International Business Strategies

In Japan, ‘Mountain Day’ Means Business

Japan’s newest holiday can provide inspiration for companies eager to energize summer sales.

Chris Hutchins's avatar
Chris Hutchins

August 10, 2016


Tomorrow, Japanese residents will celebrate the inauguration of its country’s newest national holiday—Yama No Hi, or “Mountain Day.” Celebrants have been taste-testing edible mountain plants, and will be hiking among the country’s plentiful mountainous regions. (The country’s National Tourism Organization smartly recommends some destinations, leading with the inestimable Mt. Fuji.)

The tourism board isn’t the only savvy group to capitalize on Japan’s first Mountain Day. Businesses serving the Japanese market have moved fast to help generate interest in the holiday. Along the way, they may stand to gain $8 billion in new revenue.

Two years ago, the Japanese Alpine Club and other local outdoor advocacy groups successfully persuaded the government to institute the holiday, in an effort for urban residents “to become familiar with mountains and be thankful for blessings from mountains.” The belief in these blessings from nature is a key characteristic of Shinto, a religion many Japanese residents practice.

Practically speaking, Mountain Day—one of Japan’s 16 national holidays, twice of that of Britain—also represents an opportunity for overworked Japanese citizens to take a “guilt-free” day off. There’s a well-documented tendency among office workers “to put in long hours and not take time off,” a Japan Times article said. “(Employees) don’t want to burden colleagues with extra work.”

Japanese workers take about 8.6 days of personal holiday time, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2014. That’s less than half the standard employee entitlement.

Awareness for Mountain Day is high; a recent survey revealed that at least 80% of some age groups knew about the celebration.

Businesses have happily created promotions to cater to these excited consumers. More holidays means more consumer spending, after all.

Last month, ramen powerhouse Cup Noodle released a limited edition Mountain Day titanium noodle cooker camping accessory. (“This isn’t the first titanium Cup Noodle cooker that has been released,” Japan Today recently reported, “but it will be the only one with this light green handle.”) Tomorrow, a Tokyo department store will sell cuts of raw tuna much larger than usual—playfully nicknamed yamamori, or “heaped up like a mountain,” in commemoration of the holiday. E-retailers like L-Breath are hosting Mountain Day sales, too.

Businesses are aiming for a revenue lift driven by Mountain Day and the Obon festival period, a popular summer vacation time, which starts next week. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, retailers and tourism operators might see an $8 billion increase in spending across the tourism, leisure, hospitality, transportation and retail industries.

Bloomberg found one Japanese schoolteacher who’d already sprung for $700 in camping gear for Mountain Day, and was eyeing a new backpack and tent worth at least another $1,000.

Inspiration for E-Retailers

How can Western retailers benefit from Japan’s newest holiday? Serving the Japanese market with localized websites certainly wouldn’t hurt. We recently identified Japan as a Top 30 hot global online market in our Trendbook e-book series, and classified it as a “Market for Expansion.”

Japan is an attractive market thanks mostly to the population’s penchant for saving money, and its tendency to spend big in certain verticals such as mainstream apparel and luxury apparel. Internet penetration is over 90%. It’s a Top 5 e-commerce market worldwide, worth over $100 billion and on track to hit nearly $134 billion in three years. Mobile e-commerce adoption is through the roof.

Further, Japanese consumers are crazy for social media. According to one survey, most citizens are social media users. Social adoption is as high as 90% for people in their 20s, and 60% for those in their 40s.

Engaging these digital consumers in their language of choice, on their devices of choice, can generate powerful sales results.

But what other best practices can we learn from Japan’s debut of Mountain Day, and its retail sector’s savvy engagement of local consumers?

Understand the Culture

For starters, make every attempt to serve your global customers in culturally-relevant ways. This requires a savvy combination of cultural fluency and transnational thinking. Foreign companies that can communicate with global consumers with the same authenticity and nuance as local businesses often generate immediate and sustained success.

Watch the Calendar

Retailers that monitor the calendar for regional holidays or national sales events can win big with local customers. We’ve seen retailers’ French websites generate millions in additional revenue—and crush their competition in the process—by simply launching online sales promotions during the country’s six-week Soldes sales events.

Get Creative with Specials

If you’ve spotted a sales slump in a global market but don’t have a holiday upon which to pin a sales promotion, put on your thinking cap and invent one! Holiday-like shopping events—even if they’re exclusive to your brand or website—can really resonate in some markets.

Be Flexible

Regardless of what market you’re serving, have a sense of the local zeitgeist whenever possible. This knowledge can help you quickly adapt to capitalize on timely events (such as new national holidays) or changing tastes.

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