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Establishing a Business in Tokyo

Wolfman101

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Hi all,
first post, though I have lurked for a while...this place is full of useful info!
Some background:
I am 32 years old, Australian, and lived in Japan for a couple of years about 6 years ago.
I am currently an analyst with a Fortune 500 consulting company.
My Japanese is basic,but getting there. I will do the N4 in Dec, and don't expect any issues, though my speaking is much better than my kanji knowledge,so I'd say that's probably at N3 level.

ANYWAY...
I will be moving to Japan permanently next year sometime (wife is Japanese), and want to set up/invest in/buy a business.
Funds are not really a problem, I have plenty of upfront capital, and am financially secure enough to not need to turn a profit for quite a while. What I am lacking is an IDEA.

Can someone point me in a useful direction as far as networking with other like-minded individuals?
Anyone have suggestions as to what they would do in my situation?
Buy an English school? Buy accommodation for foreigners? Find a startup to invest in? Just invest in property? Any good booming industries for a startup of my own?

Cheers guys, any input would be appreciated!

Dylan
 
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I have plenty of -ideas- of what I would do if I were in a position to open a business in Japan, most of which involve food service because I'm currently in that industry. I don't know what people might think is or isn't an industry on the brink of a boom, but I certainly think that the strength of a westerner opening a business in Japan is providing a 'western' experience for the Japanese. Catering to westerners visiting Japan is a -far- smaller market already dominated by large hotel and travel companies that would be difficult to compete with, while Japanese appetite for western styles is an enormous market that is poorly served from what I can see. (Given the huge interest in western styles and the weak list of western style offerings... I suspect there must be many legal, financial and cultural hurdles to cross to get established.)

I don't know why you'd want to invest in Japan. -I- would love to invest in a business in Japan because I'm fascinated by Japan and have been studying Japanese for years, but from a purely financial perspective I don't think Japan is your best choice by a long shot. It is not even slightly friendly to foreign investment while other countries are clamoring for foreign investors.
 

Wolfman101

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Well,to clarify:
by "invest in" I mean to lend money or go into partnership with an existing,profitable concern. This is something I have done in Australia. As for why...well, because I will be living there.This isn't a matter of "if I can find a suitable opportunity I will move to Japan", this is "I am moving to Japan forever, I had better find something to do there"!

Food hey? Interesting notion...though not sure if I agree with the lack of western options statement. I have found the quality and variety of food in Japan to be the best in the world (I suppose that's why Tokyo has the most Michelin star restaurants of any country). The European food I have had there is better than Europe, the Chinese food better than in China, the BBQ better than America, etc...

Thanks for the input though! Here's hoping that this thread turns into a big pool of ideas!!
 

nahadef

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I agree that the food market is solid. Bars as well. As someone married with a kid, it's not a direction I care to go. But in Sapporo, there are 'authentic' Belgian, German, and other kinds of izakayas and bars. That authenticity is a real appeal here, but it also requires a person from that country behind the counter.

There have to be a surplus of schools in Tokyo. It's totally possible to open one, but I think having some established reputation in the place would make a huge difference (i.e. a handful of students, a place in the community). I'm sure there's always one up for sale, but you still have to be able to filter the applicants for actual teachers vs. foreigners desperate for a job. In my experience, Japanese staff can get bullshitted pretty easily, but a native speaker probably has an advantage sniffing it out.

I think the best thing for you would be to set yourself up in Tokyo, and see who you meet. Planning from Australia is challenging, and being so open to the type of business is harder to advise.

All industries are down. Salaries are flat. The economy is looking bleak, even with the most positive prognosis. Come to Japan to live a humble, long, safe life. Someone might be getting rich here, but it's a pretty small percent.

I'd disagree about the quality of foreign food in Japan (though I've only eaten in Tokyo a handful of times). The food I've had here was always worse (that is to say, Japanified) than the native country, but then again, I grew up in Toronto, where the foreign food was usually made by people raised in that country. Anyway, not the point, just wanted to add that.
 

Wolfman101

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Not that it matters especially-I will be moving either way-but I thought the economic outlook was actually fairly positive for once? I have heard a lot of speculation that the combination of this Abenomics business combined with the impending Olympics boded well...

I guess buying in would be my preference. I would rather find a small, going concern, buy it (or part of it) and let it run, only getting more hands on as my knowledge/language skills increased...

Appreciating the input so far guys!!
 

nahadef

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Considering how poor things have been, a flat economy is somewhat positive in comparison.

Abenomics is fiction at this point. Rather, look into the continued existence (and possible increase) of black companies, the Japanese office equivalent of a sweatshop (Black Company (Japanese term) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) or the cost of living (slowly rising) versus the average salary (not moving). The population is shrinking, but rents are flat, with one of the highest vacancy rates in the world.

I don't live here for the bright economy. There are many other great things that make it a good place to live. But not the economy. It's going to be worse in the future. Abenomics is a sort of sore spot for me. Abe is such a blatantly wretched person, but people buy his slogans, even though it's his second time around as PM and he achieved literally nothing the first time around.

I'll let others fill you in on their experiences, and hope it helps!
 

Majestic

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I would say to expect pockets of buoyancy in the economy, and locations within Japan where there will be prosperity. Specifically I think Tokyo will continue to grow (slightly) in population at the expense of rural Japan. The Olympics will bring prosperity to a few areas. And there are some very localized areas where there will be interesting investment opportunities - for example the new station opening up on the Yamanote line between Shinagawa and Tamachi. I think Osaka and Kyoto will be interesting for a long time. Fukuoka and possibly Sendai will also be interesting. Rural Japan will continue to see population decline, and with population decline it will be challenging to generate or manage a business - unless you are more or less indifferent to the profit motive.

My two cents, anyway.
 

Dotanbatan

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I gather that you do not want to continue working in the consultation field ..... if you haven`t ruled that out, there would be good opportunities for you in Japan ..... with an established company, or venturing out on your own.

JETRO is a good place to start if you are looking into investing in a Japanese business. They have great resources and will be able to assist you in research and networking. They tend to focus on export orientated businesses but get in touch with them. They have funds, knowledge, and contacts.

Meet Japanese Companies with Quality - JETRO

Japan does not have a well organised Business Angel Network compared to the US or European countries. There are many VC companies here but as an individual investor, you are in a good position to hook up with a new venture in need of seed funding, particularly as Japanese banks tend to be very risk averse with start ups.

I don`t share the pessimism about `Abenomics` and Japan`s economic health over the next 10 years.

If you are not going to be `hands on` with the business you want to fund, and you are financially secure enough to forgo a return from your investment for a couple of years; my advice would be to take your time, build up a network here and wait for the right business(s) to come to you.
 

Wolfman101

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Thanks guys!

Well, consulting is something I would consider, but only free-lance. I am fortunate enough to be at a point where I can be done punching a clock for someone else.
I know what you mean regarding the dearth of Angel Investment-I have been able to find no Japan-specific group, company or organisation to link investors with startups!

JETRO is of course one of the first places I looked...but yep, quickly determined that they are an import/export facilitator.
 

undrentide

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You might want to find a group or two at Meetup.com.
There are some business-oriented networking groups in Tokyo area. I'm not sure how professional they are and each group's details but you might find something interesting.
 
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