Japan: NZ's fifth largest trading partner, fourth largest export market, fourth largest investor, fifth largest in-bound tourist market and third largest source of international students.
Not sure about the language and culture?
Want to know if an market exists?
There's plenty of people to help you take the next step. Friends, advisers, business owners and some very valuable networks.
Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Japan New Zealand Business Council recently spoke to the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce and endorsed what we've seen ourselves. He believes kiwi companies have a lot to offer the Japanese as both countries and markets evolve.
We've been friends with Minoh for 20 years through a number of cultural, sports, education and now arts activities. Mayor Ray Wallace is keen to grow these activities through our business communities too.
Our friendship is a close one and on the current Mayoral delegation Lower Hutt's been able to make connections that businesses acting alone may otherwise not been able to make themselves. This a country where relationships are really important, introductions are vital and any business stems from people getting to know each other well.
The Minoh Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) told us that lot of local people really appreciate New Zealand food and produce - especially wine. We were served a chilled locally made yuzuru bottled drink and conversation quickly turned to local products in each city. Is there an opportunity to have a Hutt / NZ 'shopette' in Minoh and vice versa in Lower Hutt?
Minoh is similar in population size, but quite different in industry and business make up - though what's possible partnering at a regional level with Wellington too?
Mayor Ray Wallace, Deputy Mayor David Bassett, Tony Stallinger as a board member of Hutt Valley of Commerce were able to introduce our city's capabilities and discuss ways business could find new markets and growth opportunities in both countries.
Wellington's sister city Sakai is just a hop, skip and jump across Osaka from Minoh - so is there scope to build on several networks available to us?
We were very priviledged to meet Tsutomu Miyagi, President of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OCCI) and a few of his team, with their network of 28,000 business members from a city of 3 million people and a wider region of 19 million. The OCCI has formal connections to 50 overseas Chambers including the Auckland Chamber of Commerce - so here's a chance to hold hands as a country. They provide trade opportunities for local and global SMEs and are happy to work with business of all sizes.
We felt very humbled as Wellington region's just 3% the size of Osaka though we have high-value niche products and innovators that are world-class too. Not only can we export to the Japanese market, we can as well as collaborate to create new products to go further globally.
We introduced our city's capabilities and areas of potential growth. a number of businesses are already partnering in Japan. Our science technology industry, namely new energy, pharmaceutical and advanced manufacturing are sectors we share. Discussion centred around ways we could get to know each other's industries better, identifying opporutnities for collaborating and the changing markets in both countries.
Another great team to know is JETRO essentially funded by the Japanese government to champion investment in to Japan and facilitate business parnetships between globally. Meet certain criteria and you can get free office space, a local business advisor and connections to extensive networks. Their Auckland Office is a great one stop shop to understand all the nuts and bolts about business in Japan.
There's a lot of expertise at our reach. JETRO, OCCI, MCCI, and the Asia NZ Foundation, the Japan New Zealand Business Council annual conference is in Wellington next year, and most of all, the growing numbers of friends we have in and around Minoh.
Osaka is a hub for global commercial activity and we've started some valuable connections. It's worth spending the time to have a further look at the potetial here. The building blocks are ceratinly there out for those wanting to take up the challenge.
Reporting from Minoh
James Lamb, HMHFT Trust Secretary
COMING UP IN FUTURE BLOGS:
More teachers, tours, students and Japanese art to come to Lower Hutt, celebrating 20 years with Minoh at the NZ Autumn Fair, must do's when you visit Minoh and more.