Eikuru: Bridging the United Kingdom and Japan

Eikuru Ltd provides international trading support between the United Kingdom and Japan. Bridges spoke with founder Emina Barnes on the United Kingdom – Japan relationship and learned there is more to it than ‘tea’ culture, left-hand driving lanes and our constitutional monarchies.

Since establishing Eikuru, how has the company developed?

Eikuru was founded in Scotland in 2009 and has grown steadily by always providing the services which our customers want. Our website www.eikuru.com helps to drive our business but since we first started our forwarding service, we have seen requests from customers diversify greatly.

In response to that demand, we have developed a wide range of channels to grow our business in the United Kingdom. These include sales promotion activities, exhibitions and research on suitable suppliers. A successful manufacturer once said the key is “Not just to sell what we want to sell, but to produce what the market needs”. We apply the same strategy to our businesses.

As a company, we initially explore what the customer’s goal is, then explore what we can do to achieve it, and finally we formulate a plan. Many of our transactions are often made to order, there is no manual from which we work. We always provide solutions which suit the company and the customer and our strength and pride are the results of our ongoing work with our repeat customers. Whether we work with an individual or a company, most of our customers continue to use our services and solutions and have long-term contracts with us.

We value each business, connect with our customers and always keep them in mind.

Taking advantage of my experience working as an export administrator at a company delivering Rolls-Royce aircraft engines to the Japanese Ministry of Defence, Eikuru was born as a company exporting British products to Japan. I saw demand for this service while supporting the businesses of my friends and acquaintances.

A few years later, we moved from Scotland to Warwick, England and increased our staff. Since exchange rates impact the business, I always felt that I had to engage in import business as well as export but the seeking for the profits and merits of the company alone did not make me act on it. When the Great Tohoku Earthquake happened in Japan, we just watched the disaster on television and wondered what we could do to help Japan. That motivated me greatly and I immediately started a new business to import Japanese products to the United Kingdom to support the recovery of the Japanese economy.

The similarities between Britain and Japan are not limited to ‘tea’ culture, left-hand driving lanes and our constitutional monarchies. While the United Kingdom and Japan are relatively small island nations, both countries have strong gross domestic product (GDP) rankings and significant global economic power.

Emina Barnes, Founder of Eikuru Ltd.

A major business partnership developed with the famous Japanese towel brand ‘Imabari Towel’ and for two years we acted on behalf of the company and attended exhibitions and business negotiations in the United Kingdom which led to a huge increase in profits for the company in Japan.

We also worked with a Japanese hotel chain group which opened an import goods boutique at a hotel in Karuizawa, Japan and we helped purchase products for the company to sell. When the shop opened, it felt fantastic to have contributed to this successful venture and reminded me that the work we do is very rewarding.

What does 2022 hold for Eikuru?

Despite the pandemic, we have managed to carry through a number of projects and have new ones lined up for 2022 including a solo exhibition of a Japanese ceramist, an introduction to Japanese stationery at a stationery show in London, a business trip to Scotland for a whiskey export business.

Video meetings are the new normal. The pandemic has lowered the bar by allowing anyone, regardless of location, to use video meetings and do business. With technology developments and communication platforms, the distance between Japan and the United Kingdom has narrowed in the last ten years. Anyone, anywhere and at any time can have an ‘online’ platform to do business.

The pandemic made the world realize that most things could be replaced by remote-working. What we have to think about now is how to develop bilateral businesses that are actually far apart and what future services are needed as online platforms diminish borders.

Britain’s departure from the European Union has had an impact on doing business in the United Kingdom. Tariffs that were previously tax-free are now being levied between the United Kingdom and the European Union. While this is a negative result of Brexit, the United Kingdom has emphasized the strengthening of its ties with other countries.

The first trade agreement, the United Kingdom-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was signed with Japan. While tariffs currently remain virtually the same as before Brexit, it is a pleasure for us, and our customers, to know that Japan and the United Kingdom remain strong trading partners.

What similarities do you see between Japan and the United Kingdom in terms of business and trade?

The similarities between Britain and Japan are not limited to ‘tea’ culture, left-hand driving lanes and our constitutional monarchies. While the United Kingdom and Japan are relatively small island nations, both countries have strong gross domestic product (GDP) rankings and significant global economic power. When I started my business, I realized that there are many similarities between Japan and the United Kingdom. First is national character; shy, polite, respectful and well-mannered.

In business it is very important to build relationships based on trust – sometimes this is more important than the product or the contract. We are proud of the products and technologies branded ‘Made in the United Kingdom’ and we can feel the love people around the world have for the country.

In terms of new business, we are currently introducing a ‘ball launcher’ machine for Japanese professional footballers. The product is ‘Made in the United Kingdom’ with British technology, the manufacturer is proud of the product and we are confident in recommending the machine to the Japanese football team. Japan is also proud of its ‘Made in Japan’ brand – for example, the miniature products of TYA Kitchen, a company we have been supporting for nearly ten years.

The unique Japanese kitchen products are manufactured with Japanese skill. When the company exhibited at a doll house exhibition in England, visitors were surprised at the techniques the company uses.

Both Japan and the United Kingdom value quality over price, appreciate old products and find value in antiques and traditional products. I am proud of my country and introducing Japanese products and British products is a career to be proud of. In our business, it is very important that the products we introduce are valued and unique to each country. This is a sense of pride that will not change no matter how the economy changes in the future. Japanese and English businesses abide by the law and appreciate the win-win relationship both countries have developed.

Japan’s spirit of ‘Mochitsu Motaretsu: give and take’ encourages commitment, support for each other and growth. I was glad I could feel this in the United Kingdom as I attach great importance to this idea. Eikuru will continue to grow while nurturing the relationships we have built with our customers.


Related Articles


Related Articles