Export University Series: Japan

On Monday, June 6th, 2016, the Hawaii Pacific Export Council provided local businesses and interested persons with the opportunity to hear from experienced speakers about the realities of presenting local products and services to the Japanese market in their latest event, “2016 Export University Series: Japan – Connecting Local Business with Japanese Market Opportunities.” As a supporting partner, JASH assisted in making this seminar possible. Three members of the JASH Board of Directors, Mr. Tab Bowers, Mr. Steve Sombrero, and Mr. Sal Miwa, Chair, were joined by Mr. Jorma Winkler and Mr. Neil Arakaki, as panel speakers for this event.

Export 2

Mr. John Holman, Pacific Islands Director of U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service for the United States Department of Commerce, introduced each speaker to an audience of local community members interested in marketing in Japan.

The seminar began with a presentation by featured speaker Ms. Yuri Arthur, Commercial Officer of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Ms. Arthur provided an update on the Japanese consumer of 2016, “trending” products, as well as key points to keep in mind when marketing in Japan, such as the importance of punctuality, constant communication, and face-to-face interactions. Food, Gifts, Travel/Tourism, Outdoor Sports, Cosmetics, and Biotech were listed as promising markets for Hawaii businesses to enter. Of interest were Ms. Arthur’s references to the differences between the U.S. market and that of Japan—the countries differ in market regulations, attention to quality control, and even preferred forms of media (Japan prefers print media, whereas the U.S. relies on digital media). The presentation concluded by emphasizing the competitive nature of the Japanese market, and the importance of trade shows for any local business hoping to expand into the Japanese market.

During the panel discussion, Mr. John Holman, Pacific Islands Director of U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service for the United States Department of Commerce, provided questions for the five speakers on their personal experiences marketing in Japan. Common recommendations by the panelists included attention to detail, creating and maintaining social ties, and most importantly, persistence, as it will take longer for businesses to break-even in Japan than in their local markets. While working in a foreign market may produce difficulties such as linguistic and cultural barriers, the panelists emphasized the importance of patience and humility, and finally confirmed that local Hawaii products do indeed have a place—and perhaps even an advantage—in the Japanese market.

Export 1

The five panel speakers featured at this event were asked about their personal experiences with, and recommendations on, entering the Japanese market. (From left to right: Mr. Jorma Winkler, Mr. Neil Arakaki, Mr. Sal Miwa – JASH Chair, Mr. Steve Sombrero – JASH Vice Chair, and Mr. Tab Bowers – JASH Board of Directors)

Mr. Steve Craven and Mr. David Day concluded this seminar with a discussion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement that will lower trade barriers and enforce environmental and labor regulations. Mr. Craven and Mr. Day assured the audience that TPP will not only strengthen the already established business connections between Hawaii and Japan, but will result in a net benefit for the U.S. economy by increasing the annual income and creating new jobs. Although some jobs may be lost in the process, TPP was argued to be an ultimately beneficial, and vital, agreement for future progress in international trade.

Mahalo nui loa to Mr. John Holman, Hawaii Pacific Export Council, JASH, and our partners at the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) and Hawaii Foreign Trade Zone for making this event possible, and for inspiring Hawaii locals to expand their businesses and services into the Japanese market.

Emily Ratté – JASH 2016 Summer Intern