Terrie's Take 702 -- New JTA Campaign -- What Makes Japan Unique is Japanese Themselves, ebiz news from Japan

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Sun Mar 17 22:58:54 JST 2013

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, Mar 17, 2013, Issue No. 702


- What's New -- New JTA Campaign -- What Makes Japan Unique is Japanese
- News -- Japan's entry to TPP may be bad for others
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- Ukraine non-GMO beans safe?
- Travel Picks -- Cool bridge in Ibaraki, Books in Jinbocho
- News Credits

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In July 2012, we received an email from the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA),
asking us if we'd like to serve on an advisory panel for a new JTA video
project helping to promote Japan overseas. While not being overly
enthusiastic about Japan's bureaucracy, any effort it makes to include
regular people, and particularly non-Japanese in the decision-making, is to
be applauded and is worth supporting. Besides, watching the processes of
the bureaucracy up close is entertaining, if not a little bit time

So it was that we were drafted on to the advisory panel with 7 other
foreigners, the Vice President of Tokyo University, a former special
advisor to the PM, and a branding expert. The panel's main focus was a
video series, dubbed internally as the "Universal Appeal of Japan". The
engagement ran for 5 months and finally culminated last Friday in the
launch of the JTA's new media offering  -- a massive collection of 160
videos -- that has been turned loose on the Internet.

The advisory panel's job was to give feedback from a foreigner's point of
view (the panelists were mainly from Asia, Europe, and North America) on
the project that the JTA had already scoped out -- that of increasing
Japan's appeal abroad by differentiating it as a destination. In light of
the less-than-successful "Yokoso Japan" campaign, this time around they
wanted to give Japan a very definable image. Something that would be
recognized, resonate, and be persistent in the viewer's mind. This is of
course a critical mission if Japan is to improve tourism numbers, because
even with 8.3m people visiting in 2012, in 2011 Japan still only ranked
39th in the world and 10th in Asia in terms of desirability as a tourist

[Continued below...]

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This challenge to differentiate and be sticky in the minds of potential
travelers of course something that every country faces, and is nicely
portrayed by Simon Anholt, a noted British policy advisor. In the 2009
Handbook on Tourism Destination Branding, he said, "Today, every country,
city and region on earth must compete with every other for its share of the
world’s commercial, political, social and cultural transactions in what is
virtually a single market. As in any busy marketplace, brand image becomes
critical: almost nobody has the time, the patience or the expertise to
understand the real differences between the offerings of one country and
another, and so people fall back on their fundamental beliefs and
prejudices about those countries to help them make their decisions. Just as
in the commercial marketplace, the brand image provides a short cut to a
buying decision.”

So Japan has to make itself memorable, and yet scathing criticisms of the
government's tourism messages until now tell how far they have been from
getting it right. Comments such as, "...lacks creativity", "Europeans still
think of Japan as a nation of Samurai", through to "PR saying 'Japan has
everything' is equivalent to advertising nothing". So it's no wonder that
this time around the JTA wanted to do something different and to break the
me-too mold.

As a panel, we were told that we needed to help the JTA define what makes
Japan different. That's a pretty big request, and one that frankly could be
argued over for years. However, the JTA did do a pretty good job of
recruiting its panel members (with the possible exception of ourselves?),
and some perspicacious discussion led the group to quickly realize that the
biggest differentiator is not really cherry blossoms and temples, but
rather the Japanese themselves. This country is uniquely different in that
its citizens' values are what makes it safe, service-oriented, clean,
orderly, visually stimulating, meticulous, sometimes weird, and very very

So the decision was made to focus on people rather than buildings or
scenery. After that we needed to come up with three major themes (why, in
marketing do things come in three's?) and we decided that they should be
Japanese relationships, the making of products and foods infused with
Japanese attention to detail, and lifestyle. These points may sound
obvious, but they are also really are great differentiators, and are easy
to convey in a consumer's short attention span. Indeed, just as Anholt said
and as we know from search engine optimization, you build on what your
customers already know and recognize if you want to improve "yield" on the

The JTA used an NHK team to shoot the videos. We feel sorry for the NHK
guys, actually, because it wasn't until January that the panel provided a
clear idea of what the videos should convey, then a mere 6 weeks to produce
160 of them. We imagine that there were some very sleepless nights over in
Shibuya as they worked on the project! Another meeting in late February saw
the panel view some of the prototypes and critique them further, mostly as
missing the mark. Actually, that meeting was quite interesting, because it
ran like a good kabuki play. There was the tentative NHK presentation, the
reprimand from a high placed person that it wasn't good enough, ensuing
concern about how to meet the deadline, then finally a promise to create
something really memorable and make up for the deficit.

We didn't get to see the 160 finalized videos until the launch day, the
primary video in particular -- which had to be  dramatically changed from
the previous version. We're happy to report, though, that it's quite good,
and the JTA can scarcely be accused of not trying to do something different
this time. Given that these videos will be used for about 3-4 years,
they're important, and time will tell if JTA got it right. We're keeping
our fingers crossed that they are a success -- Japan needs more foreign

As another sign that the JTA folks are trying to change their mindset, the
launch event was held at the Surge Tank for the Tokyo Metropolitan Outer
Underground Discharge Channel. Never heard of it? Well, it is a legitimate
tourist attraction (although you have to book ahead to see it). The Surge
Tank is a massive (and we do mean massive -- think football stadium sized)
underground holding tank design to hold overflow flood waters collected
from 5 other rivers and pumped up to 7km to the Kusakabe facility before
being discharged in to the Edogawa. Being 50m underground, it was darned
cold for the launch event, but we had to agree that it certainly was an
original place to announce the nation's 2013 tourism initiative.


...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Norway does well on Japan stocks
- Japan's entry to TPP may be bad for others
- 160,000 Malaysian tourists expected in 2013
- Chinese trainee kills CEO and one other
- Public prosecutor clerk charged with leaking information

=> Norway does well on Japan stocks

There must be some very happy people at the Government Pension Fund of
Norway right now. Apparently the fund held around JPY2trn in Japanese
stocks as of the end of December, a fund which now would be worth at least
30% more, based on the Nikkei's closing on Friday at 12,500. The index was
at 10,400 on the last day of 2012. The Norwegians appear to like Japan and
have about more than half of their foreign holdings here. They particularly
like Toyota, and hold JPY87.9bn in that one company alone. (Source: TT
commentary from e.nikkei.com, Mar 15, 2013)

(The Nikkei, March 15 morning edition)


=> Japan's entry to TPP may be bad for others

Very good article on the NZ website Scoop.co.nz, about the other side of
the coin in terms of Japan joining the TPP talks. While in Japan's press
you read about how the Japanese will be hard done by for coming to the
talks late, in fact, the Kiwi commentators are saying something quite
different. According to them, the Americans are altering the rules for
joining the talks so as to accommodate the Japanese, and because of the
various agricultural exemptions that Japan is expected to ask for, this may
be quite deleterious to dairy and beef producers such as Australia and NZ.
(Source: TT commentary from scoop.co.nz, Mar 13, 2013)


=> 160,000 Malaysian tourists expected in 2013

Ten years after Japan loosened restrictions on visa applications for
Malaysians, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) says that it
expects about 160,000 Malaysians to visit Japan for tourism, up 23% from
last year's 130,267. Hopes are high because the Malaysian Tour Agents
Association (MATTA) have nominated Japan as the top destination for
overseas travel this year. ***Ed: Of course the regular low-cost flights by
AirAsia are also probably a significant contributor to the increasing
numbers. JPY5,000 one-way is very compelling.** (Source: TT commentary from
thestar.com.my, Mar 15, 2013)


=> Chinese trainee kills CEO and one other

Details are still sparse, but a Chinese "trainee" in his 30's has
apparently killed his company owner and a female manager, and injured five
others, in a fit of rage. The trainee (generally a euphemism for manual
work 'slave') was scolded on a daily basis by the boss and manager and just
couldn't take it any more. The attack occurred near Hiroshima, at an oyster
shucking factory. (Source: TT commentary from globalpost.com, Mar 14, 2013)


=> Public prosecutor clerk charged with leaking information

Some things don't change, and being a girlfriend to a Yakuza is not
something you would expect to turn out well. Sure enough, a 30-year old
clerk at the Shizuoka District Public Prosecutor’s Office has been charged
with passing on confidential information to her Yakuza-linked boyfriend
concerning his friend's “deri-heru” (Delivery Health Massage) pimping
business. The woman has apparently moved between a number of Prosecutor's
offices, passing on tips about investigations for some time. ***Ed: The
ultimate definition of "pillow talk"?** (Source: TT commentary from
japantimes.co.jp, Mar 14, 2013)


NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days of
posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the inconvenience.



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In this section we run comments and corrections submitted by readers. We
encourage you to spot our mistakes and amplify our points, by email, to
editors at terrie.com.

=> In TT-701 we ran a story about the fact that Sojitz is now importing
non-GMO soybeans from the Ukraine. Although there are health fears in Japan
about GMO products, one alert reader points out that it's not just GMO you
have to worry about.

*** Reader: Regarding your story in TT-701 about the non-GMO soybeans, I
have no expertise in the field, however, I'd have to say that on the face
of it, it seems like a good sourcing alternative for Japan -- but with one
proviso: you gotta hope there's no radiation there, either...

I know Ukraine's a big country, but it has "history". This is on my mind
because I'm reading, "Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the
World's Most Polluted Places."



=> Takahagi's Hananuki Valley, Ibaraki
Gorgeous views from a suspension bridge in the woods

If you prefer a little less touristic atmosphere to your outdoor
adventures, then perhaps Takahagi’s Hananuki Valley would be just what
you’re looking for. About an hour south of Daigo, the area is well known
for its natural beauty, but has a far more sparing human presence.

The main draw of Hananuki Valley is a long suspension bridge crossing the
narrow gorge, giving a lovely view of a small bubbling brook through the
changing leaves. The best time of year to visit is clearly autumn, when the
Japanese maple trees are in their full scarlet regalia; the other seasons
have their own charms, but it’s hard to deny the stunning contrast that the
colors add to the view. Once you exit the parking lot there is a bit of a
walk to reach the bridge, and once on the other side there is a short
hiking trail that winds through the woods around to the other side of the
brook and back to the beginning. The bridge itself can be fun for those who
enjoy a bit of a thrill; though not very high it does sway with each step
and can make taking pictures a bit difficult.


=> Jinbocho, Tokyo
Tokyo's Rare Book Paradise

Do you have a thirst for books about avant-garde art movements? Insect
taxonomy? Early modern maps? Forgotten children's literature? Obscure
occult sects? There are specialty stores in Tokyo devoted solely to these
topics, but what's amazing is that all these specialty bookstores and many,
many more are located in a single neighborhood called Jinbocho.

Jinbocho is usually a turn-off for tourists and idle expats since a fair
amount of Japanese knowledge is required to browse and read. When I wax
lyrical about this neighborhood, I am typically asked, "but are there
English bookstores?" The answer is yes, if you know where to find them, or
have the patience to scan the alleyways until you see one. My personal
favorite foreign language store is Oshima Shoten, located at Jinbocho's
easternmost corner. Despite its cramped 50-square-foot size, about 1/50 the
size of a Barnes and Noble, it is packed from floor to ceiling with
fascinating and fantastic English titles you've never heard of, and I have
never been there without taking something home.




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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)

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