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Japanese manufacturers make their mark overseas

Famous for developing pioneering technologies and the latest manufacturing techniques, Japan has shown the world for many decades how to adapt to ever-changing consumer tastes and sell those products successfully around the world. 

With Shahihata President Masayoshi Funahashi (2nd from left) and Executive President Aki Funahashi

Shachihata, a leading maker of writing instruments and stampers, was founded in 1925. Since then, the company’s products, under the Artline ® and Xstamper ® brands, can now be found in more than 100 countries. Its success can be attributed to its ability to design pens, markers and stampers that address the shifting preferences in communication and self-expression.

The secret of Shachihata’s success is continuously developing new products that can be used in every setting and appeal to every consumer demographic in Japan and other countries. Aware that the size of the local market was limited and that competition grew stiffer every year, the company has staked its future growth on international markets. In fact, unlike its other Japanese counterparts, Shachihata offers its latest products in the international market first.

“Locally, most people think we are stamp makers, but overseas we are known more as a manufacturer of markers. Because we want to expand the market for stamping products, we started to sell Xstamper QuiX, a pre-inked stamp making system in foreign countries,” Shachihata President Masayoshi Funahashi said.

The company’s biggest international market for markers has been Australia and for stampers has been the United States, where Shachihata's products have been sold for almost 50 years.

With Ohishi Sangyo President Norio Okubo

Meanwhile, Ohishi Sangyo, founded in 1947, has also needed to look abroad for stronger ad more sustainable growth prospects. As part of that expansion plan, the company built a plant outside Japan to manufacture its packaging-related products. At the heart of this strategy is initially targeting Japanese companies overseas.

“In the last 20 years, Japan lost a lot of big players and demand is sharply declining. Many of these companies decided to open in other Asian market. That is why we now have an office in Singapore and a plant in Malaysia,” Ohishi Sangyo President Norio Okubo said. 

According to Okubo, Ohishi Sangyo has also pursued long-running clients, such as BASF, Chemours, Evonik, Exxon Mobil, Mitsubishi Chemical and Sumitomo Chemical, in the ASEAN region, to grow its business in the chemical and food industries.

To ensure growth of its overseas business, Okubo believes the company will need to modernize its products and processes. But, he added that Japan remains important because the country still leads in technological innovation and high-quality manufacturing.

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Japan 2018 was prepared for and originally printed in Foreign Affairs magazine.

PDF of the printed report

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