Propelling the Japanese economy towards a digital future

Propelling the Japanese economy towards a digital future

Innovation starts as a seed, planted in local communities. It grows by investing in people – from the small restaurant owner to the masses of women seeking a more welcoming work culture. By training businesses to use digital tools, encouraging companies to adopt workplace reforms, and partnering with local authorities to support small business growth, we aim to help homegrown Japanese innovation thrive.

Sparking business growth with digital training and tools

As Japan faces the challenge of sustaining economic growth amid a declining population, businesses are looking to increase productivity and reach more customers with the help of technology.

Our research shows that companies using websites and social networking tools have a 50% higher per capita output than those that don’t use them. But only 40% of Japanese businesses with the potential to use digital actually do so. As a result, there’s a demand for education and resources to help more of them get online to grow their revenue and global reach despite labor shortages in Japan.

Google Japan launched the Digital Workshop program in 2016 to help businesses harness the power of digital. We’ve also hosted in-person trainings for small business owners in Ehime Prefecture, and teamed up with corporate partners to pilot a free digital marketing course for students and professionals at Ryukyu University in Okinawa. Last year alone, we trained 100,000 businesses on topics ranging from basic digital skills to digital marketing strategy.

In 2018, we’ve launched in-person trainings in artificial intelligence and machine learning that are geared towards empowering traditional companies and entrepreneurs alike. These provide the tools and guidance for them to grow their businesses and make a bigger impact in the economy, while also cultivating a thriving developer ecosystem.

Companies trained


as of 2017

Case Study

  • Ichiroku

    A local restaurant serves up a world-class experience

    A local restaurant serves up a world-class experience

    Toshiki Ogawa didn’t know what role the internet and computers could play in improving the dining experience at the restaurant he managed in Ehime Prefecture. But he joined a digital workshop hosted by Google partner Iyo Bank to see if online tools could help his udon and seafood franchise, Ichiroku, attract more customers.

    In the seminar, he began to see Google Maps as the first step in a customer’s visit to his restaurant, and learned how to post 360-degree images to help diners know what to expect. Today, customers who have never visited Ogawa’s restaurant call to make reservations – and with the help of his 360-degree photos, many of them already have a table picked out.

  • Ferry company

    A ferry company reroutes its advertising strategy

    A ferry company reroutes its advertising strategy

    With travel bookings increasingly moving online, TV and magazine ads were no longer enough to help grow sales for the family-run Uwajima-Unyu Ferry, which connects the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. At a Google-sponsored seminar, the company learned about Google Ads as a low-touch way of advertising online. Overnight, they set a budget and launched an ad strategy that reached a new pool of customers with minimal effort.

    Since implementing AdWords Express, they’ve seen a 23% year-over-year increase in online reservations, and 14% of all their mobile traffic comes from Google ads. “Even though we are a company in a rural area, I feel we are supported by Google,” says Hiroshi Matsuoka, the company’s president.

  • Maica

    A maiko makeover pioneer tailors ads to customer behaviors

    A maiko makeover pioneer tailors ads to customer behaviors

    Today, Kyoto is lined with dozens of shops offering tourists a chance to dress up as a maiko, an apprentice to Japan’s revered geisha. Once one of the first shops of its kind to offer this experience, Maica eventually slipped behind copycat competitors in online search results.

    To reach more customers online, Maica founder Kaoru Nishio contacted a Google representative, who advised her on how to use Google Ads and target the right people at the right times, such as visitors traveling to Kyoto for summer festivals.

    Conversions tripled, and then tripled again after the launch of her English-language website. She continues to manage Maica’s ad budget on her own, and to explore innovative ways she can use online tools to grow her business.

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Encouraging a more progressive – and productive – work culture

Google’s Womenwill initiative is helping Japanese businesses adopt reforms that create a more inclusive environment for women and a more balanced work culture for everyone, allowing both enterprises and employees to thrive.

Innovative ways to improve work-life balance

Unable to balance inflexible work hours with domestic pressures, two out of three Japanese women leave the workforce permanently after giving birth.

But our research shows that 69% of Japanese people want to see a more inclusive work environment – they just aren’t sure how to enact change.

In partnership with 30 companies, Womenwill's Mirai no Hatarakikata work culture reform program tested the principles of “Work Anywhere,” “Work Simply,” and “Work Shorter.” Today, employers can use the resulting playbook with their teams.

We also launched a work-from-home trial to track the impact of teleworking. People shared their insights in a video training series on how employees can work from home in a way that increases productivity and reduces overtime.

Crowdsourcing ideas to spark workplace inclusivity

Many companies are eager to welcome mothers back to the workforce, yet only 38% of non-working women believe that Japanese society supports the idea of working mothers.

To address this gap, we asked people across Japan to submit and vote on their ideas for more inclusive workplaces. The community posed a wide range of reforms to companies, sharing their favorites on social media. In just one year, more than 1,000 companies signed on to support the campaign, implementing 2,000 crowdsourced ideas.

Inspiring a new generation of women business leaders

As part of an ongoing Womenwill series on women in leadership, we invite C-level female executives to speak about their own journeys. In other sessions, experts lead workshops coaching women to advocate for themselves in their own organizations.

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Cultivating homegrown innovation

Looking to capitalize on a rapidly evolving economy, Hiroshima government worked with Google to help promote small business growth in its prefecture. We teamed up with local authorities to host an innovation summit and create programs that introduced modern technologies in a way that still celebrated the prefecture’s rich business community.

We also welcomed startups to Camps Innovation Hub Hiroshima, an incubator space for promoting a new generation of entrepreneurs. The space doubled as the primary site of 14 digital marketing seminars presented to 1,200 local entrepreneurs from numerous industries, including traditional fishing and shipping businesses looking to attract more customers. Through these community-driven efforts, the prefecture was able to nurture innovation while still playing to its strengths and maintaining its identity.

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