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Shibuya Hikarie 8/COURT

12 Teams Proclaim Their Visions For Opening Roads to Overseas Sales Expansion - "MORE THAN Project Matching Festival - PROJECT COMPASS" Report

"MORE THAN Project" is a subsidized project held by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) for the purpose of supporting the spread of uniquely Japanese products to the world. This year, among several hundred applicants, 12 teams were selected to present their products and vision for overseas expansion at the "MORE THAN Project Matching Festival - PROJECT COMPASS" on June 30, 2016, at the Shibuya Hikarie 8/COURT. It was a place where we could survey the future of these high-quality products and share our opinions on the market.

Acquiring an Outlet for Japanese Products in the World Market

The event began with an opening talk from Loftwork Inc.'s Chiaki Hayashi. She spoke on the significance of this event. "This is the third year for the MORE THAN Project. This year's lineup showed not only productivity but passion, technique, and emotion in each creation. Even in a country with an economy as developed as ours, these creators spent quite a bit of time on their creations. With the know-how to properly convey the worth of their products which all of these creators share, I think it would be great if they could go on to show the value of culture to the world as well."

The deputy director of METI's Creative Industry Division, Shigeru Furuichi, had this to say about the projects. "This is a great opportunity for small and medium businesses to get together with producers to create better products and aim for a greater market acquisition for TPP members. All 12 of the projects selected this year are excellent and I would like for each to exhibit their strong points in aiming to achieve their business goals."

Project Team Session (1)

The explanation of each product and plans for overseas market acquisition were presented by each of the twelve teams in an open session style. We began with six teams for the first half of the event.

01 "360°BOOK Cityscape"
An art book created with the precise incisions of a laser cutter. This book has been created in such a way that a three-dimensional diorama appears when it is opened. "We wish to create a 360° book series with cities from around the world as motif and, in so doing, create topics for discussion and thus market expansion." (Seigensha Art Publishing, Inc. - Taishi Sonoda)

02 "NEW "SAKE" TO THE WORLD from Yosano, Kyoto"
We're in the process of creating a new Japanese sake with the umami of sake and the acidity of wine. With rice and water from Yosano, Kyoto as base ingredients, we add wine yeast and create the sake with traditional brewing methods. "We would like to make "sake" the next big thing from Japan along with Fujiyama, samurai, sushi and geisha." (Project Manager - Ryota Sako)

03 "TSUMIKI Project"
Using Japanese cedar from the "Machu Picchu of Kyushu," Morotsukamura, Miyazaki, this project creates high quality "building blocks" from uncoated, natural wood. "Because these are high-quality products made by local artisans, we also have the aim of making them available for use as childrens' toys." (Project Manager - Ken Ninagawa)

04 "WASHOKU Cut-Glass"
We re-branded the Japanese tableware from the Edo Period, "Edo Kiriko," to spread to the world as "cut glass." "We collaborated with Japanese food experts at the British embassy to explore new forms of display for this tableware." (Project Manager - Takuya Horita)

"Kawara" tiles with exceedingly high durability, heat and water resistance. We seek to create a market outlet for these tiles in places such as the USA where barbecues are popular. "We answered the demands of chefs who wished for kawara tiles which could be used directly on open flame." (Project Manager - Shinya Kobayashi)

"Hybrid wool" (also "summer wool") developed and put to use in Bishu through carded wool textile manufacturing techniques. We established local branding through collaboration with well-known brands. "Fashion can change the image of a country. It is an incredibly important factor in raising the value of the country as a whole." (Project Manager - Akiko Shinoda)

Lightning Talks

During the lightning talks, city partner and sponsor of our assembly hall, Kose Kaba from Tokyu Railways, took the stage. He spoke of future prospects. "I want to make Shibuya a place where new beginnings are always taking place. In 10 years, when Shibuya's redevelopment is complete, I hope that all of your products are out and well known in the world and that we can all meet here again."

Project Team Session (2)

After a short break, the final six teams began their presentations.

Sprays and essential oils made mainly from the mill ends and scrap wood of 200-year-old Aomori Hiba trees. These products have antibacterial, deodorizing and odor-resistant properties as well as a pleasant fragrance. “We’re aiming for an organic product where our customers can feel closer to nature.” (Cul de Sac LLC. - Mineko Muraguchi)

08 “Cha no ma”
Cha no ma, a tea space that anyone can easily create. The Japanese style space can be assembled in just 30 minutes and includes related utensils such as a ryurei shelf, tea utensils, flower vases and letter box. “We worked with a business established in the 1600s.” (Project Manager - Junzo Yamashita)

09 “MARUNAO, to the world”
Tableware made from the rare but solid lumbers ebony, rosewood and the like. We aim to become established as a superbrand who focuses on wooden products made with a high degree of skill. “75% of the work on these products is done by hand. We hope that this subtlety can be appreciated in overseas markets as well.” (Project Manager - Yoshihito Katata)

10 “KYUEMON Ceramic Coffee Filter Project”
A ceramic filter with holes only 50 microns in diameter. Filtering with this product will create a milder taste. This product is one of a kind and can only be created by KYUEMON. “We don’t just want people to enjoy the change in flavor, but to propose to them a certain kind of lifestyle as well.” (Marketing/PR Specialist - Akira Hirobe)

11 “Utsuwa.Guide”
“Vessels for Life - Hanada” boasts a network of over 300 Japanese tableware makers. They introduce not only Japanese cuisine but also carefully selected Japanese tableware and cookware to the world. “We believe that, if we can transmit the very basic concept of serving food, we should be able to make ourselves understood even should our cultures be different.” (Project Manager - Jun Kaneko)

A handmade, compact stroller with a high degree of rolling performance. We allow for custom orders and assembly is quite simple. “Time spent together between parent and child is universal. We wish to perform repeated surveys to create a form of parent-child communication that can become popular both in Japan and overseas.” (Project Manager - Shintaro Tanabe)

This ended the presentations of all 12 teams. We were able to feel their determination towards their creations and their desires to make these products known to many people around the world.

Next, Cabinet Office Policy Adviser Miyako Hamano took the stage. She gave strict but kind advice to the creators. “Thinking about how you are going to sell these products overseas is extremely important. There are barriers standing in front of all of you in the form of the need to win in competition with similar products in many areas, including price, and the need to build a customer base for your products. You will all be challenged with the task of customizing and localizing your products to fit the lifestyles of the areas in which you wish to sell them.”

Cross-Talk: “The Role of the MORE THAN Project”

We wanted to know not just about these new products, but about the past experiences of the creators themselves as well. How were they able to put this project to use? What kind of results did they produce from it? Thus began a cross-talk between Loftwork and two former MORE THAN nominees.

“At the social gathering after the event, we were able to share knowledge with experienced people and have them translate our project reports into English. From this, we began to receive inquiries from overseas as well and it was quite advantageous for us.” (Coelacanth Shokudou LLC. - Shinya Kobayashi)

“We were dealing with a very difficult product and it was quite discouraging at times but we had the chance to all get together from time to time and I believe we have managed to successfully perform our branding. We wrote reports every month and I believe that they were a good stimulus for us to keep moving forward.” (more trees design, inc. - Shinkichi Mizutani)

“The people at the Loftwork office have a severeness, which I believe comes from love, and an enthusiasm to make sure that these teams succeed at all costs. The 12 nominees could succeed on their own without creating horizontal ties between each other, but the design of this project, including teamwork and horizontal cooperation, is quite interesting.” (Moderator: JDN Inc. - Tai Yamazaki)

“The more fellows one has the more that person can accomplish and this will allow their possibilities to continue to grow. If we can produce more results by connecting individuals together who were originally working separately, we believe that this would be a better way to go about things.” (Loftwork Inc. - Tomohiko Akimoto)

After listening to these experienced individuals speak, questions began to come out from the audience. We received the following question from someone who is a freelancer working in creation and design. “What are you focused on most in the MORE THAN Project? Is it the creation of market outlets? Support for the creation process? Also, as for the team promoters taking part in planning, are more of them project managers or actual workers?”

Akimoto responded, “The original scheme of this project is the aim to create market outlets for these products overseas. There are cases in which we also work with product reform and development during the process of the project.” He then looked to the promoters of each of the 12 teams to answer the second half of the question and received the response that proposals are most often brought forth by project managers.

Finally, one of the nominees from the first installment of the project, Yokoyama from Yokoyama Industries, happened to be present and was given a chance to speak. He used manufacturing technology from passenger vehicles to create metal cocktail shakers and, with an opportunity gained from an exhibition in Germany, was able to create pathways into the European market.

The business people and participants alike were able to exchange information and peruse the products of each nominated team making sure that the exhibition hall remained lively even during intermission and after the talks had ended. This good form of chaos may perhaps create chances to lead to future overseas expansion. With expectations high for the 12 teams when they meet again in March for their final reports, we all felt great possibility for the future from this event.

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