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Excerpts on Diving from
"Your Market in Japan" No. 47 March 1994
Marine Sporting Goods

by JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization)

 

1.Market Overview
(2)Marine sporting Activities in Japan (2)Participation (3)Market Size
(5)Characteristics of the Japanese Climate
a) Marine Sports Seasons in Japan (b) Marine Sports and the Geography of Japan (c) Marine Sporting Facilities

2.Market Overview by Product
[1]Market Characteristics
[2]Popular Domestic and Import Products
[3]Popular Brands and Major Manufacturers

3. Import Trends
4. Distribution Trends
5. Import Procedures and Related Regulations
6. Future Prospects

7. Advice on Approaching the Japanese Market
(1) Japanese need to be Make Aware of the Pleasures of Marine Sports
(2) On Entering the Japanese Market
(3) Market Entry

8. Related Trade Fairs and Exhibitions

9. List of Related Organizations and Companies
(1) Governmental Agencies & Industrial Organizations
(2) Importers and Japanese Makers


1.Market Overview

Marine Sporting Activities in Japan

Participation by Type of Sport (Diving)

Nearly All who enter this sport start by attending private diving schools to acquire diving certification (C cards). Each year around 70,000 people obtain their C card. As of 1992, about 500,000 divers have acquired C cards. Of this number, less than 100,000 dive on a regular basis, with 10,000 to 20,000 diving once or twice a month. In addition to this, many people join diving tours without holding C cards. There numbers are estimated at 400,000, annually. So, the total diving population might reach 1,000,000.

Among the recent C card registrants, 45% are female. The percentage of females has been increasing yearly. This was a sport once dominated by those in their twenties. Recently, the over forty group has taken it up, indicating a widening age dispersion.

Market Size

According to the Japan Association of Underwater Exploration, an organization for the sports diving industry, the retail market value of diving gear ranges between Yen 15 and Yen 20 billion. This figure is supported by private survey institutes and a major domestic manufacturer.

Diving beginners usually start with the purchase of a so-called three-piece set: a mask, fins, and a snorkel. This set retails for about Yen 20,000. Generally, divers tend to purchase a wet suit next. As a dive's skills increase, he moves on to purchase equipment like regulators. buoyancy compensators (BC), and gauges. As scuba diving gains popularity isn't necessarily translated to increased diving gear sales.

(5) Characteristics of the Japanese Climate

a) Marine Sports Seasons in Japan

Japan is an archipelagic country with islands distributed in a north-south pattern over 3,000 kilometers. Because of this, northern Japan, located in the north temperate zone, experiences temperatures that range from cool to cold, while southern Japan, located near the Tropic of Cancer, experiences tropical temperatures. Areas affected by monsoons from the Asian continent experience severe winters, despite being located in the temperate zone. Summers are humid and hot. Most areas of Japan have a rainy season, known as tsuyu, sometime during June and July. And, occasional typhoons, spawned by tropical lows during August through October, bring heavy rains and high winds to some areas.

Therefore, the peak season for marine sports begins at the end of the rainy season in mid-July, and runs to early September when the hot weather ends. December through March is the off season.

b) Marine Sports and the Geography of Japan

The southeast side of Japan faces the Pacific Ocean, while the northwest side faces the Japan Sea. The Japan Sea coast has a shorter season for most marine sports, because of cold currents. So, naturally, marine sporting activities are more prevalent along the Pacific coast.

In Japan, there are few bays and inland waters that routinely experience calm wind and water conditions. As for rivers and lakes, only a small number have good space, wind, water quality, and water flow for marine sports. When compared to other countries, such as America with its bountiful water resources, Japan is worse off.

c) Marine Sporting Facilities

There are 397 marinas (May '93) in Japan. Together, they provide moorage for around 50,000 vessels. Of these, public marinas number about 50, and have moorage for 14,000 vessels. Expansion boosted by government policy, is coming in this area. As for beaches, a variety of so-called waterfront development projects are being planned. Both the public and private sectors are engaged in building facilities for leisure sports.

Currently, there are around 280,000 motorboats and yachts in Japan. About 100,000 of these lack satisfactory moorage or warehousing, a problem particularly acute near big cities. So, an increase in the size and number of marinas is needed.

2. Market Overview by Product

[1] Market Characteristics

In the past, imported diving gear enjoyed a larger market share than domestic gear. Now, however, the level of reliability and functionality has risen in Japanese products as a result of technological progress. Because of this progress, the gap that existed in market share has narrowed dramatically. In the so-called three-piece set (mask, fins, snorkel), domestic products sales have already outstripped imports. This is thought to be due to their better fit for Japanese. But, for heavier equipment, imports continue to hold large market shares. This is in part due to psychology. That is, since diving is a dangerous activity, divers tend to prefer using equipment that has a proven track record for safety.

Many industry specialists feel that the market shares for diving equipment are split 50-50 in terms of value between domestic products and imports. The prices on imports have generally been lower than the prices for domestic goods, and the yen has recently appreciated again. So, imports are expected to gain market share.

[2] Popular Domestic and Import Products

The history of sport diving is relatively new in Japan, compared to Western countries. It began in the early '50s, but didn't fully develop as a market until the late '80s.

In recent years, there has been a heightened interest in fashionable designs and colors for diving gear. For example, the three-piece set, (mask, fins, and snorkel), have changed from rubber to silicon or plastic, and the colors have gone from basic black to vivid tones. Wet suites and boots are also becoming colorful. Increasingly, consumers are looking for color coordination in their three-piece set, wet suit, and boots. For heavier equipment, consumers are seeking easier-to-handle gear that enables weekend divers, lacking skill, to enjoy the sport. Now, for instance, computerized gauges and BCs are popular. On the whole, more and more heavy equipment oriented toward comfort is being marketed.

[3] Popular Brands and Major Manufacturers

The leading Japanese manufacturers are:

General diving gear - Alollo Sports Co., Ltd., Nihon Diving Sports Co., Ltd.
Three piece sets - Tabata Co., Marine Sports Corporation
Heavy equipment - Bridgestone Flowtech Corp.

Import brands gaining popularity among users because of their reliability are:

Scuba pro, US Divers, Cressi-sub, Mares, Sea Quest, and Sherwood.

3. Import Trend

The import values and volumes of diving equipment cannot be gleaned from trade statistics. For example, masks, fins, and snorkels, the so-called three-piece set, fall into the trade classification, 9506-000 Articles and equipment for sports and outdoor games, n.e.s. Regulators are in class, 9020.00-000 Other breathing appliances and gas masks having neither mechanical parts or replaceable filters. It is believed diving gear is a very small portion in each of these classifications. So, accuracy is difficult to obtain.

4. Distribution Trends

In many cases diving gear is distributed directly from manufacturers to retailers, except for those manufacturers who have their own sales subsidiaries. Diving gear is usually non-returnable.

Along with selling equipment, many professional diving shops offer a variety of services including schools and training courses, sales promotion for C card issuing institutes, and tours. Some manufactures actually manage C card institutes and schools.

The main importers are Scubapro Asia Ltd., U.S. Divers Japan Corp., Nihon Cressi-sub, and Mares Japan Co., Ltd. Each of these importers handle a single brand. Other importers like A.P. Systems Inc. and FL Corp. handle a number of brands.

There are many diving spots in popular resort areas such as Okinawa and the Izu Peninsula. Diving-related service companies there manage diving shops and provide guides, boats, diving gear sales and rentals, and air recharging.

5. Import Procedures and Related Regulations

Thanks to recent advances in equipment, scuba diving has become a year-round leisure sport open to nearly everyone regardless of age, sex, or physical strength. Some Japanese manufacturers have actively targeted the middle aged group in the hope of expanding this market.

Unfortunately, Japan doesn't have many areas really suitable for diving when factors such as water temperature, current, seascape, or fishing rights are taken into account. This is particularly true in the Tokyo and Kansai areas, where, having the largest concentration of divers, there are few spots in which safe and comfortable diving can be enjoyed. There is a scarcity of facilities with the equipment necessary for good diving sites. Moreover, most retail outlets are small professional diving shops. So, prices of diving gear are considerably higher than in Western countries.

If the Japanese diving market is to expand, more diving areas will have to be developed, and prices will have to be reduced through improved sales efficiency.

6. Future Prospects

Thanks to recent advances in equipment, scuba diving has become a year-round leisure sport open to nearly everyone regardless of age, sex, or physical strength. Some Japanese manufacturers have actively targeted the middle aged group in the hope of expanding this market.

Unfortunately, Japan doesn't have many areas really suitable for diving when factors such as water temperature, current, seascape, or fishing rights are taken into account. This is particularly true in the Tokyo and Kansai areas, where having the largest concentration of divers, there are few spots in which safe and comfortable diving can be enjoyed. There is a scarcity of facilities with the equipment necessary for good diving sites. Moreover, most retail outlets are small professional diving shops. So, prices of diving gear are considerably higher than in Western countries.

If the Japanese diving market is to expand, more diving areas will have to be developed, and prices will have to be reduced through improved sales efficiency.

7. Advice on Approaching the Japanese Market

(1) Japanese Need to Be Made Aware of the Pleasures of Marine Sports

As described, many areas of the marine sporting goods market in Japan are poised to expand. But, this expansion will need nursing by promotions which portray the enjoyment to be had. Effective promotion is a must.

Skiing, for example, took off in Japan largely due to a major European equipment manufacturer. Recognizing the potential in the Japanese market, this company launched sales promotions demonstrating the fun of skiing. They made effective use of media like magazines, TV, and movies.

In view of the current situation and product development trends, such as recent advances in diving gear and board sailing equipment, promotion activities by leading manufacturers are likely to be effective.

(2) On Entering the Japanese Market

It is not difficult to enter the Japanese marine sporting goods market. A variety of imports maintain large shares in their respective markets, as they continue to demonstrate their equipment's quality and high performance. However, some promotions coupled with images of high costs may have negatively influenced consumers, impacting market volumes.

At present, Japanese consumers have yet to fully recover from the ravages of the prolonged recession. They remain conservative in their buying patterns. To counter this, a selection of high-priced goods mixed with products carrying a more reasonable price tag should be offered to the public.

The following market strategies should be considered when entering the Japanese market:

[1] Observe the market carefully to receive an accurate picture

[2] Establish optimum retail pricing

[3] Perform appropriate marketing activities and build a sales system tailored to each market

[4] Create specific images for each product through advertising

[5] Build a base that provides for steady business

Generally speaking, a shortcut to successful entry is to team up with a capable Japanese agent.

When it comes to doing business in Japan, remember that marine sports are usually part of a school club activity, or a workers' recreation or vacation school program. Engaging in these sports on an individual basis is less common due to things like high costs and storage problems. So, a two-pronged approach is needed for sales planning: one to reach groups; one to reach individuals.

(3)Market Entry by Category

Diving Gear

According to retailers and importers, nearly all the well-known foreign brands of diving equipment are being imported into Japan from Western countries. Therefore, a foreign manufacturer wanting to export products to Japan will have to convince consumers and distributors of the safety and reliability of their products.

8. Related Trade Fairs and Exhibitions

Diving Gear

Fair Name
Organizer
Address


Period
Venue
Entry
Diving Festival
Japan Scuba Association
Atex Co., Ltd. Meiwa Bldg. 5F, 15-10, Toranomon 1-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105
Phone: 81-3-3503-7611, Fax: 81-3-3503-7620
Yearly, February (3 days)
Pacific Convention Plaza, Yokohama
Open to the public

9. List of Related Organizations and Corporations


1. Governmental Agencies & Industrial Organizations

Recreation and Miscellaneous Goods Division, Consumer Goods Industries Bureau, Ministry of International Trade and Industry
3-1, Kasumigaseki 1-chome, CHiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100
Tel: 03-3501-1511
Fax: 03-3501-0315

Environment Protection and Ocean Development Division, Transport Policy Bureau, Ministry of Transport
1-3, Kasumigaseki 2-chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100
Tel: 03-3580-3111
Fax: 03-3580-5086

Japan Marine Recreation Association
Zosen Gijutsu Center Bldg. 2F, 3-8, Mejiro 1-chome, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 171
Tel: 03-3590-9808
Fax: 03-3590-8325

Japan Maritime Public Relations Center
Marine Bldb., 23-17, Shinkawa 1-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104
Tel: 03-3552-5031
Fax: 03-353-6080

Japan Association of Underwater Exploration
Metabo Hankyu Nagatacho 401, 17-11, Nagata-cho 2-chome, Chiyoda-ku, TOkyo 100
Tel: 03-3580-1335
Fax: 03-3580-1367

Japan Scuba Association
905, Shake, Ebina-shi, Kanagawa 243-04
Tel: 0462-33-4111
Fax: 0462-33-5886

Japan Wet suits Manufacturers Association
Sail Hongo 2F, 29-11, Hongo 3-chome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113
Tel: 03-5800-4640
Fax: 03-5800-2960

(2)Importers and Japanese Makers

Diving Gear

Apollo Sports Co., Ltd.
905, Shake, Eibina-shi, Kanagawa 243-04
Tel: 0462-33-4111
Fax: 0462-33-5886

A.P. Systems Inc.
3638-4, Kita Yamada-cho, Kouhoku-ku, Yokohama 223
Tel: 045-593-2824
Fax: 045-593-2823

Sea & Sea Products Ltd.
2-20, Saiwai-cho 3-chome, Kawaguchi-shi, Saitama 332
Tel: 0482-56-2251
Fax: 0482-56-2276

Nihon Diving Sports Co., Ltd.
3-3, Noda-cho 8-chome, Nagata-ku, Kobe 653
Tel: 078-734-0105
Fax: 078-734-0776

Scubapro Asia Ltd.
14-19, Arima 3-chome, Miyamae-ku, Kawasaki 216
Tel: 044-854-1211
Fax: 044-854-1216

Tabata Co., Ltd.
3-17, Higashi Komagata 1-chome, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130
Tel: 03-3624-2603
Fax: 03-3624-2857

Nihon Aqua-Lung K.K.
2229-4, Nurumizu, Atsugi-shi, Kanagawa 243
Tel: 0462-47-3222
Fax: 0462-47-3225

S.A.S. Corporation
1900-4, Maginu, Miyamae-ku, Kawasaki 213
Tel: 044-888-4445
Fax: 044-888-4005

FL Corporation
32-1, Shimo Ishihara 1-chome, Chofu-shi, Tokyo 182
Tel: 0424-89-7341
Fax: 0424-89-7316

Nihon Cressi-sub
9-20, Iriya 8-chome, Adachi-ku, Tokyo 121
Tel: 03-3854-8231
Fax: 03-3854-8288

Harisan Co., Ltd.
28-6, Yanaka 1-chome, Adachi-ku, Tokyo 120
Tel: 03-5616-4500
Fax: 03-5616-4505

Marine Sports Corporation
33-1, Tateishi 8-chome, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo 124
Tel: 03-3691-8211
Fax: 03-3691-8213

Arai Rubber Co., Ltd.
15-4, Tajima 2-chome, Ikuno-ku, Osaka 544
Tel: 06-757-1681
Fax: 06-757-1621

Mares Japan Co., Ltd.
7-4, Kajigaya 5-chome, Takatsu-ku, Kawasaki 213
Tel: 044-861-6371
Fax: 044-861-6380

Scuba Diving Division, Bridgestone Flowtech Corporation
Yaesu Dai Bldg., 3F, 1-1, Kyobashi 1-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104
Tel: 03-3274-5076
Fax: 03-3278-0657

U.S. Divers Japan Corp.
815-1, Sanda, Atsugi-shi, Kanagawa 243-02
Tel: 0462-42-6537
Fax: 0462-42-6549


We thank JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) for allowing us to reproduce the above excert from their publication "Your Market in Japan" No. 47 March 1994.

No contents have been modified, except that I have adjusted the layout to suit web page. (I hope to add tables and figures as well sometime in the future.)

 

Last reviewed March 30, 2000. Removed broken internal links. Will add links later.

 

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