Japan is a unique place, and it’s not always easy for foreign companies to succeed here. There are many barriers to making it in Japan, from the confusing multi-leveled tonya distribution system to the often-quirky tastes of Japanese consumers. Still, many famous gaishi-kei” (foreign capital”) firms have built successful businesses here, with some companies like Nestle, Proctor & Gamble and Northwest Airlines having been in the marketplace for so long people often don’t realize they’re foreign (Northwest has been flying commercially to Japan since 1947). The Japanese have a lot of respect for the icons of America and Europe, and happily embrace brands such as BMW, Michelin, Jack Daniels and Harley-Davidson, all of which have found a great deal of success here, and when a famous brand finally claims “mind share” in the Japanese marketplace, it usually enjoys long-term success. On the other hand, Japan is a very competitive place to do business, with many companies actively pursuing every market, and Japanese consumers are especially demanding of high quality. But the benefits of succeeding in Japan can be enormous: some companies, such as Louis Vuitton and AFLAC, have encountered so much success when they expanded into Japan that it basically springboarded the rest of their company to new heights worldwide.
One of the most incredible success stories of any gaishi firm is that of Coca-Cola. Along with Hershey’s chocolate and Levi’s, Coke was an enigma to Japanese of the occupation era, a mysterious treat enjoyed by the victorious American soldiers. Over the course of a decade, Coca-Cola overcame the Byzantine, almost Soviet-style regulatory hurdles it had to to face in order to flourish in Japan, and now Coke has something like 90% of the cola market to itself (spikes from Pepsi Star Wars bottlecaps notwithstanding). The rise of Coca-Cola in postwar Japan went hand-in-hand with the popularity of vending machines (there’s one for every 23 people here), and Coca-Cola solidified its position in part by taking the lead in developing the most innovative vending machines of any company (including one I saw the other day that let you watch current Coke TV commercials on a built-in LCD screen). Now Coke is somewhat analagous to Toyota in the U.S., a large, smart outside competitor to Japan’s Big Four beverage companies (Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo and Suntory).
Foreign companies provide an interesting alternative to working at more traditional Japanese establishments. Foreign companies in Japan have an image of being more socially progressive than Japanese firms, and women interested in seeking serious careers might consider working for American or European firms operating in Japan. The idea of semi-guaranteed “lifetime employement” came to an end in Japan the 1990s, but it’s still common for most full-time employees to expect to stay at the same company their entire lives. Japanese who decide to work for a foreign company generally expect more performance-based pay than they might find at traditional Japanese corporations, along with opportunities for advancement beyond those based on age and seniority, which is still quite rare in more traditional Japanese companies. On the other hand, there’s apt to be less stability at a gaishi-kei company, which is an important factor in conservative Japan.
Among other things, J-List sells hundreds of amazing DVDs of all types from Japan. While most of our DVDs are issued as “region free” (meaning you can play them on any DVD player), many of the indies, anime and other discs are zoned for region 2, meaning you need a special player to watch them. Happily, J-List carries three excellent region free DVD players that make it easy to enjoy *all* DVDs from Japan, including PAL discs from Europe. We have the full-featured DIVX-compatible DVD-7050, the handy portable M280, and the great half-height Karaoke-enabled DVD-7880K. Just in time for the busy Christmas season, we’ve dropped our price on the affordable 7880K to just $68! All players are very well made, are manufacturered for the North American market, feature international power supplies, and come with full 1 year manufacturers warranties. Also, all players are shipped double-boxed by our loving San Diego.