The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



Cartoon Icon Turns 40

A special exhibition on the influence of Sanrio Co, Ltd.’s Hello Kitty opened in October at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles (The Japan Times, September 28).

The exhibit, running until April 26 next year, celebrates the 40th anniversary of the beloved fictional character who, Sanrio recently revealed, is not a feline. Hello Kitty is meant to be a little girl, a friend, a blank slate for admirers.

The museum, expecting record numbers to attend the exhibition, doubled its staff and purchased new admission software for the opening, for which it even granted timed admission tickets. At the neighboring Museum of Contemporary Art, Sanrio’s US unit is hosting Hello Kitty Con 2014, from October 30 to November 2.

Coffee Chain Buys Partner

Starbucks Coffee has announced a buyout of its partner in Japan, Sazaby League, following a near 20-year business alliance (Latin American Herald Tribune, October 8).

Japan represents the second-largest market for the franchise, after the United States. There are currently about 1,000 coffee shops in the country employing some 25,000 staff. The first Starbucks opened outside North America was the flagship in Tokyo’s Ginza district, in 1995.

The price agreed for the deal is ¥99.5 billion, and the two-phase transaction should be completed in 2015. Starbucks plans to pursue growth across multiple channels in Japan, and is considering the introduction of new concepts, such as its Teavana line of products. Starbucks acquired Teavana in December 2012.

Press_3Marques Zero In on US Luxury Sector
Two of Japan’s leading watchmakers are targeting the US market for growth (The Japan Times, September 26).

Citizen Watch Co. and Seiko Watch Corp. are taking on Swiss brands such as Rolex and Omega, which currently dominate the US market. Since Japanese brands are primarily sold in the mid- to low-price range in the United States, they are not seen as high-end products, says a US timepiece magazine.

Seiko and Citizen plan to highlight their brand heritage and their products’ distinct functions. Further, Citizen will resurrect its Wittnauer brand, which dates back to the 19th century, while Seiko is pushing its Astron series of GPS-mounted wrist watches.

Youth Exchange Promotes Peace, Understanding
The High School Diplomats program had another successful run in the United States this year, promoting cultural exchange between American and Japanese students (, September 29).

Applicants selected for the program share rooms with their counterparts from Japan or America, and engage in activities to promote bilateral friendship and camaraderie.

In addition to language classes, participants, for example, learn to make paper cranes, and about cultural celebrations such as Halloween. Serious discussions are also held to provide insight into each nation’s historical issues, political systems, and social norms.

Press_4Mac Loses Out to Konbini Rivals
Western-style fast-food establishments in Japan report falling sales, despite Japanese consumers’ tendency to eat often outside the home (Press TV, October 9).

McDonald’s has seen a steady decline in revenue, while other restaurants, such as Wendy’s, have slashed the number of their outlets in Tokyo. Some chains, such as Burger King, have introduced menu offerings targeting domestic tastes, which have helped them stand out from competitors. Burger King’s Kuro (black) Burger, which features ingredients made using squid ink, is one example.

The growing popularity of konbini—convenience store—meals is cited as the main reason for declining sales.