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Feature JAPAN'S TECHNOLOGICAL ACHIEVEMENTS JETRO Caravans Japanese Goods Make Inroads Abroad SELENA HOY W HILE Japan has long been known as a world-class exporter of cars, stereo equipment, computer chips and intricate technology, now curtains, kitchenware and toothbrushes are joining in on the party. In the last four years, the Japan External Trade Organization, or JETRO, has implemented annual Caravan projects in an effort to support small and medium Japanese enterprises in expanding trade overseas. Caravan is made up of two projects: Asia Caravan, which focuses primarily on expansion in the Chinese market, and 20 | highlighting japan ASEAN Caravan, Bangkok ASEAN Caravan, which in recent years has successfully targeted Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. Now in the fourth year of Asia Caravan and second year of ASEAN Caravan, participating companies hail from the kitchenware, health and beauty, home interior and building material sectors. Approximately 140 companies participate in the two projects, with roughly 10 involved in both. “We concentrated on entering these markets because economies in these countries are booming,” explains Manabu Shimoyashiro, director of the ASEAN Caravan Project. “But it can be hard for small and medium Japanese enterprises to develop the skills and experience needed to effectively enter these foreign markets. So we at JETRO want to support them through the opportunities made available by the Caravan Project.” Japanese products have a strong international reputation for quality, safety, high functionality and superior design. Though similar products are often available in the target nations, Japanese value-added details can make everyday products extraordinary, with growing youth populations and expanding middle- and upper-class communities driving demand. Overseas expansion brings with it a raft of challenges,