM ONE BASED ON RULES editorial in the Asahi Shimbun states, “The bill is riddled with problems that could threaten the health of the nation’s financial system.” The bill, which this summer Prime Minister Naoto Kan vowed to pass “at an early date”, would double the caps on an individual’s life insurance coverage to ¥25m, giving Japan Post Insurance a clear competitive advantage over its private-sector counterparts. The Insurance Committee has long been calling for a level playing field vis-à-vis the post office, not just for the sake of European insurance companies but for Japan’s private insurers as well. The bill, which scales back many of

the privatisation proposals drawn up under the administration of Junichiro Koizumi, threatens not merely to tilt that playing field – but to flip it right over. [See “Post-Privatisation” in our August issue for more on this topic.] As for the business of selling insurance policies, European and other foreign insurers generally consider Japan a mature market. That means “foreign companies are not looking at this as a growth market, so they’re not putting in a lot of investment,” Kakinuki says. “On the other hand, it’s a large enough market in a large enough economy, and people consider it important, which is why we are all here.” Ironically, the set of socio-economic trends generally seen as spelling doom for the future economic health of Japan can be viewed as an outright boon for private insurers. The greying of Japanese society – and the strain thus put on the national pension and health insurance systems – together with the trend towards smaller households would be expected to generate demand from consumers


IN COMMITTEE

seeking enhanced financial security in the face of a gloomy and uncertain future. That would be good news for the industry were it not for one big countervailing factor – the 2008 global financial meltdown. So while opportunities to develop markets exist in Japan, many large foreign insurance companies are at the same time preoccupied with having to deal with the aftermath of the financial crisis. As for the committee’s advocacy issues other than the postal bill, mixed results are reported. A bright spot is the move by Japanese regulators towards a principles-based regime away from one based on rules. The difference between the two approaches has been described as being like the difference between soccer and American football: The former has few rules but the referee is given discretion in how they are interpreted, while the American sport is bound by a large number of very specific rules, which the referee is tasked with enforcing.

Key advocacy issues 1) Harmonisation with global standards for accounting and solvency margins 2) Introduction of a permanent Policyholder Protection Corporation 3) Increasing the efficiency and flexibility of the product approval process 4) Encouragement of long-term savings Insurance company officials say that in their industry, a principles approach puts the focus on risk management, and in the process promotes the creation of innovative products. Kakinuki says he has witnessed the shift towards this approach in Japan first-hand, in the form of the regular three-month-long inspections of his company by the Financial Services Agency (FSA). The FSA isn’t nearly as intense as before, he notes. “The FSA inspectors now look more for good risk management, rather

than putting on their proverbial white gloves and wiping every surface they see,” he says. “They used to stay until 11 o’clock at night, and then give us a bunch of work we had to do by the time they came in the next morning.” Now, the inspectors go home at the civilised hour of 6 pm, Kakinuki says. Meanwhile, the committee reports “some progress” on the harmonisation of standards, and “no progress” with product approval, calling the process “overly lengthy.” One of the features of the EBC Insurance Committee is close collaboration with its counterpart at the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ). The EBC committee meets once every three months. Every third meeting is held jointly with the ACCJ, with the government stakeholders on both sides in attendance. Amid ongoing debate over the government’s plans to reform the post office, the activities of the Insurance Committee and its partners have become all the more crucial.

September 2010

39


GREEN BIZ

Fuel cells

Japanese researcher hopes to make petrol from algae Text and photo CHRISTOPHER S THOMAS

A

s BP has been reminded in recent months in the Gulf of Mexico, our addiction to oil comes with some serious costs. There is pollution, environmental degradation and global warming – not to mention the security issue of an economy dependent on a tenuous and easily severed lifeline of transport and production infrastructure. Alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and nuclear all have serious downsides too, the most common being that they are difficult and expensive to scale up to oil’s level. Prof. Makoto Watanabe of Tsukuba University thinks the answer lies with a humble freshwater blue-green algae. Botryococcus, common in Japanese lakes, excretes hydrocarbons as part of its natural life cycle. Like heavy oil from the ground, the algae oil can be broken down into all the familiar petrochemical products – petrol, jet fuel, naphtha, edible oils – using existing technology and refining equipment. “Algae oil contains none of the contaminants, such as sulphur, that make oil so noxious, and producing it can consume more CO2 than it releases,” Watanabe noted, which makes it an effective carbon sink, and weapon against global warming. Using organic wastewater (sewage, for example) as the growth medium makes the process even more eco-friendly, and possible in the absence of light. Watanabe is expanding his research, moving into a much bigger lab. An outdoor facility is being built, opening

MY DREAM IS FOR JAPAN TO BECOME AN OIL-EXPORTING NATION Prof. Makoto Watanabe

in September, to test ways of scaling up the technology; and his team is working on a low-cost photobioreactor for small-scale commercial production. Funding the programme are the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and a consortium of 13 companies, including oil company Idemitsu Kosan, Mitsubishi Chemical and Kikkoman (best known for soy sauce production). Botryococcus-derived petrol Watanabe’s research is generating a lot of interest among researchers and companies both in Japan and worldwide, especially in The Netherlands, the European leader in this field. Royal Dutch Shell, for example, is conducting a large study on algae-derived biofuels in Hawaii.

A lot of work still needs to be done, in particular to find ways to boost output from the current 118 metric tons of oil per hectare (Watanabe believes 1,000 tons is within reach). This will make it cost-competitive compared with petroleum, especially if crude prices continue to rise. We could be pumping Botryococcusderived petrol into our cars within ten years if everything goes according to plan and oil prices continue to rise, predicts Watanabe. Japan could replace its oil imports using algae grown on only half of the nation’s disused farmland. “My dream,” Watanabe said, “is for Japan to become an oil-exporting nation.” And if a disaster happened, an algae spill would be much easier on the planet – and the bottom line.

September 2010

41


PROMOTION

Nikken Space Design was established in 1994 as part of Nikken Sekkei group. Our interiors feature minimalist Japanese themes, and can be seen in hotels, offices, academic buildings, ships, airports and health institutions all over Asia. A Italian Restaurant MODE DI PONTE VECCHIO Located 150m from the station on street level, the restaurant has been designed to create three distinct dining environments. During the evening, the main pendant light comes down, transforming the atmosphere from that of the afternoon. • Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan B Simplex Investment Advisors Windows surround this open, luminous and comfortable meeting area. The innovative space impresses employees and guests alike. Designed as a square box with a hollow square or ‘box’ in the centre, sliding doors

42

September 2010

allow the rooms to be connected or separated as needed, according to function and size preferences. The dynamic design facing the complex provides a unifying effect to this creative space. • Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan • Japan Display Design Association • Display Design Award • Japanese Society of Commercial Space Designers / JCD award C THE RITZ-CARLTON TOKYO Japanese restaurant Hinokizaka Here, we chose authentic, yet not eclectic, Japanese-style interiors set in a dignified and elegant space. One of the private dining

rooms was made by carefully transporting and reconstructing a 200-year-old house inside the restaurant in honour of tradition. • Tokyo Midtown, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan D Tokyo Midtown Residences Of two Midtown residences, the Tokyo Midtown Residences consisting of 166 apartments is most closely based on the Roppongi style.The public area was designed entirely in black and white. Striped marble and imitation black leather panels contribute to the striking interiors. • Tokyo Midtown, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan


B

A

C

Nikken Space Design Ltd. Tel: 03-5689-3264 Fax: 03-5689-3265 1-4-27, Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-0004 E-mail: webmaster_sd@nikken.co.jp www.nspacedesign.co.jp

D

September 2010

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Interior Design and Home/Office Furniture // Special Advertising Section

B.M. Japan Corporation

BoConcept Minami Aoyama

Address

2-22-19 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku

Address

2-31-8 Minami Aoyama Minato-ku

Tel

03-6440-0812

Tel

03-5770-6565

Fax

03-6440-0813

Email

bo-aoyama@boconcept.jp

Email

info@benjaminmoore.co.jp

Web site

www.boconcept.co.jp/

Web site

www.benjaminmoore.co.jp

BoConcept is the brand name of Denmark’s most global retail furniture chain with more than 200 BoConcept brand stores in the world. The new 2011 BoConcept collection takes the best from the past and puts it into a modern context. Simplicity and functionality are key in describing many of the new pieces. The classic sofa with modern steel legs, softened lines on the cushions, and bold colours brings a dynamic dimension to the well known. The old wooden chair has now become comfortable and characteristic with sculptural lines and details that underline the natural look. Lamps in a variety of colours blend well with the style of the home. Functional wall systems and cabinets step into character with colourful fronts and different depths and sizes.

Benjamin Moore Paints was established in 1883 in New York City, and is a company of Berkshire Hathaway. We provide first-class paints worldwide, and are one of the leading companies in paint and colour. Our connection to Japan includes being the paint chosen by major retail chain stores and a museum back some 15 years ago. What makes us stand out among our Japanese competitors is providing a colour chart from which to choose with precision your preferred colours, and the additional option to mix to arrive at your own exact colour choices. Our Minami-Aoyama flagship store (direct tel: 03-6440-0825) is the first paint store of its kind in Japan, providing over 3,500 beautiful colours. Our paints are smart and eco-friendly, and deliver a precise colour match using our patented computer colour-mixing system. At Benjamin Moore, we stand by our quality and exacting colours with a painting contract. You can also visit a Benjamin Moore Paints retail shop at 3-4-6 Hakata-ku, Higashihie, Fukuoka, Kyushu. Tel: 092-415-0243, Fax: 092-415-0246, email: west@benjaminmoore.co.jp

Conde House

Free Interior design service “Home concierge” Professional interior design is now available to everyone. BoConcept offers you a visit from one of our interior designers to help you get the most out of your home. The visit will use your style and existing furniture as a starting point for making a complete floor plan. Please visit the nearest BoConcept store.

Nikken Space Design Ltd.

Address

6 Nagayama-cho, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 079-8509

Address

1-4-27, Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-0004

Tel

0166-47-9967

Tel

03-5689-3264

Fax

0166-49-2225

Fax

03-5689-3265

Email

info@condehouse.co.jp

Email

webmaster_sd@nikken.co.jp

Web site

www.condehouse.co.jp

Web site

www.nspacedesign.co.jp

Contact:

Azusa Tanaka

NSD, part of the Nikken Sekkei group, was established in 1994, specialising in interior design. Our history in this field encompasses experience from Nikken Sekkei FF&E and its interior design departments. Today, NSD has three design studios in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya where we involve approximately 70 highly experienced designers and creatives. Our portfolio includes interior design projects in the hospitality industry, office and retail spaces, hospitals, schools and private residences. NSD designs for the entire environment – the interior and exterior, furnishings and other appointments. We are currently working on several refurbishments and design projects with international clients as well. Our designers are engaged in many projects in partnership with various artists and architects. NSD designs projects rooted in the belief that architecture and city planning should aid people and be for the benefit of their lives – on a human scale. We also are currently working on long-term design concepts and management projects to improve spatial design and ensure sustainability.

Conde House is noted for exceptional design and manufacturing quality as expressed in its line of contemporary furnishings for distinguished homes and contract markets for 42 years. We offer chairs, tables, sofas and cabinets manufactured to suit individual customer needs. All of our furniture is crafted at our mill in Japan on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. We specialise in solid and veneer wood construction using traditional techniques and modern computerised tools to create products which are uniquely styled, beautifully constructed and reasonably priced. In Japan, Conde House has 12 shops throughout the country. Conde House has opened our own showrooms in the United States in 1984 and Germany in 2005. We invite you to see for yourself at our conveniently located Tokyo shop: Conde House, Shinjuku First West 3F, 1-23-7 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0023. Tel: 03-5339-8260, Fax: 03-5339-8261

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September 2010


S’International Architects, Co., Ltd.

Address

Sumitomo Seimei Akasaka Bldg. 2F, 3-3-3 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052

Address

Prime Bldg. 7F, 2-13 Hayabusa-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0092

Tel

03-5563-2181

Tel

03-3239-1333

Fax

03-5563-2187

Fax

03-3221-6510

Email

Takeshi_Satou@okamura.co.jp

Email

secretariat@s-i-a.co.jp

Web site

www.okamura.co.jp/english/index.html

Web site

www. s-i-a.co.jp

Contact:

Takeshi Satou

Contact:

Naoko Mimura

From general offices, reception areas and conference rooms to areas for relaxation, Okamura, established in 1945, creates attractive spaces. Our office furniture is the ultimate in stylish and colour range, design and ergonomics – aimed to meet the demands of individual working environments. Okamura creates workplaces that emphasise the emerging new work style – the diversity in people, parts and functions. Our quality products and fixtures also meet the specifications for public facilities such as stadiums, airport terminals, theatres, hotels, libraries, restaurants, medical institutions and other areas where people interact. With a full product line-up and abundant know-how, Okamura also offers total coordinated store development, crafting retail spaces with an emphasis on sensibility. An important facet of Okamura’s growth has been such diversification. When branching out into new areas and markets, we have employed our accumulated manufacturing knowledge to give us a competitive advantage. We also pay close attention to utilising the most effective management techniques available, having emerged as one of Japan’s earliest users of computerised management information systems.

Uchida Yoko Co., Ltd. Address

2-4-7 Shinkawa, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-8282

Tel

03-5646-6690

Fax

03-5620-9463, -9464

Email

gm@uchida.co.jp

Web site

www.uchida.co.jp/overseas

Contact:

Atsushi Sawada

Uchida Yoko Co., Ltd. is one of the leading companies in the field of office furniture and equipment in Japan, established in 1910 and celebrating our centennial anniversary. On this occasion, we introduce innovative, yet cost-efficient multi-display workstation furniture dubbed D-MOLO+ for control and operational rooms, with modular construction for flexibility in the working environment arrangement. Along with state-of-theart ergonomics functionality, the PULSE chair developed with the technology of active balance seating provides daylong comfort in carrying out tasks. The previous version D-MOLO without dock port and PC wagons is widely used in world-leading OA and computer companies, as well as major companies in the internet industry. D-MOLO and D-MOLO+ will change your office with new technology.

S’International Architects Co., Ltd. is a first-class architecture and design company with group companies EPC (Europe Promotion Centre - real estate) and Enterprise K.K. (construction). We have a track record of over 30 years in Japan, producing high-quality building projects ranging from large-scale offices, office interiors, high-end retail, to residential and hotel/resort structures, as well as master planning. Our ideas stem from the needs of the clients, and our solutions are rooted in the creativity and unique vision we possess of the building environment. Whether it be working on feasibility studies to give the client the best solution for developing a property, re-creating the office to sustain new eco-trends and the creation of “in-formal” spaces, or designing 43-storey buildings with gardens in the sky – our solutions for your ideas benefit you, your clients, and your community. At SIA we believe that we change by changing that which surrounds us.

Join + support EBC members can not only learn about important changes taking place in Japan, but also play a critical role in influencing change themselves.

To join the EBC visit

www.ebc-jp.com For more information please contact the EBC Secretariat. Alison Murray, EBC Executive Director. Tel: 03-3263-6222. E-mail: ebc@gol.com

Interior Design and Home/Office Furniture // Special Advertising Section

Okamura Corporation / foreign corporation branch office


PROMOTION

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info@asij.ac.jp

http://community.asij.ac.jp


EVENT REPORT

Doubledip? Dr Joerg Kraemer, chief economist of Commerzbank

The world economic outlook 24 August 2010, German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan

I

Text and photo TONY MCNICOL s the world heading back into recession? That was the big question posed at a German Chamber of Commerce and Industry event at The Westin Tokyo last month. There to answer it with a keeneyed look at the risks facing the global economy was Dr Joerg Kraemer, chief economist of Commerzbank. The picture is changing almost every day – and mostly for the worse. As Arno Tomowski, president of the German Chamber, noted in his introduction: “When we planned this event we didn’t expect [the economy] to still be in such a critical situation.” Yet Kraemer’s analysis of the situation was surprisingly optimistic. “I don’t think we will fall back into recession,” he said, forecasting a “soft patch” instead. In Germany at least there is some real justification for optimism. Not long ago the “sick man” of Europe, Germany is now a powerhouse, significantly outperforming other European economies. Nor is the situation in the United States quite as bad as many people believe, Kraemer argued. The recent upward revision of the

United States savings rate, and the fact that “the US economy has done a lot to balance its imbalances” are reasons to doubt there will be a double-dip. China is another worry, and “the big risk is house prices,” said Kraemer. But incomes in China have been rising faster than property prices. “I hesitate to call this a broad-based bubble as in the States,” he said. While the picture is far from pretty in the eurozone, Spain, Italy and Greece have already “over-delivered” through stringent measures to reduce budget deficits – something not yet recognised by a “cynical” market, said Kraemer. Next year will be critical for the European economy and much will depend on whether the weakest countries are able to sustain reform. The euro itself is safe, but he expects the number of EU members to be fewer five or 10 years from now. Over the short term, “we will continue to be in a low-growth environment” and “the era of low-interest rates is by no means over”. Will the euro remain weak? Yes, believes Kraemer, at least until

WHEN WE PLANNED THIS EVENT WE DIDN’T EXPECT [THE ECONOMY] TO STILL BE IN SUCH A CRITICAL SITUATION the US economy and the dollar regain strength. And cautious investors will continue to “flirt with the double-dip”. And what of Japan, asked one attendee looking for a local perspective? Kraemer had little to say, other than that Japan and Germany have some things in common; both suffered an unusually sharp downturn, then export-led recoveries – and both are heavily reliant on China. Clearly the third-largest economy in the world played a relatively minor role in the Commerzbank analyst’s account. Perhaps that was the most telling comment on Japan’s predicament. September 2010

47


Text NOZOMU KAWAMOTO Photos TONY MCNICOL

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September 2010


C U LT U R E S H O C K

Arriving in Japan three decades ago wasn’t easy for Søren M. Chr. Bisgaard, a Danish-born master of the Urasenke school of the tea ceremony. Even though he had already travelled to 30 countries – including many parts of Asia – he found Japan to be a different type of brew. “Things were completely different here,” Bisgaard recalls. “Figuring out what was going on was a challenge. But I did it the hard way. I embraced Japan on its own terms. And when you approach something with sincerity, with an open mind, and a certain amount of humbleness, it reveals itself to you.” The effort to adjust and learn the culture has paid off for the Dane, who lives in Kyoto. Since enrolling as a student in Urasenke’s international division many years ago, he I COULD SPEND has devoted himself to the study of tea MY TIME MAKING and now teaches Japanese and nonMONEY, BUT THEN Japanese students, I WOULD HAVE both in Japan and other countries. He TO COMPROMISE has cultivated a very close relationship … I MAY BE POOR with the school, having received his AS A RESULT, BUT chamei (or tea name) WHAT I HAVE YOU directly from the then grand tea master. CANNOT BUY “The tea ceremony is one of the greatest achievements of Japanese culture,” says Bisgaard. “The quality of the tea itself is the very best, and the fact that you imbibe the whole leaf in its powdered form insures you get all the health benefits. The philosophical and aesthetic values central to the way of tea are a true contribution to humanity that can be shared with people in other cultures to enrich their lives.” For Bisgaard, tea is much more

than a drink to be enjoyed in the tea room. “The way of tea is a way of life, an opportunity to share something very beautiful and elevating with others,” he says. “That care, attention, and concentration should be something you practice constantly, not only in the tea room but in everything you do.” There are four guiding principles in the tea ceremony – wa, kei, sei, and jaku – each representing one of the cultural and religious traditions of Japan. “Wa, or harmony, must be honoured at all costs,” Bisgaard notes. “This means harmonising oneself with the laws of nature, not consuming more than we need and producing as little waste as possible. This is a Taoist idea.” Kei is derived from Confucianism and means respect. Showing respect for those older or in higher positions creates a mutually beneficial cycle. “Where there is respect from below, those above will show benevolence.

“In the tea ceremony, there is respect for both the host and the guest, as well as for the utensils used. Ultimately, this leads to respect for wisdom.” Sei means purity: pure in mind, pure in body, and pure in spirit. “The tea room is a perfect expression of this concept,” Bisgaard says, “and you also find it at Shinto shrines, where the first thing you do is to go to a water basin and wash your hands and mouth. This is symbolic of washing off the dust of the world.” The last principle is jaku, or tranquillity, a Buddhist notion. “The mind should be completely quiet, with no desires and no thinking, like a pond without ripples. Only then will the water reflect your own true nature.” Bisgaard’s appreciation for the harmonious lifestyle has dampened desire for worldly wealth. “I could spend my time making money, but then I would have to compromise and do things that I don’t agree with. “I may be poor as a result, but what I have you cannot buy. As long as I’m practicing the tea ceremony I am at peace with myself and doing something that other people may appreciate. And somehow I feel that’s enough. There’s no safety net whatsoever. I trust in the divinity of nature itself.” September 2010

49


Richard Kracklauer EBC Automotive Components Committee chair and president of ZF Japan

I

Interview and photo TONY MCNICOL ’ve been chair of the Automotive Components Committee, which is made up of European auto-parts suppliers, since 2003. Unlike many other EBC committees, we have no particular deregulation issues, but we are working hard to increase sales to the Japanese car industry. European auto-parts suppliers deal with Japanese manufacturers all around the world: in the United States, China and India, for example. Yet, one of our main difficulties with Japanese car manufacturers is that we still have to go through their headquarters in Japan – even to supply plants overseas. So to convince them of our strengths and capabilities, we need a strong sales and engineering force here. In Japan you have to follow the Japanese rules. Industrial standards are different to those in Europe, and often we have to translate documents into the local language – something we wouldn’t do in China or India. European suppliers have a pool of knowledge relating to car manufacturing all over the world, as they work with companies everywhere. Japanese suppliers, on the other hand, mainly deal with Japanese car manufacturers, and the procedures are set up for Japanese suppliers. Many manufacturers have used the same suppliers for 30 to 50 years. This means that, as a foreign supplier, you have to do things the same way or you will be out of the game. Japanese companies are sometimes not very eager to accept and learn from the experiences of European suppliers. They are set up for the Japan situation, although that isn’t what they need to work in Europe or Asia where circumstances are different. European companies have knowledge of the global 50

September 2010

market – that’s their advantage. As the Japanese population decreases and car manufacturers here become more dependent on exports, they will need that knowledge to grow. When European companies adapt to the Japanese way of working it shouldn’t mean presenting themselves as bad copies of Japanese companies. They have to bring European spirit, attitudes, work style, as well as product knowledge. That is what Japanese customers are looking for. The representatives of such companies must understand both cultures. When I speak with top managers at Japanese car manufacturers, we discuss recent events in Japan – say sumo scandals, as well as political and environmental issues. At the same time, they expect me to talk about business and culture in Europe – how Europe deals with problems that Japan is also facing, or such things as Wagner’s operas. Commitment to Japan, of course, is important. You cannot send someone on a short-term assignment (and by short I mean even five years). I believe that Japanese businessmen seek a long relationship with someone who has a good foundation of knowledge about both cultures. Yet, it’s increasingly difficult to find such people. Young managers often want to go to up-and-coming markets such as China or India. Very few candidates we see can already speak Japanese. As you know, the Japanese language is not something you can learn quickly. It’s a very long process. When I worked for BMW, they invested heavily in helping me learn the language. They knew it would be essential that I could read what my colleagues and staff were writing. If you can’t read your co-workers’ reports, web

pages or documents, you cannot tell them when they are wrong. You will not be recognised by your staff. It’s also hard to get capable Englishspeaking Japanese staff. We are a global business and we require English ability; our staff has to deal with people all over the world. But if we get some people who speak English, of course other companies also want them. I came to Japan in the ’80s but even before that, in 1974, I joined a karate dojo in Germany to learn goju-ryu karate (literally, hard and soft style). It has been very useful to me in both business and daily life in Japan. You cannot always go in hard; you have to use other forms of strength. While negotiating, for example, sometimes you have to attack very hard at first, but then immediately adopt a softer stance so your opponent doesn’t lose face. I joined a dojo here and I have learned a lot from other members. Some are in their seventies and still practicing karate. You should not underestimate them. Most of them are not in the automotive industry, and hearing how they operate in different industries has been useful for me. Now I hold an administrative position within the karate organisation. The other members actually use me as a reformer and catalyst – to change things that they could not among themselves. By themselves, they have the power to implement change, but usually end up in a stalemate. In my industry, it’s similar. It’s difficult to change something. You have to push the issue and be straightforward. But if you can see eye-to-eye, are competent, and have knowledge of both cultures, eventually you will be accepted.


TA L K I N G E U R O B I Z

YOU CANNOT ALWAYS GO IN HARD; YOU HAVE TO USE OTHER FORMS OF STRENGTH

September 2010

51


Great balls of

fire Photos and text TONY MCNICOL

52

September 2010


LENS FLAIR

Each yonshakudama shell made by Katakai Fireworks weighs 420kg or, “about the same as two sumo wrestlers,” says CEO Masanori Honda. During a fireworks festival held each September not far from the Niigata company, two of the 120cm diameter behemoths are blasted into the air to explode in 800m-wide balls of fire. Honda’s company makes about 100,000 fireworks a year. Each sturdy concrete building in the compound – generously spaced out for safety – houses a different part of the manufacturing process. Yet, for such hazardous work, the plant is surprisingly serene, lovingly landscaped with flower beds and a water feature. In spring the cherry trees burst into spectacular bloom. The CEO gestures towards an innocuous-looking tray of grey material. It is gunpowder-coated cork, laid out to dry in the sun. “Enough to kill 10 people if it went off,” he says matter-of-factly. Then we move on to the factory’s most dangerous location – the chemical mixing room – where Honda politely asks me to switch off my high-voltage flash. It just might, he says, ignite airborne particles of explosive. I don’t need to be told twice. See all the photographs at www.eurobiz.jp

September 2010

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Turn your intuition into beauty ࣬Over 3,500 colours available ࣬Superior performance ࣬Green and smart paints ࣬Professional painting contract BenjaminMoore AOYAMA Flagship 2-22-19 Minami-AoyamaMinato-ku ,Tokyo TEL 03-6440-0825 info@benjaminmoore.co.jp


EVENTS

Upcoming events Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Japan

French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan

www.blccj.or.jp

www.ccifj.or.jp

Belgian Beer Weekend in Tokyo*

Overview on compensation market trends in Japan

10-12 September, Friday-Saturday, 11:00-21:00 (F: 16:00-) Venue: Roppongi Hills Arena Contact: www.belgianbeerweekend.jp/en * Organisers: Belgian Beer Weekend Tokyo Committee and the BLCCJ

Delighting customers in Japan IX* 7 October, Thursday, from 16:30 Venue: NYK (Nippon Yusen Kaisha), 15F Speakers: Tim van den Bossche, Agfa Graphics Asia president; Naoto Muraoka, Honda Motor GM, external affairs division; Frederic Lucron, Tokyo Bay Hilton Hotel GM Fee: to be confirmed Contact: info@blccj.or.jp or 03-6457-8662 * 9th seminar in a series

British Chamber of Commerce in Japan www.bccjapan.com

Networking: 51 night 16 September, Thursday, 19:00-21:00 Venue: Trader Vic’s, New Otani, Garden Tower 4F Fee: ¥4,000 (members & non-members)* Contact: 03-3267-1901 * 3 drinks and food

Danish Chamber of Commerce in Japan www.dccj.org

Social monthly stambord get-together 6 October, Wednesday, from 18:30 Venue: Bar Ma Chambre, Izumi Garden Tower Fee: no cover charge Contact: dccjsocial@gmail.com

Finnish Chamber of Commerce in Japan

27 September, Monday, 12:30-14:00 Speaker: Cathy Loose, head of sales and strategy, Asia-Pacific, information product solutions, Mercer Japan Ltd. Venue: CCIFJ meeting room Fee: ¥3,000 (bento & drink) Contact: reservation@ccifj.or.jp

Soirée de Gala* 15 November, Monday, 18:30-22:30 Venue: ANA InterContinental Tokyo Fee: ¥35,000 (members), ¥45,000 (guests) Contact: Toru Moriyama, 03-3288-9633, pub@ccifj.or.jp

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Welcome back aperitif

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* Dinner by Pierre Gagnaire, live entertainment includes Sylvie Vartan and Julien Doré, raffle

Netherlands Chamber of Commerce in Japan

16 September, Thursday, 19:00-21:00 Venue: Fiat Caffé, Kita-Aoyama Fee: ¥4,000 (members), ¥5,000 (non-members) Contact: nccj@nccj.jp or 045-625-6363 (tel/fax)

Swedish Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan www.sccj.org/

Annual crayfish party 17 September, Friday Venue: Restaurant Stockholm Fee: to be confirmed* Contact: office@sccj.org * limited to 70 people

www.fcc.or.jp/

Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan

Silver market in Japan

www.sccij.jp

29 September, Wednesday, 12:00-14:00 Speakers: Dr Florian Kohlbacher, head of business and economics section, German Institute for Japanese Studies; and Jutta Immanen-Pöyry, head of R&D unit, SendaiFinland Wellbeing Center Venue: Hotel Okura, Kensington Terrace (South Wing, 12F) Fee: ¥6,000 Contact: fccj@gol.com

SCCIJ Luncheon 15 September, Wednesday, 12:00-14:00 Speaker: Urs Bucher, designated ambassador Venue: ANA InterContinental Tokyo Fee: ¥8,000 (members) Contact: ssij@gol.com)

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European Chambers Cocktail Party* 14 September, Tuesday, 18:30-21:00 Venue: The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, hotel ballroom, 2F Fee: ¥7,000 (members), ¥8,000 (non-members) Contact: respective chamber office * organised by CCIFJ

Mercedes-Benz Japan Cup 2010* 1 October, Friday, 08:30 (start) Venue: Atsugi Kokusai Country Club Fee: ¥24,000 Contact: www.dccgolf-japan.com (by 17 September * 8th annual golf challenge between North America and Europe, organised by EBC and ACCJ

September 2010

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WORK PLACE

Jan De Bock Managing partner, trainspot Creative concept marketers, trainspot KK, are based in an old Asakusabashi tobacco warehouse. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It took us three years to find this place, and four months to convince the owner to let us convert it into an office.â&#x20AC;? www.trainspotfactory.jp/

Photo TONY MCNICOL

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September 2010


EURObiZ Japan September 2010  

EURObiZ Japan September 2010

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