There are thousands of Japanese companies importing and distributing non-Japanese products.
We’ve worked with clients in dozens of different industries and find that there are typically 20 to 45 companies or more actively importing and distributing foreign products in any given product category.
Here are a few examples:
“A” is an importer of fashion apparel. The company was founded in 1950 and currently has 190 employees. They are headquartered in Kobe with a sales office in Tokyo to maintain close contact with the department and speciality stores that sell the various foreign fashion brands they represent.
“K” is the top Japanese distributor of imported tools. The company has been in business since 1950 and has 168 employees. The company works with over 25 different foreign manufacturers of tools and related products. It has offices in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka.
“T” has been bringing foreign food products into Japan since 1923 and has 120 employees. The company is based in Kobe and has sales offices in Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Sapporo. They import and distribute dozens of imported brands.
“KM” distributes imported camera equipment. The company has been in business since 1933 and currently handles 16 different foreign brands. These products are sold to both speciality camera stores and large Japanese big-box retailers such as Yodobashi and Bic Camera.
“BM” is a leading Japanese importer of life science and medical research equipment. The company represents over 20 different foreign suppliers. These products are distributed through a network of 600 local sales agents and dealers. Their parent company is the largest importer of biotechnology reagents for the life sciences.
“RJ” is a leading distributor of imported toys. The company began importing boomerangs from Australia in 1987 and currently represents dozens of foreign suppliers. They have sales offices in both Tokyo and Osaka and a distribution center in the Metropolitan Tokyo area.
“MR” specializes in importing and distributing radio frequency and microwave components. The company has 30 employees with offices in Tokyo and Osaka. “MR” represents almost 40 foreign suppliers and sells these products to both wholesalers and large Japanese companies such as Fujitsu, Hitachi, JRC, NEC, Panasonic, and Sumitomo Electric.
“CDB” is an importer of foreign health & beauty products and cosmetics. The company was founded in 1993 and now distributes over a dozen different imported brands in Japan. Customers include both retail chains such as Loft and Tokyu Hands and direct marketers such as Nissen and Senshukai.
Here are some other things about these companies that you should know:
They speak your language.
These distributors speak English and are used to doing business with foreign companies so you don’t need to hire a translator or master the intricacies of Japanese culture.
They are easy to approach.
You don’t need “connections” or an introduction by someone they know to do business with these companies. They are always looking for new products to distribute so if you’ve got a quality product selling at a competitive price, you’ll get their attention.
They will actively promote and support your products.
Almost all foreign products sold in the Japanese market go through specialized distributors (importers).
These companies handle importation, marketing and promotion of your products, warehousing, and local support.
These distributors work closely with the foreign companies that they represent, essentially acting as an extention of your company in the Japanese market.
They understand the Japanese distribution system.
You may have heard about the multi-tiered Japanese distribution system.
Fortunately with the right Japanese partner, you don’t need to understand all its complexities. Many of these companies have been importing foreign products into Japan for decades and know how to get your products into the right sales channels.