Japan Business Showcase in Silicon Valley — Meet Ten Hot Japanese Companies!

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On March 25th, ten companies gathered at the San Mateo RakuNest office for a showcase presentation broadcasted on Zoom. The ten featured businesses across various industries such as food, travel, and technology, but all work to bridge borders between Japan and the U.S.

The showcase was kicked off with opening remarks from Shinji Sandy Kimura, the Chief Strategy Officer of Rakuten USA. He spoke about the company’s San Mateo co-working space, RakuNest, and its goal to support companies (especially those from overseas) who want to start their Silicon Valley journey.

The charismatic emcee, Ricky, took over from there. He hopped between each company’s booth, letting them introduce their business and engaging in friendly banter. In the first half of the presentation we heard from:

  • JTB, a global player in the hospitality industry, with 500+ offices in 39 countries. They’re largely known as a travel agency (ranked #1 in Asia and #17 worldwide), but their business actually has three core components: meetings & events, business travel management, and leisure travel.
  • Curry Hyuga, a Burlingame-based curry shop that opened just ten days after COVID shutdowns in 2020. Although co-owners Nori and Masa opened their restaurant in less-than-ideal conditions, over the past two years they found great success: they’re ranked #3 on Yelp for restaurants on the peninsula, and they recently achieved their goal of serving 100,000 dishes in two years. Fun fact: their name “Hyuga” comes from the old name for Miyazaki, which is Masa’s home prefecture.
  • Safu Sake, a newly established premium sake brand with the mission of making sake approachable to an audience that doesn’t speak Japanese. Their name is a play on the word “surf,” an activity that signifies the connection between coastal California and Japan. They also presented the Miyazaki Itadakimasu box, a package to introduce an American audience to special groceries from Miyazaki.
  • Fujifilm Open Innovation Hub, an initiative by Fujifilm to find new uses for the many techniques they’ve mastered throughout their extensive history of film creation. For example, they discovered that their film coating technology can be used for anti-fog filters in face shields. They aim to create value from innovation and collaborate with partner companies to solve social issues.
  • Bull-Dog Sauce, a beloved Japanese sauce that’s been around for over 100 years. It’s best known as a tonkatsu sauce but is delicious on many other foods, too!

The first half of the showcase was concluded with a performance by Haruka Fujii, an award-winning multi-percussionist. She performed a few pieces on the marimba: Tender Talk, Lingering Chagrin, A Lame Excuse, and Land. Her performance was both gentle and powerful and captured the audience, even over Zoom.

After a brief break, the audience returned for the second half of the presentation.

  • Sekisui Chemicals gave the audience a change of scenery and took a camera to the Rakuten parking garage. A man drove up in a pickup truck with a setup for a picnic on the truck bed: blankets, pillows, snacks from other showcase companies, and a video projected on the back window! The company gave a live demonstration of its transparent display technology, which can turn a window into a TV-like display. Back in the office, the company also explained their new technology — a plastic film that can control 5G radio waves.
  • Onigilly is a Bay Area-based restaurant that specializes in onigiri tailored for the American palette. Their founder, Koji, wanted to spread the healthy and ubiquitous Japanese food across the U.S. and help improve Americans’ diet. Today the brand has four locations (San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Mateo, and Walnut Creek) and is developing franchising and mass production (frozen products).
  • The Japan Society of Northern California is one of the oldest Japan-America societies in the U.S. We work to promote connection between Japan and the U.S., largely through language classes and events on different topics (business, culture, government, etc.).
  • TCHO Chocolate is a craft chocolate company based in Berkeley, California. They were founded in 2006 by a mixed group: a NASA scientist, an East German chocolate maker, and the founders of Wired Magazine. Last year they went through a big rebrand and came out with new focuses. They’re making investments in their cacao origins and co-op farmers; they’re collaborating with fun chefs and makers (think Blue Bottle, Salt & Straw, Samuel Adams); they’re moving toward 100% fair trade and organic products; they’re recently B-Corp certified; they’re transitioning to become a 100% plant-based company. In short, they’re looking to make a chance in the world through chocolate.

The event closed with remarks from the Hiroshi Kawamura, the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco. He thanked Rakuten and the Japan Society of Northern California for co-hosting the event, and went on to say how we’re fortunate to have diverse and innovative Japanese companies in the Bay Area. He motioned to make a toast to congratulate all the companies for their success in the event and pulled up a Manila envelope. The audience, initially confused, began to smile when Mr. Kawamura pulled a full bottle of wine from the envelope. A great magic trick to end an informative event!

This event was organized by:

This event was generously supported by the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco!

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