Last year’s rise in the consumption tax rate took a large bite out of household spending for many Japanese. Yet recent trends — and the continued development of high-tech products — show that the Japanese are still willing to pay more for quality. Below we examine some of the latest offerings available for Japanese consumers.
Softbank’s GungHo Online Entertainment announced on 12 June its intention to build on its mega-hit mobile game, "Puzzle & Dragons" (2012), by entering the publishing business. The firm feels that Japanese consumers are willing to pay more for high-end technology.
“The Japanese communications environment is very good, so commuters can use their mobile phones even on the subway without any problem,” says Kazumitsu Umeta, of the company’s business planning office. “So they are enjoying mobile games and other digital content while they are commuting. As a result, Japanese consumers tend to spend more money on mobile games and other digital content than consumers in other countries.”
GungHo has also found a formula to satisfy the Japanese consumer in regards to both aesthetics and functionality.
“There were few games utilising the smartphone user interface back in 2012. We launched [our] innovative smartphone game … utilising the smartphone UI at that time, so our game could gain popularity among smartphone users,” explains Umeta. “We [have been] managing to delight users over a long period of time, offering new events in the game and updating [it] frequently.”
On 17 April, the UK’s Dyson set up its first, and only, directly run store in the world — in Tokyo’s Omotesando district. The company sees it as an opportunity to allow Japanese consumers to experience product performance directly, justifying higher price tags. The 100– square–metre showroom showcases 20 products, including Dyson’s cyclone vacuum cleaners, on four different flooring samples, including tatami mats.
In the lighting industry, Philips has been targeting the high-end market with more value-added LED products. It’s part of a process to see new applications being incorporated into architectural and city designs. Commercialisation of organic light-emitting diode lighting also is continuing at a brisk pace.
In Nagasaki, the popular Dutch theme park Huis Ten Bosch will be adding a high-tech wrinkle to its new upscale 72-room hotel: robots. Robot staff will work behind the reception desk, as porters, and do cleaning chores — complete with conversation capabilities.
Kotaro Takada of the company’s corporate planning department says guests will “feel the entertainment properties in the service by a robot.” And the face-authentication of a keyless system, he believes, is where “you can feel there is no equal in convenience.”
He says, “The hotel will pursue world-class productivity. You cannot see anywhere else in the world a hotel system like this.”
The Kyoto Aquarium, built by Orix, is a high-tech facility just west of Kyoto Station. The aquarium has a number of eco-friendly features such as rain recycling for toilets and power-generation panels integrated into the Dolphin Lagoon’s large roof. Mist ejected from nozzles absorbs vaporisation heat from the air, reducing the outdoor air temperature by 2–3° C, and a high-efficiency filtration system supplies about 1% of the artificial seawater used daily for pools. Kyoto-grown timber in the ceiling of the Dolphin Lagoon absorbs sound, and suppresses echoes of music and voices during performances.
“We designed the displays so that visitors can see the various sea life up close. Also, we always try to communicate with our visitors by answering their questions,” a spokesperson at Orix explains. “There is a lot of space where visitors can rest and relax as well, which makes them want to come back.”
Regarding ORBI Yokohama, a large event space in the city, “Japan was a natural launch market for ORBI; it is SEGA’s home market and Japanese audiences have always shown a great love for BBC natural history. We knew there was appetite here for more immersive natural history experiences,” said Mat Way, commercial director of Live Events at BBC Worldwide.
“When we opened our first installation in Yokohama, we set out to create a unique attraction that would deliver high value and a new way to experience our world-class BBC Earth content.”
According to Way, “Orbi fuses SEGA’s cutting-edge entertainment technology with BBC Earth’s nature expertise to take visitors on a journey to see and experience some of nature’s greatest events and landscapes — coming face to face with the extraordinary animal characters that we share our planet with.
“It is fully interactive starting with a series of experiential zones that visitors can explore at their leisure,” continues Way, “and culminating in the main theatre experience featuring a vast wrap-around screen where our bespoke BBC Earth films play out; and we use sophisticated scent-technology, water sprays, vibration and sound to fully immerse people in the world of the film. There’s nothing else quite like it.”
Even with higher consumption tax rates, the brand prestige of luxury vehicles continues to resonate with many Japanese. And many automotive features connected to advanced technology will often appear in luxury cars before other vehicles on the mass market.
At the beginning of the year, CNET highlighted the Best Luxury Tech Cars of 2015. Several European vehicles made the list, including the Volvo S60 T6 Drive E, which includes loads of safety features. The Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible was defined as the muscle car for the wealthy, while the BMW 535d was lauded for its online cabin technology.
And finally, even taxi firms are going high-tech. Since spring last year, Kokusai Motorcars has been offering a technical solution for passengers who forget items in their cabs. All 3,100 taxis are now equipped with small cameras designed to sound an alarm once an item, not captured before a passenger got in, is spotted. Left-behind items can be easily returned.© Japan Today