Investing in Japan
Koraku Japan Corporation
Shanghai Zensy Corporation, the publisher of “Koraku,” the only Chinese language magazine in China focused on travel and lifestyle in Japan, established Koraku Japan Corporation in September 2015 in Tokyo. With the current boom in tourism from China to Japan, the company has been introducing the attractions of Japan using various publicity tools, including SNS. We interviewed Ms. Jing Yuan, the General Manager of the company, about the company’s operations in Japan.
Shanghai Zensy Corporation, the parent company of Koraku Japan Corporation, was established in Shanghai, China in 2007. The company has been publishing “Koraku” from 2013, the first Chinese language magazine dedicated to introducing travel and lifestyle-related topics of Japan in China, which is aimed at wealthy women living in the coastal areas of China. With monthly total sales of over 200,000 issues throughout the country, the magazine is very popular in China.
“Koraku” collects information on the charms and attractions of Japan’s local regions that are still not well-known in China. What distinguishes the magazine from ordinary tourist guidebooks is the basic concept of the magazine, which is to introduce “authentic, high-quality Japan.” Articles on cafes that utilize renovated houses, stylish select shops of old folk miscellaneous goods and hidden beauty spots in local areas are included along with beautiful photographs. The magazine introduces not only tourist sites but also Japanese products and elements of lifestyle. The company has been receiving requests from Japanese people who want them to publish “a Japanese version” of the magazine.
Background to the publishing of “Koraku”
Ms. Jing Yuan, the founder of the company, was an ordinary full-time housewife living in Shanghai. One day, she visited Hokkaido with her family and was struck by the great charm of the place. Thus she decided to publish a magazine dedicated to introducing Japan. In order to build the business, she exploited her experience working for a Japanese publisher. “Actually, there are many scenic sites in China that are even more beautiful than Hokkaido,” Ms. Yuan says. “However, on top of the beautiful nature and delicious food, there are important elements in Japan, such as the excellent service and the mindset of hospitality, which are not yet at the same level in China. That’s why I was convinced that Japan would become an accessible resort for Chinese people.”
In 2009, when she established her business, the ban had just recently been lifted on Chinese obtaining individual tourist visas to Japan, but most tourists from China were visiting Japan through group tours. Some people told her that the business opportunities in China would not be favorable.
However, with the Japanese government’s relaxation of visa requirement for Chinese tourists, an increased number of direct flights between China and Japan, as well as the weakening yen, the number of Chinese visitors surged. When the company first published its magazine “Douchu-jin” in 2009, approximately 8,000 individual tourist visas were issued. This number increased about 20 times, to approximately 170,000 in 2013, the year the company first published “Koraku.” The magazine has since become popular and has consistently ranked among the best-selling magazines at a major online shopping site. Chinese visitors to Japan are also now more interested in “experiencing things” rather than “buying things,” and the number of Chinese readers expecting high-quality trips has been increasing further. “Now I find great satisfaction in doing my business” says Ms. Yuan, smiling.
The attractions of local communities as sightseeing destinations
As the number of individual travelers from China grows, the company has been receiving more requests for tie-up articles with local governments and tourist agents. In one example of collaboration with a major Japanese manufacturer, the magazine publishes a series of special topics in which talented amateur photographers from general readers are invited to present “unexplored regions” in Japan that are little known but attractive locations from their perspective.
Also, in Kyushu, where the number of tourists has fallen as a consequence of the Kumamoto earthquake in April this year, the magazine is collaborating with the local prefectures and municipalities to introduce the present status of Kyushu, which is regaining vitality, in hopes that it will help the number of tourists recover.
“There are dozens of flights between Shanghai and Kyushu each week, and it only takes about 90 minutes. On weekends, you can visit Kyushu whenever you feel like eating something delicious and going shopping. I hope many more readers of our magazine will want to visit Kyushu,” says Ms. Yuan.
Various tools to introduce Japan
In order to introduce Japan to Chinese people on a deeper level, readers are invited to participate in events and information is sent out through SNS, going beyond the limited framework of the magazine. The company has held more than 30 events (40 events if you include co-hosting and supporting) with the participation of readers, mainly in coastal areas such as Shanghai and Beijing. The participants enjoy discovering more of the attractions of Japan through experiencing Japanese culture and receiving souvenirs and products from the country.
The company also puts a great deal of effort into undertaking and managing advertising and PR content through SNS such as Weibo and WeChat, which have extensive influence in China. Utilizing SNS concomitantly with the publication of the bimonthly magazine, they are able to deliver the latest information promptly, and to receive reactions from the readers directly. In order to concentrate more of their energies on on-line advertising, they are considering building their own online platform.
Setting up a company in Japan and obtaining support from JETRO
With the boom in Chinese tourists visiting Japan, the company has been receiving more inquiries from Japanese businesses and local governments. This has become one of the springboards to their establishing a business base in Japan. “From around the latter half of 2014, I came to feel a deep need to have a base in Japan” says Ms. Yuan. “After deciding to advance into Japan, we smoothly completed the procedure of establishing a corporation with the help of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) and JETRO, due partly to the Japanese government’s initiative to promote tourism.”
Also, by using the services of JETRO, the company was able to impress Japanese firms considering doing business with them as “a company eligible for the aid of JETRO.”
When the company established a firm in Japan, the Invest Japan Business Support Center of JETRO offered support such as providing a temporary office, offering consultations on registration, tax affairs and labor planning, as well as introducing a service provider (judicial scrivener). Ms. Yuan appreciates it saying, “I had the impression that only big companies could receive aid from JETRO, but that was not the case. I am really grateful to them for having offered various kinds of support to a small company like us.”
Ms. Jing Yuan, General Manager of Shanghai Zensy Corporation, and Koraku Japan Corporation
(June 2016 Interview)
|2007||Shanghai Zensy Corporation established in China|
|2009||“Douchu-jin” magazine first published to convey the attractions of Hokkaido|
|2011||“Nangoku-Kaze” magazine first published, focused on introducing Kyushu|
|2013||“Douchu-jin” and “Nangoku-Kaze” combined into “Koraku,” which publicizes attractions from all over Japan|
|September 2015||Koraku Japan Corporation established in Tokyo|
Koraku Japan Corporation
|Business||Advertising and publishing|
|Parent company (group):||Shanghai Zensy Corporation|
|Address||2-4-15-209 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-0062, Japan|
- Provision of IBSC temporary office
- Consultation on registration, tax affairs and labor planning
- Introducing service providers (judicial scriveners)