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Japanese SMEs aspiring to advance overseas

Highlighting Japan's Recovery Efforts on the One-year Anniversary of the March 11 Disaster in the America's Midwest

Chicago, U.S.A, April 12, 2012

To mark the one-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, a series of seminars and related events were held in the Midwest to highlight Japan's recovery from the tragic events of March 11, 2011 and to raise awareness of the new opportunities available for doing business in Japan. Presented by the Japan-America Society of Indiana, this special program was led by the Honorable Mitchell Daniels, Jr., Governor of the State of Indiana and considered to be among the top prospects to run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, who, alongside other distinguished speakers, used this opportunity to speak about Japan's progress along the road to recovery and provide information on the opportunities the recovery effort affords for those looking to do business with Japan. Several Tohoku-based companies have exhibited at an international trade show in Chicago and there have been a number of seminars and events held in the city to report on Japan's progress towards recovery.

Japan already looking toward the future

On March 15, the Japan-America Society of Indiana presented a seminar entitled "Japan Update: Its Economic Importance to Indiana, Asia and the Globe"External site: a new window will open. . Many Japanese corporations have established a presence in Indiana while the state's governor, Mitchell Daniels, Jr., is extremely favorably disposed towards the nation and has forged strong business ties with Japan.

In his keynote address, Ichiro Fujisaki, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States, drew attention to the fact that Japan continues to lead the world in terms of the number of global patent applications and its research and development expenditure, where it ranks in second place behind the United States; that Japan's carbon dioxide emissions account for a mere 3.8 percent of global CO2 emissions, and that it is the second largest contributor to the United Nations budget. He also spoke of the remarkable speed of the recovery in the nation's infrastructure and supply chains, highlighted the fact that radiation levels were now as low as they were prior to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and presented no problem to companies doing business in Japan's northeast. In closing, he explained that the road to full recovery in those areas that were devastated by the earthquake-tsunami is still long and called for understanding of the ongoing importance of bilateral relations between Japan and the United States. He also said that he looked forward to seeing increased investment in trade with and travel to Japan.

Indiana governor, Mitchell Daniels, Jr., used his opening address to tell participants that: "The word 'kizuna' – bonds or emotional ties – a word that was taught me by Tatsuhiro Shindo, the Chief Executive Director of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Chicago office, captures the essence of this seminar. We should continue to value the bonds we have with our friends in Japan. More than 250 Japanese companies have invested in Indiana, and Japanese investment is vitally important to economic growth and job creation in the state."

During the panel discussions, speakers from Toyota Motor Manufacturing and Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, which have recently announced production of hybrid vehicles in Indiana, reported an almost full recovery from post-quake supply chain disruptions and told participants that important lessons had been learned regarding the need for flexible supply chains and localized parts sourcing. The speakers also emphasized that Japan's auto manufacturers were already looking to the future and were intensifying efforts to locate next-generation vehicle production plants in Tohoku and increase local supply rates.

The Japan-America Society of Chicago in Illinois also hosted a seminar entitled "Japan: Road to Recovery – Challenges and Opportunities" in response to calls from its corporate members, many of whom have business relations with companies in Japan. The keynote speech was delivered by Tatsuhiro Shindo, the Chief Executive Director of the JETRO Chicago office, who discussed how Japan was moving forward and the opportunities Japan's recovery effort offer for business with the nation. One American participant spoke of the remarkable speed and efficiency of Japan's recovery effort and remarked that, for the first time, he had learned that production and supply chains were restored to pre-quake levels, before pledging his ongoing support for Japan.


Indiana Governor, Mitchell Daniels, Jr., giving the opening address

Numerous new business deals concluded

With the support of JETRO, ten corporate/organization exhibitors from Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures displayed lacquer-ware and other products in the Japan Pavilion at the 2012 International Home + Housewares Show that was held in Chicago on March 10-13. The 2012 show drew some 60,000 participants and was featured on ABC Network television and in the New York Times .


Participants listen attentively to a Tohoku exhibitor explaining her wares

Tohoku exhibitors were invited to attend the "Disaster Memorial and Thanks Gathering" to give thanks for the support given to Japan by America that was presided over by the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago on March 12, where they spoke to State government officials and leading business representatives of their experiences on March 11 and their efforts to reestablish and rebuild their businesses following the disaster.

One exhibitor said: "The opportunity to mark the first anniversary of the Tohoku disaster here in Chicago fills me with deep emotion. We have come this far thanks to the support that has been extended by so many. I've made more deals than I ever anticipated and am more than satisfied. I am determined to make my business a success for those companies that continue to struggle in quake-hit areas as a representative for Tohoku and have no intention of giving up." Another reported that: "The products we developed and exhibited for this show are imbued with the 'monozukuri' tradition, sophisticated craftsmanship, and superior designs. It would give us great pleasure to have our wares on display in American homes. My dream is to have these works displayed in an art gallery or museum somewhere in the United States one hundred years from now."

State government officials and local business representatives appeared surprised to find Tohoku companies determined to use their visit to Chicago as both an opportunity to report on their progress toward recovery and a chance to tap new markets for their products.


Representatives from Tohoku companies showcase their wares at the Disaster Memorial and Thanks Gathering

For the two weeks that followed the tragic events of March 11 a year ago, national networks flooded the airwaves with regular bulletins on the situation in Japan. One year on, as news about the disaster has slowly faded from the headlines, little mention is made of the ongoing recovery efforts or the business situation in Japan. The recent program of seminars in America's Midwest, which has close economic ties with Japan in agriculture, auto production and other industries, demonstrated the strength of interest in these topics among local business representatives and politicians. This suggests that grassroots promotions may offer an effective means of reaching key US players.