Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kobe's Tiger...ASICS              神戸のタイガー、アシックス

If you are a runner or involved with track and field, you know the brand ASICS.  Having seen the brand in footwear stores and mail-order catalogs when growing up in the States, I just assumed that the brand was American or European.  Even after moving to Japan, it took some years before I learned that ASICS was actually a Japanese company and even more so, born and bred right next to Osaka in the city of Kobe.

So if ASICS is a Japanese company, why is it called ASICS?  Sounding nothing like Japanese, I conducted some research to find out about the company's roots.

Established in 1949 by Kihachiro Onitsuka, the company started off as a hit with Olympic athletes in the '50s, '60s and '70s thanks in part to the popularity of the Onitsuka Tiger brand.  Bruce Lee even wore a pair of yellow and black Onitsuka Tigers with a matching jumpsuit in his film - Game of Death.

It was not until 1977 when the Onitsuka Tiger brand merged with several others that the ASICS brand was officially born.   Now back to the point in question, what does ASICS mean?  The company's name comes from anima sana in corpore sano in Latin, which translates to "a sound mind in a sound body" for us English speakers.

With its American headquarters in Irvine, California, ASICS has expanded its operations to subsidiaries located in 23 cities across the globe, and is the apparel manufacturer of choice for Seattle Mariners baseball player Ichiro Suzuki.

With a strong presence nationally, it will be interesting to see how ASICS can increase its share of the market overseas in the years to come.




1977年にオニツカタイガーと他のスポーツウェアブランドが合併したことで、アシックスが誕生しました。さて、ここで最初の疑問点に戻りまして、社名の由来についてです。アシックスという名前は、古代ローマの作家ユウェナリスが唱えた「健全なる精神は健全なる身体にこと宿るべし(Mens Sana in Corpore Sano)」という、ラテン語の一文から来ています。Mens(才知)を、より動的な意味を持つAnima(生命)に置き換えて、頭文字 A. S. I. C. S を並べているのです。



Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kyoto: The Land of Bras and Panties?!     京都は下着の都!?

Believe it or not, the world of bras and panties in Japan starts and ends in the former imperial capital of Kyoto.  Founded in 1946 and officially taking on the name Wacoal as we know it today in 1957, the massive women's apparel manufacturer's lineup now includes everything from brassieres to panties to shapewear to accessories.

With more than 17,000 employees placed in its Kyoto headquarters and representative offices spanning 14 countries (international headquarters situated in New Jersey), Wacoal is definitely a force to be reckoned with when it comes to women's unmentionables.

In 2008, Wacoal added the Japanese mail-order lingerie retailer, Peach John, as a subsidiary company to strengthen its presence in the domestic market.  With the word of the street being that Victoria's Secret is looking to make its much awaited grand entrance in the next year or two, it will be very interesting to see how the playing field changes once my native Ohio-based Victoria from the U.S. enters the market.  




Monday, December 27, 2010

Capcom is to Osaka as Nintendo is to Kyoto   大阪のカプコン、京都の任天堂

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Nintendo and its contribution to the Kansai economy.  Today I will highlight another video game developer heavyweight in Capcom, which brought us such famous titles like Street Fighter, Mega Man and Resident Evil over the years.

Located about one minute away from my office in Osaka by walking sits the headquarters of the video game juggernaut Capcom.  Established in 1983, Capcom wasted little time in expanding its operations globally by setting up its American headquarters in San Mateo, California in 1985.  Now with branches and subsidiaries in 8 countries spanning the globe, the company is well positioned to make its presence known as it expands into new markets.

Having launched its own mobile device focused site where users can download games for their cell phones (in addition to having certain titles available on the App Store), Capcom is showing that it is a company of the times and clearly focused on the next generation of gamers.



また従来のアプリに加え、 カプコンは自身の携帯サイトの開始に伴い、 携帯ゲームのダウンロード販売を始めました。時代の変化にいち早く気づき、新しい世代のゲームプレーヤーに即座に対応する姿はさすがです。

Friday, December 24, 2010

ROHM: Illuminating Kyoto One Light Bulb At A Time  ROHM:京都を彩るイルミネーション

When one thinks about Japanese electronics corporations, the likes of Panasonic, headquartered in Osaka, Sony and Toshiba probably come to mind.  But one must not forget about the semiconductor behemoth ROHM, which is situated in Kyoto.

Established in 1958, ROHM was ranked 22nd in the world in semiconductor sales in 2009.  Not bad for a company whose main product for years was resistors.  With its American headquarters located in San Diego and European headquarters in Germany, ROHM is one of the several global companies that call the former capital of Japan home.

Unfortunately concluding tomorrow, ROHM has turned its corporate headquarters into a winter light wonderland lasting a month.  Every year since 1995 ROHM has put on this light extravaganza, however I had the privilege of seeing this showcase of some 600,000 lights last weekend for the first time.  All I can say is that if you are planning to visit this year or in the future bring your sunglasses!  With nighttime events held throughout the month and a lighted park for the children to play, I would highly recommend stopping by ROHM between 4:45 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. for an enjoyable experience.


1958年に設立されたロームは、2009年の半導体売り上げが世界で第22位という成果を収めました。これは主となる商品が抵抗器である会社にとって、めずらしいことと言えます。さらに、海外で活躍する日本資本の会社は決して多くはない中で、 ロームはサンディエゴにアメリカ支部、ドイツにヨーロッパ支部を置いています。


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rokkosan Pasture & Cheese House       六甲山牧場:人と動物と自然のふれあいの場

One of the most famous mountain ranges in Japan, Mount Rokko makes up the backdrop behind the downtown area of Kobe. With Arima Onsen (hot springs) being the main draw to the area, the Rokkosan Pasture & Cheese House is a nice alternative for those not looking for a soak.  

Located less than an hour away from the center of Kobe, the Rokkosan Pasture is like a mini zoo with ponies, sheep, rabbits and mini pigs roaming around the grounds to interact with visitors.  But the fun does not stop there as you can participate in classes on how to make carmel, butter, cheese, sausage, wool, and pottery for a learning experience like none other.

With dining facilities on site and various animal shows and related events held throughout the year, no matter what season, escaping the hustle and bustle of downtown and heading up to Rokkosan Pasture for some R&R is recommended.  Except for being closed on Tuesdays from the beginning of November to the middle of March, the pasture is open everyday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for your enjoyment.

お食事どころは施設内に数カ所設置されています。また、色々なアニマルショーも開催されていたりで、イベント各種も1年中行われているようです。都会の喧噪から離れ、六甲山に登ってゆっくりリラックスするのもいいでしょう。季節を選ばないところも利点です。 11月初旬から3月中旬までは、毎週火曜日が定休日となります。牧場の開場時間は9:00〜17:00です。

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saito Life Science Park            彩都ライフサイエンスパーク

Where is one likely to find the best rated biotech cluster in Japan?  Well, you don't need to look any further than Saito Life Science Park in Osaka Prefecture.

Twenty years in the making, Saito Life Science Park, which is located 18 km (11 miles) to the north of downtown Osaka, officially opened in April of 2004.  Occupied by world-class facilities such as Osaka University, the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center, and the Osaka Bioscience Institute, and called home by more than 1,100 researchers, Saito Life Science Park is aiming to become the hub of the Northern Osaka bio-medical cluster.  With the likes of AnGes MG, Kringle Pharma, and GeneDesign representing some of the 20 companies having taken up residence in the Saito Bio Incubator, the life science park seems to be well on its way to cementing its position as the location of choice.

With more than 300 pharmaceutical companies established in Osaka, the city and prefecture are focusing on developing the life science and biotech industries, which is definitely music to the Saito Life Science Park's ears.  Having earned a reputation for manufacturing, Osaka is now looking towards the future - a future with life science and biotech in mind, and the Saito Life Science Park will be there every step of the way.

大阪の中心から18km北部に位置する彩都は、20年間の建設期間の後、2004年4月に公式オープンしました。大阪大学国際循環器病研究センター大阪バイオサイエンス研究所などの世界トップレベルの施設が集結しており、また1,100人以上の研究者たちが集まる彩都はバイオサイエンスの中枢と言えるでしょう。彩都ライフサイエンスパークは、北大阪バイオクラスターの中核になるべく日々精進しています。 さらに、アンジェスMG株式会社クリングルファーマ株式会社株式会社ジーンデザインなど20社が彩都インキュベーター(大阪大学連携型企業家育成施設)に入居したことで、より企業にとって魅力的な場所となったのではないでしょうか。

Friday, December 17, 2010

Osawa Wines Presents: Flying Mouton     大沢ワインズのフライング・ムートン

Born and raised to the east of Kyoto in Shiga Prefecture, Taizo Osawa has made his living in real estate.  However having a passion for wine, Osawa-san, as I call him, fell in love with the Hawke's Bay area in New Zealand in 2005 and decided to launch his own winery soon thereafter.

In five short years, Osawa-san's winery, Osawa Wines, has created three brands of wine (Flying Mouton, Flying Sheep, and Prestige Collection) that can be found in various locations spanning the globe.  With four variations of red, six of white and one rose wine in his lineup, Osawa-san has a wine available for just about any occasion.

Asked why he decided to brand his flagship wines "Flying Mouton", Osawa-san informed me that the current location of the vineyard used to be grazing land for sheep.  In order to develop the vineyard, the sheep needed to be moved to another location.  When this job was carried out, Osawa-san remarked that the scene seemed as if the flock was flying, hence flying mouton.

With plans to increase the amount of wine produced at Osawa Wines in near future, Osawa-san is on a mission to spread his love of high quality tasting New Zealand wine not to only Japan but to the rest of the world.


起業からわずか5年後、「大沢ワインズ」は Flying Mouton(フライング・ムートン)、Flying Sheep(フライング・シープ)、 そしてPrestige Collection(プレステージ・コレクション)の3種類の銘柄を手がけ、世界各国へ販売しています。4種類の赤、6種類の白、1種類のロゼが取り扱われており、様々なシチュエーションに合ったワインを選ぶことができます。
「なんでフライング・ムートンっていうお名前なんですか?」大沢さんにメインの銘柄の由来について聞いてみたところ、こんなお返事が返ってきました。「大沢ワインズのブドウ畑は、もともと牧羊地だったんです。ブドウ畑を作るために、羊さん達には引っ越してもらわないといけませんでした。羊さん達(Mouton)が一斉に引っ越していく姿が、なんだか『飛んで(Flying)』行くようだったので・・」こうして『Flying Mouton(フライング・ムートン)』は誕生しました。


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center      橋の科学館

Where does one go to learn about the construction of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and other world renown bridges?  None other than the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center located roughly 20 minutes to the west of Kobe by train.

With the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, also known as the Pearl Bridge, finally completed in 1998, the twelve year project placed the bridge on the map as having the world's longest span of any suspension bridge at 1,991 meters (6,532 feet).  At a cost of 500 billion yen ($6 billion) to make, the six lane bridge is used by approximately 23,000 cars per day.

Highlighting the bridge's history and design, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center features a kids corner, 3D theater, and a wind tunnel simulator, in addition to the numerous visuals on display.  As the center is closed for most of the year on Monday, it is recommended to visit on Tuesday - Sunday to avoid any disappointment.

As one of the many landmarks in Kansai, I personally suggest you visit the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge during the late evening hours (as seen in the picture above) to capture its true beauty.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Katsura Innovation Park           桂イノベーションパーク地区

Home to many top class learning institutions, Kyoto has a lot going for it besides temples, shrines, and geisha.  Let's take Katsura Innovation Park, located in the western part of the city, as a prime example.

Funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Katsura Innovation Park is part of the Kyoto Environmental Nanotechnology Cluster.  As a premier institution, the park is occupied by JST Innovation Plaza Kyoto from the Japan Science and Technology Agency, MYCOM Co., Ltd., Sanyo Chemical Industries, Ltd., Kyoto University Katsura Campus Venture Plaza, and Pharma Foods International Co., Ltd.

Looking for collaboration opportunities with not only domestic companies but foreign companies as well, the park is prepared to offer funding and other means of support to anyone considering the park as a future location of business or as a research and development center.  With probably the highest concentration of academic resources and brightest young men and women in the nation, the city of Kyoto can offer so much more to potential business investors besides the typical cultural experience while in town.




Monday, December 13, 2010

Panasonic Living Showroom Osaka       パナソニック リビングショウルーム大阪

Last week I informed you about Panasonic Center Osaka.  To follow up that blog post, today I introduce you to the Panasonic Living Showroom Osaka located adjacent to the Panasonic Center Osaka in Kyobashi.  With a sister property in Tokyo, the showroom is divided into the following areas:

- Living Space
- Lighting and Electrical Equipment
- Home Improvement and Renovation

For any of you home buyers or re-furbishers out there, a stop at the showroom is just what the doctor ordered to experience the latest that Panasonic has to offer as you attempt to create your ideal home living environment.

Open everyday except for Wednesdays and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., you can enjoy a full day in the world of Panasonic right in the heart of Osaka.

先週 OSAKAパナソニックセンターをブログで取り上げたのですが、今日はさらに、同じく京橋にあるパナソニック リビングショウルーム大阪をご紹介します。こちらは本館が東京にあり、その姉妹館となります。建物は下記の4つに分かれています。
パナソニック リビングショウルーム大阪は、水曜・祝日を除いて10:00 a.m.から6:00 p.m.まで開館しています。大阪の中心で1日かけてPanasonicのテクノロジーを見学するのも、なかなか楽しいですよ!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lake Biwa: Japan's Lake 日本の湖と言えば、、、

Nestled 15 minutes to the east of Kyoto is Shiga Prefecture, home to the largest lake in Japan - Lake Biwa and often regarded as the best place to live in the entire country.  Having personally cycled around the circumference of Lake Biwa at 220 km (137 miles), I can say that, yes, it's a monster of a lake!

With its picturesque views, Shiga deserves more respect as a must-see destination for those coming to the Kansai region.  With Lake Biwa as the heart of the prefecture, an educational lesson as to how Lake Biwa functions in conjunction with the Yodo River, which connects the massive lake to the Pacific Ocean, is highly recommended.  However where can one brush up on his/her knowledge of Lake Biwa?  The answer is at Aqua Biwa and Lake Biwa Museum.

With Aqua Biwa situated in Otsu City and Lake Biwa Museum right next door in Kusatsu City, one can easily make a day visiting both attractions.  Catering to foreign visitors, Aqua Biwa offers services in English while Lake Biwa Museum can accommodate guests speaking English, Korean, Chinese and Portuguese.  One must be careful when planning to visit as Aqua Biwa is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays while Lake Biwa Museum is closed on Mondays.

So next time you are planning to stop by Shiga Prefecture, why not become proficient in Japanese limnology?


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nara: The Land of Underground Power     奈良の地下発電施設

With 19 hydroelectric, nuclear and fossil fuel power plants situated in Kansai, Kansai Electric Power sure has its hands full.  Tucked in the hills of Yoshino in Nara Prefecture, which is famous for its exquisite views of the cherry blossoms in April, is Nara's lone power plant - the Okuyoshino Power Station, an underground hydroelectric power plant.

With the power plant and corresponding dam open to the public Sunday through Friday most of the year, those looking for an educational experience in energy and electricity may want to make the trek to Yoshino.  With other places of interest located in the vicinity, one can definitely make a day of it in the picturesque surroundings of Nara Prefecture.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kobe: The Sake Capital of the World?      神戸は酒の都??

Even if you are not a sake connoisseur, paying a visit to the Nada district of Kobe yields more than 30 sake breweries (for the complete list, check out this link).  Located 20 minutes to the west of Osaka, the Nada district produces 30% of the nation's total sake production.  Originated in the 17th century, sake brewing methods have been passed down from generation to generation making use of the Miya water that gives the sake its delicious and distinctive taste without the presence of iron.

Always a highlight for visitors to the region from overseas, now is a better time than ever to jump on the sake revival bandwagon and attend a sake brewery tour to taste test some of the great sake that this fruitful region has to offer.

Having been to Hakutaka and Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan to try their Hakutaka and Fukuju sake respectively, I can say with much confidence that you will not be disappointed.  However one thing to keep in mind when planning to visit the breweries is that normally they close at 6:00 p.m., so be sure to go early to get the most out of your visit.




Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nintendo: The Quiet Giant           任天堂:静かなる巨人

The video game company Nintendo is known throughout the world as one of the leaders when it comes to home entertainment systems.  What many people may not know is that Nintendo, which was established way back in 1889 manufacturing playing cards, is based in Kyoto out of all places.  Even after moving to Osaka, it took some time before I came to know that Nintendo was one of Kansai's own.

After dabbling in several ventures, Nintendo, which is the third most valuable listed company in Japan, hit the jackpot domestically with Famicom in 1983, also known overseas as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985.

Always on the cutting edge in introducing hit product after hit product, Nintendo is a true innovator and definitely one of the bright spots in Kansai.

To add to the company's mystery, I just came to realize that Nintendo is also the majority owner of Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners.  Being a fan of the "big leagues", I am curious as to how Nintendo will leverage its interest in the Mariners to better itself.  Only time will tell...  

設立後いろいろな事業に手を広げ、1983年の「ファミコン」で爆発的なヒットを記録してから一躍有名になりました。今では日本のブランド価値ランキングの第3位に上げられています。ファミコンは海外でも「Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)」として1985年に発売され、知られるようになりました。


また、もう一つ気づいたのですが、任天堂はイチローが在籍するメジャーリーグチーム、シアトルマリナーズの筆頭オーナーでもあります(正式には米国法人 Nintendo of America が所有しています)。大リーグのファンである私には、任天堂がマリナーズへの投資を通じて、いかにして自社の発展へと繋げていくのかが、とても気になるところです。

Monday, December 6, 2010

Panasonic Center Osaka

Well-known electronics manufacturer Panasonic is one of the few global companies that calls Osaka home.  Since its founding in 1918 in Osaka, Panasonic has grown to become the largest Japanese electronics corporation and is ranked as one of the 100 largest companies in the world.

Showcasing it latest innovations and technology for consumers, Panasonic operates three corporate communications centers in Osaka, Tokyo and Beijing.  In particular, Panasonic Center Osaka is divided into the following four sections.

- AVC Network Showcase      
- Environmental Showcase
- Eco Action Stage
- LUMIX Gallery

Upon visiting the Panasonic Center Osaka, guests can enjoy the Blu-Ray 3D Theater, the latest full HD 3D TV models, and energy-saving products just to name a few.  In addition, English, Chinese and Korean guides are available upon request.

Open everyday except for Wednesdays and holidays, the Panasonic Center Osaka can be accessed from downtown Osaka in under 15 minutes and is must see for those wanting to be kept up-to-speed with the latest developments in the world of electronics.

OSAKAパナソニックセンターではいろいろなイベントが催されています。そのうちのいくつかを上げますと、 103v型の大画面でブルーレイの3D映像を体験できる「フルHD3Dシアタースペシャル体験会」、環境に優しい商品を学べる「エコガイドツアー」などです。また、英語・中国語・韓国語でのガイドも、必要に応じて利用することができます。

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nara Forest Adventure 奈良フォレストアドベンチャー

Located about 30 minutes away from Tenri Station in the hills of Nara Prefecture, an adventure course like none other exists.  For those of you wanting to experience the Tarzan in you, I highly suggest that you pay a visit to Forest Adventure Yamazoe.  

Originally designed by Altus, a high wire adventure course company in France, Forest Adventure Yamazoe has everything from zip slides to rope ladders.  With the minimum age required to participate at 5 years old and height at 110 cm (3 feet 7 inches), pretty much the entire family can enjoy at day out in Nara playing in the trees.  

To avoid any disappointment on the day, reservations are required.  With the course open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday - Sunday, I would budget around two hours to complete the course from start to finish. 

For those wanting to experience a different side of Nara, I highly suggest visiting Forest Adventure Yamazoe.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Bento & Co. - The Rise of the Japanese Lunchbox お弁当箱革命:Bento & Co.

The name "bento" may not mean much to many of you residing outside of Japan, however for those of you who own an Apple computer, you may have the Bento software program on your computer.  But where does the name come from and why did Apple chose to name one of its software "bento"?

Simply put, "bento" means lunch box in English.  For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese lunch boxes, they are a work of art.  Always incorporating a variety of food with the colors of the rainbow, Japanese lunch boxes are not only a sight to see but are constructed in such an organized way that Apple decided to name one of its filemaker software after the term.

After hearing a story of a Frenchman residing in Kyoto who capitalized on the popularity of the Japanese lunch box in Western Europe, I decided to pay a visit to meet the man behind the bento sensation overseas - Mr. Bertrand Thomas of Bento & Co.

With his office located close to Kyoto University, Bertrand informed me that he got started selling bentos over the Internet just two years ago.  Having a passion for bentos, Bertrand marketed the various styles of bentos via his blog to residents in Western Europe.  After continuously receiving over 800 hits a day on his blog, Bertrand had a feeling that he might be able to make selling bentos over the web into a legitimate business.

Fast forward two years later, Bertrand is now the direct overseas distributor for bentos in Japan.  With most of his customers hailing from Western Europe, he has seen orders increase from Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore of late.  With much of the world still untapped for the bento market, Bertrand is hoping to expand his business internationally in addition to opening a bento shop in Kyoto in the near future.

With few success stories in Kansai of late, it was great to have the chance to meet Bertrand and learn about the history of Bento & Co.


「お弁当箱」の西ヨーロッパでの人気に一役買ったフランス人が京都に住んでいると聞き、さっそく伺うことにしました。 海外でのお弁当ブームの火付け役、 Bento & Co. のBetrand Thomas(ベトランド・トーマス)さんです。
現在、海外へ直接お弁当箱の販売を行っているのは、おそらくBento & Co. だけではないでしょうか。注文は西ヨーロッパからが一番多いそうですが、台湾、マレーシア、シンガポールからも増えてきているようです。世界で知られはじめたお弁当箱。これからより一層の国際的展開を目指して、トーマスさんは京都での店舗設立も含め、 お弁当箱ビジネスを広げていく予定です。

ここ近年、不景気だ不景気だと言われていますが、Bento & Co.の明るいお話を聞くことができ、とても励みになりました。

Monday, November 22, 2010

Osaka Mayor's Foreign Business Networking Club (FBNC)

To hear an update regarding the Osaka Station North District Development Project, I attended the most recent Foreign Business Networking Club (FBNC) meeting at Umeda Sky Building last month. With the first phase of the project spanning 7 hectares (17 acres) expected to be completed and made available to the public in Spring of 2013 and the second phase of 17 hectares (42 acres) slated for completion in 2019, there is a lot of buzz in the community as to how the massive land area will be developed.

In particular, phase one is expected to be comprised of office space, hotels, serviced apartments and condominiums with InterContinental Hotel set to occupy some space.

To promote the advancement of collaboration between the world of business and academia, Osaka City will allocate space within the Knowledge Capital area (tentatively labeled Osaka Open Innovation Village) for the two worlds to share ideas and harvest relationships focusing mainly on robot technology, green technology and healthcare and preventative medicine.

With the Kansai region of Japan encompassing a GDP equivalent to the seventh largest in the world, Osaka and the rest of the area are aiming to be #1 in Asia for green and life innovation.

みなさん、 大阪駅北地区先行開発区域プロジェクトをご存知ですか?
先月、大阪駅北地区先行開発区域プロジェクトに関する情報をアップデートしようと、梅田スカイビルでの Foreign Business Networking ClubFBNC)会議に出席しました。
大阪市はナレッジキャピタルの地区(現在 Osaka Open Innovation Village(仮)と呼ばれています)を 企業と教育機関の連携強化のために活用することを視野に入れており、ロボット工学や環境問題への取り組み、ヘルスケアや予防薬について両機関でアイデアを共有し交流を深めることが期待されています。