Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kobe Fireworks via Sailboat






video

Having never experienced the Kobe fireworks extravaganza (it always falls on the same day as the Yodogawa fireworks display in Osaka every year), I thought what not a better way than to see the fireworks up close not from land but rather from sea on Saturday, August 6.  Realizing that one of my friends was planning an evening out on the open waters to enjoy the fireworks in Kobe, I jumped at the opportunity to join in on the fun on his sailboat.

Starting from Osaka Hokko Yacht Harbor (see picture 1) a little before 4:00 p.m., we departed for Kobe enjoy the cruise along the way.  After two hours of cruising, we entered into Kobe territory (see picture 2) where we enjoyed a great BBQ on my friend's sailboat as part of the pre-fireworks festivities before the main event took place from 7:30 p.m.

At the conclusion of the one hour fireworks show, one of the most interesting scenes of the night was seeing all the motor boats and sailboats that had come to enjoy the festivities just like us leave in droves at the same instant.  It was just like out of a Hollywood movie as all the boats got "out of dodge" in a matter of a few minutes.  Very entertaining to say the least.

The two hour return trip back to Osaka was quite uneventful as most of the boats that came to see the fireworks returned to other areas like Suma and Awaji Island.

Having never seen the fireworks so close before, it was a very worthwhile experience.  With some much more left to explore and land and sea, I am eager for the next opportunity.  As always, I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Paragliding in Hyogo? Yes, it is possible...



video
For those of you who are adventure seekers residing in the Kansai region, I would highly suggest that you consider making the trip to Toyooka city in the northern part of Hyogo Prefecture to experience paragliding with the professionals at ARC Paraglider School (Japanese only).  I took "the plunge" so-to-speak at the beginning of July, so yes, this blog post is a little outdated but still relevant for those of you who enjoy the great outdoors.  

The great thing about ARC if you don't have a car is that they can provide round-trip transportation for you from either Sannomiya or Akashi for an additional charge.  I took them up on their offer but just so you know, be prepared for an early start.  The pick-up time for people at Sannomiya was just after 6:30 a.m.  After 2.5 hours, we arrived at ARC and jumped right into learning the basics for about one hour before trekking up the ski resort to a higher elevation for the real deal.  

Regretfully we did not have a strong wind on our flying day but we still made the most of it.  I was told that technique is only 10% while a good wind makes up for the remaining 90% to successfully paraglide.  Just my luck with only a faint breeze being felt with high humidity that you could cut through with a steak knife!  

However, I did not let the poor paragliding conditions get me down.  As you can see in the video above, I was able to paraglide after all.  One important thing to remember is to just keep running down the hill and not pull your parachute but rather let it rise up naturally.  If done right, you will be lifted off the ground in no time with your feet dangling in the air.  Once you get the hang of it, it is like riding a bike, you will not forget.

After most of the participants successfully flew through the air, we headed back down the resort to the lounge for lunch.  Unfortunately it started to rain very heavily during lunch which prevented us from going back up the mountain to do some more paragliding runs in the afternoon.

The day was cut short due to the weather but all-in-all, it was an enjoyable experience.  With two locations for paragliding in the vicinity, why not experience something different while enjoying the great outdoors in the countryside of Hyogo Prefecture.  Plus, a visit to the local hot spring spa will make for the perfect ending to a fun-filled one day adventure.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Osaka Yacht Harbor




It's been quite a busy summer!  Which is why it has taken me almost 6 weeks to update my blog.  In particular this entry is already 3 weeks late...

In the middle of June, for the first time ever I visited Osaka Yacht Harbor.  I was invited by Mr. Shirakawa, a fitness club friend of mine, to join him on his just under 37 foot sailboat "Silver Fox" for a Sunday cruise around Osaka Bay and a visit to the neighboring yacht harbor located in Nishinomiya (the largest in the Western part of Japan).    

Even though the weather was overcast, it did not dampen everyone's spirits as we took a round trip cruise to Nishinomiya and back after having lunch at the Osaka Yacht Harbor.  

In the pictures above, you can see the Nishinomiya and Kobe skyline with Mount Rokko in the background for picture 1.  Picture 2 consists of two sailboats involved in a race, which was going on in the morning.  Picture 3 is of Mr. Yamashita and his sailboat "Amalfi", who is another friend of mine.  And last but not least is a picture of the Silver Fox captain, Mr. Shirakawa, and I.  

Established in 1988, Osaka Yacht Harbor is the only yacht harbor in Osaka City.  The harbor is equipped with docks for just over 100 boats, which makes it about half the size of the Nishinomiya Yacht Harbor.  

As Melbourne, Australia is a sister-city and sister-port for Osaka, the two cities have held one-way races that take at least one month (sometimes two) to finish either going from Osaka to Melbourne or vice versa every few years.  Even though I do not think I am ready for that length of a journey just yet, I hope to have more boating experiences as I get to know more in the yachting community.

For more information on the Osaka Yacht Harbor, click here.   

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Japan's First Budget Airline Chooses Kansai As Its Home

It's true.  The frugal citizens of Kansai can now rejoice!  The light magenta colored airline that goes by the name of "peach" will begin its domestic service flying out of Kansai International Airport (KIX) next March followed by an international route to Seoul from May.  Who knows, with a little luck maybe this will be the start of a greater trend towards linking peach with destinations outside of Asia like North America and/or Europe.  

As the sharp eye consumers of Kansai are the hardest to please in the country and possibly the entire world, this news is music to everyone's ears.  Now for the next step.  How will peach stack up against the other more established carriers flying out of KIX?  If Australian budget carrier Jetstar Airways is any indication, things are looking on the up and up.

Related articles:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cafe Ateya @ Mount Rokko

video
Cafe Ateya is what I would call the gateway to hikers and the like before they ascend to the higher altitudes of Mount Rokko.  Not prepared for hiking, Cafe Ateya was my final destination on this day but it was a trek nonetheless.  

Located about 25 minutes by walk from Hankyu Ashiyagawa Station into the mountains, it was a nice change of scenery from the concrete jungle that I am exposed to day in and day out in Osaka.  The walk up to Cafe Ateya, also known as Rokko-san Cafe, was pleasant seeing the massive Western and Japanese style homes lining the street.  

Unable to tell from the attached video clip, Cafe Ateya is located in what one would call a shallow cave that can seat 10 people maximum.  With the manager of the cafe changing every Saturday and Sunday on a rotating schedule, the menu changes just as much.  With a variety of home-cooked meals and alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks available as well, one can definitely get some R&R before heading up the mountain or heading down to complete one's journey.

For those of you not into hiking, paying a visit to Cafe Ateya is recommended to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city where one can breathe in the life of the great outdoors.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ritz-Carlton: Osaka, Tokyo and Now...Kyoto

Yes, that's right!  Scheduled to be ready in spring 2014, The Ritz-Carlton will open its third property in Japan at the former imperial capital of Kyoto as reported in the Mainichi Daily News (for the original article please check here).

Based on the success of the hotel's properties in Osaka and Tokyo, The Ritz-Carlton is looking to expand its presence in the top tourist destination outside of Tokyo to cater to wealthy Kyoto residents and lure would be luxury travelers to Kyoto.

Even though we are still several years away, it will be interesting to see how The Ritz-Carlton's existence affects the hotel industry in Kyoto.  Many of us residing here in Kansai will be watching these developments closely.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Willer EXPRESS - The Late Night Traveler's Best Friend


Have you ever needed to get somewhere first thing the next day but couldn't because the bullet trains stopped running for the night?  

If you have ever faced this calamity, the answer may lie in the Willer EXPRESS.  An Osaka-based company since 1994, Willer Travel has been operating its line of Willer EXPRESS night buses around the country transporting everyone from the economical traveler to the business traveler.  

With more than 15 different seat configurations on its buses, Willer EXPRESS is able to cater to every kind of traveler.  For more information on the types of seating available with pricing, please visit here.  I am personally interested in the Cocoon configured bus (see picture above), which only seats up to 24 people.

And with its web site also available in Chinese and Korean, Willer Travel is hoping to increase its share of the foreign tourist market in a bus service sector that has mainly been for Japanese.  

How this will all pan out remains to be seen, however Willer Travel is definitely making strides to better position itself for the future and beyond.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Direct Flights From Osaka To New York


All I can say is that it is about time!

For the first time ever there will be three direct flights a week to JFK airport in New York from Osaka thanks in part to Taiwan-based China Airlines, which begins this new service from April 28.

For more information on the flight schedule, please visit the following:

English
http://www.china-airlines.com/en/newsen/newsen000716.htm

Japanese
http://www.china-airlines.co.jp/news/1103/110301.html

For those of you from the eastern or southeastern part of the US, traveling to and from the Kansai region just got a lot more convenient.

Friday, April 22, 2011

TEDxOsaka Has Come!


Before I get into TEDxOsaka, if you are unfamiliar with TED then you should access the web site here to familiarize yourself with this truly educational, thought provoking conference organization.  Take your pick from the hundreds of presentations from extraordinary people to get a little taste of what TED is all about.  

Seeing the growth of TED spread throughout to the far corners of the earth, it is about time that it landed in Osaka and tomorrow is the day.  Albeit a little late in spreading the word, if you will be in town tomorrow and available, by all means stop by TEDxOsaka in Shinsaibashi in the afternoon to hear some great presentations from area residents.  Personally knowing the organizers of this event, I can say with confidence that it is going to be a success.

For more details in English and Japanese, please visit: http://tedxosaka.com/

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bio & Medical Devices Info Portal Opens    関西のバイオ・医療機器情報ポータルサイト開設

The Kansai Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI-KANSAI) has done it again!  They have just launched the "Portal for KANSAI Bio and Medical Device Information",which aggregates information on the field of bio and medical devices, which is one of the strengths of the Kansai region. 

Currently, the website offers information regarding 185 participating organizations in the Kansai region (constituted of the 7 prefectures of Fukui, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara and Wakayama), consisting of 92 companies, 69 universities and 16 research institutes, and other support organizations. 

For those of you looking for a great resource on the bio and medical device industry in Kansai, look no further than this site.

流石、近畿経済産業局!最新情報ですが、関西地域の強みのひとつであるバイオ・医療機器情報を集約した「関西バイオ・医療機器情報ポータルサイト」を開設した。

現時点では、関西(福井県、滋賀県、京都府、大阪府、兵庫県、奈良県、和歌山県)の92企業、69大学、16研究機関、その他の支援機関などを含めると合計185団体が参画している。

特に関連企業数や研究者数については、新規登録活動強化により一層増やしていく目標であり、関連ビジネスに携わっている又はその計画を持っている方々への参加を呼び掛けている。

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Flashback @ Flamingo


Kobe based Oldies musical group Flashback was back to take center stage this time at the fabulous upscale live house Flamingo the Arusha located in Sakuragawa close to Namba Station.

Following up their performance for the guests of Yomiuri Family last year (blog entry can be viewed here), Flashback was called back for an encore and they did not disappoint during their two hour jam session.

To get a little taste of what the atmosphere was like, please view the video clip above to see segments of four songs that Flashback played for the energized audience.

If you are interested in having Flashback perform for you, let me know!      

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto: Daigoji Temple & Nijo Castle

As the cherry blossom season or "sakura" season as we call it here in Japan is short-lived, I traveled to Daigoji Temple located in Fushimi, Kyoto for the first time to take in the picturesque landscape of blooming cherry blossoms.

After so many years being in the Kansai region, there are still so many cultural and historical places that I have yet to visit.  At least now I can mark Daigoji Temple with the adjacent Daigoji Reihokan and Sanboin Temple off of my list spots to visit.  

Nestled outside of the city center of Kyoto in Fushimi, Daigoji Temple, which is regarded as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO, was the location of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's cherry blossom viewing parties.  For those of you unfamiliar with Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he was the creator of Osaka Castle and is known as one of the most influential Japanese in the country's long history.

Relating to the pictures above, the first four were taken while at Daigoji Temple while the last picture of the three Japanese koto musicians with the massive ikebana (flower arrangement as most of you would call it) in the background was taken while attending the cherry blossom night viewing illumination at Nijo Castle in downtown Kyoto.

Even if you are unable to make the trek to Daigoji Temple this year to view the cherry blossoms, there is always the fall for the tree foliage among the many events that are held there throughout the year.  As it is off of the beaten path from the major tourist sites, I am sure that I will be visiting this temple again to explore the rest of its treasures in the mountains of Daigo.  

Saturday, April 2, 2011

~ Welcome to 関西!~

What's the living and working environment like in Kansai?  Where are the major research institutes and universities located?  How diversified are the foreign-affiliated companies that are located in the region?

To find the answers to these and more, please take a look at the 30 page informative brochure put together by METI-Kansai on an annual basis in PDF format in English, Japanese and Chinese.

The information detailed in these online brochures is very resourceful for anyone researching about the business landscape of Kansai and for those thinking about investing in the region.    

With the region offering a lot to potential investors, referring to this brochure is a start in the right direction.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Destination KANSAI


Where are the popular places to visit in Kansai? Is Osaka #1? Kyoto? Nara?

Is there a difference among places visited by foreign tourists and foreigners residing here in Kansai? Or are they the same?

To find out more, please visit the Destination KANSAI site from METI-Kansai for English and Japanese downloadable versions of the 28 page PDF highlighting the "must see" places in the region.

Even though I have been living here for more than 8 years, there were a few places listed that I had not even heard about! It just goes to show you that there is so much to experience that you cannot see it all even after being here for 8 years and counting....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fushimi: The Sake Capital of Kyoto

This past weekend I traveled to Fushimi located just south of central Kyoto to attend the 220th birthday of the Matsumoto Sake Brewery.

As part of the day's festivities, my very good friend and samurai extraordinaire, Joe Okada (see pictures above), gave the attendees a good dose of entertainment by showing off his sword wielding skills by cutting everything from a Japanese radish to apples to bamboo with the assistance of some daring onlookers.

After enjoying a perfect spring afternoon with Japanese sake and swords (of course the norm!), I said "sayonara" to the Matsumoto Sake Brewery and walked about 15 minutes to arrive at another Fushimi treasure, the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum for a look back at the history and tasting of more sake.  

Just to put things in perspective, the Nada area of Kobe, which is one of the most famous places in Japan for brewing sake, started its operations in 1899.  Now Gekkeikan on the other hand in Fushimi has been involved in the manufacturing of sake since 1637.  With almost 375 years of experience under its belt, it should be safe to say that Fushimi knows sake.

For those wanting to get away from the crowds and frequented tourist destinations within central Kyoto, I highly suggest stopping by Fushimi to experience another side of Kyoto without all the hustle and bustle.      

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Japan Luxury Travel Forum 2011

Late last week I took part in the Japan Luxury Travel Forum 2011 seminar held at the Hotel Granvia Kyoto.  Highlighting on how to attract high net worth travelers to the region, Ricco DeBlank of Sun Hung Kai Properties based in Hong Kong and James Samuel of Reed Exhibitions out of the United Kingdom where on hand to share their insights with the Kyoto-based majority crowd.

It was a pleasure to see Ricco again as I had not seen him since he left his post as the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Osaka property in 2007.  After leaving Osaka, Ricco moved to Tokyo to open the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo hotel before coming to his current position as CEO for the hotel division at Sun Hung Kai Properties.

Following the talks of Ricco and James, a panel discussion was held with representatives from the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, Kyoto City Tourism Bureau and Iori.

I have highlighted Iori in the past on my blog here and here.  For those wishing to experience a traditional Japanese machiya (townhouse) around Kyoto city, I highly suggest one of Iori's properties.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Harima Science Garden City

Nestled in the hills to the west of Kobe lies the Harima Science Garden City and its prized SPring-8 (Super Photon ring-8 GeV) synchrotron radiation facility producing an amazing 8 giga electron volts of power.  As the world's largest third generation synchrotron radiation facility since 1997, SPring-8 is one of eleven similar-like facilities nationally, which places Japan only behind the U.S. (13) in terms of number of synchrotron radiation facilities for one country. 

Taking six years to build and surpassing Advanced Photon Source (APS) in Argonne, Illinois and European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France in terms of power and size, SPring-8 allows for researchers to study electrons moving at the speed of light and with a light intensity one billion times that of the conventional x-ray.

With personal and group site tours available for the public, come and see for yourself what it is like to be inside this mammoth facility with a circumference of 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles).  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Japanese Novelty: Food Sample Art a.k.a Fake Food


A sight that many people see upon their first encounter with Japan is the various food and drink menu samples such as the ones seen in the picture and video above that are normally displayed outside of the restaurants in showroom cases.

Unlike in the States and many other places in the world for that matter, the samples are a big help for not only foreigners but Japanese alike when determining where to stop by to satisfy one's appetite or quench one's thirst.  

With scalable models just as appetizing as the real thing, the plastic food/drink samples are truly works of art.  In addition, they are a great way to judge whether the restaurant/bar is worthy of your presence and cash as dust gathering and/or color faded samples are a good indication of the atmosphere and level of service on the inside.  

As Osaka is known as the food capital of Japan, it is fitting that there are several major food/drink sample manufacturers right here in town. One of those is Iwasaki, who has been in the sample manufacturing business for almost 80 years dating back to 1932.  Another is Morino Sample, which even offers 120 minute sample creation workshops to interested parties up to 50 people per day on the weekends.  

For those of you not ready to create your own menu item, you can always pay a visit to the Food Sample Art Gallery R&M conveniently located a few minutes away from the Takashimaya department store in the Namba district of Osaka.    

As a popular souvenir among visitors, if you are planning a trip to the "land of the rising sun" anytime soon, be sure to pick up a part of Japanese culture with a plastic food/drink sample of your choice. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Kyoto Research Park (KRP): The Premier Privately-Owned Research Institution

With over 40 universities and several major blue-chip companies in Kyoto, the city is known throughout the country as a "venture city".  Kyoto Research Park (KRP), which was founded by Osaka Gas in 1989, was the nation's first privately operated research park.  To aid the city of Kyoto is becoming the place to be for ventures to create a name for themselves, KRP relies upon its strong overseas and national network in the fields of IT and R&D to support its tenants.

For those of you interested in the research park, some of the facilities include:

- Laboratories
- Data Centers
- Restaurants
- Science Hall
- Meeting Rooms

With space available to conduct meetings up to 350 people, second-to-none support system, and a convenient location less than ten minutes from Kyoto Station by taxi, it is no wonder why more than 250 venture businesses call KRP home.

For a breakdown of the tenants at KRP, please refer to the graph above.  As you can see, even though IT-related companies make up more than a third of the occupants, the research park is very diverse with more than 13 different industries represented.

With just over 20 years in operation, KRP is looking to solidify its place as the premier privately-owned research institution in the city for the next generation and beyond.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

World Forum for Bio/Medical Device in Kansai 2011

Organized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI - Kansai) and the Osaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OCCI), the World Forum for Bio/Medical Device is back in Kansai for 2011.

Taking place the week of February 21-25, the first day will include a site visit in Osaka followed by two days of company presentations and panel discussions before the forum moves to Kobe and then Kyoto to round out the week.

Dedicated to promoting the development of innovative medical, diagnostic and analytic devices and businesses, the World Forum for Bio/Medical Device brings the foreign industry leaders together for a week to exchange their recent findings with the Japanese bio/medical device community.  This year representatives from the following overseas locations will be on hand to participate:

Assistive Medical Equipment Corp. (Illinois)
BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota
Boston Scientific Corporation (Massachusetts)
Brown Medical Industries (Iowa)
Devicix (Minnesota)
Fredrikson & Byron Attorneys (Minnesota)
Gnarus Medical Consulting (Minnesota)
Johnson Matthey Medical (Pennsylvania)
Lake Region Medical (Minnesota)

Invetech (Melbourne, Australia)

Burster (Germany)
Contec GmbH (Germany)

Philips Electronics (The Netherlands)

For more information about the forum, please click here for details in English and Japanese.

As one of the core industries in Kansai, the region is making headway towards becoming the place in Asia for one's bio/medical device needs.  It will be interesting as to what affect the forum has on the community here in Kansai.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Can Daikin Dethrone the HVAC King?      ダイキンはHVAC世界首位に下克上できるか?

Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning.  Also known as HVAC, its what most of us in the 21st Century cannot live without.

And soon to dethrone the market leader Carrier, a United Technologies Company hailing from Connecticut, is none other than Osaka-based Daikin Industries.  

Originally formed in 1924, Daikin has always been a step ahead of the rest when it comes to air conditioning systems.  From its days of installing ventilation systems on submarines used during World War II, the company controls its own destiny in the commercial market and holds the second spot nationally to Panasonic for the residential market nowadays.

Seeing the need to expand internationally, Daikin established its European office in Belgium back in 1972 and now has representative offices in 26 countries situated around the globe, which has led the company to achieving its number two position globally.  

Now with the number one position within its grasp, rumors have been flying around that Daikin is a possible suitor to takeover Goodman Global, which is the second largest HVAC manufacturer in the U.S.  

With all this attention being placed on the industry, it will be interesting to see how this situation "heats" up.

HVACとはHeating、Ventilating、 Air Conditioning − すなわち冷暖房空調設備のことを指します。21世紀を生きる私たちにとって、HVACはなくてはならない存在といっても過言ではないでしょう。

HVACの最先端を行くCarrierは、米国コネチカット州にある大企業です。そんなCarrierに引けを取らないのが、大阪のダイキン工業です。

1924年の創業以来、「ダイキン」は空調事業において、常にまわりの一歩先を進んできました。第二次世界大戦下、潜水艦に空調設備を導入した時代から商業市場で伸び続け、今では国内空調設備売り上げでPanasonicに次ぎ、2位となっています。

国外への展開の必要性を感じ、ダイキンは1972年、ベルギーにヨーロッパ支部を設立しました。現在は26カ国に海外支部を置いており、世界でも空調設備売り上げ第2位に輝くこととなりました。

世界第1位も手に届くところにあり、ちまたではダイキンが現アメリカ第2位のGoodman Global(グッドマン・グローバル)を買収し、Carrierを追い抜く日もそう遠くないだろうと噂されています。

これほど注目をあつめているダイキン。今もっとも熱い会社だと言えるのではないでしょうか。

Monday, January 17, 2011

CNN Business Traveller - Osaka Edition   CNNビジネストラベラー大阪版


What's business like for a foreigner in Osaka?  How can a business traveller survive in the city on a budget of less than $200 per day?

In the highly recommended videos featured above, CNN's own Richard Quest finds out the answers to the these questions and more during his 2009 visit to Osaka for CNN Business Traveller.  

In the first video at the 4:15 mark, two very good friends of mine, Garr Reynolds and Paul Dupuis, sit down to have lunch with Richard and explain proper business protocol and customs.

In the second video clip, Richard speaks with the former mayor of Osaka, Mayor Seki, regarding what city government sponsored incentives are in place to attract more foreign businesses to the region.  

Following his meeting with the mayor, Richard sat down to chat with Joshua Flannery (another business colleague of mine), who was a direct recipient of said incentives made available by the city, to hear first-hand how the city's support assisted him when he was setting up his operations.

I am not denying that Osaka, and most of Japan for that matter, is expensive.  If you are not careful, daily expenses will grow exponentially.  However Richard's piece illustrating how one can move around the city on a tight budget shows that anything is possible.  What it comes down to is having access to the right information.     

外国人経営者にとって大阪とはどういう街なのでしょうか。起業で訪れた際に、限られた資金をやりくりするにはいったいどうすれば良いのでしょう?

CNNのリチャード・クエスト氏は、2009年に番組取材で大阪を訪問した時に、これらの質問に対する答えを見つけだしました。その番組「CNNビジネストラベラー」は上記の動画で確認いただけます。

最初の動画の4:15あたりで、私の友人であるレイノルズさんとデュプイさんが登場します。クエスト氏と食事をしつつ、2人は大阪の習慣やビジネスマナーについて説明しています。

ふたつ目の動画にて、クエスト氏は前大阪市長である関氏から、大阪市がサポートしている外国人起業家への補助金制度について話を伺います。

前市長との対談のあとは、その補助金を実際に受け取っているフラナリーさん(実は彼も私の経営者友達です)と会談し、起業の際の市政の補助にまつわる話を受給者側から話してもらいます。

起業家にとって、大阪はけっして「安い」地域ではないことは認めなければなりません(そういう意味では、日本のほとんどのエリアが同じ状況と言えるでしょう)。注意しなければ、大阪で生活するだけで多額の費用がかかる可能性が高いです。しかし、クエスト氏の番組で語られる「資金やりくり術」を見ると、この町で成功することは十分可能であることがわかります。結局一番大切なのは、『正しい情報を手に入れること』ですね。

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hiyoshiya: The Tale of the Lone Wagasa in Kyoto 日吉屋:京都の和傘ものがたり

More inline with how Kyoto is portrayed in the media and relating to its historical past, today's blog entry focuses on the only traditional Japanese umbrella (wagasa) company left in Kyoto - Hiyoshiya.

Founded in the later part of the Edo period (1603-1868), Hiyoshiya has been in operation for five generations.  For the story of how the current president of 36 years of age, Kotaro Nishibori, came into power, please click here.  

The history of the Japanese umbrella can be traced back to Heian period (794-1185) well before the time of Hiyoshiya.  Different from today's Japanese umbrella and Western umbrella for that matter, the umbrellas back then were used to protect the aristocrats from the sun and evil spirits.  However by the late 14th century, the functionality of the umbrella changed into how we use it to this day.     

Now some of you may be thinking what is the difference (if there is one) between a Japanese umbrella and one in the West.  To answer your question, please refer below.  

Western Umbrellas: 
- made from plastic, polyester, and steel
- consisted of 8 ribs
- when expanded form a dome shape
- the handle is placed up when storing

Japanese Umbrellas:
- made from washi paper (Japanese paper) and bamboo
- consisted of 30-70 ribs
- when expanded form a straight line
- the handle is placed down when storing

Now because of the complexity in producing a Japanese umbrella, it normally takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on the design and size.  For more details, click here.

For those of you interested in learning more about Japanese umbrellas and even having the chance to make your own, be sure to contact Hiyoshiya in advance from the following request form to schedule a tour of the facility.  

With the company also having umbrellas available to rent, Hiyoshiya can assist anyone wanting to accessorize his/her wardrobe, office, etc. with the essence of Kyoto.

メディアでの京都のイメージは歴史・伝統的な地、という感じですよね。以前の記事で、京都の都会的な一面もお話しましたが、今日はこのメディアイメージに沿った話題です。本日とりあげるのは、京都にたった一つ現存する和傘製造元、日吉屋です。

江戸時代後期に創業された日吉屋は、五代にわたって受け継がれています。36歳の現当主、西堀耕太郎さんがどのようにして今の地位に就かれたかについては、こちらを参照ください。

和傘の歴史は、日吉屋創業のはるか昔、平安時代にさかのぼります。現在一般に普及している洋傘と違い、当時和傘は雨具ではなく、貴族にさしかける日除けや魔除けとして利用されていました。しかし室町時代になると、和紙に油を塗ることにより和傘に防水性が施され、雨具として使われるようになりました。

ところで、洋傘と和傘の違いって何なんでしょう?答えは下記をご覧ください。

洋傘
・材質はプラスチック、ポリエステル、スチール
・骨数は通常8本
・丸みを帯びたシルエット
・持ち歩く際は、傘の先端を下に向ける

和傘
・材質は和紙、竹
・骨数は30〜70本
・シルエットは末広がりに真っ直ぐ
・持ち歩く際も、傘の先端を常に上に向ける

和傘は製作は複雑で、高度な専門技術を要します。そのため、制作には、サイズやデザインにより数週間から数ヶ月かかるのです。詳細はこちらのリンクからどうぞ。

和傘についてもっと学びたいという方、またミニ和傘作りを体験してみたいという方は、ぜひ日吉屋に問い合わされることをおすすめします。事前にこちらのお問い合わせフォームから訪問の予定をご相談ください。

日吉屋は和傘のレンタルも行っており、ファッションやお部屋の装飾として和傘を借りることもできます。京風アレンジのお洒落はいかがですか?

Mizuno: 105 Years Down and Many More To Go! ミズノ105歳。まだまだこれから!

Just like ASICS, Mizuno Corporation is another sports equipment and sportswear company that did not register on my radar as a Japan-based company until after I came here.  Originally established in 1906 by founder Rihachi Mizuno in Osaka, Mizuno Corporation is the choice of many like Ichiro Suzuki in the baseball world and used to be the golf club of choice for Tiger Woods during his collegiate career at Stanford and after turning pro before eventually switching to Nike.  To view the entire list of individuals/teams sponsored by Mizuno, click here.  

Even though the company was established more than 100 years ago, it was not until 1980 that Mizuno entered the American market.  With its U.S. headquarters situated in Norcross, Georgia, a suburb located 32 km (20 miles) to the northeast of Atlanta, Mizuno has gone on to set up offices in Canada, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China to showcase its products for sports enthusiasts of running, track and field, volleyball, baseball, softball, and golf.

As a strong supporter of the Olympics since 1924, Mizuno is committed to contributing to society through the advancement of sporting goods and the promotion of sports, and with 105 years of experience under its belt, the company is positioning itself to continue its mission into the next century.

先日ブログでお話ししたアシックスに加え、「ミズノ」も私が海外ブランドだと誤解していたスポーツ用品メーカーです。1906年に、水野利八氏により大阪で設立されたミズノ株式会社。ミズノの製品はイチロー選手のようなスポーツ選手からも支持され、以前はタイガー・ウッズもミズノのゴルフクラブを愛用していました。(ちなみにウッズはスタンフォード大学時代〜プロに入ってしばらく、Nikeに変更するまでミズノを使用していたそうです。)

100年以上前に創業されたにもかかわらず、ミズノが海外進出を始めたのは1980年になってからでした。米国ジョージア州にあるアメリカ支部に始まり、今ではカナダ、イギリス、台湾、香港、そして中国に海外支部を置いています。陸上、バレーボール、野球、ソフトボール、ゴルフなどの、様々なスポーツ用品を各国へアピールしているのです。

ミズノは1924年以来ずっとオリンピックを応援しています。画期的なスポーツ用品を提供しつづけること、またスポーツで社会で盛り上げていくことによって、ミズノは大きな社会貢献をしていると言えるのではないでしょうか。105年におよぶ経験と実績を持つミズノは、これからもスポーツブランドの重鎮であり続けるでしょう。

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kansai - The Real Japan? You Be The Judge.   関西こそが日本?(・・と、思いますか?)

For most people residing outside of Japan, Kyoto and Tokyo are the cities that are most familiar followed by Osaka, Hiroshima, etc.  However, what about "Kansai"?  When I first visited Osaka (the second largest city in Japan) 10 years ago, my plane did not land at Osaka Airport as I thought it would but rather at Kansai International Airport.  Was Kansai another way to say Osaka?

I soon came to realize that Kansai was the name for the region that includes the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto along with Osaka, the port city of Kobe (also where Kobe beef originated), and the largest lake in Japan - Lake Biwa in Shiga.  Geographic details about this region are depicted in the pictures above.

With Tokyo being the present-day capital of Japan, it is understandable why it gets all the attention, however Kansai has a lot going for it as a region and offers a different lifestyle than what one can find in the metropolitan city of Tokyo, which makes Kansai attractive.  

Having previously lived in Tokyo to experience the city first-hand, it is safe to say that I am biased when it comes to talking about Kansai.  After living in Tokyo, I moved to Kansai and have never looked back since.  Tokyo is comparable to any large metropolitan city in the world. Even though most of the people living in Tokyo are Japanese (as they are anywhere else in this country), the city doesn't have much of a "Japanese" feel to it.  Just more of a "big city" feel.  

Kansai on the other hand does maintain its sense of "Japanese".  Being home to two of the former capitals (Nara & Kyoto) and the merchant capital of Osaka, the region is where Japan got started years ago and even with the passage of time, the region has maintained a great balance of the old with the new to please the masses.  

Also based on the statistics above, the region has a population equivalent to that of Australia and an economy ranked in the top 20 in the world annually.  As a place to visit or possibly conduct business, I cannot say enough positive things about the region.  

Unfortunately current mass media places too much attention on Tokyo as a destination.  Even most tours aimed at Westerners are Tokyo-based occasionally offering a side trip to Kyoto.  It makes sense though as those are the only two cities that ever get mentioned in mainstream media, however coming all the way to Kyoto from Tokyo (two hours by bullet train) and then not stopping by Osaka, Nara, etc., which are just 30 minutes by local train from Kyoto, does not make much sense to me.  Realizing that the travel itineraries are very tight as they are, it would make more sense to split the time in Tokyo and Kansai equally so that visitors can experience as much of Kansai as possible within their allotted time rather than 1-2 days only in Kyoto as is the norm.  

To sum everything up, when looking to experience the "real" Japan, schedule a trip to Kansai and see for yourself what this great region has to offer.  In the end, only you can be the judge.

Finally, for a great resource on the hot spots ranked by foreigners residing in the area in English and Japanese, please on click on "Destination KANSAI" for more information.

海外では東京、大阪、京都、広島などがよく知られていますが、「関西」はどうでしょう?10年前に初めて大阪を訪れた時、私が乗る飛行機が到着したのは『大阪空港』ではなく、「関西空港」でした。「関西って大阪の別名かな?」などと思ったものです。

日本に来てすぐ、関西とは大阪に加えて、神戸のような港町(神戸牛も有名ですよね)、奈良・京都のような歴史ある地、そして日本最大の湖「琵琶湖」がある滋賀を含むエリアの総称であると気づきました。

首都が東京にあることで、ついついそちらにばかり目がいってしまいますが、関西は東京とはまた違った趣があり、活気もあります。

実際に東京に住んだことがある私が話すと、若干意見が偏ってしまうかもしれませんが、東京から関西に移住して以来、東京に戻ろうと思ったことは一度もありません。東京は、世界の大都市に並ぶ迫力があり、居住者の大多数が日本人であるにもかかわらず、『日本的』な感じがしませんでした。とにかく『大都市!』という印象です。

一方で関西は、『日本的』な雰囲気を十分残しています。奈良と京都という二大歴史都市、さらに商人の町・大阪もあり、古き良き日本の中心地です。また、年月がたった今も、これらの地は昔と今の文化をうまく共存させており、訪ねてくる人々を歓ばせています。

統計によると、関西の人口はオーストラリアの人口に並び、また関西経済は世界で年間トップ20に含まれます(記事上部を参照)。旅行やビジネスにもってこいの場所と言えるでしょう。

残念ながら、海外向けのメディアは未だに東京メインなのが現状です。外国人向けの旅行会社も、旅行プランはほぼ東京行きで、たまに京都もまわれるようになっている程度です。メディアで取り上げられるのが東京である以上、旅行プランも東京中心になるのは当然ですよね。ただ、はるばる2時間以上かけて東京から京都に来て、そこからわずか30分の大阪や奈良に行かずに帰るというのは、もったいないな〜と思います。ツアーは基本的にハードな行程になっているので、今後はぜひ東京と関西エリアに同じだけの時間を割けるようなプランを作ってほしいものです。1〜2日かけて京都だけを見るより、時間をとってゆっくり関西全体を見る方が、より素晴らしい思い出、そして将来のビジネスのきっかけが作れると思います。

『真の日本らしさ』を追求したい方は、ぜひ一度関西に訪れて、自身で体感していただくことをおすすめします。やっぱり「百聞は一見にしかず」ですからね。

最後に、 関西在住の外国人によって制作された「Destination KANSAI」というオンライン書類をご紹介させていただきます。関西の観光資源を外国人目線でまとめたこの書類。日本人の方にとっても、興味深いものと思います。よろしかったらダウンロードしてお読みください。