Event Showcases Japanese Business Links in the North

8th July 2018

Event Showcases Japanese Business Links in the North

The Japan Society of the UK recently held its first regional business event: ‘Japanese Business Links in the North of England’, hosted by PwC in Leeds. Sarah Parsons, Managing Director of East West Interface, who is also a Trustee to the Japan Society and JETAA UK Chair, invited speakers within Japan-related businesses in that area to come along and share their knowledge on 2 July.

Sarah did a presentation on ‘Why Gender should still be on the Agenda for Japanese Business’, exploring the large gender gap in Japan and how cultural norms and ingrained gender roles are a barrier to closing this gap and highlighting how this will potentially affect corporate Japan’s image, especially when Japanese companies are needing to globalise and attract global talent, due to their declining labour force. She also shared some case studies she has seen within her professional experience and explained how her company is working with Japanese companies to create more gender diversity and improve their global PR. 

Rob Holmes from the Nasmyth Group spoke about how his company had adapted their processes and communications to work with the Japanese and enjoy long-term success with Japanese clients within the aerospace industry. He also spoke about his personal journey of learning about how the Japanese work and gave tips on best business practices.

Richard Robinson, MD of Calbee UK, spoke about why Calbee had chosen Leeds for their UK HQ, how they had taken Japan as an inspiration for their marketing and flavours and how they have reflected Japanese values within their mission statement and corporate social responsibility activities, which include educational and social initiatives within the local community of their manufacturing facilities in Wales.

Calbee UK was established in 2014 with a 15 year commitment and £12m invested in 3 years. One of the reasons for choosing Leeds was they wanted to be outside of London as they didn't want to be competing for London talent. A people-centric approach sees all employees treated equally as 'colleagues', enjoying the same benefits. Leeds is also well-situated in relation to their first UK factory – a former chilled pizza manufacturing facility in North Wales. Their Yushoi snack range – made from 74% ground peas and specifically developed for the UK market – is now stocked in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Selfridges, Wholefoods, Asda and The Co-op, and a new product, Rustiks, has just started selling in Tesco. 

Nick Woodford from PwC rounded up the event by summarising pertinent Japan-UK business issues including Brexit and Japanese investment into the UK. Afterwards everyone enjoyed some valuable networking, some Calbee snacks and cheered on Japan in the football. Many valuable connections were made within a diverse audience of business people, educationalists, diplomats and students.

Underscoring the signifiance of Japanese business links in the north of England, according to figures provided by the Embassy of Japan in the UK, in 2016 Japanese companies employed nearly 31,000 people across the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humberside. In addition to those mentioned above, major Japanese companies operating in the north include Nissan, Hitachi, Fujitsu and Komatsu, and many others particularly in the automotive supply chain. 

JETAA UK members enjoy a discount for their first year of membership of the Japan Society. To find out more, please visit

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