Our Japan | Connecting Craftsmen & Overseas Buyers

A craftsman in Aomori Prefecture makes a Tsugaru lacquerware bowl for Our Japan

Note: Due to the challenges of getting enough craftsmen onboard, this project is currently on the back burner. Once I can better solve the conundrum of shipping logistics, I will look to revisit Our Japan with a renewed vigor.

For the longest time, I’ve been trying to crack the code of how to bring world class digital marketing services to Japanese craftsmen. Despite having the ability to regularly produce a 400% ROI for most of my clients, I just couldn’t figure out how to convince Japan’s talented artisans to work with me. Try as I might, my offerings either sounded like black magic (put money into the intrawebz, get 4x ROI) OR they were confused by the technicalities of digital marketing. As a result, craftsmen weren’t just biting and I soon realized I’d need to find an alternative to the client services model.

It was around this time that Ikeda Masato from Kyodo PR first approached me with a novel idea. His decades of experience in advertising had shown him that many of Japan’s producers were quite familiar with affiliate models. Seeing little potential in offering to do the marketing on behalf of craftsmen, he proposed an alternative business model. Instead of offering monthly retainer fees, we would alternatively charge a margin on any sales we could attribute to our efforts, thereby taking the burden of the upfront costs off of the artisan. From this see of an idea, the concept for my next venture was born. Allow me to introduce Our Japan…

The logo of Our Japan, a service designed to support Japanese regional craftsmen
Come check out our ever increasing catalog of made in Japan crafts!

From the outside, it would seem that Our Japan is little more than just another e-commerce platform that runs on a dropshipping business model. After all, we do sell products that we procure at a lower cost for a margin. While these accusations of being “merely dropshippers” aren’t entirely false, such notions completely miss the point of why we’re doing this. Rather than trying to turn a profit, Our Japan’s goal is to unlock latent demand and bring desperately needed new revenue streams to regional craftsmen. Just as Airbnb turned unused spaces into a booming market, we hope to connect top tier products from the prefectures with buyers from all over the world.

In addition to Our Japan’s philanthropic mission to help the country better monetize its crafts, one other thing that sets this platform apart is that marketing costs are only incurred when a transaction is made. This means that a negative ROI for Japan’s hard working craftsmen is literally impossible. We’re able to achieve this result thanks to the massive network of content creators like Cheeserland and Bunny Tokyo that I’ve befriended over the years. Essentially, Our Japan operates as a decentralized network of affiliates whereby each member can promote whatever products happen to work for his or her audience.

A Japanese craftsmen makes glassware for Our Japan

Like with the original scheme for Our Japan, this ingenious marketing plan is the brainchild of Ikeda Masato. While most other e-commerce platforms operate on an advertising-based model, the idea to use influencers instead creates a “win-win” synergy for people like myself. Truth be told, many of us content creators here in Japan have already been doing whatever we could to promote local artisans. The problem has always been that these people rarely have an online presence in English. As a result, it was quite difficult to procure purchases and the attention that we garnered often ended up being moot.

Our Japan seeks to remedy this lack of conversions by creating an online marketplace in English for people to actually purchase. Though we are only accepting high quality products that are made locally and have a compelling personal or historical story to them, the platform is otherwise open to any craftsmen who would be interested in risk free new revenue streams. As of now, there’s still a lot of work to do to improve our catalog of wares. That said, our moonshot goal is to create a neatly curated selection of goods (think “Amazon” for made in Japan products).

At the end of the day, it’s our sincerest hope that Our Japan ultimately grows into a bridge that connects Japan’s craftsmen (who often lack marketing prowess) with potential prospects all over the world. By spanning this chasm, we can unlock the sleeping potential of the international market and bring more opportunity to Japan’s well deserving artisans. Especially with the borders still shut due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Our Japan is a much needed solution for those trapped outside. It allows buyers to purchase a tiny piece of Japan from overseas while also supporting local vendors in their endeavors to provide excellent products.

Oh, and if you’re wondering where the name Our Japan comes from, know that it’s a reference to the beloved country that us content creators cherish so much. The moniker is an homage to that perfect place that us members of the #DaikonCult see in our hearts when they speak of Japan. Moreover, it’s the Japan that we try so hard to share with all of you. While it’s been “Our Japan” thus far, we now thankfully have a better way to welcome you into our world regardless of where you are thanks to this new e-commerce platform.

If you’d like purchase one of the items from our ever growing list of locally produced goods, head on over to Our Japan today to browse what we have. As alluded to, we’ll be adding more and more craftsmen to the platform as the weeks go by so be sure to check back regularly to see something new!

Until next time travelers…

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Donny Kimball
Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media.

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