Terrie's Take 930 - Alishan, the Organic Food Pioneers in Japan, ebiz news in Japan

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Sun Feb 4 22:19:28 JST 2018

* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term 
technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

General Edition Sunday, Feb 04, 2018, Issue No. 930

- What's New -- Alishan, the Organic Food Pioneers in Japan
- News -- Robbed of US$523m, Coincheck says it will pay everyone back
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Sushi at Haneda, Yoshidamachi in Yokohama
- News Credits

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Alishan, the Organic Food Pioneers in Japan

One of the delights of living in Japan is meeting other non-Japanese 
entrepreneurs who are happy in their skin and who are contributing to 
make peoples' lives better in their adopted country - and better still, 
without making a fuss about it. They are Japan's unsung foreign-born 
heroes. Two such people are Jack Bayles and Fay Chen, a couple who have 
been instrumental in helping Japanese discover organic and healthy foods 
even as the nation forgets its own heritage and takes on a Western diet.

And yes, for everyday food the Japanese really are forgetting their food 
heritage. It's weird because overseas the media talk in reverent tones 
about the "Japanese Diet" by which of course they mean fish, veges, 
whole soy products, etc. But in reality, the diet consumed by most 
Japanese these days is highly Westernized, centered on high intakes of 
meat, sugars, and processed foods. In fact, in 2011 the government's 
Internal Affairs ministry announced that Japanese families for the first 
time spent more on bread than they did on rice. Unfortunately what they 
call bread is usually a denatured chemical sponge... and is one reason 
why metabolic syndrome is on the rise.

An interesting diet experiment conducted by researchers at the Japan 
Women's University in Tokyo and Kewpie last year took 33 middle-aged 
(30-49 years old) men with standard modern diets and who also ranked 
high for cardiovascular disease risk factors. The researchers put the 
subjects on a strict, old fashioned Japanese Diet for 6 weeks, and by 
the end of the experiment a convincing 91.9% experienced one or more 
reductions in body weight, BMI, and waist circumference, leptin 
concentration, LDL-cholesterol, plasma glucose and insulin 
concentrations, and other factors. In other words they got a lot healthier.

http://bit.ly/2EfSuNF [The 2017 pilot study report]

The Bayles family (Jack, Fay, and their two adult kids, Jay and Kay) 
have made it their mission to educate and support the Japanese public so 
that consumers can keep the foreign-inspired flavors that motivates so 
many young moms these days, but also have a diet which offers the same 
levels of nutrition that their traditional farm diets would have 
afforded in the past. We interviewed Jack Bayles, to find out what got 
him into the organic food business, what his biggest challenges are, how 
he and Fay are dealing with succession planning, and strategies for 
dealing with competition from international big brands.

[Jack Bayles Interview]

TT: Why organic foods and why in Japan?

Jack: I was trained in Animal and Veterinary Sciences. Since childhood I 
have always been interested in the effects and preparation of food. 
Early on I was a big fan of home-canning and small home businesses that 
made "killer" [Ed: killer tastes] jam, pickles or whatever, and who were 
selling it from road side stands.

In early 80's after traveling on a shoe string budget through Africa and 
Asia, I just happened to meet some like minded folks in Japan, stayed on 
a bit, and discovered the joys of collecting, restoring, and exporting 
Japanese folk craft abroad - particularly scrolls and antiques. I 
received an excellent hands-on education in shipping logistics and I 
applied this knowledge to importing natural foodstuffs for myself and my 
friends (we were all vegetarians). From there it seemed only natural to 
start a mail order service and supply others in the same boat. Being a 
vegetarian in Japan was not so easy back then.

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[...Article continues]

TT: How did you and Fay meet, and out of interest, with both of you in 
the business who's the boss in the family?

Jack: She ran a hotel in the village of Alishan, about half way up the 
highest mountain in Taiwan, Mt. Yushan. Her place was famous on the 
travelers' trail (pre-Internet of course). I stayed there and was 
impressed by her outgoing personality and confidence. A year later we 
bumped into each other in Bangkok flying on the same flight to Hong Kong 
and we started hanging out. As an aside - our first date in Hong Kong 
was at the upmarket Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, for for tea. I 
don't think she knew that, in reality, I was living in the Chunking 
Mansions in a 10 person bunk room!

The boss? Well, Fay is COO of our company for sure. From our original 
antique business until now, she was the one who made sure we sent out 
invoices AND got paid. My role is one of international communicator and 
chief philosophical officer (smile)!

TT: Why is organic food growing in popularity here?

Jack: Japanese as a culture are deeply interested in what they consume. 
As a country that has the highest application rate of pesticide and 
miscellaneous other "-cides" in the world, I think many people are 
starting to wake up to the idea that what goes on the plants also goes 
in some small dose into your stomach. In the future anyone who can 
afford it will choose to eat foods with lower chemical loads, and 
furthermore will be eating a more plant-focused rather than meat/fish 
focused diet.

Until recently organic food really only registered with people on the 
cutting edge, but over the last few years, perhaps prompted by the 
Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, the population of cutting edge 
people is expanding. This is a good thing and the authorities should not 
keep the Japanese public ignorant about what goes into their food. At 
the moment, Japanese food labeling is pretty poor from the consumer's 
perspective. Overseas there is mandated labeling of each product's 
contents, for example, by % (Australia) and/or the amount of added sugar 
(USA), rather than just a total measure of sugar present.

TT: What is the biggest challenge to importing organic foods?

Jack: The global organic market is massive. Here in Japan, one of our 
biggest challenges is dealing with the short shelf life for imports, 
because of shipping times and of course the natural state of the 
product. Most Japanese large account retailers want 50% remaining shelf 
life time when they buy a product, so if you have a 12-month total shelf 
life and it takes two months to get the product into Japan, then you 
only have four months to sell it in.

TT: Who are your biggest clients and why?

Jack: Our foundation is built on commercial accounts of  with motivated 
natural food stores. These stores are typically located in middleclass 
to upper income urban/suburban areas where there are near the  commuter 
train stations.

TT: What are your biggest products and why?

Jack: Products related to breakfast. Our company's first legal imports 
were peanut butter and granola. We're still with our original suppliers 
because at almost every event we display at, we get someone coming up 
and commenting, "...oh your peanut butter is so good!"

TT: What is your biggest competitive threat today?

Jack: Amazon looks like it could crush the retail food distribution 
system as we know it - although unless the food import application and 
regulations change, they will still have to buy the product from 
someone. Our products are already widely available online both at Amazon 
and elsewhere.

TT: In 10 years time?

Jack: That our cutting edge consumers can't pass their enthusiasm for a 
good diet to their friends, families, and neighborhoods - that the 
conscious connection between good diet and health and personal success 
is lost. Not a conspiracy, but due to many contributing factors 
including the rise in convenience food and pseudo "health food", the 
Japanese are slowly being "de-educated" about buying food from people 
they trust, sourced from places they know, and known to be safe and 

Related to this, the Japanese government appears to be moving to open up 
imports, reducing testing and documentation requirements, and thus 
exposing the country's consumers to predatory producers in countries 
with little or no interest in product quality and control. To be clear, 
I believe some consumer protection activity and control is necessary - 
because there really are some unscrupulous suppliers out there.

TT: When did Alishan go online?

Jack: We were an early mover and had a shop online in the mid-90's, with 
code written by Fay's brother. But over the years as our wholesale side 
has grown so strongly we didn't allocate the necessary resources to keep 
the consumer site in top shape. I'm pleased to say, though, that 
recently we completely renewed the shopping cart and it is much faster, 
cleaner and easier to use. The actual homepage design will also receive 
a total make over in March, so stay tuned.

http://bit.ly/2E1BiIB [Alishan store URL]

TT: How did you put together your team? Any people with amazing talents?

Jack: We're a family company and so we rarely outsource - we like to do 
everything ourselves if we can. Whether it's container loading at 
source, governmental documentation, warehousing, repacking, wholesaling 
and retailing, or staffing the café - it's best you enjoy physical work 
if you'd join Alishan...!

We are a women-friendly company and many of the ladies who joined us as 
simple baggers, packers, and labelers 28 years ago are still with us - 
in more stimulating roles of course. Our staff helped us create an 
environment that made Fay and I want to have our children grow up in 
Japan. Although our kids got their tertiary educations abroad, they're 
back in Japan now, and the main reason is our family focus on providing 
good food. So, yes, at the heart of our business we are a family, and 
when our staff have issues at their own homes to deal with - parents, 
children, etc., we let them take whatever time is needed.

TT: Amazing talents?

Jack: I would have to say, my wife Fay. She has been astounding over 
these 30 years (we incorporated in September 1988). I have lots of 
ideas, from visions and passions and connections I receive worldwide. 
But someone has to manage our team of 50. So when I am inspired to build 
a 4-story North American red barn in rural Saitama, I can organize the 
containers but it was Fay who organized the local permits, dealt with 
issues, and got the accommodation rented for the specialist carpenters 
we brought in. She kept everything moving along.

TT: How is the team reacting to your children being involved in the 

Jack: Luckily our staff are realizing that though we have been here 
since the beginning, we will not be here forever. I think at the start 
some staff forgot that Jay and Kay grew up inside the company and that 
they were unloading containers, labeling jars and helping the ladies 
since infanthood. Certainly now that they are back, they haven't needed 
all the training in all the departments as would be normal for a new hire.

More importantly, Jay and Kay have brought in a new product with a new 
way of communicating it... Lemonaid+. The story behind this is that 
before returning to Japan, Kay worked at a German Fair Trade, Organic, 
Low-Sugar beverage company with stunningly good presentation skills. She 
returned to Japan very excited and told us, "This is the real thing." 
This product is very attractive, and as an example, our son Jay was 
presenting to a major fashion house another food project we have, and 
the presentation was going NO WHERE. He then pivoted mid-meeting to 
discuss Lemonaid+ and everyone in the room got excited. The twist for 
this product is that separately to its Fair Trade certification, the 
maker also donates seven yen from each bottle purchase, to a foundation 
that invests in the rural communities the ingredients are sourced from. 
In 5 years those donations have risen to 3 million Euro. We're now 
starting our second year with the product and are already doing multiple 
containers per shipment season.

TT: So are the kids turning things upside down compared to how you have 
been doing things, and how do you and Fay feel about that?

Jack: Upside down may be one way to describe it, but in reality they are 
confronting us with an industry reality - that of urgency. If not now, 
then when? And why not NOW? They are also helping us strengthen our 
identity to a nationwide audience. Back in the day, Fay and I were deep 
into the community and we would set up all sorts of little festivals and 
events - our customers knew us. But as we have grown, we have gotten out 
less and our kids, Jay and Kay are discovering a massive group of people 
who know the name and recognize Alishan as the trusted original organic 
company - but know NOTHING about us. So we're now doing a lot more 
collaborations and outreach - which frankly is much more fun and and 
invigorating than counting beans.

As an example, one really fun event I'm looking forward to will be the 
Alishan Collaborative Dessert Night on February 23, from 7 to 12 in the 
evening (yes, this event runs late), at .Raw in Roppongi. Organic beer, 
wine, cocktails and Vegan desert by visiting Chef Prooofs Place from UK. 
There is more information on Alishan's Facebook page.

http://bit.ly/2s3JWEJ [Facebook page]
http://bit.ly/2EHckzn [.Raw restaurant page]

TT: Your countryside cafe is a success story in and of itself. What are 
the numbers and where are all those people coming from?

Jack: Winter is of course slow but with warm weather we easily fill our 
location multiple times a day. We can seat 60 guests on the riverside 
deck (we have a retractable canopy roof to protect them from the 
elements). In the flower season of September things can really go crazy, 
with over 500 customers a day at the peak! 50% of our customers come 
from more than 40 minutes away and on the weekends they typically come 
out from Tokyo. That's pretty impressive, as it's a 70-minute drive or 
train ride from inner Tokyo.

TT: What's the story behind your distinctive red wooden barn? How was 
that structure even allowed in Japan?

Jack: I am from New England where these barns are everywhere. We decided 
to make one in Japan so we sketched it out, got a Japanese 
engineer/architect to draw it up, and had to provide a mountain of 
building details, but finally the local city hall approved it. We bought 
insulated walls in from Washington State, all the beams (as in 
post-and-beam construction) were from British Columbia, all the doors, 
windows, and cabinets came from Portland Oregon, and the flooring was 
from Australia - Eucalyptus.

Everything arrived in seven massive 40-foot containers! To top it off, 
we had an international team of carpenters and roustabouts, and we built 
it in just 6 months. For anyone else considering this, a good tip is 
that we had all the beams and walls precut overseas so that they could 
be imported as a prefab with zero duty. The importation process itself 
was relatively easy because we had prepared an application with massive 
cross-referenced detail.

TT: How has Alishan been helping the local community? Is what you are 
doing a template for other foreigners living in rural areas?

Jack: Our business template is very simple - we believe in being 
self-financed at the start, then to have a unique product (perhaps our 
most important advantage) that you can be proud of, then invest the time 
to let the word get out. Of course, being in the food industry, we had 
the added advantage that we could eat what didn't sell.

As far as the local people are concerned, Alishan is always ready to 
support any group attempting to do good for the community be it in Japan 
or worldwide. Kids Cafes, ecological groups, peace studies, anti-nuclear 
groups, family suppers, etc. We provide high-value gift baskets of our 
organic foods for raffles or help out in refreshments. Most of the 
groups that ask are bi-cultural and actually I wish more purely local 
groups asked.

TT: Speaking of food and community, how did you get involved with Second 
Harvest, the food recycling organization?

Jack: Before the conception of Second Harvest Japan, Charles was 
organizing a summer party for the homeless men of the Sumidagawa 
riverside camps and I called him up and offered to donate some party 
goods. Since then I have gotten more involved because I love supplying 
food to people. Selling it or giving it away - both are deeply 
satisfying and fun. In fact being part of the logistical chain to give 
it away is the most fun of all.

TT: Lastly, What's your favorite cafe dessert?

Jack: Yawen's vegan walnut/apple/fig pie. It tastes incredibly good, but 
even more important is the ingredients used in it, which are organic 
dried fruits & nuts, are sourced from people I've known for decades.

Watch here:

Oh, but hey, Jack's Oatmeal Raisin Cookie is also hard to beat! It's 
secret is the infused orange flavor.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Smallest rocket launches satellite
- HIS Strange Cafe debuts robot barista
- Bottle of 50-year-old Yamazaki whisky sells for record
- Line stock price drops as it fails to deliver
- Robbed of US$523m, Coincheck says it will pay everyone back

=> Smallest rocket launches satellite

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has just set a record by 
launching a satellite on the smallest-ever rocket designed for payloads. 
The SS-520 carried up an equally small 35cm satellite called the 
TRICOM-1R to a geostationary orbit, to provide store-and-forward data 
relay and digital imaging. The satellite belongs to the University of 
Tokyo. ***Ed: Apparently these small rockets can carry payloads for as 
little as JPY500m per launch, making it possible for private telco's and 
mapping companies to have their own constellation of satellites.** 
(Source: TT commentary from engadget.com, Feb 3, 2018)


=> HIS Strange Cafe debuts robot barista

You've got to hand it to Sawada-san over at HIS, he really knows how to 
generate PR buzz. Following on the viral PR from the robot-enriched 
Henn-na Hotel at Huis Ten Bosch in Kyushu, the company now has a Henn-na 
Cafe in Shibuya (Tokyo). The robot is an arm and screen with cartoon 
eyes, named Sawyer. He isn't that engaging, but does apparently make a 
passable latte. In fact, he can also create cappucinos, hot chocolate, 
and green tea lattes. ***Ed: A coffee made by the robot costs JPY320, 
which means HIS won't be recovering its investment costs on human labor 
any time soon, but on the other hand, the line of eager photo-taking 
tourists will more than make up the costs in PR value.** (Source: TT 
commentary from abcnews.go.com, Feb 3, 2018)


=> Bottle of 50-year-old Yamazaki whisky sells for record

While we're on the subject of Japanese beverages, the phenomenal run on 
aged Japanese whiskies is still alive and well, as evidenced from the 
record price fetched for a single bottle of Suntory Yamazaki whisky 
auctioned by Sotheby's in Hong Kong last week. The bottle was the firm's 
50-year old top-of-the-line single malt limited edition, and sold for 
JPY32.6m (US$298,879). As a limited edition, the original bottle was one 
of just 150 bottles released in December 2011 when it sold for what 
seemed a high price at the time - JPY1,050,000. ***Ed: Demand for 
Japanese single malts is so great that even common bottles of Yamazaki 
whisky procured in Japan are selling for 3-4 times their original price 
online in Hong Kong and China. Great PR for Suntory of course.** 
(Source: TT commentary from japantimes.co.jp, Feb 01, 2018)


=> Line stock price drops as it fails to deliver

One of the challenges with having a megahit product is being able to 
follow up with other products later, so as to keep the revenue growth 
going and keep shareholders buying your stock. After aggregating 167m 
users of its Line messaging app, the company still hasn't cracked the 
upselling code needed to start converting those users into customers for 
its other products and services. The company reported disappointing 
results (a loss of JPY4bn in the last quarter) from its various venture 
investments, and shareholders promptly dumped the stock, causing Line's 
share price to drop 5.6% last Thursday. ***Ed: The company is 
desperately trying to find a niche in the AI and financial services 
spaces for itself, which fair enough, it managed to do in messaging in 
2011 despite the presence of Facebook and others. However, we get the 
feeling that they just don't have the advanced engineering horsepower to 
compete with the Facebooks and Googles of the world.*** (Source: TT 
commentary from bloomberg.com, Feb 01, 2018)


=> Robbed of US$523m, Coincheck says it will pay everyone back

Tokyo-based cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck was in the news last week 
after being hacked and suffering the theft of 523,000,000 XEM (NEM) 
coins - worth approximately US$523m. Following the obligatory public 
apologies and FSA raid, the company has surprisingly offered to 
reimburse all impacted investors. Roughly speaking this means paying out 
the full amount lost to over 260,000 customers. Securities experts are 
scratching their heads wondering how Coincheck will come up with this 
much money. ***Ed: The company is capitalized at just under JPY100m, so 
certainly it doesn't have the capital to pay this compensation. However, 
did anyone else notice that a co-founder of the company is none other 
than James Riney of 500 Startups Japan? Perhaps, with that kind of 
connection, the company has outside help on the way?** (Source: TT 
commentary from crowdfundinsider.com, Jan 28, 2018)


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.



--------- Australia/NZ Japan Travel Seminars --------------

Title: "Latests Trends in Japan's Inbound Travel Boom"
A series of free travel seminars in Australia and New Zealand, by Terrie 

Japan is in the midst of the world's largest inbound travel boom in the 
last 20 years. From 2011 until 2017, the number of inbound travelers has 
increased 450%, from 6.2m to 28m (estimated) by March 31st this year. 
What is exciting about this US$40bn+ travel boom is that more than 50% 
of the market is held by non-Japanese firms, and that means great 
opportunities for Australian and Kiwi firms as the growth continues.

As founder and CEO of one of Japan's top inbound travel sites, 
www.japantravel.com, Terrie Lloyd is at the forefront of the market, 
helping to make and shape trends as the market evolves. His particular 
focus is on repeat travelers, who now account for more than 55% of the 
flow, and who are demanding more specialist experiences that typically 
define a maturing market. His presentation will share the latest news on 
what trends are emerging, and where the opportunities lie for Australian 
and Kiwi firms.

Terrie will give some specific examples of new travel products and 
services now under development, particularly highlighting hiking and 
trekking trails in Kyushu, a still-underdeveloped part of Japan (read, 
low cost, great food, and no hordes of tourists)

Speaking Locations
* Seminars 1 & 2: Sydney, Australia, February 9, 17:30 in the Sydney CBD 
(Training room @ Level 4/20 Bond St, Sydney NSW 2000), and February 10 
18:00 at Quest Hotel at Sydney Olympic Park
* Seminar 3: Auckland, New Zealand, February 14, 16:00 at the Hobson 
Room, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Auckland

The seminars are free of charge. Other details will be confirmed as they 
come to hand. Interested attendees can reserve a space, by emailing us 
at jerome.lee at japantravel.com.


No events or corrections this week.



=> Ariso Sushi
Mouth-watering sushi at Haneda Airport

Ariso Sushi is not the average sushi parlor you see on every corner in 
Japan. Located at Haneda Airport's International Terminal, this 
restaurant is perfect for people craving a final taste of delectable 
sushi before they leave Japan, or those who cannot wait to hit the 
streets of Tokyo to look for a sushi outlet.

The sushi at Ariso lives up to its billing as "fresh and natural". Tuna 
belly is a common nigiri topping, but what's special about the one here 
is that you can feel it "melt" in your mouth. The fish is soft and easy 
on the palate, and even non-sushi connoisseurs can tell that this sushi 
is a cut above normal.

Mackerel (and horse mackerel) lovers are in for a treat as the saba and 
aji (Japanese for mackerel and horse mackerel respectively) nigiri are 
packed well and the fish is as fresh as you would expect. The mackerel 
is sourced straight from Kanagawa, while the horse mackerel is from 


=> Yoshidamachi: Drinking and Dining in Yokohama
Explore and bar hop in the lively neighborhood south of Tokyo

The Tokyo area is abundant with high profile drinking neighborhoods like 
Shibuya's Nonbei Yokocho and Shinjuku's Golden Gai. Great to experience 
once, these well-trafficked locations are often so filled with tourists 
and large crowds that visitors may have little chance to enjoy a 
conversation and drink.

This is where Yoshidamachi, the street walking, bar-hopping paradise 
comes into the picture. This well-kept secret for evening drinkers and 
night owls has an exciting selection of drinking destinations, an 
engaging local crowd and a rich history. Dating back to the 1850's when 
Japan first opened its ports to the western world, foreigners and locals 
have frequented Yoshidamachi for cultural exchange and festivities. 
Minutes from Tokyo Harbor, the well placed street once acted as a 
roaring trade market. Today, Yoshidamachi has transformed to a lively 
entertainment district boasting nearly 100 drinking and dining 




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