A View From Japan

Japan Management Association’s Shogo Kaneda reflects on the country’s evolving association sector and why collaboration is key.

Shogo Kaneda

While China now has a bigger economy than Japan and academic standards are increasing, Japan is still one of the top countries leading Asia Pacific in terms of economy and academics.

Over the past 50 years, Japan was a leader in Asia. This is still the case today, albeit with a few changes to the geopolitical environment.

China is now one of the leaders in the world and South Korea is gaining momentum on the global stage. Countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region — namely Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia — are also developing rapidly and now have a louder voice in both business and academic fields.

Examining the domestic market, the key challenge facing Japanese associations today is waning membership, largely due to a decreasing population over the last decade and an increase in the number of associations based on “special interest groups” such as IT and IOT study groups, and specific labour management groups that exist within a larger manufacturing association.

Additionally, many companies have now started to develop products and services that are quite similar to those offered by industry associations.
Traditionally, associations have led the way by providing industry education programmes, business events (conferences and exhibitions), and certification programmes. Today, corporations are also quite keen to provide these services, create communities, and develop their business portfolio. This is new competition for associations in Japan, and across the APAC region.

Although Japan still has a relatively big domestic market, many Japanese associations are now looking to strengthen their products and business portfolio across Asia and cooperate with local associations in the region.

For example, some Japanese associations have started to run training programmes for local professionals in some ASEAN countries. The benefits are two-fold. The local association gains knowledge and incorporates education systems from Japan, while Japanese association can secure new revenue, called “non-dues revenue” which does not rely on the membership revenue from domestic members.

A number of Japanese associations have also started to organise their annual meetings in ASEAN and China to gain more sponsorship and registration revenue. This has resulted in Japanese associations acquiring a more “regional” base.

Regional (and global) collaboration are crucial for our future development and viability.

Shogo Kaneda is an event planner at the Japan Management Association, and regional vice president Japan/South Korea for PCMA-ICESAP. This article was compiled by staff at Untangled, a Singapore-based content, marketing, and business strategy consultancy.

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