International Exchange

[Report] Press Tour “Challenge of small factories in the Ota Ward” (June 2013)

Press Tour Planned and Operated by Foreign Press Center Japan

FPCJ conducted a press tour in Ota Ward, Tokyo, a critical area in the culture of monozukuri that underpins manufacturing of Japan. (Click here for more details on the tour.) 

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Ota Ward have been working since 2010 on the“Shitamachi Bobsleigh” Network Project to produce the first made-in-Japan bobsled, to demonstrate to the world their technical strength. The first bobsled was completed in 2012, and the second bobsled, an improved version, is currently in process. The engineers involved are hoping that their bobsled will be used at the Sochi Winter Olympics. The tour had 13 participants from China, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Germany and United States.

1.“Shitamachi Bobsleigh” Network Project


The tour began with a briefing on the “Shitamachi Bobsleigh” Network Project and an interview with two SME owners, Mr. Junichi Hosogai, President of MATERIAL Co., Ltd., and Mr. Toshikazu Funakubo, Vice-President of Showa Co., Ltd., who have central roles in the project.

After receiving an explanation of the background and the goals of the project and the enthusiasm of the participating factories, reporters asked many questions of these two youthful business owners, leaders in Ota Ward. A Chinese reporter asked, “Don’t you feel that most of the economic growth strategies which have been announced are for big companies?” Mr. Hosogai replied, “It is important to build a system for big companies, which play a vital role in the Japanese economy, to earn profits, on a priority basis. Then, we need a system in which SMEs also generate profits.” A reporter from Germany, where the production of bobsleds is conducted at the national level, asked about the advantages of the Japanese bobsled compared to others. 
The reporters took also a strong interest in the interviewees’ expectations for economic recovery after the establishment of the Abe administration.

2.MATERIAL Co., Ltd. 

The tour participants then moved to the MATERIAL factory, where they filmed its advanced production line, carried out interviews, and observed various machines that conduct advanced processing and MATERIAL’s strict quality control system. The reporters were impressed by the young engineers there, enjoying their work in a colorfully painted factory.


3.Nambu Co., Ltd.

The reporters then moved to the Nambu Co., Ltd., factory, which several Japanese dignitaries, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Yukio Edano, former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, have visited. It was also part of the “ASEAN Roadshow” at the meeting held by ASEAN’s Economic Affairs Ministers in April of 2012. Mr. Kazushi Nomura, Executive Chairman of the company, gave a briefing on its worldwide business in Thailand, China, and United States. The reporters asked questions about automobile market trends, the current state of manufacturing in Japan, the influence of Abenomics, and the company’s employment of women workers. At the factory, the tour participants interviewed the skilled women workers who have been nicknamed “Drill Girls.”

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