City in Saga aims to take advantage of strategic location to lower transport times and costs

Karatsu pursues cosmetics hub dream

Kyodo

The city of Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, is aiming to build a cosmetics industry hub, taking a cue from Cosmetic Valley, an extensive cluster of plant growers, manufacturers and research facilities for makeup products spread around Paris.

The idea for a Japanese version of the French industrial center came from Alban Muller, honorary president of Cosmetic Valley, who took note of Karatsu’s easy access to Asia.

Currently, cosmetics from France are exported to major markets such as China and South Korea via Hong Kong, taking about 40 days by ship. If Karatsu, a coastal city with access to the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, were to become the cosmetics hub for Asia, shipping costs and times would be lowered significantly.

Karatsu is already home to several cosmetics-related companies. Muller was also attracted by the fact that the neighboring town of Genkai grows herbs that can be used for cosmetics, sources said.

The project is appealing to Karatsu. The local economy is currently dependent on businesses related to the Genkai nuclear power plant, which has been idled since the Fukushima nuclear crisis started.

If the project becomes a reality, cosmetics companies will create new jobs and boost tax revenues. “It will be a win-win situation,” a city official said.

Karatsu, with a population of around 129,000, earmarked about ¥10 million in its fiscal 2013 budget for researching new brand development and marketing.

The city is also counting on Kyushu University and Saga University to support product development through research on herb ingredients. The city is envisaging local businesses taking charge of manufacturing and shipping operations.

Mayor Toshiyuki Sakai went to France in April and signed a cooperation agreement with Cosmetic Valley, which is home to around 800 companies, including top brands such as Channel and L’Oreal, as well as 200 research institutes. The French hub ships products worth more than ¥2 trillion per year.

An group to be named the Japan Cosmetic Center will be set up in October in Karatsu. A preparatory meeting in July drew 12 groups from governments and academia.

So far, about 30 companies mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area have inquired about the project, according to organizers.

“It will be a new industry to support the region,” said Shinji Yamasaki, 56, an organizer for the center and a staff member of cosmetics quality management company Bloom Co. “While learning from France, we want the project to spread to the entire Kyushu region in the future.”