Junmei Produce Co., Ltd., which has an office in Akebono, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture, provides support for overseas expansion and corporate matching between overseas companies from Chinese-speaking countries and companies in Okinawa Prefecture.
Kimiko Nagamine, Representative Director of the company, was involved in manufacturing in China for about 12 years as an expatriate worker for a large Japanese manufacturing company. She started business in Okinawa, her hometown, in 2014, utilizing the business experience and Chinese language ability she had cultivated there. The company has reached the fifth year since its founding and is currently providing practical business support, having received orders from Okinawa General Bureau, Cabinet Office, Okinawa Industrial Promotion Public Corporation and The Bank of Okinawa, etc. In addition, Junmei Produce started a business partnership with TXA, a Taiwanese consulting company, from 2017.
We asked Representative Director Nagamine about the background to starting the company, the details of current business, and future business development. We also asked about the current state of Okinawa, as seen through involvement with companies working on overseas development, and for some advice for the young generation, etc. (August 2018)
Companies from Chinese-speaking countries currently thinking about expanding into Japan are focusing on Okinawa. The improvement of communication will be the key to forming good partnerships with companies in Okinawa. Junmei Produce wants to increase interpreters, translators, and business advisors with strong expert knowledge based in Okinawa.
Firstly, one type of work we are doing is gathering information and preparing documents about Okinawa and providing interpreting and translation services, etc., for companies that want to enter Okinawa from overseas and establish a corporation here. We receive requests in this regard mainly from Okinawa Bank and Okinawa Industrial Promotion Public Corporation. Also, we take on support business from the Okinawa General Bureau of the Cabinet Office for manufacturing companies that want to go overseas from Okinawa. Actually, the main work of our company is trade, but this kind of business support as well as interpreting and translation work is something that I wanted to do personally in combination with that so I would like to expand the range of this work further from now on.
My father often went to Southeast Asia in his work. Overseas Chinese were actively successful in the various countries of Southeast Asia and my father seems to have had a lot of opportunities to interact with such people and be stimulated by them.
My first involvement with China was when my father forced me to go on a short study trip to Beijing during a summer holidays when I was at high school. Initially, I went unwillingly, but the day after I arrived there, I liked Beijing so much already that I wondered if I had been somebody from Beijing in a previous existence. After that short study trip, I went again to a university in Beijing.
No. I returned to Okinawa after I graduated and spent some time helping my father with his work and doing part-time jobs. I had the aim of wanting to start my own business, so I was a member of the Junior Chamber International Japan at that time. When I participated in a China-related seminar that was being held, I had the opportunity to hear about China from the other participants. I was surprised at the large gap with the China that I had seen as a student. I could not be there any longer and I flew to Hong Kong one week later. One month later, I was working for a Japanese manufacturer. I was 28 years old at that time.
I thought initially that I would work for them for a year and then go independent, but it was comfortable and in the end, I spent about 15 years in various parts of China.
After a lot of twists and turns, the trigger for me starting my own business was when it was decided that company was to be bought out. Okinawa was bustling then so I thought it was a good opportunity to return home.
My former employer was a manufacturer, so I had always been involved until then in jobs like sales, quality control and logistics, etc., in a manufacturing workplace. Having been in an environment with an overwhelmingly large number of men, I wanted to do a feminine job when I went independent so at the start of the company in 2014, I launched a shop and website selling cosmetics and health food products in China. There was tremendous demand on the Chinese side, but because I had no connections in that area in Okinawa, I struggled over purchasing. As a result of thinking about the company’s operations after that, we ended up taking work that people I knew, and friends related to technology, development, and manufacturing introduced to us. The company took off with trade business importing industrial products manufactured in China into Japan.
I returned to Okinawa in earnest in 2015 and from early on, Okinawa Bank talked to me about business support. The number of inquiries about establishing corporations through overseas banks was increasing at Okinawa Bank, but they seemed to be troubled responding to them as they had no Chinese-speaking human resources. So, because of that relationship, it was decided that I would go in as an advisor in their new establishment of an overseas company reception office. That was the start for our current support work.
My experience as an advisor at the bank led to trust and next the Okinawa General Bureau of the Cabinet Office was talking to me about support for companies aiming to develop overseas from Okinawa. In this work, we have specialized in manufacturing-related companies, my own specialist area.
There are limits to the information that you can obtain if you are working just one-way, but it turned out that by supporting companies both overseas and in Okinawa like this, both kinds of work proceeded well. Companies are currently being introduced to us from various sources including Okinawa Industrial Promotion Public Corporation and business is continuing to expand.
Our work is very wide-ranging. There is a division of roles among all the respective organizations, including the things that can be done as a government agency and the things that can be done as a financial institution so getting in between them and supporting the areas where they are lacking somehow is the main role of Junmei Produce. There are a lot of cases where overseas or Okinawan companies are introduced to us by organizations or companies, that are contact points for them, such as the support agencies of Okinawa Prefecture, etc., or banks, etc.
For example, if an overseas company wants to establish a corporation in Okinawa, they will need to apply to a government agency and will also need funds from a bank. We provide that kind of practical business support of course, and also provide information on living in Okinawa as required, such as schools and hospitals, etc., when foreigners come to live in Okinawa.
Also, conversely, if a business from Okinawa wants to develop overseas, we can also accompany them to business meetings overseas. Our company also handles the preparation of materials and pamphlets, simultaneous interpreting, and the handling of enquiries by e-mail and phone, etc., that spreads out from those activities. We were introduced to TXA, a Taiwanese consulting company by Okinawa Industrial Promotion Public Corporation in 2017 and are currently advancing business collaboration newly with them.
TXA of Taiwan is a consulting company that support Taiwanese companies from start-up to stock exchange listing. There is a gathering where about 10 listed companies from Taiwan are participating and that are making efforts to grow venture companies and get them listed. The company behind that is TXA.
An advantageous condition in getting a company listed in Taiwan is developing overseas. There seem to have been a lot of companies thus far that have made forays into America, but when you consider the time difference and the travel distance, etc., a lot of time is lost. So, TXA is focusing on development in Japan, and on development in Okinawa in particular. Okinawa and Taiwan are in a zone where you can travel back and forth overseas on a day trip in roughly one hour so TXA wants to conduct training on what kinds of companies people will start up in Okinawa and what kind of future images they draw as the first step in overseas development. Our company established a business collaboration officially in 2017 as the reception office for that work, and is currently sharing information, etc., on the Okinawa side towards concrete action.
Okinawa lacks multi-lingual communication and specialized agencies, organizations, and companies that can engage in business collaboration with overseas companies. Also, there is an overwhelming lack of information on Okinawa obtainable in various languages when looked at from the standpoint of overseas companies? There are a lot of companies making efforts to develop overseas in the various countries of Asia in Okinawa Prefecture, but conversely, the number of companies overseas who are interested in business development in Okinawa is increasing rapidly. I do feel that there is a gap in the movements of both.
For example, because it is difficult for companies that want to enter Okinawa to know about the circumstances of Okinawa simply in their own countries, it seems that support agencies like Okinawa Industrial Promotion Public Corporation, etc., are receiving more enquiries from companies saying they are searching for consulting companies that can speak Chinese and are experienced with the government and with financial institutions. There are also a lot of overseas companies that want to form partnerships with companies in Okinawa in entering the prefecture. However, there are language communication problems and issues of compatibility between companies, so the current situation is that matching companies well is difficult.
Both overseas companies and Japanese companies are focusing on the geographical superiority of Okinawa. If you change the way you look at it, the fact that overseas companies are struggling over business development in Okinawa is also a business opportunity. If opportunities increase for companies in Okinawa to form partnerships with overseas companies and Japanese companies from other prefectures in Okinawa, it will surely also connect to the regional promotion and economic development of Okinawa itself from now on. For example, I feel personally we need to strengthen further systems for acceptance on the Okinawa side in all aspects, such as the transmission of detailed information on Okinawa in multiple languages, and the creation of an environment that is easy for foreigners to live in, etc.
We want to strengthen the business support and interpreting and translation business we are currently working on steadily from now on. This is something I have felt myself when I thought about returning to Okinawa, I thought that there was nowhere that would accept me. So, I thought I had to start a business myself if I was going to return to Okinawa.
A male staff member who is working for us now has just returned from Tokyo. People from Okinawa with expert knowledge and strong abilities in multilingual communication are actively successful overseas and in other prefectures. I want to aim for business development so that when those kinds of people want to come back to Okinawa, there is somewhere that can receive them on the Okinawa side. I also have the aim that has not changed since I started the company of creating a workplace that is easy for women to work in.
In addition, when the large MICE plan is realized in 2020 and large-scale international conferences, etc., start to be held in Okinawa, securing interpreters and translators with expert knowledge in medicine, industry, IT, and bio-related areas will surely become a pressing issue. I want to put effort into developing those kinds of human resources as well from now on.
Well. I have opportunities to accompany students on overseas training, etc., but the young generation of Okinawa are surprisingly negative about going overseas. Their parents do not want to let them go very much. Personally, I would like the young generation, particularly those in their teens or twenties to go overseas more and more. I give advice to people going on overseas study that they should try all sorts of things apart from study overseas.
If you go to the trouble of going overseas, I want them to make lots of friends rather than just study or do things that they could do in Japan. When I went to study in China, I had regrets that I should have done something as a tool of communication like guitar, shamisen, or singing. Going overseas, communicating with various people and having contact with various ways of thinking also gives you interest in the history and culture of Okinawa and Japan, and your identity as a Japanese person also becomes stronger.
I want young people to bring the things they see and learn there back to Japan. So, the first thing is that people who do that will increase. I think that will be good for Okinawa in 10 years, 20 years, and 30 years’ time.
|Junmei Produce Co., Ltd.|
|Head office : Room 209 Takada Akebono Mansion, 2-26-6 Akebono, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture|
|TEL : 098-955-0053|
|Established : February 2014|
|Representative : Kimiko Nagamine|
|Number of employees : 9 people|
|Description of business : Business support work in Chinese-speaking countries, interpreting/translation work, import/export work|
|WEB : https://junmei.jp/|
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Overseas and Business Support Division, Okinawa Industry Promotion Public Corporation
Business Hours : Monday - Friday 9:00-17:00 （Closed on Saturday, Sunday and Holidays）