The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



Fair Trade

I will admit to being guilty of Tokyo-centric behavior. Living and working in such a vast metropolis can consume our time and energy, becoming our main focus.

However, we must not forget the importance of other regions to the national economy. Of Japan’s 128 million inhabitants, some 33.7 percent dwell in the Kanto region, 17 percent in Kansai, and 13.6 percent in the Chubu region (2010 census data).

Kansai’s economic scale surpasses that of neighboring Asia–Pacific countries such as Indonesia and Thailand. Chubu, meanwhile, accounts for 10 percent of Japan’s gross economic output and 1 percent of global GDP.

Since taking over the ACCJ Journal in July, I’ve been mindful to engage the Chubu and Kansai chapters where possible in the magazine, to maintain the values of diversity and inclusion espoused by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. This month our friends in Chubu have earned the coveted cover spot. I hope the Kanto readers can learn from this update on regional issues and points of progress.

Seal of approval
Back home in the United States, for some time now the organic debate has been raging over the labeling and (over)use of the term “organic” on food and personal care products.

America has been a leader in the naturals movement. It is the world’s largest market for organic food and drinks, with 2013 sales of around $31.5 billion, according to the Organic Market Research Project. These days, most US supermarkets have entire sections devoted to organic goods, and shops like Whole Foods Market have reported spectacular earnings growth.

Unfortunately, as in other sectors such as banking, Japan lags behind, its standards still loose at best.

Consumers here certainly value knowing the origin of the foods they eat, as evidenced by the proliferation of farmers’ markets sprouting up in urban areas; this has been particularly evident in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear crisis. But the emphasis remains on locally grown over organically farmed produce.

We interviewed three leaders in the organics sector in Japan about recent developments and the promise of future growth.

One ray of hope is the equivalency agreement signed by the United States and Japan in September 2013. This pact allows products with an organic seal in their country of origin to be labeled and sold as organic in the purchasing country. Here, certification is granted with a Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) seal.

The ambassador in us all
Finally, ACCJ Executive Director Samuel Kidder has written an article about two individuals whose contributions to Japan far exceeded their stated charge. Though both were in this country on diplomatic missions, their legacy demonstrates how each of us can play a role in building bridges between Japan and the United States.



Brandi Goode