Japan has been an important trading partner for Tagami International since 1984, and we are often asked about the advantages of investing in the promotion of premium quality food there versus other Asian countries. While each situation is unique -- and each company's needs and business model may demand different solutions -- there are particular attributes, market trends and prevailing cultural characteristics which should be considered when allocating marketing dollars. Japan exhibits many of the attributes western producers are looking for and also has a terrific track record for adopting western brands. Here are 12 facts, some of which you probably didn't know, about Japan.
1. There is an unbroken centuries-old culture of venerating artisans and quality which has translated to appreciating brands; there is a deeply embedded desire for quality and authenticity. [okay, you probably knew that one]
2. According to The Atlantic, "Itameshi", or Italian food has been popular in top hotels and restaurants in Japan since the 1920s.
3. The first Eataly shop outside of Italy was in Tokyo, and today 13 of the organization's 26 global locations are operating in the Land of the Rising Sun.
4. The first off-shore store for Williams-Sonoma opened in the fashionable Shibuya area of Tokyo in 1988 followed by a mail order catalog and 14 more locations within the decade.
5. Dean & Deluca International came to Tokyo in 2003, and 14 of their 25 overseas stores are in Japan today.
6. Japan Ginza district, one of the top ten shopping districts in the world, is home to many Japanese and Western luxury brand's flagship stores along the main street, the Chuo Dori.
7. Tokyo is home to the OSAJ, the Olive Oil Sommelier Association of Japan. As of April 2014 there are over 850 certified olive oil sommeliers in Japan, all local, all native speakers.
8. Tokyo is also home to the Olive Japan International Olive Oil Competition and consumer Marché which attracted 50,000 people in 2012, 175,000 people in 2013, and will host an estimated 180,000 visitors at the end of April 2014 during the Golden Week holiday.
9. There is a chain of six olive oil shops "OLIVO" devoted to current year Flos Olei oils only; they are supported by online sales and a Cantina where diners can enjoy authentic cuisine.
10. Japan is the first Asian country where the book Extra Virginity was published in the local language.
11. Japan is the first target market outside of the USA for the Extra Virgin Alliance.
12. According to the IOC International Olive Council World Olive Figures and Japan's Ministry of Trade Japan was the 3rd largest importer of olive oil by country, importing 51,000 metric tons. At the NY International Olive Oil Conference in April 2014, Jean-Louis Barjol, the Executive Director of the IOC, delivered a keynote address in which he characterized Japan as the most dynamic of all the top emerging olive oil markets.