Hidden Business Opportunities in Japan

Some of the most interesting business opportunities in Japan are hiding in the most unexpected places

Old notebooks stacked on the table

In one of our previous articles we have addressed the issue of market research before taking your business to Japan. In this article, we would like to continue that topic by focusing more on the hidden opportunities that can be discovered through the careful study of not only economic but also social processes in Japan. Let us present you with some startups ideas that solve problems you possibly even did not know exist in Japan.

Profiting From Your Old Study Notes

We do not want to generalize, but chances are high that your old school notes were not living for a long time. Most of them probably went straight to the trash bin after the exams, graduation or enrollment into the college or university. Putting emotional attachment aside, it is hard to image what to do with those notes later in life. Especially now, when all sorts of study materials can be found online.

However, in Japan these notes are of great value. Why would somebody else want your notes? Because Japanese educational system is highly-standardized, and right this moment somebody else might be straggling with the exact same problem in the exact same book as you once did. They would appreciate seeing somebody else’s comments or study tips.

Acknowledging this problem Arcterus has developed Clear, an application that allows student to share their notes with other users. As the CEO of Arcterus Goichiro Arai comments in his interview to Tim Romero: “that’s something that might be a little different from the case in the States […], the learning and the studying of standardized across the country and that makes it easier and more sense for the users to publish their notebook.”

Users can upload scans or photos of their school notes, add highlights or comments and share with other users who are using the same textbook or studying the same subject. Some users and their notes turned out to be so popular that Clear suggested charging other users for access to these notes. The idea proved to be working well and users are ready to invest into good study materials.

The note-sharing application spreads across Asian countries fast, and currently Clear is present in Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and China. With the acquisition of JPY 100 million funding from Shinsei Bank and Shinsei Corporate Investment Limited in December 2018, the company plans to expand to Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines.

Surprisingly profitable businesses in Japan are school notes sharing, toilet rentals, and outsourcing the apologies.

Profiting From Your Restroom

To put it short, you get JPY 400 every time you let a stranger use the restroom in your residence. Why would somebody want to go to your place to handle their business? Because there is not enough public restrooms in Japan. One may argue that it is easy to use one at the train station. However, remember that a lot of those are closed soon after midnight and there is nowhere to go but to somebody’s nearby apartment.

Every Second is like Couch Surfing or Airbnb in a way. Some people register their restrooms, others request to use them. Every time you let someone use your facilities, you will be paid via a mobile transaction within the application. And if it does not look like a great idea, we are happy to know that our readers are lucky enough not to be caught in a situation where every second counts.

Profiting From People’s Social Skills

People rental-services are not big news anymore. You can find a lot of lists of already existing options to socialize or, as sad as it sounds, imitate socialization. You can hire a friend, a family member, a foreigner, a listener, a spouse, a person to cuddle with, and many more. However, there is also an opposite trend going on.

People want to bypass some of the least pleasant social interactions, like quitting your job and having to announce it to your boss or apologizing to someone. In Japan, it is harder than one may think. It is almost a ritual. Quite often it is not private. If you have ever seen a public apology (shazaikai) done by politicians or celebrities on TV, you are probably familiar with that very uncomfortable feeling you can get by just watching it.

It is not a surprise that many people want to escape the ritual and the feeling of guilt by all means. They are even willing to pay another person who is ready to apologize on their behalf. Where there is a demand, there is a supply. Shazaiya Aiga Pro can apologize on your behalf face-to-face, via email or phone. It will cost you a set sum of JPY 25,000 for the prior and JPY 10,000 for two later options. But some agencies like Nihon Shazai Daikokao are also charging hourly (yes, the ritual can last). So there is are several options to meet your needs and budget.

It is hard to say if this type of service could ever be in demand outside Japan. Would you use this option if you knew it is available? Would you think of trying to outsource social interaction of this type? These questions are quite controversial. However, if you are looking for a niche in the Japanese market of services, human interaction is only one of many unexpected places to look into.

Today’s “otsumami” – a bite size snack:

Where there is a demand, there is a supply.

What do you think?

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