The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


JULY 2014

Mitsui Targets Eyewear

Mitsui Chemicals has acquired the SunSensors technology from US glass manufacturer Corning Inc. (Channel NewsAsia, May 20).

The market for light-sensitive lenses, made possible by the SunSensors technology, is growing twice as fast as that of traditional eyewear. Light-sensitive lenses darken with exposure to sunlight.

With the deal, Mitsui is directly taking on France’s Essilor International S.A., the leading producer of ophthalmic equipment. The SunSensors acquisition comes in the wake of Essilor’s largest-ever transaction to purchase US firm Transitions Optical.

Ohio Looks to Japan for Entrepreneurs

Public- and private-sector leaders in Ohio’s third-largest city are targeting young Japanese entrepreneurs for its burgeoning start-up facilities (, June 4).

Greater Cincinnati is home to more than 120 Japanese businesses, which employ over 12,000 people. This includes Toyota’s North American manufacturing headquarters, which will be relocated in about two years.

Former Procter & Gamble (P&G) CEO Bob McDonald, who once headed P&G’s operations in Japan, is helping spearhead the drive to develop a partnership with Japanese entrepreneurs looking for a total incubator system, like that on offer in Cincinnati.

Various political and business leaders from Tokyo visited Cincinnati in early June, at the request of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to help improve Japan–US relations.

First Deals Signed for Myanmar SEZ

At the start of June, the Thilawa special economic zone project in Yangon welcomed its first investors: a US-based beverage container-maker and a Japanese auto-parts manufacturer (Bangkok Post, June 7).

Ball Corp., headquartered in Colorado, plans to invest $40 million to build a plant in the Thilawa zone, which was set up with funds from Japan. Ball plans to supply Coca-Cola Co.’s Myanmar joint venture, among other businesses, with its drink containers.

Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Takeshi Higuchi said the contracts are an important step for Japan–US cooperation in Myanmar’s development.

Retailer Cuts Eco Impact

Walmart Asia announced on World Environment Day that it had cut its CO2 emissions by over 73,000 tons, in part through the efforts of its operations in Japan (Campaign Asia-Pacific, June 5).

The company has reduced its use of energy by installing special tile flooring that reflects light in shopping areas. In 2013, the innovative tiling was fitted in 66 stores, and this year it will be added to an additional 37. This initiative alone reduced electricity usage by 11 percent.

Walmart Japan has also cut water consumption by 10 percent through a range of initiatives, including the use of low-flow showerheads and the defrosting of fish at room temperature.

Novelty Pens Transform Your Desk
A Japanese action-figure maker is introducing three models of Transformer pens, set to be released this fall (Auto Evolution, May issue).

The Transformers franchise dates back to 1984, and was born as a collaboration between Japanese and US toymakers Takara Tomy and Hasbro, respectively. Sentinel Co., Ltd. designed the 143mm pens with great retro appeal.

The novelty writing tools will be offered for three characters: Convoy (Japanese name for Optimus Prime), Black Convoy (Nemesis Prime), and Ultra Magnus. The pens demonstrate how Japanese manufacturers are still proving to be masters of miniaturization.

Selected Transformer pens will be limited-edition items sold online for about ¥3,980.