TT-478 -- J@pan Inc Business Awards and Why You Should Support Them, ebiz news from Japan

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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, July 20, 2008 Issue No. 478


- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News credits

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No one really knows how many foreign companies there are in
Japan. As recently as March 2007, JETRO admitted as much in
its white paper analyzing foreign firms with R&D
facilities in Japan. One reason for this is that there are
so many potential variations of foreign company
representation in Japan now. You've got full subsidiaries,
joint ventures, branch offices, representative offices with
no legal standing, agencies via local firms, Japanese
companies set up by non-Japanese, and distributors
providing in-house desks for foreign company staff.

Probably the best reference to foreign companies in Japan
in English is the Toyo Keizai "Gaishikei Kigyou Soran"
(Comprehensive List of Foreign Companies), which lists
3,218 foreign firms, not including foreign financial firms,
in its 2006 edition. As a contrast, the bi-annual Foreign
Chambers in Japan Business Confidence Survey goes out to
2,150 companies who are members of the 14 major foreign
chambers of commerce.

Our guess is that if you were to include all varieties of
foreign capital at work in a corporate structure in Japan,
you'd get somewhere around 5,000 foreign firms. Of these,
around 2,000 are clearly recognizable as foreign --
thinking and feeling foreign in some way, while the rest
are closer in nature to their Japanese counterparts.

Why is this important? Well, firstly, it is clear that out
of the approx. 1.5m viable corporate entities registered in
Japan, foreign-related companies are a tiny minority.
Between them, they probably employ less than 1/70th (around
1m people) of the working population. So for most Japanese,
apart from some sexy brands, high-paid job ads, and
well-timed/well-placed capital investments, foreign firms
and their foreign owners/employees are of little
consequence in their daily lives.

This is ironic, because the fact is that most innovation
occuring in Japan recently has some form of foreign
involvement. Look at the R&D departments of major firms and
you'll find foreign research scientists, look at the
meteoric rise of the most recent generation of young
entrepreneurs and you'll see foreign investment and
technology, and look at government deregulation -- you'll
see that some degree of foreign pressure was involved.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

Organizations that are most capably taking advantage of the
fact that Japan needs a foreign presence for its "business
hygiene" are the major international business groups, such
as the American Chamber of Commerce, the European Business
Council, the British Chamber of Commerce, the German
Chamber of Commerce, the French Chamber of Commerce, the
Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Australia-New Zealand
Chamber of Commerce -- to name just a few.

These organizations frequently present white papers on
issues and problems to the Japanese government and media,
and the ideas appearing in these documents often resurface
as government legislation some months later. But while
these groups are doing a great job, due to their very
nature, they tend to focus on the specific interests of
their particular body of constituents. This means that
there are few opportunities for foreign business as a
whole to be represented to the Japanese general
population. This is a gap that the Japan Inc. magazine is
seeking to fill with its Japan Inc. Business Awards

2008 is the first year for the Awards, which cover 8
categories of foreign business effort in Japan. There are
two groups of awards, one for foreign businesses and their
leaders operating in Japan, and one for Japanese firms who
are doing regular business with foreign firms. The
thinking behind these categories was to cover areas which
are relevant to both small and large companies, include
business and social responsibility, and to encourage
Japanese vendors to identify more closely with their client

The actual categories are:


* Business Woman of the Year
* Business Man of the Year
* Entrepreneur of the Year
* Innovative Enterprise of the Year
* Fastest Growing Small Company
* Corporate Social Responsibility Special Award


* Best Services Vendor to the Foreign Community
* Best International Investor Relations

We realize that some readers have probably mentally
switched off by now, thinking, "Why even bother with
foreign business awards? Who cares?"

Well, it is true that the JIBA awards will be a modest
affair this year, given that it is the inaugural year.
However, great journeys start with small steps, and the
reason to care is that there is no other forum to
recognize excellence by foreign firms. Japanese awards
go to domestic firms making good, whereas a foreign
recipient would be politically incorrect at best.

Actually, there are at least three good reasons for
foreign business to be properly recognized with a neutral
and professionally run award program:

1. PR.
What is the most expensive thing you can buy in Japan? A
house? A 108-inch LCD TV? No, the answer is brand
recognition, and foreign firms spend millions of dollars
each year to stake out their little piece of recognition
in the crescendo of noise which is the Japanese
marketplace. The reality, then, is that foreign firms, even
those which are large back home, get little or no
additional recognition by the Japanese media. JIBA is a way
to start changing that status quo, by quantifying the entire
foreign business sector's search for excellence, in a
structured and newsworthy way that will encourage more
press coverage.

2. Recruiting.
Larger companies may feel that they get enough PR, but one
thing that we definitely know all foreign companies are not
getting enough of is decent bilingual job candidates. ALL
foreign companies face a disadvantage in the job markets
quite simply because language+skills radically reduces the
pool of suitably qualified candidates. Unfortunately, with
today's online job recruitment systems, there is very
little a company can do to differentiate itself from
others. We all know that Japanese job candidates like
detailed information so as to get a feel for the
atmosphere at a potential employer, and the awards
represent a reassuring and neutral outside party's
endorsement of that prospective new employer's value.

3. Community publicity for smaller firms.
Smaller foreign-owned companies typically do the majority
of their business within the foreign community, thanks to
the fact that they (the vendors) are bilingual and are
focused on solving the problems that typically confront
their clients. The possible avenues of services are broad,
including recruiting, consulting, training, facilities

management, real estate, accommodation, advisory, banking,
import-export, transport, travel... well the list goes on.
Being a winner of a JIBA award is likely to give such
smaller firms great publicity with their immediate customer
base -- Japan Inc. now prints 25,000 copies monthly, around
6 times the volume of copies of its nearest competitor --
and is read by more than 50,000 professionals both in Japan
and those traveling through to other destinations (sorry
for the shameless plug, here).

There are two ways to be involved in JIBA, firstly by
entering a nomination for one of the 8 awards, which you
can do online at:
You can nominate your own staff or firm, or someone else's
who deserves community recognition. The second form of
involvement is to become a sponsor -- which will give you
exposure not only in the magazine, but also at the awards
dinner, and through our associated media partners and press

In making a nomination online, you'll see that there are 3
main sections that need to be answered: Innovation, Impact,
and Sophistication. While it is important to get the facts
right, there is also a proven technique in business awards
that will improve your chances of becoming a finalist --
and that is to have a strong story to tell.

The key here is to put your modesty aside and tell the
story like it needs to be told. Give your input some human
interest aspect: is the person or company you are
nominating starting from zero? Are they facing a huge
business or technical challenge? Have they been told by
their Japanese competitors that they will never succeed?
Did they get their funding from an unusual source? Make
sure that your entry catches the imagination of the
judges, who after all, are human (even though JIBA does
have a set list of criteria which will be fairly and evenly

The deadline for accepting nominations is September 1st,
2008. We suggest that you make a point of submitting your
nomination this coming week, before "holiday-itis" sets in
and all those good intentions arrive DOA at the doorstep
of the dog-days of August.

The URL again, is

...The information janitors/


-------- Essential Business References in English ---------

Do you need to understand Japanese Law, and wish you could
get the legal code written in English?

We have the solution - the Japan Online Collection!!!

The Japan Online Collection provides you with comprehensive
and reliable information on Japanese Accounting, Tax,
Business/Corporation Law and Employment Law.
Used by professionals around Japan.

As a limited offer we are offering readers a 2-week FREE
trial. For more information, please contact:, or call (03)3265-1161


+++ NEWS

- Reinforced concrete towers cut steel use by 50%
- Huge SBI loss like from Zephyr bankruptcy
- Department store sales tumble 7.6%
- Nikko Antfactory MBO
- WestLB to close Tokyo office

-> Reinforced concrete towers cut steel use by 50%

The Nikkei reports that in the face of rising steel prices,
some high-rise construction firms are rolling out
steel-reinforced concrete designs that can go up 200m or
higher. Although conventionally, steel is used for
high-rises due to its ability to resist earthquakes,
Taisei, Shimizu, and Kajima are now working on concrete
structures as they use 50% less steel and are around 10%
cheaper. According to the Nikkei, a standard 200m office
building of 180,000 sq. m. requires about 27,000 tons of
steel, where as an equivalent reinforced-steel concrete
building would require just 12,600 tons. ***Ed: And if
there's one raw material that Japan has plenty of, it's
concrete!** (Source: TT commentary from, Jul
18, 2008)

-> Huge SBI loss like from Zephyr bankruptcy

Softbank Investment (SBI) has had a pretty good run over
the last decade, with hundreds of investments under its
belt, and the last "bad" period of the dotcom meltdown
during the 2000-2004 period being but a faint memory.
However, the subprime fall-out is starting to hit Japan's
real estate sector hard, and SBI has a 21.36% stake in
Zephyr, a condo developer which filed for bankruptcy this
last week. If Zephyr goes under, SBI will lose a book value
stake of up to JPY9.5bn (US$89m). SBI also has JPY12bn out
in loans to Zephyr, but says that these are supposed to be
covered by the security offered by Zephyr's real estate
holdings. ***Ed: Providing of course, that those real
estate holdings are sellable in today's market.** (Source:
TT commentary from, Jul 18, 2008)

-> Department store sales tumble 7.6%

Japanese consumers can't really seem to cut a break and
basic salaries for most people are now falling behind the
rate of inflation. As a result, spending at department
stores is down by more than 10% for the last two months
compared to the same period last year -- down 2.7% in May
and another 7.6% in June. Particularly affected were the
sales of clothing, which account for 34% of overall sales
and which fell by 14%. (Source: TT commentary from, Jul 18, 2008)

-> Nikko Antfactory MBO

As part of its clean-out of Nikko Citi's non-core assets,
Citigroup has agreed to an MBO by the management of a
private equity unit called Nikko Antfactory KK. The company
will be sold in August for JPY15bn (US$143.1m) according to
the Nikkei. Apparently management, including CEO Kazunori
Ozaki, will hold 30% of the business, and the Norinchukin
Bank and Mitsubishi Corp. will hold the other 60%. Nikko
Citi Holdings will retain a 10% stake. (Source: TT
commentary from, Jul 15, 2008)

-> WestLB to close Tokyo office

...while some are buying out their former owners, others go
meekly. The Tokyo office of German bank WestLB will be
closing down, starting with early termination of about 50
people in its banking unit and another 30 in brokerage,
before completely shutting down next year. WestLB says the
closing is in response to heavy losses the firm has
suffered from the US subprime debacle. (Source: TT
commentary from, Jul 10, 2008)

NOTE: Broken links
Many 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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Our Help Desk Department is located in the heart of Tokyo,
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employers of bilinguals.


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** Managing Editor/Entrepreneur for Japan Inc. magazine

J@pan Inc magazine, the publication for foreign entrepreneurs
and businesspeople in Japan is seeking a Managing Editor with
strong entrepreneurial instincts. Not your run-of-the-mill
editing position, we require someone with strong editorial and
management experience to both manage an editorial and production
team to turn out Japan's largest English-language business
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business community. Think content involving the world's largest
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Remuneration will be industry competitive and prospects

To apply, please send your resume, covering letter and
any relevant clippings to:


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nominations for the International Business Awards Japan

Is your CEO or company worthy of recognition? The J@pan Inc
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you feel deserve to win an award




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

-> We covered problems for tenants at Oji Homes, a popular
apartment complex for foreigners in Tokyo, and in
particular focus on asbestos remediation by the company in
circumstances that don't appear to be safe. We received a
slew of mail over this column and cover the first response
in today.

Reader: Your quote in TT477, "Perhaps the parents of those
children are not aware that even a wisp of the stuff
inhaled into your lungs can cause mesothelioma and
asbestosis later in life. "

This borders on irresponsible reporting. Everyone has
asbestos in their lungs. Asbestos is in the air we all
breath. Members of the general public have millions of
asbestos fibers in their lungs, yet mesothelioma and
asbestosis are relatively rare.

Saying a wisp of asbestos inhaled into your lungs can cause
mesothelioma and asbestosis later in life is like saying
picking an apple could cause you to die of a bee sting.

Our response: Yes, you're right, Mesothelioma is relatively
rare, what we should have said is that asbestos also
triggers many more common forms of lung cancer.

While it is true that asbestos fibers are present in nature
in many parts of the world, we took the time to contact an
expert in the field who regularly tests the air near his
office in downtown Tokyo and in more than a year of testing
he has yet to detect any random occurrence of asbestos. So
unless you are working in an asbestos mine or a country
where asbestos is still widely used, we see no reason why
you would have millions of asbestos fibers in your lungs.

Secondly, it is true that just like smoking, having
asbestos in your lungs does not guarantee that you will get
lung cancer, but it does significantly increase the chances --
and the World Health Organization states this to be a fact.
Now, while asbestos in the lungs of a mature adult does not
have to be a death sentence (and we accept that we may have
over-sensationalized the dangers of asbestos in the air),
however, in kids the risks are increased significantly.
Cell growth, metabolism, and susceptibility to disease all
go to make asbestos and kids a poor party mix.

We do stand by our assertion that it only takes one fiber
to cause lung disease. The question is, which fiber and
when did you breathe it in? There is no safe level of
asbestos in the air, and therefore breathing in any number
of fibers is not a thing that we would like to do --
especially because Oji Homes/Taneka don't seem to care
about their tenants and neighbors.

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Copyright 2008 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.

________________Japan Inc is worth every penny!____________

J@pan Inc is Japan's only English-language business magazine.
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analysis of business, people and technology in the world's
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