Export to Japan Seminar at IMTEC 1997

Export to Japan Seminar
at IMTEC 1997

This seminar was sponsored by JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization). We were told approximately 25 people attending IMTEC from Japan were associated with this group. Wallace Offutt, Jr. a U.S. consultant working with the NMMA in the area of Japanese boating assisted them. Also a lady was present to act as an interpreter if needed.

1st Handout - "Present Status of Marine Leisure in Japan"

Currently the average Japanese (male or female or both?) has 1109 leisure hours per year.

The marine content of those hours is shifting from seaside activities (bathing and fishing) to on water activities (boating and yachting).

Where to store (moor) your boat is a major problem. Many are illegally mooring in rivers. Legal places are limited and expensive.

The handout included many demographic variables and some historical data.

The number of persons per one craft is 354 in Japan, that is 22 times the number of persons per craft in the U.S. (16 persons per craft)

77% of the boats are under 5 meters. Average owner is 37.8 years old and 98% are male.

Boaters must be licensed (cost about $1,000 for a recreational boat license).

Licenses are by class. Class determines which areas and how far out to sea you can go. They have much rougher water than in the U.S. and only more advanced boaters can operate in the more difficult conditions.

2nd Handout - "Recent Pleasure Boats Markets Status of Japan"

Consumption tax recently increased from 3% to 5%. They are keeping boat sales statistics on both sides of the time it went into effect to determine the impact.

If you wish to sell boats in Japan they suggest you show your products at the major boat shows. Tokyo Boat Show is in February and the Osaka Boat Show is in March.

NMMA has 12 booths for the Tokyo show to help us enter the market.

They mentioned a "Leisure Development Center" as Japan's source of leisure data. I had not heard of them.

The average worker worked 2500 hours in 1960 and only 1900 in 1995.

The powerboat market is only about 11 to 12% of the size of the U.S. market. About 10 to 11 thousand boats.

Financially it is about 10% of the U.S. market - about $1.7 billion.

They think that Japan might someday approach the persons per boat density of Europe (about 70 people per boat) which means they need almost 4 times more boats than they now have.

In 1996 there were about 405,000 boats in Japan.

2.5 million people passed the boat license test (cost about $1,000 a person). This indicated a significant interest in the activity.

115,000 to 120,000 boats (about 41% of the total boats) are illegally moored in rivers. They don't cause many problems but the government is beginning to enforce the laws.

The 500-600 marinas only have storage for 55,000 to 65,000 boats and most of those are stored on land.

88% of the private marinas store < 200 boats.

Some of the marinas are owned by manufacturers and only store their brand of boats.

Boat trailers are a big issue. In the U.S. 65 of boats are trailered. He (the U.S. consultant) thinks that is the long term solution. They could be towed inland and stored in large storage lots on dry land. Then the users could drive to the storage area, then tow the boat to the water.

Currently restrictions on trailers are very tight.

He thinks there are about 50,000 - 100,000 trailers in Japan. The U.S. has 7 million.

Boats Made in Japan

In Japan the engine manufacturers also make boats.

  • A large number of dealers (Yamaha has over 300, Yanmar about 160, and Nissan about 165).
  • Dealers handle multiple lines except Yamaha dealers only handle Yamaha.

  • They provide strong service.
  • There is a lot of manufacturer advertising.
  • Manufacturers usually sell direct to the dealer or retailer.
  • Slim dealer margins.
  • Very competitive market.

    Imported Boats

    Gray Market / Parallel Imports

    Japanese people are very cost conscious. Some boats are being brought into the country by bypassing the normal OEM import channels. Some U.S. west coast distributors are shipping them over. These boats are much cheaper.

    Characteristics of Boating in Japan

    3rd Handout - "The Inspection System for Ships of Japan"

    4th Handout - "Outline of Technical Standard and Inspection for Pleasure Boats"

    5th Handout - 550 page book titled, "Handbook for Boat Exporters to Japan 1997"

    6th Handout - JCI (Japan Craft Inspection Organization) color brochure

    These handouts went from general to great detail of the procedure for getting boats inspected and approved for sale in Japan. We were left with the feeling that the process might take a while, it was not very expensive and that it really wasn't that difficult from a manufacturers standpoint. They do have some extra regs about navigational lights but the standards do not seem that difficult. In several cases the firm importing the boats for resale in Japan has taken care of the procedure. If your boats have already been through the system once it is much easier the second time.

    They mentioned that the actual type of crafts imported are a bit different than the typical U.S. craft due to the rough water conditions.

    Navigational Areas are segmented by water conditions:

    80% of the pleasure boats operate in the limited coastal areas.
    19% of the pleasure boats operate in the smooth water areas

    Japan has very few inland waters. Boats are mainly used in rougher area. These boats must have navigation lights on them.

    Regulations have been decreased.

    7th Handout - brochure on "Leisure & Recreation '98" a JETRO Import Fair to be held in Tokyo Feb. 25-27, 1998

    Overall Questions and Answers

    Is their approach similar to the CE Recreational Craft Directive in Europe? They are not familiar with the European program.

    How about exporting boat trailers to Japan? Trailers belong to another group. These guys do boats. Trailers are treated more like automobiles in Japan. Their inspection program is actually more severe than automobiles. They are inspected annually and must have parking brakes.

    Materials for fuel tanks? Some have heard that U.S. roto-cast is not acceptable. - not sure of answer to this.

    Is there still time to get your boat inspected before the Tokyo boat show in February? - Typical certification time takes a while. The better you are prepared the faster it goes. The boats you show in Tokyo do not have to pass the inspection as long as you do not put them in the water. They cannot be sold until they meet the inspection. Some companies just show photographs at the show. It is much easier and less costly for the first show.
    RBBI comment later - If any body is interested we know some boat model makers that could make a scale model for you.

    How much does the inspection cost? Seemed to be some language barriers and exchange rate problems. They said about $120 but I am not sure if that is correct or not.

    How to sell accessories? Lots of Boating goods stores are in areas near marinas. Catalog sales is used by many accessory companies. West Marine is doing catalog business there. The internet is also being used for direct sales.

    What about inflatables? Last year about 150 units were imported and 3,000 domestic units were sold.

    Financing? Longest loan is 3 years.

    Any regulations on ignition switches and starter motors? I thought they said no, but that seems strange. May have been the language barrier again.

    Overboard discharge regulations in the future? Perhaps. Is a Marco Convention being called to discuss it.

    RBBI Comments:

    For those interested in additional Japan boat market information, JETRO has a Marketing Guide - Yachts & Motorboats on the net.

    At the seminar, JETRO had an excellent set of handouts and they helped a lot as we struggled with accents. Most of the presentation was made on overheads and a computer projector. Many of the pages were graphs and they seemed to go a bit fast for me (and I'm an engineer used to looking at numerical graphs like those.) The papers had a lot of data about the recent trends and current state of boating in Japan. We can read them at our leisure if we need the numbers. I don't think the general audience absorbed a lot of it.

    At the conclusion of the seminar they treated us to a great lunch. I am not sure if it was some kind of chicken or fish, but there were two large pieces on each plate and many other tasty treats. Even cake for desert. A big thanks to JETRO for this fine seminar, the great handouts, for dealing with the language barriers, and for the great meal !!!!

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