Rakuten Inc. unit Kenko.com Inc., an online retailer that quadrupled in Tokyo trading in the past 30 days, won a lawsuit seeking the Japanese government’s withdrawal of a ban on selling over-the-counter drugs online.
The Supreme Court in Tokyo today rejected an appeal by the government, allowing resumption of Internet sales of items including cold remedies, pregnancy tests and laxatives.
The ruling permits online sales of two categories of drugs accounting for about 67 percent of all non-prescription purchases in a country where such medicines are sold off-line only by specially licensed retailers. The Japan Pharmaceutical Association, representing about 100,000 licensed pharmacists, had opposed online sales, saying they increased risks that users would experience side-effects.
Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani decided two years ago that the employees at his company, Rakuten Inc., should work almost entirely in English.
The idea, he said, was a daring and drastic attempt to counter Japan’s shrinking place in the world. “Japanese people think it’s so difficult to speak English,” Mikitani said. “But we need to break the shell.”
With the move, which took effect at the beginning of last month, Mikitani turned his e-commerce company — an Amazon competitor — into a test case for corporate Japan’s survival strategy.
Kobo, maker of the eponymous e-reader best associated with former bookseller giant Borders, is being acquired by Japan e-commerce player Rakuten for $315 million.
Canadian book retailer Indigo, the e-reader’s creator, spun off Kobo in 2009. Although the sale to Rakuten, which operates Buy.com, among other properties, takes ownership over the Pacific, Kobo executives say the company will remain headquartered in Toronto.
You won’t find the word "Englishization" in the dictionary, but Google it and your search will lead you to links discussing imposed multilingualism and the loss of Japan’s indigenous culture.
Hiroshi Mikitani sees nothing wrong with the word, incorporating it easily into our discussion about Japan’s future. The internet entrepreneur and CEO of Rakuten Inc, Japan’s largest e-commerce site, intends to change his country from the inside out.
"And Englishization is a part of it," he says bluntly.
With 6,000 employees and sales topping $3 billion a year, Mikitani intends Rakuten to keep growing into a global player. The goal: be as common a household name as Google in 10 years