THIS month, I made our annual participation to Japan’s Software Expo.
It’s always something to look forward to, and we have been joining the last few years. I hope that we continue to expand our cooperation with Japan, not only because its economy is huge and technology advanced, but because working with the Japanese presents a really rewarding experience. They are long-term looking, make trusted partners, and work hard to make a partnership work.
It was somewhat disappointing that due to the lack of funds from the government, we could not continue to do the business matching event. But, at least, we continued to have our Philippine pavilion.
It’s probably because most of our companies take their cue from the west that we have not been as successful in the Japanese market. I remember over 10 years ago, our booth was bigger than Vietnam’s. This year, it was even smaller than that of Bangladesh.
I think partly the reason why we are not as successful is that we are too confident of already knowing English, and therefore do not see the value of learning Japanese, which the Vietnamese do. And believe me, understanding Japanese language and culture can be the key to getting a slice of the market.
Japan this month is welcoming a new emperor and a new era, and everywhere, you can see optimism and vibrancy, particularly since next year, Japan will be hosting the Summer Olympics.
In the last few years, Japan has almost quadrupled its tourist arrivals. From a few million just a few years ago, they are now targeting more than 20 million next year.
This tourism boom comes because of certain things that they did, the most important of all is its very developed infrastructure.
They also liberalized their visa requirements, and it is much easier to get one now. They offer a lot of incentives for tourists–from duty-free shopping (tourists immediately get a rebate of eight percent of the sales tax right in the store by presenting their passports), free WiFi in major public areas, and much lower charges on train rides.
It was in 1964 when Tokyo first hosted the Olympics, and it was the start of their post-war boom for the next 20 years. Significant during that time was the introduction of Japan’s bullet train to the world (the Shinkansen), which was seen as a major factor in growing the economy of Japan for the next 30 years.
This time, Japan is pulling all the stops to introduce the new bullet train (which can travel more than 400 kph), as well as driverless taxis in time for the Olympics.
However, we don’t have to wait till the Olympics to experience technology in Japan.
Just one example: we were in Uniqlo and GU (the famous Japan’s clothing stores that is now worldwide). When you go in, you are given a big basket, where you put items you want to buy. When it is time to pay, you can choose to have self-checkout. Just put the whole basket into a container that looks like a washing machine and it will just read the tags and show you what you have purchased and how much. If you are okay, then you just pay (either in cash or with a card). After that, you can pack the clothes yourself!
I’m sure the technology is not that difficult nowadays, but the reason it works for them, and maybe not in some cultures, is whether you can trust the people to be honest. In their case, they can, and that’s why they can do it.