TT-991 -- JMEC - Awakening the Genie, and e-Biz News from Japan

An Insider's comments on Japan's high tech business world
* * * * * * * * * 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 Tuesday, May 28, 2019, Issue No. 991

- What's New -- JMEC - Awakening the Genie
- News -- Cameras getting closer to human eye resolution
- Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Headless Samurai shrine in Otemachi, Hunter's Bar in Shinjuku
- News Credits


+++ JMEC - Awakening the Genie

Sometimes the best good works happen right under your nose. Within the
foreigners-in-Japan business world, one such "improver" is the Japan
Market Entry Competition, otherwise known as JMEC. This program and
associated organization is funded and supported by 18 foreign chambers
of commerce in Japan. The program's surprisingly high, and consistent,
level of official support is testimony to its effectiveness. I have
been involved in JMEC ever since it was first discussed as a "crazy
idea" in the Australia New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCCJ) some
time in the early 1990's and thereafter from when the first
competition took place in 1993. From memory, those early years had
intakes of about 50 people, whereas today the numbers are closer to
80, which means that up until JMEC 25 this year, at least 1,200 people
and likely more have been through it.

So what does JMEC actually do?

Fundamentally it teaches volunteer participants how to take the first
step in creating new businesses or fixing old ones - by doing
deep-dive research and thereafter building credible business plans.
The skills learned include ideating, market and technical research,
product/service design, business pricing and planning, negotiation
(with clients and other team members), documentation, presentation,
and last but not least - perseverance - perhaps the most important
habit of a successful person. JMEC participants are usually employees
of companies whose senior management value creativity, independent
thinking, and personal growth of their staff - even at the risk of
losing them later if those same staff have an epiphany as a result of
their JMEC experience. Originally most participants came from foreign
multinationals, but recently it's interesting to see a lot more
Japanese firms who are trying to internationalize encouraging their
staff to join the program - companies like Rakuten, Fuji Xerox, and
various Japanese banks.

JMEC is a tough business boot camp and it's not for the faint of
heart. Teams are given a project (versus choosing one) and are
expected to make the best of that client. The 4- to 6-person teams
work together for a grueling 7 months, and team members are challenged
to solve problems that are frequently well outside their skill set and
comfort zone. Marketing people suddenly have to learn about
engineering and technology, technical people need to learn market
research and making customer presentations, and modest administration
staff suddenly need to be seen and heard. All participants are
expected to be able to speak English (although not necessarily
fluently) and to have graduated from a 4-year college. In fact, about
20% of participants this current year (JMEC 25) have Masters or PhD

Why JMEC is top of mind for me at the moment is that I was contacted a
few weeks ago with the invitation to become a replacement judge, after
one of the regular members suddenly couldn't make the dates set.
Although I have been involved with JMEC as a presenter/lecturer and so
I knew that the judges play an important role, I didn't realize just
what an intense and sometimes emotionally conflicting (you naturally
find yourself wanting to support the underdogs) role it is... So
perhaps naively, I said "yes" and duly received the orientation and a
10cm high pile of business plans to review...!

[Article continues below...]

----------- Mt. Fuji One-day Fun Ride (Not a Race) --------

This is THE iconic annual Mount Fuji Long Ride cycling event. Take in
the scenic Fuji Five Lakes area on your bike, sample local flavors,
make new friends and meet old ones. Choose one of the three cycling
courses that fits you best, get geared up, and head out to the event
on your own. Or better still, join our rental bike-and-gear
all-inclusive day tour by bus from Tokyo.

Register for the event here.
Join the tour here.

[...Article continues]

The judging took place this last weekend and although I can't say who
won, that will be announced later, I can share some insights about how
JMEC tests the limits of people who are suddenly thrust into the chaos
and desperation of a (simulated) start-up. In fact it has been quite
eye-opening to realize what a large gap there is between what is
taught in schools (as mentioned, there are some MBAs) and what thought
processes are actually needed to create a successful business. Just
like an aircraft simulator, JMEC somehow creates the same highs and
lows, tensions and desires, as would be felt in a real start-up. As a
presenter/lecturer I have always shared with the participants my
viewpoint of the mental and emotional stresses involved, but until now
I have never "felt" the participants' own journey. As a judge, though,
you really get to see the process at a much more personal level, and
so my respect for each participant has gone up dramatically.

So what are the common gaps between knowledge and practice that
otherwise well-educated people make when creating a new business plan
under pressure? I was able to identify three points from the JMEC
teams and, btw, these points apply equally well to real first-time
entrepreneurs as they do to JMEC contestants.

1. Realistic Budgeting
It was fascinating to see people who are already employed show a basic
trait in their budgeting process - the trait of over-optimism and
trying to please. Of course when we create a business plan, we
necessarily have to be optimistic that our business will succeed or
otherwise why even bother to start? Furthermore, our investors need to
be incentivized by optimistically strong returns or we won't be able
to find the capital needed to get off the ground. I'm all for
optimism, but what I found at JMEC was a pattern where some (but not
all) teams did not want "ugly" red ink to show up on their
projections. So even in the first or second year they had plans
showing black ink (profit).

As an entrepreneur I know it's possible to run a company like this (if
I have perhaps only one employee), but in doing so I also know that
I'm limiting myself in two ways: i) a profit in Year One either means
I'm very lucky/smart, or more likely it means I'm not working my
capital hard enough and I have not made sufficient investment in
growth, and ii) maintaining profit at the beginning means I'm probably
the slow, cautious type who will be aiming for a 30-year exit for the
business - which is certainly the bane of potential investors - versus
a more normal 5- or 10-year one. Providing you have sufficient
capital, I don't think it's a sin to have red ink on your P&L for the
first 1-3 years. In fact it's normal.

I also found that some teams were following client expectations (in a
real start-up, the "client" might be an investor) to the detriment of
commonsense. If a client says that they want to be in profit in 18
months, yet with meaningful revenues, you'd better be reflecting the
need for a huge amount of capital investment upfront to get there. Or,
if a client doesn't want to hire staff (support for a software
company, say), then perhaps you will have to tell them straight up
that you don't think it's possible. Or if the client wants the
Japanese partner to put up all the capital for a new joint venture,
then point out in your business plan that they won't get much local
ownership let alone control, because the Japan partner/distributor
taking all the financial risk will want a big chunk of the local
equity - in my experience as much as 50%-70%.

2. Impactful Marketing
The common pattern in teams' approach to marketing was to either
ignore it, by letting a distributor take care of it, or by throwing
money at the task. In real life, when you let a distributor take
control of your marketing it's only natural they will want to do it
under their own brand, and so you lose one of the biggest
value-creation opportunities of being in the Japan market - which is
strong local brand equity and thus stable revenue for years to come.
OK, it is true that if your brand is already known globally, your
distributor will probably push your brand, but for most companies who
are just regular mid-tier players or start-ups, you will have little
to no leverage with the distributor, who over time is anyway going to
view you as just another supplier. Furthermore, if that distributor is
major, your product and brand will gradually be lost in a huge lineup
of similar products.

Throwing money at building a brand was the second common response to
marketing. This actually connects to the first point I was making,
which is that it is naive for a new entrant to the market to think it
can simply ramp up its messaging to compete with successful local
incumbents. Instead, there needs to be a clear value proposition that
the incumbents don't have, or a very unique creative hook that
consumers naturally respond to. When I start a company I always ask
myself, "What are the natural advantages I have over my competitors?"
long before I consider the marketing budget. If my product/service
advantages are not outstandingly clear, I'm not ready for the market.

3. The Big Idea
Tying in to this last point about natural advantages of your product
or service, is the "Big Idea". A big idea can be a product feature
that no one ever thought of before, like Post-it notes; or a business
model that completely disrupts a major business sector, like Airbnb;
or an inspirational leader who dreams of world peace, like Gandhi. All
are inspiring, all cause consumers in their excitement to overlook the
normal flaws and fears, and all act as a magnet for recruits and
investors. No one wants to invest their future or their money in an
uninspiring company.

The prizes for the winners of the JMEC competition are HP computer
gear and a bunch of Finnair return airfares to Europe, which are
highly appealing, but I think the real prize for participants is their
new awareness of what's possible if you think out of the box. Do I
recommend JMEC? Unequivocally, "yes". But be prepared for the work
involved and the outcomes.

...The information janitors/


------------ Live Tohoku Soccer at the Hub ----------------

View the first-ever live football (soccer) broadcast of Tohoku’s
Fukushima vs Iwate on June 22nd at HUB in Akasaka. The two J.League
teams - each holding 3 wins and 3 draws against each other - have many
supporters in Tokyo who finally have the chance to meet, drink, and
enjoy the game on TV together.

The broadcast is such an important event for the clubs that their
staff and management will come to Tokyo to take part in the Hub event
here - even though their teams will be duking it out in Fukushima!
Join the GMs, staff, and other fans in Tokyo for the kickoff at 3.00pm
on Saturday June 22nd!


+++ NEWS

- Highest May temperature on record
- Cameras getting closer to human eye resolution
- Stuck for a tourism idea? Start a pillow fight
- New emperor, new coinage, but not until 2021
- Poor prospects for almost 1m workers from 1990s

=> Highest May temperature on record

Anyone in doubt about global warming only needs to read the news to
see that something major is going on. On Sunday May 26th, Hokkaido was
the unlikely location of Japan's highest ever recorded May
temperature, of 39.5 degrees, in Saroma on the northeastern side of
the island. Why Hokkaido and not Kyushu? The Japan Met Agency simply
said that there was a "heat mass that settled over all of Japan", but
our guess is that the heat is a combination of the warming of the
Arctic (Alasaka has also been running record temperatures recently)
coupled with a strengthening El Nino pushing warm air much further
north - and Saroma was a confluence point. ***Ed: Even though Saroma
was hottest, Kyushu wasn't far behind with temperatures well exceeding
35 degrees. These days there is no place to escape the summer heat.**
(Source: TT commentary from, May 26, 2019)

=> Cameras getting closer to human eye resolution

Fujifilm has just announced a semi-pro camera with a resolution of
102m pixels, 3-5 times better than other high-end cameras on the
market. The new GFX mirrorless camera has an image sensor that is 1.7
times larger than its 35mm offerings. The camera will sell for around
JPY1.32m, a bit more than one yen per pixel. ***Ed: In case you're
wondering (as we were), the human eye has the equivalent resolution of
576m pixels for a given field of view. This was calculated as the
point at which actual pixelation is undiscernible to the eye of
someone with perfect (human) vision. In actual fact, though, the human
eye is flawed, with the brain supplying compensation for blind spots
and imperfections. Furthermore, a single "snapshot length" glance by
the eye has an equivalent pixel level of about 5-15m pixels... In
other words, about where Fujifilm's regular cameras are now.**
(Source: TT commentary from, May 24, 2019)

=> Stuck for a tourism idea? Start a pillow fight

The small fishing village of Ito, down on the Izu peninsular, has a
great idea for attracting tourists each February (last week's
competition was a qualifier round). They hold a national pillow
fighting competition. The idea started with a group of high schoolers
in 2013 and has grown to 16 teams of 4 players each. The rules are
that everyone pretends to sleep on futons, a referee blows the
whistle, then the players dash for the pillow stack to war on their
competitors. One person in each team is the "king" and is protected by
the other team members. Play is in intense 2-minute sets. ***Ed: This
is a great idea, basically harmless fun, although it must be terrible
to clean up afterwards! Its not hard to see this going viral
(Source: TT commentary from, May 25, 2019)

=> New emperor, new coinage, but not until 2021

Making new money is obviously a tough business, given that the
government has announced that even though it is designing new low-end
notes and 500 yen coins for the ascension of the new emperor, the new
coins won't be available until 2021 and the notes not until 2024 (one
hopes the new emperor remains in good health until then!). Apparently
the Japanese mint has a 20 year upgrade cycle anyway, as part of its
fight against counterfeiters, so the new coinage is actually right on
schedule. ***Ed: One interesting point about the new JPY500 coins is
that they have had their metallurgical composition altered, so as to
avoid people using the close-fitting Korean 500 won coin (which is 10
times cheaper in value) as a replacement in vending machines.
Traditionally vending machines confirmed authenticity by weight, but
as cheats were drilling small holes in the Korean coins, new vending
machines were needed that can sense the actual metal composition.
(Source: TT commentary from, May 24, 2019)

=> Poor prospects for almost 1m workers from 1990s

Research by the Mizuho Research Institute has found that about 900,000
workers who graduated from college or high school in the period 1993
and 2004, are still unable to find stable jobs. The group were part of
Japan's so-called "lost generation" who upon graduating were faced
with a shortage of full-time job opportunities and who were forced
into part-time or contract work that deprived them of job security and
regular wages. The pessimism they faced in 2000 seems to have dogged
this group throughout their working lives, and according to a Todai
professor, of those graduates who were unemployed in 2002, 40% were
still unemployed in 2015. Of the 900,000, in 2018 about 520,000 are
part-timers and 400,000 are still unemployed. The government reckons
it will cost about JPY20trn to support these underemployed people once
they start to retire. ***Ed: When the going gets tough in the Japanese
economy, Japanese society appears willing to throw certain segments of
the population under the bus. Our guess is that next time around, it
will be the many foreign laborers being employed on blue collar
visas.** (Source: TT commentary from, May 23, 2019)

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


------ German-speaking Travel Consultant Internship -------

Japan Travel KK ( is experiencing strong growth of
its German desk for inbound travelers to Japan, and we are looking for
a German-English speaking intern to join the team, with a view of
transitioning to a full-time position and work visa in Japan. The
internship will be for a minimum 3 months and a maximum of 6 months,
after which there will be a management and peer review. You can be
either a student who needs to do an internship to meet academic course
requirements, or you can be a person in the workforce thinking to
reset your life and location. Apart from German you should be able to
speak basic English and/or Japanese (either is OK).

The type of work you'll be doing is assisting German customers wanting
to plan trips to Japan. This would include the following:
* Responding to incoming leads and conversing (usually email/chat)
with customers
* Researching accommodation, transport, activities, diet
preferences/availability, entertainment, guides, and other things that
travelers require
* Using our quotation and itinerary systems to produce the customer materials
* Interacting with customers and consulting them on choices and areas of concern
* Translation of content about destinations
* Writing original content (articles) about destinations and activities
* Assisting us with German social media

For more details:


=> No additional events.


--------- Japan Travel Corporate Travel Services ----------

Japan Travel's Type-2 licensed travel agency business is one Japan's
few independent foreign-owned inbound DMCs. One of our specialties is
looking after corporate groups of 10-300 people. To date we have
assisted in the successful holding of training events, incentive
travel, conferences, off-sites, and team bonding programs. We have
looked after the full gamut of services, such as: international air
travel, hotels, local travel, event logistics and venues,
entertainment, micro-management of dietary needs, and special needs

We are highly motivated and are happy to work in a variety of roles
tailored to suit your needs: as a full-fledged corporate travel agency
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For corporate travel assistance, contact us at:
Or visit our pages at:



=> No feedback this week.



=> Taira no Masakado, Otemachi
The shrine of Tokyo's most famous samurai head

Japan has no shortage of ghost stories but perhaps the most surreal of
them all is that of Taira no Masakado and his headless exploits across
the nation. A warrior from Kanto, Masakado led a rebellion in the 10th
century against the government in Kyoto. He managed to conquer a few
local provinces in the process and flushed with some success,
proclaimed himself the new emperor and had his uncle executed. The
government in Kyoto responded to this by placing a bounty on
Masakado's head that was too good to refuse. And sure enough, it was
taken - by his cousin, son of the man whom Masakado had killed...
Taira no Masakado's head was now on its way to the capital.

But then a strange thing happened. The now dead Masakado decided that
his head ought to stop by a fishing village in what would now be
Tokyo. For centuries afterwards, reports grew from concerned villagers
and superstitious fisherman of a head that would fly through the
streets at night. Masakado may have earned a grudging respect for
taking it to a central government but a vengeful spirit was not
something that anyone could take lightly. Slowly but surely, the
resting place of Masakado's separated dome became a place of nervous
supplication and worship.

=> Hunters Bar, Shinjuku
Step into the world of Monster Hunter

Located in Tokyo's Shinjuku district, Hunters Bar invites Monster
Hunter fans into the fantasy world of the hunting action game
franchise. A collaboration between Capcom and Pasela Resorts, both
fans and newcomers alike can experience the fantasy video game in a
new light thanks to this authentic inn setting! Fans of the series can
also marvel at the themed decor, food and drink line-up, Guild Card
collection system and game merchandise available here.

The bar originally opened in March 2018, and was also followed by a
pop-up location in Osaka's Tennoji area last summer.

Just as the game-world inns provide a rest stop for weary hunters and
travelers, Hunter's Bar aims to provide a social hub in Shinjuku for
people to refuel and enjoy their night out thanks to the themed
interior and incredible menu line-up inspired by the series. Enter
inside and cross over from the virtual world to the physical one in
this warmly lit, wooden interior reminiscent of a tavern from the
game. Studded bar stools fill the bar interior, while replicas of
weapons, banners and foliage hang from the ceiling, adorn the walls
and fill the corners.



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