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From Value One, Winter 2012-2013 No. 39
Metal One (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
Friendly Relations Lead to Japanese Food Boom
With a population of 64.08 million as of 2011 (according to the National Statistical Office) and being about 510,000 km2 in size, the independent Kingdom of Thailand was built on the foundations of the thirteenth-century Sukhothai Dynasty, followed by the Ayutthaya and Thonburi dynasties and today's Rattanakosin Dynasty from 1782.
As can be seen from diplomatic relations that reached the 125-year mark last year, Thailand has a strong, friendly relationship with Japan, and according to preliminary 2012 data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there are actually 49,983 Japanese people living here, a number that will continue to rise. In addition, 1.13 million Japanese visited Thailand in 2011 (according to the Japan National Tourism Organization), and the number of Japanese people visiting Thailand exceeds one million nearly every year.
Perhaps because of that, Thailand is experiencing an unprecedented Japanese food boom, including a noticeable increase in the number of Japanese restaurants. Along with ramen noodle chains famous in Japan, pork cutlet, grilled meat, Sanuki udon noodle, and sushi shops, of course, restaurants that serve such Japanese cuisine as chanko (Japanese stew), broiled eel, curry udon, beef bowl, and gyoza (Chinese dumplings) have opened one after another. They seem to be slightly cheaper overall than in Japan, although it is difficult to generalize since prices vary widely. In addition, there are quite a few posh kaiseki-ryori (traditional Japanese haute cuisine) restaurants that ship fresh seafood by air from Tsukiji three or four times a week.
Surprises Every Day and Every Year
I have had a series of surprising experiences in Thailand. They include the blockade of Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2008, the year I was posted to Thailand; the forcible removal of large groups of demonstrators in 2010; and the major flooding that occurred in Thailand in 2011. These are among the news stories about Thailand broadcast worldwide that are doubtless still fresh in memory.
There are also many surprises in daily life. Thais derive maximum enjoyment out of fun activities such as company trips or welcome, farewell, and other such parties. They take them as opportunities to go all out, getting in costume, singing, dancing, and painting the town. They rehearse in the conference room after work up to a month beforehand, getting their costumes ready and imitating Thai and Korean pop idols. The energy they devote to all this is amazing. Naturally, those of us posted from Japan also have a good time! [Laughs]
Center of Rapid Growth: "The Detroit of the East"
Thailand can be described as a core nation in today's rapidly growing Asia. It has automotive, household appliance, hard disk, camera, and numerous other industrial clusters. Especially with regard to the car industry, the country is known as the "Detroit of the East" because almost all Japanese manufacturers and major suppliers have set up operations here.
Thailand produced more cars than ever before in 2012—2.3 million—and the momentum exists to exceed 1.3 million in domestic sales. By additionally passing the 2.5 million mark in the near future, Thailand is poised to enter the ranks of the world's top ten car producers.
Cars on a city street—the growth in vehicle sales has also spawned the country's notorious traffic jams
Cosmopolitan, Exciting Daily Life
When you're on assignment to Thailand, your work is not limited to Thailand alone. I also have frequent opportunities to coordinate with people in neighboring ASEAN countries and elsewhere, so extremely exciting days fly by one after another. Many overseas customers also visit Thailand, and I can obtain an immediate feel for dynamic market trends through mutual daily discussions of global data. I am grateful to be able to experience business in this kind of environment.
Although Thailand is in the same Asian region as Japan, its history and culture are quite different, and I believe that coming in contact with dissimilar values and an unfamiliar world—along with the experience of trying to overcome communication problems so I can understand the differences—will definitely serve me well in work and life.
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