Saitama City, just 20 to 30 minutes by train to central Tokyo hubs such as Tokyo and Shinjuku stations, boasts many leading technology companies that produce key components and materials for high-technology machines.
Saitama is an attractive venue for technology companies for many reasons, such as ease of access to the capital and a geographical advantage of reduced disaster risks. Lack of a coastline and minimal elevation differences make Saitama a suitable location for businesses to have continuity operations in place because such features reduce damage from disasters such as floods.
The Saitama Shintoshin urban area is a nationally designated wide-area disaster prevention center and is an administrative district that is home to national government offices.
Saitama further looks to support local technology companies via the Saitama City Foundation for Business Creation by providing consultation, financial aid and experts to assist them, among other activities.
In one such program, the city began the “Saitama City Leading-edge Companies Certification and Support Program” in April 2008. To date, the program has seen 35 companies designated as leading edge.
These companies are allowed to tout their certification as leading-edge companies and use the official logo.
In addition, the companies also receive support from the city in a variety of forms. For example, the city promotes them at international trade shows and in an annual pamphlet it publishes, titled “Saitama City Leading-edge Companies,” in Japanese and English. Additionally, the city assists certified companies in the development of new technology, sourcing new business, overseas expansion and employee training.
The 35 certified companies boast cutting-edge technologies that cannot be easily copied by overseas companies, which approach them to buy their components, use their technology and form alliances to penetrate markets overseas.
In one of the activities to promote business matching between leading-edge companies and overseas companies, Saitama has had business exchanges with industry clusters in the German State of Bavaria (Bayern) since 2011. The exchanges are supported by Christian Geltinger, the “ambassador” of Bavaria in Japan.
In January, delegates from a German company, Carl Haas GmbH, a maker of medical equipment and other electronics, and Forum MedTech Pharma, Germany’s and Europe’s largest health care network, based in Bavaria came to Saitama for business exchanges with high-technology companies in Saitama.
Saitama City has signed a memorandum of understanding on economic exchange with Forum MedTech Pharma in July 2014.
Uwe Stoll, the head of medical device technology with Carl Haas, spoke with representatives from 20 Saitama companies during the stay.
“I really appreciate Saitama City and Forum MedTech Pharma for this opportunity. I would like to keep in touch with the companies we talked to today. With some, we discussed something concrete, such as having them send us samples and inviting them to a trade show in Germany,” Stoll said.
Frank Miermeister of Forum MedTech Pharma said the forum and Saitama City have been visiting each other every year and the close mutual relationship is bearing fruit.
“We need to keep our friendship,” Miermeister said. “Companies in Saitama are excellent because their products are high quality and their ability to solve problems is good. Such characteristics match those of German companies.”
The 35 leading-edge companies boast high technologies that cannot be easily found elsewhere in the world. The following are four such companies.
Musashi Optical System
Musashi Optical System Co., Ltd. develops, manufactures and sells lenses and prisms used in TV cameras. Its products apply to high resolution moving images such as 4K, 8K and beyond.
The company aims to develop the products not only for TV cameras, but also for surveillance cameras and medical equipment such as endoscopes.
High technology is essential for high-resolution filming as camera makers want to keep the size of their devices small, requiring key components to be tiny and capable of delivering high performance.
“Our business with domestic customers is stable. We’d like to expand overseas,” said Chihiro Mochida, CFO of Musashi Optical System, which became a Leading-edge Company in November.
The company has participated in International Broadcasting Equipment Exhibitions in several places around the globe and will do so again this year. Mochida appreciates the financial support leading-edge companies get when attending international trade shows.
“We would like to be proactive about gaining access to the international market,” he said.
Nihon Dento Kougyo
Nihon Dento Kougyo Co., Ltd. is a company that plates various metal products such as musical instruments, jewelry and medical equipment.
The company can plate many different materials such as gold, platinum, palladium, silver, copper and nickel enabling it to respond to a wide variety of customer needs, President and CEO Mami Ito said.
The company also has technology to plate thickly, which is difficult because thick plating tends to be uneven and collapse easily. Thick plating is in great demand because it, for example, makes medical devices more visible in X-rays, making it easier for doctors to operate.
When she joined a trade show in Singapore, she spoke with people from companies based in Canada, the U.S., Germany, Taiwan and other countries, many of which were particularly interested in thick gold plating, she said.
Her goal is to make her company, which was founded 60 years ago, last for more than 100 years.
“Japan has technology and Japanese have the ability to think of how to come up with solutions to difficult problems,” she said. “We want to make Japan strong with our plating technology.”
Origin Electric Co., Ltd. is a comprehensive electronics maker with a wide-ranging product portfolio.
Its business is divided into four sections — electronics products, mechatronics products, chemitronics products and components products. Electronics products include power supplies for various equipment, while mechatronics products count system machineries such as metallic package hermetic welding machines. Chemitronics products are synthetic resin paints used in auto parts and other products, while components products include semiconductor devices used as diodes in flashes for digital cameras.
One of the products commanding a large global market share — about 20 percent — is a machine that puts resin between layers composing smartphone screens, said Shinichi Shinohara, managing director, Display Business and R&D, Origin Electric.
Another high technology Origin Electric boasts, among many others, is torque limiters, which ensure only one sheet of paper is fed in copiers, printers and cash dispensers.
Origin Electric aims to expand overseas sales of many of its products, including torque limiters for cash dispensers and coatings for endoscopes and other medical equipment, Shinohara said, hoping the leading-edge company status and the support from Saitama City will help.
Tokyo Titanium Co., Ltd. processes and sells titanium and other rare metals such as tantalum, niobium and zirconium and manufactures and sells components using such materials, with the element in their name being their main product.
Titanium is very strong and light and is used in many devices such as medical equipment and measurement equipment for marine research.
“It has been 70 to 80 years since people began using titanium. My company has been doing business with titanium since it was founded 35 years ago, so we have known titanium for half of its life; we know titanium,” said president Ryota Ozawa.
Tokyo Titanium not only processes and make products, but also provides solutions for customers’ various challenges such as simplifying manufacturing steps and reducing the type of materials used, he said.
Tokyo Titanium, with about 30 employees, has been a leading-edge company since 2008 and has taken advantage of various privileges Saitama City provides, such as employee training programs and financial support for taking part in international trade shows.
“My goal is to increase sales in medical equipment. Japan relies on imports for 80 to 90 percent of titanium medical equipment. I’d like to change that,” he said.
Saitama’s 35 certified leading-edge companies
- Acoma Medical Industry Co., Ltd.
- Antenna Giken Co., Ltd.
- Arai Helmet Ltd.
- Asahi Rubber Inc.
- ASAP Co., Ltd.
- Bellnix Co., Ltd.
- Calsonic Kansei Corporation
- Clarion Co., Ltd.
- Cosmo Research Corp.
- Goto Precision Engineering
- Hamamatsu Co., Ltd.
- Harves Co., Ltd.
- Hasegawa Machine Works Ltd.
- Iino Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
- Kaneko Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
- Kimoto Co., Ltd.
- Musashi Optical System Co., Ltd.
- Nihon Dento Kougyo Co., Ltd.
- Nippon Piston Ring Co., Ltd.
- Nishina Industrial Co., Ltd.
- Nissan Motor Light Truck Co., Ltd.
- Nissho Electronics Co., Ltd.
- Nissin Kasei Co., Ltd.
- Nittoku Engineering Co., Ltd.
- Origin Electric Co., Ltd.
- Porite Corporation
- Saiden Chemical Industry Co., Ltd.
- Science Inc.
- Softronics Co., Ltd.
- Sumita Optical Glass, Inc.
- Tamron Co., Ltd.
- TechnoScope Co., Ltd.
- Tokyo Titanium Co., Ltd.
- Watanabe Co., Ltd.
- Yamada Machine Tool Co., Ltd.
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