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Okinawamarket.com Goes Live Online

By: Julio Barthson

Date Posted: 2000-04-01

It is the talk of the island among local businessmen and thousands of potential online customers - most of them American servicemen. Japan Update, Okinawa’s only private English newspaper, has launched Okinawa Market, an Internet-based shopping mall which sells only original Okinawan products.

Okinawa Market, which resides on the URL www.okinawamarket.com, is the culmination of long consultations between the management of Japan Update and many local businesses hoping to multiply their sales to US military personnel, American families and other foreigners living on the island. With the creation of Okinawa Market on the web, Okinawan producers of unique, original and culturally charged items will now have an online marketplace to sell their products to the military market. This development is particularly welcome for those Americans who usually shy from going directly to the Japanese shops, due to language barriers or other reasons.

Okinawamarket.com is also able to sell to the other tens of thousands of Americans who formerly served in Okinawa, and are now living in the United States or somewhere else in the world. The same goes for many other Americans who, while looking forward to visiting - or living on - Okinawa in the future, would like to buy some souvenir products of the island. Okinawa Market has also positioned itself in a vantage pioneer position to create a new pool of clients on the Internet among collectors of authentic artistic products and herbs of the Orient.

Okinawamarket.com, which can also be accessed through the Japan Update newspaper’s homepage at www.japanupdate.com, sells a wide variety of authentic Okinawan goods: hundreds of pottery items; bingata (colorful locally embroidered cloth); Shisa dog sculptures (the emblematic dog that is a symbol of Okinawan social values); various kinds of Awamori, the locally distilled spirit that may be the official drink at this year’s G8 Summit; handicrafts; textiles; skin and beauty products, particularly anti-aging lotions; healthy teas, diet food and herbs that allegedly hold the secret to Okinawa’s longevity records; Sanshin instruments (locally made Okinawan string instrument used to accompany folk songs); Okinawan candy and chocolate products, conserved foods; top Okinawan music CDs and tapes; G8 Summit gadgets, and so on.

For clients located within Okinawa, the goods they order online either by credit card or “Furikomi” bank transfer are delivered to their homes within 24 hours. Delivery to other parts of Japan is assured by Takyubin. Elsewhere in the world, there is a choice of delivery either by express or ordinary shipping.

According to Takemi Kinjo, President of KK Japan Update and Okinawa Market, “Americans and other foreigners living on Okinawa, on mainland Japan, back in the States or elsewhere in the world can now relax in the comfort of their homes and buy authentic products made just for them.”

Takemi Kinjo, a 51-year-old Okinawan, became President of K.K. Japan Update 5 years ago soon after it was registered as a corporation. He made a personal investment in the venture because, as he puts it, “I knew that the company had a great international future.” Mr. Kinjo is also Managing Director of Kamisho, a wholesale paper company that is a subsidiary of Kokuyo, Japan’s world-renowned supplier of office stationery, furniture and computers.

“Okinawa Market is expanding the horizons of this small island even more than our newspaper Japan Update has done in the past,” Kinjo says. “With our recent record of over 300,000 hits per month, our Japan Update website is well poised to catapult our online readers straight into okinawamarket.com, thereby making it the Internet center of all things originally Okinawan.”

Kari Valtaoja, a native of Finland, is the new e-commercial enterprise’s General Manager, even as he still plays an essential role as Publisher and CEO of the Japan Update newspaper. Mr. Valtaoja (51) and his Okinawan spouse, Yuriko Shimosato (48) actually created Japan Update in the fall of 1986, after having tried a hand at running the Shogun, a commercial newspaper belonging to the US Air Force on Kadena Air Base.

“At that time, we had only 7 people working,” Ms. Shimosato remembers. “Now, we have a staff of about 22 full-time and part-time editors, reporters, graphic designers and commercial agents. I’m sure that the Okinawa Market project will create even more opportunities here on the island.”

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