Tag: startup

Do I Need to Speak Japanese to Visit a Japanese Trade Show?

Last year we were at a technology trade show. One of the more interesting booths we saw was a small IOT firm from the Philippines. Their product was innovative and fit into the event very well. But I was only able to understand this because we spoke in English. Any visitor who did not speak English (or Tagalog) was unfortunately not able to communicate with them.

For non-Japanese people at public trade shows and exhibitions, there is no way to know for sure if you’ll be able to communicate with exhibitors and guests before you actually show up. However, there are a few indicators which can allow you to assess the event linguistically beforehand.

Does the event website contain quality content in your language?

The websites for most trade shows are in Japanese, English, and Chinese; however, this is not necessarily an indication that the event itself is targeted at a foreign audience. Many event sites are built on templates used by the facilitating event company. So while they might be able to speak several language and translate content, the people actually showing up might not.

What you want to look for is content which has been purposely written for speakers of your language. For example, the recent Inbound Business expo website had a lot of good information in English. But at the event itself, despite the obvious international focus of inbound business, there were fewer English-speakers than one would expect. On the other hand the website for The World Food and Beverage Great Expo, despite the questionable use of English in the title, actually made an effort to appeal to non-Japanese.

Was the application form submittable without Japanese characters?

Japanese has four character sets, two of which have half-width variations within standard web fonts. The word hito, meaning person, could in theory be written in six different ways on a web page.

japanese character options windows 10

Some web forms require information to be entered in a specific character set or it will fail validation. The reasoning is a bit circumstantial, but if you cannot sign up for an event without knowing the ins and outs of typing in Japanese it could be indicative of who is going to end up attending.

How many foreign exhibitors are present?

It would seem obvious that the more foreign exhibitors are present at an event, the more people would be able to speak foreign languages. This is sometimes accurate and sometimes not.

Most of the time, a booth for an American firm would have an English speaker or a Chinese booth would have a Mandarin speaker. But many foreign companies in Japan have gone native. Especially in long-established industries like real estate, automotive, and technology, there are many companies where the staff simply do not need to speak anything but Japanese.

Look at the exhibitor list and try to see if there are a good number of companies without long histories in Japan. Or better still, if you recognise some companies in your industry who you know are trying to enter the Japanese market, that may be an indicator of the general level of foreign language-friendliness. For example, nearly a third of exhibitors at Samurai Startup Expo last year were from Israel — almost none actually had offices in Japan.

Are there international pavilions?

In the dozens of events we’ve attended in Japan, international pavilions are almost always manned by non-Japanese. It’s naturally part of the foreign appeal that the Germany section would have German exhibitors, for example. To Japanese, these pavilions are little pieces of international culture that they can sample in a day. For non-Japanese they are, for better or for worse, safe spaces where English can be freely used.

A word of caution: as pavilions are usually segregated, they are sometimes not indicative of the atmosphere of an event as a whole. So while your language might be usable in a small section of a trade show, if the rest of the floor is populated by Japanese companies and long-established foreign companies then you’ll probably need Japanese.

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FISH Fukuoka — Exhibition for Japan’s Startup City

On January 31st and February 1st, the Fukuoka International Congress Center will be hosting the Fukuoka International Startup Hub (FISH) exhibition.

The location is significant as Fukuoka has in recent years sought to develop itself as Japan’s Silicon Valley. Last year the city was granted permission to issue startup visas to foreign nationals and now boasts the highest rate of startup growth among Japanese municipalities. This would be less noteworthy in most first-tier economies, but in risk-adverse Japan most startups find it very difficult to get funding and talent. That a city relatively unknown outside Japan has made such progress in an inherently risky area of business is impressive.

So what can we expect? I think that the program will make good on its claim to focus on global innovation and entrepreneurship. A third of the speakers are non-Japanese, the opening speech is about international expansion, there’s a conference on Israel, and ambassador from Sweden is on one of the panel talks. We can also expect to see promotion for Fukuoka as a working destination. Talent acquisition has consistently been a focus of the startup community there, and FISH echoes this sentiment on their website. A speaker from the tourism bureau will give the closing speech on the first day.

This looks like a great exhibition for anyone into startup culture, technology, or Japan. If you’re going, be sure to check out the rest of the city while you’re there.

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SEMICON Japan 2016

Today was the last day of SEMICON Japan 2016 and we are glad that we got a chance to attend. This was the final major exhibition for the year at the Tokyo Big Sight. Over 64,000 visitors attended, surpassing last year’s attendance.

With so many industries tangent to microelectronics, it was interesting to see the variety of companies represented here. You did not have to be a technology company to exhibit; you just had to tie your business into the overall focus on the event. One exhibitor was promoting floor tiling, which was manufactured using pertinent technologies. Another designed parking lots, which relied on certain computer parts.

The expo-within-an-expo, World of IoT, was aimed at demonstrating diversity in business. It showcased a wide application of technologies including robotics, automotive applications, and design engineering. There was even a startup pitch on the second day.

SEMICON Japan was a fascinating event to attend and a great way to end 2016.

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