Miku Yokoyama, BelCCI representative in Japan: In the interests of Belarusian and Japanese business

№ 1, 2022

2.jpgMs. Yokoyama, could you please tell us why did you decide to apply for the post of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry representative? How are you and your work related to the Republic of Belarus?In May 2019, a presentation of the economic potential of Belarus was held in the Fukuoka Prefecture with the participation of both Belarusian and Japanese businessmen. I helped the Minsk Region delegation there and was able to meet representatives of the Minsk Region Executive Committee, Great Stone ­Industrial Park, BELAZ, as well as Belarusian diplomats from Tokyo and Beijing. This was the starting point of my close communication with Belarus.

Subsequently, other bilateral events were held in Japan, and in February 2020 a group of Japanese businessmen created the Belarusian-Japanese Business Club to promote the economic potential of Belarus. Being a Russian-speaker and understanding the Belarusian economy, I was offered to become the Secretary-General of the Club.

The beginning of the Club's activities coincided with the coronavirus pandemic. Despite this, we continued working, and the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry helped us. An important event was the online address of the ­BelCCI Chairman Vladimir Ulakhovich at the Club's event in ­December 2020.

Gradually, the interest of Japanese business associations and companies in the Club began growing, various requests were received, and the need to develop close contacts with the BelCCI became obvious to me. I am very glad and grateful that my candidacy as a representative of the BelCCI in Japan was approved, and today I can contribute to the expansion of close ties between Japanese and Belarusian businesses.

What goals did you personally set for yourself in connection with the appointment? How do you manage to implement them?

I think that strong bilateral relations are hard to imagine without successful economic cooperation. Therefore, together with the BelCCI and the Belarusian-Japanese Business Club, ­­I would like to continue holding bila­teral events, presentations, seminars – both for large companies and for start-up businesses that are just showing ­interest in Belarus.

I am also very attracted by the culture and nature of Belarus. I hope that the development of economic relations will also contribute to the growth of the cultural exchange.

Besides, I noted for myself a very interesting peculiarity in Belarus: there are industries there that are completely self-sufficient. For example, the production of flax. It is grown, processed, and fabrics, clothing and other ­products are further manufactured. I find it very interesting.

How often do Japanese and Belarusian businessmen turn to you as a representative of the BelCCI? What are they interested in? How do you help them?

Frankly speaking, there have been not many requests yet. I think the small number can be explained by the fact that it's only more recently that I have been appointed a BelCCI representative, as well as by the pandemic. Coronavirus restrictions impede business contacts and offline events.

A significant part of business requests relate to woodworking – Japan is ­interested in sawn timber, as well as in fuel pellets. I think that such an environmentally friendly and sustainable type of fuel will be in great demand. Commercial proposals for dairy ­products, confectionery and alcohol are received from Belarus. I am also working to promote Belarusian fabrics and leather.

At the moment, my key activities in dealing with company requests are to find potential partners and establish contacts with them. The catalogue "Belarusian exporters", published by the BelCCI, is my reliable aide in this work. I think that my next step will be the creation of profiles on social networks – it is much more convenient to communicate with businesspeople in such a format.

What areas do you find the most promising for the further expansion of Belarus-Japan cooperation? What makes the Japanese market attractive for Belarusian companies?


Food products from Belarus have great potential in the Japanese market. Belarusian cheeses, honey and other products have already gained a foothold here. In my opinion, there are not enough Belarusian sweets in Japan – for example, I really like the "Ptichye Moloko" sweets, and I am sure that local consumers will love them, too. Also, Belarusian zubrovka, "Belovezhskaya" bitter and herbal liqueur are very popular at tastings.

In the Japanese market, Belarusian products have already begun gaining the image of environmentally friendly and natural. To develop this image and proceed from it seems a promising marketing strategy to me. In Japan, they love natural, original products, and many Belarusian goods are indeed such, which makes them promising.

It seems to me that Japan lacks physical representation of large Belarusian companies and holdings. Remote promotion, taking into account all local peculiarities, is not as effective as having a company with its own sales area and warehouse. It is in this format that many European, American and Chinese companies with strong positions in the Japanese market work.

What unique Japanese products do you think Belarusian consumers would be interested to see in our stores, and how could we surprise our Japanese consumers and partners?

There are many products produced in Japan, mostly targeted at local consumers. Premium items are usually ­exported. These are machinery, machine tools and equipment. And Belarus produces its well-known products ­­using such high-quality equipment among other things. I am glad that there is a part of Japan in Belarusian products.

I would also like to promote Japanese cuisine in Belarus. We have many healthy and unique products, for ­example, Miso Freeze-dry soup, dried seaweed and seafood, various sauces. Furthermore, the Japanese are trying to apply individually to each consumer. For example, dozens of types of eye drops are produced here: there are special drops for those who get tired of working behind the computer, drops for the girls who want clear, so-called "kawaii", eyes, drops for those who use contact lenses, etc. This is just an ­example of the variety of goods that, it seems to me, could not only be sold but also produced in Belarus.

I also think that trade in technologies could become a significant co­operation area for our countries. Japan has a lot of industrial technologies, unique medicines and biological additives.

Belarus, in turn, has a well-developed dairy industry. We also have a lot of milk, especially in Hokkaido, but we have only recently learnt to process it. Therefore, I think that our partners from Belarus could surprise us with their variety of delicious and natural dairy products.

How has the pandemic affected bilate­ral business contacts? How is the interaction of companies carried out in the conditions of restrictions?

The pandemic has severely impacted business activity. Exhibition activities have practically stopped. Only local manufacturers or representatives of foreign business in Japan participate in large international exhibitions. International tourism has been severely affected.

The ban on entry to Japan has made offline meetings and conferences hardly possible, and online events are complicated by the six-hour time difference with Belarus.

However, even in such a situation, there are businessmen in Japan and Belarus who acknowledge new ­opportunities and prospects for cooperation, and I think that it is possible to make plans for the future with them.

What bilateral events have the countries still managed to hold? Are there any initiatives planned to develop contacts between Belarusian and Japanese businesses in 2022? What activities can generally contribute to the growth of fame of Belarus and its companies in Japan?

The last year's major bilateral event was the Belarus–Hokkaido forum which took place in the city of Hakodate on the 9th of November. The event was held with the support of the Embassy of Belarus in Japan, Ostrovets and ­Mstislavl District Executive Committees, the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the National Agency of Investment and Privatization, and also the Hokkaido Prefecture Administration, Hakodate and Noboribetsu city authorities, regional chambers of commerce and public organizations.


hanks to the history of the indigenous population, migrants from various prefectures and the development of trade with neighboring peoples, Hokkaido has become a unique place in Japan. It also affects the residents' business activity. In his welcome address, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Japan Ruslan Yesin mentioned the almost two-century ties between Belarus and this prefecture.

The Japanese businessmen got familiar with the presentation of the Ostrovets District, commercial and investment proposals in woodworking, food, light and jewelry industries, the video address of the National Agency of Investment and Privatization and information about the BelCCI. The event included the exposition of the Belarusian producers of alcohol, textile and linen products.

Besides, I would mention that exhibitions are an important tool for pro­moting goods in Japan. A lot of them are held here. As I have said earlier, there is still a ban on entering the country, which makes it difficult for representatives of Belarusian companies to participate in exhibitions. Nevertheless, together with the members of the Belarusian-­Japanese Business Club, we are ready to assist enterprises from Belarus interested in exhibition events, and I thereby urge the entrepreneurs willing to promote goods to the Japanese market to consider the possibility of participating in local exhibitions.

What recommendations would you give first of all to the representatives of Belarusian businesses who want to work in Japan, and vice versa? What difficulties can Belarusian exporters expect when dealing with Japanese partners? What are the distinctive features of business etiquette and ­doing business worth knowing?

In Japan, there are many written and unwritten rules of doing business and business etiquette. I think learning them is a top priority for a serious entrepreneur in Japan. For example, it is not customary here to show friendly relations in business communication. It is also very important to stand by the pledge – about the time of the ­meeting, the timing of the response, even if the discussion does not concern finance. The partner's image is formed from this. Namely, "I'm coming right" means coming in five minutes for the Japanese.

The Japanese people love predictability: they will be much more willing to do business with a partner if they understand that, for example, they will receive their cargo on a certain day every month. They do not like to take risks at all. Probably, it is somehow connected with life in conditions of the constant danger of earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions...

At today's large Japanese companies, many young people speak English. However, you need to understand that even English is still a rather difficult language here, so knowing Japanese would be a competitive advantage for a potential partner. I know that Minsk language schools train specialists proficient in Japanese. I think such specialists are the key to the success of Belarusian-Japanese business relations.

In conclusion, I would like to say once again that our Belarusian-­Japanese Business Club welcomes new members. I hope that in 2022 we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries together.