TT-770 -- Ramen, 2.5m Bowls a Day and Other Interesting Stats, e-biz news from Japan

Japan Travel * * * * * * * * TERRIE'S TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term
technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

General Edition Sunday, August 31, 2014, Issue No. 770


- What's New -- Ramen, 2.5m Bowls a Day and Other Interesting Stats
- News -- Chinese are the top spending tourists
- Web Content/Tech Job Vacancies -- Community Manager position
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- First black samurai, Kyoto
- News Credits

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There can be few more satisfying meals in Japan than a steaming (or
chilled) bowl of ramen. Pork, miso, soy, salt, curry, or vinegar
flavored. Thick or thin, al dente or soft. Vegetarian, chicken,
seafood, or strictly Halal. Garnished with pickles, veges, kimuchi, or
even cheese. Eaten straight with pepper, garlic paste, or sheets of
nori. Served in a luxury hotel, a ramen specialty shop, a streetside
yatai, or in a polystyrene cup at home or on the sidewalk outside a
convenience store. All we can say is, "yum!"

We won't go into whether ramen is actually a "food", in the sense that
it nourishes and supports life. In truth there isn't much in a basic
serving other than carbs, fat, and salt, but if you have nothing else,
yes, it will keep you going for a while. For a normally healthy
person, certainly a bowl a week isn't going to hurt, and indeed, there
are people who have survived for years on ramen and nothing else. Take
the case of 17-year old Georgi Readman, from the Isle of Wight, UK,
who has been eating only ramen for the best part of the last 13 years.
Apparently she has a selective eating disorder that makes ramen the
only food she can eat. Doctors say that she is malnourished and has
the body of an 80 year old, but looking at her interview and photos,
we are amazed at how normal she looks.

Wholesome or not, much the same as manga and anime, ramen is one of
those compelling aspects of Japanese culture that has successfully
undergone the transplant overseas. Instant ramen for example is now
consumed in far greater quantities abroad than it is in Japan, and
there are probably 3-4 times more instant ramen producers abroad than
there are here in Japan. Due to its ubiquity, we have often wondered
how much ramen is consumed around the world. There are some reliable
numbers on instant ramen, from its inventor Nissin, but very little
hard data on all the other forms. So we thought it would be fun to do
some extrapolation of our own.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

Non-instant ramen
* No. of ramen restaurants in Japan:
No one really knows, since ramen restaurants have a low hurdle to
start up, and seemingly go out of business just as easily. But one
reliable and relatively complete source of restaurant numbers is the
nation's largest directory for restaurants, Gurunavi. According to
their website (, there were 49,346 listings Japan-wide
as of today, of which 9,147 are in Tokyo (i.e., doesn't include
Kanagawa, Saitama, or Chiba).

* No. of ramen restaurants in the world (outside Japan):
Yeah, this is much harder and would have to be a wild guess. But based
on "ramen" being the familiar Japanese form of noodles and so
excluding all the local variants in China and SE Asia, then we would
guess that there are somewhere between 30,000-50,000 restaurants
around the world. We say this because Yelp tells us that most major
cities in North America and Europe have 100-1,000 restaurants each,
and we imagine ASEAN and North Asian countries (ex-China) would be
similar. There are about 100 cities in these regions populated by more
than 1m inhabitants, so that's roughly 200 restaurants x 100 cities =
20,000, then double that for all the smaller locations. Since Japan's
top 5 ramen restaurants internationally only have around 1,500 outlets
between them, we guess that most all the world's ramen shops are being
run by small independent operators.

* Average ramen serving:
Depends on where you eat, but on average the average serving in Tokyo
is between 150-200gms. Some outlets serve ramen mountains up to 600gm,
and many restaurants allow customers to reorder just the noodles only
to have a second helping.

* Number of meals served a day in Japan:
If you take the average ramen restaurant with 10-20 seats, they are
probably serving between 50-100 customers a day. Obviously some do
dramatically more while others less. But if we take 50 customers a day
as a reasonable average, then Japan serves up about 2.5m bowls of
ramen a day.

* Volume of ramen consumed annually in Japan.
If you take 50,000 stores x 50 customers x 200gm x 365 days = 180,000
tons of ramen a year.

Instant ramen
Then of course there is instant ramen, invented by Momofuku Ando, the
founder of Nissin Foods and today the world's largest producer of
instant noodle products.

* According to the World Instant Noodles Association (don't laugh,
there really is such an organization), the international instant
noodle market in 2013 grew about 2.5%, to about 105.6bn servings.

* Of the main consuming countries, China was top in sheer volume, with
46.2bn meals, followed by Indonesia (14.9bn), Japan (5.52bn), Vietnam
(5.2bn), India (4.98bn), USA (4.35bn), and South Korea (3.63bn).

* Perhaps surprisingly, although at 7th place in global consumption,
South Korea had the highest per capita intake, at 69 meals annually.
In comparison, the Japanese eat around 46 ramen servings annually.

You would think that Nissin Foods, as the inventor of instant ramen
would have a stranglehold on the market. But in fact the company owns
surprisingly little of the international market. Most likely this has
been a function of its slow and cautious approach in setting up
production and marketing units abroad, especially in emerging markets
where demand for instant ramen has boomed because it is so
cost-efficient. The company's annual report last year shows that only
13.4% of sales were to international markets, and in fact, this number
dropped 0.6% over the previous year. Clearly Nissin needs to try a
bit harder.

Instead, its noodles in the international market are getting eaten by
other Japanese firms (Sanyo's Sapporo Ichiban and Toyo Suisan's
Maruchan), European firms such as Nestle's Maggi brand, Chinese
players with local brands, and Korean firms. For example, in Mongolia,
a market that is growing rapidly, 40% market share is held by Korea's
Nongshim Co. The firm reckons that advertising, shop displays, and
shopper tasting events have all been integral parts of their winning

Yup, hungry shoppers at the mall and plenty of fragrant steaming ramen
tasting samples -- sounds like a winning marketing strategy to us.

...The information janitors/


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On September 19, The Board Director Training Institute of Japan (BDTI)
will offer a special one-day directorship training program for women,
followed by a dinner and panel discussion with a stellar list of
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both programs, which comprise an official side event of the
government's "Shine Weeks" symposium to promote the participation of
women in the economy. Given the number of firms that are looking to
appoint female board members, this is an excellent opportunity for
Japanese-speaking women. Details are at: .
Co-sponsors: EY Japan, Women Corp. Directors, Tanabe Law Offices.


+++ NEWS

- Concern about ongoing GDP contraction
- Japanese woman wins world Air Guitar contest
- Chinese are the top spending tourists
- Amazon duking it out with local publishers
- Tax man chippeth away

=> Concern about ongoing GDP contraction

Although this news item from the Economist is a couple of weeks old,
the commentary has been mentioned in so many follow-up stories by
other media, that we thought we should run the original. Basically the
Economist is asking whether the ongoing contraction in GDP jives with
the optimism that the Abe government is still showing for its
reflation strategy. Although economists expected the first quarter
after the consumption tax increase to be bad, they were hopeful that
things would have turned around by now. Instead, the economy is still
in reverse, largely as a result of shrinking real wages. Analysts are
now openly concerned that Abenomics may not be able to cause the
trickle down that was hoped for, and instead of recirculating
corporate profits, consumers in general will simply reduce spending.
(Source: TT commentary from, Aug 16, 2014)

=> Japanese woman wins world Air Guitar contest

We've never really figured out what the attraction of air guitar
performances is, let alone the incentive to hold and/or attend an
international contest dedicated to pretending to play a guitar. But
some people obviously like it enough that they will watch and thereby
draw in the sponsors. The 19th Air Guitar World Championships in Oulu,
Finland took place a couple of days ago and the winner was a 19-year
old Japanese woman named Nanami Nagura. She apparently took the trophy
for her stage athleticism and theatrics, which we think would have
looked just as good if she'd had ice skates on. ***Ed: We have
included a clip that shows one of her performances -- a
bit noisy for the office, so turn the sound down.** (Source: TT
commentary from and, Aug 30, 2014) (news link) (Youtube link)

=> Chinese are the top spending tourists

The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) has released a Q2 survey of 6,600
tourists. In the period April-June this year, the average Chinese
visitor spent JPY130,293 over and above their travel costs, versus an
average spend of JPY54,900 by all other nationalities. Thais were the
next biggest spenders, at JPY59,279 per head, then Vietnamese at
JPY58,726. In contrast Americans spent just JPY29,425 each. ***Ed: The
reason, we believe, is because the average Chinese visitor is buying
goodies for family and friends at home, and therefore is more likely
to be buying high-end electronics, fashion goods, and health-care
products in multiple unit quantities.**

=> Amazon duking it out with local publishers

Following similar controversy in the USA and Europe, Amazon is now the
center of complaints by a group of Japanese publishers who claim that
the company is strong-arming them over commissions and contract terms.
At the center of the dispute is Amazon's new rules which rank
publishers and the exposure they get, using a 4-point system. Abroad,
Amazon has been accused of delaying book releases and boycotting
authors managed by publishers in dispute with the firm. ***Ed: That
kind of monopolist behavior will cause unholy hell here in Japan,
where publishers really know how to curry public support. Amazon needs
to be careful it doesn't get impaled by a law suit or consumer boycott
over unfair business practices.** (Source: TT commentary from, Aug 29, 2014)

=> Tax man chippeth away

Now that we are entering a period of unprecedented fiscal risk-taking
by the government, it is only natural that the Finance Ministry will
find ways to claw back more tax. The latest scheme, which thankfully
currently only targets large companies, is to reduce tax carry
forwards from the current 80% to 60%. The government figures that tax
carry forwards for all companies cost it about JPY2trn in lost income
each year, so the new rate will yield somewhere around JPY300bn
additional tax. As a sop, the government will at the same time extend
the tax carry forward period beyond the current 9 years. (Source: TT
commentary from, Aug 30, 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



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


- Community manager's "special sauce" as a travel website is its
community. We are recruiting a bilingual person with an outgoing and
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abroad. The person will be involved in recruiting, contracting,
managing, and motivating the key leaders in the community, as well as
assisting with troubleshooting of downstream contributors and other
participants. Ability to multitask, show empathy, and yet maintain
discipline in terms of results are important attributes for this
position. Location of the job for the first 12 months will be in
Tokyo. Some travel around the country is also anticipated. JPY4M -
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Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:




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=> No feedback or corrections this week.



=> Honno-ji Temple and Oda Nobunaga, Kyoto
Foreign Footsteps in Japan 25 - African samurai, Yasuke

As you might know, there was a blue-eyed samurai in Japan in the early
17th century. His name was William Adams. But not many people know
that there was already an African samurai 20 years before Adams. This
samurai, who worked under prominent Japanese warlord, Oda Nobunaga,
(1534-1582), came to Japan in 1579. And he had the unique opportunity
of serving Nobunaga for a year and a half. He fought extremely bravely
for Nobunaga at the incident of Honno-ji Temple in 1582. The man
received the Japanese name Yasuke from his lord, Nobunaga. Sadly, no
records exist of his real name, although a 2013 TV program, Discovery
of the World's Mysteries, stated that Yasuke was perhaps a Makua from
Mozambique named Yasufe.



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