TT-702 -- New JTA Campaign -- What Makes Japan Unique is Japanese Themselves, ebiz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, Mar 17, 2013, Issue No. 702


- What's New -- New JTA Campaign -- What Makes Japan Unique is Japanese Themselves
- News -- Japan's entry to TPP may be bad for others
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- Ukraine non-GMO beans safe?
- Travel Picks -- Cool bridge in Ibaraki, Books in Jinbocho
- News Credits

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In July 2012, we received an email from the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA), asking us if we'd like to serve on an advisory panel for a new JTA video project helping to promote Japan overseas. While not being overly enthusiastic about Japan's bureaucracy, any effort it makes to include regular people, and particularly non-Japanese in the decision-making, is to be applauded and is worth supporting. Besides, watching the processes of the bureaucracy up close is entertaining, if not a little bit time consuming.

So it was that we were drafted on to the advisory panel with 7 other foreigners, the Vice President of Tokyo University, a former special advisor to the PM, and a branding expert. The panel's main focus was a video series, dubbed internally as the "Universal Appeal of Japan". The engagement ran for 5 months and finally culminated last Friday in the launch of the JTA's new media offering -- a massive collection of 160 videos -- that has been turned loose on the Internet.

The advisory panel's job was to give feedback from a foreigner's point of view (the panelists were mainly from Asia, Europe, and North America) on the project that the JTA had already scoped out -- that of increasing Japan's appeal abroad by differentiating it as a destination. In light of the less-than-successful "Yokoso Japan" campaign, this time around they wanted to give Japan a very definable image. Something that would be recognized, resonate, and be persistent in the viewer's mind. This is of course a critical mission if Japan is to improve tourism numbers, because even with 8.3m people visiting in 2012, in 2011 Japan still only ranked 39th in the world and 10th in Asia in terms of desirability as a tourist destination.

[Continued below...]

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This challenge to differentiate and be sticky in the minds of potential travelers of course something that every country faces, and is nicely portrayed by Simon Anholt, a noted British policy advisor. In the 2009 Handbook on Tourism Destination Branding, he said, "Today, every country, city and region on earth must compete with every other for its share of the world’s commercial, political, social and cultural transactions in what is virtually a single market. As in any busy marketplace, brand image becomes critical: almost nobody has the time, the patience or the expertise to understand the real differences between the offerings of one country and another, and so people fall back on their fundamental beliefs and prejudices about those countries to help them make their decisions. Just as in the commercial marketplace, the brand image provides a short cut to a buying decision.”

So Japan has to make itself memorable, and yet scathing criticisms of the government's tourism messages until now tell how far they have been from getting it right. Comments such as, "...lacks creativity", "Europeans still think of Japan as a nation of Samurai", through to "PR saying 'Japan has everything' is equivalent to advertising nothing". So it's no wonder that this time around the JTA wanted to do something different and to break the me-too mold.

As a panel, we were told that we needed to help the JTA define what makes Japan different. That's a pretty big request, and one that frankly could be argued over for years. However, the JTA did do a pretty good job of recruiting its panel members (with the possible exception of ourselves?), and some perspicacious discussion led the group to quickly realize that the biggest differentiator is not really cherry blossoms and temples, but rather the Japanese themselves. This country is uniquely different in that its citizens' values are what makes it safe, service-oriented, clean, orderly, visually stimulating, meticulous, sometimes weird, and very very tasty.

So the decision was made to focus on people rather than buildings or scenery. After that we needed to come up with three major themes (why, in marketing do things come in three's?) and we decided that they should be Japanese relationships, the making of products and foods infused with Japanese attention to detail, and lifestyle. These points may sound obvious, but they are also really are great differentiators, and are easy to convey in a consumer's short attention span. Indeed, just as Anholt said and as we know from search engine optimization, you build on what your customers already know and recognize if you want to improve "yield" on the Internet.

The JTA used an NHK team to shoot the videos. We feel sorry for the NHK guys, actually, because it wasn't until January that the panel provided a clear idea of what the videos should convey, then a mere 6 weeks to produce 160 of them. We imagine that there were some very sleepless nights over in Shibuya as they worked on the project! Another meeting in late February saw the panel view some of the prototypes and critique them further, mostly as missing the mark. Actually, that meeting was quite interesting, because it ran like a good kabuki play. There was the tentative NHK presentation, the reprimand from a high placed person that it wasn't good enough, ensuing concern about how to meet the deadline, then finally a promise to create something really memorable and make up for the deficit.

We didn't get to see the 160 finalized videos until the launch day, the primary video in particular -- which had to be dramatically changed from the previous version. We're happy to report, though, that it's quite good, and the JTA can scarcely be accused of not trying to do something different this time. Given that these videos will be used for about 3-4 years, they're important, and time will tell if JTA got it right. We're keeping our fingers crossed that they are a success -- Japan needs more foreign tourists.

As another sign that the JTA folks are trying to change their mindset, the launch event was held at the Surge Tank for the Tokyo Metropolitan Outer Underground Discharge Channel. Never heard of it? Well, it is a legitimate tourist attraction (although you have to book ahead to see it). The Surge Tank is a massive (and we do mean massive -- think football stadium sized) underground holding tank design to hold overflow flood waters collected from 5 other rivers and pumped up to 7km to the Kusakabe facility before being discharged in to the Edogawa. Being 50m underground, it was darned cold for the launch event, but we had to agree that it certainly was an original place to announce the nation's 2013 tourism initiative.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Norway does well on Japan stocks
- Japan's entry to TPP may be bad for others
- 160,000 Malaysian tourists expected in 2013
- Chinese trainee kills CEO and one other
- Public prosecutor clerk charged with leaking information

=> Norway does well on Japan stocks

There must be some very happy people at the Government Pension Fund of Norway right now. Apparently the fund held around JPY2trn in Japanese stocks as of the end of December, a fund which now would be worth at least 30% more, based on the Nikkei's closing on Friday at 12,500. The index was at 10,400 on the last day of 2012. The Norwegians appear to like Japan and have about more than half of their foreign holdings here. They particularly like Toyota, and hold JPY87.9bn in that one company alone. (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 15, 2013)

(The Nikkei, March 15 morning edition)

=> Japan's entry to TPP may be bad for others

Very good article on the NZ website, about the other side of the coin in terms of Japan joining the TPP talks. While in Japan's press you read about how the Japanese will be hard done by for coming to the talks late, in fact, the Kiwi commentators are saying something quite different. According to them, the Americans are altering the rules for joining the talks so as to accommodate the Japanese, and because of the various agricultural exemptions that Japan is expected to ask for, this may be quite deleterious to dairy and beef producers such as Australia and NZ. (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 13, 2013)

=> 160,000 Malaysian tourists expected in 2013

Ten years after Japan loosened restrictions on visa applications for Malaysians, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) says that it expects about 160,000 Malaysians to visit Japan for tourism, up 23% from last year's 130,267. Hopes are high because the Malaysian Tour Agents Association (MATTA) have nominated Japan as the top destination for overseas travel this year. ***Ed: Of course the regular low-cost flights by AirAsia are also probably a significant contributor to the increasing numbers. JPY5,000 one-way is very compelling.** (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 15, 2013)

=> Chinese trainee kills CEO and one other

Details are still sparse, but a Chinese "trainee" in his 30's has apparently killed his company owner and a female manager, and injured five others, in a fit of rage. The trainee (generally a euphemism for manual work 'slave') was scolded on a daily basis by the boss and manager and just couldn't take it any more. The attack occurred near Hiroshima, at an oyster shucking factory. (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 14, 2013)

=> Public prosecutor clerk charged with leaking information

Some things don't change, and being a girlfriend to a Yakuza is not something you would expect to turn out well. Sure enough, a 30-year old clerk at the Shizuoka District Public Prosecutor’s Office has been charged with passing on confidential information to her Yakuza-linked boyfriend concerning his friend's “deri-heru” (Delivery Health Massage) pimping business. The woman has apparently moved between a number of Prosecutor's offices, passing on tips about investigations for some time. ***Ed: The ultimate definition of "pillow talk"?** (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 14, 2013)

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.



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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

=> In TT-701 we ran a story about the fact that Sojitz is now importing non-GMO soybeans from the Ukraine. Although there are health fears in Japan about GMO products, one alert reader points out that it's not just GMO you have to worry about.

*** Reader: Regarding your story in TT-701 about the non-GMO soybeans, I have no expertise in the field, however, I'd have to say that on the face of it, it seems like a good sourcing alternative for Japan -- but with one proviso: you gotta hope there's no radiation there, either...

I know Ukraine's a big country, but it has "history". This is on my mind because I'm reading, "Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places."



=> Takahagi's Hananuki Valley, Ibaraki
Gorgeous views from a suspension bridge in the woods

If you prefer a little less touristic atmosphere to your outdoor adventures, then perhaps Takahagi’s Hananuki Valley would be just what you’re looking for. About an hour south of Daigo, the area is well known for its natural beauty, but has a far more sparing human presence.

The main draw of Hananuki Valley is a long suspension bridge crossing the narrow gorge, giving a lovely view of a small bubbling brook through the changing leaves. The best time of year to visit is clearly autumn, when the Japanese maple trees are in their full scarlet regalia; the other seasons have their own charms, but it’s hard to deny the stunning contrast that the colors add to the view. Once you exit the parking lot there is a bit of a walk to reach the bridge, and once on the other side there is a short hiking trail that winds through the woods around to the other side of the brook and back to the beginning. The bridge itself can be fun for those who enjoy a bit of a thrill; though not very high it does sway with each step and can make taking pictures a bit difficult.

=> Jinbocho, Tokyo
Tokyo's Rare Book Paradise

Do you have a thirst for books about avant-garde art movements? Insect taxonomy? Early modern maps? Forgotten children's literature? Obscure occult sects? There are specialty stores in Tokyo devoted solely to these topics, but what's amazing is that all these specialty bookstores and many, many more are located in a single neighborhood called Jinbocho.

Jinbocho is usually a turn-off for tourists and idle expats since a fair amount of Japanese knowledge is required to browse and read. When I wax lyrical about this neighborhood, I am typically asked, "but are there English bookstores?" The answer is yes, if you know where to find them, or have the patience to scan the alleyways until you see one. My personal favorite foreign language store is Oshima Shoten, located at Jinbocho's easternmost corner. Despite its cramped 50-square-foot size, about 1/50 the size of a Barnes and Noble, it is packed from floor to ceiling with fascinating and fantastic English titles you've never heard of, and I have never been there without taking something home.



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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (

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