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James Simms

Setagaya City, Japan
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About James
James Simms is a Forbes contributor and freelance journalist in Tokyo, former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and former Scripps Journalism Fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is also a regular commentator on Japanese television and radio and former President of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. In 2021, the University of Pennsylvania Press published the chapter he wrote entitled "The Road to Fukushima: A US-Japan History" in the edited volume "Legacies of Fukushima: 3.11 in Context."
English Japanese
Feature Stories Content Writing Corporate Content
Business Finance Politics

Whisky Giant Suntory Holdings, Owner Of Jim Beam, Outlines Plans To Expand More Outside As Japan’s Population And Domestic Imbibing Decline

04 Jul 2023  |  forbes.com
Suntory Holdings, marking a century of whisky-making, faces challenges in Japan due to a declining population and reduced alcohol consumption. The company, with ¥2.7 trillion in 2022 revenue, is the No. 3 spirits maker globally. CEO Takeshi Niinami and potential successor Nobuhiro Torii are focusing on innovation and global expansion, including potential acquisitions in tequila and India. Suntory aims for ¥3 trillion in revenue by 2030 and plans to remain privately held. The company has a history of strategic acquisitions and is known for its iconic whisky brands like Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Hibiki.

One century after starting its first distillery, Japanese drinks titan aims to keep family control, find new ways to achieve goals.

01 Jul 2023  |  t.co
The article discusses the centennial celebration of Suntory Holdings, a Japanese beverage company known for its whisky. Suntory, a private company with ¥2.7 trillion in revenue in 2022, is globally ranked third in spirits after Diageo and Pernod Ricard. Despite a decline in alcohol consumption in Japan, Suntory has maintained a strong domestic market presence and has expanded internationally, notably with the acquisition of U.S. bourbon distiller Beam in 2014. The company faces challenges such as Japan's aging population and changing drinking habits. Leadership is expected to transition back to the founding family, with Nobuhiro Torii, the great-grandson of the founder, being groomed for the CEO position. Suntory aims to innovate and diversify, with plans to invest in tequila and expand in India. The article also touches on Suntory's history, marketing campaigns, and philanthropic activities.

Meet The Malaysian Entrepreneur Who Is Trying To Build The World’s Largest Helicopter Operator

07 Jun 2023  |  newyorkfolk.com
Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim, a former Malaysian army officer and entrepreneur, is aiming to make his company, Weststar Aviation Services, the world's largest helicopter operator. With a current fleet of 34 helicopters and plans to increase this number by nearly 30% over the next two years, Weststar is the second-largest offshore services operator in the Asia-Pacific region. The company, which serves clients like ExxonMobil and Shell, is also expanding into new markets and seeking strategic investors. Ibrahim, who has a net worth of $825 million, also has interests in car dealerships and F&B outlets, including the distribution of Maxus electric and hybrid vehicles and the management of Wolf & Turtle coffee outlets and Absolute Thai restaurants.

Wealth Of Uniqlo Billionaire Tadashi Yanai, Japan’s Richest Person, Soars On Sales Uptick

30 May 2023  |  Forbes
Tadashi Yanai, Japan's richest person, saw his net worth increase by $11.8 billion, reaching $35.4 billion, due to strong sales from his company Fast Retailing, which owns the Uniqlo brand. In the six months through February 2023, Fast Retailing's revenue rose over 20% to ¥1.5 trillion, with significant contributions from international markets. Yanai plans to increase salaries in Japan by up to 40% to align with overseas operations and attract a global workforce, addressing Japan's labor shortage and competitive job market.

Wrote chapter entitled "The Road to Fukushima: A US-Japan History" in Legacies of Fukushima: 3.11 in Context (University of Pennsylvania Press) based on local interviews, visits to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant site and archival research.

The Alarming Developments in the U.S. Midterm Elections Unknown to the Japanese

07 Nov 2022  |  東洋経済オンライン
The upcoming U.S. midterm elections on November 8th are expected to see the Republican Party potentially regaining a majority in the House and possibly gaining an advantage in the Senate. A Republican majority could lead to a 'gridlocked' Congress, affecting the Biden administration's ability to pass legislation, including bills related to the debt ceiling and budgets. Skepticism among Republican members regarding U.S. security policies, including support for Ukraine, Japan, and NATO allies, may increase. The possibility of Biden's impeachment is also discussed, though it is deemed unlikely to lead to a conviction due to the requirement of a two-thirds Senate majority. Opinion polls indicate that inflation and the economy are the main concerns for voters, followed by crime, abortion, and threats to democracy, with the first three topics seen as advantageous for the Republican Party.

This story appears in the September 2022 issue of Forbes Asia.

01 Sep 2022  |  Forbes
The article discusses the transformation of Teshima Island and its neighboring islands in Japan's Seto Inland Sea into a global art destination, thanks to the vision and investments of Soichiro Fukutake, former chairman of Benesse Holdings. Over three decades, Fukutake and his family have spent $250 million to revitalize the region through art, architecture, and museums, attracting tourists and boosting the local economy. The Setouchi Triennale, an international arts festival, has become a significant event, drawing visitors and contributing to the economy. Despite challenges from the pandemic, Fukutake remains optimistic about the future of tourism and the ongoing impact of art on rural rejuvenation. The article also touches on the family's future plans for the Triennale and the sustainability of the Fukutake Foundation.

Founder Of Japanese Home Improvement Chain Goes On A Building Binge

31 May 2022  |  forbes.com
Akio Nitori, founder and CEO of Nitori Holdings, is expanding the company to become a one-stop shop for home needs. Nitori Holdings took a 10% stake in Edion and acquired Shimachu in a hostile takeover. The company is opening new stores, including in Southeast Asia, and aims to increase sales and store numbers significantly by 2032. Despite challenges, Nitori Holdings reported its 35th year of record revenue and profit, although Akio Nitori's net worth dropped 44% due to a broader stock market decline.

The Road to Fukushima (and Tokyo Olympics): Forgotten Lessons (Again)

01 Sep 2021  |  The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
Japan's handling of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Tokyo Olympics during the COVID-19 pandemic reveals a pattern of prioritizing political, bureaucratic, and commercial interests over public health. Despite lessons from Fukushima, the government repeated similar mistakes, leading to public distrust and criticism. The article highlights the inherent conflicts of interest in Japan's nuclear regulatory framework and the mishandling of the pandemic, drawing parallels between the two crises. Key figures like Mikitani Hiroshi and Suga Yoshihide are mentioned, with the latter facing significant criticism for his leadership during these events.

A fist in the air: Fukushima's renewable energy response to nuclear disaster

11 Mar 2021  |  Inside Climate News
The article discusses Aizu Electric Power, a renewable energy firm in Fukushima, founded as a response to the 2011 nuclear disaster. The company, started by Yauemon Sato, aims to shift the region's energy reliance from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewables and keep local electricity revenues within the region. Despite facing grid access challenges and the slow progress of Japan in diversifying its energy sources, Aizu Electric powers about 1,800 households. Japan's energy policy has been influenced by international pressure to adopt greener policies, with the government announcing plans to expand renewables. The article also touches on the broader context of Japan's energy landscape, including the slow liberalization of the electricity market, bureaucratic inertia, and the impact of international moves towards zero-carbon emissions. Aizu Electric, while small, represents a push towards local energy production and consumption, with Sato advocating for renewable energy from Fukushima.

Fast (Retailing) Track: Maki Akaida Breaking Glass Ceiling In Quick Uniqlo Ascent

14 Sep 2020  |  www.forbes.com
Maki Akaida, CEO of Uniqlo Japan, is a potential successor to Tadashi Yanai, CEO of Fast Retailing and Japan's richest person. Since joining the company in 2001, Akaida has rapidly advanced, reflecting Fast Retailing's commitment to promoting women, with nearly 40% of its managers being female. The company aims to increase this to 50% through supportive measures. Akaida's career includes managing flagship stores and leading HR and PR departments. Yanai has publicly acknowledged the suitability of women for leadership roles, citing their perseverance and attention to detail.

Base's E-Commerce Success and Expansion into Fintech

30 Mar 2020  |  Forbes
Yuta Tsuruoka, the founder of Base, has successfully expanded his e-commerce platform to serve 900,000 merchants and over 6 million customers. Base recently went public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, raising $26 million. The company has diversified into fintech with the creation of Yell Bank, which offers accounts receivable financing to Base merchants using AI to assess creditworthiness. Despite a loss in 2019, Base's revenue is growing, and it's projected to turn a profit in 2021. Tsuruoka, inspired by his mother's difficulty in setting up an online shop, has developed Base to cater to small businesses, offering services like easy payment systems and low-cost shipping. The company is now looking to expand globally and has already made its app available to international shoppers.

First feature for Monocle, looking at what Japan gets right about the rail and retail combination, including in Hakata, Kyoto, Shinjuku and Shibuya.

Asia's Power Businesswomen 2019: Akiko Naka's Wantedly, Japan's New Way To Job Hunt

23 Sep 2019  |  Forbes
The article discusses the career of Akiko Naka, CEO of Wantedly, a job-search site that has revolutionized the recruitment process in Japan. Wantedly's platform, which includes Wantedly Visit and Wantedly People apps, focuses on matching employers and job seekers based on corporate philosophy rather than salary details. With Japan's labor market tightening, Wantedly has become a significant player, competing with LinkedIn in Japan and expanding to other Asian markets. Naka's journey from Kyoto University to founding Wantedly, after stints at Goldman Sachs and Facebook, reflects her entrepreneurial spirit and her views on women in the workplace, preferring to be recognized for her achievements rather than her gender.

Moon Shot: Billionaire Maezawa To Give Up Control Of Fashion Site Zozo In Yahoo Japan Deal

13 Sep 2019  |  Forbes
Yusuke Maezawa resigned as CEO of Zozo and agreed to sell a 30% stake to Yahoo Japan for approximately 243 billion yen. Maezawa, known for his social media presence and art collecting, faced a profit decline at Zozo due to management errors. He cited preparing for a 2023 lunar mission and the desire to build a new company as reasons for his resignation. Yahoo Japan's acquisition aims to leverage Zozo's customer base to compete with Amazon and Rakuten in Japan's e-commerce market.

From App To Table: Japanese Food App Kurashiru Might Soon Deliver Meal Kits

04 Sep 2019  |  www.forbes.com
Yusuke Horie, founder of dely and creator of the popular Japanese recipe app Kurashiru, is planning to expand his business internationally and potentially enter the meal kit delivery market. Kurashiru has been downloaded 18 million times and is challenging its main competitor, Cookpad, in the Japanese market. With a recent investment from Yahoo Japan, dely is looking to grow its user base and explore new avenues for growth, including competing with consumer cooperatives in the grocery delivery market. Horie, who was inspired to become an entrepreneur after volunteering for the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, is also focusing on integrating recent acquisitions such as the women's fashion and advice site and app Trill.

Tadashi Yanai Tops Forbes Japan Rich List

11 Apr 2019  |  Forbes
Tadashi Yanai, founder of Fast Retailing and parent of Uniqlo, tops Forbes Japan Rich List in 2019, reclaiming the position he last held in 2016. Despite the Nikkei index rising by 5%, the net worth of 31 out of the 50 listees declined, with the total wealth of the top 50 being $178 billion, down from $186 billion the previous year. Yanai's net worth increased to $24.9 billion, making him the biggest gainer. Masayoshi Son of SoftBank is second with $24 billion. Other notable individuals include Takemitsu Takizaki of Keyence, Nobutada Saji of Suntory, and Hiroshi Mikitani of Rakuten. The article also mentions newcomers to the list and those who have dropped off. The minimum net worth to make the list decreased to $900 million from $960 million last year. Forbes compiled the list using various sources, valuing private companies by financial ratios and comparisons with similar public companies.

Japan's Richest 2019: Rakuten's $5.5 Billion Shot At Japan's Mobile Duopoly

10 Apr 2019  |  Forbes
The article discusses Rakuten's ambitious project to disrupt Japan's mobile phone industry by building a new telecom network using virtualized radio access network (vRAN) technology. Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has invested $5.5 billion in the venture, aiming to offer a cheaper, faster, and more reliable network to attract millions of customers. The company plans to leverage its existing customer base from its e-commerce and other services. Despite skepticism from investors and the challenges of competing with established carriers like NTT Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank, Rakuten is optimistic about its commercial launch in October. The article also touches on Mikitani's background, Rakuten's corporate culture, and its positioning against e-commerce rival Amazon.

Fukushima Cleanup Efforts Continue Six Years After Meltdown

25 Sep 2018  |  The World from PRX
Journalist James Simms reports on the ongoing cleanup efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, six years after the meltdown. Progress includes the construction of an underground ice wall and the reduction of groundwater contamination. However, unforeseen issues may extend the cleanup timeline. The Tokyo Electric Power Company continues to cool reactors with water, which is then stored in tanks, but space for these tanks is running out. There is a proposal to release treated water with tritium into the ocean, which is met with concern from the fisheries cooperative. Public distrust in nuclear power remains high in Japan.

Feature and video for one of Japan's major trading companies, Marubeni, where I wrote the story and planned the video on one of the largest providers of agricultural inputs in the U.S., Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC. Part of a series I helped produce and am currently doing on Marubeni's global portfolio of companies and subsidiaries for both internal communications and external consumption.

Bespoke content for the Nihon Keizai Shimbun on Japan in the Financial Times, including a story on the Setouchi Triennale art festival, after the Nikkei bought the UK business broadsheet.

A scion of the nearly 70-year-old real estate giant founded by the Mori family is trying to freshen up the staid building-and-hotel sector in Japan.

30 Aug 2018  |  Forbes
Miwako Date, the president of Mori Trust, is innovating the Japanese real estate and hotel industry, traditionally conservative and male-dominated. She focuses on luxury lodging and has partnered with Marriott International and Ian Schrager to open two Edition hotels in Tokyo by 2020. Mori Trust's revenue is mainly from office and condo development, but with tourism booming in Japan, the hotel sector is a growing focus. The company aims to match hotel revenue with office-leasing revenue by 2027 through 17 projects. Mori Trust also listed a hotel REIT last year to highlight the investment value of hotels. Date discusses the challenges and opportunities of family-run businesses and outlines the 'Advance 27' strategic plan, which includes significant overseas investments, particularly in the U.S. and ASEAN, despite the uncertainties in Europe.

Feature for the Financial Times on what steps Japan is taking to make its buildings and homes more resistant to earthquakes and how tenants, investors and insurers view the seismic countermeasures.

Segment on Japanese TV network BS-TBS, where I toured the wrecked Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant site and described some of the changes over the past five years. It includes rare reporting of one of the reactors at the site that didn't suffer a meltdown and follows the outline that I set out for the segment. (In Japanese)

Feature for the Financial Times on Japan's renewable energy drive after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident and reasons why it is faltering.

Tackling Japan's Childcare Crunch

26 Aug 2015  |  Forbes
Yoshiko Shinohara, founder and chairman of Temp Holdings, has donated nearly $140 million worth of company stock to establish the Yoshiko Shinohara Memorial Foundation, aimed at funding scholarships for students in Japan studying to become day care, health, and welfare workers. As a female entrepreneur, Shinohara has been a pioneer in Japan and emphasizes the importance of women's ability to work and raise children. She also founded the Shinohara Daycare & Medical Administration Technical School in 2007. Shinohara believes that resolving the day care issue is crucial for enabling more women to have careers but also notes that husbands need to contribute more to housework.

Dancing With Robots: Mayumi Kotani Leads With Japan's Top Industrial Machines

25 Feb 2015  |  Forbes
Mayumi Kotani, president of Yushin Precision Equipment, has led the company to become Japan's top industrial machine provider with the number one market share in Japan, Asia (excluding Japan), and the U.S. for its robots. Under her leadership, the company has seen rapid overseas expansion, strong margins, and robust growth. Yushin's revenue is expected to reach $167 million, with 70% coming from foreign sales. Kotani's management style and attention to detail have been key to Yushin's success. The company's strategy includes outsourcing production while focusing on development, design, and procurement. Kotani also discusses the role of education and government policies in increasing female workforce participation in Japan. She practices traditional Japanese dance and plays musical instruments, which she believes provides her with a sense of balance.

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