Second Opportunity in Japan

by | Aug 19, 2001 | Archives

Japan's economic downfall creates internet opportunities now.

If my theory in yesterday's message is correct that Japan is suffering inefficiency because of a lack of new ideas ***then there is a great niche business opportunity in Japan. There must be thousands of little things we do in the U.S., Europe, Asia, ANZ, etc. that would be very competitive and welcome in Japan. yet the complexities of the market has created a high entry threshold that normally keeps small businesses away. Enter the internet!

It is no longer necessary to go to Japan and set up shop to sell things there. How to cash in on the opportunity? Find something that you love that is missing (or badly served in Japan). Sell it to the Japanese over the internet!

One good way of figuring out how the Japanese live (and what they want need and desire, etc.) can be picked up from a website operated by an American living there.

An alert reader recently sent me this message which offers some excellent insights about Japan.

NB: though pornography are a part of the products being offered via (below), I decided to add it because of the valuable insights that it gives about life in Japan. Gary

	"Gary, Here is a web site written by Peter Payne that offers some 	interesting insights on Japan. Peter Payne lives in Japan and is married 	to a Japanese woman. He has an Internet business and to promote it he sends 	out e-mail messages every	two to three days. They are usually observations by an American about 	Japanese everyday life. Peter sells Japanese snacks, joke gifts, photo books 	and even JAPANESE PORNOGRAPHY though you can have his messages avoid this.. 	When I first found Peter I was looking for Japanese language instruction on 	his personal website, HONEST.		This e-mail starts off with his usual observations about everyday life, but 	then in the last paragraph	he gets down to an insiders view of the Japanese economy and talks about a 	deflationary spiral. Very interesting.	Here is a sample:		Hi again, from the land where soft-serve ice cream is known as the	much more delicious-sounding term, "soft cream."	Lightning strikes! Last summer, the J-List office was struck by	lightning, which caused our big air conditioner (which we informally	refer to the Giver of All Life and Happiness) to die for a week	during the hottest part of the summer. After a freak lightning storm	on Friday night that made national news, the J-List office has been	hit again -- and we have lost our air conditioner again! Hopefully it	will be a minor repair, as it was last time, but the timing is really	terrible, as it happened on Friday night before the week-long Obon	holiday. Doh! The lightning also managed to kill our phones, and	knock out our Internet connection (the one we use from Japan, not the	one the J-List site is served from). This has been a hell of a day.	Now if we can just get that air-con fixed before it heats up again.	Speaking of heat, by the time you read this, I'll be basking in it.		Comic Market 60 is going on in Tokyo, at the Tokyo Big Sight	convention center (you can see the famous inverted pyramid as it gets	destroyed in Godzilla vs. Destroyer), and Yasu and I will be making	the pilgrimage on Sunday to talk with doujinshi circles about letting	us sell their works on J-List. A massive doujinshi convention in	which about 50,000 fans line up to spend hundreds of dollars on these	extremely popular amateur-printed comics, Comic Market (or "Comiket"	as its called) is held twice a year, in the summer (sweaty, dripping	hell) and in the winter (blessedly cold and refreshing). Inside Big	Sight, there are four large halls jam-packed with doujinshi circles	selling doujinshi (comics) as well as CG collections on CD-ROM, cute	hand-made tributes to their favorite anime character, and more. We	try, but I never have time to get through more than two of them	before the event is over. Because there is no air conditioning in any	of the halls, our bodies will be completely drenched in sweat by the	time we're done, despite the towels I bring with me to stuff in my	clothes. Yasu and I will do our best.		I'm a big fan of video games, and have loved them ever since the days	of Berserk and Star Castle. Whenever my son and I go to our favorite	public bath ("Furo 21"), we stop off and play a few games at the Sega	ge-sen (Japanese for "game center"). We can only afford to play a	few, since video games cost 100 yen here in Japan, which is roughly	$1 per game, compared to a quarter or 50 cents in the States.	Actually, many of the really exotic games are $2 to play. But the	extra income from the higher video game prices comes back to	consumers in the form of some really cool games. Of course there are	the ones that show up all over the world, the Virtua Fighter 4's, the	shooting games, and so on. One of my current favorites is a Japanese	taiko drum game, in which you have to hit the Japanese drum (either	the face of the drum or the rim around the drum, which produce	different kinds of sounds) in tune with the song you're playing.	There's also a funky "photographer game" out, in which you're a	photographer with a camera on a wire, trying to catch great shots at	sporting events. Every game center in Japan has a large amount of	floor space devoted to "UFO catcher" (crane games) as well as	"puri-kura" (print clubs, i.e. those cute machines that take your	picture and print it onto stickers), which are solid money-makers	here in Japan. Another major trend in video game entertainment is the	rebirth of "retro" games that were popular in the 80s and early 90's,	like Crazy Climber, Donkey Kong, and the original Street Fighter II.	Some of them are cool, but at $1 per pop, I'll stick to Mame.		Everywhere I look, I see more and more signs that Japan really is in	a deflationary spiral. We're all used to prices going up a little bit	as time goes by, but in Japan, the rule is "Japan's prices are high	to begin with, but the rate of inflation is low." This seems odd, but	somehow it accurately describes the movement of prices here in Japan	-- actually, during the nine years I've lived in Japan, I can't think	of a single thing that went up in price, except for train fare to	Tokyo (which was raised fro, $16 to $18 a few years ago). Now, signs	that prices are actually coming down are everywhere. Beef bowl (that	all-important economic indicator) now costs just $2.80, $2 less than	it did a few months ago. Many food items that were $1.20 are now	under $1. You can even find the 500 ml PET bottles of tea, which	usually go for $1.50, for $1 if you look. More than just certain	prices dropping, I feel there's a new attitude of "cheapness" present	in Japanese consumers, who were known in the past for spending money	on all sorts of silly things (like toilets that clean and dry your	butt, complete with remote control). Now, consumers want value and	low prices, even if it means shopping at Fresay instead of Shimizu	Supermarket because their instant coffee is 68 yen instead of 88 yen.	This is a good thing in some ways, but if Japanese housewives are	being extra-stingy with their pennies, it will make it that much	harder for Japan's economy to grow in the future. At the Comic Market	on Friday, I watched a huge line of people wait for 30 minutes in the	hot sun to ride the free bus to Tokyo Statin, rather than pay the 400	yen to ride the Yurikamome train (a very pleasant train line that	takes you up and over Tokyo bay).		I made some adjustments to the Peter Payne homepage at (namely, I fixed the search so that it	actually works now). We also added a nice tweak to the J-List site:	the top 5 lists are now clickable, so you can click and see the	top-selling items for the past week.	Well, we hope you are having a great weekend -- hopefully cooler than	Japan is right now!

Want more ideas about how to run an internet business in Japan? Why not join Merri and me at our International Business Made EZ courses here at the farm (or in Orlando this November). Our schedule is Aug 24-26 here at the farm. October 12-14, here at the farm and November 2-4 in Orlando.

Until next message, good global business and investing!