• Kyodo

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Major Japanese companies are looking to form cross-industrial alliances as they seek to capitalize on an increasing number of foreign tourists visiting Japan.

Panasonic Corp. and JTB Corp. said Monday they will team up to offer new services by combining the electronics giant’s strength in the information technology sector and the travel agency’s expertise in sightseeing operations.

Japanese apparel maker Onward Holdings Co. and home appliance retailer Laox Co. also said the same day they will set up a joint venture to sell clothing made in Japan at Laox’s duty-free shops later this year.

“Consumers in Asia have a great interest in Japanese fashion. We want to convey (the allure of) made-in-Japan fashion throughout the world,” Laox Chief Executive Yiwen Luo said at a press conference in Tokyo.

The moves come as Japan is seeing a tourism boom amid the yen’s depreciation and relaxed visa requirements. The government is aiming to increase the number of annual foreign visitor arrivals in the nation to 20 million by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympics and Paralympics.

The annual figure for 2015 is expected to stand at around 18 million, if the current pace of growth is maintained, the Japan National Tourism Organization said earlier this month.

As a first step in their alliance, Panasonic and JTB said they will begin a trial service of offering multi-language automated translation equipment in July at such spots as the Kitte commercial complex near Tokyo Station and Hotel Okura in Kyoto.

The translation equipment, developed by Panasonic and the state-backed National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, accommodates English, Chinese and Korean and provides information for sightseeing.

The two companies are aiming to put it into practical use in fiscal 2017 and upgrade the service for Japanese traveling abroad in the future.

Onward and Laox said they will jointly design, produce and sell clothing and other items under the joint venture to be established in September with capital of ¥400 million. Onward will own a 51 percent stake in the new company and Laox will take the remainder.

Clothing items to be developed by utilizing Onward’s designing expertise in cooperation with sewing factories in Japan will also be sold through a Chinese online shopping site run by Laox from September, they said.

Suning Commerce Group Co., based in Nanjing, China, is the parent company of Laox.

Onward President Michinobu Yasumoto said at the press conference he is aiming for sales of around ¥20 billion within three years under the alliance.