Imported goods

Japanese city street with shopsDo Japanese buy imported goods?
It is one of the most frequently asked question whether Japanese do buy imported goods. It may be the first thing you think when you decide to doing business in Japan. The answer is "Of course, they do." but the truth is that it depends on cost performance. In other words, quality. Quality may be the key word to do business in Japan.

At Meiji restoration, all Japanese things were denied
When Japan opened the market to the rest of the world for the first time since the 17th century at Meiji restoration in 1806, people believed that foreign goods were superior to domestic ones. That was because there were over 2 centuries of technology gap between western civilization and Japanese one. Ukiyoe, Japanese multi-color wood prints, was rejected and discarded. It was well-known episodes that they were used as wraping china and glass art works at export and European people started correct them all.

Idols, German cameras and Swiss watches
After the WWII, Japan became factories of the world but reputation for "Made in Japan" was cheap or bad. Especially, European watches and cameras dominated the market until Japan have beaten up with digital ones. There is still unconditional belief on imported goods among elder people. You would know if you check luxury watch and car sales in Japan. ( Japan is the 7th most imported luxury watch country as of 2012 according to JETRO. )

Everything is made in China
In 100-yen-shop, they sell everything in 100 yen. You can find pottery, cooking gear, DIY tools, packing materials and so on. It seems impossible to make them in 100 yen. All are made in China but sold well. Almost all PC's sold in Japan are made in China, too. There is no choice to choose from even you have selected Japanese brand. Japanese seems not to check manufactured country if it is local famous brand. Japanese makers are controlling quality of the products even they are not made in Japan.

Practical lessons
The opposite example was American car in 80's. When the U.S. pushed American car import in Japan in 1980's, Japanese customer's high demands on quality in detail did not match. Beside, their performance did not attract Japanese. As for German cars, they seem to satisfy Japanese although they are more expensive.
Price itself might not do anything. Cheap products with reasonable quality sells well and luxuary big car with problems do not.

Mercedes-Benz Concept A (6147175497)
By Autoviva (Mercedes-Benz Concept A Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The other interesting example is CPU. It is main componet of PC's. U.S. also forced Japanses to use American ones otherwise Japan could not export PC to the U.S. For decades, Japanese makers gradually lost both manufacturing and developing skills and, finally, they gave up to make it. American makers have swept over the world. It was strategic triumph but losing good competitor might weaken their strength. In the era of smart phones and tablets, there is no more easy business for CPU makers.

If your goods or service that you want to introduce to Japanese market have enough quality that can full-fill Japanese demands, you will have good chance to penetrate the market. You could also find a good way in government regulation or treaty of commerce.

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