FYI: Finding Japan Info

Back to Contents of Issue: November 1999

by Rolf Boone

So there you are with a wildly successful Internet startup that has taken North America by storm, having joined the oh-so-many others in the great race that is the bull market on Wall St., and now you're poised to consider options overseas. Europe looks intriguing, but recent European Union legislation facing the Internet has got you unnerved. Meanwhile, Japan continues to send a very welcome vibe: the second-largest Internet market in the world, and recent figures suggesting upwards of $2 billion in online sales. That alone has done it. But now what? Who do you turn to? How will you deal with the language barrier? What are the rules and regulations to be followed in setting up shop? Or even on a more basic level-does everyone still carry samurai swords?

It is questions like these being raised by enough companies abroad or in Japan-with visions of joining the estimated 3,500 plus companies already playing a significant role in an increasingly attractive market-that is driv-ing a cottage industry in the need for more and steadily growing information on Japan. Forays of interest that have spawned the likes of Tim Clark's monthly, the Japan Internet Report (JIR), as part of TKAI Inc., or Success Stories Japan, a U.S.-based executive newsletter that has been in circulation since 1997.

"We felt that the foreign companies in Japan deserved greater, more in-depth, and more focused information on how to execute their Japan strategy than what they were currently getting," said Pete Williams, managing editor of Success Stories Japan. "In fact, other than Computing Japan, there are precious few quality, English-language business publications about Japan, and even fewer that are published by non-Japanese."

"Japan doesn't make foreign executives uneasy, but foreign executives have a tough time getting actionable ideas and low-cost information on Japan, beyond JETRO [Japan External Trade Organization]," said Williams. "The downside to JETRO is that advisors there have limited experience outside of the industrial and technology fields, and they have a Japanese mindset. Even the Internet doesn't solve the problem, as there's just so much out there and nobody to help you understand it all."

In an effort to counter this, the February 1999 issue had a "Profile" of the ISP juggernaut PSINet Japan, followed by a survey of foreign companies in the "Specialist" section, wrapped up with a feel-good "Observer" piece on the life-long bonds of university students. In the October 1998 issue, they profiled Symantec: "PC Software and Eichorn Industries: Resins for Analysis of Radioactive Elements," Japan's Internet Industry was covered in the "Specialist" section, and then readers were doubled- over in tears (or writing reminders to get a check-up on that next trip home) in the Observer article entitled "A visit to the doctor."

But while Success Stories Japan may have answers or ideas that JETRO does not, the jaw-dropping reality of this publication is that they still swim the doldrums of snail mail.

Said Williams, "From time to time, we supplement the print version with targeted e-mail updates to specific groups of subscribers on topics of interest, but there's no e-mail version at this point. We are discussing this and many other improvements with several major media companies at this juncture."

And shame on me if I forget, the CJNN Japan e-biz e-mail newsletter is none too shabby on Japan, either.

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