JIN-391 -- Female CEOs in Japan

The J at pan Inc. Newsletter
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
Issue No. 391
Sunday November 2, 2006 TOKYO

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Female CEOs in Japan
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@@ VIEWPOINT: Female CEOs in Japan
Ever since reading a recent article on
http://www.stippy.com/?r=3 about the under-representation
of female CEOs in Japan, I've been racking my brains
to find one. My first thoughts were of Tomoyo Nonaka
of Sanyo Electric or Fumiko Hayashi of Daiei, but as
Chairwomen, they both strike me more as figure heads
than actual active, managing CEOs. During my search, I
stumbled across the intriguing story of Emura Rika, the
38 year old President of Air Transse, a small regional airline
in Hokkaido. It did not take me long to discover that it is
not the fact that Emura is a female that makes her a
fascinating entrepreneur.

Emura's talent as a manager flowered at a very young age.
As the eldest daughter among 5 children, she was often left
in charge of her siblings when her parents were out of the
house. She learnt quickly that rather than shunning talent,
the more she educated her younger brothers and sisters, she
more she could outsource chores and responsibilities to them.
After seeing her Mother run off with a younger man when her
Father's company went bankrupt in the early 80s, Emura
decided that in order to be happy, she wanted to become rich.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that she was a hedge-fund
manager when you hear that while at Junior College
(yes, a "tandai"), she managed to earn over 7 million yen a
year as a private tutor by negotiating lucrative contracts
with her pupil's parents that ensured her a hefty "success
fee" paid only if the pupil gained entry into their desired
high-school. (Needless to say, Emura took a pay cut when she
started working in the "real world.")

It only took Emura six years to become a director (at the
age of 26) of the company that she joined straight out of
College. Over the next few years she helped the company
expand into everything from child-care run by musicians, to
online auctions of second-hand taxis and by the age of 32 she
had fired the rest of the board and become CEO. The one common
theme among her cunning business ideas is clear: "Target a niche
market, and be happy doing so."

Since 2004, Emura has been taking her pursuit of niche-markets
to a new echelon. She was approached by the then owner of
failed regional Hokkaido airline "Air Shenpex". After three
years of operations he had run the business into the ground
and all routes had been scrapped. Running an airline is not
an easy business, but Emura put up 60 million yen of her
own money and with the help of a 300 million yen bank loan
got the business up and running again in less than six months.
Renamed, Air Transse, she started small, flying an 18 seater
jet with a single niche route (Hakodate-Obihiro) but now flies
to Chitose and Memanbetsu as well. Keeping true to her
promise of forever targeting the obscure, she even offers
the politically correct equivalent of the "mile high club"
that literally lets you get married in the clouds. (Emura
must have "a thing" about weddings; She held hers at
"Tokyo Dome". Apparently to convince the conservative Yomiuri
lot at the Dome, she had to force all of her guests to play
a game of baseball during the ceremony!!)

Needless to say, if you are ever traveling to Hokkaido, you
should check out the fares as they are the cheapest in the
"do~". If you can't make it up North anytime soon, then
the next best thing is to take a regular peak at her blog,
hoping that a bit of that entrepreneurial magic will rub off.

- This week's JIN writer is a regular contributor to
Visit www.stippy.com for a variety of articles on trends in
Japan, written by some long-term residents of the shakey isles.

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The NZ Ball is a charity event, raising money for
Cure Kids (www.curekids.org.nz). Enjoy a great
evening of entertainment, food and wine, and help
future generations of NZers.

Date: Friday 17th November, 2006
Where: Grand Hyatt Tokyo, Roppongi Hills - 3rd Floor Ballroom
Time: 7pm until very......late
Attire: Black tie event (Men - jackets with ties are fine also).
Tickets: Purchase through tickets at nzball.com or online at www.nzball.com
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