TT-748 -- Green Tea the Next Big Thing? E-biz news from Japan

An Insider's comments on Japan's high tech business world
* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, Mar 16, 2014, Issue No. 748


- What's New -- Green Tea the Next Big Thing?
- News -- Rokkasho Plutonium easy terrorist target
- Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies -- Sales Manager-cum-Country Manager
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Camping in Kyushu, Fujiya Hotel in Hakone
- News Credits

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Ask any Japan fan living overseas the top 5 things they love about
Japan and they will include food. The good thing about Japan's food
culture is that it is distinctive and generally healthy (instant ramen
and candy excepted), and thus in keeping with growing public awareness
that "we are what we eat". Sushi, sashimi, mochi, sour plums,
katsuo-based sauces, and nori have all become favorites around the
world. But one of the most interesting food trends is green tea. We
were approached recently by a foreign couple who have decided to
create a green tea brand and wanted some advice about getting started
and getting funded in Japan -- which of course got us curious about
the green tea trade in this country.

Although almost all commercial tea apparently comes from the same
bush, "Camellia Sinensis", it's the Japanese method of processing the
leaves right after harvesting that give it the distinctive green color
and bitter fresh-plant taste. Best known among Japanese green tea
varieties is bright green finely-powdered matcha, and it is this
format that is driving a green tea renaissance both here and overseas.

While green tea can be an acquired taste, what pulls in most repeat
consumers is its health benefits. The press is continuously running
stories on studies revealing the antioxidant properties of green tea,
and for good reason. Among common foods available in the supermarket,
matcha has one of the highest antioxidant ratings (ORAC), with
1573/gm. In comparison, gojiberries come in at 253, dark chocolate at
227, pomegranate at 105, wild blueberries: 93, and acai berries at 60.
Thanks to high-profile, low-cost health food vendors like in the USA, consumers are becoming convinced they need
more powerful functional foods, especially if the real thing comes
from somewhere exotic like Japan, and they will spend whatever it
takes to make up for past dietary failings. As a result, U.S. imports
of Japanese green tea have surged from US$2.8m in 2001 to US$28.6m in

[Continued below...]

---- Woodbridge Expands International Reach into Japan ----

Woodbridge International, a global mergers and acquisitions firm
specializing in middle-market companies, would like to announce our
office in Tokyo serving sell-side and buy-side clients in Japan.
In operation in the United States since 1993, we have 19 offices in
North America, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.
Leveraging upon the strength of our global reach we identify the
right companies for your needs and negotiate the best terms for success.

To hear more about our unique process please visit

[...Article continues]

This is certainly good news to Japanese green tea growers, who have
seen their markets decline in the last few years. The domestic
(Japanese) green tea market in 2012 was worth about JPY383bn, down
from the peak of JPY447bn in 2005, but still about 10% of the overall
beverages market. Within that figure, 21.3% of the green tea shipped
was in ready-to-drink in cans and bottles, and this trend is
continuing to grow, even as the market for leaves and powders

Of particular interest to us, though, has been the green tea cafe and
dessert store concept, which is seeing a lot of industry action both
here in Japan and also in Asia. If you've been out looking for
somewhere different to have a matcha, then you will have surely
noticed the relatively new chain called Nana's. This is a franchise
run by a little known company in Jiyugaoka called Nanaha ("Seven
Leaves"). The company does have a website, but publishes almost no
information about itself, nor have the press picked up on it either.
Which we find surprising, given that it has opened 66 stores in Japan
since it was established in 2001, and another 2 overseas (China and

Nana's is notable because it incorporates a very modern feel to a very
traditional product, giving the image of it being a Japanese-style
Starbucks. Although Nanaha has a long way to go to start challenging
the Seattle company, a number of competitors such as Japanese tea
maker Ito-en do appear to be taking notice. Nana's menu ranges from
the bitter to the sweet, and caters in particular to office ladies who
want to combine healthy aspirations with a bit of self-indulgence. You
can find a dietary values table on their website that lets calorie
conscious customers plan what they are going to eat. Probably that is
just as well, because while you have regular matcha and matcha lattes,
and donburi rice bowl and udon bowl lunches, all of which are
reasonably healthy, you also have over-the-top desserts containing
kanten seaweed jelly, shiratama rice dumplings, azuki bean paste, and
lashings of vanilla icecream, whipped cream, and cornflakes!

Their's is a smart approach, though, because they have developed a
distinctive brand that appeals to the most critical (and picky) market
segment -- young women. Nothing on the menu costs more than JPY980 and
some of their light lunches go for just JPY500, and yet the stores
don't attract middle-aged salarymen because they don't like the menu
or the atmosphere (they feel too exposed, maybe). As a result, Nana's
is an oasis for office ladies who might otherwise bring bentos to
work, or eat at McDonalds. The Nana's decor is somewhat spartan but
riffs off Starbucks, with ample visual stimuli in the form of artworks
and striking wall interiors. It would be interesting to know what the
financials of the chain are, but as we mentioned, the company is very
media shy. They do seem to be doing well, though, because they have
opened two more stores this year already.

Another player with a chain of local and overseas stores in the past
has been coffee chain Tully's, with its Koots Green Tea brand. We say
"past" because if you look up the brand, you'll find that they have
shut down a whole bunch of stores over the last six years, both in the
USA and here in Japan. Indeed, the two Koots stores left in Japan are
not even indexed from the top page of the Tully's Japan website.
Instead, you have to find them by knowing the actual URL. As an aside,
the origin of the name "Koots" is interesting. Apparently the founder
of the company, Kouta Matsuda, came to be called Koots by his school
friends while growing up in the USA.

Anyway, this brings us to the 800 lb. gorilla in the green tea market
-- no not Starbucks and their lattes -- we refer instead to Ito-en,
the largest green tea distributor in Japan. In late 2006, the company
bought a controlling share of FoodxGlobe, the owner of Tully's Japan,
and so of Koots. This was an ironic M&A, because Ito-en was initially
interested in what Tully's was doing with green tea and saw a possible
future for its own dwindling empire. And yet, within just two years
the company was telling the market that in order to bring Tully's into
sustained profit, it was going to have to shut down Koots, which it
mostly did.

But fear not, this isn't the end of the story, because Ito-en has
recently launched four new concept stores in the USA (New York, Costa
Mesa, San Jose, and San Diego) called Matcha Love. The company gave a
presentation at Columbia University mid-last year and outlined a
master plan for moving its green tea culture to the USA, using the
concept of "unsweetening" America. We think it's the right message at
the right time, so long as they figure out how to get American kids to
follow their parents' lead in drinking unsweetened beverages. Maybe
they will allow a little Stevia in there for the first couple of

Ito-en obviously likes the brand name Matcha Love, because in February
they launched a range of green tea products in the USA under the same
name. While this may do well there, we think the place that they
should really move their marketing machine to is Southeast Asia.
Singaporeans, Hong Kongers, and Thais really love their green tea and
gulp it down by the bottle full -- so unlike many Americans, they
don't need to be educated about it first.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Toshiba sues over industrial espionage case
- Storm in a teacup over STAP?
- $6.6 million given to USC by Buddhist group
- Sumitomo-Mitsui buys 40% of mid-size Indonesian bank
- Rokkasho Plutonium easy terrorist target

=> Toshiba sues over industrial espionage case

For once the shoe is on the other foot and the Japanese party is doing
something about it. Toshiba is suing South Korea's SK Hynix here in
Tokyo, after discovering that a former engineer in a joint venture
Toshiba had with SanDisk had passed on confidential data to the Korean
firm shortly after he started working for them. Police have arrested
the 52-year old engineer, Yoshitaka Sugita, and he will be charged
under new rules governing industrial espionage and the ability to
request damages from such acts. Toshiba is reportedly looking for at
least JPY100bn -- a huge penalty by Japanese standards. ***Ed: This
case seems to be precedent-setting for Japan, given that the judiciary
here seldom make meaningful awards for damages.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Mar 14, 2014)

=> Storm in a teacup over STAP?

At first glance, it looks like the same pedantic attitude in academia
that prevents researchers from making intuition-driven breakthroughs
is now spoiling the amazing discovery by RIKEN researcher, Haruko
Obokata, that stem cells can be stressed into existence. The storm in
a teacup is over the fact that two papers based on her research and
published in January by Nature, now appear to have irregularities,
including duplicated photos, adjusted data, and copying of an earlier
paper. RIKEN says that the irregularities are because Obokata is
inexperienced in scientific publishing, which of course is strange to
say, given that she had her seniors closely monitoring the project.
However, in the long run does it really matter? So long as the
phenomenon of STAP itself proves to be real and repeatable. This is
the point made by Dr. Charles Vacanti, at Brigham and Women's Hospital
in Boston, who co-authored one of the papers. (Source: TT commentary
from, Mar 14, 2014)

=> $6.6 million given to USC by Buddhist group

The University of Southern California (USC) has received a gift of
US$6.6m to further Japanese studies at the college. The money will be
used to support scholars covering international relations, society,
the arts, media, and religion. The gift came from the Buddhist sect
Shinnyo-en, which was founded in Tachikawa, Tokyo. The sect is notable
in that it has over 1m followers globally, and has a female head
priestess. (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 15, 2014)

=> Sumitomo-Mitsui buys 40% of mid-size Indonesian bank

The level of engagement between Japan and Indonesia, the world's fifth
most populous country, is heating up, and this week the Sumitomo
Mitsui Bank announced that it has purchased the last tranche of a
US$1.5bn investment into the Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional (BTPN),
a profitable mid-tier player. Sumitomo-Mitsui now owns 40% of BTPN,
having bought the shares from major U.S. fund, Texas Pacific Group.
BTPN focuses on both retired civil servants and small businesses.
(Source: TT commentary from, Mar 14, 2014)

=> Rokkasho Plutonium easy terrorist target

Nice story from about the security weaknesses at the
Rokkasho nuclear processing facility in Aomori, and nuclear facilities
here in general. One of the priceless quotes is this one, from a U.S.
embassy staffer who visited the Mihama power plant in 2006 and who was
commenting on local police presence. Quoth he: "A lightly armored
police vehicle with up to six police officers. Some of them fast
asleep." The article goes on to describe that Rokkasho will be
creating enough high-grade plutonium to produce more than 2,600
warheads with a yield of more than 20 kilotons (of TNT) each a year,
and yet most of the security personnel there are unarmed. ***Ed: A
very timely warning that earthquakes and an angry public are not the
only threat to Japan's nuclear industry...** (Source: TT commentary
from, Mar 11, 2014)

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


--------- Japan Travel 2014 Intern Program Begins ---------

Following on from our inaugural photojournalism internship in 2013,
JapanTravel KK is pleased to announce the launch of its 2014 program.
We are looking for foreign students and recent graduates of
photojournalism and videography courses to live and work in Japan for
6-8 weeks this year.
* If you are a photojournalist you will be photographing an assigned
area of Japan and writing short stories about your experiences. Our
expectation is 1-2 articles a day, and you can be a native in either
English, French, Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian, Korean, or Chinese.
* If you are a video journalist, then you will also be assigned a
region to cover and will be expected to produce an edited 2-3 minute
clip every two days.

For more information, go to:


=> Are you in web content, sales, or engineering? If so, this section
is for you.


- Web marketing/technology Sales Manager-cum-Country Manager position

If you are working in a web marketing or web technology company, and
have a strong sales record and excellent Japanese and English (this is
compulsory), we have a client looking for a person to manage their
Japan start-up operation and who on showing reasonable performance
will become the country manager of a team of professionals here.
Unlike most start-ups entering Japan, this one already has clients and
is winning recognition in the market for their technology. The
position requires a strong knowledge of who the main market players
are, and thus a strong personal network, and if not a native Japanese
speaker, then you will need to demonstrate a strong track record of
previous successful appointments. This is not a Country Manager role
right out of the box, and so a flexible, sales-oriented personality is
essential. Salary is JPY10m base and JPY3-4m on achievement of very
reasonable sales targets. Please send your resume to


- Bilingual account manager for major tourism portal
(, JPY3M - JPY5M
- Bilingual sales trainee for web media properties, JPY2.5M-JPY3M +
10% commission
- English-only experienced PHP Zend software developer, 5 years
experience, JPY3.5M - JPY5M

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:




------------------ ICA Event - March 20th -----------------

Speaker: Hideki Thurgood Kano, Corporate Lawyer and Author at Anderson
Mori & Tomotsune
Title: "Unilateral Termination of Employees (due to their poor performance)"

Details: Complete event details at

Date: Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members) Open to all. No
sign ups at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: RSVP by 10am on Friday 14th March 2014. Venue is The Foreign
Correspondents' Club of Japan.

----- Tell Your Friends Abroad About TPO's World Tour ------

More than 100 members of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra are in New
York today, the first stop on their 100th anniversary world tour. Wish
them well by liking and sharing the TPO page on Facebook!

Tell friends in Madrid, Paris, London, Singapore, and Bangkok that
tickets are still available!



=> No corrections or feedback this week.



=> Ebino Kogen Campground, Miyazaki
Staying in Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park

A fantastic base to explore the natural wonders of Kirishima, this
large and alluring campground spreads out over hills and under a sea
of Japanese red pine. Being a national park, costs are low and the
facilities are very good. Choose from tent camping or wood cabins and
even picnic areas if you're not staying the night.

This beautiful area in Ebino Kogen, a plateau, is at an elevation of
about 1,200 m (3,937 ft) and stays cool even during Kyushu's
sweltering summer, averaging 24 degrees Celsius (73 degrees
Fahrenheit) in July and having few bothersome insects. The campground
is within a ten-minute walk of the Ebino Kogen Museum Center, which
has a visitor's center, gift shop, and outdoor foot bath. From the pay
parking lot there, you'll find the trailhead for the Ikemuguri Nature
Hike. This trail ventures through forested mountainsides, visits a few
volcanic lakes, and returns, unless you want to continue up Mt. Io,
across the Ebino Kogen Susuki Fields, and onto the slopes of Mt.
Karakuni and beyond to the other volcanoes of the park. Across the
street from the parking lot is a large hotel and onsen.

=> Hakone's Fujiya Hotel: A True Classic, Kanagawa-ken

This hotel, originally constructed in 1878, is generally recognized as
one of the few remaining classic-style Western hotels in Japan. It is
dripping with atmosphere. In that time and age here, visitors and
culture were pouring in from the West. Men (even Japanese men) wore
long fancy mustaches, the ladies wore long dresses and high hats, and
glitzy ballroom dances were thrown all the time. It was into this
world that the Fujiya Hotel was born, and it still retains some of
that old-world charm: Although everything in it is now old, the
building's beautiful wood walls, ceilings and banisters are dark,
restaurants and bars are dark, and so it is a very bright and
enjoyable place to stay. Add to that the fact that you are staying in
Hakone, one of the most famous onsen (hot spring bath) resort regions
in all Japan, and you have a winning combination.

As the popularity of Hakone grew, so did Fujiya added new buildings,
wings and other facilities over the years. There are almost 150 guest
rooms now, each with its own name and flower motif. So you might find
yourself staying in the "Rose Room", "Sakura Room", or the "Lotus
Room". The rooms themselves are high ceilinged, spacious and
western-style -- no tatami mat flooring here -- but I admit that
sometimes they feel a bit threadbare and worn. After all, it is a very
old building! You can also expect your room to include interesting
combinations of soft armchairs, antique writing desks, and other types
of antique furniture.



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