The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) has been a long-time supporter of the Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC), a business skills development program. Many ACCJ member companies and ACCJ staff have participated in this program. In August 2015, the ACCJ board approved a two-year program to provide a ¥500,000 subsidy to one ACCJ member SME and ¥250,000 for scholarships for ACCJ member company participants to attend the program, which includes JMEC 23 this fall.

What is JMEC?
JMEC is a unique English-language business skills development program to provide actionable business plans. It was started in 1993 by the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan, and is currently supported by 18 foreign chambers of commerce here. Since 1993, more than 1,000 JMEC participants have produced more than 200 business plans for the program’s Project Clients.

How does it work?
JMEC lecturers train motivated participants in business planning skills. In January, the participants—formed into four- to six-person teams—begin work on a business plan for a product or service that actually exists in Japan, with a mentor and a consultant guiding each team. From January to May, there are several workshops on various aspects of financial forecasting, market research and analysis, project management, distribution channel analysis, presentation skills, as well as other topics. Plans are submitted after the Golden Week holiday period in spring, and the teams present them to JMEC judges and to their clients. The best plans win prizes for members of the teams responsible.

Why do Project Clients use JMEC?
Clients find that using a JMEC team is a low-cost way to explore the acceptability of a new product or an alternate approach to the Japanese market. Past plans have resulted in creative marketing approaches and significant new businesses for the Project Client. Some past clients have used their JMEC plan to start a completely new business in Japan. The cost of participation is ¥1.2 million (¥990,000 for early bird applicants). The ACCJ has agreed to pay ¥500,000 of this cost for one project over the next two years. See what some past Project Clients have said about their business plans on our website.

How do Participants benefit?
The Participants are a very diverse group of mid-level managers. They invariably want to develop practical skills, learn from local business experts, expand their network of contacts, and receive a high-quality, low-cost cross-cultural training experience. Recent JMEC classes have comprised Japanese and non-Japanese Participants in a 50:50 split, with a 50:50 male-to-female ratio. Fifty-five nationalities have participated in JMEC over the past 22 years. The cost is ¥125,000 for a seven-month, English-language practical business program. The ACCJ will sponsor two people from ACCJ member companies to participate in the JMEC 23 program. What past Participants have said about the program can be found on our website.

How do I qualify for ACCJ support?
To qualify, the Project Client has to be a US-owned, ACCJ SME member with less than 30 employees and a commitment to the Japanese market. They need to meet JMEC’s participation criteria. Eligible Participants need to be English-speaking and employees of an ACCJ member organization living and working in Japan with two to five years of work experience. ACCJ presidents emeriti Debbie Howard and Mike Alfant will conduct the final selection.

How do I get started?
Visit JMEC online at to learn more about the program and attend an information session. JMEC brochures can be found in the lobby of the ACCJ office in Tokyo. Potential Project Clients should contact Program Director Trond Varlid or Assistant Program Director Betsy Rogers at to discuss project ideas and learn more about how JMEC can be of help. Potential Participants should attend an information session to learn more about the program from past Participants and others. Info sessions begin August 31. Sign up for a session that fits your schedule.

Tom Whitson is a president emeritus of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and JMEC Executive Committee chairman