• Kyodo

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A Japanese government-linked organization will help local companies export made-in-Japan crafts including stationery, furniture and accessories to overseas buyers through online channels amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Japan External Trade Organization has picked 519 items by 121 producers for this year’s Takumi Next project aimed at supporting forays by Japanese craft makers into markets abroad. The word takumi means artisan in Japanese.

JETRO has established an online system by which crafts producers can access buyers and seek advice from experts in reaching out to overseas markets. It will also create videos to promote the products on social media such as Instagram.

The items include textiles, wood crafts, glassware, leather goods, metalwork, ceramics and washi paper products. The organization will launch online sales negotiations this month with 17 e-commerce buyers from such countries and regions as France, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

After deals are reached, the Japanese products are expected to be sold via the e-commerce buyers’ websites and pop-up stores, according to JETRO.

“This fiscal year, we’ve taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and set up the platform, which will connect producers across the country,” said Emi Teshima, director of the organization’s Digital Promotion Division and who is in charge of the project.

“We’ll support their overseas expansion in terms of management, sales and public relations,” she said.

The Takumi project started last year to promote sophisticated Japanese products made with traditional techniques and in rich cultural contexts, with JETRO endorsing 260 products by 101 companies for the first year. All of them had to negotiate with buyers face-to-face.

In fiscal 2019, a total of 133 business deals were expected to be struck between the producers and buyers.

This year, around 180 crafts producers applied for the project and the 121 companies from 36 prefectures whose items fit the image of “Japan luxury” were selected, according to JETRO.

Among the 519 items picked for this year’s project is a happi coat with designs including Mount Fuji produced by Surprise Creative Ltd. The traditional coats are now occasionally worn at festivals.

JETRO will also form a community of crafts makers on a social media platform so they can collaborate to develop new products and discuss other issues.

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