Ancient Monozukuri philosophy still guides corporate Japan in

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Ancient Monozukuri philosophy still guides corporate Japan in

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Ancient Monozukuri philosophy still guides corporate Japan in the 21st century

With a focus on a longterm vision rather than short-term results, Japanese companies push for sustainable growth, while adhering to age-old principles of craftsmanship and contributing to society
Although there is no direct translation for the term “Monozukuri,” the closest description in English is associated with the word “craftsmanship.” In Japan there has always been a focus on producing things in accordance with principles that have guided the society for centuries. While less formal in practice than in the past, the notion of “kata” or the “most proper” way of doing something still resonates with Japanese citizens today. The idea that a person should work at their craft with the aim of perfection centers on the importance of

quality production rather than the person who created it or, like the American mentality, of “just getting it done.” The Japanese have a desire and concern for doing things right, however it may not mean short-term results or the fastest production.
Even the machines for manufacture themselves are created or improved to ensure highquality results. “We use European machines because of their quality. We believe in importing those and slightly changing them to fit the demands of the Japanese market. At the end of the day, what is important is to satisfy the demand of the Japanese and amend the machines to fit the current needs,” says Gotaro Nakamura, President of NASCO Nakamura Sangyo, which specializes in food packaging.
In fact, as notable writer on Japanese culture Boye De Mente once wrote, “One of the aspects of the quality obsession of the Japa-

nese is that it covers the whole product, including areas that are not ordinarily seen – the bottom, inside, and so on. Many Western products have failed the Japanese test for quality because they were not fully finished or detailed.”
Following “kata” can still be seen in interactions with Japanese businesses today. There are certain principles, manners and etiquette that are expected of foreign individuals wishing to conduct business with Japanese executives or in Japan. Being familiar with these customs is essential rather than a bonus when engaging in business, as it is a normal practice of the Japanese to study and become familiar with the customs, culture and language of their customers or partners.
At the same time, adapting to international practices has helped many Japanese companies learn more about the processes of their industries and expand overseas.

Changes have been applied both in Japan and abroad, which have helped businesses like Ariake Japan maintain steady growth. The food manufacturer has been in business for over 50 years and expanded into the U.S. 26 years ago.
Chairman Kineo Okada explains, “We had to comply with the strict regulations of the FDA, which are much stricter than our domestic standards. We learned a lot during this process and were able to comply with the internationally acclaimed standards of food administration. This allowed us to gain the trust of our Japanese clients, which resulted in the growth of the company.”
And while the company continues to enjoy success at a time when others are challenged, one of the pillars of their management philosophy involves contributing to society because the goals of Japanese corporations focus on success beyond the immediate future.

“As Konosukue Matsushita, (the revered Japanese industrialist who founded Panasonic), said, ‘The real value of a corporation comes out when the economy is sluggish.’ This is a creed all managers in Japan know and this is what we embody. We cannot use the badly performing economy as an excuse for poor performance. It is all about efforts. Efforts always pay off,” adds Mr. Okada.
Kameda Seika Co., Ltd. is another company in the food industry that began the internationalization process some years ago, beginning with the United States in 1989. Chairman and CEO, Michiyasu Tanaka, explains that, “The domestic growth rate for rice crackers is 2-3%; however, growth in the U.S. is 10-20% per year. The market in Japan for these crackers is 260 billion yen ($2.56 billion); in the U.S. that same number is 36 billion, and in terms of scale, it keeps expanding.”
As they focus on the increase in purchase of the health food in the United States, Kameda Seika is holding true to Japanese

standards of maintaining high quality and looking out for the long-term results.
In an interesting anecdote, Mr. Tanaka describes the Japanese mentality that is so steady amongst business practices: “Three weeks ago, a professor from Harvard Business School visited us in order to write a new case on Kameda. One of our subsidiaries in the U.S. engaged in selling traditional Japanese rice crackers has been losing money for nine years. The professor asked us why we are still running this business. I told him that we operate on a long-term basis rather than short-term. In the U.S., if you cannot get results within three years, you will give up and abandon the business; we are not like that in Japan.”
Other industry leaders like Soji Maeda, President of Maeda Corporation, a civil engineering and construction firm, have a similar viewpoint. “We put the needs first, not the company. We have always been striving to adjust to the needs as quickly as possible and that is how we have been

expanding our company and contributed to society. To challenge new things, to keep on challenging, is within our DNA.”
Japanese companies also value the importance of giving back to their employees. In the case of Biken Techno Corporation, a building and facility management company, that entails offering training programs to its employees from Vietnam and the Philippines, whereby they come to Japan to acquire new skills and a technical license, all while earning a wage.
“In terms of the caring business, we started this strategic Technical Training System program in Asia. For example in countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, we invite local employees for training so that they can acquire the technical license. These people come to Japan, learn technologies, and earn money. Eventually, when we establish our offices in their home countries, they can go back and start working there. In 2011, we established our office in Singapore, which has about 68 employees. I am also planning to establish another one in Bangkok, Thailand,” says President Ryusei Kajiyama.
Expansion into foreign markets will remain a top priority for Japanese firms as they work to strengthen their global presence. However, cultural standards and the central idea of “Monozukuri” will continue to be a priority in the way things are made and done when doing business in and outside Japan.
Japanese values stress the importance of sustainability and long-term contributions to society. And while the Japanese will continue to press for internationalization, they are holding true to those values of high quality and standards that they believe will ultimately help to revitalize the economy.
Abe reelected, vows to accelerate Abenomics Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December 2012 promising to lift Japan’s economy out of decades of stagnation, by implementing his bold three-pronged monetary, fiscal and growth strategy known as “Abenomics”.

Unfortunately many would argue that Abenomics has not had the impact that Mr. Abe envisioned almost four years ago. And many leaders in the Japanese business community, including Toshiyuki Kanda, President of Okada Aiyon Corporation, remain on the fence about the plan.
“Abenomics was implemented with three arrows. The first arrow touched upon monetary policies, which was approached with a very aggressive strategy that I believe has gone fairly well. The second arrow was about fiscal policies, and I believe this was positive too. The third arrow, growth strategy, has not been as successful as expected,” he says.
“It is still early to say, and we have to wait a bit for it to be fully implemented, but compared to the previous policies, I personally feel that we can get something out of the growth strategy plan if it is implemented well.”
While his economic revitalization strategy has not entirely convinced business leaders, Mr. Abe’s actions since coming to power convinced the Japanese people to reelect him in June, giving him a mandate to “accelerate Abenomics to meet the public’s expectations.” And in July, he announced a staggering 28 trillion yen ($265 billion) stimulus package to boost domestic demand and to stave off deflation.
So while Mr. Abe looks to push on with his agenda to elevate the economy, leaders in the pharmaceutical, real estate and food industries will continue to build long-term sustainable growth by applying the “Monozukuri” and “kata” principles, to which Japan has adhered for centuries.
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Promotion of generic drugs core of new pharma policy

With generic drugs making up only 30% of total sales, the government and Japanese pharmaceutical firms hope that increasing the use of generic drugs will help to ease the burden of caring for Japan’s rapidly aging population
Representing almost 10% of the world’s market, Japan’s pharmaceutical market is the second largest in the world, behind the United States. Japanese companies retain high customer loyalty locally, which has made it difficult for foreign competitors to establish a profitable consumer base.
Another problem for foreign entrants to the Japanese pharmaceutical market is the lack of trust in generic drugs, which currently make up only 30% of total sales. Recent legislative policies have however advocated a push for the consumption of generic drugs.
“The government is promoting the use of generic drugs. In 2015, it even stated the actual volume share of generic drugs to be used by the public. This was an unprecedented move. The promotion of generic drugs is at its core because they cost less for similar effect, which is very clear to understand. We have been helped along by this favorable wind and the generic industry as a whole is expanding,” says Itsuro Yoshida, President of Towa Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
The government hopes the increased use of generic drugs will help to ease the burden of caring for Japan’s rapidly aging population (it is officially the world’s fastest aging nation). And caring for the growing number of elderly in Japan is indeed one of the main challenges for the country’s drug makers.
“In order to provide solutions for the super-aging society issues, I have two focuses.

The first focus is through the pharmaceuticals themselves,” says Dr. Masayuki Mitsuka, President and CEO of the Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation.
“When we look at healthcare cost distribution of Japanese medicine, most of the cost goes to bedridden patients, the senior patients, who need care throughout the day. If we put all the money on the costs for these bedridden patients, it might not be an appropriate way of seeing it, but it will not be a productive way to provide a solution. I think what we personally as a company have to focus on is the medication to help senior citizens not to enter that bedridden stage, how to prolong the period where they are able to be active themselves and do some activity and do some work as well.”
While the market is expected to grow annually by about 2.2% in Japan, there are still other challenges facing the industry, such as the regulation of pricing. Mr. Yoshida explains, “In Japan, the system is a little bit different from that of the U.S. The Japanese government sets the price for pharmaceutical drugs.”
Companies that begin to sell a drug in the free competitive market often try to market it lower than that price, and then later, when the government again evaluates the pricing, the standard price is set even lower. It’s a cycle that perpetuates and makes it difficult for the companies to profit, especially generic drug makers. However, with the government advocacy for more generic drugs, the industry is expected to see an increase in sales over the coming years.
In order to influence key opinion leaders on the benefits of increasing the usage of generic drugs, Towa Pharmaceuticals has opened up its facilities for the public to be able to see the quality of production. According to Mr. Yoshida, “There are some

doctors who remain skeptical about using generic drugs. It used to be pharmacists, but now less so. So in order to persuade doctors of the benefits of generic drugs, we are opening up our facilities, allowing them to see first-hand how they are made. Because seeing is truly believing.”
The high standards expected by Japanese doctors and consumers present a challenge for the pharmaceutical industry, leaving plenty of room to grow the market and to change the scope of what quality means in the availability of medicine for a population that prioritizes health concerns.
In Japan, the pharmaceutical industry is one of the places where the “Monozukuri” principles are being put into place for the good of business and economics, as well as the good of the people.

“We have been helped along by this favorable
wind and the generic industry as a whole is
Itsuro Yoshida, President, Towa Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

Japan real estate a safe long-term bet for investors
The commercial property and rental markets have experienced significant gains, while the Trans-Pacific Partnership and 2020 Tokyo Olympics bode well for the construction and real estate industry as a whole

Japan’s real estate market can appear daunting to overseas investors, but its long-term stability and size – Tokyo is, after all, the world’s most populous city – have been attracting significant capital flows from abroad, most conspicuously from neighboring Asian countries. For investors concerned by the uncertainty and volatility in international capital markets, the longer term may well prove to be the smarter option, making Japan’s residential, commercial, hotel and industrial properties worth a closer look, along with related sectors such as construction.
Beginning in 2016, the Bank of Japan’s policy of negative interest rates has allowed companies to negotiate favorable terms from banks for long-term loans at near-zero rates.
“We are waiting to see the effects of the negative interest rates

in the short term,” says Eiji Kutsukake, President of Nomura Real Estate Holdings Inc., which has undertaken large-scale developments of smart cities in Funabashi Morino City and Zutto City.
“In the long term, there will be some negatives and positives of Abenomics, but I believe eventually there will be a positive effect overall. This is contrary to what the media is popularly reporting. “
A shrinking population has kept residential housing demand relatively low, however, even though banks choking on their reserves of unproductive cash would be only too glad to lend them the money.
In such an environment, investment grade properties continue to generate better than acceptable returns as they recover in sync with other global economic drivers. Real estate is particularly attractive on ac-

count of the secure flow of rental income it produces and is often sought after for balancing portfolios. In the case of Japan, there is the additional advantage that no restrictions apply to foreigners owning property regardless of residence or visa status.
Even in the worst of times, Japan Inc. was never in danger of tarnishing its reputation for excellence and quality. Executives learned not to lose sight of those standards as they became more forward-looking, outward-looking and innovative. At the same time, the realization hit home that the most successful business is not necessarily the one that makes the biggest profits.
So Japan has had to change its mindset along with its skillset and open up to ideas that challenge the “traditional Japanese way of doing things” while its businesses look for new overseas markets in order to learn from them as well as to sell to them.
Two upcoming events are certain to attract even more interest in Japanese real estate. Before U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office next January, he hopes to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) accord into law, creating a free trade zone among 12 Pacific Rim countries that is expected to add $23.2 billion to Japan’s GDP. How does this impact on housing? Pundits claim the realignment of logistic networks and creation of new trade flow patterns will bring about the displacement of entire population centers. These will have to be rebuilt practically from scratch, the experts say.
One thing is certain: the construction sector is sure to be working overtime to construct state-of-the-art sports facilities valued at $3.8 billion and hotels to accommodate some 20 million visitors taking advantage of the weak yen to spend time in Japan in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Meanwhile, commercial property is on an uptick. The vacancy rate for prime office space in Tokyo was just 2% in 2016, and income

from rental property grew by about the same amount over the previous year, registering its first significant gains since the macro upheavals of the early 1990s.
That counts as good news in the current environment of sluggish growth and low interest rates, and even more so in a country recovering from two decades of runaway deflation that produced an enormous bubble of inflated assets. Until it popped late in 1991, the price of quality land in Osaka had shot up by 33%, and in one Tokyo district increased 122% in 1988. Two years later, prices had plunged by 13% to 18% across the board in Japan’s six largest cities, marking the start of the “lost decade” of painful recovery.
As failed banks closed their doors, loans went unpaid and GDP seeped through the floorboards, while the Tokyo skyline underwent changes. The Bank of Japan kept on pumping money into the system and some of that liquidity went into property acquisition. Now the office blocks and shopping centers built back then are to be retired, replaced or removed.
Why is this happening just now? During the deflationary decades, Japanese people clung to their savings in the certain knowledge it would appreciate in value inside their mattresses. Companies avoided capital expenditure like the plague. This accounts for the slightly dated look at the headquarters of certain corporate giants dating from the 1970-1990 period, many of which are earmarked for an upgrade.
This Japanese approach to urban renewal is known as “scrap and build” and there is more latent opportunity in their paradigm than just a chance to bid for demolition tenders, insists Mampei Ohmoto, President of the civil engineering and construction firm Ohmoto Gumi.
“Unfortunately, compared to other countries, we do not have all that many big and beautiful buildings and monuments. I hear that the roads in Paris were designed mainly by Napoleon III.

“Despite the declining population, there are
still possibilities for developing markets and
developing business in [real estate]”
Eiji Kutsukake, President, Nomura Real Estate Holdings

“Our core strength as of today is in Japan and North America, but for
the future, our focus is on the Far East and
Western Europe”
Toshiyuki Kanda President, Okada Aiyon Corp.

“In order to survive and compete with other companies in similar sectors,
it is important to figure out where to invest and
to seek our priorities”
Ryusei Kajiyama, President, Biken Techno

“Towards the Olympics, many hotels are going to be established in the
city, so we want to take that project and be responsible for that“
Mampei Ohmoto, President, Ohmoto Gumi

Establishing a beautiful city is a priority, as it contributes to the economy,” says the head of the 108 year-old firm that posted record profits in 2015.
“Many European companies have a long-term vision, instead of looking at the short-term benefits, and I want this company to be like that. I want to be humble, but at the same time, be challenged by new projects,” adds Mr. Ohmoto. “For example, Japan might face a recession after the 2020 Olympics. Who can tell?”
Scrap and build requires powerful, purpose-built machinery to clear away the remnants of old construction and make way for the new. Okada Aiyon Corporation is an Osaka-based firm that specializes in manufacturing and servicing the heavy equipment used to break up, crush, pulverize, slice, grapple and lift

chunks of unwanted concrete in demolition operations.
Concrete has a life cycle of about 50 years, explains Toshiyuki Kanda, Okada Aiyon’s President, and “when Japan experienced the massive boom of the 1970s, that was when all the skyscrapers and tall buildings were built. Recently, there was an accident on the Chuo Highway where the Sasako Tunnel collapsed and many people were injured. The main reason was the outdated infrastructure.“
The need to upgrade is a major concern of Japan’s construction and engineering sector, in a country that registers around 5,000 earth tremors each year. Fortunately, few are as lethal as the 40-meter tall tsunami churned from the depths of the sea by the March 2011 quake which disabled the Fukushima nuclear plant, killed almost 20,000 people and triggered the world’s most serious nuclear emergency since Chernobyl.
Authorities know that even without factoring in random threats from tsunamis and nuclear meltdowns, Japanese earthquakes tend to be fairly frequent and uncommonly deadly – over 140,000 people perished in the Great Kanto quake that leveled Tokyo and its port city of Yokohama on September 1, 1923.
Awareness and forethought were not enough to stop it. In his plans for Tokyo’s grand Imperial Hotel, architect Frank Lloyd Wright incorporated elements that offered as much protection

as the science of the period knew how to put into it including cantilevered support beams, seismic separation joints and other features that allowed the hotel to sustain only minor damage from the quake that occurred on the day of its opening.
Given that in Japan, geology is destiny, it is hard to fathom why a duly rigorous seismic building code for commercial property was not introduced until 1981, and its regulations made applicable to all existing structures after 1985. As a result, pre-1980s construction that has not been retro-fitted and certified as earthquake resistant will undoubtedly be priced considerably lower than similar properties built in accordance with the strict new codes.
In a country prone to such natural disasters, building management service providers are crucial and offer property owners peace of mind. One such firm is Biken Techno Corporation, which offers owners a full range of what its President, Ryusei Kajiyama, describes as “facility management services” that include building security, food handling and sanitation, equipment updates and emergency repairs. At present, it has 232 properties under management for some 80 clients.
Over the past decade, Biken’s five subsidiaries and 11 associated companies have expanded the range of its people-oriented services into the nursing, hospital management and real estate/hotel sectors. Now Mr. Kajiyama’s

sights are set on Bangkok. “We have seen the quality of our service improve and are constantly looking to make new improvements by taking the good parts from every sector,” he says.
What will the buildings of the future be like? Mr. Kutsukake, the President of Nomura Real Estate, one of the country’s top developers with around 1,600 employees, believes new construction should incorporate relevant new technologies, offering the people who live or work in them the benefits of sustainability, energy efficiency and an overriding emphasis on quality.
With 55 years of experience and nearly 200,000 units built, Nomura is committed to developing innovative residential properties marketed under its PROUD brand, including Sustainable Smart Towns designed for “active seniors” in the 50 to 70 age bracket who have more disposable income and leisure time at their disposal but prefer to have a range of multifunctional conveniences within easy reach.
“Japan is experiencing social shifts such as a population decline, low birthrate, and diversification of working styles due to women’s participation in society, greater energy-saving awareness, and so on,” says Mr. Kutsukake. “Reacting to those changes, we plan to develop sustainable cities that are energy efficient and concentrate multiple functions and communities where various generations live in harmony.”

Food makers look to supply rising global demand for healthier, high-quality products

Rising demand for healthier foods in the U.S. and Europe and the growth in popularity of Japanese food across the globe translates to big opportunities for Japanese food makers, who exemplify the Monozukuri philosophy grounded in high quality and craftsmanship
As the world shrinks in size but grows in terms of population, new and forward-thinking products, as well as variations on traditional favorites, are gaining ground. The companies at the forefront of the segment are in a continuous search for products that combine consumer attraction with health benefits, at the same time being careful to preserve the reputation for responsible and sustainable manufacturing that Japan has become globally renowned for.
Such has been the surge in the global popularity of Japanese food over recent times that today it is undoubtedly one of the world’s best-loved cuisines, eclipsing even the internationally adored pizza, if certain surveys are to be believed. And it’s not hard to believe, either, when you take a look at the figures.
According to a study by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, in July 2015 the number of Japanese

restaurants in all markets outside Japan was nearly 89,000. This was up considerably from the 55,000 tallied in 2013 and more than triple the 24,000 counted in the 2006 survey.
The rise in Japanese food is part of a wider trend, particularly in the United States, of an increase in preference for Asian cuisines. Asian restaurants are now the fastest-growing fast food category in America, growing 10% in 2014 alone, according to data from market research firm Technomic, while the Washington Post also noted that global sales for Asian food have grown by nearly 500% since 1999, “the fastest growth seen in any food category around the world, according to data from market research firm Euromonitor.”
However, when considering the factors behind the sharp spike in popularity and demand for Japanese food in particular, unlike a lot of Asian cuisine, Japanese dishes (such as sushi and soba) are actually seen as a healthy option. In fact, the global Japanese food boom started with sushi back in the 1970s, spreading throughout the U.S. due to a drift towards health-conscious eating. As time has progressed and the trend in global health consciousness has continued to broaden across continents, so too has the image of Japanese food as “health food”, resulting in its explosive popularity.

But there is much more to Japanese cuisine than maki rolls and noodles. The country’s vibrant food manufacturing industry, among which products such as confectionaries and rice crackers are perhaps two of the most well-known exports, have also contributed heavily to the Japanese food boom.
Whereas car and electronics manufacturers like Toyota, Sony and Nintendo may have once served as symbols of national identity, today they have arguably been replaced by the country’s food products, owing to their heightened global reputation and demand. And like all national products, Japanese foodstuff is characterized by high quality, innovation and trademark attention to detail.
“We are keen to expose the Japanese way and quality. Especially in this sector, it is all about taste, quality and safety. We want to commercialize our products by appealing to the growing demand for Japanese quality,” says Tomiya Takamatsu, President of Dydo Drinco Inc., a company engaged in the manufacture and sale of beverages.
Indeed, producing such high-quality food products often requires heavy investment in R&D and innovation, which is also something that Japanese firms are renowned for.
“We are trying to boost our research and development, in order to meet the demands of the client and customers;

“We can see that people have a positive impression of rice crackers with them being gluten free, low in calories, and good for allergies, because we are experiencing rapid growth of our product”
Michiyasu Tanaka, Chairman & CEO, Kameda Seika Co., Ltd.
that is our goal. Technology is a fundamental part of the business,” explains Kunio Otani, President of Nichirei Corporation, Japan’s largest frozen food producer which also engages in the transport and refrigeration of fresh produce.
“First and foremost, our emphasis is on quality and innovation,” says Yasushi Yoshida, President of food and beverage processor, Bourbon Corporation, highlighting a value held widely across the country’s manufacturing industry.
“We take great measures for product development. In Japan, consumers are always requesting new products, and that is why we come up with at least three new products per month. On top of that, we also have the full line of products, from biscuits to chewing gum, which allows us to be probably the number one in the world in terms of product range,” adds Mr. Yoshida, whose company’s

24,000 No. of Japanese restaurants
outside Japan (2006)
89,000 No. of Japanese restaurants
outside Japan (July 2015)
10% Growth of Asian fast food
restaurants in the U.S. (2014)
500% Growth of global Asian
food sales since 1999
Sources: Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Technomic, Washington Post

Kameda Seika’s business doesn’t just end with rice crackers, however. In a bid to continue innovating and developing its products, the company set up the state-of-the-art Rice Research Center in order to help it conquer even more markets. “The reason we created the center is because rice has so many possibilities,” explains Mr. Tanaka. “Low-protein rice, for instance, is specifically prepared for people with kidney disease. We just began developing some research for brown rice. Not the brown rice you eat as it is, but the kind that goes into packaged foods or drinks. We have developed many supplements for pets with allergies or cosmetic products as well. In addition, we provide space foods to the international space station, which is a big selling point.”
Yet despite the healthy eating trends in the United States and Europe, consumption of sugar, which has now replaced fat as enemy number one on the lists of most nutritionists

“As we are in the food industry, we have to provide safety and security as well as tastiness. We always put the customer first and provide healthy ingredients to society”
Kineo Okada, Chairman, Ariake Japan
and dieticians across the world, remains incredibly high when compared to Japan. According to Masaaki Iida, President and CEO of Mitsui Sugar Co., Ltd., the average Japanese person consumes less than half the amount of sugar that a person consumes in the U.S. or Europe.
“In the States a person consumes about 35 kilograms of sugar, in Europe it is 37 kilograms. Swiss people consume 55 kilos; and Japanese consume 17 kilos,” says Mr. Iida. “Many researchers and scholars from Europe and the U.S. say sugar is not good for you.

product range includes rice crackers, bean snacks, wheat crackers, tea-based soft drinks, and fresh and frozen desserts.
While such products as biscuits and frozen desserts may not be the first things that spring to mind when you think of the healthy and nutritious food that Japan has become famous for, Mr. Yoshida explains that an increasingly health-conscious society is driving product innovation at his company.
“In the post-war period, the trend was to sell large quantities of inexpensive things,” he explains. “Nowadays people do not want to eat a lot even if something may be cheaper, because people are also concerned about their health. Japan is not a country where people are starving or where we cannot sustain the food demand – we have this part satisfied. However, there is a new demand for the health food, and we believe there is a new market growing in this area.”
Therefore, food processing companies like Bourbon are not only developing new products

to cater for this market, but also innovating their existing products to make them healthier. As well as catering for higher demand in Japan, where a rapidly aging population is one of the major driving forces in the heightened demand for health products, Japanese manufacturers are also especially targeting the growingly healthconscious U.S. market.
“We can see that people have a positive impression of rice crackers with them being gluten free, low in calories, and good for allergies, because we are experiencing rapid growth of our products, especially in the American region,” says Michiyasu Tanaka, Chairman & CEO of Kameda Seika Co., Ltd., the leader in the Japanese and U.S. rice cracker markets with around a 30% and 60% share respectively. “I believe there is more potential for growth in the health food market in the U.S. We have plans to put more force into the health-related domain, which I believe puts us in sync with the trend of society in the U.S.”

“Looking at the bigger picture, the world is facing food shortages. We need to address this situation”
Kunio Otani, President, Nichirei Corporation
“Coca-Cola is trying to convert Japanese people to other kinds of artificial sweeteners. But if your consumption is at a level of 17 to 18 kilograms, it’s okay for you to enjoy sweets using sugar.”
With the rise of obesity and diabetes in the U.S., reducing consumption of sugar is a grave challenge for policymakers, as is cutting consumption of genetically modified (GM) crops, which are also understood to have adverse health effects. GM crops take less time and effort to produce than their traditional counterparts. But with the growing demand for non-GM crops, an increasing number of farmers in the U.S. are returning to the cultivation of traditional crops. An added incentive for farmers is the premiums buyers are offering for non-GM produce. Reports state GM crop cultivation in the U.S. has reached a plateau as more farmers opt for traditional varieties.
“In the American market, there is a movement and it’s shifting towards the non-genetically modified crops. Of course every year, we go and talk to the local farmers. We see what they do and we listen to their opinions. If we compare the GM and the non-GM, by far, GM is the most efficient and the easier to process and produce,” says Junji Torigoe, President of tofu maker, Sagamiya Foods Co., Ltd.
“But in Japan, there are only non-genetically modified crops. It is in the base, it is the core of

the Japanese food culture. Of course we’re very happy that the U.S. market is shifting as well.”
Working with Sagamiya, snack food and cereal maker Calbee Inc. began marketing a tofu variety of granola in Japan’s Kanto region in March. Domestic production of granola has multiplied six-fold over the past five years, according to the Japan Snack Cereal Foods Association, as producers look to meet the increased demand for healthier breakfast cereals amongst Japan’s rapidly rising elderly population.
Nicherei’s President, Mr. Otani, shares the typical Japanese preference and enthusiasm for natural, healthy and highquality produce.
“Of course as a company that deals in the food-related business, it is all about utilizing natural resources that are safe and high quality. In order to do that, we need to have a stable supply of these resources,” he says.
Mr. Otani explains that Nichirei, like many Japanese companies, is also concerned with global food shortages as population growth and climate change impact food supply and demand. Japan, he believes, can lead the global fight against food shortages. “Looking at the bigger picture, the world is facing food shortages. We need to address this situation,” he adds.
Nichirei has been active in the U.S. market since 1979 and brings popular foods from Japan to America, through its Seattlebased subsidiary, Nichirei USA.
Another Japanese food processing company which has not only established itself in the U.S. market, but also become one of many domestic manufacturers to have led the way in bringing Japanese food products to a truly global audience is Ariake

Japan, a leading producer of natural seasonings. Ariake has made major investments totaling around 20 billion yen ($195.4 million) over the past couple of years alone in order to expand the natural seasonings business throughout the world, and has constructed a “global eight-pillar system” with production and sales bases centered in Japan, China, Taiwan, Belgium, France, Indonesia and the U.S.
Chairman Kineo Okada explains that the first major milestone of the company came 26 years ago when it decided to expand to the United States. “It was triggered by an unstable supply of livestock here in Japan, and we entered the market at a very early stage,” says Mr. Okada.
Like most Japanese companies, Ariake not only holds the value of quality and innovation in high esteem, it also has special regard for sustainability and social responsibility. “Contributing to society has always been important to us,” says Mr. Okada. “As we are in the food industry,

we have to provide safety and security as well as tastiness. We always put the customer first and provide healthy ingredients to society. We have also invested a lot in social contribution; for instance, our company has invested 10 billion yen ($97.7 billion) in a private scholarship fund. This was made possible thanks to the company stocks we had accumulated, and this fund is the largest educational fund in Japan.”
Environmental concerns also come high up on the list of priorities for Japanese manufacturers such as food packaging manufacturer NASCO Nakamura Sangyo. “In terms of the environmental focus, our tactic is to produce products that are more sustainable and do not have to get disposed as easily,” says President Gotaro Nakamura. “We have to comply with the different demands from the convenience stores and supermarkets, and our goal is to work together with them in order to find solutions to prevent environmental exploitation.”

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