Terrie's Take 991 - JMEC - Awakening the Genie, and e-Biz News from Japan

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Wed May 29 00:25:47 JST 2019

* * * * * * * * * 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 Tuesday, May 28, 2019, Issue No. 991

- What's New -- JMEC - Awakening the Genie
- News -- Cameras getting closer to human eye resolution
- Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Headless Samurai shrine in Otemachi, Hunter's Bar in
- News Credits

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+++ JMEC - Awakening the Genie

Sometimes the best good works happen right under your nose. Within the
foreigners-in-Japan business world, one such "improver" is the Japan Market
Entry Competition, otherwise known as JMEC. This program and associated
organization is funded and supported by 18 foreign chambers of commerce in
Japan. The program's surprisingly high, and consistent, level of official
support is testimony to its effectiveness. I have been involved in JMEC
ever since it was first discussed as a "crazy idea" in the Australia New
Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCCJ) some time in the early 1990's and
thereafter from when the first competition took place in 1993. From memory,
those early years had intakes of about 50 people, whereas today the numbers
are closer to 80, which means that up until JMEC 25 this year, at least
1,200 people and likely more have been through it.

So what does JMEC actually do?

Fundamentally it teaches volunteer participants how to take the first step
in creating new businesses or fixing old ones - by doing deep-dive research
and thereafter building credible business plans. The skills learned include
ideating, market and technical research, product/service design, business
pricing and planning, negotiation (with clients and other team members),
documentation, presentation, and last but not least - perseverance -
perhaps the most important habit of a successful person. JMEC participants
are usually employees of companies whose senior management value
creativity, independent thinking, and personal growth of their staff - even
at the risk of losing them later if those same staff have an epiphany as a
result of their JMEC experience. Originally most participants came from
foreign multinationals, but recently it's interesting to see a lot more
Japanese firms who are trying to internationalize encouraging their staff
to join the program - companies like Rakuten, Fuji Xerox, and various
Japanese banks.

JMEC is a tough business boot camp and it's not for the faint of heart.
Teams are given a project (versus choosing one) and are expected to make
the best of that client. The 4- to 6-person teams work together for a
grueling 7 months, and team members are challenged to solve problems that
are frequently well outside their skill set and comfort zone. Marketing
people suddenly have to learn about engineering and technology, technical
people need to learn market research and making customer presentations, and
modest administration staff suddenly need to be seen and heard. All
participants are expected to be able to speak English (although not
necessarily fluently) and to have graduated from a 4-year college. In fact,
about 20% of participants this current year (JMEC 25) have Masters or PhD

Why JMEC is top of mind for me at the moment is that I was contacted a few
weeks ago with the invitation to become a replacement judge, after one of
the regular members suddenly couldn't make the dates set. Although I have
been involved with JMEC as a presenter/lecturer and so I knew that the
judges play an important role, I didn't realize just what an intense and
sometimes emotionally conflicting (you naturally find yourself wanting to
support the underdogs) role it is... So perhaps naively, I said "yes" and
duly received the orientation and a 10cm high pile of business plans to

[Article continues below...]

----------- Mt. Fuji One-day Fun Ride (Not a Race) --------

This is THE iconic annual Mount Fuji Long Ride cycling event. Take in the
scenic Fuji Five Lakes area on your bike, sample local flavors, make new
friends and meet old ones. Choose one of the three cycling courses that
fits you best, get geared up, and head out to the event on your own. Or
better still, join our rental bike-and-gear all-inclusive day tour by bus
from Tokyo.

Register for the event here. http://bit.ly/2XgXdVO
Join the tour here. http://bit.ly/2XgXdVO

[...Article continues]

The judging took place this last weekend and although I can't say who won,
that will be announced later, I can share some insights about how JMEC
tests the limits of people who are suddenly thrust into the chaos and
desperation of a (simulated) start-up. In fact it has been quite
eye-opening to realize what a large gap there is between what is taught in
schools (as mentioned, there are some MBAs) and what thought processes are
actually needed to create a successful business. Just like an aircraft
simulator, JMEC somehow creates the same highs and lows, tensions and
desires, as would be felt in a real start-up. As a presenter/lecturer I
have always shared with the participants my viewpoint of the mental and
emotional stresses involved, but until now I have never "felt" the
participants' own journey. As a judge, though, you really get to see the
process at a much more personal level, and so my respect for each
participant has gone up dramatically.

So what are the common gaps between knowledge and practice that otherwise
well-educated people make when creating a new business plan under pressure?
I was able to identify three points from the JMEC teams and, btw, these
points apply equally well to real first-time entrepreneurs as they do to
JMEC contestants.

1. Realistic Budgeting
It was fascinating to see people who are already employed show a basic
trait in their budgeting process - the trait of over-optimism and trying to
please. Of course when we create a business plan, we necessarily have to be
optimistic that our business will succeed or otherwise why even bother to
start? Furthermore, our investors need to be incentivized by optimistically
strong returns or we won't be able to find the capital needed to get off
the ground. I'm all for optimism, but what I found at JMEC was a pattern
where some (but not all) teams did not want "ugly" red ink to show up on
their projections. So even in the first or second year they had plans
showing black ink (profit).

As an entrepreneur I know it's possible to run a company like this (if I
have perhaps only one employee), but in doing so I also know that I'm
limiting myself in two ways: i) a profit in Year One either means I'm very
lucky/smart, or more likely it means I'm not working my capital hard enough
and I have not made sufficient investment in growth, and ii) maintaining
profit at the beginning means I'm probably the slow, cautious type who will
be aiming for a 30-year exit for the business - which is certainly the bane
of potential investors - versus a more normal 5- or 10-year one. Providing
you have sufficient capital, I don't think it's a sin to have red ink on
your P&L for the first 1-3 years. In fact it's normal.

I also found that some teams were following client expectations (in a real
start-up, the "client" might be an investor) to the detriment of
commonsense. If a client says that they want to be in profit in 18 months,
yet with meaningful revenues, you'd better be reflecting the need for a
huge amount of capital investment upfront to get there. Or, if a client
doesn't want to hire staff (support for a software company, say), then
perhaps you will have to tell them straight up that you don't think it's
possible. Or if the client wants the Japanese partner to put up all the
capital for a new joint venture, then point out in your business plan that
they won't get much local ownership let alone control, because the Japan
partner/distributor taking all the financial risk will want a big chunk of
the local equity - in my experience as much as 50%-70%.

2. Impactful Marketing
The common pattern in teams' approach to marketing was to either ignore it,
by letting a distributor take care of it, or by throwing money at the task.
In real life, when you let a distributor take control of your marketing
it's only natural they will want to do it under their own brand, and so you
lose one of the biggest value-creation opportunities of being in the Japan
market - which is strong local brand equity and thus stable revenue for
years to come. OK, it is true that if your brand is already known globally,
your distributor will probably push your brand, but for most companies who
are just regular mid-tier players or start-ups, you will have little to no
leverage with the distributor, who over time is anyway going to view you as
just another supplier. Furthermore, if that distributor is major, your
product and brand will gradually be lost in a huge lineup of similar

Throwing money at building a brand was the second common response to
marketing. This actually connects to the first point I was making, which is
that it is naive for a new entrant to the market to think it can simply
ramp up its messaging to compete with successful local incumbents. Instead,
there needs to be a clear value proposition that the incumbents don't have,
or a very unique creative hook that consumers naturally respond to. When I
start a company I always ask myself, "What are the natural advantages I
have over my competitors?" long before I consider the marketing budget. If
my product/service advantages are not outstandingly clear, I'm not ready
for the market.

3. The Big Idea
Tying in to this last point about natural advantages of your product or
service, is the "Big Idea". A big idea can be a product feature that no one
ever thought of before, like Post-it notes; or a business model that
completely disrupts a major business sector, like Airbnb; or an
inspirational leader who dreams of world peace, like Gandhi. All are
inspiring, all cause consumers in their excitement to overlook the normal
flaws and fears, and all act as a magnet for recruits and investors. No one
wants to invest their future or their money in an uninspiring company.

The prizes for the winners of the JMEC competition are HP computer gear and
a bunch of Finnair return airfares to Europe, which are highly appealing,
but I think the real prize for participants is their new awareness of
what's possible if you think out of the box. Do I recommend JMEC?
Unequivocally, "yes". But be prepared for the work involved and the

...The information janitors/


------------ Live Tohoku Soccer at the Hub ----------------

View the first-ever live football (soccer) broadcast of Tohoku’s Fukushima
vs Iwate on June 22nd at HUB in Akasaka. The two J.League teams - each
holding 3 wins and 3 draws against each other - have many supporters in
Tokyo who finally have the chance to meet, drink, and enjoy the game on TV

The broadcast is such an important event for the clubs that their staff and
management will come to Tokyo to take part in the Hub event here - even
though their teams will be duking it out in Fukushima! Join the GMs, staff,
and other fans in Tokyo for the kickoff at 3.00pm on Saturday June 22nd!


+++ NEWS

- Highest May temperature on record
- Cameras getting closer to human eye resolution
- Stuck for a tourism idea? Start a pillow fight
- New emperor, new coinage, but not until 2021
- Poor prospects for almost 1m workers from 1990s

=> Highest May temperature on record

Anyone in doubt about global warming only needs to read the news to see
that something major is going on. On Sunday May 26th, Hokkaido was the
unlikely location of Japan's highest ever recorded May temperature, of 39.5
degrees, in Saroma on the northeastern side of the island. Why Hokkaido and
not Kyushu? The Japan Met Agency simply said that there was a "heat mass
that settled over all of Japan", but our guess is that the heat is a
combination of the warming of the Arctic (Alasaka has also been running
record temperatures recently) coupled with a strengthening El Nino pushing
warm air much further north - and Saroma was a confluence point. ***Ed:
Even though Saroma was hottest, Kyushu wasn't far behind with temperatures
well exceeding 35 degrees. These days there is no place to escape the
summer heat.** (Source: TT commentary from asahi.com, May 26, 2019)


=> Cameras getting closer to human eye resolution

Fujifilm has just announced a semi-pro camera with a resolution of 102m
pixels, 3-5 times better than other high-end cameras on the market. The new
GFX mirrorless camera has an image sensor that is 1.7 times larger than its
35mm offerings. The camera will sell for around JPY1.32m, a bit more than
one yen per pixel. ***Ed: In case you're wondering (as we were), the human
eye has the equivalent resolution of 576m pixels for a given field of view.
This was calculated as the point at which actual pixelation is
undiscernible to the eye of someone with perfect (human) vision. In actual
fact, though, the human eye is flawed, with the brain supplying
compensation for blind spots and imperfections. Furthermore, a single
"snapshot length" glance by the eye has an equivalent pixel level of about
5-15m pixels... In other words, about where Fujifilm's regular cameras are
now.** (Source: TT commentary from the-japan-news.com, May 24, 2019)


=> Stuck for a tourism idea? Start a pillow fight

The small fishing village of Ito, down on the Izu peninsular, has a great
idea for attracting tourists each February (last week's competition was a
qualifier round). They hold a national pillow fighting competition. The
idea started with a group of high schoolers in 2013 and has grown to 16
teams of 4 players each. The rules are that everyone pretends to sleep on
futons, a referee blows the whistle, then the players dash for the pillow
stack to war on their competitors. One person in each team is the "king"
and is protected by the other team members. Play is in intense 2-minute
sets. ***Ed: This is a great idea, basically harmless fun, although it must
be terrible to clean up afterwards! Its not hard to see this going viral
(Source: TT commentary from euronews.com, May 25, 2019)


=> New emperor, new coinage, but not until 2021

Making new money is obviously a tough business, given that the government
has announced that even though it is designing new low-end notes and 500
yen coins for the ascension of the new emperor, the new coins won't be
available until 2021 and the notes not until 2024 (one hopes the new
emperor remains in good health until then!). Apparently the Japanese mint
has a 20 year upgrade cycle anyway, as part of its fight against
counterfeiters, so the new coinage is actually right on schedule. ***Ed:
One interesting point about the new JPY500 coins is that they have had
their metallurgical composition altered, so as to avoid people using the
close-fitting Korean 500 won coin (which is 10 times cheaper in value) as a
replacement in vending machines. Traditionally vending machines confirmed
authenticity by weight, but as cheats were drilling small holes in the
Korean coins, new vending machines were needed that can sense the actual
metal composition. (Source: TT commentary from numismaticnews.net, May 24,


=> Poor prospects for almost 1m workers from 1990s

Research by the Mizuho Research Institute has found that about 900,000
workers who graduated from college or high school in the period 1993 and
2004, are still unable to find stable jobs. The group were part of Japan's
so-called "lost generation" who upon graduating were faced with a shortage
of full-time job opportunities and who were forced into part-time or
contract work that deprived them of job security and regular wages. The
pessimism they faced in 2000 seems to have dogged this group throughout
their working lives, and according to a Todai professor, of those graduates
who were unemployed in 2002, 40% were still unemployed in 2015. Of the
900,000, in 2018 about 520,000 are part-timers and 400,000 are still
unemployed. The government reckons it will cost about JPY20trn to support
these underemployed people once they start to retire. ***Ed: When the going
gets tough in the Japanese economy, Japanese society appears willing to
throw certain segments of the population under the bus. Our guess is that
next time around, it will be the many foreign laborers being employed on
blue collar visas.** (Source: TT commentary from asia.nikkei.com, May 23,


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.


------ German-speaking Travel Consultant Internship -------

Japan Travel KK (www.japantravel.com) is experiencing strong growth of its
German desk for inbound travelers to Japan, and we are looking for a
German-English speaking intern to join the team, with a view of
transitioning to a full-time position and work visa in Japan. The
internship will be for a minimum 3 months and a maximum of 6 months, after
which there will be a management and peer review. You can be either a
student who needs to do an internship to meet academic course requirements,
or you can be a person in the workforce thinking to reset your life and
location. Apart from German you should be able to speak basic English
and/or Japanese (either is OK).

The type of work you'll be doing is assisting German customers wanting to
plan trips to Japan. This would include the following:
* Responding to incoming leads and conversing (usually email/chat) with
* Researching accommodation, transport, activities, diet
preferences/availability, entertainment, guides, and other things that
travelers require
* Using our quotation and itinerary systems to produce the customer
* Interacting with customers and consulting them on choices and areas of
* Translation of content about destinations
* Writing original content (articles) about destinations and activities
* Assisting us with German social media

For more details: jerome.lee at japantravel.com


=> No additional events.


--------- Japan Travel Corporate Travel Services ----------

Japan Travel's Type-2 licensed travel agency business is one Japan's few
independent foreign-owned inbound DMCs. One of our specialties is looking
after corporate groups of 10-300 people. To date we have assisted in the
successful holding of training events, incentive travel, conferences,
off-sites, and team bonding programs. We have looked after the full gamut
of services, such as: international air travel, hotels, local travel, event
logistics and venues, entertainment, micro-management of dietary needs, and
special needs customers.

We are highly motivated and are happy to work in a variety of roles
tailored to suit your needs: as a full-fledged corporate travel agency
partner, as a logistics partner for a particular issue, or as a source of
innovative experiences and venues. Looking after hard-to-please high-tech
groups is our specialty!

For corporate travel assistance, contact us at: tours at japantravel.com.
Or visit our pages at: http://japantravel.co.jp/en/about/travel-agency/



=> No feedback this week.



=> Taira no Masakado, Otemachi
The shrine of Tokyo's most famous samurai head

Japan has no shortage of ghost stories but perhaps the most surreal of them
all is that of Taira no Masakado and his headless exploits across the
nation. A warrior from Kanto, Masakado led a rebellion in the 10th century
against the government in Kyoto. He managed to conquer a few local
provinces in the process and flushed with some success, proclaimed himself
the new emperor and had his uncle executed. The government in Kyoto
responded to this by placing a bounty on Masakado's head that was too good
to refuse. And sure enough, it was taken - by his cousin, son of the man
whom Masakado had killed... Taira no Masakado's head was now on its way to
the capital.

But then a strange thing happened. The now dead Masakado decided that his
head ought to stop by a fishing village in what would now be Tokyo. For
centuries afterwards, reports grew from concerned villagers and
superstitious fisherman of a head that would fly through the streets at
night. Masakado may have earned a grudging respect for taking it to a
central government but a vengeful spirit was not something that anyone
could take lightly. Slowly but surely, the resting place of Masakado's
separated dome became a place of nervous supplication and worship.


=> Hunters Bar, Shinjuku
Step into the world of Monster Hunter

Located in Tokyo's Shinjuku district, Hunters Bar invites Monster Hunter
fans into the fantasy world of the hunting action game franchise. A
collaboration between Capcom and Pasela Resorts, both fans and newcomers
alike can experience the fantasy video game in a new light thanks to this
authentic inn setting! Fans of the series can also marvel at the themed
decor, food and drink line-up, Guild Card collection system and game
merchandise available here.

The bar originally opened in March 2018, and was also followed by a pop-up
location in Osaka's Tennoji area last summer.

Just as the game-world inns provide a rest stop for weary hunters and
travelers, Hunter's Bar aims to provide a social hub in Shinjuku for people
to refuel and enjoy their night out thanks to the themed interior and
incredible menu line-up inspired by the series. Enter inside and cross over
from the virtual world to the physical one in this warmly lit, wooden
interior reminiscent of a tavern from the game. Studded bar stools fill the
bar interior, while replicas of weapons, banners and foliage hang from the
ceiling, adorn the walls and fill the corners.




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

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