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Businesses Made in Nippon

There are 4.3 million small and medium-size businesses in Japan, accounting for 99.7% of all businesses in the country. These are the backbone of the Japanese economy. In this series we focus on those that have developed distinctive technologies, appeal to peculiar niche markets, or have unusual management styles, as well as the many Japanese firms that have endured for a century or more.

A Venerable Family Business Built on Tea and PaperKikuchi Masanori

The Ejima family has been selling Japanese paper and green tea in the castle town of Odawara, outside Tokyo, for over three centuries. During that time the retailers have bounced back from adversity on several occasions, emerging each time stronger than before.

Nippon Kōdō: Bringing Japan’s Incense Traditions to the WorldKikuchi Masanori

Incense arrived in Japan together with Buddhism in the sixth century. The first professional incense masters were working in the sixteenth century, and incense in Japan has followed a distinctive path from religious ceremonies to connoisseurship and simple enjoyment. Today the country’s biggest incense maker is using an array of new services to increase its international appeal and ensure a brighter, more global future for Japanese incense.

Pharmaceutical Pioneer Continues Soothing Japan’s Ills in Its Fifth CenturyKikuchi Masanori

Uzukyūmeigan’s flagship product, based on traditional Chinese medicine, remains a favored treatment in Japan for small children’s nocturnal crying. The company’s top executives describe their commitment to honoring the tradition they have inherited and to achieving renewed corporate vitality.

Original Vibration Control Leads to a Series of World Firsts

Matsuda R&D is a small company of 10 employees nestled in a corner of Itabashi, Tokyo, that has continuously developed one-of-a-kind products with its original vibration control technology. Leading the way is company president Matsuda Shinji, 70, who got his start at Honda Motor.

Kōno Seisakusho: World’s Thinnest Needles Bring Surgical Revolution

With its development of the world’s thinnest surgical needles, a small manufacturing firm headquartered in a suburb east of Tokyo has revolutionized regenerative surgery and other medical fields. Kōno Seisakusho’s “Crown Jun” needles are being used throughout Japan and are attracting international attention as well.

Freeze-Dried Food Lands on Earth: The Instant Offerings of Amano Foods

All you need is hot water and a few seconds to turn a compact block of freeze-dried food into a savory dish of stew, curry, or risotto. The Japanese company Amano Foods has been at the forefront of freeze-drying technology. We visited the company to learn more about the products it is developing.

Industrial Strength 3D Printers: Matsuura Machinery

Media worldwide have been focusing on the potential of 3D printing in recent years. One leader in the industrial use of this technology is Matsuura Machinery Corp., located in Fukui Prefecture. This article profiles the company and its new Lumex Avance-25 machine, which is revolutionizing the production of dies and molds.

Obusedō: A Tradition of Chestnut Sweets and Local Culture

Located in Nagano Prefecture, the town of Obuse is known for its confections and chestnuts. It also boasts a unique culture, with influences dating back to Edo-period icons like the artist Katsushika Hokusai and many family-run businesses located there to this day. In recent years, these businesses have come together to restore the historical atmosphere of Obuse, ensuring that its rich past stays relevant into the future.

Dassai: How a Rural Sake Brewery Took On the World

Thirty minutes by car from Iwakuni, deep in the mountains of Yamaguchi Prefecture, is the home of Dassai, a top-quality sake that has been highly acclaimed both at home and abroad. We take a look at how this small brewery rose from unpromising beginnings to become a major player on the international market.

A Tradition Ironed Out over the Years: The Cast-iron Creations of Okamaya

The family firm Okamaya in Iwate Prefecture has been handcrafting cast-iron kettles for over 350 years. We interviewed the firm’s head, Koizumi Nizaemon, to learn more about its history and the traditions of Nanbu cast iron.

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