small business

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Salmon fry released into Kido River in Naraha, 1st since 2011 disaster, fukushima minpo, 4/16/14

Members of a fisheries cooperative in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, released young salmon into the Kido River on April 15 for the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant accident. Released were some 10,000 salmon fry hatched in the Natsui River in Iwaki. The Naraha town office intends to decide in mid-May when to allow evacuees to return. The Kido River Fisheries Cooperative hopes the release of salmon that return to their native streams for spawning will pave the way for evacuees to come back.

The Kido is one of the rivers that boast large numbers of returning salmon on Japan’s main island of Honshu. But all fishing weirs and hatcheries were swept away by the tsunami tide that followed the 2011 temblor. Cooperative head Hideo Matsumoto and other members released the young salmon, 3 to 4 cm long, into the river. Many return to their natal rivers four years later after migrating through the oceans such as the Okhotsk and Bering seas as well as the Gulf of Alaska.

The cooperative and town authorities are considering rebuilding hatcheries and resuming the egg collection/hauling business in fall next year in the hope of restarting the release of self-hatched young salmon in the spring of 2016. Naraha Mayor Yukihide Matsumoto, who joined the release, said the town hopes to launch the rebuilding of weirs this year, pledging to support the cooperative in a manner leading to the return of evacuees.

Kesennuma knitters aim to build world-class brand, japan times, 10/24/13

by Naomi Hayashi

SENDAI – An effort to knit cardigans to help revive the tsunami-hit coastal city of Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture has evolved into a company of 20 people.

The firm, Kesennuma Knitting Co., originally started as a project by Tamako Mitarai, 28, in June 2012. It now employs about 20 local women as knitters.

Among them is Yuriko Oyama, 70, whose house was washed away by the tsunami spawned by the March 2011 mega-quake.

“Knitting makes me feel relaxed and comfortable even when I have some worries,” she said. “I would like to make a great cardigan thinking of a person who will wear this.”

Kesennuma Knitting is working on 12 luxury cardigans for this winter that will be sold to customers by lottery.

Mitarai, the president, said she hopes to “create a world-class upscale brand that customers choose not because they want to help the city recover, but because they think our products are special and make them happy.”

Mitarai, however, is a Tokyoite with a unique background.

After graduating from university, she entered McKinsey & Co., a major management consultancy. She then moved to Bhutan in September 2010 to work for about a year as an official for the Bhutan government’s Gross National Happiness Commission. Her main task there was to promote tourism as a fellow to Bhutan’s prime minister.

Soon after returning to Japan, Mitarai was asked by an acquaintance, Shigesato Itoi, a renowned copywriter who often appears on TV, to lead his effort to reconstruct Kesennuma.

Recalling that fishermen in Ireland wear knit sweaters designed with cable patterns, Itoi developed the idea of launching a knitting business in Kesennuma, which is also famous for fishing, she said.

At first, Mitarai was not really certain if she was capable of leading the project, but eventually decided to move there, thinking, “Let’s give it a try.”

Once the project was set in motion, Mitarai visited the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland along with knitting designer Mariko Mikuni to research the traditional luxury sweater business. After much discussion, they decided to produce a ¥147,000 cardigan to order.

Mitarai said some who bought the made-to-order cardigans last winter have visited the office or sent photographs of them being worn, giving the knitters confidence in their work. She said she plans to produce sweaters or other products in the future.

600 social entrepreneurs in Tohoku are now on a web site – Assistance project for start-ups by the Cabinet Office, rising tohoku, 8/21/2013

In the last fiscal year of 2012, Cabinet Office of Japanese Government implemented a project of “Reconstruction assistance of regional society employment creation” and chose 600 entrepreneurs, whose businesses and profiles are now publicized on the web. The government office, under the project, subsidized an amount up to 3 million yen each of the entrepreneurial enterprise and individual that started social business in the disaster district of Tohoku. As of August 20th, 569 businesses have been uploaded to the site where more will sequentially follow.

At the web site(http://www.tohoku1000.jp/entrepreneur/) named as “The team of 600 entrepreneurs”, a viewer can search for a business by region or category of business. Distribution of numbers of businesses (see the right side chart below) by geographical region is 39%, 29% and 32% for prefectures of Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate respectively. By category (the left side of the charts below), community formation becomes the most common theme in the business, followed by medical care, welfare and health, town planning, shopping mall promotion , agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry.

The web site is run by Council of Supporting Entrepreneurs for Recovery. Mr. Kazuma Watanabe of the council says, “It is amazingly epoch-making for Tohoku to have this much of new business in quite a short period of time. Taking this opportunity, we would like to root new cultures of Act-To-Challenge in Tohoku.” Mentioning women’s activities for the new businesses, he continues, “Women have been keeping home and region peaceful since a long time ago. They are very patient with strong mind of wick to run their businesses.” The whole picture is unavailable but many of the entrepreneurs’ photographs show female.

The governmental project finished in March this year. However, it is important that the entrepreneurial business continue to create employments in each region of Tohoku.

Council of Supporting Entrepreneurs for Recovery plans further to expand its activities to assist entrepreneurs in fund-raising, know-how and information distribution, and networking among the entrepreneurs.

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